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Showing posts from April, 2019

James 5:17-18: Elijah Was A Man With A Nature Like Ours

James 5:17–18 [17] Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. [18] Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (ESV) Do you have a favorite verse of Scripture? You probably have a few special passages from the Word of God that give you inspiration and hope. This passage is one my favorites. When it comes to prayer we sometimes feel like God will listen to everyone else but us. For whatever reason the enemy seems able to convince us that God is deaf to our concerns. This could not be further from the truth. James reminds his reader of one of the greatest prophets in all of Scripture. Perhaps you remember the showdown between himself and the prophets of Baal. He told them that they should set up an altar with a sacrifice, and he would also set up an altar. The God who answered their prayers by raining down fire to light the sacrifice was Go

James 5:16: Therefore, Confess Your Sins To One Another And Pray For One Another

James 5:16 [16] Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (ESV) The approach to God is one of humility. We have already discovered that God invites us to bring our needs of sickness to him by means of asking for the elders of the church to pray for us. In addition to being healed we are told that we can find forgiveness of our sins as we come to the Lord in prayer. The elders have a role in ministering to the body in prayer. How humbling would it be to take James' instruction in our verse today? Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. How often do you think this practice actually occurs in the life of a local church. I am afraid that in many instances people talk about prayer and confession, but do not follow what James is recommending. Why do we not confess our sins to one another? Sadly, we are afraid of the quick condemnation we woul

James 5:15: And The Prayer Of Faith Will Save The One Who Is Sick

James 5:15 [15] And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (ESV) How willing are you to ask for prayer? Perhaps you are a person who is willing to pray for every other person on the earth, but you feel hesitant to bring your own needs to the Lord. Some feel as if it is selfish and wrong to bring their needs to the Lord. That notion is not backed up by biblical teaching. James instructs those who are sick to present themselves to the elders of the church. The prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. It is interesting to note that there is an action required on the part of the one who is sick. They must go to the elders and ask for prayer. I am sure that some are not healed because they are not willing to ask. Additionally, we find an instruction for the confessing of our sins. The one who is confessing their sins to the elders must exhibit humility. I wonder

James 5:14: Is Anyone Among You Sick? Let Him Call For The Elders Of The Church

James 5:14 [14] Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (ESV) We have all been sick. I wish that is was not so, but sickness is a part of every person's life. In fact, ultimately our bodies will give in to decay and sickness and we will pass from this life into the next. What do we do when we are sick? We pray. There are many passages that talk about praying for sickness. However, this verse is a bit different. It suggests calling for the elders to pray. Who are the elders? The elders are spiritual overseers of the church. You can read about their qualifications in 1 Timothy 3. They are to be men of very high character. They are to be above reproach, humble, gentle, pure and righteous. These trustworthy men are there to serve the body of Christ and are available to pray for those who are sick. Now, we need to look at the context of this verse for a moment. James has be

James 5:13: Is Anyone Among You Suffering? Let Him Pray. Is Anyone Cheerful? Let Him Sing Praise.

James 5:13 [13] Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (ESV) Many Christians have a really hard time with the idea that we are very different from the world. We don't like to be the oddballs. We also do not like people to think that we are judging them because they are not like us. The reality is this: We are very different. Paul told the church at Corinth that if anyone is in Christ Jesus he is a brand new creation. The old is gone. The new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). We need to embrace how we are different, not shy away from it. The world needs to see that as believers in Jesus Christ we set a standard of behavior that glorifies God, and not behavior that elevates self. James talks about times of suffering and times of joy. He lays out a behavior for the believer in Jesus Christ in both of these situations. If you are suffering you should pray. If you are cheerful you should sing praise. This is the standard for all Chri

James 5:12: But Above All, My Brothers, Do Not Swear

James 5:12 [12] But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (ESV) Does it matter what we say? There seems to be a lack of truthfulness and integrity in many people when it comes to what they say. Some would say about a politician that you know he is lying because his lips are moving. God cares very much what we say. We are told not to swear. Now, this is going to need a bit more clarification. By telling us not to swear, James is not talking about some of the crass cuss words that may come to your mind. He is talking about making promises to another person that you have no intention of keeping. By doing so, you are lying to your brother. This is a practice that was common in the Jewish community at the time James wrote this epistle. "As Jesus did before him (Matt. 5:33–36; 23:16–22), James condemned the contemporary Jewish practice

James 5:11: Behold, We Consider Those Blessed Who Remained Steadfast.

James 5:11 [11] Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (ESV) Raise your hand if you want to be blessed! If you were to say that in any church service in America every hand would shoot right up. We love the idea of being blessed. The problem is that we are clueless as to what being blessed really means. Almost everyone who thinks of being blessed thinks of material prosperity and/or the absence of suffering. Think of yourself for a moment. How many times have you looked at your life and said to yourself, "I am blessed."? When you thought about your blessings was there a list of things you possess that constitute being "blessed." Perhaps you thought of your job, your house, or your health. What if being blessed had nothing to do with having those things? James says that we consider those who remained steadfast

James 5:10: As An Example Of Suffering And Patience, Brothers, Take The Prophets Who Spoke In The Name Of The Lord.

James 5:10 [10] As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (ESV) Suffering and patience. These are challenging words and concepts, and yet for the believer in Jesus Christ they are our daily bread and butter. James invites his readers to consider the prophets of old as our examples for suffering and patience. It would be helpful for us to have a better understanding of who these prophets were. You have most likely heard of the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. They are names that figure prominently in the Old Testament. Their prophetic words fill up many chapters that we view as Scripture to this day. We love to read Isaiah's description of Jesus as the suffering servant, or read of Ezekiel's vision of a wheel within a wheel. These men did not have easy lives. Prophets knew what it was like to suffer. While we know that prophets were "fore-tellers" of future events one of their other primary p

James 5:9: Do Not Grumble Against One Another, Brothers

James 5:9 [9] Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (ESV) You know what you are made of when you are forced to go through a time of great persecution. I know that we would probably all prefer to never be persecuted, but just as the Savior was tempted, tried, and even tortured to death, we also will face times of temptation, trial, and in one degree or another some kind of torture for our faith. How do you respond when the heat is turned up in your personal situation? Are you able to maintain your cool? Or do you lash out at those around you? James has been talking about a situation of wealthy oppressors of the Christians. He has assured them that God will judge their oppressors, but he now instructs them to be sure that while they await God's judgment they do not grumble at one another. I would love to say that James had no need to tell these believers not to grumble, but I do believe that h

James 5:8: You Also, Be Patient. Establish Your Hearts, For The Coming Of The Lord Is At Hand.

James 5:8 [8] You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (ESV) In the previous verse James used the illustration of the farmer waiting for the rains to come so that he can have a plentiful harvest. There is nothing to do but wait for the rain to come. He cannot make it happen as much as he may want to. In this verse he says, "You also, be patient." Just like the farmer, you also be patient. We cannot speed the Lord's coming, but we must be patient. Establish your hearts. Our hearts are such fickle things, chasing after things that distract us from what we should be focusing on. The world claims that we should "follow our hearts." Yet Jeremiah tells us that our heart is "deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to have a conversation with our hearts guided by the authority of God's Word. Tell it to focus on the Lord's return. Have you considered that the coming of the Lord is at hand

James 5:7: Be Patient, Therefore, Brothers, Until The Coming Of The Lord

James 5:7 [7] Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. (ESV) Have you ever asked the Lord to give you patience? Me neither. I am afraid that the way he would give me patience is to make me wait even longer. I am personally not a fan of waiting. Whether it is waiting in a long line for an event, being stuck in slow moving traffic, or waiting for being reunited with a special friend; I am not good at waiting. James tells his readers to be patient until the coming of the Lord. It is important to note that he inserts the word "therefore." Every time in Scripture when you see the word "therefore," you should find out what it is "there for." James has just been talking about the rich people who were oppressing the Christian believers. He tells the Christians to be patient in relation to the oppression

James 5:5-6: You Have Lived On The Earth In Luxury And In Self-Indulgence

James 5:5–6 [5] You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. [6] You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (ESV) When I was a child I loved playing in the snow. One of the things kids like to do is to take a snow ball and roll it down a hill. If it is the right kind of snow it will get bigger and bigger as it rolls down the hill. That small snow ball becomes a huge pile of snow. The same can be true in our lives. If we embrace a small sin, over time, it will grow and grow until it is of monstrous size. James is talking about the rich people who did not have a proper godly view of wealth. Rather, they loved their riches and not God. As a result of their sinful desire being left to grow it now has turned into a monstrous life that is going to be judged by God. Look at the digression in this verse from enjoying luxury to murdering righteous people. I imagine that the ones be

James 5:4: Behold, The Wages Of The Laborers Who Mowed Your Fields, Which You Kept Back By Fraud

James 5:4 [4] Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. Our God is a God who hears. When you consider that the God of the universe, who created all things, takes the time to listen to the cries of the people whom he has created it is truly staggering. We are told to cast all our cares on him because he cares for us. We know that in Jesus Christ we see God coming to earth and dwelling with mankind. What an amazing mystery! Here James reminds the ungodly rich that God hears. Who does God hear? God hears the cries of those who have been defrauded by these rich field owners. These laborers were not paid all of what they earned. This is an example of injustice. God is a just God. He will not allow sin to go unpunished. We become very frustrated when we feel that we have been treated unjustly. Perhaps we have worked for someone who did

James 5:2-3: Your Riches Have Rotted And Your Garments Are Moth-Eaten

James 5:2–3 [2] Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. [3] Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. (ESV) This is not pleasant language. I have often said that if you think you are living a pretty good life, just read the book of James. He has a way of pointing out just how out of touch we are with the kind of life that God requires. In these verses he continues to rail against those who have chosen to follow the idols of earthly possessions instead of God. James wrote these words roughly two thousand years ago. At that time it was far more difficult to keep things from rotting and decaying. In our sophistication and technology we could likely keep our riches from being destroyed in the same manner than the people in the first century who were the recipients of James' letter. The reality is, the same attitude that plagued the people

James 5:1: Come Now, You Rich, Weep And Howl For The Miseries That Are Coming Upon You.

James 5:1 [1] Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. (ESV) Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have enough money that you could do whatever you wanted? If money were an endless supply for you what would change in your current situation? Would you move to an exotic island? Perhaps you would buy that sports car you have always dreamed of. You might even purchase your favorite sports team. We tend to think that having large amounts of money would be the solution to our problems and the guarantee of happiness. Scripture has a different perspective. In fact, this verse is pretty severe in the words that it directs toward those who are rich. They are called to weep and howl for the miseries coming their way. At first glance, it would seem that James is saying that no one should be rich. It raises the question as to whether it is a sin for a Christian to be wealthy. James is not addressing all who have wealth. He is referring to thos

James 4:17: So Whoever Knows The Right Thing To Do And Fails To Do It, For Him It Is Sin.

James 4:17 [17] So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (ESV) I have known people who thought that they were going to heaven based on the fact that they did not do anything that warranted their being punished. It is one of many lies that man believes. We think that because we are better than the really evil people (murderers, rapists, people who disagree with us) we somehow will be declared right before God. Enter James 4:17. James takes the standard of God's holiness and makes it even more impossible for us to attain. He is saying here that it isn't avoiding sins that is all that is required. He tells us that if you knew the right thing to do and you did not do it, you have sinned. Is there anyone on the planet who can honestly say that they have always done every right thing they knew they should have done? God's standard of holiness requires that we avoid sin, and also that we do the righteous things he has required. The mo

James 4:16: As It Is, You Boast In Your Arrogance

James 4:16 [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (ESV) Every now and again I stumble into a conversation that people are having about all of their investments and material possessions. This is a discussion I am very ill equipped to engage in. My retirement plan involves me working until the day before my funeral. I am not recommending my plan, by the way. James describes arrogant boasting. To find out what boasting he is referring to you have to go back a few verses to verse 13 where he talks about those who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit." James calls this boasting, not just arrogant, but evil. Strong words. What makes this boasting so evil? In our society we are impressed with someone who talks about how they are going to find ways to increase the value of their current financial situation. In fact, these are ones who we would recommend for financial s

James 4:15: Instead You Ought To Say, "If The Lord Wills, We Will Live And Do This Or That."

James 4:15 [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (ESV) Maybe you have heard the expression, "The Lord willin' and the creek don't rise." This grammatically incorrect sentence fragment is sound biblical theology. I am sure that if James would be in total agreement with it. He is speaking in today's verse about how we are to look at our lives and the plans that are made in them. We have all kinds of ideas about what we want to do with our lives. We have big picture goals like what career path we want to take, when we will get married, or even how many children we would like to have. We also have day to day plans, such as where we might go to eat, who to hang with, or even what Church to attend. James gives us an important reminder. We ought to look at our plans through the lens of God's will. If God wills then I will plan to do thus and such. Too often we make our plans and then tell God what we are going

James 4:13-14: Come Now, You Who Say, "Today Or Tomorrow We Will Go Into Such And Such A Town"

James 4:13–14 [13] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (ESV) I like to know what my future plans are. Do you? If there is uncertainty in my future I feel frustrated, restless, even irritable. I feel that James would be speaking to me when he says, "Come, now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go . . ." James raises a great point for us. We want to be confident in planning our future, but the reality is we have no idea what tomorrow may bring. I suppose that tomorrow may bring a visit from the Publisher's Clearing House where I open the door and find out I have won millions of dollars. Not likely. I could have an accident and be physically out of commission. I could be visited by a long lost friend. All kinds of things are p

James 4:12: There Is Only One Lawgiver And Judge, He Who Is Able To Save And To Destroy.

James 4:12 [12] There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (ESV) I think there is a reason why television shows that are all about judges and juries are very popular. We get into the whole story of the criminal, just waiting for him to be caught. We have, in fact, made up our minds about the guilt or innocence of the person in the show. We imagine ourselves in the position of the judge, declaring the words, "I find you guilty." We seem prone to declaring guilt in people's lives because it makes us feel like we are better than the one accused of guilt. James is addressing that very flaw in us. He reminds us that there is one lawgiver and judge, and we are not it. God himself is the one who sets the standard that we are all to live by. He alone is the one who can judge. Imagine a scenario in your church. A young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. There will be some who will want to decla

James 4:11: Do Not Speak Evil Against One Another, Brothers

James 4:11 [11] Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. (ESV) Being a part of a family has certain privileges. You are likely to tolerate more from a family member than from someone who is an outsider. We all have those family members who annoy us, but we remind ourselves that we still love them, and we tolerate much of what they do. I have seen people cover for their family members behavior that they would never tolerate from me. James is now talking in this verse about family. What family? The family of God! He speaks to "brothers," and then goes on to talk about the proper way we ought to treat our "brothers." In the previous verse he talked about the need for us to humble ourselves before God, so that He will exalt us. Bear that in mind as you consider what James says abo

James 4:10: Humble Yourselves Before The Lord, And He Will Exalt You.

James 4:10 [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (ESV) If you spend any significant time on social media you will find a dominant them among those who post things. Many of the quotes that people seem to connect with have to do with reminding us of how strong, wonderful, and altogether awesome we all are. These quotes tell us that we are great and we should not waste our time with others who do not tell us how great we are. Did you know that God has a different viewpoint? He tells us in the Bible that there is no one who is righteous, not one. All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. (Romans). He tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked, a restless evil. (Jeremiah). When a prophet of God saw the Lord he said, "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips." (Isaiah). If anyone is to be called a Christian they must come to an understanding. They must admit their sin. A person who claims to belon

James 4:9: Be Wretched And Mourn And Weep.

James 4:9 [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (ESV) I remember one Sunday after a church service I was approached by a "not-so-happy" parishioner. The man told me that he did not like my preaching. I inquired as to what was wrong with it. He informed me that when I preached it did not make him feel good. I let him know that it was actually not my goal to make him feel good. It was job to tell him the truth. Feeling good was not my department. Whether or not you have actually known someone like this man, you can probably agree that many people do not want to hear things that make them feel bad. Many people view church as a weekly "spiritual pat on the back." If they don't get their "atta-boy" they will move on to the next church who is willing to oblige them. Listen to the force of James' words in this verse. He moves beyond encouraging people to feel badly. He tells them to be

James 4:8: Draw Near To God, And He Will Draw Near To You

James 4:8 [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (ESV) Have you ever considered what a great invitation you have received that you should be able to come and have a relationship with the God of the universe? So often we never take a proper pause to think of the awe and wonder that should appropriately accompany our approach to God. The Psalmist said, "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4). We are invited to draw near to God with the promise that if we do, he will draw near to us. Have you ever considered the right approach to come to God? Do you have to wear special clothing? In the Old Testament the priest would be able to approach God, and there were all kinds of requirements, including what they were to wear. We do not need special clothing. However, we are given instruction on how we should approach God We are to have clean hands and pure hearts. The Old Test

James 4:7: Submit Yourselves Therefore To God. Resist The Devil, And He Will Flee From You.

James 4:7 [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (ESV) I think most people prefer to have benefits without hard work, blessings without struggles, victory without a battle. We read this verse and we love the last part of it. The idea of the devil fleeing from us is a wonderful picture of victory. I am sure that anyone making a claim of following Christ would love to see the devil run. You probably know where I am going with this. We must understand the first part of this verse if we are going to enjoy the last part of it. There is this idea of submission. Ah, now that is a different thing entirely. We do not like submission. The very heart of man rebels against this notion of submitting to a higher authority. The reality is, if we are to ever have victory over the enemy we must submit to the Lord's authority. That means that God is in charge of every area of your life. That means you surrender to him your desires, your dreams,

James 4:6: But He Gives More Grace

James 4:6 [6] But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV) James begins this verse with some of the most beautiful and encouraging words in all of Scripture. "But he gives more grace." How much grace do we need? MORE! In the previous verse we looked at just how wicked our spirit is within us. Our natural inclination is not toward righteousness, but sadly, we are prone to rebellion, lust, and wickedness. What is the solution? He gives more grace! The Apostle Paul said in Romans 5:20, "but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." There is hope for us after all. There is something that is stronger than this inner spirit that wants to do wickedness. It is the grace of God. It is a gift that we can receive. James continues in this verse and lets us know how we can receive this wonderful grace of God. We receive this gift by coming to the Lord humbly. As the Scripture says, God opposes the pro

James 4:5: He Yearns Jealously Over The Spirit That He Has Made To Dwell In Us

James 4:5 [5] Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (ESV) At first glance this verse is a bit confusing. We will have to identify who James is referring to. Which spirit are we talking about? Who is the one yearning jealously? When we come to verses like this it is always a good idea to consider the context of the verses around the one you are studying. Also, find a good commentary or two and see what some other godly men or women are saying. Let me re-write this verse in a way that you will get more sense out of it. No, I am not re-writing Scripture. I am not a heretic. I just want you to see what the verse is saying. Here goes: "Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He ( The sinful man ) yearns jealously over the spirit ( the sinful man's spirit ) that he ( God ) has made to dwell in us"?  This is a very damning verse that speaks to

James 4:4: You Adulterous People! Do You Not Know That Friendship With The World Is Enmity With God?

James 4:4 [4] You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (ESV) Perhaps you have heard someone say, "Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship." There is some great truth to that. In fact, in support of such a claim, James goes so far as to use the imagery of adultery to describe someone who is not walking in ways that are pleasing to God. The relationship has gone sour because someone is cheating. And for the record, it is not God who cheats. In a marriage relationship each person is supposed to love and loyalty to the other while despising all others. The same is true in our relationship with God. We are to despise all others who would try to pull our attention away from our Lord. What would pull us away? James tells us in this verse it is "the world" that attempts to be our mistress. The world is a system, not a pe

James 4:3: You Ask And Do Not Receive, Because You Ask Wrongly

James 4:3 [3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (ESV) There are people who reject God because they asked him for something and they did not receive what they asked. They wrongly assume that God does not love them because he did not answer them. James gives a different perspective. He says that "you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly. What makes it a wrong request? Because the request is selfish. God does not just give us whatever we ask for. Why? Because he is a much better father than an earthly father. Can you imagine if a father only ever said yes to every request their child had. Would that be good for a child? Children who receive everything they ask for grow up to be selfish monsters. Our parents said no to many of our requests because they loved us enough to say no. The reality that God does not answer selfish requests helps us to understand the importance of what we are motivated by. If we are truly Go

James 4:2: You Desire And Do Not Have, So You Murder

James 4:2 [2] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. (ESV) In our society we are used to getting what we want. It is amazing to me how people who complain about having no money somehow have money for the latest smart phone, a new car, and a daily pack of cigarettes. One way or the other we find a way to fulfill our selfish desires. We not only seek to satisfy our needs, but also our "greeds." I fear that this is no new phenomenon. James writes about those whose desires were so intense that they led people to commit murder in order to have their "greeds" met. Clearly, in this scenario the desires are leading the man, not the other way around. Coveting leads to frustration, which leads to fighting and quarreling, and ultimately murder. These are the characteristics of someone who has not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God. Here is the sad reality. That