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

Happy studying!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

James Chapter 5

vs. 1-6- Love of Money

- footnote- “James proclaims the worthlessness of riches, not the worthlessness of the rich. Today's money will be worthless when Christ returns, so we should spend our time accumulating the kind of treasures that will be worthwhile in God's eternal Kingdom. Money is not the problem; Christian leaders need money to live and to support their families; missionaries need money to help them spread the Good News; churches need money to do their work effectively. It is the LOVE of money that leads to evil (I Timothy 6:10) and causes some people to oppress others in order to get more. This is a warning to all Christians who are tempted to adopt worldly standards rather than God's standards (Romans 12:1-2) as well as an encouragement to all those who are oppressed by the rich. Also read Matthew 6:19-21 to see what Jesus says about riches.”

- Do you look to the safety and security of money more than you look to God for the same things?

- Do you depend on money to get you out of situations?

- Do you spend a lot of time spending?

- Do you worry often about fashion and style?

- If money or the love of money causes you to walk over other people or oppress them, or use them to further your own interests, then you are putting money in the position over your life much like that of an idol.

- The love of money and material things leads us to be selfish, hard, and uncaring people concerned only with what we can get or how we can get it.

- footnote- “'Innocent people' refers to defenseless persons, probably poor laborers. Poor people who could not pay their debts were thrown in prison or forced to sell all their possessions. At times, they were even forced to sell their family members into slavery. With no opportunity to work off their debts, poor people often died of starvation. God called this murder. Hoarding money, exploiting employees, and living self-indulgently will not escape God's notice.”

- Proverbs 11:4, 28
- Matthew 6:19-34
- Leviticus 19:13
- Deuteronomy 24:14-15
- Luke 16:19-31

vs. 7-8- God's Time

- Patience is a virtue... which seems to be almost a thing of the past in today's world...

- footnote- “The farmer must wait patiently for his crops to grow; he cannot hurry the process. But he does not take the summer off and hope that all goes well in the fields. There is much work to do to ensure a good harvest. In the same way, we must wait patiently for Christ's return. We cannot make Him come back any sooner. But while we wait, there is much work that we can do to advance God's Kingdom. Both the farmer and the Christian must live by faith, looking toward the future reward for their labors. Don't' live as if Christ will never come. Work faithfully to build His Kingdom. The King WILL come when the time is right.”

- Somewhere it says that no man knows the day or the hour that Christ will return... not even the angels. Wow... Which means that basically, we just have to wait and see... without an inkling of a guess... (Matthew 24:36)

- Are you ready? At a moment's notice, are you prepared to see the Son of Man coming on the clouds?

- Makes me think of colonial minutemen. Supplies and weapons in preparation close by, at the sound of the alarm, ready and reporting for active duty... supposedly within a minute's time... Instant in season and out.

- Deuteronomy 11:13-17
- Joel 2:21-24
- Romans 13:8-14
- Hebrews 10:35-39
- Matthew 24:4-51

vs. 9-12- Faith of the Saints

- To be ready, our hearts and lives have to be where they need to be. How can you be sure your heart is in the right place?

- Don't grumble about each other. You will be judged for it... and the Judge is standing at the door!

- I Corinthians 4:3-5

- footnote- “When things go wrong, we tend to grumble against and blame others for our miseries. Blaming others is easier than owning our share of the responsibility, but it can be both destructive and sinful. Before you judge others for their shortcomings, remember that Christ the Judge will come to evaluate each of us. He will not let us get away with shifting the blame to others.”

- If you are struggling with patience in suffering, look at the prophets. They endured every kind of suffering. From anyone and everyone!

- And we look at them and we say “wow. What a man of faith. How founded he must have been. Such a great man. I will never measure up to that kind of faith.”

- And yet... we forget the moments that they cried out and asked God “WHY?” We see the end result and it was so grand, that we look past the middle frustrated parts.

- If you look at the story of Elijah in I Kings 18, he's on top of the world. He stands up against all of Israel. The King and Queen, 450 prophets of a false God... And wins. Fire falls from heaven to accept his offering to God. The people of Israel killed the prophets of Baal. Then because of his prayer (which was how the whole thing started in the first place anyway... but that's another story...) a three year drought is ended in a massive rainstorm. AND God gives Elijah literal superhuman ability and he runs ahead of Ahab's Chariot all the way back to Jezreel... okay... King's chariot... probably the fastest horses that could be found... and Elijah stayed ahead of the chariot... on foot... WOW...

- This is the mountaintop. What can bring him down? He is as high as he can get. Well... then in steps Jezebel. The queen sends a message to Elijah that she's going to kill him... and after seeing God do the impossible, do the miraculous, ALL DAY... Elijah gets scared and runs away...

- At the end of I Kings 19, God has to reiterate to Elijah that He is forever faithful. That He's not going to leave Elijah alone...

- Isn't it just like us? And yet when we remember Elijah, we remember a great prophet of God who never backed down, who was constantly in the King's face, who had a passion and fervor for God that just would not die.

- God is always there. Even when it seems He's not.

- Job. A man of great endurance. A man in the bleakest of circumstances... But God was faithful. Because God is full of tenderness and mercy.

- But the thing that James says “most of all” to do, is to never take an oath by heaven or earth or anything else.

- A simple yes or no will do. “I swear on my mother's grave...” “I swear as the sky is blue...”

- footnote- “A person with a reputation for exaggeration or lying often can't get anyone to believe him on his word alone. Christians should never become like that. Always be honest so that others will believe your simple yes or no. By avoiding lies, half-truths, and omissions of the truth, you will become known as a trustworthy person.”

- In other words, we shouldn't need something tangible or completely believable to back up our spoken word. Our word should be enough to trust us, without the use of any earthly or heavenly thing to give us more credibility.

- Matthew 5:33-37

- Sometimes you see it in the movies or read it in a book... but 1700's or 1800's... in those times, transactions were completed by a spoken agreement and a handshake. Or something along those lines. And that idea sounds so old-fashioned in today's day and age of lawyers breathing down your necks and constantly having to watch your back in anything you sign or anything you agree to... But God's word doesn't change. And for us, just as James was inspired to write it thousands of years ago... it is still true for us today... If God's people, of all people, can't be trusted... what kind of example is that to the world?

- Colossians 3:16-17

vs. 13-16

- Are you suffering? Pray. Are you happy? Sing Praises! Are you sick? Call for the elders to pray and anoint you with oil.

- An action for all things.

- If you are suffering, Pray. DO something about where you're at. Call on the only real thing that can truly help you.

- Are you happy? Sing Praises! Rejoice in the Lord! Be thankful! Show appreciation!

- Are you sick? (Okay... this one could take a little longer...) James says to call for the elders to pray. They are to anoint you with oil and you will be healed.

- Mark 6:12-13

- The oil signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit. There's nothing magical in the oil itself. It's just symbolic.

- Then the elders are to lay hands on you and pray for healing.

- Now here's the kicker. It says that if you have committed any sins, they will be forgiven.

- Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

- Without being in a right place with God, no healing will come. If there is sin in your heart, God will not accept the offering so to speak.

- I John 1:8-10

- In Joshua 6:24, Israel has just defeated Jericho and things made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron were put aside from the spoil taken to be kept in God's treasury. So we read on into chapter 7 and Achan violated this ruling. He took some of the things set aside for God and hid them in his tent.

- Joshua has sent spies in to check out this little town. When the spies get back they're thinking this is going to be an easy thing. They say only a few have to go up because Ai is so small and practically nothing compared to Jericho... (ego much?) So Israel goes up... and Ai beats them. Bad.

- So Joshua gets down before God and starts crying out... why? What's going on? And God says basically “there's sin in the camp. Someone has been disobedient.

- When Achan is found to be the culprit, the Israelites stone he and his family. Which seems a little harsh to us maybe... but the point is, that the camp was cleansed of sin. And once cleansed, God could come back and work in Israel... and they went up and defeated Ai.

- When there is sin in your heart... God can't work in your life. Hidden or open... it doesn't matter.

- There's a line in one of my footnotes that says that “Christians should not separate the physical and the spiritual. Jesus Christ is Lord over both the body and the spirit.”

- If Christ can't work in our spiritual life, He can't work in our physical either.

- Now... I'm not trying to say that when we are sick it is because we have sinned and our sickness is a punishment for said sin.

- Look again at Job. This man who just a few verses before was called a man of great endurance...

- Satan comes to God and says that he's been down on the earth watching everything that's been going on. And God replies “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

- GOD calls this man blameless... GOD calls him the finest man in all the earth. GOD says he is a man of complete integrity. GOD says he fears Him and stays away from evil.

- And Satan says well okay... but he has reason to fear You! You've always protected him. You've made him prosper in all things! Take everything away from him and I tell you he will curse You.

- And God says fine. You test him. But don't harm him physically. Do whatever you like otherwise...

- So Satan takes everything from Job. His family. His property. His money. All in one day. One messenger after another just keeps bringing worse and worse news.

- And Job's response? He says “I came naked from my mother's womb and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”

- Job didn't blame anybody. He didn't turn and yell at God for all He'd brought down on him. Instead he turned in the middle of all this to praise God for being sovereign.

- So Satan goes to God again. And God says “have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

- God repeats the same recognition of Job. He's still everything he was before Satan took everything from him. A man of consistency.

- And Satan says... okay... but take his health. A man will give up everything he has to save his life. His life will be more important than You. He will curse You to Your face if you take his health.

- So God says fine, do as you like, but do not take his life. Do your worst... but you can't kill him.

- So Job ends up with boils on his body from head to foot. And he scrapes at his body with pottery shards. And his wife comes and says “are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die!” Get it over with Job! God is punishing you. Or he's forgotten you. End your misery! Take it out on God and die. End your suffering.

- And Job's reply... wow... “you talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

- We all know how the story of Job ends...

- But going back to healing... The point is... Job's illness was not a result of sin. It had nothing to do with punishment. He was seen as upright before God. God bragged on Job. And He allowed Satan to attack him because He knew Job's heart.

- In chapter 27, Job says “I vow by the living God, who has taken away my rights, by the Almighty who has embittered my soul—As long as I live, while I have breath from God, my lips will speak no evil, and my tongue will speak no lies. I will never concede that you (his friends) are right; I will defend my integrity until I die. I will maintain my innocence without wavering. My conscience is clear for as long as I live.”

- Despite all the things Satan threw at Job... Job still knew in his heart that he had not sinned. (Chapter 31 is all about Job presenting his innocence.) And yet he was struck in this way.

- Why? Because spiritual growth does not come on baby food. In the natural world, we grow and mature through things we see and do and become a part of. If we stay as innocent children our entire lives, we will not survive the storms life brings our way. If we can't handle getting sick, or problems with the house or whatever it happens to be... how can we handle it when our family gets in our faces about our faith? If our faith has nothing come against it to strengthen it, to teach us to lean on God in all things, when persecution comes our way, our faith will falter and fail.

- God saw the trials ahead and prepared Job's heart. When everything went bad, when his WIFE, his three closest friends... all came and said, God has forsaken you. Curse God and die. Forget this faith... His heart was ready to withstand their rantings.

- Consider your muscles. Without resistance, you don't build anything up. Without lifting weights, you won't gain any muscle mass. And if you only work out one day a week or a day every now and again, you won't gain anything either. Because by the time you work out again, you'll have lost everything you gained in the time before. There has to be consistent resistance.

- You see spiritual resistance every day. There is some kind of temptation in your path all the time. If you can't fight the little battles, you won't be ready to fight the big battles. And sometimes, God sees down the road and sees a REALLY big conflict coming your way... so He starts putting things in your path, or allowing Satan to do more things against you so that you are in essence forced to start fighting for yourself. In this way, when the REALLY big stuff comes your way, you're ready and you won't fall away. There is a very important message at the core of Job that most people skip over. In Job 42:5 Job tells God that he had heard of Him with his ears, but now he can see God. Job had a relationship with God at a distance, but now his relationship was personal. God wants us to know Him. Job was a good God fearing man, but now he was a good God loving man.

- I Timothy 4:8 and 10 say “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come... This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”

- Isaiah 59:19 says “In the west, people will respect the Name of the Lord; in the east, they will glorify Him. When the enemy comes like a raging flood tide, the Spirit of the Lord will drive Him back.”

- God will never leave us... but going back to our spiritual and physical lives being intertwined... The Spirit of God can't work in our lives to drive the enemy back if God is not living in our lives. If God is not present, He cannot defend. If we sin, we become like Israel with Achan. God can't help us if we go against Him. So WHEN the enemy comes in like a flood overtaking everything in it's path, overwhelming us, drowning us in despair, washing everything tangible away... is there enough of a measure of God's Spirit in you that it flows over and overwhelms the enemy?

- And again with healing... sometimes God heals, sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes it's a timing thing. The lame man that sat at the gate “Beautiful”... Jesus passed this man time after time... and never touched him. But when Peter came through, this man was healed. Why? So that the glory of God could be revealed in HIS time. Maybe the man's heart wasn't ready to accept the message of Christ before then. Maybe someone who needed to see this kind of thing wasn't in the crowd any day that Jesus passed through. Maybe there were more people whose heart's were ready on that day. Who knows but God? Sometimes sickness comes so that the Glory of God can be revealed in a specific way. Sometimes it's a growing thing.

- And sometimes it's a sickness unto death. We all have to die sometime. Even Lazarus died again. King Hezekiah prayed and God postponed his death... but he still died. Sometimes these bodies just get sick and die. But I truly think that if we die of some sickness (keeping in mind that age in itself is a kind of sickness...) that leading up to death... how do we approach it? How are we growing in this?

- My mom was talking the other night about how amazed she always is when kids get really sick... like cancer... How upbeat they are sometimes... trying to encourage everyone around them and not thinking one bit about how they feel or what's happening to them.

- Are you like that? Do you find strength in God enough to pass on to someone else? Do you find a lesson in your illness?

- I was listening to a song a little bit ago and it had a line in it that he'd “forgotten in what house he lived.” Have you forgotten to Whom you've given your life? Have you forgotten Who's in control? Have you forgotten in Whom your strength lies? Who's in control here?

- “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” (Psalm 46:2-3)

- Psalm 18, 46

- And in the middle of all this... “Be Still and know that I Am God.” He's still in control... whether we see it or not... healing or no healing... “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11)

- In all this we are told to be obedient. I'm still struggling with my finger... And I'm still trying to figure out why God hasn't healed it yet. I've gone to the elders at least twice maybe three times. I've been anointed. I've prayed for everything I can think to pray for... and still there's pain, still there's swelling, still the doctor is thinking about doing more cutting... But regardless... I've been obedient in this...

- I was talking to mom about writing this study this week, because I've really struggled with how to write a teaching on something that I'm struggling with. How can I say, go pray for a healing, when I HAVE prayed and I haven't received? How can I say that yes God cares about this, when I'm physically struggling? For months! And she said “the point that needs to be stressed in all this is that we are to seek the Healer... not the healing... because if we're seeking the healing, then we're asking like spoiled children.” As Job says, should we not accept the bad things along with the good?

- So then I had to sit down and think about this some more... have I been just seeking the healing and not the Healer Himself? And I think maybe at the beginning I was... And I think as this has continued... yeah it's caused me to get on my knees before my God and beg for understanding. And yeah... it's caused a lot of studying on my part not only of the Word, but of myself and my intentions... but the one thing that I know has happened in all this has been that Charity's had to let go of a lot of things. I've had to really sit down and think about all the things I like to maintain control in. In essence, this has been a time of releasing control over to someone else. Completely? Not yet... It's a work in progress... But this has been a learning time for me.

- Have I sinned? Well yeah... everybody does. And for a while, I struggled with, well... maybe this is punishment... but as I prayed and as I sought God, it was very clear that that wasn't the issue. So then it was, okay well what do You want my attention for? Is this some way of getting my focus on something You want from me? Or for me? And the answer was... well... yeah... but there's more... And I think in the end... it's about completely focusing on God regardless of what things look like. Things look bleak? Rejoice anyway. Things look like they're falling apart? Praise anyway. When the world is dying, when life is disintegrating, when there is no control left, when nothing is going as planned or as it should, when there's nothing you can do to change anything, TRUST ME! Trust that I STILL know what I'm doing. Trust that I have your best interest at heart. Trust that I still love you. Trust that I haven't forsaken you. Trust that I still SEE you. Trust that I KNOW right where you're at and what's going on.

- And if this ailment has been for no other purpose than to break me from my independence... then so be it. If this has been for nothing else than to make me determined to be sold out, than to show me how little I am in comparison to God... to show me that He's bigger than I am... to show me that I NEED Him... that's fine. Because I'm FINALLY to the point that despite still being scared to death that I'm going to step out on this faith and crash and burn... or I'm really truly going to lose this finger and not be able to play the piano as I used to... or be able to enjoy music as I used to... I'm willing to take that step... Because God's plan is not for me to be a master musician. His plan is not for me to do the things I want to do. His plan is for my life to be a living witness for Him. His plan is for me to show Christ wherever I go, whatever I do. His plan is all about furthering the Kingdom using any means necessary. And if I happen to do music along the way, or happen to get another degree along the way, or happen to get married, or happen to have kids, or happen to teach for the rest of my life... then that's just extra. That's just a side note. That's just life. The purpose of MY life is the furthering of the Kingdom. Healing or no healing... Being faithful where we are. Being blameless where we are. Maintaining our integrity in all circumstances. Avoiding evil and fearing God.

vs. 16-18

- The second half of 16 says that “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Why? Because God can move in that heart. If our heart is with God, then His Spirit can work through us. The more sold out we become, the more the Spirit takes over, the more God can use us.

- Mark 16:15-18

- Elijah was as human as we are, and when he prayed that no rain would fall, it didn't... for three and a half years... and when he prayed again on Mt. Carmel that the rain would come, it come and the earth brought forth crops.

- Prayer can do a lot. There's a lot of times we look at prayer like it's a last resort. It's the ONLY thing we can do... Guess we'll pray... NO! Prayer is our most valuable weapon. Our strongest defense! Our mighty offense. Prayer is our communication with God. The more you communicate, the closer you become. The closer you become, the more God can work through you. And the stronger your prayers become...

- Mom was talking the other day about feeling like we don't do as much as we could. Smith Wigglesworth in like the early 1900's I think, was this preacher who raised the dead, healed the sick, and did like... Elijah miracles...

- And mom was reading some of his sermons and she said you know, we're lazy. We don't get in and seek God like some of these great men and women of God did. We sit back and accept mediocre. God is still the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same power is there. The same Spirit is moving. We just choose to maintain control over our minds and bodies and we don't let God work as much as we could. Relationship takes time... Charles Wesley used to get up and pray every morning for 2 hours solid. He came down one day and his wife started telling him all the appointments and meetings and speaking engagements etc. he had to do that day and he turned around and went back upstairs, and she said “what are you doing!? You have to get ready!” And his reply was “It's going to be a long day and I need to pray some more to get ready.” Me? I'd be running around like crazy trying to get all my notes together and all the stuff that I'd need for the day... And this man of God? Nah... He's gonna go spend some more time with the Master preparing for the day... wow... If only we had that response.

vs. 19- 20

- James finishes with admonitions to those wondering from God. If you see a brother or sister who is wandering away from the truth... work to bring them back. And if they are brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save this person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

- Now does this mean that we ourselves can save someone? No. Not in the least. But it is our job to work hard to bring as many to Christ as possible... and this includes those who have fallen away from the walk.

- And when they are restored, not only are they saved from spiritual death and everlasting torment, but this restoration also brings about the forgiveness of many sins. (remembering that to be in communion with God we have to be reconciled to Him through the forgiveness of our sin...)

- Matthew 18:15-20
- I Peter 4:7-9
- Proverbs 10:12

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