Tag Archives: James

The voice of the enemy vs. the voice of truth

voice of truth

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

 Do you ever get these voices from somewhere within that nag at you, or remind you of dumb things you have done?  And, do you ever have things happen and someone else comes at you with the voice of the enemy?  For me, it’s echos of the words of the ‘mean girls’ that I grew up around, or the insults of one of my brothers putting  down at every chance.    And there are others close to me, that when times of stress come, that say the words of the enemy.  They say things that I don’t need to hear, things that pull me down, and are words of anger and blame.

This is not what God thinks of us.  God calls out to us words of truth about ourselves, about those around us, about our past, and about His plans for us.  In fact, Zephaniah 3:17 that He “exults over us with loud singing.”  God quiets us with His love and sings songs over us because He loves us.

The voice of the enemy lies, taunts, and casts seeds of doubt. In Isaiah 36, there is the account of where Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was taunting the Jews and King Hezekiah.  In Isaiah 36:14-18, Sennacherib sent messengers to taunt the people of Judah: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you.  He cannot deliver you!  Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord…when he says ‘The Lord will deliver you,’ don’t believe him.”

Satan and his demons will tell you the same lies, either taunting your thoughts or through the statements of others.  They are things like, “The Lord doesn’t love you…He doesn’t hear your prayers…Look at you–you’re a mess.  Who do you think you are?”  1 Peter 5:8 describes Satan as an adversary who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, and John 10:10 as the thief who steals, kills and destroys.

Our response:  In Isaiah 36:21 we find, “But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king said, ‘Do not answer him.’”  Don’t negotiate with terrorists.  Don’t answer Satan and get into a debate.  Speak truth out loud.  John 8:44 tells us “Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with truth because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

Learn fighting words.  Jesus told Peter who said that He must never go to the cross, “Get thee behind me Satan,” in Matthew 16:23.  We must tell Satan the same thing.  As James 4:7 states, “Resist the devil and he will flee.”  Tell him to get lost in the name of Jesus.  Revelation 12:10-11 calls Satan the accuser of our brothers who accuses them day and night before God, but they conquered him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.  If you have called out to God to redeem your past, it is covered by the blood of the lamb.  Speak what God has done out loud, and don’t give Satan any hidden secrets to blackmail you with.

The voice of the enemy condemns.  Satan will whisper lies about you not being forgiven, that God promises are for everyone else but you, that you don’t deserve God’s love, that you’re nothing but a schmuck…When you believe those lies and have nothing but self contempt and anger, he’s got you right where he wants you.  You may think that whatever bad happens is because it’s your fault, or that you deserve only calamity, that things will never work out, that something bad is lurking and you live with fear, worry and untrusting thoughts.

Because you believe those words about yourself, if you do, then you are quick to say those things to others when the pressure is on.  Matthew 12:35 reports, “The good person brings good things out of the good stored up in him and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  I’m not calling you evil, but if you don’t kick those thoughts out of your innermost being, that’s what comes out.

Immerse yourself in truth that sinks into what you truly believe about yourself.  Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold You delight in truth in my inner being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret place (or secret heart).”  If I kick out the lies of the enemy in the core of my being and store up God’s truth about myself, about others and about the character of God–that’s what will come out in times of pressure.  When a toothpaste tube is squeezed, what is inside comes out.

The voice of truth, words from the Bible, tells us:

  • I will never leave or forsake you.  Hebrews 13:5
  • We are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10
  • There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1
  • Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  Romans 8:35
  • If you confess your sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
  • We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  Philippians 4:13
  • God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

This is a great song by Ellie Holcomb, called “Fighting Words.”  Check it out:

 


What does it look like to be a Christian?

faith in action

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:26-27

James gets straight to the point of what it means to be doers of the Word and not just hearers.  He uses the words ‘religious’ and ‘religion.’  Those are words we try to avoid as Christians.  We want to emphasize that we are resting in what God has “done” for us via Jesus and the cross, not what we “do” to be acceptable to God.  But James dives in, using the words and then telling us three things that  true ‘religion’ should include:

  1. Our tongues must be bridled.  In James 3:8 he writes, “no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  But God can tame our tongue, through the power of His Holy Spirit.  A Christian, then, is someone who “walks by the Spirit and does not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16).  If we name the name of Jesus, our speech must be controlled by the Holy Spirit as a pattern.  If we aren’t marked by walking in the Spirit, then we are fooling ourselves about our true relationship with Jesus.  James calls our faith ‘worthless.’    In fact, so do the people around us.   Ouch.
  2. Our time is spent visiting orphans, widows and those afflicted.  Doing those things doesn’t ‘save’ us.  But going out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves is a byproduct of our salvation.   Because I belong to Jesus, my heart should break with what breaks His heart.  Orphans and widows must be at the top of the list for James to specifically mention them.  Many other places include the poor and the oppressed on God’s list for us to care about, including Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25:31-46.
  3. Our lives are marked by being unstained from the world.  The Amish use this as their proof text for living in a cloister without lights and machinery.  Are we supposed to become Amish?  In John 17:15-16 Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  The question is how to really be ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ the world.  In James 4:4 James called us adulterous people, saying “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  

Lord, bridle my tongue and control me with Your Holy Spirit.  Put Your agenda on my heart so that I go out of my way to bleed for widows, orphans and the afflicted.  Show me where I am standing on the wrong side with my affections.  I do not want to be an adulterer, nor do I want my faith to be worthless, shallow and self centered.  Move me by Your love and Your power today.

 


Here’s My Heart Lord

Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20

Both Ephesians 4:31 and Colossians 3:8 command us to put away anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk, as well as clamor (chaos or drama).  I suppose all of those cousins of anger keep us from being good listeners.  Go back to James 1:4.  In the ESV it reads, “Let steadfastness (perseverance, endurance, patience)  have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete…”  

That means we have to let, or to allow, God to do His work in our lives.  We also have to let go of resentments, bitterness, our tendency to get revenge and to back stab.  We’ll look first at how to let God do the work in us that leads to righteousness, and enables us to be quick to hear and slow to speak, as well as slow to anger.

  • James 1:21 gives us our first clue: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”  The ‘implanted Word’ is the Bible at work in our lives.  It is able to save our souls, according to this verse.  We are to receive it with meekness, which is another word for humility.  We get the implanted Word from preaching, sound teaching and from our own reading and studying.  All of this needs to be aimed at applying its truth to our hearts and lives.  That’s where humility comes in.  Instead of hearing a sermon and thinking, “My sister should hear this,” we must listen for ourselves and ask God what it is that He wants us to implement.
  • 2 Timothy 2:22 commands us to, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  If you try to get rid of a bad habit without putting a good habit in its place, you are bound to fail.  We are to chase after righteousness and hang with people who do the same.  Don’t be a companion of fools.  Pursuing righteousness involves monitoring all of the music, tv shows, movies, books and things in your environment.  Instead, spend your time reading Godly books, worship music that lifts up Jesus, and fellowshipping with like minded people.  Pray and ask to help you to find them.

Now for how to ‘let go of’ the things that we are to put away.

  • Do a fierce moral inventory and see who and what you are holding on to bitterness and resentment about.  Give them to God, asking Him to forgive you for holding onto the bitterness and then forgiving the person who wronged you.  Ask God to show you if you have “anything against anyone.”  Bitterness fuels drama and forgiveness fuels a peaceful heart.  Forgiveness enables you to walk away from drama and backstabbing.
  • Do a clean sweep in your house and life.  Get rid of things that keep you from pursuing righteousness, burn them if necessary.  End bad relationships as gracefully as you can.  Do the hard work of finding new friends and  hobbies.
  • Embrace God’s forgiveness.  Psalm 103:12 promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  Corrie Ten Boom has said that God throws our sins into the deepest part of the ocean and puts a ‘No Fishing Allowed’ sign on it.  Don’t get bound up in anger against yourself because of things in the past.  Do what Paul urged in Philippians 3:13, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”  If Satan reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future!

This song is a cry for God to do a work in our lives.  It’s so good.  Click on the link:

Here’s My Heart, Lord by David Crowder

 

 

 


Need wisdom?

wisdom.jpg

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But 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 in the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  James 1:5-8

A dear co-worker’s family has been going through some upheaval with her husband’s job.  It has been a three month roller coaster and they have faced several forks in the road where each choice would take their family down an entirely different path.  He lost over ten pounds in the process because he was so worried he couldn’t eat.  My word to both of them was this passage: if you need wisdom, ask for it and God will give it to you.

Her response was to say, “I guess we haven’t prayed about it.”  How easy it is to name the name of Jesus, but yet not apply Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your steps.”  The husband’s response when I shared the James 1 verses with him was interesting.  He shook his head like he was smacked by the verse and asked, “would you say that again?”  It seemed like such a different idea to him to think that if he needed wisdom to simply ask God and He’ll give it to you.

James tells us that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask.  That’s a great promise.  When he declares that God will give us wisdom to all without reproach, that  means that God doesn’t find fault, he won’t rebuke or criticize us.  I hate telling someone about something that happened or is happening and they jump in with criticism that starts with, “You should have…” or “Why didn’t you…”  God promises that He will give us His wisdom generously and He won’t tell us how stupid we are for getting into that jam in the first place.

James  also gives us some conditions to our asking for wisdom.  We are to ask in faith, without doubting that God is listening to us, that He cares, or that He can actually do something about our situation.  It’s like bringing an umbrella to a prayer meeting calling out for rain.  We need to come to God believing that He can do anything, without ‘hedging our bets.’  That indicates that we bet on both sides just in case God doesn’t come through.

James calls that double minded faith, saying that such a person will not receive anything from the Lord and even calls them ‘unstable.’  Having a half-hearted or not-all-in faith sounds like that in God’s eyes it doesn’t amount to much.  James 1:7 also tells us that such a person will not receive anything from the Lord.

So when you need wisdom, ask God for it.  He gives it generously to anyone who asks, without criticizing or casting blame.  But ask in faith, being all-in when it comes to trusting God.  To my co-worker, stop trying to figure things out on your own.  You say you believe in God, so now it’s time to trust Him, do things His way, and place your life in His hands.  When you do, ‘you’re in good hands,’ as the All State commercial rings out.

 


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

makes you stronger.jpg

Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

I didn’t have a very good week.  The  first day of my much awaited month off  started with an extreme gallbladder attack, though I didn’t know what it was for a day.  Day two involved having it removed.  Day 5, I hit a deer, smashing our car and causing the airbags to go off.   Our deductible from our health insurance will cost up to $8000 out of pocket.  

Different versions use the words perseverance, endurance and patience instead of steadfastness.   So, be joyful when troubles come your way, and be steady, persevering, patient, and not crumbling like a cheap card table.  Somehow our trials and troubles, given their full effect, will make us mature, perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said that they thought they were going to die and didn’t think they could endure.  But then he said it happened so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead.  Paul was saying there was a purpose in his suffering, which was so that he wouldn’t rely on himself, but on God.  I’ve been saving extra money away, dreaming of retiring from my job which has gotten more grueling for several reasons, including me getting older.  And in a snap that money goes toward something  else.  Perhaps God wants me to rely on Him and not my own resources.  

God also wants to produce in us  a wholehearted faith.   He values that so much that He may, in His love, take away all the other things that we might be tempted to rely on.  In my case, maybe it was money.  God’s aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence of Him, knowing that He’s all we need.

Finally, God wants our faith to be strong.  Being joyful when troubles come is a reaction that is counter our own emotional response.  Being steady and unwavering because God is our refuge in times of trouble can be a showcase for those around us to see His life at work in us.  Satan stood before God saying that Job’s faith was really because he was so rich and prosperous.  God responded by making a wager that if all of the stuff was gone, Job would still worship Him.  Job proved that his faith wasn’t built on all of the stuff, but that he worshiped God because God is worth it.   

Job’s faith was strong because God planted it in him, just like He did in Moses and the other Hall of Famers, and just like He does in us.  He will grow and build our faith, even protect it.  Jesus told Peter that in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

So take heart in your trials, making them a source of your joy.  God will use those troubles to cause us to rely on Him, and to show us that He’s all we need.  When we let God do His work in us through our struggles, He grows us.  God protects our faith even when we are sifted like wheat by Satan.  And in the end, it is “He who keeps us from falling and will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”


Our Times are in God’s hands

In studying the book of James, I am struck right away by James the man.  He was Jesus’ half brother, and apparently didn’t believe in His deity until after the resurrection.  In 1 Corinthians 15:7 we find that Jesus appeared to James after he rose again, not to rub it in his face, but to call him to follow. He took on leadership in the Early Church, as seen in Acts 12:17 when after Peter’s angelic jail break he says “Go tell James.”  James, the brother of John, had just been beheaded by Herod.  James also took on leadership with the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15.  

So my thoughts have to do with God’s timing in our lives.  There’s this Greek word “Kairos” which has to do with time.  There are two parts to it: chronological or fixed time, (chronos) and the right or opportune moment.

James could have beat himself up about missing getting all he could have from Jesus during the first 33 years or so.  I think of people who become Christians later in life that might think the same thing.  I’ve heard them grieve this, doubting themselves and God.  But God has this time thing in His sovereign hands.

Jerry Bridges writes in his book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, that there are three essential truths we must believe about God if we are to trust Him with our lives:

  1. God is completely sovereign (can do what He wants when He wants)
  2. God is infinite in wisdom
  3. God is perfect in love

We must trust God’s timing and perfect work in our lives.  My brother in law always says “If it’s and nuts were candy and nuts, Christmas would be year ’round.”  We have to give God our if’s and but’s.  Acts 17:26-27 says that God establishes our boundaries and our times so that we would seek Him and perhaps find Him.  So He works according to His timetable to bring us to Him and to accomplish a purpose He has in store.

Psalm 31:15 states “My times are in Your hand.”  May we be able to say that with trust in a sovereign God who works the kinks of our lives for specific purposes, just like with James.


A Vapor and a Mist

“Now listen you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you don not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are just a vapor and a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”  James 4:13,14

About a month ago, I was heading down the stairs to head to bed just like I have countless times over the last 15 years in this house.  I don’t know what happened, but about five steps from the bottom and not a lot of space from said step to imposing wall below, I launched.  My head slammed straight into the wall, and I managed to not only get a softball sized knot on my forehead, but also cracked a rib, jammed a couple of digits and twisted my knee.  Not a good idea.

My husband pulled me to my feet while I was still reeling and I stumbled to bed, shaking and dazed.  He was quickly snoring, causing the surreal-ness of the event to be amplified, as if I hadn’t just almost took myself out.  Stream of consciousness thoughts briefly followed.  “I wonder if it’s a concussion.  Should I go to sleep?  What if I don’t wake up?”  Snore.  Then the next thought:  “Am I ready to meet God?”  My answer to my own question, “Yeah.”  Pause.  “Then whatever.”  And then I fell asleep.  There wasn’t any music, no deceased parents calling “walk to the light,” nothing.

I woke up the next morning, still dazed but definitely alive and I thought “maybe it should have been more profound than that if I thought I might go to sleep and not wake up.”  And then I thought that I probably should have been bothered if that was it and I was going to meet Jesus and give an account of my life.

But maybe that’s how quickly we can pass from this life to the next.  It’s probably not like the movies where music is supplied and someone’s life looks so heroic or filled with gusto.  Like the lady in the next community last week whose car got pulled by slush and was smashed by a semi beyond recognition.  Or my friend who had strep and didn’t know it and went to the doctor in the morning and was dead that evening.

mist       So we better be ready because we know not our time.  And the only thing that matters if we are         squared away with God because of personally laying hold of what Jesus did on the cross.  Hopefully when it   is my “time” I have more to say than “Yeah, whatever.”