Today's Verse

Monday, June 15, 2009

Picture Praises - Wildflowers

One of the benefits of living in Upper Peninsula of Michigan are the forests surrounding us. In them we find wildlife and wildflowers. There's always something to find. Last Friday we were able to spend some time with some friends at a local lake. My friend had found several lady's slippers there at the campsite. I took the opportunity to photograph these beautiful and rare orchids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hospitality chart

Now, I can't see that I can make a table in this blogger document, but I found a chart on hospitality in my Women's Study Bible that I thought would be worth passing along. The comparison is between Hospitality and Entertainment. I will give you the lists and know that number one in the first list will compare with number 1 in the second list.

Christian Hospitality
  1. Provides a safe place (Proverbs 31:21)
  2. Seeks to serve others (1 Peter 4:8-10)
  3. Puts people before things (Matthew 10:42)
  4. Makes what is mine yours (Acts 2:44)
  5. Takes no thought for whatever reward or compensation is in it for me (Matthew 6:1-4)
  6. Frames itself according to God's Word (Matthew 5:43-48)
  7. Offers freedom that liberates, enabling you to exercise your gifts and creativity to the fullest (Romans 8:2)
Worldly Entertaining
  1. Opens a show place
  2. Wants to impress others
  3. Elevates things above people
  4. Claims all as mine and admires it
  5. Expects something in return (praise and reciprocation)
  6. Models itself after the world (television, neighbors, magazines, etc.)
  7. Becomes a taskmater that enslaves, requiring you to meet the expectations of others
What do you think?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ladies' Retreat

Thank you for your prayers! Our retreat went well. We were a small, cozy group, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know these ladies better. We enjoyed the condominium and resort amenities (thanks to my Mom, Gloria Richards, for making her timeshare available to us) and the local area as well. The picture on the left was taken on a side trip we took to a local lighthouse called the Cana Light.

The retreat was called, "Falling in Love All Over Again," and we focused on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. I know in studying and presenting I was greatly challenged, and I pray the retreat was profitable for the ladies attending as well. I am working on putting some of the material here on the blog. I will post material as I get it done. Once again, thank you for your prayers! The only lasting value of this retreat will be because the Lord has worked.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." Genesis 8:22

Spring is finally springing up around here! The sledding hill in the backyard is completely melted, and the kids have found the first buds opening on the trees. I love Spring. I love the promise of new life that Spring brings. I feel renewed and refreshed just by having the ability to spend some time out of doors. I praise the Lord that He created and maintains the seasons.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wow! Has it been this long since I've posted here? I'll have to get on the ball. Right now my ball is rolling me down a hill toward a small ladies' retreat with Manistique Bible Church. I will be speaking at this retreat in Door County, Wisconsin starting Sunday, May 10 through Wednesday, May 13. I will be doing eight sessions in all, and I am a bit overwhelmed getting it all done right now. Lord willing I will post some of the content here on my blog. Please be in prayer for me as I finish getting all the sessions ready. Thanks ladies!

Also, check out my sidebar for a link to a Mother's Day giveaway. A Toshiba laptop is the prize! You can enter until May 9. Have fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Picture Praises

We are back! It's good to be back in my own bed again after our trip South. Dave posted about the trip on his ministry blog. If you want to read more about it, you can here.

One thing I've been thinking about that I want to add to my blog is "picture praises." I am by no means a professional photographer. I have a small point and shoot Canon PowerShot Elph. There are many times though when I see something that just makes me smile. Some blessing that God has brought along that I'd like to share with you. So, we'll start!

Although we are still participating in winter weather around here, I am very thankful for the many good gifts that the Lord sees fit to bless us with. He has promised to meet our needs, and I am very thankful that He continues to do just that. I am also so thankful for the ways that He gives us more than what we need. Like that cup of hot chocolate covered with melting mini-marshmallows that you see there in the picture. Just this last week I saw the Lord answer a very specific prayer request that I had. He answered it, not because it was a life or death situation of absolute need. He answered seemingly because He is simply pleased as a Father to give good gifts. Matthew 7:7-11 tells of the generosity of our loving Father. Verse 11 states, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" I hope you praise the Lord with me today for all the good gifts that He gives us above and beyond our need.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What do we do about the end?

Have you ever seen a person in movie or in real life who is walking around carrying a placard? One placard that seems to be common in caricaturing is the crazy looking man in long robes carrying a placard reading, "The end is coming!" Sometimes I think of Jonah and his short sermon in Jonah 3:4 that had amazing results. In 1 Peter 4:7 I found that placard again: "But the end of all things is at hand." What follows is a list of things we ought to be doing because the return of the Lord is soon. I thought it worth sharing.

"The end of all things is at hand!"

  • be sober (literally in your right mind) (1 Peter 4:7)
  • watchful in prayer (1 Peter 4:7)
  • above all fervently love one another (1 Peter 4:8)
  • practice hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9)
  • as each of us have been gifted by the Holy Spirit, use those gifts to minister to one another (1 Peter 4:10)
  • if any one speaks (a longer prolonged speech, like teaching or preaching) let him speak the oracles of God (the Word of God) (1 Peter 4:11)
  • minister with the abilities God has given you (1 Peter 4:11)
    • that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ
    • to whom belong the glory and dominion forever
The last one particularly made me think of Philippians 4:3. We are to minister with our God given abilities for the glory of God. We are not (as Phil 4:3 states) to minister seeking our own vain glory. It is not our glory to receive. We are to have the mind of Christ. So, what is the purpose of man? What is your purpose? If you knew you only had one week left to live, what would you seek to accomplish? This list is an interesting perspective. "The end of all things is at hand." What are you going to do with it?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pure Religion - James 1:26-27

My kids recently found an old children's book of mine that explains how to do some simple magic tricks. They decided to perform a magic show and invited us adults to attend. We watched as they showed us a dollar bill with George Washington right side up, folded the bill, unfolded it and showed us George Washington was now upside down. They did a couple of other tricks, but at no point in time did they deliver an incantation and actually perform magic. The key to magic tricks is not magic. The key is deception. The magician is not deceived. He is trying to deceive the people watching. In James 1:26, however, we see a person who has deceived himself.

Think about the Pharisees with me. These are the religious leaders of the day. They uphold the law (and more) and seek to live their lives before men in the most rigid standards they can. They teach men the outward conformity to the law. They teach men how to look religious. Now James comes and tells the believers that if a person seems to be religious but has an unbridled tongue, that person's religion is vain -- it is empty. Have you ever seen those play bottles for doll babies? From the outside they look full. Then you turn them over and they empty even though nothing comes out of the bottle. These religious people with unbridled tongues are just that. They look full of all the "right things," but the truth is, they're empty. The unbridled tongue they display is unbridled in sin, it speaks of things it ought not (Titus 1:10-11), and it is unbridled in excess, it speaks too much (Proverbs 10:19). This unbridled tongue is a sure evidence of an empty religion.

James 1:26 also tells us that this person has deceived his own heart. Once again think of the Pharisees with me. Most of them probably thought they would stand righteous before God one day. After all, hadn't they kept all of the commandments? Yet, it was their unbridled tongue that showed their heart. Read Matthew 12:23-37. The Pharisees have accused Jesus of being in league with Satan. How unbridled can you get? Pay attention to Matthew 12:34. This is a very familiar verse to us, but think about how closely the tongue and the heart are tied together. The tongue reveals all that is in the heart. In the very outwardly religious Pharisees, the tongue revealed a heart void of the understanding of God. It seems that a person who has a religious exterior and an unbridled tongue could very well be unsaved. This person has an unregenerate heart.

I don't want to close all doors there though. There are some who are simply carnal Christians. In 1 Corinthians 3:1 Paul is telling the Corinthian believers that they are carnal, "babes in Christ." They are indeed "in Christ." They have Christ, but they haven't built anything of lasting value on that foundation. Further down in the chapter in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 we see that we can have the foundation of Christ but still be laying up no treasures in Heaven. This person who seems to be religious but lacks self-control in her tongue could simply be revealing a lack of growth. The person has faith but has not added virtue (2 Peter 1:5-8). And still, this person's religion (outward show) is empty. There is no reward in empty labor.

Then in James 1:27 we see the contrast. Pure religion is seen in the merciful and humble acts of the doer. The great show is not where we see a truly pious woman. True piety is seen in the servant. Pure religion is not evidenced only in visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, but it is in these merciful acts that we see the embodiment of the pure, outward focus of religion. Also, the one who is religious keeps himself unspotted from the world. To keep oneself is to have a jealous watchfulness. We are jealous to keep pure. We are keeping our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs r4:23). We are learning to number our days so we may apply ourselves to wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

I have talked to several people recently who have expressed that growing up they felt like they had a checklist to gauge their Christianity by. If they did all those things on that checklist, things like wearing the right clothes, going the right places, talking about the right things, if they did all these things then they were spiritual. When they grew up, however, they realized that Christianity was more than external conformity. Christianity was a change of heart and thinking. That change of heart and thinking shows up in the externals. It shows up in the things I wear, the places I go and the things I talk about. But the change is first in an inward conformity to Christ not a conformity to an external standard (Romans 8:29). We can't live our lives by a checklist to see if we're OK. This passage in James points to that. James has just gotten done talking about being a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Then he pauses to remind us that this doing does not begin with our hands, but it begins with our heart.

I can't leave this without asking where are you? Consider what you are conformed to. Are you ruled by an exterior standard in your life or is your exterior ruled by a heart conformed to Christ?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Devotional Help

I really enjoy and recommend books by Elizabeth George. In one of her books (sorry, I can't remember which one), she related a devotional help that was useful for her. She referred to it as her Spiritual Temperature chart. Every day that she had her devotions she colored in that day's date. As she looked back, she viewed the chart as a sort of thermometer. If she missed a lot of days she could see that her chart looked like chicken pox. When she was doing well, she could see the steady "temperature" rising. I am posting a pdf of a chart I made based off the one she had available in her book. I hope it will be a help to you.

Bible Reading Chart

Friday, March 6, 2009

Welcome, Welcome!

Here we are at a new website! Also, praise the Lord He has allowed us to get a second used computer that I can use as my very own! This will help facilitate my blog writing as Dave has had our one computer in great demand over the last couple of months. I hope to be able to post often and still look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Action is the Key - James 1:22-25

The other day my 7-year-old was singing a song called "Obedience." One phrase in the song is, "Action is the key, do it immediately." She then asked me why the song said that action was the key. My reply was to tell her the parable of the two sons found in Matthew 21:28-31. You probably remember how Jesus told of the father who went to his first son and told him to go work in the vineyard. The son replied no, but later repented and went and worked. Then the father went to the second son and told him to work in the
vineyard. This son said he would, but then he never went. Jesus then asked which son did the will of his father? Which son obeyed? Obviously the first son is the one who obeyed. Action is the key.

Here in James we see another example of action being the key. In verse 19 we are told to be "swift to hear." In verse 21 we have the admonition to humbly receive the Word of God. In verse 22 we see, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." It is not enough just to listen. It is not enough to simply receive the Word. We must do what we have received. We can take the Word of God and say, "Yes, that's exactly what I need." Then we go and do what we want to anyway. We may have every intention of doing what it says, but then something comes up and we're busy or we think another way might be better this time. It all amounts to the same thing -- we are deceiving ourselves. Certainly, the listening and receiving have to take place or we will not know what the will of the Father is. However, if we think we are spiritual because we read the Word, meditate on the Word and even memorize the Word, but we put no feet to what we learn, we are not doing the will of our Father.

Verses 23-24 state, "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." I have the knowledge of what I look like. I've gotten up and seen that my hair is tangled up in a ball on the side of my head. I am grieved by it. I know that I don't want to go out looking as I do. Then I look at the time. I hurry off to go get the kids breakfast and soon get busy in my day. In the process I completely forget that I am walking around with a tangled mass of hair on the side of my head. I can do the same thing with the Word of God. I look. I see that my tongue is out of control and I need to use my tongue to edify and minister grace to the hearer. I am grieved by the picture that I see of myself. Then I leave. I get busy. I forget what I have seen and I never do anything to fix the problems.

Verse 25 gives the contrast though, "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." The words in James 1:25, "looketh into," have a stronger connotation than the word "beholdeth" in verse 24. Beholding is more like just seeing the big picture. Looking into has the idea of examining closely. Taking in the minutiae and examining it thoroughly. I like the show CSI. The way the investigators examine a crime scene is so detailed that they find the individual hairs and trace evidence left behind. We are to examine with that type of vigilance. Not content with just seeing if anything jumps out at me, but examining so closely that the picture becomes obvious.

Also, here in verse 25 we see our "mirror." It is the "perfect law of liberty." In Christ we have an amazing liberty that was unknown under the law. The law was a constant schoolmaster reminding the people of their sinful condition. Galatians 3:24-25 states, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." It's like that child who sits under his teacher learning and then matures to go out in freedom into the world. No longer is he sitting under the particular instructions of his teacher. We, not being under the law, are no longer sitting under the particular instructions of our Teacher. We don't have to worry about pork or beef, whether we are wearing mixed fibers, or if we are sprinkling whatever just right. In this we have great liberty.

And yet the responsibility is greater. Before, all that child had to do was obey his teacher and he was good. When he becomes a man, he has to work and provide, he has to live his life in accordance to what he has been taught. The same with us. Under the law of liberty we have a higher standard. The issues at stake now are matters of the heart. We cannot think we can do just as the Pharisees and fulfill the letter of the law and be pleasing to God. The issues are not outward conformity to an external standard, the issue is inward conformity to Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 state, "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." We now have a divine, incarnate example to follow. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ.

What is the result of examining and continuing in the will of our Father? "This man shall be blessed in his deed." We are like the wise man who built his house on a rock. Our actions are founded on the Solid Rock, and in that we are solid and not like the double minded man from James 1:8. Our deeds are blessed because the authority for them is found in Christ, not ourselves. Then we can know we are abiding in Christ.

I am reminded of an account I heard of a man who had Biblical knowledge that far surpassed that of many others. He could quote books of the Bible. He also was an adulterer. He would drive to meet his lover while quoting passages of the Bible. He would pray and ask God to help him. A wise person later told him that was not the time for quoting Scripture, it was the time for turning the wheel. While our decisions may not all be as dramatic, I know I am often confronted with the knowledge of what I ought to be doing and what I am actually doing. Ladies, we cannot be content to live our lives listening. We cannot be content with merely gleaning knowledge. We have to be women of action who put to good use those things which we learn in the Word of God.

Those Dirty Clothes - James 1:21

My husband and I enjoy a show on the Discovery channel called "Dirty Jobs." Mike Rowe, the host, goes every show to new places and new dirty jobs. The jobs are as varied as can be imagined, with many different skill levels for each position. There is one common theme though, the people who perform these jobs (and film Mike doing these jobs) get dirty. One particular show, the job was so filthy and disgusting that Mike commented that no one on the crew wanted to even talk after the show was done. They just all wanted to get back to their hotel rooms and wash away as much of the filth as possible from their bodies.

James 1:21 states, "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."

O the Deep, Deep Love of God: James 1:17-18

We are fast approaching Thanksgiving. It's only three days away! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I am thankful for each of you who have told me you are reading my blog. You are my sisters and friends. I am thankful for the ways you have impacted my life, and I love those times we get to spend together face to face. Although we should be giving thanks every day of the year, our thoughts seem to be more tuned in with giving thanks on this particular day of the year.

So, let me ask you. When you give thanks, what are those things that you include on the list? I'll tell you some of mine.
Some things are obvious. I give thanks for my husband and for my kids. I am so grateful that God has brought them into my life. I give thanks for my mom and siblings. I give thanks for my in-laws (they are wonderful). I give thanks for God's constant provision in our lives and ministry. I give thanks that I can homeschool. I give thanks for our home church and the friends we have made in the churches we have been able to minister in. I give thanks for health and strength. Some things to give thanks for are not so obvious. I give thanks that my dad found his longed for home in heaven last February. I continue to miss his presence with us here on earth, but I am so thankful that he has a glorified body now free of pain. I am thankful for the example that he has left behind. I am thankful for the "hard" things in my life. I am thankful for the way those difficult times draw me closer to God and cause me to learn how to depend on Him more. I am even thankful for the snow up here! My kids enjoy playing in it, and they are thankful for the hot chocolate they get some times upon their return back into the warm house.

Where do these good things come from? We've already seen in James that our nature is inherently sinful. Isaiah 64:6 tells us, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Even the good things that we attempt to do are in the eyes of God an unclean thing. So where does this good in our lives come from? James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God Himself gives us all the good and perfect gifts in our lives. Everything that is good and perfect in our lives comes from God. On the flip side, and perhaps the more difficult side, all that comes from God is good and perfect. Even when I don't understand it, God is working out all things for my good and His glory.

The word for good here means beneficial. Every gift of God is beneficial. My son was able to stop patching for a while. Now he is back to wearing that seemingly ever present patch back on his strong eye. Thankfully it's only for a few hours a day now. The first time I put the patch on him since he was able to stop wearing it, he did not want to wear it. He told me, "But I can't see as well with the patch on!" I had to tell him, "Well, that's really the point. You wear it so your other eye can get stronger." He was good and didn't protest beyond that. Was he happy about the patch? No. Is the patch good? Is it beneficial for him? Yes. Should we give thanks for the patch? Yes. It is the same way in our lives. Sometimes the strengthening process is no fun. Our weaknesses become so apparent and, I don't know about you, but I don't like to see my own weaknesses most of the time. I like thinking that I'm pretty hunky dory. That is not in my best interests though. I need to see where I am weak, so by God's grace I can become strong.

God also gives perfect gifts. Perfect--complete. God's gifts are complete. They have nothing lacking. This Christmas you may try to put together a new toy and find that some of the components that you need are not there. Not so with God. Every gift He brings into your life is complete. There is nothing lacking in the hand of God. He brings a circumstance in your life for your growth, He also brings the grace along with it to bear it and grow. At no time can we turn to God and say, "You forgot this!" The hand of God is complete.

Note how James describes God: "The Father of lights." This phrase alludes to the fact that God created the lights: the sun, moon and stars. The phrase also somewhat compares God to those lights. We look at the sun, moon and stars and they are ever present in our lives. At no time do we rationally get up in the morning and wonder if the sun is going to rise. The sun may alter at times though. We have solar eclipses where the sun is blotted out of the sky for a time. The sun does not always seem to give an even heat. Now, we understand science and the fact that the sun is farther away in the winter and closer in the summer. But it is so disappointing to see the sun shining fiercely outside in the winter time only to walk outside and see the temperature is still 9 degrees. James compares God to these lights, but James qualifies the comparison. With God there is, "no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God does not change. He does not have seasons. His view is never blotted out. He is constantly and consistently the same. What we expect from God yesterday (good and perfect gifts) He will still give us tomorrow (good and perfect gifts). God never misses an ingredient in His recipes and gives us a cake without sugar. He does not change. Ever. His gifts do not change. Ever.

Now to a beautiful truth. James 1:18 begins, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Without getting into a lot of debate, the Scripture is very clear that "We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)." Also, in John 6:44 Jesus states, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." The wonderful truth here is that while we were enemies to God (Colossians 1:20) He died for us. There was no spark of divinity in us that He appreciated us. We had no intrinsic worth that caused Christ to desire us. Not a one of us did. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). It was God's own will that drew us to Himself. God desired us for no other reason than it being a part of His will. By His will He gave us the Word of God because, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). The love of God is absolutely amazing. So then, because we did nothing to earn the love of God in the first place, we can do nothing to separate ourselves from the love of God. After a wonderful telling of the truth of the love of God, Romans 8 ends with verses 38 and 39 saying, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Of His own will, James 1:18 tells us, God began to produce in (begat) us with the Word of truth, "that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Why did God do such a marvelous working in our lives? In the Jewish culture, the first fruits that were received in the harvest were dedicated to God. They were given out of thankfulness for His working and allowing the farmer to have a harvest. The farmer was in effect saying that God was worthy of the best that the farmer had. In his sermon "All of God" Phil Newton says, "God has set apart those he has regenerated as the first fruits, or the best of the creation for himself. It is not that we who are regenerated are better by our labors, but our worth is due to the work of God in our hearts. We are therefore, as the first fruits, to be the evidence of God's gracious work, care, and purpose for his creation." What a beautiful picture, that we, sinners saved by grace, can bear the fruit of God; evidencing in our lives what God's purposes are for mankind -- "that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

This Thanksgiving let's not forget to thank God for who He is (unchangeable, ever loving, and longsuffering) and what He has done for us (loved us with an everlasting love, drawn us to Himself, and made us to bear fruit for Him).

Be Quiet and Listen!: James 1:19-20

I have three children. Each of them is unique. Even when they were babies their personalities were showing themselves evident. For instance. My oldest liked her independence as a baby. She didn't like to be held and cuddled. She cried when I tried. She was happiest sitting somewhere where she could observe and laugh, but not have her personal bubble invaded. My middle one liked to be cuddled. She was still a very happy baby. She just liked Mommy more and liked to be held and loved on. Then came my youngest. No more happy baby. To his credit, there was something wrong with his digestive system that was never figured out. He was an unhappy baby though. He screamed. A lot. I once figured that he screamed about eight hours a day besides some other more normal crying. He did this for about four months. I think it's because of this early exercise of his lungs that he has an amazing ability even now to be unbelievably loud. On top of that he likes to talk. He is a sweet, loving hearted, generous little boy who just has a hard time listening. Therefore, in an attempt to teach him to pay attention to what was coming out of his mouth, I recently taught him James 1:19, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." The verse is not just good for a five-year-old. I find that its truth is frequently a good reminder to me.

We began our study in James contemplating that this book is about the evidences of our faith. We've seen the evidence of our faith in trials. How we count it all joy when we are tried because we know that through the trial we are becoming more like Christ. We are being tested and are being made stronger. Also, we've seen the origins of sin and the wonderful, constant nature of our God. Then we come to James 1:19 which starts out, "Wherefore." You've probably heard the saying, "When you see a 'therefore' in the Bible look back and see what it's 'there for.'" Same thing with 'wherefores.' You look back and see what the author is referring to. So, because we know the end product of our trials. Because we know that sin comes from within. Because we know that God is not the author of evil and has an unchanging nature. Because of all that we've looked at we have three responses. (On a quick side note, don't you love how the author reiterates his love of God's people? He calls the reader "beloved brethren." It's much better than my title which just has the point.)

Our first response according to verse 19 is to be, "swift to hear." Listening seems to have become a lost art. Even when we are talking to someone, too often we are more concerned with framing our reply than with listening to what the other person has to say. Other times we just simply refuse to listen to someone. We have a grievance that is like that splinter in our finger. It's annoying, and it hurts. Then we often become closed, especially to the person who we perceive is at fault in our grievance, and we forget to listen. We even forget to listen to the voice of God. We approach the Word of God with a set idea or preconceived notion and forget to listen to what is really written there. God does not change. The Word of God does not change. The love of God does not change. The Bible is just as powerful today as it was centuries ago. Psalm 46:10 states, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." We are very familiar with the beginning of that verse. It is interesting to see though that the end of our being still is God's exaltation. Psalm 4:4 also states, "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah." When we are still we are more apt to listen. To realize that I don't have all the answers. To realize that I need instruction too. To realize that it's not all about me. Listen.

Then we have the natural outflow of listening in the next response. We are to be "slow to speak." If we really listen, then our speaking will already decrease. This response is two fold. We are to decrease the amount of words we speak, and we are to be careful in what words we do say. Consider Proverbs 10:19, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." The verse is stating that with lots of words you have sin. Therefore, the person who keeps his mouth closed is wise. Be careful how much you talk. Silence is not a bad thing. Then look at Proverbs 18:21 with me, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." The tongue has power to death or life, and we see that we are judged according to how we use our tongue. "And they that love it" is speaking to how we love to use our tongue, how we consistently speak. An evil man may use his tongue for good sometime. But the things he habitually says, the things he loves to speak, are evil. He will be judged according to how he loves to speak. A good man may use his tongue for death some time. But it is how he loves to speak, how he habitually speaks, that he will be judged on. Why so much importance on what we say? In Matthew 12:34 Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees, and He tells them, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Our words reveal what is in our heart.

Then thirdly, we should be, "slow to wrath." Wrath -- anger. How quick we are to defend our position. To have an angry zeal for even what we would say is right. What if someone is taking our good and persecuting us for that good? Are we supposed to be zealous is showing them their error and turning them to the right? Are we to be angry at the way we are being misunderstood? Earlier in James we were told to "count it all joy." Matthew 5 tells us we are blessed -- exuberantly happy -- when people persecute us for righteousness sake because our reward is great in Heaven. When I am quickly angry, it is most often because I have only myself in view. I am concerned first with my needs and how they are being met. Even Christ was not quickly angry. Think about the favorite example of Christ running out the money changers from the temple in John 2:13-17. Jesus didn't just go into the temple and see the money changers and then blow His top. He saw the problem, was angry at the sin, and then thought of the proper way to deal with this sin. He stopped and made a small whip. Then he cleaned out the temple. I don't think He even approached this as a deranged madman. Think of a cowboy on his horse driving the herd of cattle in the direction he wants them to go. He is not out of control. He may raise his voice. He may crack his whip. Yet he always has a very specific purpose in every move he makes. He is driving the cattle where he wants them. Jesus had a very purposefully drove the money changers where he wanted them. We see Jesus' control throughout this matter as when He is done turning over the tables and pouring out the money, the Jews haven't called the Roman guards in to arrest this lunatic. They ask Jesus for a sign. They basically ask Jesus to verify His authority for acting in such a way. The best example that we have of anger is the Bible is very controlled. And then think of how many times we have recorded a response of anger from Jesus. Very few, huh. Be slow to anger.

Another reason to be slow to anger is found in verse 20, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." As a young parent, this verse was very convicting to me. The little hoodlums would get on my nerves and I would want to be short and snippy with them. I was letting my anger control my words instead of letting the Holy Spirit control my words. However, what I most want for my children is that they grow to be adults who love God. Who seek to glorify Him with their whole lives. I want the righteousness of God to shine forth in their lives. This verse convicted me because I saw that my anger would not take them to that place of obedience to God. Think about the other people in your life. Married ladies, think about your husband. You have the opportunity of knowing your husband better than any one else. You know first hand his weaknesses and besetting sin. You pray for him and encourage him, and sometimes you just want to shake him. Are you in the habit of letting him feel the edge of your tongue? Do you apply your anger to him hoping he comes to his senses and straightens up? Your anger does not produce in him the righteousness of God. Your anger will not help him to be more Christlike. Read 1 Peter 3:1-6. Peter was not just talking to women whose husbands were unsaved. This applies to women who are married to men who are saved and simply not living in all areas as they should. It's not our lectures or hurts or anger that is going to bring that husband back, it's our "chaste conversation coupled with fear" (1 Peter 3:2). It's your righteous lifestyle coupled with your proper respect for your husband (Ephesians 5:33).

All these practical responses. Being quick to listen, being slow to speak, and being slow to anger. Is it easy? No. Is it impossible? "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

The Fountains of the Deep

Ancient Geyser
The kids and I had the wonderful privilege of taking a couple of lengthy trips with my mom this summer. One trip we took was out west. One stop we made was Yellowstone National Park. It was amazing! We got to see animals (a bison and her calf walked by our car for a little bit), the sights, and the kids did the Junior Ranger program (I highly recommend this program at the national parks). The sight that stayed with me from Yellowstone though is the one pictured above.
I want you to note the people and then compare that to the size of the crater. The sign said this crater was an ancient geyser. I learned a lot about geysers while I was there. We did get to see Old Faithful erupt. Now, in brief, a geyser is a hole in the ground above a chamber where fallen rain water is being heated up by lava in the earth's crust. The silica in the water kind of plugs the water up underground. Soon the pressure builds up enough that the water can no longer stay below the ground. As the water breaches the surface, steam is shot high into the air.

Now, think with me about this ancient geyser pictured here. Now it is a hot spring. It's in the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. Consider with me Genesis 7:11, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." The fountains of the deep were broken up. Can you imagine water this powerful, shooting out of the ground to create this kind of hole? Can you imagine the chaos going on in Noah's time as not just a simple rain begins to fall, but the windows of heaven are opened and the fountains in the earth are broken up? I stood stunned by the grace of God on Noah and I viewed, what I think are, the remnants of the destruction of God's perfect creation. Noah built the ark. He did all that God told him to do (Genesis 7:5). But Noah survived because of the direct intervention of God on his behalf. He could have built the ark on one of these geysers. He could have had a tsunami that picked up his boat and crashed it into a mountain.
Creation was in chaos, yet God chose to put Noah in a place where he was kept safe.

Think about your life now. Some days chaos may reign around you. Sometimes you may endure specific attacks that hurt, and you don't know how you're going to survive it. Yet, if you are a child of God, He has you in a place where His grace will sustain you and keep you safe. John 10:27-29 states, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Cheer up, my sister! God is working in your life and sustaining you by His grace!

Taking the Bait: James 1:14-16

The Salmon swims upstream. He has a goal--to get to his spawing ground. He has a difficult path--swimming against the fast moving river. He has a strong desire to reach the end and accomplish his purposes. A glint in the water catches his eye. He looks and sees something tempting. He has a goal and a purpose, but he is hungry. In fact, he may reason, he might never fully accomplish his goal if he doesn't take some time to eat. He looks back as the glint moves and catches his eye again. It looks tempting. It shouldn't take long. It will be refreshing. He moves and bites, and he is caught by the fisherman on the shore. Whose fault is it that he is caught? Is it the fisherman's fault? The fisherman did bait the hook. There was some deceit involved in making the bait look good for food to the salmon. But what if the salmon had stayed to his purpose and never gone to and eaten the bait? The obvious answer is he wouldn't have been caught.

We have the same picture drawn for us here in James. In James 1:14 states, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." Notice please how verse 14 starts out, "Every man is tempted." We could put woman or person in that verse instead of man. Each and every one of us is tempted. If you've never been tempted, please raise your hand. My hands did not leave the keyboard. We all know that we are tempted. There is not one of us who has not been tempted, many times over. These temptations, we have seen, do not come from God. Last time we looked at verse 13 and saw that God is not the author of our sin. God has no experience with evil, his absolutely holy nature demands that. Therefore, God cannot be tempted, and He does not tempt.

Going back to verse 14, the words "drawn away" and "enticed" are hunting terms. They bring a picture of being lured from safety and drawn to a place to be ensnared. Who in verse 14 is doing the drawing away? Who is enticing? Our "own lust." The problem is still within me. The bait might be set by the world. The bait might be set by Satan. I fall prey, however, as I am enticed by my own lust. This is not a general lust of people, but James points out that this lust is my very own. The things that entice me are likely not the same things that entice you. One lady may be enticed into the converstion about the family down the street, reveling in the gossip. Another lady may stand back and wonder how those ladies can prattle on like that while she herself is falling prey to jealousies.

I want to consider our flesh a little more. I have heard many people say when times are tough, when people are falling prey to sin, "Satan is really at work here." I don't deny that Satan is walking about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). We also see that Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Consider though, what does Satan accuse us of? How about adultery, fornication, impurity, unbridled lust, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, contentiousness, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, strife, selfish ambition, dissentiousness, envyings, murder, drunkenness, unrestrained partying. Did you find yourself here? I may be able to say I haven't committed murder, but I can't say I've never been jealous of someone else. I may not have ever been to a drunken party, but I can't say that nothing has ever been more important to me than God (idolatry). Where do these sins come from? You may recognize this list from Galatians 5:19-21. These are all works of my flesh. These all come from within me. I am responsible. John MacArthur in his sermon "Whose Fault is our Temptation" states, "The problem is not the tempter without, the problem is the traitor within."

I am enticed away by those lusts of my flesh that draw me to the bait. Then James 1:15 states, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." This verse catches me on more familiar ground. We have moved from hunting and fishing to childbirth. My lust is conceived -- literally, it's become pregnant. Still borrowing from John MacArthur, because I think his outline makes it very clear, we can see the progress in this birth of sin. First we start with lust -- our desire. We see the desire, and this is linked to our emotions. We see something, we feel good about it. We see that it looks like it could satisfy us. It looks good. Then we have the drawing away -- the deception. This happens in our mind. We rationalize and justify our desire in our mind. Then our lust is impregnated with a plan -- a design. In our will we form a plan as to how we can obtain that desire. Once we have the plan, we act on it -- we disobey. This is our behavior. We sin.

Consider then, where do we need to stop sin? Should it be our goal simply not to do the behavior? If we wait that long, we have sinned. Think about giving birth. Once the child is in the womb, the child has to come out. If our lust is impregnated, conceived, it has to come out. It will be born in the actions of sin. So, in order to live a holy life we have to start with the emotions. We have to start with guarding the emotions. We have to guard what "bait" we allow to sit in front of our eyes. We have to put good and uplifting things in front of our eyes, to bring our emotions to a God-honoring position. We also have to bring our mind in control. How do we do both these things? Psalm 119:11 states, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." Romans 12:2 states, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." We start with the Word of God. We renew our minds with Scriptures. We put a guard around our mind so that only those things which are pure and right and pleasing are in our thoughts (Philippians 4:8). Read with me Ephesians 5:18-21, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." All of this is one sentence which starts out with the exhortation not to let yourself be controlled by wine (wasn't drunkenness a work of the flesh?--don't be controlled by the flesh) but to be controlled by the Spirit. The passage then lists several things which helps us to be controlled by the Spirit. First, by having God-honoring music. Doctrinally sound music which exalts Christ. Doesn't that speak to our emotions? Good, doctrinally sound music will speak to your mind as well. You should definitely have your mind engaged in discernment and learning when you listen or participate in music. When you have good music though, aren't your emotions turned toward Christ as well? Your emotions are more controlled because they are under the influence of good music. Next in the verse we give thanks to God. Isn't that in our mind? Regardless of my circumstances or trials, giving thanks brings me to a place of right thinking about God and my circumstances. Then we are to submit ourselves to one another. Is this not right behavior which starts in my will? I understand passages like Philippians 2 where we have the example of Christ's submission, and I understand that I esteem others above myself. My behavior then is right. In brief, we see the opposite of sin being conceived and find God-honoring behavior brought forth.

Going back to James 1, at the end of verse 15 we see that the end of sin being brought forth is death. Think of a mother who has just brought forth her baby. She gazes at the tiny fingers and toes and imagines all things wonderful for her baby. Then imagine her grief and heartbreak as that baby is a murderer. Think back to that emotional state in the beginning of sin. That place where you belived all you needed was "this" and you'd be satisfied. Then this thing that you justified and looked to for satisfaction only brings you death. This thing (sin) when it is finished, only brings death. Those words you spoke for vindication and justification only bring broken relationships and separation from God. Those many things you bought while seeking comfort and happiness only brings enslavement and lost ministry opportunities. This death spoken of in the verse is either physical or spiritual. God is holy and cannot look on sin. Therefore, if you are bringing forth sin, your relationship with Christ is broken. This is spiritual death. Sin also sometimes brings with it physical death. Sin often ruins our physical well-being. The end of all sin is not happy. James 1:16 says, "Do not err, my beloved brethren." "Do not err," literally, "do not be deceived." This is an incredible deception. The promise of pleasure and fulfillment only to find death.

My challenge to you today is just this. Guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23 states, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." We saw that deception starts in the mind. Do not let yourself be deceived by sin. Do not let your flesh entice you into sin. Fill your mind with God-honoring music, with Scripture, giving thanks to God in everything. Purpose in your heart to do that which is pleasing to God.

My Moral Responsibility: James 1:13

We've been studying James, a book about the evidences of faith in our lives. We've looked at trials and our response to trials, but where do trials come from? When I am tempted, where does that temptation originate from? Who's to blame for my falling away?

James 1:13 starts out, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God." God sends trials to strengthen us. We've already seen that. The same Greek word is used in verse 2: "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations," and in verse 12: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." The same word is used, but the implications are different. We are to count it all joy and realize we are blessed when difficult circumstances come into our lives. We do this because, as we've seen, working through our trials gives us experience of seeing God work and gives us an expectation for His continuing to work on our lives. Verse 13, however, is talking about that wrong response to difficult circumstances. It speaks of when instead of growing, we fall. We sin. That soliciation does not come from God.

Many times our response to difficulty can be to accuse, berate or question God. In fact, Proverbs 19:3 states, "The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD." As we encounter difficulty and we sin, we cry out to God, "Why did you allow this to happen?" We fret against God about our circumstances and even our sin. Ultimately we blame Him for our sin. Does this remind you of someone in the Bible? How about Adam? When Adam and Eve have both eaten of the fruit of the one tree God has told them not to eat of, they hide in shame. When God comes down in the cool of the day as was His habit, he confronts their sin. "Did you eat of the tree?" Adam says, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Who was he blaming? Eve, yes, somewhat. But look at how Adam starts, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me." Who gave him Eve? God did, of course. Adam just went to sleep a single man never having seen a woman, and then he wakes up a married man! Adam in essence is saying, "It's all your fault God. You gave me this woman. I didn't ask for her. You could have brought me a more righteous woman. You could have prevented this from happening. It's all your fault." Did Eve do any better though? God confronts her and she replies, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." She doesn't say it as plain as Adam, but Who made the snake? God did. God made it all. You can see the link there. If God had not made the snake, if God had not made the snake so "subtil," if ... if ... See? Eve frets against God, too. We do too, ladies. How many times have I gotten angry and not controlled my tongue or attitude because of some "stupid" thing my husband was doing, and instead of repenting, my heart wants to whisper, "I can't help it. God, you gave him to me. You could help him not be so stupid sometimes." Who am I blaming for my sin? God, you brought this circumstance into my life. You are to blame if I don't respond rightly.

What does James say about that? Let's finish verse 13, "For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." God cannot be tempted with evil. Tempted -- this is the only time this Greek word appears in the New Testament. The best I've been able to find out, it is talking about experienced knowledge. This verse is stating that God is not experienced with evil. God's character repulses evil. He is innocent of any evil. To say otherwise is to misunderstand the very nature of God. We see that God is holy in Leviticus 19:2: "I the LORD your God am holy." Leviticus 20:26: "I the LORD am holy." The angels cried, "Holy, holy, holy" in Isaiah 6:3. 1 Peter 1:16 states that, "[God is] holy." The very essence of God is holiness. Because He is holy, He repulses evil. He cannot have anything to do with evil. Habakkuk 1:13 states, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." God cannot abide evil. Neither does God sit in Heaven just trying to get us to sin so He can smack us. Revelation 12:10 tells us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. 1 John 1 tells us that when we sin, Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father. Beautiful picture. Jesus stands ready to plead our case before the Father should we sin. The wonderful thing about that? If we have trusted in Jesus for our salvation, the Father has already declared us righteous because of the blood of Jesus (Romans 8:33). Satan's accusations then have no ground to stand before a Judge who has declared us righteous, and a "lawyer" Who laid down His life for us that we might be saved. I encourage you to read Romans 8:31-39 again.

All of that to say, we have absolutely no grounds to say that God is at fault when we sin. "Neither tempteth he any man" (verse 13). This tempteth goes back to the same Greek word used in verses 2, 12, and 13. God does not entice any one to sin. I like what John MacArthur said in his sermon 'Whose fault is our Temptation,' "For to tempt someone else would indicate that He had a delight in seeing someone else do evil, but He who knows no evil cannot delight in evil." You've probably seen this in a group of kids somewhere. "I dare you to do it." Whatever "it" may be. The action is wrong, the consequences ususally not pretty, but the darer has a delight to see what's going to happen. The darer has a delight in evil. This misconception of God's role in our sin is based out of our own sinful nature. We are expecting God to act in a manner similar to ourselves. Have you ever read the Greek myths, or any other myths about ancient gods? These God's often are petulant, greedy and sinful. They are that way because their creators are that way. Man imagines a God that is very like himself. Even though we have the Bible to tell us otherwise, we fall prey to the very same ideas. We imagine God to be very like ourselves. But God is not like us. He does not delight in evil. He finds no pleasure in wicked things. Therefore we can know that God does not tempt us to evil. He tries us. He tests us to strengthen us and purge us, but when we take those circumstances and respond wrongly, when we sin, we cannot say that it's all God's fault. If He had not given us these circumstances we would not sin.

This is getting long, so I'll keep the next couple of verses about why we do sin for next week. You can read ahead. In fact, I encourage you to become very familiar with these verses we are studying. I hope this study is profitable for you, and once again, I would love to read your thoughts on this passage. Please feel free to comment.

Our position in Christ: James 1:9-12

We have been studying through trials here in James 1. We've seen the purpose of trials. We've seen how we are to handle trials (joyfully, with understanding, submitting to the work of God in our lives), and we've seen where the source of our strength comes in trials. Now we see in James 1:9-12, a brief glimpse at two different individuals in trials.

In verse 9 we read, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted." First, this is a brother. He is one in the family of God. This is not just any stranger on the street, but one who has accepted the invitation of Christ. We see that invitation in John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." This position of brother is not one that can be earned. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Christ is a gift. There is absolutely nothing that we can do in our own flesh to earn Christ. There is nothing that we can do that will make Christ think more highly of us. Christ offers me a gift. That gift is given freely, but it means that I have to come to the conclusion that I am completely helpless. I have to come to the humbling realization that what I am doing to earn favor with God is worthless. I cannot pull myself up by my bootstraps and get good enough for God. I must simply trust. Going back to John 1:12, all who receive Christ then become the children of God. Therefore, the one who receives Christ in Sri Lanka is brother to the one who receives Christ in Ethiopia who are then each brother to the one who receives Christ in the United States of America. These people who have received Christ Jesus don't just simply have nice feelings about Him. They've believed on His name--they have believed in all that Christ has done. I Corinthians 13:3-4 states, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Receiving Christ involves believing in what Christ has done -- that He willingly died on the cross for our sins, He was buried, but He didn't stay dead! He rose again (came back to life) three days after He was buried. The one who believes this and receives the gift of God is a brother.

James is talking about a brother. This brother mentioned in verse 9 is one "of low degree." He is a poor man. He doesn't have status or power or wealth. He is low. Yet he is to rejoice! He doesn't rejoice in his comfort. He doesn't even rejoice just in the little blessings of each day. This brother (or sister, by the way) rejoices "in that he is exalted!" He has an exalted position in Christ. This brother has a right perspective. He realizes that whatever he has here is temporary. The "things" here on earth don't matter because He is a child of God.

James then speaks of the rich man in verse 10: "But the rich, in that he is made low." The rich man rejoices in his humility. This man realizes that his money cannot buy everything. He is made low, humbled, because he realizes that in all of his riches, position, or power, he cannot make himself more acceptable to God. He realizes that, as verse 10 finishes, "as the flower of the grass he shall pass away." The end of all poeple is the same. We will die. Whether rich or poor we will each stand before God on even ground and give an account of our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:10 states, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The rich man can rejoice in his humility, because the things of this world won't hold him in good stead before God. He cannot impress God with his stock portfolio. He cannot impress God with his house plans. Only those things that he has done unselfishly for the benefit of the kingdom of God will last. Verse 11 states, "For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways."

If my focus on this earth, whether I am rich or poor, is on the things of this world, then I have nothing of eternal value that I have done. The poor man can still focus on this world. He could have his eyes set on all he doesn't have, on all he wants or on all he thinks he "deserves." The trying hand of God comes on this individual, and he rebels. The trial reveals that he is not trusting in God. The trial reveals his satisfaction is not in God. He is still consumed with the things this world has to offer. The rich man suffers trial and we then see if his faith is in his Creator or in his things. We see if things have become so important that they cannot be given up. We see where his treasures truly are.

Ladies, trials reveal the same things about us. When the unexpected financial situation arrises, do we look first at our bank account and worry when we don't know how it's all going to work out, or do we go to God first thanking Him for the situation ("in everything give thanks" 1 Thess 5:18) and trusting in Him to continue to take care of us. Our trials reveal what is most important to us. Do I get angry when my husband doesn't give me the concern I think he ought? Do I get hurt when I do something good and no one seems to notice? In both I reveal I do not have the mind of Christ that esteems others as more important than myself ("Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" Philippians 2:3). When something in my home gets broken or lost, do I respond graciously? Not just politely on the outside, but graciously giving thanks realizing that all I have comes from God and is only good when used for His glory. On a side note, God doesn't give us our things merely for our comfort and pleasure. God gives us our things so we may better serve Him and bring glory to Him. Ultimately, when I respond wrongly to a trial I reveal that I do not believe that God is trustworthy. Proverbs 3:5-6 tell me trust in God with all my heart. When He brings trials into my life and I buck at him, I reveal my lack of faith in His sovereign hand.

On the flip side, James 1:12 tells us, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." There is great reward in Heaven for the person who endures trial trusting God. For the one who endures to the end while clinging tightly to Christ, the Lord has promised a crown of life. What an abundant God! We saw last week God's promise of wisdom. Here we see a crown of life. God does not view us as disposable and test us like laboratory rats. He sees us as very valuable. Valuable enough to give us the gift of His salvation as we saw earlier. Valuable enough to test us so that we may be conformed to the image of His dear Son. Valuable enough to promise us a crown of life if we but endure. And we don't have to endure all by ourselves! God has promised that He will liberally give us wisdom if we just ask. He has promised to give us grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We endure because we depend on His strength.

As we go throughout this week, let's examine closely about what our trials reveal about us. Am I clinging to the things this world has to offer, or am I trusting God to work in my life to conform me to His image?

Wisdom in Trials: James 1:5-8

Last week we looked at the reality of trials. All of us have trials in many different areas of our lives. We found in James 1:2 that we are to have an attitude of joy in our trials. In James 1:3 we see we need an attitude of understanding of what this trial is doing in our lives. In James 1:4 we see we need an attitude of submission, having patience to let God do His perfect work in our lives that we may be fully equipped in our Christian walk.

So, what happens when I am in the middle of a trial and I don't have a joyful, understanding or submissive attitude? If you're anything like me, there are times in trials when you don't understand what God is doing, you don't have joy like you're told you should, and you wonder if all this submitting is worth it. Good news! James goes on to tell us what we should do at this time. In James 1:5 he states, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God." We have a source of joy and understanding, helping us to bear patiently. That source is God! We don't have to trust in past experience. We don't have to trust in other people around us. We can go right to Almighty God.

In Proverbs 3:5-7 we see, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." Our turning to God is not just one of many options to give us wisdom. Turning to God is the only way to find wisdom. That's because the wisdom that we seek is not an intellectual knowledge, it is an intimate knowledge of the mind of God. A good understanding of what God is doing in my life.

You know, God doesn't send us trials so He can see for Himself just how well we're doing spiritually. God already knows. He knows everything. God sends us trials so He can show us how we're doing spiritually. Praise the Lord that He does this! Otherwise we may be very content with a lip-service faith that really has no root in God. We may be like that plant in Luke 8 that falls on the rock. Jesus tells in the disciples in Luke 8:13, "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." These are those people with a lip-service faith, not truly rooted and grounded in Christ. When the trials come, there is no source to draw from and the faith is not sustained. We have a gracious God who is willing to reveal our faith to ourselves that we may see where we need to be strengthened. We may see our faith put to the test and find our source of strength.

Here in James 1:5 we see an amazing little picture of who God is. The verse continues, "that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." What comfort! First, God gives to all men liberally -- simply, openly, sincerely. Our God is no respecter of persons. He doesn't favor one person over another and arbitraily decide to give John Smith more wisdom than Jane Doe. Neither does God sit up in Heaven and miserly hoard all of His wisdom, just grudgingly doling it out one measly drop at a time. We have a God who gives liberally -- abundantly! He is waiting and wanting to pour out His wisdom in your life. Not only does God give wisdom liberally, but also He doesn't "upbraid" you for asking. He doesn't ever look at the person requesting wisdom and say, "Now, couldn't you have figured that out on your own? Why do you keep coming to Me?" No, God wants you to come to Him. He wants you and I to seek His face and learn His purposes for our lives. The promise? "And it shall be given him" (James 1:5b). The promise is that when earnestly seek God's wisdom, we will get it. Hebrews 11:6 states, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Here we have yet another promise of God's rich rewards in our lives. To please Him, we seek Him. When we search for Him, He is our best reward.

Now we get to a little picture of ourselves. James 1:6 begins, "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." Wavering -- doubting, contending (arguing) When we go to God and ask Him for wisdom, we need to ask in faith completely believing that God will provide the wisdom He has promised. We also are completely trusting in His character and working in our lives. Many times when we go to God, we doubt the intentions and power of God. We might not say it quite like that, but when God begins to try us, our first response is often, "God? Do you really know what you're doing." Then we begin to argue. We want to present our case well. We want God to understand (just in case He somehow missed something) exactly what our perspective is on a situation and why our perspective is right. Sometimes we just get angry in a trial and lash out at God. "Why are you doing this to me!?"

You know how God sees this person who doubts Him or argues with Him? "For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed" (James 1:6b). God sees this person as a wave that is being tossed back and forth by the wind. This person has no direction. Ultimately He has no real faith. He is a person who wants something of God, but he wants it his way and in his time. He doesn't have faith and confidence to cling completely to God and look for what God is doing in his life. Ultimately he must know James 1:7: "For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." Remember Hebrews 11:6 from earlier? God is the "rewarder of them that diligently seek him." When we come to Him arguing and doubting, we are not diligently seeking Him. We have no true faith. God is not the rewarder of them that twist His arm the right way. God is pleased when we show faith and trust in Him with our humility and utter dependence on Him in the face of trials.

Ultimately, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). Double minded -- two souled. A person who has divided interests. He wants the comfort of believing in God, but he wants the comfort of this world as well. The faith he professes is not to draw him into a closer relationship with God but to bring him a comfortable life to live right now. He wavers between trust and comfort. He wants God's wisdom, but feels that wisdom must come from other sources too. When man's advice and God's wisdom conflict (as they always will), he cannot make up his mind which way is best. He may try both, but he is not stable. He is not rooted and grounded. This is either the unbeliever who really has no right as a child to ask and receive anything, or this is the weak Christian who is unable by faith to open his arms and receive all that God has promised him. God is amazingly ready to pour out His wisdom and blessings in your life. In Psalm 81:10, the Psalmist states as God saying, "open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." This is a beautiful statement of the generosity of God. This God is ready and willing for you to come seeking Him so that He may be your rewarder.

As you consider this passage in James, evaluate yourself in trials.
~What is your first reaction to a difficult situation?
~Is your faith in God such that you turn to Him first?
~If you are going through a trying time right now, have you taken the time to pray and ask for wisdom, completely trusting in what God is doing in your life?

I hope this study has been an encouragement to you. Once again, I would love to hear your comments.

Trial by Faith: James 1:1-4

James is a book that is primarily about the evidences of faith in our Christian lives. It tells us how our faith is to be evidenced to others around us. The first evidence James speaks about is the evidence of trials.

There is not a one of us who has not experienced trials in some form or another. There are issues of health, finances, death of loved ones, abuse, expectations that are not met, and the list could go on and on. The Hebrews that James is writing to are no strangers to hardship. James is writing to the "twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (1:1). The people reading this letter have been driven out of their homes. They have left behind friends, maybe family, and probably many possessions. They have left to live with a strange people in Gentile cities that don't understand their customs. Some may have experienced scorn and ridicule and abuse at the hands of those with whom they have come to live. The devout Jews certainly ridiculed them and persecuted them as blasphemers for trusting in Christ as their Messiah. They also have been directly affected in some way by the abuses thrown upon them by the Roman government and their insane emperor, Nero -- at the very least by having to move.

Trials, by their very nature, reveal our faith. All the circumstances that come into our lives affect us externally and internally. They affect our environment, and they most certainly affect the way we are now viewing our circumstances. Trials affect our spirit and mind. At that time we have a choice. Do I really mean it when I say I trust God? Do I really believe His Word is true and that He will keep all of his promises? How I respond to these testings reveals whether I have true faith that turns to and leans on God, or whether I have just a lip service faith that will blow away when I don't like what is happening. I liked what John MacArthur said about this aspect in his sermon 'From Trouble to Triumph (Part 1)': “Trial then for an imitation of faith burns it up. Trial for true faith causes it pain, the pain of inadequacy and weakness, causes it to turn from self‑righteousness and cast itself upon the strength of God.”

So, James begins his letter by addressing these hardships. What does he tell the reader? "Stick your chin up and endure. It will get better some day." No. He tells them to "count it all joy" (1:2). Count what all joy? "When you fall into divers temptations" (1:2). Divers temptations -- various trials. The word "various" means basically "multi-colored." This does not talk so much about the quantity of our trials but that we will experience all kinds of trials. We won't just be tried in one area of our life but in all sorts of areas of our lives. Yet, James tells these people to count it a joy to be tested and tried, no matter where these trials are coming from. We can be joyful even in trying circumstances? Why?

James tells us why. "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (1:3). Patience -- endurance. The illustration has been used before, and I will use it again. An athletic runner does not run until she starts to feel bad. As soon as her side begins to cramp, she doesn't sit down and put her feet up. She continues to push. She continues to try her body and push it past its limits, knowing that by doing this she is building endurance into her body. That next week it will take longer before her body begins to scream, and soon she will be able to run the race well. So it is with our Christian life. We are tested. At times we feel we are tested beyond our endurance. And yet, we can have joy in the pain knowing that the trying of our faith is working endurance. That next time I am tried, I will have a little more faith. I will have a little more strength, and maybe I will even be strong enough to help bear someone else's load for a time. To help them as they become strong in the faith.

After this trying we have the joy of a participant. When people around the world watched as Michael Phelps made history in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, they experienced joy. The spectators watched, cheered, and turned the TV off. This joy that the spectator had I'm sure cannot be compared to the joy that Michael Phelps had. Michael Phelps had sacrificed. He had worked hard and long and endured to see victory in the ultimate test. He had the joy of the participant. When we go through a trial we too can have the joy of a participant. The joy of one who has persevered and won the victory. Not in pride at our own strength and resilience, but with humility in realizing our own frailty and awe at realizing the power of God.

This process is not quick though. Just because I am going through a trial doesn't mean that I will automatically become stronger. In fact, James states, "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (1:4). There is a responsibility on our part to let patience work effectively in our lives. I like what Matthew Henry states about this passage in his commentary: "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 and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare." If trials come and our response is one of impatience and frustration, we aren't learning anything. If trials come and we realize more acutely our true source of strength (in Christ), we are learning. We are getting to a point where God wants us to be. We are learning that in our weakness, His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The result of letting patience work in my life is that I will be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (1:4). I will be completely equipped to run the race (2 Timothy 4:7). Fully equipped to be able to endure hardness as a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3). I love how this ties in with Romans 5:3-5: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." As we go patiently through trials, we gain experience. We have seen Christ work. Then we have hope. When a trial comes again, we look back and see that Christ has worked, and we have the expectation that He will work again. And as long as we are depending on Christ we are not made ashamed. We have become complete. We have gained the ability to walk confidently in Christ through our lives and the trials we experience along the way. We are lacking nothing because Christ is our all in all.

In thinking on these verses think about:
~Do I have the joy of the Lord in my life, even in difficult circumstances?
~Do these trials reveal in me a trust in Christ or a disgruntled spirit that is trusting in myself?
~Am I being patient in this trial?
~How has God worked in my life in the past, equipping me and giving me hope as I look to the future?

I would love to hear from you if care to comment. Maybe you have insight into these verses that you would like to share. Maybe you would like to share how the Lord has been working in your life through trials. Whatever it may be, I would love to hear from you.