James 1:19-27 💛 Save Your Soul

Read James 1:19-27

heart shaped puzzle with one piece missing and about to be put in place

Was it just me, or did you read today’s passage and feel like it was highly appropriate for today and all that we see transpiring in the world around us? God’s word is timeless. It always says the right thing we need to hear. Do you trust it as a reliable guide for your life? I hope we can all agree we can certainly depend on the truth we find in the Bible.

There are plenty of skeptics turned believer out there with some great stories of their journey to faith. It doesn’t get old hearing about those transformations. Often, they share about how the Bible is real and reliable. It does us good to remind ourselves how precious God’s word is and why it is so important to listen to its wisdom. As James puts it, “humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

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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.

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