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Archive for February, 2011

February 25.11 ethot

James 3:7 (1-12) “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, it tamed and has been tamed by the human race.

It seems like the natural tendency of humans to control everything we come into contact with whether it needs to be or not. We want and need to identify and categorize everything. We do this because it was our original mandate from the beginning of time.

Yet, the tongue is one thing man has not learned to control, but not for lack of trying. Even right now certain people in society and government are trying to control how we speak. At one time we used to call each other Blacks, Orientals, Hispanics and Whites, it was called race. But that was changed to diversity because it was less divisive. Now it’s been changed to culture for the same reason.

Communists (and other dictatorships) through fear have tried to control the tongue of men, but as recent events have shown, that doesn’t seem to work either. What does seem to work best is when we realize, individually, our responsibility to each other as representatives of God on this earth, vs. 11&12. It teaches us to open our mouths only when absolutely necessary, v. 1.

Self-control involves consulting the Holy Spirit before I speak or act.

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February 24.11 ethot

James 3:1 (1-4) “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

As we noted before in the early church in Jerusalem the believers were all stuck together by their faith and financial need. With all these people stuck together there would naturally break out lots of conversations and those who wanted to be treated with more respect than others would try to control that setting.

With that respect comes a certain inflated sense of oneself being superior to others. People who talk good need to watch out because, as James points out, they will be judged more strictly. That is when believers stand before Jesus to receive there rewards for the works they have done, teachers will have met a higher standard, 1 Corinthians 3:10-23. Those who don’t will be a little embarrassed when they don’t get what they’ve seen other teachers get and then understand what they had to endure to get it.

Teachers (including Pastors) need to make sure that they teach only what they live, because even here on earth we tend to hold our teacher to a higher standard of behavior, as it should be. Controlling our minds, our wills and our emotions will go a long way in helping to control what is taught.

Self-control involves consulting the Holy Spirit before I speak or act.

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February 23.11 ethot

James 2:17 (14-26) “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

At this time, in church history, the Pharisees had begun to effectively shut the believers out of everyday life. They could buy or sell nothing in the city. Those who had money or business outside the city of Jerusalem were trying to help. But there was a group forming who were hording what they had and not sharing with those in need, Acts 5:1-11.

Satan took this opportunity to try and destroy the young church. James like Paul (in his later letter to the church in Corinth) wanted the believers not to forget their debt of gratitude to God for their own salvation. They were supposed to be working with each other to win the city and the world. A faith that doesn’t result in a changed life is like a dead body, v. 26. After a while all it does is stink.

James points out that Abrahams faith resulted in a changed life, a life willing to take big risks (putting his own son on an alter for sacrifice), v. 21. If the faith you claim hasn’t resulted in a changed life, a life willing to make the big decisions to stop those bad habits and start those good ones then what’s the difference between your faith and any other? Does that kind of faith prove you’re saved (changed)… to anybody?

Gratefulness implies my willingness to pay Him back although I know it’s not possible.

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February 22.11 ethot

James 2:1 (1-13) “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of favoritism.

Again I wonder how Jesus’ family felt after accepting Him as their Savior and how other believers felt as towards them. Were they treated as privileged?

No matter what your connection to the faith, each of us is equally a citizen of our Lords kingdom and responsible to act accordingly. Whether the person who led you to the Lord was the pastor of a church or a guy on the street corner what determines any kind of ranking is the level of your commitment after the decision. The only privilege you’ll merit is the honor of representing Him right where you are.

James tries to explain this by using the illustration of the privileged in society. The rich usually get more because they’ve earned it and when it comes to sharing it with those who don’t deserve it they get stingy. People treat them nicer than the poor because they know they’ll get something in return. The rich then tend to treat the poor as undeserving.

But in the faith, we get nothing from each other. The one who gives to our needs is the Lord Himself and He’s given us the Holy Spirit, who resides in us right now. Each of us is equal in the Lords sight and only need to accept that reality and move forward. I’m not saying we don’t need each other, we do, but our dependence is on the One who saved us and not the messenger who led us.

Humility involves not letting your emotions and pride dictate your decisions.

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February 21.11 ethot

James 1:26 (19-27) “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

Still early in His ministry Jesus brothers not only didn’t believe He was the Messiah; they made fun of Him, John 7:1-5 (I’m not sure about His sisters). Fear and anger make us do stupid things! I can’t imagine what it must have been like growing up with the perfect older brother, and then to watch as He became more and more popular and even distant from the family.

It is likely that they were angry with Him thinking that Jesus had abandoned them and the true religion. James was the oldest after Jesus (Matthew 13:55) and as we can read in these verses he was eventually able to let go of his anger, humble himself and accept Jesus as his own Savior, as did His other siblings.

Anger, like fear holds us back from doing the things that need to get done, v. 22. We weren’t left here to just be hearers of the word, we’re here to share the gospel message with those who we know need to hear it no matter what their condition, v. 27b. At the same time we should avoid anger and fear, which are the things of this world, v. 27c.

Humility involves accepting the will of God for our lives just as it is.

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February 18.11 ethot

James 1:14 (13-18) “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

With this verse James defines temptation, which is not the same as trials even though the Greek word used is the same. In the King James Version of the Bible, the Greek word is translated consistently as temptation.

As we go through life and experience many, many things we will find ourselves asking which are from God and which are not. James tells us that we need to keep one thing in mind as we encounter the difficulties of our lives, and that is that God is always the same, v. 13. If what is happening to you causes you to sin, it’s not from God, v. 17.

God doesn’t tempt us; He tests us. The idea being that God is working on each of us to bring us to maturity or to make us more effective in witness. In that process like making a sword the metal will go through a lot of heat and beating until it is just right.

When I go running off after an impulse and find myself in trouble that is not a test from God, v. 13. Unfortunately we forget that an impulse is a decision we make just like any other.

Decisiveness involves maintaining our commitments in spite of the distractions of life.

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February 17.11 ethot

James 1:11b (1-12) “so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

45 or so years had already passed since the birth of our Lord and most of the visitors to the day of Pentecost had left with their newfound faith. The church or gathering of believers was still largely Jewish with a good understanding of the Old Testament.

There was a lot of resistance to this, what appeared to the Romans as a, new order of Jewish religion by more traditional Jews (the Pharisees & scribes). This new group of followers of Jesus was intent on actually living out what they believed. They were practicing the Law they had learned about as children and abandoning the rituals that had lost all their former meaning.

But life wasn’t much different then than today. The pursuit of happiness was the pursuit of money, so the rich were envied… just like today! Now James is not saying that happiness is to be found in poverty, just that there is nothing on this earth worth the effort, vs. 9&10.

In contrast to the pursuit of happiness here is the pursuit of happiness to be had in heaven, v. 12. But, knowing that our struggles hear will be rewarded there should produce in us a certain joy because we understand that the testing of our faith will be but for a short time compared with eternity, v. 2.

Joyfulness involves keeping our eyes on the promise then living that out right where we are.

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