Sixty-eight Years – and He is Still Faithful!!!

I posted this in 2018 but today I celebrate 68 years of walking with my Savior, my best friend.

Life has had its ups and downs, but one thing has remained true. Jesus has been faithful to me through it all.

  • He was there when my father left my mother and I when I was fourteen. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Psalm 27:10
  • He was there when my husband was killed in an accident leaving me with two little girls to raise. “I will be with you always.” Matthew 28:20
  • He was there when the doctor told me “The odds are not in your favor” and gave me little hope of surviving more than a few more years. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Psalm 23
  • He is here as I began to age and face pain of arthritis and all the other issues of the aging. “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

In 74 years of life, I have made a lot of decisions, some good, some bad. But that decision as a six-year-old was the best one I ever made and one I have never regretted.

I Have My Rights!

Probably no country in the world has been more adamant about the rights of its citizens and the role of government in maintaining those rights. When the U.S. Constitution was written, three delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not sign it because it lacked a bill of rights.

Created in 1787 the Constitution became the official foundation of the USA in 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state out of the 13 to ratify it. Many states agreed to ratify it with the understanding that a bill of rights would be quickly added.

In 1789, 19 amendments were submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives. James Madison is given credit for writing them although it is believed others, including George Mason, who had refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, had given input. Seventeen of the 19 amendments were approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate approved 12 of them and in December 1791 the states had ratified ten of them.

Throughout the history of our country these amendments and the rights they gave have been debated and challenged in our courts. Today it is the Second Amendment that has produced so much disagreement and arguing.

The point of this post is not to argue for or against exactly what that amendment meant in regards to our right to possess guns.

But what distrurbs me is the role many evangelical leaders are taking in pushing an agenda of the “rights” of Christians. Many have been very hostile in speaking against those who do not agree with the “Christian” point of view. Sadly they seem to feel that their viewpoint is the “Christian” viewpoint and anyone who opposes that is clearly not a Christian.

The contrast between this militant voice of many evangelicals and the voice of Jesus shows that the Christian “right” has lost its Biblical connection.

Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus said we need to become a servant. To be a follower of Jesus does not mean you have no rights. It means you give up your rights freely in order to bless and help someone else.

Hear how Jesus was described:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

Although Jesus had a “right” to be treated like royalty he gave up that right and make himself “like a slave.” In doing so He modeled exactly what He meant when He said “If any man desires to be first, let him be last and servant of all.”

Jesus ministered in a country that was under the rule of another nation, the Roman Empire. There was much that was unjust in that time. But Jesus said nothing about trying to change the political scene. He said his kingdom was not of this world. He had a plan that was much bigger and greater than any government, any nation, any political party.

The issues we as Christians face in our country today do need to be faced and legislated and thank God because we have rights, we have the right to express ourselves. But we must not invest so much of our time and energy in trying to make our nation Christian by trying to force our beliefs on others that we fail to introduce them to a different kind of kingdom, one based on the love of God. (Laws may change behavior, but they will never change hearts.)

“Passing laws to enforce morality serves a necessary function, to dam up evil, but it never solves human problems. If a century from now all that historians can say about evangelicals of the 1990’s is that they stood for family values, then we will have failed the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish; to communicate God’s reconciling love to sinners….Jesus did not say ‘All men will know you are my disciples…if you just pass laws, suppress immorality and restore decency to family and government,’ but rather ‘if you love one another.’ “

He made that statement the night before His death, a night when human power, represented by the might of Rome and the full force of Jewish religious authorities, collided head-on with God’s power. All his life, Jesus had been involved in a form of “culture wars” against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire, yet he responded by giving his life for those who opposed him. On the cross, he forgave them. He had come, above all, to demonstrate love: “for God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son…”

Philip Yancey in his book “the jesus I never knew.” i highly recommend this book

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Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

Recently I posted about my visit to the Wesley Garden on St. Simon’s Island.

Looking at that visit, I was reminded of the list John Wesley created for the group of people who were gathering each week to pray and encourage one another in their walk with God.

He had a list of questions they would use in their gatherings to help them in their Christian commitment. These are good questions for us to also consider today.

Questions to Ask:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Did any of my words or actions this week cause someone harm?
  6. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  7. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  8. Did the Bible live in me today?
  9. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  10. Am I enjoying prayer?
  11. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?
  12. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  13. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  14. Do I disobey God in anything?
  15. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  16. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  17. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
  18. How do I spend my spare time?
  19. Am I proud?
  20. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, like the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  21. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  22. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  23. Is Christ real to me?

How Does Blood Make Me “White as Snow?”

The Christian religion puts a lot of emphasis on the blood of Jesus. Depending on what church you go to, you are asked to remember the death of Jesus by taking communion daily, weekly, monthly. Again, depending on what church you go to, you will told that this wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus – or is just a representation of the blood of Jesus.

Growing up in my church we often sang songs about the blood of Jesus.

What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

There is power in the blood of Jesus.

Oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus. It washes white as snow.

To be honest as a child I wondered how blood could make something white as snow. In our culture, we see blood as a stain. If we cut our finger and get blood on our clothes we immediately try to wash it out before it leaves a stain.

The Old Testament is full of the concept of using blood to cleanse. All the animal sacrifices were said to cover the people’s sins. Blood was to be sprinkled on a person with leprosy and on homes with mildew or mold. It was sprinkled on the priests as they began their ministry in the Temple.

The New Testament speaks often of the blood of Jesus making us clean and in the last book of the Bible we are told

they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

While I never understood how blood makes something white, I did believe that the death of Jesus somehow cleansed me from sin.

Recently I read a wonderful book called “In His Image.” The book is co-authored by two doctors who worked in India, one of them with the leprosy colony. Their description of the function of blood in our body is amazing.

When the writers of the Bible referred to the cleansing properties of blood, they had no knowledge of our body and how blood serves us. But, of course, God did.

Modern medical science has shown how using blood as a symbol of cleansing is so accurate when seen in our body.

The writers of the book suggest if you want to see the power of blood as a cleaning agent to put a blood pressure cuff on your arm, pump it up until it is as tight as possible and wait. After a few minutes of being uncomfortable, try to pick up a pencil or cut a piece of paper. They note that after a few minutes you not only will not be able to do those tasks, you will be in terrible pain. When you release the cuff and the blood comes rushing back in, you will find relief from the pain and you can function again.

The pain, they say, comes because you forced your muscles to keep working without any blood supply. As our muscles work, they produce waste products that are flushed away by the blood. When the blood was not allowed to flow through your arm, these waste products began to build up and you had pain from the toxins not removed by the blood.

The authors describe how our blood circulates through our body carrying toxins to our liver and kidneys to be removed and to our lungs so we can exhale the carbon dioxide and rid our body of this poison.

This example of how blood cleanses our body from toxins, is a great example of how the blood of Jesus does “wash us white as snow.” As we accept the forgiveness of Jesus, his sacrifice on Calvary cleanse us from the waste products we call sin. These sins are to our spirit like toxins to our body. If we do not get rid of them we will be poisoned spiritually just as our body would be if blood stopped flowing through our system.

The writers say:

Too often we tend to view sin as a private list of grievances that happen to irk God the Father, and in the Old Testament He seems easily irritated. But even a casual reading of the Old Testament shows that sin is a blockage, a paralyzing toxin that restricts our realization f our full humanity….Pride, egotism, lust and covetousness are simply poisons that interfere with our relationship to God and other people. Sin results in separation from God, other people, and our true selves.

I would encourage you to get this book “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. They share more insights into how marvelous our body is and how it points to the image of God.

Who’s Your Authority?

Heard a great sermon today on the principle of authority and respect. Pastor mentioned three sources of authority we can choose.

  • Our own authority. We can say “No one is going to tell me what to do. I am going to do what I want. I have my rights”
  • Other’s authority. We can decide to do what everyone else is doing, what is popular, what our crowd believes.
  • God’s authority. We can choose to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Hmm. You mean things like “pray for those who persecute you” or how about “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, ‘Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!’ shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”

Or, how about A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as they had their last meal together just before He went to the cross. He said it was a new commandment. Yet He had told them before that they should love others. He had said that all the Law and the Prophets could be summed up in two commandments: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

What was new about this commandment?

It appears to me that Jesus was giving us a standard by which we could judge how we love our neighbor. It was more than just how we love our self. It was as He has loved us.

As we listen to the social and political world right now, we see little of love and kindness. But what disturbs me is that many of our evangelical Christian leaders are as guilty as non-believers in this battle of words.

Following the authority of Jesus is not easy. I am afraid I have failed a lot on that one. My prayer today is that God will help me put a watch on my tongue.

And I pray that those who claim to speak for the church will also return to following Jesus rather than following the example of the rest of society.

More Wisdom or Laughter

Continuing with my Friday’s list of quotes to bring wisdom or laughter (this one I confess will be more laughter than wisdom), here is a list of things you will NEVER hear in church.

  1. Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!      
  2. I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went over time 25 minutes.      
  3. Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.      
  4. I’ve decided to give our church the $500.00 a month I used to send to TV evangelists.      
  5. I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class.      
  6. Forget the denominational minimum salary: let’s pay our pastor so he can live like we do.      
  7. I love it when we sing songs I’ve never heard before!      
  8. Since we’re all here, let’s start the worship service early!      
  9. Pastor, we’d like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas.      
  10. Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign.

If you like the laughter, check out my other lists.

Where is Your Bible?

In our devotions today my husband and I read about a king in Judah who began his reign following two very corrupt kings who had set up idols to pagan gods in the Temple and one had even sacrificed his son to Baal.

This godly king, Josiah, began his reign by ordering the priests and Levites to remove all the pagan idols from the Temple and began cleaning up the clutter that was there and to restore proper worship.

As the workers cleaned up the Temple they discovered a scroll. Looking at the scroll they realized it was the Book of the Law that Moses had given to the Israelites when they were set free from bondage in Egypt and given the land of Canaan for their inheritance.

The priest brought the book to the attention of the king and his court secretary read it to him. As he heard the Law of Moses apparently for the first time, he tore his clothes in despair. He realized how far from this book the nation had gone.

He immediately called for the nation’s leaders to come to Jerusalem and hear the Law and made plans to celebrate the Passover which they had not done in generations.

As I thought about this discovery, I wondered how long had the Book of the Law been missing. Had no one realized it was gone? Had no one searched for it? Did this generation even know such a book existed? Did anyone care?

Fast forward to today.

I have to wonder: How long has the Word of God been neglected in our homes, our churches, our families? Our children know the super heroes – Batman, Super Woman – do they know the heroes of the Bible – Joseph, Daniel, Stephen?

Many Christians today say we have made an idol out of the Bible. That it is Jesus we need to be concerned about, not the Bible.

But I have to ask: How would I know about Jesus if not for the Bible? Without John 3:16 I would never have known that God sent His son for me. Without the Sermon on the Mount, I would never know what being a part of God’s kingdom really looks like. Without Matthew 28 I would never know that Jesus commanded us to share the good news with the entire world.

Depending on what study you look at you will find that kids today spend 3 to 5 hours watching TV or on the internet. I realize that varies from home to home and many parents do limit their children’s screen time. Still, I wonder if in our Christian homes our children spend even one hour a week in God’s Word.

Do we really know what we believe and why we believe it? Do our children know?

  • The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Apostle Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
  • The followers of Jesus in Berea were commended because “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
  • The writer of Hebrews tells us that “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
  • When Jesus was tempted by Satan he answered each temptation by quoting Scripture. In one instance he said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Today we have many that claim to be speaking for God. To know whether or not what they say is true, we have to go back to the Word of God. That is our guide.

Do you know where your Bible is?

Quote from Charles Spurgeon

Are We True Servants?

Today in many churches there will be a service called Tenebrae. This is a Latin word meaning “darkness.” These services share the story of the suffering and death of Jesus from the Gospel of John. The lights in the church are dimmed and candles are lit at the front. As each portion of scripture is read, a candle is extinguished. The final story of the burial is read in near darkness. As the service concludes everyone is encouraged to leave in silence and to spend time thinking of the death of Jesus – and of the celebration waiting on Sunday.

As we ponder this day we remember that it was on Thursday that Jesus washed the disciples feet. He did this to emphasis His purpose in coming to earth – and also to set an example to us of what true Christianity was all about – being a servant.

In Mark’s Gospel we are told:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When His disciples were arguing about who would be first in God’s kingdom Jesus told them that His kingdom would be different than any kingdom.

You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 

“Be a servant.” “Be a slave.” That hardly fits with our culture today. We are encouraged to “get ahead”, “be successful”, “rise to the top.”

Many times before we commit to something we want to know “what’s in it for me?”

Jesus has called His followers to be different.

In Philippians we are told:

Therefore 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, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

As we reflect and celebrate what this weekend means to Christians, let us renew our commitment to be “like Jesus” and be a servant.

What does a servant look like:

  • They do not seek the limelight
  • They often work behind the scene
  • They do not expect a payback
  • They put the needs of others before their own

I think perhaps the best statement of a servant was by Rick Warren who said:

The real test of whether we are a servant is how we act when we are treated like one.

Want to Be Wise?

James 3:13-18 – (The Message) – 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 conniving. 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.

  • For those who do not care about true wisdom but only want the status of being thought wise, the question is a challenge; James’s answer will expose them for what they are.
  • For those who honestly aspire to being wise, the question is an invitation; James’s answer will divulge the way to attain their aspirations.

James is saying, “I am about to tell you the nature of true wisdom; treasure this.” Let all readers, then, first examine their own hearts before reading beyond the question posed in 3:13. Do you really want to be wise?

Literally James says, “Let him show by good behavior his deeds in the humility of wisdom.” Wisdom, then, is not something I will merely possess in my head; if I am wise at all, it is something I will demonstrate in my conduct. 

Two kinds of wisdom:

  • earthly, unspiritual, demonic – comes from jealousy and selfish ambition
  • pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

What causes fights/quarrels?

The conclusion for us is that our fights reveal a wrong relationship with God which is manifest in our prayer lives. Either we do not pray, because we do not trust in God’s grace, or we pray with wrong motives, because we do not follow God’s purity.

James 4:4-6 – You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.”

These are difficult verses to understand.

Exodus 20:5 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

Proverbs 3:34 – He mocks proud mockers  but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

The reference in 4:6 is more specific and definite, quoting Proverbs 3:34 about God’s personal stance in regard to the choice before us. He is neither passive nor indifferent but quite active in opposing the proud and giving grace to the humble.

James 4:7-12 – So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him make himself scarce. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?

  • Submit to God – resist the devil
  • God will come near – devil will flee
  • What do you think of his telling us to mourn?  How would that go over in today’s church?

3 relationships:

  • First mentioned is the relationship with each other. Our bonds with others in God’s family are violated when we receive mercy from God but do not share it with others.  When we judge others we are showing contempt for God’s mercy to us.
  •  Second is the relationship with the law. James insists that we are to be doers under the law, which is contradicted when we try to be judges over the law.  When we accept God’s mercy through Jesus Christ, we place ourselves under the teachings of Jesus which commands we show mercy.  When we judge others rather than show mercy, we are rejecting Christ’s teachings.
  • The third relationship is with God.  In judging people, what we really want is to take God’s place. Our sins of judging are attempts to set ourselves not only over the law but over the Lawgiver as well.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

After posting from my notes on James 1 last week, I decided to continue to share these notes.

  • Practice what you preach.
  • Don’t just say with the lips, practice with the life.
  • Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Or, as my father used to say, “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear a word you are saying.”

James attacks the idea that being a Christian is simply a matter of agreeing to a few spiritual truths without experiencing any real change in behavior or thought.  James addresses several matters in which Christian behavior should reflect Christian faith.

True faith

James 1:5-8 – If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

  • True faith endures in time of trouble
  • True faith believes in God

James 1:9-12 – Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Here, James takes up another theme – one’s relationship to material possessions. There are indications in the New Testament that humble circumstances were a common trial among Christians. In the first place, the explicit appeal to the poor in Christ’s preaching likely attracted numerous poor people among the earliest converts. 

Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,

We probably consider our self to be in the group of poor people.  But that is relative. 

Regardless of whether we consider our self to be poor or rich financially, money is the context for some of our most common and spiritually significant trials.

  • We worry about how our financial needs will be met.
  • We sometimes feel a failure because we don’t have as much as others around us.
  • We feel insecure about our ability to manage finances and feel guilty about mistakes we have made in our financial choices.
  • We sometimes can feel self-pity or complain or envy others who can buy and do things we cannot.

Matthew 6:19-24 – Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

James attacks 3 functions of money.

  • Money does not mean personal worth.  James points out that even if one is poor, if he has received forgiveness of sins from God, he has been blessed and that is what he should take pride in.
  • Money does not mean security.  James is encouraging Christians not to be deceived by the apparent security of the rich.  His wealth cannot shield him from being humbled.  His wealth cannot buy him eternal life. 
  • Money can distract us from the “real” blessing.  The crown of life.  The word used here is stephanos and refers to the  wreath (garland), awarded to a victor in the ancient athletic games (like the Greek Olympics); the crown of victory.  It is the word used by Paul, Peter and John and refers to the Christian’s ultimate goal.

Luke 12:13-21 – Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

1 Corinthians 9:25 – All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

1 Peter 5:4 – And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.

We know that one ultimate goal on James’s mind is that of becoming mature and complete, not lacking anything. The crown must include fulfillment of that goal of true life. This crown is assured; it is promised to them. James wants his readers to be certain of this as they endure deprivation now. The crown is promised specifically to those who love him.

This idea of loving God for James carries a strong emphasis on faithfully obeying him as Jesus said in John 14:15. “If you love me, keep my commandments”

 Finally, James has begun the sentence with “blessed” makarios, like a new beatitude recalling Matthew 5:3-10 and especially 5:11-12, where Jesus encouraged perseverance in trials “because great is your reward in heaven.” Putting these observations together, the crown of life would be the ultimate reward, the fulfillment of eternal life and the exaltation with Christ which will be enjoyed by those who, because of faith in Christ, have loved God enough to live faithfully, obeying him even through trials.

James calls us to believe this: the crown of eternal life is worth more than any advantage to be gained by money in this life. Truly blessed is the one whose heart is set on this goal.

James 1:13-18 – And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

Temptations

We know when Jesus took on the nature of man, that natural side of him was tempted – but without sin.  But as God in His divine nature, He is not tempted to do wrong.

James assures us that God does not tempt us.  We know there may be times of testings to strengthen us but God will never tempt us to do wrong.

So where do temptations come from?

  • The origin is our own evil desire.  James’s term is epithymia, a “desire” or “longing” especially with evil meaning.  So we can’t blame others.  “The devil made me do it.”
  • The action of the temptation is to drag away and to entice. This is a hunting and fishing metaphor (dragged away as by a predator; enticed as by a lure).  When considering yielding to temptation we are in danger of becoming the prey of Satan.
  • The effect of the temptation leads to death.  James uses the image of a woman bearing a child.  First the desire does the conceiving, then that leads to birth of sin and just as a child grows when he is given food and care, so sin will grow into death if we give it food and care. 

 James is warning Christians to see the danger, and so to abhor sin, and therefore to deny the evil desire from which sin comes.