James 5:13-20

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always
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MOVING THE HEART & HAND OF GOD (v 13-16)

“Make this your common practice:
CONFESS your sins to each other and
PRAY for each other
SO THAT you can live together whole and healed.
THE PRAYER OF A PERSON LIVING RIGHT WITH GOD IS SOMETHING POWERFUL TO BE RECKONED WITH.” (5:16 MSG)

Father, thank You for the “open-door policy” You have with Your children. You allow me to step into Your presence and talk with You about anything. Sometimes You prompt me with what to pray about, and many times You’ve allowed me to see Your response to our conversations.

Often, I’ve heard folks express “Prayer changes things” or “Prayer works.” Oh, but, Father, it’s much more than just “prayer” doing something! “Prayer” is an act of communication with YOU, our Sovereign Lord. It’s not that act that “changes things” or “works,” like some fix-it solution personified. It’s more like the “The Lord changes things…” or “The Lord works … when we pray [talk to Him].”

How wonderful that You hear the cries and sighs, the laughter and shrieks (of glee), the moans and groans of Your created, chosen and adopted ones! Thank You for welcoming my voice and hearing my prayers. May I be like Elijah–human, yet earnest in conversing with You and seeing the fulfillment of our chats.

BEING THE HEART & HAND OF GOD (v 18-20)
“My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” (5:19 MSG)

Forgive me, Father, when I allow the stress of my work, the emotions of day-to-day, the relationships in my life, the things in my possession, or whatever may come to divert my attention from the role You’ve called me to here on Your earth. When I became Yours, You handed me a mission: “make disciples … or … introduce others to Me and teach them how to follow Me.” Draw my focus back to that aim.

Too often, I leave that activity to “as I have a chance.” I don’t go out into a day with the intention of obeying You in this command in the foreground of my thoughts or plans. My mind and agenda are often WAY too filled with thoughts and notes related to what needs to be accomplished that day to meet deadlines, responsibilities, guidelines, etc. How I need You to continually redirect my focus!

Tune my heart to beat like Yours–to see the spiritual needs around me, to be consistently motivated to be Your hand to touch those lives. Make my vision, my touch, my motivation to be just like Jesus, as You use me to reveal Him to others each day. Amen.

James 4:13-5:12

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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Hello, Father!  Thanks for another day in Your presence, another chance to watch You at work in, through, and around me.  My hours and days are graciously held in Your sovereign hands.  It’s by Your will that I have awakened today, that I have embarked on another day’s agenda.

“ANYONE, THEN, WHO KNOWS THE GOOD HE OUGHT TO DO AND DOESN’T DO IT SINS.” (v 17 NIV)   Shape my will so that I respond in obedience to what You reveal to me to do.  I desire to be a willing vessel in Your hands.

In verses 5 – 11, it really looks like Your trying to get through to me the message: “Be patient” … Patient for Your return … patient and standing firm … Patient without grumbling against others around me … Patient in the face of suffering … patient and persevering through whatever … all because You, Lord, are “FULL OF COMPASSION AND MERCY.”

Here am I, take my life, and make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

James 4:1-12

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“Let God work His will in you.” (v 7 MSG)

MOTIVES THAT MALIGN (v 1-3)

Father, You know my heart even better than I know my heart.  Cause my motives to move more in line with Yours.  Scoop out the selfish stuff and fill me up with Your selflessness.  You’ve said, when You were here as Jesus, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV).  I do want to follow You.  Help me with the denying self and the cross bearing.

TIES THAT BIND (v 4-5)

“…friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God?”

Father, if there are ties to this world that I have that are binding me to it and keeping me from You, please make me aware of them and help me to sever them.  I want a thriving, growing, fulfilling friendship with You … whatever it takes.

CHOICES THAT THRIVE (v 6-10)

As I move forward in my growth in You, Lord, and away from misaligned motives and ties, guide me toward choosing actions that allow my relationship with You to grow deeper and richer:

  • SUBMIT myself to You, to let You work Your will in me.
  • RESIST the devil; to yell a loud NO to him and watch him scamper.
  • COME NEAR to You; to say a quiet YES to You and You’ll come near to me.
  • WASH my mind; to quit dabbling in sin.
  • PURIFY my heart, my inner life–no double-mindedness allowed; no “playing the field” (MSG)
  • GRIEVE, mourn and wail; allow me to hit bottom, cry my eyes out.
  • CHANGE my laughter to mourning; “The fun and games are over.”  Make me “serious, really serious” about following You.
  • HUMBLE myself before You, so You can lift me up. Remind me daily to “Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (v 10 MSG)

…as You reshape my heart, my mind, my motives, my choices to be just like Jesus.’  Amen.

James 3:13-18

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“…TO BUILD A REPUTATION FOR WISDOM: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.” (v 13 MSG)

Work into me, Father, the kind of wisdom that comes from You:

PURE — Clean me up. Remove the impurities that flow through my mind and out my mouth or thought life. Scour, rinse and repeat as needed.

PEACE-LOVING — Tune me in to the frequency of peace as I interact with people; thank You for the peace between You and me.

CONSIDERATE — Guide me in taking thought for the situations of others.

SUBMISSIVE — Help me not to push for my way; help me to submit to the authorities You’ve placed in my life.

FULL OF MERCY — “not giving what is deserved” –like You do toward me most every day.

FULL OF GOOD FRUIT — Bring forth the kind of fruit out of my life that makes a difference for You in this world.Songs-Blessed Life

IMPARTIAL — Help me to see others as You see them; help me to accept differences in people I encounter.

SINCERE — May all that I say and do in Your name be done with an attitude that’s genuinely reflective of my heart as it belongs to You.

Let’s do today, Lord.  YOU fill me up–especially with Your wisdom as You make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

James 3:1-12

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women He made in His image.” (3:9 MSG)

Father, may the words from my mouth and even the “meditations of my heart” be pleasing to You, be in line with Your will.  And where they are not, please transform them, as You’re transforming me by Your Word and Your Spirit.  Continue to move my speech into a more consistent reflection of one who is controlled by Your Spirit and not by the flesh.Bucket-Dippers

Since You say elsewhere in Your Word, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” fill my heart with Your good things, with You, with Your Word, Your will, Your desires.  Then, when my tongue dips into the well of my heart, the cup withdrawn will hold fresh, sparkling water to share with others, to quench a thirst, to revive a dryness in another heart.

Make me a blessing as I go today, Father.  Keep shaping me–right down to my tongue–to be just like Jesus.  Amen.

James 2:14-26

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“GOD-TALK WITHOUT GOD-ACTS IS OUTRAGEOUS NONSENSE.” (2:17 MSG)

Father, thank You for the faith You have instilled in me and that You continually help to grow.  You’ve conveyed the same message in so many ways through James’ pen here in this passage:

“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything?” (v 14 MSG)

“Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove” (v 18 MSG)

“…faith expresses itself in works” (v 22 MSG)

“…[Abraham’s] faith was made complete by what he did.” (v 22 NIV)

“It’s that meshing of believing and acting that got Abraham named ‘God’s friend.'” (v 23 MSG)

“Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?” (v 24 MSG)

“…that seamless unity of BELIEVING & DOING…” (v 26 MSG)

“The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse.  Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.” (v 26 MSG)

Keep my life fruitful, Lord.  You are the Master Gardener.  Even more, You are the Vine and I’m a branch FruitYou’ve grafted in by my faith in Your Son’s redemptive work for me.  I desire to abide in You (John 15:1-17).  As I remain vitally connected to You, may the nutrients of Your heart flow into me and produce from me the kind of fruit that You desire.

How wonderful it is to belong to You, Father!  🙂  How You love me!  How You take care of me!  I love You, Daddy.  Here’s my heart. Take it into Your hands and shape to be just like Jesus.

James 2:1-13

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“My dear friend, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.” (2:1 MSG) “… don’t show favoritism.” (2:1 NIV)

Father, give me Your eyes to look through when I look at others.  Allow me to see them the way You see them, to have compassion for them, as You do.  May I be Your hands and voice to touch their lives with Your love, mercy and grace. Teach me to love like You love.Grace-notext

“KIND MERCY WINS OVER HARSH JUDGMENT EVERY TIME.” (2:13 MSG)

When You extend mercy to me, Lord, You don’t give me what I deserve.  Out of Your immense love for me, You held back the penalty I deserve for my sin.  You took the judgment meant for me and sentenced Your Son with it….and through that act, You gave even more than mercy!  You gave Your grace … giving me what I did NOT, do not deserve: freedom from sin, a pure heart, Your continual presence, assurance of a home with You beyond this life.

Thank You for going beyond justice to mercy, so that I might know You and be molded by You to be just like Jesus, especially in the ways that I relate to others.  Amen.

James 1:19-27

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“LEAD WITH YOUR EARS” – “be quick to listen”

“FOLLOW UP WITH YOUR TONGUE”“slow to speak”

“LET ANGER STRAGGLE ALONG IN THE REAR”“slow to become angry”

“IN SIMPLE HUMILITY, LET OUR GARDENER, GOD, LANDSCAPE YOU WITH THE WORD, MAKING A SALVATION-GARDEN OF YOUR LIFE.” (1:21 MSG)

With each heart that comes to know You, Lord, there’s a cleanup project before You.  The sin that separates me from You is what You take away.  Then, there’s all the “moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent” (NIV) or the “spoiled virtue and cancerous evil” (MSG) that You wait for me to throw in the garbage, to get rid of.  When I cooperate with Your renovation work, my heart accepts and welcomes the Word that You’ve planted in me.

“DO NOT MERELY LISTEN TO THE WORD, AND SO DECEIVE YOURSELVES. DO WHAT IT SAYS.” (v 22 NIV)

Let me not fool myself into thinking that I’m a listener in those times when I’m anything but, when I’ve let Your Word go in one ear and out the other.  I want to ACT on what I hear.  When I’ve looked into the mirror of Your Word, I want to go away remembering the reflection of Jesus that I saw and to have Him be reflected in my life.

magnify

“REAL RELIGION… REACH OUT TO THE HOMELESS AND LOVELESS IN THEIR PLIGHT, and GUARD AGAINST CORRUPTION FROM THE GODLESS WORLD.”  (v 27 MSG)

You have called me to a life of faithfulness and witness, Father.  It is You who equips me to REACH OUT to others.  You point out the needs and You guide me in affecting those needs.  It is You who helps me to “KEEP [MYSELF] FROM BEING POLLUTED BY THE WORLD” (v 27 NIV).  Only You can keep my mind keen and perceptive of the ways in which this world tries to sway my thinking away from Your will.  Protect my mind, Lord–especially from the influences I can be oblivious to at times.  Keep me rooted in Your Word–Your means of renewing my mind.  Keep landscaping my life until I’m just like Jesus.  Amen.

James 1:9-18 (NIV; The Message)

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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Father, here in this passage exists a variety of messages related to faith under pressure.  Guide me in sorting through them and gleaning something for my walk with You today.

PROSPERITY IS NOTHING

“Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t even count on it…at the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.”

Lord, let me not become wrapped up in or dependent upon ANY of the good gifts You give me.  You have given me MANY friendships and some that are very close or dear.  Though You’ve prospered me in the relationship account, help me not to depend on it more than I do You.  There are other accounts of my life to which You’ve granted “compounded interest earned” or blessings in abundance; yet, may I not focus on the gift, but rather on YOU, the Giver.  Thank You for all things!

PERSEVERANCE IS EVERYTHING

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty [blessed]. For such persons LOYALLY IN LOVE WITH GOD, the reward is life and more life”

Father, I pray that I might be “loyally in love with” You. Make me consistently, evidently Yours–let there be no question Whose child I am.  Displace what’s crept into me that’s not of You with those things that overflow from a life devoted to You.

TEMPTATION IS NOT FROM YOU

“Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, God is trying to trip me up.’  God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way.”

Thank You for making me aware of the “life cycle” of sin:
TEMPTED by own evil desires –> DRAGGED away –> ENTICED.
DESIRE CONCEIVES –>
SIN is given BIRTH –>
SIN GROWS up –>
SIN GIVES BIRTH to DEATH (“separation”–from life, from You).

Guard my heart and mind. Keep me in Your will.  Let me not wander away from YOU.

EVERY GIFT IS FROM YOU

“Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.” (v 17 MSG)

What a generous Father You are!  You heap on blessing after blessing–even in the things that don’t readily seem like blessings.  You give what I don’t deserve, extending Your grace to me.

Help me to keep my eyes on You as I persevere through this life, overcoming temptation, receiving Your gifts, and being transformed by You to be just like Jesus.  Amen.PurifyMyHeart-sig

James 1:1-8, 12

Jesus, be my FIRST Love always

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“CONSIDER… BECAUSE… YOU KNOW…” (v. 2-3)

Father, SOME weeks (or days) seem to come toward me as seven days at once!  There have been days when the trials called for a “reality check” to see whether I was dreaming or really experiencing what I was.  Some days I wondered if Job and I were co-stars in the same episode or mini-series?!?! (Job 1:13-22)  Yet, through it all, my heart was always (is always) in YOUR hands.

When I say to You, “make me just like Jesus,” deep, deep down that’s precisely my desire.  In the everyday kind of thoughts (the surface?), I’m “gritting my teeth” as I say “ok, I mean it, Lord.  Bring it on.”  Because I know what this passage says that I need to know (“the testing of your faith develops perseverance, [which] must finish its work so that [I] may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…”), I choose to follow You, to give You the throne of my heart.  And besides, following in Jesus’ footsteps is no easy ride (1 Peter 2:21-23; Galatians 2:20); but I know You, Father, and I trust what You have in store for me.  Thanks for growing my faith!

“…ASK GOD… AND IT WILL BE GIVEN…” (v. 5-8)

You, Father, are all-knowing and the Source of true wisdom.  How wonderful for us, Your creation, that You are so generous with that wisdom!  I ask You, Daddy, “Please pass the wisdom,” as I hold up my plate, awaiting a heaping helping.  Each time I ask for a serving, help me not to doubt the portion or diet You dish out.  Help me to take in the wisdom You serve up, digest it, and put to use the nutrients therein.  It’s all that perseverance You’ve got at work in me that will help me not to doubt You, because You are increasing my faith.  🙂

In The Message paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, this passage is rendered: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So, don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Thanks for Your “gifts” to me, Father.  Thanks for using them to make me just like Jesus.  Keep it up.  Amen.