Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 10


I am thankful for my husband. Specifically, for his knowledge, ability and work ethic. He keeps our home in good repair and makes it a nice place to live. He has spent the past few months working in every spare minute to renovate our basement. It is now almost done and has added so much value to our home and provided a comfortable place for family to enjoy and  guests can stay.

I am so thankful God gave me a husband that not only knows how to work on our house but is willing to go the extra mile even when he is tired after a long day.  I have one great guy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Enjoy Your Food (Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 9)


(Once again, Thursday alluded me and this is a bit late.... but better late than never, right?)
This may sound silly, but I am thankful for delicious foods.
Yep, that’s my belly talking. I truly enjoy every bite of a pomegranate. And a steaming cup of coffee in the morning. And a tender steak cooked just right. And a fresh crisp salad with sweet peppers and avocado. And ice cream. And broccoli cooked with cheese on top. And…..
Well, you get the point. I’m so glad God made food with such variety and taste. We have to eat to stay alive and He didn’t have to make it all so good, but He did.  And that makes me smile with thanks today.
What are you thankful for today?
 

Friday, November 1, 2013

God's Love (Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 8)


First of all, I am thankful that you are so gracious in allowing me to post a "Thank-filled Thursday" post on a Friday!  :)  Oh, how my week has gotten away from me! Now, on to what should have been posted yesterday....
Today I am thankful for God’s love. He loves me because He loves. Not because I am loveable. This fact holds so much security. Have you ever thought about this? Why does God love you? Does He love you more when your actions please Him? Does He love you less when you disobey Him?
God’s love isn’t based on me. His love isn’t based on you. And that’s a good thing. Because some days I am less than loveable. Much less.  I assume you are nodding your head with me that you are less than loveable at times as well.

God loves because He is love. When we understand this, it compels us to live in a way that pleases Him. It inspires us to love others. Not because we want Him to love us more, but because we want to love Him more. We learn from His love.
Where would we be without His love?

Thank You, Lord, for Your love for me. May You grow that love in my heart so my life will reflect You more and more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

When God Crashes Your Party (Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 7)


Today I am thankful that God crashes my parties.
Ever have one of those parties? It just feels so right. So deserved. Like you  have the right to feel this way. Ya, me too. I’m with you, Girl. Some days I’m a real “party-girl” if you know what I mean. “Poor me, I never get what I want…. Things never go well for me…. I’m just not appreciated….”
When I carried my little party to church with me one day, my Father intervened and reigned on my parade. It was a good thing, too or I don’t know how long I would have partied like that.

The music began. It was a song I am well familiar with. One of my favorites. And I joined in the singing, but couldn’t get many words out before my heart became convicted. Busted. My party had been crashed. Time for a change of attitude in my heart. 
Blessed be Your name
when the sun shines down on me,
When the world is all as it should be
Blessed be Your name. 

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

[Chorus:]
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

And blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name

I will bless Your name, Lord
Yes, I am thankful for when God crashes my party, for sure!
What are you thankful for today?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 6


Oops! It has been such a busy week here that I missed  posting this on Thursday... thankfully, we can be thankful any day of the week!
Today I am thankful for the privilege of prayer. I have a friend. She is 10 years old and has a cancerous brain tumor. You’d never know it, just looking at her. She is a normal, happy young girl. And I have learned so much from watching her as she walks down this road God has allowed in her life.

As I pray for her in my morning coffee time, my heart is heavy for her and her parents.  Without prayer, this would be an unbearable burden to carry.  I can only try to imagine what they must feel.   They are up against a rare cancer, even the best doctors are unsure how to treat it.  How thankful I am that they know the Great Physician, the One who has the power to heal. And the power to use even this to grow them and those around them.

It is truly a privilege to be able to go before the King of kings, the Creator of all and speak our concerns. I pray God will heal her as only He can. I pray He will wrap His arms in love around her and her family and carry them through this to a closer relationship with Him. And I pray His power will be displayed in my young friend’s life in a way that others will see His power and grace.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 5

I'm so glad you're joining me for Thank-filled Thursdays! As we come upon Thanksgiving, I want to grow a heart of thanksgiving. Be truly thankful. See my life with grateful eyes. I know you do too.

Today I am thankful for:

A godly mom. She taught me things she probably didn't even know I was picking up from her. Some things she didn't verbally teach, she didn't have to, I learned as I watched her. Like seeing her sit in her chair with a hot cup of tea in the mornings as she was reading her Bible. Like her gentle and quiet spirit. And her generosity.

She didn't have to say these things, she modeled them. Her actions spoke volumes to my young heart and strongly influenced me. I am grateful for her influence in my life, and by the grace of God in giving me a godly mom, I have forever been changed. Except for the hot tea, I prefer coffee, of course!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thank-filled Thursdays Week 4


Today I am thankful for the joys of being a Grandma. Those little ones bring so much joy and laughter to my life! As I watch them grow and pray for their hearts to love God, my prayer life is seeing a fresh new stage. 

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Running The Race


For those of you who know me, it may seem strange to see this title on my blog. It probably seems a bit inconsistent with my character as I do not have a single athletic cell in my body. Never have. I avoid sweating. And sore muscles. This would include running. And so I don’t run. Period.
I wish I did. I drive by runners (Notice I’m the one in the car, not the one running.) and it looks like a good form of exercise,  a way to stay in shape, build self-discipline and get firm muscles (versus the squishiness that comes from avoiding such activities, ahem.). But I just don’t know how to run … and I don’t like it anyway. There, I said it. I don’t like running.

I am in a race, though. This one doesn’t require running shorts. Thank God for that, you don’t want me running around in those, it’s not a pretty sight! It doesn’t require Nikes, which is good because I really would rather spend my money on cute sandals. Or sweating, which is good since I have a life rule to avoid sweating. This seems to be a race I am cut out for. A race I was made to run.
This race is an eternal race. Long distance, requiring endurance. If you have been saved by grace, you’re in this race with me too. No special clothing is required, but we do need to train. There is not a special trainer you have to shell out moolah for, but you do need your bible.

Just as the runners preparing for a marathon are out there day in and day out, we need to train daily as well. I Corinthians 9 gives us some training tips. And it’s a good place to start.

We must begin with strict training (NIV) and exercise self-control (NAS). In all things. There is no room for excuses, rationalizing or permissive days. This is not a race to be reserved for certain areas or times in our lives. It is a way of life.

Have you ever noticed that letting yourself have just one sweet leads to wanting more and more…. Until the sweet cravings get out of control? It’s the same way with sin. Dropping our guard, letting down our stand just once so easily leads to more. For a runner, skipping one day can lead to skipping another and another… and another. And soon training must begin all over again.

We must discipline ourselves, train to be godly, (1 Tim 4:7) and train our hearts to love His word. We need a training routine. Our natural default will be to let self rest, let self do as it pleases, let self go the easy route. I don’t want to live on default, I want to train.

My current training routine involves morning bible reading, journaling and prayer. Then I seek to apply what I studied throughout the day, looking for ways and areas of my life it can soak into. It’s not an easy routine, some days I have a long to-do list and could use the extra time instead of sitting down with God. Maybe putting on some running shorts and Nikes would be easier, but definitely not as valuable. I’m running for a prize that will last forever.
What is your training routine? What are you studying lately?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thank-filled Thursdays: Week 3


We have spent the last week with our 2 boys, their wives and daughters. (So wish our daughter and her fiancé could have joined us – but college schedules made it impossible.)  What an enjoyable time! Hiking, bear hunting (the guys, not me) and just having fun together. And of course, the highlight, was watching the little grandies play together.
As I watch my kids, I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving to see that they walk in truth. (3 John 1:4). They aren’t perfect and I don’t want to ever make them feel they need to be, they need God’s grace just like you and I.

But I see hearts that want to follow His way. Hearts that want to raise kids that love God.  To have marriages that reflect God’s love.  And willing to serve.  My heart is proud of them, and thankful to God for His grace in our family.
So, it’s your turn: What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thank-filled Thursdays Week 2


This has been such a busy, busy week, I am ashamed to say that I sat at my computer for a little while trying to think of something I am thankful for today.  It’s not that I don’t have anything to be thankful for, or that my heart has been in a grumbly mood. I just have not stepped off the merry-go-round of life to take a moment to focus on being grateful. My mind has been immersed in my to-do list. Craft show preparations… wedding plans… packing for a trip to Montana… preparing Sunday School lessons…canning…and writing.
We do this, don’t we. We get all caught up in life and forget to stop and say thanks. It sounds so ridiculous as I write this, giving thanks to my Creator is so much more important than anything on my to-do list. It’s healthy for my heart, too.  The tyranny of the urgent shadows the true need of my heart if I am not careful.  Maybe you fall into that, too. Stop today and tell God something you are thankful for.
Today I am thankful for: Peace in my heart. Not just ordinary peace that fluctuates with circumstances or moods. A peace that surpasses comprehension. A peace that can guide my soul even in an overbooked schedule and a project I feel is bigger than I am.  Peace. Ahhh! Wonderful peace!

What are you thankful for today? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Regret vs. Rejuvinate


Tv shows  like “Flea Market Flip” flash across the screen… “Mom” Blogs thriving on the internet… Craft how-to videos on You Tube … Etsy, full of all sorts of creative things people have made… Books- authors achieving what I dreamed of, and with subjects I can write about!
I wish I had done these things…. The things I knew God has gifted me to do and always wanted to do but for one reason or another, couldn’t or didn’t…. I can sit and shake my head, let my heart sink and die a little each time I feel the twinge of “I wish I had…..” OR I can take steps toward achieving at least one of my goals.

But that requires I stop the regret and rejuvenate those goals. Put some proactive movements in place. I love quotes and I recently came across a good one by Mark Twain “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
Getting started. Instead of just watching the you tube clips, get in my craft room and make something. Then, instead of just making it, get it on etsy or to a local shop and sell it…. And then make some more.

Or write one chapter in a book … and then write another, and another.  Sometimes we tell ourselves we just don’t have time for something important, and it may be that in our current season of life, we don’t. But many times, I think the reality is that we just don’t take the time and it gets eaten up by other things. Watching movies… TV…surfing the internet… So it comes down to a choice. We can let our time slip away as we relax or we can get moving, accomplish things and not live with regrets.
What’s something you wish you had done or could do? What are steps you can make towards achieving that?

 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thank Filled Thursdays


A couple of years ago, I posted a series on 25 Days of Praise. It was so good for my heart to focus on being thankful and praising God! And it's time to focus on being grateful again.
So, now through Thanksgiving, each Thursday I will post something I am thankful for. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could fill the comments with things you are thankful for as well? It would be like a virtual party of praise! So, here goes…

Today I am thankful for…

Fall weather. New seasons bring change and freshness, reminding me that God does the same in my heart. Along with my coffee each morning, He brings fresh mercy into my life.  His grace is not based on what I have done, but on Who He is and what He has done.


Today as you enjoy the cooler weather and fresh air, stop to thank Him for it and His mercy as well!

What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Few Of My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things…..
 Fresh apricots falling from the tree
Warm summer sun and time to relax in it
Fresh veggies from the garden
Sitting around discussing scripture passages with friends
Swinging in my hammock swing
Iced coffee on a hot day
Lake Michigan, sand dunes, and watching my kids enjoy it all
Fresh picked Indiana blueberries
A visit from my awesome in-laws
Crossing items off my to-do list


Enjoy your summer, and don't forget to stop and give thanks for each of your favorite things!
 

Set Up


 
"My favorite in Scripture is Ephesians 2:10. It says: "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works prepared for us in advance." I love that tag line: "prepared for us in advance." Translation: God is setting you up."

"That tag line fills me with holy anticipation. It gives me an unshakable sense of destiny. If we simply stay in tune with what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing we will walk into situations that God has divinely orchestrated for us. I don't believe in coincidence. I believe in providence. God is in the business of making sure we're in the right place at the right time. There are divine appointments that God is already setting up for next day delivery!"            
 
                                                                                       
Makes me think of times in my life when I feel like I’ve been set up……

I run into someone at the grocery store, cart full, schedule even more full….. in a time crunch to get home, put food away, cook food for supper, clean up and sweep mounds of dog hair off floor …all before the girls show up for bible study…. And it seems that times like this are exactly when the “how are you doing?” greeting actually gets a for-real answer, and the “fine” gets lost in the rush along with my few spare minutes.  Set up.  I asked.  Now I am receiving the answer.  No matter how narrow my margin of time. 
 
Despite the ominous feeling that I have no option but to stand and listen to the precious minutes ticking away, I do have options in such circumstances.  I have a choice in this.  I can choose to fake-listen while silently complaining, thinking of all the things that will go undone, envisioning the horror on the faces as the ladies wade through dog hair on my floor.  I can look for pauses in the conversation to slip in a muttered excuse and be on my way, leaving the dear soul wondering why I even seemed to care in the first place. 

Many times these are the first options that come to mind and if I don’t search further, they can seem like the only options as well as the right ones.  After all, I do have to feed my family, right?  I do have to be home for bible study, right?  Yes, of course. 

But if I will turn my eyes to my Father, you know, the One who prepared good works for us in advance, the One who gives us grace so we will abound in good works - I will see that He has placed this person in my path for a purpose He wants me to accomplish.  Maybe they just need to know someone cares.  Maybe they need further counseling and I can offer it.  Maybe they need a friend to help them walk through the shadows. Maybe I need to learn to put people before my to-do list. Whatever the reason, God has set me up to grow more like His Son and equipped me to minister for Him to them. 

Set up. It’s not such a bad thing, depending how you look at it.
 
 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How Do I Have An Undivided Heart?


Each summer we used to operate a large fundraiser for Impact Skate Park & Youth Center where I was the manager. This was a huge undertaking and required hours upon hours of time and many volunteers to make it happen. One morning as I was preparing and mentally coaching myself for the day ahead, I caught a glimpse of a verse card sitting quietly on the bathroom counter.
“Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth;

 Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
 Psalm 86:11

An undivided heart.  Lord, how do I have an undivided heart while I am working long days in the heat to raise money? I’m over tired, stressed with all the responsibility on my shoulders, discouraged by lack of volunteers, and wondering if we will make enough this year. My total focus these next 10 days must be on running the fundraiser, how do I fit You in?

The answer came softly. It’s not that my mind cannot be going in many directions all day, but that my inner compass is steadily pointing to Him. Undivided loyalty to Christ.  It’s not that I need to fit Him in, I need to fit life into my devotion to Him.

I will not simply follow my emotions or current situation, but consistently respond in ways He wants me to. This verse gave me the strength to make it through the day and the rest of the week and God blessed us again, as He always has and as always, the stress wasn’t even necessary.

How can you live with an undivided heart?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Solemn Acts Of Devotion


Around the 4th of July, we all get to feeling a bit more patriotic than usual, celebrating with flags lining Main Street, parades, and even red white and blue flip flops. America has been a great country enjoying freedom for 237 years.

 My favorite preacher, who happens to be my husband and is very patriotic, spoke a while back on the solemn acts of devotion of our country’s founding fathers.  I was inspired and thought I’d share some of what he spoke about. (I will put his words in quotes to give credit where credit is due.)

56 men signed the Declaration of Independence.  I have always admired these men, but never realized just what it meant for them to put their “John Hancock” on that document of 1,321 words.

“Each of these men was willing to sacrifice everything for a cause they believed in and history shows that they paid a price for that bravery.” 

These men endured great hardships.  For some of them, businesses were destroyed… families were harassed and ran for their lives….homes and properties were ransacked, burned and lost… Some went into great debt to fund the war… some were captured and tortured…and some even lost their own sons in the war. Stop for a moment and ponder this. Would you and I be willing to risk our home, and family’s safety for a cause? Would we risk our jobs and businesses to stand up for what we believe in?

“And though few of them benefited from their bravery, and most lost everything they owned, not one recanted his original declaration of independence.  These men were courageous and valiant and brave and because of them and others, we have the privilege of being here today, and living in the greatest country of the world.” These men did not directly benefit from their sacrifices, but they knew their descendants would one day benefit.

John Adams said of observing the 4th of July, “it ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

“Preserving American liberty depends first upon our understanding the foundations on which this great country was built and then preserving the principles on which it was founded. Woodrow Wilson once declared, ‘A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know what it is today or what it is trying to do.’ ”

 As I mull this over in my head, I see a parallel with my Christian walk. My life ought to be a series of solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  I stand among the ones whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  A price was paid for the freedom that brings and I have a mission to preserve that so others may hear and benefit as well.

Am I willing to endure the things these men went through?  Don’t I give in to much smaller pressures?

Am I willing to sacrifice my life, my comforts, my conveniences, my home for a cause I believe in? My Savior paid the price for my sin, am I willing to give my life back to Him?

I don’t always see the benefit here and now, but I need to remember the cause of my life and not recant. Will others have the privilege of knowing Christ because of my bravery in sacrificing my life to point them to Christ?

I have to remember what I once was, who I am in Christ and what I am to do here on earth…. My life ought to be a characterized by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. A daily celebration of Him.

 
 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When is Good - Good Enough?


We are told over and over to do our best. Leave it all on the floor. Give yourself totally to the task or game. Be the best. Don’t settle for less. Rise above the crowd. Be an over-achiever.
But, really, is this as good as it sounds? There is absolutely no way we can do our absolute best on everything in life – work, home, marriage, parenting, cooking, ministry, appearance, etc… Just think of each thing you do each day, if you took the time to do your absolute best on each item, you would be a worn out mess before your second cup of coffee! Your relationships would be strained. Your nerves would be fraying.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do well. God tells us “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) He says whatever. Meaning everything. But He doesn’t say do your best at it. Do it perfect.
So when is good… good enough? In all the whatevers I do each day, how do I know when and where to do a good job and when and where to slow down and do my absolute best?

I think if we look at our tasks and ask a question. In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul states his purpose in what he does. “…to win as many as possible.” (NIV) To win souls to salvation. His goal is to lead others to the cross. To show them Christ.
His goal is not to impress others. To win a title. To reach his personal best.  To climb the ladder. To gain respect. His goal is for others. For their good. The winning is not for my good, but for the good of others.

Will spotless floors in my kitchen win more people to Christ?

Will magazine-worthy landscaping help me spread the gospel?

Will 92 quarts of home- canned green beans help me share God’s love?

The answer could be yes. We could join a gardening club with the purpose of building relationships and sharing God’s word with others. We could use the canned goods to share with neighbors and create opportunities to share the gospel. The spotless home could gain me the prestige to join a coffee group and share God’s work in my life. They all could help me win more. And if so, I need to do my best at them.
But if I’m just doing all these things for me, or to fill my time, or these things keep me too busy to share with others, aren’t they just in the way?

Titus 2 tells us to be busy at home. Busy is good. But so busy that I cannot be involved in bible study or outreach or ministry is not what He meant. We need to evaluate the things in our lives that we are called to do like being a wife, mom and witness of Christ. Then do those things to the best of our ability. Our absolute best.  The other things can be done to the standard of good. Good is good enough.
Where eternity counts, do your best….don’t settle for less…leave it all on the floor. Win more.

How will you win more? Leave a comment, share your thoughts on this, I'd love to hear your ideas!
blessings,
Sharon

Friday, April 5, 2013

This World Is Not My Home


We took a “girls” day recently. We shopped, laughed and just enjoyed a day away. Then we stopped at Hobby Lobby. Walking down the home décor aisles, my heart was lifted. The beautiful things around me were like fresh spring air after a long winter.

My feelings couldn’t be contained. “Ahhhh! My heart feels like it’s at home!” I took a deep breath to drink it all in. Sigh. If it weren’t for Dave (Ramsey, that is), my cart would have been full with all the wonders my eyes beheld.

In a world of sin and decay, our hearts long for home. Home. The word stirs up warm fuzzy feelings for most of us, whether it’s the place we grew up or the place we’ve created as adults. Home. Ahhhh! Sigh. Its where we are accepted. Loved. Comfortable. Where we belong.

Zephaniah 3:20
“At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,”
says the Lord
.


When we see the spiritual decline in a nation that once honored the Lord, it saddens our hearts. It seems this moral mess is beyond repair. And the daily struggle to not get sucked in is exhausting. We long for home. Reminds me of an old song we used to sing….

This world is not my home I'm just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

We don’t belong here. We were made to live with God. Made to enjoy and freely praise Him. Made for that relationship.  But until departure time, we must endure, persevere and keep our sights on Home.

What things make you long for home?


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who Is The Cheerleader? God Or You?


The sound of March Madness has filled our home lately. The squeaking of shoes on the court, the cheers of the crowd, the commentary of the announcers... The excitement in the air can almost be felt through the TV. I am not really interested in basketball, instead I am more entertained by commercials and the NCAA commercial caught my attention with the tag line “Think of us as your cheerleader.”  In fact, it got me to thinking about my spiritual “game”.
Makes me think about the streets of Jerusalem as they were filled with excitement on one very special day 1,980 years ago. People lined the streets, palm branches waving.  Exuberance filled the air. “Hosannah!” “Hosannah!” They had waited for a deliverer, and as Jesus rode into the city they cheered Him on. The One on the donkey didn’t join in the enthusiasm. Instead, He wept, saddened by their lack of belief. They wanted Him to deliver them, but on their own terms and in their own way. They wanted Him to meet their expectations. They weren’t cheering because of Who He was, but for who they wanted Him to be. They wanted physical deliverance; He came to bring spiritual deliverance.

Often, I want God to be my cheerleader, to bring about my plans and in my timing,  I want the warm fuzzy feelings. “Bless ME…Bless ME…Bless ME!” I say. I want physical blessings here and now. I want God to fit in the box I designed to suit my purposes. I get it turned around. Backwards.
He gave up His life for mine and brought me spiritual blessings. Redemption. Salvation. Sanctifiaction. He has blessed me. He is my deliverer. And His plans and timing are far superior to my own.  I should be His cheerleader, so to speak. I should be praising Him…shouting about His greatness… cheering Him on in His will…getting others excited over His love. 

Psalm 63:3-5 (NIV)
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.


Psalm 35:18 (NIV)
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Prayer and Praise While I Wait


We recently finished up our study of James and chapter 5 left me with a lot to think about.
It’s so easy to envy the wicked. They seem to have abundance, answer to no one and have all the fun…. At least that is what Satan wants me to believe. But God reminds me of the truth. The truth of eternity.  And it is because of this truth that I can push aside the envy and be patient, waiting on God.

With spring approaching, I have been eagerly perusing the racks of seeds on display in the home improvement stores. My mind envisions plants of zucchini, tomatoes, snap peas, and basil growing in the sunshine this summer. I can’t wait to plant my garden, but the cold weather insists that I be patient and wait.
Once I do get to plant it, there will be more waiting to be done. But as I wait, I will can busy myself with weeding, watching for bugs, fertilizing, watering and caring for the plants as they grow, anticipating the delicious veggies that will be produced. I don’t exactly enjoy all these tasks, but the end product is definitely worth it all!
My heart is a lot like a spiritual garden. I can’t expect fruit without the work or in the wrong season. As I anticipate Christ’s return I can busy myself planting seeds of the gospel and serving others in His love. I don’t always enjoy each and every task or see the progress, but the benefits far outweigh this; establishing in my heart a steadfastness that will not crumble and definitely worth it all!

I cannot forget that in all this planting, serving and waiting, prayer and praise play a big part.  In fact, prayer and praise should be where I begin. And if God is my number one bestie and main focus, prayer and praise will come more naturally.

These two actions produce trust, security, joy, healing, confession and power. All things I will need as I wait. And I will be too busy to have time to envy.

Isaiah 40:31 (NAS) “but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Humble, Humble, Humble


The desires that battle with in me have a huge pull on my heart and devotion. I want my way, I want to go and do and have. As a little girl in kindergarten, I envied my friend’s pretty curls and wanted them.  I even prayed over and over that God would give me curly hair. He never did. Why not? I asked purely for my own satisfaction. All for me, me, me with no desire to please God.
Friendship with the world. God calls this adultery. Unfaithfulness to the One and Only. I can’t love God and be or even wish to be friends with the world. Straddling the fence is making a choice. And it’s a bad choice that sets me as an enemy to God. Not a place I want to be, no, sir! 

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Verse 6)  It is pride that makes me want to belong in the world. To fit in and look normal. To do what everyone else is doing. To be noticed and liked. To be my own boss. Pride in my heart says “I know what’s best for me, I don’t really need God.”
I must put on humility to overcome the desire to rule my own life. It takes humility to be able to see that I don’t have to fit in.  With humility I can lovingly serve those in the world and won’t need to be loved by the world. Like everyone, I want to be first or best or served. Humility is the quality that settles my heart and waits for God will lift me up.

Submit…Resist…Come…Wash…Purify…Grieve…Mourn…Wail...Change…Humble. Whew! Sounds like a lot to do, but when I truly submit my heart to God and resist the devil, the rest will follow in that path. I will want to come near and then I will see my need to wash, purify, and grieve over my sin.

blessings,
Sharon
 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wisdom, Genuine or Counterfeit, That is the Question.


Welcome back! We are in James 3:13-18 this week, and we are half way done with our study. There is so much packed into this short book, and its been so fun to study it with you!
There are two kinds of wisdom, one from God (the genuine article) and the other a counterfeit version from the Father of Lies.  James makes it clear that the earthly variety looks like wisdom and can be mistaken for true wisdom of the heavenly variety.
When we break this passage down into 2 lists and it’s hard to see how one could get the 2 confused. Bitter envy on one side and mercy on the other.  Selfish ambition vs humility.  Disorder vs peace- loving. Doesn’t sound too easy to mistake one for the other to me.  But they can and do get confused, even by the most well-intentioned of us.

Sometimes we live as if sin labeled with “good judgment” or “standing on a principle” somehow gets excused. Attempts to manipulate and cajole others to get our way - done in the name of what is “right” - seem to be acceptable and the label of selfishness never crosses our minds.  Attitudes we have towards others often lack the love we are called to have and we “ok” this as we point out how “wrong” the other is in certain ways. We lack grace and impress our standards on others and view them with contempt when they don’t measure up, forgetting that God calls us to first be concerned with our own sin before we help others with theirs.  We withhold forgiveness or refuse to settle a dispute because the other is so “wrong” and we leave behind our call to be peaceable.  It makes perfect sense in human reasoning and without giving it a second thought, we fail to see our sin for what it is and assume we are “right” before God.
So how can we know which wisdom we have? This is a very important issue which we see by the way James describes it. Earthly, unspiritual, demon-like.  A close examination is needed and I think honesty is key here.  We hold certain view points and attitudes for so long, they feel so comfy and oh so right. Bringing them to God and being willing to be wrong about being right is where we need to begin.

“Do not boast about it or deny the truth.” (v 14) Its so much easier to deny the truth about our sin. To rationalize it and somehow tell ourselves that God would put His stamp of approval on this one because we have good cause for it. But that leaves us treading on thin ice, it’s just not going to hold us up. (Psalm 35:2-3; Isaiah 5:20-21; Jeremiah 8:6b)
But I don’t want to stay focused on the negative, let’s ask God to examine our hearts and then humbly accept what He shows us, seek forgiveness and repentance then move on to the positives. What we can become.

Have you ever noticed that after you have decided to eat healthy, you spot the donuts sitting on the counter. If you repeatedly reprimand yourself for wanting one, “No, you’re not eating one of those, you ate too much junk today already, it’s not good for you…” pretty soon you find yourself munching on one? But, if you remind yourself how healthy you will feel if you don’t eat it, and how good that pomegranate is, and how much you love the strawberries and oranges sitting there as well, it is easier to skip the donut? Beating yourself up doesn’t encourage positive actions. Focusing on what we can be turns us towards growth. Not perfect, but growing, and that’s the goal.
When we look at the list of Wisdom from above, we see character traits that Jesus has. Pure…Peace-loving…considerate…submissive…full of mercy…impartial…sincere…humble.  We are called to be transformed to be like Him. (Romans 8.29) He is our example. When we follow him, starting at the heart level, we will end up with the wisdom from above. We can be peace-loving…pure…condiderate…merciful…humble…just like Him. That will lead us to real wisdom.

What are your thoughts on wisdom? Do you see counterfeit wisdom pop up in your life? How do you teach yourself to follow godly wisdom instead?  Leave a comment below.  :)
 
Blessings,
Sharon

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Taming The Terrible Tongue


Ready for more on James? This week we studied the first half of James chapter 3. It is easy to read these 12 verses, nod our heads and agree that we all need to tame our tongues; it’s difficult to do but we all could use some work in this area. Right? Sometimes we read a familiar passage like this and then proceed on our merry way.
But God’s word is intended to be like a light shining into our lives. Like a mirror held up to our hearts to show us what is really in there (and sometimes that is not a pretty sight, no it’s not…Ugh!) and what we can become (which is a sight of true beauty).

This focus of this passage is the tongue, our speech, what we say. We can’t brush past the first 2 verses just because we do not hold the title of teacher. James points out that those who teach (and we use our tongues to teach) will be judged more strictly as teaching brings more responsibility and more accountability. Don’t we all fit into this category at times? When we share Christ with someone? When we plant a spiritual seed in someone’s life?
James compares the tongue to bits in horses’ mouths, rudders on ships and forest fires started with one tiny spark. Such small things produce large effects. Our tongues make up a small portion of our body but can set the course of our lives on fire.  “It corrupts the whole person” and holds the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18.21) “All kinds of animals… can be tamed… but no man can tame the tongue.” What?! This sounds like a hopeless situation! If we can’t tame our tongues, we are doomed!

We use our tongues to praise God when we are in church, when the sun is shining, when things are hunky-dory.  We also use the same tongues to complain when the dishwasher breaks, gossip about someone who is not meeting our expectations, and cut others down when they get under our skin. “This should not be!”
It’s not enough to just try to clean up our speech, try not to put others down and not to swear. That won’t fix the problem. It’s what’s in the heart that comes out of the mouth (Matthew 12:34) and our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), so what are we to do? What’s in the heart starts the spark.
But don’t despair, my dear. God is here to rescue us from this deadly poison. With Him, all things are possible. The can’t-do becomes something we can do. We can tame the tongue, with the help of His power. We can be made new in the attitude of our minds (heart), how we think, what we value, where our choices are made. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

What we are connected to is what comes out of us. (John 15) Do we truly have the Living Water? (John 7:38) Or have we dug our own cisterns? (Isaiah 2:12-13) If we are connected to the Vine, we will bear good fruit that pleases God and this will be reflected in our speech. If we are connected to the world and self we will not bear fruit and the end result is not good. It may be time for fruit examination. Is there fruit in your life? Not fruit from years ago, fresh fruit. And is it good fruit?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is It Faith Alone or By Works?


This our 4th week studying James in our Ladies Bible Study on Monday evenings and I’m so glad to have you join us for the weekly recap! It has been so much fun digging in and studying scripture and using our own pretty little heads to think it through. Yes, sir, we are becoming scholars for sure! Well, maybe we have a way to go to achieve that title, but we’re getting closer, don’t you agree?  There is a lot to discuss in this passage, so let’s get started before our coffee cools.
V 14 If we claim to have faith in God but there is no evidence in our lives, what good is that faith? Can faith that just sits and doesn’t produce anything save you? Scripture makes it clear that we are saved by faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28) But this whole passage seems to suggest otherwise. 

Verse 17 “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Verse 20  “…faith without deeds is useless.”  Verse 26 “…so faith without deeds is dead.”

V 19 Mere belief in God is not enough. Even the demons believe in God. They know He is real, the only true God, and they know His power. They know this strongly enough to shudder. But there is a difference between believing in God and believing God. Many people believe in God and that seems like enough to them. But to believe that He exists is one thing. To believe what He says so completely that it affects how you live is quite another.

V 15-16 Its meeting the everyday needs of those around us that God is interested in.   Not necessarily because they are so loveable. Or because we have warm fuzzy feelings for them and we want to reach out and help. We show them love because the love of the Father is in us. How does this go along with faith? Galatians 5:6 gives us a hint, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
V 20-24 The best way to explain this is to look at Abraham.  Genesis 22 tells the story of God providing a sacrificial lamb in place of Isaac. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son to show His love for God. AND ABRAHAM OBEYED! Did you catch that? As a mom, I struggle with this passage. What if Abraham had said “No.”? What if he took time to think about it, to rationalize that it certainly wasn’t God’s voice he heard. That God really didn’t want him to do that. But that is where Abraham and I are different. He had a stronger faith than I do; at least at this point in my walk. He trusted God enough to gather wood and fire. To take his son and walk up the mountain. To build the altar. To tell his son “God will provide the lamb.” That, my friends, is faith. Real-live faith. The genuine article, not a reproduction. And it wow’s me each time I read it. When I grow up, I want to have that kind of faith, yes, I do!

Abraham’s faith was expressed by his actions. His faith was made evident by his actions. Faith with feet. Faith that doesn’t move you is dead. Faith with feet that compels you to live it out is alive and real.
V 25-26 Rahab had that kind of faith too. “…was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did?” Though she knew less about God than Abraham did, she acted on that knowledge. It affected her actions. Rahab’s story is a picture of the gospel. She knew she was doomed to destruction. She knew who the true God was. It was those beliefs that compelled her to risk her life to secure deliverance for herself and her family. If she had only suspected that their God was real and powerful, it wouldn’t have been strong enough to develop into that action.

V 22-24 “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”
Being a doer and not just a hearer proves your faith. I thing the following two passages help explain this, I will leave you with these to think on all day. I can’t think of a better way to use those brain cells, can you?

Colossians 1:10-12 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[a] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Rom 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Romans 4:2-5 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
 
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment!
 
blessings,
Sharon

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do You REALLY Keep the Royal Law?


I’m so glad you’re back! This week we discussed James chapter 2:1-13. In just 13 verses, James packs a lot of meat for us to chew. In case you’re just joining us, you can catch up on the first 2 posts on James here and here. If you would like to read along in James, Biblegateway is an awesome resource for that.
V 1-4 Don’t show favoritism. We all know this, don’t we? The situation he brings up is a classic. And none of us would be that blatant about showing favoritism to the well-dressed visitor versus the shabby-looking visitor.  Would we? Nope, we are way more clever than that. We tend to avoid the overly needy, not wanting to start something we might not want to continue. What if they become too dependent on me? What if they need my help more than I want to help? And so it is much easier to reach out to those less needy, those who are less likely to follow us home and invade our lives like a lost puppy. Yup, that’s favoritism. In its sneakiest form. And God says its evil. Ouch.

V 5-7 Moving right along, James talks about the poor and the rich. This is not to say that all poor are good and all rich are bad, that would contradict other scripture. He is speaking to their specific situation at that time, but carries a spiritual parallel as well.
God chose the poor to be rich in faith. Poor in the eyes of the world, that is, which is not necessarily poor financially, though it could be.  Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  If you contrast that whole passage against our society, you get one very poor person in society’s eyes –humble, meek, merciful, peacemaker. Yes indeed, He chose those who are poor to inherit the kingdom.

Check out Revelations 3:17-20 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Are you poor or rich in heart? Do you have needs only God can fill or have all your needs been met? That is the question.

V 8-11 “If you really keep the royal law…” Really? Really, as in truly, for real, not show.  Sincerely love others as you love yourself. Treat them as you would want to be treated. We all want the bigger cookie, so loving others as I love myself would mean giving everyone else the bigger cookie. Giving the bigger cookie only to the more loveable and likeable is not just selfish, its sin and leaves us convicted.
That’s his point. We can’t keep the whole law. Especially when we apply it the way Jesus interprets it, at the heart level. We are incapable of being good enough on our own. We are all in the same boat. This is why favoritism is so wrong. No person is better than the next. We are all wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked without Christ.

V 12 So….speak and act like someone who will be judged by the law that gives freedom. Law that gives freedom… an oxymoron.  But not in God’s world. His law sets us free. We can live in freedom vs. bondage to sin.
V 13 Be merciful = receive mercy. Withhold mercy to others = receive judgement without mercy. That’s pretty straight forward. A true servant of Christ shows mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.

It’s important to remember again who this is written to. Out of love and concern for the scattered church, James is willing to be hard on them. Consider him their coach. “Don’t give up! I know it hurts, I know you feel like you need a rest right now, but keep going. It will be worth it. We will have victory! Stay in the game, don’t slack on the court.”
It never ceases to amaze me how the word of God, written almost 2000 years ago can apply to the everyday in my life in 2013. Coach James is there to encourage me, to push me to walk in that freedom. “Don’t get sucked into giving preference to some people and avoiding others….Remember who you are…Love your neighbor…Speak and act from a heart that is grateful for mercy received and pass that mercy on to others. Don’t give up, don’t get comfy in this life, look forward to the next.”

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!

Blessings,
Sharon

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is Your Religion Worthless?


Howdy! So glad to see you joined me for the recap of week 2 of our Bible Study on James! It’s so good to have you here! Brrr! It’s cold outside, its currently -13 as I write this (wind chill is -49), does that even qualify as cold, or is it more like frozen? Anyway,  grab something warm to drink and let’s get started.
Most of us are familiar with this passage in James 1:19-27.

Be quick to listen…Be slow to speak…Be slow to become angry…Get rid of all moral filth…Get rid of all the evil so prevalent among you…Humbly accept the word planted in you (this can save you)…Do not just listen to the word…Do what it says…Look intently into the perfect law…Don’t forget what it says…Keep a tight rein on your tongue…Look after orphans and widows…

Such good and needed instruction packed neatly into one little passage. It’s like a power packed vitamin for the believer’s soul.  
Wait a minute! Remember who James is talking to? The scattered Christians. They left homes and families, were running for their lives…. Maybe I’m just a softie, but doesn’t it seem that a little compassion and care would be more appropriate? They need a hug not a lecture! This feels a bit harsh, like he is beating them while they are down.

But I think if I step back from my feelings and look at the big picture, I will see that he is writing from a heart that is deeply concerned for these people. I can even feel an urgency. They are facing various trials (not the I-have-a-flat-tire kind of trials but more like the running-for-your-life kind of trials), yet he knows the importance for them to keep on keeping on in the faith. Difficult times can make us want to rest, coast, take a break, catch our breath. But James urges them to keep on. “This can save you.” Their eternal destination, and that of others is what is most important and James lovingly points them to that.
On the surface, it may appear they needed a shoulder to cry on, but at the heart of things, what they really needed was strength. And James delivers. It’s a message of “Don’t give up when it’s difficult. Don’t quit. Don’t join the crowd to fit in. Don’t seek comfort. Don’t forget the goal. Don’t deceive yourselves. Don’t fall into a worthless religion. Remember what it’s all about.” Strength is found in Christ. They knew this. But our thinking gets clouded when we face trials and we need to be reminded of the facts. To follow the facts, not feelings.

There is so much in this passage we can take away for our lives. It’s almost too much to put into one post. In fact, this is the second draft of this post. The first one was way too long and I’m pretty sure I heard some of you yawn part way through, so I opened up a new, fresh page to begin a shorter version.  
Again, it’s already pretty long and I haven’t even gotten to application yet (stay with me, we’re almost done). So, I will make it short and sweet. I will just list some questions to ask yourself.  Answer honestly before God. You’ll have to be a big girl and read the passage for yourself and ask God to show you what He wants you to apply in your life. Be sure your religion isn't worthless.

By the way, if you click on“comments” below, you can let me know your take-away application- hint, hint, hint…

Questions to Self:
How much do I listen vs. talk?
How quickly do I get angry?
What is my focus/goal when I am angry?
Is it a focus that would please God?
Will that focus help me grow more like Christ?
What moral filth or evil do I need to get rid of?
Have I humbled my heart?
Have I accepted what the Holy Spirit teaches as the true way or just an option?
Do I put what I learn into action?
Am I careful that what I listen to and study is the perfect law (God’s word)?
Do I study intently and internalize it?
Do I keep a tight rein on my tongue? (this will help answer the next question)
 Is my religion worthless or faultless and pure and accepted by God?
Do I minister to orphans and widows, people in distress?


Blessings,
Sharon

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Joy, Persecution & Doubting, Oh My!


Have you ever been so excited about something? And you just have to tell someone about it? Me too! I’m totally pumped about our Ladies Bible Study on Monday nights. We have decided to be big girls and dig into the Bible ourselves. No study book. No workbook. No DVD to watch.  Just us, God and His word. We are learning to study on our own. To learn hermeneutics, exegesis, and ask who, what, when, where, why and how. Yes, we will miss Beth for a semester, but it will be good for us and I’m sure she would approve of this, maybe even be proud of us big girls!
Last night we discussed James chapter 1 verses 1-18. Everyone was eager to share what they pulled out in their studies. Which led to an hour and a half of good conversation. I absolutely love a good theological conversation, don’t you? It truly feeds my soul. It strengthens my heart. And it inspires me to study some more.

For those who can’t make it to the study and for anyone else who just loves studying the Word, I will be sharing some of the highlights of our study here for the next few months.  So, grab a cup of coffee and your bible and sit down with me to study the book of James. Dig in, do your own studying and share your thoughts! This is gonna be so much fun!
Here we go….This is going to be much longer than my usual chatter here, but I think it will be worth it.

Vs 1 James was written by the half-brother of Jesus. He was not a believer until sometime around the resurrection. He then became a leader in the church. (John 7:5; I Corinthians 15:7) The book was written to Jewish Christians – probably because the faith had not spread to the Gentiles yet and is applicable to all Christians.

It was written about 14 years after the stoning of Stephen.(Acts 7:54-60) Paul was still Saul at that time.  The Christians had scattered, left homes and families because of persecution.(Acts 8:1-3; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

Vs 2-4  James doesn’t waste any time getting right to the point. He addresses their main issue head on and with what seems like an unrealistic suggestion at first.  Trials = pure joy? Really? We’re not talking trials as in a flat tire on the way to work, or a broken washing machine, or a child getting sick in the plane on vacation. Nope. We are talking fearing- for-their-lives kind of trials. (This kind of puts trials in our lives into perspective, right? Clearly, God’s goal in this is not our happiness, but our growth.)

So how does he expect them to consider this pure joy? Its all in perspective, as he points out. And he reminds them of the truth that they already know. (John 8:32) The perseverance – we could call it aggressive endurance- required to make it through many kinds of trials will produce maturity in Christ, and bring with it completeness. (Romans 5:3-5) Not lacking anything. I like that. Isn’t that what we all want? To not lack anything? To have all we need? There is such a security in that, a security even amidst trials. Serious trials.

Vs 5-8  Find yourself needing wisdom in the midst of life? It’s not a complicated thing. No training course to buy, no shipping and handling. Simply ask God. He gives it freely and generously.  But wait. There is one catch. When you ask you must believe and not doubt.  This is a biggie. Doubt is like waves. Waves are influenced by a number of things.  Wind, the pull of the sun and moon, boats. And waves appear to make much activity, but in reality that’s all it is, the water is not really transported to a new location, only the energy is transferred. So the water never makes any progress. Envision with me: you plan a day at the lake with your family. Everyone is in their swimming gear, flip flops on, floaties in hand. But when you arrive, your mood changes. The waves have churned the water. It no longer looks clear and inviting but murky and dirty. Ick. That’s what doubt does to our minds. Instead of total commitment to God and His ways, our minds are murky and we see God’s way one option in a sea of choices. It is easy to let life toss us around, easy for doubt to get a foothold.  We are tossed back and forth and never get anywhere in our faith. Double minded vs. total commitment. Unstable vs. Wise. The choice is ours to make. (Mark 11:22-25)
Vs. 9-12  Two men are contrasted here. The poor and the rich. To God, the financial situation we are in does not affect how He sees us. We can be glad for that. He is interested in our souls, not our bank accounts.  The poor man, who is overlooked in society is reminded that he really has a high position in the eyes of God. He is God’s son. An Heir to the throne. The rich man, knowing that his riches could be gone with just one crash of the stock market is reminded to be thankful his real worth is not found in his 3 figure income but in Christ alone. The Psalmist in 119:37 asks God to turn his eyes away from worthless things. I Corinthians 7:31 & 35 reminds us to not be engrossed in things of this world but to “live in undivided devotion to the Lord”. Things of this world do not matter in view of eternity; they are worthless things.  Remember the goal – maturity and completeness. Remember the truth – eternal life is the real life, not the life we live here on earth.  (Matthew 6:19-21) Set your mind on things above. (Colossians 3:2) Persevere under trial = receive the crown of life, just as God promised. Now that’s worth living for.

Vs 13-16  Why does James put a passage on temptation in with encouragement to persecuted Christians?  It almost feels as if he is beating them while they are down.  Possibly because when trials come, it is easy to give in. To give up and wave the white flag.  It feels like the comforts of the world are better than God’s way.
When we are tempted, we often like to place the blame on Satan. After all, he is the deceiver, the tempter, the father of lies. But that is not the only place temptation comes from. Our own evil desires tempt us. We must place the blame where it belongs and deal with the evil in us. If we don’t face this, we won’t beat it. Sin has a process. It begins with an evil desire. It’s not sin yet. But once we let it linger and give in to it, allow it to conceive, it becomes sin. Which we all know grows and leads to more sin… and more sin… and…. you get the idea.  This leads to death. Spiritual death. Sin is not harmless. It is a baby polar bear, it looks cute, cuddly and harmless at first, but when it grows up, it will eat you alive. Don’t be deceived.

Vs 17-18  James reminds them that every good and perfect gift is from their Father. That they serve a God who is unchanging. He chose them, He hasn’t changed His mind and deserted them, left them to fend for themselves. I’m sure it would have been easy for them to feel that way.  Persecution is a powerful thing. It is not only an attack physically, but mentally as well.  While listening to Christian radio yesterday a news story stated that 2 men had been killed in North Korea because they were Christians. This is the kind of stuff the Believers in James were going through. But this is 2013, and it’s still happening to Believers. Those men knew the danger of being Christians in their homeland. Yet they considered the cost and found it worthy.  They found Him worthy of giving up comfortable lives and risking death to go to Bible School so they could teach others, and for that they were killed.
I have to ask, in this letter to Christians fearing for their lives, James talks about good and perfect gifts? Gifts? At a time like this? Seriously? Again, we are back to perspective. We are given new birth. We are chosen. We are daughters of the King of kings. He will not desert us. Yes, gifts. Turmoil turns to peace when we direct our hearts toward the right perspective. And that is the goal of the letter. To give the displaced, uprooted and struggling an eternal perspective that will carry them through.

To study the Bible without applying it is not of much use except to sound really smart at Bible study. We don’t want to just talk it, we want to live it, so what is the application for you and I here? I had an awesome high school English teacher and I can’t read anything without mentally diagramming it. (Thank you, Miss Edwards! What was a pain at 16 is a definite asset at 30-alot-of-something.)
There are a few action verbs in this passage which point to the fact that I am responsible for those things.  They require me to get off my tushy and do something. To actively pursue the faith.

Consider it pure joy- I need to watch my view point and thoughts on situations.

Ask God – Too often I try to figure things out on my own, I need to train myself to get on my knees and ask Him for His direction.

Believe, not doubt- Question for self: do my actions show that I am believing or doubting?   What do I need to do about this?

Take pride in your position as child of God- It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit in with society, I know  who I am – I am royalty, and I need to walk worthy of that position.

Persevere- It’s not just keeping on keeping on, its aggressive endurance, attacking the things that threaten my faith, throw off everything that holds us back and run with endurance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

Don’t be deceived- I need to watch what I listen to and buy into, study the Word and know what God says so I won’t be led astray. This is serious business.

Like I said, this is just some highlights from our study, there is so much more we could pull from this passage. So join in the fun and please, please, please share your thoughts with me! What insights do you have on this passage? What has God directed you to apply?
Blessings,
Sharon