3 Wrong Preoccupations – James 5:1-3

James identifies wealth (also translated as abundance) in three forms: 1) Grain; 2) Clothing; 3) Gold or Silver.

It’s obvious here that James is very concerned about the priorities of his audience – “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” – and their preoccupation with accumulation of wealth.

God’s not opposed to riches or wealth; he’s opposed to our priority being riches and wealth.

James is addressing our preoccupation with provision, status (or influence), and security.

Provision / Status / Security

Every one of these references is to the attitude of acquiring to excess or hoarding them.

“…Your wealth is rotting away…” A predominant measure of wealth in that day and age was grain. Remember Jesus’ parable of the man who built bigger barns to hold his grains? (Luke 12:13-21) It actually addresses this mentality of hoarding and storing it up.

“… your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags…” Clothes defined status, power and influence. See James 2:2 – how are the rich man and the poor distinguished? By their clothes. I suspect most average people had only 1 change of clothes at all. Remember when the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years? God specifically calls out one of his blessings in that their clothes didn’t fall apart. Here James references that fine clothes are moth-eaten, other translations say rotted. This implies that these clothes weren’t worn, but sitting somewhere – that the owner has more than he/she can wear and, in fact, never wears these. The last I checked, no moths ever ate any of my clothes while I was wearing them. No clothing article ever rotted while it was being worn and cared for. The implication of them being moth-eaten and rotted is that they were stored somewhere and never worn, used, touched, or cared for.

… your gold and sliver have become worthless…” I believe the gold and silver reference to represent security for the future. James says that the gold and silver have become “worthless”. Other translations say they have “corroded”. Regardless, it’s an implication of one of two options. The first is along a similar theme as the first two –much excess and a long time in storage. While I’m quite aware gold and silver don’t rust – and I’m sure James was also aware – the second implication could be that the gold and silver would devalue and become worthless over time.

Isn’t this true anyway? In the end, isn’t everything worthless except our spirit? If we preoccupy ourselves on provisions, status, and security, then our spirit will spend eternity in hell. Just as James alludes to in verse 3 – “…the very wealth you were counting on will eat away at your flesh like fire.”

When we preoccupy ourselves with knowing and being known by Jesus, He promises to provide all that we need.

Luke 11:9-13 7Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Running After Papa…

Why we argue and fight. James 4:1

James 4:1 (NLT) “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you?  Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”

Quarrels and fights – other translations say wars, conflict, fightings, discord, feuds – from where do they originate?  According to James they come from our own evil desires within us.  These evil desires are at war within us.

What are they at war with?

The phrase “at war” is interesting in the original language.  It means “1. to make a military expedition, to lead soldiers to war or to battle (spoken of a commander).”  That is an interesting implication of the evil desires within us (lust, murder, covet – see James 4:2) are on a military expedition – actively leading the charge within us.

The phrase “at war” also means “2. to do military duty, be on active service, be a soldier.  3. to fight” Again, I find this every interesting and eye opening.  I didn’t think much of the evil desires within me as alive and active.  I never considered them “on active service”

My daughter has a friend who just got out of boot camp with the United States Marine Corp.  He is a Marine.  He is receiving training to be ready to do his military duty and his selected occupational, vocational, job in the Marine Corp.

Our evil desires are at war with everything God desires for us.  Our evil desires are at war with our status quo.  It is at war with our position, place, prominence, self perception, our possessions, etc.

  • I want more _________ (stuff) – so I plan and connive how get more of it 
  • I want his car! (or boat, or house, or job, or _______) – the seed of jealousy is planted and watered
  • I want peace and rest – so I clamor and rant about what I fear
  • I want fellowship – so I do whatever I must to get others to like me
  • I want to be respected –  so I give unsolicited advice
  • I want to be built up – so I tear others down
  • I want someone else’s position – so I sabotage their character
Everything is rooted in jealousy, comparison, lust and covetousness (James 4:2).  Every thing is rooted in pride. It all starts with the thought, the seed, that gets planted.  If we continue to dwell on those envious thoughts, those jealous thoughts, they get watered.  Remember James 1:15 – “…when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Paul wrote about this very conundrum in Romans.
Romans 7:21-25 (NKJV) 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

But you can’t stop reading there.  That’s the end of  Romans 7.  The good news is in Romans 8.  Here is the good news.  Here is what the “evil soldiers” warring in my body don’t know.  They war in vein.

Romans 8:1-2 (NKJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Jesus already won the war.
Check back in a few days – there will be more on James 4 – specifically how to deal with this.  What winning these skirmishes looks like…
Running After Papa…

The Key to Self Control – James 3:2

If you haven’t noticed, I’m going through James for the next 30 days, 1 chapter per day and repeating 6 times… so I guess I’m writing a series…

James 3:2 (NLT) Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

This isn’t the first time that James has referenced “…we would be perfect…”  Look back to James 1:4 – “…when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete…”

Only Jesus is perfect and can “… control (himself) in every way (James 3:2)” and “…lacks nothing (James 1:4).”  James is clearly instructing us (the church) in how to become like Jesus.

What does it mean to “… control ourselves in every way?”  Isn’t that exactly what we all struggle with in some sort or another?  It seems to me that this is mean exactly what it says…. controlling every other aspect of our lives…

According to this passage, controlling our tongue is the key to self control.

Why?  James goes on in verses 3-7 to give examples of how something so small (a bit in a horse’s mouth, a rudder on a ship, a spark to a fire) can have such great impact.  Those examples imply that our tongue control/leads, guides and ignites our lives.

In verses 9-12 James gives examples of impossibilities in nature – a spring that gives both salty and fresh water; a tree that produces olives and figs – and how it should also be impossible for us to praise and curse.

These are certainly compelling arguments from James, but are there any other scriptures that validate or corroborate the idea of our tongue being the key to self control?

How about starting with Jesus?

Matthew 15:18-21 “18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Matthew 12:33-35 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Proverbs 18: 20-21 (NKJV) 20 A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

So it starts in our heart.  What we put in, is what we get out.  It is imperative that we flood our heart with good… to abundance.  Jesus said it.  What  is in abundance in our hearts is what comes out of our mouths.  What comes out of our mouths controls, leads, guides and ignites our lives.

In a previous post I wrote extensively about why and how the heart/words connection is so important (2nd point in the post – it’s worth the read).  I’m convinced that self-control is so tied to how we spiritually feed our hearts.

Our church is starting a new series this week on exactly this.  It’s entitled “Words: Life or Death” and my pastor is one of the best teachers I’ve ever heard. If you can’t come to the service, you should watch it online next week.

Come on – leave a comment.  Let’s discuss this.

Running After Papa…

One mindset inherits the Kingdom – James 2:5

Question: Why are the poor so rich in faith? Is it because they are poor? Answer: I think so.

Does that mean I need to be financially without to be rich in faith? Answer: Maybe… Maybe not…

Question: Why are the poor so rich in faith?  Is it because they are poor?   Answer: I think so.

Does that mean I need to be financially without to be rich in faith?  Answer: Maybe… Maybe not…

James 2:5 (NLT) – “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters.  Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?  Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?

Why?

When I close my eyes and imagine the preceding verses (James 2:1-4), I imagine the poor to look a lot like what I see when I see homeless people.  I know that’s not always what the poor look like in this day and age.  Perhaps that’s a bit of prejudice I need to work through, but that’s not the point I’m making here.  I imagine the scene James describes in verses 1-4 with a well-dressed and known to be successful business person and a homeless person.  That homeless person is dirty, disheveled, wearing ratty and mismatched and ill-fitting clothes.  The homeless person also has the stench that comes along with living in the streets and not having the ability to bathe every day.

That’s the picture from which I write and from which God spoke to me in this verse.

Why are the poor rich in faith?  I believe their situation in life has left them with no alternative but to completely trust in God for every single thing we take for granted.  A legitimately poor person doesn’t know from where his or her next meal will come.  A poor person doesn’t know how they will feed their family.  A poor person doesn’t know what the next hour, much less what the next day, will hold.  They simply exist now and trust in God to make the way for whatever their next step is.

They literally trust in God for everything.

Isn’t that exactly how the Lord Jesus has called us to live?  Aren’t we supposed to die to ourselves (Gal 2:20)?  Aren’t we in essence – no, in reality – supposed to depend on God for every next step? That implies that we take on the mindset of dependence as if we are poor… as if we are homeless…

Matthew 5:3 (NLT)God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

 

Discussion: Leave your comment below and share how this practically works in your life….

 

Running After Papa…

 

One word changes everything – James 1:1

If we could only live out this one little chapter in this one little book.

Frankly, if we could all live out the first half of the first sentence, everything else would fall in place.

James 1:1 (NKJV) James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…

I’ve always been intrigued by James’ identification of himself. Bondservant. We know him as Jesus’ half-brother – the son of Joseph and Mary. He was also the cousin of John the Baptist – another great name in his generation. I’ll tell you, I would have probably done a little name dropping, if I were James….

Yet James identifies himself as a “bondservant.” So what does that really mean?

Strong’s Concordance defines it to mean the following:

  1. a slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will
  2. devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests

The idea here is not a slave like we understand of pre-Civil War America – where human beings were forced or born into bondage and regarded as owned property to be bought, sold, used, abused, or traded as their owner saw fit. The idea here is a voluntary stepping into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship.

This completely describes Christ’s life on earth. Jesus gave himself up to another’s (his Father’s) will – to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). Jesus was totally devoted to his Father to the disregard of his own interests, his own desires, his own wants, his own image. He didn’t care what people thought, or said, or did toward him. He was completely and utterly walking in God’s hands. After all, Jesus did what his Father did (John 5:19) and said what his Father said (John 12:49).

Jesus voluntarily stepped into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship to God, his Father – to the disregard of his own interests.

James voluntarily stepped into servant-hood out of devotion and relationship to Jesus and God – to the disregard of his own interests.

So the question begs itself…. How do I identify myself?

The question goes deeper than it seems on initial glance. Not only does this imply how I identify myself to others, but how do I really identify myself to myself?

Do I give up to another’s will? Am I so devoted to my Lord? Does it show in how I treat – or should I say serve – my wife and family? After all, Ephesians says I’m to love my wife like Christ loved the Church – for whom Jesus died.

It all comes back to complete humility. If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I often end up here… Galatians 2:20. Dying to self as an act of my will.

Discuss: How does it affect mine and the lives around me to accurately identify myself as a bondservant? How do I do that?

Leave a comment.

Running After Papa…

Are you fluent?

I was on a flight today from Denver to DFW and was blessed enough to get an upgrade. I sat in 4a (the window seat) when a gentleman got on the flight behind me with his two girls, I later figured out were his daughters.I’d guess these girls were 6 and 10 years old or so. Not adults by any means.

He sat next to me and the two girls sat across the isle from their father. As they spoke to each other I was amazed at how easily and effortlessly they flowed in and out of English and Spanish, back and forth, with no hesitation or pause. One or two sentences would be in one language and then – while continuing the same thought – the next one or three sentences would be the other language. It was as if their life just “carried on” as the conversation with their father would change from one language to another.

It was a really beautiful thing.

As I walked up the jet way after we landed, I began to wonder how fluent I was in the language of my Heavenly Father.

Am I able to carry on my life – do what I need to do – be that taking my son to Lacrosse practice, or making a phone call for work, or washing the dishes after dinner – and fluently and carelessly go back and forth between the language of my life adn the language of my Heavenly Father?

John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

After Jesus was transfigured (Matt 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) God himself said of Jesus – “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

Do I hear?

Do I follow?

How fluent am I? How fluent are you? Let’s discuss.

Running After Papa…

Declared Holy

“What does it mean to be holy?” This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on. I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…” (Read more by clicking the title…)

On most Saturday mornings of late, I meet with my buddies to open The Word and discuss what we’d been studying the previous week.  This week’s topic was “Holiness.”

“What does it mean to be holy?”  This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on.  I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…”  The implication being we forget who we are in Christ.  This thought stayed in the forefront of my mind as we began going down a particular thread of discussion.

Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (emphasis added)

Leviticus 20:7-8 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy (emphasis added). for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

These were verses that kicked off our discussion and the week’s study.  Interestingly enough, both passages use “consecrate” and one uses “sanctifies.” Both of those words are very, very similar to the word “holiness” – from the New Bible Dictionary:

“Sanctification is one of several possible English translations of qdš, hagios and their cognates. See *HOLINESS for usage. Context alone determines whether the translation should be holy, holiness, holy one, saints, consecrate, consecration, sanctify or sanctification. Even in individual passages translators do not always agree. Its broad meaning is the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”

I began to wonder if God was declaring part of his name – who he is – when he said “… for I am holy.”  What if when God identifies himself as “… the LORD who sanctifies you,” he was in fact restating his holiness (see the definition of sanctification again).  What if he was stating it, like we state our names?

Then, like a flood, connections, ideas, and thoughts hit me – saturating my mind like an overfilled sponge.  I simply could not write fast enough in my journal or quite explain my thoughts to my buddies during our discussion.   This is my exploration of those connections and thoughts…

First family picture after adoption
First picture of Megan, Jordan, and Nick as "Shoemakers"

In December 2004, my wife and I adopted 3 kids from Penza, Russia.  This doubled our children overnight.  The Russian kids were from two different orphanages – one ten year-old boy from Orphanage #3 and a brother and sister, ages 15 and 14 respectively, from Orphanage #1 – yes, they were quite creative with the names of the Orphanages in Penza.  On our adoption date, I remember sitting in the courtroom, waiting for the finality of what was more than a year in the making: filling out paperwork, filing paperwork, authorizing paperwork, and re-working, re-filing, re-authorizing paperwork.  It all culminated when the Judge declared that our adoption was complete and that these three children were mine and Dawn’s.  They were declared to be Shoemakers.  My now embellished memory is the Judge striking his gavel on the desk transferring my name, ‘Shoemaker’, to those unrelated, orphaned kids.  With that single declaration, they forever became part of my family, my heritage, my namesakes, and became Shoemakers…

Isn’t the transference of my name, Shoemaker, to those children in the courtroom that day, exactly what happens when we become “adopted” into God’s family through Jesus Christ?

We are adopted into God’s family as children of God.  God who?  God with many names, one of which is Holy.

Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

I am Holy,” God declares (Lev 11:45) and “... the LORD who sanctifies you…” (Lev 20:8).  “You are my child!” God declares as he strikes down his gavel.  Forever, we are “Holy” because we are God’s… just as Nick, Megan, and Jordan are “Shoemakers” and no longer Mordashov. Mordashova, or Savenkov.

We are holy and there is nothing we can do to change it.  You may be saying, “God is very specific about what holy actions and characteristics are in Scripture.” I agree 100%.  I believe God puts those in there to teach us what it means to be Holy, not to define the requirements to attain holiness.

Over the first year (and beyond), we had to teach Nick, Megan, and Jordan what it meant to be a “Shoemaker.”  I wrote a letter and translated it into Russian very early in our parenting them that explained what carrying my name meant.  What behavior was acceptable and what what not.  What I began to teach them was drastically different than what they had learned in the orphanages where they grew up.  It was not an easy process.  Nick and Megan had spent 10 years in the orphanages, from ages 5 and 4 through ages 15 and 14.  There was a lot of behavior and attitude and character to work on and it took time.  There were many occasions they did not exhibit what was “Shoemaker” approved.  Whenever they exhibited those characteristics, actions, words, or attitudes that were not congruent with being a “Shoemaker”, it didn’t make them any less a Shoemaker – it just meant there was still more work and learning to do.   It was, and is, a continual process of changing to be WHAT THEY ARE… SHOEMAKERS.

Is that any different in our lives with respect to holiness?  God calls us – and better yet – DECLARES us to be holy.  In Genesis 1, God says “… let there be light…” and spoke light into being where it did not exist.  In Leviticus 11:45 God says “… you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  What if God is declaring holiness into our lives and speaking holiness into being where it did not exist?  I believe He is declaring us holy – because we are his and he is holy.  It’s our responsibility to learn what that practically looks like.

Remember our definition of sanctification?  It basically means “holiness.”  The last line and main idea of sanctification (holiness) is “… the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”  How are we brought into that likeness?  We read it in Gal 4:6 & 7 “… God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts… therefore you are no longer a slave but a son…”

God puts his Spirit in us.  This enables us to live – AND CHANGE – to “… attain the likeness of the holy.”  This is a permanent thing – just like my kids will forever be a Shoemaker – we will forever be God’s and therefore holy.

Ephesians 1:13-14 ” In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

So where does that leave me?  I simply have to receive that I am who He says I am.  Easy to say, not so easy in practice.  Leads to a whole other discussion of who I’m listening to… but that’s another post.

Running After Papa…

 

 

Day 6: Honest Prayer | In Jesus’ Name

Honest Prayer | In Jesus’ Name.

My Notes:

God is never offended at my honest communication… (duh… he already knows anyway!)

I think I often attribute too many human characteristics to God – especially in times of frustration.  I forget that He is perfect and I (and all humanity) are broken and imperfect.

Humanity doesn’t react the way God reacts… in fact, God doesn’t react – he responds.

God responds to me out of perfect love.  People react out of brokenness, out of wounds, out of hurts and pains.  People react out of mistrust and fear.  God only responds out of perfect, unfailing love.  This devotional depicts that in the two examples it shows – one of Job and one of the immoral woman.

Respond vs. React – I struggle to live this out.  I strive to instill it in my own life and the lives of my children and family.

Thank you LORD that you never react to me and my stupidity, but that you respond to my needs and my cries out of perfect love.  Thank you that I can always be honest with you.

Running After Papa…

Day 5: Not My Will | In Jesus’ Name

Not My Will | In Jesus’ Name.

My Notes:

The one thing that really struck me in this devotional today was the quote of John 5:30 –

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing… I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent me”

It’s really hard to comprehend that Jesus – God Incarnate – by a choice of his will – he did not seek his will – and only sought that of the Father.

So by my choice of my will – as Jesus modeled – I have to “…of my self, do nothing…”

Tough choice.

Choose well.

Running After Papa…

 

Day 4: For the Sake of Our Country | In Jesus’ Name

For the Sake of Our Country | In Jesus’ Name.

Haha… 2 days ago, I posted exactly what this devotional was about.  See ‘Pray for all people’… even politicians? to see.  There’s really nothing more to say based on today’s devo…

Interesting… why did it hit me two days ago?

Running After Papa…