August 23 – Tips for Everyday Life – Prayer Matters

Read James 5:13-20

“Please, please pray.”

Those were the three unexpected words from my son that came across my phone’s screen. Desperation and trust mixed together like oil and water. For the next two hours of silence, as we waited for the birth announcement of our first grandchild, we stormed the gates of heaven. Two hours became thirty days as our grandson fought for his life in the NICU. Prayer was our hope.

Prayer was his lifeline.

Prayer is one of the most mysterious of all the spiritual disciplines. How can something so simple as conversation become so difficult to understand? It definitely matters to God as prayer, or a derivative of the word, is used 375 times in the Bible. We are told to pray without ceasing and pray on all occasions. We even see the importance of prayer in the life of Jesus as he arose early in the morning to pray. (Mark 1:35)  In the hours before his crucifixion, what do we find Jesus doing?

Praying.

Most of us, if we are honest, are quick to throw up a prayer when faced with a desperate situation. We are quick to say, “I’ll pray for you” to bring encouragement and comfort to others. Is that what prayer is?  A quick fix, a life line, a word of comfort?

Our passage in James today points us to another aspect of prayer that we can’t overlook. Faith. It’s an interwoven theme throughout the book of James, especially as he recalls the Old Testament story of Elijah. Read the account in 1 Kings 18:36-46.  The heavens had been shut so that it had not rained for 3 1/2 years in order to show the wicked Israel king, King Ahab, that God should be followed and worshiped, not Baal.

Following the miracle of God pouring down fire to consume the sacrifice and all the water in the surrounding trench, Elijah told King Ahab there was a “sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” (verse 41) What did Elijah do next? He put his face between his knees and prayed. Seven times he sent his servant to look for a cloud toward the sea. Without questioning, the servant obeyed, but returned with the same answer, “There is nothing.” Then at the seventh time, the servant saw a tiny cloud. If I was Elijah, I would have been very anxious at this point. A tiny cloud does not bring the roar of a heavy shower. But Elijah was a man of unwavering faith and perseverance. As Priscilla Shirer says:

“Even a little cloud of hope, when God’s Word is behind it, points toward a downpour of promise, potential, and possibility. Even His silence and seeming slowness are only the quiet buildup to a thunderous revelation of His glory.”

Wouldn’t we all love to have a prayer life like Elijah’s? Be encouraged, you can. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. (James 5:17) The key to his prayer life was faith. We see this stressed at the beginning and end of James’ book, like bookends. “But let him ask in faith, without any doubting.” (James 1:6) “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” (James 5:16 MSG) Living right with God is living by faith. Hebrews tells us, without faith, it is impossible to please Him. Faith is trust and confidence that God is able and that God’s ways are higher than ours.

The faith of prayer warriors all over the world was ignited by my son’s plea. Each day of our precious grandson’s life, our barely visible cloud grew. Our faith grew too and God poured down showers of blessing and healing. “Please, please pray.” Three simple words that can change the forecast of our lives because prayer matters.

Charline Engle

 

August 22 – Tips for Everyday Life – Stand Firm

Read James 5:7-12

Have you ever heard the saying,

“Your opinion is important, but it’s not important that everyone knows it”?

I’ve thought about that a lot lately as we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times.

Just one click to open a social media app and the world’s opinions are at your fingertips.   How important are these opinions to the way you live your life?  Do you think it’s possible to spend time each day scrolling through worldly opinions without them effecting your life?  Your speech?  Your relationships?  Your posts?

I recently noticed that I was spending more time on social media than I was in God’s Word. It definitely had an effect on my life and my relationships. I was even tempted to open an app before opening my Bible in the morning. That’s when the Holy Spirit gently lead me to realize I needed a change.

James chapter 5, beginning in verse 7, is an excellent reminder that the Lord is coming soon. We know this to be truth. What is it that I want Jesus to find me standing on when He returns?  The messiness of people’s opinions that lead me away from His truth? Or do I want Him to find me standing firm on the solid rock of His truth and sharing it with others?

Please take a moment to read through James 5:7-12 and allow God’s loving truth to saturate your heart and be evident on your lips…in your speech…in your relationships…and in your posts.

Rayonna Miller

August 21 – Tips for Everyday Life – Be Fair

Read James 5:1-6

As I read through James 5:1 – 6, I’m reminded of the Dickens story A Christmas Carol. We have an old video tape of a movie version entitled Scrooge, starring Alistair Sim as Scrooge. This is the best one I’ve seen.

You know the story, Scrooge is completely self-absorbed and his whole life is about his money and wanting to get more. It doesn’t matter to him that he takes advantage of people like Bob Cratchit. He’s not concerned about being fair but only gaining more wealth.

Then he’s visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley and the three spirits. In the version we have, he clearly repents, turns to Christ and is saved. We see a complete transformation where he now takes great joy in giving raises and gifts. With the change that has occurred within him, he’s in a position to start repairing relationships and humbly asks for forgiveness.

He has been freed from the chains holding him down and is absolutely full of joy.

I love seeing positive life change!

Back to James, I’m convinced the wealthy people he’s addressing are not followers of Jesus and he doesn’t seem to have any hope for them. They’re not guilty because they are wealthy, they are guilty because of what they do or don’t do with their wealth.

Their crimes are:

  1. That they have hoarded wealth and not put it to work for the benefit of others
  2. They have acquired wealth by cheating others
  3. They are living in luxury and self-indulgence with no regard for others
  4. They have even murdered innocent (righteous) men. Think Jesus, Stephen and ultimately even James the author.

As followers of Jesus Christ we have been given much, especially in this country. It’s OK to enjoy what God has given us but we also need to put it to work to help others. I’m thinking of material things but also, and perhaps more importantly, spiritual things.

We’ve been given the cure for eternal death!

Will we just keep it to ourselves or will we share it with others who haven’t yet come to know Jesus Christ?

Just like Scrooge, we can experience great joy when we put others first and share with them the blessings we have received, while treating them as we want to be treated.

It’s an incredible testimony to a lost and dying world!

Mike Molter

 

August 20 – Tips for Everyday Life – His Will, Not Ours

Read James 4:13-17

Like many of you, I tried to plan my life. I had a five-year plan and all the next steps thought out.

I think I started planning my life in 8th grade when I was knee deep into my journey in musical theater. It was all I wanted in life. It was shortly after my 8th grade year began that I would tell my mother my plans to move to New York City and pursue theater. And there I was, graduated from high school, moved to NYC and spending a summer semester in the school of my dreams and succeeding, only to find out that financially my scholarship wouldn’t allow me to attend a conservatory. Like many of you have learned over and over in your life, God had a different plan. Yet He has used that situation and part of my story to teach me and grow my relationship with Him.

I wanted my name in lights, He wanted my attention. I wanted applause, He wanted to be my stability. I wanted to be the star, He wanted my heart.

When looking at what James is writing in chapter 4, I can’t help but think about the fact that I still struggle with this. I still try to plan my life out. I still try to be in control and every day, at least once, I fail at surrendering my will for His.

Take a look at Jesus in the garden. He goes before the Lord. I can see Him now, on His knees before the Father, and weeping at the thought of the pain and heartache to come and yet, at the end of this raw emotional moment with the Father, Jesus says the most primitive 5 words…

“Not my will but Yours”.

Is this easy? No. Is this something we will constantly fail at? Yes. Is this something we have the power to do?

Absolutely.

There is power in the name of Jesus. He lives within us and it’s by that very power that we are able to go back to the throne room on our knees and surrender to the Lord. To be raw and real and tell Him exactly where we are with our circumstance but walk away knowing that He has our best in mind.

A very wise woman once told me, “Not every decision has to be super spiritual. Not every decision has to be prayed about for months and years at a time, begging for the Lord to show His will. Sometimes, when you are walking hand in hand with Jesus, sometimes He just wants you to make a decision…He will let you know His will.”

That was some of the best advise I have ever received because I was tormented by the thought of not doing God’s will with any decision, because of my past of wanting to live for myself and for life to be about me. I learned to accept the grace and freedom in my relationship with Jesus, knowing He would always show me His best. I just need to surrender constantly.

Not my will, but His. May He be honored in everything we say and do.

Kelly Lawson

August 19 – Tips for Everyday Life – Humble Yourself

Read James 4:4-12

Have you tasted “humble pie” lately?  This is usually a pie no one likes to eat!

In recent days, I have been reminded of how easy my confidence in life has been humbled. I find myself entering an aisle at the store to grab an item and realize I am going the wrong way as the arrows on the floor tell me to turn around.  I have been known to walk backwards to get that one item.

At times like that, we may define humility as “An embarrassing event that causes us to feel badly and want to hide.”

How does this definition compare to our Scripture today? James asks a few tough questions that are important for us to answer. Do I have a heart of adultery? Am I a friend of this world or a friend of God? Do I judge or speak against a brother or sister? If I am offended at these questions, I may not see that this attitude can keep me from a healthy heart of humility.

Scripture is so clear that, when our hearts are yielding and choosing our way over God’s, that it is adultery. When I choose a worldly mindset that is ME focused, that is friendship with the world. As I form judgments and criticisms against others, I am slandering and making myself the Judge! Selfish pride has taken root. What can transform my heart? Humility!

James 4:10 is the key. As I humble myself before the Lord, I recognize my need for Him and His GRACE. I can’t be good enough or give enough to earn His favor. He deserves first place in our lives and hearts. The kind of grace here is transforming.  As we draw near to God, we are cleansed and purified. The lament and mourning over our poor choices and prideful hearts is replaced with His joy as we humble ourselves before Him. .

Pursuing healthy humility is difficult. It is not a goal we typically talk about. In Philippians 2, we are told to put on the same mindset as Jesus who humbled himself to live on this earth and die a cruel death so that GRACE could be extended to you, to me. I can be humble but only because of His power working in me.

How can we honor our Heavenly Father in humility today? Worship Him! Serve with His Grace to those around you! Do whatever He is asking you to do! He will draw near to us!

Celeste Kern

August 18 – Tips for Everyday Life – Your Heart

Read James 4:1-3

Everyone loves a bargain! In our town a few years ago, we had what was called Dollar Days! Dollar Days was similar to the modern Black Fridays.

There really were some great bargains and being a young mom of two kids with a limited budget, I really loved going there and getting their school clothes.

Early in the morning I would go down to wait in front of the store for a couple of hours until they opened. I wasn’t the only one there as some came in pairs and would plan their attack for the full 2 hours. It was like listening to generals planning the invasion on D Day! Once the doors opened, mayhem broke loose. People were running here and there. They would randomly grab stacks of items off of the shelves and out of each other’s arms.

Since then my daughter and I have made it a sport to go Black Friday shopping, not so much for the bargains but just for something to do together. We are always amazed at some of the people’s behavior. People push, shove, grab items that they really aren’t even sure they want, but will buy simply  because it is on sale. People who are usually considered normal, calm, polite individuals turn into these crazed beings over sheets, pillows and coffee pots. Many of their purchases will wind up in a few months on garage sale tables, sometimes even with the tags still on them. Why?

People want what they don’t have. Advertisers make millions on that fact. Although Dollar Days and Black Fridays are modern events, this behavior had been around for thousands of years! The first sin was Eve taking what the serpent had talked her into wanting even though she did not need it since she could have anything else in the garden.

Jail cells are full of people who see something they want and, instead of saving money to buy it, they steal it. Wars have been fought over dictators claiming to own what truly belongs to another country.

But doesn’t God want his children to be happy?  I think I might be really happy in a beautiful home with a fancy red convertible!  But would I REALLY?

Motives for wanting something might not be obviously known to man but they are to God.  God’s will for your life is that you will be with him in Heaven.  He is never going to go against His own will for you by giving you something that will not help you reach that goal.

You want something that you THINK will be good for you?   Try this test. Have you earned it?  Does it belong to someone else? Will you having it bring you or someone else closer to God?

If your answer is no, you don’t need it!  For where your treasure is, so is your heart!

Pat Arnold

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