Submit Yourselves to God – James 4-5

In chapter 4, James says that our passions are at war within us. It is the passion of desire and covetousness at war with what we know to be right. He sums it up in the last verse: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  Friendship with the world, he says is enmity with God. This friendship is the passion for those things of the world that take us farther away from being God’s children, and closer to the way the rest of the world lives. They are those things that corrupt the heart and consume our desires.

Verse 5 says “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” God made us in His image, and he desires all of us to be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4), and that is why He has made His grace freely available to those who are humble (1 Peter 5:5). The advice he gives to all who struggle with temptation is “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” We draw near to God by earnest prayer and by reading His word daily.

James has several different gems of wisdom for the reader in chapter 5. Verses 1-6 concern those among the rich who have prospered at the expense of the poor – oppressing, defrauding, and even murdering them.  James makes it clear that those people will be dealt with by the Lord in harsh measure upon His coming day.

Upon that premise, he calls upon the righteous to be patient, just as the farmer must be patient for his crops to grow, for the day of the Lord’s coming is at hand. Again he urges patience and steadfastness in verses 10-11, reminding us of the Lord’s compassion and mercy. In the closing verses, James puts great emphasis on the power of faith and of prayers, particularly the prayers of the righteous. Time and again, as in verse 16, the scriptures emphasize how important our fellowship with one another in worship is, and how we lift each other up – here we are told to confess our sins to each other and pray together and for each other.

Finally, the charge is given to us to care for one another, particularly for those who have fallen away, and our reward will be great, as verses 19-20 conclude “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

James 4, James 5, 1 Peter 1, 1 Peter 2, 1 Peter 3

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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Standards for Teachers – James 3

In chapter 3, James opens with a declaration that not many of them should be teachers. The reason he gives first is that as teachers, they will be judged by higher standards by other men; and there are fewer that can live up to those standards than there are those who would like to teach. One of the chief ways that such a man can “stumble” is by his tongue. As James points out, that part of the body causes more trouble (and is harder to control) than any other. He aptly states it this way “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” How timelessly true!

Another problem in these early days of the church, was that there were still many Judaizers who were trying to impose the Old Law on the Christians of the day, despite the clarity God had given on the subject through the apostles. Verse 14’s mention of selfish ambition brings to light still another bad reason some would want to teach. Perhaps because of jealousy, or just wishing to put themselves in positions of respect without regard for their ability or adherence to the truth, some would seek to teach anyway, being “false to the truth.” Verse 15 says “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

2 Cor 12, 2 Cor 13, James 1, James 2, James 3

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The Testing of Your Faith – James 1-2

James opens this letter by including the greeting “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” Often, when the Bible refers to the “dispersion” or “diaspora” it refers to the fact that the Jews had been scattered around in various places by all of the exiles and such. But the term takes on New meaning after the events of Acts 11:19. It was there that we are told of the scattering of Jewish Christians to “as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch” in the wake of the persecution that followed the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), and it grew to include the Christians that were Gentiles who fled for the same reason. It is clearly a mix of this group to which Peter speaks in 1 Peter 1:1.

Although this chapter, like all of the book, is full of wisdom, without question the most famous passage in chapter one is found in verses 2,3, and 4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The persecuted Christians he addressed here would have been having their full share of trials; and it resonates soundly for us today. Anyone who has been a child of God for a long time knows without question that the trials and hardships we experience throughout life help to build our character, and when we stand firm in our faith in the face of them, that faith is greatly strengthened over time.

The chapter is just 26 verses long, but contains wisdom rivaling many different chapters of the Book of Proverbs, so we will not attempt to comment on every one of them. We have already written at some length of this chapter in this previous post. So we will leave it with the observation that we often pray for God to do something for us – usually when we have trouble of some sort in our lives. How often, when things work out to our advantage or great relief, do we forget the urgency with which we asked for His help? Do we not sometimes even look at it without regard to God having any part in the resolution? James 1:17 always gets me thinking about this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” We should never hesitate to give thanks to our Lord for the blessings we receive.

Chapter 2 of James spends fully half of the chapter on the subject of showing partiality to those who are rich over those who are poor. The second half deals with faith, and though it is a very important part of the chapter, we have covered it in this previous post if you would like to read more about verses 14-26.

The chapter begins by talking about how it is a sin to show partiality to those who come into the assembly. But the following verses make it clear that it is a sin to do so under any circumstances or setting. How natural it seems to most of us to consider ourselves compassionate toward others. But how natural still it is to turn our attentions more fully to those who surround us that are more popular. Usually, they are favored because of their station in life, their better dress, fine cars, and other material reasons. But sometimes, their material possessions may not have so much to do with it.

Often, all it takes to make them more attractive to us is literally how physically attractive, or even athletic, they are. It is a sad fact that those who are less attractive, or perhaps even those who seem less capable to most people often get left out – or even left behind. That is a lesson that those who are left out begin to learn even as children. Sadly, those guilty of this sin often never outgrow it. Sadder still, are the hearts that often get broken.

The key is in the tie-in to verses 8-11. The Lord commanded us to love our neighbor. But as the scripture points out, you can love your neighbors and treat one of them better than the other for really lousy reasons. Conducting ourselves this way, the verses say is no better than committing murder while patting ones self on the back for not being an adulterer.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

2 Cor 12, 2 Cor 13, James 1, James 2, James 3

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Toward More Effective Prayer

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo.

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last month we began a series intended to help us develop our praying habits with an emphasis on the ACTS method of prayer in this article. Most Christians pray every day. Many of us pray several times each day, giving thanks to God before eating each meal,  before going to sleep, and whenever else we find the opportunity.

Some of us have our own special times when we approach God at length in prayer. Any time we talk to God in prayer is beneficial to us. It really is not complicated – prayer is simply talking to God. But most of us want to grow – to become better at praying, especially when we pray in public; and we do grow each time that we pray. The best way to improve one’s prayer life is to read and meditate on God’s word, and then pray – and do so often!

As we study and meditate on God’s word, we will often be inclined in our prayers to quote parts of a particular passage that has become familiar to us, and that is perfectly fine. Some of the most powerful prayers in the Bible use verbiage that is contained elsewhere in God’s word. Why would it not be acceptable in our own prayers? In fact, some of the most effective and encouraging prayers we’ve heard contained references to Scripture.

As we have stated, there is no one formula for prayer. But we most often begin with the “adoration” that the ACTS method refers to. And the beginning is a great place for us to start this year of learning to pray better. With adoration, we recognize the greatness of our Lord God, and acknowledge the depths of His power and glory. Consider David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13:

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty,
for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.
In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name

We will leave you to meditate on the following short prayer. If it sounds familiar, it is because the words are adapted from Psalm 19:1, 14; Acts 17:28, and James 1:17. A lot of scripture for a short prayer, but it does serve to illustrate how easy it is to adapt God’s word to our prayers in a meaningful way. With the exception of a bit of thanksgiving, it contains only the “ACTS” element of adoration, but it is a prayer nonetheless.

Oh Lord our God,
In whom we live and move and have our being;
The heavens declare your glory, and the sky above proclaims your handiwork.
We thank you for every good gift, and every perfect gift that comes from above,
Coming down from the Father of lights
With whom there is no variation and no shadow due to change.
In the name of your Son, Jesus, we pray.
Amen.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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James 5 – Cover a Multitude of Sins

We conclude the Book of James, and an entire year of reading the Wisdom Literature of the Bible with this chapter. We hope you have learned as much as we have from this, and that your walk with God will be enhanced.

Elijah fed by ravens

Elijah fed by ravens

Chapter 5 shows us very well why many call the Book of James the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” James has several different gems of wisdom for the reader in this chapter, and we will do as we did with the Book of Proverbs, picking out one or two passages to consider. Verses 1-6 concern those among the rich who have prospered at the expense of the poor – oppressing, defrauding, and even murdering them.  James makes it clear that those people will be dealt with by the Lord in harsh measure upon His coming day.

Upon that premise, he calls upon the righteous to be patient, just as the farmer must be patient for his crops to grow, for the day of the Lord’s coming is at hand. Again he urges patience and steadfastness in verses 10-11, reminding us of the Lord’s compassion and mercy. In the closing verses, James puts great emphasis on the power of faith and of prayers, particularly the prayers of the righteous. He gives Elijah as an example. Time and again, as in verse 16, the scriptures emphasize how important our fellowship with one another in worship is, and how we lift each other up – here we are told to confess our sins to each other and pray together and for each other.

Finally, the charge is given to us to care for one another, particularly for those who have fallen away, and our reward will be great, as verses 19-20 conclude “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

James 4 – Draw Near To God

James starts these 17 verses with an exposition of the reasons for quarreling, as well as for sin itself. It is worldliness. James says that our passions are at war within us. It is the passion of desire and covetousness at war with what we know to be right. He sums it up in the last verse: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  Friendship with the world, he says is enmity with God. This friendship is the passion for those things of the world that take us farther away from being God’s children, and closer to the way the rest of the world lives. They are those things that corrupt the heart and consume our desires.

2 Peter 3:14

2 Peter 3:14 (Photo credit: [Share the Word])

Verse 5 says “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” God made us in His image, and he desires all of us to be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4), and that is why He has made His grace freely available to those who are humble ( 2 Peter 5:5). The advice he gives to all who struggle with temptation is “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” We draw near to God by earnest prayer and by reading His word daily.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

James 3 – Wisdom From Above

In this chapter, James opens with a declaration that not many of them should be teachers. The reason he gives first is that as teachers, they will be judged by higher standards by other men; and there are fewer that can live up to those standards than there are those who would like to teach. One of the chief ways that such a man can “stumble” is by his tongue. As James points out, that part of the body causes more trouble (and is harder to control) than any other. He aptly states it this way “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” How timelessly true!

Image by Erik Beckman @ Oakland Zoo

Image by Erik Beckman @ Oakland Zoo

Another problem in these early days of the the church, was that there were still many Judaizers who were trying to impose the Old Law on the Christians of the day, despite the clarity God had given on the subject through the apostles. Verse 14’s mention of selfish ambition brings to light still another bad reason some would want to teach. Perhaps because of jealousy, or just wishing to put themselves in positions of respect without regard for their ability or adherence to the truth, some would seek to teach anyway, being “false to the truth.” Verse 15 says “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Convicted By the Law – James 2

Chapter 2 of James spends fully half of the chapter on the subject of showing partiality to those who are rich over those who are poor. The second half deals with faith, and though it is a very important part of the chapter, we have covered it in this previous post if you would like to read more about verses 14-26.

lonely

lonely (Photo credit: Vermario)

The chapter begins by talking about how it is a sin to show partiality to those who come into the assembly. But the following verses make it clear that it is a sin to do so under any circumstances or setting. How natural it seems to most of us to consider ourselves compassionate toward others. But how natural still it is to turn our attentions more fully to those who surround us that are more popular. Usually, they are favored because of their station in life, their better dress, fine cars, and other material reasons. But sometimes, their material possessions may not have so much to do with it.

Often, all it takes to make them more attractive to us is literally how physically attractive, or even athletic, they are. It is a sad fact that those who are less attractive, or perhaps even those who seem less capable to most people often get left out – or even left behind. That is a lesson that those who are left out begin to learn even as children. Sadly, those guilty of this sin often never outgrow it. Sadder still, are the hearts that often get broken.

The key is in the tie-in to verses 8-11. The Lord commanded us to love our neighbor. But as the scripture points out, you can love your neighbors and treat one of them better than the other for really lousy reasons. Conducting ourselves this way, the verses say is no better than committing murder while patting ones self on the back for not being an adulterer.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Proverbs of the New Testament – James 1

The Book of James has been called the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” So, it is with that in mind that we conclude this year’s study of the Wisdom Literature with that great book. Most scholars are convinced that this is the James known as “James the Just,” who was the Lord’s brother. He is referred to as such in the New Testament (Galatians 1:19) and in secular history, such as Josephus’s Antiquities (20.200). He played a prominent role in the early days of the church, including the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15), until his execution in A.D. 62. This means that if it was he who wrote this epistle, it was before 62 A.D.

English: fragment of Epistle of James, verso

English: fragment of Epistle of James, verso (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

James opens this letter by including the greeting “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” Often, when the Bible refers to the “dispersion” or “diaspora” it refers to the fact that the Jews had been scattered around in various places by all of the exiles and such. But the term takes on New meaning after the events of Acts 11:19. It was there that we are told of the scattering of Jewish Christians to “as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch” in the wake of the persecution that followed the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), and it grew to include the Christians that were Gentiles who fled for the same reason. It is clearly a mix of this group to which Peter speaks in 1 Peter 1:1.

Although this chapter, like all of the book, is full of wisdom, without question the most famous passage in chapter one is found in verses 2,3, and 4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  The persecuted Christians he addressed here would have been having their full share of trials; and it resonates soundly for us today. Anyone who has been a child of God for a long time knows without question that the trials and hardships we experience throughout life help to build our character, and when we stand firm in our faith in the face of them, that faith is greatly strengthened over time.

The chapter is just 26 verses long, but contains wisdom rivaling many different chapters of the Book of Proverbs, so we will not attempt to comment on every one of them. We have already written at some length of this chapter in this previous post. So we will leave it with the observation that we often pray for God to do something for us – usually when we have trouble of some sort in our lives. How often, when things work out to our advantage or great relief, do we forget the urgency with which we asked for His help? Do we not sometimes even look at it without regard to God having any part in the resolution? James 1:17 always gets me thinking about this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” We should never hesitate to give thanks to our Lord for the blessings we receive.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Exhausted and Overwhelmed

Monday started out bad, and things got worse.  My wife, having just recovered from a previous surgery (mostly) was suddenly scheduled for day surgery on Friday that she really needed months ago.  The first surgery had been more important, and had to heal first; but now it was time and had to be done.  But a dear friend had died unexpectedly, and we had to work a funeral into the week.  And since the family was close, we needed to host the post-funeral gathering for food at our home.  No problem.  Good people offered to help out.  But our cooktop had gone out.  Time to call for help.  Then I get to work and discover I am on (24/7) call.

A wonderful man who runs a wonderful repair company took pity on us and sends his best man out on very short notice the morning of the funeral.  The job ended up being much more than a simple repair.  But when most companies would have apologetically had us waiting for parts, and another service call, they had us going in a little over four hours.  The next day was mid-week services, bringing the grandchildren to Bible classes after work. By the time Friday got there, day surgery ended up being an overnight stay – and I had committed to baby-sitting Saturday night.  Wife was finally released Saturday afternoon with 25 minutes to get to the pharmacy before they closed with 3 grandchildren in tow.  Made it.

Neither my wife, nor myself were prepared for the level of pain and immobility she is having.  But I was able to get someone to care for my wife  long enough to make it to worship Sunday morning with the grandchildren.  Then I served a nice lunch to about a dozen people afterward, while caring for my wife all day.  Now I discover that I sent out today’s blog yesterday.

So what else did I miss?  Have not taken the time to Really pray fervently to God for His care today.  I am blessed with a good job, a wife that I cannot imagine life without, grandchildren that I adore, a home that is more than adequate, brethren who care about us, and a Savior that cared enough to give His life for me.  Wow.  I need a verse from James.  How about 5:11:

“…you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.