Friday, June 13, 2014

Posted by Niki |
Knowing all that we know now, what’s the book of James about?

The book of James is different from most New Testament books. James approached his audience as already being believers of the gospel as opposed to trying to get them to believe it. James wanted to make sure that his audience fully understood the implications of living it out. He was concerned with showing his readers how to live practically with Jesus. He wanted people to understand that faith is foundational, but it must be genuine, proven, and lived out if it’s going to amount to anything. Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

James 1:22 sums up the entire meaning of this small but mighty book of the Bible. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” According to the [expanded] Bible, it says “Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves.”

It is beyond the time that we as Christians start putting actions behind our words. We have said it over and over again that you are the only Bible some people read. You have a living God in your lives, so why not show them a living, breathing, MOVING God who isn’t just words.
Posted by Niki |
Verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

All good things come from God. Good things are not accidents, coincidences, or benefits of our choices, they are gifts from God – PERFECT gifts from God. God loves us and provides for us, but he will not help us give in to lustful desires. Just because we want a new car, it might not be that perfect gift that we need from God at the moment. If you see someone else being blessed with something that you desire, it might mean that that gift wasn’t perfect for you, but it might be for someone else. We should rejoice with one another when our fellow brothers and sisters receive good gifts instead of feeling jealous or bitter. What gifts can you ask for that would help you deal with temptation and make godly choices? (wisdom, patience, etc.)

The phrase “father of lights” is referring to God as the creator of the sun, moon, and stars. God gives us good gifts – and the light to see that we can enjoy them. (Psalm 19:1)

This phrase about shadows refers to God’s character being trustworthy and reliable (Malachi 3:6). God’s nature does not change. He remains consistent and constant although we are ever-changing. It is because of this that we should constantly express our humility and gratefulness to God due to his unchanging love for us.

Verse 18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

We are created because God wants us here on this earth for a reason. We have a purpose. He created us in his likeness that we would strive to live like him. The word of truth is the gospel – our good news. He created us so that we would come to him in our times of trouble for strength.

Each year in Israel, the first bundle of harvested grain (firstfruits) were offered to God as a sign that all of the grain in the field belonged to Him. This first bunch was the first in quality and in time, representing the whole of the field that would soon be gathered.  We find this in Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:9-10, and Deuteronomy 26:9-11. We as believers are firstfruits because we are new creations in Christ (Romans 8:22-23). We are no longer separated by sin. We should live as a firstfruit being an example of God’s goodness and what he can do in our lives so that others want to overcome those temptations and lusts.

In conclusion, you don’t have to learn everything by experimentation. You don’t have to break your leg to know it hurts because a broken bone results in pain. You don’t have to waste your life in sin when you know that the wages of sin is death and it only lasts for a season. Don’t expect to get something from nothing. People think that this world is the source of good things, and God causes us trouble. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the complete opposite. If we want good things in our lives, we must get them from God. Fulfilling lusts of the flesh will cause problems in our lives but fulfilling the will of God in our lives is only beneficial. If we follow him and seek to do the things he’d have us to do, we will be more able to fight off our evil temptations. We can move from tested faith to maturity or from indulged desire to death. Each process is a set of slow choices that we make daily. Choices lead to habits, and habits set the tone of our character to be either for God or against him. What choice will you make?
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Verse 15: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

In this verse we are given a harsh fact. Lust leads to sin, sin leads to death. Death is an appointment made for all because all are born sinners. Death is unavoidable so some use this as an excuse to go out and party and live it up giving in to sin and other desires. They’re right to an extent – we can’t avoid death. It is coming whether we like it or not, but we can change where our souls are spent after our appointed times to die have come. Death isn’t the end. Our choices in this life will either land you in heaven or in hell. Again, that’s a choice that you have as human being.

“then when lust hath conceived” It takes spiritual growth and consistent dependence on God to know when a desire can be calmed and lusts can be controlled. Desires begin with the thoughts of “I have to”, “I can’t do without”, or “I would do anything if I could”. We can reason ourselves into sin just as easy as we can reason ourselves out of sin.

“when it is finished, bringeth forth death” Life is given to those who endure trials. Death comes to those who let desire run its course. Sin is full-grown when it becomes a habit. Death is referring to more than just the end of our fleshly bodies. It means the spiritual separation that comes between us and God as the result of sin (see Romans 6:23; 7:7-12; I John 2:16-17; and 3:14). There are two ways that we can choose to live:
  • OUR WAY - Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
  • GOD’S WAY - John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
God loves us. It is his love that breaks the cycle of desire-sin-death. Wherever we find ourselves in the cycle, we can always turn to God and repent. His way leads to eternal life.

Verse 16: “Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

To err means to sin; do wrong. James said in order to avoid all of these harsh endings, avoid sin altogether. Our source of temptation is not of God, so we should stay away from all things that we find in our lives that create the feeling of temptation.

Posted by Niki |
Verse 14: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

Our temptation comes from the sin nature that is present in our hearts. When we are tempted, we are drawn away of our own (lust) desires. What is a desire? Definition: a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Lust in the Bible is defined as the strong desire in our hearts to evil. Lust is never mentioned as being something good. We never lust to do good. Lust is the complete defining of selfishness. Lust tells us that we should get our personal desires no matter what. It is about satisfying our flesh no matter what. It is an enticement to sin.

The enticement to sin is not from God; it is from within our own hearts. This is one of the hardest things about being a Christian. We never completely lose our sin nature that we were born with. Paul talks about the struggles of this several times. He talks about wrestling with the flesh, dying daily, and putting away the old man.

As individuals, we are responsible for sin. There was a Jewish belief that all people have two yetzers or impulses. One to do good and one to do evil. We see this animated in many shows today. This is your angel and your devil. Any normal desire can be turned into a temptation. Eating is an easy example. We get cravings for food, indulge, and then become gluttonous. This is a sin that is easily committed by starting with a desire or craving. Desires can either be fed or starved. That choice is up to us. If we encourage our desires, they’ll soon require actions. Desires in this sense are selfish and seductive.

Our giving in to sin begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on that thought, then act on it. The best time to stop a temptation is before it gets too overwhelming or out of control. The devil makes it easy to give in to temptations. He offers suggestions from our environments, false advertisements, and fear. He uses all of these tools to lead us astray. We must always remember that sin is for a season and no satisfaction is to be gained from sin. On the other side, God gives us ways of escaping temptations. They are mentioned in Matthew 4:1-11, I Corinthians 10:13, and 2 Timothy 2:22.

How do we stand against the temptations that we know are coming?
  • We must continually be under God’s protection.
  • We must reject the enticement, or temptation by recognizing it as a false promise.
  • We must fill our lives with activities for our benefit – fellowship, good music, positive influences, studying, and learning the scriptures.
  • Doing all of these things will expand the awareness of Christ in our lives and we will be less likely to give in to our fleshly desires.
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Verse 13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”

God doesn’t play with us, put us under pressure, or send temptations our way. God does not tempt any man. Temptations will come, but God is not the source. Satan likes to tell us that God has some sort of secret hidden agenda that He is not telling us.  He likes to use our own thoughts to cause trouble. We’ve had this discussion before. We get an idea in our heads, jump to conclusions, and then we’ve started a battle with no one else ever knowing. Our trials and temptations always present us with choices. God wants us to make the better choices. We’ve talked about what we gain from troubles and trials if we endure them with faith. There’s a difference in being tested and being tempted. God will test us to make us stronger. He will never tempt us. A temptation is an evil desire.

We also touched a little bit on what happens when we fail and lose our faith during a trial. We start the blame game. From the beginning it has been a natural response to make excuses and blame others for sin. Genesis 3:12-13 gives us the first example of this. “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Who did Eve blame for her wrong decision? We like to throw out phrases like these when we make the wrong choice:
  • It’s _________ fault.
  • I couldn’t help it.
  • Everyone else is doing it.
  • It was just a mistake.
  • Nobody’s perfect.
  • I didn’t know it was wrong.
  • The devil made me do it.
  • I was pressured into it.
A person who makes excuses is trying to shift the blame onto someone else for their wrong choices. A Christian is to accept responsibility for their actions, confess them, and ask God for forgiveness.

God doesn’t tempt us. We ask the question sometimes “If God really loves us, why would he let bad things happen to us?” A God who kept us from temptation would be a God unwilling to allow us to grow. In order for a test to measure growth, you have to have aspects of it that can be failed too. God proves his love for us by protecting us IN temptation rather than FROM temptation. He gives us ways to get out of temptation:
  • His promise - I Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”His presence - Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5
  • His model – Jesus. Hebrews 2:17-18
  • His guidance – Psalm 119:105
  • His mission for our lives – Hebrews 12:1
  • His encouragement from other Christians – Hebrews 10:24, 25
  • His forgiveness – I John 1:9

Posted by Niki |

Have you ever heard someone say the phrase “I’m my own worst enemy?” Is there any truth to it?

The answer is yes. This is what we’ll address in James 1:13-18. We like to blame everything on someone else. Most times we give that credit to Satan, but other times we blame this on God. In all actuality, we do it to ourselves because of the choices we make. We have a free will and can choose for ourselves which choices and paths we take. No one makes us sin but ourselves. It’s the oldest battle – and continues to be the biggest in all aspects of life. Good versus evil. In every movie that has any action, there’s always a protagonist and an antagonist. A superhero and a villain. A good guy and a bad guy. Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong. It’s something we deal with on a daily basis. Do we follow the devil on our shoulder or the angel?

If you think back on movies that you’ve watched, did the superhero or the good guy ever bring trouble with them? Generally, no. Batman didn’t create trouble. It came when Poison Ivy, the Joker or the Riddler showed up. Dorothy didn’t create trouble on her way to Oz, it came with the Wicked Witch. God created Adam and Eve after his own image; they didn’t sin until the serpent came on the grounds with temptation. This lets us know that God is not the author of confusion or temptations. This is what we’ll discuss first in verse 13. I John 1:5 also echoes this thought. Satan can tempt us all day long, but only you make that choice of whether or not you will give in.

During our lesson, I had some of the ladies play Chutes and Ladders. The chutes represented sin because it was the quickest way to get across the board, but it only went down. The ladders represented our daily struggles because they had to climb, but in the end the reward was greater. The ladders were the things that projected you across the board, allowing you to climb closer to the goal of 100. 
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Verse 12: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

The word blessed is a deep joy that comes from receiving God’s favor. Jesus used this word in the Beatitudes. If we take the lessons learned from verses 2-4 in James chapter 1 and apply them to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, we can see that we should:
  •     Consider it joy to be poor in spirit
  •     Consider it joy to mourn
  •     Consider it joy to be meek
  •     Consider it joy to hunger and thirst for righteousness
  •     …apply this equation to the rest of the Beatitudes and it will give you a different way of looking at things.
We mentioned this in the previous lesson, but in order to make it through a trial, we must endure it. You can’t just stop in the middle and expect it to go away. James says if we stick through the rough times, we will be blessed. He goes on to say that we shall receive the crown of life that has been promised to us. This just isn’t any promise. It’s a promise from God himself. This crown of life is hope. It’s eternity in heaven with our savior. Revelation 2:10 says “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

Today’s trials will seem like training when we face tomorrow’s challenges.

Posted by Niki |
James 1:9 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
The brother of low degree is a poor man. James brings status into the situation because trials will come no matter how much money they have. During the time of James’ writings, ALL professing Christians were being persecuted. Money didn’t make a difference. We might think that having money will solve all of our problems but we never know how much debt people with money are in or how much their family is suffering due to the lack of their presence on a daily basis. Everyone is vulnerable to trials.

In that he is exalted: Although the man with little money might not have many earthly things to be glorious in, he can glorify knowing that God values him with great worth. Jeremiah 9:23-24 describes the emphasis on how little monetary status really means. We might not have much, but we are rich in Christ. James 2:5 confirms this. In James 1:4 he said that as long as we persevere and keep the faith, we will want for nothing. James gives us a challenge to see beyond our physical status and look beyond to our eternal lives. If we are living for Christ, we are richer than many others in this world. We have hope.

James 1:10 “But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”
James mentions the rich because he gives them a warning. He reminds them not to measure their worth by possessions for security and joy because these won’t last. They need to heed God’s advice on wealth and money so they will use it humbly and productively for God’s kingdom. If you think about it, the rich are at a greater risk for going away from God because they have more money for drugs, alcohol, excessive spending, and fulfilling many other carnal desires due to the fund needed to have those things.

In his humiliation: Just because they were wealthy didn’t mean that they were exempt from religious persecutions. This was the one thing that leveled both rich and poor. It equals them. The words that James says means that the poor are low in this world, they are high in God’s eyes. While the rich are high in this world, they are brought low in God’s eyes, and both can teach one another. The rich should be humbled because:

They no longer need the riches of life for security
They have been accepted in the family of Christ
They have an identity with Christ in suffering (Philippians 3:10)
Their humility for the present will be rewarded in the future (Matthew 23:12)

James reminds us that no matter what our finances are, our only secure thing in life is our salvation. Don’t put your trust in earthly things or you will be highly disappointed. In the second part of the verse James begins quoting Isaiah 40:6-8. He finishes the quoting of the verses in James 1:11.

Verse 11: “For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

This verse is a continuation of the quoted verses in Isaiah 40:6-8. We don’t like to think about death. Wealth brings a false sense of security to people. This verse/phrase compares grass and flowers. In the desert, a rain shower will cause the grasses and flowers to sprout almost instantly, but as soon as the sun hits them, they wither and die. The feeling of comfort and security can be here one moment and gone the next.

The verse wraps up with saying that the rich man will fade away in his ways. Many times we are shocked at the death of a celebrity or well-known person. It shouldn’t make any difference to us what their social or economic status was. We are all guaranteed death at some point in our lives. That decision is up to God. James began his letter by making sure that believers, both poor and rich, see themselves in the same light before Christ. There is no difference. A soul is a soul; it’s lost or it’s saved. That is the only difference.

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James 1:8 “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

Again, this goes to the subject of doubt. Being double-minded is similar to the phrase “trying to be in two places at once.” If you are struggling or wavering back and forth between two things, you are double-minded. This is the simplest definition of a hypocrite. Here’s a good way to see if you’re double-minded:
  • In your personal life…if you proclaim diet and exercise and condone those who don’t follow dietary guides yet you stuff your face with cheeseburgers and never move, you’re double-minded.
  • In your business life…demanding that someone be disciplined for taking something from your desk, yet you are sneaking out office supplies, you are double-minded.
  • In your social life…are you acting one way around one group of people and another way around a different group? If so, you are double-minded.
  • In your spiritual life…are you trying to serve God while doing things of the world? If so, you are double-minded.
Romans 8:5-6 tells us the dangers of having our minds in the wrong place. A double-minded person is unstable because they can’t make a choice. They can’t stand firm on one decision.
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James 1:6 “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

Ask in faith: What is faith? The biblical definition can be found in Hebrews 11:1. God only gives us one condition when we come to him. WE MUST ASK IN FAITH. Our prayers and requests won’t get a response if we don’t believe that God can do what we ask of him. We were told in our lesson from last week that these trials will test our faith. Faith is our complete trust in God. Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Nothing wavering: Wavering means to go back and forth. Being divided. Doubt. Doubting is trusting more in one’s self than in God. In order to calm those wavering moments, we must be fully committed to Christ. Our trust must be in Him.  While preparing for this lesson, the song “In Christ Alone” came on. The first verse says this: “In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I stand.” Someone who doubts can’t say these words and mean them. He is our hope, light, love, cornerstone, solid ground, firm through drought and storm. This is complete unwavering. There is no back and forth with what Christ did for us. He struck through everything so we could have life and have it more abundantly. All he asks of us is that we choose him in all aspects of our lives. He hasn’t let us down yet…

James 1:7 “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

We are given a harsh reality in this verse. If we don’t go to God completely trusting him, don’t expect an answer. God knows our hearts and will answer us accordingly. If you’ve been praying for something and it seems like your prayers are going nowhere, you might need to step back and take a real good look at yourself. It’s called self-examination.

Posted by Niki |
This lesson is entitled “Dealing with Difficulty” for a good reason. We need to be ready for troubles and trials because we know they are coming. We discussed that last week. The main thought for this week is: It’s too late to gain spiritual stability when we are in the middle of a trial. Ignorance will make any situation worse, so God’s cure for anxiety is knowledge and faith. Again, this week we will look at two similar words with two entirely different meanings (last week was joy and happiness). To begin, we will look at the word wisdom. What does it mean? When you google the word wisdom, you get this definition: the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. In the Greek, the original word used is “Sophia” meaning broad and full of intelligence. Think back to the last lesson in James 1:2, he said to count it all JOY. In order to do this we must have wisdom.

James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

He says if any of you lack wisdom. This means if you DO NOT have it. The wisdom we need during situations has three characteristics:
  • It’s practical: God’s wisdom relates to life in trying times. A smart person might have ideas, but wise puts them in action.
  • It’s divine: It goes beyond common sense. It’s having respect for God knowing that his directions are best.
  • It is Christ like: Asking for wisdom is ultimately asking to be like Christ.
Ask of God: It’s not fun to be in a situation where you don’t have the answers you need to get through it. What do you do when you are driving or get lost? You either turn on the GPS, turn to the map, or ask for directions. This is what James is advising us to do. You have to get to the point where you know nothing can be accomplished by your actions so you turn to God asking for his guidance to go in the right direction.

God gives to us liberally (generously) and without any strings attached: He welcomes us and our requests. All he asks is that we come boldly before him and ask for the answers we need. The word “upbraideth” means to find fault in. He will give without scolding us for decisions and choices we might have made on our own trying to fix our problems.

It will be given: This it isn’t just anything – it is wisdom. The wisdom is God’s guidance, not for us to be removed from our problems. We should be asking for guidance and wisdom to remain in His will, not to go about doing what we think should be done.

Posted by Niki |
James 1:4 “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

When we endure our trials as God intends, this rounds out or faith making us a complete being in Christ. Our completeness is recognized by three characteristics (we gain these by endurance):
  • Maturity (Perfect): seasoned. Fit for the tasks God sends us to do. It is a quality based on the knowledge we have gained from those experiences. This does not relate to age. If you’re 40 and still making the same mistakes as you did in your 20’s, you haven’t learned anything, therefore you aren’t maturing. Maturity and experience are two different things. Experience is when we recognize a mistake when we make it again. Maturity is realizing the mistake before we make it again. Maturity makes time.
  • Complete (Entire): Fully trained. To become complete means that we have become mature in many areas of life. God doesn’t want cheap substitutes. He want’s thoroughly developed Christians.
  • Lacking Nothing: Mirroring Christ himself. Life skills are developed and ready to use. This is knowing that God has what we need, when we need it. Fully believing in God’s faithfulness.
A tested faith brings on many things:
  •     Depth of Character: Romans 5:3-5
  •     Enables us to comfort and encourage others: I Corinthians 1:3-5
  •     Increases dependence on God for wisdom: James 1:5; 3:17-18
  •     Encourages us to lead a productive and effective life: 2 Peter 1:5-9
  •     Helps us to identify with Christ: Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 5:7-10
  •     Shows us to focus on our future hope in Christ: Romans 8:18-24
Where there is testing, there are failures. It is possible to go through trials and learn absolutely nothing. Growth is not guaranteed. James fully expects us to respond with joy because we understand that the process is producing a deeper, more established faith.

The last part of verse 4 says “wanting nothing.” If I asked you to make a list of everything you wanted, how long would it take? What if you were in a situation where you wanted nothing? What would it feel like to be content, having everything you ever wanted? Our God is a generous God. He will make sure all our needs are met and will fulfill our desires – just not in our timing. It will be in his. Over time we may realize that we don’t want everything we might have wanted at one time in our lives. We might gain things that we never thought we’d have. In God’s time, we should be completely satisfied.

James could have written to the persecuted Christians in a completely different way. He could have told them to turn their backs on God and wallow in in self-pity. James was an influential man and could have said anything he wanted. This was all a matter of his attitude. We don’t get to pick and choose our situations but we can decide how we react to them. You can do this one of two ways. You can either:
  • Become bitter and mean spirited
  • See the trials as strengthening your faith

Posted by Niki |
James 1:3 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

The trying of our faith is a test. A test is a measurement of what we have learned over a period of time. The word test is positive although it has negative connotations. The Greek root word is the same word used in I Peter 1:6-7 meaning “proved genuine”. Trials and tests do not determine whether or not believers have faith. The trials strengthen believers by adding perseverance to the faith that is already present.

The word patience that is used here means the same thing as endurance. In our everyday lives we hear about endurance when runners or athletes are mentioned. They have to train to build their endurance in order for their bodies to remain strong throughout the duration of their events. Spiritual endurance is the same thing. It is faith that becomes stretched out. It involves trusting God for a long duration (see Hebrews 12:1-4). What makes it so hard to endure trials? Most times we get ourselves all worked up about how to get out of them rather than stick them out to find out the blessings during the trial. There are three main reactions to a trial:
  • Escape: This is generally our first line of defense. Avoid, deny, or escape. James gives us the answer to these unescapable trials. What do we do during times of trouble that we can’t escape? COUNT THEM JOY.
  • Explain: Why me? What did I do? We begin demanding answers from God because we feel like we are being punished unjustly. Some trials are just unavoidable and unexplainable. What does James have to say about these times? COUNT THEM JOY.
  • Exit: We’ll do anything we can to get away from a trial. Shortcuts, negotiations, cutting deals. We have to remember that God’s timing isn’t ours. Our trials are on his time. There might not be a quick fix or a speedy exit. We must still COUNT THEM JOY.
Posted by Niki |
Were we promised when we got saved that we would have an easy life?


Jesus knew that we would face troubles and trials in our lives. James wrote his book during the Roman persecution era of the church. The needed some good information how to handle their situations. This is why the book of James is often called the most practical book in the Bible (see James 1:1). Our troubles and trials are never an “if” they are a “when”.

How are we supposed to deal with difficulties (because we know they are coming)? With a good attitude.Where does that good attitude come from? Our relationship with Jesus. The resources we need to deal with difficulties are spiritual, so our spirits must be right with God.

James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations:”

Divers temptations are troubles and trials. James says to count these as joy. Joy is different than happiness. James is not encouraging believers to pretend to be happy during rough times. Joy goes beyond happiness. Happiness is based on earthly circumstances and joy is based on our presence with God.

What does it mean to count? Think of an accountant. They balance numbers, they count things. They sort numbers into two columns. A positive and a negative. Debts and assets. It is up to an accountant to place the numbers in the right columns.

We are accountants with our situations and experiences. Things that hurt are our debts. We avoid them. Something positive or a good experience is what we look forward to and count as a blessing. As we become more experienced with life we realize that this method becomes more complicated. Things that cause us to suffer may become blessings in the end. On the other hand, things might appear to be blessings and we find that they cause us pain.

During these times of uncertainty of not knowing which category to file our situations in, James says to add them to your joy column. Most times we’d rather put them away and avoid them. But when we overcome them, we gain strength. They can help us grow in grace and can bring us closer to Jesus. Nothing that brings us close to God is bad. We might not enjoy it during, but the end will be joy.

It’s not a matter of what happens to us; it’s a matter of how we deal with what happens to us.

Posted by Niki |
James, like Jesus, was a Jew. James became a great leader in the church of Jerusalem at a hard time. His time was hard because the Gentiles, Jews, and born again Jews were trying to worship in the same place, but in different ways. In the Old Testament the Jews were given laws on how to live, but for the born again Jews and Gentiles, they were having to develop a set of guidelines to live by.

What’s the difference in a Jew, a Gentile and a born-again Jew? ANSWER: A Gentile was anyone who wasn’t a Jew. A Jew was a person who lived by a set of laws set up early during the time of Moses. This included laws on life, food, and every other aspect of living. A born-again Jew was a person of Jewish faith who saw and realized Christ to be the savior. They were now Jewish Christians.

Throughout the book of Acts we are given some insight to James’ work in the church. Don’t get our James confused with James the brother of John in Acts 12. James was a very common name during this time. James was involved in the Jerusalem Counsel – an organization created to set up laws for Gentiles and Jews about 20 years after Christ’s resurrection. This included subjects such as circumcision of Gentiles, as well as food restrictions for the Gentiles. James worked hard to persuade the Jews to accept the Gentiles as brothers and sisters in Christ without having them convert to Judaism before they could become a Christian. He advised the Gentiles to abstain from idols, immoral conduct, and foods that were offensive to the Jews. Instead of dividing the people from each other, James united them so they could worship together.

Now, if we go to Galatians 2, we find out more about James. Who wrote the book of Galatians? ANSWER: Paul.

Paul commends James as being a mediator during this time of transition in the church in Galatians 2:9 “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” This meant that the church would deal with the Jews and Paul and Barnabas had their “blessing” to go out and witness to the Gentiles. The right hands of fellowship is a handshake. This signified that it was possible to serve the Lord in two completely different ways as long as they had the same end goal. Compare this to a contemporary church and a traditional church. What is a pillar? ANSWER: A source of support.

James supported Paul several different times. In Acts 21 James give Paul some advice because James knew that the Jews were after Paul. They did not like his radical way of thinking and they were confused by him. James advised Paul to pay for four men who were ending their Nazarene vow.

What was a Nazarene? ANSWER: (Numbers 6:2-8) "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: 3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. 4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. 5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. 8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.”

Who were some Nazarene’s in the Bible? ANSWER: John, Jesus, James, Samson, Samuel. [NEW KNOWLEDGE: A Nazarene vow could be taken and ended similar to how people make vows for Lent. If they wanted to end their vow, they had to go through a series of rituals and sacrifices. These can be found in Numbers 6:13] James wanted there to be as little tension and drama as possible. He knew this would be a visual representation of Paul’s support for the Jewish people. Paul after all, was a Jew. For Paul to refer to these three men (James – note his name is mentioned first, Cephas (Peter) and John) as “pillars” of the church, they had to have an extreme amount of responsibility and sensibility. Their level-headedness was needed to make these transitions between Jew and Gentile as smooth as possible during the setting up of the early church.  Paul had an utmost respect for these men and makes this known several times.

These men worked together to establish the early church and to get the gospel of Christ out to others. Peter states their goals perfectly in Acts 15:7-11: “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Later in the verses 14-16, James quotes the Old Testament prophet Amos by saying: Simeon (Peter in Hebrew form) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:” This is a direct quote from Amos 9:11-12.

In conclusion, had it not been for James’ level-headedness during the Jerusalem Council, us as Gentiles might be living an entirely different life. Imagine if things had been left solely in the hands of Peter and Paul? They’re wonderful men of God but they’re radicals with a zeal and no boundaries. Peter was wishy-washy and changed his story at the drop of a hat and Paul refused to back down no matter what. Look at their prison records – They were in there quite a bit. Knowing all of this, we should truly appreciate the writings of James. They are coming from someone without bias, and from a point of compassion and levelheadedness that we should all strive for. He is truly an amazing man of God.
Posted by Niki |
James’ salvation did not happen until James encountered Jesus after the resurrection. I Corinthians 15:7 gives the encounter.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

When James saw Jesus was victorious over the grave and death, he trusted him and was saved. James’ salvation was no different than our own. James had to put aside his feelings he had growing up and realize that Jesus was who he had claimed to be the whole time. Jesus’ other brothers converted and later became ministers and evangelists. They were married and traveled with their wives. This also refers to Paul and Peter (Cephas) being married. This is found in I Corinthians 9:5 “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”
Posted by Niki |
Matthew 13:55-56 says “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

These were Jesus’ half-siblings because they did not share the same father. Since James is listed first in the siblings, we can assume he was 2nd in birth order. Christ was the first.

Imagine being in a family of at least 7 – count Mary, Joseph, Jesus, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas and then throw in an unknown number of sisters (notice that it’s plural from scripture). After the scenario I give you, it will make the scene of Mary and Joseph “losing” Jesus at the temple a little more relatable. Picture this scene:

At the beginning of the scripture In Luke 2:39 it says “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.” In verse 41 it says “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.”

Where were Mary and Joseph from? ANSWER: Nazareth (see verse 41 of Luke 2).
History time! Jewish men were required to attend three Jewish feasts annually.
Which feast are they attending in this scripture? ANSWER: Passover

The other two feasts were the feast of weeks and the feast of tabernacles. Deuteronomy 16:16 gives the instructions for the feasts. “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:”
  • Pesah (Passover –Feast of Unleavened Bread): celebrated the Exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt, as well as the beginning of the new planting season in Israel. It usually happens the week before Easter.
  • Shavout (Feast of Weeks): an agricultural celebration. It falls exactly 7 weeks after Passover. This year it will be June 3rd-June 5th.
  • Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles): celebrates the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years when they only had God to rely on for food and protection. This also celebrates the last harvest festival before the early rains. It falls 5 days after Yom Kippur – usually in mid-Autumn. This year it will be October 8th-October 15th.
Traveling was not the most pleasant experience during this time. Go back to the family. We counted seven at minimum. Add this number to a few other neighborhood families, load your stuff up on a camel and stick the kids up front to set the pace. Yep. The kids set the pace because most of it was foot travel. Had the adults set the pace, the kids would constantly be dragging behind. NOW. If you google the current distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem you get a nice little map with current traffic and your ETA. It was a journey of 91 miles going the quickest way. In current traffic on a Sunday at 5:57pm, it takes 1 hour, 37 minutes. It takes right at 30 minutes to briskly walk 1 mile. If you use this calculation, it takes an entirely long time to make this trip.

Compare this trip to one your family might have made. Growing up, my family - not just me, Dillon, mom and dad but a total of 19 people – 7 of those were children - made the trek from the mountains of NC to the southern coast of SC. We took six cars and used walkie talkies before cell phones. I imagine this trip was about as close as what I can picture to Jesus’ family’s annual journey. Ours took 7-8 hours driving almost straight through. That always seemed like an ETERNITY.

From reading the Bible we can gather that James and Jesus were close in age. We already mentioned this, but I want to reinforce it. If you have a sibling that is close to you in age, you know what challenges and blessings come with this. Jesus and James more than likely had some serious sibling rivalry being the oldest two children, being close in age, and being boys. James being the younger brother probably looked up to his older brother and tried to live up to his standards. There are two verses that talk about Jesus and his growth during childhood:
  • Luke 2:40 “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”
  • Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
Were you ever in a sibling’s shadow? Reading Luke 2:52, one might feel incapable of living up to the standard of that older sibling. I’m sure this is how James felt most of his life.

 In Mark 3:31-35 we are given some insight into how Jesus felt about his family.
“There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. 33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

People came to Jesus and told him that his family was looking for him. He responds with “who is my mother? My brethren?” He looked out over the people he was with and said YOU are my family. He said that whosoever does the will of God are now brothers, sisters, and mothers. This would lead us to believe that his family wasn’t his biggest support system.

In addition to the scripture in Mark, the Bible says in John 7:5 that his own brethren didn’t even believe him. At the time these scriptures were written, the Jews were already looking to kill him due to his claims of being the Messiah. Again, we see his family take a far from supportive role in his life.
John 7:1-5 says “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. 4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. 5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.” There are several things to point out in these verses:
  • It was during the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot). As earlier mentioned, it was one of the three feasts that men were required to attend.
  • His brothers/relatives seemed to tease him. Paraphrasing: Go on to Judea where all the people can see you do all these so called “miracles” that you say you do. People don’t do things in private and expect to gain popularity for them. You have to do it in public.
  • Jesus responds with “it’s not the right time for me to go.” Why? ANSWER: He would have been traveling with all the other two million Jews making their way to Jerusalem. If this particular group of people were looking to kill you, would you go out in the midst of them? He also tells them that they can go ahead anytime. No one is looking to kill you. At the time of this feast, Jesus traveled alone.