Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Religion

Religion and Our Modern Day
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 
– James 1:26-27 (NIV)

I’ve written before how I love the book of James for its fire. It’s an exhortation more than a letter or as the kids say he’s “calling us out”. If this was a sermon, the preacher would be leaning over the pulpit, arms waving, in full voice. He’d be shaking the back pews with these words. In the verse above, his focus is on how we practice our religion.

Now, hearing the word ‘religion’ can make some of us wince. The world has soured on religion and the term has taken on some negative connotations. I don’t think this is because the world is any more sinful than it has ever been. I suspect it has to do with Christians (and others) behaving badly, while claiming faith. It’s also likely a shift in the modern mindset.

In a lot of ways, technological advancement has become a kind of religion itself. It doesn’t take a lot to put your faith in modern science and medicine. It doesn’t cost you anything, asks nothing from you. You can keep the parts you like and reject the rest. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, that takes work, it will cost you your life, so to speak. We die to self when we follow Christ.

In our modern times there’s an emphasis on self-expression and individuality. Being heard is a big deal. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. But as Christians, we need to be careful about what we express. We need to watch what we put out in the world. Essentially James is calling on us to ‘mind your business’, the Kingdom’s business.

Whether its traffic when you’re running late, an obnoxious coworker, a rude customer, a family member in crisis, or even a stranger spewing hate, we need to keep a grip on ourselves. We need to remember our purpose and focus our mind and bodies on the mission, not the moment. That can be a serious challenge in times like these when we are pressed from all sides.

However, now is when we need this control and focus the most. When we’re being distracted by culture, politics and fear, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and our tongues in check.

Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, please give us the strength to love our enemies, friends, and neighbors in all circumstances. Make us instruments of your peace in a fallen world. Please help us to be salt and light, unpolluted by the world while active within it. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Christa MacDonald is a 2017 Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction. 

She began her writing career at the age of eleven, filling a sketchbook with poems and short stories. After publishing a few short pieces in her college’s literary magazine she took a long hiatus during which she embarked on a few different careers, got married, had three kids, and renovated an old barn masquerading as a house.

Her most recent work, The Redemption Road, finished the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty. She and her family live along the coast of New England.

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