Real Faith Is Seen and Not Heard–James 1 Part 4

We are learning, as life goes on, that the labels we are given or that we stick to ourselves–do not define us nearly as much as what we do with our lives, our actions and our mouths.  This week has brought almost unbearable tragedy to families across the greater Houston area; and many are left literally with only the clothing on their backs.  But, the community, and people from across the country have, dived in and taken the opportunity to assist in any and every way possible.

As a part of the community of believers–it is clear, that we need to do more than be spiritual.  We need to provide assistance to the ones in need. We must get over our own frustration regarding the inconvenience of devastation to our lives, and focus on trying to relieve the pain and troubles of others. We need to listen intently to those who are hurting and say as little as possible. The church needs to quietly and humbly press forward to encourage, restore and release folks–to start fresh and follow God’s leading.

The most effective way to honor God is simply laying our personal baggage on the alter, and then living selflessly.  As we do–petty gossip, harsh language and tired grudges from past wrongs; all become obsolete and inappropriate.  The tireless, selfless and kind words and deeds–ring louder than a 500 person gospel choir and orchestra–in spotlighting the Lord and his impact on the world. 

 Pastor James knew that the best way to sustain the life of the church was for its people to live like Christ. He was wise to see that the words from our mouth and the behaviors of the day–act as the gauges to measure our true worth to those around us. Please help me, Lord–to honor you with my mouth and with my actions. Help me to keep you at center stage of my life.

God Bless You

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger[g] does not produce the righteousness[h] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows.

Don’t Even Think About It–James 1 Part 3

I still remember my teacher saying, “Whenever you point your finger to blame others, you have three fingers pointing back at you!” While the principle is somewhat juvenile, the axiom holds true–shifting blame is usually a guilt response.  It started with Adam and has carried through the  generations without much improvement.  

The most ironic twist is our tendency to blame God. Adam’s famous line, “The woman you gave me made me eat it…” ugggh! We first have to align on the principle–God wants us to remain free, so he will never set a trap to ensnare us!!! To accuse God of leading us into sin, is as ridiculous as accusing any loving dad of drawing his precious children into harm. We would never do that–AND, God certainly would not! 

We sin, because we are sinners.  It is spiritual muscle memory.  We are so used to being rebellious, that we naturally fall right back into it when we are not attentive to his leadership.  That is why he calls us to follow, worship daily and seek him tirelessly.  We will still sin, but, the more we remain focused upon Him, the more we can distinguish his voice from the world and the enemy’s voice. 

Then, if we listen, he will navigate us past many of the traps and temptations we face daily. There is no one that wishes us success more than the one that created, sacrificed and desires to be with us!  He is a loving father, and he wants to be close and on the same trail!

God Bless You

Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God[d] has promised to those who love him.

13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Wisdom and Faith–James 1 Part 2

In our journey with God, there are spots along the way that literally leave us completely overwhelmed or completely confused.  It seems embarrassing, that we who are supposed to be the ambassadors, find ourselves questioning and confused.  Take heart! God is glad to give you wisdom, he will not judge you for coming to him, hands thrown up in the air.  He will give you wisdom and direction with no judgment.  Like any father, he is excited to assist!  

Don’t ask,however, like a Google search-“I’m feeling Lucky”.  God does not give wisdom–only to be told thanks, I would rather trust the world’s way! That instability leaves us looking like a tidal surge-blowing and spraying in every direction.  We make a mess, but have little or no positive lasting affect.  Instead, we trust God and follow his lead. No matter how dark, or hopeless it seems.  He knows the right path and will lead us through.  In the process he may prosper us, break us, confine us or allow us to be without means.  Whatever the scenario–he still prepares, provides and protects us.  

He knows  our hearts and our circumstances.  He will move us along the path and continue to shape us into his chosen, with his traits beaming from us.  We simply need to trust him and allow him to do it!!!

God Bless You

(Thanks to all for your prayers–as we continue to watch the flooding here in Houston–We are truly grateful!!!)

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting.[b] For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.[c]

Let the brother of humble circumstances boast in his exaltation, 10 but let the rich boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 For the sun rises and, together with the scorching wind, dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance perishes. In the same way, the rich person will wither away while pursuing his activities.

12 Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God[d] has promised to those who love him.

The Joy of Spiritual Trials–James 1 part 1

Why would anyone count it pure joy to encounter trials of various types? Primarily, because the trials complete them as spiritual leaders and warriors. James, Jesus brother, knew better than most the importance of walking through trials.  He was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. That church was under heavy persecution from The Jews and the Roman government. He was watching Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, and leading to manage the struggles of a church built by faith.

James knew that trials built faith.  Faith gave courage and courage sustained warriors.  He also knew that Christians, first and foremost–had to walk by faith or they would seem double-minded and be useless to the cause. James simply pictured Jesus, his brother, and saw a person that counted it all pure joy–especially the cross.

What about us–do we really count it as joy when we face trials? If we do not–well, we are missing the great blessing of being prepared for our mission. If God simply set us loose without trials and training, we would most assuredly miss His hand in our lives; and, we would collapse under the attack of the enemy. We need to be grateful for the tough times.  We also need to learn all we can from each of them–purely joyful!

God Bless You

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Sacrifice of Praise–Hebrews 13 Final

Final thoughts…the writer was wrapping up–he already went through the basics of discipleship.  In closing, he had a great final thought for the Hebrew people–while the traditions that have stood since Egypt defined us, it is time to let them go and move on. Christ was the final sacrifice.  So, now if you feel so compelled to offer such a sacrifice–offer a sacrifice of praise to God.  He loves you and wants your freedom from sin and death–that is all.  Still, follow the truth, submit to authority and pray continually–that will do it!

As a body of believers, we can see amazing things by keeping it as simple as that.  If we stop worrying about being good enough or doing enough Christian stuff; and, simply love and honor our Heavenly Father; then, we will be free to enjoy the amazing life he sets before us. Still, we need to live a life honoring to God–no wacky traditions, submission to authority and fellowship and prayer for each other.  If we do that, then God will bless us beyond what we could ever hope or imagine.

God Bless You

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods,which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holythrough his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

The Message is Consistent–Hebrews 13

Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecc 1:9. As the writer of Hebrews concludes his treatise, his final thoughts go back to the very pragmatic basics of life.  Love each other, be hospitable, show compassion to those imprisoned, tortured, alone or in dire straits–as if it were you! Be a faithful spouse, be content with what you have–mostly, understand God will never fail you or abandon you. Finally, Jesus is the same-yesterday, today and forever.  It has always been those principles that have set God’s people apart.

In our lives, the transformation we experience in our walk with God–changes us from selfish sinful wretches to selfless, humble stewards of the vast wealth of knowing God personally.  We need to show others the value of knowing him.  By simply being the person God has called you to be–you cannot help but incorporate hospitality, compassion, faithfulness, contentment and faith in Christ’s promise. Those traits make us stand out in any crowd, and cause others to desire the same relationship that we enjoy.

We make a difference every day.  The enemy would have us believe it is insignificant, but–rest assured, the faithfulness we display will impact generations to come.  We need only trust God and follow him closely.

God Bless You

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”[b]

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”[c]

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. 

The Mountain Of God–Hebrews 12 Part 3

We often forget that our God is awesome. We focus upon the grace and mercy he has offered us as his children, and forget that he is the creator and all powerful God.  The children of Israel were very aware of the awesomeness of God.  They saw first hand as they came to Mount Sinai.  They knew not to touch the smoking and trembling Mountain of God–for to do so, would mean certain death.

Then Christ came and changed the relationship.  We no longer focused upon his power and wrath; instead, we were able to focus upon his desire to have a relationship with us.  He demonstrated that love by sacrificing his life while we were yet sinners.  Romans 5:8.  None the less, we who are able to meet God at Mount Zion–the mountain of promise, still need to show the respect and reverence deserved by the mighty God of Mount Sinai.

There is no wiser, no more powerful, no more knowledgeable being in the universe–than our awesome God.  We simply need to trust him, follow him and believe he is the mighty God of the Heavens and Earth. 

God Bless You 

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. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The Discipline for Champions–Hebrews 12 Part 2

In keeping with the thought of racing before the “Faith Hall of Famers”  the writer of Hebrews reminds us of the discipline it takes to win a race.  We want to be done with the training and to lay by the pool as some sort of spiritual Diva.  We do not want to fight in the war, we want to minister in our wealth.  We want to entertain and speak of the great blessings we receive from God…

One need only to have raised children to realize that it is the scrapes, the tears, the struggles and the discipline that makes our kids great–not the toys, the trips to the amusement park or the bowing to every whim.  In fact, the latter make the kids soft, spoiled and unruly.  Further, when we see the training of professional soldiers, athletes and doctors–it is rigorous and often seemingly unbearable–but produces the best people to fulfill their mission.

In our journey, we need to welcome the training and the discipline.  Rest assured, it will be unpleasant, and often seemingly unbearable. But, as we work through the daily struggles, we see God making us into the professional soldiers we need to be to complete the mission for which we are called.  His spirit comforts us, guides us strengthens us and carries the work to completion until his return. 

I Corinthians 10:13 promises our discipline is common. We won’t be pushed beyond our abilities.  And we will have a way to walk away.  He will prepare us, build us and train us so that we can finish the race and keep the faith.  Welcome the training and the discipline–then we can truly see God’s plan worked in our lives!

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. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 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,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Listen To That Crowd Roar–Hebrews 12 Part 1

There is really nothing quite like the energy one feels in an event when the crowd goes wild. Whether athletics, concerts, theater or Church–There is a significantly different energy when the crowd engages. In Hebrews 12, the writer helps us to envision the support and concern we receive from those who have gone before.

Imagine Able, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Joseph all cheering your daily walk and waving the banner–“Go Christian, Stand Firm!!!!!” So the message is–“Since you have these folks in your corner, Go to battle ready, free of baggage and focused upon Christ–the God that truly understands our fight!”  We do not fight alone! The spirit encourages, empowers and guides us.  Our community of believers march with us; and, the legacy of those who have gone before–serve as the roaring crowd to compel us to give all we have and become like him.

The world would have us believe we are all alone–they tried it with David, with Elijah, with Moses and with Jesus.  Truth is, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses! They have done it and survived. Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and have kept the faith…” gives us a picture of our need and support to treat this journey like a marathon and not a sprint.  What’s more, it reminds us that we have to drive to the end–as the many have done before we got into this Amazing Journey!

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.

What God Accomplishes With Our Faith–Hebrews 11 part 4

As we continue to look at faith–so far we see that without it it is impossible to please God.  We have seen that people of faith show up when the going gets tough, the we have seen that it is inevitable, that faith impacts those whose lives we encounter.  Finally, there is a certain set of things that faith accomplishes.  

As one studies the folks that make up the faith hall of fame, by the world’s standard–they were not much to speak of.  Wanderers–like the Israelites, prostitutes–like Rahab, mild mannered  farmers–like Gideon, shepherds–like David, temple boys–like Samuel.  None were “SuperHero” prototypes. Yet, in each of their lives, God accomplished mighty things because they trusted Him.  Walls fell, nations rose, kingdoms were established and the salvation of the world accomplished–not because of their profiles; but, but all because of their faith.  In each scenario, It was ultimately God who was highlighted–not the person he used.

In our time, if we–who are simple, allow God–who accomplishes great things; to simply take control and take the glory–then, like the people described in Hebrew 11, God can use us to complete his plan.  We must brace for battle–our enemy does not like to be defeated. We will encounter trials, tribulations, taunts and temptation. We also must grasp that we accomplish most by stepping back and allowing God to work.  At any point, if we try to take control or take the glory; then, we nullify our ability to be used by him.  He simply seeks our availability–if we oblige, then he will provide the means and the result–and we will be blessed.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be obvious–but, when God uses us to execute his plan–we will be a part of something so much greater than we could ever hope or imagine.  

God Bless You


It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.