James Chapter 5

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Confession. Transparency. Vulnerability. Accountability. Despite clear passages like James 5:16, these are some of the most ignored and avoided practices of the Christian faith.  We are hard-pressed to share deeply and intimately the real issues and struggles of our souls.  Instead, we work diligently on creating and maintaining exteriors that convey nothing but confidence and composure. Sometimes our masquerade requires so much attention and energy that Truth has no way in and Compassion has no way out.

To “confess your sins to one another,” is an act of dying to self.  It is an act honoring Jesus in a way that affirms your faith in Him and what He’s done.  It’s a gift of trust and humility to the ones you share your confession with.  So much good…so much healing happens on multiple levels for all involved…If we just had the courage to do it…to let go…to believe.

 I encourage you today to meditate on these questions:

1.   How is confessing my struggle of a sin pattern in my life with a trusted brother or sister a positive act of dying to self?

2.   How does being vulnerable, transparent, in confessing to others something that honors Jesus, and why is that something I should desire to do?

3.  How is my willingness to be vulnerable in confession a gift to the one to whom I am confessing?

4.   What keeps me from confessing my struggles to others? How can I overcome that hindrance, and why should I?

Lord, give us the courage and the faith to confess to one another, and through it, to find deep healing for others and ourselves. Amen.

James Chapter 4

"James stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world." Chuck Swindle 

James 1-3 builds on the truth of how choosing to live a Godly life produces life changing fruit. He is very straight forward about the concept that if you truly love the Lord and choose to "do life" with Him, your choices and deeds will reflect that desire. Chapter 4 specifically addresses the "what not to do" list of how to display what throne your heart sits on.

He is addressing the church and the fighting/arguing stemming from worldly choices: lust and envy. You want what you see others have, so you fight about it. But why didn't we just ask our very generous Father for what we are wanting? Because our very wise Fathers asks us, "And WHY do you want what you are asking for?" 

Doesn't He as our good, good Father have a right to ask us this? Do we want what we ask for to build our own little world and fill our desires or to build onto His kingdom? That sure is a motive revealer!!
He asks us not to make friends with the world (and all the desires it claims to fill) because  He is "a fiercely jealous lover. What He gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find."

When in the world and trying to make fruitful choices, He asks 2 things of us: First, submit to God (not to what you want) and Resist the enemy (quit playing the field! Don't be a two-timer!) Then God stands to defend your humble state of heart and your enemy runs when he sees Who he is really up against in the battle of the choice. We get dirty as we live in the world and we need help cleaning our hearts.....so draw near to God and let Him do that......DAILY!

Church family, intentionally seek Him in all that you do, submit to how He wants to live in your life. Thats where the real change happens.

You are deeply loved and valued -- lets live like it!

James Chapter 3

You know when you are driving down a desolate stretch of flat highway and then out of nowhere you come across a big billboard, you can't help but look at the billboard.   It has achieved the purpose of the one put something on that billboard- you looked and you focused on it.  To me this is what James, the brother of Jesus did by writing chapter 3. 

 In chapter 1 James tells us that remaining humbly steadfast after God will produce a strong faith. In chapter 2 he tells us that we can tell we have a strong faith by God's production of tangible fruit in and through our everyday lives. In Chapter 4 he ties many of the world’s troubles to the absence of this strong faith in so many people's lives.  But in chapter 3 he puts up this large billboard to draw our attention to this great danger, a danger to the effectiveness of our desire to live a life marked by God’s fruitfulness.  The danger is our speech of all things. What we say to others. Based on James' later comments in this chapter, I take this to mean that what we say is a telltale sign, the canary in the coal mine pointing to the maturity of our faith.

 I like James’s style. Although James words can be hard to read as I apply them to my own life, I love his straightforwardness. Can you imagine the depth of conviction James would have about what he is writing at this later stage of his life. He grew up literally side by side with Jesus for over 20 years. James, more so than all but about 10 people who have ever lived on this planet, knew “exactly” how Jesus behaved throughout his growing up years.  However the apostle John says in John 7:5, after one of Jesus' visits home, that none of Jesus brothers believed Jesus was the son of God. Then after Jesus’ resurrection, James’ eyes and his heart are opened to the truth. The memories of all those years watching Jesus grow up now flood his consciousness, combined with the realization of Jesus’ true identity. Nothing could shake his faith and very few people living at that time could recount to us what Jesus’ Godly life looked like “in the everyday” of those 20 plus years growing up. I think James comes across so strongly and straightforwardly because God gave him a very unique view during his life and the Spirit of God has deeply solidified to him these truths.

 I wonder if what James writes on the billboard of chapter 3 – that the words we speak and the true motives and attitudes of our heart & life are an accurate mirror of the maturity of our faith – are heavily influenced by what James saw in Jesus growing up.

 All I know is that when I lay in bed at night and reflect on the day I just lived, I am grateful to know that my savior is merciful, and His Spirit motivates me to desire more of my faith tomorrow.

James Chapter 2

Ahhhhh the James 2 Faith vs. deeds

I love this chapter in James mostly because when I was a new believer, I thought that I found a contradiction in the Bible. Silly me…

I remember reading what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 NLT God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 

Or in Galatians 2:16 Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

Even in Isaiah 64:6a We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.

So then why is James telling us that faith without good deeds is dead? It seems like Paul and James are contradicting each other.

In reality following the law will not get us to heaven, doing good deeds, will not get us there either. Ask yourself this if you could do enough, give enough, or follow the law enough to get into heaven then why on earth would Jesus need to die on the cross for us?

James is merely saying that the faith that saves you will produce good works because you are a follower of Christ. It’s because you love Jesus because you want to be more and more like Him every day, you grow closer to the one that is Love, your deeds are the fruit of that love!

The best example that I can give is Operation Christmas Child. We as a church give generously to this ministry (Deeds). We gather gifts for children that we will never meet. We get so excited as the boxes pile up in the sanctuary week after week, and the Good Lord willing we hit our goal this year, but we do this not to put a check in our heavenly box of salvation we do it for the hope that one child, one family, one village, or even one nation finds Jesus (Faith).

Be blessed!

James Chapter 1

This letter challenges me because it is so real, direct and pragmatic.  James is so prescriptive and descriptive of what it means to be actively be engaged in what Jesus called the ‘Kingdom of God’.  Three things stood out for me this reading.

I do not naturally see trials and temptations as ‘pure joy events’.  Yet it was deep pain, a lost relationship, seeing the shallowness of the world, even being unsatisfied with collegial success, and it’s emptiness that brought me to Christ.  Jesus became my Joy.  Never saw it coming.   Over the years new trails have come and gone.  I  struggle with them and at times they take center stage and are a major discouragement.  In the last few years however I’ve started to look at trials in a new light. I have come to believe that God does test us. Why to build up our faith in Him and character. Like he did with Abraham and Sarah and many others in the Bible.  In the testing comes the shaping of a godly person.  Understanding more of God’s perspective on the God-Human relationships, his Holiness and Sovereignty and what is important in His economy.  Unconditional love for others.  James writes about relationship of testing our faith and perseverance.  In verse 4.  “Let perseverance finish its work so that you can be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”   Is contentment an outcome when we persevere?

There are several critical warnings in this letter.  This one stood out.  Temptation is a process that leads to sin. “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.”  This process description is spot on! 

James sets the expectation that faith in God is inextricably tied to action.  Each verse is either a building block or a warning.  The last verse in chapter 1, v27. is a good example.  “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.”