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James – Wednedsday, March 4

October 22, 2018 10 comments

trial-faithJAMES 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Notice the word consider in this passage. It’s a word that means to count or esteem something; to suppose something. In our trials, we’re to consider, count, esteem, or suppose them to be pure joy.

The key to doing this is to know something. In our trials, we need to know (and remember) that these tests are accomplishing something in us. Because of our trials, we’re growing in patience (endurance, constancy, steadfastness). We become stable, dependable people who are not likely to change or waiver because of difficulty. It is much like tempered steel—the only way steel becomes hardened or flexible to that degree is to subject it to extreme heat and pounding.

The same is true of our lives of faith. This is what brings us joy … knowing this truth. Our trials are making us stronger.

There is a danger to this process, however. It’s possible to short-circuit the effect of our trials. We must let them run their due course, and remain under the fire as long as the Lord deems it necessary. We gain wisdom in these things by asking Him (see James 1:5)!

Daily Devotional Book • James Application Questions

1. Someone once said that the Christian is either in a trial, coming out of a trial, or heading into a trial. To the degree that statement is true, where are you in that statement?

2. Do you believe in this process of God? Do you trust Him that He knows what He is doing in your life? Are you confident in His infinite wisdom and unending love, and that He is 100% motivated to produce His best in us? If not, tell Him right now. And ask Him to strengthen your faith and commitment to His ways.

3. How have you short-circuited a time of trial in your life? If you’re going through trials right now, make sure to let the Lord finish His lesson. Make this a matter of prayer as well. Assignment: tell a close and trusted friend about your current trial, and ask him/her to pray for you (men with men and women to women).

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Introduction to the Epistle of James

October 19, 2018 Leave a comment

gldi-james-coverHow to use this Devotional

Welcome to this devotional on the book of James! This guided study will help you to know the contents, structure, and themes that are part of this important New Testament letter. It is a significant letter due to the fact that it describes faith that works. Whereas Paul the apostle’s emphasis was often upon the grace that saves through faith, James emphasizes what faith actually looks like in the lives of those who have truly believed.

James has been called “Practical James,” because this epistle is so practical in nature. As such, it is the book of Proverbs in the New Testament. James draws heavily upon the ethic taught by the Lord Jesus—making the teachings of Christ plain and down to earth, right where we live.

The translation that is used for the text is taken from the New International Version (NIV). But it is also possible to use other translations like the New American Standard and the New King James Version.

This devotional is intended to give you a complete tour of the book within a 40-day framework, one devotional per day. At the end of every five days, you’ll find summary pages. Use these pages to reflect upon the week. Here are the steps on how to proceed with this study.

Be sure to look at the big picture of James before you get into the specific passages.
Take a moment and actually read through all five chapters in one sitting. This is how the letter was meant to be read! This will help you to frame the book and see the “forest” before you start examining the “trees.”

Take some time to look over the background of James, the arguments, the topics, and the outline of the book. This will help you become familiar with the basic shape of this great
epistle.

As you approach each lesson, begin by reading the portion of the passage that is listed above. Think about the passage and pay attention to some of the key ideas that are mentioned. Look for action verbs and notice repetition, contrasts, and comparisons. Read it again out loud to help you understand the passage. Then take some time to look at the interpretation notes which should aid you in understanding the passage.

Take time to go over the reflection questions and apply them to your own life. Please do this thoughtfully and carefully. Use the text as a mirror to your own heart as you think about the principles first and then how your life should reflect those principles.

Finally, pray over and meditate on the truth, and ask God to help you make it true in your own life. This will be crucial in order for you to internalize the devotional fully for that day!

The Hearing Ear and the Seeing Eye


The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both. (Proverbs 20:12)

From the aspect of Divine Creation, this verse speaks of the ingenious and miraculous development of the human ear and the human eye. Both of these organs strongly testify to the existence of God.

But as we consider the context of the book of Proverbs, the verse relates to the topic of wisdom. It is wise to understand the role of the hearing ear; it is wise to understand the role of the seeing eye. That is, it is wise to use our ears for what God designed them for. Likewise, it’s wise to use our eyes for God’s intended purposes.

I quote the inimitable Yogi Berra on the subject of the seeing eye: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” So true … if we pay attention, we can see much more than most, and certainly much more that we’d seen before.

I was wondering what might be a similar kind of statement relating to the hearing ear. This is what I came up with: “You can hear a lot just by listening.”

Isn’t it interesting that the eye and the ear are receptive in nature? That is, they take in information rather than sending it out.

What that means practically is that we should use our ears for their intended purpose: to listen. It’s not easy to find a good listener. Does that correspond to the difficulty in finding a wise person? It’s not easy to find an observing person. Does that correspond to the difficulty in finding a wise person?

I think so. Whereas James tells us that we should all be swift to hear and slow to speak, oftentimes people are swift to speak and slow to hear. Again, a lack of wisdom.

Therefore:

“Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)

Categories: Bible Study, Wisdom

Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

thanksOn November 26, 2008 I wrote my first blog for Bill’s Blog. It was a very simple blog entitled “Happy Thanksgiving!”, written the day before Thanksgiving of that year. Since then I’ve published 247 more. If each entry averages 600 words, then Bill’s Blog represents about 148,000 words. 

A lot has happened in Sheri’s and my life since that time. A lot. Sometimes we sit down and chat for a long time about the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, the churches in which we’ve ministered, the homes we’ve lived in, the homes we’ve bought, the homes we’ve sold … it’s been a wild and exciting ride. If everything we’ve experienced had been carefully chronicled, the number of words would be in the millions, for sure.

So today, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day 2014, I find myself wanting to repeat the same exact words I wrote back in 2008.  I cannot improve upon them, so I won’t even try. Tomorrow morning, we’ll number our blessings together, which should be a great time. 

Anyway, here are those words. Happy Thanksgiving!

_______________________________________________________

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, 2008. Coming up on my favorite holiday.

Why is that?

It’s the holiday that demonstrates the most comely attitude of the true believer, that of thanksgiving.

It’s a mark of the Spirit-filled life.

It enables one to get their focus off of themselves.

It eliminates complaining.

It takes into account the graciousness of God, and realizes what actually is. We owe everything to God.

I love this day. Friends, family, fellowship, food. A true 4-F holiday.

Signing off.

Bill Holdridge

 

Hypocritical Religion

November 26, 2014 2 comments

hypocriteIndeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. (Romans 2:17-24) 

In this section of Romans, God indicts the Jew, that is, the religious Jew. In reality, this indictment holds true against any religious person who relies upon his/her religion for salvation. But first, a definition is in order:

The religious man herein indicted is a person who trusts in a religious system to save him; he believes in this system, with all of its rites and traditions, and is convinced that following the religion closely will keep him from judgment. The religious man is trusting in a system, rather than in God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

To establish the sinfulness of the religious man, God points to the inconsistency between his profession and his practice. He professes honesty, but he steals. He professes marital fidelity, but commits adultery. He is a functional hypocrite, not living up to the religious demands he imposes upon others. He is not honest about his own failures; therefore his life is a blasphemous statement against God’s name.

The religious man:

  • Rests in the law
  • Makes his boast in God
  • Knows God’s will
  • Approves excellent things (having learned them from the law)
  • Is confident in his role as a spiritual guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness 

These characteristics, in and of themselves, are honorable. But again, the problem with the religious man described in this section is that he trusts in these things to save him; he believes that following his religion closely will keep him from the judgment of God. In other words, he is not trusting Christ, he is trusting in his religion and in his ability to adhere to its tenets.

But he is a hypocrite, and does not live up to his own religious standards. Instead of repentance, he decides to pretend that he’s doing everything correctly. 

God sees through the charade, and calls him out. He is a sinner. And everyone but he himself knows that.

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For Further Review

1.  If you have a personal religious history prior to coming to Christ, how did you come out of it? How has your testimony become a blessing to others?

2.  What do you think? Is a true Christian who stumbles or sins a hypocrite? Why or why not? What characterizes a hypocrite?

3.  According to today’s passage, what great damage is done as a result of religious hypocrisy or insincerity? What do you think is the proper way to respond to it, from your personal vantage point?

 

Living for Jesus and for Others

November 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Your gifts are not aboutFirst, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. (Romans 1:8-15) 

It was typical and consistent of Paul to offer thanks and prayers for the churches. By reading his letters, it is apparent that he had a very rich prayer life. He loved the Lord and he genuinely loved the Lord’s people, Christ’s bride. 

Although Paul the apostle had never been to Rome by the time he wrote the epistle to the Romans, it is very obvious that he had a deep longing for the church that was in that great city.  His desire to be with the Christians in Rome was very strong, an intense longing. On the pastoral and apostolic side, he wanted to minister to them spiritually that they would be established in their young faith. On the human side, he wanted to be encouraged in the sharing of their mutual faith. His ministry with the Roman church would not be one-sided; both he and they would be blessed! 

Paul longed for spiritual fruit to be produced wherever he went, and even expected it. He knew the Lord was with him in his travels and service to the saints (Matthew 28:20), and he knew that the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit (John 15:8). Therefore he longed to go to Rome; not as a tourist, but as a servant of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). 

He felt himself to be a debtor to the Lord, who had saved his life and given him eternal salvation. He owed it to the Lord to preach the gospel … to the cultured and uncultured, and to those steeped in education and philosophy and to those who were not. He was ready, willing, and available for this task. 

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For Further Review:

1.  Do you love your church? Do you love the people in your church? How deep is your prayer life for them, or for the rest of the body of Christ? List some of the things about your church that you are thankful for.

2.  Too often, church attenders are like consumers, interested primarily in what the church has to offer them. Others learn to become servants, and are concerned mostly about serving the Lord by serving His people. Which are you, consumer or servant? What changes do you need to make to move you toward true servanthood, toward a mature love for others in Christ’s body?

3.  What is spiritual fruit? See if you can find out by searching the New Testament for the word “fruit.” You can use a good concordance to help you, such as a Strong’s Concordance (available online).

4.  Why do you believe Paul was a debtor to preach the gospel? To whom did he owe this debt, and why? How does your answer relate to and apply to your own life?

 

Tried and True Commitment

September 2, 2014 Leave a comment

downloadAnd the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.  Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, “that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’; except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” (Genesis 14:17-24)

This remarkable passage tells the story of Abram’s return from the heroic rescue of his nephew Lot, after he and his men recovered everything that had been taken by four victorious and powerful kings.

Two men met Abram that day. The first one mentioned was the king of Sodom, the king of that horrifically wicked city. The second was Melchizedek, described as the king of Salem, and the priest of the Most High God. This is the only historical reference to him in the Bible, although he is referred to in Hebrews chapter 7 as proof that there is a priesthood far superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant. Of course the author of Hebrews is referring to our Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal, unchangeable priesthood and intercession on behalf of those who are His (Hebrews 7:1-28; Psalms 110:4). The priesthood of Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to the priesthood under the law of Moses.

In this encounter Abraham would face a very powerful temptation. Many have said that the temptations of pride, money (mammon or wealth), and women (sex) are the temptations that are the greatest dangers for kingdom leaders; here, Abram faces the temptation of wealth. If he received the offer of possessions from the king of Sodom, he would have no doubt been one of the richest men in that part of the world. This was not just a temptation for Abram, it was also a test. Would he keep His oath that he had made to the Most High God? Would he wholly trust the God who owns everything to give him what he needed? Thankfully, Abram passed this test with flying colors.  

Abram had Divine help. Melchizedek had brought him bread and wine (symbols of communion), and had blessed him with a spiritual blessing. In response, Abram paid a tithe of everything to the priestly king. Armed with strength from God, Abram was able to keep his word and stand strong against temptation.

For Further Review

1.  Note that in Genesis 14 Melchizedek fulfilled the function of a priest, operated in the power of a prophet, and held the title of king. How do these positions compare with the offices and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?

2.  First Abram was blessed by Melchizedek, then he went face to face with the king of Sodom. Why is the order of these two meetings important?

3.  How important is it to you to stand against temptation, or to pass a test from God? What is at stake in either case?