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James 5:13-18 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

Verses 13-18 are about praying in faith. Books have been written on this subject, so I acknowledge that I am only able to touch a highlight or two today.

James is reminding us to pray in every circumstance, not just when we feel desperate. We are called to offer prayers of rejoicing and praise as well as our petitions for help.

We are especially encouraged to pray for healing. James encourages the sick to call for the elders of the church to annoint them with oil and pray in faith for them. In Bible times, oil was used as a healing remedy for many ailments. I have seen Christians take that little piece of information and run with it saying this means to go to the doctor. Other Christians will rebuke them and say to put all your confidence in the oil and the prayer. I don’t intend to straddle the fence here, I intend to take both sides seriously and say that God intends for us to do what makes sense. Yes, do what you know to do for healing – if it is to take an asprin for a headache or if it is to go to the doctor for open heart surgery. We have no excuse to throw away hundreds of years of medical advancements and take the lazy way out by expecting God to just do it. But, we don’t need to put all our confidence in our doctors either. After all, it is God who gets the last word.

So when we are sick, we are called on to use the healing expertise we have available to us, and we are to call upon God. I have often seen church elders (or deacons or other officials depending on the titles used by various denominations) anoint the sick with oil and pray for their healing. God is honored by this and desires to bless their efforts.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 5:7-11 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James teaches us to be patient when we go through suffering. How easy it is to turn to fretting instead of faith. We are reminded to think like the farmer who has to trust God to send the rain at the right time and trust God with the timing in our lives.

It is also important for us to remember how God uses suffering to build character in his beloved children. We may feel we are being punished, but punishment and discipline are not necessarily the same. Punishment is often the direct response to outright sin and is intended to cause pain or bring justice. God is always working toward the future. He disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 2:6) to prepare them for service in his kingdom. Discipline may not be in response to a great sin, it may be more like sandpaper working on some rough edges. But the end purpose of discipline is to prepare us for service in the future.

James reminds us not to grumble against one another. It is so easy to give in to grumbling when we struggle with the events around us. Our grumbling stands in the face of developing patience and works against us. God is not pleased when we grumble.

Job was a patient man who held to his faith in God against all odds. By looking to Job and others in the Bible such as Joseph in Egypt, we may find the courage and strength to help us persevere in our times of suffering.

Father God, strengthen our hearts when we are hurting. Help us to trust in you for courage and strength.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 5:1-6 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James describes the woes for the wealthy. God doesn’t offer any redeeming words to rich people who obtain their money by taking advantage of the poor. Neither does he condone persons who use all their wealth for self-indulgence. I have occasionally heard wealthy Christians wrestle with what the Bible says about wealth. As I understand the scriptures, both here and elsewhere in the Bible, the bottom line is whether the wealthy hoard for themselves, or hold their riches with open hands asking God to lead them to be good stewards of their wealth in service to his kingdom.

This question may put money in its proper perspective: Does your money own you or do you own your money? If you are consumed in worrying about your money (even your lack of it) that you can’t joyfully serve the Lord with it, then your money owns you.

I find it interesting that this passage isn’t one of the familiar passages we hear frequently in the pulpit or even in our Sunday school literature. James 5 was the passage for last Sunday’s lesson, but the writer of our literature ignored it completely and began with verse 7 to build his lesson. Read the passage again. James doesn’t mince words to avoid offending the wealthy.

Father God, Help us to hold our finances and possessions with open hands that we may serve you with our whole hearts. Give us the courage to make the changes in our hearts and lives that would be pleasing to you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 3:13-16 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

What prompts people to do good deeds? Politicians often do good deeds to gain recognition and votes. Businessmen make great donations to get tax write-offs. Some people want to be seen doing good deeds so they will make a good impression on others. Deeds done out of selfish ambition or envy are futile attempts to appease others, nor do they impress God. James calls these deeds evil practices.

There are others who are trying to balance the scales of their lives hoping to have more good deeds piled up on one side than bad deeds on the other as if they could earn their way into heaven this way. These are the most deceived of all.

James challenges us to rise above earthly wisdom and to seek the true wisdom that comes from God alone. The person who seeks godly wisdom will have a daily practice of doing good deeds, but this person will not be looking for man’s approval or applause. He will not be concerned about getting anything in return. He will not desire to have his name engraved on a plaque and hung on the wall for all to see the contributions he has made. He will simply look for ways to serve others sharing what he has with those in need.

Heavenly Father, search my heart and know me. Show me where I have my priorities upside-down. Enable me to serve you fully and completely. Give me the will to put others needs ahead of my self-indulgent spirit.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 3:10-12  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

We were made in the image of God. How can we let our tongues get so un-godly? One minute we are praising God, the next we are cursing our brother who is made in the image of God.

I have often heard an expression that goes something like this: “When you get jossled what comes out of your mouth is what you are full of.” That is a frightening thought, but it gives us a clue about how to fix the problem. We need to fill our hearts and minds with those things that will bless others if they spill out when we get jossled. Spending time with Jesus and time reading his Word will help to fill our hearts with those things that will bless others instead of curse them.

Father God, lift our spirits and clean us up both inside and out in order to so fill us with your spirit that only good and uplifting things can spill out when our feathers get ruffled.

 Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 3:5-9 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

In these verses James makes it clear just how wicked our tongues can be. He compares our sharp words to a raging fire that destroys everything in its path. We are capable of using our tongues to boast about ourselves as well as to reduce others to rubble on a whim. Once our tongues get to wagging it is hard to slow them down. They can become as venomous as vipers if we don’t keep them under control. Are we quick to gossip (perhaps under the guise of sharing a prayer request)? Will we tell a “white lie” (if there is such a thing) to cover up something we don’t want others to know about? Do we tell things that don’t need to be said about others to make ourselves look better in comparison? Matthew 12:36 tells us that on judgement day we will have to account for every careless word we have spoken. That should make us sit up and take notice – and then take action to get our tongues under control.

As bleak as this seems, don’t dispair. We are blessed with a heavenly Father who is compassionate and willing to help us to control our tongues. If you continue reading in James you will find hope in this.

Father God, please remember that we are made of dust and show us your mercy. Help us to keep our tongues under the control of your Holy Spirit so that it may only bring forth words that will encourage others and build them up.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 3:1-4 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

James warns of the risk of becoming a teacher. The teacher who doesn’t measure up to what he or she professes to believe can do more harm than the blatant sinner who makes no bones about sinning. Furthermore, teachers who teach false doctrine are dangerous. James tells us that teachers in general will be judged more strictly than the rest of the population.

“That’s not fair!” I’ve heard it said by teachers and pastors alike. They argue that they are fallible the same as anyone else. And there is some truth in that, but they had better be dilligent in their study and genuine in their faith or people will see right through them. Most importantly lives will be damaged by a slack teacher.

James then addresses the most difficult part of the body to keep under control, and that is the tongue. Perhaps that is why he begins this passage by referring to teachers – for it is chiefly through what they say that teachers do their teaching.

The rest of these introductory verses compare the size and significance of the tongue to the body, and contrast this comparison with that of a rudder to a ship and a bit and bridle to a horse. If a ship is going to reach it’s destination, the rudder must be kept under control. The same is true of a horse, bit and bridle. James is making a powerful statement about the importance of keeping the tongue in check. He continues this discussion in the next several verses.

Father God, impress upon our hearts the importance of our witness to those around us, whether we are intentional teachers or not. Help us to be aware of the possibility that people are watching to see if we say what we mean and mean what we say. Help us not to disappoint those who might look up to us, and help us to especially guard our mouths and what we say.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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James 1  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

The book of James was written not by the James in Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, but by James, the brother of Jesus. James was writing to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” I interpret this to mean the Christian Jews (the twelve tribes) who had scattered among other nations because they were being persecuted for their Christian faith. That understanding makes this book especially valuable to Christians today who are suffering persecution. Unfortunately, most Christians (myself included) are woefully ignorant of the persecution that is being targeted at Christians today, especially in foreign countries. This persecution of Christians is also picking up momentum in the United States. The skeptical need only type the words “Christian persecution” into a Google search to locate a wealth of convincing information on the topic.

In the first chapter, James is writing to the persecuted Christians who have scattered to the surrounding nations, and he is encouraging them to persevere in their trials. He is also encouraging them to be “doers” of the Word and not just hearers only. We all need to take this instruction to heart.

Father God, stir in our hearts a greater compassion for the suffering Christians around the world. Let their perseverance motivate us to pray for them and to reach out to them as you lead us to do. Enable us to recognize the shallow areas of our own faith and to commit ourselves to seeking to know you better by studying your Word that our faith may be strengthened.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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