Saturday, December 31, 2016

Back to His Arms (James 5:19-20)

Today’s scripture: James 5:19-20

As I wrote yesterday, I don’t usually post on weekends, but I wanted to finish James before the new year begins. (I’m going to try something new, so I hope you continue visiting!)

We’re told, “Do not judge and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37). We’re told to “esteem others better than ourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

And indeed we should not judge others. It is God’s place and His right to judge the actions of us human beings.

However, we who follow Christ should be willing and able to help guide fellow believers back to faith. While we shouldn’t judge them and the choices they’ve made, we can help them to see where they’ve strayed and share truth with them.

And we can remind them of God’s love for them. We can share verses like 1 John 1:9 that assure them of forgiveness.

Over a decade ago, I wrote my testimony in book form. Toward its end, I included these words:

God loves each of us, and He dearly loves prodigals—and welcomes them back with open arms. I know this from experience. I spent a very long time as a prodigal daughter, but praise God, I finally made my way back to Him. As I wrote in Crooked Paths: For the first time, I could picture that father standing in the road, just waiting for his son to return. It didn’t matter where the son had gone or what he’d done, the father loved him still. It didn’t matter that the son had squandered his inheritance or that he’d lived an immoral lifestyle, the father waited with unconditionally opened arms. That’s the picture I had that evening and the picture I have now: my heavenly Father standing in the road with His arms open wide, just waiting for me to come home, waiting to embrace me with all the love He has for me. (Crooked Paths © 2005 Sauni Rinehart)
If you know someone who’s strayed from the truth, someone who’s a prodigal, walk alongside her. Help her find her way back to the arms of the Father.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Mystery of Prayer (James 5:16-18)

Today’s scripture: James 5:16-18

I have to be honest. I don’t really understand how prayer works. God knows everything. There is nothing that is outside of His sight. He could do anything without our intercession.

So why do we pray? Why does James insist that the “effective prayer of a righteous man [or woman] can accomplish much”?

Because, somehow in God’s plan, prayer does change things.

Paul wrote on more than one occasion that prayer isn’t an option. We are to “pray without ceasing … for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:17-18). And he told Timothy, “I desire that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands …” (1 Tim. 2:8).

As I’ve mentioned before, for reasons beyond my comprehension, God loves to hear our voices raised to Him in prayer. In fact, as I wrote yesterday, He delights in hearing our voices (Prov. 15:8).

When we pray with sincere and open hearts, God listens. And He answers. Every time. We just have to remember that His answers aren’t always what we’re hoping for. You’ve heard this before, I’m sure, but sometimes He answers, “Yes.” But sometimes His answer is “no.” And then there’s the answer I don’t really love … “wait.”

So pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray for your needs and for the needs of others—within His will. Be ready to accept His answer, not matter what that answer might be.

Because your effective prayer can accomplish much.

NOTE: Although I don’t usually post on the weekends, come back tomorrow to finish up the book of James.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pray and Praise! (James 5:13-15)

Today’s scripture: James 5:13-15

I think most of us would agree with the first part of today’s verses. We can pray when we’re suffering. We can praise when we’re cheerful. As I wrote in The Best Laid Plans:

We have an amazing privilege as children of God. We can talk to Him. Doesn’t that amaze you? The Sovereign Creator, the Lord of all, our heavenly Father, wants to hear our voices. That just astounds me. Who in the world am I that God would want to hear my words? I don’t understand it, but I’m grateful beyond words. Just listen to your Father: "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3). (© 2005 Sauni Rinehart)
Yes, we can speak to God when we’re hurting, when we’re confused, when we’re celebrating. And He listens.

Not only does He listen, but He delights in hearing our voices. Proverbs 15:8 tells us that “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

But then James also tells us that when we’re sick, we can call on the elders to pray over us and anoint us with oil, and we’ll be restored. And indeed that sometimes happens ... but sometimes it doesn't. God's healing often comes in ways we would not choose. Sometimes, He heals here on earth; sometimes, He heals in heaven. And sometimes, He heals a heart rather than a body. 

Yes, we can pray for healing, but we have to remember that all prayer must be said with the sincere request for God’s will. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden (Luke 22:42).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yes or No. Just Do It. (James 5:12)

Today’s scripture: James 5:12

This is one of those verses of which I’m rather unclear, so I visited a couple of commentaries. The Adam Clarke Commentary offered some illumination. Apparently, the Jews were “
notoriously guilty of common swearing [which] is allowed on all hands; and that swearing by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, the temple, the altar, different parts of the body, was not considered by them as binding oaths ...”

So instead of swearing by something, just do what you say you’re going to do.

Don’t say “yes” and then turn around and do “no.”  To do so would be hypocritical (a couple of the commentaries I read said that “judgment” could be translated as “hypocrisy”).

It’s like the story Jesus told about the two sons:
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first” (Matt. 21:28-31a). Do what you say you’re going to do.

Be true to your word.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Endurance ... and Blessings (James 5:9-11)

Today’s scripture: James 5:9-11


Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “
the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” 

James refers to Job, who is certainly an example of one who withstood hardship or adversity. And he received God’s blessings after he endured (Job 42:10-13).

Many of us have had our own “Job moments.” Perhaps you’ve lost a child. Or a home. Or your health. You’ve experienced tragedy and hardship and suffering. Maybe you are still.

And too often, instead of enduring, we try to cover up our pain through alcohol or drugs or rejection of God.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I covered my own suffering through the latter. I turned my back on God whom I blamed for allowing sexual abuse and emotional pain. I didn’t endure.

After I made my way back to God and recognized His compassion and mercy, I experienced new suffering—I continue to suffer today.

But now I’ve learned to endure because I know God is compassionate and merciful. I know He loves me through the pain. I know He gives me strength through my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). I know I can crawl on His lap and cry out to my Abba.

And one day, after I’ve endured all this world throws at me, I will stand pain-free in the presence of my Lord God (Rev. 21:4). And I pray He’ll smile at me and say, “Well done, my daughter. Well done” (see Matt. 25:14-30).

Monday, December 26, 2016

Anticipation ... Is Making Me Wait (James 5:7-8)

Today’s scripture: James 5:7-8

Like many of you, patience is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” that I struggle with the most. Fortunately, the older I get, the easier it is to wait.

But the one thing that I feel really impatient about? Christ’s return.

I really can’t wait … although I know I must.

When I went through Philippians a few months ago, I talked a lot about this when I came to verses 21 and 23 in chapter 1. I believe with all I am that being with Christ is far better than being here on earth.

This earth and all it holds is nothing compared to being in the very presence of my Lord and Savior. Being free from this pain-filled body. Being free from wars and rumors of wars. Being free from natural disasters that maim and destroy.

So, I read words like these from James that I’m to be “patient … until the coming of the Lord.” And I know he’s right. I must patiently wait Christ’s return.

But James reminds me of something else I can do as I wait. I can strengthen my heart. I can grow more like Christ as I study and meditate on the word of God. I can spend time in prayer seeking the Father’s will. I can share the truth of the gospel.

And I can be assured that the “coming of the Lord is near” … nearer than it has ever been.

Oh, Lord Jesus, come quickly! But I’ll patiently wait for You and strengthen my heart as I wait.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Dear Jesus,

Words truly cannot express my gratitude for Your willingness to leave heaven and come to earth. You chose to …

Put on flesh.

Be born to a poor carpenter and a teenage bride.

Experience scraped knees and stomach aches.

Grow into awkward adolescence.

Sweat sawing and sanding wood.

Be tempted by the enemy—Your enemy.

Be ridiculed as You started Your ministry.

Be betrayed … arrested … denied … beaten … spat upon … scourged.

You chose to carry a cross.

You chose to die …

And You chose to forgive.

Words cannot truly express my gratitude. For Your love and grace and mercy.

But I do thank You.

Happy birthday, Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Twas the Day Before Christmas ...

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the land
All the creatures were shopping–a bit out of hand.
Vying for parking spots and cutting in line,
A theme was recurring, "It's mine, mine, mine, MINE!"

On Santa's lap, the children did sit.
"I want a doll." "I want a mitt."
"An x-Box, an iPad, oh yes, and a Wii.
"Now that I think of it, give me all three!"
The grown-ups, too, they all wanted their own.
More jewelry, more gadgets to fill up their home.

In all of the rushing, one thing we forgot.
The one thing, the main thing, that we should have not.
Tomorrow is Christmas, a day most important
To honor the birth of our Savior God sent.

It's not about presents or music or lights;
No, none of that matters on this night of nights.
Jesus, the Messiah, came with a free gift for us
We must remember in the midst of the fuss.

The gift of salvation from sin us does save;
It's that greatest gift He so lovingly gave.
From manger to hilltop to cross He did go
All because of how He still loves us so.

As you revel in the fun and the sights and the sounds,
Remember, dear friends, this thought so profound:
Your Savior, your Lord, came to give you His light,
So have a truly Merry Christmas and a most blessed night.

© 2012 Sauni Rinehart

Friday, December 23, 2016

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

If Jesus’ being our Eternal Father is a comfort to me, this last attribute given our Savior brings me the most … well, peace. For He is, indeed, the Prince of Peace.

But for some of us, peace is the last thing we feel. Even as you’re celebrating our Savior’s birth, maybe you’re struggling with finances or your health, or maybe you’re struggling with a relationship or a loss.

I wrote a book a few years back based on Jeremiah 19:11-13, where God says His plans are for peace, not for evil. Regarding finding peace in spite of our circumstances, I wrote:

"I promise you this: If you’re truly willing to give your life, your plans, your dreams to God, He will keep His promise. You will have peace. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you trust Him, you will have peace.

"Don’t believe me? Will you believe God? There are quite a few references to peace in the Bible. Let me share one of my favorites. Read these words, hear them with your heart, and listen to what God has promised you:

"'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4: 6-7, emphasis mine).

"Do you know what this verse says to me? When I’m focusing on God, when I’m asking in His name, when I’m praying for His will, I can be assured of two things: I need not be anxious for anything, and I will have peace—a peace that surpasses anything I could experience without God in my life, a peace that surpasses anything that I could get from my earthly relationships, from my job, from my church, from my family . . . from anything else.

"Isn’t that what you’re looking for? A peace that surpasses anything you’ve ever experienced? Ask Him. Ask Him now. Give your plans, your timelines, your dreams to Him. Trust Him to bring about that perfect will in your life. Then, and only then, will you have that peace. You will have that peace. I promise. More importantly, He promises"
(from The Best Laid Plans © Sauni Rinehart 2005).

If you’re seeking that heavenly peace we sing about this time of year, go to the Prince of Peace. He’ll cover you with a peace that truly surpasses understanding.

NOTE: Come back this weekend for two special Christmas postings!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Eternal Father (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

Of the four descriptions Isaiah uses of Jesus, this one is the most comforting to me. Jesus is our Eternal Father.

Frankly, it’s a mystery beyond our human understanding: The God we Christians worship is three-in-one. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three persons.

And each shares the attributes of the others. I don’t fully understand, but I believe this to be true.

So even though we describe Jesus Christ as the Son of God, He is still, in fact, God the Son. And just as God the Father is eternal, so is Jesus the Eternal Father.

He is eternal—or what the New King James Version calls Everlasting. Jesus Christ has always been and will always be. He existed before time as we know it began, and He will exist when time as we know it ends.

He is our Father. He loves us with an unconditional love. There is nothing we can do or say or think that keeps Him from loving us. And He loves us whether we choose to love Him or not.

And if we choose to love Him, if we choose to believe in Him as our Savior and accept His gift of eternal life, He invites us to be in relationship with Him.

A relationship for now and for all eternity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

Do you feel weak? Out of control?

Do you feel powerless as you hear of friends with cancer, read of starving children, watch news reports of terrorist attacks?

Do you look at this world and wonder who’s winning the battle?

I hate to be the bearer of even more bad news, but you are weak. You are out of control. You are powerless. And sometimes the enemy does win some battles.

But the good news? Or should I say the great news? Our Lord Jesus is our Mighty God. And we know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

He is indeed mighty, powerful, omnipotent. Just resonate with some of these assurances of our Savior’s might:

“Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle” (
Psalm 24:8).

“For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD”? (
Psalm 89:6).

“More than the sounds of many waters, Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The LORD on high is mighty” (
Psalm 93:4).

"How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation.” (
Daniel 4:3).

If you’re struggling, feeling as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember your Mighty God. Your Savior will help you carry your burden (Matthew 11:30). His shoulders are more than strong enough.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

Today's scripture: Isaiah 9:6

As I've done for the last few years, in these few days leading to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m going to focus on four attributes of our Savior as described by the prophet Isaiah.

Today, we read about our Wonderful Counselor.

If you read the King James or New King James versions, the words “Wonderful” and “Counselor” are separated by a comma as if they’re two separate attributes of our Savior. But, while He is certainly wonderful, I believe the New International Version and New American Standard translations are more accurate: Our Lord Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor.

But I wonder. Of all the attributes of our Savior Isaiah could have chosen, why begin with this one?

I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if it’s because we have a need to know that our Lord and Savior truly understands. Even though He is fully God, which we’ll talk about tomorrow, when He came to earth, He was fully human. And in being so, He experienced the same pain and temptation and weariness we do.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

So He can provide counsel, comfort, and peace to us.

I don’t know about you, but this attribute gives me great joy—and lifts my burdens. For I can kneel at the feet of my Lord Jesus and share whatever is on my heart and mind. And my Wonderful Counselor will listen and, through the Word of the Father, will sooth my soul.

Join me tomorrow as we look at the next of Jesus’ attributes: Mighty God.

Monday, December 19, 2016

You Can't Take It With You (James 5:1-6)

Today’s scripture: James 5:1-6

Our society seems to revere the rich and famous. We read about their escapades in the latest tabloid. We stand in awe of their homes, cars, and jewels. Even “mainstream” media seems obsessed with them. I can’t count how often the newsfeeds I often read focus on some celebrity’s multi-million dollar wedding or some star’s latest brush with the law.

Some day, however, all the houses, cars, and jewels will mean nothing. The exotic vacations. The wild parties.

None of it will matter.

When Jesus Christ returns to set up the new heaven and the new earth, this world and all that’s in it will be no more (see Revelation 21:1).

The only thing that will matter then is whether or not a person has put her faith in Christ. Riches themselves isn’t really the issue. Commitment to Christ is. God doesn’t condemn riches. But if you’ve been blessed with money, use what you’ve been blessed with to serve others. Provide for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:35-40).

Don’t live wantonly, focusing only on your money and what it can do for you. Don’t risk the “upcoming misery” of eternity separated from God … because you’ll also be separated from your riches.

You really can’t take it with you. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

If the Lord Wills ... (James 4:13-17)

Today’s scripture: James 4:13-17

I have an entire weekend retreat talk centered around knowing God’s plan for our lives. I do believe God will reveal His plan—sometimes. Yet I do believe He expects us to do a bit of planning ourselves.

It’s a fine balance. Trusting God and planning our futures.

I’m a big-time planner. I like to know what I need to do and where I need to be—often months ahead. But I do my planning with a major caveat: I pray for God’s will in all things.

In my book, The Best Laid Plans, I quoted Bill Russell:
Any plan has to be submitted with the qualifier, “Lord willing.” Still, although God may alter any plan through dramatic circumstance or counsel, Jesus said, “No man builds a tower without first sitting down and calculating the cost” (Luke 14:28). While we realize that God is in control, he does expect us to make provisions for the future (When God Builds a Church © 2000, p. 89).
We know this. We know we should say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

But have you ever thought that when you don’t ask for God’s will—sincerely ask for it—you’re being arrogant? Even more, you’re sinning?

When you commit your life to the Lord, you’ve given Him back what’s already His. Plan your life. But put everything in God’s loving hand. Ask Him to do His will in all things. And trust that His plan is perfect for you (Jeremiah 29:11).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Put Down That Gavel (James 4:11-12)

Today’s scripture: James 4:11-12

We are told in these verses and others in God’s word that we are not to judge others. It is not our job. Yet how often do we point fingers at others? We judge their behavior. We judge their choices.

But the Bible makes it clear: We are not to judge others.

That’s God’s job.

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy …” God and He alone has the right to judge because He and He alone is holy and righteous. He is perfect and without sin.

We are not—definitely not—holy and righteous. Oh no. We are sinful and fleshly. We should be focused on cleaning up our own acts rather than telling others how they should clean up their own.

So next time you’re tempted to judge someone else, let it go. Let the Judge of all of us do His job. And you do your job of becoming more like Christ.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Another To-do List (James 4:7-10)

Today’s scripture: James 4:7-10

James gives us a check list of things we should do as Christ-followers. We should:

Submit to God. This means giving everything we are and everything we have to Him. Every day. It all belongs to Him anyway, but sometimes we hold back a little. A habit. A desire. A relationship. Give it all to Him.

Resist the devil. Don’t just hope he’ll go away. Resist him. Combat his wiles with scripture. Defy his presence.

Draw near to God. Seek Him constantly. Pray. Read His word. Ask Him to reveal His will.

Cleanse your hands and purify your heart. Figuratively cleanse yourself of all sin by confessing everything that takes your mind and heart off of God.

Be miserable … Okay, I kind of hit a roadblock with this one. Everything up to this I totally understand. But we’re to be miserable and mourn and weep? Why? So I went to one of my trusted commentaries. According to the Adam Clarke Commentary:

… many of those to whom St. James addressed this epistle had lived a very irregular and dissolute life. He had already spoken of their lust, and pleasures, and he had called them adulterers and adulteresses; and perhaps they were so in the grossest sense of the words. He speaks here of their laughter and their joy; and all the terms taken together show that a dissolute life is intended.
In other words, if you’re living in the joy and laughter of sin, you need to feel the misery and sadness of your sin, and you need to repent.

And finally, humble yourself. God exalts (other translations say “lifts up”) the humble—the truly humble in heart. It’s not necessarily that He’ll give you all the desires of your heart or lift you to a place of prominent. Rather, He’ll lift you from the depths of your sin and cloth you in pure garments.

Are there any of these you need to work on? Pray for God to work through you to be more like Christ.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

God's Friend? Or His Enemy? (James 4:4-6)

Today’s scripture: James 4:4-6

James has been writing about how the tongue can destroy and how conflict between believers can harm and how we don’t receive answers to prayer because of wrong motives.

Now he really lays it on the line.

He accuses those of us who have “friendship with the world” as adulteresses. And rightfully so. The church, the body of Christ, is described as the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17). And what do we call a bride who cheats on her bridegroom?

So if we cheat on the Lord by being friends with the world, we are rightly called adulteresses. We are enemies of God.


I don’t know about you, but that thought makes me cringe. I in no way want to be God’s enemy. But I see myself often spending more time watching TV shows that don’t honor God or reading books that don’t nurture my faith. Time that I should be spending with my Bridegroom.

But there is hope. God’s grace. If we humble ourselves and come to Him, surrendering our lives to Him, He showers us with His grace. He forgives our sins. And He invites us to one day attend the marriage feast.

When you one day stand before God’s throne, whose friend do you want to be?

Monday, December 12, 2016

The State of the Heart (James 4:1-3)

Today’s scripture: James 4:1-3

We truly are fleshly, fallen creatures, and James perfectly captures the state of our hearts. We want what we want. And many of us do pretty much anything in order to get what we want.

Not too long ago I read an article written by a “ghostwriter.” Most people know that a ghostwriter writes another person’s story and that other person gets the credit. This particular person gets paid by graduate students to write their papers for them. They then turn them in to get credit. Sad, isn’t it? But what was really tragic? Many of his “customers” are seminary students …

Truly sad …

Then those of us who selfishly seek what we want complain when God doesn’t answer our prayers. Perhaps we should memorize verse three of today’s passage. We don’t receive answers to our prayers because we’re asking with “wrong motives.” Instead of praying for God’s will, no matter what that might be, we pray for our will.

We want a better-paying job, not so we can better support our families or give more to God’s word, but so we can buy a bigger house, a luxury car, and a summer cottage.

We pray for a change of heart in our spouse, instead of praying for a change in our own.

God does answer prayer. Always. But He knows our motives. He knows our selfishness. And He’s going to say “no” when what we’re asking for isn’t within His will.

When you pray today, ask Him for whatever you want. However, make sure you’re asking with right motives. And make sure you’re asking for His will—over and above your wants.

Friday, December 09, 2016

The Wisdom of the World (James 3:14-18)

Today’s scripture: James 3:14-18

The world has wisdom of its own. It is a wisdom that says, “I know everything and am in total control. Therefore, I don’t need a god.” The worldly wise are selfish, looking out only for themselves.

That’s not the wisdom the Bible talks about. Godly wisdom is selfless. Those of us who follow Christ and seek the Father’s will grow to know our triune God more intimately through His word.

We learn about loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). We learn about godly humility and meekness (Matthew 23:12; Philippians 2:5-9). We learn about taking up our cross (Luke 14:27). We learn about the fruit of the Spirit manifested in each of us (Galatians 5:22-23).

That wisdom is so very different than the “intellect” the world sees as wisdom. It has nothing to do with book knowledge or degrees or facts. It has everything to do with a pure heart.

How wise are you? Are you so busy trying to attain worldly wisdom that you neglect to seek wisdom that will last through eternity?

Seek God’s wisdom, a wisdom that is pure and gentle and merciful. A wisdom that loves and serves both God and those around you.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Acquiring Wisdom and Understanding (James 3:13)

Today’s scripture: James 3:13

I usually feel far from “wise and understanding.” As I continue growing in my faith and learn more about who God is, I realize how little I really know.

But I do realize this: True wisdom equals humility. It equals gentleness. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.”

And how do we gain wisdom? First, we need to know and honor the one true God: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Then we need to spend time in His word.

God gave us a written document through which He teaches, exhorts, admonishes, convicts, encourages … When I speak, I often say that He didn’t have to give us His word. He could have just let us “wing it.” However, He loves us so much, He inspired writers over centuries to put to paper what He wants us to know about the history of His people, about what lies ahead of us, and how He wants us to live. Most importantly, He gave us exactly what we need to know to find salvation and how to live in relationship with Him.

That’s how we acquire wisdom. And when we come to know Him more through His word, when we realize how much He’s done for us, we serve Him with gratitude and humility.

And the gentleness and humility others see in us may very well attract them and lead them to the Giver of wisdom.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Oh, That Tongue ... (James 3:5b)

Today’s scripture: James 3:5b-12

As I was beginning to write today’s devotional, I really struggled with what to say. Even after I prayed and started several times, I kept hitting the delete button.

I feel very strongly about the fact that many Christians “bless our Lord and Father, and … curse men” with the very same tongue. “… from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.” I so agree with James when he writes, “… these things ought not to be this way.”

I know I sound old-fashioned, but when did it become okay to use really vulgar words in everyday language? And what makes Christians different from everyone else when they’re using the same curses others do?

I think the problem is these words have become part of the world’s lexicon. You hear and read them everywhere.

But think about it. Jesus is with you all the time. He hears your words and knows your thoughts. What would He want to hear?

Think about it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Stumbling ... In So Many Ways ... (James 3:1-5a)

Today’s scripture: James 3:1-5a

“… we all stumble in many ways.” Isn’t that the truth?

None of us is able to “bridle the whole body.” None of us is perfect. We will stumble.

The question is, what do we do when we stumble? Do we throw our hands up in defeat and continue in our sin? Do we figure we’ve failed so badly there’s no hope?

If you have never accepted the gift of salvation of your sins, all you need to do is confess your need for salvation and submit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then find a Bible-teaching church. Get a Bible and read it every day. Pray for guidance and help from the Holy Spirit.

But if you’re already a Christ-follower, don’t ever give up. Know that you will stumble, but the more you grow in your faith, the more you become like Christ, the less you’ll stumble. And when you do, confess your failings and commit to avoiding that sin in the future. Keep away from anything that might make you stumble—that means you may have to give up certain friends or seeing certain movies or going certain places.

Because, yes, you may stumble. But you have choices to make that might keep you from stumbling again.

Monday, December 05, 2016

An Unlikely Example (James 2:24-26)

Today’s scripture: James 2:24-26

Rahab is an unlikely example of faith. She was, indeed, a harlot, a prostitute. For reasons we’ll never know, she made her living by giving her body away.

But God redeems those who seek Him.

Rahab lived in Jericho, a city that God had promised to His people. But the city was surrounded by high walls, and God’s people needed to see more of the city. So two spies snuck into the city (presumably through a gate) and found shelter with Rahab. And this woman—who was not a member of God’s chosen people—hid the spies and saved their lives.

Somehow, though, she knew of their God:
“I know that the LORD has given you the land … Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:9, 12-13). She knew this God whom she didn’t serve was the one true God. And she knew He could save and protect His people—and those who helped His people.

She had faith, and she demonstrated that faith through her actions.

And Rabab—that unlikely example of faith—became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth. And is in the line to Joseph … the earthly father of Jesus.

When we claim to have faith, our heart’s desire should be to show that faith through serving others. And when people see faith in action, they’ll be attracted to the One in whom we’ve placed our faith.

Friday, December 02, 2016

The Demons Believe ... (James 2:18-23)

Today’s scripture: James 2:18-23

Countless people say they believe in God, and because of that belief, they feel they’re headed to heaven. But James makes a chilling assertion here: “… the demons also believe, and shudder.” Satan and his minions certainly believe that God exists, but if you’ve read Revelations, you know their fate (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 15).

Again, as we saw yesterday, faith—true faith—demonstrates itself in more than just lip-service. True faith shows itself through works of service, works of obedience.

Then James gives us a marvelous illustration of amazing obedience. Every time I read about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, I’m humbled. He was so willing to do anything God asked him to do, trusting that his Jehovah would work everything out for good.

And because of his obedience, Abraham was called a “friend of God.”

Isn’t that what your heart desires? To be a friend of God?

Believe in Him, certainly. But don’t stop there. Commit your life to Him. Submit everything to Him. Obey His every command. Seek His will. And serve Him by doing what He asks.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Faith AND Works (James 2:14-17)

Today’s scripture: James 2:14-17

The next couple of days are going to cover some rather controversial verses.

James makes quite an argument about faith vs. works, and some say he contradicts other passages that speak to our being saved by faith in Jesus Christ (see Romans 3:21-28; 5:1-3; Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation does come through faith in Jesus Christ and the belief and acceptance of His death, burial, and resurrection.

But James adds a dimension: The person who has true faith in Jesus, who has committed himself to Him, demonstrates that faith through service. Just as Jesus Himself served.

This means taking action against those who exploit others. I have friends who are active in the fight against sex trafficking. They are the hands and feet of Jesus as they go into the bowels of some cities to serve those forced into prostitution.

This also means serving the “least of these” (Matt. 25:34-46). Helping out at a soup kitchen. Volunteering at a local prison. Giving to organizations that provide food and shelter for the disenfranchised.

I believe a person is saved through faith. Forgiveness of sins and promise of eternal life comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But if she stops there, her faith doesn’t grow. If she’s not demonstrating her faith through service, her faith can become stagnant.

Don’t let your faith “die.” Go out and do something. Let the world see Jesus Christ through what you do to serve others.