Monthly Archives: July 2014

Bold Instructions

I really love the book of James. The writer does not mess around with trying to be politically correct or worry about offending anyone. He just says it as it is. Recently I did a women’s Bible Study on this book so when I went through the chapters over the last few days, it refreshed my memory on the power words spoken in these five short chapters. James starts off his book by clearly defining who he is. He is a slave of God. Imagine being a slave of God. When I think of a slave it does not paint a nice picture. But imagine doing exactly what your master tells you. Doing exactly what God tells you to do when he tells you to do it. Just think of the headaches and frustrations that you would not have to go through. This is a nice thought, but personally speaking I know I would not be able to do it. Mainly due to stubbornness, independence….and the list could go on!! James tells us first off that we need to have joy during the hardships. In those difficult, challenging times we need to have joy. Seriously? But God expects us to have a joyful heart at all times. This is so difficult when things aren’t going my way to express a joyful spirit. Yes, I realized that I said ‘my way’, instead of God’s way. I like how the writer tells us that we have not gotten what we want because we have not asked if it (v.5). We still may not get it, but we need to ask God for it with the full believe and confidence that he is going to answer. How many times have I asked for something thinking that the answer will be no? I know that God will not give me what I want, but only what I need in accordance to his plan for me. However, James clearly tells us to ask him with the expectation that he will answer. This chapter finishes with clear instructions about listening and doing. We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. How difficult is this? It is so easy to get upset or angry at someone or something and start verbally expressing our anger, frustration or hurts. But it is clear. We need to slow down in our expression of words and anger. It would be so much easier if there was a delay on our mouths after our ears hear something! Don’t play favourites! Don’t judge by appearance! This is the opening advice in chapter two. How easy it is to judge someone by how they look or just a situation by what we think we see? James is very clear in this chapter that we are to love our neighbours …. no matter who they are. He also points out that it does not matter is we break one of God’s laws or several, once you break one, you have broken them all and will be judged by God according to your actions. This chapter also includes the well-known verse about faith without deeds is dead. (v.14). We can claim to have strong faith, but if it is in played out in our actions and deeds, then it is not faith. Our faith is truly spoken on how we interact with others, in the things that we do, in our conversations. Knowing about faith is not the same has having faith. To have faith is to show it. I pray that my faith is clearly shown in all that I do. I am working on not being negative, but this is difficult. I am aware of this and actively trying to work on it. Oh, the powerful little tongue! Chapter three is all about the power of the tongue. For such a small thing, it packs a powerful punch. James tells us that teachers will be judged with greater strictness by God. To be a teacher of the Bible carries a responsibility and God will judge us stricter. This really puts into perspective the importance for me, and all who are called to teach to be right with God and constantly in his Word. Otherwise we may lead people the wrong way. My life has to reflect this. This really hit me as I read through this chapter. It is sometimes overwhelming the responsibility that is placed on teachers (pastors, preachers, etc). The tongue is referred to as an ‘uncontrollable evil’. I think that perfectly describes it! The tongue can praise God at one moment and then curse someone in the next. It is very important to learn to control one’s tongue. This really drives home the message to think twice before one speaks! The lessons in the first few chapters tell of the expectations that God has of us, but chapter four tells us how we are to do them. We need to be close to God at all times. This chapter starts out by telling us that we should not fight or quarrel with others or want what others have. We have what we have because that is what we have asked for (or not asked for). We need to look at our motive. What is my motive for wanting what my neighbour has? Lately the topic of Salvation Army officers becoming too materialistic has come up in several conversation. And it is a problem as I see it. There are ones that want better homes, more pay, less work…and the list goes on. This chapter has really brought home the importance of checking ones motives before asking for something. Why do we need more? Is it to keep up with those around us so that we can have all the latest gadgets? This is definitely a bigger issue than these few lines are giving it. While I can’t change others, I can always look to my motives prior to asking for something more. I am very thankful for all that God provides daily to me. I need to be focused on God’s plan and what he wants. Not on the worldly expectations of what it means to be successful. This flows right into Chapter 5 where James warns the rich that their earthly riches mean nothing and will not buy their way into heaven. We need not to grumble when others have more. If our goal is to get into heaven then we need to concentrate on God and his plans. Continue to have patience and move forward with much prayer at all times. James tells us to not grumble about what we are going through, but to look to the prophets for examples of suffering and patience. Keep praying! The book of James is filled with many lessons, instructions and warnings that need to be learned and followed. It is a book that does not always get very much attention, but it should. If you have not read this book, I would strongly suggest that you do. I am looking forward to looking into this book again in the fall with another group of ladies for Bible Study. May God bless you today and may you choose to follow him!

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What am I doing with my freedom?

It has been several months since I last wrote a blog and realized that I was really missing this part of my devotions. In January I set three personal goals for myself: 1. read through the NT this year, 2. run a 5 km race, 3. eat healthier.

Well, it’s July and I am needing a little push in the right direction. I did manage to accomplish goal #2, but stopped running since the race. I have failed at keeping up with my reading, but have restarted this week. Eating healthier, comes & goes, but it is a work in progress.

Over the last week as I am getting back into reading through the New Testament I have been reading the book of Galatians. For six short chapters, this book packs A LOT of messages. As I read through and reflected on what God is saying to me, I was filled with a new sense of encouragement and desire to keep moving forward.

Paul’s reaction to people who are drifting away from the true Gospel is real and honest. As a pastor, I can so relate to his frustration and shock of how easily people just drift away from the Gospel truths and follow the world’s views. But I am also challenged. How can I be stronger in my faith to show a better example? How can I teach others, encourage others to be devote to Christ no matter what the world says? I pray that if there is a time (and I am sure there will be), that I start to drift, that someone will tell me.

Paul confirms his calling in Chapter 2 and notes that it is different from Peter’s. Just like all of our callings are different from each. God has called me to minister to his children where I am. But in order to do this my faith much be genuine and true. Christ has to live fully in me for this genuine faith to shine through. “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ch. 2:20 NLT

It is not about following laws and rules. In Chapter 3, Paul talks about the fact that we received the Holy Spirit because we believed — not because we followed the rules of Moses. These laws and rules taught us and lead us to have faith in Christ. It is so easy to get caught up with rules and regulations that our faith is pushed back. Paul reminds us to have faith, to continue to believe in Christ. In Christ Alone.

Once we know Jesus, why do we turn back to our old ways? This is a powerful question that Paul asks in Chapter 4. It is almost as if Paul can not get his head around the fact that people are turning back to their old ways when they used to follow Jesus. He does acknowledge that there are many false teachers that will try to take us down a different path, but we need to stand firm in the truths of Christ. Christ bought our freedom, so why go back to a life of slavery? So are you living a ‘free’ life or an ‘enslaved’ life?

In Chapter 5, Paul continues with the truth that we were set free by Christ, but builds on to it. We must live by the Spirit. What exactly does that mean…to live by the Spirit? In this chapter there is the well know verse about the fruit of the Spirit. If you read the beginning of this verse it tells us that we have to allow our lives to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. FULLY. Paul tells us that we are given this freedom to serve one another in love. (v.13b). I think that when I allow the Holy Spirit complete control of my life that it is so much easier to serve others in love. It is only when I take back control to parts of my life that this becomes challenging. I know that there are some people that are harder to love, but if I truly allow the Holy Spirit to take charge of my life, it is not that hard.

The final chapter gave me two main points to think about. First, as Christians we have a responsibility to help those who are struggling with sin — not judge or act superior — but to guide, encourage. This part is always difficult as when you point out someone’s sin, you need to be willing to accept feedback on your own actions. Is there sin in my life? Am I giving the impression that there is no sin in my life? I think there have been several times when I now that a brother or sister in Christ is sinning and I have not said anything. I know that I am not perfect, and am challenged to continue to strive to be honest with others. I think that part of the honesty in any relationship is telling our loved one when they are going down the wrong path. The second point that Paul makes is for us not to get discouraged. The harvest will come in God’s time. So often it is easy to get discouraged when we don’t see any results, but we are encouraged to keep faithful and strong to God’s leading. The harvest will come!!

Paul is one of my favourite writers and I always enjoy studying his word. In Chapter 6:4b, he reminds me to not compare myself to others. This is something that I need as I always feel that I am not enough when I look at other people.

So as I go forth this week I am encouraged to remain strong to the Holy Spirit’s leading and focused on what God has called me to do. Praying for you as you continue in your walk with The Lord.

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