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.