Due to the pandemic, Woodruff Area Soup Kitchen and Helping Hands Ministries in Woodruff had to shift the way meals were being served. Instead of allowing people to come inside to dine, these organizations began providing carry out meals and food boxes. First Presbyterian Woodruff partners with both of these ministries. Due to the change of meal service, members of First Woodruff asked both organizations to identify their needs. They learned that while food was still being served, there was a lack of water bottles to accompany the meals. Recognizing the need, First Woodruff applied and received one of the Missional Staying Connected Grants through Foothills Presbytery. The grant money has been used to purchase water bottles. Volunteers add a label to each water bottle with the PCUSA logo and church information. Since May 2021, First Woodruff has dispersed about 2500 bottles of water along with a written devotional and invitation to worship with us every week since late May.
Below are examples of two devotions written by the Rev. Steve Phillips.
The letter of James begins with James telling us that he is a servant of God, and that he is writing to the Jewish people, who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but are now beginning to spread to different parts of the country primarily because they are being persecuted for their faith.
But then James jumps right in by saying… “Consider it a gift when you are tested or when you face challenges in your life because those challenges will strengthen your faith. When you endure something, you can come out of it with a better perspective on life.”
It is important to realize that James is NOT saying that God is testing us or that God is putting challenges before us, but rather, James is reminding us that as members of the human race, we will face difficult times in our lives. God is not the cause of these things, but with God, we can grow and mature and become something more than we already are.
What do you think?
I don’t know the trials you might be facing right now, and so it is hard for me to say what the outcome might be. But I do know this, no matter what we face, no matter what trials come our way, we are not alone. God has promised to be with us no matter what. If we pray for help… if we ask God to be with us, then no matter our pain… no matter our sorrow… God will be with us. God will provide for our needs.
Place your trust and your hope in God.
One of the things that I love about James is that it is so simple. Now let me clarify that… It is simple to understand, but not always so simple to live.
And so today James begins by saying, “Make sure that everyone is paying attention because what I have to share with you is important…” And then he says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
That sure flies in the face of how most of us approach our everyday lives doesn’t it?
Most of us, myself included, tend to speak a whole lot more than we listen.
Listening is a choice, and it means not just hearing the words that someone is saying, but actually understanding what they are saying and why they are saying it. And one thing for sure, we learn a whole lot more when we listen to someone else speak rather than when we hear ourselves.
So James says, be quick to listen and slow to speak, but then he goes… and slow to anger for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.
The bottom line is that when we are angry, we can’t always control how we react, and sometimes this results in us making some bad decisions or hurting someone else physically or mentally.
James finishes by telling us to get rid of evil desires and ways of the world and instead welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your soul.
I love this because what James is getting at here with anger and wicked desires and the ways of the world is that he wants us to know that God is with us and that God is speaking to us if only we would listen. And God has given us the power and the ability to overcome whatever we might be feeling, but we have to seek God, we have to listen for what God is trying to tell us, and we have to be willing to choose God and the will of God over our own. James wants us to know that it is a choice. The world places things before us… desires… temptations… struggles… but God offers us another way. And so when we hear God speak and when God shows us where to go, how to respond, what to say… we need to listen and we need to follow.