Friday, August 31, 2007

James 1:13

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
(NIV)


There are some important theological issues being covered in this verse. I am going to hit on them, but I am not going to go into detail... This is only a blog... right? :)

God does not tempt anyone to do something evil. This is the first theological point. James' understanding of this comes from the second theological point in this verse, which is that God cannot be tempted by evil.

If you understand what evil is, then this is an obvious conclusion. Like I said, I am not going to go into detail, but allow me to take a slight excursion here: Evil is anything that is not God. God must be God, therefore God cannot be tempted by evil. If God cannot be tempted by evil, then it would follow that He also would not be tempted to draw anyone else to evil.

The important thing is to try to understand why James is bringing this up. A deep theological discussion seems out of place here. If you look at the next few verses, you can see that James is starting a discussion on sin and temptation. It is important, in our own personal battles with sin, to know two things.

One important thing to know is that God is on your side. Actually, you are on His side, but the point is that He is not against you in your battles with sin. He desires for you to succeed. He is giving you every tool that you need to have victory over sin.

The second important thing to take note of is where temptation comes from. I will get into where exactly it comes from in the next verse, but it is so important to know that it doesn't come from God. You might be thinking, "duh!" But consider how often people blame God for their temptations and their sins.

Think of the man who struggles with anger. He might not say that God is tempting him, but he says that his father was like that and his grandfather was like that and the guy before him, and so on... What he is really saying is that God made him that way.

What about the homosexual who blames genetics for his or her temptations. Sometimes they will come right out and say it. I have heard it myself, they will say, "... well then, why did God make me this way?" Ultimately they are saying that God is the one responsible for their being tempted with evil. (By the way, people are not genetically homosexual. They have been trying to say that for years, but there is no scientific evidence to back that up.)

Maybe it isn't because you were born a certain way, but because of your circumstances. You might say that you are struggling because of your job or your kids or your finances, etc. But in reality what you are saying is that it is God's fault because of the life that He gave you! You will end up sounding like Adam, who said, "Lord, it is this woman that you gave me!"

What temptations are you blaming God for?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

James 1:12

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
(NIV)
Have you ever heard the phrase, "...don't get the cart before the horse..."? It is used when people have the tendency to get things backwards, also because a horse pulled cart works great as opposed to a cart pulled horse.

Well, some people have a tendency to do something similar with at verse like this. We must be careful to understand that Christ first loved us. If we love Him, it is because He first loved us, and we cannot get these backwards. So, in one sense, Salvation comes first. Before perseverance, there is salvation.

Some read this verse and think that the crown of life is salvation. Like somehow, if we can persevere then we will receive salvation. But the crown of life is a result of salvation just as perseverance is a result of salvation.

In this passage, James is writing as it happens. Those who persevere (because of true salvation) will receive the crown of life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

James 1:11

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
(NIV)
The reality that is being taught here is not just directed at the rich. As the Psalmist says,
You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.
Psalm 39:5 (NIV)
This applies to us all. Our lives are passing so quickly, and our glory should not be in what we accomplish here. A big house, an established retirement account, a new car, even our kid's educations paid for! All of these things are temporary. One day you will breathe your last and these things will all be gone.

Let your glory be in Christ. Let your glory be in what He has done in you. Don't glory in what you can make with your own hands. If you do, then you are no different than an idol maker who sits and carves out his idol, then turns around and bows to it.

Even the poor man shouldn't glory in his lack of goods. There are some like that who talk about how they don't have all of that stuff, and speak about the new cars and the big house like they were worldly in and of themselves. You are missing the point if you are saying that.

It is all about Jesus Christ. It is all for His glory. Everything in our lives should point to Him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

James 1:10

But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
(NIV)


I had to do a little digging on this one.

In verse 9, remember that it was talking about a brother in humble circumstances. The word humble or low is the Greek word tapeinos, which is an adjective. So, the circumstances are low or humble, and the boasting that he does is literally in his height.

The rich man is to also boast, but notice that his boasting isn't in his height, it is in his low position. That low position, in the original, is just one word; it is the word, tapeinosis. Look familiar? That is the noun form of the adjective that is describing the other man's circumstances. The rich man's boasting is when he is knows that ultimately he shares the same fate as the man who does not have. If a rich man can come in humility to Christ, there is a glory in that.

By the way, I was studying the roots of the word that is translates as glory in this and the last verse. Study light tells me that it is a combination of two words, one that means "to boast" and the other that means "to pray". I am putting this in here just in case you might think that I am promoting boasting. In these verses the boasting, glorying, or taking pride is not in the sinful sense, as they can be sometimes. They are truly directed to God and for God. The heights that the poor man reaches are the heights in Christ and the humility of the rich man comes from a work of Christ in that man's heart, just like all humility is.

So ultimately we boast of Christ! We boast of who He is and what He does!

Monday, August 27, 2007

James 1:9

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.
(NIV)
To properly understand this verse, you need to take a peek at the next verse. Once you do, the meaning of the "humble circumstances" becomes clear. We have shifted slightly in this passage to the topic of money. But it is not a complete shift, because as many of us would attest to, money is a trial in and of itself.

This verse reminds me of how God seems to enjoy turning everything upside down... or maybe it is upside up. Maybe we have things so twisted and distorted that it only seems that way to us. Regardless, in this case, the low is really high, and the high is low.

This verse is speaking of a Christian brother, who James is telling that he has the ability to boast in something. Even though most would say that this man has nothing to boast about, the "humble circumstances" can be defined as, "barely off the ground". Yet James says that even though he is barely off the ground, he is in the heights! As one who is a child of God, there is plenty to boast of.

Consider this today. God gives and God takes away. Don't let possessions fool you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

James 1:8

he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
(NIV)
"Double minded" is literally "two souled". The soul in the Bible is the seat of affections or desires. It is the wellspring of all that you want. The man of two souls is unstable because he is torn on the inside.

We all struggle with that inner battle. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:14-25, but we need to take this verse in context. This is not talking about a Christian man who is battling the inner man, this is talking about a man who is not steadfast in his faith in Christ. He has never taken that stand of faith. He is a doubter, he expects nothing from the Lord, nor should he.

These are the kind of people that you need to steer clear of. Their instability that is caused by their lack of faith causes them to seek to control everything themselves. This usually leads to actions that have no care or concern for others, and they usually leave a path of destruction behind them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

James 1:7

That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
(NIV)
This is one of the reason's why I love the book of James. He gets right to the point. The person who does not have faith, should not expect to get anything from the Lord. That is very blunt, but it is a reality.

The challenge with a verse like this is to apply it to your own life. Because if you do have faith (which you can't be a Christian without it) then you should be expecting things from the Lord.

What are you asking for from Him? Where is your heart when you come to Him?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

James 1:6

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
(NIV)
From the previous verse we learned that when you are lacking in wisdom, you should ask. God is a generous God who gives to all who ask, and He does not show favoritism. You do not have to meet some quota of goodness or righteousness before you can ask God for wisdom, or anything else for that matter. If there was a quota, you would never meet it anyway.

The word believe here is normally translated as faith, and the two words are closely related. When you ask God, you must believe that He can deliver. We see this so many times in the gospels when the people come to Jesus and ask for healing. So often Jesus will say to someone, after they are healed, "...your faith has made you whole."

The faith must be centered in Christ himself. It is not to be centered on what you want God to do. Many people make that mistake, they start praying and asking God to give them what they want instead of praying., "Your kingdom come!" Our faith must not be in what God does, it must be a faith that is IN HIM.

Faith in Christ is a steadfast and sure faith. It does not waiver or change because it is focused on the Unchangeable One. The person who focuses on what God will do is the one who doubts. He waivers from a lack of knowledge of God's ways, which are much higher than ours. The one who doubts is the one you see at church with their hands lifted high because God just met some need, but then the next week they won't even come to church because in their minds God has failed them. They are now even toying with atheism because they are not even sure their is a God. They come and they go, they are high then they are low because their faith is misdirected.

Where is your faith today?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
(NIV)
Much of the book of James does not require much explanation. He writes in such a straight-forward style. I like to read through a verse, then try to re-word it in a way that it is easier to understand, but with this verse, the meaning is plain.

This plain meaning leaves a person facing the real issues, which is what James wants anyway. The real issues have nothing to do with what kind of Biblical scholar you are, or what a wonderful theologian you have become. The real issue has to do with what you are going to do about what you just read. We all lack wisdom, so when you encounter a verse like this, you should be moved to do something.

Ask for wisdom today. You need wisdom, and God gives wisdom generously. He also gives this wisdom to whoever asks, there is nothing you have done that will prohibit the asking of wisdom. If you turn away from whatever sins are in your life, and turn to Jesus, you will be granted great wisdom.

Monday, August 20, 2007

James 1:4

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(NIV)


This goes right along with what I was saying in the commentary on the previous verse. Perseverance is one the most key essentials to true Christianity.

In this verse you can see that perseverance leads to Christian Maturity, but it is only a whole or complete perseverance that will do this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

James 1:3

because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
(NIV)
I have come to believe that perseverance is one of the key components in true Christianity. The one who sticks to their faith in Christ, and does not fall away, is the one who is exhibiting true faith. Faith that falls away isn't real faith.

Notice even in this verse that perseverance springs from a tested faith. It reminds me of a chemical reaction. To the eye hydrochloric acid and water look the same, but if you drop a cut penny down in the acid, it will have a reaction with the zinc in the penny. The penny will begin to bubble, producing hydrogen. If you drop a penny in water, nothing noticeable happens.

The same is true of faith. The person with faith, when the trial is added to their life, it produces perseverance. This why it is called the "...testing of your faith..." A similar passage to this one is I Peter 1:6-9,

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(You can read the commentary on these verses here.)

Trials will come, and if your faith is real, so will the perseverance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

James 1:2

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
(NIV)
The word pure could also be translated all or all kinds or every kind. You could say, "Consider it every kind of joy possible when you are facing trials."

There are some who believe that a Christian's joy isn't real joy. They believe that real joy and happiness comes from that self-indulgent lifestyle. They believe that the world offers real joy, and what these Christians are experiencing when they have joy is some kind of weak alternative. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. The joy that Christ offers is the real stuff.

Notice also two additional things.

First, notice that this multi-faceted joy is not dependent on what is happening. This joy takes place in the middle of trials, in fact, in the middle of various kinds of trials. The world can't offer this. Reality shows us over and over that the world falls short in offering any lasting joy or happiness. Things seem good for awhile, but it never lasts.

Secondly, notice that it is commanded. In fact, the word consider is just as often translated as ruler, chief, governor, lead, or have rule over. It is almost as if James is telling us to have rule over our own minds. In other words, we are to command our own joy, and to do it in such a way that we will even demand it in the midst of trials.

Instead of being like a wave on the sand today, command your joy.

In the next few verses in this chapter of the book of James, we will see some reasons why and how we can do this, but for today, take charge.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Greetings.
(NIV)
James, the earthly brother of Jesus, did not believe in Him (consider John 7:1-5). He was a skeptic all the way to the end of Christ's earthly ministry, I am sure, all the way to the cross.

Most believe that it was the resurrection that changed his mind, but regardless of what finally brought him to Christ, here he is now, attaching the title of Lord and Christ to his brother. Before I did into this chapter of the Bible, I don't want to skim over the significance of this initial statement. James the skeptic is not a fervent believer, and he writes one of the most practical books in the Bible.

Notice also that James only claims servanthood. The fact that he was Christ's earthly brother isn't even mentioned here. As James titles himself, he sees himself only as a servant to this great Lord.

How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as servant? ... As simply a minister of the word?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Psalm 23:6

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
(NIV)
What an amazing passage this has been. Verse five ended with King David finally just saying, It's too much! I'm saturated with God's goodness! Now David is summarizing for us, giving us one final thought on the Good Shepherd.

His final though begins with "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life..." He accepts this with faith. He believes that God's goodness and God's lovingkindness will follow him every single day of this life. And it will. It will follow your life as well. God never sets aside His love in the name of judgment. God is a just God, and God is love. These two things do not contradict in Him. He does not have any inner dilemmas like we might have from time to time.

I would like you to notice though the final statement is a statement of response, but also responsibility. David finishes by saying that he will "...dwell in the house of the Lord forever." If you believe and trust all of the statements about the Good Shepherd, then the natural response would be to dwell, or abide, in the house of the Lord.

But it is also a responsibility. Dwelling is something that we must do. It is a right response to God's goodness, but it is still a response, an action. Dwelling in God's house is a choice that we must make.

Where are you choosing to dwell? Have you begun to think that the grass is greener outside of God's pastures? Have you begun to disbelieve His guidance?

Follow the Good Shepherd today. He is leading you in paths of righteousness, and He desires to saturate you with His goodness and love.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Psalm 23:5b

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
(NIV)
Anointing the head with oil could mean two different things. It could be referring to his kingship, and that his head was anointed as king. But according to the context of the passage, it more likely referring to the favor that is being shown to him. We can see in the New Testament how anointing with oil can be a sign of respect for an honored guest.

As you read through this passage, you can get the real sense of the author culminating to this point and almost being at a loss for words. He gets to this point in his writing and just begins to use these short statements. He is amazed at the favor that the Good Shepherd shows him and finally wraps it up by saying, "my cup overflows."

The word overflows means literally saturated. It would be as if you were talking about how good something is and then said, "...it's... it's just too much."

So many of us miss the saturated lives we live because we are wrapped up in the little picture, and not seeing the big picture of God's love. We get focused on the valley of the shadow of death, and forget that the Good and Great Shepherd is leading us through this and saturating us with His love. Trust in Him today, He is leading you in the paths of righteousness.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Psalm 23:5a

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
(NIV)
As the king of Israel, the author of this Psalm dealt with the idea of enemies on a daily basis. There were always people trying to kill him or dethrone him. Most of us who read this psalm don't have to deal with those type of issues, even if we have people who we might consider enemies.

David dealt with these things in many different ways. Many times he would cry out to God for judgment on these enemies. This verse isn't telling us about his desires though, it is telling us about what the Good Shepherd does.

Notice here God's provision once again. A table has been prepared, and it is a king's table intended for private use by the king. Both the word "before" and the word "presence" have to do with being right in front of. I get the picture of David facing off against his enemies, when they find a table between them. See, I used to think this was a in your face kind of passage, but if I am going to interpret this scripture with other scripture, then I must assume that we are to love our enemies. God does have times where He deals out judgment, but it has little to do with us and all to do with God.

God has prepared a table, and it is not to show off His love for you, it is to show off His love for the world and to draw others into the fold.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
(NIV)
The Good Shepherd has lead you beside the quiet waters, He has guided you down the paths of righteousness, yet we still end up in the valley of the shadow of death. This is an easily missed point, but being led by the Shepherd doesn't mean you don't go through the valleys. Sometimes the best pastures are on the other side of the valley.

Notice in this verse that the psalmist knows this. He knows that the shepherd is still with him, so he does not fear. In these times he isn't comforted by the softness of the shepherd, he is comforted by the fact that the Shepherd carries a big stick. He knows that whatever comes this way will be handled by the Shepherd.

What about you? Where are you at today? Are you in a valley or on top of the greenest pasture? Remember the Shepherd today. If you are in the valley, remember that He is there. If you are in good pasture or beside quiet waters, remember that He is there.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Psalm 23:3

He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness
         for his name's sake.
(NIV)
He brings your soul back. He restores it. He restores that soul to the place that it should have been before the fall of man. The soul is referring to who that man is, it refers to the seat of appetites and emotions. It is the very base of what drives what you want. If the Good Shepherd will restore your soul, and in essence, change you at your roots, then you will be fulfilled in Him.

As He restores your soul, He will also lead you in the well beaten path of righteousness. I am calling it a well-beaten path because the word has to do with an entrenchment or a track. For us the path of righteousness has been walked by Christ. He came to this earth and walked that path. He cleared out the obstacles and has made the way straight.

Through the Bible we can see the path of righteousness, but we are serving a Good Shepherd who will continue to lead us down that path.

He does this for His own name's sake. So, also for His glory, we walk this path.

Which path are you walking today? Have you strayed off the beaten path to go exploring down into the ways of the world? I promise you, they are all dead ends, in the truest sense. The Scriptures warn us over and over again that the ways of sin lead to death.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Psalm 23:2

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
(NIV)
We see two things here, lying down and being led, we see food and drink.

These things speak of resting, of peace, of nourishment, of guidance. When we are in Christ we have all that we need. I would say though that we need to consider all that we need, for truly all that we need is Christ Himself. (consider John 6:25-59)

Some people come to Jesus as if he is some genie in a bottle. Just when you need something, you pray a passage like psalm 23 and as long as you have enough faith, He will give you what you want. There are some who continue this way, when all along Christ is attempting to change those wants. HE is attempting to transform you.

If you seek Him today, the Good Shepherd will lead you beside the waters and show you where to rest.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
(NIV)
Next to the Lord's Prayer, which can be found in Matthew 6, this passage is one of the most quoted passages by the world. You can hear it all of the time being quoted in movies and on TV. It is used like it is some sort of magic charm. Usually you will hear it when someone is afraid, they tend to focus on the part that says, "..though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..." But if they knew what this verse was really saying, would they be using it as often as they do?

Consider this verse. With the Lord as your shepherd, you will not be in want. Hollywood is all about want. It is about a continual lust for more, yet when someone has the Lord as their shepherd, they won't be in want.

That word want means to be lacking or to be diminished. In Christ we do not lack. Psalm 34:10 says, "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."

Does this mean that if you trust in God that he gives you everything that you want? There are some who believe that. There are some who teach that when you don't get what you want, it is because of some sin in your life, or because you just don't have enough faith. This is not true. It is not because God just doesn't give us what we want, it is because God changes our wants.

We should not be entering into the throne of Grace with a list of demands, telling God what we want. Instead we should be entering in, crying out, "My Lord and My God, it is You that I want!"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(NIV)
Here is what you are to "put on" in the process of change. You were to "put off" all "bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" as described in verse 32, and you are to "put on" kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

We also get a "mind-renewing" boost at the end of the verse, "just as in Christ God forgave you." When you consider how much you have been forgiven, how much compassion Christ has shown to you, and how much kindness you are shown every day by an almighty God, it becomes more clear why you should show these things to others.

Remember, if you are a child of God, then the process of change is ultimately a work of Christ. Consider Philippians 1:6,
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Also consider Ephesians 2:10,
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are a work of God's and He is working all things in our life for the purpose of making us like Christ. Consider Romans 8:28-31
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
I included verse 31 because that is the ultimate response that we should have when dealing with sin in our lives. That verse gets misused so often. As you go through this day and God is changing you, just remember that He will succeed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ephesians 4:31

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
(NIV)
This verse might be best served with some definitions.

  • Bitterness - Just what it says, bitterness. It is a bitter root that produces a bitter fruit.
  • Rage - Usually translated as Wrath. It has to do with a passionate anger. This is the person who is fuming. They are bubbling over with anger.
  • Anger - This word has also been translated as wrath. It is most definitely referring to the actions associated with anger. It doesn't have to mean this, but their can also be the association with violence. This is the person who is acting out on their anger, in a sinful way.
  • Brawling - Ok, I just learned something new, this word has to do with making an outcry, or a crying. After I read the definitions, what immediately jumped into my mind was the person who yells when they are angry. He may not do something violent, but he is letting everyone know exactly how angry he is. He is a yeller!
  • Slander - This word has everything to do with hurting someone with speech. This is the person who is angry with someone else, and all they do is go around the office telling everyone just how they have been wronged. It may be all truth, that doesn't make it right. We are not to use our words to injure someone else.
  • Malice - This could mean evil, ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness, depravity, or trouble. The root word where this word comes from has to do with a evil state of mind. I am no greek theologian, but this seems to be an all-encompassing word to cover any other form of anger that hasn't been mentioned. Bottom line, we are to be a changed people, and angry at the world and all of the people in it isn't to be a part of who we are.
(All definitions are Strong's definitions, thanks to this site.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ephesians 4:30

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
(NIV)
This verse is a sort of interjection. It is a "Oh, and by the way... " verse, but it is also a "Don't forget, in all of these things..." verse. The Spirit of God was given to us as another Comforter, in place of an actual Christ walking this earth. He dwells within us, and according to this verse, you are sealed with Him, until the day of redemption.

I believe that Paul puts this verse in right here in the middle because we are to live by the Spirit. This list of examples is not to be a list of commands. They are examples of someone who is living by the Spirit. The word "grieve" means "to make sorrowful". As we commune with the Spirit of God, we are seeking to please God through the Spirit. It is important to remember that when we do the wrong things, He is affected. You can bring sadness to the Spirit of God.

That is why the key to change is not through human will power, it is a life through the Spirit, not our spirits, but the very Spirit of God. When we commune with this Holy Spirit, He is pleased with us, and we will be most delighted in Him.