James 5:13-18 (Devotional Thought)

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Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:13-18 ESV)

I bet you didn’t know that I’m an award winning actor. Well actually the award was from the Missouri district 5 acting competition for high schools… But I got first place, name in the paper and everything. Initially I was afraid to act. I had this weird thought that everyone else at the competition was going to be better. I thought they had all been acting since birth and that as an 11th grader I was late to the game. I really only signed up for the acting class because I thought it would be fun (that was before I realized that you had to memorize your lines). But then my friend Ian and I actually won the duo-acting part of the competition. I went on to star in high school plays, church dramas, and even wrote the script for a church musical before I finally retired from acting.

James says that prayer can be like that. It can be intimidating at first. You can think of all kinds of people who might be better at prayer than you and so you don’t bother, but James reminds us that even the really famous prophet Elijah was human. Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop and it stopped raining for three years! Effective prayer really only requires one thing… a heart submitted to God and ready to be used by him.

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Have you been to JonathanHillOnline.com Yet?

Have you been to see JonathanHillOnline.com Yet? It’s the new home of the Hill House blog. I’ll be slowly moving all of these posts over to my new online presence. I’ve also been busy posting new articles, book reviews, etc. You can check out some of them below…

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Believe! (John 6:25-71)

Wow.  Lots to unpack here and think through in the gospel of John.  First note that Jesus says that God is working… Rather “this is the work of God” (John 6:29).  In my mind this is a throw back to the whole Healing on the Sabbath Day debacle. There Jesus said, “My father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). This was his justification for working on the Sabbath… That though God had rested the 7th day, was still at work.  Here Jesus proclaims that the work of God is for people to believe whom he sent… (hint: that’s Jesus).

Then in John 6:40 there is the throw back again to John 3 where Jesus talks about being lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness.  Only here not the emphasis is on the looking… or belief.  In John 3 the emphasis was that Jesus would be lifted up, here the emphasis is that now those who look on Him and believe will have eternal life!

But wait there is more.  Jesus says that he is the bread from heaven.  He is the true manna from God.  Manna was the miracle bread that God provided for Israel while they wandered in the dessert.  God provided by sending bread down each day.  Here Jesus is saying that He is the true bread of life.  That once someone has gone to him, they don’t need any more.  He is enough.  He satisfies.

Enter now the context of feeding the 5000 earlier in this chapter.  Jesus proclaims that his body and his blood will be offered for the benefit of the world. He will indeed multiply the benefit of his death, burial and resurection to all those who would call on Him.

Application: Jesus is the true bread of Heaven.  You will never be content in this life if you continually feast on the things that do not satisfy.  Are you looking to Jesus today to fill you and sustain you?

Father,

I thank you for your kindness to me in drawing me to faith and repentance in Christ.  This indeed is truly a better gift than I could have ever imagined.  You are my daily bread.  You are what sustains me in good times and in bad.

Morning: Psalm 108

Mid-Day: Psalm 56

Evening: Psalm 8

“Radical Together” by David Platt (A Review)

Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God by David Platt is a much better book than his first book Radical.  You can catch my opinion of Radical Here.  Dr. Platt has matured as a writer.  He presents a much more solid case in this book for calling churches to reform and addresses questions that the first book raised.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the book, but more importantly the message that He is proclaiming to the American Church.  I really appreciate his sincerity and honesty in addressing pastors and lay leaders in this book.  My initial concerns withe the first book have been set at ease though not tempered completely.

I still need to see a clearer line of reasoning behind his correlation between poverty in India and comfortableness of  churches (14-15).  He either needs to point out that radical poverty exists in these places because Christians have been actively exploiting the poor. Like when the purchase of sugar supported slavery because the sugar was purchased from plantations run on slave labor.  Or he needs to make a case for how social justice is connected to the gospel.  To do neither makes the comparison an unfair accusation.  Either the church causes the exploitation of these people, or it is God’s clear call for the church to relieve suffering. It would have been worth another chapter to see him make this clear.  Timothy Keller does an excellent job of making the second point in his book, Generous Justice.

I highly recommend Radical Together to anyone interested in examining the pieces of the gospel that Westerners tend to ignore.  I think you will find the book highly motivating and challenging.he retail price of Radical Together is $14.99 (Paperback), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $9.09. I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Jolt” By Phil Cooke (A Review)

Jolt!: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing by Phil Cooke is an exciting read.  The book is basically a list of 25 “jolts” or things that a person needs to do in order to be successful in the Western business world and in life (of course this all largely depends on your definition of success).   The chapters are generally small and very readable in a ten to fifteen minute coffee break and range anywhere from three to ten pages in length.

Initially I thought the book was a bit cheesy and I wish the author would have picked a different name. Even though I knew what Phil was talking about I couldn’t shake this image from my mind the whole time.  Never the less the book did prove to be very useful to me and I dog-eared several pages to come back to and review later.

Many of the thoughts aren’t that revolutionary, but they are strong reminders of some basic life strategies.  Phil does an excellent job of continuing to point to the things that really matter.  In the end I came to really enjoy and appreciate the book.

Over all its a great read with a great cover design and if you can ignore images of gum with a high caffeine content that goes by the same name you will have a great time reading it as well. The retail price of Jolt is $22.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places likeAmazon.com for $15.02.  I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Sign Do You Show Us for Doing These Things? (John 2:18)

Read all of John 2 to grasp the context.

Do you get it?  Do you see the logic?  The reason behind the question?  Jesus flips tables.  He takes a whip and clears the Temple.  The people around start asking for a sign.

They get it.  They realize that here is a man who has no position or title to give him authority in the Temple, yet he is acting out like he has authority in that sphere.  He is acting like a prophet.  They know their history.

Moses performed miracles when he approached Pharoah. Elijah called fire down from heaven.  They want to know if Jesus is a prophet, possibly even the messiah.  If he is, they reason, he should show them a sign.

Jesus doesn’t play any parlor tricks here.  He has already changed water into wine back at Canna of Galilee.  He could easily do something here, but instead he points to the temple they are in and says, destroy this temple and in 3 days I’ll build it back.  They thought he was talking about a building.  He was talking about his body.

They had perverted worship by bringing money making schemes into the Temple.  Their offerings were an offense to God, but they would offend God further by putting Christ to death.  But that would not be the end of it.  The ultimate sign that He would give is that he would rise from the dead.  Worship would no longer center around an earthly temple made by human hands, but would center of Jesus Christ.  (There is a great depth and richness to this passage, but not enough time to go through it all here).

Also note 2 things. 1. The disciples immediately recall Psalm 69:9 in reference to Jesus’ actions here (John 2:17). 2. When Jesus is raised from the dead the disciples remember this event and it causes them to believe the scripture (John 2:22).  Remember the New Testament hadn’t been written yet.  The scripture that the disciples  believe is the Old Testament in reference to Jesus as the Messiah.

Application: Jesus is the True and Better temple that was destroyed and ressurected so that we might also be raised from the dead and enjoy eternal life with God. Thank God today for all Christ has done for you and live in free worship of Him by how you live.

Father,

I thank you for the work of Christ on the cross and his ressurection for my benefit that I might enjoy the pleasure of knowing you.  I rejoice that your word is singularly focused on the message of the gospel.  I ask for grace to walk worthy of Christ in thefreedom that you have given me.

Morning: Psalm 69

Mid-Day: Psalm 3

Evening: Psalm 102

“he was looking for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 23:51)

Have you ever been desperate to see God move?  Have you ever looked around and realized that apart from God doing something, it’s hopeless? Have you ever hoped beyond hope that God would move in a significant way in your lifetime?

Joseph did.  He was looking for the kingdom of God.  Then one day on the worst day in history Joseph did something that put him right in the middle of seeing the kingdom of God come together.

You see He put the body of Jesus in his tomb.  When it looked like all was lost he did the right thing.  He provided a burial for the peasant that everyone had thought was the Messiah.  He gave his tomb to Jesus.

Even on a terrible day, Joseph was prepared to be busy doing something.  He was going to take care of the body of this peasant and put him in his own tomb.  Joseph was a man of action.

I guess that looking really involves doing.  Looking for the kingdom of God isn’t sitting on the sidelines hoping to see a miracle or something.  That was what Herod was doing and he wasn’t looking for the kingdom of God.  He just wanted a show.

Joseph was looking and as he was looking he was doing.  His action put him in the middle of the kingdom of God.

Father,

I am seeking to follow you today.  I don’t want to be a spectator.  help me to do even small and menial tasks as unto you today.  Thank you for my salvation that was accomplished on the cross.  Use me to tell others about you today.