This is it. A conclusion to the Book of James. Three months ago we began this 12 week journey. Sunday, I plan to take a step back in reflecting on what has been and view it in light of James concluding words.
For all of James ‘tough’ words and direct teaching, the goal is freedom. The ‘gospel according to James’ is rich and freeing. He warns of the pitfalls that develop in Christian community and points us to a better way. After every difficult teaching he focuses our eyes on Christ. “Ask God for what you need and he will give it.” “Every good gift comes from God.” “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” “God gives even more grace.” “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
James concludes his ‘gospel’ with further calls to humility. Particularly through prayer. “Is anyone in trouble? Let them pray.” An amazing way for us to conclude our journey through James.
Sunday, November 22nd, James 5:12-20, It’s a Wrap! See you in the cloud… with online service and live streaming… rings true.
PS: if you would like to hit the highlights of the ‘gospel of James’ through a summary of sorts in less than 3 minutes? Check this out…!
A Warning to Rich Oppressors and the Call to Patience James 5:1-11
With two weeks to go in our journey through the Book of James my heart feels free. James seems to be a realist. He says it like it is. He flips power struggles on their head and points us to Jesus and the wisdom of God. When tackling issues of selfish ambition and pride that play out in the ways of envy, jealousy, fighting, blaming, finger pointing, judging one another, he brings us back to humility and the wisdom of God. And this brings freedom.
Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart, has two chapters back to back called Radical Evil in the Ruined Soul and Radical Goodness Restored to the Soul. Willard points out that the ruined soul must be willing to hear of and recognize its own ruin before it can find another path. This realization is what he calls an ‘insult to our pride.’ When it comes to our selfish pride, we must lose it. And James points us to a better way – the only way, the Jesus way.
Once we release our grip on the control of our lives and the desire to control the lives of others and surrender ourselves to God’s grip on our lives our tendencies to anger, unforgiveness, retaliation, oppression of others, for example, will fade. Sounds like freedom.
This Sunday, James addresses an abuse going on in the early church: the rich lording over the poor. Then he immediately returns to a theme found at the very beginning of the book: patience. James once again goes after the Radical Evil in the Ruined Soul and points us towards the Radical Goodness Restored to the Soul. In the name of Jesus.
Lord willing, a message will be given this Sunday on James 5:1-11, A Warning to Rich Oppressors and the Call to Patience.
To God be the Glory, Pastor Mark
PS – Last week I summarized the book of Ecclesiastes in a paragraph (less than 3 minutes). Here it is… (Ch 1) “Meaningless… meaningless – utterly meaningless… What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? The wind blows… plant life grows… streams flow… generations come and go… (ch 2) Without God who can find meaning, enjoyment, satisfaction? (ch 3-4) It, whatever ‘it’ is, will never be enough, will never satisfy. (ch 5) God is in heaven and you are on earth – so let your words be few. (ch 6) Contentment is a gift from God. (ch 7,8,9) Enjoy life with your wife… always do what is right… whatever you do with the work of your hands do with all your might… for no one knows when light will turn to night. (ch 10,11) Faithfully cast your bread upon the water and blessing will come back to you on every wave. (Ch 12) As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the workings of God – so humble yourselves before God and he will lift you up. Fear God. And we know from Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Today is the Gift you have been Given James 4:13-17
Brothers and sisters in Christ, our text for this Sunday from James 4:13-17 may be just the medicine we need in this time of uncertainty in elections. James is a steady voice for wisdom. When it comes to our plans for the future he says, “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” This echoes the wisdom spoken about in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and in the focused teaching of Jesus about worry.
What at first may seem like a depressing statement by James is actually a doorway to freedom. Last week James gave us 10 commands in 4 verses. Ways we can actively participate in a relationship with God and engage the world around us through effort and striving. And now, immediately after, he encourages us to assume a posture of humility, gratitude, generosity and praise. These are postures of receiving each day with open hands.
James uses strong language in his teachings and this passage is no different. When we ‘boast’ in our plans about the future, he calls it ‘arrogant and evil.’ It emphasizes the contrast he already developed for us between ‘earthly wisdom’ and ‘heavenly wisdom.’ Earthly wisdom is characterized by pride and selfish ambition. Heavenly wisdom is characterized by humility and submission to God’s will. And James nails it in 4:15. With any plans for the future, with any striving and effort of ours, we ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that.” Growing up in my Michigan faith community, this was said often at the end of conversations and spoken at the end of many prayers, “Lord willing.” It communicates powerfully a posture of humility and open hands.
Brothers and sisters, everyday is a gift from God, full of potential plans and personal desires. On this day, simply ‘submit yourselves to God.’ Live life with open hands, receiving the day God has given. Everyday is an opportunity for open hands – in humility with our plans, in generosity with one another, and in gratitude and praise toward God. As of the day after the election, the day of this weekly writing no ‘winner’ has been declared in the Presidential election. I’ll take James’ lead in this, it doesn’t change, I will “Submit myself to God.” So I’m off to volunteer. Then lunch with a friend. Do some writing for the message for Sunday. Maybe some exercise. Haul away some broken tree limbs with my neighbor. Dinner with Deone. A phone call with Anna. And when my head hits the pillow, say, “Thank you Lord for the gift of this day… as for tomorrow? Tomorrow will take care of itself.” So many opportunities everyday to engage the world in love of God and neighbor. I plan to bring a message from Scripture this Sunday, November 8th, on James 4:13-17… “Lord willing.” :).
Brothers and Sisters… (James uses that phrase about 8 times before and after significant teachings in his book.)
James has been building up his teaching to invite us to a complete, wholehearted submission to God. In following Jesus, one of the hardest commands to follow is the simplest one: Love Your Neighbor. Yet why is this so difficult for us to do? We are prone to quarreling and fighting, harmful words and actions, one to another. What gives?
Last week James revealed that the source of our troubles are ‘the desires that battle within us.’ What are we to do? This week James says clearly, ‘Submit yourselves then to God.’ And then goes on to give 9 pithy commands for us to follow: resist the devil, draw near to God, wash our hands, purify our hearts, grieve, mourn, wail, change, and humble ourselves.
This brings up another question. How can we resist the devil or draw near to God? The answer brings us to the core of James’ main message, and therefore, God’s message to us: Our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with God and our relationship with God is to be reflected in our relationship with others. Therefore, “Submit yourselves then to God.”
James gives us amazing wisdom. More than that, it’s heavenly wisdom that leads to life. I’m ready for Sunday. Lord Jesus, your kingdom come and your will be done. Message for Sunday: Submit yourselves to God – Part II, James 4:7-12
Within the Book of James are various crescendos. He builds up a teaching to a climax and then sums it up with a powerful conclusion. In chapter 1, he crescendos to say, “Pure and faultless religion is this: to care for the orphan and the widow.” In chapter 2, he crescendos to say, “Faith without works is dead.” In chapter 3, he crescendos to say, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. This should not be.” As we enter into chapter 4 this week, James will crescendo to say, in all these things, “Submit yourselves to God.”
This week, James will outline two kinds of wisdom – one is earthly and comes from the ‘desires that battle within us’, the other is heavenly and comes from God. One is unspiritual and demonic and characterized by envy, jealousy, and selfishness. The other is pure and characterized by humility, submission, mercy, peace-loving, and impartial. James compares ‘followers of Jesus’ who engage in earthly wisdom as ‘adulterous’ and an ‘enemy of God.’ What is James counsel? He reminds us that God is gracious. That God is jealous for us and implores us to ‘Submit ourselves to God.’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God loves us jealously. He is wooing us to be completely devoted to his rule in our life. He is asking us to submit to the working of the Holy Spirit in everything we say and do.
The context of James’ words are to a people prone to quarreling and fighting. He says this is so because of the desires that battle within us. Apparently what we say to one another and how we say it to one another matters deeply to God. Our interactions with one another give evidence to the Spirit that rules our hearts and minds.
Someone said to me this week, “I’m having a difficult time with James. Hits too close to home.” I resemble that remark. I get it. This week again, James will give us relief. He says, “But he (God) gives more grace.” And next James will open the door to freedom; “Resist the Devil. Come near to God. Wash your hands and purify your hearts. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.”
PS: My pastor from Beaver Falls, PA during the first seven years of our marriage will be with us in worship, Lord willing, this coming Sunday. Our time at the Evangelical Free Church of Chippewa, PA was instrumental in pursuing being a pastor. I hope to shorten my message by a bit to give Pastor Lee time to comment on the passage of the day. Looking forward to this.
God’s word is timeless and relevant to all people of all time. This week’s passage from James 3:1-12 reminds us of the power and purpose of God’s word, to shape us into the people he has redeemed us and called us to be.
Through the voice of James chapter 1, God encourages to ‘be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.’ Then in chapter 2, God encourages us to have our faith and deeds work together, for our faith profession to engage our faith expressions faithfully. All the while bringing wisdom to how unity in community can flourish.
And now in chapter 3, James powerfully and illustratively encourages us to keep close watch and control over our tongues. James employs more than seven word images in only twelve verses to stimulate our senses and engage our experiences in order to gain a deeper understanding of the power of our tongue, words that are spoken one to another, for both blessing and curse. James pours out much wisdom for us in James chapter 3.
This week we are moving indoors for worship due to colder temperatures. A special email will be sent to you soon with our guidelines and procedures for our safe worship together. There will be a link in the guidelines to a signup genius for you to let us know of your attendance plans. Please utilize this signup genius. It will help us better prepare for the best and safest indoor worship experience for all. Online streaming of the worship service will continue to be available.
In getting ready for Sunday, read chapter three of James, only twelve verses, but packed with amazing illustrations and powerful insight. How many illustrations can you see in these few verses? How many comparisons between something small controlling something larger can you identify? Looking forward to Sunday!
May the Peace of God, Grace of Jesus, and the Power of the Holy Spirit be with you, Pastor Mark
In our study of James, we have been exploring the relationship between faith and works and how it’s connected to salvation. If you have a few minutes – check this video out: you do the math – igniter video
Does this help in getting a better handle on the relationship between faith, salvation, and works? I hope at least a little.
In Sunday’s text, James 2:14-26, James says point blank, “Faith without works is dead.” He goes further to say it’s ‘barren’ and doesn’t have the power to ‘save or justify.’ James goes further to illustrate that faith is made ‘complete alongside works.’
James Mitton once said, “It is a good thing to possess accurate theology or belief, but it is unsatisfactory unless that good theology also possesses us.” Nice.
James does an interesting thing in this passage by setting up a foil – an imaginary objector, “You have faith but I have works” and then begins to argue against this kind of thinking. It’s quite effective how his teaching unfolds.
What I want to know is if James’ teaching on faith and works is in conflict with Paul when he says, “It is by faith that we are saved. Not of ourselves, it is a gift of God.” Short answer is ‘no.’ A longer answer will come on Sunday – See you then!
Favoritism Forbidden, Guest Speaker Jacci Busch James 2:1-13
‘Be quick to listen (hear what others say), slow to speak (don’t guess at what they are saying – continue to listen and clarify) and slow to become angry (emotional outbursts can cause regret and relational harm)…’ James 1:19. Enough said :).
That being said… we continue Sunday in our exploration of the Book of James by reflecting on favoritism or showing partiality. James goes after our tendency to make judgments of one another based on external considerations, such as physical appearance, social status, or race. Why? Because God is impartial when it comes to these things and we are called to imitate Him.
Listen to God speak to his people from Deuteronomy 10, “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner/foreigner, giving him food and clothing.” And Leviticus 19:15, “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great.”
Ways in which we tend to show favoritism is through forms of discrimination, slander of another, or judgments of outward appearance. We may not think we are partial or show favoritism of one person over another in these ways. But if we think this James says we deceive ourselves.
I’m reminded of the Beatitudes of Jesus in James’ words, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not shown mercy.” This only affirms Jesus words from the Sermon on the Mount “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the way you judge others, you too will be judged and with the measure you use , it will be measured to you.”
For all of James strong ‘in your face’ teaching, he champions mercy… God’s mercy that flows through us to those around us.
We welcome Pastor Jacci Busch to Crestview once again to bring our message this Sunday from James 2:1-13. In October, our special offering for the month will be for the Nieburs. We are planning to celebrate communion together once again on October 18th.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24
Listening and Doing James 1:19-27
James, the younger brother of Jesus, is zealous for a faith profession (words) that matches up with faith expression (deeds). In this week’s text, James 1:19-27, he defines living out our faith profession looks like being ‘quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry’ and caring ‘for the widow, the orphan, and not being polluted by the world.’ These things bring about our salvation.
Now I don’t think this means that we earn our salvation by doing these things. James isn’t promoting a works = righteousness kind of salvation. He is after authenticity in our words and behaviors that demonstrate the human hearts response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ. It does seem true that if we were to engage in the behaviors that James promotes in these verses, we would ‘save’ ourselves much grief – the grief of hypocrisy, of criticism of others, and from our own rudeness, abrasiveness, condemnation and judgment of self and others.
In fact, if we practice what we profess in following Jesus, we will experience blessing and the culture around us will experience transformation as well. James teaching goes to the core of what it means to be ‘salt and light’ in the world. This emphasis of James is an echo of Jesus own words. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!…whoever practices and teaches these commands of mine will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven… Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person building their life on the rock. Anyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is a foolish one, building their life on sand.” When our faith profession is lived out in faithful expression there is Kingdom transformation, for our own heart and life and for the world and culture around us.
James has a passion for followers of Jesus to be ‘in the world but not of it.’ We are to avoid ‘worldliness’ while at the same time avoiding ‘other worldliness.’ What does that mean? How does that look? It’s walking the line of being the world, but not of the world, engaged in everyday living under God’s Kingdom rule. We avoid being only concerned about current earthly affairs, pleasure pursuits and selfish lusts, human honor and fame, a heart bent on selfish gain. While at the same time, we avoid only being concerned with the inner spiritual world, that tends to live in the private spaces of solitude in the heart and mind, leaning always toward the ‘life to come,’ ‘pie in the sky when I die,’ being unconcerned or uninvolved with world affairs, being inattentive to the world’s present needs. We live as Christ followers in the space of being in the world, but not of the world. Christ followers are both world denying and world affirming. This makes Christianity quite unique to other religions/philosophies of the world that tend to lean one way or the other. We live in God’s world, called to avoid both tendencies to ‘worldliness’ and ‘other worldliness’ to pursue a life where God’s heart and our deep gladness in God meet the worlds deep need in life giving word and behavior.
Message for Sunday: Listening and Doing in Three Parts, James 1:19-27.
See you Sunday, see you soon – God’s Kingdom come and His will be done,Pastor Mark
Sunday September 21st, we dive into James 1:13-18 with a message entitled – FAITH DOES: Source of Temptation – Born Identity. James moves us from considering the impact of trials, tribulations, and challenges to our faith to considering the nature of temptations and their impact on our faith. Temptations and trials are not the same thing. They are different and impact our lives differently.
Trials have the potential to grow our faith. Temptations have a way of steering our faith into a ditch. Trials are often events and realities that happen around us, to us, arriving in our life from outside happenings. Temptations are often realities that we engage from desires that war within us. Trials often are invitations to grow in faith. Temptations are often invitations that simply need to be resisted. Trails are an invitation to rise above the wind and waves of life… temptations that are engaged in tend to drag us under in their undertow.
Scripture addresses trials and temptations in many different places from many different angles. And James has his take on it too. When it comes to trials and tribulations, it’s important to lean into our identity in Christ. Is our identity rooted in our own sinful desires (born identity)? Or is our identity in Christ (our reborn identity)?