James is absolutely one of the most practical books in the Bible. It is a book that you can read it and walk away from it with some real ideas of things that you can actually do to be more like the kind of person that God wants you to be. It's not necessarily one of my favorites, but I do appreciate it for that reason.
James starts off talking about how trials, though they are difficult, are good for us as Christians in the long run. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
He speaks of the importance of wisdom and being willing to ask God for it. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
A few paragraphs later, he talks of being wise enough to listen to the Word and put it into action. "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James even gets specific about what it looks like to do what the Word says. "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."
James continues on this theme, stressing the importance of action that must go along with our faith. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well-fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
James warns against materialism and being distracted by the things of this world. He reminds the people that "friendship with the world is hatred toward God." To help give further perspective, he reminds the people of the brevity of life. "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
Finally, James ends with one of my favorite passages, which talks of the importance of praying for each other. "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
The book of Jude is another short little, one-chapter book which speaks against false teachers. It instructs to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." But I think it's very important to pay attention to what kind of person he instructs to contend against: "godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."
In warning against such false teachers, Jude gives a couple of important instructions. Regarding oneself, he says, "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."
Regarding others, he says, "Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."