Tag Archives: Theology

Just James – Week 5

It is already week five in our mission to memorize the book of James in one year. This week we will be memorizing verses 12 and 13. There is still time to join in with us. In fact one of my friends found out just this past week that we were doing this and she jumped right in and caught up with us in one week! Serious kudos!

In our verses for this week, James revisits suffering which is one of the themes of the book. In verse two, James introduced that suffering would produce steadfastness or patience in the life of the believer. In verse 12 he further explains that for those who remain steadfast to the end there awaits “the crown of life”. This is not to be interpreted as a literal crown, but rather that those who in suffering and trials steadfastly persevere by trusting in the grace of God will receive eternal life. Let me clarify so as not to confuse anyone. Simply persevering through trials and suffering does not earn salvation or eternal life for anyone. Scripture is very clear that there is not one single thing we can do to save ourselves. It is by grace alone through faith alone. What the trials instead show us and what verse 12 is making clear is that persevering in trials and suffering is an evidence of who we are in Christ.

There are some who erroneously teach that when you become a Christian that your life will be all sunshine and roses. That is not what Scripture teaches. In fact James is quite clear that all of us will face suffering. He offers exclusions to no one. So if suffering does not earn us Salvation and we cannot avoid it, what purpose does it serve? I’m glad you asked. Suffering is not about us. Suffering is about us drawing closer to God. In trials God teaches us to become less dependent upon ourselves and instead to rely more upon Him. Those who suffer faithfully are drawn in their suffering to a deeper and closer relationship with Christ. It is in the stripping away of our own self-dependency and pride that we recognize and see God for who He is. As we lean further into Christ and become more dependent on Him and what He has done we are further united with Christ in His death and resurrection. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” How do we become pure? By exchanging our sins for His righteousness. What is the end result of us being considered pure? That we will see God face to face. The great promise and blessing given by God to those who follow Him that He will makes His face to shine upon us.

Verse 13 is loaded with tons of theological implications. So if suffering comes from God, does temptation come from God also? James is very clear that the answer is a resounding, “No!” God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin. Therefore, when we are tempted to sin it does not come from God. Next week, we will learn in verse 14 more about where sin comes from.

If there are any questions or if anyone feels like I may have gotten something not quite right, please comment below.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 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.
(James 1:12-13 ESV)

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Just James – Weeks 1 & 2

Last year my friend Liz did something truly incredible. She committed the entire book of Colossians to memory. Seriously. An entire book of the Bible that she was able to quote from memory. And not just learning a few verses, quoting them, and then forgetting them as she moved on to the next verses. No, she is able to say the whole book from beginning to end.

Upon her success I had two striking thoughts concerning her accomplishment. First, I was overjoyed that she was able to memorize it all. Overjoyed because I know what spiritual rewards will be harvested by her in her own life in the days and years to come because of this accomplishment. Secondly, I was brought face to face with the lack of commitment I have given to Scripture memory in my own spiritual life.  As a child and teenager I was often required to memorize lots of Scripture, but as an adult it has been many years since I have tackled Scripture memory. Fortunately, this is something that can be fixed simply by dedicating myself to it.

Now at this point some of you may be wondering why in the world you would agree to such a thing. Well, I could point out all of the reasons, but I’m a slow typist and others have stated the reasons better than I can. Desiring God has an excellent article on the importance of memorizing Scripture here. Ann Voskamp lists the benefits that she received through her memorization last year in this post.

So here we are. This post is the introduction to what I hope will be a weekly series for this year. Liz and I have decided to memorize the book of James together and we would welcome anyone else to join in with us. Liz put together a schedule for the year that has us learning two to three verses a week. If you would like to participate, simply leave a comment below that you’re on board and I can email you a copy of the schedule for the year. At the end of every chapter, we will have a week dedicated to review of that chapter. I plan to write a short post at the beginning of every week to outline the verses we are memorizing for the upcoming week and to write a little bit about what the verses mean.

Unfortunately, I’m about a week late with this post as we started memorizing James last week. However, you should be be able to catch up without any problems. Last week we memorized James 1:1-3 and this week we are adding verses 4 and 5. We are using the ESV version, but you may use whatever version you would prefer. I hope that others will join in with us as we commit to memorize the book of James together.

Here are the first five verses.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Greetings.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

(James 1:1-5 ESV)

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Enough

The Lord is my shepherd . . .

Familiar words that have been heard so often they recall in an instant the words that follow after.

. . . I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. 

And without much thought the phrases trickle forward from the recesses of the mind.

. . . He restores my soul . . . 

 . . . though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . .

. . . thy rod and staff comfort me . . .

 . . . You prepare a table for me . . .

 . . . surely goodness and mercy shall follow me . . . and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever . . . 

Familiar words that even those who would not identify themselves as Christian would recognize. After all, Psalm 23 has been the cornerstone of thousands of funeral messages, regardless of ones religious affiliation. The words — in their many variations — can be seen embossed on napkins and coffee mugs, or etched on plaques of lacquered wood that are mounted on the wall of grandma’s bathroom. They have become so very common place that we often miss seeing them at all.

One of the accounts I follow on Twitter is ESV Daily Verse. Every day one single verse of Scripture from the English Standard Version sent directly to my phone. It comes in the early morning hours before I am awake and when I turn my phone on in the morning it is usually the first tweet that comes through. Sometimes the verse resonates and I meditate on what it has to say. Other times I go and read the other verses around it to gather the context. Too often, I breeze past it with a “that-is-good-but-it’s-time-to-check-my-e-mail-and-make-my-tea” attitude.

This morning was different. I was stopped in my tracks. Riveted by a verse that was so familiar it often seems mundane. The tweet today simply read, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” No follow up verses. No continuation into what the rest of the chapter promises. Simply verse one. And while my mind quickly raced forward remembering the phrases from the rest of the chapter, it was halted again and again as it returned to the opening sentence.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

And so I sat in the early morning pre-sunrise light and stared at my phone, convicted by the simple message on the screen from words I have known by heart since I was a little child. What hit me square between my eyes was the fact that I was trying to live my life resting in the promises of God. “Wait!”, you might say, “Isn’t that what we are suppose to do?” Yes, it is, but I think that for me I had taken it too far.

See, this morning I found myself realizing that I was resting on the promises of what the psalmist had written in verses two through six, but I had slipped away from relying on verse one. I was focused on my day-by-day’s being rooted in God’s “stuff” — His rod and staff, the green pasture, the table He has spread for me, and the joys of eternity — instead of being focused on God. It hit me that while there is incredible truth and promises in the last part of Psalm 23 — and I am so very thankful they are there — I don’t need anything more than verse one.

He is my shepherd. I shall not want.

There needs not be any discussion past that verse. My needs, wants, and desires are all culminated in God. To state it in a slightly different way, “God is enough.” Enough for what? For my fears, my sin, my failings, my worries? Yes! Does God comfort me? Yes, but the fact that He is God should be enough comfort. Does God provide for me? Yes, but He is God and that is enough. Do I find peace from the promises of His mercy and grace? Absolutely! But He is God and every promise that comes from Him is provided only when we first see Him.

The promises of God that follow after verse one are simply an extension of who God is. I lost sight of that. I was trying to find comfort in His staff and the green pastures without actually looking for the shepherd. I was attempting to eat from a table and rest in promises of eternal joy without seeing the One through whom provision comes. I have no need with God as my shepherd. None. God is enough. I had become so enthralled with the blessings, I wasn’t seeing the One who blesses.

He is my shepherd and that is all that I need.

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