Christianity 201

February 22, 2019

Themes in James are Relatable Today

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  (5:16)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (1:2)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (1:5)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (1:17)

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. (5:14)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? (2:14)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27)

Today again we’re back with Wes McAdams’ blog Radically Christian. He’s nearing the end of a series posting overall impressions from reading entire books. Click the title below to read at its original source.

Stop Talking and Start Doing: What I Noticed Reading James

The book of James might be one of the easiest books for Christians to understand, regardless of time and culture. It deals with the sort of issues and behaviors that are common to religious people of every era, and there is really no misunderstanding what James is telling his audience to do and not to do. I always end up feeling incredibly convicted by this short little book.

The Audience

James simply addresses this book to, “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” This could mean he is writing to Jewish Christians, or he could be referring to all Christians as part of the new Israel. The book doesn’t seem to be a letter intended for a specific church. In fact, it doesn’t really seem to be a letter at all, because there is no formal greeting in the beginning or the end.

James seems to be writing to the kind of Christians who think very highly of themselves; the kind of people who consider themselves to be wise, religious, and capable teachers. They are critical and judgmental. They want to live comfortable lives. They envy wealth and scorn poverty. They believe themselves to have a lot of faith and a lot of wisdom, but what they really have is a lot of words.

Be Quiet and Listen

It’s interesting to me how often James’ words, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” are taken out of context. People typically quote these words as a strategy for interpersonal relationships. They say things like, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should always do twice as much listening as we do talking.” Certainly, it’s good advice to listen more than you talk, but James has a specific kind of listening in mind.

In the same context, James writes, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Too often, when someone is trying to share a word which is able to save our souls, we get angry and defensive. James tells his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word.” It is almost always a good idea to be quiet and listen, but especially when someone is trying to correct our “filthiness” and “wickedness.”

How often do we get defensive when someone shares the word of truth with us? How often do we get angry at those who are trying to help us? How often do we say, “I disagree,” when we ought to say, “You might be right, let me think about that”?

Faith, Religion, and Wisdom Can Be Seen

James touches on various issues throughout this short book, but they all seem to revolve around the idea that it is not enough to say we are religious people, people of faith, or people with wisdom. We must prove our faith, religion, and wisdom by what we do. Words do not prove what is in our hearts, action proves what is in our hearts.

James tells his audience to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” He tells them that real religion is about helping widows and orphans. He tells them faith without works is as useless as wishing someone well who has no clothes or food.

To those who think they are wise, James says that their “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” prove their wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Real wisdom isn’t about the ability to conjure up the right words to put opponents in their place. Real wisdom is proven by good conduct and meekness. Real wisdom, wisdom from God, is:

  • pure
  • peaceable
  • gentle
  • open to reason
  • full of mercy
  • full of good fruits
  • impartial
  • sincere

In all of these areas, James invites his readers to prove they are wise, religious, and faithful by living lives of humble and loving service to others.

Poverty and Suffering

Like his brother Jesus, James warns about the dangers of comfort and wealth. He encourages his audience to be content with poverty and trials. The book begins by encouraging people to, “Count it all joy,” when they, “meet trials of various kinds.” He promises that patiently enduring trials will result in being, “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

He warns them not to give preference to rich people, above poor people, who visit their assemblies. He implies that riches do not make someone admirable, reminding that the rich are the ones who “oppress you,” the ones who “drag you into court,” and the ones who “blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called.”

James includes one of the strongest warnings and condemnations of those who live their lives in self-indulgence, taking advantage of others:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 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. 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. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you

James closes the book by encouraging his readers to think of themselves as farmers. As farmers wait patiently for the harvest, Christians wait patiently, “for the coming of the Lord.” We live our lives not based on what we can see, but in confident expectation about what is to come.


Selected verses located at TopVerses.com

September 19, 2018

Where Does the Object of Your Faith Reside?

Elsie Montgomery is one of the most faithful devotional writers I encounter when preparing these articles to share with you. She’s now in her 12th year of writing and this is her 15th time being highlighted here at C201. Click the title below and read it at her blog, Practical Faith.

Burdens can reveal the object of my faith

A Christian perspective can be easily misinterpreted. Because I know that God is sovereign and able to govern the world and all that it is in it, I can be calm regarding the stuff that happens because I know God is in charge. This calm reliance on His love and power can be misinterpreted; people might thing that I don’t care about the mayhem and tragedy in this world. Sometimes I misinterpret my burdens though. I can feel deep concern for the mess out there because God cares about the suffering going on in this world, but I can also be in a flap because I don’t believe that He does care. One burden comes from having His heart of compassion; the other is based on fear and panic.

Tozer said that warm hearts and cool heads should belong to Christians. His reason? We are seated above earthly circumstances and can calmly look down without being moved in spirit over the happenings in this world. He points to this passage:

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’” (Hebrews 8:1–5)

Even though Tozer’s conclusions are often a stretch from the Scriptures he uses, this passage did remind me that the Lord God is on the throne. He is the High Priest of heaven who is sovereign, even when I cannot understand what He is doing.

Why then the burdens? The weight in my heart for a world gone crazy can have two sources: fear or faith. I can panic over floods, hurricanes, typhoons, crime, fires and so on because they are tragic and God’s creation is suffering. I can feel the heart of a caring God who knows and cares for even the sparrows that fall (Luke 12). Yet if my burden is the burden of the Holy Spirit for pain and loss, it is not excessive because Jesus said, “My burden is light” (Matthew 11). It is also evidence that the Spirit who lives in me is conveying to me His heart for the needs of people.

However, those burdens can be fearful and overwhelming, without trust in God’s sovereign power and even rooted in fear and pride. I start thinking that I must do something even if it is only identifying with the pain of others. Fear is anxious about the outcome and acts without waiting on the Lord for direction. With fear, I try to run the world even though I know He is the only one who can.

The burdens of faith are rooted in humility. They are the result of a heart willing to bear whatever the Lord puts on it, then praying to give it back to Him. It is obeying what I know — that God can deal with it. He might give me an assignment but humility assumes nothing, not even that my prayers will ‘fix’ these issues. They belong to God, not my will. Faith in Him knows Jesus will ‘win’ even when everything looks very black. Fear runs in circles; faith attaches itself to God.

Jesus, when the burdens of the world start getting me down, I realize I must pray lest my faith slip into fear. Forgive me for letting that happen and quickly let me know so I will be praising You instead of banging my head against a wall.

January 12, 2012

Strength of Character

Anyone who can’t find Biblical encouragement and devotional material online isn’t looking very well!  Today we dropped by the devotional site of Campus Crusade For Christ International…

Be Strong in Character

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.


Bible Reading:

James 1:5-12

New International Version (NIV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

 12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 


 

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

…and found not one, but two devotional readings to share with you…

Nothing You Cannot Do

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:13, NLT).

What would you give for the power to live a truly holy, fruitful life? Strangely enough, it is yours for the asking. If your problem is timidity in witnessing, God promises to help you share your faith with others: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If it is victory over temptation, He reminds us that temptation is not a sin; it is only in the yielding that it becomes sin.

If you need victory in your thought-life, He promises to allow no tempting or testing above that you are able to bear – and that certainly includes your thought-life (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are invited to “cast all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If it is forgiveness you seek, He offers it freely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV).

In short, you have no burden, no problem, no need that is too big for our Lord to handle. “Ye receive not, because ye ask not,” He reminds us.

If your need is for physical healing, know that He is able to heal you if it is His will. If His answer to your prayer is no, thank Him for the sure knowledge that His grace is sufficient in the midst of pain and suffering. Acknowledge His sovereign right to be God in your life, whatever the cost may be. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and He will” (Psalm 37:5).


Bible Reading:

Philippians 4:6-12

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.


Today’s Action Point: I will begin this day – and every day – by committing everything I do to the Lord and expecting Him to help me. I will remember that I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and power (Philippians 4:13).