Putting God's Word into Practice…

James 4:13-17 Helpless…Who Me?

Today is that one day a year that I feel like everything about my life and future is out of my control and in the hands of a Sovereign God. My husband is helping his friend paint the logo on a water tower.  He does this once a year and loves it–the painting and bonding–but I spend all day waiting for the call that says his feet are firmly on the ground at the end of the day.  I feel utterly helpless until he is home and hugging me tightly!

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

When we try to control our own location, duration, vocation and aspirations we are setting ourselves up as god.  By excluding God from our choices and refusing to consider His will and plan; we live as though He does not exist, and He is not in control.

We cannot even guarantee that we will live to see tomorrow.  Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”  Jesus keeps us breathing and our hearts beating through the night.

This past week I had some serious head congestion, and as crazy as it sounds, it gave me panic attacks all night. I was sure that I was going to die in my sleep because I couldn’t breathe through my nose.  I remember being awakened with the fear that I wasn’t breathing last Monday, and I said to the Lord, “If you want to keep me alive, keep me breathing while I sleep.”  I knew my life was in His hands–but it is every single moment of every single day–not just when my husband is up on a water tower or when I can’t breathe through my nose at night.

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

In light of all the ages and eras of mankind, our life is only a vapor.  Our names, reputations and deeds may outlive us by 50 years if we’re fortunate.  We think too much of ourselves!  If we spend our lives living only for ourselves and fulfilling our own purposes, in the end we are left with nothing of value or truly lasting.  May my prayer be like David’s, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadth, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!” (Psalm 39:4-6)

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Ever since studying the book of James inductively two years ago, I have tried to apply this verse to my life and actions.  It is difficult to say–it almost sounds morbid!  “I’ll see you Thursday, if the Lord wills.”  “I’ll pick you up from school, if the Lord wills.”  “Lord willing, we will be at your party.”  My mind automatically thinks, “If I’m dead I won’t be!”  But it is not a morbid addition to our plans if we have come to grips with the sovereignty and goodness of God.  If I’m not at the party, or seeing my friend on Thursday, or picking up my son from school it is because what God has planned supersedes my own agenda and what He has planned is good for me and for His glory.  “I will see my husband tonight, Lord willing.”

As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Boasting means taking pride and self-satisfaction in our own achievements, possessions and abilities.  God calls it arrogant and evil.  Ouch!  If God is in control of all things, and He is fulfilling His plans throughout all time in His people, then who are we to boast in our own vaporous achievements and accumulations!  There are numerous verses in the Bible about boasting–its ill effects on mankind and also the blessings of boasting in the Lord.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the Lord.”

This past week, my youngest son and I started memorizing Psalm 34, and when we got to verse two (“I will boast only in the Lord, let all those who are helpless take heart.”) I pridefully thought, that’s a good verse, when I know someone who feels helpless I can share it with them.  I’m not helpless!  But the truth is, I am helpless!  I will always be dependent on God for my life and breath and being!  He calls all the shots!  He had every day of my life written in a book before one of them came to be.  He knows my entrance date into and exit date out of this world!  I don’t mind being helpless and boasting in my weakness, when it means I can boast in my Lord and His strength!

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James 4:6-12 Straightforward Application

These are some of my favorite verses because they are very straightforward–allowing no doubt about what God requires for fellowship with Him and growing in love for others.  The two greatest commandments are Love God and love people!   This is the “how-to” guide to living according to these commands.

But He gives more GRACE. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the HUMBLE.” SUBMIT YOURSELVES THEREFORE TO GOD. RESIST THE DEVIL, and he will flee from you. DRAW NEAR TO GOD, and he will draw near to you. CLEANSE YOUR HANDS, you sinners, and PURIFY YOUR HEARTS, you double-minded.  BE WRETCHED and mourn and weep. Let you laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  HUMBLE YOURSELVES BEFORE THE LORD, and he will exalt you.

DO NOT SPEAK EVIL AGAINST ONE ANOTHER, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

This Sunday morning, while waiting for church to start.  I opened to these verses and meditated on them.  God showed me again that his grace is all I need, and the only way to obtain His grace is through humility before Him.  It took time and surrender, but I bowed before my King in that moment offering a prayer of submission to Him asking for openness to His Word during the service.  In drawing near to God, I experienced His presence like no other Sunday morning in a while.  The words of each song touched my soul and I was able to sing with full freedom, surrender and passion.  (We even sang “I Surrender All” which is the song that was being sung the day I gave my heart to Jesus nearly 14 years ago.  I was overwhelmed with His faithfulness to me!)  And the message from Revelation 1:9-20 left me in tears over the power and authority of my risen Savior who is reigning right now in power over the world, in the midst of His church and over my circumstances!  After the service, I experienced an increase of love and grace towards others as well.

God is faithful to His Word!  I encourage you to take the time to think through and act upon these verses.  You will experience the presence, grace and freedom of God!  He will draw near to you; He will give you grace; He will exalt you.

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James 4:1-6a ~ Enemies and Adulterers

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your PASSIONS are at war within you? You DESIRE and do not have, so you murder. You COVET and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your PASSIONS. YOU ADULTEROUS PEOPLE! Do you not know that friendships with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an ENEMY OF GOD. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? BUT HE GIVES MORE GRACE!

Worldliness has been an issue since the beginning of time.  Ever since the Enemy slithered into the Garden of Eden and persuaded Adam and Eve to rebel against the Lord, humans have been easily sidetracked from the love, glory and greatness of the Creator.  Satan’s mission is to disqualify, discredit and destroy the followers of God.

Since I belong to God, if I chase after the world (the seen and temporal environment in which I live) it is like committing spiritual adultery.  It is like being married, but chasing after other men.  It is impossible to befriend the world and be close to God because the world is Satan’s playground and our battlefield.  We cannot love the enemy of God.

Verse 4 says that when we befriend the world, we MAKE OURSELVES God’s enemies.  It is my choice whom and what I pursue in this life.  He does not wish for us to be His enemies, but His friends!

God put His spirit in me and yearns jealously over my heart and soul.  He wants all my heart, all my desires, all my passions to be for Him alone!  His jealously is not a sinful one!  It is a natural response to losing something that belongs to Him.  If my husband committed adultery, it would be very painful.  I would be jealous of his love being spread to someone else.  I would also long for him to love me again like he did at first.

God knows our hearts, and that we are prone to wander.  He knows there is a battle between our flesh and His Spirit in our hearts.  Therefore, verse 6 says, “HE GIVES MORE GRACE!”  The more understand this gift of grace, the more our passions are bent towards Him by His Spirit.  His grace is all we need to fight the world–to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world.

We are going through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ study of Ruth in our women’s ministry at church.  This past week, there was an exercise in evaluating the direction of our hearts either towards God or towards the world. Several key areas gave me pause to think (from page 33):

Recreation, leisure, and hobbies: how much time, attention, and money do I spend on them?

  • Schedule: where and how do I spend my time?
  • Finances: where and how do I spend money?
  • Priorities: How do I determine where I will expend my best time, energy, and resources?

Here are some other questions I am contemplating after reading these verses:

  • Do I only ask for things that gratify myself?
  • Are my passions and desires having a negative impact on any of my relationships?

Most of us would not say that we want to make ourselves enemies of God.  It is a slow fade–a moment-by-moment surrender to the things of this world that leads our hearts astray.  Constant evaluation and humility will keep our allegiance to the One who purchased our freedom with the blood-shedding sacrifice of His Son.

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James 3:13-18 True Wisdom

  • True wisdom–godly wisdom–is displayed through good actions and shared with meekness (humility laced with compassion, with power yet under God’s authority)
  • True wisdom is used to benefit others, not to build up self.
  • True wisdom cannot exist where jealousy and selfishness are found.  Because jealousy and selfishness are in opposition to godly wisdom, anything that stems from those emotions or ambitions is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic.”
  • True wisdom is: pure (not tainted by our flesh), peaceable (orderly, non-aggressive, even-tempered), gentle (kind, tender, considerate, not harsh or severe), open to reason (listens to others, willing to yield, doesn’t always have to be right or have the last word), FULL of mercy (helpful to others, forbearing, not giving others the consequences we think they deserve), FULL of good fruit (pleasant, refreshing good works), impartial (fair, no favoritism), and sincere (honest, without hypocrisy).
  • True wisdom is planting seeds of peace that grow healthy, God-honoring relationships.

This kind of wisdom does not come naturally to us, and it cannot be manufactured.  It must be sought!

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

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures…For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright. Proverbs 2:2-4, 6-7a

Do I want wisdom to share in order to help others or to make myself look better?  Do I share wisdom that points others to God and His truths or that exalts my opinion and benefits my reputation and desires?  Do any of the relationships in my life need to be more wisely approached?  How can I plant more seeds of peace in others?

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James 3:1-12 Tame My Tongue

I have struggled with my tongue for as long as I can remember–yelling, saying hurtful things, gossiping, cursing, speaking unwholesome words, telling dirty jokes, speaking negatively and critically, etc… Taming the tongue seems impossible! And God’s Word says it is impossible!  However, nothing is a hopeless cause when Jesus Christ is involved!

But NO HUMAN BEING can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil full of deadly poison. James 3:8

Just like everything that God created for good and praise and blessing; because of our flesh we pollute it, thereby making our tongues evil, destructive, boastful, unrighteous, defiling, restless and deadly.

On my wall I have several verses posted regarding the tongue:

A GENTLE tongue is a tree of life. Proverbs 15:4a

Death and LIFE are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21a

The mouth of the RIGHTEOUS is a fountain of life. Proverbs 10:11a

There is one who’s rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the WISE brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

There is one source of gentleness (Matthew 11:29), life (John 14:6), righteousness and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30), and He is Jesus Christ.  He has the power to tame our tongues because He has the power to change our hearts!  Matthew 12:34 says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  When Christ changes our hearts, He enables us to use our tongues to bless, refresh, revive and restore others!  We make war against our flesh when we surrender to Christ’s work in our hearts!

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James 2:14-26 ~ “Sanka, You Dead Mon?”

I have got a whole jumble of notes on these verses that I took down Saturday morning.  The time with the Lord studying His Word ended in tears of repentance and fresh hope for a living, active faith.

So also faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?..For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:17,20,26)

If my faith is mere knowledge and words, it is not valid or real.  True faith is displayed in actions.

  • Caring for the physical needs of others (15-16)
  • Being willing to sacrifice anything to show God He has first place in my life, He is my only hope and that I believe He is faithful to all His promises (21)
  • Provide and protect people of God even at risk to myself…offer hospitality to strangers (25)

The times I have felt most alive in my faith are active times: doing a ding-dong ditch diaper drop on someone’s porch, serving free lunch on our town square and sitting and praying with those who came, delivering handmade blankets to Heartbeats for babies and the Police Station for the children they have to remove from homes, taking a homeless lady to lunch, moving to Chicago, starting a church.

Why are my “alive” moments countable?  What is the pulse of my “faith” life now?

True faith is selfless action.  Self-centered living and even serving makes me feel dead inside–at the very least completely empty.  Inactive faith is useless.  When I don’t feel like my life has purpose, putting my faith into action would revive my purpose.

Questions to think about:  Can we “will” action from our faith?  Or should they automatically overflow from our faith?  How do we strengthen our faith?

Dead faith needs REVIVED!  Revive me Lord, make my heart beat with real, deep, impacting, active, selfless faith!

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James 2:1-13 Know Mercy

Showing partiality and favoritism is an evil sin! (4,9) Not even one judgmental thought is acceptable! (1)  These actions disgrace the Lord who died for ALL people, who’s blood is able to cover ANYONE’S sins.

In James 2:10 we learn that breaking one commandment is the same as breaking all ten commandments, therefore we all come to the cross of Jesus on level ground–all sinners.  All who are redeemed are equally redeemed only by the mercy and grace of God.  When we realize that truth, it leaves no room for self-righteousness and judging others.


Mercy is showing compassion and/or forgiveness to whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  Mercy triumphs–conquers, prevails, takes first place, subdues–judgment.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful for they WILL receive mercy.”  Isn’t that what I want from God and others??!! Mercy instead of judgment!  Then I must freely offer mercy (compassion and forgiveness) to ALL others.  The truth is, I don’t have the power to punish anyone.  That’s God job!  If he shows mercy to all He has made, then I need to as well.

Is there anyone from whom I’m withholding mercy?


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James 1:22-27 How God’s Word Gives Freedom Over Anger

In the previous verses, God commands us through James to be slow to anger, stating that anger does not produce the righteousness of God in us.  Being “quick to anger” is an ongoing issue for many people–especially myself!  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve confessed my anger, cried over my anger, and requested prayer for victory over anger…

Anger is something that those who follow Christ are called to “put to death” in Colossians 3:5-10.  Based on James 1:22-27, there is one way to kill anger in our lives–ACT ON THE WORD OF GOD!  If we set our minds on living according to His Word, there will be no room for anger.  The amount of anger in my life–over trials, unmet expectations, giving voice to my impatience and selfishness–is a direct correlation to my indifference and outright disobedience of God’s Word.

James 1:25 promises that those who act on God’s Word will be blessed.  I know that to be true!  I’ve experienced the joy of obedience! But in the moment it is so easy to let my tongue loose…James calls that a person with worthless religion.  Always hearing–never changing! Knowing the truth, but giving precedence to the flesh.

Unrighteous anger is worldly.  It is a justifiable emotion and response when things don’t go my way.  The world teaches that it is normal and okay.  But God wants His followers–bought with the precious blood of Jesus–to be different.  He wants us to be unstained from the world.  When we justify our “quick to anger” reactions, we are deceiving ourselves!  We are replacing true righteousness with self-righteousness!  Think about it:  All anger against humans (anger against unrighteous actions IS justifiable) is rooted in self-righteousness.

The people to whom James was writing were scattered due to persecution.  Maybe the widows and orphans referenced in verse 27 were a specific result of this persecution.  We don’t see this a lot in our country, but in Africa and Asia this oppression is in abundance.  It would be easy to be angry at the ones who cause this atrocity.  But sinful responses will only defile us!  Taking our eyes off ourselves and our situations while caring for others who are afflicted is a true remedy for worthless religion.  Showing God’s love and mercy to those in need protects us from anger, proves that we are “doers” of the Word, and puts us in a place to receive blessings from the Lord.

Verse 25 calls God’s Word, “The Law of Liberty.”  That means that freedom comes through obeying God’s Word.  Specifically this morning, I see that freedom over anger comes from God’s Word–receiving it, hearing it, looking intently into it, and doing it!

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