August 17 – Tips for Everyday Life – Be Wise

Read James 3:13-18

I noticed at an early age that I’m not quite as quick thinking as most. I wanted to dazzle my peers with wisdom but typically, if my teacher called on me, I would be startled out of a daydream and utter, “Ummm….what was the question again?”

My grades were acceptable but not impressive. I went to college but only lasted one semester.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the Bible? Have you ever felt like you can’t keep up with other Christians in their knowledge? Do you have trouble digging out spiritual truths on your own? Have you ever felt like you’re just not smart enough to ever be considered wise?

I have good news for you.

It doesn’t matter if you have your doctorate or if you were always a bit behind in school like me. It doesn’t matter if you’ve led an exemplary moral life or if you’ve got some skeletons in your closet. James 1 tells us that God gives wisdom generously to all, without finding fault, if we’ll just believe He can and will!

God levels the playing field and reminds us we are all in the same humble boat. We’re all sinners in need of forgiveness. We’re all confined by our finite understanding until God grants us a glimpse of His infinite wisdom.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Prov. 11:2)

The Holy Spirit, the embodiment of God’s wisdom, is a gift we receive upon our salvation. No longer are we held captive by our strengths or limitations regarding wisdom. We aren’t left to our own understanding but now have access to the wisdom of God. I love these words from Paul in Colossians 2, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Our God is indeed generous.

When Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, glutton, and hanging out with the wrong people, He said, “Wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Jesus and James 3 give us the perfect picture of what the deeds of wisdom look like. What a great tool to help us evaluate how we’re doing in this area of our lives.

In verses 13-18 we learn that not only does wisdom stem from humility but also that humility grows out of wisdom. Wisdom from heaven is pure which means true. Are you spending more time seeking God’s truth than the world’s information that we have at our fingertips in our pockets and purses? Are you striving to gain wisdom to elevate yourself or are you surrendering to godly wisdom for His glory? If your life is full of godly wisdom, it will radiate from your life in a peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, sincere kind of way.

And then my favorite…

A person that embodies the wisdom of God scatters abundant seeds of peace wherever they go, reaping a harvest of righteousness.

What kind of ‘crop’ are you sowing?

Shelly Eberly

August 16 – Tips for Everyday Life – Watch Your Mouth

Read James 3:1-12

Speak life.

In the 2016 movie Miracles From Heaven, actress Jennifer Garner portrays the role of a dedicated Christian mother who loves her daughter and her family. This compelling drama is about the true story of her young daughter who had a near-death experience.

One scene showed the family worshiping at their church on a Sunday morning and the praise band was Third Day, one of my favorite bands. They were singing the song YOUR WORDS, which is about the Word of God:

“Your words give us life that’s never ending,

Your words bring us love that never fails,

Everything else will fade away

But what will remain

Are Your words…”

The word of God gives us life, love and awareness of little things like the human tongue.

Can you and I speak like God speaks in the Bible and speak life, love and encouragement to others? Let’s intentionally try to do that and withhold discouraging words!

Paul says in James 3:1-2 “Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.” A teacher can speak life through encouragement and being positive or a teacher can literally speak death. Teachers need to make an effort to encourage and recognize positive aspects of people’s lives. Examples of teachers are mothers, fathers, pastors, uncles, aunts, coaches, employers, neighbors and many others. You influence people positively or negatively with your words.

Ted Ginn Jr. had a learning disorder and grew up in Glenville, Ohio near Cleveland. His sixth-grade teacher called him out in front of a class at Forest Hill Parkway, insisting that he spell a word. “But I couldn’t,” recalls Ginn. “So he told me, in front of the whole class, that I was going to flip hamburgers my whole life.”

Some young people may have trouble recovering from those words. That is exactly what a teacher SHOULD NOT say. (And there is nothing wrong with a job flipping hamburgers).

Finally, in eighth grade, Ginn was placed in a special program that gave him the tools he needed to learn. “Once he was comfortable in the classroom,” says his father, “the real Ted could come out.”

The real Ted had supportive and loving parents and was a once in a generation athlete. Ginn was a standout track athlete for the Glenville track team and was a solid B student at Ohio State where he played football.

My favorite coach was John Wooden, who said that “Little things make a big difference.” This includes a bit in the mouth of a horse, a small rudder on a huge ship and your tongue. It includes the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-32, the Lord’s approval of the widow who gave her last two coins in Mark 12:41 and the little boy’s lunch in John 6:9.

Are you aware of the little things that make a big difference?

Do you speak life?

Tom Weckesser

August 15 – Tips for Everyday Life – Examples of Faith With Action

Read James 2:20-28

In 1980 I spent 2 weeks in the hospital in Akron, recovering from back surgery. That experience I would be happy to forget except for my encounter with a petite lady named Marge in the bed beside me. Marge had been bedridden for several years with brittle bone disease. She had to be very careful because just a cough or a sneeze could cause her to break a bone! Simply rolling over in bed for her was life threatening.

Needless to say, for Marge to have a good night’s sleep was more of a dream than a reality. Consequently, she would catnap throughout the day and stay awake most of the night.

Marge could have been bitter.

Marge could have thought, “What is the point? “

But she didn’t! She knew the Lord and a disease was not going to stop her from putting her faith into action.

Since she was awake most of the night, she had a CB base setup beside her bed and all night long she would monitor the calls from truck drivers, helping them out with directions, giving them advice, talking to them to keep them company or to keep them from falling asleep at the wheel – sharing her faith in a gentle way to people who might be hurting.  Touching the hearts of these men and women behind the wheel with God’s love was her mission right there from the bed that held her prisoner. Most of the drivers she had never and would never meet in person, but that didn’t matter to Marge.

A couple of months after being released from the hospital, I got to go visit Marge at her home.  Sure enough, there beside her hospital bed in her dining room was the CB monitoring equipment she used to spread God’s love. But also beside her bed was something else that caught my eye and was her inspiration. It was a large framed picture of Jesus. From a distance it looked just like an ordinary picture of Christ.  But when I looked closer, I realized it was really a puzzle that was actually made up of hundreds of faces.  Some were faces of people easily recognized like Martin Luther King Jr and John Kennedy, but many of them were of ordinary people like you and me.  All of those pictures put together made up the larger image of Christ.  The picture fittingly was called “In His Image.”

I will never forget that picture and I will never forget Marge and her dedication to putting her faith into action. When I think of Marge, I see Christ.  When I think of Christ, I see Marge among the other saints in that picture.

We, as believers, make up the image of Christ that He needs the world to see.

Do your actions reflect Him to your friends and coworkers, even strangers?

Will your face be included in the next version of “In His Image?”

Pat Arnold

August 14 – Tips for Everyday Life – Back Up Your Faith With Action

Read James 2:14-19 

About 5 years ago, area schools started installing buddy benches. The idea behind them was, if a child didn’t have anyone to play with, he/she could go sit on the bench and then, when another child saw them sitting there, they were supposed to go over and ask them to play or just go sit with them to keep them company.  Often teachers would congratulate the child who befriended the lonely child. However, how much more courage did it take for the 1st child to go and sit on that bench and to admit they were lonely, were without a friend to play with, or wasn’t in the “in crowd?”

What does an adult buddy bench look like?  After Hurricane Katrina, we were privileged to be able to go down and help put the finishing touches on a house that our church had helped rehab. Along with working on the house, we got to tour New Orleans and the surrounding area.  As we walked from place to place, there would be people sitting on various benches here and there.  A group of us would walk along, talking and looking at the sights.  Occasionally we would stop and realize our pastor wasn’t with us.  Time and time again, we would retrace our steps and would find him sitting on a bench beside a complete stranger, talking to them and finding out about THEIR lives and how the hurricane had affected THEM!  Then he would pray with them.  Often that would be followed with huge hugs, sometimes tears, followed by lots of smiles!  It wasn’t only the material things that had been broken and destroyed in the storm but their hopes, dreams and sometimes even their faith had cracks in them. We had gone down to repair the material things that were lost but, for many, it was the spiritual side of life that needed to be repaired!

Many people, not only children, are hurting all around us every day.  It is too bad we don’t have a “Buddy Bench” in life to go and sit on and quietly say “Help Me!” It is up to us, as believers, to be aware of hurting people around us, to look for that person who isn’t in on the conversations, maybe sitting by themselves, hurting inside but too afraid to ask for help.  Maybe they just need us to go sit beside them, keep them company and let them know that we care; and, by US putting our faith into action, THEY will see that God cares!

Jesus didn’t bleed and die on the cross for us to only sit in a pew every Sunday and then check that off of our list of things to do for the week! Jesus told his disciples to GO! The word “go” is an action verb.  Faith in Christ requires action on our part.

Does your faith have action attached to it? If not…why not?

Pat Arnold

August 13 – Tips for Everyday Life – No Favorites!

Read James 2:1-13

What appropriate words for us today! We find ourselves in a time when the realities of racism have resurfaced. We live in a day when lines are drawn and rocks are thrown on the basis of political affiliation. We are part of an era of human history when judgments are made based on a person’s response to the risks of a virus.

Although the specifics of our situations may be unique, the more general attitudes of favoritism towards some and disregard for others is not new. We could identify dozens more if we traced this human tendency throughout history. And James makes it clear that even first-century Christians were not immune.

The divisive issue spoken of in this text was along economic lines. The rich were treated like royalty. The under resourced were ill-treated. The rationale likely seemed sound. To them, wealth may have appeared to have been a sign of God’s approval and blessing (Matt. 19:16-30). Meanwhile, the lack of it must have been proof of God’s displeasure. And besides all of that, their favored treatment of the rich may have well illustrated their aspirations for personal gain from them.

But favoritism and disregard on account of net worth are not appropriate according to verses 5-7. Even in the first century, those less resourced were often people of great faith. Even the early church’s own experience of oppression under the hands of the rich should have taught them a lesson.

Maybe your tendencies of favoritism towards some and disregard toward others have nothing to do with net worth. In speaking more broadly to the divisive issues of our day, James points to the fact that you must “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18; Lk. 10:25-37) Your neighbor is much more than the person who lives in the home next to yours. Certainly, that person is included. Your neighbor is the person you encounter in the course of daily living. Your neighbor is the person different from you. Your neighbor is the person in need, to whom you have opportunity to demonstrate kindness and help. Your neighbor is the person you have perhaps, in your mind, judged and possibly, with your actions, disregarded. Your neighbor is a person deserving of mercy rather than neglect.

Favoritism for some and disregard for others have no place in the Christian experience. Have they taken root in your life?

Steve Kern

August 12 – Tips for Everyday Life – Listen And Then Do

Read James 1:19-27

Are you like me? Did you stock up on supplies and food when the pandemic first hit? Did you fill your pantry with non-perishable foods and paper products? Did you search for cleaning supplies so you could have a stockpile at the ready should you need it? We can be just like this with God’s Word. We listen and hear God’s Word in so many different ways — radio broadcasts, weekly sermons at church, books to read, music and podcasts. When we listen to all of these things, it is like we are stockpiling God’s Word. We are saving it up for some emergency.

Verse 22 urges us not to just stockpile what we hear and learn. Don’t hoard it. It instructs us to use it. Learn from what we hear and put it into practice. Just like stockpiling food and supplies, they are no good unless we use them to feed our families and clean our homes and work spaces.

When we load up on the essentials, but leave them on the shelf, they do no good. It’s like preparing a meal without eating it. It’s like threading a needle, but not actually sewing. It’s like inhaling, but not exhaling. What good does it do us to be filled with knowledge, but not use it?

It reminds me of when we were expecting our first child. Months in advance, we prepared a nursery. We had the crib put together and made up with special sheets and blankets. We read books about life with a newborn and received advice from many people about how to deal with the many changes that were headed our way. We chose to listen to most of the advice and nodded politely when we heard the same advice over and over. With all of these “how-to’s” swarming in our heads, we felt prepared…for the most part. Then, our daughter arrived. Our stockpile of information was quickly employed as we navigated these new waters.

It is the same with the knowledge we have of God. We can stockpile it, but it is not useful unless we use it. As Christians, we are meant to use the instruction we receive to demonstrate God’s love — caring for others, meeting the needs of our neighbors, and loving those who are sometimes hard to love. So go ahead and read and listen to God’s Word, then ask God to show you how you can put His Word into practice. What is something practical you could do today that would demonstrate God’s love?

Tammy Finney

 

August 11 – Tips for Everyday Life – Flee From Sin

Red James 1:13-18

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth . . .”

When Jesus’ brother, James, wrote these words, he wrote from the core of his own existence. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.1) I imagine calling himself his big brother’s servant didn’t just roll off the tongue. It took some pretty serious life-changing experiences to get him to the place where, upon writing a letter that would mark his own legacy, the only identifying word James would use to describe himself would be “servant.” Yes, James was God’s servant. He served his big brother, Jesus. This was how he chose to describe himself.

It’s important to note because it was out of the foundation of his true identity that James declared the truth about sin and it’s stealthy ways. It’s not from God. He only gives good gifts. He never changes. He will not tempt. In fact, a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, knows that it’s his or her own messed up way of trying to live that drags him or her into anything that opposes God’s good and perfect way.

Sin. It doesn’t announce its presence or advertise its ways. I’ve never seen a bright yellow warning sign that reads “Sin ahead. Beware.” Rather, it sneaks stealthily, hooks us with an enticing “This seems better” and eventually drags us into a kind of living that has nothing to do with real life. Sin masquerades itself as the stuff of life we think we want or need. Like “venting” when someone does us wrong. Or shading the truth to protect our image. In fact, it starts with our own twisted solutions for the problem that can only be solved by the One who made us, the One who put eternity in our hearts so we could live real life.

So, flee. Don’t take the bait. Run like a zebra runs from a lion. Know who you are. Live out of the truth of who you serve. Filter each decision through the truth that the One True God who only gives good gifts wants you to live according to the word of truth. He gave you life. And through it He shows you the way to live.

Bria Wasson

August 10 – Tips for Everyday Life – Grow in Trial

Read James 1:1-12

2019. What a year!

If I had to write a movie script about my year last year, there would be enough material for sequel after sequel, a saga lengthier than Star Wars.  The year began with starting a new career, the death of a dear friend, followed up by the worst personal trial of my life.  A month later I was burying my father who passed away unexpectedly, leaving my brother and sister to care for our grandmother who lives almost 2 hours away.  It felt like almost every week there was a new trial.

While the year was very trying and difficult for us, we received amazing support from our church family.  I personally could not have made it through the year without the Word of God, the Church and the support of brothers and sisters in Christ.  My faith in the Lord was strengthened and increased in spite of going through trial after trial.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us in James 1:1-12 that we will have trials and temptations.  It is inevitable that we will go through storms in life.  But God uses these experiences in our lives to deepen our faith in Him.  As painful and humbling as my experiences were last year,I can tell you that I am in a better place now because of it.  The pain is still there and the scars remain, but I feel closer to the Lord than I did before.

We as followers of Jesus Christ are NOT immune to trials.  We are all going to go through trials; it is not IF but WHEN.  Verse 2 says, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness”.

Our trials are not joyful in and of themselves.  It wasn’t joyful for me to bury my father, pay for his burial, see my grandma go in to the hospital, etc.  However, they are joyful when we realize they are under the authority of God who is using them to accomplish His purpose.

There are 4 things we can learn as we go through trials in life.

  1. We can grow in the likeness of Jesus.  God desires for us to be “complete, lacking nothing” (v 4), to have maturity in Him and to grow in His likeness.  We can take joy in knowing that, no matter how tough our trials are, we can move forward toward this goal.  Trials are joy when our goal is God!  When we set our eyes on Him and not the stuff of this world, our trials will become joy because they will teach us to depend upon Him, trust Him and love Him.
  2. We learn to trust in His wisdom. We do not have the wisdom we need on our own to walk through trials.  But the Lord does!  His promises are faithful and true.
  3. We learn to rely upon His provision. Verses 9-11 deal with poverty.  If we are poor, we can take joy in the inheritance and status we have as a child of God for ETERNITY!!! Our trials are temporary!!  Our inheritance as a child of God is FOREVER and can never leave us.  Money cannot solve our problems.
  4. We learn to live for the reward we receive from Him. James tells us in verse 12 that if we are steadfast under trial we “receive the crown of life”.  The reward of eternal life.  Our trials are temporary.  Eternal life is forever!!!  We can be joyful knowing that we are living for an eternal reward yet to come.

Nate Mills

July 10 – United: Country – James 2

Read James 2:1-13

When I was in first grade, my mother, siblings and I moved to a new town. Every morning on the way to school, we passed by this one bench on the main street. At that time, the main street was pretty run down and a homeless man was always there. Day in and day out, wearing the same clothing and always carrying the same back pack. I remember asking my mother why he was always there and she began to teach me about those less fortunate.

Now, growing up with a single mother, we didn’t have a lot. We were below middle class, but my mother always spoke about how blessed we were. To this day, I remember the lessons of gratitude and blessings that she showed through her actions, her character and words.

Here we were, seeing this man residing on this bench and my mother took the opportunity to teach me another lesson. A lesson about how God loves every person –  those that have more than us, those that have less. She taught me that it didn’t matter what we processed or wore, what we had or what we drove; she taught me that in God’s eyes we were all worthy of His love and we were richer in other forms than in the ways in which we may present ourselves or the ways the world sees.

Now, of course, to the seven-year-old me, I didn’t understand everything until much later in life but I remember that man. I remember this yearning to do something for him and asking my mom if we could. She took me to the store and together picked out food for him. I remember being scared to walk up to this man but followed my mom’s lead. Her posture never changed. She never shied away from what we were doing. She spoke with confidence and love and I got to see first-hand, Jesus through my mother.

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

James’ lesson is one that we, in our world, often forget. We see people and judge them by their appearance or circumstance instead of taking the time or making the effort to get to know them. We see people through our worldly vision instead of the perspective that Christ sees them. We show no mercy to those who need it the most and favor those who give us more. I once had a mentor point out how our generations are self-centered. How we begin every day or every thought about how we can be elevated. We’ve stopped putting others first; we’ve stopped truly caring.

Here is James, reminding us that no matter our position in society, mercy triumphs over judgement.

Just think, when you stop judging and begin to show mercy and love to those you may not understand…how much richer in spirit will you be because you will then be like Jesus.

Kelly Lawson

July 4 – United – Matthew 5 and James 5

Read Matthew 5:33-37 and James 5:12

“To be clear is to be kind. To be unclear is to be unkind”.

I first heard this phrase while studying interpersonal communication as a junior in college and was fascinated by the concept from a personal and professional stand point.

It was written by an author by the name of Brene Brown. She is a licensed social worker and professor who has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. One of my favorite subjects she has spoken on is how society shapes our communication and how communication shapes our relationships. Jesus was pretty specific, too, when it came to our speech. Our speech can impact how others see us. A seven-year study that Brown did revealed that most people avoid clarity because we tell ourselves we’re being kind when what we are actually doing is being unkind and unfair.

When we look around our world today, we see a lot of hate, fear, and intimidation. We also see a lot of love, peace and an effort to unite. No matter which aisle you are on – if you are slurring hate or proclaiming peace – your words have an effect. Clarity can only be achieved with the appropriate actions that follow.

The principle that Matthew and James both list is that we must follow with action the words that we speak. We must choose not to sway back and forth between perspectives but stand firm in the truths that we know. Jesus’ character was one of follow through. He was clear about who we were called to be. We must let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” and not allow the society to transform our speech to the point where it affects our relationships. Once it does, we lose.

Have you ever been in a relationship where clarity was lacking? I am a high communicator and, if I don’t receive specific expectations, then I feel lost. I remember once, when managing an office, my employer asked something of me. Instead of clearly stating his expectations, I assumed what he meant and ended up failing a project but also feeling frustrated in that relationship. He and I both used that as a breakthrough moment and learned how to communicate better.

Whether it is managing someone or being in a relationship, clarity brings unity. Clarity diffuses confusion and sometimes frustration. There, however, are consequences in being too clear and this is something we are seeing on a daily basis in the news. People are spatting off what they think or believe without understanding that the follow through which comes from it is detrimental and not what the Lord has called of us to be. We shouldn’t hold those who are not believers to the standards of Jesus, but let’s look at how intentional we can be with our “yes” and our “no”. How can you be more clear with the words that you use?

Every word, verse, parable, song and prophecy in the Word is intentional and clear. This is our example. If Jesus is our example and He was a man of clarity, kindness and follow through, how much more would we win for the kingdom by allowing that example to bleed through our speech?

Kelly Lawson