The Book of James – Draw Close to God

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“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” James 4:7-10

Our biggest problem today is we have let the world come between us and God. We have allowed the world to come into our churches. Too many churches are no more than social clubs. We have too many celebrities in our churches and not enough servants. Christian workers are promoted so much that there is very little place left for God’s glory. We have nothing in ourselves to be proud of. If we see God moving in our lives or in a church, it has nothing to do with us, it has everything to do with God. I see too many church celebrities telling everyone how great they are and not enough about how great our God is.

There are three enemies that take us away from God; the world, the flesh, and Satan. James gives us instructions to follow if we want victory over the enemies of God. We must submit to God. Unconditional surrender is the only way to complete victory. If there is any area of your life that is helt back from God, there will always be battles. We must draw near to God. How do we do this? By confessing our sins and asking for His cleaning. God graciously draws near to us when we deal with sin in our lives. The sin in our lives keeps God at a distance. He will not share us with anything else. He must have complete control. If we are going to have victory, we must humble ourselves before God. “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 55:16-17) If we can just obey these three instructions, then God will draw near to us, cleanse us, and forgive us and the wars will end. We will not be at war with God, so we will not be at war with ourselves. This means that you will not be at war with others. Then God will become the Prince of Peace in your life.

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7

The Book of James – Enemy of God

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“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.  Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:4-6

The root of all war, internal and external, is rebellion against God. At the time of creation everything was in harmony. Then sin entered the world and led to conflict. How does a believer declare war against God? By being friendly with God’s enemy. James asked a question; do you not know that being friends with the world makes you an enemy of God. James is telling us that we must make a choice. Today we think that we can do whatever we want, be as worldly as we want and still go to heaven. This is not what my Bible tells me. My Bible tells me that I have to make the choice. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21)

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Paul tells us that we are not be conformed to the world. We don’t copy the things that the world does, we allow God to transform us to be this new person in Jesus Christ. Just what is being a friend of the world. It is forming our thinking as the world views life.  We put other things in front of God. We allow worldly things to get in the way of our Christin life. We make things of the world the center of our life, not God. God is a jealous god and He want us all to Himself. Think about what do you want to choose, life with God here on earth and eternity or the world that does not give us the peace that God can give us.

The Book of James – Motives

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“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3

If we are having conflicts in the church, what is the first thing that we should do about the conflict? We should pray. The focus of the person who does not pray about the conflict is toward self, not toward God. Often when we have conflict, we scheme, we tell our friends our side of the story, we read self-help books of how to deal with difficult people, but we don’t make the conflict a matter of prayer. One reason we fail to pray is because it is hard to pray for someone and be angry with them at the same time. Since we want to justify our anger, I have the right to be angry, we want our anger to make the person pay, so we want let go of that anger so that we can pray for that person. We may even say that I do pray for them. I pray that God will change their mind and they will see things my way. This prayer is the prayer that James is talking about in this scripture. You pray with the wrong motive. You are using God to get what you want. Prayer is not about us using God.  It is about God using us. If we are to receive anything from God, we must pray with the right motive.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

The Book of James – Take Responsibility

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“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3

I just used a bad word, responsibility. Today most people do not want to accept responsibility for anything. It is always someone else at fault that’s causing the problem. They go thru life not facing responsibility for their problems. Life is difficult. This is a great truth. Once we learn to accept that life is difficult and that we will have problems in life, life is less difficult. Life is a series of problems. Do we want to complain and moan about them or do we want to solve them and go on with life? What do we need to solve these life problems? We need to have discipline. Discipline is a set of tools that we use to solve problems. It is painful at times to have the discipline to solve problems. We don’t want any pain in life, but life is about pain. Without the pain of problems, we will not grow as a Christian or a human being.

In any conflict we will find that there are always two sides. Conflict is never one sided. I know that you say, if they would just listen, we would not have the conflict or you just don’t know what they did to me. This may be true, but if we accept responsibility, we will want to sit down and talk out the conflict and see if we can find a common ground. It is easier to just blame others than to work out the conflict. Even if the conflict is not your fault, you must take the responsibility to solve the problem. This takes discipline.

The Book of James – War with Ourselves

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“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3

Image, there is fighting within the church. We sometimes feel that the early church was the example of what the church looks like, but this is not true. The early church was fighting with each other just like our churches today. Even the disciples created problem when they argued over who was going to be greatest in the kingdom. The members of the Corinthians church were competing with each other in the public meetings and even sueing each other in court. The Galatians were biting and devouring one another. Paul had to admonish Ephesians to cultivate spiritual unity and even his beloved church at Philippi had problems. Two women could not get along with each other. There is a story of a church in Canada that a pastor one Sunday morning became wrapped up in his tie and after that he said churches had to be tie free. This led to a fight within the church and today there is a denomination that does not allow ties in their church. This sounds silly but I have seen churches split over less. Why do we see so much fighting in the church? It is because of our selfishness. We want our way no matter what is right. Our fighting is not a problem with others; it is a problem with ourselves. It is a problem with our hearts. We have not allowed Jesus to heal us of all our hurts. Until we allow God’s healing in our life, we will fight with others so that we can hide what is in our hearts.

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Galatians 5:15, Ephesians 4:1-16, Philippians 4:1-3

The Book of James – Godly Wisdom

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“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

True wisdom comes from God, but false wisdom comes from Satan. Whatever doesn’t come from God is destined to fail, no matter how successful it seems at times. The Bible contains many examples of how worldly wisdom failed. The building of the tower of Babel seemed like a wise enterprise at the time, but it ended in failure and confusion. It seemed wise for Abraham to go to Egypt when the famine came to Canaan, but the results proved otherwise. King Saul thought it was wise to put his own armor on young David for his battle with Goliath, but God had other plans. The disciples though it was wise to dismiss the crowd and let them find their own food; but Jesus took a few loaves and fish and fed the multitude. How many times in your life did you just know that what you did was wise, just to have it fail? I could write a large book on how many times I have missed God’s wisdom and followed my wisdom or the world’s wisdom. Godly wisdom is the wisdom that I want in my life. My problem is I don’t want to wait on God so that I can have His wisdom. I feel that I just know a better way to do things and quicker. Do you have that problem? I want the wisdom that this verse talks about. I want the peace that you have when we follow God’s wisdom. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to move forward for Him.

Today’s Bible Reading: Geneses 11:1-9, Geneses 12:10-20, 1 Samuel 17:38

The Book of James – Wisdom or Knowledge

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“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13

Wisdom, just what is wisdom? I pray often for wisdom, because there are times that I just don’t know what I need to do. Without wisdom I just wonder around not knowing how to apply the knowledge that I have. Having wisdom helps us not only to know God’s will for our lives, but to know how  we can practice this call from God. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) James in these verses is still talking about the teachers and leaders in the church. You can be a great teacher or preacher and know how to say things, but the key is to live what you teach and this takes wisdom. Knowledge enables us to take things apart and wisdom enables us to put things together and relate God’s truth to daily life. James asks a question in this verse, “who is wise and understanding among you?” We must answer this question. Do you have wisdom or just knowledge?

A truly wise person will demonstrate the humility of wisdom by his good works. The true test of God’s kind of wisdom is a life well lived, a life spent doing good works for others. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5-7) Without setting ourselves aside, we cannot hope to become the wise servants God has called us to be.

The Book of James – Refreshing Water

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“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so, blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?” James 3:9-11

There is a story of a stream that came out of a beautiful mountain. It was clear and the cleanest pure water that could be found anywhere. There was an old man that lived at the top of the mountain that worked to remove all the limbs and trash from the steam before it flowed into the city. As it always is, the people that lived in the city below did not understand why the water was so clear and pure. One day at the city council meeting they decided to let the old man go because it cost for him to keep the stream clear. It did not take long for the stream to become dirty and it was not pure any longer. This is what God does for us. He keeps the trash and limbs out of our stream of thought. This is what keeps our speech pure and clean. If we think that we don’t need God anymore, our speech becomes evil. James has talked a lot about our speech. It is because our speech is so important. As a child, I always heard sticks and stone can break my bones, but bad words cannot hurt me. This saying is a lie from the pits of hell. More damage has been done to children by what is said than any other harm.  What we say to someone can last a lifetime. I know that I have spoken before I thought and it caused problems. My prayer is that God will send me the pure clean water so that my speech can be uplifting and a blessing to others.

Today’s Bible Reading: Proverbs 18:4-21

The Book of James – Flame of Fire

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“And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:6

James has been describing the amazing power of our words—our tongues. Like bits which control horses, or rudders which control ships, or sparks which start a forest-leveling fire, our tiny tongues—through the words we say with them—can do great things, many of them greatly destructive. James stops comparing our tongues to other things and describes them as they are. The picture isn’t pretty. He describes the tongue itself as a fire, meaning it can burn whatever we touch with our words. It is like a fire, very useful in its place, to warm and comfort; so is the tongue in Christian conversation, and in the ministry of the word; the hearts of God’s children burn within them, while they are talking together, and while the Scriptures of truth are opening to them; but as fire should be carefully watched, and kept, so should men take heed to their ways, that they sin not with their tongue, and keep their tongue from evil, and their lips from speaking  and rises up into a flame, so angry, and passionate words, stir up the flame of lust, anger, envy, and revenge; and as fire is of a spreading nature, so are lies, scandal, and evil reports vented by the tongue; and as fire devours all that comes in its way, such are the words of an evil tongue; and therefore are called devouring words, they devour the good names of men, and corrupt their good manners, and destroy those who make use of them; and what wood is to fire, and coals to burning coals, that are whisperers, tale bearers, backbiters, are what starts the fire that destroys.

When you control fire, you generate power. The tongue cannot be tamed by man, but it can be tamed by God. It can be set on fire from hell or heaven. If the heart is filled with hatred, Satan will light the fire. If the heart is filled with love, God will light the fire.

Today’s Bible Reading: Psalm 52:1-5, Proverbs 26:20-21

The Book of James – Small Things

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“We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.” James 3:3-5

James presented two items that are small, but has great power. A small bit enables the rider to control the great horse and a rudder enables the pilot to steer the ship. The tongue is a small thing but it has great power. Both the bit and the rudder must overcome a great force. The bit is fighting the wild side of the horse. The rudder is fighting the wind and the sea to guide the ship. The tongue also has to fight a great power. We have the old sin nature that is wanting to control the tongue. We also have Satan wanting to control us. There are many circumstances around us that would make us say things we ought not to say. We have sin on the inside and pressure on the outside seeking to control our tongue. The bit and the rudder must be under the control of a strong hand. When Jesus Christ controls the tongue, then we need not fear saying the wrong thing. “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (Proverbs 18:21) “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.” (Psalm 141:3-4) Solomon warned of our tongue and David knew that the heart is the key to right speech. When Jesus Christ is the Lord of our heart, then He is Lord of our lips.

“You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” (Matthew 12:34)