September 3, 2017 – James Chapter 2

James chapter 2, Summary

Since God does not show favoritism, partiality or prejudice, it follows that believers in the same Lord should not either.  Don’t judge people on superficial matters.

This does not mean Christians cannot judge people in any way, but we go about judging very carefully (2 Chronicles 19:6-7; Matthew 7:1-5).  Judge with care, shrewdness perhaps, the fear of God, self-examining humility, gentleness, love and mercy. In judging know:  1. Our ability to judge is limited; 2. We will sometimes be wrong; and 3. We will be judged some day.  If you are not able to put the effort and introspection into judging properly (Galatians 6:1), then don’t judge at all.

The early church was made up largely of non-influential, lowly, poor people.  Those who matter to no one else matter a great deal to God.  Yet, the rich were discriminating against the poor.  James writes, the poor are rich in faith as God’s children. Furthermore, God’s identity is on them (James 2:7).  When the poor were being insulted it was like God was being slandered/blasphemed.

John Calvin said, “Faith alone can save but saving faith is   never alone.”  Faith with works is like breath to a living person, it’s not something extra.  Faith lived out shows God we mean what we say, it shows others a witness, and it shows Christians an example.  How much “faith lived out” is enough?  To answer this: 1. Start with prayer.  2. Know there is sacrifice, and also 3. There is rest.  4. Compassion pushes us to do more.  5. It’s important to have a sustainable rhythm. And, 6. Always obey God’s leading. What “never alone” faith looks like is up to each of us to answer.

Living, breathing faith always shows evidence. Living faith involves all of life, every hour of every day. It’s complete openness to God, a readiness to let God have His way in us. Living faith is when we withdraw our resistance to His will. Try it. Surrender completely to God.

July 16, 2017 – James Chapter 1

James chapter 1, Summary

James, likely Jesus’ brother, sees himself as a willing, bond-servant of Jesus.  He loves Jesus as his Lord and Master.  James writes to Christians who have been scattered by persecution, and he tells them to consider it pure joy as they face various trials.  These trials can mature and complete their faith, and tested faith produces an integrated faith.  We become one person (not double-minded with a double-allegiance).  Today, without testing, we can live a trivial life.  Suffering and hardship force us to discover a deeper and more meaningful life.

James addresses the inequities between rich and poor.  To the poor he writes they have high standing as children of God.  To the rich he writes they need to remember their frailty and the brevity of life.  Which are you?  From a global perspective, if you make $32,400/year you are in the top 1%!  Don’t be tricked into thinking your value and self-esteem, and God’s goodness and love to you are somehow connected to how much money you have (or don’t have).  If you pass the various tests Christians face, you will receive the crown of God’s approval.  The best is yet to come!

How do we deal with temptations?  In preparation:  1. Fill up yourself with godly things; 2. Avoid tempting situations; 3. Die to yourself; 4. Pray for help; 5. Nurture a close Christian friend; and 6. Anticipate tempting situations. In resisting temptations:  1. Flee, run; 2. When in doubt, don’t do it; 3. Pray for strength; 4. Resist with the Bible; 5. Friends pray for us; and 6. Restore gently.  There are specific things you can do if you want to.  Who’s will do you follow?  God had your best interest in mind.  Trust Him!

To persecuted Christians, James writes, “every good and perfect gift is from above.”  God’s gifts to us are only good, even the challenging and difficult ones.  God’s gifts are also perfect, exactly what we need for our maturity, to shave off the rough edges of our character.  Every good and perfect gift comes from an unchangeably good God.  Sometimes God’s goodness is questioned because of all the bad in our world.  But, if God were to eliminate everything bad, that would involve getting rid of us, because none of us is perfectly good.  Instead of eliminating us, God chose to offer us forgiveness in Jesus as a gift.  God is better than we can imagine, and He wants the very best for us!

God wants us to humbly accept the word (the Bible) planted in our life.  Listen and allow God to speak to you.  Restrain your anger that can close your mind to God.  Take decisive action against weeds that crowd out God’s word.  A transformed person has a new outlook and new priorities.  Everything looks different, even if it stays the same.

God’s revealed truth (the Bible) comes to us with power to change us.  Don’t just listen to God’s words, do them.  Pure and faultless faith in Jesus includes both public compassion and private purity!

Dealing With Temptation Sermon Summary

Dealing With Temptation

Preparation for Temptation:

  1. Fill up yourself with godly things, Philippians 4:8.
  2. Avoid tempting situations, Proverbs 4:14-15.
  3. Die to yourself, Galatians 2:20.
  4. Pray for help, Ephesians 6:18.
  5. Nurture a close Christian friend, Hebrews 3:12-14.
  6. Anticipate tempting situations, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

Resisting Temptation:

  1. Flee, run, 1 Corinthians 10:13.
  2. When in doubt, don’t do it, Romans 14:23.
  3. Pray for strength, Hebrews 2:18.
  4. Resist with the Bible, Matthew 4:1-11.
  5. Friends pray for us, Ephesians 6:18.
  6. Restore gently, Galatians 6:1-2.

Love One Another Series Summary

 Love One Another  John 13:34

We are commanded to love one another.  This is not a suggestion.  Jesus wills for His followers to love each other through thick and thin.  Christian love can push through revenge, deep hurt, betrayal, hypocrisy and selfishness.

Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, in Life Together, reminds us:  “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter…”  We are to love a very imperfect church.

Jesus’ pattern for love is doing practical, helpful, deeds  of service.  The power to love comes from staying close to and connected to Jesus (John 15).  And, just having the power to love doesn’t mean it’s easy to love.  Loving Christians in unhappy, ugly circumstances is difficult, but  that’s God’s will for us – to love one another.

Followers of Jesus love in humble, obedient, servant-like ways (Philippians 2:5-8).  Loving one another means we love imperfect, sinful people in the midst of their sin  (1 Peter 4:8).  The church that loves this way can tolerate more differences and forgive more wrongs (Luke 23:34).  It will be a community noted for hospitality, warmth and kindness.  The cause of Christ is advanced when we love each  other deeply.

      The Bible describes love this way in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

  1. Love is patient, long-suffering, rather than getting angry or acting without considering others.
  2. Love is kind and shows undeserved generosity.
  3. Love rejoices when the truth of a matter prevails.
  4. Love bears up under anything and everything. It covers sin using discretion (1 Peter 4:8).
  5. Love always trusts – giving the most favorable interpretation the truth will allow.  Love is not overly suspicious. It believes the best of others.
  6. Love always hopes even against probabilities.
  7. Love perseveres – never gives up on people or circumstances.
  8. Love refuses to be jealous, is not self-promoting.
  9. Love doesn’t boast as if “I don’t need you.”
  10. Love is not arrogant/proud with inflated thoughts of it’s own importance.
  11. Love is not rude, and doesn’t dishonor others.
  12. Love is not self-seeking – no “me first” attitude.
  13. Love is not easily angered by resentment, not touchy.
  14. Love doesn’t keep score of wrongs, willing to forgive.
  15. Love isn’t glad when others go wrong.

To love this way requires dying to our selfish self.

Go the extra mile:  Lower your expectations of others’ behavior and raise the standard for yourself!

God Will For You Series Summary

        God’s Will:  Be Joyful Always

God’s will and command for Christians is that they are joyful always (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  The quality of our Christian life is totally influenced by our view of God.  We can have settled joy, or avoid it, as we believe God is involved in our life, for the good (Romans 8:28). Joy is not dependent on       circumstances because it’s grounded in God.  The surest way to quench your joy is to live your life with little thought of God.  We can be more carefree, like little children (Matthew 18:2-3), when we embrace that our heavenly Father is in charge and taking care of us.

Everyone wants joy, and many things give a measure of joy, but only God satisfies with full and lasting joy (Psalms 16:11).  By observing God’s             creation we can see many reminders of God’s involvement and care for our world for the good. Enjoy the Creator who opens up His hands and             satisfies with good things (Psalms 104:28).

6 Ways to be Joy-filled: 

  1. Daily, surrender your life to Jesus.
  2. Look to a hopeful future (Philippians 3:13-14), and focus more on others than yourself.
  3. Believe God is in control.
  4. Pray
  5. Be grateful
  6. Joy doesn’t depend on an easy life.

“Joy is the flag that flies over the castle of our hearts announcing that the King is in residence today.”  Walter B. Knight

           God’s Will: Pray Continually

Prayer moves God!  God responds out of the noble excellence of His character.  “God has left certain things  open to prayer – things which will never be done except  as we pray.”  Dr. E. Stanley Jones   What is God waiting for you to pray about?

There is mystery in prayer.  It’s not raw power, it doesn’t manipulate God, and it’s not a simple push button  answer.  The mystery involves human freedom, natural  laws, forces of evil and God’s restrained power.  Yet, we pray because Jesus prayed…and Jesus still prays for us in heaven (Hebrews 7:24-25).  Jesus prayed as if it made a difference.  Pray like it is your lifeline…because it is!

With unanswered prayer remember:  1.  God places a high value on honesty – tell Him your struggles; 2.  God uses the waiting time to shape our character; 3.  God often answers prayer through people; and 4.  Consider God’s point of view.  “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”  F.B. Meyer

Praying without ceasing means:  1.  living in humble dependence on God, hold His hand, 2.  talking to God over and over and often, and 3. don’t stop.  Don’t cease, and give up hope and give up on God.   

      God’s Will:  Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Try going 24 hours without complaining.  Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.  We choose our  attitude.  Exchange a complaining attitude with a thankful  attitude.  According to theologian John Calvin, “Thanksgiving is ‘the chief exercise of godliness’”.  Thanksgiving may well be the most important activity we do when we recognize that all we are and have comes from God (1 Corinthians 4:7).  All of  life is a gift from God, and we choose if we thank Him for it.

If you made a list of reasons for thanks it might look like this:  Be thankful for:  1. Christian faith (future hope and  present help and purpose), 2.  Being in love, 3.  Freedom (76% of the world’s population has high or very high restrictions on freedom of religion or belief), 4.  Health, 5.  Intellectual stimulation, 6.  Meaningful work, 7. Well off lifestyle, and 8. Christ-like servant character.  Yet, having reasons for thanks doesn’t mean you will be thankful.

Like 2 rails of a railroad track, we always have something good and something bad in our life, and we have a choice where we will put our focus.  “Gratitude shifts our focus from what’s wrong to what’s right.  Gratitude shifts our focus off ourselves and onto God.  Gratitude shifts our focus from a proud attitude of entitlement – ‘what I deserve’, to an attitude    of humility – ‘what I’ve received.’”  Kurt Brunner

Choose your attitude.  Shift your focus to gratitude!

Attitude by Charles Swindoll

    Attitude

by Charles Swindoll

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.

We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one thing we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the

pathway to peace.

 

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things

right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonable happy in this life,

And supremely happy with Him

forever in the next.

Amen

 

-Reinhold Niebuhr

Prayer of St. Francis

Prayer of St. Francis

    Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

    where there is injury, pardon;

    where there is doubt, faith;

    where there is despair, hope;

    where there is darkness, light;

    where there is sadness, joy.

    O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so

    much seek to be consoled as to console;

    to be understood as to understand;

    to be loved as to love;

   For it is in giving that we receive;

    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

    it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

     Amen