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.