Priceless Final Instructions from James

James 5

James 5 13 a

In our final chapter of James we find a teaching that is difficult for many of us. We find that we are taught to have patience. I find it difficult to be patient many times when I see someone behaving in a way that is not good for them, especially when it is someone whom I have invested time and care into. We care so deeply for so many people and it is hard to watch them go down a path that leads to destruction. He reminds us first of all that the things we have amassed for ourselves on this earth are of little value in the long run. He reminds us to store up our treasures in our eternal future, NOT in this temporary life, where moth and rust destroy.

We are told in verse eight to strengthen our hearts because the return of the Lord is “at hand”. We are to patiently await the return as we seek to serve Him in our thoughts and actions. In verse nine he says that we are not to complain about one another, remembering that the judge is at the door. It is not our job to complain about each other and to cause strife. It is not even our job to judge one another, we are to encourage with our actions and speak the truth in love.

James also tells us that we will face difficult times and we need to remember in those times that God is on our side and He is full of compassion and mercy. He uses the example of Job and reminds us that in the end, although his struggles were many, he still praised the LORD. In verses thirteen through eighteen he reminds us that no matter our circumstances we should prayerfully seek God.

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. James 5:13-15 NASB

He also reminds us that we should not think that we are not capable of the incredible feats God has accomplished through others. He says Elijah was a man just like us, … and he prayed. This is the answer to so many of our issues that we have today … and he prayed.

Unfortunately, as we experience life we will find times when brothers and sisters in Christ turn and choose not to follow. We are encouraged to turn him back to save his soul and cover his sins. We sometimes think when we have fallen short that our sins are too much for God to forgive. Who am I to say that the blood of Christ is insufficient for the forgiveness of my sins? James says this will cover “a multitude of sins.”

We must remember to be patient with one!

We must remember to strengthen our hearts because Christ is returning!

We MUST remember to pray in EVERY situation!

We must encourage one another to turn back to God when we fall!

-Bill Dunn

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Waiting for the Gift – and His Timing

Acts 1

Acts 1 4

It is amazing for as much time this group of men spent with Jesus, they were still confused. Just as we long for the kingdom, the disciples were ready for it. And like us – they didn’t want to wait. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days popping in and out on the disciples. While he was with them he was calming their doubts and promising a future gift. When he left, they were preparing his take over to free them from Roman domination.

On one of his visits he gives one of the hardest commands – wait! Stay where you are and wait. This prompts multiple questions that have been on the minds of all the people: Has the time finally come? Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? How long do we have to wait?

His response: it is not for you to know – or in other words; none of your business! He then picks up where he left off – the promised gift – the holy spirit. Following his answer and promise, he was taken up before their eyes never to be seen again.

The disciples get the lesson of patience we all need. God is at work but is not working on our schedule. Christ was preparing his followers to join the work God was doing while they were distracted with their own plans.

We often face trials in life that are less than desirable and we long for the problems to be taken away. We know of God’s overall plans but want them to be done now! We want insight and details – the who, what, where, when, why and how – and often times the response is that is not for you to know. Stay in your lane, bro!

Like the disciples we are given what is needed to do the work that has been set up for us to do. They were given the same power that was at work in Christ and told go be a witness to the world. We also have access to that power and are given that same mission.

-John Wincapaw

Waiting – Patiently

psalm 37 7a

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Waiting, especially for a response to prayer, is always hard. How often have you asked God for guidance, only to be met with silence?  It is hard to be patient when others around you are succeeding. How do you respond to the times the answer to prayer is “Wait”? God will always help those who call on Him, sometimes He is waiting for us to be obedient.

Often when we are unsure of the direction God has for us, we seek help from other Christian friends.

Reflect on a time an answer to prayer was “Wait.” How did you respond? Do you have a trusted friend or mentor to help you be patient as you wait for God’s direction? Take some time to pray for them. Work on being patient as you wait on the Lord.

-Susan Johnson

 

How We Respond While Waiting

Patience

Patience is translated as forbearance in some translations of the Bible.  Forbearance has a deeper meaning. It includes self-control, restraint, and tolerance, implying that we have a choice about how we response to God in our times of waiting.  We can, for example, receive patience as a gift that helps us develop restraint or we can become resentful and anxious, bucking against the reality that we have very little control over our circumstances.

While giving in to our impatience can feel good in the moment, it often sends us spiraling downward into frustration—because even if we do send that email to check on the status of a job we applied for or to find out about the grades we’re waiting to be posted, the fact remains that we can’t do much to change the circumstances. We have a choice in moments of impatience: let Jesus cultivate our inner world or escape into destructive behaviors or attitudes.

So what can we do while we’re waiting to embrace the fruits of patience (self-control, restraint, and tolerance)?  We can pray while we work. The world doesn’t stop while you’re waiting for something. There are things and people that still need your attention. Your own soul needs your attention too, as does your body. So, while you’re waiting, pray while you wait by focusing your attention on something you actually do have influence over. Make a date to go bowling with friends, clean your bathroom fastidiously, read a novel, or cook a new food from a different country.  Patience is a virtue and a virtue can’t hurt you. So keep waiting. Work on what you can.

Katie-Beth Fletcher

Waiting – Patiently

acts 24 15

Acts 24

In Acts Chapter 24 the Jews get lawyered up and travel to Caesarea because their convictions against Paul are so strong that they feel “justice” is imperative.  Their case is simple, “We don’t want to take up too much of your time. Just believe us when we say this man is a pest and a troublemaker.”  Then Paul makes another eloquent speech and isn’t interrupted this time. He takes every opportunity afforded him to bring up the hope of the resurrection. Paul points out that he agrees with the Jews on a lot of things and wants to worship as other Jews do in the temple. It doesn’t seem like Felix finds any fault with Paul, and yet Paul stays in prison for 2 years while Felix is governor.

It is estimated that Paul spent 5 ½ to 6 years in prison during his whole ministry. It seems like such a long time. We know that while he was imprisoned he would still try to further the work of God by writing letters, but I can imagine that he spent an agonizingly long time waiting on God to do something. How often did he pray for God to help him? How often did he think about how unfair it was that he was wrongfully imprisoned in the first place? How often did he regret that he couldn’t be out speaking and teaching? What was God’s purpose for the 2 year imprisonment anyway? No one really knows except God.

I teach the teenagers at our church and I remind them often that we must patiently wait for the LORD to reveal His plans for us. His way is worth waiting for. I wish I could spare them some worry and tell them that God has told me who they will marry, where they need to live, what kind of job to strive for…I would LOVE to be able to do that for them because I remember what it was like. So much of the time we have to just seek, wait, love, and trust that God knows what He is doing.

-Melissa New

Practice Patience

Romans 8_25

Have you ever prayed to God for something specific and you feel like he is just not answering you? Have you ever prayed for a specific relationship and just wondered how long you are supposed to wait? Have you ever gotten impatient with God? *currently raising my hand, because this is me* I have felt ALL of these things, and it is so hard not to be frustrated sometimes. Sometimes I feel like the things I want are pretty simple, especially for God who is all powerful and could do pretty much anything he wants. This year, I am trying to be more patient and be okay with waiting. I want to learn how to wait on God and trust in his timing, because the only time that I get disappointed is when I rely on my own timing. I am imperfect and so are my expectations, God already knows the plans for me, and I am pretty sure they are going to be pretty cool, so why wouldn’t I wait for them?

The verses today are Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18 and then Genesis Chapters 37, 39-41. (Not the entire chapters, just understand the gist of the story of Joseph son of Jacob.

Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18. These verses are about God’s promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah. Abraham and Sarah were very old and they had no children, but God told them that Abraham would be the father of multitudes, and Sarah would be the mother of nations. These people wanted children, but they waited patiently for God and followed God’s will. They waited and waited, continuing to be faithful and righteous even when they had not received what they had prayed for and what they had wanted desperately. After they were patient for many many years, God gave them a son, for which they were extremely grateful, and they could hardly believe that they would be granted a child in their old age. We need to be patient with God, because he is very patient with us. We need to be willing to wait for what he has for us. Sometimes we do not get what we want because God has something different planned for us, but sometimes we do not get what we want when we want it because God already has that written in his plan for our lives and we will be given the answer in his timing. That is so hard to accept sometimes, but Sarah and Abraham are a great example of great patience and they were greatly rewarded for their patience.

The other example that you are reading today is the story of Joseph. When you have the time I encourage you to read the entirety of his story because it is one of pain and exhaustion and some truly intense waiting. Joseph was sold to slave traders by his own brothers because they were jealous of him. Then he was brought very very far from his home, and was eventually put in prison for something that he did not do. He felt very alone when he was in prison and felt like God was not answering his fervent prayers to be released or to at least gain some information about what would happen to him. Even in the lost and the loneliness, Joseph continued to wait. He waited to get out of prison, he waited to hear from God, he waited for something better and he never stopped listening for God. During his waiting he began to interpret dreams for people, and he was asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. These dreams told them that the land was going to go into a famine, so they began to prepare to protect all of the people. Because Joseph helped Pharaoh and in turn helped the people of Egypt and the surrounding areas Joseph was appointed to the position of the vizier, which is the second most powerful man in Egypt. This was all because of Joseph’s patience. He waited on God and on God’s timing and was rewarded greatly for it, as was Abraham and Sarah.

Sometimes we may feel like God is just not hearing us, sometimes we may feel alone, but we need to remember to wait. There may be difficulties, and there may be joys in our periods of waiting in our lives. Let go and let God. He knows what he is doing, we just need to have the patience to trust that his plans are for a purpose, and that his plans involve something greater than ourselves. Thanks for reading today, join us tomorrow for the last day of the week.

-Jana Swanson

What Are You Dishing Out Today?

Proverbs 17-19

proverbs-17-28

Thursday, January 26

So, how has your mouth been doing this week?  Today is a great time to make some positive changes.  One of my favorite Proverbs about our mouths is in today’s reading:  “The tongue has the power of life and death” (18:21).   Life or Death – you can’t get more powerful than that.  Life or Death – what life-giving words will you use today?  Life or Death – which will you be dishing out today?

And, just like your momma always said, “If you can’t find anything . . . to say that brings life . . . then DON’T say anything at all.”  I’m pretty sure she got that from Proverbs.  Maybe from 17:28 – “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”    So, consider this the next time you open your mouth to speak words with the power of death – if you close your mouth before speaking it just might be a win-win for you and your listener alike.  You might avoid proving yourself foolish, and your intended audience might be spared a deathly blow.  And, if you do spit out those deathly words that are fighting to get out . . . does anyone win?  Other verses also remind us of the importance of listening and how it leads to wisdom:

18:13 – He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.

 

19:20 – Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise

Today’s chapters also repeatedly speak of the wisdom of overlooking an offense, or on the flip side, the foolishness of quarrelling.  Do you more often find yourself holding onto a grudge or forgiving and moving on?   Do you find your feelings easily hurt and hold it against others?  Are you quick to start a quarrel, or let the moment pass in peace?

17:9 – He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

17:14 – Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

17:19 – He who loves a quarrel loves sin.

I think we could all benefit by evaluating how well, or poorly, we do with 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”    Which do you find yourself more interested in – understanding others or speaking your mind?  One little note on covering offenses – I am sure this is not referring to ignoring immoral sins.  We know that unrepentant sin leads to death and it is not loving to ignore that.  Galatians 6:1 has some wise advice in that case, as well as Proverbs 28:23 and Matthew 18.  No doubt, it takes much wisdom to know how to proceed in various situations.  Good thing God gives wisdom (James 1:5) and thank goodness we have the book of Proverbs to help us grow our wisdom.
A few more Proverbs that are just too good to not mention briefly . . .

On Zeal – typically considered a good thing – however . . .  “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (19:2)  Can you think of a project you may have jumped into . . . and then realized you should have done more “homework” first?   What about those facebook posts we have all seen where a very zealous person is on a rampage because of the latest outrage . . . only to have a friend point out the errors in their information (thank you, snopes).  Very zealous, but not very helpful without the true knowledge – and God’s Word is even more reliable than snopes.

On Disciplining Children/Youth – “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (19:18).   No one likes to be  disciplined – and the parent doing the discipline isn’t too thrilled either.  However, discipline sure beats death.  As a parent I need to remember that I do NOT make their life better by being their best friend and making things easy for both of us.  I make their life better by firmly and lovingly teaching rules, consequences, boundaries, how to listen and follow directions.  By teaching our children how to obey their parents we are also teaching them how to obey God and that is the most important lesson, that leads to life not death.  So teens out there reading, next time you are disciplined by your parents, surprise them – give them a giant hug and a great big thank you for saving you from death.  Then, watch them faint!

What would our relationships and family look like if we lived out all of these wonderful Proverbs everyday?  Keep praying for wisdom and working at the lessons learned in Proverbs.  They bring life – and who couldn’t use more of that.

Marcia Railton