October, November, December 2014

Want to learn more about James? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 13-part series.

Lesson 1: James, the Lord's Brother (Luke 2, Mark 3, Acts 1, James 1)
Which do you prefer: to study a topic or a book of the Bible? My preference is to teach books, rather than topics. Why? Because God arranges the order of the material. This quarter we are studying a book! But, of all the books to teach, James would be a contender for my least favorite. On the surface, James stresses works, not grace. He seems to have some sort of dislike for those with money, even though he says showing favoritism is a sin. Some of his statements seem to contradict other statements in the Bible. If you like a challenge, then we have one! We are going to be challenged to dig deeply into James and try to understand what he, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is really teaching us! This week let's start by learning about James' background.

Lesson 2: The Perfecting of Our Faith (James 1:2-11)
In Matthew 5:10-12 Jesus says those who are persecuted "because of righteousness" are blessed, and those who are insulted and defamed because of Jesus are blessed. Most people would call that a bad day at work! The Dali Lama, a Buddhist, has some interesting things to say about being mistreated by enemies. He says something like, "How many enemies do you have? How many people mistreat you? Consider this an unique opportunity to improve your character!" Jesus and James are pointing us on the path to heaven, the Dali Lama is not, but they all understand the relationship between problems and character development. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 3: Enduring Temptation (James 1:12-21)
Let's review our last two studies. James writes to Jewish Christians who have fled their homes because of persecution. James tells them that they should find joy in trials. Those who have fled their homes were probably unable to take all of their wealth with them. So, James next suggests that they should take pride in "humble circumstances." Joy and pride for those dealing with serious problems. These are challenging teachings. If you could have joy and pride in the midst of trouble, that would be wonderful! Let's race into our study of the Bible to see what challenging solution James explains next!

Lesson 4: Being and Doing (James 1:22-27)
How much advice do you get? It seems that I'm getting advice from others all the time. Some is given without me asking for it. Some I ask for and really want. Lots of advice comes my way just in the day to day details of life. A few days ago, I was helping to put together a toy car for my granddaughter that was big enough for her to sit in. The manufacturer gave me advice about how to assemble it, but I decided that some of the advice was wrong, and it turned out I was right. On the other hand, when my phone GPS gives me advice on driving directions, I take the advice very seriously. How we react to advice reflects what we think about the source of the advice. That is what our Bible study is about this week. Let's jump right in!

Lesson 5: Love and the Law (James 2:1-13)
Several times, in connection with a church event, I recall conversations that shocked me. A couple of times I recall talking to church members who I did not know well, and they thanked me for talking to them. Why should they thank me, I asked? Because they felt a class difference between us. Once, a friend told me he was amazed I would be his friend because of the differences in our jobs. Another time, a medical doctor in church noted that we were both wearing suits, and suggested that those who did not were of lesser worth. I pointed out that we wore suits to work, and that might be the primary reason for what we wore to church. It was not a question of worth. There are other examples I could recite. Each time someone suggested that my education or my job made me more worth-while than someone else, I was either surprised or offended. James talks about this in our study today, but what he says (at least on the surface) offends me too. Let's dive into the Bible and have an honest discussion of "class" issues!

Lesson 6: Faith that Works (James 2:14-26)
"Faith versus Works" is the everlasting theological debate. How about rephrasing the discussion by saying "Faith that Works?" Does that help? Or, is that just a different way to say that works are a key ingredient to salvation? Perhaps we need a better understanding of what "faith" means. Let's dive into the old debate by looking at what James and Paul write and see if we can learn something new from the Bible!

Lesson 7: Taming the Tongue (James 3:1-12)
James previously counseled us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), to keep a tight reign on our tongue (James 1:26) and that our words are a consideration in the judgment(James 2:12). This reflects a statement of Jesus in Matthew 12:37 that our words will acquit or condemn us. Clearly, our tongue is a very important part of living a life in accord with God's will. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more about it has to teach us about our words!

Lesson 8: The Humility of Heavenly Wisdom (James 3:13-4:10)
Have you ever said, "That person needs an attitude adjustment?" Have you ever thought that your attitude could use improvement? In our study this week, James has some practical thoughts on wisdom and our attitude. Once again, he suggests some things that seem inconsistent with other Bible texts. We will puzzle out those apparent conflicts. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about attitudes and wisdom!

Lesson 9: One Lawgiver and Judge (James 4:11-17)
Two weeks ago, we learned from James what terrible damage our tongue can create. Have you ever said something that is judgmental? I know I have. We had an older member of the church who would bring new people to church and at the same time insult current church members. It seemed like she was bringing some in and driving others out. When I discussed the insults with her (I think she was insulting me at the time), she told me that was just the way she was. Is that the way we all are? Perhaps this reflects a deeper problem of thinking that we are superior and everyone should conform to our views. This week James writes about being judgmental and bragging about the future. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 10: Weep and Howl! (James 5:1-6)
A New York Times' best-selling book called "Drive" reports on what makes employees satisfied. It reveals that just paying employees more money is not the key to job satisfaction. Money is important, of course, but only to a certain point. Once an employee can live reasonably comfortably, then what becomes more important is the ability to be creative, to believe you are doing something worth-while, and to be given the freedom to make job decisions. Is this also true for the rest of life? Money is not the mainspring of happiness? James seems to have a bias against the rich. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn from James about wealth and happiness!

Lesson 11: Getting Ready for the Harvest (James 5:7-12)
In our study last week, James told the rich a terrible time was coming upon them. Part of the reason was that they had been unjust to their workers. This week James addresses a different audience, church members. The message last week and the message this week, however, seem to have some relationship to each other. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

Lesson 12: Prayer, Healing and Restoration (James 5:13-20)
Have you heard someone announce that they worship on their own? They are tired of "church" and communing in the wilderness is better because the wilderness does not say unpleasant things to them. While it is important to have private time with God, in our study this week James points out the benefits of regular fellowship with other Christians. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 13: The Everlasting Gospel (Leviticus 1, Hebrews 7, Matthew 22, Revelation 14)
Our study of James has been a bit unusual, right? You heard from me things you rarely hear. James is part of the Bible, yet I would challenge what he wrote, and suggest that what he meant was something different than what it appeared that he said. The reason for this is that James writes things that seem inconsistent with the rest of Bible, especially inconsistent with the writings of Paul. The main concern is what James writes about grace. His statement in James 2:24, that we are justified by our works and not faith alone, and his statement in James 2:21 that Abraham was considered righteous when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, take some explaining. Let's end our study of James by jumping into a review of what the entire Bible teaches about the means of our salvation!

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