A Glorious Light

David Sulcer

Passage: James 3:13-18

Prayer: Father, why are we so often tempted to believe that cynicism is a brother of intelligent minds? Is it because the cynic comes across with an air of confidence and speaks with supposed professorial wisdom? Is it because so much is wrong with our world that we are drawn to those who would stand courageously to critique such injustices that abound? Have we become jaded by our media-saturated preoccupation with bad news that we can no longer be comfortable with the good things we find in life; that we feel the need to be consumed by the cynical pundits protests that we see it as the normal way to look at life? O Father, give us eyes to see through such prevailing darkness to the flickering candle of hope that glimmers in the night sky; a candle that is in fact the blazing star of Heaven’s approaching Kingdom of God; one that is growing ever brighter with each passing day! And instead of allowing us to concentrate on the darkness, help us to see the goodness of your creation by the rays that come from your glorious light. Help us to light as many candles as we can from the wick that burns before your glorious throne. Indeed a light that ever sings with the angelic melody of “Peace on earth, good will toward man!” In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

 

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What I Meant to Say Was…

Mike Ferrante

Passage: James 3:1-12

Prayer: Lord, we look at our humanity and consistently shake our head.  We have wonderful intentions and our hearts seem to be in the right place, and then out of nowhere we say something foolish, and the entire credibility of our lives goes out the window!  All it takes, in so many ways, is saying the right thing and it is many times impossible.  The relationship between mother and son, husband and wife, boss and employee can sway from great to bad by how we say something.  Lord, how can the tongue have so much power?  You proved its power at the dawn of creation by making all things happen through the power of your words.  In our worship, we sing songs to you, and many times you give words through us that can change hearts instantly, just by hearing them!  Lord, teach us all to rely on your words and not ours.  Help us to stay silent as much as possible, to strive not to be heard, but to hear.  If we strive to teach, may it only happen once we have the discipline to share what you have said and not our interpretations only.  In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Ponder: Have you put your foot in your mouth recently?  Ask the Lord to show you how to tame the tongue and to listen to His words!

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A Creed Spoken Yet Not Lived

David Sulcer

Passage: James 2:14-26

Prayer: Father, keep us from having a faith that is simply a verbal expression, a creed spoken yet not lived. Instead, root our beliefs in a living and active lifestyle. One in which our deeds match our words. One in which we not only love you with our mind but our strength. Move us to action toward real human need, knowing that faith without works is dead and love without action is really a lie. James, like Paul, saw “faith” not as some theological concept but as a “rubber-meets-the-road” action; one that works out its own salvation with fear and trembling; one that rises to the occasion and risks itself to minister to the needs of others. To simply say, “God is one” without a full expression of loving you with all of our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves is a devil’s game of self-deception and cold-hearted religion. So, like Abraham and Rahab, may we be willing to risk it all to show you our trust in your plan. For faith lives in the heat of the battle; thrives in the moments of self-sacrifice; and sees a need to minister help and comfort. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ponder: Have you found yourself, too often, living out a weekend-only Christianity? How can you ramp up a richer life of faith in the marketplace of life? Find ways to live your faith out in public today.

 

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Playing Favorites

Chris Kaskel

Passage: James 2:1-13

 Point: Some time ago I was teaching in kid’s church about the Old Testament story of Joseph. In explaining his back-story I talked about how he was his father’s favorite son and it made all of his brothers jealous. I asked the kids how they would feel if their mom or dad told them that their brother or sister was their favorite. A girl in the front quickly exclaimed, “Mommies and Daddies aren’t supposed to have favorites!” After a few other answers, I called on a little boy who said, “If my mom told me that, I would tell her, ‘This sucks!’” It’s a natural reaction to be upset when you feel like you aren’t appreciated as much as someone else. This first part of James chapter two gets at the heart of this issue.

In the Kingdom of God there are no favorites. Jesus loves everyone equally and as his followers, we are to do the same. No wonder we are reminded over and over again to love your neighbor as yourself, to feed the poor, to take care of the widows, etc. In His Kingdom, everyone gets loved and no one is left out. If you think about it, that’s completely counter-cultural to almost everything we are used to. There’s division in almost every aspect of our culture, based on all kinds of different qualifiers and statuses. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live differently. We are called to treat others as we would like to be treated. It’s a simple statement…but living it out is a whole different thing.

Ponder: How often do you treat others as you would like to be treated? Do you show favoritism to certain people? When was the last time you stopped to help someone in need without any thought of repayment?

For Families: To kids, the thought of favoritism is like a two-sided coin. If they aren’t the favorite, they don’t like it and they get mad. If they are the favorite (or at least think they are) they carry that around like a badge of honor, bragging about it. Treating others how you would like to be treated is one of the fundamentally important things kids can learn. After all, it’s one of the fundamentally important things for us, as Christian adults, to learn too. Find ways to teach your kids to be selfless and be kind to other people.

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A Noble Virtue

David Sulcer

Passage: James 1:19-27

Prayer: Father, help us to know the sever limits of good anger. So often we try to ennoble our angry expressions to fit a wide range of situations but find that more times than not it only damages our relationships and exacerbates our community. Yes patience is a much more noble virtue than anger most of the time. So help us to listen more than speak, calming our hearts when our blood begins to boil, knowing that all “call to arms” are often unnecessary for justice to be served and peace to be achieved. For, too often, a host of other mercenary vices follow close behind the footsteps of anger, such as pride, malice, envy, and rage. So may we look long and hard into the perfect law of freedom, for in its pages is the very answer to our restless heart and wayward tongue. Plant its good seed deep within our souls so that godlier virtues will bloom, flower, and flourish in our lives. And call us to acts of social goodness and personal holiness, knowing that these are the better soldiers of lasting justice than our anger could ever achieve! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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Pass the Test

David Sulcer

Passage: James 1:9-18

Prayer: Father, keep us from the clutches of riches and evil desires. So often the real test is not that of pain and problems, but more so that of wealth and temptations. Wealth has a way of shielding us from the common struggles of those in low income circumstances, deceiving us into thinking that all is well when our needs are met. Wealth can nourish our wants and desires with unquenchable hunger and yet never really feed us what the heart is hungry for. And yet wealth, because it can buy us so many things, keeps us from focusing on You. Instead of truly prospering we begin to “wither away in the midst of our busy lives,” until in the end all our accruements of wealth droop and disappear like flowers of the field. And then as we stand naked before you all we are is skin and bones! So help us to pass the test of riches and temptation by pursuing the better gifts of life; the ones that come down from your hand and heart! May we go after the life that is truly life, not the one disguised in Madison Avenue riches, but the one seen in the One who took a towel and washed his disciples’ feet! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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A Sage of the Tides

Mike Ferrante

Passage: James 1:1-8

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you suffered many things, yet through every trial you persevered even unto death and came out victorious.  The writer here tells us that we must have similar perseverance in the midst of storms.  We must wait them out.  Lord, we confess that that is easier said than done. When storms come, we tend to go with our natural instinct and find a way to survive.  Many of us not only try to survive but also thrive in the midst of the storm.  We find a process that works and try to share that wisdom, but the process doesn’t work for everyone!  Man’s wisdom gained in perseverance is fleeting.  But God, we thank you that your wisdom is available!  When we look to the ultimate example of your Son, we now begin to understand your love for us.  You want to give us everything we need.  We need your wisdom, Lord.  The storms are raging, but the wisdom Christ gained in perseverance is ironclad!  It works for everyone!  We keep our eyes on you, Lord, so that we may learn the character traits of a storm-runner and sage of the tides.  Amen!

Ponder: Where has God given you wisdom in the midst of trials?  Share with someone personally and online today!!!!!

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