Week Twenty-eight — Verse by Verse Devotional Series — Studies in James — James 5: 13, 14

Notes:  The letter of James is a practical letter for Christians and especially for those with a Jewish heritage.  Chapter 5 of the book continues to discuss practical applications of faith.  In verses 1 to 6 James again speaks to those who have worldly wealth to warn them that they must trust in God.  In verses 7 to 12 James tells those who suffer for their faith to have patience.  They are exhorted to model their faith after the example of Job and other saints who found a reward in due time.  In verses 13 to 20 James discusses prayer and confession.  To understand these verses we must recall that community leaders were expected to act as counselors as well as medics.  The healing that is described in verse 14 may be related to the catharsis of the soul described in verses 19 and 20.

Adult PM Bible Study – P – L – E – A – D – James 5: 13 – 20

See also: I Kings 17:1; 18: 41, 42; Ezekiel14:14; Luke 15: 4, 5; I John 5: 16; Jude 22, 23.

Prayer – v. 13 Prayer must become central to the life of the believer.  The believer is dwelling in the presence of God through the Holy Spirit, and in God’s presence the believer must speak with God.

Laudation – v. 13 The believer must lift praises to God for all the blessings received, for all the harms avoided, and for all the grace given by God.

Entreaty – v. 13, 14 The believer must seek the blessing and the deliverance of God for self and for others.  Likewise. the elder-leaders must stand ready to pray for those in need of prayer.

Advocacy – vs. 14, 15 In the community of believers there must be elder-leaders who are prepared to pray with and for others in their time of need.  These leaders must be discerning of the needs of others.  Likewise. these leaders must be prepared to hold in confidence the confessions of those in need of prayer.

Deliverance – vs. 16, 19, 20 God honors the prayers of the righteous.  These prayers can bring about a change of heart and attitude that results in a change of life.  Many are the sons and daughters who have been saved by God when a loving mother or grandmother prayed.

Exemplary story:  A faithful elder pointed to the text in James 5:14, 15, and he asked how it was to be understood.  He was troubled by calls of persons who were bodily ill and by persons who wanted to gain favor with God by having an elder pray over them.  As we read together the passage, we found that sin was to be confessed, and we found that deliverance from sin was again mentioned in verse 19.  Yes, God does heal.  Here the healing appears to be an inner healing of spirit and soul.

Sunday

James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble?  He should pray.  Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

Prayer:  Lord God, in all circumstances of life – in our sorrows and in our moments of joy – it is to you we turn in prayer.

Thought for the day:  The songwriter said, “Yes, he cares.  I know he cares.  His heart is touched by our grief.

Monday

James 5: 14, 15 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we would ever and always desire to be in a right relationship with you.

Thought for the day:  If you need prayer, ask God to guide you to the prayer partner who will lift your heartfelt concerns heavenward.

Tuesday

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful, and effective.

Prayer:  Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father, for every prayer someone has uttered on our behalf we offer our humble thanks.

Thought for the day: Today someone is praying for every child of God.

Wednesday

James 5: 17 Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.

Prayer:  Lord God, thank you for the prayers of saints like Abraham and Jonah, and Job; and thank you for the prayers of Jesus for the salvation of the world.

Thought for the day:  Even Ahab believed in the power of Elijah’s prayer.

Thursday

James 5:18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Prayer:  Lord God, in your good time and according to your will may you answer our prayers

Thought for the day:  The seed sown by a gardener in May is a prayer that is answered in July.

Friday

James 5: 19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, may we join you in the search for the one lost sheep.

Thought for the day:  Jesus said the good shepherd leaves the 99 to search for the one lost sheep.

Saturday

James 5: 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, in the power of your Holy Spirit may we reclaim the soul that has lost its way.

Thought for the day:  Someone is depending on you for spiritual directions on the road that leads to God.

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Sunday Communion Meditation — Fully Free — John 8: 34 – 36

Relieved! Joyful! Grateful!

Those words describe how it feels to have freedom or to have it restored – relieved, joyful, grateful.

Pets demonstrate that a long lease is just as confining as a short lease. Prisoners demonstrate that a shackle on one ankle is as restrictive as shackles on both ankles. You are not free until the restraints are gone. Half freed is not freed.

Often the attainment of full freedom requires the help of another. Jesus sacrificed himself and his freedom to allow us to attain spiritual freedom. He sacrificed himself on the cross of Calvary to free us from the bondage of sin.

Listen to Jesus’ words from John 8: 34 – 36:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, as we prepare to receive this Holy Communion, we remember your body nailed to the cross at Calvary, and we remember the blood shed on the cross for the remission of our sins. May we find the spiritual relief that comes from knowing we have been reconciled to God through your sacrifice. Amen.

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Week Twenty-seven — Verse by Verse Devotional Series — Studies in James — James 4: 7,8

Adult PM Bible Study– F – I – G – H – T -– James 4: 1 – 12

How many know that one of the greatest battles on earth is fought within for our salvation and sanctification?  Fight on, believer, fight on.

See: I John 4:4; Deuteronomy 3: 22; Jeremiah 4: 4; Ezekiel 11: 19; I Peter 2: 5; I Timothy 6:12

Friendship with the world – v. 4  Friendship with the world is costly. It will separate you from God.

Intentions – v. 3 Our intentions are often the beginning of our downfall.

Grace – v. 6  To those who sincerely seek God and God’s will there is grace.

Humble – v. 7 To seek God and God’s will we must be humble.

Purify yourself – v. 8 It is not enough simply to say one is humble.  One must take steps to purify oneself of the ways of the world.

Exemplary story: The child that would become a speaker must give up its cooing and mumbling to master the art of speech. The adult who would master a second language reverts to a child’s vocabulary.

 

Sunday

James 4: 1 What causes fight and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

Prayer:  Lord God, forgive us when we find a spirit of strife rather than your spirit of peace.

Thought for the day:  If we were passionate about peace, the world would soon feel the benefit.

Monday

James 4: 2 You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.

Prayer:  Lord God, you are the source of all that is good and wholesome and loving.

Thought for the day:  The songwriter asked, “’Er you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?”

Tuesday

James 4: 3, 4 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Prayer:  O God, how may times have we failed to confess that our prayers to you are vain.  May you forgive our foolish ways.

Thought for the day:  God is not a penny slot machine.

Wednesday

James 4: 5, 6 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?  But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Prayer:  Almighty God, our heavenly father, when we come humbly to you, you do not cease to give us grace.

Thought for the day:  The songwriter said, “God is a good God, yes he is.”

Thursday

James 4: 7, 8 Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash our hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we give thanks for your example of humble obedience to the master plan of God.

Thought for the day:  You can get closer to God just where you sit or stand.

Friday

James 4: 9, 10 Grieve, morn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, for all the times we have not recognized the holiness of life may you forgive us.

Thought for the day:  King David knew how to rejoice in the Lord, and King David knew how to grieve and lament in the Lord.

Saturday

James 4: 11, 12 Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy, but you – who are you to judge your neighbor?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, may our speaking be a source of consolation, inspiration, and dedication for fellow believers.

Thought for the day:  You are the only Gospel some shall hear or see.

 

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Sunday Communion Meditation — Belated Greetings — I Corinthians 11: 23 – 25

Can you imagine a friend sending you an early belated birthday greeting?

You send belated wishes after the fact.  Someone has a wedding, a birthday, or a death.  You miss the date.  You, the sender of a belated greeting, acknowledge the momentous event after the fact.

What is the message of a belated greeting?

One message is that the sender genuinely did not know when the event happened.  Whether it is a birthday or a funeral, the sender is saying that at the first opportunity he or she wanted to recognize the event.

Another message is that the sender was so preoccupied at the time of the event he or she could not stop to acknowledge the event. Now the sender finds it convenient to acknowledge the event after the fact.  That is not a message I want to send to friends or family.

An early belated birthday greetings says you did not intend to honor the event on time or later.

The church has been issued a standing invitation to celebrate a momentous event in the life of Jesus through the Lord’s Supper.  We are invited to remember his death and his resurrection for our sake.  Listen to Paul’s words in I Corinthians 11: 23 – 25

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

It is a simple thing to take time to remember the Lord’s death.  I wonder if we may be sending the wrong message, if we cannot take time to remember the Lord’s death as he asked.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we pause to receive Holy Communion we remember the great and ultimate sacrifice you made on our behalf.  We give our thanks to you.

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Week Twenty-six — Verse by Verse Devotional Series — Studies in James — James 3: 1, 2

Adult PM Bible Study – S – P – A – R – K – James 3: 1 – 13

See: Proverbs 15:1; 16:1; Matthew 5:37; 12:34; Colossians 3:8; 4:6; Ephesians 4: 29

Stumble – v. 2 – We must guard against spiritual stumbles that we may become more like Christ.

Poison – v. 8 – One of the ways we often stumble is by our speech.  Our speech can poison our relationship with others and with God.  Likewise we can poison our opinion of ourselves with our speech.

Aflame – v. 6 – Our words can ignite the flames of disrespect, distrust, hostility, and even violence.  If only we would consider the outcome of what we say, we would be slow to speak.

Reliability – vs. 11, 12 – Can others count on you for a good word?  Can others count on you for a Gospel word?  Or do you send such mixed messages that others distrust you and the God you represent.  We cannot afford to be unreliable, if we love the Lord and want to be an example for him.

Kindness – v. 13 – The kindness of Christ must become deeply rooted in our hearts.  Then we can speak form the abundance of our heart, and our words will be a blessing to others.

Exemplary story: “A little less talk, and a little more work.”  For several years I worked in construction while I was finishing my graduate studies.  When work would slow down, you would hear someone sing the familiar byline, “A little less talk, and a little more work.”  That was good advice on the job, and it seems like good advice for life.

Sunday

James 3: 1, 2 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  We all stumble in many ways.  If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we pray that we might be faithful examples that others might be won to you.

Thought for the day: We shall choose to make our life a stumbling block or a stepping stone for the good of another.

Monday

James 3: 3, 4 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example.  Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

Prayer:  Lord God, may we faithfully uphold the words of good news you have entrusted to us.

Prayer: If it was true in wartime, it is true in peace time: Loose lips sink ships.

Tuesday

James 3: 5, 6 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we confess that we have hurt others with our careless words, and we ask your forgiveness.

Thought for the day:  “Please” and “thank-you” are the salt-and-pepper that make conversation palatable.

Wednesday

James 3: 7, 8 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, teach us how to speak the heavenly language of love.

Thought for the day:  Arsenic poisons the body; and negative, belittling words poison the spirit.

Thursday

James 3: 9, 10 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.

Prayer: Almighty God, Our Heavenly Father, may our words be a blessing to you and to our neighbor.

Thought for the day:  Hate speech is a poor advertisement for a Gospel of love.

Friday

James 3: 11, 12 Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring. My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Prayer:  Dear God, may we become the vessels of love, hope, and good news you would have us to share.

Thought for the day:  Your speech is not a calorie free drink.

Saturday

James 3: 13, 14 Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, may our lives and our humility reflect the grace and love you have brought to us.

Thought for the day: Jesus’ words and Jesus’ deeds expressed the same message – the love of God and of humanity.

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Sunday Communion Meditation — Trust in Love for the Father — Luke 23: 34 and 46

Trust and love  – when trust is combined with love it can withstand testing.  When trusting ends, testing can overpower love.

During his earthly ministry Jesus spoke of God as Father.  It is important to note that during his final hours on the cross he spoke to God as Father.  These expressions of trust in God as Father give us an insight into why Jesus’ love for God, the Father never faltered.  Listen to the first and the last of the seven saying of Jesus on the cross as recorded in Luke 23: 34 and 46.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”

Was the cross the end of the love of the Son and the Father?  No.  The Father, God, who loved Jesus with an everlasting love raised him to life everlasting.

On this day when many will celebrate fathers, let this be an invitation to you to reflect on the power of trust in love. Jesus loved the Father and trusted him to the end.

Communion is both an act of love and an act of trust.  We share the loaf and cup as emblems of love.  We trust that the same love that was shown to the Son, Jesus, shall be shown to his followers.

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, we share this loaf and cup in memory of your sacrifice on Calvary.  We remember your trust in the Father.  We trust the Father of mercies and comforts to give mercy and comfort to us this day. Amen.

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Week Twenty-five — Verse by Verse Devotional Series — Studies in James — James 2:20

Note:  The theologian and reformer Martin Luther preached a doctrine of faith only.  He was so adamant that we should not depend on works that he rejected the book of James.  One who reads James finds the author to be a man of deep faith.  As we will see in our readings he also believed faith without works is dead.

See: Genesis 22:12; Joshua 6:22, 23; Hebrews 11:6; I Peter 2: 12; I Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 3:23

Adult PM Bible Study – W – O – R – K – S – James 2: 14-26

Worthless v. 20 – James declares faith without works to be worthless

Offer – v. 16 – James points out that it is an empty gesture to wish a blessing for someone and to withhold goods from the needy.

Righteousness – v. 21 – James calls attention to Abraham.  He is upheld as a man of great faith, and he was.  However, it was by his works that God affirmed his faith.

Kernel – v 17 – You may consider works to be the kernel of faith.  When faith is accompanied by works there is life.

Spirit – v. 26 – James points out that a body without a spirit is lifeless.  By comparison a faith that has no works is dead.

Exemplary story: As an online instructor and trainer I have been asked a number of questions about how to solve problems.  One instructor I have trained will send me a question about why points are not recorded on a test correctly.  While I can give step-by-step instructions that are on point, they may now solve the problem for the instructor.  When I provide a video or a screen shot, in most cases the problem will be solved.  Once again I am reminded, I need to show and not just tell.  The Christian faith requires showing, not just telling.

Sunday

James 2:14, 15 What good is it, my bothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.

Prayer:  Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, may our deeds demonstrate our faith and love in you.

Thought for the day: Love is heard in deeds.

Monday

James 2: 16, 17 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed”  but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Prayer:  Lord God, may we demonstrate to the world in need our living faith in you.

Thought for the day: Some biographies belong on the fiction shelf in the library.

Tuesday

James 2: 18, 19 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, in your command to love our brothers and sisters may we hear your call to action.

Thought for the day: Our lives are billboards in miniature.

Wednesday

James 2: 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Prayer:  Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we humbly give thanks that yours is a love in deed and not in word alone.

Thought for the day:  Said one worker to another: a little less talk, and a little more action.

Thursday

James 2: 21, 22 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the alter?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

Prayer:  Lord God, we give thanks for the example of complete trust, when Abraham trusted you for the life of his son.

Thought for the day:  Trusting God by acting in faith is a game-changer.

Friday

James 2: 23, 24 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  And he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in faith may we obey your holy will.

Thought for the day: Faith is not a ticket that exempts us from service.

Saturday

James 2: 25, 26 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? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Prayer:  Lord God, may the Holy Spirit guide us in the life of active faith.

Thought for the day:  Rahab entered the genealogy of Jesus by faith.

 

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Sunday Communion Meditation — Advice Column Love and Everlasting Love — Romans 5:8

I thought of advice columns, when an acquaintance posted a social media warning to some followers, “I will block you.”

A writer will ask an advice columnist what to do when love or friendship is betrayed. The answer is the same for the friend, lover, or spouse who has been unfaithful. “Write-off the person and move on.”

I cannot suppose Jesus would have asked an advice columnist how to treat Judas or the other disciples who betrayed him. Their behavior fit the pattern of unfaithful lovers. Consider how Judas behaved. In the middle of a meal he excuses himself. Like a spouse who leaves a holiday meal to meet a secret lover, Judas goes out to court the attention and approval of Jesus’ enemies.

The love that belongs to advice columns is a fragile, earthly love. It is a love we share with friends, family members, lovers, spouses. There are times when that love can come under attack. The advice columnist is offering advice for survival and self-preservation.

Jesus’ love for his disciples and for us went well beyond the limits of advice column love. He could and did invite his disciples to dine with him after he was resurrected.
Consider these words of Paul in Romans 5: 8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The love that we celebrate at the Lord’s table is an everlasting love rather than an advice column love.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Son of God, as we take this loaf in remembrance of your body and this cup in remembrance of your blood, we give thanks to you. Thank you for loving us with an everlasting love.

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Week Twenty-four — Verse by Verse Devotional Series — Studies in James — James 1: 12

Note:  This week we begin a study in the book of James.  James may have been the half-brother of Jesus.  He later becomes an elder of the church of Jerusalem.  In his letter he speaks to Jewish Christians who are scattered through the Roman empire.

See: 2 Samuel 24:10; Psalm 139: 23-24; Job 1: 11, 12; Matthew 4: 1; I Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter :9; Hebrews 4: 15

Adult PM Bible Study – T – R – I – A – L – James 1: 2-18

Testing – vs. 3, 13 James warns the believers that their faith does not exempt them from trials and temptations.

Righteous God – v. 13 Make no mistake.  Our experience does not compromise the righteousness of God.

Insight – v. 5 How often we need the insight of God.  We are invited to pray for the wisdom that comes from God.  This wisdom can see the end of testing, and that is the blessing of God.  This wisdom can also see the difference between testing and temptation.  Testing may be of God, but temptation is from within.

Approval – v. 12 The approval of God comes to those who endure testing.

Love – v. 12 There is a loving reward.  It is the crown of life.

Exemplary story: “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.  This is only a test.”  How often have you hear those words on the radio or TV?  With these words you are reminded that you will be connected if the real emergency.  This sort of testing is a step toward emergency preparedness.  Through the word God we have been tested so that we can be connected to God through Christ at the time when we must pass from this life.

 

Sunday

James 1: 5, 6 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Prayer:  Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we do pray for the wisdom to see through our testing to understand your will for our lives.

Thought for the day:  God’s generosity in providing wisdom has never been canceled.

Monday

James 1: 7, 8 That man should not think he will receive anything form the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Prayer:  Lord God, though we doubt ourselves may be have an unshakable faith in your promises.

Thought for the day: Faith is not confusion; and faith is not ambivalence.

Tuesday

James 1: 9, 10 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away life a wild flower.

Prayer:  Lord God, we all occupy but humble stations in life before you.

Thought for the day:  The wealth, the wisdom, and the power of God shames that of all others.

Wednesday

James 1: 11, 12 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 man will fade away even while he goes about his business.  Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Prayer:  Almighty God, we give thanks for your love that is promised to those who persevere.

Thought for the day:  Every obituary column is an education in the brevity of life.

Thursday

James 1: 13, 14 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

Prayer:  Lord God, if we have doubted your goodness, may you forgive us and gently guide us to discover your constant love.

Thought for the day:  If you let God do the leading, you will know you are on the right path.

Friday

James 1: 15, 16 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  Don’t be deceived my dear brothers.

Prayer:  Lord God, we would find life in you and in keeping your commandments.

Thought for the day:  If you didn’t have to go there, you probably shouldn’t.

Saturday

James 1: 17, 18 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

Prayer:  Lord God, we receive all that is of you knowing it reflects your good nature.

Thought for the day: The best gifts are those that do have sharp or jagged edges or cause asphyxiation.

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Sunday Communion Meditation — A Showing of Excess Force — Matthew 27: 27-31

Showings of excess force have become too familiar in the past few weeks, but they are nothing new.

Scenes of excess force repeat over and over a structure of oppression.  An oppressor overpowers a victim in a show of force.  The display of power is excessive, cruel, and often fatal.  Empathy and justice lie on the side of the victim in the scene.

Matthew had no video nor smartphone to record a scene of excess force that he witnessed, but his account follows the pattern of justice.  Listen to his words from Matthew 27: 27-31

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.  They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.  They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.  “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.  They spit on him and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him away to crucify him.

As we share in the Lord’s Supper, let us remember that Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the excessive use of force against him as an innocent victim.  Let us also remember that in God’s time justice shall be served to those who have dishonored and those who have honored the name of Jesus.

Prayer:  Almighty God, as we share this loaf and this cup in memory of the body and blood of Jesus, we turn our hearts to you.  We give thanks that you have raised the Son to live forever, and we give thanks for the salvation you offer in the name of your beloved Son.

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