The Student Bible (NIV) had this to say regarding the book of James: “Where there is life, there is motion. Some antelopes, as well as the cheetah, can sprint faster than the legal speed limit for cars. Bighorn sheep, charging one another headfirst, collide with such force that the sound echoes like a gunshot through mountain ranges. Canada geese, fanned out across the sky in an orderly V, battle winds for 1,000 miles, nonstop, before dropping back to earth. Sometimes we keep relics of life: an elk head hanging above a fireplace, a fragile, perfect seashell, an exotic butterfly mounted on a pin. But these are mere mementos: life has gone from them, and with it motion. Movement does not cause life, but it does invariably follow life. It’s a sure sign that life is present. Similarly, genuine faith in Christ should always result in actions that demonstrate the faith.” James encouraged his readers to live consistent Christian lives in the midst of persecution for their faith in Christ.

1:2-4: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” God may allow testing for the purpose of bringing forth faith and patience, which ultimately honor Him, as in the case of Job. It is interesting to note that James wrote in 1:14-15: “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” Temptation can easily go in a downward spiral to death. But there is hope as James tells us in 1:18: “By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the first-fruits of His creatures.” When we face temptation, we are given a choice. We can either go in a downward spiral OR we can recognize that we are children of God through the cross of Christ and can trust in Him to prevent us from sinning. When we face temptation and do not sin, we are able to grow stronger in our faith and become more mature. Even if we fall by sinning, God can lift us up and we can learn from our mistakes and mature that way as well, however, that is certainly a more difficult path to take and has more risk of us not turning back to God. James tells us in 1:19, 21: “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil excess, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.”

1:25-27: “But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts—this person will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks he is religious, without controlling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” After reading verse 27, I could not help but to think that maybe this was meant to be BOTH a literal AND a proverbial instruction. Who are the widows? People who lost their loved ones, lost love. Who are the orphans? Children without parents, no source of care and guidance to direct them on the right path. It is the duty of a Christian to introduce orphans to their Heavenly Father, the One who will never abandon or forsake His children. It is the duty of a Christian to take the widows hand and introduce the Source of Love. He is in the business of healing broken and shattered hearts.

2:10, 12-13: “For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all. Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT!!!! We deserve to be judged by God, but He provides mercy through Jesus Christ. We then, can do no other, but to provide mercy to one another in the name of Jesus. Remember a certain verse in Luke 7: “But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” Let us be reminded that we all have been forgiven by the cross of Christ, and therefore should love as much as possible. Back to James 2:22, 26: “You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Terry Wilder pointed out that, “In the light of the above, Paul was saying that one is declared righteous by God apart from the works of the law. James, by contrast, was saying that a person’s faith produces works that vindicate his faith in Christ as genuine. James used Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac and Rahab’s protection of the spies as examples to show that their works authenticated the reality of their faith in God. For James, faith without works was clearly worthless; it must be more than words. Authentic faith will bear the fruit of good works.”

3:10-12: “Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.” What I found intriguing in these verses was that James is directing the reader to Jesus. It is Christ who is the Living Water, He is the Tree, we are the branches. If Jesus Christ is our Source of Life, how can we possibly curse one another? James states in 3:16-18: “For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

4:1-3: “What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.” Verse 3 is a hard hitter. We ask wrongly because it is for our pleasure. I can see those situations, where God says, “You want WHAT?!?!…WHY????” God knows what we want and why we want it, but more importantly, He knows what we NEED and provides those needs without question. James tells us in 4:8: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!” Point of Grace made an excellent point when they declared that we should have what we want, BUT want what we have. Can we ask God what we want? Absolutely. At the very least, it will strengthen our prayer life. Will God give us what we want? Sometimes. More often than not, those times where we get what we want, it does not always work out and we end up regretting it. Why do we regret it? Ultimately, we just wanted to satisfy our own desires. Things have a tendency to go a lot better when we look outside ourselves, pray for and help others. After all, God created us to be with one another, not to be on our own. James gives us some guidance in 4:15: “Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As well as 5:8: “You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

5:13-16: “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.” In the words of Patty Dudley, “Happy moments, praise God. – Difficult moments, seek God. – Quiet moments, worship God. – Painful moments, trust God. – Every moment, thank God…Without God our week would be: Sinday, Mournday, Tearsday, Thirstday, Fightday, and Shatterday. Seven days without God makes one weak.”

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