Category Archives: Deeper Life Studies

Bible Study Testers Needed!

Hey all!

Last year I wrote a study on the book of James and posted most of it here on my blog. I’m looking now to make it into an ebook and need some testers. If you’d like to help me by reading through the study and offering specific feedback over the next few weeks I’d appreciate it so much. Please shoot me an email or comment on this post if you are interested and I’ll get you the text of the study asap.

Here is a sampling of the study itself.

Thanks friends!

deeper life study james bible

If We Got What We Wished For – Deeper Life: James – Day 15

Begin your time with prayer

James 4:1-5 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions. Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy. Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?

deeper life bible study james 4:5 faithful to god elizabeth cravillionReactions
Think of a recent argument you’ve had or hurt you’ve experienced recently.

What caused it?

Digging below the surface
What does James say causes the conflicts and quarrels among people?

Why does he use the term “adulterers” here?

What do you see about God’s character or what he wants in this passage?

Making it stick
What is it that you want right now that God hasn’t chosen to give you?

What are your motives for wanting some of those things you don’t have?

What do you want more than anything else in the world? For me, it’s a comfortable, fair, orderly life where I’ve done my best and am duly rewarded. Those desires lie at the root of just about every negative encounter I have.

So for example, I do a good job mothering and expect a well-behaved child in return. He melts down in the checkout aisle of the grocery store. I struggle with him, trying to pay for my groceries, feeling the judging eyes of the clerk on me. Anger boils up inside of me. It isn’t fair that I’m being judged by my child’s conflict. I’m not comfortable. Nothing about that ordeal was orderly or fair. My “reward” for good mothering was the opposite of what I wanted.

So I let those desires dictate how I respond to the people in my life. In the van, I blow up at my son. I think sharp, negative thoughts about the clerk who looked at us so critically and those thoughts shape how I think of her every time I see her.

When I choose my own desires over what God wants, I’m fighting on the enemy’s side. I’m professing to follow Christ but I’m living a double life, like a spouse having an affair. It’s a miserable existence.

The NLT Bible translates verse 5 this way: “Do you think the scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.” God is jealous for our hearts. He knows that when my desires are for him and for the best way, then I will have peace with myself and others.

God, I chase after the natural desires in my heart. I want life to go a certain way and am too quick to sacrifice my relationship with you and others to make sure I get what I want. Forgive me for my selfishness, God. Please change my desires. Please show me what you want and give me a hunger for those things. Trusting you is the only way to receive true peace I long for.

Wisdom from Heaven – Deeper Life: James – Day 14

deeper life bible study james wisdom from above god elizabeth cravillionBegin your time with prayer

James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.

How many times is “wisdom” mentioned here?

What do you think of when you hear that word?

Digging below the surface
What are the evidences of true wisdom? (comb through the whole passage and make a list)

What are the evidences of earthly wisdom?

Thinking back through the book of James, where does true wisdom come from?

Making it stick
What is wisdom? What do you need it for?

How often do you ask God for wisdom?

In this passage James points out the root of sin – bitter jealousy and selfishness. Jealousy is another word for discontentment. Selfishness describes a heart that worships anything but God. When I am either discontent or selfish, any number of other sins start to come out in my words and actions. I quit trusting. I quit giving. I quit loving.

But when I look at life through the wisdom God gives me – the truth that he loves me and his ways are best for me – I experience the opposite of those things. Trusting God always brings peace. And as I trust God, he purifies me, and grows good things in my heart, like gentleness, mercy, and impartiality.

So where do I practice discontent and selfishness more than purity and peace? Those are the areas I’m leaning on my own definition of wisdom rather than God’s.

Lord, I want to love peace more than I do. I want this harvest of righteous fruits. I know it will only come as I allow the Spirit to produce it in me. I know it will only come as you cut away the dead branches of selfishness and discontent in me. Please show me what I need to release and where I need to grow. Then help me to obey. I will obey you, Lord.

What Controls Your Tongue? Deeper Life: James – Day 12

Begin your time with prayer

James 3:1-5 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual, able to control the entire body as well. And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies. Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination directs. So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze.

What stands out to you in this passage?

Digging below the surface
List the two figures of speech James uses here.

What does he compare the tongue to?

Why do we put bits in horses’ mouths and a rudder on a boat?

What does this have to do with our tongue?

Making it stick
Do you have trouble with your words?

Where is your struggle coming from?

What does God expect from us in our words?

deeper life bible study james tame the tongue elizabeth cravillionNotes
Do you ever feel like your tongue has a mind of its own? I know I do! “Where did THAT come from?” I think after saying something I didn’t mean.

I like James’ illustrations in this passage because they give us insight into a solution for our problems with our words. A horse’s bit and a boat’s rudder are used by someone else to steer them. Believe it or not, we do actually have control over what our tongues say. Jesus said that our mouths speak what our hearts feel (Luke 6:45). So even if I didn’t “mean” to say something, those words came from my heart.

Is my will or my emotions guiding the ship of my heart? Am I letting God transform me from the inside out so that my words reflect a Christ-like heart?

Also, James speaks here of being a teacher. Are you aware of how you influence others, no matter what your position in life? Everyone has someone looking up to them. That privilege comes with serious responsibility. Our words have the power to lead others in a right or a wrong way. Are we using them wisely?

Lord, I say a lot of stupid and thoughtless words. Too often it’s because I take over the reigns. I want you to control my heart and change me so that my words come from a pure heart that loves others. Guard my mouth and give me your words to speak. Amen.

A Living Faith – Deeper Life: James – Day 11

For 10 days of this study I’ve been sharing different things I do when I spend time with God. Think back through them and begin your time today with one of them or by just talking to God.

clouds elizabeth cravillion deeper life james bible studyScripture
James 2:20-26 But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

What does “dead faith” mean to you?

Have you heard of Abraham and Rahab?

Digging below the surface
To get the full effect of these verses, check out the details of these two individuals’ stories in other parts of the Bible.
Abraham – Genesis 22, Hebrews 11:17-19
Rahab – Joshua 2 and 6, Hebrews 11:31

How did these two people demonstrate their faith by their works?

Making it stick
Ask God to show you what part of your faith you are struggling to live out.

Is there something God is asking you to do that seems too hard?

God knows our hearts. When I say something, he knows even better than I do if it’s true. So he asks for my obedience. He wants me to trust that what he says is best and to demonstrate that by acting.

We can’t save ourselves. James isn’t saying that we can work hard enough to make God let us into heaven. Abraham and Rahab didn’t save themselves. They believed that God could save them. They believed God’s promises and lived like they believed them.

If I lived like I believed God’s promises, my life would change day by day. I would grow closer to him. I would reflect more of his light to the dark world. I would love holding nothing back. The broken places inside me would heal. Then when people looked at me, they would see Jesus. And they would know I believed him, even without my sermons.

Lord, I’ll be honest. I feel like living out my faith is a losing battle many days. The more I try to be consistent, the more discouraged I feel. Please help me not to focus on what I think are results but instead on just obeying moment by moment and trusting you for both results and feelings. I want a living faith that shines brightly to others, telling them you are worth it.

The Law Gives Freedom – Deeper Life: James – Day 9

Today before praying, take 5 minutes to write a list of things you are thankful for. Specific things. Like this:
Melting snow this morning
My boy’s kind heart
My girl’s happy attitude lately
Good times with God this week
Phone conversation with my friend
Clarity about that sticky job situation

Recognize God’s gifts. It’s an amazing way to tune in your heart to what he’s doing around you.

Then ask him to meet with you today.

James 2:8-13 But if you fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.

Now we’re digging in to the word of God in the Old Testament law, which the Jews were super familiar with. What commands does James list?

Have you heard them before?

Digging below the surface
Start thinking through this section by looking at verse 12 first (starting with “Speak…”). How does this idea of a “law that gives freedom” change the tone of the passage?

Is James making a list of dos and don’ts in this book so we feel guilty?

Go back to the Old Testament book of law, Deuteronomy. Read 6:4-9. Now compare Matthew 22:35-40 and Galatians 5:14. What is the most important law?

Making it stick
Do God’s commands make you feel guilty?

Should they?

deeper life freedom james 2 bible study elizabeth cravillionNotes
For years I’ve lived under God’s law as if I had to keep working harder to be a better Christian. All the commands in the Bible seemed to yell at me, “You failure! You can never be a good person. You can never make God happy!”

Reality check: I don’t have to work to make God happy! James writes that if I fail to keep just one of God’s commands, I’m guilty. But I don’t have to stay guilty. Jesus paid for my guilt when he died on the cross. He loves me just the way I am. He makes me a new person, free from past guilt! I could never be perfect, and I don’t have to be, because Jesus was.

“Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom.” God gives us his law so we understand that by obeying him life goes better for us. We are blessed (James 1:25) when we obey, but we shouldn’t walk around looking for God’s pat on our back for doing a good job.

I get to choose to love others (in this passage, particularly, without partiality) because it is God’s way of freedom. If I’m honest, when I choose not to love others, I’m letting a chain of selfishness hang around my heart. God doesn’t want that for me. His law sets me free.

God, I’m just going to write this verse on my heart. I get to speak and act like a person judged by a law that gives freedom, not condemnation. Jesus, thank you for taking my condemnation on the cross so that I can be free.

Deeper Life: James – Day 8

Try looking up Psalm 119:10-16 and praying it to God. Paraphrase it to include yourself as you pray.

James 2:1-7 My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if someone comes into your assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing, and a poor person enters in filthy clothes, do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”? If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to?

In your own words, what was happening in the churches James was writing to, according to these verses?

Does it sound familiar at all?

Digging below the surface
Define “prejudice.” In what ways can Christians show prejudice toward each other?

How does God feel about prejudice?

How does God view wealth? Does it matter to him how rich someone is?

Making it stick
Have you been on the receiving end of prejudice? How did that make you feel?

As you’ve been thinking through this, has God made you aware of any prejudice in your own heart?

bible study james deeper life prejudice elizabeth cravillion

James addresses the Christ-followers kindly. They’re on the same team, he points out. We’re all following the amazing, wonderful, glorious Lord Jesus Christ, together. Jesus loves everyone equally. He gave his life for everyone regardless of age, money, social status, etc.

1 Peter 1:17 says God doesn’t show “the slightest favoritism” (Phillips). Yet how quickly I make distinctions. Nice clothes, nice car, corporate job = important person. Dirty t-shirt and jeans, beater car (or none), works shift work, unemployed = less important person.

Or, breaking it down further… Someone who is socially awkward, too friendly or too needy = less important. Someone who may actually be poor but maybe just looking for drug money = less important.

People in a different social class than we are don’t usually live in our standard of “normal.” Their baggage looks different – sometimes messier than ours – and we hesitate to rub shoulders with them. But what makes our standard of normal the only valid one? There will always be people with more or less money than you and I. We’re not the ones who get to make distinctions.

In another passage (Romans 14:15), the Bible speaks of seeing others as the people “for whom Christ died.” Jesus sees every person as worth giving everything for.
I should see others through the eyes of God’s grace and love and reach out to them with that motivation.

Lord, to be really honest, I struggle to know how to reach out to people who seem “poor” to me, especially when they cross the understood boundaries of society. When I see someone needy, too often I judge them or worry that they’re going to hurt me or take too much from me. God, I really want to love like you do. I want to be wise but I want to be courageous in how I love. Show me what distinctions I’m making. Show me how to serve others without asking what’s in it for me. Show me just how deep your love for me and for others really is.

Deeper Life: James – Day 7

Today instead of writing out a sample prayer, I encourage you to think on your own. Where is your heart at as you sit down with God today? Ask him to speak to you and draw you close – in your own words.

James 1:22-27 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does. If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

james bible study deeper life elizabeth cravillion Reactions
What figure of speech/illustration does James use here?

Picture yourself in that illustration. Does it make sense?

Digging below the surface
What are we called to do with God’s word (“the message” and “the law of liberty”)?

What is true “religion,” according to this? Does that line up with your previous definition of it?

Make a quick run back through chapter 1. (use the text here or on or a book copy of the Bible) How many times and ways is God’s word mentioned?

How important does knowing it seem to our faith?

Making it stick
What are you doing with God’s word in your everyday life?

It is so incredibly easy to learn more about God, more about the Bible, more about faith, and think, “Shoot, I’ve got this,” then go out and forget it exists. I start living in my own strength, fighting my own battles, and getting worn down. I start complaining, getting irritated with others, or living selfishly because I’m not remembering God’s word. I’m not living in the reality that I belong to God.

It’s a privilege to follow him. Obedience brings me blessing! We have a saying in our house: Life goes better when we obey. (I stole that from a Mom podcast.) When disciplining our kids we emphasize that we have a hard time obeying, just like they do, and that Jesus was the only one who perfectly obeyed. We need God’s help with this life!

Lord, your word is alive. You use it often and in powerful ways in my life. I can’t grow, and I can’t keep myself from believing lies unless I obey your word and let it change me. Please keep this reality in the forefront of my mind so that I keep actively seeking you in your word.

Deeper Life: James – Day 6

I’m coming to you today with a quiet heart. I’m sipping this coffee and listening to the silence and the faint voices from the TV downstairs. It’s a privilege to spend time with you, God. Thank you. As I read today, please show me more wonderful things about who you are and what you’re doing. Amen.

James 1:19-21 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls.

What first comes into your mind as you read this?

Digging below the surface
Make a list of the commands/challenges in this passage.

Define some things. What do you think the following terms are talking about – “God’s righteousness,” “evil excess,” “message implanted within you”? Use a different translation or two and compare what they’re saying.

How does the message of salvation impact how we listen, speak, and keep our temper?

Making it stick
What are you going to do about these challenges from James?

Pray about it and seek God’s help with any area you feel weak in.

bathroom mirror bible verse study deeper life james elizabeth cravillion

The Phillips version says this: “Man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness.” Bam! I don’t know about you, but I have a fierce temper. It kind of strikes like lightning and then blows away in the smoke.

There are times when anger is healthy. It’s a God-given emotion. But like every other emotion, we can abuse it. It is not healthy for me to snap harshly at people who interrupt my nicely controlled plans. So for example, my son disobeys one too many times and I lose it. My temper tantrum definitely isn’t going to help him obey – it isn’t accomplishing God’s purpose.

So convicting, right?

But here’s the blessing. The message of salvation – that God loves me and poured out his grace and forgiveness on me – didn’t only save me the moment I first believed it. No, it continues to save me and make me new every day. I can’t change myself. But God and his word can.

This verse is on my bathroom mirror. I see it every day and God reminds me that I can’t accomplish his goodness through my own efforts.

Lord, my temper is wrong. It will never accomplish anything I want it to. It will never give me the control I want. Will you use your word as I read it to cleanse my heart and soften me? I’m sick of losing control and giving in to my flesh. You alone save me from my sin.

Deeper Life: James – Day 5

God, I’m facing a long day. I’m struggling in my heart and just need peace. I need confidence. Everything feels overwhelming. Is it true that you can speak to me through your word? Will you prove that to me today? Will you open my eyes as I read and show me that you’re there? That you’re with me today?

James 1:16-18 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters. All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

What jumps off the page as you read this passage?

What is James saying, in your own words?

Digging below the surface
Make a list of the things James writes about God here. Think through them. Are any of them new to you?

Read verses 13-18 straight through (yesterday’s and today’s passages). Compare and contrast what the verses say God DOESN’T do with what he DOES.

Making it stick
If we really believed that God is generous and giving and that he never changes, would our daily lives look any different?

How is our thankfulness today?

james 1:17 deeper life elizabeth cravillionBehind the Scene Notes
“Firstfruits” is an expression from the Old Testament. In the law, God asked the Jews to bring him the first part of their harvest (hence “first-fruit”) as an offering. They were to acknowledge God’s gifts before they kept any of the harvest for themselves. Deuteronomy 26 explains that God provided for the people because he treasured them and he wanted them to remember his love.

In this passage, James is reminding the Jews of God’s history of generosity. Through Christ (“the message of truth”), God brings us into his family. We are a new creation – the first part of God’s new creation. One day he will create a new heaven and earth for those who love him. The Jews James wrote to were witnessing the beginning of God’s new creation –the very first believers in Christ. One day all of us will witness the rest of his new creation, coming straight from his loving, generous heart.

God is not a God who tempts people. He’s a God who gives good gifts! He’s a God who never changes. I’m convicted when I read this. So often I live like God must be stingy with his grace for me and with the fruit his Spirit can produce in me. But he willingly made me his daughter through the word of truth. He gives and gives and gives. He never says, “Come on, get some endurance going here. Be perfect. Don’t sin,” without helping me. And he never gets tired of helping me! It’s so good to be his.

God, you saved me, just because you love me! You have created a new heart in me. I still struggle with temptation and sin but I understand that you’re not the one tempting me. Lord, will you remind me that you give me good gifts? Will you help me to be thankful? Thank you for never changing, and for being so good. Guide my steps today. Help me to have victory over sin and discouragement. Amen.