Tag Archives: Epistle of James

Why Is The Epistle of James Relevant to Gays?

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This post should have come before all of the posts about the book of James; however, since I was studying the book myself as I was presenting it to you, this is the conclusion regarding why it is so relevant to gay Christians. I hope that you have enjoyed our study of James as much as I have. There is a lot of information I. This small book of the Bible that is relevant to us as well as all Christians.

Most all of us lived through the era of WWJD. What Would Jesus Do was imprinted on just about everything that can possibly hold a print. I refuse to be negative about it. It seems I’m in the minority with that as I searched WWJD on Google this week, 98% of the sites contained jokes about the phrase and they were all bad so I am not going to tell you one.

Over the past month or so we did not look at what Jesus would do necessarily, but at “What Would Jesus’ Brother Do?” The Epistle of James in the back of your Bible is a little five chapter letter that was written to some of the Jewish Christians that had been run out of town (Jerusalem) due to persecution and they were really struggling with things like their faith and their relationship with one another. So Jesus’ half brother James (half brother because Mary was their mother, but Joseph was only James’ dad) who had become a major leader in the early church writes a letter to encourage and instruct them.

As gay Christians we are often shunned by our churches as well. We face persecution form other Christians just as the Jewish Christians faced persecution from other Jews. We often struggle with our faith, because so many Christians see us as inherently sinful because we are homosexual and we have been taught this our entire life. We struggle with coming to terms with being both Christian and gay. Not only do we have to face persecution and questions from other Christians, but often we face similar questions from other homosexuals who question how we can be part of a religion that pushes us away.

James answers this throughout his Epistle. He tells us that our faith will be tested and we must be steadfast. He says that we cannot merely hear the word but we must be doers of the word, so that our actions speak for our faith. James entreats us to show no partiality; therefore, we should not go by appearance alone but if we follow the Word of God, then we will treat all people the same. Likewise, he says that if we have faith but do not show that faith through our good deeds, then we do not truly have faith.

James admonishes us to tame our tongues, so that we do not speak to quickly or foolishly. He tells us that true wisdom comes from above, and we should look to God for guidance. He also tells us that the jealousy and disdain showed to us by others (our fellow Christians or our fellow homosexuals, in the case of this study) is worldliness. Only our Heavenly Father may judge, humanity cannot. He tells us not to boast about those thing we do not yet know, and that wealth can often lead us astray. Lastly, James relates to us that patience is suffering yet it is also a great virtue. Prayers will be answered, though they may not be answered in the way we hope, yet we must continue to pray for God hears all of our prayer.


The Prayer of Faith

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Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 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.
James 5:13-20

James ends his epistle with a discussion on prayer. Prayer is communication or communion with God. It can be a petition or an appeal to Him confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness. It can be conversation with Him giving Him praise for showering us with blessings.

It can be an outpouring of thanksgiving from the innermost part of our heart. It can be a request for help or assistance for us or for someone else. It is talking to our Heavenly Father just as we talk to people around us.

Sometimes when we pray to God, we might think that He is not listening because we do not get immediate response or answer to our prayer. The Old Testament tells us that David was praying to God for help because his enemies were fighting with him, but he felt his prayer was not being heard. David said, “When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother” (Psalm 35: 13, 14).

God does hear each and every one of our prayers; however, some of them are denied for reasons we do not understand. Maybe the timing is bad or the request can be met in a better and more beneficial way. We must realize that we do not always know what is good for us.

It would be wonderful and our life would be so simple and non-stressful if we could only accept God’s answers the way children do. If we could only have the faith of a child and accept when we don’t get our way, through faith, believe God has something better.

There are times we pray for ourselves and there are times we pray for other people. We are not being selfish when we pray for ourselves. God knows our needs and He knows our wants. These two things don’t always match and many times our wants are not good for us, therefore, we don’t get what we ask for.

Should we stop praying when we don’t get results as we think we should? Are we to believe in our heart that God is not listening; He doesn’t care, the request is too small or too big, we are not worthy, or we are asking for the impossible?

The truth is that we should never stop praying just because our prayer is not answered on the first go-around. God is always listening and in fact He knows what we are going to ask for even before we ask. He cares about every facet of our life and nothing is too small or too big.

Since He created us, we are His child and He cares for us just as we as earthly parents care for our children. We should never be concerned that our request or prayer is impossible because “….with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Some people feel that it is not proper for them to pray for themselves. They believe that it is a selfish act so they ask others to pray for them or to keep them in their prayers. James penned these words: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (James 5:13). People face different mountains of suffering. One could be suffering from a sickness or an illness of some nature. The physical body could be hurting or the mind could be confused.

James goes on to say, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (v. 13). As a child of God, we are blessed in many ways. First of all, God has given us the breath of life. He keeps our heart beating 24 hours each day. He has given us an earthly family who loves us and cares for us. We have food to eat, clothes to wear, a shelter in which to live, a means of earning a living, numerous material things to enjoy, and a Savior who loves us so much He took all of our sins and placed them at the foot of the Cross.

All of us have been sick at one time or another, but how many times have we called the elders of the church? James said, “Is anyone among you sick? Let Him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). People should request the services of the minister when they are in need. In some churches, the minister and the elders will respond to a call from the sick person. It is the duty of the sick person to notify the church of their condition so that they can be placed on the prayer list and prayed for during the service or prayer meeting.

James says, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” You might ask about the “prayer of faith” as to what it means. Prayer is talking intimately with God and “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). It is mandatory that the person praying and the person being prayed for have a lively faith.

Faith in itself does not heal, but it is God who does the healing. Our prayers are the beginning of the healing process. God waits for our prayers which are asked “….in the name of the Lord” (v. 14) before he steps in to take care of our requests. He answers our prayers according to His will.

James goes on to tell us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (v. 16). Who is a righteous man? The word righteous indicates that the man is honest, good, upright and honorable in the sight of Almighty God.

No man or woman is perfect “….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but Jesus made it possible for us to talk to God and ask for forgiveness. A righteous person who has sinned will ask for forgiveness either privately or publicly. A righteous person reflects the image of his Creator. God can and will work through a righteous person and bring about marvelous happenings.


Patience Is Suffering

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

James 5:7-12

So many of the situations that we find in life are endurable because we know what their end will be. We need to be patient, patient for the Lord. As a gay Christian this is not something that is going to be easy. We get persecuted for what we believe, some places we are ridiculed for our beliefs, and others, heterosexual Christians or LGBT non-believers reject us for our beliefs. But, we must stand firm!

Waiting is hard.

In the black nights of suffering, when ominous clouds come in from the west, it’s hard to know whether those clouds bring nourishing rain or devastating tornado that destroys a all in its path. We have no way of knowing how long we’ll be suffering from a disaster or how long our heart will ache.

Some might question why Job is given to us as a second example of patience since he did impatiently demand that God explain his sufferings to him (for example, Job 6). But Job is an excellent paradigm for us because though he questioned God, he never gave up his faith. Also, if Job is our example we can see that even the most patient of God’s servants will not be perfect until they are glorified. Finally, because Job was one of the first to anticipate the final judgment, he serves as an example for us who also await that day (Job 19:25–26).

We need to love one another, stop talking negatively about one another. Watch our tongues because what we say usually is what is in our hearts. We shouldn’t be speaking with hate, condemnation, gossiping just to tear some one else down.

We need to stand for the Lord, let others see Him in us! No matter what the consequences we need to be bringing others to Him and not making others start thinking that if that is what a ‘Christian’ is like then what’s the point?

Just do our best to remember that we shouldn’t have to ‘swear’ about these things…simply say Yes or No. That we are followers of Jesus because He has died for our sins and if we believe and have repented for our sins He will give us eternal life! This is why we follow. No arguing with others about it, no ‘swearing’ about it. Just let it be…Yes or No.

P.S. I apologize for the late post. It’s been an incredibly busy weekend, and I did not have computer access until just now.


Boasting About Tomorrow

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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:13-17
 
There is so much depth to these five verses. In the big picture, do we include God in all of our plans? Do we include him in our career or educational plans? Do we pray about the path He wants us to take?  When we make plans and exclude God, no matter what the plans are, it is as if we are boasting in our own abilities.
 
Verses 13 and 14 refer to making future plans for prosperity without consulting God. Even if the plans are honorable and righteous, God may have other ideas. Our lives are but a blink of God’s eye, “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” God wants us to consult with Him for all plans.
 
I plan ahead.  If I do not have the next step or two thought out before I get to them, I feel behind and unorganized.  However, God does not work this way.  Ever since I gave Him full rights to my life, I cannot seem to plan anything too far in advance.  He is the ultimate schedule shifter.  James notes, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”  I have to remind myself of this.  Life throws sudden changes at you.  Yes, I still plan ahead to the best of my ability, but I now make flexible plans instead of rigid ones.  This is one way I submit my life to God, by giving Him free reign to jumble my schedule.  In the end, I trust God has a better idea of what I should do with my life than I do since He sees the entire picture.
 
I remind myself that God has a plan for me in my prayers.  I begin by asking God to forgive me of my sins, then I ask Him to guide me down the path He has chosen for me before asking Him to bless my family and friends.  I pray for guidance down the path God has chosen for me, because I know it is not an easy path.  In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
 
I’ve learned to use verse 15 in all planning. “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” There is so much each of us wants to do with what time we have left in our lives, right? Personally, I would love to travel to Europe again, write a book, get in better shape, and be healthier. With each thing I want do to, I pray about it and say, “Lord, if it is Your will that I do this, then I will do it.”
 
Psalm 37:4 states: Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. This is a Scripture of hope.  We think, “I love the Lord and so He will give me whatever my heart desires.” That sounds great and all, but what about this:  if we love the Lord and become very close and intimate with Him, very soon His desires become the desire of our hearts. Ask the Lord if your desire is His will and you may find that His will truly becomes your desire.
 
Verses 16-17 remind us that boasting in our arrogance is evil, and goes on to say that if we know the right thing to do and fail to do it, we are sinning.  If the Lord places something upon your heart, and you do something else instead, verse 17 tells us that it is sin.  In 2 Corinthians 1:12, Paul writes, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
 
Boast in the Lord and proclaim to everyone: “My God has blessed me abundantly, and He directs my path.”  In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” There is satisfaction in doing God’s will. To actually do good is filling food. The more we eat the keener our appetite becomes. Dissatisfaction is a sure sign that we are not eagerly doing the will of God. It is a symptom of spiritual immaturity. The only way to discover the point of Christ’s teaching is to practice it. The only way to godly contentment is to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Warning Against Worldliness

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What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
 
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
 
James 4:1-12
 
When was the last time you heard a sermon warning against worldliness? I suspect for most believers it would have been a very long time indeed. There are several reasons for this. Likely it is because we are in fact very worldly, and we don’t like to speak to our particular sins, so we just drift along. Also, you are particularly unlikely to hear a sermon, or in this case read a Bible study, about worldliness and gay Christians.  First of all, most of us would start squirming in our chairs.  My first thought would be, “This can’t be good.”  The reason for this is that as gay Christians most of our naysayers consider homosexuality to be a sin of worldliness.  That as gay Christians, we want to sin, be a part of this hedonistic culture, and call ourselves Christians.  But I hope that if you are one of those who regularly follow my Sunday posts, then you will know that is not the message I will deliver here.  I write these posts as both Bible studies and as a way to deliver the truth.  Therefore, I want to study this passage in a way that brings to light the kind of worldliness that applies to LGBT Christians.
 
There is also another reason Christians don’t tend to dwell on worldliness. We have tended to misunderstand what the warnings against worldliness actually mean, and/or have quite distorted the actual biblical teaching on this. That is, we have often thought that worldliness means having nothing to do with this material world altogether.  Or, as LGBT Christians we have been branded as worldly people because too many people believe that homosexuality is a choice.  The truth is, as I believe it (and I do believe that God helped me understand this after much prayer and meditation), God created us to be gay.  He had a purpose for us.  Whatever, that purpose is, we cannot deny God for creating us or leading us down this path.  We are all God’s children and have his undying and eternal love.
 
James is not the only one to warn about worldliness.
John: 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
 
Paul: Ephesians 2:1-3 – And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
In the text from James above, these verses make me think of the person who tries to live in both the world and in the kingdom. It can’t be done. Living in the kingdom means the Spirit dwells within us, and God reigns over us. It must be all or nothing. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  Therefor, ask yourself to describe you in one word.  What would you say?  If you are worldly, then your answer might be your profession or an adjective describing how you feel or act, but truthfully, the answer should be very simple: Christian.  Whatever else you are, however else you might describe yourself, it is being a Christian that should come first.
 
James finishes this section of scripture we are examining with a warning about verbally attacking or slandering our brother. When we do this, we are not only attacking, but judging his character. In doing so, we are speaking out against and judging the law. Think about it. We are to love our Lord God with all of our heart, soul, strength and might; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we speak against our brother, we are not loving our neighbor as ourselves, and might as well throw the whole commandment out the window.

…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God…. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Romans 12:2, 9

As believers, we are not of the world. Worldliness is not a kingdom attribute.
 
If you’re wondering if a behavior or activity is worldly, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does this activity, thing, pursuit take my heart away from God?
  • Does it sabotage my communion with God and my walk in the Spirit?
  • Does it undermine or seek to displace my relationship to Christ as the power of my life?
  • Does it attempt (is it designed) to do so?
  • Does it feed the self-centered, appetite-driven, God-hating part of me called the flesh?
  • Does it inflame my desire to disobey God’s commands?
  • Does it produce pride, contention, immorality, or any other behavior contrary to the love of God and the love of others?
  • Does it lure me into obsession with what is earthbound and temporal versus what is heavenly and eternal?
In John 18, Jesus answers Pilate by repeating this phrase twice:  My kingdom is not of this world.
 
If you follow Jesus, then your kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is not of this world.
 

 


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