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Faith at Work

Weekly Devotional

Original content created by Nathan Lewis, FUMCR Ministry Intern, Summer 2019 

The great message of James is that faith and works are interconnected. Significant amounts of evidence in modern psychology lead people to the same conclusion today about the connection between actions and beliefs. Cognitive dissonance occurs when we become aware that our beliefs and actions do not match up, and we feel an internal tension. Studies have proven that to relieve this tension we often change our beliefs to align with our actions. Therefore, this cognitive dissonance theory provides evidence that James has a valid message. Namely, when our faith is not lived out by our actions, then our faith tends to stagnate or die. When our faith is aligned with our actions, it takes on new meaning and grows.

This four week devotional on the Book of James follows the sermon scriptures for the traditional and modern services during the weeks of September 8 - 29. You are invited to approach the weekly scripture readings with an open heart and mind, expecting the Holy Spirit to speak to you through them. May the scriptures challenge, transform, and move you into action! 

  • Week of Sept 8
    Doers of the Word

    Scripture

    James 1:19-27

    “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, ongoing away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

    Key Point

    James lays out a two-part response to God’s call on our redeemed lives. First, we are to know the Word. Second, we are to abide and act according to the beliefs advocated in the Word. James uses an ancient literature reference: gazing into the mirror for self-improvement. This person looks in a mirror to learn, then forgets his/her image upon leaving the mirror. This is compared to people hearing and reading scripture and forgetting it because they do not live it out in their actions. James juxtaposes the “mirror person” with someone who learns from scripture and turns faith into deeds. This person is blessed.

    Questions for Reflection

    1. What is the passage about? Summarize it in your own words.
    2. Does scripture change how you live or does it just expand what you know about God?
    3. How are you a doer of the Word? How is your belief in Jesus evident/not evident in the way you live your life on a daily basis?
    4. What do you need to put into practice from today’s scripture reading?
    5. Who do you know that needs to hear what you just read? Share!
       

    Act

    In James 1:27, we are urged to care for the neediest members of society. In your community, who are these people? It is possible they are literally widows and orphans who have suffered the loss of a family member. But also consider the homeless, the hospitalized, retirees, special-needs children and adults, the unemployed, immigrants, prisoners, etc. What is a tangible way you can help care for the neediest members in your community this week?

    Pray

    Spend a few minutes each day this week praying for God to use the scripture reading to transform your heart, so that you may become more Christ like in your words and actions. Take a few moments to pray about your relationship with God, others (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.), and spend a few moments in silence listening to God.

  • Week of Sept 15
    A Living Faith

    Scripture

    James 2:14-18

    “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”

    Key Points

    James argues for the inseparable nature of faith and faith’s deeds. This passage is often seen as a contradiction to Paul who says only faith can save. However, in chapter one, James clearly articulates that only the “implanted Word,” Christ, is able to save. James does not contradict that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He takes this idea a step further stating that faith and good works belong together, as works are inspired by and an outpouring of our faith.

    James is responding to Christians who claim an authentic faith based on perfecting matters of doctrine and ritual, as well as using religious jargon and correct liturgy. Our faith is not simply a matter of liturgy, doctrine, and ritual. How true is a faith that refuses to help those in need?

    Questions for Reflection

    1. What is the passage about? Summarize it in your own words.
    2. How do you spend your money and time? How does the way you spend your money and time connect with your faith?
    3. What gifts has God given you to exemplify your faith?
    4. In what ways do you show your faith through your actions on a daily basis? Where is there room for improvement?
    5. Who do you know that needs to hear what you just read? Share!
       

    Act

    Think of a person in your life who is struggling in some way. How you can put your faith into action this week in response to their suffering?

    Pray

    Spend a few minutes each day this week praying for God to use you as God’s hands and feet in your community and the world and for God to empower you to be a reflection of Christ for those who are suffering.

  • Week of Sept 22
    The Power of the Tongue

    Scripture

    James 3:1-12

    “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.”

    Key Points

    Our actions show people who we are. We are a reflection of what we represent, whether that is our school, job, family, or faith. Our lives may be the only Bible some people read or sermon people hear.

    James highlights the contradiction of blessing God in prayer while cursing humans who are made in the image of God. Just as people should be single-minded as they live according to God’s word, so should their speech be single-minded in how they speak toward and about each other.

    Questions for Reflection

    1. What was the passage about? Summarize it in your own words.
    2. How do the words you use to talk about yourself impact what you believe about yourself?
    3. How do the words you use to talk about others impact what you believe about others?
    4. How do the words you use to talk about God impact what you believe about God?
    5. What are some practical changes you can make this week in the words you use, so that you may better reflect the image of God and bless others with your words?
    6. Who do you know that needs to hear what you just read? Share!
       

    Act

    Think about three people who you use judgmental or rude language about. Then, think about something you are thankful to God about regarding each of these people.

    Pray

    Spend a few minutes each day this week praying for God’s Word to define how you view yourself, others, and God and for God to transform your judgment into thankfulness.

  • Week of Sept 29
    Know Your Place

    Scripture

    James 4:11-17

    “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.”

    Key Points

    Slander, or evil speech, is an offense against the commandment to love thy neighbor. To speak slander implies a negative judgement and assumes a superiority over another person. We cannot be judges because God is the only lawgiver and judge.

    The main issue presented in this passage is arrogance. Arrogance is the self-aggrandizing and hostile attitude that epitomizes opposition to God. Slander, heedlessness, and oppression can all be understood as manifestations of arrogance.

    Questions for Reflection

    1. What was the passage about? Summarize it in your own words.
    2. In what ways do you judge others or view yourself as superior to them?
    3. How does arrogance manifest in your life?
    4. What is the Holy Spirit nudging you to do or contemplate in response to this passage?
    5. Who do you know that needs to hear what you just read? Share!

    Act

    Pick two or three ways you can extend yourself out into your community with Christian love this week. Give GIFTS to people in your community:

                Give someone a compliment.
                Invite someone to church.
                Find a way to share with others what you are reading and learning.
                Tell someone why you are thankful for them.
                Send a text to or call someone to ask: “How can I be praying for you?”

    Pray

    Spend a few minutes each day this week praying for God to turn judgment and arrogance in your heart into humble action that serves others.

    As you complete this devotional, we hope you will continue to care for the neediest members of society, help those who are suffering, express gratitude for others, and give GIFTS to people in your community!

  • Put Your Faith to Work
    Put Your Faith to Work

    Below is a list of opportunities available this fall through FUMCR and outside organizations for you to put your faith to work.

    More details on each of these opportunities can be found on the Missions & Outreach page.

                Participate in the fall Habitat build.
                Donate items or volunteer at NETWORK.
                Volunteer at one of our partner elementary schools.
                Serve a meal at AIDS Supper Club.
                Deliver Meals on Wheels.

    Family service opportunities:

                Baking cookies or making posters/placemats for Kairos Inside.
               
    Making meals through Tango Tab.
                Collecting items and putting together Assembly Kits for the Wilkinson Center.
               
    Specifically for children: Mission Possible Kids

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