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Post  Admin on Sat 09 Mar 2013, 7:01 pm

Does Anybody Know Who I Am?
Galatians 3:26-27
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Following World War II, there were more than two hundred French soldiers with amnesia who returned to Paris. They had been prisoners in Japanese camps and suffered through horrible ordeals of privation and torture. These men had been so psychologically devastated by their imprisonment that they lost the conscious awareness of who they were and where they had lived before the war.
Most of the soldiers' identities were quickly established from Red Cross records or with the help of fellow prisoners, but after all known efforts were exhausted, there were still thirty-two men whose existence seemed impossible to trace. Not only were there no records of them, but none of the other soldiers knew anything about them. The doctors who were treating these thirty-two men believed that the chance for recovery would be impossible unless they were reconnected with family and friends.
Someone proposed publishing photographs of the men on the front page of newspapers throughout the country. A date, time, and place of meeting would also be given, hoping anyone having information about them would come. The plan was implemented and French newspapers soon published the pictures, adding that the Paris Opera House would open its doors for the potential identification and connection with loved ones.
On the assigned day, a huge crowd gathered inside the opera house to view the veterans. Every seat was taken and people spilled out onto the streets. Finally, in a dramatic entrance, the first of the amnesia victims walked onto the stage of the darkened room and slowly turned around under the glare of the spotlight, giving everyone a full view. Then, according to instruction, he and the other thirty-one soldiers who followed asked the same pleading question: "Does anybody out there know who I am . . . does anybody know who I am?"
Thankfully, many of the men were soon reunited with their families.
Isn't this the same question that all of humanity is asking? Sadly, many people have a terrible case of self-imposed amnesia. But this is to be expected from a generation that has stepped back from God's Word. Sadder yet is the church—professed Christians seem to have forgotten that they belong to Christ.
So who are we? We are called sons of God (Galatians 3); new creations (2 Corinthians 5); children of God and heirs of God (Romans 8). The New Testament is brimming with descriptions of the Christian's identity in Christ.
Understanding who we are in Christ will cause us to recognize why we are different from the world. The truth is, if we don't understand what makes us different from the world, we will never be able to make a difference in the world.
We, of all people, need never ask, "Does anybody know who I am?" We are new creatures . . . children of God.
Prayer Point: Thank God for the incredible, life-changing work He has accomplished in your life: through His death on the cross, paying for your sin; through His resurrection, securing for you eternal life; through His mercy, flowing for you every day. Don't live in a state of spiritual amnesia any longer; instead, meditate on God's promises on your behalf, and thank Him for who He is molding you to be.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Corinthians 5.
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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Mar 2013, 12:05 am

Salvation Is for Sinners
Mark 2:17
And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Jacob Koshy grew up in Singapore with the ambition to become as rich and successful as he possibly could—the desire that ultimately led him into the world of drugs and gambling. In time, he reached his goal, becoming the leader of an international drug-smuggling network. But in 1980, that dream came to an abrupt end when he was caught, arrested, and detained in a government drug rehabilitation prison in Singapore.
Locked in a tiny cell, Jacob became frustrated and embittered. He wanted to smoke, but cigarettes were not allowed in the prison. Friends smuggled in tobacco and he rolled it in the pages of a Gideon Bible that had been left in his cell. One day he fell asleep while smoking and awoke to find that his homemade cigarette had burned out; all that remained was some charred paper. He unrolled the paper and read the words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
Curiosity struck him and he asked the guard for a new Bible. Upon receiving it, he read the story of Saul's miraculous conversion. Immense joy overtook Jacob as he realized the truth of what he had read—if God could save an enemy like Saul, He could save him as well! Without wasting a second, he fell to his knees and prayed for God to forgive his sins. Tears flowed as the Lord heard his prayer and saved his soul.
Jacob began sharing his story with other prisoners; some of them accepted Christ as well. When he was released from prison, he became involved in a Bible-believing church, met and married a Christian woman, and together they began serving as missionaries in the Far East, sharing the gospel with sinners in desperate need of the Savior.
The value of the human soul is so precious that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit devised a plan before the world was created: The Son of God would die to redeem fallen man. No matter what has happened to you, my friend, no matter what you have made of yourself, you can become whole again in the eyes of God.
It was Christ Himself who said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" . . . aren't we all? If you are lost in your sin today, there is good news: Christ died on the cross for people . . . people just like you.
Prayer Point: If you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation from sin, confess now and accept His free gift to you. If you are a believer, thank the Lord that, although you are a sinner who continually "falls short of His glory" everyday of your life, He never ceases to love you.
Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 9—the story that changed Jacob Koshy's life.
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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Mar 2013, 8:11 pm

Patience Is Virtue
James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Trials are not given to make us weak, but to make us learn to wait. Jesus Christ wants to develop our faith, and He rarely develops it in the normal circumstances of life. It is most often through the interruptions, the heartbreaks, and the discouragements that our faith progresses.
A young black girl living in the poverty section of Philadelphia enjoyed singing in her Union Baptist Church choir. The adults noticed latent talent in her voice and began "The Fund for Marian Anderson's Future." They raised one hundred twenty-six dollars in pennies, nickels, and dimes, and she began taking singing lessons.
When she was eighteen she auditioned with a famous instructor, but was rejected. Those who continued to believe in her planned a concert in a town hall in New York City. However, the critics were brutal in their reviews. While on a European concert tour, she was well-received, but in Washington, D.C., she was not allowed to sing in Constitution Hall because of her race.
For many years, Marian Anderson wallowed in self-pity. Her mother finally said, "Marian, I want you to think about your troubles and your failures a little—and pray a lot." Then her mother said something that Marian never forgot: "Marian, you must learn that grace comes before greatness."
Marian Anderson became a well-known opera singer, performing for the Eisenhowers and their guests in the White House, being appointed a delegate to the United Nations, and winning a Medal of Freedom. All of this came only after learning the valuable lesson that her mother had taught her.
This is the same lesson delivered throughout Scripture. Learning to fail, yet to persevere, comes as we learn to live a life of faith. Times of trial are not only necessary to teach us humility, but they remind us where our true possessions lie—in Christ.
What better example than Christ—the Model—who shows us that grace comes before greatness . . . humility before honor.
Prayer Point: Take time to do the unthinkable: thank God for something painful in your life, whether a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, a failing grade, an illness, or a difficult circumstance. Pray that God will give you strength to persevere during the test, no matter how long it takes—even a lifetime. Remember that trials are given for your good, and even the painful times are a gift from God.
Extra Refreshment: Read Philippians 2 and James 1. Notice what these Apostles had to say about the purpose of trials in the lives of believers and the necessity of humility.
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Post  Admin on Tue 05 Mar 2013, 10:17 pm

Little White Lies
James 1:26
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.
In the summer of 1899, four Denver newspapers, including the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, published a story claiming that American business firms were planning to demolish the Great Wall of China and use the rubble as paving gravel in a series of new roads.
Of course, there was no such plan—the Great Wall remains fairly intact to this day. So what happened? As it turns out, four reporters met by chance at Union Station, where they were hoping to catch the latest scoop from elsewhere coming in on one of the passenger trains. When no newsworthy items materialized, one reporter suggested that if they all published the same fictitious story, no one would be the wiser.
The group made their way back to the Oxford Hotel where they conspired to craft a tale that would be exciting, believable—and not easily verified. They determined that a story set in the Far East would be less likely to be unraveled by anyone close to home.
The Great Wall hoax was published the next day—reporting that a Mr. Frank C. Lewis of Chicago, stopped at the Oxford on his way to the West Coast to meet with Chinese representatives about the plan. The fabrication was soon published in other major newspapers.
But the joke didn't end there! Decades later, in 1939, Denver songwriter Harvey Wilber published an article claiming that the Denver news report had reached China, infuriating the Chinese people. Wilber said that the Chinese citizens were so outraged by the prospect of westerners demolishing their ancient wall that they rioted, setting off the Boxer Rebellion.
Wilber's source for this legend was a Methodist bishop who was speaking to a Denver church about the power of the printed word—and what may happen when an untruth is allowed to circulate. Yet there are no reports in China that suggest that news of the Denver story ever reached the country. Though the Denver Great Wall hoax made an excellent cautionary tale, the idea that it set off the rebellion in China was itself an urban legend.
Although every lie won't launch national concerns or international bloodshed, lies are at the heart of rebellions against God. It's little wonder that lying is considered ungodly, and treated harshly by our Lord. When you tell the truth, it's easier to live with the consequences. When you tell a lie, the consequences just might cost you more than you ever could have imagined.
Honesty is still the best policy . . . it's certainly the biblical practice to pursue.
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to reveal dishonesty in your heart—cutting corners at the office; padding expense accounts; cheating in class; exaggerating accomplishments—and ask Him to make honesty your automatic response in life.
Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 5:1-11, a reminder of how much God hates dishonesty.
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Post  Admin on Tue 05 Mar 2013, 1:00 am

A Dead-End Street
James 1:14-15
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
I read of a couple who had been married thirty-five years, had three grown children who loved them dearly, and were blessed with financial resources. They were finally able to purchase a lakeside retirement home they had dreamed about for a long time. Put on the market by a widower, it was the perfect place.
Before the offer to buy was finalized, the woman had a change of heart and direction. In fact, life would dramatically change for both the owner of the lake house and the prospective buyers. It seems the wife wanted a divorce—not the retirement home. Her husband, feeling a surge of confusion and anger sweep over him, shouted, "How could you be planning something like this . . . after all this time . . . when we're so close to buying our dream home . . . after thirty-five years?"
She explained that she hadn't been planning a long time to ask for the divorce—it had been a recent decision. The man who held her interest . . . and her heart . . . was the widower who owned the lakefront home! How could this be?
It seems she had run into him several weeks after they had met to discuss the purchase of the home. There was a quick lunch together, which led to another lunch, and then another . . .
Wow! Now she's telling her husband that she is in love with this man and isn't about to change her mind. Not even her grown children, horrified by the turn of events, could talk sense into their mother.
The day of the wife's departure, her husband was walking through the kitchen with her luggage, and on his way to the garage, stopped, looked at her with tearful eyes, and said, "I guess this is the last time I'll be doing this." Feeling awkward and guilty, she hurriedly grabbed her coat and purse and left the house, driving to meet the new man in her life.
Two weeks after she moved in with him he suffered a massive heart attack, lingered a few days, and died. In just two weeks, the lives of so many were irreparably damaged. Trust was destroyed, the future changed, bright prospects of grandparenting clouded with sorrow, and the vows of marriage shattered by a series of painful events.
My friend, whether you are single or married, God requires purity from you. In your marriage, the smartest thing you will ever do is stay faithful and committed to your spouse.
Christ says in Matthew 5, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Are you satisfying your desires with impure thoughts, images, or relationships? Then you are not able to see God. Don't be deceived by the promises of sin—they are dead-end streets lined with guilt and sorrow.
God knows our hearts; He sees every thought and deed. He isn't fooled by excuses and cover-ups. So I beg you . . . don't destroy your life and the lives of others by choosing or covering sexual sin.
God's way avoids the dead-end streets and broad avenues that lead to destruction. Don't take that detour—stay on the narrow way . . . it leads to life.
Prayer Point: Confess any perverse thoughts or actions that you have been covering up, and ask God to rid you of them, replacing them with pure thoughts which are pleasing to Him. Stop any plans or flirtations with relationships that will either erode your spiritual walk or hurt your marriage.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Samuel 11—a reminder of the devastating consequences of sexual sin.
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Post  Admin on Fri 01 Mar 2013, 11:35 pm

The Gospel Is Thick Ice
1 John 5:13
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
It was one of those bitter nineteenth-century winters. Sam and Bessie lived on the west bank of a wide river that had to be crossed by rowboat in mild seasons, and by foot or wagon in the winter. Across the half-mile river was a small trading post that served as a general store, selling groceries, medicines, and hardware items.
This particular winter Sam and Bessie briefly extended the hospitality of their cabin to a traveler in need. Little did they know that their visitor left behind an unwelcome gift—a highly contagious disease. In a matter of weeks Bessie was terribly ill. Sam recognized the symptoms and knew that his wife needed medicine available to him only at the trading post.
It was early winter, nights were cold, and although the river lay frozen, Sam was sure that the ice was neither thick enough to support his weight, nor thin enough for his boat to break through. He dearly loved Bessie and determined that he would rather die crossing the river than lose her to the fever. He kissed her, assuring her that he would be back soon, and made his way to the river bank.
Pushing a large plank of wood in front of him, he stretched out his body and began to crawl upon the ice. Slowly and cautiously he inched his way across the ice, praying as he slid the plank before him. All was silent on that great expanse for the first twenty minutes; then the ice began to groan. He scooted ever so gently forward, only to be welcomed by a more insistent creaking.
Sam had just breathed a quick prayer when the groaning became a roar, followed by a terrible crashing sound—the ice was breaking up! He squeezed his eyes shut, bracing for the worst. Nothing happened.
Turning in the direction of the loudest sound, he saw a man driving a wagon pulled by a team of horses, crossing the river 100 yards from where he lay. The horses galloped past him, up the other bank, and stopped in front of the trading post. Sam leaped to his feet, threw his arms into the air, and shouted, "Hallelujah!" He ran across the ice to the store, purchased the medicine, hitched a ride back on the wagon, and raced home to minister to his sick wife.
His fear turned to confidence; his crawling gave way to running; his praying turned to shouts of joy. What was once a weak belief that the ice could hold him was transformed into a confident assurance that it would hold him!
My friend, this is what our faith in God should be like. Listen to the voice of John, the beloved disciple of Christ, as it echoes across the centuries: "Hey believer! I wrote these things so that you can know that you have eternal life!"
The gospel of Christ is not a thin sheet of ice under us, tenuously holding our weight as we desperately pray—it is rock-solid substance we can run, jump, and build our lives upon. The good news of Christ eliminates the fearful crawl and replaces it with a confident walk—sometimes even a leap or two . . . for joy!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for the assurance you have of salvation—not because of anything you've done to deserve assurance, but because of Christ's rock-solid promises.
Extra Refreshment: Read 1 John 5 and underline the promises of assurance, writing your own name in the margin of your Bible.
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Post  Admin on Thu 28 Feb 2013, 11:32 pm

Correction, Please
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
When my parents were building a new home, my father and I went to view the progress. The living room hearth had been partially bricked, but as we looked at it, we realized it was crooked and leaning to one side. He called the contractor about the problem, and the order was given to tear down the hearth and start over. My father and I again inspected the progress and, to our dismay, the nearly completed hearth was leaning to the other side. It was still crooked! Dad called the contractor, and once again the crew tore down the hearth and rebuilt it.
When we returned the next afternoon to check on the work, the hearth and fireplace had been completed all the way to the ceiling. It was perfectly straight!
What made the difference? We found out later that the contractor had hired a young, inexperienced crew, but this time he showed them how to brick the hearth correctly. He stayed with them until the project was finished.
God has effectively done the same thing for us. The Bible is our contractor and it teaches us how to live.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." In other words, the Bible is good for teaching—it tells us what is true; it is good for reproof—it tells us what's not right; it is good for correction, literally meaning "to stand us up on our feet"—it tells us how to get it right; and finally, the Word of God trains us to perform what is right. That's a pretty hefty resume for one book. A book like this must be taken seriously.
Many years ago, a man named Robert Chapman gave Christians a powerful reminder of our privilege and responsibility as stewards of God's Word. He wrote:
This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, and the soldier's sword. It should fill the memory, test the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who will trifle with its sacred contents. Christ is its grand subject, our good is its design, and the glory of God is its end.
The question then is not "Why study the Bible," but "How can we afford not to?" What will you do with God's Word today? It's not meant to simply adorn the table in your living room or lay on your bedside table, unread.
Pick it up—use it. It's the perfect blueprint . . . for building your life!
Prayer Point: In John 17:17, Christ asked His Father to "sanctify them [His disciples] in Your truth; Your word is truth." Make this prayer a personal one for you, and pray that God, through His Word, will continue to conform you to His image.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Timothy 3—a powerful reminder of how vitally important the Bible is in our lives.
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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Feb 2013, 10:46 pm

Under the Hood
Ephesians 4:29
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Gary Graff, a pastor in Lancaster, Minnesota, tells a story of something that happened to his friend. After shopping at the mall all day, the man walked out to his car, only to smell a foul odor coming from beneath the hood. Upon lifting the hood, he discovered the body of a cat that had been caught in the fan (cat lovers, I offer my condolences!).
In disgust, the man stared at the mess, not knowing what to do. He decided to place the remains in an empty shopping bag. After closing the hood, he walked back toward the mall to wash his hands. As he neared the entrance, he looked back and noticed something unusual happening. He watched as a middle-aged woman approached his car, looked around, then grabbed the bag he had tied and left on top of the car. He stood in shock as she walked quickly past him, hurrying into the mall. This was too good to be true! He followed her.
She went into a restaurant and sat down in a private booth. Once seated, she untied the knot to survey her stolen prize. As soon as she opened the bag and saw the dead cat inside, she screamed—and promptly fainted! Of course, the management was alarmed that a customer had fainted in the restaurant, and paramedics were called. In no time, the woman was strapped to a gurney and rolled outside. The "owner" of the cat bag couldn't resist: he took the bag from the booth and just as the woman was being loaded into the ambulance, ran over and said, "Hey lady, don't forget your bag!" Then he laid the bag on top of her.
As humorous as this story is, it reminds me of many people I know—people who look shiny and clean on the outside, but once the hood is opened, the rotten smell assaults our noses. In fact, our mouths are like that, revealing what's inside . . . they're a window of our heart.
In Luke 6:45, Christ says, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." One of the greatest distinctives between believers and unbelievers should be the way we speak.
If God has truly redeemed us, His Spirit has given us the power to live holy lives. We have no excuse for gossip, lies, crude jesting, cursing, or taking the Lord's name in vain. These are the marks of heart defiled, rotten . . . not redeemed.
Do you have decayed remains under the hood? Open your mouth—examine your heart—start changing your vocabulary . . . today!
Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you renewed conviction about your conversation so you will become more aware of the damage and power that lie in your words. Admit your need to a friend and ask him to hold you accountable to speak only wholesome words.
Extra Refreshment: Read James 3.
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Post  Admin on Tue 26 Feb 2013, 4:18 pm

Just Look Up!
Proverbs 14:12
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
There is a story in the Old Testament of a time when God judged Israel in a severe manner by sending poisonous snakes into their camp. The Bible called these snakes "fiery serpents," because their venom would cause a hot fever in the bodies of its victims, ultimately killing those who were bitten.
The Israelites cried out for mercy, and God responded with His grace and mercy toward them. He gave Moses instructions to make a brass serpent, hang it from the top of a long wooden pole, and hold it up in the midst of the camp. Then he was to tell the people of Israel that anyone who simply looked up at the brass serpent would be healed and recover from their snakebite. As easy as that!
All the Israelites had to do was look up and they would be saved. They were not required to develop medicine for the infection; they were not asked to work for their cure; they were not commanded to kill all the serpents in order to be healed. If you can imagine it, many still refused to look at the brazen serpent lifted up in the midst of the camp. Why? Because the natural instinct of the human heart is to do things its own way—to find its own remedy for sin. But there is only one remedy for sin and death, and God is the One who provided it.
Donald Grey Barnhouse, the late well-known pastor and radio preacher, illustrated how the human heart responds to "fiery serpents":
In the religious fashion of our day, there would have been a rush to incorporate the "Society for the Extermination of the Fiery Serpents." There would have been badges for coat lapels, cards for district workers, secretaries for organization branches, pledge cards, and mass rallies. There would have been a publication office and a weekly journal to tell of the progress of the work. There would have been photographs of heaps of serpents that had been killed by the faithful workers, all of them feverishly trying, by human effort, to overcome the serpent's bite of sin!
This Old Testament event, found in Numbers 21, is really a wonderful picture of what Christ would do thousands of years later on the cross. He would hang in our place as a sinner so that all who looked upon Him might be saved.
In John 14:6, Christ says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." There is no other way to God but to look upon the crucified Savior and believe.
People today are surrounded with all the trappings of religion: they join churches, sign pledge cards, go through Bible lessons and catechisms, give money, get baptized, and in the end, still die without the cure for sin. The truth is, we all have been bitten by sin and its poison is steadily and continually rushing through our veins—we are terminally infected with the venom of sin's curse.
Our only hope is to look to that wooden cross upon which the Lamb of God was held up for all to see. Look there! . . . God has provided your cure.
Prayer Point: Though you already may have accepted Christ's gift of salvation, it is very easy to take your eyes off Him. As Paul said, we must "fix our eyes on Jesus," and that should be your prayer today. Don't let yourself forget the awesome work Christ did for you at the cross; practice thanking Him for it . . . start today!
Extra Refreshment: Read Numbers 21—the story of God's deliverance of the Israelites from the fiery serpents.

Taking the Bible to Heart
Psalm 119:160
The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.
The word on the street today is that God's Word is really not all that important. People are beginning to believe that the Bible is a book written for those who lived thousands of years ago, and is irrelevant for us today.
I have actually had people leave our church because "we took the Bible far too seriously." To them, the Bible is a nice collection of moral tales and Jewish fables, rather than God's blueprint for living. Although this idea is widespread, it remains dreadfully wrong.
Some years ago my wife and I had dinner with a couple who had recently moved into our city. Both of them were medical doctors, but they had come to the point in their lives where they knew they were missing something. We listened as the couple told of growing up with religion—one in the Catholic church, and the other as a Protestant, both eventually abandoning their churches.
Upon moving to Cary, they decided to find a church for their children's sake, feeling that a little religion might do their family good.
One Sunday morning the father decided to stay home and watch the kids so that his wife could visit a nearby church. It just happened to be ours! She told of slipping into the back row in her "first-ever evangelical service," and hearing the message from the book of Esther. With excited eyes she reminisced, telling us of sitting in her seat dumbfounded, realizing for the first time that everything she had heard as a child about the Bible being merely a collection of stories was not true. Instead, the Bible was alive and real and had meaning for life, here and now; it was meant to be obeyed. She went home afterward, walked into the house, and said, "Honey, we've been wrong—the Bible is for today."
They came to Colonial the next Sunday and the next. It was after those two weeks that they called the office and asked me to come to their home. They both accepted Christ, and I discipled the husband for nearly a year. On one occasion I was told, "When we went to church in the past, we believed a lie about the Bible. But we were wrong . . . now we know the truth. The Bible is for us to follow today."
If you ask the average religious person about the Bible, he will say it is a good book to own; it is a nice thing to quote at weddings, funerals, and family reunions; but it is only a collection of stories at best, not something to build your life upon. Can you blame him? As long as so-called Christians are indifferent to the Bible, the world will be, as well. God's Word won't change their lives until they see it has changed ours.
Don't believe the lie that this couple believed for so many years. Read God's Word; love it, listen to it, and live by it. Your relationship with God will never be intimate if your relationship with His Word is casual.
Frankly, since God wrote the Bible, we can't afford to take it lightly . . . see that you don't!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for preserving the Word for us . . . thank Him that you own at least one copy. Ask Him to develop a greater longing in your heart to read and obey His Word. Ask Him to speak to your heart through His Word; commit to Him that you intend to obey what He says.
Extra Refreshment: Read another portion of Psalm 119 and note in each verse the difference the Word of God makes in our lives.
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Post  Admin on Fri 22 Feb 2013, 8:43 pm

Revival Starts with You
Matthew 5:16
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
How does the church gain the world's attention? How will the local church catch the ears of those who so desperately need to hear the gospel? It will only happen when Christians begin to get real with their faith and start living it out before men.
People are watching you. So, when you say you will do something, do it. When you fail at something, admit it. Don't claw and scrape and climb over others like everyone else. Trust that God is at work and settle for nothing less than the holiness and purity that He requires of you. Let this so establish itself in your character that it emanates from you before a needy and watchful world. If our gospel will change the world, it must first change us.
These words are from an Anglican bishop who lived a few generations ago. They were found among his last effects:
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older, I discovered the world would not change. So, I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But, it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family—those closest to me. But, alas, they would have none of it. Now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize, if I had only been changed, then by example, perhaps I could have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.
This is where we must begin. It must start with the person staring back at you from the mirror, the one willing to make any changes necessary—not for your own glory, but for the glory of God. Christ reminds us in Matthew 5 that "they [will] see your good works and glorify [the] Father in heaven." Your ultimate purpose and joy will be in seeing others come to know the Savior as you have, for it is God who changes lives, and we are living testimonies of that.
For that reason, we are to be like mirrors in the world, reflecting His character. If the world is ever going to see God, they must first see Him . . . in us.
Prayer Point: Pray that you will be a living reflection of Jesus Christ to the world, as well as to your church. Then, pray that God will work in the hearts of Christians in your church, calling them to dedicate themselves in living holy lives, breaching the gap between the church and the world.
Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 2—reminding the Church how we were called out, and what we have been called to do.
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Post  Admin on Thu 21 Feb 2013, 11:02 pm

Reviewing the Journey

James has effectively pulled up a chair and gathered all of us around him. There have been times when his words have been harsh and hard-hitting and, at other times, like gentle reminders from a favorite friend.
Either way, James has spoken the truth in love. He considers us all members of the same family. So before we end our 31-Day Journey in James, let’s review some of these convicting, encouraging truths from the pen of this apostle.

James opens his letter by reminding us that trials are an inevitable part of life; they are also part of God’s plan for our sanctification. He encourages us to embrace them and worship God through them, rather than seeking to avoid them. He reminds us that while we can’t choose our crosses, we can choose our responses.

He then challenges us to flee temptation and reminds us that, like trials, temptation is inevitable. Every day brings new opportunities for the devil, the world, and our flesh to wage war against our spirit and the Spirit of God. We need to stop flirting with temptation and start running from it.

James moves on to talk with us about God’s Word. He says we should be quick to hear the Word and slow to talk back to it—and certainly slow to become angry with the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is an x-ray machine which reveals who we are on the inside. If we aren’t constantly reviewing those films, we’ll never clean our lives up or grow up just right.

Next he challenges us to stop showing favoritism in the body of Christ. Christians shouldn’t be snobs. Favoritism, prejudice, and partiality don’t belong in the Body. The Gospel of Christ is blind to status, race, gender, and class. Christ died for all—that means no one is too low to be lifted by faith in Him.

James stuns us when he reminds us that demons believe in God, too. Faith is more than just believing truths about God, i.e., Jesus is the Son of God, He died, He rose again on the third day. The demons believe all that, too—they saw it happen. But demons will never surrender to Christ as Sovereign Lord, in spite of all they know and believe about Him.

James really begins to meddle when he brings up our mouths. In fact, James wrote more about speech than any other topic in his letter. He was the first to challenge the concept that actions speak louder than words. James went further than that in telling us what we really need to do is make sure our words say the same thing as our actions; we really need both . . . equally, in order to be effective.

James even brings up the subject of patience and why it is an essential virtue in the Christian life. Like farmers, we have to fertilize our spiritual lives and trust our growth to the Lord as we pray and serve Him. Farmers don’t rush their crops. Likewise, we can’t rush our spiritual growth . . . patience is needed as we weed our hearts and fertilize our spirits with the water of truth and trust. Growth takes time.

James wraps up his letter with a challenge to understand the importance of pursuing prodigal brothers and sisters. Yelling “Fire!” is always appropriate whenever there is a fire.

These are some of the milestones along our journey . . . and this epistle ends most practically at bringing sinning believers back to the truth.

Learn from this half-brother of Jesus who served Christ faithfully for years before dying as a martyr for his faith: Christianity isn’t a walk in the park. It’s sweaty . . . and difficult . . . and it daily requires constant surrender to the Holy Spirit.

So let’s roll up our sleeves, as James both commanded and demonstrated, and dive into a life of practical faith . . . for our good and the glory of our Master, Jesus Christ.

Prayer Point: Which of James’ words have been most convicting to you? Pray for God to give you courage and strength to make a change in that area. The New Year has begun . . . resolve today to put your faith into practice and your words into action.

Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 14 as Jesus preaches the true cost of discipleship.
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Post  Admin on Wed 20 Feb 2013, 10:55 pm

Reviewing the Journey

James has effectively pulled up a chair and gathered all of us around him. There have been times when his words have been harsh and hard-hitting and, at other times, like gentle reminders from a favorite friend.
Either way, James has spoken the truth in love. He considers us all members of the same family. So before we end our 31-Day Journey in James, let’s review some of these convicting, encouraging truths from the pen of this apostle.

James opens his letter by reminding us that trials are an inevitable part of life; they are also part of God’s plan for our sanctification. He encourages us to embrace them and worship God through them, rather than seeking to avoid them. He reminds us that while we can’t choose our crosses, we can choose our responses.

He then challenges us to flee temptation and reminds us that, like trials, temptation is inevitable. Every day brings new opportunities for the devil, the world, and our flesh to wage war against our spirit and the Spirit of God. We need to stop flirting with temptation and start running from it.

James moves on to talk with us about God’s Word. He says we should be quick to hear the Word and slow to talk back to it—and certainly slow to become angry with the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is an x-ray machine which reveals who we are on the inside. If we aren’t constantly reviewing those films, we’ll never clean our lives up or grow up just right.

Next he challenges us to stop showing favoritism in the body of Christ. Christians shouldn’t be snobs. Favoritism, prejudice, and partiality don’t belong in the Body. The Gospel of Christ is blind to status, race, gender, and class. Christ died for all—that means no one is too low to be lifted by faith in Him.

James stuns us when he reminds us that demons believe in God, too. Faith is more than just believing truths about God, i.e., Jesus is the Son of God, He died, He rose again on the third day. The demons believe all that, too—they saw it happen. But demons will never surrender to Christ as Sovereign Lord, in spite of all they know and believe about Him.

James really begins to meddle when he brings up our mouths. In fact, James wrote more about speech than any other topic in his letter. He was the first to challenge the concept that actions speak louder than words. James went further than that in telling us what we really need to do is make sure our words say the same thing as our actions; we really need both . . . equally, in order to be effective.

James even brings up the subject of patience and why it is an essential virtue in the Christian life. Like farmers, we have to fertilize our spiritual lives and trust our growth to the Lord as we pray and serve Him. Farmers don’t rush their crops. Likewise, we can’t rush our spiritual growth . . . patience is needed as we weed our hearts and fertilize our spirits with the water of truth and trust. Growth takes time.

James wraps up his letter with a challenge to understand the importance of pursuing prodigal brothers and sisters. Yelling “Fire!” is always appropriate whenever there is a fire.

These are some of the milestones along our journey . . . and this epistle ends most practically at bringing sinning believers back to the truth.

Learn from this half-brother of Jesus who served Christ faithfully for years before dying as a martyr for his faith: Christianity isn’t a walk in the park. It’s sweaty . . . and difficult . . . and it daily requires constant surrender to the Holy Spirit.

So let’s roll up our sleeves, as James both commanded and demonstrated, and dive into a life of practical faith . . . for our good and the glory of our Master, Jesus Christ.

Prayer Point: Which of James’ words have been most convicting to you? Pray for God to give you courage and strength to make a change in that area. The New Year has begun . . . resolve today to put your faith into practice and your words into action.

Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 14 as Jesus preaches the true cost of discipleship.
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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Feb 2013, 7:38 pm

The Pursuit of Prodigals
James 5:19–20
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Doug Banister tells the story of an unforgettable event which took place during World War II when Hitler’s armored tank division overran France.

On May 23, 1940, more than 220,000 British soldiers and over 100,000 Allied troops had retreated to the channel port of Dunkirk on the coast of France. Hitler’s army had pursued them but the next day, the advance halted. In England, the call went out for ships—any ships—to help with the rescue. The Royal Navy’s vessels could only save 17,000.

May 26, an unbelievable fleet set sail: fishing boats, sloops, yachts, tugs, sailboats, motorboats, ferries, and even the America’s Cup challenger Endeavor, all manned by civilians, poured out of the Thames River and the ports that lined the English Channel.

The daring feat—code-named Operation Dynamo—continued until June 4. Guided by the smoke and flames filling the sky above Dunkirk, the ragtag armada made its way through continuous German attack and treacherous waters to the stranded troops.

This fleet of 700 vessels, dubbed “The Little Ships of Dunkirk,” rescued 338,682 British, French, and Belgian troops and returned them safely to the shores of Great Britain.

It was one of the most remarkable naval rescue operations in history—all because ordinary men and women saw the need and translated it into an opportunity for service.

James is saying in this passage that we, the Church, are supposed to be doing the same thing. We are God’s ragtag armada, called to pursue and rescue those trapped by sin and the Enemy of their souls.

Can you imagine for a moment a doctor discovering a cancerous tumor in your body and telling you nothing about it for fear the news would ruin your schedule? What if he, instead, walked into the examination room and said, “Don’t worry about it; it’s nothing. Take a few weeks off and you should be fine.”

Would this be the loving thing to do? No! It isn’t loving for us to see a fellow believer pursuing sin, pat them on the back, and talk about the weather.

We have a responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ to help and challenge each other . . . and that’s not always easy.

By the way, James isn’t encouraging us to go around looking for sin in other believers’ lives and point it out. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that we shouldn’t pull the twig out of our neighbor’s eye until we’ve pulled the log out of our own! So before we call out sin or hypocrisy in someone else, we need to examine our own hearts.
James is encouraging us to be on the lookout for those trapped individuals who are making a practice of sin. They are the ones most in need of an immediate rescue attempt.

James is challenging every believer to show up, tell the truth, and offer assistance so the prodigal might be able to sail back to the Father’s house for cleansing and fellowship.

Let’s take James’ message to heart and pursue the prodigals in our lives today. Our little boats might not be well suited for crossing the rough seas, but we must set sail in spite of it . . . lives are counting on us.

Prayer Point: Did God bring someone to mind as you read this devotional? If so, pray for strength to speak the truth to that person in love. If you have already spoken to that person and he or she wouldn’t listen, pray that God will change their heart.

Extra Refreshment: Read Christ’s words in Matthew 18:12–35 as He reveals not only His love for prodigals but also how we should deal with Christians who are making a practice of sin.
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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Feb 2013, 10:36 am

Broken Cisterns
James 4:4
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The hard-hitting vocabulary of James in this passage leads some to believe he isn’t talking to Christians. After all, he starts out by calling his audience adulteresses!

Not exactly Sunday school vocabulary.

But the Jewish believers reading this indictment would have immediately understood his use of the word as a reference to spiritual unfaithfulness. Israel is often referred to as the wife of Jehovah in the Old Testament.

Sin is a violation of love between us and our Bridegroom, which means that every time we choose sin over Christ, we commit spiritual adultery.

Let that sink in.

When James refers to the world in this passage, he is speaking of the ideologies of the world system. It stands for everything that Christ isn’t.

The word James uses for friendship doesn’t mean some casual relationship; it’s one based on common interests, desires, and pursuits. In fact, this is a deeply affectionate word that is often translated love in the Greek New Testament.

James is simply telling us that we can’t love the ideologies and material pursuits of this world system and love Christ at the same time.

In other words, we can’t kiss up to sin and kiss the Son, too. Judas tried that . . . and things didn’t turn out so well for him. We have to choose between the two.

There is a war between Christ and this world, and James is forcing us in this passage to ask ourselves the eternally significant question: whose side are we on?

I love how God, through His prophet Jeremiah, depicts sin. God says:

“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

This is one aspect of sin we so often forget.

Sometimes we see God as a cosmic Kill-joy who wants to rob us of any happiness. The world seems to be having all the fun. So we forsake God’s Word in moments of prodigality and join the party.

But the party ends and we not only wake up as unfaithful people, but we rob ourselves of genuine satisfaction and joy. Sin—all sin—is a broken cistern that simply can’t hold water. Sin is a bucket full of holes . . . a dry well filled with dead leaves, branches, and other debris.

Righteousness and faithfulness to Christ—no matter how difficult or dull or seemingly unrewarding—brings lasting nourishment as we are drawn closer to our faithful Bridegroom.

Daily abandon those empty wells . . . daily drink from the Fountain of living water.

Prayer Point: What broken cistern are you drinking from today? What sin are you choosing over Christ? Confess it to Him now and pray for willingness and strength to destroy it before it destroys you.

Extra Refreshment: Read the whole chapter of Jeremiah 2 and listen as God rebukes Israel for their idolatry and disobedience.
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Post  Admin on Sat 16 Feb 2013, 12:28 am

Prayer That Gets Past the Ceiling
James 5:16–17
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

I remember being a student in Bible college and thinking I had to be extremely dedicated and rather righteous if I ever hoped to gain God’s attention through prayer.

I got up before the rest of the student body and went to our campus prayer tower where special kneeling benches had been crafted. There were a few other fellas up there trying to get God’s attention by rising so early.

Even if I fell asleep on occasion—which I did—I was convinced that God was impressed by my righteous zeal.

Isn’t that the kind of Christian James is talking about in our text?

Well, hardly.

James is not encouraging us to be self-righteous or even self-sacrificing in order to gain God’s attention or favor. In fact, James is actually writing to encourage believers that because we already are righteous, our prayers can accomplish much.

That’s why he reminds us in the above passage that the Prophet Elijah was just like we are. In fact, the word Elijah uses for righteous is dikaiou, which is a title used for every Christian.

This would have shocked the Jewish readers during James’ day. To them, Elijah was the greatest man in Israel’s history. He raised someone from the dead, he called down fire from heaven, he killed the prophets of Baal, and he even outran the king’s chariot. On top of that, he actually manipulated the weather. James had written earlier:

[A]nd he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit - (James 5:17–18).

Nevertheless, James is actually saying that Elijah was no different from us. If you read Elijah’s account in 1 Kings 18, you quickly realize that he wasn’t actually praying to manipulate the weather. Rain wasn’t really the issue. Elijah was in a battle between the gods and wanted to prove why his God was greater than all other gods.

Did God need Elijah to reveal His glory? No. Could God have destroyed the prophets of Baal and send a rain shower without Elijah’s prayer? Yes. But that’s the amazing thing about God’s grace. He allows us to have a special part in His will.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So if you’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ, you have His righteousness credited to your account—right now! Which means your prayers, like Elijah’s, can accomplish much. When James says righteous men will be heard by God, he’s referring to ordinary, run-of-the-mill Christians . . . like you and me.

Now James doesn’t say we can just come haphazardly before God and expect Him to answer our requests. He already told us earlier in his book that prayer should start with confession of sin and move forward with elements of trust in God’s perfect plans.

The secret of prayer that gets past the ceiling is not our righteousness but God’s . . . which He demonstrates through the prayers of His sons and daughters.

Prayer Point: Spend time thanking God for the fact that He always listens to you and always answers your prayers—even when the answers aren’t exactly what you wanted.

Extra Refreshment: Read I Kings 18 and note the simplicity of Elijah’s prayers and the sovereign power of Elijah’s God.
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Post  Admin on Thu 14 Feb 2013, 11:18 pm

Keeping Your Word

James 5:12
[D]o not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall into judgment.

I asked a business owner in our church how he was doing. He told me his business was struggling. He had one major competitor in the field, a larger company that produced the same product, and he seemed to always come in second place.

A prospective client, however, offered him a large contract and the president of the company even gave him a personal phone call to place the order.

In the course of the conversation, the president told him that they really needed to receive shipment by a certain date if he were to take the job. So the president asked the obvious question: “Can you meet my deadline?”

This Christian businessman knew that with his smaller staff, he would need another two weeks to fill the order. He recalled to me how strong the temptation was to promise that man something he knew was virtually impossible to perform. Thoughts crossed his mind like, “I can always sign the contract now and just make some excuse later for why things are delayed . . . that’s standard procedure!”

Instead of making the promise with his fingers crossed behind his back, he told the prospective client the truth and was rewarded, yet again, by watching his competitor get the contract.

You’re probably expecting me to tell you that his business began to take off after that honest decision. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. He struggled a few more years until he finally went bankrupt and lost his company.

My friend is now with the Lord. I don’t think for a moment he regrets his decision to conduct business by honest principles. Christ has, meanwhile, given Him eternal rewards in heaven far richer than any business prospects he lost on earth.

He was a man of his word . . . he’s now in the presence of his Savior who keeps His word, too.
It seems a bit radical nowadays to say yes when you mean it and no when you mean that, too. Perhaps that’s because we have rationalized honesty to such an extent that it no longer seems important. Are honesty and a handshake really that big a deal to God?

Evidently. That’s the kind of God we represent. We are His ambassadors in this world, and He happens to be a God who always keeps His word (Hebrews 6:18). His fingers are never crossed behind His back.

Think about it: What if God didn’t keep all the promises He made throughout Scripture? What if He just let one promise slip by unfulfilled? Which promise would you want that to be?

They all matter.

In John Phillips’ commentary on James, he gives an excerpt from David Livingstone’s diary, relating to integrity. Livingstone was the famous missionary who bravely carried the Gospel into the unreached interior of Africa in the nineteenth century.

According to Phillips, Livingstone wrote in his diary how, at every great crisis, he retreated to the promise of Jesus Christ, which happened to be his favorite text of Scripture: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

Livingstone concluded his journal entry with these words: “And this is the word of a gentleman of the most sacred honor and that’s an end of it!”

Christ keeps His promises . . . and so should we.

Prayer Point: Have you dropped the “integrity” ball lately? Is there someone you failed to keep your word to? Confess to God right now and then make things right with that person.

Extra Refreshment: Read Hebrews 6:9–20 and notice the references to our promise-keeping God.
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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Feb 2013, 6:55 pm

Not Ashamed
James 5:10–11
As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured.

When James is writing this letter, Jews have been exiled from their homes and lost everything during widespread persecution. James offers them encouragement they can relate to: “Remember the prophets . . . they suffered, too.”

These early Jewish readers would immediately remember Hosea who suffered humiliation from his unfaithful wife, yet faithfully loved her and brought her back home as a sign of God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people.

They would remember Jeremiah who fearlessly preached God’s Word to Israel even though God told him that not a single person would heed his message.

They would recall Micah who was also ridiculed for his message, and Zechariah who was murdered for his testimony.

They would remember Amos and Haggai who were persecuted for the sake of God’s Word; Isaiah who was placed in the hollow of a tree and sawn in half by his own people.

Who among them would forget the more recent prophet John the Baptist who was beheaded in a Roman prison because of his faithful ministry?

James is reminding his readers that if anyone had it tough, it was the prophets. They were mistreated, misunderstood, maligned and, many of them, murdered. Almost all of them lived difficult lives and died tragic deaths.

But James goes on to say that we count those blessed who have endured. Why? Because they are receiving the eternal reward for their ministry! James is reminding us that our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us one day in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18).

The writer of Hebrews commends faithful men and women throughout the ages for their endurance. He writes:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them - (Hebrews 11:13-16).

That last line is incredible: God is not ashamed to be called their God. That’s the blessing that awaits us one day as believers in Christ. Far more precious than a new heaven and a new earth, far greater than the glorified bodies we will receive as we step into immortality, vastly superior to the fact that we will be finally perfected and safely home is the fact that God will not be embarrassed by calling us His own . . . He will, in fact, be proud of us. What amazing grace is that?!

So don’t back down or walk away from a tough assignment today. Persevere in the life Christ has planned for you. And keep in mind it is no more difficult for us to live for Christ today than it was for the prophets of old.

One day, as the Father beams with pride over us—His frail and often-faltering children—every insult we bore and every injury we suffered will no longer matter as they are exchanged for the rewards of His good pleasure.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of the prophets . . . today.

Prayer Point: The greatest example of suffering in Scripture is given by Christ Himself; consider all He endured for you, then pray for strength to share in His sufferings.
Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 8:12–39 and notice the perspective Paul had in the midst of his suffering.
His Invisible Presence
James 5:8–9
You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

When we are living in sin, the concept that God is standing nearby is a cause of both conviction and holy fear. However, when we pursue righteous living, the idea that God is standing nearby is a cause of confidence and peace. His presence at the door both encourages us in the midst of suffering and challenges us in the midst of disobedience.

During our toughest assignments Christ is already present. During our worst suffering, He is at hand. During episodes of mistreatment and persecution, He is still Emmanuel—“God with us.”

Chuck Swindoll illustrated this truth in his book Getting Through the Tough Stuff with a story of a personal encounter he had with a blind student name John. Upon asking John how he’d lost his sight, Swindoll heard about his accident as a teenager and how it caused him to want to give up on life:

When the accident happened and I knew I would never see again, life had ended, as far as I was concerned. I was bitter and angry with God for letting it happen; I took my anger out on everyone around me. I felt that since I had no future, I wouldn’t lift a finger on my own behalf. Let others wait on me. I shut my bedroom door and refused to come out except for meals.

One day, in exasperation, my father came into my room and began lecturing me. He said he was tired of my feeling sorry for myself. Winter was coming, and it was still my job to put up the storm windows. He commanded, “You get those windows up by suppertime tonight,” then walked out of my room, slamming the door behind him.

Well, that made me so angry that I resolved to do it! Muttering and complaining to myself, I groped my way out to the garage, found the windows, a stepladder, all the necessary tools, and I went to work. “They’ll be sorry when I fall off this ladder and break my neck,” I thought . . . but little by little, I got the job done.

As he concluded the story, tears began to form in his eyes. “I later found out that at no time during that afternoon had my father ever been more than four or five feet away from my side.”

You might be tempted to consider James as insensitive in the way he speaks of God’s nearness to us, referring to Him as a Judge instead of Father. But the apostle is merely reminding us that our Heavenly Father, like the father in this story, wants to challenge our character and command our holy behavior.

Remember, James began his letter by writing, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2). Four chapters later, James reinforces the same truths.

So no matter what trial you’re experiencing today, be strengthened in your resolve. God may be commanding your obedience through challenging times . . . but He’s never more than an arm’s length away.

Prayer Point: What trials are you experiencing that cause you to assume God has commanded more than you can possibly endure? Answer His challenge and pray for the needed resolve to pursue holy obedience.
Extra Refreshment: Read James chapter 1 again as James reminds us why trials produce patience.
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Post  Admin on Mon 11 Feb 2013, 10:35 pm

Not My Will . . .but Yours
James 4:15
“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

When I was a newly married seminary student, I held a number of different part-time jobs, while Marsha worked full-time to put me through school and cover the majority of our bills. I’ll never forget that year I convinced her that the timing was right to bury our old car and get a newer model.

Ours was a bucket of bolts and a pile of rust, but the truth was, I simply wanted a car with less than 100,000 miles on it. I knew it would be tight financially, but with both incomes, we’d have just enough to make monthly payments on a new car.

A friend heard I was looking for a car and offered to sell me his little hatchback for a decent price. It was small and didn’t have air conditioning, but it had low mileage and seemed like a great deal. I confess that I didn’t even pray about it. I don’t think I test drove it. It was new, with not a trace of rust anywhere.

We managed to squeeze the payments into our budget.

Two weeks later, I heard of a courier job for a commercial real estate company. The president was a believer, and he had decided years earlier to hire Dallas Seminary students—partly because he trusted the students and partly because he knew they needed help financially.

It was perfect and I gratefully accepted the position—one that I would hold until graduating from seminary the following spring. Then the president told me that I would be given an added perk: a loaded Buick LeSabre to drive as I delivered packages and contracts. But after work, it was mine to take home and keep throughout the week—24/7—with all expenses paid.

Now I had a problem . . . an expensive problem. There was this little hatchback that we didn’t need to drive anymore—but monthly payments had to be made.

Bottom line: I tried selling it back to my friend (he wasn’t interested); it gathered dust for a year; we sold it at a loss.

Since that time I’ve often thought about my impulsive decision . . . and lack of prayer. If I had just waited two weeks, God was already prepared to bury my bucket of bolts and give us a beautiful car without any financial obligation.

Have you ever, literally, gone ahead of God?

It’s evidently a common enough temptation that James reminds us to stop taking control—talking like we’re sovereign—and start surrendering to the Savior. James is cautioning that before we make any plans for today or tomorrow, we should say, “If it’s the Lord’s will.”

These aren’t magic words. James isn’t giving us a formula for getting better cars . . . or healthier bodies. He’s actually giving us a new mindset—a way of thinking and living that places our decisions within the borders of His will.

The Apostle Paul demonstrated this in 1 Corinthians 4:19, where he wrote, I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills. Later, in 1 Corinthians 16:7, he wrote, I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. In Romans 1:10, he wrote, Perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.

Frankly, we should live in the same manner and then wait—even if it means driving a bucket of bolts a few more months . . . or a few more years.

Prayer Point: Are you willing to bring your plans to God and ask for His affirmation . . . His peace . . . His will to be done?

Extra Refreshment: Read Genesis 15 where God promises Abraham a son; then read Genesis 16 where Abraham and his wife lose faith and take matters into their own hands. Learn from their failure this truth: God’s plans are always higher than our plans.
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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Feb 2013, 10:14 pm

Memento Mori”
James 4:13–14
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Since the island nation of Japan is vulnerable to tsunamis, it has developed one of the most sophisticated warning systems in the world. When a tsunami was approaching the city of Sendai, warning signals were triggered but the citizens who heard it had only fifteen minutes to respond.

I watched surreal footage taken from a helicopter as that towering wave swept toward many unsuspecting villagers who hadn’t heard the warning. The coverage showed people in cars and on motorcycles riding casually down the road, having no clue that in a matter of moments they would be swept away by a massive wall of water and debris.

Most life-threatening accidents or natural disasters come without warning. And all it takes is one financial hit, one tornado, one illness, and life can change forever.

Go to a cemetery and read the dates on tombstones. While you’re there, consider the fact that the people buried there never planned to die on the date written on their marker.

Go to the nearest hospital and walk through the emergency room. Do you think any of those people woke up expecting their day to include a trip to the ER . . . perhaps as they or a loved one battled for their very life?

James wants us to remember that since every second is a gift from God and we don’t know how many more He’ll give us, we must make the most of every moment. He compares our lives to steam surging upward from a kettle on a stove—it appears for a little while and then vanishes away. He doesn’t beat around the bush. His words are full of realism and urgency, challenging us to see the aerial view of our lives—see how short they really are.

An article in USA Today told of an undefeated high school basketball team that was playing its last regular-season game. The team’s star player was 6’ 2” and 215 pounds.

The game was tied in overtime and the clock was running down. The star was given the ball with only seconds left to play. Hundreds of excited fans watched as he dribbled down the court and popped a jump shot right before the buzzer sounded. It was right on target . . . nothing but net.

His teammates immediately lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him around the gym as the crowd cheered enthusiastically. Seconds later, he toppled from their shoulders as he went limp, then died of cardiac arrest.

It doesn’t matter how young or old, healthy or sick you are right now. No one escapes death . . . and no one knows exactly when the tidal wave will sweep over our heads.

Businessmen during James’ day often wrote the Latin motto Memento mori on the front page of their accounting books. The words meant “Remember your mortality.” They wrote those words to remind themselves that life was not just about commerce and the business of the day.

In the spectrum of eternity, we have but a few moments to live. We only have one lifetime to offer our Lord Jesus Christ.

While growing up, my father often said, “If you had ten lives, you might choose to waste one of them. But since you only have one, you can’t afford to throw it away. And James would add one simple, inspired word . . . Amen!

Prayer Point: Pray with the Psalmist, Lord, teach me to number my days that I may present to You a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Then recommit the time you have left to God.

Extra Refreshment: Read these passages that remind us of the brevity of our lives and God’s providential care for us: Job 13–14; Psalm 90; Isaiah 40.


Come a Little Closer
James 4:7–8
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

James wants us to know that when we are battling against the devil, we are battling against a person, not just some power.

The name devil literally means accuser, which reveals one of Satan’s chief weapons against believers. Read the Book of Job and you’ll discover just how far Satan will go in his attempt to both accuse us before God and accuse God before us.

And don’t forget that Satan and his demons are rather careful students of your life. He has game film on you, so to speak, and he studies it like football teams study the game film of their opponents. He knows what he’s up against. He knows your weaknesses and strengths. He knows what you like to do and what you like to talk about. He knows what makes you tick and what ticks you off.

Do you know your own weaknesses? Do you know where you are prone to sin? Do you know what kind of places to stay away from and what kind of people to be careful around? Do you know when to turn off the computer or TV?

Resisting the devil involves knowing where he’s going to show up . . . and when.

But James goes further in reminding us that resisting the devil isn’t our main focus as Christians. Our main objective is to turn away from sin and run to Christ. In fact, when we draw near to God, Satan will naturally want to avoid us.

While serving as a missionary in Paraguay, Stuart Sacks wrote of an Indian named Rafael who came one day to join him on his porch. Stuart wrote:

I was eating at the time and went out to see what he wanted. He responded, “Ham heneck met.” Again I asked what I could do for him, but his answer was the same. A missionary later explained to me that this was Rafael’s way of honoring me. His words “Ham heneck met” meant, “I don’t want anything from you—I have just come to be near.”

The Indian was telling Stuart that he found satisfaction just being near him.

How convicting. How many times do we go to God because we want something . . . or need something? How often do we line up in front of God’s throne to petition Him for a miracle or an answer to a request?
Where’s the line of saints who just want to draw near to God?

That was the passion of King David when he prayed: When You said to me, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek” (Psalm 27:8).

Try standing in that line today. Even if God doesn’t give you the answer you desire, find joy in His presence.
James gives a wonderful promise in the next phrase of this text: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

You never have to get out of bed and wonder if it’s too early for God. You never have to muddle through your prayer and wonder if He’s still listening. You never have to experience a crisis and wonder if God hears . . . or cares.

Draw near to Him as you discover your greatest satisfaction in His presence alone. And remember, draw closer to Christ . . . you’ll be farther away from the devil.

Prayer Point: Be silent before God and clear your mind of all other distractions. Then just talk to Him. Put your watch away and don’t worry about the time. No agenda. Just pull up a chair near the Heavenly Father and find joy in His presence.

Extra Refreshment: Read the wonderful words of David in Psalm 25 as he finds refuge in God’s presence.
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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Feb 2013, 5:22 pm

A Lifetime of Growth
James 4:3
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

When British Parliament member John Ward died, a prayer was found among his papers; it was rather embarrassing to those inheriting his estate:

O Lord, Thou knowest that I have mine estates in the City of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in the county of Essex. I beseech Thee to preserve the two counties from fire and earthquake; and as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg of Thee likewise to have an eye of compassion on that county; as for the rest of the counties, Thou mayest deal with them as Thou art pleased.

This type of prayer is so common in our churches today. We ask God for temporal pleasures the way a toddler asks for a popsicle. And when He doesn’t give it to us—and in the flavor we want—we’re likely to throw a spiritual fit.

If we want to live truly satisfied lives, James tells us that we’ll have to get rid of our self-seeking, self-indulgent attitude. To live according to the will of God will require daily surrender of our own will. And the key word here is daily.

Just keep in mind that daily transformation isn’t finished in a day . . . it’ll take a lifetime of surrender and growth.

The day my twin sons turned four years old, I went upstairs to their room when I came home from work. One of my sons had tears in his eyes. This surprised me, so I said, “Hey, buddy, what’s the problem?”

He wiped his eyes and responded, “Today’s my birthday.” I thought to myself, You oughta save those tears for when you hit 40! Instead I said, “Well, I know it’s your birthday . . . so why aren’t you happy about turning four?” With childlike sincerity, he looked up at me and replied, “Because I thought when I turned four, I’d be big.”

My brokenhearted son had the false idea that he was going to grow up overnight. He was so disappointed to discover he wasn’t any larger today than he was the day before.

Some of the greatest saints I’ve ever met—men and women in their 70s and 80s—never talk to me about reaching some point in their lives where they felt they’d made it to spiritual maturity. Instead they speak about the growing pains and the constant struggle to be satisfied in Christ.

This was true of the Puritans as well. One of them made this honest confession before God:

When thou wouldst guide me, I control myself.
When thou wouldst be sovereign, I rule myself.
When I should depend on Thy provision, I supply myself.
When I should submit to Thy providence, I follow my own will.
When I should honor and trust Thee, I serve myself.

Don’t wait until tomorrow to make things right with God. Submit your will to Him now . . . you’ll be able to see growth later on. In fact, the Lord is committed to growing you up and completing His work in you on the day He calls you home.
He just so happens to be stretching your growth process over the course of your entire life . . . so be patient.

Prayer Point: Pray through the lines of that poetic confession and consider how each applies to you specifically. How do you rule yourself and supply yourself and serve yourself? Confess these things to Christ and pray for humility to let them go.

Extra Refreshment: Read Nehemiah 1 and compare Nehemiah’s prayer to John Ward’s prayer at the beginning of this devotional.
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Post  Admin on Tue 05 Feb 2013, 9:25 pm

Taking Out the Garbage
James 3:17–18
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The most important description James gives of heavenly wisdom is that it is first pure. He isn’t using “first” in the sense that purity is the first item in a list but that purity is first in importance. That means if you want wisdom, you must be pure.

This is the opposite of the world’s wisdom. James tells us in the preceding verses of chapter three that worldly wisdom is corrupt, sensual, criminal, demonic, and self-serving. It fits our culture hand in glove.

The word James uses for pure describes someone who shrinks from the pollution of sin. It’s not that true wisdom is simply clean—it despises uncleanness. It does to sin what we do to the garbage: get rid of it!

When my older daughter Candace was still in college, I went to pick her up for Christmas break. My younger daughter Charity was with me, and together we loaded Candace’s things into the back of my Chevy pickup truck.

I had a garbage bag in the back that I had forgotten about. After the bed of the pickup was crammed full, I plopped the rather large bag of trash on top and away we went.

About an hour down the road, however, the wind began to pick up and the bag of trash shifted, slid, and finally toppled out onto the highway. I watched through my side-view mirror as that bag exploded onto the pavement and sent garbage everywhere!

After turning off at the nearest exit and stopping to get some trash bags, we made our way back to the scene of the debris. Trash was strewn on that highway for 40 feet, and we found everything from egg shells and empty cartons to food scraps. My daughters and I all picked up the garbage the same way: with our fingertips. It was a nasty job, and we didn’t want to get our hands dirty.

Trash isn’t something we hang up in our living room or collect as a hobby—at least, most people don’t. Garbage is something we don’t want around. That’s why our 32-gallon cans are outside and not in the middle of the living room.

This is the picture James is painting for us: sin doesn’t belong inside. The wiser we become in our Christian walk, the less we will coddle, embrace, and accommodate impurity.

A woman told me that she had been involved with a man for some time before finally breaking it off. She was single and he was married. They both claimed to be Christians and both were involved in a local church.

She said to me, “We had both wandered so far from biblical wisdom and were so self-deceived that we would actually meet at a hotel room, get out our Bibles, read and pray together before committing adultery.”
This is why James tells us that purity is first and foremost a part of godly wisdom. If we get purity wrong, we’re going to get everything else wrong.

As you ask God for wisdom today, start by confessing any impurity in your heart. Ask God to give you strength . . . strength to throw the garbage out.

Prayer Point: Are you being deceived by sin like the woman in our devotion today? Have you chosen a path that you are convinced is right, while at the same time knowing it is impure? I encourage you to choose one of the verses listed in Extra Refreshment and memorize at least one passage, praying specifically that God will apply His wisdom to your life as you battle your way back to the path of godly wisdom.

Extra Refreshment: Here are some verses to add to your mental arsenal as you battle sin: Romans 6:12 Romans 13:14 Ephesians 4:22; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:16–17.
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Post  Admin on Mon 04 Feb 2013, 11:35 am

The Grass Is Always Greener . . .
James 3:14–16

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

Do Christians compete with one another? Do they compare business cards and job titles? Do they notice neighborhoods and automobiles and the designer labels of others on Sunday morning? Are they tempted to share their child’s latest accomplishments given the slightest opportunity? Do they ever posture themselves for positions in the church?

Unfortunately, yes.

James warns us that jealousy, self-centered ambition, and bitterness will hinder our testimony and may even destroy the effectiveness of our lives.

History, both secular and scriptural, is replete with those who harbored envy within and ultimately were destroyed by it. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples was King Saul. He disobeyed God’s orders given through the prophet Samuel for the battle at the city of Amalek, then set up a monument to himself. Ultimately, Saul was rebuked by Samuel and told that the Lord regretted that He had made him king over Israel (1 Samuel 15). His jealousy of David’s popularity with the people of Israel led him to plot David’s death (1 Samuel 19), even though David had married one of his daughters and was his son’s best friend. Saul died by his own sword as the end of his life dwindled to that of an undistinguished man.

James is telling us that we, like Saul, will destroy ourselves with envy and bitterness. James is encouraging us to grow up in wisdom and understanding—to apply and focus God’s truth in our lives.

While James describes the “normal” practice of everyone around you, he wants you to know that acceptability of the majority’s actions is a far cry from the desired response.

Never confuse the wisdom of the majority with the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world might sound good and seem right but remember that Solomon wrote: There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).

D.L. Moody once said that if someone had a business that was able to photograph the spiritual condition of people’s hearts, he’d go bankrupt. No one would hire him!

James begins this text by writing, If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Frankly, every Christian would have to admit to the same verdict: Guilty! However, the verb for “to have” (echete) actually means “to harbor or foster.”

This means the person whose growth in wisdom is stunted doesn’t just struggle with self-centeredness . . . he welcomes it. He isn’t confessing it—he’s nursing it. Like a pot boiling with ambition and jealous thoughts, he keeps it simmering.

Do you want disorder in your family? Keep envying your neighbor’s possessions. Do you want disorder in your church? Keep seeking ministry opportunities that will allow you to be recognized. Do you want disorder on your job? Keep complaining when others around you are praised or promoted.

It comes down to this: are you content in Christ? The cure for jealousy and selfish ambition is thanksgiving and humility. Begin thanking God today for all that you have . . . and are.

Prayer Point: Who are you envious of today? Confess your envy to God, and then pray for Him to give you contentment as you focus, not on what you don’t have, but on what you have.

Extra Refreshment: Read Psalm 9–10, where David wrestles with the fact that ungodly men seem to “have it made.”
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Drive Wisely!
James 3:13
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

I remember arriving at my first Driver’s Ed class and being thrilled to discover the car I would be learning to drive was a Volkswagen Bug. My parents had the same stick shift VW at home, and I knew I was already way down the road, so to speak! I had spent hours driving in our neighborhood, learning to back up and pull in without popping the clutch too quickly and stalling. Frankly, I was ready to go.

I slipped into the driver’s seat, my instructor in the seat next to me. I pushed in the clutch, started the engine, put the car in first gear, pressed the gas pedal, eased off the clutch, and away we went. Suddenly the car screeched to a halt. I looked over and discovered that my instructor had a set of brakes on his side of the car—something my wife has wanted for years!

He looked at me and said, “Young man, we’re not here to race anybody . . . you’re gonna learn to drive according to my rules.”

Frankly, learning to walk as a Christian is much like learning to drive. We have to do it by His rules.
As you grow in your faith, your understanding and application of the Bible is constantly tested and sharpened. Like driving, the scenery’s always changing. You not only have to keep your eye on the road but on others who are sharing the road with you. Walking with Christ isn’t for cowards!

Maybe that’s why so many people prefer to stay in the garage. We learned to drive; we have our license. We’ve earned the right to get behind the wheel. And that’s good enough . . . we’ll let someone else do all the driving.

James is telling us here that in order to grow up in Christ we have to take what we learn from God’s Word out onto the open road. Drivers don’t show people they are good drivers by flashing a driver’s license; they show it by driving. In the same way, Christians don’t show their faith by talking about the date they came to Christ—they show it by doing good works and by doing those works in the gentleness of wisdom.

Wisdom is really the key point, by the way. You can look around and find some really good people who aren’t believers. Many of them are humanitarians, soldiers, doctors, counselors. Some are better at doing good than Christians are!

But the difference is one day they will all throw their good works at Christ’s feet and say, “Look what I’ve done! This is why I deserve to be in heaven!” And Christ will stun them by saying, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you” (Luke 13:27).

The truth is unbelievers are not motivated by the Spirit of God. No matter what they do, they are doing good works so that people will see their good works and glorify them or, perhaps, they will simply feel better about themselves. Christians do good works in humility, knowing that people will look at those works and glorify their Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). And James considers this the life of wisdom.

The more we take our faith out of the garage and onto the highway, the more opportunities we’ll have to say, “Look what a great Savior I serve!”

So live wisely today, friend. Let the world see our good works, and then let them hear us return the glory to Whom it belongs . . . it may surprise us how much God will use us when we refuse to accept the credit.

Prayer Point: Have you been accepting too many compliments on your own lately? Do you need the reminder to give the glory to God? Ask Him today to give you the wisdom and humility needed to make a real difference in the world.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 3:25–30 and stand amazed at the humility of one of Israel’s greatest prophets, John the Baptist.
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Post  Admin on Thu 31 Jan 2013, 11:28 pm

Talking to Immortals
James 3:9
With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.

When James mentions cursing in this passage, he’s not talking about profanity or calling down from heaven a curse on someone. This is literally a reference to slander, gossip, and accusation against other believers.

You might say, “Well, that’s not so bad . . . at least we’re not saying bad things about God.” But James anticipates this loophole and clarifies his rebuke a step further: he points out the contradiction between blessing God on the one hand and cursing someone made in God’s image on the other.

People have been made in the likeness of their Creator and that sets us all apart from the rest of creation. We are the image-bearers of God. Mankind isn’t just a more slightly evolved animal. We have conscience and self-awareness, with moral reasoning, along with creative ability to shape the world around us through art, music, science, philosophy, and mathematics. An animal never admires a sunset and ponders in spirit the issues of creation.

James reminds us especially that when we offend other believers, God Himself is offended.

Think of it this way: imagine being invited to someone’s home for dinner. While you’re there you notice a picture hanging on the wall and you whisper to your wife, “I hope he didn’t pay a fortune for that painting; it’s horrible!” Then you discover the artist is your host—and he overheard you! Would you then say, “Look, don’t take it personally . . . I’m not criticizing you; I’m only criticizing your work!”

You can’t separate the two, can you? To belittle the art is to belittle the artist. God is as interested in what we say to each other as He is in what we say to Him.

One author illustrates the radical change that should come from understanding the value of God’s highest order of creation, the human being. In his book The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis writes:

Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting believer you talk to will one day be a creature which, if you saw [him] now, you could be strongly tempted to worship [him]. It is in light of this that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

After James spends an entire chapter dealing with our speech, he cuts to the heart of the matter by revealing why we really struggle so much with our speech. Our problem isn’t our mouths . . . it’s our minds. So the solution isn’t to speak better; the solution is to think better!

The reason we criticize and slander and castigate people is because we’re not seeing them the way God sees them. Our thinking is wrong.

So, who are you struggling to love and think kindly of today? Heed James’ words . . . treat them as an immortal creation of Christ.

Prayer Point: Have you hurt someone with your words recently? Confess it to God and then confess it to that person. You’ll be happy you did!

Extra Refreshment: Read Paul’s convicting words regarding your speech in Ephesians 4:25–32.
High Calling . . . Higher Accountability

James 3:1
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

James doesn’t sound fair: those who teach are warned of a higher standard—a stricter judgment. Why the extra scrutiny?

Simply put, teachers deal with words, concepts, ideas, and doctrines that will shape the thinking and direct the lives of their students.

James refers to a didaskalos (teacher), and the word he chooses comes right from the context of a Jewish synagogue. The rabbi, in Jewish tradition, was a teacher who studied the Law and taught his students how it applied to everyday life. He was the most highly revered person in the synagogue, next to the men who served on Israel’s Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin.

This was quite a heady position. In fact, Old Testament scholar William Barclay explained that the rabbi was treated in a way that was likely to ruin his character. The very title Rabbi literally meant “Great One.” So everywhere he went, people greeted him as such. Imagine everyone telling you that you are the “Great One.” That almost guarantees not only pride but an overabundance of applicants for the position of rabbi!

James is writing to Jewish teachers in the Church who are possibly feeling some personal sense of glory or pride from their high calling. These are the early days of church history; the transition between synagogue life and church life hasn’t been fully developed. That explains why James issues a stern warning for his fellow pastors and teachers in the Church.

James, effectively, says to us as well, “Do you want a platform? Do you want the attention and prestige that accompanies the role of being a teacher of God’s Word? Fine. Just don’t forget that one day you’ll be held to a higher accountability than those you taught.”

The Apostle Paul echoes this same challenge as he exhorts Pastor Timothy to handle the Word of God accurately and with great care (2 Timothy 2:15).

But what exactly does James mean by his warning that teachers will incur a stricter judgment? He is referring to the Bema Seat of Christ, where every believer will one day stand and be rewarded for their service to Christ. This is not a place where we will be judged for our sin—Christ has already paid the penalty for that—it’s where we will give an account for how we used our lives and gifts for God’s glory (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So James is reminding those of us who have authority over others that we will be given an additional evaluation on a higher standard: did we practice what we taught or preached?

It’s one thing to be a student and learn biblical truth and refuse to obey it. It’s quite another to be a teacher and disobey the truth we have just taught to others. All who dished out the truth will give an account for how they lived out the truth.

Scottish Reformer John Knox was so awed and burdened by the responsibility of the office he was just beginning that, when he stood in the pulpit to preach his very first sermon, he began weeping uncontrollably. He was overwhelmed with the gravity of what he was about to do. It was more than preaching the truth . . . it was living the truth.

Knox’s attitude will prepare us well as we consider both our high calling and higher accountability . . . it’s just around the corner at the coming Bema Seat of Christ.

Prayer Point: Pray that the Lord will impress upon your heart the attitude of John Knox as you prepare to teach His Word to others. Also, thank Him for His grace in using imperfect messengers to deliver His perfect message to the world.

Extra Refreshment: Read Paul’s first chapter written to Titus; notice the qualifications he gives for pastors and teachers. These are actually wonderful goals for every believer.
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Changing Tags
James 2:25
[W]as not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

If you’ve ever been to the emergency room, you’ve experienced the process known as triage. Triage is a French word that means “to sort out,” and it refers to the system that doctors and nurses use to decide which patients are in dire need of help and who isn’t.

In an Allies war camp during World War II, the triage supervisor had the unenviable job of labeling the soldiers with one of three colored tags.

The first was given to patients who were “Hopeless”: they would be made as comfortable as possible and allowed to die. The second tag was given to those who were “Hopeful”: they were left alone because they would survive without immediate help. The third was given to the “Doubtful”: they were given the most meticulous and immediate treatment—treatment that would mean the difference between life and death.

A soldier named Lou arrived at one of these makeshift hospitals. He had been hit by shrapnel and one of his legs was completely shattered. He had also lost a lot of blood.

The triage supervisor examined him and tagged him “Hopeless.” The nurse assigned to Lou noticed he was conscious and she began talking with him. She soon discovered they were both from Ohio. After getting to know his life story, she made the decision to do something that was against triage protocol: risking her medical career and reputation, she changed Lou’s tag to “Doubtful.”

A few hours later, Lou was given intensive care. He was transported from the front lines to a better medical facility where his life was spared. He would spend the rest of his life balancing on one leg, but he was grateful to that nurse for giving him a second chance to live.

In this text, James introduces us to an Old Testament woman who received a similar act of mercy. She, too, was considered hopeless by human standards. She was a Gentile living in a nation that was about to be completely destroyed by God. She was also a prostitute who ran a brothel in Jericho.

God came to bring hope to people like Rahab. His grace isn’t handicapped by our ancestry or pedigree or resumé. It isn’t even hampered by our past. And when God changes our tag, He doesn’t just erase our past . . . He writes a new future!

Scripture tells us that after Rahab declared her faith in the God of Israel, she was rescued when the Israelites came to conquer Jericho.

She was accepted by the Jewish nation and even married a godly Jewish man named Salmon. They would have a son together and name him Boaz. Boaz would grow up and, like his father, marry a Gentile convert named Ruth.

Fast forward the genealogy film and you discover that Rahab is the great-grandmother of King David. She has found a place in the very bloodline of the Messiah!

What does this tell us about the heart of God? It tells us that He loves changing people’s tags.

Is there someone in your life whom you’ve tagged as “Hopeless” . . . “Depressed” . . . “Addict” . . . “Doubter” . . . “Faithless” . . . “Ungifted” . . . “Lazy”? James’ message for you today is to remember that God changed your tag too . . . and He can change theirs, as well.

Prayer Point: Have you given up hope on someone in your life? Pray that God will rescue that person—and ask the Lord to help you persevere in prayer on their behalf, no matter what their tag says.

Extra Refreshment: Read Rahab’s story for yourself in Joshua 1–2.
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