December 1, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Now Matters”

James 5.7-9 (NASB)

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.

 One Friday night when I was praying at church, I received a picture of what looked like a banquet hall during the times of Jesus. You could hear the clattering of plates as all these people were running around, getting the tables set. There was an urgency to their preparation. I was quickly reminded of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). One of the key details of that parable is when the king notices a man amongst the guests who did not have the right wedding garments, that man is immediately thrown out of the banquet to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is to foreshadow what it will be like when Jesus returns. Those who have the right garments will be welcomed into the wedding banquet.

The reason why I share this is because of the conviction the Lord placed upon my heart through this vision. When I asked for understanding, God’s responded, “The preparation for the banquet has started. What are you doing to help others to find their wedding garments?”

As those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, what is included in this confession is the belief that Christ will come back. It is on that day where all things will be made new, death will be no more, and God’s people will be eternally in His presence (Revelation 21). There will be a great wedding banquet. No one knows when this will happen, only the Father. But as we see how quickly things are changing in the world, you can sense that it’s not too far off.

In my heart, I have assurance of salvation; I believe that because of Christ, my wedding garments are ready. But what am I doing to help others prepare?

James in today’s passage exhorts the church to patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. Just as the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, he calls the believers to be patient. The day is near. And then verse 9 seems to repeat all the teachings he had covered so far. What I believe James is calling people towards the day of the Lord with great hope and anticipation, while at the same time, reminding them to be mindful of the manner in which they are currently living their lives. There is hope that has been secured, but there is manner in which we are to patiently wait. We can easily become nihilistic, thinking that the end will soon come, and so not to worry about how we live our day-to-day lives. But this is not so for those who are in Christ.

The manner in which we live now matters. The way God challenged me in prayer to think about how I am spending my life now is the same message that James is reminding all of us here in this passage. We are a people who will behold unimaginable glory. But until that day comes, until we see our God face to face, I pray that the lives that we lived to that point would be ever so pleasing onto Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your promise that You will return. The Spirit and the bride declare, “Come!” But we ask for Your mercy that when You do come, we would be found living lives in a manner worthy of Your calling. And we cannot do this without Your Spirit— fill us with Your Spirit. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 12-Proverbs 1

November 30, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

James 4.11-12 (NASB)

Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

 In a podcast series I recently finished (Serial, season 3) that investigated the judicial and prison system of Ohio, there was one law held by every person interviewed. No matter how unjust or unreasonable their situation was, no one broke this rule: you don’t snitch on anyone. And these young men would go to such great lengths to uphold this law—a law that isn’t even recognized by the judicial system. You may have differing opinions on this issue, and that’s fair; but one thing for sure: All of them understood that no one is above this law.

Whether it’s in Christian leadership or in the corporate setting, when someone begins to think that they are above the law—certain rules apply to some but not to me—it signals a grave danger ahead. The arrogance of this thinking is morally reprehensible, but more importantly, it is disdainful in the eyes of God. The tricky realization is that all us do commit this offense. We have areas in our lives that we know go against God’s heart, but we choose to disregard them.

We need to closely follow the argument here in this short passage. The teaching is to not speak against one another, especially about those within the community of faith. For when we do, three things occur: we (1) speak against the law, (2) judge the law, and (3) are not doers of the law. For James, when we disobey God’s commands, we are judging the commands by saying they are not applicable to us. This is judgment of, that is, rejecting, the validity of the law itself. And one example of this pattern is when we believe the command to love our neighbor as ourselves does not apply to us, and thus, speak out against our brothers/sisters.

The question we must ask ourselves is when we cast judgment on others, do we recognize that it’s not just “having a hard time with this person”? The seriousness of the indictment is that we have made ourselves above the One Lawgiver and Judge. There is no minor command that the Lord gives us, especially when it involves loving others. We cannot pick and choose lest we become judges of the law.

As was said yesterday, as we honestly reflect upon our character and heart, I pray that this would lead all of us to greater humility. I pray that the Word of God would peel back the deception that we have come to accept and be freed of the arrogance of our hearts.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that Your word is sharper than a double-edged sword. Thank You that it pierces us deeply so that we may be refined and become more like You. Send Your Holy Spirit so that we may love our neighbors as ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 18:9-14: And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the reasons for which the Pharisee felt that he stood right before the Lord? Was he wrong? What does this reveal about God?
  2. If you were to put these characters in your current context, who would be like the Pharisee and who would be like the tax collector? Who are you more like?
  3. What are the thoughts and feelings you experience when you find out that it is the tax collector that goes home justified? Why?

Notes

  1. The Pharisee religiously did/did not do what he was supposed to: he doesn’t swindle, is not unjust, does not commit adultery, and, unlike the tax collector, doesn’t cheat his own people. He fasts and pays his tithes. In one sense, he’s not wrong that he is more righteous than the tax collector. But God’s standards of righteousness are far different from ours. Scripture teaches us that even the most righteous person is no better than anyone else in regard to His standards.
  2. Perhaps the Pharisees are like church-goers. They do the “right” things. But ultimately what’s revealed is that they expect God to act in a certain way because they are not like the other people. The tax collectors are ones who truly understand that apart from the grace of God, we are hopeless and forlorn (and deservedly so).
  3. Personal response. You may find yourself experiencing a mixture of feelings. Perhaps you feel relieved that God’s mercy is so great. But others, you might feel slighted. You may feel like there’s something unfair about the situation. Bring these feelings before the Lord and ask Him to reveal what this reveals about your heart.

Evening Reflection

As you close today, meditate on James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy… what does it mean to you that this one Lawgiver and Judge provided the way of salvation for you through His Son? What do you feel when you reflect on the fact that the Judge has also shown you mercy, and no one else can bring anything against you? Spend some time thanking and praising the Lord for this truth.

November 29, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Quarreling and Fighting”

James 4.1-10 (NASB)

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

As I have been processing the death of Stan Lee, someone who shaped much of my childhood as a 90’s kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, I’m reminded again of how death causes us to reevaluate life. In death, we see what’s really important—what is the substance of man. We think of people like Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade—people who seemingly were at the top of their careers with everything that they could ever imagine—crumble internally to the point of taking their own lives. It is a reminder that there is more to life than riches and fame.

Today’s passage is a poignant reminder of this reality. In a community filled with quarreling and fighting, James quickly addresses what is truly at the root of it all. Especially when it comes to our conflicts with other people, it is so easy for us to look at the other side and point out everything that the other person did wrong. We even use religious language, accusing the other person of lacking humility or being worldly. But at the core of it, God’s word teaches us that it is because of our own lustful, envious desires that we find ourselves in conflict with others.

The consequence is multi-faceted: There is conflict and drama externally around us, but there is also another layer where these desires cause chaos within ourselves. A commentator notes that the word member in verse 1 is more often used to refer to a bodily organ or part of the human body; in other words, our unchecked, self-seeking desires cause a war within ourselves. The pleasures we seek actually disrupts our peace and well-being.

There is yet another layer. Why is there a disruption of peace? Because these lustful pleasures separate us from God. We become an enemy of God because we have befriended the world. We ask and do not receive, because we ask with wrong motives. We suffer because our prayers become ineffective. God no longer hears our prayers for they will only hurt us more, for we ask with wrong motives. We are separated from the very Source of our peace.

So what is the solution? Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (v.10). And James lays out what this looks like. He calls for us to submit ourselves to Him because He gives us a greater grace. Confess that we need Him. Mind you, the first step isn’t to try to fight this thing on our own. It is to come back, crawling if we need, to our Father who will draw near to us if we draw near to Him. Brothers and sisters, may we always be a people who seek to draw near to Him, knowing that there is no life apart from Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that You provide a greater grace to those who earnestly seek You. Thank You that Your grace is greater than our lustful desires that disrupts our peace. Help us to constantly submit ourselves to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Colossians 3:4-10: When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the things that belong to our old self? What is the consequence of a life that lives in these things?
  2. What should be the mindset of a person who has put on the new self?
  3. What does it mean for you that in Christ who is your life, you are being renewed (v.10)?

Notes

  1. These things belong to the old self: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech. The consequence of living such a life leads to the wrath of God.
  2. Paul writes in verse 5, “Therefore consider…”—in other words, turn your mind to the truth that you are no longer your old self. I especially appreciate how the Amplified Version puts it:  So put to death and deprive of power the evil longings of your earthly body [with its sensual, self-centered instincts] immorality, impurity, sinful passion, evil desire, and greed, which is [a kind of] idolatry [because it replaces your devotion to God].” We are commanded to cut off the power of these old desires because of Christ.
  3. Personal response. Perhaps there is a part of your old self that you have been struggling with. What does it mean for you that Christ is your life?

Evening Reflection

Have there been moments throughout today where you felt the nearness of God? In what ways did you experience the truth of James 4:8, where you drew near to God and He drew near to you? Reflect on these moments. Cherish them in your heart. Give thanks to God for them.

November 28, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

James 3.17-18 (NASB)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Throughout my study of philosophy in undergrad, I had some amazing professors. They were amazing not just because of their grasp of the subject matter but because of the humble and inquisitive manner in which they taught. This had a deep impact on my own pursuit of wisdom. However, despite their positive impression on me, I distinctly remember a time when I refuse to follow their example.

For some odd reason, I needed to take a 100-level philosophy course in my final semester of college. Being the “big bad” senior who had already finished his senior project for my major, I strolled into this class, ready to “educate” the freshman that filled this 100-level course. I scoffed at their attempts of putting on their berets and “philosophizing.” Every comment they made that didn’t agree with my reading of the material, I quickly interjected my “superior deducing abilities,” refuting in a tactful-yet-passive-aggressive way why they were just plain wrong.

The reason I still remember that class today is because of the sheer arrogance and foolishness I see in my heart. Philosophy (philo – love, sophia – wisdom) is the love of wisdom. But I had weaponized it to put others down. It is quite the indictment when we read James’ description of the wisdom that comes from above—it is first and foremost pure, that is, morally blameless. This wisdom is peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. The “wisdom” I displayed in class was not this. And the thrust of James’ message is that the wisdom not from above is not only useless, but it is earthly, natural, demonic.

True wisdom is one that makes peace with people. It is one that builds up someone. It shows mercy. It bears good fruit. It comes from a place of humility because we recognize that this wisdom is truly not from ourselves but from above, the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

The question for us today is again concerning the condition of our hearts. When we reflect upon the wisdom by which we navigate through life, especially in our interactions with others, does it reflect a worldly wisdom that is harsh and rigid? Or does it reflect the wisdom from above, pure and full of mercy? Perhaps today’s passage is calling us to turn away from that which is worldly to claim that which is heavenly.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that You give generously and without reproach Your wisdom to those who ask for it. We reject the earthly, demonic wisdom that causes strife and division amongst us. We reject the arrogance and hypocrisy of this wisdom in exchange for Your pure, peaceable, merciful wisdom. Help us to live out of this wisdom today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 9


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Corinthians 8:1b: We know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Questions to Consider

  1. Focusing on the language used by Paul in 8:1b, what can we understand of worldly wisdom/knowledge?
  2. Why do you think Paul writes in 13:1-2 that wisdom and knowledge alone results in “nothing”?
  3. What can we infer about the nature of the Giver of wisdom and His desire for us?

Notes

  1. The language used here juxtaposes “puff” and “build”. The former is big but insubstantial. Whereas it is frail and can be deflated, love solidifies and enhances. Love builds something that is lasting.
  2. Love is the vehicle upon which wisdom and knowledge can be shared in a manner that is, as the passage in James teaches us, pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy, etc. Without love, knowledge and understanding remains as is—static and without effect.
  3. It points us to a God who not only is the Giver of wisdom but is wisdom as well as love. It teaches us of a God whose wisdom leads us to His love. Thus, God gives us this wisdom so that we may learn to love and build up others. This wisdom and knowledge are not meant to remain static. It calls us to action.

Evening Reflection

As you think about today, were there moments when God revealed His wisdom that led you to a greater understanding of His love? As you think about the way God’s wisdom has built you up, pray and ask the Lord to give you an opportunity to use that wisdom to build up someone else.

November 27, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Power of Words”

James 3.8-12 (NASB)

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

As a new father, I am constantly reminded that I am not in control. Take for instance a simple diaper change: You have everything you need—the changing pad, the organic, unscented baby wipes, a fresh diaper, and a pair of clean hands. You’ve done this a hundred times by now. And while you remove the old diaper, dispose of it, and turn back to put on the fresh diaper, what happens? Your little one decides that she needs to pee… right now. No rhyme. No reason. Just because.

It’s not uncommon for us to experience these reminders that we are not in control. Specifically when it comes to our words, how many times have we come out of a conversation or dispute, thinking to ourselves, “Why did I just say that?” As we continue to reflect on the power of words, James reminds us that no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

The general sentiment from yesterday’s QT was how our words can negatively affect others. But as we read in verses 9-12, we are also reminded of the potential our words have to bring life and blessing to God and to others. Yes, we can curse others with our words, but also, we can bless God; our mouths can be the source of both blessings and curses. So how do we keep away from cursing and fight for blessing?

James writes that no one can tame the tongue, that is, if left to themselves. James is full of practical words, but the practice can never be taken apart from the faith. For James, everything begins with the Law of Liberty, the righteousness given to us because of Christ’s fulfillment of the law. And although we alone cannot tame the tongue, because of Christ, our tongue can be tamed.

We cannot tame the tongue, but Christ can master us. And when He is our Master, His Spirit tames even the ficklest parts of our being—such as our tongue. And when this happens, our tongues can be used to truly glorify God and bless those around us.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we praise You for You have the words of life. And we take this moment to pause and reflect upon the words that we speak—to ourselves and to those around us. We repent not only for the words that were spoken, but we repent for our lack of mindfulness of those words. Purify our hearts so that the words that overflow may reflect Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 8


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 12:33-37: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the relationship Jesus is drawing in this passage between the tree/fruit and person/words?
  2. Based on this relationship, what needs to change? How might this differ from how we normally approach on what needs to change in our speech?
  3. In light of this passage, how might your prayer change when it comes to your words?

Notes

  1. Jesus teaches that just as a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, an evil person cannot speak what is good, for words are the fruit of the heart.
  2. For someone’s speech to change, the heart needs to be transformed. We may often think that we just need to change the way we speak, but that is simply addressing the fruit of a bad tree; what really needs to change is the heart.
  3. Personal response. Welcome the Holy Spirit to continue to transform your heart so that the fruit (words, deeds, thoughts, etc) may reflect His Spirit.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to think about your day and the words that you spoke. How might this be a reflection of the condition of your heart? Ask the Lord to fill you with His Spirit so that your heart may be renewed. Keep track of how that might change your words and thoughts tomorrow.

November 26, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 26-December 2 are provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland.  Joshua, a graduate of Emory University, Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Talbot School of Theology (Th.M.), serves as the pastor of Access group (singles).  He is married to Christina. They recently had their first child.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Our Words Have Power”

James 3.1-7 (NASB)

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.  2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

One of the few TV shows I’ve seen in its entirety is an early 2000s political drama called The West Wing. As the name suggests, it is a show about the inner workings of the White House, in particular, the relationship between the President and his most trusted advisors. There is a particular episode where the staff is preparing for the State of the Union Address—this speech can make or break the political agenda of the president. Therefore, an incredible amount of preparation goes into writing this speech.

There’s a scene where the staff brings together a group of people where they “test” or “poll” particular words/phrases to see how they respond. Even the intonation of how these words are said are polled. And the results from this polling impacted what or how something was said in the State of the Union. This is the power of words.

As we reflect through the book of James, we see that Scripture also testifies to the power of words. So powerful are the things that come out of our mouth that James goes as far as to say that it can defile the entire body or even set on fire the course of our life (v. 6). It is likened to a bit in the mouth of a horse or the small rudder of a boat—meaning, our words are able to steer the entire body. Especially for those of us who are in positions of leadership/teaching, we should use great caution in our speech.  

As a society, we have rejected (rightfully so) the age-old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Yet, we also live in a society where anonymity of online profiles is part of our everyday interactions. Sarcasm and irony is the tone of our sense of humor; comments can be just as easily edited and they are typed. In such a climate, it is so easy for us to not consider every day the words that emerge from our mouths. How often do we consider that what we speak comes from the same place from which we bless our Lord and Father ? (v. 9)

Today and tomorrow, we’ll be reflecting on what James teaches us on the words that we speak. Perhaps it is a timely reminder for all of us to reconsider not only what we say but how we say things as ones who are seeking the righteousness of God (1:19-20).

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we praise You for You have the words of life. And we take this moment to pause and reflect upon the words that we speak—to ourselves and to those around us. We repent not only for the words that were spoken but for our lack of mindfulness of those words. Purify our hearts so that the words that overflow may reflect Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 7


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 10: 11, 19, 21, 31-32: The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence . . .  19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent . . . 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

Questions to Consider

  1. Proverbs are often structured into duplets—one in the positive, the other in the negative. Take a moment to weigh the two sides laid out in this proverb.
  2. What are some themes you see throughout the proverb in relation to speech?
  3. In what ways does this proverb speak to the way you use your speech?

Notes

  1. v.11 righteous mouth gives life, wicked mouth covers wrong
    v.19 wisdom in restraining words, sin when words are many
    v.21 righteous mouth betters others, foolishness leads to destruction
    v.31 righteous mouth brings wisdom, perverse tongues leads to destruction
    v.32 righteous lips understands what is good, wicked mouth knows what is evil
  2. General themes: those who are wise or have understanding are careful in how they use their words, which benefit not only themselves but those around them. Those who do not consider their words leads to destruction, perverseness, evil, and transgression.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

You probably went throughout today speaking—whether verbally or through email/text—many words. Take a moment to pause and reflect on those words. Are they honoring to the Lord? Do they reflect the way of the wise or the perverse? Spend some time bringing your words and speech to the Lord; ask for His refinement.

November 25, Sunday

Devotional Thought for Today

“It Must Be Faith with Deeds”

James 2:14-26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 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. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

When I decided to go on one-year missions to Shanghai in 2013, I shared the news with faith workmy non-Christian brother. His immediate response to what was supposed to be an exciting news was, “Don’t you think it’s better to provide education and service to people in need than organized religion?” Although his response hurt and frustrated me, I realize now that his question has some merit. What can religion do for the one who is sick, starving or without any basic needs met? Of course, they may be able to have a relationship with God and go to heaven, but is that what Christianity is all about? Does the God of love only care about salvation and not the earthly needs of His children?

When we look at the Bible, we can see that God is not reticent of people’s needs. Instead, we see God’s providential hand all throughout Israel’s journey from slavery into the promised land; we see Jesus’ heart to heal the brokenhearted in the story of Samaritan women; and we see Jesus feeding people rather than sending them away. Luke 4:18 sums up Jesus’ ministry as more than a proclamation of spiritual salvation, but a holistic ministry that brings deliverance to the captives, healing to the sick, and release for the oppressed.

The Christian faith is one that goes beyond a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is a faith that is put to the test by our actions where faith and deeds meet to reflect the life of Christ. James calls it foolish to believe that you can have one without the other; in fact, Satan even believes in God, yet his faith is not credited to him as righteousness because his actions (or lack thereof) do not reflect a true salvific faith.

It is no different with us. To live an active life of faith we are called to respond with our deeds. While the greatest moment in our relationship with God is when we come to faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who saves a sinner like us, James shows us that our faith is made complete by our actions. That is, we are called to more than a life of belief, but a life where all that we do reflects the hope and faith that we have in a God who cares about all the needs of a person – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Therefore, let us be people whose faith is made complete by our faith and actions today!

Prayer: God I thank You that your work on the cross has sanctified me once and for all. Help me to live a life of not just faith, but a life with faith and deeds. And help me to be a beacon of light to others in all of their needs. In Jesus name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 6