2815.) James 5

January 31, 2020

Calligraphy by Tim Botts

James 5   (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Riches are going to prove a liability, not an asset, to the selfish

1-6And now, you plutocrats, is the time for you to weep and moan because of the miseries in store for you!

Hearing Jesus in James:

Luke 6:24 (NIV)

“But woe to you who are rich, 
   for you have already received your comfort.”

Your richest goods are ruined, your hoard of clothes is moth-eaten, your gold and silver are tarnished. Yes, their very tarnish will be the evidence of your wicked hoarding and you will shrink from them as if they were red-hot. You have made a fine pile in these last days, haven’t you? But look, here is the pay of the reaper you hired and whom you cheated, and it is shouting against you! And the cries of the other labourers you swindled are heard by the Lord of Hosts himself. Yes, you have had a magnificent time on this earth, and have indulged yourselves to the full. You have picked out just what you wanted like soldiers looting after battle. You have condemned and ruined innocent men in your career, and they have been powerless to stop you.

Verse 6:  Ye have killed the just — Many just men; in particular, “that Just One,” (Acts 3:14). They afterwards killed James, surnamed the Just, the writer of this epistle.

–John Wesley

Ultimate justice will surely come: be patient meanwhile

7-8But be patient, my brothers, as you wait for the Lord to come. Look at the farmer quietly awaiting his precious harvest. See how he has to possess his soul in patience till the land has had the early and late rains. So must you be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty. The Lord’s coming is very near.

The pastor who married my parents in 1946 was quite an elderly man when I knew him in my childhood. But I clearly remember him announcing on several occasions that he would not die, because the Lord was coming soon. Well, he has been dead and buried for decades now. Yet James is no less true — The Lord’s coming is very near. We wait with joyful expectation!

9 Don’t make complaints against each other in the meantime my brothers (as you wait for Christ’s return)—you may be the one at fault yourself. The judge himself is already at the door.

10-11 For our example of the patient endurance of suffering we can take the prophets who have spoken in the Lord’s name. Remember that it is usually those who have patiently endured to whom we accord the word “blessed!” You have heard of Job’s patient endurance and how God dealt with him in the end, and therefore you have seen that the Lord is merciful and full of understanding pity for us men.

Don’t emphasize with oaths; speak the plain truth

12It is of the highest importance, my brothers, that your speech should be free from oaths (whether they are “by” heaven or earth or anything else). Your yes should be a plain yes, and your no a plain no, and then you cannot go wrong in the matter.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:34-37 (NIV)

“But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Prayer is a great weapon

13If any of you is in trouble let him pray. If anyone is flourishing let him sing praises to God. If anyone is ill he should send for the Church elders. They should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name. Believing prayer will save the sick man; the Lord will restore him and any sins that he has committed will be forgiven. You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other, and praying for each other, so that if sickness comes to you, you may be healed.

Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer 
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice 
Rise like a fountain for me night and day. 
For what are men better than sheep or goats 
That nourish a blind life within the brain, 
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer 
Both for themselves and those who call them friend? 
For so the whole round earth is every way 
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.

–from “Morte D’Arthur,”  by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer.

Do you remember Elijah? He was a man like us but he prayed earnestly that it should not rain. In fact, not a drop fell on the land for three and a half years. Then he prayed again, the heavens gave the rain and the earth sprouted with vegetation as usual.

A concluding hint

19-20 My brothers, if any of you should wander away from the truth and another should turn him back on to the right path, then the latter may be sure that in turning a man back from his wandering course he has rescued a soul from death, and his loving action will “cover a multitude of sins”.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Mark 2:1-12 (NLT)

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.  Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them,  four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves,  “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?  Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’?  So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said,  “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

_________________________

Music:

Back to verse 13 —  If anyone is flourishing let him sing praises to God.  I come from a musical family and my husband is musical and I think you can make a good case that God is musical, too! So today I will give you one of my favorites, a hymn I have sung every week — if not every day — for most of my adult life. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” was written in 1680 and is now widely sung around the world. Are you flourishing? Then join in  HERE!

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J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Botts.  http://www.prestoimages.net/graphics02/5592_pd287443full.jpg
coming again.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/jesus-is-coming-again.jpg
James 5:16.   https://www.todayschristianwoman.com/images/32206.jpg

2814.) James 4

January 30, 2020

James 4   (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Your jealousies spring from love of what the world can give you

1-3But about the feuds and struggles that exist among you—where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves? You crave for something and don’t get it, you are jealous and envious of what others have got and you don’t possess it yourselves. Consequently in your exasperated frustration you struggle and fight with one another. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit—you only want to satisfy your own desires.

As the 20th-century philosopher Mick Jagger said so well, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

4-6 You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God!

Think of the inner pain and torture inside the person who is betrayed by an unfaithful spouse; who must reckon with the truth, I am faithful to them, but they are not faithful to me. This is what the Spirit of God feels regarding our world-loving hearts.

–David Guzik

Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Luke 16:13 (ESV)

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Do you think what the scriptures have to say about this is a mere formality? Or do you imagine that this spirit of passionate jealousy is the Spirit he has caused to live in us? No, he gives us grace potent enough to meet this and every other evil spirit, if we are humble enough to receive it. That is why he says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’

You should be humble, not proud

7Be humble then before God. but resist the devil and you’ll find he’ll run away from you.

Resist comes from two Greek words: stand and against. James tells us to stand against the devil. Satan can be set running by the resistance of the lowliest believer who comes in the authority of what Jesus did on the cross.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

   “‘He will command his angels concerning you, 
   and they will lift you up in their hands, 
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

8-10 Come close to God and he will come close to you. Realise that you have sinned and get your hands clean again. Realise that you have been disloyal and get your hearts made true once more.

Many of us are discovering that Christian growth does not happen apart from some disciplines like spiritual reading, meditation, prayer, journaling, Bible study, and worship. Henri Nouwen has said that discipleship can never be real without discipline.

Many of us—I was one—rebel against the idea of self-discipline. It seems easier to do “what comes naturally.” But I’ve found that neglect of spiritual disciplines leads only to stagnation and frustration.

Disciplines make the time and space in which God can affect our lives. He is always with us, but only through discipline can we become quiet enough to recognize his presence, to hear his voice from among the many that speak to us. Someone has called this “active passivity.” We grow by receiving, but we have to give; our task is to learn and practice those disciplines by which we receive.

I don’t do the disciplines in order to win God’s approval; I know I already have that. I don’t even do them to feel I’ve made a certain amount of “progress” or to “make” growth happen. I just do them, and leave the result to God.

Lord, I desire to grow closer to you.

–Lyn Klug

As you come close to God you should be deeply sorry, you should be grieved, you should even be in tears. Your laughter will have to become mourning, your high spirits will have to become heartfelt dejection. You will have to feel very small in the sight of God before he will set you on your feet once more.

It is for God to judge, not for us

11-12Never pull each other to pieces, my brothers.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

If you do you are judging your brother and setting yourself up in the place of God’s Law; you have become in fact a critic of the Law. Yet if you start to criticise the Law instead of obeying it you are setting yourself up as judge, and there is only one judge, the one who gave the Law, to whom belongs absolute power of life and death. How can you then be so silly as to imagine that you are your neighbour’s judge?

Speak not evil one of another — This is a grand hinderance of peace. O who is sufficiently aware of it! He that speaketh evil of another does in effect speak evil of the law, which so strongly prohibits it.

–John Wesley

It is still true that man proposes, but God disposes

13-17 Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong.

“There are two great certainties about things that shall come to pass – one is that God knows, and the other is that we do not know.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

No doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Luke 12:48   (CEV)

 If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better.

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Music:

“Draw near to God . . .” HERE  are the Sharon Singers of the Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute with “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” written by Sarah F. Adams in 1841.

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J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Trust in his timing.    https://i.pinimg.com/736x/e2/db/09/e2db090c85e7a124e3bc2629804db13e.jpg
James 4:8.  http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/raylapke/James48.jpg

2813.) James 3

January 29, 2020

James 3   (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

How do we control this tongue? Make it a matter of daily prayer. Begin by praying Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” 
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Here are some other verses on words and the tongue to write in your prayer journal and pray into your life daily:
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Proverbs 10:21 — “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”   Lord, may my lips nourish people today.
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Psalm 17:3 — “Today I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”  Lord, help me choose righteousness, not sinfulness.
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Philippians 4:8 — “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. . . ”  May I think on these things today.
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I Timothy 4:12 — “Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  Let me remember, Lord, that I am representing you.

The responsibility of a teacher’s position

1Don’t aim at adding to the number of teachers, my brothers, I beg you! Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:19   (ESV)

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

The danger of the tongue

“Three things come not back — the spent arrow, the spoken word, the lost opportunity.”

–Willam George Plunkett, the “man of a thousand sayings”

2-6We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing can consider himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality! Men control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helmsman. The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire,

and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 15:18  (ESV)

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.“

7-12 Beasts, birds, reptiles and all kinds of sea-creatures can be, and in fact are, tamed by man, but no one can tame the human tongue. It is an evil always liable to break out, and the poison it spreads is deadly.

A woman once came to John Wesley and said she knew what her talent was — “I think my talent from God is to speak my mind.” Wesley replied, “I don’t think God would mind if you buried that talent.” Speaking forth everything that comes to mind is unwise, poisonous speech.

–David Guzik

We use the tongue to bless our Father, God, and we use the same tongue to curse our fellow-men, who are all created in God’s likeness. Blessing and curses come out of the same mouth—surely, my brothers, this is the sort of thing that never ought to happen! Have you ever known a spring to give sweet and bitter water simultaneously? Have you ever seen a fig-tree with a crop of olives, or seen figs growing on a vine? It is just as impossible for a spring to give fresh and salt water at the same time.

Real, spiritual wisdom means humility, not rivalry

13-16Are there some wise and understanding men among you? Then your lives will be an example of the humility that is born of true wisdom. But if your heart is full of rivalry and bitter jealousy, then do not boast of your wisdom—don’t deny the truth that you must recognise in your inmost heart. You may acquire a certain superficial wisdom, but it does not come from God—it comes from this world, from your own lower nature, even from the devil. For wherever you find jealousy and rivalry you also find disharmony and all other kinds of evil.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God . . .

17-18 The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favouritism or hint of hypocrisy.

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

. . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness—in other people and in themselves.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:9   (ESV)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

And the principle productive of this righteousness is sown, like good seed, in the peace of a believer’s mind, and brings forth a plentiful harvest of happiness, (which is the proper fruit of righteousness,) for them that labour to promote this pure and holy peace among all men.

–John Wesley

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Music:

HERE is “Bite My Tongue”  by Relient K, a Christian rock band from Ohio. Confession and plea.

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J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
taming the tongue.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/taming-the-tongue.jpg
James 3:6.   http://carolinasnalc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/james3-6.jpg
Psalm 19:14.   http://scripturaltruths.org/Graphics%20-%20YV/Scripture%20Photos/Psalm%2019.14%20-%20Jan.2015.jpg
Fruit of the Spirit.   https://www.kidniche.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/fruit-of-the-spirit.png

2812.) James 2

January 28, 2020

James 2   (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

Luther was specially severe on James, and the adverse judgment of a great man on any book can be a millstone round that book’s neck forever. It is in the concluding paragraph of his Preface to the New Testament that there stands Luther’s famous verdict on James:

“In sum:  the gospel and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul’s epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians; and Peter’s first epistle, are the books which show Christ to you. They teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or hear any other teaching. In comparison with these the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.”

–William Barclay

But Luther’s remark should be understood in its context. He was sometimes frustrated because those who wanted to promote salvation by works quoted certain verses from James against him. His intention was to observe that there was little or nothing in James that preached the gospel of justification by faith alone. In another place Luther wrote regarding James, “I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable… It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God’s law.”

–David Guzik

Avoid snobbery: keep the royal law

1-7Don’t ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ!

James used strong words to refer to Jesus Christ: The Lord of glory. Moffatt comments: “The Christian religion [is here called] more explicitly belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the divine Glory – a striking term for Christ as the full manifestation of the divine presence and majesty. The Jews called this the shekinah.”

This is especially significant because James is widely (and properly) regarded as one of the first letters of the New Testament written (perhaps somewhere between AD 44 and 48). This means that the earliest Christians considered Jesus to be God, and said so in strong, unmistakable words.

–David Guzik

Suppose one man comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well-dressed man by saying, “Please sit here—it’s an excellent seat”, and say to the poor man, “You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor”, doesn’t that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man’s quality?—a very bad thing. For do notice, my brothers, that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him. And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man that you are insulting.

To show partiality shows that we care more for the outward appearance than we do upon the heart. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God looks at the heart, and so should we.

To show partiality shows that we misunderstand who is important and blessed in the sight of God. When we assume that the rich man is more important to God or more blessed by God, we put too much value in material riches.

To show partiality shows a selfish streak in us. Usually we favor the rich man over the poor man because we believe we can get more from the rich man. He can do favors for us that the poor man can’t.

–David Guzik

Look around you. Isn’t it the rich who are always trying to “boss” you, isn’t it the rich who drag you into litigation? Isn’t it usually the rich who blaspheme the glorious name by which you are known? 8-11 If you obey the royal law, expressed by the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, all is well. But once you allow any invidious distinctions to creep in, you are sinning, you have broken God’s Law.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Remember that a man who keeps the whole Law but for a single exception is none the less a law-breaker. The one who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not murder’. If you were to keep clear of adultery but were to murder a man you would have become a breaker of God’s whole Law.

12-13 Anyway, you should speak and act as men who will be judged by the law of freedom. The man who makes no allowances for others will find none made for him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 6:15 (NIV)
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

It is still true that “mercy smiles in the face of judgment.”

The relation between faith and action

Now what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he “has faith” if his actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul? If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say, “Good luck to you I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat”, and yet give them nothing to meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that? Yet that is exactly what a bare faith without a corresponding life is like—useless and dead. If we only “have faith” a man could easily challenge us by saying, “you say that you have faith and I have merely good actions. Well, all you can do is to show me a faith without corresponding actions, but I can show you by my actions that I have faith as well.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:16 (NIV)
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

To the man who thinks that faith by itself is enough I feel inclined to say, “So you believe that there is one God? That’s fine. So do all the devils in hell and shudder in terror!” For, my dear short-sighted man, can’t you see far enough to realise that faith without the right actions is dead and useless? Think of Abraham, our ancestor. Wasn’t it his action which really justified him in God’s sight when his faith led him to offer his son Isaac on the altar?

Can’t you see that his faith and his actions were, so to speak, partners—that his faith was implemented by his deed? That is what the scripture means when it says: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.’

“Here is a proof that faith cannot exist without being active in works of righteousness. His faith in God would have been of no avail to him, had it not been manifested by works.”

–Adam Clarke

24-25 A man is justified before God by what he does as well as by what he believes. Rahab who was a prostitute and a foreigner has been quoted as an example of faith, yet surely it was her action that pleased God, when she welcomed Joshua’s reconnoitring party and got them safely back by a different route.

“In Rahab’s Window,” by Bethany Vanderputten

After Abraham, the father of the Jews, the apostle cites Rahab, a woman, and a sinner of the gentiles; to show, that in every nation and sex true faith produces works, and is perfected by them; that is, by the grace of God working in the believer, while he is showing his faith by his works.

–John Wesley

26 Yes, faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul.

As I have often heard said, “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.”

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Music:

“My Own Little World”  by Matthew West.  Wow.  Are you willing to take a risk with your faith and serve others in a way slightly out of your comfort zone? Right  HERE, right now?

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J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Faith that works.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/screenshot2011-09-09at08-44-02.jpg
Abraham and Isaac.   https://biblestudynpt.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/genesis-22-11-abraham-intents-to-sacrifice-isaac-to-jehovah-god.jpg
Vanderputten.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/inrahabswindow_sm.jpg
James 2:26.   https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Inspirational-Images/large/James_2-26.jpg

2811.) James 1

January 27, 2020

James 1  (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

1 James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve dispersed tribes.

Which James?

Several different men named James are mentioned in the Bible, but tradition has long held that the author of this letter is James, the brother of Jesus. (Interesting that he does not trade on the connection, but rather refers to himself as a servant–or it could be translated slave–of Jesus Christ.) This James, who was a leader of the Jerusalem church and who presided at the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), is identified in Galatians 1:19 as “the Lord’s brother.” The early church historian Hegesippus called him “James the Just,” noting his extraordinary godliness, his zeal for obedience to the law of God, and his singular devotion to prayer. It was said that James’ knees became so calloused from kneeling in prayer that they resembled the knees of camels. Church tradition also has that James was martyred in AD 62, thrown down from the pinnacle of the temple.

The Christian can even welcome trouble

2-8 When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!

“Welcome them as friends!”

Many years ago when I was a student at Wheaton College (IL), I heard Elisabeth Elliot give a chapel message based on this verse, to welcome trials “as friends.” She spoke with great credibility of some of the trials she had endured, particularly the killing of her first husband, Jim Elliot, speared to death while bringing the Gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. She described these things with tenderness and, at the same time, a matter-of-fact-ness — that the words of Scripture are true, and God does work all things together for good. This verse is a call to understand suffering from the vantage point of confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness. Such an understanding does not come lightly, but to know the truth of that is to experience the joy of heaven on earth. I have never forgotten the peace that was clearly shining on her face.

Psalm 66:8-9 (New Living Translation)

Let the whole world bless our God
   and loudly sing his praises.
Our lives are in his hands,
   and he keeps our feet from stumbling.

Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:48 (NIV)
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.

9 The brother who is poor may be glad because God has called him to the true riches. 10-11 The rich may be glad that God has shown him his spiritual poverty. For the rich man, as such, will wither away as surely as summer flowers. One day the sunrise brings a scorching wind; the grass withers at once and so do all the flowers—all that lovely sight is destroyed. Just as surely will the rich man and all his extravagant ways fall into the blight of decay.

No temptation comes from God, only highest good

12 The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy man. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:10   (NIV)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

13-16 A man must not say when he is tempted, “God is tempting me.” For God has no dealings with evil, and does not himself tempt anyone. No, a man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive. His own desire takes hold of him, and that produces sin. And sin in the long run means death—make no mistake about that, brothers of mine!

17-18 But every good endowment that we possess and every complete gift that we have received must come from above, from the Father of all lights, with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency.

It is a grievous error to ascribe the evil and not the good which we receive to God.

No evil, but every good gift – Whatever tends to holiness.

And every perfect gift — Whatever tends to glory.

–John Wesley

 

By his own wish he made us his own sons through the Word of truth that we might be, so to speak, the first specimens of his new creation.

Hear God’s Word and put it into practice: that is real religion

19-20 In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue,

Yes, we have two ears but only one mouth for a reason!

and slow to lose his temper. For man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness. 21-25 Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls.

See this verse in the King James Version:

21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness . . .

Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:21 (NIV)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness.

26 If anyone appears to be “religious” but cannot control his tongue, he deceives himself and we may be sure that his religion is useless.

27 Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 25:36 (NIV)
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

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Music:

A cry to be pure and genuine in the sight of God, by serving others —  HERE  is “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath.
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J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Count it all joy.   http://oneyearbibleimages.com/james1.jpg
Hello, friend.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/hello-friend1.jpeg
Jesus. https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/jesus.jpg
Doxology.   https://margmowczko.com/wp-content/uploads/doxology-1024×543.png

2810.) Psalm 41

January 24, 2020

Ps41 v4
Psalm 41   (NIV)

O Lord, Have Mercy on Me

1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.

Proverbs 14:21 (NASB)

He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.

2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land
and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.

3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness.

4 I said, “O LORD, have mercy on me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

Ps51 v1-2

5 My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”

6 Whenever one comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it abroad.

7 All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,

8 “A vile disease has beset him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies.”

9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.

Mark 14:17-21 (NLT)

In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples. As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”

Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”

He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

10 But you, O LORD, have mercy on me;
raise me up, that I may repay them.

11 I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.

12 In my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever.

Psalm 23:6 (ESV)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

13 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.

Praise God for the resurrection and our hope of everlasting life in Jesus!

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a peaceful piano solo — “What a friend we have in Jesus,” played by Greg Howlett.

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New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
I said, God, be gracious.   http://www.christasterken.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/DSC_0419-767×1024.jpg
Mother Teresa and child.    http://www.markdroberts.com/images/Mother-Teresa-3.jpg
from Psalm 51.    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/83/c4/75/83c475ebe1fca06637838363245cb93c.jpg
DaVinci’s “Last Supper.”   https://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Leonardo-Da-Vinci/The-Last-Supper-1498.html
sky with light.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/cloud-with-light.jpg

2809.) John 21

January 23, 2020

“The Second Miraculous Draught of Fish” by James Tissot, 1886 (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

John 21   (NRSV)

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

This chapter is here to demonstrate once and for all the reality of the Resurrection. There were many who said that the appearances of the Risen Christ were nothing more than visions which the disciples had. Many would admit the reality of the visions but insist that they were still only visions. Some would go further and say that they were not visions but hallucinations. The gospels go far out of their way to insist that the Risen Christ was not a vision, not an hallucination, not even a spirit, but a real person. They insist that the tomb was empty and that the Risen Christ had a real body which still bore the marks of the nails and the spear thrust in his side.

But this story goes a step further. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to point out a shoal of fish to a party of fishermen. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to kindle a charcoal fire on the seashore. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to cook a meal and to share it out. And yet, as this story has it, the Risen Christ did all these things. When John tells how Jesus came back to his disciples when the doors were shut, he says: “He showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20). 

The first and simplest aim of this story is to make quite clear the reality of the resurrection. The Risen Lord was not a vision, nor the figment of someone’s excited imagination, nor the appearance of a spirit or a ghost; it was Jesus who had conquered death and come back.

–William Barclay

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”

They answered him, “No.”

6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

They cast their nets in Galilee
just off the hills of brown;
such happy, simple fisherfolk,
before the Lord came down.

Contented, peaceful fishermen,
before they ever knew
the peace of God that filled their hearts
brimful, and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed
the flapping sail,
homeless in Patmos died,
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
head-down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
but strife closed in the sod,
Yet let us pray for but one thing—
the marvelous peace of God.

–William A. Percy

7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them;

Why 153 fish?

This number has been a field day for speculative interpretations of the Bible since the early church.

153 is the sum of numbers 1 to 17. Some (like Augustine) say that it is a number representing the number of commandments (10) added to the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.

153 is the added numerical value of the Greek words “Peter” and “fish.”

Some ancient writers (such as Jerome) held that there were 153 different types of fish in the world; this represents a “full harvest” of all of the world.

Some (like Cyril of Alexandria) say that 100 stands for the Gentiles, 50 for Israel and 3 for the Trinity.

The truth is that all we know for certain is that 153 stands for the number of fish that they caught! We must always be careful of manufacturing “hidden meanings” in the Word of God.

–David Guzik

and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

RESOLUTIONS

Jesus has a wonderful way of restoring us when we fail Him! He does not humiliate us. He does not criticize us. He does not ask us to make a resolution to try harder. Rather, He takes us aside and asks us to reaffirm our love for Him.

Peter miserably failed his Lord when he fled with the other disciples from the Garden of Gethsemane. Later, he publicly denied that he even knew Jesus. Peter must have wondered if he was even capable of being Jesus’ disciple when he was unfaithful to Jesus in His most crucial hour.

You may be painfully aware that you have failed your Lord in many ways. Perhaps you were not faithful. Perhaps you disobeyed His word to you. Perhaps you denied Him by the way you lived. Jesus will not berate you. He will not humiliate you. He will ask you to examine your love for Him. He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” If your answer, like Peter’s, is “Yes, Lord,” He will reaffirm His will for you. If you truly love Him, you will obey Him (John 14:15). Jesus does not need your resolutions, your re-commitments, your promises to try harder. Jesus asks for your love. Then your service to Him will be what He desires.

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)

Peter remained faithful to the Lord and was crucified upside down during the reign of Nero.

After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus and the Beloved Disciple

20Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”

21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”

22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”

How easily we get distracted from our own responsibilities and calling by wondering about the details of someone else’s walk with the Lord. We critique, we second-guess, we opine. Jesus says to us what he said to Peter:  “What is that to you?” Let us serve others, but mind our own business! 

23So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

So, at the end, this gospel takes two of the great figures of the Church, Peter and John. To each Jesus had given his function. It was Peter’s to shepherd the sheep of Christ, and in the end to die for him. It was John’s to witness to the story of Christ, and to live to a great old age and to come to the end in peace. That did not make them rivals in honour and prestige, nor make the one greater or less than the other; it made them both servants of Christ.

–William Barclay

24This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.

25But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

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Music:

This song is a good one to hear as we close our reading of the Gospel of John.  HERE  is MercyMe and “The Love of God.”  Frederick M. Lehman wrote this hymn in 1917 in Pasadena, California.

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Reflections:

1)   What can you learn from Peter and Christ’s exchange? How can you “Feed my sheep”?

2)   At the close of our DWELLING in John’s Gospel, how has your understanding of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus been changed?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Tissot.  http://www.atsvirtual.org/Websites/atsvirtual/Images/tissot-second-miraculous-catch-of-fish.jpg
Swanson.   http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/www.johnaugustswanson.com/ImagesUpload/fishermenwebmain.jpg
fish plate.  http://www.englishcountrypottery.net/catalog/images/fishplate.JPG
Do you love me?    http://www.mytinyphone.com/uploads/users/sexy_boy/420277.jpg