Devotions

Monthly Archives: February, 2016

Monday | February 29

Pay Day
James 5:4  

“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (James 5:4).

When we hire someone to do a job for us like shoveling snow, baby-sitting, or running parts of our business, any slack in caring for our employee’s compensation is taken note of.  This can even relate to our children who work for us as they make attempts to obey and honor us with chores and doing their best in school. If we deny them just compensation in loving-kindness and encouraging them along the way, they miss out on the blessing that obedience demands. Our “employees”, our kids, nieces, nephews, and younger siblings all deserve Godly compensation to be affirmed of their value in our eyes and the eyes of God.  We need to keep in mind God is not mocked – what we sow we will reap (Galatians 6:7).  In turn, if we do not sow good seed, we cannot reap the hope we have in seeing our kids, and or charges successful in their lives.. We need to love God and them as ourselves.

Mark 12:29-31 says, “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Josue Rodriguez
Pastor’s Academy Student

Saturday | February 27

Do We Make Too Much of Time?
James 4:13-17

Time is a precious commodity. We cannot, despite our greatest efforts, create even one second more throughout our days. As such, to have some mastery over time’s eternal march, we try to subdue it. We fill all of our days to the brim with activities and ambitions and plans, often to the detriment of others.

You see it all the time in high school students – teenagers barely old enough to drive, cramming seven AP courses along with three varsity sports, four hours of volunteer work, two hours of tutoring sessions, club chairmanships, and student council elections into each and every moment of their waking days all in the hopes of being considered for the most prestigious universities in the nation. While there is nothing wrong with finding yourself in possession of a strong sense of direction and desire for your life, James, the brother of Jesus (someone who clearly knew where His life’s path would take Him), cautions us against the pitfalls of such an outlook. He begins by waking us up out of our self-focused slumber:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a while, then vanishes” (James 4:13-14).

“For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a while, then vanishes.” Ouch.

If we were convinced of the importance of all of our ambitions before, James surely saw to the introduction of a draught of much needed – and ice-cold – water. But James has hit on something very important here: the future is never guaranteed, and time can never be mastered. So often we spend all of our time focused upon the eventualities of our actions – we strive to excel in school in order to go to an even better university; we major in pre-med AND pre-law to give ourselves the best life possible; we work and slave and toil all the day in the pursuit of something which is never guaranteed to us. And what is worse is that we often neglect the here-and-now for the what-may-be!  We find ourselves slaves to our busy-ness, to our time. James chides the church of his day for the sight they’ve lost, but he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to instruct them in what they ought to be thinking.

“Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So, for the person who knows to do good and doesn’t do it, it is a sin” (James 4:15-17).

Wait, hold on – what? Does James mean to tell me that my desire to master my time and to plan out my future is arrogance? Or worse – sin? Well…yes, kind of. Notice something about the thinking of the individuals in the earlier verses: they sought to bring every aspect of their lives under their own control: time (“today or tomorrow”), means (“we will go”), place (“to such and such a city”), purpose (“and do business”), and even outcome (“and make a profit”). The arrogance isn’t that they have desires for their lives, but that they assume that their desires are what must be – they focus so intently on their own path; but the danger comes when we cling too much to our own path instead of opening our eyes to the good we may do now.

And that is James’ central warning here: that too often we may forsake opportunities to do good or to spread grace and love to those around us (God’s plan) because we can’t see how it aligns with our plan. And so, in light of this, we must always humble ourselves to the possibilities of the life God is always present in, seeking always opportunities to do good, and to submit our wills to the wisdom of God.

Pastor’s Academy Student

Friday | February 26

Who Are You to Judge Your Neighbor?    
James 4:11-12

It is a truth often repeated (and in this day and age, often found as one scrolls through a Facebook newsfeed): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And, while the attribution of this quotation is hazy at best, it contains a sentiment that faintly echoes a statement made by James in the early first century. In James 4:11-12, he writes:

“Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

It’s a common directive in Scripture – even Jesus cautions us against addressing the speck in a brother’s eye when we have a log in ours – and it’s repeated so often that we likely become desensitized to it. However, we ought to always give extra consideration to the things we see repeated throughout God’s Word, for clearly there must be something He wants us to understand.

So what exactly is James saying here? Certainly not that we should just let sin run rampant in the lives of our fellow Christians just so we don’t hurt their feelings – in fact, if we look through Scripture, we see constant directives telling us to hold ourselves and our fellow believers to a higher standard with our behavior. No, his warning speaks to something much more insidious, something that we all struggle with, and something which James has given special attention to this entire chapter: our pride and arrogance.

The problem here isn’t the action of criticizing one another in itself, but rather it is the mindset that so often goes along with it that James seeks to address. He makes it very clear:

“He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

Many times, criticism comes from a place where someone thinks, “I know what you should be doing, and you’re not doing it, so you’re wrong,” and while that may be from good intentions, there is an arrogance just below the surface. In criticizing someone this way, we are saying that we understand the law more fully than they do; and James clearly says that such a task does not fall to us. We are called to be doers of the law, not judge others based on it – we’re simply not qualified. And if we would take a moment and judge ourselves with that same critical look which we levy upon others, we would see that harsh reality in a moment. James reminds us of this too when he says:

“There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Just in case we may have forgotten ourselves, we’re reminded of two things. First, that God is judge over all of our lives, having the power to save or to condemn us all. Second, that we are just as worthy of rebuke and judgment as anyone else -just as we are told earlier in Scripture, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Armed with that knowledge, we must always be aware of our actions and motivations. In seeking to lead a brother or sister down a Godly path, we must be careful not to fall into judgment of them, but remain always an advocate for the light of Christ, which convicts all humanity of good.

Pastor’s Academy Student

Thursday | February 25

Counter Culture
James 4:9-10

Imagine going to a therapist and receiving the following advice, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” In our culture, a statement like this would never fly from someone considered to be a mental/medical health professional.  Society would think that therapist was out of their mind, unprofessional, and heartless.  This sentence would be considered poor advice, unwise, and even sadistic.  The follow up to it doesn’t sound that much more appealing, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  Really, you want me to bring myself lower?  This sounds brutal, but it’s the exact remedy James (through the Holy Spirit, and in conjunction with Jesus) prescribes.

The best mental health experts of our time would recommend the exact opposite of this!  “Do what makes you happy” is the mantra of our generation.  Even worse, many false teachers occupy pulpits in the church, preaching a form of this worldly mantra saying things like, “Jesus wants you to be happy.” In high school, after completing a sports physical, my doctor (the same doctor who delivered me as a baby) gave me a clean bill of physical health.  He said I was in tip-top shape.  What he said next shocked me.  “You’re 17 going on 18, you’ll never be in better health than you are now, enjoy it while you can.  I recommend you go and have sex with as many girls as you can, studies have shown that it will help you mentally, so go and enjoy yourself, while you have this body.”  I’d be lying if I say as teenage boy that the advice didn’t sound extremely appealing.  Thankfully, God gave me the self-control to wait.

The wisdom of this world today is quite terrible, and the wisdom that comes from God’s Word is considered folly by those of this world.  This isn’t a new concept. However, James in his letter is dealing with the exact same thing.  He attacks the concept of wisdom hard in James 3:13-18.  The world had crept into the church (much like it has today) and people needed help discerning what the behavior of a Christian should look like.  James, here in Chapter 4: 9-10, is instructing us to, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  He is reminding us of the words of Jesus from His sermon on the mount where He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”  (Matthew 5:3-5).  This sermon is often described as “counter culture.”  The religious people of Jesus’ day thought they knew exactly what God wanted and what God honored. Jesus taught that what God honored was the exact opposite.  The Jews ultimately rejected the teachings, rejected Jesus, and eventually killed him.  Several years after His death however, James (Jesus’ half-brother) is teaching the church to live by Jesus’ instruction.

This instruction is clear for us today.  Recognize your sin and be broken over it, give up the temporary joy of your own desire because it ultimately leads to death (James 1:14-15), and cling to God who gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  Humble yourselves so that you may be exalted!

Jason Duncan
Pastor’s Academy Student

Wednesday | February 24

Choose Your Side
James 4:7-8

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Empire Strikes Back”. It is the Star Wars movie where Luke Skywalker goes to train to be a Jedi Knight with Yoda in a swamp. Many of their conversations are about the conflicting forces of the light and dark side. Although this is a fictitious story, mankind has a similar struggle. There is a light side and dark side in this world. This is what James says:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded (James 4:7-8).

James calls out some irregularities in the Church. They were trying to be friends with both the world and God. This is why James tells his readers they are double-minded. God is a jealous God. When He says He wants our lives to be for Him, He means it. The first of the Ten Commandments is that we should have no other gods then God Himself. What James says is that the Church was getting too friendly with the world and not fully committed to God. That is why he uses such strong language to his audience. You can’t be both light and dark. You have to make a choice and not making a choice means you have chosen Satan and the dark side.

This Scripture should leave us with a haunting conviction in our souls to evaluate our lives and see what side we have chosen. James encourages the Church to choose God and resist Satan. He also gives a guarantee that if we draw near to our God He will draw near to us. In this text we are given two commands as to how we can draw nearer to God: 1. Cleanse your hands. 2. Purify your hearts. Cleansing of the hands is in reference to what are actions are. God’s people are called to live out a certain standard of life, one that makes them noticeably different then the rest of the world. That is why James says, “cleanse your hands you sinners”. He said that because the actions of the Church were sinful and not in step with how God has called us to live. We see this even today in the Church. People deliberately choosing sin whether that’s sexual immorality, coveting, lying, or any other host of sins that are unclean actions therefore giving us unclean hands. That is why we need to be a people who practice repentance. It is crucial to the life of a Christian. The act of repentance is drawing near to God and changing our actions because of it.

What are you doing? What are your motives? These are questions I personally ask myself. Am I doing this for my glory or God’s? You can be the most faithful greeter, Sunday school teacher, or band member, and if you are doing them with the wrong intentions then it is all rubbish. Which leads into what James says next, purify your heart. Remember the Pharisees? They were the religious guys in Jesus’ day; they had all the right actions on the outside. They were seen in the temple praying all the time. They had all the appearance of holiness, yet Jesus tells them “you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones”.

So what side do you choose, the light or the dark? One leads to a life lived to the fullest joy in God and the other leads to certain destruction. As the Church, we need to continually examine our actions and motives to make sure we are drawing nearer to God and not towards Satan and the world.

Pastor’s Academy Student



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