James & the Path to all Joy and Flourishing, when Faith is Worked out in us.

James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

jus-ti-fied / adjective: Having done for, or marked by a good or legitimate reason.

“Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way.”

or you could say;

“Rahab proved her faith with actions that showed she trusted God would protect her as a result of her obedience.”

Our words glorify our faith.  Our actions glorify Gods plans.

“So also faith by itself, if it dose not have works is dead.”

faith / noun: complete trust or confidence in someone or something.  a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension, rather then proof.

ap-pre-hen-sion / verb: the act or power of receiving or comprehending somthing.

Faith is born within us, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So with the Holy Spirit planted in our hearts, fruit should grow from that.  The fruit of works like, an ability to trust when the future is uncertain.  I have often been caught up with the concept of “works and fruit” only looking like “missions and serving”.  But Gods works in our hearts transform us from the inside.  Biting your tongue can be a work of faith that no one will recognize.  As I realize the vastness of Works, I am less caught up with challenging verses like this one.

“Faith apart from Works is dead”

Why have faith if it doesn’t change you?  What is the use of that?  Faith and Works is not about productivity.  Rather it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit working out the roots of sin and self-centerdness in my soul.

Think about your life, if your outlook is never challenged, if you aren’t becoming more compassionate for Gods children.  That is when you need to ask yourself, “Is my faith dead?’

If love is not evidently growing in your heart, your faith may have never taken root in the first place.”

The marks of the faithful Christian walk is love, compassion, grace, thankfulness, joy, humility, servant heartedness…..  Theses are the products of God working out the sin, shame, guilt, self-centredness, pride, vanity, materialism, and every foot hold of the devil.  This is Works.

Works is not what I am doing.  It is what Faith is doing to me.

As the sin is worked out and the love is given room to grow in your heart that is when behaviours will reflect the faith in you.  If the work of compassion is knead into your heart the result will become an extension played out in where you place your time and how you spend your money.

Have faith but be faithful.  That is the space works are born.  These are the moments our Faith is confirmed.

That is the message of James…

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James & the Path to all Joy and Flourishing, through Partiality

James 2:1-13

2 My brothers,show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

“Become judges with evil thoughts”

Oh dear I have a very active thought life.  I have to ask myself what part of that do I need to get a handle on…

It is the part where I imagine that I am the point.  That God is for me to be lifted up and not His glory.  God has plans and deeds for me to do, but it is all for His glory, and not for me to be considered cleaver or wise.

I long for partiality and so I put my best foot forward and forget that the whole point is for God to be centre stage.  He is MVP and I called to warm the bench till called upon to take part.  Not because I am needed but because I am needy.

When the light shines on my truth, it appears ungrateful…

And is that not partiality?  When we see things and people on scales of what is most and least. When we align ourselves to glean what those better and more influential are dropping, for us to run and gather. Just to position ourselves to receive the approval of the fallen and not the blessing of the Father?

So what are we to do to avoid a life of lost chances and regrettable choices?

Don’t Judge a book by it’s cover and don’t connect your hospitality in a manner to reach personal gain.  Hospitality shown with an agenda is a tainted Love offering.  We are all Gods children and all deserve the same treatment.  We all struggle with different sin and require the same salvation.

We can’t only focus on the victories that come easily, for every sin I overcome, more are reigning in my life and in my heart.  But this is where God honers the fight.  That is where strength for the flourishing is built.  That is where the Joy if the Law is revealed.

Because the Law is whole and we have no chance of getting it all right. Therefore we must rely on Mercy.  And Mercy begets Mercy, so show Mercy so you can receive it and receive the Joy that sustains in the fight and in the struggle.

When we look at others through the filter of the gospel. Through the branches of our own family tree, starting with Adam in the garden.  That is when we find the strength to show grace.  Partiality falls away when we recognize our own faces and failing, in the flaws we perceive in others.  That is when Love can be released in a flood we can saturate the lost and hurting with what will bring wholeness and healing.  

And what is that which we are all aching for?  Acceptance without requirements.

When we choose the relationships we lean into through prayer and not through partiality we fulfill the gospel.  Likewise, when we see the Do’s and the Don’t laid out for us in red letters, we are receiving an invitation into a better way.  Into a deeper offering of Grace and Kindness.

Recently I have had opportunity to offer my home and my time in specify ways.  As I have leaned into individuals in intentional ways, with caring for, and teaching skills.  Skills and offerings that seems simple and minimal to me.  I have been blessed to see the fullness of Gods abundance in my home and in the privileges I have.  My thankfulness for the chance to stay home with my littles full time, and recognizing the homemaking and homesteading skills I take for granted are rich blessings for me to offer.  Not only to those who fully understand the depth of my offering, but to those who might never know the opportunity to simply live and dwell in the places that bring stillness and nourishment.

The Lord presented to me who He would have me lean into. I never could have know who needed my love offering most.  Who could have given me a new perception on my own day to day living.

A lack of partiality has returned the blessing to me in dynamic ways, I never could have imaged.  It takes dyeing to self and surrendering my time and relationships. To enter in to a better way.  To enter into the gospel, and be blessed in the unexpected places by the unexpected people in my life.

Do the Word!  Love all equally, with the intention of fulfilling the Gospel and walking out the warmth of Gods Love to ALL HIS CHILDREN.  Not just the easy to love but those with prickles and thrones as well.

This is the message of James…

James & the Path to all Joy and Flourishing through Trials & Temptations

James 1:2-18

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 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 will fade away even while they go about their business.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Trials will come, count it all Joy.

Today you may be in the space between.  The, life happening, everyday normal stuff   place, between trial and tranquility, but trials will come.  Divorce, a loss of a parent or child, cancer, bankruptcy, infidelity. Maybe is not so obvious a trial you are facing, student loan, challenging pregnancy, unexplained food sensitivities, ungracious boss or coworkers, potty training or any of the other million little things that pile up as the days and weeks become months and years.  Life marches on and trials are a part of life.

This isn’t a warning or a threat, just a fact, just the reality of living in a fallen world.

And to make matters more complicated the Christian life is marked by trials because following Christ has a cost and Satan is going to try and collect.  He is going to do every little thing he can to make you stumble and fall.  Im not talking epic trauma necessarily, but changed hearts bleed sweat and tears. Repentance takes humility and dyeing to self and giving the grace we receive at the cross.  To be moved by the spirit means to be moved to generosity and surrender and that is the holy work of life with Christ at the helm. That is the hard labour of fighting for Joy in a broken world.

We all want to walk on water but once you get out of the boat you will be in the deep end.  So get ready to swim hard and when you get tired, when you think your about to sink that is when the Joy is found in the suffering.   That is when we have that outstretched, grasped hand, moment, in the mists of the waves.  That is when suffering meets spiritual growth and when the gospel is received and fulfilled.

We are to stand firm and remember that when trials come its not about focusing on the “unfair” but about the growing of our relationship with Christ and others.

In the passage above it seems like James is talking to the haughty and the prideful and giving them a reality check.  Like a sneak peek down the path of pride, and it isn’t pretty.  But in reality it is a message to us all.  We are all self centred and in need of a good dose of humility.  I get entitled and impatient, I hate to show my weakness and only like to pose for those to see my good side.  I am the Prideful and it gives me plenty to suffer over and grow from.

Don’t be blind to your own potential for struggle and suffering. To assume that life is just going to be a breeze will only set you up for disappointment.  But seek wisdom and ask God for it.  He is on our side for His glory.  Don’t forget that God is good in the mists of your struggle.

James hammers home the words “Trials” “Perseverance” and “Gives Birth”.  He is urging us towards wisdom and patience and focus in our struggle, not on our struggle.  Just like a woman growing a baby for 9 months, you know its hard work and we know you need to tell us all about it.  But weather you loved pregnancy or you hated it, no one stays pregnant forever.  Perseverance will give birth or your trial will take over.

Dont sink into your trial or it will rob you of the wisdom gained in the journey.  James is encouraging us to keep our eyes on Christ, so when the day of trial comes we will be fixed on the One with the answers.

Just like the wonder of nature follows the plow, also the promised Joy is found, after the struggle. We can see it in the reflection of His perfect prevision, as we recognize our deep need for our saviour, and His deep love for His Children.

 

 

 

James & the Path to all Joy and Flourishing when we Hear and Do

James 1:19-27

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 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. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

What isn’t covered?  Choices about self-control, behaviour, influence and action.  Meditation and study, practice what we preach.  James is laying the foundation brick by brick.

Therefor, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Like when I hear good teaching and think “So-and-so needs to hear this.”  My heart is not humble but I am tangled up with sin and evil and missing that conviction is for me, in  my heart.

Matthew 7:3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

The word is planted in ME and so I must overflow with listening, decrement, self control and long-suffering.  Dedicated to understanding so I can control my tongue and fulfill my calling.  This is how we can withstand the temptations of the world.

This is when we hear and we do, and the gospel is fulfilled, when we walk our talk.  We flourish when we find ourselves prepared for obedience to the love of Christ growing in our hearts.  Joy overflows as we consider others worth serving with the word of God.

The book of JAMES & the path to Joy and all Flourishing

I hope you are ready to join me for the next 14 weeks to take a closer look at the book of James.  I would love for you to share with me what the Lord is revealing to you through this book.  The book of James is all about a call to know Christ and have Him direct your life.  It is a call into the deep end of the pool.  So lets get or feet wet!

James 1:1                                                                                                                                        James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the 12 tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

James is a little book in the New Testament that is packed full with goodness and wisdom. As I have studied and prayed and read and listened to others process through this convicting book, my heart has been moved.  Moved and broken and lifted up to renew my love for Christ and my love of His children.

It was written by James, the little brother of Jesus.  James was a relatively new convert but a long time observer of Jesus work and life.  It was written as a letter to the new emerging church, it is a recap of Jesus teaching. I believe it was meant to be an encouragement to Christians who were being prosecuted after Christ was crucified and ascended back to heaven.  It was a call to Keep the Faith and Stay Faithful to the Work of Jesus Ministry.

In the next weeks I will be breaking this book into smaller sections and looking at them much more specifically.  But first I encourage you to read the book of James right through, and see what pops out to you.  What words or themes stand out?  What makes you stop as you read and need to go back and re-read a little slower?

Humility;  That was the theme the Lord worked into my heart as I read through this book, just about a year ago.  I had a close friend who was studying through it with me and we just read it and met for our first session.  It has been a year and we are coming to a close on James.  But I feel a new chapter has been opened in my life.

A chapter leading me to pursue Humility and Grace and Understanding and how important and God is to our everyday lives.  How in my home and in my truck and with my kids, when I’m reading stories and going for walks.  When I lay with Jan and as I serve at church or just washing the dishes.  Theology is very important and it is for me and you and everyone.  Its not reserved for the preachers and the bible school students.  It is about Christ and its to remind us that He is the whole point and we are to grow in humility.  Less of me, More of Christ, again and again this was whispered into my heart.

As I root myself in the word and as I die to self, I will be drawn into the richness of life.  The life I was meant for, the person I am because of the image I was formed in, for such a time as this.

James is hopeful with promise and exhausting with the weight of death to self.  As we surrender,  Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit can fill us with Love and Longevity.  The message of James is the light at the end of the tunnel.  The light that chases away the darkness of self-centred living and places our feet on the perfect balance of Christ-centered loving.

This Is James.

 

If you are looking for resources to look deeper into James I have created an Inductive Word Study-cheat sheet, called Rooted in the Word.  Click on the link below to access it.

Rooted in the Word