You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? (James 4:4-5a CEB)

Many times I’ve watched …

  • strong, grown men sob, weep, and wail like an inconsolable baby.
  • all hint of faith and hope dry up and blow away from the eyes of a beautiful, mature woman .
  • bitterness and resentment turn a vibrant teenager into a boiling cauldron of anger and rage.
  • emptiness and lostness swallow little children alive.

All because someone they were bonded to in great love thought

  • “What no one else knows can’t hurt them.”
  • “God just wants me to be happy.”
  • “We’re just close friends.”
  • “It’s only this once.”

All because someone was “unfaithful.”

Anyone who has walked down that road can tell you: unfaithfulness is hell. Don’t go there. No way, now how. For your own sake. For the sake of others. Just don’t.

Now when James goes looking for a word and an image to try to convey something of what it’s like for a Christian to try to live with one foot in a relationship with God and the other foot in a relationship with the world, he chose this word: unfaithfulness.

Stepping out on God is a hell of a thing to do. Don’t even go there.

You are unfaithful! Don’t you get it? You can’t be the world’s friend without becoming God’s enemy. You don’t think scripture speaks in vain, do you? (James 4:4-5a DSV)

Holy Father, in Jesus’ name and for his sake, deliver me from any all that would seduce me away from you. Amen.

journey through James: November reading

MoSt Church‘s daily reading and Sunday study of the letter of James concludes next month. I encourage you to not only read, but to reflect on, and put into practice what you grasp out of day’s selected passage. Here is the daily reading schedule for the remainder of our Journey Through James.

Tues., Nov. 1 – Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? (James 4:5b)

Wed., Nov. 2 – But he [God] gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. (James 4:6)

Thur., Nov. 3 – Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. (James 4:7)

Fri., Nov. 4 – Come near to God, and he will come near to you. (James 4:8a)

Sat., Nov. 5 – Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8b)

Sun., Nov. 6 – Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:9-10)

Mon., Nov. 7 – Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. (James 4:11)

Tues., Nov. 8 – There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you? (James 4:12)

Wed., Nov. 9 – Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes. Here’s what you ought to say: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Thur., Nov. 10 – But now you boast and brag, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4:16)

Fri., Nov. 11 – It is a sin when someone knows the right thing to do and doesn’t do it. (James 4:17)

Sat., Nov. 12 – Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. (James 5:1-3a)

Sun., Nov. 13 – Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces. (James 5:3b-4)

Mon., Nov. 14 – You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who doesn’t oppose you. (James 5:5-6)

Tues., Nov. 15 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. (James 5:7a)

Wed., Nov. 16 – Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7b-8)

Thur., Nov. 17 – Don’t complain about each other, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t be judged. Look! The judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)

Fri., Nov. 18 – Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patient resolve and steadfastness. (James 5:10)

Sat., Nov. 19 – Look at how we honor those who have practiced endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job. And you have seen what the Lord has accomplished, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)

Sun., Nov. 20 – Most important, my brothers and sisters, never make a solemn pledge—neither by heaven nor earth, nor by anything else. Instead, speak with a simple “Yes” or “No,” or else you may fall under judgment. (James 5:12)

Mon., Nov. 21 – If any of you are suffering, they should pray. (James 5:13a)

Tues., Nov. 22 – If any of you are happy, they should sing. (James 5:13b)

Wed., Nov. 23 – If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)

Thur., Nov. 24 – For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. (James 5:16)

Fri., Nov. 25 – Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:17-18)

Sat., Nov. 26 – My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:19-20)

Uncommon Truth for Common People: Church-Wide Bible Reading Project 2012

Every year every MoSt Church member is encouraged to get involved in a congregational-wide Scripture reading project. The point is always the same – to get us into God’s word and God’s word into us – but the plan is different every year. With 2012 only two months away, I know some of you are probably wondering “How will we read Scripture as a church family next year?” Let me answer that question by answering some of the questions you will likely ask about next year’s project, a project I’ve entitled Uncommon Truth for Common People.

Q. Why this project, this way, now?
A. It provides a way for consistent engagement with God’s word. It gives us needed structure, rather than just relying on good intentions and encouragement. It enables to hear his word in a fresh way, being from a new translation. It gives us variety in that encounter, our focal point changing every week through the course of the year. It puts us all “on the same page at the same time,” facilitating conversation and ease of discussion of what effect God’s word is having on us at any given time. Need I go on?

Q. Will the reading be my own choice of Bible translation or will I be encouraged to read a particular version?
A. The latter. The Uncommon Truth for Uncommon People project will utilize a brand new translation of the Scripture, the Common English Bible (CEB). Having been completed just this year, the CEB is the most recent “from the ground up” English translation of the Bible. The CEB’s forte is ease of reading and comprehension coupled with careful, current, accurate scholarship. This factor alone will make the coming year’s project unique for we will be doing our reading in a rendering of Scripture none of us have ever read in its entirety before. You can read the text of the CEB online at BibleGateway.com if you’d like to sample how it reads. Many of you know, of course, that I have used the CEB as my primary teaching and preaching text this year and so, already have something of a feel for how it comes across.

Q. Will I need to purchase a Bible to participate in this project?
A. No, but you would be best served to purchase a specific edition of the CEB called the Common English Daily Companion Bible. It is is scheduled to come off the press within the next few weeks. Here is a link you can use to pre-order a copy from Amazon.com if you’d like to have a copy shipped to you as soon as they become available. Amazon’s pre-order price is $19.19, a significant savings from the $29.95 retail price. For those who don;t purchase a Bible, a weekly reading schedule will be provided.

Q. What will the reading schedule be like?
A. This project is not a “read through the entire Bible in a year” experience. Readings are scheduled for weekdays only (M-F). If you get behind, there’s no need to worry since you have two built in “catch up” days every week. Each day’s reading consists of one to four texts from across the Bible. While each day’s assigned reading varies in length, they are typically brief, consisting of only a few verses or paragraphs. Every day’s reading consists of different texts but, each week’s readings will be along the line of a particular theme, enabling us the opportunity to encounter fifty-two different themes in Scripture over the course of 2012. These fifty-two themes deal with three key areas crucial to our walk with God: (1) the foundations of faith, (2) the development of our character, and (3) spiritual discipline.

Q. This project will have us consider fifty-two themes in Scripture in one year. What are those themes?
A. The publishers of the CEB have graciously enabled me to preview these themes and here they are for you to see as well. Do note that this listing appears in alphabetical order. This is not the order in which they will be considered in the project.

Baptism. Character. Choices. Communion. Community. Contagious life. Courage. Evangelism. Family. Forgiveness. Generosity. God’s call. God’s promises. God’s will. Grace. Gratitude. Healing. Holy Spirit. Hope. Hospitality. Humility. Influence. Leadership. Love. Moderation. New song. Obedience. Perseverance. Prayer. Priorities. Purity. Purpose-driven. Radical faith. Reading the Bible. Reconciliation. Resources. Revival. Savior. Second chances. Self-denial. Self-Discipline. Serving. Setting an example. Sharing your faith. Stewardship. Testing. Thankfulness. Trust. Truth. Wisdom. Work. Worship.

Q. Can you give me sample of the readings that would go along with a particular theme?
A. Certainly. Take for example the theme of obedience. As we focus on that theme for five days one week we’ll all read:

Q. Will any sermons or classes go along with the reading?
A. On a number of occasions in years past, I have geared my Sunday sermons to mesh with the congregational reading project. That won’t be the case in 2012. This time the congregational reading project will serve as the foundation for our Wednesday night auditorium class. Whatever we’re reading in the project each week will be what we’ll study in that class over the course of the year. The reading will begin on Sun., Jan. 1 and the first class session will be on Wed., Jan. 4.

Q. Will there be any online resources to go along with this project?
A. Yes. In addition to posting links to each week’s readings, I’ll frequently pen and post a brief thought based on some portion of a week’s Scripture readings on my personal site (preachersmith.com). Links to each day’s Scripture readings will appear on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/preachersmith).

I eagerly look forward to this reading project. I hope you will, too for it promises to be uncommonly good! I urge you to use the link above – or this link right here – to place your order now for a hardback copy of the Common English Daily Companion Bible to be delivered to you as soon as it comes off the press. Let us grow up together in the Lord as his people.

the wisdom of peace

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Oct. 30). This guide will enable your follow-up of the sermon that I’ll preach, God willing, that morning from James 3:13-18. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.


To appreciate God’s peace as we live by his wisdom and how wise it is to live in his peace.


“Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. … (17) What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. (18) Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.” (James 3:13,17-18 CEB)


Icebreaker questions are meant to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Recount a funny instance of your knuckleheadedness when you failed to use “wisdom.”

2. One thing I do to try and bring peace in a tense situation is to __________.


These questions are intended to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.

1. We’re to have a humble lifestyle (vs. 13). In context, what would such a lifestyle look like?

2. How would everything change if the wisdom from above was not “pure?” (vs. 17a)

3. Compare the wording of the seven qualities of pure wisdom from above (vs. 17) in several different English translations. What variation in wording do you notice?

4. Pick a word from vs. 17 and explain how such is crucial to forming or keeping peace.

5. Substitute the phrase “right relationships between people” for the word “justice” in vs. 18. How does this help you understand James’ point with this whole passage?


These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. God is what he expects of us. Recount an instance in the life of Jesus Christ that depicts him living out each of the seven qualities mentioned in vs. 17.

2. Would you say there can be wisdom in a church without peace? How about real peace without wisdom? How do you think James would answer those two questions?

3. What sort of things would you expect to be common in a church that was well exercised in the seven qualities enumerated in vs. 17? What would you expect to be hard to find?

4. James points to the seven qualities in vs. 17 as distinctives of true heavenly wisdom. What would you say the church today tends to emphasize as her “wisdom distinctives?” How does the list you come up with differ from the list here in James?

5. James says the experience of peace among Christians doesn’t just happen, rather, it is the result of deliberate effort. It’s like the work of a farmer (“sow … seeds of justice;” vs. 18). What qualities must a farmer exhibit when planting seed and expecting a harvest? How are those qualities necessary for the work of planting seeds of peace?

6. As a group, recite and practice the last sentence of vs. 17 until you have it memorized.

7. Pick one of the seven qualities in vs. 17 that you would say best completes the following sentence: “If I was truly wise, I would personally work hard at becoming more __________.”

at war

What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? (James 4:1 CEB)

Far too often as Christians we live in the middle of a war zone. That’s bad enough, but what makes it an especially bitter pill to swallow is the fact we cannot deny, namely that we have no one to blame for the war but ourselves.

For many, this is the hardest part about being a Christian. The hardest part. Trust a God that can’t be completely understood? Lots of folks do that. Withstand mockery or abuse from folks who are antagonistic against Christian faith? Many do that. Resist a temptation that seems almost irresistible? I see it done all the time. All of this by the grace of God.

But to stay with a church over the long haul that is filled with systemic disputes and conflict? Well, let’s just say the casualty rate is horrific and the “collateral damage” is through the roof. It’s a tremendous challenge to survive in such a setting. Few can or will.

The ceaseless temptation in such an environment is to point the finger at others and then use the war and the gore as an excuse to walk away from it all. But James refuses to let us do so. He takes hold of our pointing finger and turns it right around at us and says, “Its your dispute. It’s your cravings. It’s your own selfishness that fuels the conflict. Deal with it.”

Where does all the conflict and disputes among you come from? It’s your own cravings, I tell you, that are the cause of the war (James 4:1 DSV)

Heavenly Father, by the grace of your Son, help me ever to deal with it; to deal with what I can. Me. Amen.

this went thru my mind

Capital punishment: Why Capital Punishment is Not Such a Capital and Christian Idea by Ben Witherington

“Let me be clear that all the harangues in the world about what the OT says about capital punishment will not persuade me in the least that this makes it o.k. for Christians to participate in the legal taking of someone else’s life. Christians are not under any form of the old covenant, they are under the new covenant, and the new covenant is not just the old covenant renewed or Parte Deux, the sequel.”

Church attendance: Why Sunday Is Not On Your Travel Itinerary! by Mark Woodward

“I have a feeling that many, if not most Christians do not plan to go to church on Sundays when they are traveling. Sometimes we haven’t, but most of the time we try to and I’d like to tell you why.”

Church budgets: Church Budgeting Myths by Tim Spivey

“The area of church finance is riddled with myths. They have pure motives behind them, but they are myths all the same. If you buy into them, you’ll set yourself up for financial peril down the road. Here are a few with some observations.”

Church membership: Why I Have No Difficulty Helping “Issue Christians” to Move On by Ed Stetzer

“… we should always provide guidance, but we should not always provide a platform. “Issue Christians” want a platform with you and your church because they are passionate about an issue–don’t let that distract you or your church from being and doing all that God has in store. Move on… and move them on.”

Committees: If Committees Told the Truth by Seth Godin

“… we will compromise the art and the vision out of it, we will make it reasonable and safe and boring.”

Computing: (1) Online Traffic Shifts from PCs by Jameson Berkow and (2) What to Do if Your E-Reader Is Lost or Stolen by Eric Dye

(1) “For possibly the first time, the most popular online activities are being carried out on devices other than a PC …”

(2) “The last thing you want to happen after realizing your Kindle is missing, is to find someone purchased hundreds of dollars worth of e-books under your account. Here’s what you need to do if your Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader vanish.”

Frustration: 5 Steps for Handling Frustration by Rick Warren

“Here are five simple steps for dealing with frustrations in your life.”

Hebrews: Hebrews Recited by Joel Shorey

The book of Hebrews describes itself as a sermon. Joel Shorey memorized the entire book of Hebrews and recited it, without comment, as a sermon. This is a 45 min. video of that recitation. Wow.

Jealousy: Jealousy at the Boiling Point by Brian LaMew

“What are you really jealous for in life? Isolate your jealous feelings. What is it that you really are seeking after and will obtaining that actually give you the contentment you desire?”

Love: The Dangerous Myth of Unconditional Love by Dan Bouchelle

“Here is a hard truth to hear that you need to know: God is the only one who is truly capable of unconditional love.”

Parenting & sports: When Sports Becomes God by Jonathan McKee

“… maybe parents need to think ahead when it comes to signing up for sports and decide exactly how committed to a team or activity they are really ready to be.”

Occupy Wall Street: (1) A Devotion for Wall Street: Does Jesus have anything to say about the “Occupy Wall St.” protests? by Shane Claiborne and (2) The Health and Wealth of the Church by Christ Altrock

(1) “Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.”

(2) “Occupy Wall Street might force America’s top 1% to soberly reflect on the “soundness” of their own fiscal lifestyle. Perhaps it ought to force us all, especially Americans, to soberly reflect on the “soundness” of our own fiscal lifestyles.”

Twenty-somethings: 20 Somethings: Why are they Leaving and What Can We Do About It? by Matt Dabbs

“Boil down all the issues and here is what you get – the vast majority of churches have a ginormous culture gap within the congregation and are doing little to nothing to resolve it.”

Violence: God Hates Bloodshed by Richard E. Oster, Jr.

“The commitment of the early followers of Christ to humility, peace, non-violence, and meekness stands in stark contrast to the glorification of brute force and bloodshed prevalent in the entertainment values of so many cultures, both ancient and modern.”