James is a survival manual of the Christian faith as the people of God are feeling weak and helpless, barely keeping their head above water in a hostile world. Prayer, controlling your tongue, wisdom, submission, not playing favorites, being consistent are some of the topics along the way… we end with an admonition to focus on those who “wander from the truth.” The final word in this survival manual is to care about others. If you are struggling in your relationship with God, and I could only give you one piece of advice in how to grow in your faith, I would say this: “give yourself away.” Serve others. Praying for yourself is important. Self awareness of your sins, forgiveness and repentance is vital. But so is committing yourself to do the work of God as a response of your salvation in Jesus Christ. We are called to a ministry of praying for the straying, to connect with those that are slipping away.
Pray right! In this scripture there are a several situations and instructions on prayer ~ “Is anyone in trouble?” it starts out. “Let them pray” is the answer. I.e. Pray for yourself… regularly pray for yourself… pray when happy by letting the world know through words/songs of praise. The one that gets the most discussion is the prayer for the ill and elders and anointing with oil. The Elijah example, a tremendous prophet in the old testament, is another sort of prayer…James Elijah and the prayer for drought, but the larger truth is that God is in control of world kingdoms ~ the lesson of Elijah is to also pray for God’s will to be done on earth… James also spotlights Elijah to emphasize he is an ordinary person. Prayer is not for an elite class, not for super spiritual people, not for missionaries and pastors, but for ordinary people who are right with God.
2nd half of James 5:16 applies to all the prayers: “The Prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” It’s a declarative statement affirming the need to pray right.
James 5:12 seems to be a summary of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37. READ
James is a book of wisdom. Today a single verse. I thought long and hard about attaching this verse to another sermon, but ultimately I went with a sermon on it’s own primarily because the verse starts out “Above All…” ~ if the people of old had access to yellow highlighters, James would have highlighted this verse. “Above All” is James’ highlight pen.
Wisdom is simple. It instinctively makes sense, but you need to hear it. “Check to see if that electric fence is on…” is simple wisdom to warn the person about to touch the fence. James is speaking to confused people not sure how to be consistent in their faith and how to interact in a complex world: READ James 5:12.
Wisdom is the right word at the right time. Wisdom, when we put it into practice, gives confidence, assurance, guides us. Let your yes be yes and your no no! What could be more simple and obvious, yet the world is full of ambiguity, people lying, people not wanting to make commitments, changing back and forth. Everyone agrees with this wisdom, but few put it into practice: Do what you say you are going to do?
The world is full of good advice when it comes to patience…. On mother’s day, patience seems fitting. Any of you give your mother the gift of learning how to be patient? Can you relate to Mark Twain? My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
Here’s a saying I found that helps describe today’s scripture: “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” Last week the scripture was about having a good attitude when you have too much money (rich), and how easy it is to rely on yourself rather than God when you have no immediate needs. False trust in yourself erodes trust in God.
This week, James turns to patience. Patience is needed when you have nothing, when you are feeling defeated, spiritually bankrupt. The Lord wants us to grow in our faith in times of plenty and in times of want. When we have abundance we need to not lose sight of our need to depend on God. But then when we lose it all, when our world falls apart, we need patience.
Our daily walk with the Lord takes patience when our world is falling apart. The book of James is a survival manual of the Christian life. 3 ways to be patient…
The story goes that Erasmus, a Renaissance scholar, was watching with the pope as wagonloads of wealth were brought through the gates of the Vatican. Turning to Erasmus, the pope observed. "No longer can the church say with Peter, 'Silver or gold have I none.'" Erasmus replied, "True. And neither can the church say to the lame man, 'Take up your bed and walk.'"
There is something about being too comfortable, too secure…Money can change a person.
James challenges the “rich.” This is the 3rd time in this short book money is the topic. The “rich” must mean me? Nobody here is the richest around, but most have a higher standard of living than the wealthiest of the folks James was speaking…. The key to understand: the amount of money is not important, it is our attitude. I like the wise words of Andrew Murray: “The world asks, ‘what does a man own?’ Christ asks, ‘How does he use it?’”
Attitude is everything. James includes an attitude towards money and resources as part of this letter emphasizing Christian discipleship. The way to thrive as a Christian is to get our attitude right towards money. The way to survive as a Christian in an unchristian world is to not be sucked into the temptation of money, but to see money as a gift from God to be used to his glory. What we do with what we are given is the key. The word we use is stewardship ~ all that I have belongs to God and he calls me to be faithful in using His resources wisely.
A king sent for his court jester one day and presented him with a stick. He said, “Take this stick and keep it until you find a bigger fool than yourself.” When he was lying on his deathbed, the king once again sent for his jester. “I am going away,” the king said. “Where?” asked the jester. “to another country,” replied the king. “What provisions has your majesty made for this journey and for living in the country where you are going?” The jester asked. “None,” was the answer. The jester handed the stick to the king. “Take it,” he said. “I have finally found a bigger fool than myself, for I only trifle with the things of time while you have trifled with the things of eternity.”
Plans for the future. It is all about understanding God is the director of your life. It’s all about getting it straight what is important.
Aren’t you glad God has not revealed to us the details of our time on this earth. READ James 1:14. Life is short. Life is uncertain. Boom. In an instant the world changes. One of the great satisfactions of life is to live God’s unfolding plan. God writes the most amazing story you will ever read. (God bless the Hammond family who join us today as they eagerly await the turning of a page to begin a new chapter.) Sometimes I joke about me being the most entertained person on the planet as I go through my day. I love Disney’s Jungle Book. Mowgli, raised by wolves, sets about to return to the man village; the story line is the journey as he meets one character after another, some dangerous like Kaa the snake, King Louie the Orangutan, Shere Khan the tiger, and others are friends like Baloo the bear, Bagheera he panther, Major Hathi the elephant. Mowgli has a goal, whether he makes it is uncertain; the path is filled with fears and joys along the way. Sounds like my life. I hope all of you are amazed by your life and God’s unfolding story.
We don’t know the future…but God knows. That is the best news of all.
“How to deal with Psychic Vampires.” /// (www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-Psychic-Vampires) I ran across that article on Wiki How as I was preparing for this message: How to deal with Psychic Vampires. Basically that is what James is talking about in the scripture. Psychic Vampire are “emotionally immature individuals who drain the time and energy from those around them. They are usually highly self-interested…” I.e. drama queens, people who get caught up in trivia, the webs, the never ending quest for creating a perfect world that conforms to me.
If I were to use “Psychic Vampires” in the title, I would title this message: “Conquering the Psychic Vampire Within.” Last week the lesson from James was importance of looking at the 3 fingers pointing back…Today it’s about being consistent in what we profess we believe, and to quit playing games that sidetrack us…James is practical.
6 years ago I preached through 2 Corinthians in a series titled, “Restoring Broken Relationships.” I have been posting the notes on all the sermons on the church website since 2009. On a monthly basis, even today, 2-4 times a month, I get a note from somebody around the world that read one or two of those sermons, asking for prayer for the restoration of a broken relationship. I don’t get more than a few comments the entire year from all the other sermons combined. Brokenness, fighting, division, are the scourge of our world. People are searching for wholeness, peace, reconciliation, rest.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James’ question is a dart to the heart. Today we continue our look at the wisdom in James. James is probably addressing specific issues to the people in his day, but the words are timeless and apply directly to us. What causes fights and quarrels in my world? The words apply to marriages, families, parents/children, neighbors, communities, churches, countries, cultures, racial tensions, class tension ~ what level do you want to discuss? How to not fight is the question of the hour? Or to say it positively, How to be a person of peace!
Draw a line ~ with conviction in your heart declare to the world [and to yourself],
“I am a Christian, Jesus Christ was sent to the world for me a sinner, I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross, I am alive because he has redeemed me.
I am a Christian and I make a commitment to live by his promises, live by his power, amazed the Spirit of God is dwelling in me.
I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, committed to growing in faith, learning constantly, living as a forgiven imperfect soul.
I am a Christian, putting Jesus Christ on the throne of my heart, the center of my thoughts, the motivation for living, the strength in my bones.
I am a Christian that is excited about sharing with others the good news of Jesus Christ that all can turn to him and be transformed by his power.
I am a Christian.”
It’s time to draw a line.
Over the years people have asked me if there are any good books that would help them grow in faith, or something they could study to help in their Christian walk. Guess what? Faith is a verb. Faith is a living dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, with an emphasis on the living. Studying is great. Inspiration by a host of great writers is a blessing. But the only way to grow in your faith is to live your faith. We are saved by grace which is evidenced by a changed life.
Any of you ever let your mouth get you in trouble? Perhaps you can relate to Ann Landers: “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven't thought of yet.” Everyday, we speak 1000’s of words. Some are carefully chosen; others are impulsive. We get in trouble when too many of our words come out of our mouth without thought about how they will affect others. The solution for many is to practice biting your tongue, or maybe you are good at talking your way out of your unkind words, like this person…
“A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”
“You mean,” she persisted, “after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-ahead of lettuce?”
“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.” She said that would be good, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.” He noticed the manager gesturing, and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, not realizing she’d followed him. Without missing a beat he continued, “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half.”
The Story is told of President Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War Lincoln met with a group of ministers for a prayer breakfast. One of the ministers said, “Mr President, let us pray that God is on our side”. Lincoln’s replied, “No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”
This message is about faith ~ doing the will of God, aligning ourselves with God. The little phrase we sometimes add to prayers is larger than life: “not my will, but your will be done.” Lincoln reminded those ministers that religion is not a tool by which we get God to do what we want but an invitation to open ourselves to being and doing what God wants.
I found a great outline to help organize this message ~ three kinds of faith: dead faith, demonic faith, dynamic faith ~ Warren Wiersbe, the man of the outline said: "No man can come to Christ by faith and remain the same, anymore than he can come into contact with a 220-volt wire and remain the same." Faith in Jesus Christ will change you!
The message is simple: be fair to all people. Don’t discriminate. Treat others with respect and dignity. Years ago there was a well known and much loved essay by Robert Fulgham, “All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” At my graduation from N.V. ‘79 the superintendent, Leo Groves, read it The essay included advice such as Share everything, Play fair, Don't hit people, Take a nap every afternoon, and When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.…. James is like that. All people are loved and precious in God’s sight. The message is simple: James 2:1 READ.
James is the brother of Jesus. I imagine James heard his brother talk about the importance of loving your neighbor; he saw with his own eyes Jesus put the walk to his talk when he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. James may have heard Jesus tell the parable of the Good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor. Jesus gave himself without expecting anything in return.
I’m always learning….this week I was able to spend time with Becky R., counselor at N.V. We talked about the community we both love… Becky gave me a chart, “A Measure of How Families are Doing.” nine categories… and symptoms in three levels of how the family is coping: “At Risk, Safe, and Thriving.” The idea is to help families move up the scale… for example, under the category of Family Relations/social networks and At Risk is... Safe is… Thriving is… This is what I learned: For several years I have thought in terms of being a safe place…. That’s important, but there is life beyond safe. Safe is good. Thriving is better…. Let’s pray for the people we meet through the church, in your life, to go beyond finding a safe place….the guys that come to the Men’s breakfast, the women who show up at “She Loves to Color”, those who gather on Sunday, Potluck dinner, S.S. classes…. Impact others for Christ with the goal of thriving…I like this chart, it’s helpful, but they left off the most important category ~ Spiritual Health. Faith. What’s a family/person look like that is At Risk, Safe, and Thriving in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Safe is a good starting point, but to thrive is the goal… James is not only a Survival Manual, it is a Thriving Manual.
The internet: good or bad for you? Depends on how you use it… Chocolate: good or bad for you? Depends on how you use it.
Any tension, any trial, any stress, any transition can result in good or bad depending on how you respond. One person said it this way: “God sends the trial and Satan turns it into a temptation.” Here is the question: When adversity comes, will you allow it to drag you down or will you let the spirit of God redeem you making you into a stronger person. The way of the world/Satan is the easy way, “the devil made me do it” “everyone else is doing it”, “what does it hurt.” “it’s so much fun.” The way of God takes faith because you cannot always see what you will be. The way of God is a long term commitment with a payoff somewhere down the road.
This message is for those who are serious about the desire to resist temptation and instead walk in the way of God; those are the choices. The world does not care about overcoming temptations, they consider Christianity to be restrictive and prudish. I wear that mantle proudly, although I focus not on the negative, but rather the joy, the freedom of knowing Christ, walking towards Him, seeking to grow and mature in faith.
This message is for you who feel like giving up who have tried and tried to keep your head above water. Every time you turn around you fall, you are beat up emotionally, physically, relationally....This message/James is about endurance. The long haul… finding strength in God almighty… Not only surviving, but surviving well.
A story that illustrates an important truth in James 1:12:
Behind the city of Colorado Springs, at the back of the U.S. Air Force Academy stands a mountain called Eagle Peak which is popular among the Boy scouts and local hikers. From it’s summit you can see into the depths of the Rocky Mountains on one side or overlook the vast expanse of the Great Plains on the other. Each summer the trail attracts experienced hikers and first time visitors.
The inexperienced hiker is told that the hike will take all day to go up and back. He is told to start early and to set a strong, steady pace for the journey will be difficult and rigorous. The new hiker who follows this advice is easily disappointed or confused upon reaching the beginning of the trail, because he can see with his own eyes from the parking lot that the hike to the summit and back would take far less than half a day with little difficulty at even the most leisurely pace.
Many people change plans. He meanders up the trail wandering frequently from the path, taking numerous side-trips and detours, after all, time is now not important. He stops to play and to snack on some of the supplies he had brought since he obviously won’t need so much for such a short trip. This he does until about half way through the day when he finally climbs to the summit only to discover that it was his eyes which had deceived him and not the words of those who had gone before. For he now stands on a false summit which had blocked his view of the higher summit far above.
Realizing his lack of foresight, this hiker reevaluates his time and decides that if he pushes himself hard enough he can still make it to the summit and back before it gets too dark. And so he sets off at a frantic pace; stumbling, crashing through the brush, receiving bruises, scrapes and scratches as the sun moves steadily toward the horizon. Until at last he reaches his mark and looks up at still another summit.
You see, Eagle Peak has two false summits, both of which must be traveled over before reaching the ultimate goal. Our inexperienced hiker now sadly begins his trek back down the mountain knowing he fell short of the real goal. Wiser, he will try again another day, for there are many beautiful days in Colorado Springs.