Thursday, December 23, 2010

1 Peter 1:10-12 - Why Read the Old Testament?

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:10-12

Summary: The salvation given to you is the same that was revealed to the prophets.

Thoughts: The writer of this letter thought that the entire Old Testament was simply anticipation and preparation for the coming of Christ and the salvation that we gained from his death and resurrection. Although I don't agree that the Hebrew scriptures can be read only as preparation for Christ, I do think that they are important. They give us great insight into God and help us see how the story of God's people progressed throughout the Scriptures. For me, this text is a reminder that God has been at work for thousands of years. Even the prophets of the Old Testament spoke about the grace that can be ours; grace that God freely gives us, if we are willing to take it.

Prayer: God, thank you for all of the Scripture that you have given us. Help us to study it so that we might know how You are active in the world: past, present and future. Amen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

1 Peter 1:6-9 - Do I Have to Suffer?

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:6-9

Summary: You rejoice even though you have suffered trials, so that your faith may result in praise of Christ. That faith will save your soul.

Thoughts: It seems like there are alot of Christians these days that think that God is just around to make them happy. For them their religion is something that they pull out when it is convenient. But this Scripture reminds us that knowing God does not keep us from suffering. In fact, the gospel may be the cause of our suffering! But we can get through those hard times by focusing on the relationship that we have with God, through Jesus Christ. For as this writer says, "Although you hve not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy." In this Advent season, let us remember how we love Christ and rejoice in the memory of his birth!

Prayer: Lord thank you for the gift of your Son, who brought us into this amazing relationship with you! Be with us in our suffering and in our joy. Share it all with us. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

1 Peter 1:3-5 - What is your inheritance?

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-5

Summary: God has given us new birth through Christ, an inheritance that is never lost. We are protected by God's power.

Thoughts: With the economy the way it is, I often find myself worrying about how I'm going to have enough money to live on until I die. This means I'm also worrying about what sort of inheritance I will be able to leave to my children. So when Peter talks here about an inheritance we have from God that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, that sounds really good to me! I don't have to worry about my stock investments losing value or the baseball cards geting wet and molding. God is keeping my inheritance safe for me.  Because when I really look at what valuable things I am leaving my kids, what it comes down to is faith. The most important thing that we share with our children is our faith. Young people learn their faith from their parents. They see how you live out your faith each day. They see if you read the Bible, if you pray, and how you treat people around you. I'm not saying that it's not important for us to do what we can fior our children financially. It is. But it is more iimportant that we share our faith with them. If they can see that we have a strong relationship with God and how that changes our lives, they will begin to yearn for that relationship also.

Prayer: God I yearn for a better relationship with you. I want to focus on those things that will orient me in your direction and help me to follow Christ's path. Amen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1 Peter 1:3 - the Son of God

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3

Summary: God has given us new birth through Jesus Christ.

Thoughts: I think that verse 3 summarizes the New Testament when it says "By his (God's) mercy he has gien us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Let's unpack this a little. Everything that we have is available to us because of God's mercy. Like God's grace, God's mercy is unending.  We have been given a "new birth" or another chance by God.  But we were given that chance through what Jesus Christ did for us. By being obedient to death, Christ gave us new life. Just as he was resurrected from the dead, so we will be. Jesus came to earth in human form so that we would be able to see God in him. His entire life was about showing us who God is, through his words and his actions. And when he died on the cross and God raised him up again, we saw that nothing was greater than God, including death.  I think in this Advent season it is timely to think, not just about the birth of Jesus, but also about his life and death and resurrection. The birth of Jesus, the son of God, is important, but the rest of his life is an important part of the story, as well.

Prayer: Have mercy on us, living God. During this Advent season help us to remember Your Son, who came to earth so that we might know You better. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

1 Peter 1:1-2 - Are You Chosen?

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1-2
Summary: Peter lists several church to whom he is writing this letter.  He says they were chosen and destined by God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ.

Thoughts: I think it might be easy to read this Scripture and think that the author is saying that only certain people are chosen by God.  There are several groups who believe themselves the chosen few. If you are not one of them, you are definitely not chosen by God and are not going to be wih God after you die. I always wonder how they bring new people in to their group. How do they know who is chosen?!  These beliefs don't line up, however, with my image of God. I believe in a God who loves all of us, who loves creation, who weeps with us and rejoices with us. This God that I believe in has chosen each of us and is waiting for us to choose back.  This God came to earth in human form to show us the love of God in person. This God is best captured by the last line of this text: "May grace and peace be yours in abundance." God wants us to be in relationship with God and wants us to have grace and peace in abundance!

Prayer: God, you have chosen each of us. Let us also choose to be in relationship with you, so that we might have grace and peace in abundance! Amen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

James 5:19-20 - Pointing in the Right Direction

Scripture: James 5:19-20

Summary: If anyone wanders from the truth of Christ and is brought back by another person, they will save the sinners soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Thoughts: I've always had some issues with talk about saving souls. It sounds too much like I am taking credit for something that God is doing. With that said, however, I think that any time we can point someone back to God, we have done a good thing. I have been working in full-time youth ministry for 9 years and I'm not sure if I have saved any souls. But I know that several times I have redirected people, turning them around and pointing them in the direction of God. I think that's really all that we can do is be pointers. We can't actually save someone but we can help re-direct them. I don't think I'm as fancy as a GPS, that will take you directly to your destination by the shortest path. Instead I'm the pointer finger, which shows you the way, but not necessarily the best path. You have to get the GPS model from someone wiser than me.

Prayer: Lord, help me to stay aware of those around me who might need a little direction so that I can be a guide for you. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

James 5:13-18 - The Power of Prayer

Scripture: James 5:13-18

Summary: Pray for yourself and pray for one another and amazing things will happen!

Thoughts: This is a great scripture for everyday living!  If you are suffering, you should pray. If you are cheerful, you should sing songs of praise. If you are sick, ask the elders to annoint you with oil and pray for you. It says, "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."  What more do we need to know!?!? I've often wondered exactly how prayer works. Does God change thing just because we pray? Or is the change in us, causing us to do things differently? Or does it change the person that we are praying for? I don't know. But I do know that no matter how it works, it does. Prayer does change things. It is powerful and effective, as this scripture says. So the more time that we spend in prayer, the more we will change things for the better! Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord let prayer be always on my lips and in my thoughts, for through it you cause powerful things to happen! Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

James 5:12 - your word

Scripture: James 5:12

Summary: Don't swear, by any oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Thoughts: The scripture says "let your 'Yes' be yes and your 'No' be no."  I think perhaps the writer was trying to tell us not to swear, as he says "by heaven or by earth."  To me this is linked with taking God's name in vain. If you say, "yes, by God, I am going to do that!" it is using the name of God to guarantee my action. But it's really not God who is going to make sure that I do something. It's me that makes sure to do it. I wish that I could make my 'Yes' be yes.  Unfortunately, on occasion I will promise to be somewhere or to take my daughter somewhere, but when the time comes I have forgotten or have made another appointment, another promise that I also need to keep. And so my 'Yes' becomes a probably or a most likely instead of a yes. I want to learn to be more careful with my 'Yes' so that others will know exactly what it means.

Prayer: God, help me to learn how to say yes only to the most important things, the things that I am indeed committed to. Help my 'Yes' to be yes and my 'No' to be no. Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

James 5:7-11 - Lord give me patience

Scripture: James 5:7-11

Summary: As the farmer patiently waits for the crop, so we must wait for the coming of the Lord.

Thoughts: In the time when this New Testament letter was written, most Christians believed that Jesus Christ would return in their lifetime.  Imagine what life must have been like, expecting Christ to come back any day. It would be difficult to start any long term projects. What would be the point in planting crops if Christ would be coming back before the harvest? Why have children if his coming was imminent?  This writer knows the frustration of waiting. But he tells his readers "The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains." Are we as patient as the early Christians? Are we willing to wait for the rains?  Not just the early rains but the late ones? As a youth minister, I sometimes find myself impatient with the progress of the work that I am doing. I find myself wanting to see the fruits of my labor. But I need to learn to wait for the fruit to mature before I pick it. I need to be patient and know that the work that God is doing through me will probably not mature overnight. In fact, I may never see the fruits of my labor. But I need to rest easy, knowing that if I am doing God's work that someday it will be time for the harvest. And what a harvest it will be!

Prayer: God I know that I need patience.  As the saying goes, "Lordgive me patience and give it to me right now!" Help me to wait and let the crop mature in its own time, while I continue to do your work. Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

James 5:1-6 - You can make a difference!

Scripture: James 5:1-6

Summary: Rich people, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted. You kept your laborers back by fraud. You have murdered the righteous one.

Thoughts: Wow! This writer doesn't hold back his condemnation of the rich! Now before I get carried away, I should say that I don't believe that all rich people are guilty of what this writer is accusing them of. However, we also need to remember that to most of the world we are rich. I'm saying "we" because I'm assuming that most of the readers of this blog are, like me, comfortably middle class. But compared to the majority of people on this world, we are rich.  Do you have a car? Do you have enough food to eat and a safe, comfortable place to stay at night?  Then you, like me, are rich. So when I read this scripture and try to tell myself that he is not writing about me, I have to think again. Because certainly some of the things I buy are made by laborers who are not making a living wage.  Most of the coffee for sale today is harvested by people who are not given a fair wage. Many of our clothes and shoes are made by people or children in sweat shops. Much of our meat comes from animals who are raised in horrible conditions. But what can we do about any of this? Well, we can buy fair trade coffee. We can buy local vegetables and fruits. We can buy free range eggs and meat which comes from local producers. For these and other ways you can make a difference, check out Cool People Care. Because there are thousands of ways that we can make a difference, one thing at a time.

Prayer: God help me to remember that I am your hands and feet. That I can make a difference to the world in which I live. Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

James 4:13-17 - do you have a plan?

Scripture: James 4:13-17

Summary: If you say today or tomorrow we will go to this town, do business, and make money; yet you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Instead say, if the Lord wishes we will live and do this or that.

Thoughts: Is this scripture saying that we should stop planning for the future? I know people who seem to take this route, just going with the flow and following the path of least resistence.  Is that what God is calling us to do? I think not. I believe that God wants us to plan for the future, to dream about where we will be and what we will do. I think what this writer is saying is that we need to remember that we are but a small part of God's plan. By saying "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that" it reminds us that ultimately we are not following our own plan, for our own purposes. Rather we are following God's plan. And we can't always see the entireity of God's plan. So each day perhaps we need to look at our day and see what it is that the Lord wishes us to do with our day.

Prayer: Lord, help me surrender my plan to yours. Amen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

James 4:11-12 - judging others

Scripture: James 4:11-12

Summary: Don't judge each other.Be a doer of the law and not a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge, so who are you to judge your neighbor.

Thoughts: When I read this scripture I find myself thinking about a young lady I know. There was a rumor circulating that she had made some bad choices, involving illegal drugs and sex. When I heard the rumor, I was obviously concerned about her well being, knowing that those kind of choices could have serious consequences for her. But my bigger concern waas the way that other girls in our group began to treat her. And I began to think about how Jesus had treated the people around him: how he had accepted people who had made poor choices in the past. So I began talking to the girls who I heard talking about this young lady. Trying to stress to them that we wanted our church to be a safe place to be, even for people who had made bad choices. Because when you are really honest, you realize that we have all made bad choices in our lives. And although we may consider other people's bad choices worse than ours, who are we to judge someone else?  This is what I see as the crucial point of this scripture. Who are we to judge our neighbors or to judge another youth at our church? Perhaps we can focus more on the person and less on their past. Isn't this what Jesus did?

Prayer: God help me to see past the external facade of each person to see the child of God within. Amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

James 4:7-10 - draw near to God

Scripture: James 4:7-10

Summary: Submit yourselves to God. Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts.

Thoughts: How do I submit myself to God? How do I draw near to God? I was reading another blog last week of a youth minister who had asked his church to give him one day of sabbatical a month. He said the first time that he took this sabbatical time it was very difficult for him to just sit still and do nothing. I have the same problem. I have the "busy" gene which makes me feel nervous if I am not doing something that I consider productive. I'm sure that I got this from my mother, who could never sit still.  In fact, as I sit here trying to blog about this scripture, I have noticed dust on the top of the pictures near my desk and my first inclination is to get up and get something to dust them with. But I am trying to overcome my "busy" gene and allow myself to draw near to God. As an extrovert, blogging is a good way for me to make myself sit down and read scripture and allow God to speak to me. There are lots of ways that you can draw near to God. You can read scripture, pray, or go to church. You can fast (from food or something else that you enjoy). You can go to the local park and sit outside, listening for God. Try them all unl you find ways that draw you toward God. As this scripture says, "Humble yourself before the Lord and he will exalt you."

Prayer: Lord I want to draw near to you but often I'm unwilling to take the time to make it so. Free me from the chaff with which I fill my life so that I might hear you more clearly. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

James 4:1-6 - needs vs desires

Scripture: James 4:1-6

Summary: We have conflicts among ourselves because we long for things that we don't have. If we are a friend of the world (in other words, wanting worldly things) then we are an enemy of God.

Thoughts: There are so many things that I want but don't have. For instance, my dryer broke a couple of months ago.  Since my washer no longer works on the Permanent Press cycle, I decided that I should just buy a new washer and dryer. After all, the new machines are much more energy efficient than my old ones. So I began saving the $1000 that I would need to buy a new set.  But I still don't have the money because things kept coming up, like my car needing it's 60,000 mile checkup. Luckily, just the other day God taught me a lesson about wanting new things, when someone offered me a used dryer for $50. So now that I have both a washer and dryer again, I find that my "need" for a new washer and dryer was really just a "want." And I find myself wondering, how many of the other things that I think I need are really just desires? It's so easy in this day and time and place to be convinced that you have to have something. But if we let ourselves get too tied up in our desires, then we distance ourselves from God. We fill our lives and time with so much stuff that there is no room for God.

Prayer: Teach me, O Lord, to let go of the clutter in my life and to resist the temptation to own the latest and greatest stuff. Amen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

James 3:13-18 - Wisdom

Note: I have started putting a link to the actual scripture in my blog, so please use that to read the scripture before reading the blog. Not sure why it took me so many years to think of that, but here you have it. :-)

Scripture: James 3:13-18

Summary: Wisdom from God is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits.

Thoughts: I love this particular scripture. As I read it I find myself wondering how much older I will need to be to have this kind of wisdom.  The writer says "Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom."  Do you know someone who is wise in this way?  It reminds me of a few older adults that I know who are both gentle and wise. I have been striving for wisdom all of my life. I have a bachelors degree and two masters degrees and yet is is rare when I feel truly wise. In fact, it seems that the more that I learn in school the more I realize that I don't yet know. Perhaps this is a sign of the beginning of wisdom that I realize how little I really know. I read once that all of our wisdom comes from God. I'm not sure about this, but I do know that the wisdom that I get from God is the same kind that this scripture describes. It is peaceable, gentle, willing to yield and full of mercy and good fruits. I believe that it pleases God when we learn but just knowing things isn't enough.  We also need to put that knowledge to use for the kingdom of God. How can you use your knowledge today to serve God's kingdom?

Prayer: God whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, give us a small bit of your wisdom today and let is show in our works for your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

James 3:5a-12 - controlling the tongue

Scripture: James 3:5a-12

Summary: More about the tongue, how it can both bless the Lord and curse other people.

Thoughts: Why is the tongue so difficult for human beings to control? It is so easy to thoughtlessly blurt out something hurtful, almost as if the tongue had a mind of its own.  And yet with the tongue we also praise God, our creator and redeemer. What a mixed blessing it is! I believe that I'm going to try to go the entire day tomorrow without saying anything negative or hurtful. Perhaps if I keep practicing controlling my tongue it will begin to be more of a blessing to me and those around me, than a curse.

Prayer: Let my words be refreshing to all that I meet so that others may hear your words through mine, O Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

James 3:3-5 - hurtful words

Scripture: James 3:2-5a

Summary: Though the tongue is a small member of the body it is very important. Just as a small rudder guides a large ship, so the tongue controls us.

Thoughts: If I had a quarter for every time that I had said something that I later regretted saying, I'd be a millionaire! As an extravert, it is especially difficult for me to keep from saying things that I shouldn't say.  Often the words pop out of my mouth before I have really thought them through. This writer says that "anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect." How I wish I could live up to that standard! The problem with speaking before you think is that it is impossible to take the words back. Although I can apologize, the hurtful words are still there, hanging in the air between us. Negative words stick with us longer than positive words. So if I'm careful with my words I can make a positive impact with them, rather than a negative one.

Prayer: Lord help me to control my tongue and use my words to build up others rather than tearing them down. Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

James 3:1-2 - teaching

Scripture: James 3:1-2

Summary: We who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Everyone makes mistakes

Thoughts: Those of us that teach, whether it's those who teach every day in school or those who teach in Sunday school, have an incredible responsibility.  Although we like to think that they aren't listening to us, they are picking up far more than we give them credit for. The tricky part is not usually in what we prepare for the lesson.  It's pretty easy to filter that information to make sure it's suitable to be taught.  The problem is in the stuff outside of the lesson.  We also teach by our actions and our casual words. Am I always careful about what I say when my students are near? Do I show them by my actions that they are all important, that they are all loved by me? Or do I play favorites? Do I take part in the gossip that is flying around the room before class starts?  When this scripture says that teachers will be judged with greater strictness, I hear a reminder to be careful at all times to make sure that my actions match my words.  To be certain that the love of God shows through in everything that I do. Because the most important lesson I have to teach is not what is in the lesson plan. It's what is in my heart.

Prayer: Lord shine through me. Let those that I attempt to teach get some small idea of your love through the love that I show them. Amen.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

James 2:18-26 - Whose works are they, anyway?

Scripture: James 2:18-26

Summary: Examples of why faith without works is dead. Abraham was justified when he offered his son as a sacrifice. Rahab was justified by her works when she helped the messengers.

Thoughts: This is more details about the argument about faith and works, continued from the last scripture.  Can you have faith without works?  I think we can only have this if the person with faith doesn't have the opportunity to do good works. But it's hard to imagine an example of someone who doesn't have the chance to do something good for someone else. So I guess it's possible, but unlikely.

Can we have works without faith? Yes. I've seen lots of people who are willing to help others that don't yet have the faith to back it up. Can good works lead you to faith? I think so. How about the youth who doesn't believe but goes on the mission trip to be with her friends? Isn't it possible that she may see God in the faces of the people she is serving or the people she is serving with? That is one of the reasons I try to get every single youth I work with to go on a mission trip. I can see the difference that mission has made in my life. So I hope that God might use mission to make a difference in the lives of the youth that I work with. Because in the end, it's not my work that matters, but the work of God. Sometimes that work is done through another person. But it is always the work of God.

Prayer: God use me to show others what you can do in the world. Amen.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

James 2:14-17 - good works

Scripture: James 2:14-17

Summary: What good is it if you say you have faith but do not have works? Faith without works is dead!

Thoughts: John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) used to say that we are saved by faith alone. All we need for salvation is faith. If we accept the grace that God surrounds us with, then we are saved. Why then, do folks continue to talk about works? Because if you really accept God's gift to you of grace, you will want to respond. You will want to do something in return. So the works that this author talks about are our response to God's love. Even Wesley said that, given the opportunity, everyone who is saved will perform good works. I like to think of it as God filling me up with grace until I am overflowing so that grace bubbles out of me and is seen by other people as good works. God is flowing out of me like a waterfall of good! So it is God that is responsible for the good work and not me.

Prayer: God fill me up with your grace and your love so that I am compelled to respond! Amen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

James 2:8-13 - Show mercy

Scripture: James 2:8-13

Summary: Love your neighbor as yourself. Don't show partiality. Keep the whole law, not just parts. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Thoughts: This whole discussion of the law makes me nervous. The scripture says that we should keep the whole law. That if we fail in one part of the law we are accountable for all of it. It's really easy to convince myself that I am keeping the most important parts of the law. I'm not killing anyone or stealing anything. There's a long list of what Im not doing, that is according to the law, which is all good. But what does God require that I'm not doing?!? The last line of this scipture has a partial answer: "For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." Although I may be following the letter of the law, I'm not showing mercy to everyone that I meet. To be a true child of God I need to be more open to showing mercy to all. This means letting other cars in to my lane at the last minute, forgiving the person who fell through on a promise to me, or accepting the person who is different from me.

Prayer: May I draw strength from the Holy Spirit today to show mercy to all that I meet in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

James 2:1-7 - Favoritism

Scripture: James 2:1-7

Summary: If you show favorites, do you really believe in Jesus Christ? Do you treat a person who is dressed nicely better than the person in dirty clothes? Hasn't God chosen the poor to be heirs of the kingdom?

Thought: How do we explain God's preference for the poor? How can a loving God, who loves each of us more than we can imagine, show preference for some? Perhaps it would help if we look at God like a parent with two children, one of them handicapped. The parent might spend more time or money on the handicapped child than on the other. This does not mean that the parent loves the handicapped child any more or any less. Only that this child needs more attention than the other. Maybe in a similar way, God takes more time for the poor than for the rich. Can we learn a lesson from the way that God invests more in the poor? Can we learn to treat the poor with as much love and deference as we treat the rich? Can we overcome out tendency to 'play favorites,' not only toward the rich but toward those who look and act like us?

Prayer: Help me to act more like a child of God, treating all that I encounter with the love and respect that they deserve as fellow children of God. Amen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

James 1:26-27 - Worthless religion

Scripture: James 1:26-27

Summary: Don't just think that you are religious, but act religious: bridle your tongue and care for the orphans and widows.

Thoughts: So I can talk a good game about my religion. Telling folks that I go to church each Sunday, volunteer regularly, etc. I think I'm religious. But does the rest of my life express my religion as loudly as my talk does? Or instead, do I find myself talking about other people or always putting my own needs before other people's needs ? This is what the author of this scripture is telling us. If we don't "bridle our tongue," we can say hurtful things to or about others. And if we don't "care for the orphans and widows in their distress," are we really living out the faith that we claim? Although it's important to be able to talk about your faith, it's also important that you live it out. Which means being careful what you say and being thoughtful about what you do for others. Is your religion worthless or is it changing your life?

Prayer: God I want to live so that my faith is obvious to all that I meet. Help me to be careful about what I say and to care for those on the margins. Let others see my religion through the things that I do and say. Amen.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

James 1:22-25 - Doers of the word

Scripture: James 1:22-25

Summary: Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

Thoughts: Time after time in the New Testament we are called to action. Although John Wesley said that only the acceptance of God's grace is required for our salvation, he also says that if possible, we must also respond to that grace. How can anyone believe that you have received the grace of God if it doesn't change your actions? God's grace is so amazing, that we can't help but be transformed. So this writer says to us that it is not enough to hear the word, but we must also act upon it. We must be doers of the word. We are called to action each and every day, so that the grace of God will shine through us to the world.

Prayer: I hear your word, Lord, but it is not enough. Let the change that you have wrought in my heart be apparent to all that I meet today. Amen.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

James 1:19-21 - Be quick to listen

Note: I should probably mention that I am assuming that readers of this blog read the scripture when they are reading the blog. Although I include a summary of the scripture, you will miss a good deal of what the scripture says if you depend on my summary.

Scripture: James 1:19-21

Summary: Listen more than you speak and welcome the Word that God has planted in us to save our souls.

Thoughts: The first part of this scripture really speaks to me today (funny that I chose to use the word speaks!). When I'm having a conversation with someone, it is so easy for me to listen to them with only half of my brain, while the other half begins to formulate my response to them. But people who are really good listeners are able to turn this off, so that they give you their entire attention when you are speaking. Then they formulate their response and give that to you. What a different world this would be if we all followed this pattern and became better listeners. On this track, what if we take this same listening skill and apply it to our interaction with God? What if we spent half of our prayer time listening to God with our whole hearts, rather than spending the entire time talking? Isn't prayer really a conversation? Shouldn't we give God our best, listening to any word from God with care?

Prayer: Help me God to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger." And especially to be quick to listen for your word to me. Amen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

James 1:17-18 - Good works

Scripture: James 1:17-18

Summary: All of our generous acts come from God

Thoughts: How many times have I done something good for someone else, just to look back later and pat myself on the back for being so self-less. I used to be really proud that I had made over 20 trips to Juarez to build a house or school or something else. I not only worked but I took teams of people to work alongside of me. Surely there will be some special place in heaven for those of us who worked so tirelessly for others during our short time here on earth. But am I really the one who deserves the credit for the work that I did? Did I raise all of the money for the trips by myself? Did I find a volunteer at the last minute when one of my drivers was unable to go? Would I have done any of that work if it hadn't been for God who enabled me to do so? I don't think so. As the scripture says, I think that "every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above." Our acts are a response to the generous gift of grace that God gives us. The grace that God offers to each of us, with no strings attached.

Prayer: God, thank you for enabling me to serve others in this world in your name. Amen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

James 1:12-16 - Temptation

Scripture: James 1:12-16

Summary: God doesn't tempt us. We are tempted by our own desire.

Thoughts: I have a problem with the Devil. I don't mean that the Devil tempts me daily, rather I have a problem believing that the Devil exists. For me, it is a cop out to say that I am tempted by the Devil. It feels like I'm not owning that the temptation come from within me. Please don't get me wrong and send hate mail trying to convince me that there is a devil. There might be. I don't know. All I'm saying is that I need to own my own temptation. It's my own desires that tempt me, not some being external to me. If I can own that it is my desires, I can then more easily own the response to that. It becomes my responsibility to deal with that desire. This scripture says that God doesn't tempt us, that our own desires tempt us. And that desire leads to sin. So rather than blaming God or the Devil for our desires, we should be asking God to help us control our desires.

Prayer: God our redeemer, help me to control my response to the desires that tempt me, for some of them seem bigger than me. Amen.

Friday, September 24, 2010

James 1:9-11 - Busy-ness

Scripture: James 1:9-11

Summary: The lowly believer will be raised up and the rich brought low, for the rich will wither away.

Thoughts: When I first read this, I think perhaps this is good, since I never have any extra money! But why does this writer say that the rich will wither away? Perhaps the answer may be found in the last line, "in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away." I have discovered that when I have weeks with no real sabbath, that I begin to wither. Since I work for a local church, although I enjoy Sunday morning worship, Sunday is not a sabbath day for me. I often help lead worship, I teach Sunday school, I have meetings, and I lead Youth Fellowship that night. Sunday is at least a 12 hour day for me. So if I don't consistently take another day during the week to take care of myself, to spend time with God, I start to wither away. My response to people is often not as grace filled as I would like for it to be. So I wonder if this writer is not saying that the rich people are too busy and not taking time for God. Even though I am not rich, there is a lesson for me in this scripture. Take time out of your busy-ness to eat dinner with your family, to read a good book, and to spend time with God.

Prayer: Help me God to schedule free time in to my week and to use some of that time to listen for you. Amen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

James 1:3-8 - Listen for God

Scripture: James 1:3-8

Summary: Ask God and it will be given to you, but never doubt.

Thoughts: Although it's easy for me to ask God for help, I often find myself doubting that God will do anything about it. As I think about this I keep focusing on 2 phrases from this scripture. "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God." Well, I'm certainly lacking in wisdom most days. And then it says "But ask in faith, never doubting." Why is it so hard to ask God? Why is it so hard to have faith that God will lead you where you most need to go? I am too willing to downplay what God is able to do in my life. Too willing to dismiss the possibility that if I just listened to God, the way forward would be clear. I need to trust in God and listen more closely to God so that I can follow in God's path.

Prayer: Help me God, to listen more carefully for your voice and to trust that voice when I hear it. Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

James 1:1-2 - God is with us

Scripture: James 1:1-2

Summary: Face your trials with joy because that produces endurance, making you mature and compete.

Thoughts: I'm pretty sure some days that I must be really mature and complete! Some days seem full of trials and I long for just one day without any problems. But then I take a step back and look at the big picture. First, I remember that that are many others whose situation is much worse than mine. It's easy to find someone with more to worry about than me. Second, and most importantly, I try to remember that God never promised us that life would be easy. We don't get an Easy button from God when we decide to follow Jesus Christ. Instead we get a constant companion, the Holy Spirit, who helps us through those troubling times. What a gift we have been given in the companionship of the Spirit! Praise God!

Prayer: Thank you Lord for sending the Spirit to abide with us and give us guidance along your path. Help me to remember to use that help! Amen.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm back!

Well, after taking a 2 year break, I think it is time to revive my blog! :-P

I'm not sure exactly what direction I'm going to take it in. But in the meantime, here is a catch up to my life. I've graduated from Perkins School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity. I am hoping to begin my paperwork to be commissioned as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church in August. I am working full-time as the Youth Minister at Holy Covenant UMC and have been there for 2 1/2 years. My son is graduating from high school in a week. On the same day of my daughter's dance recital! That promises to be a busy day! My husband is working on many different things, but about to start in full-time at C2K for the summer. Our lives promise to be interesting for the next 3 months, for sure!

I'm going to spend the next couple of days figuring out a scriptural basis for my blog. I don't want this to be haphazard fluff about whatever is interesting me at the moment. So I'm going to look for something to be my foundation, my starting point.

And just in case anyone ever reads this blog, thanks for taking the time! And I hope to see you again soon. Dios te bendiga! God bless you!