April 20 – How Doers Listen

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” – James 2:22 (NASB)
“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” – James 2:25 (NASB)

Sometimes we hear without listening and when asked, “Did you hear?” we may reply “I heard you.” But we may have only heard, but not listened. If we listen, then we can respond by being a doer. God’s Word is given to us so that we can become doers of what we have listened to do. God wants each of us to become a doer.. How do we listen? By paying attention to what we read in the Word of God or listening to those teaching the Bible to us. James calls professing believers to be “doers,” rather than simply to do, because he emphasizes how our entire personality should be characterized in that way. Those who are only hearers are like those who can’t remember who they saw after looking at themselves in a mirror. Practice makes permanent and God wants us to be permanent doers of His law. Throughout the Bible, God’s revealed, inerrant, sufficient, and comprehensive Word is called “law.” The presence of His grace does not mean there is no moral law or code of conduct for believers to obey. Believers are enabled by the Spirit to be faithful doers. Let’s do that today.

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April 8 – The Gift of Giving a Gift

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” – James 1:16-17 (ESV)

Have you ever been deceived? Of course you have. We all have been deceived by what others have done and by what others have taught us. We have a warning to not be deceived in today’s verse which should give us the encouragement that we are able to avoid deception if we ask for and receive the wisdom God has for us. The wisdom in this verse is the means we need to avoid deception. The original language expression in today’s verse refers to erring, going astray, or wandering off. Christians are not to make the mistake of blaming God rather than acknowledging their sin (James 1:13-15). Two different words for “gift.” First, is the act of giving, and the second, is the object given. Everything related to God’s giving is adequate, complete, and beneficial. The ancient expression for God was the “Father of lights.” It acknowled Him as creator of lights. “Lights” are the sun, moon, and stars. From man’s perspective, these celestial bodies have variation in their different phases of movement and rotation, they change and vary in intensity. But God does not—He is changeless and in Him there is no variation or shifting shadow.

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April 7 – Eternal Life Is The Crown

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” – James 1:12 (ESV)

We are promised blessings if we remain unfaltering under trial. This is a promise we all need because steadfastness is not easy to come by. And when we are depending upon ourselves, it becomes impossible to fend off the doubts and uncertainties that come with the trials and testing of our faith. Believers who successfully endure trials are truly happy. Nobody is saying that trials are easy to face and live through. Quite the opposite and that is why a passive, painful survival of a trial results in endurance and focuses on a victorious outcome. Through such endurance we do not relinquish our saving faith in God; we successfully have the victory over these trials which is evidence of our faith. The “crown of life” promised is best translated “the crown which is life.” Our ultimate reward is eternal life which God has promised to all who believe. It is granted in full at the time of our death or at the time of Christ’s coming again. This promise is given to those who love Him. By grace and through faith we declare our love for Jesus who secured our eternal life in his death and resurrection.

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April 6 – Doubting Is Dangerous


“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8 (NASB)

We all wrestle with doubts. Sometimes, they are proper but some doubts are dangerous. We read yesterday (April 5) that God has wisdom for us and is ready to give it to us without reproach. We are commanded to ask for the wisdom that shows us the way of living for God’s glory. Then, James puts out a serious warning against doubting. Why does he do this? Because when we pray for wisdom our prayers must be offered with confident trust in a sovereign God. Without any doubting. It’s more than merely because of mental indecision but it is rooted in inner moral conflict or distrust in God. If we are one who doubts God’s ability to keep his promise or willingness to provide this wisdom is likened to the stormy, restless sea, buffeted by the waves from the wind and moving back and forth. It is impossible to make progress when our expectations are so far removed from what God has promised. Such action is that of a double-minded person. The literal translation of this Greek expression means having our minds divided between God and the world. Let’s ask in faith and avoid the doubts of the unstable unbeliever.

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April 5 – Ask and Receive

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5 (NASB)

Too often perhaps if even once, we are prone to expect to receive what we are “owed” or “due.” The faulty thought that leads to this includes the idea that we don’t need to ask to receive what we are entitled to. We speak out only when we feel disenfranchised. Continuing the lessons and promises from the book of James, we find this command is a necessary part of the believer’s prayer life. When we need wisdom we are to ask God to give it to us for God has wisdom in abundance available and He is eager to provide it for those who seek it. God intends that trials will drive those who believe to a greater dependency on Him. They show us our own insufficiency. James’ Jewish audience recognized this as the understanding and practical skill that is necessary to live life to God’s glory. It was not wisdom of philosophical speculation, but wisdom contained in the pure and peaceable absolutes of God’s will revealed in His Word and lived out. It is only this divine wisdom from God that enables believers to rejoice and be submissive in the trials and testing of our lives.


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April 4 – A Chain of Results

“… knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:3-4 (NASB)

Picking up from the passage yesterday (April 3) we know that testing can bring joy and should bring a joyful attitude because it is for a purpose. Testing means “proof” or “proving” that our faith is true and strong. The first of three important words is ‘endurance’ because through tests, we who believe will learn to withstand tenaciously the pressure of a trial until God removes it at His appointed time. Two more words in verse 4 stand out with important lessons. The second word is ‘perfect’ which describes our end result of testing. It is not a reference to sinlessness or perfection without sin.  Perfect means maturity, specifically in our verse, spiritual maturity. The ongoing testing of our faith should be driving us who are believers to deeper communion and greater trust in Christ—qualities that in turn produce a stable, godly, and righteous character. The third word is ‘complete’. Translated from a compound Gr. word that literally means “all the portions whole.” God’s purpose is that through our trials and testing we end up lacking nothing we need. But we acknowledge this does not speak of material or temporal but spiritually needs.

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April 3 – Consider and Count

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, …” – James 1:2 (NASB)

This might not make sense to us. Let’s just be honest first. Trials, tests, difficulties and many things we would rather avoid still come into our lives mostly unannounced. They are uninvited and unwelcome but in today’s passage we are instructed by the Holy Spirit in the letter written by James, the half brother of Jesus, to consider their arrival joyfully. ‘Consider’ may also be translated ‘count’ or ‘evaluate’ which means a willful, purposeful, thoughtful, and conscious commitment to face them with and attitude of joy, and actually with all joy. We are not to split our emotion reaction to trials between a natural disgust and some joy.  Only joy, all joy, just as Paul teaches in Philippians to ‘rejoice in the Lord.’ (Philippians 3:1) God brings such tests to prove—and increase—the strength and quality of our faith and to demonstrate its validity.  Every trial in our life becomes a test of faith and is designed to strengthen our faith: if we fail the test by responding with a wrong attitude, that test then becomes a temptation, or a solicitation to evil. It’s best to trust God for all things, even the trials that test.  

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March 8 – Humble Not Proud

“Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. ” – James 4:9-10 (ESV)

For those who observe and follow the ‘holy days’ on a church calendar, one week ago was Mardi Gras*. Translated “Fat Tuesday” it is the day when all let loose their inhibitions because of what is required of them next. The next day on those calendars is “Ash Wednesday” which marks the solemn entrance into this Christian “season” of Lent, which is one of reflection and repentance. It may appear strange to some in our culture, which presumes that our own thriving as human beings must follow the way of self-acceptance, positive self-esteem, self-assertion, and even pride in ourselves “just the way we are.” But we know that God opposes the proud. Ash Wednesday is completely counter-cultural. It gives opportunity to abide by the biblical admonition to turn from our sins and humble ourselves before God just as James instructs us in today’s passage. The larger context in the letter from James includes all of James 4 and even more. One of our promises in this chapter is that as we humble ourselves, the Lord will exalt us. Not expected in this life, in fact most likely not in this world but in God’s time it will happen in heaven. 

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* Mardi Gras is strongly associated with wild bacchanalia and debauchery, but the original intent of the holiday and how it’s kept by the faithful is much different. Fat Tuesday, as it is known in English, is a long-standing tradition of the Catholic Church and it marks the last day of ordinary time before the start of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance. While the parties in Europe, South America, and parts of the United States have gained the most attention in popular culture, they seriously misrepresent and outright eclipse the Catholic intent of the holiday.

According to historians, the celebration of Mardi Gras has its roots in the pagan Roman celebration of Lupercalia. This was a February holiday and it honored the Roman god of fertility. It involved feasting, drinking, and carnal behavior.

However, with the rise of the Church in ancient Rome, Christian teaching and morals took root, but there always remained a strong need to blend ancient Roman traditional practices with the growing Christian faith. The blending of tradition with new religious beliefs was a common practice in the ancient world and it helped people to transition away from paganism. In fact, there are a number of ancient Roman traditions that persevere in the Roman Catholic Church to this day, where they continue to guide the faithful.

As Catholic Christianity spread throughout Europe during the first millennium, different cultures celebrated the last day before Lent in their own ways, adapting the practices to suit their cultures. In France, the holiday became particularly popular as people feasted on foods that would be given up during the forty days of Lent. Meats, eggs, and milk were finished off in one day, giving the holiday its French title of ‘Mardi Gras’ which means Fat Tuesday. https://www.catholic.org/lent/mardigras.php

 September 21 – Staying Steadfast

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” – James 5:11 (ESV)

In our passage today our promise is mercy if we remain steadfast in suffering. It is those who suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ that are promised this mercy. Not only receive mercy but show mercy when we face tribulation, persecution ⸺ any undeserved action because of our confession of faith in God. As faith believers we recognize that suffering is a part of the life that comes with proclaiming the Gospel of salvation which comes only from believing in Jesus. His half-brother James, had not always believed in Jesus during His earthly ministry on earth. But James came to believe and was the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. James had seen the suffering firsthand. This included decapitation, stoning, imprisonment, whippings, beatings, and attempts to eliminate or squelch the believers of Jesus. So James reminds us to consider two things in this verse. First, that we remember how Job remained steadfast through the worst trials and suffering we can imagine. Second, that the Lord is full of both compassion and mercy – that means Jesus delights to show mercy to those who are suffering. That is why He willingly went to the cross to die.

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September 20 – When Mercy Counts

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” – James 3:17 (NASB)

Mercy! What a concept. For one might bestow it on one who cries for it but does not deserve it. A man arrested for taking part in the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021 petitioned for release from jail. The judge refused. As the judge stated his reasons for denial, the man cried out “Your honor, have mercy on me! Please!” Circumstances, prior actions, published videos and words, left Robert Sandlin only able to beg for mercy. Mercy is shown to the undeserving yet needy. But not this time. “No mercy!” said the judge. The author of James instructs us to live by Godly wisdom from above. That wisdom comes with spiritual integrity and moral sincerity (it is pure). It is “peace loving” or “peace promoting” (peaceable). It includes kind, courteous and patient humility (gentle). It marks someone who is teachable, and willingly submits to both moral and legal discipline (reasonable). Has the gift of showing concern, pity, compassion for those who suffer pain and hardship (full of mercy). Such a person produces good works (fruit), steady in conviction (unwavering), and makes no unfair distinctions (without hypocrisy). Such not only displays mercy but has mercy within.

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