The War Inside

Each of us experience turmoil.

We have to make personal choices and decisions, there’s conflict in a family or with our neighbor, co-worker stuff, church stuff, and friendship stuff. On top of that we are all impacted by global strife in ways we realize and ways we may not.

In this week’s video study we focus in on James 4:1-5 and talk about the nitty gritty of wars raging in and how we push those wars to the outside because they are so uncomfortable. Christ declares us righteous and holy in Him through all of it!

Find the archived link here on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel:

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section here or on YouTube.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25a


Questions from this week’s study:
Where do you see the war inside of you come out?
What hope does knowing you live as both sinner and saint offer?
What useful questions can you ask yourself or others in this struggle?
What kinds of things do you want and covet?
What things do you see people quarreling about? Is it about Jesus or just stuff?

 

Notes:

simul justus et peccator – whatdoesthismean.org

simul justus et peccator – ligonier.org

Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze

The Invitation to Draw Near

God is jealous for us.

It says it all over the Old Testament, but I don’t think we picture our God as jealous post-resurrection reality. Let’s not rob Him of His character. He has a right to be jealous. He has set us apart for His work in our baptisms. We are called by name. We are His.

James reminds us of this New Testament jealous God. He is jealously passionate for our souls. He reigns inside our hearts with His Spirit. He will not take the devil’s attempts at power in our lives lightly.

Read James 4:5-8

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

What promises can you find from our God in this passage? Where is God in the actions James calls believers to? What is God’s response to our actions? Make a small list for the discussion portion. This is good stuff and I can’t wait to hear your insights!

I really believe that all of these promises could be summed up in one statement, found in verse 8 –

Draw Near…

We are invited to draw near. We’ll never get to the purifying, resisting, or even the grace without someone drawing near. God draws near to us in His incarnation as Jesus Christ to walk along this earth. He drew near by taking our sins on His shoulders, to bear the load and redeem us. He draws so near that He chose us as the dwelling place of God the Spirit. Look back at James 4:5 and underline the quotation found in this verse. Can you see how drawing near in verse 8 can be linked to the Lord’s drawing near to us?

How do we draw any nearer then? What does James suggest? I think we will find part of his answer to this later on, in James 5:13-20. When you read this, underline or jot down every instance in which James suggests prayer as the answer to something –

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

One of the most common requests I hear from women and men looking for resources to grow their faith is, “I wish my prayer life was better.”

My first response is, “Don’t we all.”

Don’t feel less than or ostracized by your lack of prayer. God doesn’t point His finger and shame us. Instead, He whispers in your ear…

Draw Near…

Just do it. Make time for Him. Make room for Him. It sounds super law oriented until you’ve heard the Gospel call of

Draw Near…

Add prayer in snippets into your life and in great gulfs of time in your day. Look back at James’s words in James 5:13-20. Can you hear the cadence of both, prayer thrown into the immediate, prayers of searching drawn across the expanse?

There’s no one right way. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer and we would be wise to utilize it. Beyond that I can only share three ways I have seen make a difference in my personal prayer life and that of others. Maybe these will help you as you walk growing up in your faith and drawing near.

Whisper breath prayers

Pray in the moment, when the thought first comes to the surface. Snatch that prayer up. Share it with the Lord. Don’t let it pass by unnoticed. The Spirit intercedes for us in groans that words cannot express, but we are also given grace upon grace to draw near by sharing our thoughts and words intentionally with God anytime.

Prayer with others, rather than just for others

One day, we went to Guatemala, and I learned to pray. I could go into detail, but there’s no time for that. It was uncomfortable. It was heart-wrenching. It was exhausting. It was awesome. Next time you are in a conversation with someone and they share something, offer to pray for them, yes, but offer to pray with them. Right there. It’s a stretch. You need the Spirit for this. Oh, but watch Him work!

Utilize a prayer journal or pray out loud for a set period of time

Instead of expounding, I am going to send you over to Sybil MacBeth’s website, http://prayingincolor.com/

She explains right on the homepage why utilizing visual prayer can help us to draw near and grow in our faith. Our minds are wonderful things, but the devil would like to use every barrier to us drawing near. Distractions abound. You can print prayer calendars to utilize for the season, and find other resources on the website as well.

However you do it, hear the call of draw near.

You are invited in- to His Word, to His love, in His Spirit, and by His grace.

Draw Near…

 

Discussion:

From our first passage, James 4:4-8 – What promises can you find from our God in this passage? Consider even the statements that are directed to us as believers. Where is God in those actions? What is He doing? What is His response?

What comfort do you find that God draws near to us and that we are invited to draw near to Him?

What is your favorite way to pray or what new suggestion offered for drawing near might you try?
Who can you share the message of Draw Near with today?

Brothers, sisters, chief of sinners, jedi


I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have been waiting to talk about Star Wars for my entire blogger existence.

I own shirts, notebooks, and a waffle maker that express my vibrant love for all things dark side and light side. A friend mailed me Star Wars unmentionables this last weekend. I listen to various Star Wars podcasts and daydream about being a guest interviewee. People who visit our toy room frequently comment, “Wow, your kids like Star Wars.”

It’s true. We passed on the obsession. But don’t worry, we try to pass on more Jesus than Star Wars, so they’ll be ok. More importantly, today is the day, my friends – the day Star Wars and Bible study come together. (Can you hear my joy?!)

Why do we need Star Wars today? Because the Good Gift of We also has a truth that we cannot ignore…

Life together has a dark side.

James loves his brothers. Brotherly love and affection, does not mean the absence of truth. James doesn’t trade in hard truths for untruth. So, like James, let’s say it like it is. If life together has a dark side,

that dark side is personal judgement.

The world is filled to overflowing with judgement. We all have opinions and suggestions just waiting to be utilized. If we cannot share our judgements personally, we’ll gossip about them or throw them on the internet as a vague article share about parenting or politics.

James knows this. He also knows that without speaking in the language of we, no one will ever see their sin, much less their Savior.

Let’s see what James has to say about judging in James 4:10-12 –

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Let’s clarify – sharing truth in love is not the dark side.

James shares the truth in love all over the place. Judgement, however, is when we make our own rules, when we share our own opinions on life choices rather than God’s opinion from His Word, when we share them absent of love, or when we share them without a deep relationship that involves follow through and follow up.

Most of all, judgement is alive and well when we fail to recognize our own need for forgiveness. This is the humility he speaks of in verse 10.

James uses the term brothers so many times, not only because we are adopted sons in Christ Jesus or created sons of the Father, but because…

We are brothers in sin.

That sounds terrible, but it’s our earthly reality. We are imperfect. Our brother is imperfect. Our families are imperfect. Praise God we have a perfect Savior! Only by identifying together our state of imperfection can we begin to talk to one another about the things that matter most- with love, and kindness, affection, and humility.

We are brothers in need of a Savior.

It’s not that our sins are the same, but that our hearts are in the same condition. We NEED Jesus. We NEED Him in a way that we can only begin to fathom together.

Paul, like James, identifies the need to leave judgement out of our hands and into the Lord’s. Read 1 Timothy 1:13-16 –

…though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Living life together helps us to see our own need, not our own superiority. Oh, His perfect patience, with me, with you, with we!

We are in this together, brothers and sisters, in this together. Chief of sinners though we be – forgiven, redeemed, set free. He walked out of the tomb so that we could help one another dance, walk, and hobble down the road, chains broken, lives restored.

Sinners together. Forgiven together. We have a Father of Light.

 

Discussion:

Where do you see personal judgement around you? What do you think people in our world and in our culture feel most judged for?

What language can we use when communicating our own sinfulness and how can this be helpful in confronting the sin of our brother or sister?

Who, in your life, needs to hear the message of sin and forgiveness today?

One tiny sinner, saved by Grace Alone…dressed as Boba Fett. 😉

What does friendship with God look like?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has long been the standard for understanding human needs. From the basics of life – water, food, shelter, safety – to the needs higher up the pyramid – love, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. I have been encouraged to see some amount of research across recent years that acknowledges a flaw in this concept. Maslow’s hierarchy is useful but, like everything made by the hands of man, imperfect.

We may not be able to survive without food, but, to some extent, what kind of survival is that without connection, without someone to share it with, without friendship? We know as Christians – connection matters most and it is basic to our survival.

When we worked with a feeding program as part of the holistic mission of Ministry in Mission in Haiti, the children didn’t just come for the food and juice. They came to be loved on. They came to sing songs together and to see what Hope looks like from people who shared Jesus with them, and to share hope with one another. I’m positive they would have shown up without the food offered, because connection is just as much what they needed. And it’s true for each and every one of us. Why?

Because we were created by a Good Good Father for connection with Him above all else.

We mostly think of friendship and connection within the horizontal realm, in our friendships with one another. What we believe about God, that vertical friendship, affects how we believe, think, and we act in our friendships with one another. Why? Because He created friendship, and He created everything to be shared in relationship with Him, never apart from Him. So, if we want quality friendships with one another, we need to understand our friendship with God first.

For this, James sheds a little light on the subject. Let’s open to James 2. If you have your Bible out, please take a minute to read the entire chapter for a fuller context. Here, let’s look at James 2:1 alone –

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

Impartiality is founded in the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Friendship is just that, offering impartiality, offering safety and care, extending the hand of fellowship enough to know someone more and to say,

“You too?!”

“Tell me more.”

“You are worthy of time and energy.”

Jesus Himself identifies the root of our friendship with both God and one another as His work and His Word active in our lives, through His sacrifice. Read John 15:12-15-

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

James points us to more. Read James 2:19-23

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

Even the demons believe -Yikes! We don’t just have belief; we have friendship with God in Christ. Praises! Abraham’s story is rich and full in the Old Testament, but let’s look at just a piece of it. In Genesis 18, Abraham was blessed to meet with God. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the benefit of His Word available to us daily, we also can meet with Him at any moment, every day. We could easily only hear James’s recurring phrase “Faith without works, faith without works, faith without works…” in our head, but the “works” can easily be summed up in this – relationship.

Read Genesis 18:1-15 and see what kind of relationship God offers us, now through His means of grace, as He offered it to Abraham so many years ago.

The Lord visits us

Genesis 18: 1-5 –

And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

Just as God did not find it offensive to visit Abraham’s tent, partake of Abraham’s food, and rest in Abraham’s company, so He does with us. We need only open His Word, or share around the Word with His people to be visited by the Most High God. He, in fact, wants to visit with us, makes time for us, and invites us to His table to share His meal with Him.

We converse with God

Genesis 18:9-15 –

They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

I LOVE this exchange. It tells me that I don’t have to have it all together to meet with God. It tells me that He’ll straighten me out in His Truth and His Love. He welcomes me to the conversation for the delight of relationship, and in Him I find restoration for my soul.

We are given great and precious promises

More on these promises tomorrow. But for now, look at what Abraham and Sarah received! Surely we would list the seed which is Christ Jesus, promised near those oak trees long ago, but goodness the promise of the conversation alone is notable.

Come, Lord Jesus. Eat our food. Be our Guest. Rest in our homes with us. Recline at our tables in Your open Word. Make full our hearts and lives in conversation and friendships centered on you.

I am a friend of God.

You are a friend of God.

Discussion:

What is the most inviting or caring thing a friend has ever done for you?

What qualities do you look for in solid friendship?

How does God fulfill all the qualities of friendship we could ever desire?

Bonus for fun and connection: What would you serve the Lord if he came for dinner? Give us your favorite food or best recipe!

 

Notes:

*Ministry in Mission has Easter crosses, designed and handmade by Haitian artisans. Funding raised goes to support the very feeding program I spoke of. Check them out at this link…

Ministry In Mission – Feed The Orphans – Buy a Cross

*For more on the challenge to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, see this helpful overview by Forbes.

 

The Good Gift of We

This photo is from the pexels.com image library. Thank you, pexels!


I can hardly believe that we are on week five of six in our study of James! Way to power through some tough Law, some meaty Gospel, and some wrestling in integrating the two.

This week we’ll focus on relationship, one of my very favorite topics.

We were made for relationship and I think you’ll see that this is something James knew and understood well. More than that, he valued relationship. He saw the church as a life lived in community, hearing and doing the Word together, reaching out to pray with one another, intentionally using words that cared for the soul, as well as the mind, and sharpening one another through all kinds of storms – illness, poverty, abundance, trial, suffering, you name it.

James talks relationship with Eternity in mind. I think he would second the thoughts of the Apostle John, found in 1 John 4:19 –

We love because he first loved us.

Let’s look at the theme verse of our study again to see the connection. James 1:16-18 –

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 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. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

“Beloved brothers…”

What a beautiful phrase! James centers that phrase around a good, good Father. Our relationship as brothers isn’t just as people living next to one another, attending church next to one another, or even sitting in struggle next to one another. Our relationship is firmly planted in the simple but full fact that we are children of the same Father. Human kind was made and Created by a Father who loves. We are children of His love. In the church, this is doubly so- we are adopted children, a family held together by His love (Galatians 4:7-9, Romans 8:15, 1 John 3:1-2). We are…

Brothers once through creation.
Brothers twice through our adoption as sons in Christ Jesus.

James took “beloved brothers” seriously. His genuineness comes through when you look throughout the book and discover the sheer quantity of times he refers to his listener as brother.

Here’s a fun challenge – read through the book of James as one coherent letter. Note every time he uses the term brother, either on a separate piece of paper, or by underlining/highlighting. I’ll highlight a few passages here.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19 

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? – James 2:5

Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. – James 3:12

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. – James 4:11

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. – James 5:19-20

Those are just a few examples, and you might have noted that there is at least one for every chapter. James knows a secret of communicating the message of hope –

if we want to be heard, the relationship matters.

This isn’t manipulative; this is aware. I think it just flowed out of James’s pen as an honest statement of unity. Notice how he couples the term with the endearment beloved. These are people he knows, not obscure people he’s addressing in a speech. By calling them brothers, he reminds them of the covenant relationship they hold under their relationship with God. Beloved speaks of life and love, of holding one another’s hand in the storm, of “in it together” rather than shame and pointing fingers.

In Paul’s writings you will find similar language. Slide on over to biblegateway.com and input the term brothers in the search field at the top. Now scroll down and identify how often brothers is used in Scripture as a whole. How many times do you see it in the Paul’s letters – Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, Philippians, etc.? Wow! That’s a lot of brotherly affection.

We are in this together, brothers and sisters. James knew it. Paul knew it. We know it. How are we living it? What does life together look like?

Partly, it just is. We can’t change our relationship. We are affected by one another, by our words, our actions, our choices, because it’s how God made us. But I think part of what Jesus refers to as the abundant life, what He came to give us (John 10:10), is the knowledge of just how beautiful life as brothers can be.

Unity isn’t perfection of communication and thoughts synced. It’s love. It’s noticing. It’s life lived together instead of ships passing in the night.

Lord, use us, in the power of Your Spirit, to be true brothers and sisters to those around us. Give us strength in the drama and the mess, to invite others in, to seek, give care, and affection. You, Lord, are our brother. We hold fast to that Word of truth in all we say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Discussion:

Meditate on Psalm 133. It’s short and sweet.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

Consider – who do you dwell with in life together? Who is in your circle of brothers and sisters in creation and through Christ? Let’s lift them up together in prayer.