October 23, 2021

Listen for the Cries for Justice - The Book of James Bible Series

***

Hello, Sweet Readers!  I bet you thought I forgot about you!  Or gave up... but look - here we are, nearing the end of October and we are digging into Chapter FIVE!!!  We've almost made it! We can do this!

I hope you have been getting a lot out of going through this Book ever so slowly this year. Verse by verse, precept upon precept... I hope things have both encouraged and challenged you, as they have me!  Who's ready for chapter five?

TODAY'S VERSES ARE JAMES CHAPTER 5, VERSES 1-6! 


WE BEGIN BY READING OUR VERSES TOGETHER HERE FROM THE PASSION TRANSLATION BIBLE:

"Listen all you who are rich, for it’s time to weep and howl over the misery that will overtake you! Your riches lie rotting, your fine clothing eaten by moths, and your gold and silver are corroded as a witness against you. You have hoarded up treasure for the last days but it will become a fire to burn your flesh. Listen! Can’t you hear the cries of the laborers over the wages you fraudulently held back from those who worked for you? The cries for justice of those you’ve cheated have reached the ears of the Lord of armies!

You have indulged yourselves with every luxury and pleasure this world offers, but you’re only stuffing your heart full for a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered good and innocent people who had no power to defend themselves." (The Passion Translation)

Oh yeah... James can be - uh - a bit much! 

James again calls out to the wealthy and tells them it's time now to weep and howl over the misery that will overtake them. Fun times. 
The Aramaic word for misery here can refer to demonic torment. Again... super fun. 

Remember, these Chapter breaks are not in the original letter, so if we back up just a verse or two, we'll recall that James was talking about making plans without really consulting God and he was addressing those who know the right thing to do but aren't doing it and how that is sin to them. So it's a natural progression to go from missing opportunities to do good, to talking about the rich who maybe enjoy their wealth and the luxury it buys without taking the opportunities presented to them to do said (or implied) good. 

We live in America and much of what brings people from all over the globe to our shores is the promise of trying to attain the American Dream.  Listen - we are a consumer-based culture and we want all the things... but it turns out the Dream of our Father is freedom, not independence and those two things are not always the same thing!  We are called to a Family --grafted into One Body... we are supposed to take care of each other! Not in a mandated, socialist kind of way --but in a Love One Another, be like Jesus kind of way!

For much longer than I have been alive, the masses have been taken advantage of and served the elite.  Jesus - the King of the World - came to show us a different way! So, honestly: "The cries for justice of those you’ve cheated have reached the ears of the Lord of armies!" This should strike fear only in the hearts of the ones who know this is what they have done... what they continue to do!

Cheaters and Liars, man.  It can feel like they will just always get away with it --but James assures us that our cries of injustice... our cries FOR justice... they do not go unheard.  

I truly believe that this is the day and hour that we will see more and more of these verses come into play!  Again - God is so much smarter than me and I could not have planned the timing of this study. But He knew... He knows... 

--

Next, let's read our verses in The Voice:

"Hey, you rich folk, misery is on its way; so cry and moan because you will watch your riches rot before your eyes as the moths devour your fine clothes. Your stockpile of silver and gold is tarnished and corroded, and this rust will stand up in the final judgment and testify against you. It will eat your flesh like fire and become a permanent and painful reminder that you have hoarded your wealth through these last days. Listen. You held back a just wage from the laborers who mowed your fields, and that money is crying out against you, demanding that justice be done. The cries of the people who harvested your crops and made you a profit have fallen upon the ears of the supreme Lord of heavenly armies. Your life on the earth has been one of luxury, pleasure, and endless consumption; you have feasted to your hearts’ content on animals you slaughtered, but now the day of slaughter comes for you. You have condemned and murdered the righteous man, and he did not defend himself." (The Voice)

(Does anyone else picture King George from Hamilton The Musical here?)

For a long time, there have been cries for Justice... God, who is a God of Justice is also the same God who said He desires Mercy over Judgment.  Man, He is so patient and so kind.

For many years we have been pressing into the fact that He is a Good, Good Father because somehow that got twisted and lost in translation and for too long we thought He was an angry God.  This was a much-needed course correction. However, I fear in our awakening to His great Love and Kindness, we have made Him to be just like us... and in our getting to know Him more, we have maybe become too familiar with Him. Too casual... too 'No Worries -Jesus is Grace and Love' and 'He's cool, man.'

And He is! He IS all of those things... 
   but He is also Just!

      (Something about Great and Greatly to be Feared!)

--

Lastly, my favorite translation: The Message Bible:

"And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.

All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it." (The Message Bible)

It's no secret that I adore Eugene Peterson and his work in translating The Message Bible. I love how he pinpoints who James is really talking to here.  It's not just the rich! We know, of course, it is not a sin to be rich.  However, to be arrogant and rich - well, now. It seems James is calling for some self-awareness and repentance... and some lament just may be in order! If you find your salvation and security, your identity and importance, in your bank account rather than your Bible -well, James is talking to you, here.

We know, right, that there is more to life than the pursuit of the American Dream... more to life than a big house, cars, college paid for, vacations, designer clothes, etc.  None of those things are bad... but in all our getting, let's get Wisdom from on High and let's let Love lead us... let's live together - not pushing each other down as we climb and claw to the top, but rather lift each other up as we fight for the bottom!

***

Let's pray: 

Father God, We come before You today so thankful! Thankful for Your great love and mercy. Thankful for the way You bless and for the way You give us every opportunity to choose right... to do good.  Lord, we thank You that the cries for Justice do not fall on deaf ears... they do not go unheard or - eventually - unacted upon! Thank You, Jesus, that You are a God of Justice and Mercy --for we need both!

For the times we have been rich - and unaware... and have missed chances to do good with our money or influence, Lord we repent.  Forgive us and wake us up to open doors and invitations in the future!  

For the ways we have become hardened, prideful, or arrogant -- Lord, we ask for Holy Spirit Conviction.  Help us to humble ourselves, Lord.  Help us to remember that You are God and we are not.  That EVERY good and perfect gift comes from You and is showered down on us through Your Hands.  Help us to hold on to things loosely, but to cling to You with all our strength!

Thank You Jesus that we are seen and known and protected in Your and by Your Blood. You are our Redeemer and Provider and we trust You, oh Lord! We trust You to lead and guide us into all that You have for us.  Hold our hearts close and show us how to be the Body and the Bride more and more and more!

For the King and His Kingdom,
In Jesus' Name!
Amen!

***
I would LOVE to hear some feedback from you, Sweet Readers!  What did you think of this portion of Scripture?

Thinking of the whole study so far, what has stood out to you or stuck with you the most?  What have you learned or noticed in this study of James that you hadn't really realized or knew before?

Until next time,

October 7, 2021

It Seems Everyone is Violating God's Law of Love lately! The Book of James Bible Series

***

Happy Thursday, Friends!  It's time to dig into more of James! I'm so grateful that the Lord highlighted this letter for us to focus on this year... it is so needed and has been so helpful!
You know the drill: Grab something yummy to drink, get your Bible, and let's dive in!

LET'S DIG IN! TODAY'S VERSES ARE JAMES CHAPTER 4, VERSES 11-17! 


We begin by reading our verses together here from The Passion Translation Bible:

"Dear friends, as part of God’s family, never speak against another family member, for when you slander a brother or sister you violate God’s law of love. And your duty is not to make yourself a judge of the law of love by saying that it doesn’t apply to you, but your duty is to obey it! There is only one true Lawgiver and Judge, the One who has the power to save and destroy—so who do you think you are to judge your neighbor.

September 23, 2021

Surrender, Stand, Resist, (Repeat) - The Book of James Bible Series

***

Hello again, Sweet Readers!  It's so great to meet you here as we dive into more of James!  Grab something Fall-like and festive to sip on along with your Bible, and let's get started!

LET'S DIG IN! TODAY'S VERSES ARE JAMES CHAPTER 4, VERSES 6-10! 

We begin by reading our verses together here from The Passion Translation Bible:

"But he continues to pour out more and more grace upon us. For it says, “God resists you when you are proud but continually pours out grace when you are humble.”

So then, surrender to God. Stand up to the devil and resist him and he will flee in agony. Move your heart closer and closer to God, and he will come even closer to you. But make sure you cleanse your life, you sinners, and keep your heart pure and stop doubting. Feel the pain of your sin, be sorrowful and weep! Let your joking around be turned into mourning and your joy into deep humiliation. Be willing to be made low before the Lord and he will exalt you!" (The Passion Translation)

I'm going to just say it upfront... this is another hard part of James --but only because he speaks the truth so bluntly and he makes it hard to ignore! 

Let's start with the not-so-hard part first... 'he continues to pour out more and more grace..."  That phrase there can also be translated, "he gives us a greater gift" or "the grace or favor he gives us is stronger."  Remember in when a verse starts with 'But', or 'And', or 'Therefore', (etc.) it's always a good idea to back up a verse or two...  

September 9, 2021

Flirting with the World - The Book of James Bible Series

***

Welcome back, Sweet Readers!  It's time again for another installment in our James Series! I'm so glad to have you here in my little corner of the interwebs! Grab something yummy to drink, and your Bible, and let's dig in!


ARE YOU READY? LET'S GO! OUR VERSES FOR TODAY ARE JAMES CHAPTER 4, VERSES 1-5! 

As has become our habit, we will start by reading it together in The Passion Translation Bible:

"What is the cause of your conflicts and quarrels with each other? Doesn’t the battle begin inside of you as you fight to have your own way and fulfill your own desires? You jealously want what others have so you begin to see yourself as better than others. You scheme with envy and harm others to selfishly obtain what you crave—that’s why you quarrel and fight. And all the time you don’t obtain what you want because you won’t ask God for it! And if you ask, you won’t receive it for you’re asking with corrupt motives, seeking only to fulfill your own selfish desires. You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!

August 28, 2021

Live Well, Wisely, & Humbly - The Book of James Bible Series

***

It's that time again!  Time to open the Word up to the Book of James and read a handful of verses here together and let the truth of them soak in deep! 

Are you ready? Let's go! Our verses for today are James Chapter 3, verses 13-18! 


Let's read it together here, starting with The Passion Translation Bible:

"If you consider yourself to be wise and one who understands the ways of God, advertise it with a beautiful, fruitful life guided by wisdom’s gentleness. Never brag or boast about what you’ve done and you’ll prove that you’re truly wise. But if there is bitter jealousy or competition hiding in your heart, then don’t deny it and try to compensate for it by boasting and being phony. For that has nothing to do with God’s heavenly wisdom but can best be described as the wisdom of this world, both selfish and devilish. So wherever jealousy and selfishness are uncovered, you will also find many troubles and every kind of meanness.

But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace." (The Passion Translation)

Well, who among us would consider ourselves wise?  And - after reading the above Scripture, would you still? I love the encouragement to advertise your wisdom simply by living a beautiful, fruitful life guided by gentleness.  Hmm... why do we think Wisdom is shouty and boastful and loud? (Oh wait... turns out, THAT is not wisdom!) I was reading an article the other day and I can't remember who to credit it to but the author was pointing out that the more a Christian matures in their faith, the less LOUD they get about it.  Not less passionate about sharing but less preachy, maybe? Less judgy.  I know that is true of my own life/walk with the Lord. As a new believer, I thought it was sort of my job to prove my wisdom and share my knowledge... to 'help' course-correct others or attempt to convince them that I was right. That, my friends, can be exhausting --and (--it turns out!) counter-productive.  

It's like the saying goes, the more you know - the more you know you don't know. 

Embracing this truth enables us to live well, wisely, and humbly. We must remain teachable and allow the Holy Spirit to root out jealousy or competition! 

In James 3:16, the greek word for 'jealousy' implies an obsession to promote one's self at the expense of others, and the Aramaic word for 'many troubles' can be translated 'instability' or 'disorder'.  When I look around the world today - or simply turn on the news for a few minutes, I see all kinds of meanness 'instability' and 'disorder'!  

We are called to operate out of a different kind of Wisdom! Let's not get caught up in the wrong kind... but wisdom from heaven is pure, considerate, and teachable! In other words, someone who operates in heavenly wisdom can be easy to correct, is ready to be convinced or at least is willing to yield to others. (This requires the ability and desire and disciplined practice of listening! And not just to those who already agree with us --but to those who vehemently disagree, too!) 

I include myself when I say, this doesn't sound fun. I am fairly non-confrontational and I would just rather not. I'd rather not argue or get angry... but heavenly wisdom stands for truth, while still being willing to engage with those who seem to be opposite. How will we learn... iron sharpens iron but we have to be willing to be sharpened. It seems in this culture of being so divided, both 'sides' are unwilling. We must pray - for ourselves and in our own lives, as well as for our nation and world!

--

Let's read it in The Voice:

"Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.?" (The Voice)

As I have stated before (earlier in this series, I believe!) The Voice is a version of the Bible that is aimed at Middle Schoolers... so it makes things pretty easy to grasp! I invite you to take a moment and actually think of your answer to the question, "Who in your community is understanding and wise?"  I mean - in this cultural climate - you may be able to think of one or the other... but both? That feels like a harder find. Wisdom and Gentleness? Yeah - those are not so much hand-in-hand in these days, right? I mean - of course - they SHOULD be! But it seems rare.

Wisdom of this world should not be mistaken for heavenly wisdom.
They are not the same.

--

Let's read it in The Amplified Bible:

"Who among you is wise and intelligent? Let him by his good conduct show his [good] deeds with the gentleness and humility of true wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be arrogant, and [as a result] be in defiance of the truth. This [superficial] wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly (secular), natural (unspiritual), even demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder [unrest, rebellion] and every evil thing and morally degrading practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits. It is unwavering, without [self-righteous] hypocrisy [and self-serving guile]. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness (spiritual maturity) is sown in peace by those who make peace [by actively encouraging goodwill between individuals]. (The Amplified Bible)

I know it can feel repetitive when we read the same verses over and over.  This is why I love to read the same portion in different translations or paraphrases.  The Amplified Bible takes the original language and expands or amplifies the original meaning so it's easier for us to understand! 

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder [unrest, rebellion] and every evil thing and morally degrading practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure [morally and spiritually undefiled], then peace-loving [courteous, considerate], gentle, reasonable [and willing to listen], full of compassion and good fruits."

Well now... that makes it real clear, doesn't it?  I don't know about you - but my heart and soul is LONGING for more of this! We NEED more of this, friends! Rather than continued competition and eating our own, let's be intentional with our words and actions to tap into the wisdom from above! (Remember, we've been given the mind of Christ and James said earlier if we lack wisdom, to ask of God - who gives liberally, abundantly, to all who ask!)
--- 

Now comes one of my favorite translations: The Message Bible:

"Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish plotting. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor." (The Message Bible)

Oh, Eugene!  He is with Jesus now, face to face, and I can only imagine the depth of their conversations!  I am so grateful that we benefit from some of them as he translated The Message Bible.  

If we want a healthy, robust community (read: church, family, country, world.) that lives right with God... there IS hard work to do.  It's not EASY to get along with each other or to treat each other with dignity and honor. It's not in our (old) nature --but we who are grafted in and adopted... we who are believers, we have been given a new nature and it resembles Jesus!  Man - do we need to follow hard after His example! 

Listen - did He always get along with everyone? No. No, He did not.  He stood for something (read: Truth!) and He was bold - and ALSO, full of grace. 

There may very well be coming a time when we are called to stand up for something (Truth!) too and how I hope we rise to the occassion and take courage and also strive to do the hard work of getting along that is required!

***

Let's pray: 

Father God,

In this day and hour, maybe more than any other time, we need wisdom! Lord, we know it... and we know there is a difference between earthly or worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. We can sense it and feel it.  We are a country that highly values education and intellegence, however much of that - it seems - does not bring the kind of fruit we are in need of! We need You, Lord... we need the mind of Christ to help navigate us through these perilous times. Lord, we want to be wise.  We want to have insight and knowledge and understanding. We want to know the truth... and to be set free. 

Jesus, put a check in our hearts and spirits when we find ourselves operating out of wisdom from earth... when we just want to be right - at any cost.  Help us to not be mean-spirited or boastful... to not twist the truth or give way to cunning or devilish plotting. Rather, help us to build a reputation for wisdom -- to be known and sought after for insight that comes not from fleshly intellect, but from spiritual discernment and heavenly guidance.

Lord, we know the Word tells us that real wisdom (--Your wisdom!) begins with a holy life... make us holy, Lord!  Enable and empower us to get along with others - to be gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings... even tempered... steadfast... stable and sure. 

Father, we long for a healthy and robust community... one that lives right with You and that enjoys the fruit of doing the hard work of getting along with each other! Whether it be under our own roofs, or in our individual churches, in our cities or country or world... Lord we ask that You will finish the work You started in us!

We want what You want --which is Unity. Unity, Lord, we know is not sameness.  We long to be one as You are One. We want Peace to reign and righteousness, joy, and the Holy Spirit to be present in our daily living... for that is the Kingdom of God! Jesus, we are one body, with one lord... remind us to love like You love... to treat each other with dignity and honor --even if/when we disagree!  Let wisdom become mature in us... give us words to speak when You call us to stand up strong... but also let our LIVES speak louder in the ways to live out our day to day routines.  We thank You for your Word... for the encouragement and correction that it brings.  Remind us to turn to You and Your Word when we are lacking wisdom, rather than other sources. We ask that YOU become our Plumbline once again and that when all is said and done -- we are known as a people who love God and who love each other well and who operate in the wisdom of heaven!

For the King and His Kingdom, 

In Jesus' Name!
Amen!

***
I hope you come back in about two weeks as we dive in to Chapter 4 in the book of James!

And as
 always, if you missed a post or just stumbled upon us, you can go HERE and scroll to the bottom to find each installment of this series as it is published!

Until next time, Sweet Readers, let's purpose to:

August 14, 2021

Are We Sending the Whole World Up In Smoke? - The Book of James Bible Series

***

Hello, Sweet Readers!  Here I am, 'late' again!  I mean - sure... it is somewhat of a self-imposed deadline, but it's one that I mapped out after praying about this series so I still feel tied to it... but life, man?! Am I right?

At any rate, here we are - together... ready to dig into more of Chapter 3! 

Let's go! Here is our portion of Scripture for today: James Chapter 3, verses 6-12! 


Let's read it together here, starting with The Passion Translation Bible:

"And the tongue is a fire! It can be compared to the sum total of wickedness and is the most dangerous part of our human body. It corrupts the entire body and is a hellish flame! It releases a fire that can burn throughout the course of human existence.

For every wild animal on earth including birds, creeping reptiles, and creatures of the sea and land have all been overpowered and tamed by humans, but the tongue is not able to be tamed. It’s a fickle, unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison! We use our tongue to praise God our Father and then turn around and curse a person who was made in his very image! Out of the same mouth we pour out words of praise one minute and curses the next. My brothers and sisters, this should never be!

Would you look for olives hanging on a fig tree or go to pick figs from a grapevine? Is it possible that fresh and bitter water can flow out of the same spring? So neither can a bitter spring produce fresh water." (The Passion Translation)

We know when we start with an 'And', we need to recap a bit, right? 

July 29, 2021

Control Yourselves... The Book of James Bible Series

***

Hello, friend!  I hope your summer is going well - I can't believe we are already near August! Which may or may not explain why this is technically a few days late! It's fine. We're fine. Everything is fine. (For real.)
We're back with another installment in our Book of James Bible Series and today we dig into the first 5 verses of Chapter 3! 

Let's go! Here is our portion of Scripture for today: James Chapter 3, verses 1-5! We get to focus on one of my favorite subjects: The Power of Your Words!


Let's read it together here, starting with The Passion Translation Bible:

"My dear brothers and sisters, don’t be so eager to become a teacher in the church since you know that we who teach are held to a higher standard of judgment. We all fail in many areas, but especially with our words. Yet if we’re able to bridle the words we say we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way, and that means our character is mature and fully developed. Horses have bits and bridles in their mouths so that we can control and guide their large body. And the same with mighty ships, though they are massive and driven by fierce winds, yet they are steered by a tiny rudder at the direction of the person at the helm.

And so the tongue is a small part of the body yet it carries great power! Just think of how a small flame can set a huge forest ablaze." (The Passion Translation)

Blog Archive