James 5:19-20 (Devotional Thought)

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My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20 ESV)

My family loves to go hiking. Since we really don’t have any mountains to hike around Pensacola we do the next best thing, we go for a walk through the woods. One time we were walking through the woods and I stopped abruptly. My three-year-old wanted to keep on trekking and started to go around me and I snatched him back and held him close to me and said, “Wait! Do you see that stick there in the middle of the path?” The stick was actually a snake and I had prevented him from stepping on it. Thankfully that particular snake wasn’t poisonous, but my son did learn a valuable lesson. Look out for snakes!

James says that when we bring someone back from wandering that we cover over a multitude of sin. The sin being talked about here is the sin of the person who has wandered. When I reached out and pulled my son back from the path I kept him from being bit by a snake. When we reach out to those who are wandering from the faith we are keeping them from hurtful behavior that can hurt themselves or others.

When I was younger I was angry about some things that people had done to our family and I responded by hanging out with the wrong crowd and drinking. When my dad became aware of my alcohol abuse he confronted me about it. I repented and haven’t been drunk since. My dad knew all about alcohol because his dad was an alcoholic. I was already showing the classic signs of being an alcoholic by drinking alone, etc. I am confident that my dad’s intervention changed the course of my life for the better and in the end covered over a multitude of sins.

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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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James 5:12 (Devotional Thought)

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But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12 ESV)

Have you ever made a promise while crossing your fingers or made an oath to a friend and said, “cross my heart and hope to die”? Those are things I used to do as a little kid. You would cross your fingers when you knew you were going to break your promise (somehow that made it okay to do) and you swore on your life (that’s crossing your heart and hoping to die) when you wanted someone to believe your promise.

People swear or “promise” based on something. They might say, “I swear as sure as I’m standing here” or “I swear on my momma’s grave.” While those are weird things to swear by they reveal something about the person who is swearing…. They normally lie. If people won’t believe what you say, it’s probably because you crossed your fingers one too many times and they are reluctant to trust you. James says that you are not to swear or promise by anything, rather just speak the truth.

Lying is what we do when we don’t trust God. Swearing is what we do when we’ve lied so many times that people won’t believe us… James reminds us not to cross our fingers or swear by anything because someone who trusts God has no reason to lie.

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James 5:7-11 (Devotional Thought)

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Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11 ESV)

I hate waiting but sometimes I’ll go stand in line to wait just to get into some fancy place to eat. Then I’ll order something off the menu and sit around and wait for my food to be delivered. Most of the time the end product is worth the wait. But what if I didn’t understand that good food takes time to prepare and so I bad mouthed the chef the whole time we waited? They would be back in the kitchen slaving away to present an awesome meal and I would be out front thinking that they had it in for me and they hated me for making me wait.

James says that part of being a Christian is waiting for God to deliver on his promises. We know that God will deliver, but sometimes it seems like we are waiting a long time. James reminds us that God’s timing is always perfect and has a purpose. When we have patience we are demonstrating that we trust God to deliver us and that he is still as merciful and compassionate as he has ever been.

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James 4:13-17 (Devotional Thought)

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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17 ESV)

I had the benefit of getting my master’s degree a few years ago. I was in my early thirties and as old as some of the younger professors at the school, so for a joke one time I walked into a class on the first day and began to act just like I was the professor. I said things like, “Ok everyone get out your text books for the course.” The charade lasted only a few minutes before the real professor came in and the joke was up. Everyone soon recognized that I was a student just like them.

Sometimes we like to pretend that we know more than we do. I was pretending to be a teacher, but I was really there to learn. Sometimes we pretend to be like God and make plans as if we know everything that will happen. The truth is we don’t. We don’t even know what the next moment will truly hold. Only God does. James writes and reminds us to submit everything to God, even how we speak needs to be seasoned with an honest submission to God’s authority. We can say, “This is my plan and I think it’s good, but only God truly knows what will happen.” By approaching our life and plans like this we are recognizing the Lordship of God in everything we do.

James 4:11-12 (Devotional Thought)

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12 ESV)

I used to play flag–football on Sunday afternoons. Our team got really good and we started a league so we could play other teams. We started out just calling the rules ourselves like if we stepped out of bounds we would call it or if we stopped short of a touchdown we would call it. But we soon learned that this wasn’t the best way to oversee a game. Generally both teams had a difference of opinion on every call. Someone would say we stepped out, but we were sure we remained in. Someone would say that they grabbed our flag before we crossed the goal line and it went on and on.

That’s the way it is in life sometimes. We look for the mistakes of others while hoping that our own mistakes go unnoticed. We are quick to talk about a friend who stabbed us in the back by gossiping about us, but we don’t realize that we are guilty of the very same sin when we talk about them. James reminds us that we are responsible to honor God, not pick on others who have fallen short. God will judge them fairly and He doesn’t need your help. Everyone will pay for their sin in one of two ways. They will face eternal destruction in Hell or they will embrace forgiveness in Christ. Either way, who are we to condemn someone that Christ has forgiven or who will face God’s wrath?

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James 2:14-26 (Devotional Thought)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:14-26 ESV)

I like fruit. I especially like blueberries (My all time favorite fruit). So I planted a blueberry tree in my back yard. I put fertilizer around it. I water it. I made sure that I planted it in a place where it can get plenty of sunshine and when it gets cold outside, it is the only plant in my yard that I put a blanket or sheet on to keep it from getting damaged by the frost. I cannot wait to taste the blueberries that it produces. You see that is the point. Blueberry trees produce blueberries.

Faith and works look like that. Faith is what we believe about God to be true. True faith produces the fruit of works. Just like a blueberry tree produces blueberries. James says that if you believe that everyone is made in the image of God and then you respect them by taking care of people who do not have the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, etc.). The evidence of our faith is how we respond (works).

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