Monthly Archives: February 2013

James – How’s Your Religion

Peninsula Community Church

February 24, 2013

James – How’s your Religion?

James 1:26-27 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.

The last time I went to the doctor one of the things that I was asked to do was to stick out my tongue and say ahhhhh! When I was younger, I use to wonder why he would do this but as I have gotten older I now have a better understanding for this. The reason a doctor will ask you to do this is that he can often measure the health of the body by examining the tongue. For example, he can tell if we are under stress because of certain conditions that might be evident on the tongue and in the mouth. He can determine if there is a potential for sickness, as a coated tongue is often a sign of bacteria evident in the body. He can also discover certain cancers. 

In this passage, James is telling us to stick out our tongues and say ahhhhh! James presents two ways to show the purity of one’s religion. His goal is to present us with a definition of good religion. To do so, he presents two ideas that reveal who we are and what we are all about. The first idea is matter of controlling our tongue. The second is a matter of how we minister to orphans and widows. Our primary focus today will be on the tongue.

Before we get into the meat of this discussion, let me speak to this idea of religion for just a moment. There is a big difference between having religion and being a passionate follower of Christ. Religion while it was supposed to be a good thing has most often become a perverted system of rules and regulations. This is best illustrated by the Pharisees. The Pharisees, the religious leader’s of Jesus’ day, took God’s law which could be summed up in “Loving God” and “Loving Others” (Mark 12:28-31) and developed 613 laws which included 365 negative commands and 248 positive commands. 

Joe Stowell, professor at Moody Bible Institute, proposes that, at the time of Christ, the Pharisees had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. The problem is that new laws were continually invented to satisfy their need to control others. The result was that their laws created a judgmental spirit and a false standard of righteousness. Instead of freedom, these laws became a burden and they were unnecessarily confusing and contradictory because of the number of laws presented.

The truth of the matter is that there were so many laws that even the Pharisees could not keep all of their own laws. For them it was easier to make a law than it was to deal with the heart. Any time you have a system in place where the rules are primary and the heart issues are nominal in terms of priorities, then we have a problem. The issue is that we can have an outward persona that appears to have it together. Jesus described this as being white washed tombs. In that day they would paint the burial vaults with a white wash to keep them looking nice. His point was though they looked good on the outside the tombs still contained deaf men’s bones.

This however is not the kind of religion that James is propagating here. He is not propagating a long list of laws but he is referring to a positive response to God’s word and commands. He is referring to being a hearer and a doer of God’s word which means we bring our hearts into alignment with God’s will and His purposes for our lives. Good religion does not come from a long list of rules but it only comes by way of God’s grace. The law does not save us, as it is only a school master that points us to sin. In Galatians 2:15-16, Paul says, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Paul continues in Galatians by helping us understand that we were held captive under the law until faith came through Christ. The law was our “guardian” or as the KJV says it was our “schoolmaster.” It pointed us to Christ but was powerless to deal with the power of sin that ruled over us. Christ came as the fulfillment of the law. While the ceremonial law was no longer needed as Christ came to satisfy the requirements of that part of the  law, the moral law remains in tack. 

With that said James illustrates for us what “good” religion looks like. It is one that is not guided by a long list of rules but by a heart motivated by Christ’s love and His righteousness. Therefore, one who exemplifies good religion is one who controls their tongue. As we consider the tongue, we must understand that just as the physical tongue is barometer for our physical health, the tongue is also a barometer of our spiritual condition. It is of note that James throughout this book discusses the work of the tongue and the working out of our faith in practical ways.  James is keenly aware that our tongue will either support us or it will betray us. It is for that reason that he uses the word picture of a bridle. A bridle serves to steer or guide a horse. In essence he is saying that we should put a bridle on our tongue to guide and steer our tongue in the right direction.

What comes from our mouth reveals the character of the heart which reveals the health of our spiritual body. Jesus stated that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks for the heart is the seat of one’s emotion and thoughts. In Matthew 15:18-20 Jesus says, “Out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”

We must understand that we all communicate unhealthy and unwise things at one point or the other. This does not mean that we are necessarily evil minded, it simply means that this action is pointing to an adjustment that must be made within us but, an on going pattern of unhealthy talk will define who you are as a nonspiritual person. The problem for some is that they may never use a curse word and yet they curse others by way of slander, lies and corrupt thinking. Too often this is done in private or it is done with others in a group with the absence of the one being spoken about.

To understand this, let me ask you a couple of questions.

  • Do you edify others or do you slander others?
  • Do you give thanks or do you complain?
  • Do you speak truthfully or do you speak falsely?
  • Do you speak with civility or do you use sarcasm?
  • Do you speak humbly or do you speak with pride and arrogance?

Let’s look at these questions for a moment. Let’s begin by asking ourselves, “Do I edify others or do I slander people and tear them down by my words?” The answer to this is important. One way to define this is to ask if you spend more time talking about someone rather than talking to the person. When you do speak to them are you encouraging them or do you find yourself tearing them down by being critical and judgmental? Are you looking at the faults of others only or are you looking for the positive in their lives as well.

Second, “Do I give thanks more than I complain?” My heart can be filled with bitterness or it can be filled with gratefulness and joy. Bitter hearts end up hurting others because they become distrusting of those who have grateful hearts. Instead of rejoicing, they become upset with others who seem to have it all together. A person with an ungrateful heart is hard to please and the one with an ungrateful heart will have a hard time in feeling satisfied because they are never content with the things they possess. The tendency is that they always want something else to satisfy them and cause them to feel accepted.

Third, “Do I speak the truth or do I continually speak falsehoods and lies?” To be clear sometimes we do not speak lies outright, sometimes we simply distort the truth to make us look better or to avoid the reality we may face, if we were perfectly honest. A partial untruth is still and untruth. God calls for us to be honest in our communications and in our dealings with others. To mislead someone is a falsehood and in the end hurts the one propagating the falsehood. 

Four, “Do I speak with civility or do I speak with sarcasm?” The problem with sarcasm is that it begins as a joke but the problem is there is too often an element of truth in our expressions of sarcasm. A second problem is that sarcasm gets more hateful. A third problem is that sarcasm becomes the mode of operation that we use when we battle others. In the end sarcasm brings pain and hurt the one the sarcasm is aimed. It tears the other person down rather than building them up.

Fifth, “Do I speak humbly or do I speak with pride and arrogance?” Let me be clear to speak humbly does not mean that I cannot be emphatic or direct in my approach. We often confuse directness with pride when that is not the case. However, when I am prideful and arrogant, the message is lost and/or distorted. Pride and arrogance come when I try to present myself in a deceptive manner. It comes when I try to present myself as something else when that is not the case at all. 

What we learn here is that our vocal communication is a measure of our hearts and the transformation or the lack of transformation that has come…. but listen to what the Bible says to us.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Ephesians 4:15 Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Proverbs 4:24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 

Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

So how is your tongue today? Does it point to a healthy spiritual life or is there some work to do? The fact is you are not alone as we all can grow in this area of our life. It’s your choice but God is ready to assist you in this area. Will you allow Him to do that?

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James – Be Doers of the Word Not Hearers

Peninsula Community Church
February 17, 2013
James – Actions Speak Louder Than Words

James 1:21-25 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.

This morning we are going to look at an important topic. In this passage, we find that James issues a challenge for believers to live out their faith in a practical way because we are called to put into action what we hear. In the passage, James presents two types of Christians. The first is the one that hears the word but forgets and fails to properly apply the Word and the second is the one that hears and makes a proper application of the word.

To bring some analysis to this lets examine two hypothetical people. The first person is the one who hears and forgets what he has heard. This person has grown up in the church. They have memorized Scriptures. They have studied the Bible and in their adult life they have continued to attend church, faithfully. They are involved in Sunday School, Bible studies, Seminars and conferences where they discuss biblical stories and they ponder deep theological questions. This person is often an avid reader of Christian books and Christian literature. In some denominational settings this would be the person who has received all of the attendance awards and Bible memorization certificates. In many ways, this person seems to be a godly individual, but when their life is reviewed more closely, there is a disconnect between their appearance and who they are in real life. In the real world, they exhibit poor morals. They are dishonest and have been caught in several lies on the job. It is not unusual to see them carry spare parts and supplies off the job that they will use for their personal business without having proper clearance to do so. They also tend to get angry and fly off the handle with little or no provocation. They tend to exhibit a prideful and self-centered heart. They also tend to look out for number one and show little or no concern for others. They show up at church on Sundays, and they can share and discuss many insights from the Bible, but the day-to-day routine of their life seems unaffected by the Word.

The second person is the one who hears and takes action. This person is similar to the first in certain respects. They are committed to a church body where they learn from God’s Word and where they discuss it with others. They also love to talk about the stories of the Bible and they wrestle with deep theological issues. They read Christian books and magazines to gain a greater understanding of the Bible. The difference, however, is that this person’s life, in their day-to-day routine, is profoundly affected by the Word. They are not perfect. They still struggle with selfishness, impatience, and apathy, but they are not content to let their life remain as it is. You see they are striving to live according to the Word. They understand what it means to experience the joy of obeying the truth of God’s words and His commands. They trust God’s promises and they desire a greater understanding of God’s word so they can grow even more. Therefore, they read the Bible, not as a topic for interesting discussion, but as a guide for their daily life. The fruit of this exercise is very evident. The result is that they tend to be more patient and compassionate. They know how to exercise restraint in what they say. They look out for the needs of others and as we spoke about last week they are quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

Perhaps the difference in these two is that one cloaks themselves in the word whereas the other devours the word and allows it to transform their life.

For those who have children, you may have experienced something like this in your family or perhaps as a child you were the guilty party. Do you remember telling your child to do something? Then they would head off to play, only to forget what they were supposed to do. The whole time they assured you that the task would get accomplished. They had every intent of doing what you had asked them to do but they forgot. They became distracted and missed an opportunity to obey their parents. This is the confrontation we face when we do this with God’s word. Rather than being hearers, God expects us to be doers. That is, He is calling us to a walk of obedience. We hear, we listen and we obey what we have heard.

In this passage, James uses the word picture of a mirror to illustrate what he is communicating. In those days, they did not have the kind of mirrors we have today as they would have used a polished piece of metal as a means to reflect their image. In my preparation for this message, I thought about the role that mirrors play in our lives. The first thing I considered was that the main purpose of a mirror is to reflect the outward appearance. Every morning, I check myself in the mirror to make sure that my teeth are brushed properly. I check to make sure that my hair is in place. I check to make sure that my clothes match and they everything is in place. I do this so that I can have a proper presentation of myself and so that I will diminish any embarrassing moments.

Another thing about mirrors is that by using a mirror, I begin to understand more about my outer man. As a result, I know that I have blue eyes. I know that my hairline is receding and that my hair color which use to be brownish blonde is now more of a salt and pepper. But when you look in the mirror you make those adjustments but you don’t take the mirror and hold it up all of the time to check yourself out. There is no need to do this as you trust the reflection and the changes you make. Secondly, we would be amiss if we took a look at ourselves but failed to make the adjustments to correct the areas needing change. How foolish would it be to see a problem and not correct it. For example, maybe it is a cut on the face after shaving or a bit of shaving cream left under the nose. Perhaps it is a spot of dirt we missed while taking our shower. Regardless of what issue we might find, we correct the issue, we don’t leave it.

The purpose of the Word is to reflect the inward appearance. It is the reflection of Christ that we see in the word which becomes our model for life. Rather than just outward adjustments, the word of God reflects the inner changes of character and soul that must occur. It should be noted that I believe this is the reason that James talks about the implanted word of God. The Word God cannot be a superficial experience, it must be digested and consumed. It must become a part of the fabric of your life so that the Word becomes the guiding force of your life that is directing your steps and your actions. In verse 21, James commands us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” The word is the means by which we are born again (verse 18), and it is also the means by which we live the Christian life (verse 21).

As we look at this passage, we see that James is saying that the one who hears the Word but does not act on the word is deceiving themselves. There is a difference between analyzing and discussing the word and making an application of the word into one’s life so that it impacts who one is and how they are to live. The only way to truly receive the word is to receive it humbly. We can’t put ourselves over the word, but we must humbly put ourselves under the word and submit to its authority in our lives.

Let me close by sharing a couple of scriptures that highlight and confirm the message that James is communicating.

Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Romans 2:6-11He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

So may it be that we put into practice what we gain from God’s word. Like the lottery, you have to be in to win it. And, you have to be in the word to allow it to change our lives.

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James – Slow Down You Move Too Fast

Peninsula Community Church
February 10, 2013
James – Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

James 1:19-21 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.

As a child, I always remember that when I would get angry the counsel I would receive would be to count to ten. Little did I know how great this counsel would be and little did I know, at that time, how close this was to the Bible’s counsel as well.

Another bit of counsel I would receive was from my grandmother. she would say that God gave us two ears and one mouth therefore we should listen twice as much as we talk. Once again I did not realize how close to scripture this counsel was.

As I was preparing for this message I was reminded of the lyrics to a song written by Simon & Garfunkel in the late 1960s that encouraged us to slow down. I am sure you remember the song. The lyrics went something like this: “Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last, just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.” While this is certainly just lyrics to a song, it is my belief that James had the same sentiment in the passage before us.

As we look at this passage, we see that James begins with a call to action. He says “Know this.” This would be the same as saying, “Listen up” as what I am about to tell you is extremely important. He in essence says, “Take notice of what I am going to tell you, if you want to know how to live your faith out in a practical way.”

How is this accomplished? To guide us James highlights three practices every passionate follower of Christ needs to develop in their lives. By putting these actions into practice our lives and our relationships will be positively affected. In this passage, he suggests that we need to be better listeners. We need to be slower in our responses and we need to be slower in letting anger get the best of us. If we do these things, most conflicts would dissolve and many conflicts would never develop.

Let’s look specifically at how James instructs us.

First, James instructs us to be quick to hear. How true it is that we need to be better listeners? Too many times we are thinking of our next line or the response we might give rather than truly listening to the other person? By doing this, we potentially miss out on what is really being said. The result is that we receive disjointed and incorrect communications. In years past, the emphasis on good communication was focused on the one communicating. If the message was not received then it was automatically the speaker’s problem. As information on this subject has developed, scientists have found that one can communicate perfectly and yet there will be a failure on the part of the listener to receive the data correctly. The one communicating can give one message but those in the audience can receive conflicting messages. Why is this? It is because they are day dreaming, they are thinking of what they have to do later, or they have an animosity toward the speaker. These and other reasons can impact what one hears.

To be a good listener is in reality a mark of humility. It is something we do as we consider others as being more significant than ourselves. The following exhortation from Paul supports this idea. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). To listen, means that we attempt to understand others before responding.

Second, James instructs us to be slow to speak. As we study the Bible, we find that the tongue can be a force for life or it can be a force for death, especially when we don’t stop to think about what we are saying. Too many times the problem for us is there is a tendency to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind and that is not always a good thing. Think back on your life when this has happened. What were the results?

The other aspect of note is that you cannot speak and listen at the same time. When we are speaking we are not listening or at least we cannot do both effectively. When we are busy talking we can miss out on what others are saying. All we have to do is look at the political rhetoric of our day. Rather than debates, we have monologues. Rather than true discussions, we have individuals who want to give their talking points without any interest in hearing another’s viewpoints. And, we wonder why so little is being accomplished.

The writer of Proverbs has some insight into this idea when he says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19). “There is one whose rash words are like swords thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Finally, he says “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).

While listening is a sign of humility, waiting to speak is an action of one who loves others. In 1 Corinthians 13:4 Paul states, “Love is patient.” Waiting before I respond or being slow to speak is one way God calls me to love others. Prudently restraining my lips (Proverbs 10:19) allows me to get past my initial impulse (which is frequently wrong). It gives me a chance to ask God for wisdom and discernment, and to ask clarifying questions that often don’t come in the heat of the moment.

Third, James admonishes us to be slow to anger. In life, we need tough skins and soft hearts. We need to understand that people around us are not always listening to us and that they sometimes says things before they think them through. Once we recognize this, we will be more apt to understand those around us. Too often, we respond to others who do not think their words through and we jump the gun before we think things through ourselves. The result is that we say and do things in haste that we would not do under normal circumstances.

The problem is that in anger we say things that injure others. The fact is, our words effect others for good and evil. They bring life and they bring death. Listen to what the word says about this. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). When I speak, it is so important that my words “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Paul states, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Gracious words are sometimes tender and sometimes tough according to Proverbs 27:6, but they are always measured, clear, honest, and if possible concise according to Proverbs 10:19. Gracious words always aim for truthful restoration and agreement (2 Corinthians 13:11). Deadly words aim to destroy, wound and bring pain which is the opposite of gracious words.

In this passage, James is not saying that anger is wrong because anger is a God given emotion. It is an emotion that we cannot help, but we can control. Anger can be used for healthy outcomes or it can lead us to sin and evil. Angry words can be spoken that can tear down a relationship in an instant. Remember these verses? Proverbs 14:17a states, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly” while Proverbs 29:22 says, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” Misplaced anger accomplishes nothing positive in either person.

So how does all of this apply to us. When we are quick to listen, we can hear the heart of the other person in ways that will not occur if we are busy talking or attempting to think of our next line or comeback. When we truly listen to others, we get to know them more than just a surface understanding. We can hear their heart. We can read their body language and their verbal cues. If you truly listen, you might be amazed at what you might hear.

When we are slow to speak, we are more likely to take the time to evaluate our response thereby more clearly communicating what we want or need to communicate in a better way. When we are slow to speak, there is less of a chance to have to apologize for my actions later because I have said something stupid. The fact is that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks but that does not mean that we have to speak everything in our heart.

It is for that reason that James instructs us to put away filthy things and unwholesome things because these things will affect how we respond. Sometimes we are quick to respond because we want to cover up who we are and we believe that by controlling the conversation, we cover up who we really are. A pure heart speaks pure things. A pure heart that is quick to listen and slow to speak will be one that is less likely to get angry or upset. That is God’s will for us,

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James – God’s Good Gifts

Peninsula Community Church

February 3, 2013

James – Good Gifts

James 1:16-18 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.

For me, the idea of gift giving can be an interesting one. Gifts as you know come in all sizes and shapes and the size or the shape of the gift does not inherently define the content of the gift. So many times, we open a gift given to us with a specific idea in mind of what the gift might be but we can be disappointed when we find that what is inside it something totally different. 

The other problem with gifts is that too many times gifts are given with strings attached. Parents often do this. If you are really, really good then you will get ‘x.’ While this is certainly a way to discipline the child, if it is the only means to administer discipline, the child may begin to believe that their parent’s love and acceptance is based solely in a reward system rather than in unconditional love.  

At other times, gifts are used by some to buy another’s love. I knew of a couple where they would constantly fight and many times the fighting would get physical. They would part ways but then he would apologize and make up to her by buying her expensive jewelry and once he even bought her a new car not so much to show his love to her but to prevent her from leaving. In essence his gifts were actually a way to manipulate his wife.

Each of these illustrations present a level of deception in the giving of gifts. It is for this reason that James begins this passage by addressing deception. The fact is we are living in a time where deception seems to be the standard mode of operation. Of note, just this week I received a copy of a letter that was sent to President Obama and the leaders of both houses. The gist of the letter was to point out the deception and dishonesty that is being propagated on the nation and it was a call to action for them to be honest in their approach to legislative issues and to the business of running the U. S. Government.

James also recognizes the potential for deception among believers. Therefore, he calls on the believers of His day to resist the temptation of deception. In particular, this deception relates to the view one has of God. Too often, we have a skewed view of who God is. The result is we have a misunderstanding of who He is and because we have a skewed view of God we have a skewed view of His gifts to us. We need to understand that our view of God will determine how we live life and how we deal with others.

There are many deceptive views of God today. I will mention two extreme views. One view purports that God has created everything and then stands back and allows things to run its course without any direct involvement from God. This view supposes that God has little intervention in the affairs of life and it presents a disconnected and detached God that is unconcerned about our daily life. It is for this reason so many feel that God is disconnected from their life and from the particular situations they face. They begin to believe that God is a distant God and this view is confirmed in their relationships every day as they live out broken relationships every day. The result is a feeling of loneliness and abandonment.

A second view is that God controls every action we take to the point that we have absolutely no choice in what we do or what we say. This view purports that God predetermines every action taken even if these are acts of sin perpetrated on mankind. I spoke with one pastor who claimed that if someone was raped that it was God’s will and that it was God’s predetermined will for that to happen. The problem with this view is that it takes away man’s responsibility for their actions and presents a God who is controlling, unfeeling, and one that justifies sin. This view would purport that God is responsible for causing men to sin which is in direct contradiction to His character.

In the first view, there is little or no dependance on God and there is a sense that man is in total control. The result is that man feels he does not need God. In the second view, God is in total control to the point that man has no control over His life which results in him not taking responsibility for his actions. The fact is, God is sovereign and in control but that does not negate our human responsibility for poor decisions that cause damage in others lives.

Regardless of these two views, there is one thing that James wants to assure us of. He wants us to know that every good and perfect gift comes from God, the Father. God’s gifts are both good and perfect. It is important to note that this speaks to the character of the giver just as much as it does to the quality of the gift. God is good and He is perfect in all of His ways, and because He is good and perfect, His gifts are good and perfect.

We see this illustrated by Jesus in Matthew 7:11. Jesus says that if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him. If we ask for bread, He does not give us a stone, or if we ask for a fish, he will not give us a serpent? Notice the action required of one the asking and then a response of God providing.

God is not in the business of offering one thing and then giving us something else. You see God is not into bait and switch. I am sure we have all experienced this act at some point. We see a sales circular that promotes the sale of a certain item at a certain price. You go to the store only to be disappointed because they do not have the specific item or the item available is more money than advertised. It is a ploy to get you into the store because they know if they get you into the store that you will most likely buy something else. I am so glad that God does not do that. What He advertises He gives and it is good and perfect.

So what are some of the gifts that God gives.

To begin with God gives us life. A part of the problem in our fallen world is that man tends to define life in so many different ways. He defines life by what he possesses. He defines life by what he does. He defines life through what he has achieved. The problem, however, is that while these things are great man can still become burdened with guilt, shame and regret to the degree that they miss out on the joy of life. Life seems a burden and not a joy.

Real life however is defined in a person and that person is Jesus Christ. God sent His son, Jesus, to earth to give us the greatest gift of all, eternal life. We observe this in Mark 10:45; John 3:15-17; John 5:21-26; John 6:47; and John 10:28. Each of these passages note that life comes by way of Jesus Christ. The life He gives is one that represents a future hope but it also represents a present now. This is a principle that is evident in Scripture. There is the now and there is the yet to come of God’s gift. If we accept this life and believe that we are only waiting for some future hope we are missing out on the completeness of the gift God has given. Too often, we live as if we have no hope now but we appear to live as if our hope is some futuristic event. But we have hope now and we have hope in the future. 

This life He gives is one that is abundant. Life as a believer should be rich and full. The term abundant means “full” and “complete.” It is abundance plus. This brings us to the second gift.

God gives us everything we need to live life fully.  God created all things for us to enjoy so we could experience a full life.  Everything we have—including our families, friends, church, finances, jobs, houses, investments, credit, equity, cash, businesses, automobiles, and more—is given to us by God and is a part of our treasure. God has made us stewards of these treasures, but we are not owners. Good stewards make every effort to manage their treasure according to the heart and will of the one to whom it ultimately belongs. In this case it is God’s property but we are the stewards. God wants us to use these gifts in a way that honors Him. How are you managing the gifts He has given you?

Third, God gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not just a gift, He is a person who was sent by God to assist us by directing our lives in truth and righteousness. God is a good Dad who listens to his kids and gives them what they need but not everything they want. We need the Holy Spirit. Why? Because he regenerates our heart so that we can follow Jesus. He produces good fruit in our lives. He empowers our efforts so that we can participate with God in loving people and building his church. He aides us as we share our faith with others. He brings conviction to the heart of the wayward sinner and the misguided believer.

Four, God gives us a purpose. God does not give us these gifts to us for us to be sidelined by fear and laziness. He gives them because he has a plan and a purpose for each us. Sometimes this purpose is clearly defined but at other times we find that we bloom where we are planted. You may not have planned on being where you are or even doing what you are doing but he uses it. I can best illustrate this by way of how I was asked to serve as the Chairman of the Long Island Task Force for Promise Keepers. I went to my first meeting where the chair resigned. Before I left the meeting, to my surprise, I had been elected to the chairman’s position. I did not plan it, but God had a purpose and a plan for that team of guys. We were able to come along side of churches to help them start men’s groups and we were effective in bringing men together for Island wide events; something that had never happened before. 

There are so many gifts available to us as believers but while God gives us these great gifts it is our responsibility to appropriate these gifts as our own. If someone where to give you a gift, it is not yours until you accept it.

So what are you doing with the gifts?

 

 

 

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