:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

James Chapter 1

vs. 1

- footnote- “The writer of this letter, a leader of the church in Jerusalem was James, Jesus' brother, not James the apostle. The book of James was one of the earliest letters, probably written before A.D. 50. After Stephen was martyred, persecution increased, and Christians in Jerusalem were scattered throughout the Roman world. There were thriving Jewish-Christian communities in Rome, Alexandria, Cyprus, and Greece and Asia Minor. Because these early believers did not have the support of established Christian churches, James wrote to them as a concerned leader, to encourage them in their faith during those difficult times.”

vs. 2-4

- James does not say “IF troubles come...” he says “when”.

- And WHEN trouble comes, see an opportunity for joy. Joy? In trouble? Why would we want to be joyful in trouble?

- Because when our faith is tested, our endurance has the chance to grow.

- James says “so let it grow” because when your endurance is “fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing”.

- I started piano lessons this week. It's the first time I've had a lesson since winter of 2007. My senior year at college, I was finally to the point that I could practice for 4-5 hours solid with basically no breaks. (Depending on how hard of a practice session it was...) But now... I've been out of practice. I haven't been on a practice schedule since then. Life got busy. I've not made the time to practice.

- I sat down to try and practice this week before my lesson... and I barely made it a half hour before I was so tired, I had to take a break.

- My endurance is shot. There's been nothing to motivate me to practice. No work to keep those muscles built up.

- When trials come, they keep us focused. They're like our teacher. They give us motivation to overcome the obstacles set before us and to press on to newer and greater things.

- footnote- “We can't really know the depth of our character until we see how we react under pressure. It is easy to be kind to others when everything is going well, but can we still be kind when others are treating us unfairly? God wants to make us mature and complete, not to keep us from all pain. Instead of complaining about our struggles, we should see them as opportunities for growth. Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times. Ask Him to help you solve your problems or to give you the strength to endure them. Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems, He will stay close and help you grow.”

- These hard times are times of learning.

- Are you in a hard spot right now?

- What is God trying to teach you in this troubled time? Trust? Patience? The need to follow His plan? And His timing? Humbleness? Perseverance?

- Whatever it may be... Be joyful! God loves you enough to want you to grow up. He loves you enough to want you to be better than you are right now... But you can't make progress without putting in the practice time... Understanding does not come easy... And change is expensive...

- I Peter 1:6-12, 4:12-19
- Job 42:10-17
- John 16:32-33
- Romans 5:3-11
- II Peter 2:4-11
- Revelation 2:9-11
- Genesis 22:1-19
- Psalm 66:8-12, 16-20
- Hebrews 2:16-18

vs. 5-8

- In the midst of our trials and troubles... we may need wisdom... okay... we WILL need wisdom.

- And Who is the giver of wisdom? God. Ask and ye shall receive. If you need something and you cry out to God, He's not going to ignore you... but He may have a different answer in mind for you...

- In Matthew 7, Jesus is teaching about asking and receiving, seeking and finding. “To everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

- then He tells the parents, if your kids ask for bread, do you give them a stone? Or for a fish, do you give them a snake? No!

- So if even we as sinful people know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him?

- He's not going to get upset with you for asking. On the contrary, God is just bursting at the seams waiting for you to ask Him for help.

- However, when asking, we have to make sure our attitudes are right. And that our faith is in God alone.

- When you're a little kid trying to do something... like... tying your shoes... Your Daddy is standing there waiting on you to ask Him for help. And the more frustrated you get in trying to tie the knots just so, the more He wants to help. The more His heart yearns to come to your rescue. But He's not going to barge His way in and force you to let Him help. He wants to be invited. And when we finally, in tears of frustration and helplessness look up and say “Daddy! I need help!” He's right there with a smile and tears on His own face to not only help you do it, but to teach you how in the most patient of ways so that next time, you won't need as much help...

- This is a child asking for help because they know Who has the answer they need. They know Who is standing by to help them fix the problem.

- Now skip forward to the teen years. Our Daddy's rich... and we get a little spoiled. So when we get in trouble, we expect Daddy to come bail us out and buy off the situation.

- There may be some earthly fathers who would do so... but not God. That's putting our faith in the gifts or Daddy's money, rather than in Daddy Himself.

- God doesn't want you to come to Him only because you want something He can provide and then you go on your merry way again with no thought of thanking the Giver. Or feeling appreciation. Or feeling Gratitude.

- that takes God, our Father, Creator of the Universe, Maker and Healer of all things... for granted.

- Does He want you to ask? Yes! But our loyalties can't be divided in asking... If our loyalty is divided between God and the world... we shouldn't expect to receive anything...

- Sometimes God knows better than we...

- I know a lady who has been sick for quite some time. (years...) And she made the comment that if God healed her, she knew she'd be right back out in the world partying and going out every night.

- And instead of trying to change who she is. Instead of praying that God will change her heart. Instead of seeing the issue and facing it head-on, she sees the issue, understands her heart... and accepts the condition she's in.

- If this is where God has to keep her to keep her faithful to Him... that's okay with her.

- But it shouldn't BE that way! God doesn't want to chain us to Him. But He does allow things in our lives that make us see our need for Him....

- Someone with divided loyalties is “as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind... they are unstable in everything they do.”

- My friend above has divided loyalties. She wants to know God, wants to have a relationship with Him, wants to tell others about Him... but she also wants to hold only to the old lifestyle and the things that come with it.

- As many people as pray for her for healing... She's not going to be healed. Because she'd fall away as soon as she is. And God loves her enough that He's not going to let her fall away...

- footnote- “A person with divided loyalty is not completely convinced that God's way is best. He treats God's Word like any human advice and retains the option to disobey. He vacillates between allegiance to subjective feelings, the world's ideas, and God's commands. If your faith is new, weak, or struggling, remember that you can trust God. Then be loyal by committing yourself wholeheartedly to God.”

- Revelation 3:15-22
- Hebrews 12:5-13
- John 14:23-26

vs. 9-11

- Believers who are poor have something to boast about, because God has honored them, while the rich should boast in being humbled.

- footnote- “The poor should be glad that riches mean nothing to God; otherwise these people would be considered unworthy. The rich should be glad that money means nothing to God because money is easily lost. We find true wealth by developing our financial assets. God is interested in what is lasting (our souls), not in what is temporary (our money and possessions).”

Mark 4:18, 19

- Achievements and accomplishments mean little in the grand scheme of things.

- Just as the flowers fade and the grass withers, so our lives pass quickly. We are here but a moment and then we're gone...

- One of my brother's Sunday school lessons a couple months ago was on how small we really are.

- He said you know, we all think the world revolves around us. Look at facebook statuses. How many times a day do people change their status to tell everybody who's watching, exactly what they're doing now? Or what they're having for lunch? Or to get overly dramatic about what's going on in life?

- We assume that all of the people on our friends list are sitting, waiting, anxiously for the next update. We see ourselves on center stage surrounded by hundreds of adoring fans...

- But really... it's like this...

- Noah told his class the following:

- “Have you seen the new Robin Hood movie yet? I was in that movie. I was the star character actually. There's a scene at the beginning where they're storming the castle and a guy on the ground shoots an arrow up at the wall and a guy on the wall falls off the wall. I was the guy who got shot. Did you see how well I fell? I was the star! The movie was all about me!”

- Now... doesn't that sound ridiculous?

- But we live our lives like that extra. No one saw his face. His name was MAYBE mentioned in the credits. But he wasn't significant. He had no real bearing on how the story went after he died.

- In the grand scheme of the world, we are an extra. All our accomplishments and awards and trophies mean practically nothing 100 years from now. Maybe even 20 from now.

- All that matters in the big picture is Christ and your relationship with Him. His sacrifice passes up every human effort we could possibly have.

- So forget about the world's adulations and applause and worry about the Audience of One. He's the only opinion that matters...

- I Peter 1:24-25, 40:6-8
- I Corinthians 6:19-20, 3:16-23

vs. 12-15

- For those who patiently endure testing and temptation, God has blessings in store. And after enduring, we get the crown of life that has been promised to those who love Him.

- footnote- “The crown of life is like the victory wreath given to winning athletes. God's crown of life is not glory and honor here on earth but the reward of eternal life—living with God forever. The way to be in God's winners' circle is by loving Him and staying faithful, even under pressure.”

- But the catch is this. We don't finish the race until we finish life. So there are going to be tests and temptations until we die. THEN we get the prize.

- Temptations are going to come. And WHEN you are tempted, don't say that God is tempting you. God doesn't tempt, nor is He tempted.

- Temptation comes from our own desires. These desires entice us. Drag us away from God. Our sinful desires give birth to sinful actions. And if sin is allowed to grow, it births death. Possibly a physical death as well... but more immediately, a spiritual death...

- Then why is there temptation? Where does it come from?

- footnote- “Temptation comes from evil desires inside us, not from God. It begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an action. Like a snowball rolling downhill, sin grows more destructive the more we let it have its way. The best time to stop a temptation is before is is too strong or moving too fast to control.”

- footnote- “People who live for God often wonder why they still have temptations. Does God tempt them? God TESTS people, but he does not TEMPT them by trying to seduce them to sin. God allows Satan to tempt people, however, in order to refine their faith and to help them grow in their dependence on Christ. We can resist the temptation to sin by turning to God for strength and choosing to obey His word.”

- I know there's been a lot of times either in my life or in talking to friends about their lives, that temptation comes strong and you start listening to the lie that you're too weak to fight it off. Even prayer doesn't seem like it helps a whole lot.

- And you give in, because you're tired of fighting what seems like a losing battle. And sometimes, it's something you're not totally against doing anyway.

- but you know, sin is sin. To become stronger at anything you have to work at it. No pain, no gain. Sometimes God just wants us to learn to fight harder. If we can't fight our own spiritual battles, how are we going to help someone else when they can't fight on their own?

- Sometimes you have to ask for help. And that's not a bad thing. There is strength in numbers. But you can't make that your defense system. Sometimes, you're in a place that you have to fight on your own. Don't use the prayers of someone else as a crutch. Learn to lean on God and fight for yourself.

- Matthew 4:1-11, 6:9-14, 26:40-41, 18:7-9
- Luke 8:11-18
- I Corinthians 10:12-13
- Galatians 6:1-5

vs. 16-18

- Don't be misled. God did not create evil things.

- God never changes. He's always the same. I never read anywhere that God put something evil in front of someone to cause him to fall. He allowed Job to be tested... but He didn't tempt him. Satan may have... but God didn't.

- Nor does God “cast a shifting shadow”. No shadow implies being made entirely of light. And light is given to mean something pure or good or perfect. Shifting implies a constant change. And again... God doesn't change.

- So why do we sin?

- God chose to give birth to us by giving us His True Word (Jesus). God. Chose us. Gave US His Word, His life, His power, His Son...

- In doing so, we became His prized possession.

- We were created with great things in mind... but to achieve the relationship, God had to instill in us free will. In doing so, He allowed us the option of sin. As Adam and Eve soon learned...

- But God did not create sin. And it is only allowed because He wants us to love Him out of willing hearts... not because we have to...

- But in creating us this way, we became His prized possession. Why? Because out of all creation, we can love Him. We can have a relationship with Him like no other creature can. Not even the angels can have this kind of relationship.

- God's always going to be there when you need Him. He's always going to do what's best for you. (It may not be what you think should happen... but it's always the best thing for you... even if you don't know it...)

- Mark 9:42-50
- Genesis 2:15-17
- Deuteronomy 4:20
- I Peter 2:9-12

vs. 19-20

- Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to anger.

- footnote- “When we talk too much and listen too little, we communicate to others that we think our ideas are much more important than theirs. James wisely advises us to reverse this process. Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations, and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen. When people talk with you, do they feel that their viewpoints and ideas have value?”

- You've all had the friend that you called in the middle of some life crisis of your own... and they cut you off or ignored everything you just shared to spout off their own troubles? Because your problems just pale in comparison to theirs?

- So listen. You know what that feels like... you understand that... so listen...

- Think before you speak. And pray before you get angry. Angry outbursts only make everybody involved more agitated and upset... with no help towards resolution.

- There is a difference in righteous anger toward a sinful act or injustice and a selfish anger that boils over because our feelings are hurt.

- Our own human anger does not produce the righteousness God is looking for.

- Proverbs 10:19, 15:1, 12:15
- Ephesians 4:26
- Ecclesiastes 7:9
- Exodus 34:5-7

vs. 21

- So. To get the righteousness that God desires, we must get rid of all the filth and evil in our lives. And humbly accept the word God has planted in our hearts. This has the power to save your soul.

- footnote- “James advises us to get rid of all that is wrong in our lives and “humbly accept” the salvation message we have received, because it alone can save us.”

- Being a child of God with a pure heart means getting rid of all the filth in our lives.

- Anything that corrupts your thoughts, your actions... has to get thrown out.

- It's not an easy task... nor is it one that is over quickly. Just like your house has to be cleaned at least once a week or ten days or so to keep the dust and dirt and bugs out, so does your heart and mind have to be cleaned out frequently.

- There are times I'm amazed at how much junk has seemed to suddenly appear on my desk at school... or in my closet...

- Our minds are the same. They gain clutter sometimes faster than we can clean. So we need to keep cleaning consistently. And a little help from the Master Cleaner wouldn't hurt...

- Psalm 19:12-14, 51:1-19
- Proverbs 20:9-11
- Jeremiah 4:14
- Acts 15:8-11
- Romans 8:5-17
- I Corinthians 6:9-11
- II Corinthians 7:1-4
- II Timothy 2:21
- Titus 2:11-15
- I Peter 1:20-23
- I John 1:5-10

vs. 22-25

- You can't just listen to God's word and then not do anything about it. If you think you can claim the Name of Christ but still live your normal sinful life, you're just fooling yourself.

- James says that if you hear the word and don't obey it, it's like glancing at yourself in a mirror and then walking away and forgetting what you look like. It's seeing the surface, but not really seeing all the details. You're not checking to see what color your eyes are or your hair, or how the crows feet are looking.

- If you glance often enough, you might have a general idea of what you look like, but without taking the time to really look, you in essence know nothing.

- If you read the bible, or go listen to a sermon, but don't REALLY pay attention... then you may gain a nugget here or there... but you don't have a full picture. You're missing puzzle pieces.

- If you look carefully into the “perfect law that sets you free”, and do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

- The law sets us free?

- footnote- “It seems paradoxical that a law could give us freedom, but God's law offers us a true reflection of our sinful condition and gives us the opportunity to ask for God's forgiveness. As Christians, we are saved by God's grace, and salvation frees us from sin's control. As believers, we are free to live as God created us to live. Of course, this does not mean that we are free to do as we please. We are now free to obey God.”

- (This is not talking about Jewish law. That law was an imperfect one. This is talking about the law of Grace.)

- but you have to study it. Remember it. And DO it. It can't be something you pass off or only half-listen to. It's a full-body effort.

- Matthew 7:21-27
- Romans 2:12-29, 8:3-4
- I Peter 2:15-17

vs. 26-27

- James is starting to hit on some specifics.

- If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you're fooling yourself. Your religion is worthless.

- Our actions tell the world what kind of faith we have. What kind of God we serve. And what kind of relationship we have with Him.

- Pure and Genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

- It means reaching out to those in need around you with a pure and unassuming love.

- And refusing to let the world corrupt you.... Which means you cannot under any circumstances compromise God's standards.

- There is a huge pull to be as much like the world as possible so as to be more appealing to more people as a church and religion.

- God in no way shape or form did or condones this. Jesus came “not to bring peace, but a sword.” “I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!” (Matthew 10:34-36)

- No matter what comes against you or from whom it comes, stand firm. On the only True Rock. The only place the foundation will be solid in every storm.

- Pure, genuine religion means listening to and following Truth to the letter. Being faithful in all things.

- Psalm 34:11-14
- I John 2:15-17

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