“No Doubts? I Doubt it!” A Devotion on James 1: 5-8

“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” —James 1:5-8

Martin Luther didn’t care much for the Letter of James. He called it “the Epistle of Straw” and suggested that it be removed (along with the Book of Revelation) from the Christian canon.

He objected to its emphasis on “works” in opposition to Paul’s emphasis on “grace.” And there is a bit of a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” feel to many of James’ words.

For example, in today’s reading he admonishes his readers to never doubt. I have known a few believers in my life who say they never doubt, and I admire them for that. Perhaps the absence of doubt requires a special personality type, or it might be a particularly effective form of self-deception.

But for me, and I am guessing for most of us, our faith exists in the midst of doubt. I take comfort in the belief that my relationship with God is founded on God’s initiative and not on my shaky faith. This keeps me from preoccupation with my various states of mind, and the regular taking of my spiritual temperature.

Still, I’ll give James his due that doubt should be avoided. Although I can’t rid myself of doubts by some Promethean act of personal will, I can ignore them as much as possible. And I do.

Prayer: I believe, O God. Help my unbelief.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for August 30, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here)

“The False God SUCCESS” A Devotion on 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

“God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.”

—1 Corinthians 4:10-13 Continue reading

“Small Beginnings” A Baptismal Sermon on Mark 4:30-34

Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” —Mark 4:30-34 Continue reading

“Down to Earth” A Sermon on John 13:1-17

I started my ministry 43 years ago in two small congregations in two adjacent tiny towns in Maine about 9 miles apart. When I lived in Maine just about the nicest compliment you could give someone was to say they were “down to earth.” It meant that they weren’t puffed up about their own importance. They were reliable, sensible, responsible, unpretentious and humble. Continue reading

“Did God Say?” A Devotion on Genesis 3:1

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1 Continue reading

“Scorched by Holy Fire!” A Devotion on Jeremiah 20:8b-9

“For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
—Jeremiah 20: 8b-9 Continue reading