Monday 20 April, 2015

James 2:18-26

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[a]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[b] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James summarises this passage in verse 26 where he says, “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works”. Whilst our salvation comes from believing in Christ, James highlights the importance of demonstrating our faith by how we live. He acknowledges that it is impossible to show our faith if we don’t have good deeds (vs 18).

To do the good deeds that God calls us to do, I am reminded of Philippians 2:13 – “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him”. This means that we are to allow God to work through us and guide us, so that our lives reflect the faith we have in Him.

God, I thank You for the gift of salvation and I thank You that I can put my faith in You. Please help me to live a life that demonstrates my faith and brings You glory every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Written by Laura Samperi

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Sunday 19 April, 2015

James 2:14-17

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17

Jeremiah 17:5-8 has a great picture of the person who puts their trust in God: a tree with deep roots. Because the roots are deep it produces green leaves and fruit in season. He contrasts it to those who put their trust in themselves: a stunted desert shrub. Desert shrubs have shallow roots.

James has lots of warnings about shallowness and self-tests to work out if that is me. Do I talk about faith that I’ve been redeemed by Jesus, but act like I’m still a slave to sin? Do I say I love my brother or sister and wish them good things when they’re in difficulty, but do nothing to help them? Sounds like words only – stunted leaves with shallow roots.

It may not have been the particular problem at the church James was writing to, but he could equally have warned me about shallow actions: going through the motions of good deeds in the arrogant belief I can buy what Jesus gives me.

Shallowness is so common now. We even have specialised professions dedicated to manipulating image of everything from political spin through fashions that somehow never make me look like the Photoshopped model, to the photographic tricks to make me think the next hamburger I buy really will be succulent and fresh like the photo.

But it seems nothing is new. God warned Samuel “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

How should I respond?

Have deep roots. If my life doesn’t yet produce the right fruit (Galatians 5:16-23), keep growing my roots deeper into God.

The best way to seem like a man of God is to be one. Not easy, but Jesus did the hard work: he set me free from sin and makes me a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-8), different from the old broken one. And I have complete faith that is what he has done.

Then I can talk with confidence about the faith I have in Jesus.

Written by David Cornell

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Saturday 18 April, 2015

James 2:8-13

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

This is a challenging passage to digest.

We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves and as the verses earlier point out, not to favour the rich and ignore the poor. Just as we have received mercy through Jesus we are to operate out of it in our dealings with others. As we do not keep the law perfectly, we are relying on God’s mercy to save us, therefore we cannot justly deal with others in any way other than with mercy. We are all equally dependent on God’s mercy, being made holy in Christ does not elevate us above those who have not yet accepted Christ. All have fallen short and all need Jesus.

The commentator Adam Clarke makes this statement about how this concept might be practically applied, “A merciful man rejoices rather in opportunities of showing mercy, than in acting according to strict justice.” Do I rejoice in opportunities to show mercy? Or do I have more conviction around what I perceive is fair for me? What is due to me? Do I delight in giving mercy or demand of others a perfect standard that I cannot live up to myself?

God, please soften my heart and help me to walk daily with an awareness of my dependence on your mercy. Fill me with your Spirit and create in me a mercy heart for others. Let me rejoice in opportunities to show mercy and let go of my hold on strict justice. God, I cannot try to do this on my own, I invite you in to change me from the inside out. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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Friday 17 April, 2015

James 2:1-7

2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

In this passage, James says that we shouldn’t show favouritism. In some translations, he even implies that favoritism contradicts our faith.

He is ultimately questioning the motives of our hearts. We will always have different relationships in our lives, and different levels of commitment and time for various people. What James says is that no matter the person, no matter the nature of the relationship, we need to treat everyone with the same love that Christ has shown us, a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.

Love isn’t always easy. In and of ourselves, it’s impossible to love everyone. This is why we have the Holy Spirit to always point us back to Jesus, and to empower us to abundantly and indiscriminately love everyone around us.

Father God, help me to love everyone in my world, no matter who they are. Help me to let Your Spirit in to my heart each day, and to treat each person in my world the same way Jesus treats me.

Written by Matt Samperi

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  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Thanks Matt, yes this was a really good reminder for me this morning. Lord help me see with your eyes the person you delight in under every exterior!

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Thursday 16 April, 2015

James 1:26-27

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

How should I define my “religion”? What are the things I do under the heading of my religion? I go to church, I pray, I sing songs to God, I try to help people know Jesus as best I can. All good things.

But what does God want?

Do I keep a tight reign on my tongue? Not just swearing but gossip and exaggeration. Do I break my routine to care for the broken hearted who have lost a spouse either through death or divorce? (That’s who a widow is).  Have I opened my heart and home to kids that don’t have parents either through death or they are just absent? (That’s who orphans are). Have I, with complete conviction, refused to let my life become corrupted by the evil world around me? That’s the “religion” that God really wants.

Lord Jesus forgive me please of defining the actions of my faith by my culture or even by what I think you might want. Help me now pursue holiness and helping those who really need it.   Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

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Wednesday 15 April, 2015

James 1:22-25

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

I once saw a funny comic like the one at http://sharideth.com/2012/04/13/the-difference-between-how-men-and-women-see-themselves/ that suggested that how we see ourselves in the mirror is heavily dependent on our self esteem and identity rather than just what the mirror reflects back. The issue is not so much about the mirror itself but about what our mind does with the image it sees.

I find that it is very much the same with how I read the Bible. My own preconceptions and brokenness can interfere with how I understand what I read and thus it will influence my ability to actually do what the Word says.

I find that if I pray before reading the scriptures, reflect and meditate on what I read, share the scriptures with others and seek wise counsel on the difficult passages, not only do I better grasp the meaning of the Word, but I also very better at actually following the commands that I read.

Lord, help me to be diligent in my approach to your Word, so that I approach it with the expectation that I will be challenged to do what it says, even when that is a challenge.

Written by Ps. Justin Ware

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Tuesday 14 April, 2015

James 1:19-21

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

When a verse starts with the phrase “My dear brothers and sister, take note of this: …”, you get the idea that something really important is about to be said!  I believe that this simple phrase- “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” is perhaps one of the greatest keys to good relationships ever written.

As it happens, this is one of the things God has already been highlighting to me this year to work on in my own life. I am by nature a strong minded person (maybe everyone is in some area or another?…). Seeing things from another person’s perspective is often a challenge, but it is so incredibly important in good relationships.

The older I get the more I seem to notice how deeply self-centredness is ingrained in my human nature. I am so grateful that God in his love and wisdom continues to teach and train me in a better way. Thankfully, He is so patient with my shortcomings, and keeps gently challenging me to change through His Word (and through other people I might add).

I love how the Message bible paraphrases the last verse here: “In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation landscape of your life”.  Yes please.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Monday 13 April, 2015

James 1:17-18

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

In this reading James clearly states that temptation is never sent by God [v.13], so what does God send into our lives? James reveals for us that because God is absolutely reliable in everything He does, we can be sure that whatever He sends into our lives will be an expression of his grace and will be completely beneficial to us. [read v.16-18]

James wants his readers to be sure of God’s unchanging love no matter how hard their circumstances might be. James writes that “every good and perfect gift” comes down from our unchanging Father, so he wants us to look away from those circumstances and look up and receive God’s perfect gifts – salvation in Christ Jesus, the Father’s forgiveness, His enabling Holy Spirit living within us – to highlight a few of His many gifts which flow from Him daily.

James writes about two more life principles which involve listening and doing [v.19-25]. In conversations always be a good listener first so that your contribution will be meaningful; and because of this you will be doing exactly what God desires.

Listening to God’s word can be challenging, encouraging, inspiring and/or convicting, but James points out if there is no active response to it then it is the same as a person who looks in a mirror and then disregards what needs to done. On the other hand, when we do make a life-changing response a blessing is assured.

Thank you Lord for the practical insights which James gives us. Thank you too for the power of your spoken word which is able to cause life-changing responses from us. We praise you for the continual flow of gifts which come from you every day. We give you all honour and glory!

Written by Keith Bennett

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Sunday 12 April, 2015

James 1:12-16

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.

Here I see the Devil’s plans laid bare and God’s purposes and rewards declared. Testings and temptations are never designed by God, but God uses them to develop endurance and He rewards those who patiently endure. Everyone one is tempted and if I am tempted that doesn’t make me a sinner. When I endure through temptation in hope of God’s blessing I show I have faith. But what happens when I don’t endure?

Temptation is left to linger, it starts to have a long conversation with my desires. If they chat long enough my desires will drag me down a path of action, sinful action. When sin is hidden and allowed to keep active in my life it works like an acid and decays my life.

O Lord, you have set me free from the power of sin. Drag me and my desires to your temple, let me see your beauty and your grace. Let me taste some of my reward. For better is one day in your courts then one thousand elsewhere!

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Saturday 11 April, 2015

James 1:9-11

9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

I am struck by the phrase “the rich should take pride in their humiliation.” Who ever liked being humiliated? Why would James exhort people to take pride in their humiliation? I think that James is saying – in God’s Kingdom, God is no respecter of persons. Those in humble circumstances and those in great wealth are treated the same in my eyes. Wealth or lack thereof is no qualification for better position or higher priority in my Kingdom. God loves everyone the same, and values everyone the same.

The challenge in this passage is to not get sucked into the temporal allure of wealth. In this world, wealth does often get you a better position or does make you higher priority in lots of different situations. But in God’s Kingdom, there is only one way God relates to us and interacts with us – belief. Verse 9 starts with the term “believers”. Through faith, particularly, faith in Jesus Christ, the rich and the humble can likewise call upon God, and see God move in their lives. God has given the possibility of truest riches to every human being – by faith, we can have the riches of direct access and real relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Can any amount of wealth, or lack thereof, trump this rich offer? Not for me!

Lord, I thank you that relationship with you is truest and most lasting of all riches. I thank you that your word keeps the temptations and allures of different things in this world in check. I thank you that your word also exalts the humbled, and humbles the exalted. Lord, teach me to live by faith, all my days, because by faith, every human being, no matter rich or poor, can know you!

Written by Ps. Rob Waugh

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    This concept of riches is not restricted to money only it also applies to beauty, intelligences, sporting prowess, eloquence, all sorts of talents and even fame.
    .
    Its not that you have these things that is important, it is what you do with these things that is important.

    Thanks Rob

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