James 1 part 3–Quick Listening

Why is it so hard to listen?  It seems we miss out on so many important things—simply because we do not listen to the words and directions offered.  This becomes especially obvious as we seek God.  His word is rich with hope, truth and direction.  Sadly, we get so busy, so overwhelmed and so upset with the circumstances—that we literally cannot hear what the Lord is attempting to communicate.

 The noise of Life is distracting,  It causes even the best of listeners to miss the orchestral harmony of following the Lord and learning from him.   Some ways we can lower the noise in our lives and to spend time listening to the master are:

  1.  practice every day
  2. prepare your heart for the time
  3. lay the things causing the noise on the alter each day—and sometimes several times a day.

 

Only you can hear what God is trying to communicate.  When you can settle down and listen you will be amazed at the volumes of knowledge you receive.  Once received, then the trick is doing it.  James says do not waste such great information.  We need to be prepared to implement God’s plan, even if we do not necessarily like it.

 Then we can experience the blessing that always follows obedience.  Help me Lord to follow you, listen and do what you are telling me to do.  

 God Bless You

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

James 1 part 2–God has big shoulders

I am so glad God has big shoulders.  Like most, on a bad day, when the world seems to be closing in and hope is slipping away—my thought is to blame God.  “He could fix this, you know!” In my prayers—“God, why did you do this to me???”  As this passage makes clear, God uses the trials and temptations in our lives to make us ready to face the attacks and circumstances life sends.  God does not do the tempting, but he allows it not only to strengthen us, but to humble us as well. As we journey, we sometimes cave, compromise and fail God.  What an opportunity to see him scoop us up, forgive and walk us through the process to restore our fellowship and faith.  But, he does not do the tempting—it is simply not in God’s nature.  Instead, his nature is to give us what is good and beautiful—just look outside! As a loving father, it is very difficult to watch us struggle through the journey.  But, that is the only way we can face that which lies ahead.

He accepts our criticism, he listens as we yell, scream, cry, rant and rave. He loves us even when we fail, whine or shake our fist at him.  The truth is, as James points out, that God will take the blame even though he is the only pure heart in the room.  Let’s not blame God for the battle scars given by the enemy.  Conversely, let’s give him credit for what we are becoming as we walk in his footsteps and endure what he is guiding us through!                  

God Bless You

 

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, 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 the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Pure Joy…Really??? James 1 part 1

That’s easy for you to say.  I am sure many in the Church at Jerusalem thought that when James opened his letter by saying it is great to go through trials.  Consider it joy, really! Trials stink.  Testing stinks. The writer of Hebrews said it best, “NO discipline seems pleasant at the time!”  But, the word is true.  We have to endure the tests and trials set before us in order to become complete, resiliant and usable by God.

 In addition, while we rarely understand the why’s behind the testing of our faith, God promises he will give us wisdom on the ways to endure and use the trials to make us better.  We simply have to ask and believe he wants us to be informed.  The greatest aspect is that we embrace our present circumstance by simply clinging to the hope of what we will become and the joy of eternity yet to come.  Life is Hard, God allows us to face it, but we never have to face it alone or without his wisdom to guide us.

God Bless You

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 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. 6 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. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Sacrifice, Dying Was the Easy Part–Luke 23

Sacrifice stinks.  It hurts, its humiliating and mostly it is a reminder of how frail and human we are.  Jesus knew for his entire life that it would all come down to this one thing—Dying well.  Jesus did not regret the beating, he did not feel the effect of the humiliation.  He really did not care that the soldiers were dividing his clothes or that the people had lost their short term hope of revolution.  He only cared that for the only time in eternity he was separated from God—that really hurt.  Still in that, he was most concerned that we would be forgiven. 

It is as simple as that, Jesus wants for us not to experience the pain of separation from God.  He wants us to know the power of his grace. He Loves us and longs to have a relationship that we will enjoy forever.  

Easter is not about the death, it is about the resurrection! Help me Lord to feel your Grace and enjoy your presence.

God Bless You

 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Death of Jesus

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Straight Forward Message–Luke 18

We talk about the mystery of God.  Often, God is pretty straight forward.  His purpose is straight forward, he wants to have a relationship with us.  He wants us to experience freedom in him.  His message is straight forward, surrender your life to him and he will allow you to experience the freedom and peace you long for.  His promise is straight forward, if we confess with our mouth he is Lord and believe God raised him from the dead you will be saved.

 In the midst of all that, often the simplicity is hidden from us by our desire to be in charge, by our need to have a goal we can obtain by our efforts and by the world’s view that says surrender is never an option.  We cannot grasp that salvation is a gift that we will never be able to earn.  Our choice is plain and simple—Lord, I need you, I cannot do this on my own.  Please forgive me, come into my life and make me the one you want me to be.  AMEN. No secret, no hidden agenda—Just the saving grace of God.

 God Bless You

 31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

God Is Our Strength–2 Corinthians 13

In closing, 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds us that while Christ was crucified as a beaten, weak, man—He never lost God’s power.  God allowed him to give his life, but he raised him 3 days later.  He shook the earth, he tore the curtain that separated the holy of holies, he raised the dead and he paid the price for our sin.  Then God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name above every name.  God always provides strength.  In the midst of weakness, God remains the strength.  He was the strength to our Lord, He is our strength as well.  When we are struggling, alone, sick or weak–he comes along side and provides. He is desiring to meet our needs and help us to stand firm.  Help me, Lord, to rely on your strength, in the midst of my weakness.

 God Bless You

 4 For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. 5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.

Is Jesus Christ Enough–2 Corinthians 12

Is God’s grace sufficient for you?  It used to be an easy question—Of Course!  But as we travel on the journey and experience trials, and suffering, we tend to reflect and reevaluate how serious we are about that statement.  I must admit–there are days when it is difficult to cling to the idea that Jesus is enough.  The great news is, however, that He is enough—whether we emotionally buy in or not.  He paid a price that we will never comprehend; just so we could experience a relationship with God.  It was not simply the death on the cross that makes Jesus sacrifice so compelling; it is the fact that he gave up his status as an immortal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God to walk among us as a servant.  He was subjected to Satan, and his temptation.  He was rejected by the religious community despite the fact he was there simply to guide them to truth.  He daily dealt with the pain of humanity from a position of humility,  watching folks hurt and die—Then, he was able to express the heart of God to folks—Just Like Him. 

 I would rather have it easy, I do not like trials! But whether I have to face them or not, I have to be certain, in my life, that I can say yes to the question “Is Jesus Christ enough.”  I pray, Father, that you will give me the faith and courage to be able to say yes!

 God Bless You

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.