Monday, June 17, 2013

James Memory Verse Challenge

Yesterday, I challenged our students to collectively memorize 200 verses from the book of James this summer. If we meet our goal, we will have a pizza and pool party (the kind of pool with water, not with a cue stick, as Barrett wanted to clarify :) Here are the verses they can memorize:

James 1:2-3 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

James 1:4 - Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:19 - My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

James 1:22 - Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 2:5 - Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

James 2:10 - For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

James 2:14 - What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

James 2:15-16 - Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, If one of you says to him, "Go I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

James 2:26 - As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 3:5-6 - Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.

James 3:7-8 - All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:9-10 - With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

James 3:13 - Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.

James 3:16 - For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

James 3:17 - But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 4:1 - What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?

James 4:2 - You do not have, because you do not ask God.

James 4:7-8 - Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:10 - Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 4:12 - There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:17 - Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

James 5:7 - Be patient, then brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.

James 5:8 - You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.

James 5:9 - Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

James 5:11 - The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

James 5:12 - Above all, my brothers, do not swear - not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and you "No," no, or you will be condemned.

James 5:13 - Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

James 5:14 - Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

James 5:15 - And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.

James 5:16 - Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Perseverance (James 1:12-18)

Perseverance is trusting in God's work. It is never giving up, because you trust that God is at work in the world even when you can't see it. It is never giving in, because you trust that God is at work in you.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The author of Hebrews says life is like a race that we are to run with perseverance. Whenever I run, it's easy for my mind to get distracted by how tired my legs are or how short of breath I am. Sometimes I think about the runners next to me or my friends and family in the crowd. It's the same with life. Sometimes I get distracted by how tired I am, how hard it is to wait on God's timing, how it feels like I am alone and no one else is doing the right thing. So how do we keep running?

Hebrews 12:2 says we fix our eyes on Jesus. We don't look at our legs and think about how tired we are. We don't look at the other runners and think about how much faster they are. We don't look in the stadium and worry about letting people down. We look at Jesus, and we keep running.

Jesus ran the race with perseverance. He did not give up or give in. He went through the hardest trial of all (being betrayed, mocked, beaten, crucified, and abandoned). What gave him the strength to not give up? It was the joy set before him. He saw that obedience to the Father would bring joy (both to himself and to the whole world). And he kept running.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24 that we should run in such a way as to get the prize. What is the prize at the end of the race? It is the crown of life.

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when full-grown, gives birth to death.

If those who persevere receive the crown of life, what is reserved for those who give in? Death. Why do we sin if we know sin gives birth to death? Well, there are many reasons we sin. One reason we sin is because it's hard for us to wait. A neuroscientist named David Eagleman observed, "Things that are offered right now have so much more power than things that are offered in the future." We will make all sorts of poor choices if something is offered right now, rather than later.

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Sometimes we think God wants us to fail. We think he tempts us just to watch us fall. But that is not true! Sometimes we think God likes to keep good things from us, that he makes up rules so that we will be unhappy. But that is not true, either! God is the giver of every good gift.

Did you know that Satan does not have the power to create. He can only destroy. He can only take what God made for good and twist it for evil. He tempts us to take the gifts God has given us in the wrong way or at the wrong time. He is the trickster. He is the deceiver. James encourages us not to be deceived but to listen to the word of truth. If Satan is the liar, God is the truth-teller. Let's listen for the voice of Jesus. Let's look for God's good work in the world. Let's trust in the Holy Spirit's good work in us. Fix your eyes on Jesus and run with perseverance. Don't give up when trials come. There is a crown waiting for you. Don't give in when temptations rise. Life and joy come to those who stand strong.

1st Service Kingdom Kids = 4
Kingdom Kids = 29
Kinder-Kingdom = 10

This Week: $4.45
Monthly Total: $31.45

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Keeping Darkness at Bay

"My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!"

"There He Lay" by Justin Gerard

Who can fight such a formidable foe? Someone with might? Great speed? Stealth? A trained warrior? A powerful wizard? An armored knight?

Gandalf chose a Hobbit. There is nothing magical about a Hobbit. They are small, ordinary folk who often prefer the comfort of home to an unknown adventure.

So you can understand Galadriel's curiosity when the council gathers to discuss an even darker shadow rising within Middle Earth. She asks, "Why the Halfling?" Gandalf responds,

"Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I've found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay, simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid and he gives me courage."

If you were to ask me why I am a children's minister, I think I would respond in similar fashion. Perhaps it is because I believe the meek will inherit the earth. I've seen giants fall to slings, kings succumb to shepherds, and strongholds crumble beneath the weight of a single cup of cold water. Why am I a children's minister? Perhaps it is because I am afraid and children give me courage. 

Survival Skills (James 1:1-11)

Phineas McDoogle Video Diary: "Blown and Tossed by the Wind" 
(James 1:1-11)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 

James is a New Testament letter written to Christians scattered among the nations. Why were they scattered?

Christianity began in Jerusalem with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up among crowds and preached that Jesus was the Prince and Savior of Israel. The word of God spread and the number of disciples grew.

On of God's followers was a man named Stephen. Stephen preached that Jesus was God's Messiah. He told the religious leaders that they we just like those who killed God's prophets, except worse. They killed God's Righteous One. This made them furious. They dragged Stephen out of the city and heaved heavy stones at him. They killed Stephen.

On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 

But threats don't thwart the preaching of the Good News. Those who were scattered continued to preach the Word wherever they went. More people heard, and more believed. In the face of great opposition, the Church continued to grow. Because you see, sticks and stones can't break the marrow of these bones. 

James is writing to these Christians who face death daily. He is writing to Christians who hug their loved ones tight because they know very well that it might be their last. James writes to Christians who face jeers, sneers, and tears, and he tells them, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 

In his letter, James passes along four survival skills to his brothers and sisters in Christ. We are introduced to all four of these survival skills in the first 11 verses of James' letter.

1. Perseverance

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Perseverance is trusting God's work. It is trusting God to work in and through us. It is holding tight to God's goodness and timing. It is doing the right thing and never giving up no matter what because you believe God is at work even when you can't see the immediate results. 

"After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God firsts helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again" (Lewis, Mere Christianity).

2. Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Wisdom is trusting God's way. It is training your ears to hear God's voice.

3. Faith

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Faith is trusting God's word. It is knowing what God says, he will do, and acting accordingly.

4. Humility

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Humility is trusting God's worth. It is knowing God holds all power and glory and trusting that He will dispense it at the proper moment.

1st Service Kingdom Kids = 5
Kingdom Kids = 28
Kinder-Kingdom = 13

This Week: $20.31
Monthly Total: $27.00