Sunday, January 11, 2015

James 1 Devotional:

Unable to attend church this morning due to sickness, so thought I would have church with you guys today. :) Reading James 1 this morning out of the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Plain text indicates the words of scripture, italics indicate my thoughts when reading. :)

1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

"To the...tribes...dispersed abroad"  So even the early church had to deal with seperation from time to time. People come, people go, yet they were still part of the tribe, and letters like this one, kept them connected.

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

Woah, that is not everyday thinking. Google define calls a trial: "a test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or something." Something like a exam at school. I believe I can safely say that most of the time, we don't look forward to tests. Yet James is calling us to consider tests "all joy." (completely happiness?) What is this all about? Let's read on.

3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Alright. Things just got deep. The testing of your faith, produces, endurance. Alright, what is this faith he is talking about?  We find in Romans 10:17 that: " comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." So now we know where faith comes from. Reading the word of God. We find in James 2:17, (the next chapter by the way) that " by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (NIV) So faith is something that comes from reading the word of God, and must be matched by action on our part. Simply reading it is not enough. Faith requires action. We also find in Ephesians 6:16, that faith is a significant peice of the armor of God. "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." So this faith thing is pretty major. If we take it up, it grants us the ability to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one and we know it comes from reading and acting on the word of God. Way cool. Now, this testing of the faith, producing endurance. What is that all about?  Let's read the next verse and find out.

4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

So the reason these tests are joy, is because the tests are making sure your shield is sound in all regards. That you really are able to extinguish *all* the flaming arrows of the evil one. This makes me think of working out. When you are doing P90X or another workout program and your instructor mixes things up. Throws some new moves at you. Usually happens about that time you are comfortable with the program. Starts making you sweat again. Making you work again, haha! And they do that so that we might be complete, lacking in nothing. All joy....hmm....

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But if wisdom is lacking, ask a generous God (pray) and wisdom will be given you. Very cool. So even in these trials, our coach does not leave us out there all alone, but will supply us with wisdom. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

 "But he must ask in faith..." So, if we need wisdom, we must ask in faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So our prayer is to be matched by bible study and acting on what we read so that our faith will not be dead and as we do those things, wisdom will be given. Now this doubt business...reminds me of the time Peter was able to step out in faith and walk on water. His eyes were fixed on Jesus and he was able to do things earthly strength does not give you the power to do. But when his eyes left Jesus and he started looking at the waves, he sank and had to be rescued by Jesus. As Jesus pulled him up he asked, You of little faith, why did you doubt?  (story can be found in Matthew 14) Would seem doubt is a serious issue.

7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.For that (doubting) man ought not to expect to receive anything from the Lord being double minded and unstable in the ways that he goes.

Peter could not look at an all powerful Jesus and the waves at the same time. He was going to submit to one or the other as master, either the waves or God and we saw an example of both in that passage. Double mindedness bad.  

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

Psalm 51:17 reads: "The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart." (HCSV) Poor or rich equally find wisdom in humility towards God. Wealth is also placed in perspective here. You don't get to take earthly wealth with you to heaven. A thought to ponder.  
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

 Here is a blessing given for those who bear up and persevere under these trials that come to test faith. Once they are approved, they will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised for those who love him. That, is pretty cool. :)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

This goes back to the knowledge of good and evil at the beginning of time and the fall of man from Eden. God made provision for man as in the garden, but man has to walk in that provision. Add action to the reading of the word. The temptation bit I believe comes from our knowledge of good and evil choices, we have to intentionally choose the right ones and deny the wrong ones room in our lives.

15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Those choices are critical and the stakes are high. We don't want to be double minded. We want to be growing in faith and overcoming evil with good. (Romans 12:21)  

16 Do not be deceived,my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. In His will and by His truthful word He created us, to be a kind of first fruits amoung his creatures. First fruits...I am reminded of the peach orchards around Stratford. Each year at Peach Festival time, all the owners of the orchards bring their "first fruits" to a contest to show off. Christ calls us his "first fruits" here. That is a very kind thing for an all powerful God to call us mortal humans. :) His willingness to adopt us as His own never ceases to amazing me. :D   

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear,slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Some cautions here on conduct.21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

So putting aside (throwing away?) all fithiness, all that remains of wickendness, in humility, receive the word implanted (faith) which is able to save your souls.

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

We don't want any part of the dead faith deal.

23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Looks intently, an interesting point here, one man looks and goes away and forgets, the other man looks at the perfect law (the Bible) intently and the adds action to it (abides by it) and he is blessed in what he does.  
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. A fruit of the Spirit is self control. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Orphans and widows, this has literal application but also has spiritual. Consider: An orphan does not have a father or a mother. God is called in scripture our Father, the Church is called our Mother. A widow is a bride who has lost her husband. God is called our Bridegroom. Consider in light of these things.
My head is now pounding, and I will close with that. This trial too shall pass. :)

Count it all joy, right?  haha! :)

Blessings on you all.