James 5:13-20 – Prayer is Powerful

Read James 5:13-20

The answer is the same – PRAY! The question could be, “What should I do next?” or “How am I ever going to make it through this day” or “Am I ever going to be well again?” Pray. Pray. Pray.

If you are searching for something or troubled by circumstance, pray. Prayers are answered everyday.

Do you ever wonder why your prayers aren’t answered. Could it be that they were just answered differently than you would have hoped?

Did you offer your prayer in faith? What does that mean to you? To me, it means I pray to God with the faith and assurance that he is going to answer my prayer according to his will. If we are praying outside his will for us, it is likely to be answered differently than we were hoping.

We used to use the first half of verse 16, in our recovery ministry. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There is a lot of power in confessing your wrongs to another person. Sometimes it’s easier than confessing the same sin to God. Together, you can pray to God, for each other, and miraculous healing can take place. It’s almost like a double cleansing.

When we keep our sins and wrongdoings to ourselves, the guilt or shame can only fester inside us until we release it. What sin are you holding tight to, wanting to keep hidden from view?

The second half of verse 16, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” If we are right with God (righteous) our prayers will have more power. Our hearts are right and in direct alignment with  God’s will and plan for us. It is also more likely that our prayers won’t be for something outside of God’s will anyway, and therefore the results will be more dramatic. God looks at our hearts.

The book of James ends with  an observation about the one missing from the fold. God’s heart longs for his missing sheep that have wandered off. We all know one or more of these folks. They may be people who grew up in the faith but then walked away during college or as a young adult. Or perhaps they were new followers who were never connected with a church fellowship to shepherd them. Or perhaps it’s someone we see in church every Sunday but who has  never embraced a relationship with God.

James adds, “whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” We need to be that “whoever” and be watching for those brothers and sisters who have wandered off.

There are so many enticements in the world, as there have always been. It is our job to be strong and rise above and conquer. Yet, the little voices in our heads can be so convincing – “sleep in on Sunday, you deserve it” or “go ahead, nobody is watching.”

Don’t believe it. God is watching. God is waiting. We need to be praying and keeping ourselves connected to our creator.

Let’s pray. Lord thank you for the open line of communication we have with you to pray at all times. When something doesn’t go my way, help me overcome the disappointment. Instead of questioning why, may I turn to you and rely on your comfort and redirection. I know you heart longs for those lost to you to return. Use me God to help shepherd them back so they can have life and be forgiven. Lead me to those opportunities. Use our business and the contacts we make. Bless it for your purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 5:7-12 – Be Patient – He’s Coming

Read James 5:7-12

This is a lesson I need to hear every day. I don’t know about you, but I am definitely not a patient person. I have gotten better over the years, way better. I don’t take an alternate route anymore when I see a red light ahead!!

The patience in today’s passage is a little bit more focused. Jesus is coming again, and we need to wait patiently for him. I think of all the saints who have gone before me, waiting their whole life for Jesus to return. Nobody know when he will come, although many have tried to guess and project based on clues they felt were given to us.

Rather than spin our wheels trying to figure out when, we need to embrace the assurance that it will be when God says so. His wisdom is far greater than any mortal’s, and whether it is in my life time or in the ages to come, I want to be ready.

For most of my life, I have been Lutheran Christian, and the church year has clearly defined seasons, known as the liturgical year. The season preceding Christmas is called Advent. As I write this reflection today, we are smack dab in the middle of Advent, a season of waiting and preparing for the second coming.

As I read this passage, it seems a perfect fit for Advent. How patient are you being at waiting?

[I’ll be doing another post or two on Advent in a few days, and then starting the book of Luke to take us into Christmas.]

The other focus of this reading today is endurance. There are so many distractions that divert our focus from the truth. These distractions can cripple us when we go through struggles and trials. If our life line to God himself has been clouded, we often feel hopeless, alone and our direction is lost. We are not able to endure on our own.

We can look to the example of Job. No matter what came his way, he never lost faith in the God who would redeem and save him. In the end, after losing everything and then some, he was rewarded greatly. We, too, can look forward to a great reward, whether we see it in this life or in eternity. Stay strong, stay focused, keep the faith!

My final thought for today is from the wisdom of verse 9.  Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!” As we head into the holiday season, many of us will be surrounded with family and friends. Some of us will struggle with relationships, difference of opinion, and missed opportunities. Try to remember to take the high road – don’t grumble about or with each other.

There is so much joy to life that can be found if only we open our eyes. We need to wait patiently for our Lord to return. While we wait, our lives need to clearly reflect a life that is pleasing to God. Are you waiting patiently?

Let’s pray. Father God, thank you for your promise that you will return. May I wait patiently and with an expectation of hope. Thank you for the joy inside me that wells up at the thought of you living inside me, using me for your purposes, and giving me the assurance of life with you forever. I pray that you will help me find those people who don’t have that joy so that together we can fill them up, too. Help me to avoid diversions that are not helpful and keep my eyes focused clearly on you and your will for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 5:1-6 – Are You Rich?

Read James 5:1-6

Are you rich? Depending on the definition of rich, I could answer that both yes and no. Compared to the majority of the world, living in poverty in developing nations, I am rich. Compared to those living in penthouses, gated communities, owning their own yachts and jets, I am poor.

The “things” of earth will pass away in the end. My treasure is in the hope of heaven.

I get the impression from this passage that the writer was not rich. This is a warning to those who have plenty that they be careful not to allow their possessions to take control. These same possessions will not last forever and will rot away. We should not be relying on these “things” for our happiness.

The warning seems to also speak to actions. Not every rich person is selfish or malicious. Many wealthy people are very wise with their money and giving to the poor and needy. This warning is not for them. There is an assumption here that with wealth comes abusiveness. As people make money, they become ruthless, wanting more and more, and at what expense of others. Do others get trampled or used in the process?

It is not sinful to be wealthy. What is sinful is how we use our wealth and our attitudes about money. One of the most talked about topics in the Bible is…money. I’ve heard differing opinions, 800 times, 2000 verses. I’ve found an interesting article about it. You can read it here.

Suffice it to say, money is not evil, it is how we think about it. We should NEVER worship it or put it before God. We should always trust God for provision. God’s economy works differently than ours, but it is the one we can trust. We’re not all destined to live in luxury. That’s okay. Whatever our station in life, we need to be grateful and work on multiplying the love in our hearts.

When money is plentiful, we need to be wise stewards in how we save and spend. This behavior honors God. A selfish heart will not be rewarded in heaven. A grateful heart reminds us that God is the Giver of all good gifts. We were never intended to be fully self-sufficient in this life. A grateful heart reminds us that ultimately God is our Provider, that all blessings and gifts are graciously given to us by His hand.

Let’s pray. Father forgive me for my selfish desires that only benefit me. I trust you in everything, especially the provision of my daily needs. With the wealth you have blessed me with, may I in turn bless others. I long to be more giving to those in need. May I never have an entitlement attitude or one that looks down on others. People do struggle with their finances, and pray for opportunities to help those people find the right solution. Bless our business, Lord, so that we can provide a source of hope, founded on you, to those in need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

James 4:13-17 – Say What?

Read  James 4:13-17

This passage fits nicely with the one about taming our tongue. We need to be careful what we say and how we say it. Here we are being reminded of letting pride take over and not being mindful of God, the one who is truly in charge.

We should above all else trust God for his leading in our lives. While it is good to make plans, it is imperative that these plans are in God’s will for us. Each time we recite the Lord’s prayer, we ask, “Thy will be done”. Don’t let these words be just words.

I don’t know about you, but over the years I have had many a good idea and forged ahead to make it happen. I’m sure there were times when I didn’t consult God for his wisdom and stamp of approval first. Not surprising, those are the plans that failed or backfired. They certainly didn’t turn out like I had hoped or planned.

Why is it so easy for us to try to take matters into our own hands? Why do we often forget the crucial piece – a conversation with God?

I’ve seen it happen in churches, too. When we try to force our agendas, programs never seem to get off the ground, much less thrive. On the other hand, when we seek God’s wisdom in the planning process and all agree that it’s God’s will, planning and implementation seem to fall into place without a hitch.

The verse that should really hit home for us here is verse 17. “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” We should be intentional in asking God to reveal his will for us. We should keep our minds and hearts open for his response, especially if it isn’t what we want to hear. And, we should be ready to jump and act on what God wants us to do. This is a sin we can control. We can act in the way God wants and avoid sin.

Remember, God will never ask us to do something that is harmful or bad. God’s plans are for good. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  I don’t know about you, but I rest in the joy and hope this verse provides.

Let’s pray. Father God, thank you for your daily provision. As I reflect on the choices I have made in my life I can clearly see the ones you would not have had me make. But thank you, Lord, for making beauty out of my mess. Thank you for lifting me out of despair and loving me despite my wrong choices. I ask for your forgiveness continually for those offenses, yet I know you have long since forgiven me. My heart sings to know that you have redeemed me. I look to you now for each decision, no matter how small. Thank you that you are using me in new ways each day. I don’t want another minute to go by that I am not living deep within your will for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James 4:1-12 – Wrong Motives

Read James 4:1-12

“Looking for love in all the wrong places.” I don’t know why that lyric came to mind from a song I heard many years ago. I’ll lead with that today. Wrong motives keep us stuck, too. God is the true source of love, we need to be looking to him, submitting to his will for us!

I liked the wisdom of this passage that points the  finger back at us. What causes quarrels, disagreements, misunderstandings? We do, and our wrong motives. We are so often being led around by our selfish desires that we get stuck in a cycle of hurt. Hurt to ourselves and hurt to others.

Do we want it that way? Probably not, but we seem to be stuck just the same. How many times have you been in a friend’s home, looked around and saw something you wished you had? Maybe it was a physical thing, maybe it was how neat and organized everything appeared, or maybe it was just the vibe of contentment you sensed. Whatever the case, you wanted something you hadn’t yet attained. The Bible calls that coveting, and it’s a big no-no.

We wonder why our prayers don’t get answered. If our hearts are basking in these wrong motives, we are most likely asking God the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. God isn’t about to say yes to our requests if our desires are not pure.

We need to humble ourselves before the Lord. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” I picture myself emptying myself in the presence of God. I pull all of the evil from my heart and lay it down. All of the junk, lies I’ve told myself about my worth, I lay it down. I’ve got quite a pile in front of me when I am truly honest with myself. When I have emptied myself of me and my faults, false truths, and evil desires, I am clean, humble before the Lord. We should do it daily.

One of our children’s Confirmation Bible verse was James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I have always thought that to be a profound and beautiful picture of getting rid of the junk inside. There is such freedom when we submit to God, yet so often we hold on to our own selfish ambitions. Do you do that, too?

If we successfully rid ourselves of what is holding us back, God’s promises to us are so worth it. “Come near to God and he will come near to you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want to aspire to – having God near me, to be lifted up in his presence.

Let’s pray. Father God, I bow before you today and ask that you help me empty myself. I want to make room for you to live inside me. Lift me up so I can stand proudly and proclaim your name. Your perfect plan is waiting for me, and I want to humble myself before you to claim it. Help me to let go of what is holding me back. I want to step boldly into the world with you by my side, Lord. Thank you for all of the blessings you have given me. I want to live with a grateful and humble heart, unafraid to declare that you are my God, my creator and friend. In Jesus’ name. Amen.