Bring some Spirit-filled peace into your hectic schedule every weekday morning with this new Daily Devotional.
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Day 42 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:19,20 NLT
'My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.'
Churches are not made up of perfect people. Far from it! This surprises the kind of people who assume that Christians live lives of near perfection. For such people there is great consternation when the organist goes off with the youth leader, or the treasurer embezzles the church’s money. We should always be shocked and disappointed by such behaviour – but never surprised. Churches are well compared with hospitals, composed of people who are far from perfect but who, by God’s grace and in the power of his Spirit, are becoming stronger and more mature in their Christian lives.
Sadly, there have always been people who wander away from the church. It is always tragic when this happens and churches need to have a clear strategy for reaching out to such people. Here James finishes his letter by inspiring his readers to be proactive when someone sadly backslides. He wants them to know how important this restorative ministry is. In bringing someone back within the church they are doing nothing less than saving this person from spiritual death.
In recent years large numbers of people have sadly slipped away from our churches. It may be because of sin, but often it’s because they became disappointed or disillusioned with the church. This means that it is vital that every church prays earnestly for those who have slipped away, and has a very clear plan as to how they can reach out to these people with love, understanding and forgiveness. We can never force people to return and wouldn’t want to do so. But we can reach out to them with open arms knowing that the Lord is always willing to welcome them back.
QUESTION: Can you think of anyone who has slipped away from your own church and, if so, is there anything you could do to encourage them to return?
PRAYER: Lord we thank you that when we sin you never give up on us. Thank you that your desire is always for us to be restored. Amen.
Day 41 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:16 NLT
'The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.'
Four years ago I contracted whooping cough. To be honest I thought that it was only for children and was amazed when my GP told me that I had caught it. From time to time over a number of weeks I struggled to breathe, something I had never experienced before. The worst episodes were in the middle of the night and I will never forget those desperate attempts to breathe which ended in the “whoop” as air finally and slowly returned to my lungs.
Breathing is essential to life and I now have a new respect for the process, and a deep gratitude that I can breathe without a struggle. The Bible makes it clear that prayer is the way in which we breathe as Christians. Everything depends on prayer. It has been wisely said that we are as strong as our prayer lives and no stronger. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of prayer, just as it would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of breathing for ongoing life.
James encourages his readers to pray because it can have incredible results. He points to Elijah who was one of the most popular figures in the Old Testament. When the people started looking for a Messiah to come it was believed that a second Elijah would come to prepare the way. In the course of time John the Baptist fulfilled that role. Elijah was an amazing prophet of God but James stresses that he was human just like us. He had his ups and downs but when he prayed God worked in amazing ways.
Key to Elijah’s life was the fact that he was a righteous man, that is to say that he lived his life in step with God. That’s how God wants us to live our lives and it will only happen as we breathe in the life of God in prayer. Like Elijah we too will have our ups and downs but as we pray we can confidently expect that our prayers will have great power and produce wonderful results.
QUESTION: What steps do you need to take to ensure that prayer has a more central place in your life?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the incredible privilege of prayer. Help me never to take it for granted. Amen.
Day 40 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:16 NLT
'Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.'
How are you? I wonder how you normally respond to that question. Probably, like most of us, you smile sweetly and summarise your life with the one word “Fine”. It’s a good word and if it’s true that’s wonderful and one can only hope that it will continue to be the case. But, if we’re honest, it is sometimes the word we use to push people away. What we’re actually saying is, “It’s none of your business. Leave me alone. Hopefully if you think I’m fine you won’t bother me again.”
The reality is that we are not always fine. Sometimes we feel awful, and there are times when we know that we have failed miserably. James is encouraging his readers to be honest and to face up to the stark realities of life. We need to be real with one another and actually confess our sins and pray for each other so that we can find God’s healing.
I don’t believe that God is calling us to share absolutely every inner secret and sin with one another. But I do believe that churches need to be places of love and encouragement where we feel able to reveal the people that we really are. Often that will best be done with one other person or in a small group. I thank God for those people who have been totally honest with me over the years. It is such a privilege to pierce the masks that we so often wear and to be truly ourselves. If we were to do that, I am sure that we would have a much greater experience of what it means to be truly “fine”.
QUESTION: What could you do to help your church to become a more loving and honest community?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that your love for me is so complete that I can always feel safe to be totally honest with you. Help me to be more open with my Christian brothers and sisters, and to be more loving and forgiving. Amen.
Day 39 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:14,15 NLT
'Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.'
Jesus was both a healer and a teacher. You cannot divide up his ministry. He ministered to the whole range of people’s needs – body, mind and spirit. When Jesus left this earth he commissioned the church to carry on with that ministry and here in James we see what that meant in practice. The church is called to minister to those who are sick and to pray for them knowing that God loves to make people better and also to forgive their sins.
In recent years the word “holistic” has become very popular to describe the way in which God works. In the power of his Spirit he wants us to be whole people, enjoying him and his world to the full. Many parts of the church have tended to focus on words and preaching and have marginalized the healing ministry. But that makes no sense if we are truly following in the footsteps of Jesus.
Premier Lifeline offers an amazing ministry to tens of thousands of people every year. When people ring up they speak with Christians about their needs which could be physical, mental or spiritual. In truth you can’t divide people up as neatly as that! If you have a cold it will definitely affect your mental and spiritual state, and if you are struggling to forgive someone it is quite likely that it will have physical effects.
Healing takes many forms and when we pray for healing we will never be entirely sure how God will answer. Whenever I pray for people I always tell them two things – firstly, that I am absolutely convinced of God’s ability to heal and secondly that I don’t know the way in which he will answer our prayer. In prayer we entrust ourselves into God’s loving, healing embrace.
QUESTION: For whom are you going to pray for healing today?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that your desire is for us to be whole in body, mind and spirit. Help me both to receive and share your healing touch today. Amen.
Day 38 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:13 NLT
'Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.'
I remember as a teenager hearing a well-known preacher telling the story of a young woman who had told him that she often didn’t feel like praying. His response was that prayer was not a glandular condition! Prayer was something that we need to do whatever our feelings. That’s precisely the point that James is making here. In short, it’s always the right time to pray – whether you are going through a good or a bad time.
God doesn’t want us to be people who simply say their prayers, as if we need to find the right magic words to say and then we can forget about God until the next time have to say them. That’s not what God wants. He wants a relationship with us within which we share fully the ups and downs of life.
I love the fact that the Bible doesn’t present us with a line of holy people, who always got it right and who loved sharing their lives with God. The Bible is almost the opposite of that. It tells us the story of women and men who struggled and often failed. And amidst it all we see how those frail and failed human beings discovered that God loved them and had a purpose for their lives.
God doesn’t want us to be religious people who say beautiful prayers and then shut him out, but people who share their whole lives with him and who live what might best be described as a life of prayer. Nothing is too small or too large to take to God in prayer. He is intimately involved in every moment and eager to share them with us. Whether we are driving the car, sitting at our desk, speaking to colleagues, chatting with neighbours, watching television, answering emails or playing sport he wants to be at the centre of our lives.
QUESTION: What steps could you take to share more of your life with God in prayer?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you love me so much that you want to share every aspect of life with me. Teach me more of what it means to live a life of prayer. Amen.
Day 37 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:12 NLT
'But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.'
James isn’t talking here about bad language but about the very common practice at the time of trying to strengthen a statement by taking an oath. Jews made a distinction between oaths made in the name of God which could never be broken, and other oaths which didn’t mention God which could be broken. James encourages his readers to make life much easier by simply telling the truth.
The Greeks held that the best guarantee of any statement was not an oath, but the character of the person who made it. Our words are the natural overflow of the lives that we live and so if we live with integrity, people will know that they can trust our words. If we always keep promises, then people will know that the next promise that we make can be relied upon.
Speaking the truth is the fundamental building block for every relationship. When relationships break down it is almost always accompanied by lies and deception. The only way to bring a relationship back on course is by learning to speak the truth. This will often be painful and difficult, but it is the only route to build a solid and strong relationship.
This also applies to our relationship with God. We need to be honest with him, not putting on a mask, but acknowledging the people that we really are. This can be difficult to do but when we remember that God perfectly loves us and is ready to forgive us for all our sins, we can come to him with complete honesty and total confidence.
In a world where the truth is often distorted or ignored, it is vital that we live truthfully before God and that we seek his strength to enable us to say yes, when we mean yes, and no when mean no. Oaths are totally unnecessary.
QUESTION: When do you find it difficult to tell the truth?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that we can be totally truthful with you and know that you will always love us and forgive us. Help us to speak the truth in every situation, even when it is tough to do so. Amen.
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Incredibly helpful. Thank you 😊