Daily Devotionals

 
 
 

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Week 3, Tuesday, James 3:1-12

“James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 

Scripture

Go to James 3:1-12

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

 

We live in an age where what we say – words – don’t matter much. And that is unfortunate, because in Jesus’ and James’ “Kingdom world”, that is blatantly (and hellishly) false! Why? Two reasons – words reveal first the standard (and character) of God, and second the heart of humans. James has already written about God’s “word of truth”, which has the power to change us (1:18). And the New Testament again and again talks about “truth” as central to the gospel and its place in Christian behavior. As to the second, didn’t Jesus say “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” (Matthew 15:18)? James uses multiple examples of horses, ships, forest fires, taming of wild creatures, and underground springs to prove his point. The use of words reflect the “maturity and completeness” of the Christ-follower (cf. 1:4; 3:2, where “perfect” is to be understood as “complete”), and so be care-full in what you say!

 

Prayer

Lord, I did not realize that my words reveal not just the power of your “word of Truth,” but also the extent that “word of Truth” has changed my heart, my life. Forgive me when my words have given a false witness of You, who I say I follow. Forgive me for condoning (and even making excuses) when others have spoken against the truth, and thereby spoken against You. Please grow me by teaching me to use my words as you used them Jesus, making each word count for You. Maybe then I’ll come to understand that whether I know it or not, I become a teacher as well. Amen.

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Week 3, Monday, James 2:20-26

 “James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram

 

Scripture

Go to James 2:20-26

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

 

“You senseless person” (v.20). Do I detect a sense of urgency in James’ tone? Again, James is not saying that anyone can get right with God by doing good works (please read the last devotion again). But he is emphasizing that what you do will be the natural result of what you believe (or who you believe in). Both Abraham (Genesis 22) and Rahab (Joshua 2) had decided in their hearts who they believed in, who they wanted to follow – Yahweh God, the God that Jesus called “father.” By their (subsequent) actions they showed what (and who) they had believed in their hearts even before that. James’ simple logic says that just as lives without God make us like spiritual “zombies” (the walking dead), faith is lifeless without that faith showing itself in obedience. So, how “alive” is your faith?

 

Prayer

Thank you for James’ honesty when it comes to our faith, Lord. But I know your (and his) intention is not to discourage us. I realize it is to remind us how real your love is, how present you want to be in every aspect of our lives. You want us to experience what faith really can do, if we put it into action. It will not only change us entirely, it will change those around us as well. Please grow my faith O God; I want to be “mature and complete” as you intend me to be. Amen.

 

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Week 2, Saturday, James 2:14-19

 “James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 
Scripture
 

Go to James 2:14-19

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

Reminder: There will be NO daily devotion tomorrow, Sunday. Hopefully most of you will join us through our Live stream Worship and listen to God yourselves. Come with open hearts!

 

James is not obsessed with the concept of trying to work ourselves into God’s favor and heaven. He truly believed that Jesus was indeed the only way to having a relationship with God (2:1b). And that only by faith in His grace (that undeserved love given without limit or condition) could God transform our lives. But he keeps reminding us of this natural progression: God’s grace -> our faith -> transformed living -> works of love (just as Jesus worked in love) [cf. How Paul says it in Ephesians 2:8-10 and Philippians 2:12b-13] How can we separate faith from its outworking? There is humor and irony in inferring that surely we were better than demons! Demons also believed in the existence of God (a strange kind of “faith”), but their response is terror. In contrast, shouldn’t our faith response to God and His love be one that shows what transformed lives do – actually helping those in dire need, and not being superficially religious?

 
Prayer

Loving God, forgive me for the way I separate my relationship with you from the relationship you want me to have with the people of the world. It is so easy to form a “checklist” of what it means to be a follower of Christ, and keep checking each thing off: prayer, bible reading, church worship, charity, giving to the church… But that’s not what you want of me, do you Lord? Because sometimes that seems almost like the demons that live in terror because of the power you yield. I now realize that the reason you transform me is to live like Jesus did, where faith and love (showed in works) are so fused together, they cannot be separated. Just like you and me. Amen.

 

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Week 2, Friday, James 2:8-13

 “James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 

Scripture

Go to James 2:8-13

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

How you regard a person will dictate what you do with what they say. In calling “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (cf. Jesus’ “Great Commandment” in Mark 12:29-31) as royal law, James, in his humility and worship, regarded Jesus as King. And to James, dis-obeying such a law by showing partiality on the basis of outward appearance and prejudice was as bad as sinning against King Jesus and God. On the other hand, showing mercy and love to others irrespective of who they are is proof that we have understood what God has done for us. We have then understood that God really showed us mercy instead of the judgement we deserve. Isn’t that the very definition of “grace”? So, how have we responded to this grace?
 

Prayer:

Oh my goodness! I did not realize that my bias and prejudice toward others meant so much to you, O God of mercy. I did not realize that it reflected the extent of my response to your love, as well as whether I regarded you as Master and King of my life, Lord Jesus. Forgive me, for I have sinned. I truly want to be a “doer” of your Word by being an embodiment of your love. Keep working in me, Lord; please keep challenging me that you might indeed make me “mature and complete, lacking nothing” (1:4). Amen.

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Week 2, Thursday, James 2:1-7

“James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 

Scripture

Go to James 2:1-7

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

 

“…really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ (or, the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, RSV)” (v.1). That’s what is important to James: real faith (= a living relationship with Jesus) is shown in attitudes and behavior. A simple test: how do we naturally treat strangers among us – whether in the church or outside – on the basis of their external appearance? Do we see them as much of the world would, and discriminate in our behavior to them on the basis of that appearance – low respect for the poor-looking, high respect for the rich-looking? Or do we see them as Jesus (who really is the only one deserving of “really high respect”) would – all of us as needy, and therefore to be treated with equal mutual respect? Faith should change our “eyes,” and that should change our behavior (cf. Matthew 6:22-23)!
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I didn’t realize that I grieve and even insult your Name by the way I see people according to their appearance and discriminate in my behavior towards them. Forgive me for convincing myself that knowing You is only a spiritual matter. You want my relationship with you to constantly make me more and more humble – just like you. Then maybe I will see others as you see them, and act towards them as you would. In compassion. Help me to see; transform me to act. Amen.
 
 

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Week 2, Wednesday, James 1:26-27

 “James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram

 

 

Go to James 1:26-27

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

 

“Like father, like son” is not usually used as a compliment. Yet in Jesus, that is exactly what happened – “Whoever has seen me (Jesus) has seen the Father” (John 14:19). And that is what God intends for us as His children – “Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jesus’ death, resurrection, and promise of the Holy Spirit is so that we would be saved (made whole) and adopted (made His children, to be like the Father). James suggests three simple (and obvious) ways to show this. First are our words – not just what we say, but how we say them. Do we reflect who our Heavenly Father is by our words? Second is our compassion – how do we show the Father’s care for the most vulnerable? In those days they were orphans and widows; today the list would include victims of every form of injustice and violence. Third is our holiness – how do we live as if we are in the world, yet not of it (read John 17:15-18)?

 
Prayer

You are asking too much of me O God. But are you? You expected no less from your Son Jesus; you intend no less for us your children. Maybe it’s because I only see myself as a human on my way to (hopefully) heaven. And you see me as your growing (and therefore not complete as yet, and fallible) heavenly child placed on earth to represent You. You desire that I reflect you in the simplest ways that You will work through me by Your Holy Spirit in me – words, compassion, holiness (Your distinctiveness in me). Thank you for who you are making me to be. Amen.  Song Lyrics: “Into the Night”

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Week 2, Tuesday, James 1:22-25

 “James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 

 

Go to James 1:22-25

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

 

Verse 21 ends with “Word…which can save you.” In other words, God’s Word can make you whole…complete. [The Greek word translated as “save” and “salvation” also means “healed,” “made whole.”] So it would be logical that God’s Word in us makes us whole when we obey it; so that is what we would naturally do. But apparently not. There are some that look, listen seriously into God’s Word – and then do nothing with what it speaks about in their lives. The analogy drawn about the person and the mirror is funny – absurd even – and yet true for many. Much like the person who hears but ignores Jesus’ words in his analogy about the one who built his house on the sand; which collapsed in the wind and rain (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). Be hearers and doers. James is simply repeating what Jesus said. Listen intently, then put God’s revelation into practice. The result always changes the doer!

 

Prayer: Forgive me Lord, I wasn’t listening. You first warned me to talk less and listen more. Now you challenge me to not just listen, but do something about what I hear. And keep doing it! You assure me that contrary to what it seems, my obedience does not imprison me, it will actually free me. Not only will I be doing your will, that’s how you transform me, you make me whole. That’s how I experience the fullness of who you are – your blessing. Help me to be a listener. But not just stop there – help me to be a doer of the Word too. Amen.

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Week 2, Monday, James 1:19-21

 “James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 
Scripture

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

Go to James 1:19-21

 

If God’s intention for us is to grow from new birth to new lives, how does He make that happen? I’m pretty sure that James has Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) at the back of his mind while writing this. Just as Jesus kept repeating “Let anyone with ears to hear listen,” James calls us to be attentive to God and His Word. This is more than having a regular devotional time, this is having an intentional listening ear! Receptivity to God always has two aspects. The first is preparation – having an attitude that is not defensive, does not pander to selfish passions, turns away from the “weeds and thorns” of our past inclinations. The second is response – humbly allowing God’s Word in us (cf.v.18) to grow in us (and thereby grow us) by our obedience.

 
Prayer

Help me to be honest with myself, O Lord. I am so quick to speak, whether to defend myself, or to show I know more, but in so doing I do not listen for your Voice through your Word and your people. I excuse my anger as righteous indignation, forgetting that I am not all that righteous and besides, even You do not hold on to it forever. Forgive me Lord. I will be intentional in listening to you. May Your Word grow in me even as I obey you so that You Lord Jesus may fill my life. Amen.

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Week 1, Saturday, James 1:17-18

“James”

by, Pastor Sunil Balasundaram

 

Scripture
(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

Go to James 1:17-18

 

Reminder: There will be NO daily devotion tomorrow, Sunday. Hopefully most of you will join us through our Live stream Worship and listen to God yourselves. Come with open hearts!

 

We mustn’t think of God as someone who keeps preventing us from the things we like – something like a “party-pooper!” On the contrary, God wants to give His best to His children. And He does so generously; that’s His very nature, which doesn’t change. While “sin gives birth to death (v.15),” God, on the other hand, does something extraordinary. He plants His Word in our hearts which, in turn, brings about a new (spiritual) birth in our lives (cf. John 3:3). He gives us absolutely new lives which, like the first-fruits in the Old Testament, can then be offered back to Him as a love offering. Do we?
 

Prayer

Thank you gracious God, for every good gift. You’ve kept nothing good away from me! You gave me new life, and with it, yourself – your Holy Spirit. But that’s not all; you have given me every other blessing besides, of loving relationships, of every necessity. I have discovered that I lack nothing Lord, when I have you. Thank you. But now I must learn what it means to give myself to you as “first-fruits:” the best of who I am, the best of what I have is all I can give you in response. So take Lord, receive. Amen.
 
 

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Week 1, Friday, James 1:12-16

“James”

by Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 
Scripture
(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

Go to James 1:12-16

 

“The devil made me do it” or “If God loves me, why didn’t He stop me?” is what some people say when they mess up, do something horribly wrong, cause intentional pain, in short sin! James knows how easy it is to deceive oneself. He knows as true what Paul writes in Romans 7:14-24, that our human inclinations are self/pleasure-oriented and enslaving. Left to ourselves we will follow those inclinations which will eventually translate thought to action, and we end up sinning, with spiritual destruction that results. The Christ-follower is not immune to this, because of the human tendency of self-deception. But what they do know is that as followers of Christ they can recognize when those instincts are surfacing, and turn back to following Christ (and not themselves) because they love Him more.
 

Prayer

 I almost fell away from you Lord, that time when I listened to my own inclinations and instincts. I made all kinds of excuses, but in the end I knew it came down to “Do I love Jesus or myself more?” Thank you for your love, gracious God, because that’s what won the day. All I could think of was “How can I do this and hurt the One who loved me enough to die for me?” I realize now that every temptation is a kind of test – of love – that asks me, “Do you love me, Jesus, more than these?” I do, Lord. Amen.

 

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