Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.


For us to see the opportunity in adversity we must recalculate our expectations.  What is God doing in prayer?  What do expect Him to do?  Perhaps what you expect of God in the trial is not what He expects of you.
We must also recalculate our situation.  Our situation may change, but God never changes.  The good and the bad of my life circumstances is not indicator for the way God feels about me.  Don’t misinterpret your lack of health or lack of finances as a lack of God’s love.  It doesn’t equate.
Finally, to see the opportunity of adversity we recalculate temptation.    
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 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. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  (James 1:12-18 ESV)
In the trial a lot of people get bent out of shape with God.  Why is God doing this to me?  What did I do to deserve this?  In every trial there is a temptation to forsake faith.  And it is here that you see people fall flat.  
There are lots of things that are sinful to which this verse applies.  Some people would say that by God allowing something incredibly hurtful in their lives; some sort of evil abuse that victimized them, that God is evil.  Or, someone may say that because they have a propensity toward a certain kind of sin, that it means God created them that way and so their lifestyle choices shouldn’t be considered sinful.  This verse clearly refutes those ideas by declaring that God is not evil and therefore cannot be blamed for being the source of evil, in any circumstance, in any person’s life. 
But in context, the immediate temptation James encounters is the greatest temptation we face in adversity, giving up on faith.  James is teaching that walking away from faith may be tempting, but it is sinful.  
If your faith falls flat and you walk away, don’t think that is God’s fault, that’s your fault.  God doesn’t allow the trial to come to turn you toward evil.  God allows the trial to come to turn you toward something that is remarkably good.  
Trials have a way of exposing our weaknesses.  But what does 2-3 say God’s design is in the trial?  Strength, completeness, to LIFE PROOF you to where you can hold up and stop falling prey to the same junk over and over again.  
This passage gives us a great teaching on temptation.  Sin is much like the conception, incubation, and birth of a child.  If you see someone fall in sin, know this - it wasn’t an overnight change.  They have been dabbling in it for a long time.  It is not a SITUATIONAL PROBLEM IT IS SYSTEMIC PROBLEM.
God allows the trial because He wants to do something good.  Look at verses 16-18.  It teaches us these truths:
  • You have a very special purpose - as the first fruits of his creatures.
  • You have a very faithful God - no shadow due to change, this means we can seek solid truth in our trials.  God gives good things.
Throughout the Book of James we will see the author constantly encounter the failed ends of man’s pursuits with the good things God gives when we trust Him by faith. 
Our temptation may be to walk away, but if we do that is failed faith.  It is not a failure of the faith God gives us, but it is a failure in a version of faith we have manufactured - a faith that cannot remain steadfast and stand up to the trial.

In times of trial, don’t rush to anger or to blame God.  Recalculate the temptation.  God has not required us to believe in something that is doomed to fail.  He has given us a faith that is good - one that when tested will mature and strengthen our lives.
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5 - Recalculate Your Situation

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. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.  (James 1:9-11 ESV)
To help us see the opportunity of adversity we must not only recalculate our expectation (namely for how God answers prayer), but we must also recalculate our situation.
A lot of times we gauge God’s opinion of us based on the stuff we have in our lives.  
I am healthy.  I am blessed.
I am sick.  I am cursed.
I was promoted at work.  God loves me.
I lost my job.  God hates me.
A situational faith is fickle.
James chooses wealth to expose our miscalculation of the situation.  The wealthy person believes that he or she must be doing something right because they have so much.  A false pride and sense of security develops.  
The poor person believes that he or she must be doing something wrong because they have so little.  A false humility and a misguided spirituality develops.  
You can’t gauge God’s love based on your stuff.  According to James 1:9-11, we need to realize that situations quickly change.  
James teaches that the lowly brother doesn’t need to focus on his lack, but on the lift.  
He says that the rich brother doesn’t need to focus on his provision, but on his pursuit.  
What does this mean?  Whether we are healthy or sick.  Whether we are rich or poor.  Whether we are in good times or in hard times - it is all a trial of faith.  
There are lots of people with lots of money and God is displeased in the way they are handling it, why, because they are pursuing the wrong thing.  One day, life will drop, they may lose it all and in the meantime they lose their faith.  Why, because their faith was equal to their wealth - which is never enough.
A faith that is based on the blessings of wealth is far from life proof.  When the account dries up, that form of faith will also go bankrupt.
On the flip-side, there are lots of people with little money and God is equally as displeased in the way they are handling it.  Why?  God is displeased because we are so prone to believe in our moment of lack that our greatest need is money.  They think that it is money that will lift them up, but it isn’t.  It is God.  Until your pursuit becomes more about God than money, you will never have a LIFE PROOF faith.

A life proof faith remains steadfast in abundance as well as in lack.  The Word of God determines the truth about faith, not your situation.  Our health and bank accounts are volatile and vulnerable.  God never changes.  Our situations should not make determinations about our faith, instead a life proof faith make a determination in any situation to trust the Lord.  

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4 - The Opportunity of Adversity - Recalculated Expectations

If we know God is working even when the situation is unwelcome, and we know that we are most changed when we are most challenged, then we must conclude that adversity is not a drudgery; adversity is an opportunity.  This is why James calls for us to “count it all joy (1:2).”

Easier said than done, right?  Why can’t we count it all joy?  Why is it so hard to see the opportunity of adversity?  
The reason we can’t see the opportunity of adversity is because we “can’t count” we miscalculate.
From 1:5-18 James calls for us to make some recalculations.  We need to recalculate three aspects of adversity: expectations, situations, and temptations.
Recalculate Expectations
One thing I can say with a fair amount of certainty, when times get tough, people pray.  When we pray, we do so with a fair amount of expectations.  Those expectations, unmet, often lead to frustration.
Why isn’t God answering my prayer?  
Expectations go unmet.  We feel as if faith has failed.  Once again, we hit hard times and we are shattered.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask 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 1:5-8 ESV)
This paragraph talks about something God wants to generously give us in our trials.  What is it?
While it is true that we serve a miracle working God who can change any situation, notice what the verse doesn’t say.  
God heals, but the verse doesn’t say God generously heals.
God provides, but the verse doesn’t say God generously gives us a bunch of money.
God opens doors of opportunity for His people, but the verse doesn’t say God generously gives us a new job.
God is sovereign over the nations, but the verse doesn’t even say God generously stopped the persecution that James’ readers were going through so they could go back home.
The verse says that God generously gives wisdom.  Wisdom is the the ability to know God’s will.  Wisdom is making the right choice.  Wisdom the ability to foresee the bad consequences of foolish choices because you know what God says.  
Wisdom is the ability to not make a bad situation worse.  
The Bible says God gives it generously.  This is an interesting word in that in one sense means exactly what you think it means, yet in another sense it doesn’t at all mean what you think it means.  
Generosity is the word used to describe the guy at the ice cream counter who doesn’t just give you one “technical” scoop; generosity means that he keeps digging down in the barrel and he pushes the ice cream down on the cone, he packs it on, and then goes in one more time to make sure you have a huge ball of ice cream up on top of that cone!  Generosity means he is going to give you more than the cone can hold!  Technically, one scoop can be 4 ounces.  Generously one scoop is the size of a basketball!  That’s generosity.  That’s the obvious meaning. 
God gives His people big scoops of wisdom.
However, generosity also means that God is also no arbitrary.  He is not wasteful.  He is purposeful.  There is a sense in the word in which it also means single-minded or focused.  And it is this meaning, single minded focus, that we don’t often associate with generosity.  
Have you ever seen the footage of the rich guy who goes to the mall at Christmas and dumps a basket of $100 bills over the rail?  The people below go crazy in the scramble to scoop up the money.  The rich man is celebrated as generous.  He may be generous, but is that kind of generosity effective?
In my experience I have found that a person who truly needs $100 is not at the mall.  Where will the basket full of money end up?  Will it accomplish anything truly good or has the rich man just given the people below $100 license to be greedy and wasteful?  There is no way to know.  
God is not the guy who dumps a bunch of money over the rail of the mall at Christmas time to see people go crazy over it - that’s not generosity, that’s publicity.
God is the guy who often goes unnamed, who finds a need, seeks to solve a problem, and makes a generous but calculated investment into something that is going to truly make a difference.
God has generous focus. 
Notice who He is generous toward, single minded, focused people.  Not the double-minded man, who is devoted to doing God’s will one day, but not the next.  He is not generous to the one who shows up all pious and religious when he’s in a mess.  He’s not generous to those who want only to change their situation but are not interesting in changing their life.  He is not generous to those who want prayer answered but are not interested at all about strengthening their faith.
God is interested in giving generous amounts of wisdom to people who are interested in knowing and doing what God wants them to do.
When you are in adversity what do you ask God for and why?  What’s your expectation?  Are you concerned about THINGS changing or are you concerned about your LIFE being changed?  
A lifeproof faith is concerned about encasing us in a generous amount of God given wisdom.  The expectation is guidance, insight, information for navigation; not necessarily escape.  When we recalculate our expectations, we see the opportunity of adversity clearly.  Wisdom helps us to learn things about God and about life that will contribute to our steadfastness; that will help us to hold up the next time life drops.  Wisdom makes a generous, calculated contribution to making us, like 1:4 says, “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 

If you want a Lifeproof faith that sees adversity as an opportunity, recalculate your expectations for answered prayer.  Ask for wisdom - God gives it generously to God focused people.
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3 - It’s All in What You Know - You Are Changing

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4 ESV)

Yesterday we said that we can count it all joy in the trail because we know that God is working even when a situation is unwelcome.  According to James 1:2-4, there is also joy in knowing a second truth in the trial.

We are most changed when we are most challenged.
If you have ever worked out in a public gym, scenes such as these should be familiar.

The problem is that most of the people who become the hilarious spectacle known as the epic gym failure are usually wearing the nicest gym clothes.  They look the part - often a little “too much.”  They speak the language.  They drink the shakes.  They have mastered “the grunt.” They sit on all of the equipment, but they have no idea how to use it.
What ensues is an epic demonstration of weakness, form, and ignorance.  
Isn’t that often the case with our faith?  We talk a big game when things are going great, but there is no real strength to our faith.  Then, when life drops, we can’t hold up under the weight.  
Throughout his letter, James will confront 6 versions of weak faith that talk a big game, but have no strength and are easily shattered when life drops.

a)  1:19-27 - the person who hears the sermons, but there is no noticeable life change.
b)  2:1-13 -  the church that is judgmental, prejudice, and partial. 
c)  2:14-26 - the guy who says he believes, but does nothing.
d)  3:1-18 - the person who has the vocabulary of faith, but otherwise can’t control his tongue.
e)  4:1-17 - the church that is full of infighting, division, and worldliness.
f)  5:1-20 - the church that has real needs, but has no power because it is full of doctrinal error and greed.
If we were honest about our faith and honest about the modern church, especially in light of James’ 6 epic failures, we would say “it is not working” and that “it is now effective” and that “it is not powerful.”
We need strength.  The trial is key to the development of our strength.

The word steadfastness means the ability to hold up under something.  James says that in our trials that the longer we hold up under it, the stronger we will become.  But strength is not the only goal.  The ultimate goal is that we may be perfect, which means mature, complete, lacking nothing.  That means in short, that we develop such a strong faith that it becomes LIFEPROOF.

And this is what we want, a strong effective faith.  Look at what is happening at the end of the book.  Someone is suffering and so they are called to pray, anoint the person with oil and confess sin.  The effect is that the person is forgiven and healed.  The paragraph says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  It is a powerful, effective faith that works!   

The Book of James is about saving us from gross error that when tested will shatter our faith.  The book ends, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 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 (5:19-20).”  In other words, we need to save them from being shattered.  We need to encase our life in a faith that is real. 

If we are going to change, we must be challenged.

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2 - It’s All in What You Know - God is Working

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4 ESV)
Count it all joy?  Seriously?
When life drops it is hard to see the joy.
You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, joy?
The pressure at your work is difficult to bear, joy?
You and your spouse hardly talk, joy?
There is too much month at the end of the money, joy?
1st century Jews of the dispersion who have fled for your life from intense persecution, are you having fun yet?
According to James, it’s all in what you know.
According to these verses, we know two things in the trial
We know that even when the situation is unwelcome, God is working.
The verse refers to “trials of various kinds.”  The trial is an unwelcome situation.  Money issue.  Physical issue.  In the case of the first readers of James, persecution.  These are the life drops - the difficulties of being on an imperfect planet with imperfect people.  
James teaches us that even though a situation is unwelcome and unexpected that no situation is ever beyond the bounds of the sovereignty of God.  Life will drop you.  God will not.
As a matter of fact, the passage says in 1:12 that God is paying attention to our response and He rewards us when we respond rightly to the trial.  So we can count it joy because we know that God is not only working, He is watching.
There are various places in the Bible in which people stayed encouraged during adversity.  How?  Because they didn’t necessarily understand the significance of what was happening, but they knew God was working.  
  • In Acts 5 the apostles were arrested and beaten for preaching the name of Christ.  That is certainly unwelcome.  But the Bible says they left the council “rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”  They saw God working in what was otherwise unwelcome.
  • In Hebrews the author speaks of the chastening of God, discipline He brings into our lives.  Certainly unwelcome, but not unwarranted and something in which God is working.  “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  He. 12:11
  • Paul had a thorn in his flesh he asked God to remove.  God refused.  He did so to teach Paul about His grace.  The thorn was unwelcome but God was working.

Your situation may be unwelcome, but be assured, God is working.  Joy.
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1 - Lifedrops

Whether you are a smartphone lover or a hater who only has one out of necessity, we all share a common fear, THE DROP.  In an instant your $600 window to the world becomes a useless piece of shattered glass.  
The company Lifeproof has created a successful business by manufacturing what has become a necessary accessory to the smartphone - protection.  Lifeproof makes no technological contribution to your device; instead Lifeproof helps your phone do the one thing your phone does not do well - LIFE.
The people at Lifeproof know what is coming at your phone - YOU.  Drops.  Toilets.  Kids.  Sweat.  Dogs.  A lonely, lost overnight stay in the last place you set it down - in the rain.  There is no app for that.
James writes a letter to a group of Jewish Christians in the 1st century who started well.  If you heard them speak the language of faith, you would detect no issues with the lingo.  But they are suffering a serious life drop.  Dispersion.  They are being persecuted.  They are fleeing and as they do they leave behind everything familiar - family, work, peace.  
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.  (James 1:1 ESV)
But you must understand, James was not writing them because they were scattered.  James was writing to them because they were shattered.
So how are you doing with those “life drops?”
In many ways our life is like our phone.  It looks and sounds great when things are going well, but when life drops, we easily shatter.  Don’t you agree?  It should be much more difficult to fall apart.
In chapter 1 verse 2, James mentions “trials of various kinds”; life drops.  Financial issues.  Physical issues.  Marital issues.  Family issues.  Whatever form they take, trials are unwelcome, unexpected experiences.  We all have them.
Whatever the trial brings, these are the moments that go deeper than what you say.  They go deeper than what people see.  It is easy to say all is well and look the part.  But when the hard stuff hits, one of two things will happen - you will either hold together or shatter.
The Book of James is about encasing your soul in something life proof - authentic faith.  
My intent with these posts is to flesh out in print a teaching from the book of James as I also flesh it out through preaching to our church.  Hopefully the print versions will be a blessing as it will afford me the opportunity to share some thoughts and ideas from my preaching notes that may not necessarily make their way into the pulpit version.  

Follow along.  Let’s encase our soul in a life proof faith. 
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