James 5:7-11

Our Scripture Reading for today is:

James 5:7           Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

James 5:10           Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

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In the midst of our lives, we are thrilled to have not just ANY God, not JUST a God who is our Judge and who stands at the door, BUT a Lord who is FULL of compassion and mercy! Proven on the cross, our God abides with us each and every day, giving us the confidence and strength and faith to PERSEVERE with great joy until He comes again!

BLESSED are those who persevere! Think of all the times that blessing resulted in your life because you persevered. In our modern day we just do NOT practice perseverance… We live in the day where if Obama doesn’t deliver in 100 days all his promises, we have the tendency to give up on the idea that he can accomplish anything. We live in the day of immediate gratification and we need to release those gratifications and set our eyes on the long view of faith. Pray for it! God will give it to you!

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James 4:13-17

Our Scripture reading for today is:

James 4:13           Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

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The Church Father Oecumenius writes in his commentary on James concerning verse 14 and the fleeting nature of temporal riches:

“James says this in order to indicate just how fleeting and empty our present life is. He wants to make us ashamed of the fact that we spend all our time engaged in its vanity, and in the evils of this age and in things which, as soon as they are accomplished, disappear, and all our labor vanishes with them.”

No matter how we look at it, no matter the gyrations we put our mind through and excuses we make, at the end of the day, it is a very rare person these days that is truly focused on Godliness rather than making as much money as they can so they can boast and enjoy themselves on the weekend. But I am HAPPY to say we actually have quite a few of those rare birds here at Peace Lutheran!

But for you as the reader of this blog, (the one or two of you), and all who might read this passage in James, the question is for YOU: Is your heart truly an “If it is the Lord’s Will” kind of heart who is perfectly content to reside in the palm of the Lord’s hand? Is YOUR heart in any way tainted with the stain of the world and the many opportunities for you to boast in something other than the Lord.

If so (and it really is for so for all of us to some extent or another), today is the day that we can do the good we know we ought to do! Today is the day to turn your face to Jesus and know His powerful Grace and Mercy for you. Today is the day for you to know His forgiveness anew and live aright!

James 4:11-12

Our Scripture text for today is:

James 4:11           Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

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COMMENTS:

Continuing on the theme of speaking against one’s neighbor, James expands that somewhat to include that nasty habit of judging one’s neighbor… The two, unfortunately, usually go together!

But we need to be careful we don’t misunderstand these (and other) verses in the scripture that have to do with not judging our neighbor. Many people take this to mean that there is NO judgement and that “anything goes”… This is NOT the case, as these verses in the same breath take great pains to remind us that indeed there IS a judge, and that judge is God! And so when the church preaches on moral and ethical issues to the world (and to individuals) it does so on the basis of GOD’S JUDGEMENTS, not our own! The PROBLEM for Christians is that we like to judge others on the basis of our own made up “laws” that we have in our mind, not actually and ONLY the law of Christ! We like to judge our neighbor because his dog or children misbehave or he looks funny or different or… WHATEVER… This is evil because it makes US into the lawgiver and judge – an office that only God can occupy!

Pray, pray, pray, that we can keep our tongue and mind in check when it comes to slandering and judging our neighbor!

James 4:7-10

Our Scripture for today is:

James 4:7           Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

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COMMENTS:

There is that nasty word “submit”! Deal with it!

Then there is the statement that if we resist the devil he will flee from you. This relates in mind to the problem of demon possession. Do we have to fear demon possession? The truth is that although you might be tempted and badgered by the devil as a Christian, you must actually INVITE or ALLOW a demon to come into you and set up shop before he can… A Christian definitely never has to fear the devil or demon possession if he/she calls on the power of God in Jesus Christ. God is MUCH more powerful than a demon!

Grieve, mourn and wail… There definitely are times when we need to do just this… Is this the time? For me? For you? For our community? For our nation? We flee most of the time not from the devil, but from true repentance! But what is the reward of our repentance and humbleness? It is that the Lord our God will RAISE US UP!

Do we want to be raised up? Who doesn’t? Then let us humble ourselves before not just an angry and vengeful God, but a God who is SO gracious and perfectly in love with each one of us! Can there be anything better?

James 4:4-6

Our Scripture Reading for today:

James 4:4           You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

        “God opposes the proud
                but gives grace to the humble.”

COMMENTS:

God’s CHIEF gift is GRACE, not “stuff”! God gave us His Holy Spirit not so that we might crave worldly things, but to hunger and thirst for righteousness!
These are difficult words for our generation. A lot of people say they too busy making a living to find time for God. The fact is that they are not too busy making a living, they are too busy attaining the lifestyle they desire! Are they really just friends with the world and NOT God?
Questions to think about: Are there really benefits to being poor? Is being poor a virtue? Jesus himself said that it is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle! But when the disciples said “then no one can get into heaven”, Jesus retorted : “with God all things are possible!”
So, no, it is not a SIN to be rich, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get to heaven, but the serious problem for the rich is that they DO become proud of themselves, forgetting that ALL their riches are a GIFT. Further, they simply forget that they are not self sufficient or without a need of a savior.
What is the problem with our rich western nations who were ONCE mostly Christian? We simply have lost our bearings on our need and dependance on God. We have largely abandoned any true worship of our Lord. We are being tested – and seem to be failing! But YOU AND I, we pray that we might be tested and become stronger in our faith! AMEN!

James 4:1-3

Our Scripture Reading for today:

James 4:1           What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

COMMENTS:

James is really clear on the matter of money and what we do to get it… There was a man out at the corner of Keyser and Oak streets the other day with a sign that said “Honk if you love money”… Well, there were PLENTY of honkers! I wanted to get a sign too and stand with him that said: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6) Why do countries go to war? Why do people fight and quarrel? It is most often because they want something that isn’t theirs! Plain and simple!

And so the question IS: Are there no pleasures that the Lord wants us to enjoy? Is it out of line to desire that we seek the money to obtain a pleasure? And what WOULD be the proper motive to ask God for something? Is it wrong to ask God for a bigger house, a nicer car, a week long vacation to Disney Land?

This morning I got an email invitation to go to the Holy Land (I get them all the time)… I would love to go, but I wonder what exactly my motives are. Are they just for the adventure and fun of it? Or are my desires truly spiritual – that I go to literally follow in Christ’s footsteps? And is it wrong to have BOTH motivations? Perhaps if I had a PURE and Godly motive, perhaps God would find me a way?

This is, of course, related to the 9th and 10th commandment to be content with what you have. It is important to be able to enjoy what God has given us, but at the same time just be content with it. If we are going to be asking for more, we have to be sure that our motives are actually to better serve God, not just make us “happier”. We all KNOW that a better house and a nicer car really are NOT going to make us happier people!

CATCH UP DAY!

Talk about a sinner pastor! Missing two days of his scripture commentary!

For Monday:

James 3:1           Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

James 3:3           When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

COMMENTS:
This verse reminds us that being a teacher or any other kind of leader in the church demands a high accountability. Yes, all Christians SHOULD be accountable to the faith and to righteous living. But because of the sinful world that we live in, there is a heavier burden of righteous living for the church leader. The consequences on the church when its leaders fall into sin is very large!

I know this for myself, unfortunately! I really don’t make huge “mistakes” every day, but what I have come to realize is that people in the congregation – and otherwise – hold me up to a very high standard – and when I DO make an obvious mistake, seemingly however small it is, it IS a BIG DEAL. You can pray for all pastors and lay leaders in our churches, that we might be faithful in our example of Christian living!

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For Tuesday:

5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 3:7           All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:9           With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

COMMENTS:
We always like to sing the song “Pass it On” which begins with the words: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…” I always wondered whether the author of that song knew about these verses from James? The idea is the same, although the subject is opposite! The song’s subject is the Gospel, but here James is talking about the power of the an evil word to cause a whole forest fire!

Perhaps the most difficult task of the Christian is to keep his tongue in check! I always ask confirmation students what the hardest commandment to keep is. Usually they never pick the 8th commandment. I propose to them that it probably is one of the most difficult. Our Lutheran Catechism teaches:

You Shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him slander him or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

Stick that in your hat and keep it!

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For Today:

James 3:13           Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

James 3:17           But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

COMMENTS:

What more is there to say on this? James is wonderfully clear and concise! There is wisdom from God that we ought to be seeking out with all our hearts: a wisdom steeped in humility! (Humility is the subject of this Sunday’s sermon!)