Tag Archives: James

Through the Bible, September 9

Reading:  James 3-5

Summary: The “practical gospel” continues by addressing the matters of the Christians speech, divine wisdom, worldliness, dangers of wealth, suffering, and prayer.  This letter demonstrates that much of the New Testament’s contents are not only relating historical events or doctrinal content, but making practical application of Christianity to daily life.

Devotional Thought:

The Surprising Path to Spiritual Excellence

The gulf is quite expansive that spans the difference between my talents and abilities and those of a professional athlete, musician, painter, etc. They are what they are because they possess and exercise exceptional gifts is certain fields.

We make a mistake when we try to apply that same truth in the spiritual realm.  Those who excel spiritually aren’t those who are especially gifted to do so.  Rather it is those who give attention and effort in areas within the grasp of each of us.

Take the tongue for instance.  Our inability to completely and finally control our tongues is readily acknowledged.  But one who works on it diligently and consistently has gone a very long way in controlling the whole body (Jas. 3:2).  Earlier James said that making a claim to being religious while failing to bridle one’s tongue renders the entire venture worthless.

Every one of us has a tongue, every one of us speaks, every one of us employs words in our communication. Not every one of works on controlling their tongue.  It’s not a matter of some special capacity with which one endowed, but the will and determination to do what would please God regarding this “small member”.

If one is interested in exceptional spirituality, the tongue is a very good place to begin.

Through the Bible, September 8

Reading:  James 1-2

Summary:  James, likely the brother of Jesus and the one identified in Acts as an elder in the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18), identifies himself only as a servant of both God and the Lord Jesus Christ. He addresses his letter to “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (1:1).  As mentioned previously, the contents of this letter are exceedingly practical for matters of Christian living.  In these two chapters it speaks to rejoicing in trials, doing—not just hearing—God’s word, favoritism in the assembly, and the relationship of faith and works.

Devotional Thought:

The Birds and the Bees

No one knows for sure the origins of the euphemistic phrase that evades direct reference to the biological processes of reproduction.  Maybe, as some suggest, it’s just that the natural world around us provide a more comfortable context to address the sensitive subject.

Minus the euphemism, Scripture uses the same biology to help us understand both sin and salvation.  James 1 has two such occurrences.  First of all, don’t blame God for the presence of sin.  Because of God’s absolutely pure and holy nature, He can have nothing to do with sin, much less entice man to engage in it (Jas. 1:13).  Instead, Satan uses our own desires to lure and entice us.  When we act upon those temptations, that is the conception from which sin is born.  To take it a bit further, if this newly birthed entity is allowed to mature, the consequence is death (Jas. 1:14-15).

Second, and in deliberate contrast to the first, the will of God results in His giving us birth (James 1:18; ESV.  This the meaning of the phrase “brought us forth” NKJV, NASB).

We’ve got to understand spiritual biology.  Satan uses our own desires against us, and if allowed to reach his desired end, it is death.  On the other hand, it is only by the exercise of God’s divine will in my life that I am born, and that “by the word of truth.”

This language surely reminds us of other language in Scripture; the idea of being “born again” and being God’s “child.”

We cannot afford to misunderstand Bible “birds and bees”.

September Week 2 Bible Reading Introduction

Week 2: The Gospel Spreads (James, Acts 13-20)

September 8-14

The epistle of James is widely recognized as one of the earliest New Testament books written, some believing it to be the very first—others suggest Galatians or 1 Thessalonians.  It likely was not written as early as prior to Paul’s first missionary journey, of which we’ll read the last part of this week, but this is a good place to insert the reading of this letter.  Moving from chapters 12 to 13 in Acts marks a significant transition in the emphasis of the book.

The book of James likely bears the name of Jesus’ brother, who plays a prominent role in the life of the early church in Jerusalem.  The book of James has been called the “Proverbs of the New Testament” or the “practical Gospel.”  Unquestionably it affords great benefit to the Christian with very practical instruction in Christian living.

The reading from Acts for this week covers all of Paul’s missionary journeys, that is, the three prior to his ultimate arrest in Jerusalem and first Roman imprisonment (with which the book of Acts concludes).  Several of Paul’s letters are based on this time of his ministry and will be the subject of the readings for the remainder of this month as well as October.

September Through the Bible Reading Introduction

September Bible Reading Introduction

The Kingdom Begins and Spreads

Acts 1-20, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Galatians

         The time had come for the “power of God to salvation”—the gospel—to be unleashed on the earth.  As per Jesus’ instruction, it is to go to “all the nations” and the “whole creation”.  The message was to be spread, souls were to be saved, the kingdom was to fill the whole earth.

Such is the contents of the New Testament following the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry.  The book of Acts is the historical record of the spread of the gospel through the Roman world and the epistles that follow are correspondence sent to individuals, congregations, and groups of Christians.  From these, we gain great insight and instruction for Christian living and life in the Lord’s church.

For the final four months of the year, we will follow a semi-chronological reading of the book of Acts, the epistles, and Revelation.  Some of the epistles were written during the history recounted in Acts, others were written later.  We will interject the reading of several of the epistles into our reading of Acts.

Our plan this month will be to read the first 12 chapters of Acts, leading up to Paul’s first missionary journey in week one.   In the second week, we’ll read James and then return to Acts to read about Paul’s first and second journeys.  James is believed to have been one of, if not the first book of the New Testament written.   The third and fourth weeks will be readings of the earliest letters written by Paul, penned sometime during the second journey—1 & 2 Thessalonians and Galatians.

The book of Acts, it should be remembered, was penned by Luke and is the second volume of a two-part set comprised of his Gospel and this history.  Compare the opening verses of the two books (Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3).  As he writes, his Gospel was written to recount Jesus’ ministry right up to the day He was “taken up” and then Acts resumes the record from there.

Perhaps a word should be said regarding the arrangement of the books of the New Testament, especially the epistles.  As all books of the Bible are arranged topically (as opposed to chronologically), the first two topics are the Gospels and history (Acts).  The third type is the epistle. These are arranged with Paul’s letters coming first then the “general” (non-Pauline) epistles second.

My Delight is the Lord, June 14

A Spiritual Response

June 14, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: James 5:13-20

What an odd question. “Is anyone among you suffering?” And how about, “Is anyone cheerful?” And then there is, “Is anyone among you sick?” Well, of course there is. In virtually any group of people of any size there are going to be people in each of these situations. We’ve all experienced all of them ourselves. So, what’s the point?  Notice that there is an appropriate spiritual response to every one of these. And it’s not to complain if you’re suffering, smile if you’re cheerful, and take medicine if you’re sick. How often do we readily consider that no matter what situation we may find ourselves in the course of our lives, or even our day, there is a need for  a spiritual response. We’re quick with what comes natural and what the situation seems to dictate. But ought we not to see a demand for a spiritual response? Or is the spiritual only to be given consideration when I’m feeling spiritual?

Questions to Ponder:

  • Upon whom should Christians call upon for prayer? (v. 14)
  • What is the connection between illness and sin? (v. 15)
  • To what does the “therefore” refer in v. 16?
  • How is one who “wanders from the truth” identified? (vv. 19-20)

My Delight is the Lord, June 7

Be Patient

June 7, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: James 5:7-12

Patient we are not. Our world, our culture, our demeanor are all bent toward immediate gratification. We have a predisposition that says now is better. Why is that? What influences us to think that way? It certainly isn’t God’s word. The Bible explicitly touts patience (v. 7). Patience is not the antithesis of all gratification, just immediate gratification. It is patience “until the coming of the Lord.” What is more, our waiting may also involve suffering (v. 10). What!? If patience weren’t already bad enough, its distastefulness may be compounded by suffering? Well, yes. But you see, God has already shown that He is compassionate and merciful (v. 11). And when the Lord does come, there will be an unimaginable gratification far surpassing anything we may get now; things we get because we’re unwilling to wait–even relief from suffering. This may not be what we want to hear, but it is what God says–be patient.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who is used as an example of patience? (v. 7)
  • What truth should serve to establish our hearts? (v. 8)
  • How does the thought of not grumbling against each other fit in here? (v. 9)
  • What two examples of patience and suffering are given? (vv. 10-11)

My Delight is the Lord, June 1

Who Has My Attention?

June 1, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: Matthew 17:1-13

What is the most critical asset in your possession? Think about it. We could readily, and accurately answer that it is our soul. That would be hard to refute. But what about your attention? To whom have you given it? That is, to whom do you listen? Who has your ear? Whose voice holds the greatest sway in the course of your life? What or who is it that is being allowed to shape your thinking and therefore impact your actions? God speaks directly to this point when He identifies Jesus as His beloved Son in whom His pleasure resides, and says, “Listen to him” (v. 5). Be sure your attention is given to Him. Determine that He has your ear, that He above all others and all else shapes how you think and what you do. What better way to preserve our soul than this? Your attention is your most critical asset. Place it well.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What is the point of the transfiguration?
  • Assess Peter’s recommendation in v. 4.
  • Why would Jesus set the restriction He does in v. 9?
  • Who was the Elijah that has already come? (v. 12)

My Delight is the Lord, May 31

The Worst Atheism

May 31, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: James 4:13-5:6

I’ve heard that every successful business starts with a solid business plan. Here is such a plan (4:13). It includes location and time frame and the planned approach. It’s just missing one thing; it fails to consider life’s uncertainty and God’s role in the affairs of men. To plan and act and propose without any consideration of God makes such a one no different than he who claims there is no God at all. How is acting as if there is no God any better than exclaiming there is none? This “practical” atheism, as it is sometimes called, is more damaging than the theoretical  atheism that just talks about it. One who fails to acknowledge God minimizes Him as a factor unworthy of consideration as the plans of life are laid. At all times and in all things, God’s will is the primary concern.

Questions to Ponder:

  • To what is our life compared? (4:14)
  • What sin is being committed? (4:16)
  • What will be used as evidence in the judgment? (5:3)
  • What lifestyle is condemned in 5:5?

My Delight is the Lord, May 24

Prayer Motives

May 24, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

 Scripture Reading: James 4:1-12

Prayer challenges us. We’re convinced (hopefully) of its necessity. We struggle, though, to see the correlation between what we ask and what we see happening. James identifies a core issue in prayer and that is our motivation for asking. “[Y]ou ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (v. 3). Consequently, you do not receive. From there he immediately launches into the peril of friendship with the world, which will make us God’s enemy (v. 4). Are our minds and our thinking, and therefore our desires, more worldly or godly in nature? How easily we can be like Peter whose mind was set–wholly unintentionally–on the things of the world and not of God (Matt. 16:23). James has a way of hitting us–sometimes painfully–right where we live. What most motivates our prayers?

Questions to Ponder:

  • What is the source of any quarrel among brethren? (v. 1)
  • To whom is God’s grace directed? (v. 6)
  • Is it fitting for Christians to identify as sinners? (v. 8)
  • What role is not ours to play? (v.v. 11-12)

My Delight is the Lord, May 17

The Tongue Challenge

May 17, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: James 3:1-18

How many perfect people do you know? A list of such people doesn’t even exist because there are none. If this kind of person did show up, one of the most amazing facts about them would be that they do not and have not stumbled with their tongue. That’s just one of the easiest ways we can fail, and we all do it. That might lead us to think it falls lower on the significance scale because everyone does this. It’s such a common fault, it’s not a big deal. But just the opposite is true. The tongue–representing our words here–possesses exceeding power, for both good and ill. So, all the more reason this frequent area of offense is to be closely guarded. What is more, if we think in terms of moving our lives in the direction of perfection here is a place every one of us, without exception, can begin and likely experience marked advances. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Questions to Ponder:

  • Why should one be cautious about being a teacher? (v. 1)
  • What do these illustrations teach us about the tongue? (vv. 3-5)
  • How far reaching, personally speaking, are our words? (v. 6)
  • What “ought not to be so”? (v. 10)