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!

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? 

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