Finish Strong: Week 7 – Wisdom

Previous post recaps:
James 1:1-12 (Facing Trials with Joy)
James 1:13-18 (Overcoming Sin)
James 1:19-27 (Listen with Humility)
James 2:1-13 (Favoritism)

James 3:13-18 “Are any of you wise or sensible? Then show it by living right and by being humble and wise in everything you do. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don’t brag or lie to cover up the truth.  That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself.  Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.  But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere.  When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.”

We are continuing our study of James. It is week 7 of this study, so don’t lose steam! Continue to press into the Word and see what God has in store for you! The verses that we discussed at the Venue this week were James 3:13-18 which talks about wisdom. Wisdom is one of those things that everyone needs but few seem to ask for.

Since we live in the world, it can be difficult to differentiate between “good” worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. How can we tell? The great thing about God and His Word is that it will never change and never contradict itself. Verse 17 provides a standard. Was the wisdom you were given pure and lacks selfish motives? Is it gentle and aware of other people’s feelings? Is it genuine, heartfelt, and sincere? If you can say no to anything on the list or it does not line up from God’s Word, it is not godly wisdom! Another way to see if the wisdom comes from God or man is by who gets the credit in the end. Godly wisdom will always point to God. It will never point to man.  A third way to tell if a person in your life is a godly source of wisdom is to look at their life. “True wisdom is authenticated though the process of time.” A true godly  source will live a life that points to Jesus and they will produce fruits that are only given by God. They will not have one foot in the world and the other in the church.

The verse that seemed to stick out to most people was verse 18 which says, “Peacemakers who plant seeds in peace, they will harvest justice.” This is a pretty hot topic. We live in a world that is constantly seeking peace and justice. We see injustice and violence every single day and it can be depressing to even turn on the tv. Everyone has their own answer to all the injustice in the word. Everyone believes that they have the wisest answer to deal with the world’s turmoil.

Just yesterday a man was shot in the street by police officers. Public response was to break out in violent protest that left two dozen people injured. People like to misquote Levitucus 24:19-21 in situations like this. “Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death.” But we seem to forget when Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-42, ““You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Now, Jesus isn’t nullifying the Old Testament law. He’s clarifying the fact that the average person does not have the authority to judge others for their wrong doings. It is not your job to take matters into your own hands. Jesus preached to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Judges are to be impartial and to have pure motives. If someone has done you wrong, your motives are tarnished and what you claim is justice, is actually revenge.

If you seek peace, God is our peace. Spend time in His presence and you will produce seeds of peace. You may not see the results in a minute, today, or even tomorrow. You must be patient with every step. Pastor Juan pointed out that the text is plural when it mentions the seed. You can’t just plant once. You have to continue to plant every season of your life. You have to continue to wait. “You can’t see a harvest in a place that you are not faithful.”

If there’s an area of your life that you are lacking wisdom, it is not a lost cause. You can make wise choices in every area of your life. We broke it into a 3 step process. Find where you are and make a change today!

1. Realize & admit that you need God’s wisdom in every area of your life. In order to correct a problem, you have to admit there is one.

2. Be where there is godly wisdom and surround yourself with people who have godly wisdom. We’ve talked about this a bit in the previous weeks. Your environment shapes your outcome. Don’t expect to find godly wisdom from people who’s lives don’t point to God.

3. Be patient with yourself. When you begin to walk in wisdom, you will be parting from a lifestyle choice that you have made for years. It may be more difficult than you think. But remember, seeds take time to grow. If doesn’t blossom as soon as you plant, it doesn’t mean the seed is dead but rather that it is still fueling and nurturing growth.

I hope this study is blessing you and that God is revolutionizing your walk with him. We hope that you will join us every Tuesday night at the Venue to discuss what God is doing in our lives today!

Finish Strong: Week 4 – Favoritism

If you are behind, it’s not too late to catch up! See previous posts below:

James 1:1-12 (Facing Trials with Joy)
James 1:13-18 (Overcoming Sin)
James 1:19-27 (Listen with Humility)

James 2:1-13 “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

This week we talked about a topic that everyone has dealt with in one way or another: favoritism. I know in my life, I have showed favoritism but I’ve also been negatively affected by it. What stood out to a lot of people is the fact that to God, favoritism is a serious sin. We try to polish it up and make excuses for why we didn’t help out coworker or why we only hang out with a certain group of people and ignore the loners. But James says that it doesn’t matter which rule you break, at the end of the day, you still sinned. As Pastor Juan said, “you can give a pig a bath but it is still a pig!”

A lot of our behavior is learned. Maybe we got hurt, so now we push certain people away. Maybe we desire attention and validation from our parents or boss, so we treat them like gods and then backstab or ignore the people around us. Maybe we lock our doors when certain people walk by because we see stories on the news. Or maybe we are just being selfish and looking out for our own interests. But this is a mindset that needs to be broken. When you read the Bible, you don’t see Jesus doing any of those things. Jesus is the perfect example of love and kindness. As Christians, we need to be consistently working so our life is one that emulates His. If you’re not treating others with love and respect, maybe you haven’t fully encountered or understand God’s love. God’s love is one that reaches out to those who are completely different.

Think about yourself. You are a sinner and God, because He is so pure, can’t be associated or in the presence of sin. Instead of ignoring us and thinking that we are too far gone, He made a way so that He could be with us. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could experience freedom. So how are you showing that kind of love and sacrifice in your daily life? Who are you blessing that can’t return the favor?

Favoritism keeps us from being more like Christ. It keeps the lost in the dark and from experiencing God’s love. When we love some and not others, we are devaluing God’s creation. It’s saying that some people are worth your time and energy, while others aren’t. Honestly, how degrading is that? God has made every person with unique gifts and has made them in His image. When you show favoritism, you are missing out on a part of Him and in the end, it is ultimately your loss.

On the flipside, how many of us have been negatively affected by favoritism and what do we do when that does happen to us?

1. Clear your head.
2. Know your identity in Christ
3. Understand who gives you fulfillment

If you don’t have a solid foundation of your identity in Christ or you search for fulfillment from friends/spouse/boss/parents, you are never going to be satisfied and you will constantly be changing who you are to meet the fluctuating criteria of those around you. Juan and Daniel made the perfect point for this. “Don’t let favoritism change who you are and who God made you to be. Better to have no one’s favor and know who you are, than to have everyone’s favor and not recognize yourself.” If you need to, write a list of who the Bible says you are. Keep that and when people try to mold you into who they want you to be, you can look back and stand firm on who God has called you to be. Also keep it as a reminder when you feel like showing favoritism, remember that the people around you aren’t just people. You should love and treat them like you would treat yourself or a loved one. Go above and beyond for the people you encounter. Try to get back to that childlike mentality where you see a person for who they are and not just their status or label.

I hope this encourages you to evaluate your life and see where you need to grow. Ask God to show you the people you need to love harder and work toward being the best example of Christ that you can be.

Finish Strong: Week 3 – Listen With Humility

It’s that time of the week again where we recap the discussion we had at the Venue. I want to encourage you to not only read the post, but start a discussion in the comments section either on this post or in the Venue’s Facebook group.  And if you’re just joining us now, you can always catch up by clicking the links below.

James 1:1-12 (Facing Trials with Joy)
James 1:13-18 (Overcoming Sin)

James 1:19-27 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

We all have moments where we lash out. My coworker asked me how to do something and I’ve already told her a million times. My spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend didn’t do that thing that I asked them and now our plans are ruined. My friend cancelled plans again. My kid won’t stop whining and crying and throwing a fit. My parents have ridiculous rules and still treating me like a child. I CAN’T TAKE IT.

I get it. We lash out or someone is talking to us and we cut them off. Daniel reminded us that even though the verse says to be “slow to become angry” it does not mean we can’t be angry. You need to be conscious of your actions and reactions when you feel angry. Ephesians 4:26 says, “in your anger, do not sin.” Yes, you do need to be able to speak and able to express yourself. But pushing every emotion down until one day you snap, is very dangerous for your heart and your relationships.

Learning to control our anger and express it in a safe environment, is a huge step into learning to become slow to speak. Being quick to speak, even if what you’re saying is right, still has the potential to hurt someone. Your tone and presentation have just as much power as the words you speak.

It’s extremely important to become a good listener. Kara said that “listening because we care is the most important. It’s showing someone that they are worth your time, something you can’t get back, and are valuable.” I believe that this goes so far with every person you encounter. If you have something to say and someone else is speaking, is it life or death? Is it really so important that you have to be rude and interrupt? I would say 99.95% the answer to that is no.

During our discussion, everyone seemed to agree that the reason why we interrupt is usually either one of two things: either we think we know it all or we just want to be heard. We have this idea that our opinion is the most important. I believe that social media amplifies this belief that everyone wants to know what we’re eating at every meal, how we feel about local events, the news, cat videos, recipe videos, etc. And while yes, your thoughts and opinions are important, they are not more important that someone else’s.

So how do we go about controlling our tongue? It starts with our attitude. Verse 21 says to “humbly accept the Word” other versions mention being meek. You need to have a teachable spirit. Once you accept and own up to your humanity, you have the power to change. No one expects you to have it all, know it all, or do it all. Once you step off your pedestal and take on a humble attitude, you will find it much easier to listen.

If you are still having trouble listening, try to really focus on what the person is saying, ask questions, or repeat back what they said. These things are great tools for showing someone that you care. Listening without interrupting does not mean you won’t talk, but when you listen to others, you make people feel validated and in appreciation, they will give you the time to speak.

A humble and teachable attitude is not only important when it comes to our relationship with others but with God as well. Has God been trying to address something in your life and you’re continually interrupting Him? Are you hearing what He is telling you but not acting on it? Is your perspective twisted in a way that you somehow think what you have to say is more important than what God is saying?

Take some time today and ask God if there are any areas (or people) that you aren’t listening to and then ask God to help you respond properly. I hope this was a blessing to you and we will see you next week!

Finish Strong: Week 2 – Overcoming Sin

Yesterday we completed week 2 of our study of James by reading and discussing James 1:13-18. Remember, if you would like to follow along with the video series, please contact Pastor Juan with the Venue, to get connected with RightNow Media.

Previous weeks:
James 1:1-12

James 1:13-18 “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

This week’s verses are addressing our sinful desires. If you somehow believe that you’re not a sinner because you’re a Christian, you’re lying (which means you’re sinning). And do you remember who Paul is writing to? The church. The church is made up of a bunch of sinners, just like you and me.

It’s so easy to pass the blame of our sin. We’ve been doing it since Adam and Eve. Looking at someone other than our spouse lustfully? NO NOT US! Stealing a few dollars here and there from the work cash register? THAT MUST HAVE HAPPENED ON SOMEONE ELSE’S SHIFT! Gossiping about our coworker/church member/friend/family? I’M NOT GOSSIPING, I’M JUST KEEPING SO-AND-SO IN THE LOOP. We are so full of excuses!

If they wouldn’t have dressed provocatively, I wouldn’t have looked.
If God didn’t want me gossiping, then He wouldn’t have surrounded me with people who always gossip.
If my boss didn’t have such a short temper, I wouldn’t have lied about what happened.
If my spouse was better with money, then we wouldn’t be in such a large amount of debt.


Why do we do this? I believe we do it because we don’t want it on our conscience. We want to look the best. Even if we acknowledge some of our sin, we still claim to be better or “not as bad” as someone else. Often times, we get stuck in an endless cycle of blame. Instead of our problems getting better, they seem to get worse. You can’t blame anyone but yourself for your sin. God can’t be associated with sin, so it doesn’t come from him. Sin is a choice you make, whether you want to believe it or not. You need to own it!

In some ways, temptation is good. Pastor Juan compared temptation to a guardrail. Temptation is not a sin, even Jesus was tempted.  It’s a reminder of our humanity and the fact that we need a perfect God to help us overcome. Kati reminded us that our temptations are not the symptom of a physical problem, but a spiritual one. A problem that can only be tackled by an all mighty spiritual God. In short, there is hope for us. But our hope is not us.

But how do we break the cycle? Especially if our sin is now a habit, or if things in our life are now dead because of the sin. In order to overcome, we have to first, gain our bearings. James lays out the path clearly. Desire leads to temptation, which leads to sin, which leads to death. Pastor Juan suggesting taking it one step further. What comes before desire? What incubates an ungodly desire?

Just like a seed, sin needs a good environment to grow. Do the movies you watch that have bits of nudity, violence, and inappropriate language just goes right over your head? No. Do you think music that screams anger, hatred, and depression goes through one ear and out the other? No. Do you think you can just scroll past the negativity and gossip on your social media feed and nothing come of it? No.

Daniel reminded us that many Venues ago we discussed that confession is acknowledgement of sin, the first step in overcoming it. Then repentance is commitment to change our sinful ways. And as Kacie said, “it’s not just saying you’re sorry. It’s actually changing.” Once we confess and repent, with God’s help, we can overcome sin for good.

Don’t watch those vulgar movies. Unfollow those negative or gossiping friends. Stop drowning yourself in music that is not edifying. Pastor Juan put it perfectly, “if environment is where it starts, then most likely, environment is going to be where it ends.” Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you start your day with distractions, you’ll end your day in distractions. It’s a snowball effect.

Once we’re on the road of repentance, we can fully embrace God’s gifts to us. Sin makes big promises, but under delivers. It will always keep us hungry. We will never feel satisfied or complete, if we try to be complete with sin. God makes us promises and gives us tenfold. His gifts are too many to name! He gives us peace, patience, hope, and a sense of purpose. The gifts that God gives are beyond what we can touch and feel. They are spiritual and eternal. As you grow in your walk with Christ, you will learn the value of God’s gifts. You will learn that in order to say yes to eternal things, you will need to say no to temporary things.

If you are struggling with sin, talk to God about it. He already knows what areas we fall short in. Just give it to him. Matthew 11:29,30 says “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Once you fully surrender, you can achieve peace and He will help you takes steps to overcome.

Finish Strong: Week 1 – Facing Trials with Joy

First off, I want to say, if you are not connected with RightNow Media, you are going to miss out on a huge resource for this Bible study. We just started a video series on the Book of James presented by Francis Chan and our discussion is going to bounce off the videos. If you would like to be part of the Bible study and have access to the videos, please contact Pastor Juan with the Venue to get started!

Pastor Juan asked if I would do a bit of a weekly recap for those who don’t get to join us in person on Tuesday nights. I’m going to try to keep this post as close to the actual discussion we had but you may will definitely find some additional opinions and thoughts of my own.

I think I have prefaced enough but just in case, if you haven’t already, now would be a good time to read James 1:1-12 and watch the first video in the series.

If you aren’t Bible savy, the book of James is a letter to the persecuted church and it’s about true faith. If you are a Christian, then you’re in luck, this letter is written to you.

James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I don’t know about you, but a joyful attitude was, and is, usually the last thing on my mind when it comes to trials. This is how I imagine what James is saying:

Oh, how am I doing? Well,  not sure exactly what I’m going to do career wise but it’s ok. It’s a joy working here with this coworker that is basically annoying me every time I speak with her but it’s okay! And my finances are a little out of whack but honestly, it’s a joy because it keeps me from going out with my friends who like to go out and party every weekend. I mean, I’m a bit lonely but it’s ok! Honestly, I consider it a joy!

NO. That is not how it works in my brain and if you were honest, it’s probably not how it works in yours either! It’s goes a little more like this:

Oh, how am I doing? Well, you’re going to be sorry you asked! My 9-5 job doesn’t give me purpose and I’m not on the track I thought I would be for my life. Which is stressing me out and is depressing me. My finances are a freaking mess. I feel alone in my walk with Christ, and in general. And to top it off, I’m about to lose my cool on my coworker if I spend another freaking minute talking to her and I just might lose my job in the process!

When trials come our way, we usually feel stressed, frustrated, doubtful of God and ourselves, and just drained. Sometimes it hard to keep the joy at 100% when you only feel 40%. But has being negative about a situation ever brought anything positive into your life? Has speaking negativity ever blessed you? I highly doubt it.

So how do you keep the joy? How do you persevere through a trial? What good comes from the trials?

Whether you believe it or not, God has created you for something great and His plan for you is great. Pastor Juan said, “Greatness can be found in who you are, what you do, and where you are right now.” Those who are the best of the best did not achieve greatness because everything was easy. They achieved it because they rose above their trials. Sometimes, especially when we lose someone we love, we don’t see the point. We don’t understand why God would allow unimaginable grief into our lives. Pure joy? Forget about it. God is going to use this for something positive? I don’t see how that’s possible at all.

It may not be today. It may not even be this month. But whatever you’re going through, whether it’s financial struggle, loneliness, grief, crisis of identity and purpose, just hang on and look forward. It will produce good fruit if you allow it to. If you are focusing on what happened in the past, you will become bitter. You will get stuck in a moment and it will define you and your future. You don’t want your future to be marked with discontent, anger, and bitterness. You want it to be defined by perseverance, holiness, joy , and contentment. Like in Finding in Nemo, “just keep swimming”. If you’re going to go down, go down with a smile on your face. If you don’t understand how something is going to help you, ask yourself how it can help someone else. You aren’t a slave to your trials and situations. Make it serve you! What are you choosing to get out of it? Are you going to learn to trust God more? How love harder? How to persevere? How to be wise? It’s up to you.

Create an environment that produces positivity, even if you don’t believe what is being said. Subtle changes in your environment will significantly alter your perspective and attitude. Listen to Christian music while you’re cleaning or driving. Place a Bible verse on your mirror. Set an alarm every 2 hours that says something positive. Walls are built brick by brick and so is the positivity in your life.

And when all you need is some advice, remember to be cautious of you get it from. Just because someone calls themselves a Christian does not mean that they give Godly advice. Listen to what they say but listen to God first. Listen to words of wisdom from your pastor or other leaders in your church. Listen to someone who will shoot it to you straight and won’t cater their answer to your feelings and tell you what you want to hear.

Above all else, love God. Ask God to help you love Him. Love is sustaining. Even when we don’t get the plan or don’t understand the value of our situation, continue to follow where God’s love leads. You can be faithful without knowing all the answers. Don’t forget that in the end, everything will work out.

Don’t forget to join us next week for James 1:13-18. The Venue is held every Tuesday at 6:30 at the Venue house next to LIFE Church. If you have any questions or would like access to the videos, please contact Pastor Juan or his wife Kacie and they will get you to where you need to be!