Faith Training

Have you ever started to read the book of James and in the first chapter, second verse find the following: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds?” Having been through a few tests or challenges in your own life, you think “Who would ever consider it pure joy?”   Think back, though, to what you learned, what you gained from those trials. Did you have a serious health crisis which caused you to take better care of your body, God’s temple? Did a broken relationship cause you to depend more on your relationship with Jesus? Did a financial downfall cause you to realize that material things are not as important as you once thought?   You may be more than a little curious about why James considered trials pure joy. James 1:3 says that the tests you go through are really tests of your faith, that they produce perseverance, which, in turn, helps us to be “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James even goes ahead to tell us what we need to do when we’re facing life’s challenges: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all . . . but when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”   Trials will be a part of your life. What you do in the midst of those trials and what you learn from them will help you experience the joy God has in store for you.

Don’t Be a Me Monster

Take a moment to think about what the world was like when James wrote these words.   “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NIV)   If someone blurted out careless or harsh words, who heard them? If someone lost their temper, who knew about it? The audience was limited to the people who were close enough to hear what was said or see what happened. There were no newspapers, radios or TVs. Still, thoughtless words and quick reflex anger could produce damaging results.   Now, think what the audience looks like for your careless or harsh words and your angry outbursts. We can only wish that newspapers, radios and TVs were the only places our embarrassing moments might show up. Have you ever wanted to reach out and retrieve words in an email or text after you hit the send button? Have you ever tried to get something off of the Internet after it’s out there for everyone in the world to see?   What do your posts look like on Facebook? What impressions do your tweets leave? Will you be proud of your Instagram pictures a year or ten years from now?   The words found in James 1:19-27 take on a new significance in our age of social media. They deserve our close attention. More importantly, they need to shape our actions.

Playing Favorites

How do we treat those with plenty and those with little? Do we treat them equally, look away from the wealth and look beyond poverty? Or do we assign value and importance based on the possession of worldly bounty? We all want to say, “Oh no, I treat everyone the same!”   James anticipated our response. He predicted our thoughts and the challenges we face when he wrote: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4) NIV      James is pointing out in very clear terms we are judging people before even knowing them. We make assumptions about people. Our stereotypes and prejudgments affect our behavior towards people. This prejudice leads to discrimination. That’s why it is important to show mercy. For it isn’t our right to judge in the first place. God has shown us mercy by giving us forgiveness through Christ. If God Himself shows no partiality, how do we have the right to be partial and judgmental towards others?

The Balance of Faith

Baseball legend Ernie Banks passed away last month at the age of 83. Banks was the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs. He went on to play 18 seasons for the Cubs from 1953-1971. there is arguably no player who was more renowned and beloved in the city where he played than Ernie Banks. That love and admiration continued to the day he died. Banks was nicknamed “Mr. Cub.” Some called him “Mr. Sunshine” for his optimistic and joyful outlook on the game he played and for life in general. he was recognized for his play on the field with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. But the story of Ernie Banks didn’t end when his playing days were through. Yes, Ernie aged to the point that he couldn’t compete against younger and stronger players on the field. But Banks remained an icon, a leader and an inspiration to many through his work as an unofficial member of the Cubs organization throughout his lifetime. In 2013, Banks was awared the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ernie Banks is a great example of someone who lived what he believed to the day he died. James 2:17 says, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Ernie Banks took that verse to heart. He knew who and what he was. His actions showed his character. He had a great impact on many other players. The challenge to us is to make sure our actions match our beliefs. Show your faith by your deeds.

Watch Your Mouth

How many times have we said something we wish we could take back—mean, hurtful, proud or ugly words? In James, Chapter 3:1-12, we get a warning about our words. He does not just come out and say “watch your words” or “be careful how you talk to each other.” Instead, he chooses to spend his time telling us how powerful, evil, uncontrollable, sinful and inconsistent our tongues are. Here are some examples of what our tongues can do:  • Is small but makes great boasts (verse 5)• Corrupts the whole person (verse 6)• Can setthe whole course of a person’s life on fire (verse 6)• Cannot be tamed by man (verse 8)• Is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (verse8)• Can be used to praise God and curse men (verse 9) This passage paints a pretty discouraging picture. Our tongues are messed up; they are broken. When we read these verses, we should have a couple of responses. First, since it is so powerful, we need to be careful how we use our tongue. We should guard our words and be slow to speak. Our second response should be to realize that we need to put our hope in Jesus, not ourselves. God’s purpose for our tongue is to praise Him and encourage one another. Let’s pray that God will help us to speak words of kindness and grace. Let’s pray for one particular person whom you find it difficult to speak to with love. As we pray for others, even ones we feel like we can’t love, God transforms our hearts to love them like He does.

Better One or Better Two

Once, two young mothers came to King Solomon begging him to solve a bitter dispute. These mothers lived in the same home and both had newborn baby boys. During the night one of the women rolled over on her baby and killed him, so she traded her dead baby with the other woman’s living son. When morning came, the mother recognized the dead baby beside her was not the son she gave birth to, so she confronted the other woman and demanded her baby back. They could not reach a compromise, so they went to King Solomon and asked him to help solve their dispute. The king was happy to do so and immediately ordered the baby boy cut in two so that both mothers could have half. When the actual mother heard this, she immediately said to let the other woman have the baby because she realized the baby would be killed and she would rather the child live, even if she couldn’t raise him. The king then knew who the real mother was, and she was awarded the baby.   Solomon’s wisdom was known far and wide and Israel flourished under his reign. Then something happened—Solomon took his eyes off God. He married too many women and allowed these wives to worship idols. This was a deal breaker for God, and he dealt with Solomon harshly. God-given wisdom is perfect, but we must stay focused and use that wisdom to advance the kingdom of God.

True Reflection

During the week of deep snow and children at home instead of being in school, parents may have observed a few struggles, maybe even a few fights. Children battled over who would play with a particular toy or game. The adults probably shook their heads and then stepped in to break up the battle. They may have wondered why their children, who were always eager to tell them the stories of Jesus that they heard Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, couldn’t be more loving and generous with their possessions. Where and how did they learn to be selfish with the things that others had given them?  James 4:1-2a NLT shows us what we can see among ourselves even now: “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.” While we may not wage war or kill to have what we want, James tells us we are not doing the right thing. “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong.” Are we putting into practice what we learned from our time spent in church and in God’s word? How much are we like our children?


No matter where you get your news—online, newspapers, radio or TV—one thing is sure. Every day you learn of people who started their day with plans, dreams and expectations. Then, in an instant, it all changed. Accidents, acts of terror, crimes, storms and unimaginable events occur every day and lives change, lives end.   This isn’t meant to be a downer. It’s simply a reality we need to consider. We are all one phone call away from having our world turned upside down. To disregard this truth is arrogance. We make a grave mistake when we fail to recognize that God is in control.   “As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:16 (NIV)   While there is certainly nothing wrong with planning, we need to keep our plans in perspective. We need to seek God’s will as we plan. Our plans need to honor God. When our plans work out, we need to give God credit and thanks. When they fail, we need to trust God.   Here’s the best news. God is in control. He loves you and has plans for you that are beyond your imagination.

Big Green Monsters

The American dream, that game we play. You know the one, “What would you do if you hit the Lottery, the Power Ball, that huge jackpot?” Oh the ideas we come up with…cars, boats, houses, vacations and of course, “the first thing I’m going to do is quit my job.” But there is a downside to that big win. The National Endowment for Financial Education estimates that as many as seventy percent of Americans who experience a sudden windfall will lose that money within a few years. People handed a hefty check usually experience erratic emotions ranging from elation to resentment to anger, according to the NEFE. One study found that nearly one third of lottery winners encounter financial trouble or bankruptcy within five years of winning. Researchers from the Paris School of Economics determined that the overall health of lottery winners did not improve once they won. In fact, in certain cases, lottery winners experienced worse health after being granted “financial comfort.” The results of these modern “dreams come true” were predicted long ago in James 2:1-6, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” How would it all turn out if the response to wealth was generosity and charity instead of greed and arrogance?

Just a Little Patience

The word patient means to bear a provocation, annoyance, misfortune or pain without complaint, loss of temper or irritation.   Patience in the face of unfortunate circumstances is often fleeting and short in supply, even for Christians. We don’t like to be out of control. Discomfort is painful. The feeling of helplessness when we face a crisis turns our world upside down. We often have two primary reactions when things turn against us. We want to find some way to fix the situation or we want to find some way to get back at the person for the reason we are in this position.   Patience in the midst of trouble requires us to stand firm on all we believe and know to be true. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 15, Paul tells the church “hold firmly to the word I preached to you.” It is in the times of trials, tribulations and crises that these words are most important. The book of James reminds us that life won’t be a bed of roses. He cautions us to not overreact and lose sight of the big picture in those times of trouble.   We find these words in James Chapter 5, “Be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. We count as blessed those who have persevered.”   God promises reward to those who patiently wait and base their actions on his word.

The Church God Designed

Prayer is one of the necessities of the Christian life. The word of God challenges us with the promise found in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Yet we do not pray as we should. Why is that? Perhaps Bill Hybels, in his book, “Too Busy Not to Pray,” identifies our problem when he says, “To people in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption. Prayer is alien to our proud human nature.”   James 5:13-20 gives us some direction regarding the importance of prayer. Verse 16 tells us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things.   Every believer has the capacity for powerful and effective prayer. Ordinary people who believe in the power of prayer come into the presence of God because He has invited them to and then God provides a supernatural intervention into their prayer because of their belief.   How is our prayer life? Do we pray consistently throughout the day or do we mainly just pray when we need God’s help with something? Do we think of God as being on speed dial where we can push a button when we need something? If we are doing fine, do we do things on our own?   We should make a commitment to walk closer to God and in prayer with Him. Prayer cannot only change our lives, but also the world around us.