How to Control the Tongue (Feb. 9, Tues.)

The word of the day is “tongue.”  In our reading of James 3:1-10, we hear about the peril of an uncontrolled tongue.  But how do we tame it?  James doubts we can.  He writes, “for every kind of beast and bird… has been tamed by mankind, but no man can tame the tongue” (vs. 7).  The apostle’s words are a warning to us.  Yet we find in the verses that follow today’s reading and in other wisdom literature some wise advice about getting control of our tongue. Indeed, the unrestrained tongue is more hazardous than a raging forest fire (vs. 5-6) or a torrential flood.  We cannot contain what is said once it spews out its folly, profanity, or rancor. …

The Difference between Works and Good Works (Feb. 8, Mon.)

The word of the day is “by.”  The controversy over faith and works since the Reformation era of the Western Church makes many uncertain about how how faith relates to good works. Today’s reading of James 2:14-26 argues that “good works” are necessary to faith. The apostle writes, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (vs. 18).  In the Orthodox view, the phrase “by my works” suggests an answer to the question of faith’s relationship to good works.  However, a discussion of this phrase shows that faith is not only essential to good works  But it determines the difference between works and good works (vs. 18). The Source of Good…

Two Kinds of Patterns: God’s Mercy and the Godly Life (Feb. 7, Sun.)

The word of the day is “pattern.”  St. Paul presented himself as a positive example of life in Christ.   Yet he also admitted that he was a great sinner for whom the promise of eternal life depended on the grace of God.  In our reading of 1 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul writes, ”I  received mercy so that in me as the foremost {sinner] Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example…” (vs. 16 OAB). In 1 Corinthians, Paul directed that the  Corinthians consider him their father “through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).  As their father in faith, he instructed his flock to “imitate him” (vs.1 Cor. 16), following his example in all that he said and did. Paul…

The Dynamic Power of a Living Hope (Feb. 6, Sat.)

The word for today is “hope.”  The storms of life often threaten to throw us off course.  How can we keep our bearing when the wind and waves of trials and tribulations toss us to and fro?  In our reading of Colossians 1:3-6, the apostle suggests an answer:  “We give thanks…. because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…” (vs. 4). In the Word of the Gospel, we hear of the hope reserved for us in the heavens (Strong’s #606, 36).  The Greek word translated as “laid up” expresses the sense of a store of blessings that awaits us.  They are “stored up” as a treasure kept under guard until its owner comes to claim it.…

One Body Without Favoritism (Feb. 5, Fri.)

The word for today is “partiality.”  Favoritism is the way of the world.  Human society is so ordered that some are more advantaged, favored, and honored than others. However, the Gospel opposes and reverses this preferential treatment of the privileged.  In our reading of James 2:1-13, we read, “My Brethren, do not hold the faith our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, with partiality” (vs. 10). The Greek word translated as “partiality” means the “respect of persons” (Strong’s #4372, 2160). But the word has the connotation that this regard for others is based on outer appearance, not on inner character.  We hear this undertone in the flattery that the Herodians used in their attempt to trick Jesus: “You do…

Doers of the Word: A Reconsideration (Feb. 4, Thurs.)

The word of the day is “doer.”  In our reading of James 1:19-27, we confront the teaching that we must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (vs. 22).  This instruction immediately calls to mind the controversy between “faith and works” that has raged in the Western church since the Reformation.  The issue has so prejudiced our reading that James is often treated as a foil to the teaching of Paul on grace. But let us clear our minds to hear the message of this passage.  Let’s begin with the question, “What, after all, are ‘works’ (vs. 2:14)?”  The Greek word for “works” means simply  “acts” or a “deeds” (Strong’s #2041, 102).  They are what “doers of the…

The Difference Between Trials and Temptations (Feb. 3, Wed.)

The word for today is “trials.”  Today in our reading of James 1:1-18, we begin our study of the New Testament book of James.   Two themes serve as bookends for this opening passage:  trials and temptations.  The apostle asserts that when we endure trials patiently, they are constructive. He writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” (vs.2). Yet, when we give in to temptations, they are destructive.   The apostle writes, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires…[and] when desire has conceived it gives birth to sin… and brings forth death” (vs. 14-15). The Divine Gift of Wisdom To distinguish between trials and temptations takes wisdom. Wisdom is…

When God Speaks (Feb. 2, Tuesday)

The word for today is “refuse.”   In today’s reading of  Hebrew 12:25-26,  13:22-25,  we hear that we should not disregard the Word of the Lord when He proclaims it to us.  The apostle writes, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks… (vs. 25). To understand this warning, we must explain the preceding verses.  Beginning with Chapter 12:18, the apostle contrasts Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Law with Mt. Zion, the city of the living God” (vs.22).   This heavenly city is the meeting place of angels and the assembly of those whose names are “registered in heaven.” Thus, it is the company of the righteous who are “firstborn,” firstborn in the sense that they are first in the…

The Washing of Regeneration (Wed. Jan. 6)

Christ is baptized! The word of the day is “saved.”  On this Great Feast of Theophany, we note the connection between the Baptism of Christ and our baptism.  In our reading of Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7, the apostle writes, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (vs. 4-6). Note in verse 4 that the word “saved” is not a verb in the Greek text. It is a noun.  The passage reads that the Lord…

Bringing Others to Christ Across Cultural Divides (Tues. Jan. 5)

The word of the day is “became.”  What lengths would we go to bring others to Christ?   In our reading of 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, Paul says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant of all that I might win the more” (vs. 19). Think of the distances that St. Paul traveled to bring the Gospel to the world of the Roman Empire. The apostle embarked on three great missionary journeys covering over ten thousand miles.  On these trips, he encountered constant hazards.  On land, he was vulnerable to robbers, hungry, thirsty, sleepless, weary, cold, and in danger of attack from both Jew and Gentiles (vs. 26-28).   And at sea, he was shipwrecked three…