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
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
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
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
Old Testament:
Jeremiah 27- Testing 123
Jeremiah 28- Trust In A Lie

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

Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”

We have arrived at one of the most amazing chapters in all of the Bible. It has been aptly entitled, “The Hall of Faith.” It records incidents from the lives of many Old Testament saints who, in the midst of extreme difficulty, chose to put confidence in the Lord. Whenever we are faced with trying times, we have the choice between trusting in circumstances, emotions, or the eternal Word of God. Another way of looking at it, we can trust in what we see, or in what He says. These men and women chose to put confidence in the Words of God, and by doing so, have obtained a great testimony. We are told, although they have long since died, their lives still speak to us today. They are saying, no matter what you are facing, you can trust the promises of God. Let’s take a moment to admire a few of the influences confidence in God’s promises, brought about in the lives of those who trust in His Word.

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

Over and over again we will read of the fruit of faith. The phrase “by faith…” is repeated 19 times in this chapter. Verse 3 is its first occurrence where we are told, understanding of things we could never grasp on our own, is found by putting confidence in the promises of God. One of the great dilemmas in life is confusion; not knowing how to handle a situation because we have never faced it before. The devil seems to have a field day when we are faced with confusion. He uses it to fill us with fear, anxiety, and even depression. What a joy to know that by faith we can understand the ways of God. The solution in our trying times is to go to the Word of God, locate the promises of God, and cling to Him.

Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

We read, by faith Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah prepared, Abraham obeyed, Sarah was strengthened, Isaac and Jacob blessed, Joseph instructed, Moses refused, Israel entered, and Jericho collapsed. All of the great accomplishments of these men and women were brought about not because they had strong gifts, perfect circumstances, helpful friends, or super human strength. They accomplished great things because they chose to trust in the promises of God, and those promises never fail. I wonder how our lives will be recorded? If we are to honestly evaluate how we are living, how would we finish the sentence “by faith he/she …”

Whatever you are facing, there is a promise for that, and that promise along with the Spirit of God will enable you to live a life that will prove to be a good testimony to those who follow. Put your trust in the promises of God today.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Jeremiah 21- Way Of Life
Jeremiah 22- Responsible