Answers

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Shortly after coming to Christ, I was driving down PCH in Southern California and found myself stuck at one of the many red lights, waiting for the arrow to turn green so I could continue to my destination. It was a summer day, and since my car did not have AC, my windows were rolled down. A car pulled up next to me and the driver called out to get my attention. I had never seen him before, and to my knowledge have never seen him since, but what he said to me has stuck with me for more than 25 years.

After getting my attention, he asked if I was a Christian, the “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker gave me away. I replied that I was, and he then asked how a person could be saved. I was caught off guard, and was not clear on how to articulate the Gospel, so I sat there stunned. As the signal turned green and he sped off, I hollered out “believe in Jesus!” At that point, I determined, I wanted to have an answer for others who were seeking to find the truth about Christ. It would be quite some time before I stumbled across Peter’s words recorded here,

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

Peter explains how we can be ready, when the opportunity arises, to help point someone to Christ. This readiness involves two things. First, we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts. Sanctify means to set apart. Christ must be set apart from all other things to which your heart is attached. It is not enough to simply have Jesus as one of the many things you are devoted to; He does not enter a life and take second place. Remember when He said “You cannot serve two masters”? (Matthew 6:24) Jesus demands and deserves first place in our hearts and lives. He calls for us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to give Him first place in our lives. If we want to affect others for the kingdom of Heaven, it begins by giving Jesus first place in our own life. Perhaps other things have risen to the top, or crowded Jesus out of His rightful place. If that is the case, take a moment right now to recommit yourself to Him.

Second, Peter says, “be ready.” We do this by getting to know the Bible. Paul wrote that we should “Study to show yourself approved to God.” (2 Timothy 2:15) As believers, we are called to become students of Scripture. We do this by taking time daily to read our Bibles. Over the years, I have been amazed at how often the answer someone is seeking, comes right out of the passage I read that morning. Jesus promised us help in this area when He said, the Holy Spirit would remind us of the Words that Christ had spoken (John 14:26).

If someone were to ask you today how to become a Christian are you prepared to give them the Biblical answer?

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Peter 3
1. Wives, how can you win over your unbelieving husbands?

2. Chaste conduct; chaste-pure, undefiled and true, conduct or lifestyle. Have you been living this way?

3. What are wives winning by being obedient to the Lord in verses 1-6? Have you thought about how much Jesus loves your husband?

4. Husbands, understanding and honor. Have you treated your wife this way lately? If you are struggling with this concept, verse 7 is very clear. If you do not want your prayers to be hindered, be obedient. God’s word works; trust Him!

5. If someone asked your wife, would she say you treat her with understanding and honor?

6. Not only wives and husbands, but all of you! List the 6 things in verses 8-9 that we should be doing as believers.

7. What command are we given in verse 15?

8. How can you sanctify the Lord in your heart? (Sanctify-to set apart)

9. Where is Jesus now?


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 41- Game Over
Jeremiah 42- Ready, Willing and…

Living Stone

1 Peter 2:5
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”

Peter describes Christians as Living Stones. This simple phrase reveals the miraculous nature of our salvation. Individuals can no more have their sins forgiven than a stone can come to life. However, what is impossible with men, is possible for God. We, who are dead in sin, are made alive through faith in Christ. Peter adds to the miracle of salvation by explaining, once we have been made alive, we now have a divine purpose, “we are being built up a spiritual house.” God is shaping us into the people He created us to be, that we might experience abundant life and have an impact upon others, for the kingdom of heaven. We, who were once without God and without hope in this world, have been made alive and given a life of purpose. How should we respond ?

“. . . to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter explains that one of the primary purposes of our life, is to offer up spiritual sacrifices that have been approved by God. In other words, there are things God desires in return for the salvation He has freely given. First, we are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This is done when we willingly surrender ourselves to Christ, and seek to live in accordance with His Word. A living sacrifice is one who reads the Bible and does what it says. Peter goes on to speak of abstaining from fleshly lusts, obeying authority, and following after the example of Christ. The living sacrifice looks to the Word, and seeks to put these things into practice in his life. Are there any fleshly lusts you have been toying with, instead of abstaining from? Perhaps your eyes have been looking, your lips speaking, or you ears hearing, things that they shouldn’t be. The right thing to do, as a living stone, is offer yourself back to God.

Another acceptable spiritual sacrifice is worship. Worship falls into at least three categories, and we should be consistently involved in all three. First, we worship God for who He is. No matter what our circumstances might be, God has not changed, and He is worthy of praise for being God. The Bible describes Him as dwelling in unapproachable light, being surrounded by companies of angels that declare His holiness and majesty. We should join Heaven’s chorus and offer praise. Second, we worship God for what He has done. When life hits us hard, we are able to look back to the cross where the Son of God died for us. We look at His bleeding hands and feet, and we are reminded of His love for us; a love that understands our weakness and knows our pain. Looking to the cross will fill us with faith, enabling us to press forward, despite the trials. Finally, we worship because of what He promises to do. The Bible is filled with promises for the child of God. Each of them stronger than any obstacle in our way. We must learn to look to the promises and to cling to them. Paul, referring to the promises of God, said they were all “yes and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20), meaning that every promise of God is certain to come true.

Christian, it is time to offer up spiritual sacrifices, no matter what you are facing, give God your highest praise.

Pastor Jim

Questions for 1 Peter 2
1. What things are listed that we need to “lay aside” in our lives?

2. We are compared to “living stones” in verse 5. Who is our Chief Cornerstone?

3. Peter says to you who believe and to you who are disobedient. What benefits are listed for each?

4. You are chosen of God, yes He chose YOU! Dwell on verses 9-10, what do these verses mean to you?

5. Sojourners and pilgrims are people on a journey; they have not yet reached their home. If you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, this is you! This world is not your home. On this journey, we are told to abstain from something the world is constantly tempting us with (verse 11). What do you need to lay at the Lords feet right now?

6. Verse 12, what brings glory to God?

7. Ever wondered what the will of God is for your life? Here is one of many verses that speak clearly, verses 13-17. Now that you know, do you need to make changes in your life?

8. The remaining of this chapter is also beneficial in our employee/employer relationships. How can this attitude reflect Jesus at your workplace? If you struggle in this area, today is the day to allow God to speak to you and fill you with His Spirit. Will you allow Him to make the changes needed?


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 39- Competition
Jeremiah 40- Seek Counsel

The Economy

1 Peter 1:18-19
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

One day, Jesus was sitting with His disciples watching events transpire at the Temple. As they looked on, He drew their attention to a woman who approached the tithe box, she inserted two small copper coins worth almost nothing. Her actions prompted a comment from Jesus, who informed the disciples that she had given more than all others, because she gave from her poverty, while they gave from their wealth. In doing so, Jesus revealed a very important principle within the economy of God; the value of a gift is determined by what it cost the giver.

This basic economic principle helps to shed light on the comments Peter makes regarding our redemption. To be redeemed is to be purchased. It was a word that would be used to speak of a person being purchased out of slavery. Peter is using it to describe our salvation. We who were once slaves of sin, have been redeemed from the curse, and brought into a right standing with God. Peter explains that the blood of Christ is the only currency with that kind of purchasing power.

He tells us silver and gold did not redeem us. If God would have used a billion dollar block of gold to redeem us, we would each be able to put a dollar value upon ourselves. We could say, “I am worth one billion dollars to God.” At first, that might seem like a lot, until we realize, it costs nothing for God to create more gold. If His supply ran short, He could speak galaxies of gold into existence. No, we were purchased with something of much greater value than precious metals; we have been redeemed with the blood of Christ. Anything else given to provide for our atonement, could have been replaced. God gave up the one thing, of the highest value, in order to save: He gave His only begotten Son.

The next time you are feeling like you don’t matter too much, don’t look around at how others view you, or even within, at how you feel about yourself. Instead, look back at the cross, and see how valuable you are to God, that He would purchase you with the blood of His Son. Then look up to the Throne and offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Jeremiah 37- Praying Is The First Step
Jeremiah 38- Shhhhh! It’s A Secret

Pray About It

James 5:13
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”

As this letter comes to a close, James addresses as many scenarios as he can think of that the believers might be facing. Some are suffering, others are cheerful, sick, or struggling with sin. In each case, the solution is the same. James says PRAY. The simplest definition of prayer is to talk to God. James is encouraging believers to live in open communication with the Lord. Whatever life may throw at you, learn to take those things to the Lord.

Jesus put it like this,

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have an open invitation to come to the Lord, no matter what struggles we have; and He promises to provide heavenly assistance. The Psalmist declared, He will even give His angels charge over us, lest we dash our feet against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12). What are you facing today? Is it an illness, fear, or easily besetting sin? Whatever you are going through, the secret to your success is to cast all your cares upon Him in prayer.

James is known as that practical Apostle. As he writes about prayer, he gives some simple guidelines to ensure our prayers are the most effective. First, he suggests we get others involved in praying for us. Too often, we use the excuse of privacy to keep us from invoking others to pray with us, for the struggles we are facing. James exhorts the sick and the sinning to get others to pray with them, and for them.

Second, he exhorts us to pray in faith, believing God wants to heal and forgive. This is not something James made up based on wishful thinking, but rather something he understood by reading the Bible. Effective prayer is always based on what the Bible teaches. Whatever we are facing, we should look into the Word, learn what the Bible has to say on the subject, and then pray for God to do what He promises.

Finally, James speaks of fervent prayer. He is not suggesting we need to become emotional in our prayers, or to scream and shout. Instead, he is speaking about the intensity with which we bring things to the Lord. Often, when faced with a trying experience, we begin to complain; we may even invite others to complain with us. Our complaining will at times help to take the edge off our struggles. We call it venting, which means to delegate pressure. The problem is, when the pressure is released, we often neglect to take our struggle before the Lord. Instead of complaining about our difficulties, we should be entering the presence of the Lord, and seeking His assistance.

The trials you are facing today have been designed by God to draw you closer to Him. Take some time right now to invoke His assistance, as you seek to live for His pleasure.

(Joseph M. Scriven)

What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Pastor Jim

Questions for James 5
1. In verses 1-6, James is not condemning people just because they were rich. He was condemning them for their wrong attitude toward their riches. He is concerned with how they got their money and what they did with it when they got it. Remember it’s not money in itself that is evil but it’s the love of money that is the root of all evil. Are you living God’s standards as He said in Romans 12:12?

2. Like the farmer we as Christians live by faith and we must be patient until the Lord Jesus comes. While the farmer is waiting for his crop, he is continually working the fields, and looking toward the future reward. How are we to be living while we are waiting? Turn to the Book of Titus 2:11-13.

3. Verse 9 deals with grumbling. It’s a sinful and destructive attitude because we blame others instead of owning our own behavior. We are commanded, “Do not grumble.” Before you judge others’ shortcomings remember the Lord’s words, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” The next time you are tempted to grumble, remember He will not let you get away with shifting the blame. Have you been in the habit of blame shifting?

4. Do you want to be known as a trustworthy person? Always be honest so others will believe your simple yes or no. Have you ever found yourself using God as an excuse to avoid responding with a definite yes or no? In other words, have you ever said to someone, “Let me pray on it?” (When you really mean no from the onset.) Let your yes be yes and your no be no and leave the Lord out of it.

5. Verses 13-18 are about meeting specific needs through the power of prayer. Prayer is our most powerful resource in communion with God. It’s not our last resort. Is your prayer life an example of the one described in verse 16?

6. Anyone who falls away from the truth is in serious trouble and needs to repent. We are urged to help backsliders return to God. Do you know someone who has backslid? Pray to the Lord to help you be an instrument in helping this person repent.

7. Remember that the Book of James is a “how to book of the faith.” Be encouraged to live out what James has written as he was moved upon by the Holy Spirit. If we truly believe God’s Word we will live it day by day. We merely don’t think about it or read about it….We better do it. Grace and peace to you.


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 36- Fire Resistant

Speaking Evil

James 4:11“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…” 
James 4:13 “Come now, you who say…”

James seems to be particularly interested in what the Christian has to say. In the last chapter, he spent a great deal of time talking about the tongue. In this chapter, he comes back to the topic of what we are saying. He refers to at least two kinds of evil speaking. The first would be critical or judgmental speech.

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judges.”

Jesus warned us not to judge one another, and James explains why; God alone is the Judge. We have been given the Word in order to obey it. It is the Word of God that must determine our behavior. The person who sets aside the Word of God, and decides for himself how he will live, is guilty of judging the law. To him James would say, “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save or destroy . . .” (James 4:12).

Christians are often accused of being judgmental, when it is really a persons own sin that judges them. Someone might be invited to church, be welcomed, be encouraged in prayer, and fed. Yet, when they leave, they claim they felt judged by Christians because they said it is wrong to party, do drugs or live in an adulterous relationship. The Christian did not judge them, the law did. The reason the law judges us, is so we might respond to Christ’s offer to forgive us. Jesus said, He did not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). It is after the law of God convicts us, that we realize we need to be saved. Do not be a lawgiver, but a law abider, by surrendering yourself to Christ and living according to His Word.

Another type of speech that is warned against, is making life plans without seeking God. James refers to it as boasting. In this case, James is not teaching us how to speak, as much as how to live. We need to be those who seek to find the mind of God, or the will of God, for our lives. God has a plan for your life. He cares where you live, where you work, who you marry. If we will spend time with Him, He will make His will known to us. Sometimes, His will is progressive, meaning, we are not given step two until we have taken step one. It was like that for Paul. When he asked the Lord what to do, Jesus responded, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Once God makes His will clear to us, it is sin to disobey.

His will seems to fit into two categories. We might refer to them as the general, and specific will of God. The general will of God is true for all of us, and is clearly presented in the pages of the Bible. The specific will of God refers to the plans that God has for you as an individual. Those things are only found when you spend time seeking God. It is the specific will of God which James refers to in this passage. You will not find a chapter and verse telling you who to marry. But you will find much in Scripture about the character of whom to marry. You will not find the answer to what job to take, but you will find direction on how to work. You will not find what college to go to, but you will find what are the most important matters to pursue in life, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Instead of trying to navigate through life on our own, let’s be sure we spend time seeking the Lord in His Word, in order to find His will for our lives.

Pastor Jim

Questions for James 4
1. James tells us that our desires for more (i.e.: more money, more possessions, more recognition, etc.) come from evil desires that war within us. When we don’t get what we want we fight in order to possess it. So in order to get rid of selfish desires we must submit to God and trust Him to give us what we really need. Are you finding yourself aggressively pursuing the things that God says won’t make you happy?

2. In verse 4, James is as straight forward as he can be. You are either living in the Kingdom of God and the Lord rules your life or you’re living in the Kingdom of darkness and Satan rules your life….You choose!
3. In verses 7-10, James gives us five ways to draw near to God and He will draw near to you. What are the five ways?

4. Verses 11-12 deal with judging others. Jesus said that Christians are to love God and their neighbor. So consequently when we fail to love we are actually breaking God’s Law. If you began to examine your attitude what would you find? Are you critical of somebody? Ask God to help you say something loving instead.

5. No matter how many years we may think we have left to live, the reality is…life is so short. The future is in God’s hands and He should be included in all our plans. Are you seeking his guidance in your planning? If not, how will you react if God steps in and rearranges those plans? Seek His will and you will never be disappointed.

6. We know that doing wrong is sin but James tell us in verse 17 that not doing what is right is sin. These are commonly called sins of commission and sins of omission. God tells us that lying is a sin. It can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Are you regularly asking the Holy Spirit to help you share the Lord with people? The Lord Jesus is the truth!


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 33- Mighty Things
Jeremiah 34- On Second Thought

What Did You Say?

James 3:5
“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.”

The largest mammal on the planet is a blue whale, whose tongue can weigh upwards of 2.5 tons. This is approximately the size of an adult elephant. In contrast, the human tongue, on average, is about 4 inches long and weighs less than 4 ounces. The tongue is certainly not one of the strongest muscles in the human body, yet it is perhaps the one capable of the most destruction. Many of us grew up with hearing “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” only to find that some of the deepest hurts we have ever felt, were caused by the unkind words of another. James explains, one of the great problems we all have is that with the same tongue we bless God and curse men.

The Bible points out the sinful uses of the tongue, of which we are all guilty:

COMPLAINING – Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing . . .”

BACKBITING – Proverbs 25:23 “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.”

GOSSIP – Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”
                 Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

TEASING – Proverbs 26:18-19 “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!’”

PROFANITY – Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”

BLASPHEME – James 2:7 “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”

We are all aware of the sins of the tongue, are guilty of committing them, and have been hurt by them. The question is, how can we avoid them? Jesus tells us the sins of the tongue are a matter of the heart.

Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

The solution then, to overcoming the sins of the tongue, is to focus on what is coming into our lives, and finding residence within our hearts. A number of years ago, a friend of mine was counseling a man who was struggling with outbursts of wrath (anger issues). He could not control his tongue and would lash out at his family. As they finished their conversation and walked to the car, he saw that the passenger seat was filled with hard-core secular music cassettes; the kind that makes you want to bang your head against a wall. He had uncovered part of the cause of the problem. Constantly filling his head with screaming, made it a lot easier to scream at others. In the same way, if you have a problem with profanity, take inventory. What are you putting into your head? If you struggle with gossip, stop listening to it and you will stop spreading it. Garbage in garbage out! The more you fill your mind with the things of God, the more you will find that your tongue is used to bless God and be a blessing to others. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Pastor Jim

Questions for James 3
1. In verse 1, James begins with a warning to anyone who aspires to be a teacher of God’s Word. What is the warning?

2. In the Bible, the ministry of pastor-teacher carries a tremendous responsibility to teach what God’s Word says and not offer any opinions. Where the Bible is silent, it is important that we are silent. Where the Bible speaks, it is important that we speak. Are you in a teaching or leadership role? If so, how are you affecting those you lead?

3. Continuing through to verse 12, James teaches us how destructive our tongues can be. He uses very familiar illustrations in verses 3-5 to show us that even though the tongue is small, it boasts great things. In verse 6, he says the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, it defiles the whole body, and it is set on fire by Hell! In other words, the tongues wickedness has its source in Hell itself. Verse 8 tells us that “no man can tame the tongue.” Here are some examples of an untamed tongue: manipulating, flattery, complaining, false teaching, exaggerating, and lying. The acronym T.H.I.N.K. will help you before you speak. Ask yourself is it true? Honest? Intelligent? Necessary? And Kind? If what you are about to say is missing just one of these ingredients then keep your tongue in between your wisdom teeth.

4. Our flesh tells us, “If no man can tame the tongue then why even bother trying?” We will never achieve perfect control of our tongue. Even so, the Lord Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit “may abide with us forever.” We cannot fight the fire of our tongue in our own strength but the fruit of self-control can. Are you reacting in a hateful manner when you get offended? Are you lashing out when you are criticized? Remember Christian, you have the Holy Spirit, the Mighty Counselor.

5. In verses 13-18, James teaches us the contrast between wisdom from God and the wisdom from Satan. As a Christian, wisdoms’ question to us is, “How much have I come to agree with God?” We can measure wisdom by a person’s character and the way they act. The devil inspires things like foolishness that leads to disorder, gossip that leads to conflict and strife, and self-seeking that leads to greed. The wisdom from God leads to peace and goodness. Our society today says, “Go for it, assert yourself, set high goals to attain, and you are the captain of your own ship.” God says, “No man can serve two masters.” Are you tempted by the wisdom of the world? Remember God loves peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 31- Everlasting Love
Jeremiah 32- Locked Up

Work In Progress

James 2:14  “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”

James 2:17 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James asks a very important question, “What is the profit of faith without works?” He then adds, “Can that faith save?” To help lead us to the right answer, he uses an illustration which reminds us that talk of food will not always satisfy the appetite of a hungry man. In the same way, a dead faith cannot produce life. Right away James recognizes there will be objections to his teaching; some will say, “You have faith, I have works.” This seems to be the objection of those who think there is more than one way to God. They might say, “I am glad you have found something that works for you, but I don’t need that. I am a good person, and when I die, I will go to heaven because of the good things I have done.” James is in no way saying our good deeds will get us into heaven, but that true faith is always accompanied with good works. The person who truly believes, will have actions that support his claims.

Throughout history, James has gotten a whole lot of grief for writing this passage. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this book does not belong in the Bible. I think it is important that we see James is not presenting a different doctrine than the rest of Scripture, but is in fact, explaining more clearly, the doctrine of justification by faith. James is not alone in teaching that faith without works is dead.

JEREMIAH TAUGHT IT

Jeremiah 7:8 “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.”

JOHN THE BAPTIST TAUGHT IT

Matthew 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance”

PAUL TAUGHT IT

Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

Titus 1:16 “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

PETER TAUGHT IT

2 Peter 1:5 “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; . . .”

JOHN TAUGHT IT

1 John 2:4 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

JESUS TAUGHT IT

Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Matthew 7:19-20 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

Matthew 7:21-23,26,27 “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

James goes on to explain his teaching by stating, faith cannot be seen without action, “I will show you my faith by my works.” He then uses one of the most powerful sermon illustrations ever given. He declares the demons, who believe in God, show by their actions, they are not followers of God. In contrast to the demons, James reminds us of the father of faith. Who showed the reality of his faith with His obedience to the word of God. His action of placing his son on the altar, showed in a striking way, that God was his chief love (Genesis 22:1-12).

Jesus declared, the first commandment is to love God with ALL. This is evidenced in our lives, not simply by words, but by actions. With one final illustration, James brings up Rahab the harlot. Her past life was marked with open sin, although no details are given as to what led her down that path. All we know is when presented with the opportunity, she chose to depart from her old way of life, and determined to join with the believers and follow God. What about us? What are the works that show an account of our faith? In Matthew 7, Jesus stated, we must do the will of the Father. The first work to add to our faith is simple obedience.

Read your Bible and do what it says. When you come to a text that convicts you, make some changes in your living. It is not the change that saves you, but the saved will certainly change.

Pastor Jim

Questions for James 2
1. In our society we often treat a well-dressed, impressive looking person better than someone who looks mangy and down at the heels. We would rather identify with the prosperous people than with the presumable failures. In verses 1-7 Pastor James rebukes acts of favoritism and prejudice. Here are 8 reasons why showing favoritism to the rich is wrong:
a. It is contrary to the teachings of the Lord.
b. It results from evil thoughts.
c. It insults people made in God’s image.
d. It’s a by-product of selfish motives.
e. It’s contrary to the Biblical identification of love.
f. It shows lack of mercy to the down trodden.
g. It’s sin.
Are you easily impressed by status, wealth, or fame? Are you partial to the “haves” while paying no attention the “have nots?”

2. God views all people as equals. Before Him we all stand on one level. By honoring someone just because he or she wears expensive clothes and drives a fancy vehicle we are making appearances more important than character. Does poverty make you uncomfortable? The Lord tells us a parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” Do you ever have the point of view that you are superior to the poor person? As Christians, we must live as the Lord requires. We are not to be playing with the lifestyles of the rich and famous but to love all people regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

3. The Lord Jesus taught us the golden rule in Matthew 7:12, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” In verse 8, how do we fulfill the royal law in the scripture?

4. Verse 13 is a powerful verse. In essence, there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. We should not withhold mercy and forgiveness from others after having received it ourselves. Is there someone you are withholding forgiveness to? Turn to Matthew 6:14, 15 and Ephesians 4:31, 32.

5. Verses 14-26 can be summed up by “faith without works is dead.” James is telling us that true faith transforms our behavior as well as our mind. True faith always results in good deeds. Our simple faith brought us to salvation and our active obedience proves that our faith is genuine. Are you someone who professes to be a Christian but does not minister deeds of loving service?


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 29- Promises
Jeremiah 30- Journey Of A Lifetime

I’m A Little Lost

James 1:5
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Wisdom might best be defined as “knowing what to do.” In life, we are constantly faced with circumstances in which we have no experience. We are left wondering what in the world we should do. When James writes, “If any man lacks wisdom…” he is not suggesting that only some of us are in circumstances for which we do not have solutions, but that ALL of us are in constant need of wisdom. The word “if” could also be translated as “since.” The question is not really if we need wisdom, but rather how do we get it?

Wisdom is received in at least 4 ways. First, wisdom comes from experience. If we touch the hot stove, we have learned not to touch it again. Second, wisdom can be received by listening to those who have gone before us. My children learned not to touch the hot stove, not by burning their fingers, but by heeding the warnings of mom and dad. Third, wisdom can be given supernaturally. One of the gifts of the Spirit, given to the child of God, is the “Word of Wisdom.” We saw it in action in the book of Acts when the church was facing an unfamiliar and perplexing dilemma. The solution is given to James that satisfied all involved and provided a solution to the problem (Acts 6:1-7). Finally, wisdom is also received through prayer. That is the subject of James’ exhortation.

Colossians 2:3 “. . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Paul reminded the Colossians that all wisdom is hidden in Christ. There is no circumstance which we face that He does not know the best course of action. This wisdom, he says, is hidden in Christ, which requires that we seek Him in order to receive it. We seek that wisdom by taking our situation before the Lord in prayer. “Lord, I am facing this decision and I really do not know what to do. I pray you would show me the right way to navigate through this.” Once we have taken our request to the Lord, we must wait for an answer. This is often where the Christian sways. We forget, while prayer is the way we take our needs to the Lord, His Word is the way He communicates with us. If you want to hear from the Lord, you must crack open the pages of your Bible and read. In addition to daily reading through the Bible, it is a good idea to look up verses that directly target the circumstances you are in and put their teaching into practice in your life. It is through His Word that God will give wisdom to His children.

Pastor Jim

Questions for James 1
1. Take heed in verse 1 that James identifies himself as James a bondservant (which means slave) of the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t at all mention in the epistle that he was the Lord’s half-brother. That says a lot about this man James. He came to know the Lord Jesus not only as his blood brother but as his own Savior and then he became His bond slave.

2. James uses the Lord’s entire title, name, and mission: “The Lord Jesus Christ.” Do you refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as just Jesus or is He the Lord of your life? Are you giving Him the respect He deserves? If God the Father called Jesus “God” (Hebrews 1:8, 9) then how can you call Him anything less?

3. God will put us to the test in various ways. He will test our faith, devotion, and abilities. (to name a few) According to verse 2: How are we to respond to testing? What will be produced if we respond in obedience?

4. In verse 5 James talks about the lack of wisdom. He is referring to the wisdom needed for the various trials we will fall into. We may ask such questions as: “How am I going to solve this problem?” or “How am I going to meet this need or issue?” What do verses 5 and 6 tell us to do?

5. In verse 6 we see the phrase “with no doubting,” which refers to our faith. If we are not convinced that God’s way is the best then we treat God’s Word like any human advice which gives us the option to disobey. Doubt waivers back and forth from God’s commands to the world’s nonsense. How is your stability? Do you find that your prayer life is wavering or doubtful? Caleb said regarding his relationship and trust in God, “I wholly followed the Lord my God.”

6. Verses 9-11 teach us the perspective of rich and poor. In our society today wealth, power, and status attribute so much importance. To God it means nothing. Our true wealth is found in a relationship with the Lord Jesus the Christ. He is interested in what is lasting (our salvation) not what is temporary. (our money and possessions) Are your material possessions possessing you? It’s what you have in your heart, not your bank account that matters to God.

7. Verse 12 begins with the word “blessed” which simply means “oh how happy.” What will we receive if we endure temptation faithfully even under pressure?

8. Temptation in and of itself is not sin. We all have an evil nature and a weakness in the flesh. Today we rationalize sin, bad tempers, gossip, drunkenness, and even gross immorality. But the King of Kings calls them sins. Temptation comes from our own evil desires which are not from God. It becomes sin when we dwell on an evil thought and allow it to become an action. How does James describe temptation in verses 14 and 15?

9. The antidote for us that talk too much and listen too little is found in verses 19-20. For when we are in this mode we are communicating to others that we think our ideas are much more important than theirs. When people talk to you do they feel that their viewpoints, suggestions, ideas, and opinions have value?

10. In verse 21 James exhorts us to get rid of all that is wrong in our life and to humbly accept the message of salvation. Why?

11. Verses 21-27 talk about being doers and not hearers only. It’s important to listen to God’s Word. It is more important to obey it and do what it says. We can measure our growth in the Lord by our Bible study time and the effect it has on our behavior and attitudes. Are you putting into action what you have been studying?

Old Testament: Jeremiah 27- Testing 123

Praise God

Hebrews 13:15-16“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share; for with such sacrifices, God is well pleased.”

Worship is a very important part in the growth of every Christian. Many times, we measure God in light of the difficulties we are facing. We think there is little, or no hope for us, because our problem seems massive. It is in worship that we are able to see our life in light of the nature of God. We need to magnify God (which does not mean to make Him bigger, but to bring Him into focus) so we see life in light of His great love, mercy and power. As we magnify Him, we will see how little our problem is, compared to His ability. That becomes the source of great peace during trying times.

Here, in Hebrews 13, we see a couple of key elements that should be part of the worship life of the believer. First, we are told to offer the sacrifice of praise. Music is an amazing medium. Things that are often difficult to remember, seem to become fixed in our minds when put to song. How many times have you had a song “stuck in your head”, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot seem to get it out? I do not consider myself to be poetic in the least. In fact, I find it difficult to express to God the way I truly feel, but there are so many worship tunes that seem to say what I am feeling. When we gather for corporate worship, and I am able to follow the musicians as they play, I feel like my heart is finally able to express the things I wanted to say to God, but could not find the words.

Second, we are told worship must include thanksgiving. Just prior to these verses, we are warned against covetousness. To “covet” is to want what we do not have. It is often driven by failing to be content with what the Lord is currently doing in our lives. The children of Israel were known for grumbling and complaining during their wilderness travels. Instead of looking at what God was doing: providing water from rocks, miraculous food from heaven, a cloud covering from the sun, and a heavenly night-light to lead them, they chose to focus on the things they felt He was neglecting to do. They constantly complained about His provision, and threatened to turn from the Lord every time things got tough. Instead of focusing on the things that do not seem to be going your way, get your eyes on the Lord, and begin to thank Him for all He has done and is doing.

Finally, a life of worship, is a life that not only looks up, but also looks out. When we see God as He truly is, we cannot help but develop His heart for others. We are exhorted to include doing good to others, and sharing the things God has given us to benefit them. Worship is not something that is exclusively singing. While song is a great way to express how we feel about Him, it cannot be the only way we express praise. We must express it in actions toward one another. The Levitical Priesthood was composed of singers and musicians, but also included people who set up the tent, made the incense, baked the show bread, and a long list of other requirements, to make corporate worship possible. In God’s economy, those things are as much worship as playing guitar or leading in song. At our church, there are many who worship in the kitchen making coffee, or bring refreshments to make fellowship better. Others worship in the parking lot, assisting people to find a spot, and still others worship by inviting friends and neighbors to hear about Christ.

Don’t forget, doing good and sharing is as important to your worship life as singing, playing musical instruments, or expressing thanks

Pastor Jim

Questions for Hebrews 13
1. Verses 1-4 address loving one another. Are there any commands in these verses that the Lord is addressing in your life right now?

2. Covetousness-wanting something you don’t have in a way that makes it more important than God. Perhaps you believe you can’t be happy without the thing that you’re coveting, or that all your problems would be fixed if you just had that something. Read verses 5-6. What are the antidotes to coveting found within these verses?

3. God sets leaders up within the church, not simply to preach and teach, but also to serve as examples of how to walk with God. What things does verse 7 and 17-19 tell us to do concerning our leaders in the local church?

4. Read verse 8. Why is it such a good thing that Jesus never changes?

5. Look at verse 9. Religious ritual is not a good foundation for our hearts. How should we establish our hearts?

6. The theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is better. Here we see again that He offered a better sacrifice (Himself) than the Old Testament priests offered (livestock), and that He offered once for all. Look at verse 15-16. What kinds of sacrifices is God interested in now?

7. Read verses 20-22. The author both prays for the Hebrews (talks to God about them), and then exhorts the Hebrews (talks to them about God). Do you do both of these things for the people in your life? Note the things that are prayed for and incorporate these into your prayer life for others.

8. Note verse 25. What a great way to end this letter!


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 25- Unstoppable
Jeremiah 26- Hope

Bitterness

Hebrews 12:15
“. . . looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; . . .”

Bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive. We are warned against allowing bitterness to take root in our lives, thus springing up and defiling us. Roots, for the most part, are the unseen part of the tree. We understand for a large tree to be able to support itself, its roots must go deep and spread wide. Bitterness begins to develop its root system in us the moment we choose to keep record of wrong, rather than forgive the wrong doings of others. While we are able to continue on for some time unaffected by it, this unforgiveness will soon spring up and bitterness will reveal itself.

It seems to me, bitterness may have been one of the chief causes behind Moses’ failure, which kept him from entering the promised land. Scripture records that the children of Israel once again complained about their circumstances in the desert. They were thirsty, and rather than trusting in the provision of God, they looked to Moses and began to complain that their needs were not being met. Moses went to the Lord with the problem and was told to speak to the rock and water would be provided for the people. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses unleashed his fury on the people, then in his rage he struck the rock. God, in His mercy, provided for the people. However, Moses was disciplined for his disobedience; he was forbidden to enter Canaan. The punishment might seem severe if we do not keep in mind that the spiritual leaders must rightly represent the Lord to the people, or they will develop a wrong view of God. This was not the first time God provided water in the wilderness, He had done it years earlier, and in response, Moses named the place “Meribah” meaning contention.

This has always struck me. Moses took a stick, struck a rock and water, enough for two million people, was provided in the desert. Rather than naming the place “God is Awesome” or “Great Provision”, or something else that would forever remind the people of how amazing the Lord is, Moses chose to remember the failure of the people. Now we find him, years later, facing similar circumstances. His unforgiveness has birthed bitterness, and his bitterness springs up as he lashes out in rage against the people.

While bitterness is the byproduct of being unwilling to forgive; forgiveness stems from looking at the cross and realizing all that Jesus has forgiven you. The forgiveness of God is complete. Paul wrote, our sins were nailed to the cross never to be brought up again. Forgiveness means to treat someone as though they had never done the thing that hurt you, or that has made it hard to be kind to them. Choosing to forgive is sometimes very difficult, but being unwilling to forgive has much greater consequences. If there is anyone who you are harboring bitterness toward, take some time right now and pray that God would help you to forgive them and treat them as though they had never hurt you in the first place. Do it now before the roots take hold of you.

Pastor Jim

Questions for Hebrews 12
1. Our Christian life is pictured as a race which requires Endurance in verses 1-3. What things slow you down in your race? What things does the author encourage us to do in these verses to help us run our races?

2. In verses 4-11 we read that if God is really our Father, we will experience discipline and correction from Him. In verses 10-11, what is the stated purpose of the correction and testing that God brings us through?

3. Read verses 12-15. In these verses we are given many practical instructions for our lives both as individuals and in relationship with others. According to verse 15, what two dangers are there for us to avoid having fruitful lives?

4. The rest of the chapter gives examples from the Old Testament that serve as stern warnings against ignoring the voice of God, who is ultimately the Judge of all. According to verses 28, how do we live a life pleasing to God?

5. Look at verse 29. How is this truth about God a good thing? How can it be a scary thing?


Old Testament:
Jeremiah 23- Study Time
Jeremiah 24- A Life Change