James Day 6: A Good Gift

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I am sure every one of you reading this has received and given many gifts.  Some have probably been small and insignificant (every white elephant Christmas gathering you’ve ever attended) and some have probably been costly and important.  Let me share a few of my favorite gifts with you that I’ve received.

I’m looking at two of my favorite gifts as I am writing this chapter.  One is a water color painting of the skyline in St. Augustine, Florida drawn from the viewpoint of the Bridge of Lions.  I studied at Flagler College in that beautiful north Florida coastal town and for the last two years daily drove over this bridge and got stuck at the drawbridge.  I loved this town and all that it brought into my life: a wonderful church, mentors, and friends.  My mentors gave me this as I graduated from college.  I loved it and have always wanted to have a home to display it in.  We have it in our apartment on the mantel as a gorgeous reminder of home and friendship.

Another favorite gift I’ve received is my engagement ring.  When a girl has waited so long for something to important – it better be good!  Most typical girls I know have searched the websites and looked in jewelry stores picking out their ideal engagement ring; I was no different.  I didn’t want a solitaire because I was afraid it would get caught in my hair or messed up with food as a I was cooking.  I wanted the main stone to be flat and round.  I, like any smart girl, told both of my best friends what I desired in a ring.  My smart boyfriend asked them what I liked.  He then picked out the ring himself.  When my best friend saw it weeks before he proposed, she knew I would LOVE it.  And believe me, I did.  Even now, I sit and stare at it as the light bounces off the shiny stones and reflects its warmth.  It is a sign of my husband’s love for me, not because it is shiny and pretty, but because he thought of me when he was buying it.

These two gifts are reflective of the love and relationship of the people who gave it to me.  My mentors and my husband are definitely 2 of the most important earthly relationships that I have.  These gifts are earthly – one will collect dust and the other will need to be cleaned to keep its sparkle. 

What is a gift?  A gift is something undeserved.  Did I deserve an engagement ring?  No.  Did I deserve a beautiful painting?  No.  If I had, these would not be gifts, but more like paychecks.  They wouldn’t mean as much either.  But, because both parties desired to give me something just to show their love for me, these gifts meant so much more.  Thankfully, they gave, because I didn’t deserve either one of them. God demonstrates Himself to be a gracious giver to us time after time in Scripture.  This giving demeanor is still true in our lives today.  Let’s take a look at James 1 and see what this little book says about God’s giving nature.

James 1:17 says, “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.”

James Day 4: Hope of Heaven

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Finishing off from James 1:12

Psalm 73:25 : Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”

So, how does this command to desire nothing line up with the awaiting a crown?  I understood this a little better after a conversation with my husband over dinner.  The crown will be given by God Himself, and therefore my desiring of the crown, is a good thing because it is a gift from God.  Here is an example:

My husband comes home one night bringing me 7 fresh-picked yellow roses for our 7 month anniversary.  He says “Thank you for being my friend.”  What would happen to our friendship if I took the roses and threw them in the garbage?  I am positive that would not be the reaction that he wanted.  But instead, I did what any grateful wife would do: I hugged and kissed him, told him thank you, then placed the sunshine-filled vase in a place where everyone could see – and even posted a picture and put on social media exclaiming what a great husband I had.

The same idea applies for our heavenly crown.  Would we want to be handed a dingy crown when we got to heaven?  Certainly not.  We want a crown reflective of the One who will give it to us.  We want to work for the praise of God.  And when God gives it to us, we will be thankful because we will fully understand then that our good works were not for our glory but for His (Matthew 5).

When we say we desire a crown, or we work and are faithful to receive the “crown of life” – we desire God’s praise.  This is something we should desire.  All of life should lead toward hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

James Day 3: Miss America and other Crowns

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Taken from James 1:12:

There was a Saturday each September when I was growing up that was special to my Mom and me.  Most Saturdays in September were spent watching Gator football with my entire family, but on one Saturday night the television when to an entirely different type of competition: the Miss America Pageant.  We would get out some paper and pens and make our secret lists of who we thought would be in the top ten, then then top five, and then finally who we thought would take the night.  My mom and I continued this through my college years and beyond.  Then they switched it to January and put it on cable and it just didn’t seem to be as good anymore.  I remember two things mostly about those nights: spending time with my Mom and about 2 minutes after the crowning of the new Miss, I would alway start a new diet.

The end of each pageant there was a moment all the contestants and viewers awaited: the crowning.  There was a song and flowers and applauding, but most importantly there was the dipping of the head to allow the crown to be safety-pinned on to secure it on the head of the winner.  There were tears.  There were flashes of cameras.  There were scholarships and cars. But, every girl who walked on that stage just wanted one thing: the crown.

A crown has been given to the winner of this pageant since it began in 1921.  For over 90 years, women have wanted to win to earn scholarship many and wear a crown.  The current crown has over 700 jewels on it; a crown which each winner gets to keep at the end of her year’s reign.  The crown has had many changes in designers over the years, but it is always beautiful, shiny, and coveted.

For Christians, we should covet another crown, not the one of earthly mold, but one given to us for completing the race that God has set out for us to run (Eph 2.10)

James Day 2: Our Completion in Christ

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Based on James 1:2-4

Here is where the Gospel comes in to this section on trials: God has already made us complete.  We live in a world of the already but not yet.  Let me explain.  If we are IN Christ, then we are ALREADY made perfect because of the completed work of Christ on the cross.  Now, even though are already perfect, we still live in this world where sin abounds.  We live in the NOT YET.  His plan is making us ready for the day that He will bring everything under subjection to Himself and we be completely sanctified (Colossians 1:19-23).  God is for us in that He has already provided our Sanctification – He has already made us perfect.  Jesus’ blood that was shed on the cross for us has already declared us righteous (perfect) before God the Father.  That is why it was Jesus who had to die.  He was the only God-Man who was perfect in everything.  He was the only one who could pay the debt and make us perfect.  The imputation of Christ’s righteousness means that through Christ’s death on the cross, sinners who believe by grace through faith are given Christ’s righteousness, His perfection.  We stand before God the Father as though we had never sinned. 

There should be great hope in that.  Even though we may never handle the trials of life perfectly, and we may sin every day and strive for perfection – we are already made perfect in Christ.  Let that position, the indicative (what already is) determine how you live your life from the day to day.  Our perfection in Christ should cause us to dwell more richly on His grace and strive for a lifestyle and a heart-style that will please our Father.  We don’t have to keep striving to be complete?  There is nothing in this word that will make us more complete than we are right now (not a husband, a better job, more money, a more influential ministry, not being skinnier, nothing).

November: James 1 (Why Study Scripture – Grudem)

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This month I will be posting excerpts from the Bible study I’m writing.  Hope you are blessed.  Would love any thoughts that you have.

Why is there a need to study Scripture?  There are many reasons.  Dr. Wayne Grudem, a professor and theologian, has this to say about the necessity of Scripture, “the necessity of Scripture means that the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will.” (ST, pg 116)

So, let’s take those three and apply them to a study like this on the book of James:

1.  We study it for a better knowledge of the gospel.  In this study, I hope you will see that the book of James tells us that we are not perfect, cannot do all the demands that the Word gives us, yet there is one who has done everything perfectly.  That is the essence of the Gospel.  We are not perfect, but are loved by someone who is perfect.

2.  We study the Word to maintain our spiritual life.  How can a marriage survive if the couple never communicates or shares life together?  How can a friendship thrive if there is no line of communication and time spent with each other?  Just as there can be no harmony in a marriage or friendship without communication, there is little growth in The Lord without time spent reading His Word.  It is His letter to His children.  Why wouldn’t we want to read it?

3.  We study the Word of God to know His will.  Romans 12.1-2 tells us this – that we can know God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.  How do we know it?  We can read, study, know, memorize, and reflect upon the Word He has given us.  Then when we are faced with a decision to make, we often won’t have to worry about what to do.  The Spirit will bring what we already know to remembrance (John 15-17).  One of the Spirit’s roles is to be our Teacher.  One of his primary ways of doing that is through the Word of God.

31Days: New Encouragement (day 25)

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I love a husband who encourages me!  Shouldn’t all husbands do that?  I got a good one!

We were driving to our date location and I just started rattling off talking a million miles a minute.

What was I talking about – another writing goal.

We studied the book of James together until August.  it was such a good time for us in the word.  So, I was telling him again of my desire to write a Bible study based on my studies.  And how I was going to do it.  NaNoWriMo is coming up in November.  That’s where you purpose (goal, intend) to write 50k words of a book – not edit or anything else, just write.  So, that is what I’m going to do.  It is only about 1300 words a day.  And yes, I do believe i may be crazy for trying to do it with a newborn, but if writing a book is one of my dreams then I gotta start somewhere.

So, what did my husband do?  He didn’t say I was crazy or ask me what was I thinking.  No.  He took my hand and said “that’s great honey.  I think it will be a blessing to those who read it.”

Thanks for your encouragement, Love.

31Days: New Goal (Day 23)

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my former rooms did NaNoWriMo the past years.  She didn’t have too much of a social life during the month of November, but she did get a lot of writing done.

Well, if one of my goals and dreams is to write books – I guess I better start.

So, for the month of November, I will be posting on this blog, but only from the excerpts of what I am writing.  I will be working on my study on James.  I have the chapters already marked out – and the intro mostly done, so I just gotta get to it.

The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50k words – they don’t have to be perfect, you edit later.  So, here we go! 🙂

Peace and Wisdom

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There are two types of wisdom according to the book of James: earthly and “wisdom from above”.  Which one characterizes you and your daily interactions with other believers.  As I read some in Lydia Brownback’s book this morning, I was reminded of how we should act and be in our relationships with other believers, especially in corporate gatherings.

So often since I’ve been old enough to recognize it, I see and dislike politics within the church.  I am not talking here about Democrats and Republicans.  I am more referring to one-upping others to get one’s way or catering to the powers that be or financial preferences one can see any virtually any religious organization or denomination.  I’m referring to fights at religious gatherings or arguments over non-important matters.  Even in important matters, there is a way to discuss with “wisdom from above.”

As we relate every day as Christians in a world full of other Christians, all in need of saving grace, may we remember these verses:

James 3:13-18

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