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.