8.15.2020

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement!


I apologize that last week's notes are so late! The second two weeks in August are some of our busiest weeks of the year (including birthdays for two of our girls. :-)), and this year has been even more full than usual. These notes may be rougher than last week's! 

James 2:1-13

2:1  My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

"show no partiality"--also translated favoritism--literally, "respecter or persons", looking at the outside instead of the inside--Strongs says,"looking at outward circumstances vs. intrinsic merits".

"as you hold the faith"--to hold, possess, have--
        Faith here is again the Greek word "pistis" from the last couple of weeks. It means belief, trust, confidence. A reminder again from HELPS word study that faith is *always* a gift from God, not something that can be produced by people. 

"in our Lord Jesus Christ"--"Lord" is one exercising absolute rights, ownership; Christ is the Anointed One, the Messiah

"The Lord of glory"--"Glory" = praise, honor, splendor; HELPS says this is shows God's infinite, intrinsic worth.

This is pretty straightforward--a warning not to show partiality or favoritism as we live out our faith. 

Then he gives an example to make sure they get it: 

2:2-4  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, 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,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Again, this is pretty straightforward. Some translations translate "fine clothing" as "lavish attire". "Pay attention" here means giving special regard to. "Sit here in a good place" means "seat of honor" or advantageous or well-perceived place. So, the picture here is of fawning over the wealthy man, making sure he gets the best seat and special attention.

But (the Greek word for "while" here means "but you even") the poor man (one destitute in earthly wealth, the total opposite of the rich) is told to stand or sit on the floor or a low stool at one's feet. The Greek here indicates a place of servitude, being under the complete dominion of another.

You have made distinctions among yourselves--The Greek word here means to distinguish among or judge, to discriminate. The Greek word can be used as either a positive or negative judging/discriminating that can only be determined by context. Here it is obviously the negative.

The word for judge here is the word used for one who tries and decides a case, according to Strong's. It is used in other places of God passing judgment on men and of Christ returning to sit in judgment. Basically, when we discriminate in this way, we are setting ourselves up in God's place. That is not a good place to be!

Evil thoughts - - Evil means bad, wicked, malicious. The word used here for thoughts refers to reaso ing, deliberations, plotting. HELPS Word Studies says, "reasoning that is self-based and therefore confused--especially as it contributes to reinforcing others in discussion to remain in their initial prejudice."

2:5 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?

God has chosen--to choose here is to pick out for Himself, to elect, to select. HELPS Word Studies says this is "a highly deliberate choice (real heart preference) with a definite outcome (as with the destination of divine selection for salvation)."

What a blessed, wonderful, comforting thought that He has chosen the poor of this world--for what?? To be rich in faith and heirs of His kingdom!

To be rich in faith is to be abounding in, wealthy. It's the Greek word "plousios". HELPS says of this:

"properly, fully resourced; rich (filled), by having God's 'muchness'– i.e. His abundance that comes from receiving His provisions (material and spiritual riches) through faith (pístis)." 

I love that! "Having God's muchness."  

Faith is again the Greek word pistis, meaning belief, trust. It's is a belief/trust in God that can't be manufactured by man, but must be given from God. HELPS says it is God's divine persuasion, distinct from human belief or confidence yet involving it. 

He has promised the inheritance of His kingdom to those who love Him. His promise is a specific, definite pledge. "Love" here is the Word agapeo, which according to HELPS, means "for the believer, preferring to live through Christ, i.e. embracing God's will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power." 

2:6-7 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?  Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

"Dishonored" here means to disgrace or despise. HELPS says, "to treat dishonorably (shamefully, with indignity) because of being perceived as having no value (honor, worth). 

James says that they have disgraced the poor man, while the rich are the ones who treat them harshly and exercise dominion against them. 

HELPS says this of the word "oppress" here--"powerfully bringing someone down (denying them the higher position or blessing they should enjoy). 

These wealthy ones were also the ones blaspheming the" honorable name by which you were called", the name of Jesus. That word blaspheme means to slander, to speak lightly or profanely of sacred things. HELPS says, "refusing to acknowledge good (worthy of respect, veneration), hence to blaspheme, which reverses moral values." 

This sounds so much like our society today! Blasphemy is rampant. Profanity means to make common that which is holy. We see people speaking lightly of the sacred all the time, making common that which is holy, refusing to acknowledge good as good, call g good evil and evil good. God says that we are not to honor these people, to give special attention to them. 

He says that the Name by which we are called is honorable and noble. It's is beautiful, valuable, and virtuous. 

2:8-11  If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  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.

Again, these verses are pretty straightforward. Those who truly obey the law, "love your neighbor as yourself" are doing well--honorably, nobly, rightly. Those who show favoritism sin and are reproved rebuked, disciplined. We either keep the law or are convicted by it. 

We can keep every part of the law but one, and we are fully guilty. Our good acts do not atone for our bad ones. Only Jesus's blood can do that. 

2:12-13 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.

Judgement is sure and certain. We will be found innocent or guilty. We should live accordingly, and show mercy to others as God shows mercy to us. Matthew Henry says:

"The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct."

Such beautiful words--Mercy triumphs over judgment! The fact that we have experienced mercy over judgement in salvation should cause us to gladly show mercy to those around us. ❤ 

For those in the Thursday Bible study, I'm so sorry to have had to cancel this week! We will cover James 2:14-26 this coming Thursday, August 20. 




8.04.2020

Every Good Gift, Our Unchanging Father, and Being Doers of the Word (James 1:16-25)


We didn't quite get through verses 16-27 this week, so we'll add 26-27 to next week and then get as far as we can through 2:1-13. After going long the second week, I'm trying to keep us as near an hour and a half as possible. I don't want to rush over anything, but I don't want the time to become burdensome, either. Hopefully this will work. :) 

(A couple of quick apologies here--first, I'm days later getting these notes posted than I meant to be. It's been a rough week here! Second, this week's notes are even rougher than usual. Instead of doing them in one or two longer sessions, it's been 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. Add that to my general struggles with brain clarity these days, and you have very rough notes. I'm sorry for that, and hope you can make sense of them! Feel free to contact me with questions. 😊) 

1:16  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
The Greek word here for "deceived" means "to lead astray, to cause to wander, to roam." It's the word planao--to go astray, to get off-course, to deviate from the correct path, roaming into error, wandering to be misled. (HELPS Word Studies) Planao is the root word of our word planet, "wandering body". In Scripture, it nearly always conveys the sin of wandering. It's linked to the Greek word in the Gospels for sheep that go (or are led) astray.

There is so much deception going on in our world right now (always has been, but we see it so rampantly right now!) He reminds us he is writing to believers here, and warning them not to be led astray. We need that reminder as much now as they did then for sure! 

1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

"Every" means "all, the whole, every kind of"; it doesn't leave anything out! 

"Good"-- means "gift" or "a giving"

And "perfect"--Complete, having reached its end, full grown, "especially of the completeness of Christian character".  "Developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey)" (HELPS Word Studies)   The illustration here is of an old pirates telescope, unfolding one stage at a time to function at full strength. 
Same Greek word used in Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, as I am perfect,", Romans 12:2, "that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God," and 1 John 4:18, "perfect love casts out fear". 

"Gift"-- Greek word dorema, meaning bounty or bestowment. 

"From above"--from Heaven, from a higher place, from the beginning, from their origin/source. According to Strongs, the Greek word here is often used for things from God. The same word is used in Matthew 27:51, when the curtain is torn from top to bottom, and also used for born "again" in John 3.

"Coming down"--to descend from on high, from the sky or higher land. Same word is used in Matthew 3:16, where the Spirit of God descends like a dove at Jesus's baptism, and in Matthew 28, when the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven when the women came to the tomb. 

from the "Father"--Heavenly Father.  According to HELPS Word Studies, "Father" here means one who imparts life and is committed to it.  The Greek pater here is used to refer to our Heavenly Father, who imparts life to us, from physical birth to the gift of eternal life/being born again. This is not one who simply contributes to a life entering the world, but One Who cares about that life and is intimately involved with it. 

"of lights"-- "Phos" is the Greek word here, meaning source of light, radiance, "the manifestation of God's self-existent life, divine illumination, to reveal and impart life through Christ." (HELPS Word Studies)

With Whom there is "no"-- No here is an absolute negative, leaves no room for dispute. 

"Change"--variation, mutation, fickleness, variableness. The only occurrence of this Greek word in the NT is in this verse. 

Or "shifting"-- Turning, change, mutation (again, the only occurrence of this word in the NT)

"Shadow"--shading off or obscuration. I love the word picture in this verse! The HELPS Word Studies says of this "properly, a shadow created by turning. Typically shadows change according to the changing position of the sun (being short at midday and lengthy at nightfall). But God doesn't change (shorten or lengthen) because He Himself is the only absolute reference point." 

God is unchanging, immutable. He possesses all life in Himself, all power in Himself. There is nothing big enough to cast shade on God! 

We can't always trust other people. People change. They are imperfect, they are not all-powerful, and they can be fickle. We can't even trust ourselves, as much as the world tells us to!  There are all kinds of messages in the world today about trusting in ourselves, listening to our hearts, that we can do anything if we work hard enough and want it badly enough. But we are fickle, weak, and undependable at our best.  One day I can feel competent and sure of myself, and the next day feel completely worthless and inadequate. I definitely can't trust in myself! But our God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust Him because of that. We can be sure of Him and His Word when we can't be sure of anything else.  What a wonderful promise. 

And how incredibly wonderful that this perfect, all-powerful, immutable (unchanging!) God Who is so great nothing in  the universe is big enough to cast shade on Him is our pater, our Father Who not only gives us life and salvation, but Who is committed to our lives and intimately involved with them. 

1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

He "chose"--to will, intend, desire. HELPS Word Studies says, "to plan with full resolve, resolutely plan--a strong term that underlines the predeerined and determind intention driving the planning." 

"Bouloumai" is the Greek word here. It means that God always works out His purpose, "especially in conjunction with presetting the physical scenes of history" (HELPS)

There is nothing that can thwart His purpose. With all that is going on in our world today, God isn't sitting in Heaven wringing His hands, caught by surprise, trying to figure out how to regain control. He is orchestrating every event and issue to bring about His divine plan. And with all that power and greatness, He cares enough personally about us to choose us, to bring us forth, and to save us.  What a thought! 

to give us "birth"--to bring forth, to generate, to give birth to.

through the "Word"-- Greek logos--speech, divine utterance, HELPS says, "Pre-eminently used of Christ, expressing the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit." 

of "truth"--truth of idea, reality, divine truth revealed to man. HELPS says reality as opposed to illusion. Strongs says, "what is true in any matter under consideration, as opposed to what is feigned, fictitious, or false." 

There is so much out there today being held up as truth that is not truth. We must measure everything that claims to be truth against God's Word. 

That we would be a kind of "firstfruits"--firstfruits= beginnings of a sacrifice, earliest crop of the year, earliest converts in a district. The firstfruits were the best, given in sacrifice. 

Of His "creation"--created things, creatures. 

1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 

"Know" this--The Greek here means to be aware, behold, consider, perceive. HELPS says "a seeing that becomes knowing, a gateway to grasp spiritual truth (reality) from a physical plane..  Comprehension.

"My beloved brothers"--again, a reminder that he is speaking to believers here, and that they are beloved, with agapeo love. Divinely loved ones. 

Everyone should be...

"quick" --Greek here means swift, speedy, prompt, ready.

to "listen"--hear, listen, comprehension

"Slow"--HELPS says here "slow as in taking time to deliberate, unhurried, while still moving forward after considering all the facts"

to "speak"--Greek word lalos, which means talkative or to chatter.

Slow to "anger"--The Greek word here means "violent passion" , and implies punishment/vengeance. HELPS describes it as to teem, swelling up to constitutionally oppose...it proceeds from an internal disposition which steadfastly opposes something or someone based on extended personal experience.

It's that feeling we get when we can feel the indignation and desire to make things right welling up from the pit of our stomach. 

The word here isn't referring to a sudden outburst, but is the same word used to refer to God's fixed, controlled, passionate feeling against sin. For God, this is just and righteous, as vengeance belongs to Him. 

The Benson Commentary says, 

Wherefore — As if he had said, Since you are regenerated, and that by the word of God, therefore let every man be swift to hear — That word; let him be willing and desirous to receive instruction from it, and therefore diligent in embracing all opportunities of hearing it; slow to speak — To deliver his opinion in matters of faith, that he does not yet well understand. Persons half instructed frequently have a high opinion of their own knowledge in religious matters, are very fond of teaching others, and zealous to bring them over to their opinions. That the converted Jews were fond of being teachers, we learn from James 3:11 Timothy 1:7Slow to wrath — Against those that differ from him. Intemperate religious zeal is often accompanied by a train of bad passions, and particularly with anger against those who differ from us in opinion. The Jews, even the Jewish Christians to whom this letter was chiefly written, were very faulty in this respect. The apostle, however, may be understood as cautioning his readers against easily yielding to provocation in any respect whatever, and especially when injuriously treated by their persecutors.

1:20  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 

For the anger of man-- Greek word orge--same word used in v. 19. 

"does not" --absolute negative--leaves no room for any other option

bring about the "righteousness"--Greek word here means justification, justice, divine righteousness, the approval of God. HELPS Word Studies says "what is deemed right by the Lord after His examination", a condition acceptable to God. 

The anger of man cannot bring about the righteousness of God. Our anger does not bring about the approval of God. 

I found it interesting that one of the meanings of "righteousness" in the Greek here is "justice".  Justice is such a huge topic in our culture today. As Christians we are definitely to act justly and to seek justice for the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17, Micah 6:8, etc.) However, James is saying here that our human anger cannot bring about justice.  If we truly want justice, true, Biblical, godly justice, we cannot achieve it through anger. We cannot use the world's ways to accomplish the righteousness of God. 

1:21  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

"Therefore"--On which account, consequently

"get rid" --lay off or aside, put away, renounce, cast off. It's the same Greek word used for "lay aside the old nature" in Ephesians 4:22.  

"of all"-- All means all, as more than one of our pastors says. All, every, every kind of. Don't keep any of it!

"moral filth"--pollution, defilement, dirtiness. 

and expression of evil (or in ESV, "rampant wickedness"--abundant badness, depravity, wicked disposition. 

"and humbly"--Humble here means meekness with divine origin, according to HELPS Word Studies, "expressing power with reserve and gentleness":
For the believer, meekness (/praýtēs, "gentle-force") begins with the Lord's inspiration and finishes by His direction and empowerment. It is a divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith (cf. 1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22-25).
I love that--meekness as "gentle-force"!! 

So when we cast off that moral filth and rampant wickedness, we aren't to be prideful or puffed up about it, but instead to be humble and meek, "expressing power with reserve and gentleness". When  we receive His Word correctly, we will receive it with meekness and humility. If we are proud and puffed up about it, something is wrong! Because we are again reminded that it is all the Lord's work in us, and only by faith, which He also gives. 

That just keeps coming up--that it all comes from Him. It's all His work. 

So we are to humbly "receive"--take, accept, welcome

The "Word"--again, logos, used specifically to mean the expression of the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit--the Word of God

"Planted in you"--inborn, rooted, implanted. It's the picture of a plant shoot being engrafted into a plant. It is established in us and allows fruit to develop. 

Which can "save"--heal, rescue--to deliver out of danger into safety--God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin. 

"Your souls"--Soul meaning vital breath, breath of life, a person who has had a sould breathed in by God.

1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

"doer" -- carrier out, one who obeys or fulfills the law. 
Ellicott's Commentary says, "Acting up to thier full knowledge.There is a force in the original phrase that English doesn't provide. "

Of the Word, and not "hearers only" --not merely listners to

Otherwise you are "deceiving"--deceive= reason falsely, mislead, to misreckon or delude.

Ellicott's Commentary says, 

Acting up to the full of their knowledge, whether gained by the spoken or the written Word of God. There is a force in the original sentence, which our own language cannot supply. The term “deceiving” is the contrary of that rendered “word,” and means its corruption; the Word which is the source of knowledge and life may be so handled as to cause error and death. No acquaintance with the Bible, apart from the practice of its precepts, will avail the Christian any more than it did the Jew. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers shall be justified” (Romans 2:13). Those who deceive themselves may not altogether be hypocrites; there is a subtler danger of being blind, and nevertheless exclaiming “We see.”

1:23  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 

For anyone who hears but does not carry it out--Word for carry it out is the same word for "doers" above

Is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and after 'observing" --perceiving, taking not of, observing fully

Himself, foes away and "immediately"--soon, at once

"Forgets"--to lost out of mind or to neglect

what he looks like

1:25   the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

But the one who"looks intently"--Greek means to stoop to look, to peer in. It's an intentional studying

"into the perfect"--complete, full-grown, consummated goal

"Law" --Scripture, the Gospel

of "liberty" --freedom from slavery

and continues to do so, not being a "forgetful"--negligent, oblivious, failing to notice

Hearer, but an effective doer, he will be "blessed"--same word from earlier in James, "makarios"--supremely blessed--in what he does. 

I warned you these notes were rough! But these verses--so much great truth packed in them! 

If you have things to share or questions, I'd love to hear them in the comments here or by message on FB or IG. (Don't message me through the contact box here on the blog right now--it's set up with an old email address--it's on my list to get changed but I haven't made it that far yet! 😳) 








7.24.2020

Wisdom, Faith, and the Crown of Life


James 1:5-15

Years ago, Bro. Kent said in a sermon, "We don't have to make God's Word relevant; God's Word IS relevant." That is so true, and this James study has been such a reminder of that! James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,  wrote this book roughly 2000 years ago, but it applies so perfectly to life right now, today. 

One thing to remember when studying the book of James is that it is a letter written to believers. That was especially helpful to me in unpacking some of this week's verses. 

1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

What am I lacking wisdom about today? This was the first question I asked myself when starting my study of these verses. I had a long list! Anyone else? :-) Normal everyday stuff--family needs, finances, scheduling, health stuff--intense stuff, including major health issues we're seeking answers about--and then all the chaos that's going on in the world today--issues surrounding Covid-19, freedom vs. submission and dealing with government overreach, so much cultural unrest--the list just goes on and on and on. 

First, let's look at the word "lacks". In the Greek, it means "to fail", "to be left behind in", "to fall short of", "to be wanting in", or the one that stuck out most to me, "to be destitute of". He's not just referring to being a little unsure of something, but being completely destitute of wisdom. That is comforting to me, because that's how I feel sometimes--completely destitute of wisdom. But He doesn't leave us there, as we're about to see.

"Wisdom"--What is it? The Greek word refers to insight, skill, intelligence, clarity. The Greek word used here, sophia, which according to Strong's, is the root word of  our words "sophistication" and "philosophy", which mean "the art of using wisdom" and "affection for wisdom". According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, the specific meaning in James 1:5 is "the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living." 

Wisdom involves not only knowing in our heads, but practicing what we know, living it out. It's being able to rightly handle what we know, to use it to live as God calls us to. Wisdom comes from God, not from man.

One friend shared this yesterday from her Life Application Bible study notes: "Asking for wisdom is ultimately asking to be like Christ." 

"he should ask God"--When I went through this passage studying the Greek origins of the major words the first time, I skipped over the word "God" in my notes. After all, we know Who James is referring to there; there is no doubt about the meaning. When I went back through my notes later, I was struck by the fact that while there is no doubt about the meaning of the word, it needed to be in my notes! We must not overlook the importance of that word in this verse. 

It is crucial that when we ask for wisdom, we ask in the right place! There are SO many voices out there today trying to convince us that they have the answers. There are writers, speakers, social media influencers, celebrities, politicians, scientists, and many others who want us to believe that they know best. They want us to go to them for information, to look to them for what to think, what to believe, how to act, what to base our lives on. 

There is definitely a place for seeking wise counsel. And we are certainly to be part of a church where the Bible is preached clearly, solidly, and truthfully. Books are wonderful. (Celebrities and politiians not so much! :-D)  I have been strengthened and encouraged and taught by posts from godly people online.

But we must realize that all wisdom comes from God. (Proverbs 2:6-8, Proverbs (;10, Romans 11:33) When we seek wisdom, we are told to ask God. Any other source must be examined against God's Word. If it doesn't align with the Bible, we must realize that it isn't Truth. 

In our world today, it is so easy to get caught up in and taken in by other voices who aren't speaking God's Truth. Asking God for wisdom and searching His Word will keep us from being "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." (Ephesians 4:14) 

"Who gives generously"-- "Generously" here means "graciously", "bountifully", "liberally". It's overflowing giving. God isn't stingy with His wisdom! If we ask Him, in faith, believing, He pours out His wisdom to us. He doesn't ration it. I love that description for the way God gives His wisdom to us. 

"without finding fault" -- I also love this description of what God doesn't do. "Finding fault" here means "to reproach, revile, upbraid", "to rail at, chide, taunt" And James says, God doesn't do that. He doesn't tear us down. He doesn't jump down our throats, tear our heads off, or mock us. 

I couldn't help but think of how much reviling, upbraiding, railing at, and taunting are going on in our world today. It's everywhere! Even among professing Christians. There are times when we must speak Truth, when we must stand for what is right, when we may need to lovingly confront someone who is wrong. But the Truth must always be spoken in love. (Ephesians 4:15) If God can give wisdom generously without reviling, upbraiding, railing at, taunting, surely we should follow that example. 

"it will be given him" --Given here is "a prolonged form of the primary verb 'to give'" in the Greek. It's a promise, and it's ongoing. 

1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

"faith" -- We are told we must ask in faith, so what is that faith? The Greek word here is pistis, from pietho. It means to "persuade, be persuaded, come to trust". It is always a gift from God, and not something that can be produced by people. "Pistis is God's divine persuasion, distinct from human belief/confidence, but involving it." (HELPS Word-studies) 

Secularly, pistis referred to a guarantee or warranty. "In Scripture faith is God's warranty, certifying that the revelation He inbirthed will come to pass (His way)." (HELPS Word-studies)

Faith is always received from God and never generated by us.  

"with no doubting"--to doubt here means to hesitate, to waver, to withdraw from. It involves "overjudging", going too far, vacillating. Also, "to be at variance with oneself". The KJV here says "without wavering". 

"for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind" -- "Wave" here refers to rough water. The original means "billow", "surge", and suggests an uninterrupted succession--not just one wave, but wave after wave. "Driven and tossed by the wind" means to be tossed to and fro, to be agitated (as by a fan or wind).  The picture I get here is of one of those huge fans you see at Sam's Club or other stores with a beach ball bouncing in the air above it. That ball is bounching wherever that fan blows it. It has no control over where it goes or what it does. 

"For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." -- "Double-minded" means wavering, two-spirited, vacillating. "Unstable" means unsettled, almost anarchic. According to Strong's, English doesn't really have a strong enough word to carry this meaning. 

1:9-11  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

I think I've been making these verses too hard all these years. First, we have to remember these verses are written to Christians. And they aren't saying the rich brother is wrong or bad for being rich. These verses are an admonition to focus on the eternal, rather than the earthly, no matter if we are the lowly or the rich. They are a reminder that earthly riches and honor will wither, fade, and die. 

The lowly brother is to "boast in his exaltation" -- Boast here means to exult, to glory, to vaunt, to glory proudly.  HELPS Word-studies says "living with head held high, boasting from a particular vantage point by having the right base of operation to deal successfully with a matter; refers to God-given confidence." It goes back to that wisdom he was talking about earlier! 

"Lowly" refers to an "inner lowliness describing the person wh o depends on the Lord instead of self. It means being God-reliant rather than sef-reliant, which ironically always exalts a person, bringing their true worth." (HELPS)

"His exaltation" -- high position, eminence, rank, high station. All through God! Not because of self. 

"But the one who is rich" -- wealthy, abounding in, fully resourced, abundantly supplied.

should exult in his lowly position -- low condition in circumstances, humble state.

Looking at verses 9-11, the poor should glory in their spiritual wealth and the rich should glory in eternal things. The rich Christ-follower knows that his earthly wealth will pass away into nothing, but he can rejoice in his future humiliation (in the sense of being humbled) at death because he knows he has an eternal future ahead. (Verse by Verse Commentary online) The important thing for all is to keep an eternal point of view. 

Last night a couple of ladies shared about this in terms of contentment--that regardless of one's wealth or status on earth, if our focus is on God, if we realize that all we have is from Him, and that there is eternal glory coming, we can be content in what we have here. Paul said in Philippians 4:11-12 that he had learned to be content in all things, in plenty and in want. 

We must keep a proper perspective on physical wealth and focus on spiritual wealth. 

I loved this from Matthew Henry's Commentary: 

No condition of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.

1:12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  

"Blessed" -- Greek "makarios"-- happy, blessed, to be envied, supremely blessed. 

HELPS says "Makarios ('blessed') describes a believer in enviable ('fortunate') position from receiving God's provisions (favor)--which (literally) extend ('make long, large') His grace (benefits). This happens with receiving (obeying) the Lord's inbirthings of faith. Hence, faith/pistis blessed/makarios are closely associated (Romans 4:5-7, 14:22-23; Rev. 14:12-13)."

"remains steadfast" -- slightly different Greek word here than last week, but basically the same meaning: persevere, endure, have fortitude, bear. It's the same word used in 1 Cor. 13, "love endures all things". It literally means "to stay under". 

HELPS says, "to remain under the load, bearing up, enduring; for the believer, this uniquely happens by God's power." 

Strong's says, "absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials, to hold fast to one's faith in Christ, when trials assail, in tribulation. To cleave faithfully, to wait for the Lord." 

"under trial" -- experience of evil, solicitation, provocation, adversity. A putting to proof. 

"because when he has stood the test"-- when he has been approved, accepted, "tried, tested, and approved". It's the term used for coins and metals, and indicates one who is of tried faith and integrity.

"he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him."-- The crown here refers to a garland that indicates honor and glory, it's the crown of victory awarded to the victor in the ancient Greek games. The word for crown here is also the word used for the crown of thorns placed on the head of Christ at His trial. (HELPS) 

Strong's says this refers to the eternal blessedness which will be given as a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ; the reward of righteousness.

1:13-15  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

This tempting to sin discussed here is different than the trials discussed above. Temptation isn't from God. He hates sin, He can't commit sin, and therefore He can't tempt others to sin. 

And yet, as humans, we've been apt to try to blame God for our sin since the very beginning. Remember Adam in the Garden, saying to God that "it was the woman You gave me." God had warned Adam and Eve, had given explicit instructions, and they still chose to sin. Then they tried to blame God for it! We do the same, in so many ways. 

James says here that we must not do this! He then says that we are tempted by our own desire. That old sin nature inside of us causes us to be lured and enticed. We can't even blame our sin on Satan. Yes, he tempts us, but the responsibility for our sin lies inside of us, in our own old nature. 

"Lured" here is a picture of a fish who sees something that looks good and delicious, and yet when the fish takes hold of it, it brings death. Sin looks good to us. It is alluring and enticing. We must use that wisdom from God to turn from it, so that the temptation doesn't give birth to sin, and then in the end bring death. 

Matthew Henry says that "the true origin of evil and temptation is in our own hearts." We must constantly look to God and ask for His wisdom and power to avoid the sin that seeks to entangle us. 

If you are studying James either via the Messenger Rooms study with us, or on your own, I'd love to hear what God is teaching you through it! Or if you are studying some other part of the Bible, share with us what. You can comment here or on FB or IG. I'd love to hear from you! 






 

7.17.2020

Nothing But Joy!


Intro to James:

Most scholars believe the book was written by James the half-brother of Jesus. If so, James went from an unbeliever who openly mocked Jesus to a man gloriously saved when Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. He became a leader of the church in Jerusalem known for his godliness and devotion to prayer. He was later martyred by an angry crowd of Scribes and Pharisees. 

With such a background, he simply introduces himself as "a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ."  He lived the godliness and humility he preached. 

James writes "to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion". 
Dispersion here has a two-fold meaning: Christians (primarily Jewish Christians) scattered due to persecution, and Christians as exiles and strangers on this earth. Can't we relate to that today?? Most of us in the US haven't seen actual persecution yet, but we're certainly seeing more and more animosity, and the possibility of true persecution in our lifetimes seems more and more real. 

With the current pandemic, we may not be scattered geographically as the Christians to whom James was writing, but we are experiencing such a crazy form of "scattering" through social distancing that is new, different, and for most of us, very uncomfortable. Many aren't able to meet together at church, and their corporate worship is through livestreams or other technology. For those who are able to meet together, things are generally very different due to social distancing guidelines. It is so good to be able to meet together at all, but it's also somewhat awkward and weird. 

As American Christians, we've been really comfortable for a long time. As uncomfortable as these times are, perhaps we needed to be jolted out of our comfortable place. James says that our authentic faith is shown by the way we speak and act during times of trial and hardship, and that those times grow and mature that faith so that we may become perfect and complete in Him. Such a timely message for our time, written 2000ish years ago! 

I loved (and was convicted by!) this from a BSF study on the book of James:

What confusion do you have about your life and your place in the world? Do you struggle to live out what you say you believe? How often do you substitute feelings, fear of consequences, majority opinions, past outcomes, cultural norms, or governmental laws for God's wisdom? Instead, James's message is -- Seek God. Get wisdom. Do the Word." 

James 1:1 
1:1  James describes himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The word "servant" here is the Greek word "doulos", which means "born bondman or slave". It was interesting to me that this is the same word Mary used of herself when Gabriel announced the coming birth of Jesus.

1:2-4  We are so tempted to focus on self, and on the trials themselves, during trials. All the "Why?" questions press in. From the BSF notes on this verse: God answers some of these questions in James, but mostly helps us move from "Why me?" to "What will I do now?" Live by fatih.

Repeated words or ideas in verses 1-4?  trials/testing and steadfastness (perseverance, patience, endurance, depending on translation)

Conditional statements? Trials/faith testing are required for the production of steadfastness, and steadfastness brings maturity and completeness.

James 1:2

"Count it all joy" --Count= Consider, one translation says "Reckon it"

"All"--also translated "pure"-- all, the whole, every kind of
       The Weymouth New Testament translates this verse, "Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials."
       "nothing but joy"  brings a whole new understanding. Am I trying to squeeze some joy out in my trials along with my grumbling, resentment, worry, etc.? "Nothing but joy" doesn't really leave room for that. We are to "reckon it nothing but joy" when we face these trials. Not that we are "putting on a happy face about the situation itself"--we may definitely grieve, be sad, even wrestle with it--but we can have a deep, all-encompassing joy in the God Who is using that trial for our good and His glory, and for the work He is accomplishing in us through it. As one of the ladies said last night (I'm badly paraphrasing her, but this is the gist), we have to look over the trial to God and the work He is doing. THAT is where our joy is.

"Joy"--gladness, delight, Greek: Chara, xara. Root "xar"--to extend favor, lean towards, be favorably disposed. 
HELPS  Word Study says: properly, "the awareness of God's favor, joy--grace recognized"
linked to xairo, which means "rejoice because of grace", cheerfulness, calm delight.
      I need to letter "calm delight" and hang it on my wall!! "Calm delight" doesn't usually describe my attitude during trials. But what a beautiful goal.

"When you meet" -- also translated "fall into, encounter, face". The Weymouth translation says, "whenever you find yourself hedged in by various trials." At our old house, we had huge hedges around our yard. I was always amazed at the intricacy and strength of the interior of those hedges. There was no way to push through or make a path, short of a chainsaw. To be surrounded by them would definitely be claustrophobic. That's the way our trials can seem at times...like being surrounded by thick, impassable hedges.

"trials of various kinds" -- diverse trials...the trials may be very different, but the purpose, instructions, and results are the same.

James 1:3

For you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance--
The Amplified translates this "Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces  endurance [ leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace].
As my mom said yesterday, that "through experience" part is painful! If only we could learn it just by reading or hearing about it, and not "through experience". But that is how God chooses to do His work in us.

steadfastness--This word is also translated perseverance, patience, endurance.
According to the KJV dictionary, steadfast means firmly fixed or established, constant, firm, resolute, not fickle or wavering; firmness of mind or purpose, fixedness in principle.
      HELPS Word Studies  says "Well-stationed, securely positioned, not given to fluctuation or moving off course.  I don't know about y'all, but that "moving off course" part is convicting for me . When trials come, I tend to go into survival mode, and often veer waaaaay off course from what I know God's calling and purpose for me is.
       Strong's Concordance says the original Greek here is "hypomonen", meaning "to remain under or to stay in place, to bear up under. The characteristic of a man unswerved from his deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trails and sufferings."
       This is so good from Ellicott's Commentary!
Do not think the grace will come to its full beauty in an hour. Emotions and sentiment may have their place in the beginning of a Christian career, but the end therof is not yet. Until the soul be quite unmoved by any attack of Satan, the work cannot be deemed "perfect". The doctrine is not mere quietism, much less one of apathy, but rather this, that the conscious strength of patient trust in God is able to say at all times (Psalm 63:8)--My soul hath followed hard on Thee, Thy right hand hath upholden me." And if in this patience we can lean to possess our souls (Luke 21:19), the perfect work of God will be wrought within us. 

A couple of things I notice there--
1. This isn't passive, this steadfastness in trials, but rather very intentional. God does the work, but there is intentional, conscious "work"  on our part in this as well.
2. It doesn't happen all at once. It's a process, the process of sanctification. During each trial, He teaches us more, shows us more of Himself, brings us closer to maturity. The perfection won't be complete until heaven, when the glorification happens.

James 1:4
"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may  be perfect and complete, lacking nothing"

"Let"--allow, Greek echeto--to have, hold, possess

"have its full effect"--also translated "finish the work"--to complete, to meet the goal.

"perfect and complete"--mature, sound, complete in every part, perfectly sound

"lacking nothing" -- that we are without fault or flaw, a perfect sacrifice offered up to God.

Matthew Henry says of this passage:
"Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying or doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make a right use of it." 

Colossians 4:12 says, "That you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God"

I Thessalonians 5:23-24 --Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these verses, either in the comments here or on FB/IG!





A Background Tale

(Super-quick, roughly lettered verse. Got to the very end and totally wrote the wrong word and had to erase, which made a mess, but didn't have time to redo. Pride says, "You can't use that!" But the truth in the words is what's important, so swallowing the pride and leaving it there. *blush*)


One evening I was sitting at my desk after supper trying to muster the energy to go upstairs and get ready for bed. I was exhausted and discouraged and feeling just a wee bit overwhelmed  As I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook, a friend's post caught my eye. It was a graphic of James 5:11--
"Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
That word--steadfast--had been popping up all over the place lately. And this verse spoke deeply to my heart in its struggling state.

I pulled my Bible down from the shelf above me and flipped over to James. I read all of chapter 5, realizing as I did that not only was there much there that spoke to my personal struggles and those of our family right now, but also much that spoke to the things going on in the world around us right now that are also heavy on my heart.

I backed up and skimmed through the previous chapters, and continued to read things that resonated deeply with me and were so very timely. Bible study had been hard lately, and I had been praying about that and looking for a way to get over the hump, so to speak. As I sat reading various verses in James, almost all of them very familiar and yet new and fresh at the same time, I decided that a deep study of James was just what I needed right now.

Then I thought, "I wonder if maybe someone else might want to go through James with me--maybe we could do a Zoom study to help with accountability and provide some much-needed fellowship in the process." I began praying about it and decided I'd go ahead and quickly post on Facebook and see if there might be a lady or two who might want to join me.

God is so good and His ways are so much higher than ours. We had 16 ladies (plus a few more who wanted to but due to tech issues and/or operator error on my part weren't able to yesterday :-( ) between two sessions yesterday studying the first four verses of James. We had some glitches along the way, and it was a bit rough around the edges on my part, but it was such a blessing!! Such wonderful ladies who blessed my heart so much, and the study itself has been exactly what I needed right now.

I plan to share my notes each week after the study. I hope they'll be helpful for those who were there, for those who missed, and maybe for others as well. Warning--they'll be in rough note form. :) But hopefully they'll make sense!

Would love to hear from you in the comments or on FB/IG--what are you studying right now? What is God teaching you through it?