James 4-5 The Voice (VOICE)
Worldly wisdom may promise the good life, but it leads to chaos and destruction every time. Ultimately true wisdom comes from God.
4 Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? 2 You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. 3 And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. 4 You are adulterers. Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. 5 Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”?[a] 6 You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says,
God opposes the proud,
7 So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. 8 Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.
Since the beginning, our loving Creator has been pursuing us, drawing us closer to Him. He invites us to move closer to Him so we can be fully His.
9 Now is the time to lament, to grieve, and to cry. Dissolve your laughter into sobbing, and exchange your joy for depression. 10 Lay yourself bare, facedown to the ground, in humility before the Lord; and He will lift your head so you can stand tall. 11 My brothers and sisters, do not assault each other with criticism. If you decide your job is to accuse and judge another believer, then you are a self-appointed critic and judge of the law; if so, then you are no longer a doer of the law and subject to its rule; you stand over it as a judge. 12 Know this—there is One who stands supreme as Judge and Lawgiver. He alone is able to save and to destroy, so who are you to step in and try to judge another?
13 Listen carefully, those of you who make your plans and say, “We are traveling to this city in the next few days. We’ll stay there for one year while our business explodes and revenue is up.” 14 The reality is you have no idea where your life will take you tomorrow. You are like a mist that appears one moment and then vanishes another. 15 It would be best to say, “If it is the Lord’s will and we live long enough, we hope to do this project or pursue that dream.” 16 But your current speech indicates an arrogance that does not acknowledge the One who controls the universe, and this kind of big talking is the epitome of evil. 17 So if you know the right way to live and ignore it, it is sin—plain and simple.
5 Hey, you rich folk, misery is on its way; so cry and moan 2 because you will watch your riches rot before your eyes as the moths devour your fine clothes. 3 Your stockpile of silver and gold is tarnished and corroded, and this rust will stand up in the final judgment and testify against you. It will eat your flesh like fire and become a permanent and painful reminder that you have hoarded your wealth through these last days. 4 Listen. You held back a just wage from the laborers who mowed your fields, and that money is crying out against you, demanding that justice be done. The cries of the people who harvested your crops and made you a profit have fallen upon the ears of the supreme Lord of heavenly armies. 5 Your life on the earth has been one of luxury, pleasure, and endless consumption; you have feasted to your hearts’ content on animals you slaughtered, but now the day of slaughter comes for you. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous man, and he did not defend himself.
7 For this reason, my brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the return of the Lord. Look! The farmer knows how to wait patiently for the land to produce vegetables and fruits. He cannot harvest a freshly planted seed. Instead, he waits for the early and the late showers to nourish the soil. 8 You need this same kind of patience, so in the meantime, strengthen your resolve because the Lord will be coming soon.
9 Brothers and sisters, don’t waste your breath complaining about one another. If you judge others, you will be judged yourself. Be very careful! You will face the one true Judge who is right outside the door. 10 The prophets who declared the word of the Lord are your role models, my brothers and sisters, for what it means to live patiently in the face of suffering. 11 Look, we bless and honor the memory of those who persevered under hardship. Remember how Job endured and how the Lord orchestrated the triumph of his final circumstances as a grand display of His mercy and compassion.
12 It is even more important, my brothers and sisters, that you remember not to make a vow by the heavens or the earth or by anything. When you say “yes,” it should always mean “yes,” and “no” should always mean “no.” If you can keep your word, you will avoid judgment.
13 Are any in your community suffering? They should pray. Are any celebrating? They should sing praises to God. 14 Are any sick? They should call the elders of your church and ask them to pray. They will gather around and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Prayers offered in faith will restore them from sickness and bring them to health. The Lord will lift them up from the floor of despair; and if the sickness is due to sin, then God will forgive their sins. 16 So own up to your sins to one another and pray for one another. In the end, you may be healed. Your prayers are powerful when they are rooted in a righteous life. 17 Remember Elijah? He was a man, no different from us. He prayed with great intensity asking God to withhold the rain; God answered his prayers and did not allow a single drop of rain to fall for three and a half years. 18 It did not rain until Elijah prayed again for God to open the skies, when the rain came down and the earth produced a great crop.
Why should we bother to pray if God already knows what we are going to ask for? Prayer involves so much more than making personal requests. It connects us with God and works to bring our wills into conformity with His.
How, then, should we pray? First, James tells us to pray in community, not just by ourselves and for ourselves. When we pray together, life is shared and community is born. We also confess our sins, not just to God, but to each other. Through this vulnerable transparency, God knits souls together in authentic community, and we discover the true benefit of prayer.
19 Brothers and sisters, if someone you know loses his way and rebels against God, pursue him in love and bring him back to the truth. 20 Know this: If you turn a sinner back from the error of his ways, then you will rescue him from the grips of death and cover the pain and consequences of untold sins.
1 Peter 1-2 The Voice (VOICE)
1 Peter, an emissary[a] of Jesus the Anointed One, to God’s chosen people living as aliens scattered among the unbelievers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2 I am sending this letter to those who have been selected and destined by God the Father and made holy by God the Spirit that you may be obedient to Jesus the Anointed and purified by the sprinkling of His blood. May grace and peace beyond all reckoning be yours.
3 Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope— 4 reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that will never fade or fail. 5 Through faith, God’s power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things. 6 You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. 7 Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold (remember that gold, although it is perishable, is tested by fire) so that if it is found genuine, you can receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, is revealed at last.
Early Christians stand apart from the culture and suffer social stigmas and physical persecution at times. Peter challenges them to remain faithful to Jesus who also suffered for not conforming.
8 Although you haven’t seen Jesus, you still love Him. Although you don’t yet see Him, you do believe in Him and celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words. 9 You are receiving the salvation of your souls as the result of your faith.
10 The prophets who spoke of this outpouring of grace upon you diligently searched and inquired of the Lord about this salvation: 11 to whom and to what time was the indwelling Spirit of the Anointed referring when He told them about the suffering of the Anointed and the honor that would follow it? 12 The Spirit revealed to them they were not serving themselves but you. And you have learned from those who told you the good news by the Spirit that was sent down from heaven. Even the heavenly messengers would like to explore this news.
13 So get yourselves ready, prepare your minds to act, control yourselves, and look forward in hope as you focus on the grace that comes when Jesus the Anointed returns and is completely revealed to you. 14 Be like obedient children as you put aside the desires you used to pursue when you didn’t know better. 15 Since the One who called you is holy, be holy in all you do. 16 For the Scripture says, “You are to be holy, for I am holy.”[b] 17 If you call on the Father who judges everyone without partiality according to their actions, then you should live in reverence and awe while you live out the days of your exile.
18 You know that a price was paid to redeem you from following the empty ways handed on to you by your ancestors; it was not paid with things that perish (like silver and gold), 19 but with the precious blood of the Anointed, who was like a perfect and unblemished sacrificial lamb. 20 God determined to send Him before the world began, but He came into the world in these last days for your sake. 21 Through Him, you’ve been brought to trust in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him for the very reason that your faith and hope are in Him.
22 Now that you have taken care to purify your souls through your submission to the truth, you can experience real love for each other. So love each other deeply from a [pure][c] heart. 23 You have been reborn—not from seed that eventually dies but from seed that is eternal—through the word of God that lives and endures forever. 24 For as Isaiah said,
All life is like the grass,
This is the word that has been preached to you.
2 So get rid of hatefulness and deception, of insincerity and jealousy and slander. 2 Be like newborn babies, crying out for spiritual milk that will help you grow into salvation 3 if you have tasted and found the Lord to be good.
4 Come to Him—the living stone—who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious. 5 Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus the Anointed. 6 For it says in the words of the prophet Isaiah,
See here—I am laying in Zion a stone,
7 To you who believe and depend on Him, He is precious; but to you who don’t, remember the words of the psalmist:
The stone that the builders rejected
8 and of Isaiah:
A stone that blocks their way,
They stumble because they don’t follow the word of God, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received it.
11 Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul. 12 Live honorably among the outsiders so that, even when some may be inclined to call you criminals, when they see your good works, they might give glory to God when He returns in judgment.
13 For the Lord’s sake, accept the decrees and laws of all the various human institutions, whether they come from the highest human ruler 14 or agents he sends to punish those who do wrong and to reward those who do well. 15 You see, it is God’s will that by doing what is right and good you should hush the gabbing ignorance of the foolish. 16 Live as those who are free and not as those who use their freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as God’s servants. 17 Respect everyone. Love the community of believers. Reverence God. Honor your ruler.
The word “submission” evokes concerns about sexism, racism, and dehumanization. Unfortunately there have been good reasons to draw such conclusions. The true purpose of biblical submission, however, is not to sanction any type of inequality but to honor Jesus even in the most difficult circumstances. Offering an attitude of humility toward those who are undeserving of it mirrors the unmerited favor God graciously gives to us. When submission is modeled evenly by all believers—male and female, young and old—it is no longer enslaving, but liberating.
18 If you are a slave, submit yourself to the master who has authority over you, whether he is kind and gentle or harsh as he deals with you. 19 For grace is clearly at work when a person accepts undeserved pain and suffering and does so because he is mindful of God. 20 For what credit is there in enduring punishment you deserve? But if you do what is right and yet are punished and endure it patiently, God will be pleased with you. 21-22 For you were called to this kind of life, as Isaiah said,
He did no wrong deed,
Many believers face intense persecution, but western Christians tend not to experience anything beyond social pressure. Are we merely pursuing comfort, or are we willing to swim against culture?
The Anointed One suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps. 23 When He was verbally abused, He didn’t return the abuse; when He suffered, He didn’t make threats to cause suffering in return; instead, He trusted that all would be put right by the One who is just when He judges. 24 He took on our sins in His body when He died on the cross[i] so that we, being dead to sin, can live for righteousness. As the Scripture says, “Through His wounds, you were healed.”[j] 25 For there was a time when you were like sheep that wandered from the fold, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your lives.
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