Sunday, November 15, 2009

james 5:13-20

The Power of Prayer

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.14 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.15 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. 16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Restore Wandering Believers

19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back,20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

James 5

v.13 what does james say right after, "are any of you suffering hardships?" does he say, try to take care of the problem on your own? does he say, call up a friend and try to figure it out? does he say, exhaust every single option before giving it to God? he says, "you should pray." straight up. if you're going through something, give it to God immediately. but he doesn't just mean say a quick prayer to God and see what happens. he means to fervently pray, pray with all of your heart that God would help you. we have to know that in our time of desperation, our prayers are often times so much more true and brutally honest than when we feel like we don't need prayer. shouldn't our prayers always be like this? shouldn't we always come to God with a heart knowing that nothing else that we do for ourselves is as powerful and effective as what He can do for us? james goes on to say, "are any of you happy?" and we have to see his quick response to this. he doesn't say, go paint the town and celebrate with your friends! he doesn't say, just be content with being happy and thank yourself for your happiness! he says, "you should sing praises!" if God helps you, heals you, or makes something go well in your life, shouldn't that be our first response? to praise?? of course it should! so far, we see james asking rhetorical questions and answering very quickly, what should be done in our times of suffering and in our times of blessing. when you suffer, pray, when you're happy, sing! these are the best responses to those situations! and these are the responses that God wants from us, not to take it all on our own or give the credit to ourselves, but to offer the problems up to the God who can handle anything and thank the God who renews and restores everything!

v. 14 now a little bit of background. in the early church, some of the elders would have specific spiritual gifts and they would use them over whoever needed them. in this case, james is talking about the gift of healing. they would anoint whoever needed prayer and healing with oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit washing over the person. we have to see the importance of this. in Jesus's parable of the good samaritan, what does the samaritan do for the stripped and beaten man? he poured oil and wine on him and then took care of him. the first thing to notice here is that the first thing the elders did was pour oil on the person needing healing and the good samaritan poured oil on the battered man. the second thing we now have to look at in the light of all this is that the oil represents the Holy Spirit. so what do the elders and good samaritan do? they pour oil. they let the Holy Spirit take control of the healing, not themselves. the good samaritan poured the oil and then set the man on his own animal and took him to an inn to take care of him. this verse connects back to verse 13 of letting God take care of it first. the anointing of the oil represents us letting God take control before we even do anything!

v. 15 now james goes on to say that a prayer that is prayed in faith will heal the sick and make us well. back to verse 13, true fervent prayer is required, not half-hearted, shallow prayer. but look at what james says next. "and if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven." isn't it strange that he puts in something about sins when we're talking about physical suffering and sickness? i think that he was trying to make a point. he's not saying because of our sin, we're sick. what we see here is james making comparison between sickness and sin. sickness and sin. have we ever thought about sin like that? that it's a sickness that creeps in when we let our immune system and our defenses down? in some ways, sin is exactly like that. and how often are we tempted to take care of our sin problems on our own?? way too often. in the same light, we need to let the Holy Spirit take control and clean us of sin. we need to pray first when struggling with sin. in the same light as sickness, we will be healed. james says, if you committed any sins, you will be forgiven. i think that's an amazing analogy when we really think about it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

wheat and weeds

24 Here is another story Jesus told: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 "The farmer's workers went to him and said, `Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?'
28 "`An enemy has done this!' the farmer exclaimed.
"`Should we pull out the weeds?' they asked.
29 "`No,' he replied, `you'll uproot the wheat if you do.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.'"

Matthew 13

this passage has been coming back to me again and again and just yesterday, one of the high schoolers' friends told him that when he looks around and sees wars, famines, hurt, pain, and suffering, and thinks that if there is a God, he's not impressed. i've been thinking about it, and if anything, i am not only impressed when i think about God, but i'm utterly and completely grateful. from creation to the fall to redemption and soon restoration, i am astounded at this God. think about this, our God created the world, the field in the parable. He wanted us to grow and be fruitful, the wheat. but an enemy came in and sowed weeds among the wheat, the devil sowing evil, destruction, suffering. can't He just pull up the weeds from the field? of course He can. He can. but He chooses not to. because if He pulls out the weeds, He pulls out the wheat as well. the weed is so intertwined with the wheat that for Him to kill the weeds, He would end up killing the wheat. of course, at any time, God could remove pain, suffering, and evil from the world, but we're so intertwined and connected to it that if He did, He would have to erase us as well! now we think, how could God let this happen?? how could He let the enemy plant all of this evil in the world? the thing is, He didn't. we let it happen. we said, "ok, give us the apple." and we fell. hard. out of our free will, we let sin take over the world and now we're stuck in this mess. but the story doesn't end there, God not only withholds pulling us all out of the world, but sends His son to save the world so that we can be made right with God! and He continually waits for us to come to Him and experience His love. if you're not impressed by that, i don't know how to impress you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

without love

Love Is the Greatest

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing.3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;s but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languagess and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.s All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

without love, it's all meaningless. if we're just doing things just because we're supposed to, then something is wrong. a really good exercise is this, for verses 4 to 6, replace love with your name. "thien is patient and kind. thien is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. he does not demand his own way..." i don't know about you, but i've already failed in the first three lines of this! this shows us exactly what we need to work on, to really love and show love and be love the way Jesus taught us.