Fuel4Thought (Page 3)

Journeying through James, 1:8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5‑8 (ESV)

Why should a person “suppose that he will not receive anything from the Lord?” That’s a really strong statement and seems so hard to understand. Isn’t God’s favor unearned and unmerited? James wrote in verse 5, that the same Lord “gives generously to all without reproach,” so how are we to understand this? James’ primary concern here is that we would ask God for wisdom and not doubt that the Lord will give it to us. He’s saying that doubting gets in the way of receiving the goodness and blessings that God has for us.

He knows that doubting makes our love for Jesus, and for His followers, grow cold. James was Jesus’ brother. John tells us about him: “But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him” John 7:2‑5 (NLT). It’s hard to imagine that James went from such cold-hearted indifference to ardent belief. He knows firsthand that doubting makes us indifferent and even hostile to the kind and loving Jesus.

Doubting can lead to not seeing the amazing miracles that could happen in our lives. For example: “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” 58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” Matthew 13:54‑58 (NIV). Even today, everyone has an opinion about who Jesus is, but those who simply put their faith in Him will see Him do good things in their lives.

So, James really knows what he’s talking about. He’s come full circle in understanding and appreciating who Jesus is; and he doesn’t want anyone to miss that. It might not seem apparent upon first reading his epistle, but James is very understanding and compassionate toward others in their struggles to believe and follow Jesus.

Journeying through James, 1:7-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5‑8 (ESV)

Many times in James, his words are right to the point; they are so direct that it’s difficult for people to hear them. I think the hearers have to make a choice to not listen to their human pride and guilt and rather to have an open mind to what God is saying. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, human beings have considered themselves as the fourth member of the Trinity and can become easily offended if God says, “Don’t do that; do this!”. By nature, we don’t like people correcting us, but ironically, we can’t really see what’s best for us.

James’ words in verses 7-8 are like the words of a friend trying to help us understand two important points. One, God has a good and perfect will for us, that is ours for the asking. Two, our human nature doesn’t want to submit to God and therefore it is a battle for us to ask, to follow and to be at peace with what God would direct us to do. James is focusing in on the inherent internal struggle that Christians face. The word for “double-minded” in Koinè Greek literally means ‘to have two souls’, namely we have the Old Adam and Spirit of God dwelling within us. The Apostle Paul described this struggle very clearly in Galatians 5:17: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (NLT).

Let’s say you and your spouse are trying to decide which takeout food you want this evening. You leave the house without a firm decision, but with a couple of options in mind. You finally settle on one, and of course, you don’t take away anything from the other two, except the thought, “Well, maybe next time we’ll stop there.” Isn’t that how most people approach wisdom and input from God? It doesn’t always occur to us that God wants us to ask Him for wisdom, and to listen to Him, and to follow His wisdom, continually. This is vital, not just a good option that we might try next time.

James focuses on our need to receive God’s direction, and he fully understanding our inherent desire not to. He concentrates on certain “problem areas” into which God must speak so that our Christian lives would give glory to His name. What’s interesting about James is that the book highlights only certain personal faith and social issues; also, the topics he picks are applicable to believers of any culture or time period. He assumes that a believer will ask for God’s direction. In verse 7‑8, he’s basically saying, “Don’t think twice or be offended about what I have to say.” God’s not against us; He’s for us. In verse 6, above, he explained that if you ask for wisdom, God’s not going to bring up what a failure you are. He “gives generously to all without reproach.” In Christ, the Lord sees you completely and thoroughly cleansed us from all sin. Let us then make it our goal in life to come to Him and receive from Him. God will generously give!

Journeying through James, 1:5-6

But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. 6 But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind.James 1:5‑6 (NCV)

What an amazing promise we have in James 1:5. The key expression is “without criticizing you.” In the Greek text, the word “criticize” means ‘to insult or reproach someone, with the implication that the person is evidently to blame’ * . The word denotes mocking or ridiculing. It’s the type of conduct that some of the people present at Christ’s crucifixion displayed, saying, “‘Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him” (Mark 15:32, NIV).

Why is this so important in regards to our faith? Life is full of choices, and if you look at all the choices that you’ve made in your life, you’ve probably made some bad ones. James 1:5 assures us that God gives to us without reminding us of our unworthiness. The verse from Mark, above, is a good example of this. Notice that it says, “Those crucified…” That means that both thieves were hurling insults at Christ, but one of the thieves looked into the eyes Jesus and saw someone who knew his very soul. Jesus responded to his cry for salvation and ignored the stupidity of his conduct. That’s pure grace and it’s really impossible for people to understand, but James is saying it’s essential that we understand this. Why? Because we will doubt God if we don’t. God has every intention of saving us and yet we have to look to Him for help. The benefit is well summed up by Paul in the letter to the Ephesians: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17, NIV).

Journeying through James, 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2‑5 (ESV)

James hits the ground running. He introduces himself as a “servant of God and of Jesus Christ,” then he starts telling you right away how to live like a servant of God and of Christ. He begins his epistle quite differently than Paul begins most of his epistles. Take Galatians, for example:

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 Jesus gave himself for our sins to free us from this evil world we live in, as God the Father planned. 5 The glory belongs to God forever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:3‑5 (NCV)

Why the big difference? Is it of any significance for us? Both are writing God’s Word, but James is writing to “the tribes in the Dispersion,” which means Jewish people who were not living in Jerusalem, where James was a church leader. Paul is writing to Gentiles. We don’t see that as a huge difference today, but then it was.

James never once mentions the Law of Moses, but rather the “law of liberty” (James 1:25). Meanwhile, Paul mentions Moses’ Law twenty-eight times in Galatians. Some false teachers preyed on the Galatians ignorance of the Law in a way that would never have worked with James’ audience. Just as it wouldn’t work with us today. We, as 21st century American Christians, are not likely to be tricked into following circumcision; it’s a common practice that has nothing to do with being Jewish for us. We’d start following Jewish dietary laws if we thought it would help us lose weight. I can just see a new fad diet: Fat Burning Jewish Law Diet.

What we would be easily deceived about is the importance of Christian living. What these two epistles have in common is connecting our freedom in Christ with sound Christian living. James writes “This royal law is found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you obey this law, you are doing right. 9 But if you treat one person as being more important than another, you are sinning” (James 2:8-9, NCV). Paul writes: “My brothers and sisters, God called you to be free, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do what pleases your sinful self. Serve each other with love. 14 The whole law is made complete in this one command: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14, NCV).

So, for 1st century Christians, and for 21st century Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, James is concerned with telling you the truth. And the truth is that none of us are perfect and all of us have a lot to learn. The tenor of James is straight-talking truth, which though sometimes hard to hear, is a blessing if heeded.

Journeying through James, 1:4

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:2‑5 (NKJV)

With respect to the word perfection or the verb form to be perfect, God alone is perfect because he needs nothing. He is complete, whole, lacking nothing, and needing nothing. The whole universe, and everything in it, depends on Him. If He didn’t keep it all going, it would cease to exist in an instant. We live and exist only because He does.

When God, in the Scriptures, uses the word perfection to refer to us, His human sons and daughters, He is not referring to what you are. Rather He’s describing what His grace and power in Christ is making you to be. A good analogy for this is a telescope. The word in Greek for perfect is actually where we get the word telescope or telescopic.

When you look at where you are going through the lens of a telescope, you focus on the goal of your journey, where you want to be, more than where you are presently. You fix your hope on that goal, and your journey is aimed at that goal. That’s the way that the Bible speaks of perfection. You have been called by God to be like Jesus. Jesus is the image that we are to focus on as we live out our journeys in this world. The world in general is not focused on Jesus Christ, nor concerned with being like Him, but we are. God’s grace has done this.

Perfection, for us, is a life-long process of being like Christ. We, at best, are an example, a pattern, we’re not the original. God has already made believers perfectly acceptable to Himself by the blood of Christ, so now let us focus being like Christ. As Jesus taught, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” John 13:15-17 (NIV).

The apostle Paul has a very beautiful prayer in 2 Thessalonians that can remind us that God is really with us in this and that being like Christ is what perfection is all about: “That is why we always pray for you, asking our God to help you live the kind of life he called you to live. We pray that with his power God will help you do the good things you want and perform the works that come from your faith. 12 We pray all this so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will have glory in you, and you will have glory in him. That glory comes from the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Thessalonians 1:11‑12 (NCV).

Journeying through James, 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2‑4 (NIV)

James begins his epistle is such a bold way‒“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (v. 2). Why?

There’s a story in the book of Daniel where three friends of Daniel are thrown into a fiery furnace. The king did this because they refused to worship him‒they only wanted to worship God. Normally the fire would have consumed them, in fact, the fire was so hot that it killed the king’s servants when they threw Daniel’s friends into it. But while the king watched, these believers stood and walked around in the fire. Then the king saw a fourth person with them, and in his amazement, the king said, “he looks like a son of the gods!” Of course, it was the Son of God, Jesus, who was with them and saved them. The King was amazed when the three believers came out unscathed, and he praised their God. *

The three believers were given the privilege of going through the fire so that God would be glorified. Of all the nations in the world, God chose only one, Judaism, to draw into such a relationship with Himself. He showed His glory and His steadfast love to those who trusted in Him. I wonder how many Gentiles found faith in the God of Jacob as a result of these three men enduring this amazing trial? And isn’t that the point?

What James is saying is two‑fold. One, our problems change when we see that God is working in the midst of them. What James is saying in this passage is: don’t deal with your problems apart from God’s grace. Instead, when difficulties trouble you, remember that Christ is with you in the midst of them. Two, God likes to boast about how much He loves His children. When James says, “the testing your faith produces perseverance,” he is speaking of a good quality that God works in you for a purpose, so that others will see the glory of God through your life.

We all know how fragile glass is. But when workers heat-treat glass, and put it in under great pressure, it becomes four to five times stronger and safer than untreated glass. Safety is the reason they do this; so that the glass won’t break so easily. The book of James is an exceedingly practical epistle. In it, James assures us that God will keep us from breaking under the pressures of life. For us, as God’s children, trials are carefully engineered by God, not to break us, but to make us stronger‒tried and true.

Kingdom Culture of Prayer

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:8‑11 (NIV)

The Coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for us to depend on God. The issue is: can I trust God in all of the areas where I have need. For some it’s an issue of finances. For some it’s the issue of health. For some it’s the issue of change and disruption that has come with the coronavirus. Relationships are not the same. We can’t fellowship at church as we would like. Whatever it may be, you can never depend on God too much.

I would invite you to make a list of your needs: spiritual, emotional, material. Lay them before God—talk to God about them. Write these things down, and check them on a regular basis. We have many wants, but God knows what we need. The hope is ”that we might not rely on ourselves but on God“ (v. 9).

I would also challenge you, in line with what the Apostle Paul writes, to not just to think about yourself, but each other’s needs. List them out. Think about what someone else needs. Pray that their faith would prosper and grow. When we do that, pray for each other‘s needs, that‘s when we are really living as children of God.

Here’s an honest question. How do we take God at His word? That’s something we have to experience and grow in. Our hope is anchored in Jesus Christ and in His unmerited, undeserved grace. We receive it and we share it. “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (v. 11).

Kingdom Culture – The Word Creates It in Us

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire 2 Peter 1:2‑4 (ESV)

Peter opens this passage with these words in verse 3: “he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”

There are many great and precious promises which God has given us in the Bible. These are blessings for our good; and while we don’t always know what’s good for us, God does. His promises are according to His own good purposes for us. The purpose given here is that we may become partakers of the divine nature. God uses promises to cause us to trust in Him. It is by faith that we receive all of the blessings that God promises. The blessings come through actively trusting that God is good and he will do what he has promised.

For example, let’s look at two promises of God:

  • “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’” (John 11:25,  NIV).
  • “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46,  NIV).

Both these are good examples because it is pretty easy to see how they apply to this present life.

The first promise, gives the hope of life after death. Everybody dies, but Jesus is saying that upon death we’ll see him again because He rose. That will be good news for those who love him, and very bad news for those who don’t. This promise is for the present because the body we’re living in now has an expiration date, and Christ has a glorious new body for believers.

The second promise has to do with following Christ. Christ came to destroy sin and the devil’s control over us (see Acts 26:17 ). If we think of sin as darkness, then Christ is promising to light up our lives. This is in the present tense in the Greek, so these things that Christ promised begin now and later find completion when we get to heaven.

What Peter’s concerned about in this passage is that we arrive safe and sound in heaven—a basic concern that any good shepherd of Christ would have. We do this by taking the promises of God and acting as if they are really for us. Given to us as something we should seriously build our lives upon

We’re full citizens of Christ’s Kingdom now, but we’re living in a hostile land that questions the validity of God’s good promises. By “partakers in the divine nature,” Peter is echoing what Paul the apostle taught in Philippians, and since Paul there provides a very clear description of that what that divine nature looks like in us now, I will end my devotion with it: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1‑5, NIV)

Kingdom Culture – Forgiveness

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossian 3:12‑15 (NLT)

The last few devotions have been about Kingdom Culture. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, but we’re supposed to live like citizens of His kingdom now. That’s what this text here from Colossians is about. Notice that verse 13 says that we are to “make allowance for each other’s faults”. Do you hear the amazing grace in the verse? Essential Christian attributes, like “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” in verse 12 include forgiving each other. Why?

While we live in this world, we are not citizens of this world, we are temporary residents. As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, we have a higher calling. But, surrounded as we are, by the citizens of this sinful world, we can act; well, without “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” very naturally. God’s suggests that we keep in mind how easy it is for us to blow it. It’s a passionate plea to extend to others that same kindness that we have in Christ. It’s interesting that genuine appreciation of God’s amazing grace in Christ makes us see how much we need to extend it to others. In other words, without Christ’s forgiveness and grace, we don’t deserve, and we couldn’t earn, any “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” from God. So, the more we understand this, the more we apply it to others. Why? It’s because these attributes come through the Spirit of God working in us, giving us a profound and abiding love for what Jesus Christ has done for us.

Kingdom Culture – 2

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. 3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do. 8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Ephesians 5:1‑9 (NLT)

Every family in the world has its own unique culture. Culture is values that influence our daily lifestyle, our habits, our traditions, what we do and what we don’t do. Some families eat hot dish and jello salad, others eat beans and rice. Some families go to Las Vegas for vacation, others go camping in the woods.

Where do we get this culture? Children learn through watching and listening to everyday experiences at home. As they grow, they copy their parents. What the parents say, the children say; what the parents do, the children do (for better, or for worse). Soon or later, children are exposed to different families and different lifestyles. I can remember, when I was a child, copying one of my friends and afterwards hearing my parents say, “Don’t do that.” Of course, my reply was, “But, Jason does it. His mom lets him do it.” I bet you already know the reply, “I don’t care what Jason does. We don’t do that.”

This is what God is telling us. We are his own dear children, adopted into his family. Our new heavenly family has a different culture, and different values. There is a world all around us, promoting values and lifestyles opposed to those of our heavenly Father; as irreconcilable as darkness and light. But God says we don’t do that. We are children of light, and these things are not for us, these things have no place in our family. We imitate our Father. We imitate Jesus, our Savior. Because God loved us, we love too. We love God, we love what He loves, we love those He loves, we live in love. This is our family culture.

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. 1996. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 436). New York: United Bible Societies

“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’” Daniel 3:28‑29 (NIV)

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.” So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense… 9 I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene… 12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests… 13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting… 17…I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’” Acts 26:1, 9, 13‑17 (NLT)