Daily Devotions Archive - September 2009

September 1, 2009: We're All Sinners Before God

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. - Romans 14:10-13

It seems that the Bible speaks of the issue of being judgmental quite frequently; perhaps that is because God knew how easy it is for us to judge and compare ourselves to one another. We need to continually remind ourselves that we are all sinners and that no one sin is more significant than another in God's eyes. If you are able to live by those two ideas, judging others automatically becomes much more difficult.



September 2, 2009: Serving Others

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." - Romans 15:1-3

Think about how Jesus lived His life here on earth. Did He do anything to please Himself? No; everything He did was done out of His unconditional love for others. He helped, He taught, He forgave, He served...He did so many other things, but not a single one of them was solely for Himself. Ultimately, He gave His own life to save all of us who believe. He is the ultimate example of a servant that we should try to follow in our daily lives. Help your neighbor, not yourself. Serve your community, not yourself. Forgive others freely instead of holding your own negative feelings inside. In everything you do, serve those around you and follow Jesus' example.



September 3, 2009: Avoid Deceivers

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. - Romans 16:17-18

There are many people in the world who will try to deceive you. Unfortunately, some of those people are so-called Christians, whether on TV or elsewhere. (Some may be misguided Christians while others may not be believers at all, but the effect is the same.) Be on guard to protect yourself against such people. They may not always be easy to detect. A false doctrine that seems to have become fairly popular of late is the "prosperity gospel," but deceivers can preach in many different ways. One of the best ways to avoid being deceived is to read the Bible on a regular basis. Reading God's Word and becoming more familiar with the Truth will help build up your defenses when a false teacher tries to lead you astray.



September 4, 2009: God Will Crush Satan

For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. - Romans 16:19-20a

I love the way the last part of this passage is phrased! God won't merely defeat Satan; Paul writes that He will crush him! As Christians, especially when times get tough, we need to remember that God is always in control. Even if Satan appears to be getting an upper hand for a while, God is still ultimately in control. Nothing surprises God; nothing happens that He doesn't know about, and nothing happens outside the grasp of His loving hand. If we do our part, being "wise in what is good" and avoiding evil, following God's path in life, He will always take good care of us even during the difficult times. Besides, we already know the ending to this story (Revelation), and we know who will get the victory!



September 5, 2009: The Bible and Homosexuality, Part 1 of 3

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. - Romans 1:26-27

While this is a sensitive topic, it is something I have felt led to discuss for quite some time. We don't need modern science to determine the cause of homosexual behavior. God, through Paul, gave us a clear answer nearly two millennia ago-and if we truly believe the Bible, there should be no controversy among Christians. Are homosexuals born with an attraction to members of the same sex? I don't know what it's like to experience that sort of desire, so I can't answer that for sure. The Bible doesn't have to give us the answer to that; it's not a science book. But even if they are, that doesn't make the sin acceptable; God has made that perfectly clear to us. We all have sinful desires that we have to overcome; homosexuals aren't alone in having temptations.



September 6, 2009: The Bible and Homosexuality, Part 2 of 3

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. - Romans 1:26-27

Are we being unreasonable if we condemn the homosexual lifestyle? I don't believe so. Some heterosexual Christians experience sexual desires while others struggle with alcoholism or extreme materialism, and our modern culture makes it easy to give in to any of those evil desires. The point is, each and every one of us has to deal with sinful desires of one type or another. However, we only give in to such sin when we pull ourselves away from God, at which point those "vile passions" take over. It is vitally important for each of us to live a pure lifestyle for God, regardless of what our individual temptations and desires may be. However, instead of following God's path, a homosexual person has chosen to give into the temptation to live a sinful life.



September 7, 2009: The Bible and Homosexuality, Part 3 of 3

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. - Romans 1:26-27

To reiterate a vital point, we all have to deal with sinful desires of one type or another. Those who are practicing a homosexual lifestyle have chosen to give in to their desires, but that doesn't make those people any worse in terms of sinning than others who give in to temptations such as adultery, alcoholism, or materialism. We're all sinners. But we must remember something: As Christians, we are called to hate the sin but love the sinner--just as Christ loves us all. Jesus took the time to sit down and talk with some of the worst sinners of His day and many of their lives were radically changed as a result. Let's follow Jesus' example in ministering to people who have given in to a sinful desire to show them that there is a better way.



September 8, 2009: Partiality

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? - James 2:1-4

This is one of those passages that doesn't really need additional commentary. I would just encourage you, in your daily life, to treat others the way Jesus would have. Remember that He didn't eat with the royalty of the day but with the sinners and those who needed Him the most. Also remember that God's perspective tends to be the opposite of human nature, and this is no exception: "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11) Doing more for those who humble themselves rather than for those who exalt themselves is what God wants us to do.



September 9, 2009: Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. ... So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. - James 2:8-9, 12-13

The lesson here is that we need to show mercy to those around us just as God shows mercy to us. This passage reminds me of what Jesus says in Matthew 7:2 ("For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged"). Judging others doesn't accomplish much of anything but showing love and mercy to them, especially when it isn't easy to do so, can do much more to help because we will be allowing God's love and mercy to shine through us. The impact of that love and mercy can be far greater than any judgment we could make.



September 10, 2009: Faith Plus Works, Part 1 of 3

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. - James 2:14-17

I strongly believe that we are saved by faith alone. I think the Bible is very clear about this. Otherwise, our Salvation becomes more about what we do for God rather than what God did for us. So what is James talking about in these verses? We can have all the faith in the world, but without any works to accompany that faith, what does it accomplish? That faith may save us, but it won't accomplish anything else in this world. But putting faith into action shows the people around you that you take your faith seriously and ultimately it could lead to some of them becoming saved as well.



September 11, 2009: Only God Knows

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. - James 4:13-16

We don't know what will happen tomorrow. We were all given a sudden reminder of that fact eight years ago today. Even in the world of weather, I can try to predict what will happen tomorrow and I believe God has given us tools to use in order to be fairly accurate, but a weather forecast is never absolutely certain. But there is one thing we know without a doubt: God is all-knowing and always in control. If you place complete trust in Him, the peace that He will give to you in return is indeed a peace that passes all understanding.



September 12, 2009: Faith Plus Works, Part 2 of 3

But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! - James 2:18-19

While works are important to help spread God's Word and I believe that we will be rewarded for good works when we get to heaven, works do not equal faith in any way. I alluded to this yesterday, but the key point here is that if works alone could save us, then it becomes all about us. Can you imagine the sort of bragging that could go on? It could be something like, "I just did my one thousandth good deed so now I'm saved!" That's not what God wanted. He wants us to focus on Him and His mercy, and the way He set up the plan of salvation perfectly accomplishes that goal. Works are good--sometimes, very good--but faith alone is what saves us.



September 13, 2009: Faith Plus Works, Part 3 of 3

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? - James 2:20-22

Abraham gives a very good example of how faith and works should work together. The action of being willing to sacrifice his beloved son was a work in itself, but he did that work out of the complete and total faith he had in God. The only reason why God did that in the first place was to test Abraham's faith. Abraham could have claimed he had a strong faith, but would that claim have held much weight if he had ignored God's request out of fear? No, it wouldn't have; if that had happened, we would all be sitting here wondering why Abraham's faith was so weak. Hold strong to your faith and trust God to show you what works you need to do while you're here on this earth to help spread the Good News of Christ.



September 14, 2009: The Deadly Tongue, Part 1 of 2

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. - James 3:5-8

James' description of the tongue is so vivid yet so accurate. I would simply encourage you to read this passage a few times and just think about all the evil things he compares to the tongue. He calls it a fire and a world of iniquity, and something that defiles the whole body, is untamable, is an unruly evil, and full of deadly poison. We all know he's right, and even if the tongue cannot be completely tamed, what can we do to at least improve it? Tomorrow I will discuss three of the many things you can do to at least partially tame it.



September 15, 2009: The Deadly Tongue, Part 2 of 2

With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? - James 3:9-11

I'm sure there are many more, but here are three things you can do to at least partially tame your tongue. First, be less selfish and more selfless. A person who is more focused on others than on him or herself is more likely to have positive thoughts and comments. Second, avoid gossip. A good rule of thumb is to never talk about another person unless you are saying something positive or at least constructive in some way. Finally, speak only when necessary and spend the rest of the time listening and thinking. A lot of things that people really don't even mean are said in haste.



September 16, 2009: Show Your Wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. - James 3:13

This verse makes me think about the opposite scenario of those young people who seem to like to "show off" how bad they can be to their peers. In contrast to that, James pleads with those who are wise to "show off" with good conduct. Such actions don't have to be loud to be heard. For example, instead of proving how much alcohol you can drink, make a stronger statement by resisting it altogether. Instead of showing off how fast your car can go down the road, show how patient and obedient to the law you can be instead. Wise things done meekly will always make a stronger statement than will simply going along with the crowd.



September 17, 2009: Warnings Against Boasting

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. - James 3:14-16

Paul speaks against boasting many times in his letters, and James does here as well. Why is that? Boasting is the exact opposite of one of the traits God highly values: humility. In addition to that, boasting is completely and totally self-centered, which is also the exact opposite of how God wants us to live our lives. Unfortunately, self-centeredness has become commonplace in our culture today. It's not always easy to combat those tendencies, but as Christians we have an important responsibility to do just that. And if you push your own interests aside and do something nice for someone else, you could have a life-changing impact on that person--or at least a day-changing impact, which may be all that person needs.



September 18, 2009: Material Lust, Part 1 of 2

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. - James 4:1-3

James has a way of getting right to the point and telling it like it is, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading his letter so much. Once again, what he says here is absolutely right, and in our modern society corrupted by sexuality and materialism, it's as true today as it has ever been. His use of the word "lust" can easily refer to either of those two things, but I think he is speaking more to the idea of materialism in these particular verses. When you watch the news, what do you notice about most crimes? By its very definition, stealing obviously takes place because someone wants something that someone else has. Murder is occasionally involved in a theft as well, all because of lusts for material things.



September 19, 2009: Material Lust, Part 2 of 2

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. - James 4:3

Instead of lusting after material things that someone else has, God simply wants us to ask Him. However, this verse presents a key point that a lot of people miss. Some people will pray for a material desire like a new car and complain that God isn't listening when they don't get what they want. However, God doesn't work that way, which I am thankful for. Instead, He knows what we really need. Read those few words again: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss..." God loves us too much to give in to our every want. It's no different than a parent withholding something a child wants but doesn't really need, or that ultimately may cause the child harm. God knows how harmful it would be to give us everything we want. Just think about all the rich people who are so unhappy and depressed; He doesn't want His children to end up like that! The Holy Spirit inside each of us will guide our prayers and help us to see what we truly need instead of what unnecessary things we may want.



September 20, 2009: True Wisdom

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. - James 3:17-18

In these two verses, James gives us a short yet very thorough list of the traits we should possess if we are filled with wisdom from God. He says it is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, and full of mercy; all five of those traits have a peaceful spirit while none contain a spirit of anger, envy, selfishness, or any other evil. Some people (speaking of non-believers) feel that they possess a great deal of wisdom, but that wisdom is of this world. They can't experience the kind of peace that comes from true godly wisdom without first giving their lives over to Him. But as a Christian, we can experience that peace, and following the guidelines James gives us is a great way to start. If you treat others as he suggests, with a pure heart and pure motives, I guarantee you that a spirit of peace will overcome you like never before.



September 21, 2009: Whose Friend Are You?

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." - James 4:4-6

Which would you rather be, a friend of the world or a friend of God? We all know what the right answer is, but sometimes our actions don't line up with that answer. James leaves no room for doubt: If you are a friend of the world, then you are an enemy of God. What does that mean exactly? Of course, it is good to have friends and to love those around us. But we cannot be a "friend" to worldly evils such as materialism, alcoholism, and impure sexuality, just to name a few. Escape completely from those things and draw near to God instead. If you don't, you are setting yourself up for a life filled with trials and troubles that God never wanted you to have to experience.



September 22, 2009: Submit to God

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. - James 4:7-10

Submit to God and resist the devil. It sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Then why can it sometimes be so difficult? The reason is simple: As humans, we so often want to be in control and make our own decisions. Maybe you don't like what you think God is telling you to do. Maybe it seems like He is taking too long to give you an answer about something. Maybe you just don't want to give up control. Whatever the reason, the result is the same. But it is crucial that we do submit to God so He can use us to further His kingdom because, as I will continue discussing tomorrow, that is the only thing of eternal significance.



September 23, 2009: A Passionate Plea, Part 1 of 3

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. ... You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. - James 5:1-3, 5

Only one thing has eternal significance, and that is your relationship with Jesus Christ. Not a single one of our material possessions matters when we look at things from an eternal perspective. Do you place too much importance on material things? Chances are, you do--it's an easy thing to do in this society. But look at what James says about riches, simply saying that they are corrupted. Riches do corrupt so easily, making you think that you need things that you really don't need at all.



September 24, 2009: A Passionate Plea, Part 2 of 3

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. ... You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. - James 5:1-3, 5

Materialism is something I discuss with some frequency here because it is something that I am extremely passionate about. This particular thing is not a temptation for me but it is for so many people, and my heart breaks when I see people being led astray by material things that truly do not matter. I see someone who just bought a new cell phone (which most people don't really *need* anyway), ipod, or some other expensive gadget, and I think about how many people that amount of money could feed in the poor parts of the world.



September 25, 2009: A Passionate Plea, Part 3 of 3

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. ... You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. - James 5:1-3, 5

As I said yesterday, I am extremely passionate when it comes to materialism. It is something I never expect to personally understand, but it is something I will always stand up against. Won't you join me? All that's required is that you stop spending money on things you don't need and start giving more back to God instead. The rewards we get for obeying God in that way are well worth it, not to mention the pure peace and joy that He gives to us when we start relying on Him for those things instead of expecting the latest electronic gadget to bring us happiness.



September 28, 2009: Yes, Prayer Works!

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. - James 5:16-18

Do you sometimes wonder if prayer really works? There are many instances in the Bible to prove that it does, and James talks about one such case in this passage. He references back to Elijah (1 Kings 17-18), who prayed for a drought and years later prayed for rain. God answered both prayers. Why would Elijah pray such a thing? I'm not completely sure, but it seems the most likely reason was to prove God's power to the people around him. Regardless, the point remains the same: God answered Elijah's prayer because he prayed in faith and trusted God. If we do the same, God will answer our prayers as well.



September 29, 2009: An Eternal Perspective, Part 1 of 2

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20

In everything that you do in this life, try to keep eternity in view. I mentioned this idea last week in my devotions related to materialism, but it goes far beyond that. Look at how much importance is placed on saving a lost soul. James says that it won't simply cover a sin, but a whole multitude of sins! That's because God (and James, too, it appears) knows that we exist in this life for such a short period of time and that where we go for eternity is the only thing that truly matters. We're all going to sin. Let's not be so quick to judge one another and instead try to keep that eternal perspective. What does getting angry accomplish? What about being self-centered or materialistic? Those are just a few examples of the worldly things that can pull us away from God. From an eternal perspective, all those things are short-lived and don't accomplish anything worthwhile.



September 30, 2009: An Eternal Perspective, Part 2 of 2

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20

Worldly things are short-lived and don't accomplish anything worthwhile. But God tells us through the hand of James that saving a lost soul is so important that it effectively cancels out a lot of sins. What does that say to us? Certainly, God doesn't want us to go around sinning all the time then help lead one person to Christ and expect all those sins to go away. They still have consequences. However, people aren't perfect. If you have a friend or perhaps even a minister who has guided many people toward Christ--even if that person has some other flaws (as we all do), I just encourage you to keep in mind what is most important. Again, we all have flaws, but those formerly lost people are now going to heaven in part because of that person's dedication to the Lord. Because of how eternally wonderful that is, God is willing to look beyond the other flaws. Are we?