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THE ABIDING LIFE

JESUS: OUR SUSTAINING GRACE

THE ABIDING LIFE


For centuries, people around the world have asked, “Does God see us? Can He help us through this nerve-racking time?”


From cover to cover, the Bible testifies to this fact: God will judge and punish all evil. At times, however, it may appear that evil prospers and wickedness prevails. Evildoers have been battling the church all throughout its existence.


Yet in contrast, God’s church will be sustained by the grace of God. Believers should build one another up in Christ and keep themselves in the love of God. The church is to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The gospel message is irrevocable and true. The faithful transmission of the gospel message from one generation to the next is at the heart of the mission of God’s people, and lives are changed everywhere the gospel message is proclaimed. The mercy of God protects those who truly know Christ and sustains them in the gospel message and faithful obedience in the face of outward hostility. Jesus keeps His people from stumbling and will present them faultless one day.


There is no better time than right now to seek refuge and find shelter in God.


Comfort can be found during all of life’s greatest challenges. Finding refuge in God is always our safest place. God offers hope in times of uncertainty and relief to people who are experiencing real troubles and fear. The church must persevere, knowing that nothing they face in this world can take away the hope they have in Christ.


Truth will prevail. Deception and hypocrisy will be exposed, and will be judgedin God’s time and in God’s way. And the true church will be sustained by the grace of God.


Join us Sundays at the High Prairie Arts & Science Complex as we lean in together to:


  • find ways to worship in times of trouble,
  • experience prayer in pressure,
  • show grace when we are at our wits’ end,
  • and with God’s help, triumph over trouble.

FOR YOU HAVE BEEN A STRONGHOLD TO THE POOR, A STRONGHOLD TO THE NEEDY IN HIS DISTRESS, A SHELTER FROM THE STORM AND A SHADE FROM THE HEAT.

ISAIAH 25:4


THEREFORE, SINCE WE ARE SURROUNDED BY SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES, LET US ALSO LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT, AND SIN WHICH CLINGS SO CLOSELY, AND LET US RUN WITH ENDURANCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US, LOOKING TO JESUS, THE FOUNDER AND PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH, WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS, DESPISING THE SHAME, AND IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD.

HEBREWS 12:1-2


MOSES' REFUGE

AUGUST 9, 2020

  1. Who is God? “For you have been a stronghold for the poor person, a stronghold for the needy in his distress a refuge from storms and a shade from heat (Isaiah 25:4a, Christian Standard Bible).
  2. The Timing of the Flood: Waited 7 days after entered ark for rain. 40 days of rain. 150 days until flood peaks. 40 days until mountains visible (water drains), and raven and dove released. 2x7 days of dove tests. Noah removes ark cover about 1 month later. Noah leaves ark about 2 months later at God’s command. Roughly 1 year in the ark.
  3. The Facts of Jacob’s Refuge:
  4. Jacob had 12 sons and 1 daughter.
  5. Jacob’s name meant “Heel Grasper” or “Deceiver.
  6. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel which meant, “Struggled with God.
  7. Jacob was separated from Esau for 20 years before they reconciled (14 years of labor for 2 wives and 6 years of labor for livestock).
  8. The Facts of Joseph’s Refuge:
  9. Joseph had 2 sons: Manasseh (“God has made me forget all my hardship and my whole family”) and Ephraim (“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”).
  10. Joseph reconciled with his brothers after 22 years. He was 17 when he was sold as a slave. He was 30 when he became Prime Minister. 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine.
  11. The Facts of Moses’ Refuge:
  12. The Egyptians were at war with the Hittites during the time of the Exodus.
  13. This a story before the formation of the nation of Israel. Ethnically, the family of Israel is called Hebrew.
  14. Genocide – the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group
  15. Moses’ name means “drawing out.
  16. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 tells us that Moses was well-educated and a good communicator. Also, Moses was 40 years old when he fled Egypt and 80 years old when he returned (40 years of shepherding in wilderness before his call).
  17. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. For he considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt since he was looking ahead to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26, Christian Standard Bible).
  18. What should we do? “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, Christian Standard Bible).
  19. What is next?
  • August 16 – Passover (Exodus 11-13)
  • August 23 – Naomi in Moab as a refugee and back to Israel as a widow (Ruth)
  • August 30 – Love Bismarck (Sunday Serve)


TABLE TALK QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

When is it okay to tell a lie? Why?


JOSEPH'S REFUGE

AUGUST 2, 2020

  1. Who is God? “For you have been a stronghold for the poor person, a stronghold for the needy in his distress a refuge from storms and a shade from heat (Isaiah 25:4a, Christian Standard Bible).
  2. The Facts of Noah's Refuge:
  3. Noah’s family is the only righteous family in all of humanity. Humanity was violent.
  4. God tells them to build an ark (big barge-like boat), as He is about to destroy the earth by a flood.
  5. Noah has 3 sons – Shem, Ham, Japheth.
  6. Enter ark with 2 (male and female) of each unclean animal, and 14 (7 pairs) of clean animal.
  7. Timing: Waited 7 days after entered ark for rain. 40 days of rain. 150 days until flood peaks. 40 days until mountains visible (water drains), and raven and dove released. 2x7 days of dove tests. Noah removes ark cover about 1 month later. Noah leaves ark about 2 months later at God’s command. Roughly 1 year in the ark.
  8. The Facts of Jacob’s Refuge:
  9. Isaac and Rebecca had 2 sons – Jacob and Esau.
  10. Esau sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, for a bowl of beans.
  11. Jacob’s uncle’s name is Laban (Rebecca’s brother).
  12. Jacob had 4 wives: Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah.
  13. Jacob had 12 sons and 1 daughter.
  14. Jacob’s name meant “Heel Grasper” or “Deceiver.
  15. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel which meant, “Struggled with God.
  16. Jacob was separated from Esau for 20 years before they reconciled (14 years of labor for 2 wives and 6 years of labor for livestock).
  17. The Facts of Joseph’s Refuge:
  18. Israel favored Joseph over his brothers.
  19. Joseph tattletales on his brothers and told them dreams of them bowing down to him.
  20. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery for 20 silver pieces to Ishmaelite traders.
  21. Joseph was a slave in Potiphar’s house (captain of Pharaoh’s security).
  22. Joseph was in prison for a false accusation. While there, he interpreted dreams of Pharaoh’s cup bearer (poison detector) and chief baker, but was forgotten.
  23. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and was elevated to Prime Minister of Egypt.
  24. Joseph had 2 sons: Manasseh (“God has made me forget all my hardship and my whole family”) and Ephraim (“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”).
  25. Joseph reconciled with his brothers after 22 years. He was 17 when he was sold as a slave. He was 30 when he became Prime Minister. 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine.
  26. What should we do? “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, Christian Standard Bible).
  27. What is next?
  • August 9 - Moses in wilderness (Exodus 2-4)
  • August 16 – Passover (Exodus 11-13)
  • August 23 – Naomi in Moab as a refugee and back to Israel as a widow (Ruth)
  • August 30 – Love Bismarck (Sunday Serve)


TABLE TALK QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

How many children do you think are ideal to have in a family? Why?


NOAH'S REFUGE

JULY 19, 2020

  1. Who is God? “For you have been a stronghold for the poor person, a stronghold for the needy in his distress a refuge from storms and a shade from heat (Isaiah 25:4a, Christian Standard Bible).
  2. Introduction for Parents:
  3. What do we do with the parts of the Bible that happened before recorded history (Genesis 1-11) that are a bit different from scientific discovery? Conversations around a table about faith options:
  4. Interpret all Bible stories as literal, i.e. seven 24-hour days of Creation; Flood was over entire world.
  5. Interpret Bible as true as could be best described to the audience that first received each book of the Bible, i.e. named people existed; events happened. Yet, Bible books are not scientific textbooks. Their point is to lead to faith in unseen God instead of idols.
  6. Interpret Bible as myth with point being parables about faith.
  7. What are some key things to notice in conversations about the Flood and contemporary discovery?
  8. Almost all regions of the world’s geography are shaped by water and ice.
  9. Almost all cultures of the world have a story of a catastrophic flood.
  10. Point of Genesis – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
  11. The Facts of Noah's Refuge:
  12. Noah’s family is the only righteous family in all of humanity. Humanity was violent.
  13. God tells them to build an ark (big barge-like boat), as He is about to destroy the earth by a flood.
  14. Noah has 3 sons – Shem, Ham, Japheth.
  15. Enter ark with 2 (male and female) of each unclean animal, and 14 (7 pairs) of clean animal.
  16. Timing: Waited 7 days after entered ark for rain. 40 days of rain. 150 days until flood peaks. 40 days until mountains visible (water drains), and raven and dove released. 2x7 days of dove tests. Noah removes ark cover about 1 month later. Noah leaves ark about 2 months later at God’s command. Roughly 1 year in the ark.
  17. What do we learn?
  18. Humanity by nature is sinful. Our lives can be a witness to God’s goodness. Yet, we are never the heroes of a story of God.
  19. God’s nature is both just and merciful. He can destroy the wicked. Yet, He creates ways to protect the faithful.
  20. We learn about our spiritual nature as “being made in God’s image” by descriptions of God. He feels sad for humanity’s sin. He watches us and remembers us.
  21. Faith involves long seasons of mystery and obedience.
  22. God makes promises (pacts, agreements, covenants) with His people. He promises stable seasons and to never destroy the earth by a worldwide flood again.
  23. Humanity is to steward Creation (rule over in a God-like way). Humanity is also to have children.
  24. Life changes. Humanity now eats meat. Yet cannot eat meat with blood in it. Likely against animism and idolatry. This continues as Christianity becomes a worldwide religion (Acts 15).
  25. Water always wins.
  26. What should we do? “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, Christian Standard Bible).
  27. What is next?
  • July 26 - Jacob in Laban’s home for 20 years to escape Esau’s wrath
  • August 2 - Joseph in Potiphar’s home and prison
  • August 9 - Moses in wilderness
  • August 16 – Passover
  • August 23 – Naomi in Moab as a refugee and back to Israel as a widow (Ruth)
  • August 30 – Love Bismarck (Sunday Serve)


TABLE TALK QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

Ask a grandparent: “What’s the longest you’ve ever had to wait for God to answer your prayer?”


JESUS: OUR PERFECT EXAMPLE

THE BOOK OF JAMES


James writes his letter

c. AD 46–61


James leads Jerusalem Council

c. AD 50


James martyred in Jerusalem

c. AD 62–69


Jesus transforms every aspect of life. All of the New Testament letters describe the transformation that the Good News brings to those who embrace it by faith. The book of James is unique in its singular focus on this theme. James, the half brother of Jesus, is thought to be the author of this book bearing his name. He wrote to the believers scattered abroad who were undoubtedly facing persecution for their faith in Christ (1:1).


James begins his letter by challenging believers to find joy in the midst of their suffering. They can find comfort in the knowledge that God is using these trials to make His people holy (1:2-4). Though they were a scattered, persecuted minority living among idolatrous nations, believers could have hope that God was at work.


Christians today also can seek wisdom from the Lord and find guidance for faithful living (1:5-7). God provides wisdom to His people through His Spirit and His Word, and believers honor God when they listen to the voice of God and obey what He says (1:19-27). James connects one’s faith in God with their obedience to His commands. He wrote that one who professes faith in Christ but lives in rebellion to His commands is a liar (2:14-26). The connection between faith and obedience, according to James, should be seen in the way a Christian loves and serves others (2:1-13), guards their speech from sin (3:1-12), and rejects worldly forms of wickedness and rebellion from God (4:1-10). James bookends his letter with another reminder of patient suffering in light of the coming return of Christ (5:7-11). Endurance under this kind of intense suffering requires Christian community—other believers who are given by God to pray, love, and serve one another, as they together seek to obey God.


Though James does not speak at great length about Jesus, it is clear that the principles he outlines in his letter follow the model set forth by Jesus during His earthly ministry. As the perfect Son of God, He patiently suffered with an awareness that He was fulfilling the Father’s perfect plan. All the while, He modeled virtues that James calls the church to embody. By fixing their gaze and affections on Christ, they could be doers of the Word and not merely hearers only. 


COUNT IT ALL JOY, MY BROTHERS, WHEN YOU MEET TRIALS OF VARIOUS KINDS.

JAMES 1:2


S O A P

SOAP is a Bible study method that we believe will help you grow in your walk with Jesus. It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. Follow the steps below to journey along with us through the book of James.

SCRIPTURE

Get to a place where you can focus and read the daily scripture several times. Rewrite portions that stuck out to you; consider rewriting the verse(s) in your own words.

OBSERVATION

Make a basic observation about the scripture you have just read. What stood out? Was something repeated? What is the author trying to communicate? What does this teach you about God? What does it teach you about humanity?

APPLICATION

Ask, “What does this verse mean for my life?” How might this verse affect your heart - what you feel? How does this verse challenge your thinking? How does it affect your will, asking, “What changes do I need to make in my life as a result of this passage of Scripture?”

PRAYER

Write out a prayer to God. Scripture is God speaking to you, take this moment to speak back. Take a moment to say, “Thank you,” or confess to Him what needs to change.


JAMES 5, PT. 3

JULY 12, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 5:7-12):

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.


My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

DISCUSS

How would you define prayer? What is it?


James 5:13–14 seems to give us a menu: For different situations, here’s what to do. Let’s parse that out. What situations are mentioned? What course of action is recommended for each one?


Let’s say that all three courses of action are some form of prayer. How would these types of prayer differ from one another?


Why is it important to get the church leaders involved in prayer for a sick person?


Is there more value in praying with other believers than in praying by yourself?


Is verse 15 telling us that every physical illness has a spiritual cause? What’s the connection between sickness and sin?


What do you say to God when you’re sick? Is this a time when you ignore God, or pay more attention to Him?


Do you think verse 15 guarantees healing if the people praying are faithful enough? Have you found this to be the case? Is every sick person healed when they’re properly prayed for?


The end of verse 16 has a sentence that many people know and often quote. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” What do you think that means?


So let’s ask the natural question: Who is righteous? Are we righteous? How do we become righteous? What distinguishes the righteous from the unrighteous?


Why do you think “confessing your sins to each other” is so important for healing and answered prayers?


As you look at the last two verses of James, how do they connect to the rest of this chapter? Can you make any sense of it?


If we’re right about the readers being like Pharisees—and take a glance at 4:11 to support that notion—how would they normally treat someone who “wanders from the truth”?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Prayer Journal: Begin keeping a prayer journal, in which you record the things you pray for. Plan to check back periodically to see how God is changing the situation, and how He’s changing you.


Group Prayer: If you don’t already do this, connect with other believers for group prayer. Talk with a few friends about getting together on a regular basis to pray for the needs of your church and community.


Care for the Sick: Do you know anyone who’s sick? How can you help them? Are there practical matters—errands to run—you could attend to? How could you encourage them? And don’t neglect prayer—for and with the sick person.


Study Elijah: The character of Elijah is fascinating. Pick the story up in 1 Kings 17, and follow him until he gets swept up to heaven in 2 Kings 2. Do a name search to find other Bible passages that mention Elijah. Consider how his “passions” made him such an effective pray-er.


Connect with Wanderer: Do you know anyone who is wandering from the faith? What can you do to reach out to this person? Pray a lot before you do anything. Listen for God’s direction. And remember all of James’s cautions about the tongue. Don’t spew harsh judgment, but express your love and concern.


JAMES 5, PT. 2

JULY 5, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 5:7-12):

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.


But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.


BUT ABOVE ALL, MY BROTHERS, DO NOT SWEAR, EITHER BY HEAVEN OR BY EARTH OR BY ANY OTHER OATH, BUT LET YOUR "YES" BE YES AND YOUR "NO" BE NO, SO THAT YOU MAY NOT FALL UNDER CONDEMNATION.

JAMES 5:12


DISCUSS

James is talking a lot about patience (using the word four times in four verses). According to verse 7, what did people need to be patient about?


What analogy does James use there in verse 7?


Have you ever planted a vegetable garden? How long does it seem to take from when you first plant the seeds to when you get to bring in the first ripe vegetable and cook it up?


How does this experience compare to waiting for Jesus’ return?


James says in verse 11 that those who persevere through suffering are “blessed.” What does he mean by that?


How does James 1:2–4 fill out your idea of the blessedness of suffering?


Have you ever heard suffering referred to as “the human condition?” What does that mean?


Is it true? Is suffering part of what it means to be human?


What other types of suffering have you seen or even experienced?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Gut-Level Prayer: Sometimes when you’re suffering, praying can be difficult—especially if you’re trying to mind your manners with God and pray correctly. Remember that prayer is open and honest communication with God. Take Job’s example and let God know just how miserable you are, just how angry, sad, scared, or confused you may be. Tell Him exactly how you feel. You aren’t fooling Him by trying to keep a secret from Him.


Listening: Find out someone else’s story. People become resilient through perseverance. When someone is gong through a terrible time of suffering, it may seem like it’s never going to end and hopelessness takes over. Even Job asked God to crush him and cut off his life so that his pain and misery would end. But Job persevered, and so have many, many people. Go to someone in your family, someone in your church, or someone else you know who has come through suffering. Ask to hear that person’s story.


Sit with the suffering: It’s good to pray for those who are suffering, and you should pray for them. But, sometimes they need someone just to be there with them, to comfort them and let them talk and hold their hand. You don’t have to have answers, especially to the question, “Why is this happening?” You can say, “I don’t know, but I’m here for you.”


Research and support: In various parts of the world, Christians are suffering for their faith. Research their struggles. Pray for them. Connect with an organization that helps them.


JAMES 5, PT. 1

JUNE 28, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 5:1-6):

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

DISCUSS

How would you describe the tone of this passage?


Who is James addressing in this section?


What is he predicting for them?


Why will this happen?


Do you think this is written to all “rich” people ever, to rich people in that time and place, or just to the rich people who were guilty of exploitation?


In James 5:1, what’s the first thing James wants the “rich” people to do?


How do you think this compares with their current attitude? (Do they spend a lot of time “weeping and howling”?)


Why would this be important? What is there to weep about?


How can we use the resources we have, such as they are, to help the poor?


What can we do to make sure that poor workers are not exploited, that they get a fair wage for their work?


Where are we storing our treasure? How can we break free from the idolatry of money and all the things it buys? How can we seek first God’s kingdom?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Review: Think back through the group discussions today. Were there any ideas that you could try out in the coming weeks?


Read: Isaiah 58. This chapter bears a lot of similarities to the book of James. People were religious, proud of their frequent fasting. But God challenges them to a new kind of devotion—caring for the needy, treating workers fairly, etc. Then that will open up a whole new kind of relationship with God.


Prayer of Confession and Commitment: Talk with God honestly and humbly about the role of money and possessions in your life.


Research: Find out more about exploitation in our world today. Share your findings with other believers. Pray together about what you could do to change things.


Budget: Examine your household budget. How do your expenditures reflect your spiritual priorities? What might need to change?


JAMES 4, PT. 2

JUNE 21, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 4:13-17):

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.


WHAT CAUSES QUARRELS AND WHAT CAUSES FIGHTS AMONG YOU? IS IT NOT THIS, THAT YOUR PASSIONS ARE AT WAR WITHIN YOU?

JAMES 4:1


GOD'S WILL

The will of God has two meanings in the Bible — first, God’s law, or the way He wants us to live; second, the events God allows in history, including pain and suffering. It appears James used both meanings in his instruction on how Christians should view and approach their lives. James was not encouraging an apathetic attitude toward events that may appear outside of humanity’s control. To the contrary, James was actually pointing Christians toward the example set by Jesus.


Jesus is the only person in history who perfectly fulfilled the will of God. Not only did Jesus live a perfect life by following God’s law, but He also accepted God’s will for His life — the unimaginable suffering of crucifixion and separation from God that paid for human sin. It is because of Jesus’ example that the Christian can joyfully submit to God’s will in this life.


The Son of God is a not a far-off deity who sits idly and toys with humanity’s fate. He is intimately present as His people struggle to obey His commands, and He walks with believers through the painful suffering of life’s darkest valleys. This is the Lord who guides a Christian’s future — a God who empathizes with, relates to and loves His people. Accepting the will of God is not a burden. Instead, it should be regarded with all the reverence and joy that comes with following in the footsteps of God Himself.

DISCUSS

What attitude about our plans is James targeting here?


James talks about “arrogant schemes”? How would you define arrogance?


Do you think it is arrogant to declare your plans without first actually saying the words, “If the Lord wills?”


What value do we get from reminding ourselves that our plans ultimately depend on God? Does that change what we do, or how we do it?


Is James saying we shouldn’t make plans for the future? What’s the point of making long-range plans if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring?


The example James uses specifically refers to “business.” Isn’t it essential for businesses to do planning? How could a businessperson run a business according to this teaching from James?


How does it make you feel to be compared to “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”? Does it make you feel insignificant, or does it does it encourage you to live in the now, or something else?


Why do you think James uses that image?


Verse 17 raises some questions. First, what does it mean? How would you put that in your own words?


Now what is it doing here? Does it go with the previous section about making plans? Or should it be put with the next chapter about rich people?


How would the original readers of this epistle feel about what James says in verse 17?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Prayer: What plans do you have for your life, your family, your home, your business, your church? Talk with God about these, and then listen. What does He think about all this? If your plans involve others, get them in on the praying, too.


Chart: Look back through your life and choose 1 to 3 plans that you made long enough ago to see them develop. Then trace the development of those plans. Did things turn out as you wanted or expected? How did you interact with God through all of that? Did He lead in a certain way and then change directions? Map this process out as creatively as you can, and then examine that “map” of your life. What can you learn from that?


Seek Counsel: As you consider plans for the future, find a wise Christian friend to consult with. Pray with them and ask their advice on determining the direction where God might be leading you.


Dare: Is there something God has been nudging you to do for Him that you’ve been resisting? Maybe you’re worried about what people will think, or you might consider the action dangerous in some way. Keep tuning in to God’s direction here. Get appropriate advice from others who are close to God, but then dare to do it—in the spirit of James 4:17.


JAMES 4, PT. 1

JUNE 14, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 4:1-12):

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.


Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

DISCUSS

According to verse 1, where do fights and quarrels come from?


How do you feel about the word “murder” in verse 2? Does that surprise you? Do you think it belongs there? Were these people really killers?


In verses 2–4 there are three words that are also found in the Ten Commandments. Can you find them?


Do you think this is intentional? Why would James want to tell his readers how they were breaking the Ten Commandments?


What do verses 2–3 tell us about the spiritual life of James’s audience?


When they did ask God for things, what do you think they were asking for?


Is verse 4 saying that we shouldn’t be friends with non-Christians? What is it saying?


So just when we’re lined up for a smackdown from our holy God, what do we get in verse 6?


What is our best response to this? How can we access God’s grace?


How can we “cleanse our hands” and “purify our hearts”?


Why should we turn “joy to gloom”? Is it wrong to be joyful?


How will God “exalt” us?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Humble Prayer: In biblical times they wore rough sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on themselves to come humbly before God. What could you do to show God (and remind yourself of) your humility? Kneel? Wear a dirty shirt? Put soil on your face? The specifics don’t matter as much as your attitude. Take a good long time to listen to God. Ask about the things He cares about. Ask what He wants for you. Confess your sins and receive His forgiveness. Ask again for wisdom.


Memorization: Learn James 4:7–8.


Peacemaking: Are there “fights and quarrels” in your life? If you’re not seeing eye to eye with someone, do what you can to set that relationship right.


Service: Find a humble way to serve your church or community. Clean up, fix up, help those who routinely get neglected. This is not about you getting props for a good deed, but about showing the love of God to others.


JAMES 3, PT. 2

JUNE 7, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 3:13-18):

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

DISCUSS

Verse 13 starts off with a question, so let’s answer it. Who is the wisest person you know, or have known?


Why do you say that? How did they show their wisdom?


Were these wise people in your life also the smartest people you’ve known? Or is wisdom something different from intelligence?


What do verses 13–15 tell us about what wisdom is and isn’t?


Verse 13 talks about a “good conduct”? How would you define that? What kind of “good conduct” does a wise person exhibit?


Why is meekness part of true wisdom?


Have you known people who thought they were wise but really weren’t? Were they meek? Did they show humility?


In these passages, what is the relationship between wisdom and boasting?


In James 3:16–17 we see descriptions of the “fruits” of true wisdom and false wisdom. What’s the difference? How can we tell them apart?


What does it mean for wisdom to be “pure”?


How can wisdom be “open to reason”?


What do you think verse 18 means?


What can you do to promote peace that yields “a harvest of righteousness”?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Prayer: James 1:5 invites us to ask God for wisdom. Say, God, I’ve been pursuing success, I’ve been pursuing riches, I’ve been pursuing knowledge but I see in Scripture now wisdom is what you value and it should be what I value…Give me the wisdom I need to navigate through this life in a way that honors you.”


Memorization: Learn the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3–10. Or at least create some mnemonic way to remember the eight qualities that Jesus describes there.


Study: Do a computer (or concordance) word search through the Bible for “wisdom” and/or “wise.” Pick ten verses from different books (not all from Proverbs!) and study them.


Honor: Do something to honor a person whose wisdom you have been blessed by. If the person is still living, thank them by telling them what they have taught you. If they have passed, then thank God for them, and find some way to commemorate their effect on your life.


Evaluation: Do this with a kind, humble heart. Name the 5 to 8 opinion leaders in your life—people in church, school, work, the media, etc.—whose ideas you regularly pay attention to. Based on the teaching in James 3:13–18, do you feel these people are speaking God’s wisdom into your life? This is not an invitation to pride, criticism, or a divisive spirit on your part—just a way to check your regular input with the descriptions of heavenly wisdom we learned today.


JAMES 3, PT. 1

MAY 24, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 3:1-12):

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.


How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.


FROM THE SAME MOUTH COME BLESSING AND CURSING. MY BROTHERS, THESE THINGS OUGHT NOT TO BE SO.

JAMES 3:10


HYPOCRISY

James demanded that believers display a changed life. His letter seems to pack more commands per square inch than any other book in the Bible. Yet James does not call Christians to alter their behavior in order to earn God’s approval. Rather, he calls for consistency.


According to James, God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (James 1:18). An individual becomes a child of God entirely by the grace of God. But when the gospel of Jesus Christ renovates a person’s heart, changes in activity should naturally result. New identity results in new activity. James called his audience to evaluate the way they deal with hardship, handle money, use words and plan for the future in light of their allegiance to the Lord. James confronted the inconsistency of claiming to belong to Jesus, yet making decisions that are incompatible with that confession—in other words, saying one thing and doing another. James did not advocate throwing a garment of religious activity over an unconverted heart. Rather, he called for the Christian to live a consistent life. Everything in the world produces something according to its own nature. Fig trees produce figs. Grapevines produce grapes. In the same way, James asserted that Christian people should naturally produce Christ-honoring activity. In doing so, he simply restated Jesus’ illustration from Matthew 7:15–20: As a good tree produces good fruit, so a Christian produces a life that honors Christ.

DISCUSS

If you were publishing this passage as an article or a blog post, what title would you give it?


Why do you think James wrote this? What problem was occurring that he was trying to correct?


Who is being “called out” by James in verse 1? Why do you think teachers will be judged with greater strictness?


What do you think verse 2 has to do with verse 1? Is it explaining the behavior of errant teachers, excusing them, or just generally instructing us?


We see the word body at the end of verse 2. That word can actually mean several different things in the New Testament. What do you think it means here?


How does mastery of one’s speech keep the whole body in check?


Have you ever seen a church dispute settled by a leader who spoke wisely, clearly, and kindly? How did that happen?


How is the tongue like a bit in a horse’s mouth?


How is it like the rudder of a ship?


How is it like a fire?


Do you think these comparisons make more sense regarding individual behavior or regarding leadership of a church? Or perhaps both?


Do you think it’s really impossible to “tame the tongue,” as it says in verse 8?


How would a person do this? If you tried to tame your speaking habits, how would you go about it?


How would you describe the situation in verses 9–12?


Who is James talking about? What can we guess about these people?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Memorization: Learn James 3:9–10. This isn’t your normal type of memory verse, but it might prove helpful in real-life situations.


Stop-Phrase: When you find yourself speaking badly about someone, stop—in mid-sentence if you need to. Find a phrase to run through your mind in those cases. Maybe it’s James 3:9–10. Maybe it’s just “This should not be.” Or maybe it’s a more positive statement like “Bless the Lord, O my soul” or the prayer from Psalm 19:14.


Encouragement: Think of three people you can encourage this week, and do so. Be as specific as possible. Can you bolster their confidence or their faith?


Thanks: Who has encouraged you in the past? Who has spoken words into your life that truly helped you? Can you find them and thank them for that?


Media Fast: Many of us learn unkind habits of communication from talk radio, cable news, or online videos. If this is a problem for you, engage in a “fast,” abstaining from those media sources for a period of time—perhaps the next seven days. Then re-evaluate.


JAMES 2, PT. 2

MAY 17, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 2:14-26):

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.


But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.


AS THE BODY APART FROM THE SPIRIT IS DEAD, SO ALSO FAITH APART FROM WORKS IS DEAD.

JAMES 2:26


FAITH AND WORKS

At first glance, James’ statements concerning justification seem to contradict the message of the apostle Paul. In James 2:24, James declared that “a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” But in Romans 3:28, Paul wrote that “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” This raises a critical question: Are Christians saved by faith in Jesus alone or by faith combined with their own efforts? It is important to note that these men were not as far apart as the above quotes seem. James and Paul knew each other. They were both major contributors at the first church council in Jerusalem, which assembled specifically to address the relationship between faith and works. As recorded in Acts 15, they arrived at a consensus.


Paul preached that a person is declared to be in a right relationship with God by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus, with no basis whatsoever in works (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). At the moment of conversion, God sends His Spirit into the new believer (Galatians 3:26; 4:6). Paul describes this as a new birth. The Spirit then works within the Christian to manifest good works. Paul said that true saving faith expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). Loving deeds display outwardly the inward change that has occurred by grace through faith.


James also declared that a person enters a right relationship with God by the grace of God alone. Like Jesus (John 3:3–8), James used birth imagery to describe conversion. James stated that God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth” and then planted that word in the souls of believers (James 1:18,21). James then went to great lengths to explain that this kind of faith manifests itself in loving acts toward those in need (James 1:27). According to James, acts of love toward God and others display the inward faith of the believer. This stands in complete agreement with Paul.


Tensions in the verses quoted at the outset are resolved when one understands that Paul and James used the word “justification” in different ways. The word can mean “declared to be in right standing” or “displayed to be right standing.” Paul used the first sense. God declares an individual to be in right standing with Him upon the basis of faith alone, as occurred with Abraham in Genesis 15:6. James used the second sense. A person’s faith is shown to be legitimate when their outward works display the inward change that has taken place as a result of their conversion. Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.

DISCUSS

In verses 15–16, James gives us a YouTube video, sort of. It would be a clever comedy sketch if it weren’t so sad. How does it go?


What’s the answer to the question in verse 16? What good is it to offer good wishes but no practical help?


In verse 18, we see two kinds of faith. How are they described?


So then, verse 19 is referring to the “without works” kind of faith. What does it say about that kind of faith?


Why do you think James chooses the oneness of God as the example of basic faith, and not, say, the atoning death of Jesus?


In James 2:20–24, there’s reference to Abraham as proof of the point. What’s the argument here? How does Abraham prove that “faith without works is useless”?


How did these actions demonstrate Abraham’s faith?


James quotes a verse from Genesis (15:6). What does that say about Abraham’s faith? What does it say about his works?


How did Abraham’s actions in Genesis 22 “fulfill” the statement of Genesis 15:6?


Do you think it’s significant that the faith of Genesis 15 came several chapters before the works of Genesis 22? Does faith generally come first?


Take a look at verse 25. Why would James go on to talk about Rahab?


What do you know about Rahab? What was her occupation?


How did she get herself mentioned in the Bible?


Isn’t it a mistake for James to mention a prostitute as an example of good works? Why would he do this?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Evaluation: Talk with God about your own faith. Do you have “faith with works” or “faith without works”? Ask him to give you the power you need to put your faith into action.


Conversation: Talk with at least one other close Christian friend about this question: Is my faith more on the inside or the outside? Both are good. Both are important. But if you just feel your faith and don’t show it, you’re out of balance. (It’s also possible to tilt the other way, doing stuff for God, but not taking time for personal growth.)


Research: James is very specific about the needs we should be responding to—the needs of widows and orphans, as well as those who need food or clothing. Where do these needs exist in your region? And what are the best ways to help such people? Join with some others in a research projects, and share your findings with this group, or your whole church.


Serving: Can you put yourself on a regular schedule of volunteering with some ministry or charity? Tutoring each week? Staffing a soup kitchen each month? Doing a work day once a quarter? Don’t just think about doing these things. Plan something and do it.


Donation: Some ministries are desperate for funds. Challenge your church leaders to support worthy helping ministries, and lead by example by giving your money to support them as well.


JAMES 2, PT. 1

MAY 3, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 2:1-13):

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?


If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

DISCUSS

Okay, let’s be honest. Suppose the scene described in verses 2–3 were to happen this week in our church. What do you think would happen? How would we treat the two people differently?


In James 2:5–7, what does it say about the poor and the rich?


How does this connect with the previous point about favoritism?


Do you think James is promoting a “reverse favoritism,” in which we welcome and honor the poor more than the rich?


What is the “royal law” James mentions in verse 8?


How does showing favoritism break that law?


According to verses 10–12, how would James respond to someone who said, “I’ve kept seven of the Ten Commandments. That’s a passing grade, right?”


In James 2:12, James speaks again of the “law of liberty” (see 1:25). But his previous comments seem to be more restrictive, forcing us to keep every point in the law. How does the law give us freedom?


Two key words appear in verse 13. Let’s define them. What is judgment? What is mercy?


How does the idea of mercy bring us back to the matter of showing favoritism?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Memorization: Learn the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3–12 or Luke 6:20–26. In a succinct way, these describe the reordering of the world from God’s perspective.


Seek Counsel: If you have been working hard to keep God’s rules, and you’re troubled by this assertion that breaking even one command makes you a lawbreaker, talk with a pastor or teacher about this. Ask how to unpack the idea of God’s “mercy.”


Evaluation: If you are in a position of authority in the church, take this opportunity to evaluate the church’s response to visitors—not just the stated policies, but the actual behaviors. Is favoritism shown? If so, what can you do about it?


Serving: Can you get involved in a ministry to the poor and homeless in your community? Many such ministries need volunteers and financial support. If you can’t find one to connect with, perhaps you could start one.


Spiritual-Financial Audit: This might be a good time to talk with your spouse and family about the financial decisions you make. How do your spiritual principles come into play? This is more than just a review of your fiscal security, but a chance to ask, “Where does our security really come from?” How can you as a family keep from loving, serving, or trusting in money, while still being good stewards?


Prayer: Consider offering a prayer of confession, individually or with others. Ask for forgiveness if you have shown favoritism to the rich, disregarded the poor, or worshiped money.


JAMES 1, PT. 3

MAY 10, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 1:19-27):

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.


But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.


If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.


BE DOERS OF THE WORD, AND NOT HEARERS ONLY, DECEIVING YOURSELVES.

JAMES 1:22


LIVING FOR JESUS

The book of James is filled with practical commands for authentic Christian living. In his letter, James, the brother of Jesus, instructed Christians to control their tongues, be slow to anger and fight selfish ambition. But James was not interested in simply sharing a list of things Christians should not do—he also included a number of positive commands for believers.


Just as Jesus spent much of His ministry among those neglected by society, followers of Jesus are commanded to care for and show concern for people who are orphans and widows, the underprivileged, and for sinning brothers and sisters. James placed a specific emphasis on believers emulating the everyday ministry of Jesus within their own lives by showing compassion toward the broken-hearted and poor and by avoiding sin.


The disciples of Jesus should not merely listen to the words of Jesus; they should actively seek opportunities to engage the world with His life-changing message. Just as with Jesus, a believer’s relationships with others—be it family, friends, co-workers or a person who is begging on the street—should be defined by love, mercy, patience and grace.

DISCUSS

James tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak.” Have you had situations where you did the opposite—slow to hear, quick to speak? What’s the problem with that?


What does James say about anger?


Is there such a thing as “righteous indignation”? Do you think that sometimes God wants us to get angry about certain things? Then what do you do with verse 20?


What “word” is he talking about in verse 21? How is it “implanted” in us? (Is this the same as the “word of truth” in verse 18, through which we were “brought forth”? What’s the connection?)


Moving on to James 1:22, how do we “deceive ourselves” by just listening to God’s Word?


What is that mirror thing all about (in James 1:23–24)?


Do you think it’s really “worthless” to hear God’s Word without doing it? Why or why not?


In verse 25, what does James call God’s law?


In what way is the law “a law of liberty”? Wouldn’t you think it does the opposite?


Verses 26–27 focus on “religion.” How would you define “religion”?


Do you think of religion as a good thing or not? Do you think your neighbors think of religion as a good thing?


With that in mind, do you think James is using the term “religion” in a positive way? Why or why not?


In verses 26–27, how does James define “religion”?


There are three specific actions he includes in his definition. What are they?


Why do you think he mentions these three? Aren’t there other good deeds he could name?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Memorization: Learn James 1:22. Perhaps you could write it out on a card, which you put (appropriately) on your mirror.


Conversation: Do you need to develop the ability to be “quick to hear, slow to speak”? Is there a particular person in your life with whom you should do more listening? Work on this. You might even think of some questions to ask in your next conversation. Focus on them, not on your own responses.


Journaling: If you have a Bible study journal, add this component. If not, try journaling this week. Take the next six pages and put four headings on each page. Read. Think. Pray. Do! Then select Scriptures to read each day. As you do, record your thoughts on the text, write out key words of a prayer, and then—because of James—figure out something God would like you to do in response to that text. Oh, yeah—and then do it.


Prayer: Pray specifically about two things this week. (1) Your anger. (Even if you’re not hot-tempered, do you “stuff” your anger and let it turn into bitterness?) (2) Soul pollution. Ask God to show you ways you might be getting “polluted” by the world.


“Widows and Orphans”: In many parts of Scripture—and here in James—we are urged to care for the neediest members of society. In your area, who are these people, and how can you help? It’s possible they are, literally, widows and orphans, having suffered the loss of a family member. But also consider the homeless, the hospitalized, retirees, special-needs children and adults, the unemployed, immigrants, prisoners, etc. See if your church has a ministry you could support and become involved with, but also consider parachurch ministries and other charities.


JAMES 1, PT. 2

APRIL 26, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 1:13-18):

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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.


Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

DISCUSS

Earlier in the chapter, we learned that God uses trials to help us grow. But here James is talking about temptation. What’s the difference?


Why is it important that we NOT blame our temptation on God?


Verses 14–15 describe something we might call the “life cycle of desire.” What are the stages?


Does “evil desire” always bring forth “death”? How does this happen? What examples could you give?


In light of this, what’s the best way to deal with our “evil desires”?


Why do you think James suddenly starts talking about “every good and perfect gift” in verse 17, after talking about evil desires? Is he just changing the subject (which he does sometimes), or is there a connection?


Why does he call God “the Father of lights”? What does that have to do with giving gifts?


How has God “brought us forth by the word of truth”?


What does he mean by “firstfruits of his creatures”?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Memorization: Learn 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:15–16; Matthew 26:41; Psalm 51:10; and/or another verse that applies to a particular temptation you struggle with.


Journaling: Write about your temptations and how you respond, but also about the joys you experience when you resist temptation. How does your relationship with God grow and soar when you trust Him?


Prayer: Think about others you know who are being tempted. Pray that God will strengthen them. But don’t let these be proud prayers—“watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Include The Lord’s Prayer in this devotional time, with special focus on “Lead us not into temptation.”


Accountability: Look for others you can share your struggles with. Can you arrange to meet with them every week or two, and let them know how you’re doing? Fighting temptation can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. When you know there’s someone else holding you accountable, it might give you additional strength.


Joining or Volunteering: Our culture is full of temptations, and there are many whose lives have been ravaged by greed, lust, pride, or addictions of various sorts. There are also ministries that help those strugglers. Is there one you could connect with—as a volunteer, donor, or fellow struggler?


JAMES 1, PT. 1

APRIL 19, 2020

KEY SCRIPTURE (JAMES 1:1-12):

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. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.


Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.


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.

DISCUSS

According to verse 1, who was the author of this letter?


Who was James? How does he describe himself?


Why do you think James didn’t introduce himself as the brother of Jesus? Wouldn’t it help to say, “I know what I’m talking about, because I knew Jesus like a brother—in fact, I am His brother”?


According to verse 1, who are the recipients of this letter?


What does that mean? Why does James say it that way?


According to James 1:2 and the following verses, how should we react when times get tough?


Why? What is the end result of this “testing”?


Do you think people expect God to make them happy? Is that a wrong idea?


If you made this the “goal of your life,” to grow in holiness even if it meant suffering, how would that change your life? What decisions would you make differently? How would you have to adjust your priorities?


Is that a realistic idea?

LIVE IT OUT

The book of James emphasizes the active side of our faith, so let’s consider several ways we might put its teaching into practice.


Conversation: Some of us complain a lot. What if we followed James and started considering our troubles “pure joy”? Who could you contact this week—by email, phone, text, or in person—and instead of complaining, tell them about the way God is helping you grow?


Journaling: Write about your struggles. Don’t hold back. Complain all you want. But then go back to your journal the next day and jot some notes in the margins about how God might be making you “mature and complete.”


Memorization: Learn James 1:2–3, and maybe verse 4. This will be a powerful support to you in your toughest times.


Prayer: Consider others you know who are going through difficulties. Ask God to help them grow.


Influence: Have you seen spiritual growth in someone else who has gone through trials? Tell them so.