Book of James, part one

As I spend more time studying the Bible I’ve had a strong desire to write about it.  I’ve hesitated because I’m just now beginning my full pursuit of Christ, and any thoughts or observations I have come from someone with very limited biblical knowledge.  I still strongly feel that writing about this stuff will help me better understand and digest it, so I’m going to do it.  I’m going to always pray before and after writing anything here in the hopes to never misinterpret scripture or mislead someone who may be reading here.  Mostly, this is just a study diary for myself.  If it can somehow be a help to anyone else then that’s just an extra blessing.  My bible is English Standard Version, in case that matters to anyone 🙂

The book of James was suggested to me by Zach at church.  It’s funny because several of the books of the Bible that God has led me to so far feel very instructive, like He knew that I needed to learn the basics first.

If you want a great song to listen to while you read, HERE is the song I listened to while writing this blog post.  I discovered this band today and I love them.  They’re like a Christian Mumford and Sons.

HISTORY OF JAMES

The author of this book is thought by most to be James, the half brother of Jesus.  While Jesus lived, James was not a believer.  After the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus appeared to James (1Corinthians 15:7).   James would go on to become a believer in Jesus, rising to a place of importance in the new church.  The book of James was written sometime around 48 AD.  It was written to several groups who had been dispersed throughout the land.  James was eventually killed for his belief in Jesus.

VERSES THAT JUMPED

As I started my study of the book of James one verse hit me harder than all the rest.

James 3:6  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  

I was drawn to this verse because of how strong it is.  It’s beautifully written, and gets the point across in a major way.  The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  So strong.  And it doesn’t just set normal fires, it sets the entire course of life on fire.  Oh, and the fire is by hell!  As a journalist/podcaster/novelist, this verse really gave me pause.  Maybe that’s why it caught me so fiercely, because my life is built around talking and writing to other people.  It’s definitely something that’s stuck with me hard and caused me to think deeply about the absolute power of words, whether spoken or written.  It’s also caused me to consider removing two of my novels from being available on amazon, as they’re a bit R rated and have a pretty dark theme.

I came back to the book of James a day later, and this time many more verses jumped out at me.

James 1:5-6  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

I was familiar with the first half of this verse.  Living a Godly life isn’t easy, yet sometimes it feels like people try to make it sound easy.  I think I heard a sermon once about James 1:5, and it sounded so peachy and easy.  Want wisdom?  Ask and receive!  Now you’re wise!  So simple!  But it’s that next sentence that really gets me.  Ask for it in faith, with no doubting.  Asking in faith doesn’t feel simple to me, it’s not just like asking for extra napkins at the drive through.  Faith is a shiny word, one people love for good reason.  But I don’t think as simple of a concept as it’s made out to be.  The word is defined as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”.  Not partial trust, not most of the time trust, not Sunday morning trust, not when I need healing or have a problem trust.  Complete trust.  The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald says re: James 1:6 that “God is not honored by the kind of faith that alternates between optimism and pessimism”.  So sure, ask for wisdom from God.  But do it with the right heart, from a place of complete trust and confidence.

The next verse I was drawn to was James 1:13-14.  I’ve always wondered about trials and tests and temptations.  Those that know me know I have a disease that’s really wrecked my legs and caused a lot of physical and emotional issues for me.  Is the illness a test or trial?  I honestly don’t know, but I doubt it.  I haven’t really studied about such things yet, but my gut reaction is that it’s not some God devised situation, it’s just part of being human.  However, along those same lines, I wonder about temptation.  Let’s say I’m flipping channels late at night and come across something risque on the movie channels.  Is God testing my dedication to being holy?  Well, James seems to clear some of that up.

James 1:13-14  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

I like how straight up that is.  “He himself tempts no one”.  God may test us, but he’s not going to tempt me with sin.  Other verses in the Bible expand on this, such as:

1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

So James tells me that God won’t tempt me, and 1 Corinthians tells me he’ll limit temptations to my ability AND provide me the way of escape.  What a comfort those two verses combine to be!  I feel empowered now that I know them.  God’s not designing temptation scenarios to see what my breaking points are.  Plus, when I do find myself tempted, he’s limiting it AND providing the escape plan.  That just puts it on me.  Silly, weak, broken, me.  But thankfully I’m not alone.  With a mighty and all powerful God sitting on the throne of my life, with a living God residing inside of me, the strength to see myself through temptation is there for the taking.  More and more I see that and it’s like having a superpower.  It’s harder and harder to feel tempted, because I’m more and more aware of His word.  He’s got me covered in those situations, if I’ll allow Him.

Once you start to really get that, it makes sin feel heavier.  These days I feel like sin is a choice.  God’s equipped me to deal with temptation, so when I falter or stumble, it’s not generally because I was ignorant or caught off guard, it’s because I put myself in a bad situation.  Sin feels weightier because of that now.  My desire to avoid sin has grown a lot, because if I’m sinning it’s rarely a slip up, it’s a choice.  And if I’m choosing sin over holiness, then what am I doing?  Where is my heart?  I want my heart to be like the heart of Jesus.  I want to be holy.  I want to be pure.  And so when I am tempted now, that’s what I hear, that question; where is my heart?  I don’t want to be the man I’ve been, I want to be a new man, one who lives holy and pure.  And knowing James 1:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 10:13 helps me do that.  God’s not tempting me, he’s not putting traps and pitfalls on my path.  He’s keeping temptations limited and giving me the answers I need to maneuver through and around them.  And when I ask in faith, he’s giving me wisdom, which helps keep me out of situations where temptation might arise.

There’s more from the book of James that I want to talk about, but I’m going to save it for another time, as this post has already gotten pretty long.  If you would, I ask that you please add a man named John to your prayers tonight.  I’ve known him for a long time and he’s going through some health problems right now.

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