Archive for June, 2014

If I only had this!

Posted: June 26, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

            “I’d work harder if my boss would get off my case.” “I wouldn’t yell at my kids if I could just get more sleep.” “I wouldn’t look if she didn’t dress that way.” “I would eat better if I could afford better food.” “I wouldn’t get so mad if my husband would just get a clue.”

            We all know we fall short of the mark in many different ways. Yet when we try and figure out why we do, all too often we assume that the problems are external. However, the Apostle Peter tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”(2 Peter 1:3 NIV) Which is it? Have I been given all I need for life and godliness? Or are my circumstances and experiences hindering my pursuit of godliness?

            My experience tells me the latter is what is true. I feel like if I had everything I needed to be godly, then I’d have my anger under control, I’d never be tempted to lust, I’d work diligently and rest peacefully. In fact, at times I’ve even been tempted to wonder if God wants me to act a certain way why doesn’t He give me what I need and take away what holds me back? John Newton expressed this disillusionment perfectly in his hymn “I asked the Lord.”


“I thought that in some favored hour

At once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power

Subdue my sins and give me rest.”

           So far, this has not been my experience. Has God, then, let me down? Has He withheld some thing that I need in order to follow Him? In other words, is it really Him who’s tempting me since He’s the one who is in charge of my circumstances?

            James tells us clearly “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.”(James 1:13) In other words, “temptation is not external, it’s internal.” If we were pure of heart, circumstances wouldn’t be tempting to us.

            Some use this verse to say that God doesn’t control our circumstances because that would be tantamount to tempting us. That misses the point of the verse and a major theme in James. God allows temptation to come along not to deceive us into sinning. Rather, because He knows sin lies in our hearts, He graciously allows us to enter into circumstances that reveal what is already in our hearts.

            What’s the point of all this? Again, Newton says it well:

“These inward trials I employ

From self and sin to set the free

To break thy schemes of earthly joy

That thou may find thy all in me.”

Don’t forget to hide your shame!

Posted: June 25, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.

James 1:9-11

But let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord. 2 Corinthians 10:17

You all know that guy. The one who is always bragging. The one who seems to be a superhero in his own eyes. The one who you’re pretty sure is either making up stories or using other people’s stories as his own. You all know how ridiculous his efforts are. The thing is that if he just stopped with all the posturing, if he were just himself, if he didn’t try so hard, people might like him a bit more. It’s ironic, isn’t it? He wants admiration so badly that he drives it away.


Are we all that different though? Ever get in that conversational game of “That’s nothing” to prove your story is better than theres? Don’t you know what it’s like to talk about how busy you are and how you don’t have a second to yourself all the while thinking subconsciously that busyness proves your worth? What do you say when someone asks how your day is going when it’s not going that great and you don’t have a good reason for it?

Why do we do this? We do it to cover our shame. Shame, it has been said, is the universal human experience. There isn’t a person on the planet that hasn’t had the desire to have the earth swallow them up alive. Each of us has some corner of our life that we’d rather die than have exposed. We all have the sense that somehow we’re inadequate. Even those who seem most confident often appear different on the outside than they feel on the inside. Their boasting is just a fig leaf to cover up their nakedness in the hopes that it can distract others. They boast not because of their confidence, but because they’re terrified of being exposed.

James tells us “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation.” As we said this past Sunday, we normally do the exact opposite of this. If we are poor or lowly, we boast that we haven’t been born with a silver spoon. We only have what we’ve earned. Or perhaps our boasting looks more like contempt. “I deserve better than this.” We’re sure that we merit something better than our lowly conditions. If we’re rich, we boast in that. Perhaps we talk about how ‘blessed’ we are. Or we look down on others who aren’t willing to make the sacrifices we’ve made to get where we are. We try to salve the guilt we feel for having more than others by focusing on how much we give. Or how down to earth we are, not like those other rich people. Perhaps our wealth comes with enough social capital that we walk through life thinking our opinions and desires are more valid than others. “Do you have any idea who I am?” In either case, we have some shame. Shame that we are not like others.

What is James telling us to do? He’s telling us to be honest with our current condition and remember our eternal condition. Don’t try to make your condition appear as if it’s something different than what it is. If your condition is lowly, own it. You make your boast in this, that you might have nothing in this life, but you are destined to inherit the Kingdom of God. If you are rich (and, but the way, compared to the rest of the world most people in America are rich) admit it. And boast in your lowliness. “You think I’m rich? Do you know how much care it takes to deal with this? I’m going to lose all of this and I don’t even know when. Oh could devote more of my care to the kingdom.” You see, what we normally think is to our glory is usually to our shame. But the Lord Jesus Christ, who is rich in mercy, has taken our shame upon Himself that He might clothe us in His glory.

Do you have what it takes?

Posted: June 25, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized
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“For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you might be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:4-8


Do you have what it takes? Or do you sometimes feel woefully inadequate? As w grow in our Christian walk, we see just how important it is to bring the different areas of our lives under Christ’s lordship. Sometimes this can be overwhelming.

When we think of parenting our children so that they’ll be faithful to Jesus.

When we entertain the idea of sharing our faith in our neighborhoods or at work.

When we’re called to leadership in the church.

When we’re called onto the mission field, even if only for a short term mission.

Yesterday, James told us that in our trials, God is working to give us a steadfast joy by giving away our transitory joys. Today, James tells us to let this steadfastness work its course so that we can be perfect (literally, completed) lacking nothing.

            He then goes on to show to things we don’t want to be found lacking in, faith and wisdom. Incidentally, both of these qualities increase in us only as we go pass through trials. He zeroes in on these two qualities because of how essential they are in our walk with Christ.

            First, he tells us, if we lack wisdom, we can simply ask of God who gives generously to all without reproach. It bears asking what wisdom is though. When I hear Christians talk about wanting wisdom, it sounds to me like what they really want is good advice. In other words, they want wisdom to buy the right house, take the right job, say the right thing, find the right spouse, etc. However, in the biblical literature, wisdom has much more to do with who we are than what we do. Later on, James will compare the meekness of wisdom that shows itself through good conduct with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition that leads to a denial of truth.(James 1:13-14)

            Remember what James is aiming at for us here though. Perfection. The request for wisdom is directly attached to the steadfastness that comes from trials. James is encouraging us that if we find ourselves in the midst of trials, then we can ask God to make us the sort of wise people who joyfully endure trials knowing that God is working something greater for us through them.

We cannot make this request, however, without faith. Faith is not, however, the secret decoder ring for gaining the entry into wisdom. Rather, faith is the essential ingredient for wisdom. The Heidelberg Catechism defines true faith with these words “True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.” In other words, faith is not simply trusting that God will give you what you ask for, but trusting Him as a person. Tim Keller once said that many of us put God on the level of a consultant. He then defined a consultant as someone we pay tons of money to so that we can ignore his or her advice

Do we trust God’s word? Or is God only a consultant for us. If so, we will not become wise. We will live our life according to our own wisdom, which as proverbs reminds us “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is death.”(Proverbs 14:12) Do we trust God to take care of us? If not, we will be as foolish as Chicken Little, crying about the crashing heavens at every trial. Do we trust God’s forgiving grace in our lives? If not, we will be fools chasing at the empty approval of the world like Peter Pan chasing his shadow. Today ask God to give you wisdom, but even more importantly, ask Him to help you to trust Him so that you can become wise.

When this thief comes, rejoice!

Posted: June 23, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized
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We’ve all been visited by a joy thief.  One thing is for sure, having your joy stolen isn’t any fun.  When this thief comes, he can wear many different costumes.    

When you lose something precious to you.

When a treasured friendship inexplicably ends.

When you see that person you simply cannot please.

When you did everything right and it still didn’t work out.

It’s different for each of us, but we all have a tipping point.  Having your joy stolen looks different for each of us as well.  Losing your joy may drive one person to quitting and another to manic effort.  It may push one person to explosive anger and another to disheartened submission.  Perhaps for many of us, it has been so long since we’ve really known abiding joy that anger, control, manipulation, shame and despair have become normal.  

What would it be like if we had a joy that couldn’t be taken from us.  A steadfast joy.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”(James 1:2-3)  James is telling us here that it is precisely when our joy is being stolen from us that God is working to develop in us a steadfast joy.  

When the economy tanks and all our hope for financial soundness is lost.  When we get stuck in traffic.  When we get passed over for that promotion.  When that person betrays us.  When we just can’t seem to get the laundry done and its driving us mad.  When the person we thought we were going to marry tells us they are moving on.  When our children don’t turn out how we wanted them to.  When we lose a parent.  When we lose our temper.  When we lose our will.  God tells us “These inward trials I employ from self and sin to set the free that though may seek thy all in me.”(John Newton, I asked the Lord)  

Therefore, James tells us, when our ability to trust God and be joyful in Him is put to its limit, we are to take out our spiritual calculators and “count it all joy” because “blessed is he who remains steadfast under trial.”  Are you being tested?  In the midst of your pain, rejoice. God is preparing you for more joy than you ever thought possible.  


He Made His Brother His Slave

Posted: June 22, 2014 by boydmonster in James

imageAs we enter into our summer series on James, I thought I’d try something new and give some short devotionals on the previous Sunday’s sermon text.  We’ll see if I can keep up!







James 1:1 “James the servant of God and of The Lord Jesus Christ to the Twelve Tribes in the Dispersion.  Greetings.”

Although Paul encourages the young pastor Timothy that “All Scripture is God breathed,” we don’t always act as if that is true when it comes to the introductions and conclusions to the New Testament epistles.  Here James’ words are easy to pass over, but we do so at the peril of losing some precious truth.

We learn from this verse who has written the epistle and to whom he is writing.  However, what looks simple on the surface is more complicated when we look into it.  We know the book is written by James, but which James?  The simple moniker “James, the servant of God and The Lord Jesus Christ” presumes that the original audience would have known who he was.  Most scholars for the past two thousand years have narrowed who this James is down to three people.  James the Just, the brother of Jesus, James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus.  James the son of Alphaeus we know was martyred early in the church’s history, and so it is unlikely he wrote it.  We know so little of the son of Alphaeus that it is hard to imagine that he would have signed his name without saying that he was the son of Alphaeus just for clarification.  That leaves the brother of our Lord.

But why, then, doesn’t he sign the letter “James, the brother of Jesus?”  I think this says something deep and profound about the character of James as it had been formed under the Gospel.  To be able to claim a real and familial connection to Jesus would have instantly given James credibility before his hearers.  However, James knew what kind of brother he’d been to Jesus (Mark 3:21, John 7:1-5), refusing to believe in Him until after he’d seen Him risen from the dead.  He would not take advantage of what was actually to his shame.

Rather, James has only this to boast in, that He is a slave to Christ.  He has been bought by the blood of Christ.  The Lord Jesus now owns him and has total authority over his life.  This is all of James’ glory, power, and authority.

Do we see ourselves as James did?  Or do we cling to our titles, our boasts, our accomplishments, our connections?  Can we truly say that  we boast in nothing but the cross of Christ?  Then let us find our boast only in this, that Jesus owns us and we live to do His bidding.