James 3 B

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” 3:13-16 NLT 

I like the phrasing of prove it. It reminds me that godly behavior isn’t something I need to do to earn God’s love, but simply a symptom of it in my life. It’s proof.

And that counter part? Jealousy and selfish ambition? That’s always proof that I’m acting on the desires of my ego and pride.

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” 3:17-18

Gentle, pure, peace-loving, self-sacrificing, merciful, and sincere. These are the marks of true wisdom from God. What a great checklist to reference!

 

-Carly

James 2 B

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that Faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, Faith was perfected.” (21-22)

I like using the word trust instead of faith, only because we’ve seemed to confuse ourselves about what faith is. Faith is a step–a trust fall if you will–toward the God you believe will catch you. Our greatest example of this is that crazy story of Abraham offering up his most cherished to the LORD who made a promise he believed.

There is no doubt about it, our actions scream what we trust. Our faith (or lack there of) is more obvious than we think.

This is very often tested against our devotion to money. Do we trust God or do we trust money? He did say we can’t serve both masters. Faith is most demonstrated in generosity, I believe.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a significant amount of time in countries where the lingering effects of communism can still be seen. This is the most obviously demonstrated in the sharing of snacks. I have found myself ashamed on more than one occasion, for being really excited about a snack and not sharing it as much as I should have. All while observing my friends share their snacks so much, they basically get the same one bite everyone else does. What is this? My American innards quake, damn commies! Can’t anyone just eat their own snacks? It truly uncovered something alarming inside me. On one occasion, I was sneaking snacks to my close friends, subsequently becoming annoyed by the fact that they were sharing their small portion with everyone else. Why can’t I just be generous to my favorites? (4)

I was reminded of this again today, which is probably why these verses are hitting me different this time around.

“if a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (15-16)

I don’t know what to do with all this, beside challenge myself to be more generous than I am. But let’s not forget… WHY.

Because I serve God, not money, and I have faith–trust–that He is who He says He is in all cases. He also said Scripture is fulfilled when we love others as ourselves.

What does this stir in you? How do you trust God about money? How is that evident in your generosity? After all, faith without works is dead.

-Bethany

James 1 B

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” 1:26-27

I’ve looked at this verse a lot in my life, but I feel like I’m just starting to gain some understanding. I’ve always read it like this: your relationship with God is worthless if you can’t watch your mouth. (Which I can’t, by the way. If I’m not gossiping, I’m losing my temper. It’s gotten better over the years but will always remain a struggle of mine.)

Today I read it like this: Religion has nothing to do with being on your best behavior, that isn’t going to happen. What God expects out of your ‘religion’ is caring for orphans and widows in their time of need and staying separate from the culture around me. Don’t act like them, act like me.

Bethany and I are listening to seminar sessions Richard Rohr put out in the early 90’s. The only thing that dates the material is when he mentions purchasing his first answering machine for his land line. Otherwise, it’s still perfectly relevant information.

In the session I listened to yesterday, he off-handedly mentioned that he’s never seen a church fight over who is caring for widows and orphans the best. No, instead, we are constantly at war over leadership, aesthetics, religious tendencies, etc. Or as he describes it, our egos. Talk to anyone in ministry and they will nod in agreement. In my experience, even the “godly” topics that get debated are still rooted in a power struggle.

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” 1:22-25

This is always my prayer. Sometimes I worry that the pace in which I read and process the Bible is too rapid, and I’m not applying it enough. But then I think about how quickly and immediately I imitate what secular culture teaches me. What catch phrases people are saying, who’s dating who, what politician did what, and so on. Information is flowing in and out of my life at a very rapid pace, but I get to control what I retain and mimic.

How do you exercise being a doer of the word and not just a hearer? 

(James gives a pretty clear picture of this in the next chapter. I’m thankful Bethany is going to cover it! I love her wisdom on works vs. faith.)

 

-Carly

Psalm 148-150 B

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (150:6‬)

This glorious collection of prayers, poems, laments and songs ends with a call to praise. Everything! 148 invites all life (including bugs v.10) to praise Him. 150 employs all instruments to praise Him.

Today, I had the sudden urge to break out into a loud, hearty rendition of “Crown Him with Many Crowns”. I restrained myself, since I was in a quiet room of people (what a shame), but when it came time to read today’s passage; I felt the call to praise Him at the surface of my soul.

We are His creation; the marvelous work of His hands. He is beyond comparison or comprehension and the very essence of His majesty begs to be praised.

Now might not be the time or place, but let’s find that time and place today and sing to Him!

Tomorrow we start the letter of James.

-Bethany

Psalm 146-147 B

What a wonderful pair of chapters to study today!

“He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures. He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry. He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” 147:8-11

I needed this today. Honestly, I need it every day! I need to remember what’s true about God, because my tendency to return to slavery and performance runs deep.

Things that are true: (you know I love making a good list)

-God brings the rain. He brings the rain that quenches thirsty people and he brings the rain that washes houses away in a flood. He’s sovereign; he gives and he takes away.

-God feeds the wild animals, he tells the wildflowers when to bloom and he hears the cries of the baby birds. He sees & knows every need. Again, he sees and knows every need.

-He is not impressed with human (or animal, apparently) strength. He’s not asking you to be strong, to meet every need, accomplish every task or fix every problem. What delights him and when we trust him and when we hope in him. I love this reminder! There’s so much pressure to be strong, and cool and not need anyone or anything.

Hope has been on my heart lately. I tend to get it mixed up with my superficial optimism, or let it be smothered by my anxious doubt.

What situation in your life needs a dose of hope?

What does it look like to truly hope in God?

-Carly

Psalm 144-145 B

“The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His world. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, and Your godly ones shall bless You.” (145:9-10)

This made me think of nature shows like Planet Earth. It’s incredible to think about the LORD’s care for all living things. His mercy covers creation, from the sensitive grass blade to the rough and tumble mountain goat. His ability to sustain and flourish is wondrous.

In turn, creation sings back praises of thanks, and those who know Him, bless Him.

What does your worship life look like these days? How do you bless the LORD?

-Bethany

Psalm 140-143 B

“When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” 142:3b

Admittedly, I get overwhelmed easily. Psalms like this are great to underline and memorize, but even better when we apply it in the midst of anxiety.

I’m overwhelmed easily, but God is calculated, intentional, all-knowing and he speaks to us.

He knows what you should do; he has the answer to the things that keep you up at night.

What are you overwhelmed about? Take it to him!

-Carly