Count it all Joy–James 1 Part 1

 

It is hard to imagine being the little brother to our savior.  James was that guy.  He watched his brother for his entire life live a perfect life and ironically, was killed as a common criminal.  He was then moving with the apostles and followers of Jesus to build the Church.  So as we look at his book–we realize he was facing personal persecution and the persecution of the entire church.

He opens by reminding us that we should be joyful when we go through trials in our life. That is a wild attention getter. But, truer words have not been spoken.  We would be of little use to ourselves or to others if we were not trained by the events that enter our lives.

We quickly learn to adapt our lives, adopting the lessons we learn in trials,  so that we can face the next trial in a way that honors God.  After a number of trials, the things that used to seem overwhelming become manageable in him.

Like any training, we find ourselves–almost without knowing it, walking and acting like Christ taught! That is pure joy.  It is never fun, but always great  to grow into the person God calls us to be. Thanks Lord for trusting me with trials of various kinds!

God Bless You 

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Jesus Never Changes–Hebrews 13 Final

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever…If that is so,  why do we as his followers bend to every new idea that hits the internet.  through the last 2000 years, men have reaffirmed two amazing biblical principles–1. Solomon’s statement in Ecclesiastes–“There is nothing new under the sun.” and Hebrew’s statement from above.  Yet, each generation has a need to plunge to the depths of humanity and realize how futile our control over our lives is.

Jesus told us–he who seeks to keep his life, will lose it, but, he who loses his life for my sake will find it–Simple stuff! From an eternal perspective, like Jesus, we have to empty ourselves of ourselves in order to experience the filling of our lives with his forgiveness and eternal life. There is no other way–We simply cannot do enough, we cannot be enough or have enough to reach Eternity on our own–in our sinful condition.

In the one that is timeless and changeless, we are saved. He has always , is and will always forgive those willing to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him.  Become what he has longed an eternity for you to be–FREE and IN FELLOWSHIP with HIM! He never changes,!! Thanks God!

God Bless You

Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about[c] with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

The Right Things–Hebrews 13 part 1

Doing right is a never ending challenge. The author of Hebrews makes it simple–do the right things for the right reasons.  Love each other as a family would.  Treat strangers well they may be God’s messenger to you. Don’t simply sympathize with folk imprisoned or in pain–empathize, hurt like they hurt, seek freedom as they seek freedom.  Trust God in your marriage and with your stuff–he treats those things quite seriously!

We need to respect God’s plan for our lives.  We have a 3 step duty; 1. Trust Him, 2. Follow him, 3. Then watch him as he protects, provides and empowers us to make the journey!  Like any dad, the worst  pain to him, is the pain of mistrust by his family. The worst defiance of him is the failure to follow him on such an important trip through every trap and trial–Your freedom and life is at stake.  He loves you and will lead you to a place unlike any dream you could dream–he only requires that you follow.

God Bless You

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”[a]

6 So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”

Preparation for Heaven–Hebrews 12 Final

I loved the Rocky movies.  The best part of each one is the point where he prepares for the big fight. In all the movies that training was focused on the basics and tailored to the particular fighter he faced. In almost every show he used “old fashioned” methods that gave him the right strength and tactics to face his opponent.  In Hebrews, the author is reminding us that we too are training for the main event–Eternity.

We, like Rocky, have to train using the “Old Fashioned” methods of Bible Study, prayer and fellowship with other believers. We have to remain pure and seek him with all that is within us.  When we do, we become mighty warriors in him and are ready to face our opponent.  We cannot cut corners, we cannot follow half-heartedly.  We have to train as if our lives depended on it…because they do.

God Bless You

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many…Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire

God Disciplines Those He loves–Hebrews12 Part 2

It stinks to be disciplined. I remember, as a child, my folks saying that the spanking I was receiving hurt them worse than it hurt me…Only after parenting a few kids do you realize the truth in that statement.  God formed us to have fellowship with him.  Like any father, his joy is seeing our lives made wonderful.  That desire outweighs any other emotion.  That is why when our children are in danger, in pain or in trouble–we do what is necessary to set them on the right path. 

God is the same.  He would rather our lives be all ponies and rainbows, but the preparation to be his chosen ones often require trials, temptation and pain.  It breaks his heart to see us in pain.  it crushes him to have to allow discipline in our lives.  It is an awful thing for God to see us grieving and hurt–but, we are preparing for an eternity with him.  He wants his kids to be ready for war and subject to the authority that frees us.  Sadly, it is difficult.  If we can bear up under it, however, we will be trained and ready to face whatever would stand between us and an eternity with him.

Be Strong and Courageous

God Bless You

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Running Free–Hebrews 12 Part 1

Everyone has baggage.  Events in our lives shape and mold us into the individuals that we are.  The Bible is full of stories of individuals whose lives were molded, shaped and used by God.  One of the amazing things about that is that when the people God used were focused on him, their particular baggage no longer held them down.  Their faith freed them from the very things that hindered them before.  Abraham’s dependence on his dad, his tight grasp on Isaac his fear of dying without an heir were all released by faith.  Hebrews 11 are all examples of folk whose faith freed them from the baggage they were carrying.
It is the same with us.  God does not require that we come to him free of baggage.  He simply offers us the opportunity to trust him to carry our burden and allows us to walk free of it and do amazing things in his power and freedom.  We do not become perfect–we simply become free.  In that freedom, we then fix our eyes on Jesus and run with abandon the race he has laid out.  As we do, we will experience joy and peace like none other.  It will not be easy, but, it will be awesome.  Trust the Lord and be a free runner!
God Bless You
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

All Commended for Their Faith–Hebrews 11–Final

God never misses a one of us that trusts and follows him. Sometimes as we are going it is easy to become discouraged. Often the impact we are making won’t be evident in our lifetime. Walking by faith truly means that we have to believe God even though we cannot see the result. It is often difficult and depressing. We feel like an Island and storm after storm pounds our beaches.

The great news is two-fold. First, you are never alone. Not only is the Holy Spirit with us to comfort guide and teach us, but, we are surrounded by fellow soldiers also in the midst of daily struggles. We have to learn to be open and honest—vulnerable to those in the church and look to them for prayer and assistance.

Second, God sees your faith and will recognize it and you when it counts. This is not our home. When we return to heaven, our home, you can be assured that a proud Father will waste no time recognizing your faith and actions in this battle. We will be so surprised when we get to see what our faith has accomplished—Do not Give up, give in or give over any aspect of your life to our enemy—stand firm, trust me, God will notice!

God Bless You

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Faith Changes the Broken Vessels–Hebrews 11 Cont’d

God has always used folks the world would not have picked.  The goal is two-fold, first the ones that were not self-sufficient, were the most likely to trust God and depend upon him for success.  Second, as the ordinary became extraordinary in God’s service–it showed the rest of us we are equally usable in his hands.  Most of the great people of faith had serious baggage–murder, prostitution, embezzlement and deception.  Still, despite their frailty, their faith made them great.

What about us? Could we too be used of God? Most would argue–No, I am too frail or too broken–yet, The brokenness and frailty is what makes us both dependent on God and ready for transformation.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says it best, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come.”

In him, we are both worthy and prepared to be used by him. It is the only way we as broken vessels can be used as one of God’s mighty warriors.  Help me Lord, to be ready and willing to be used by you.

God Bless You

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient

Faith Comes In Steps–Hebrews 11 Cont’d

God does not pour out faith from a 100 gallon vat. Faith comes from a series of decisions made throughout our lives.  Each decision in itself may not seem substantial, but the impact of a life of decisions can be amazing.  Abraham was just a guy. Yet, from the day he left for Canaan, he made a series of decisions that shaped the world we know today.  The laws we follow, the Nation of Israel, the Constitution and bill of rights all come from his desire to follow God.

The 11th Chapter of Hebrews chronicles those decisions and their impact on the world, but, the reoccurring theme is that these decisions did not bring instant results.  The decisions made by Abraham were not really truly seen until Joshua and ultimately Jesus!  What does that mean for us? We need to walk by faith with an eternal perspective.  But, as we choose to trust him each day, those decisions may not have the impact we hope for in our lifetime. This Chapter, however should give us the hope we need to know that if we follow him, our choice will carry on well after we are gone.  In I Corinthians 13-Three Gifts are listed–Faith, Hope and Love.  We have to cling to all 3 but understand that the gifts of Faith and Hope rarely bring instant returns.  They are made to last a lifetime!

God Bless You

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c]19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

A Nation Built on Faith–Hebrews 11 Cont’d

When God called Abraham, he sent him to the “Promised Land” with just that, a promise.  Abraham lived his entire life not receiving proof of God’s commitment. He lived in a tent, his son lived in a tent and his grandson lived in a tent. Despite the lack of objective proof, the people of Israel grew into a mighty nation and have changed the world. Living by faith not only affects the person, but it has a lasting legacy that literally impacts nations.

In our lives.  our faith changes us.  It makes go places and do things that are selfless and amazing.  We have to remember that even when things seem difficult and the promise seems so far away, that our God is faithful and will do all he has promised that he would.  If we are able to keep that in front of us, then like Abraham and his family, we can have an impact that will be lasting and world changing.

God Bless You  

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed[b] that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.