16 May 2010
May 16, 2010
James 1: 1-18
Opportunity and Promise
This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is written to Jewish Christians scattered among the nations.
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
If you need wisdom--if you want to know what God wants you to do--ask him and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.
Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should be glad, for God has humbled them. They will fade away like a flower in the field. The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away. So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of their achievements.
God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions and evil actions lead to death. So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possessions.
Good morning brothers and sisters. May I call you that? Have you received the gift of salvation? Have you asked God, Jesus and Holy Spirit to forgive you of your sins and turned to them fully? I hope so.
As I open today, I need to clarify something. When I type the prayers below, I am praying for others...as if someone else is speaking...and I am merely typing what they are saying. I need to clarify this because in every group of people there are people who want to make something out of nothing, or call people names with accusations. or those who say "oh, did you hear....." and "did you know...". They are called gossipers. They can take something out of nothing, or a little out of less, and make it huge and something that it is not. Hear this: If I ever need to air my laundry so far and so wide as to have the world pray for me, I will tell you specifically that it is I that needs prayer. You will find my prayers usually contained in 'Our Current Cause' or on our prayer page. Just so you know.....to clarify and to end any suspicions and malicious discussions. Ok, so let's get on with what James is saying to the churches.
James, who wrote this book, is not the Apostle James. This James is the brother of Jesus. This letter is counted as one of the earliest letters and was written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman world. 'Because these early believers did not have the support of established Christian churches, he wrote as a concerned leader to encourage them in their faith during thoes difficult times.' (NLT NIV)
James says, "whenever trouble comes your way". Some of you may be saying, "When does it not?" Is your life so miserable that you only see the negatives of life, or have you been so beset with negative direction in your life, as a child perhaps, that you have been taught that what you are hearing is positive, when indeed it is negative? Trouble does come our way. Satan is the author of it. Who we are as Christians will determine how we will deal with it. Who we are as people, what we have learned in life, will determine how we deal with it. As Christians we have more to hold onto and from which to go forth, with sound foundation and direction. We have all of the Bible, most specifically, the NEW Testament by which we should make our decisions, live and grow.
For years I've focused on the NEW Testament. I've done that because there is only so much room in my brain to remember, and I need to be focused on how Jesus wants me to live under the NEW law. It is under the NEW law we are all to live and have our being. And it is so simple. All you have to do is believe that Jesus was born, and died for you, taking your sins upon him when he died, so that you may be forgiven and be given eternal life. And then show him your gratitude by living a right life with him, and in him, and let him in you fully. Don't forget to ask forgiveness when you do sin...and don't sin regularly.
When I focus on the Old Testament, I get confused. It is in conflict with the New Testament because it is the OLD law. Now don't get me wrong. I fully believe the Old Testament and we are to definitely read it and understand it, so we know the wonderful value of the New Testament, of Christ's coming and God's history. But we are not to live by it. We are not under the old law of rules and regulations. We are under the new law of forgiveness and love. There are many factions of Christians today who are turning back to the old law, the OLD Testament, and choosing to live under the regulations set forth. It is wrong, wrong, wrong and a tool of Satan to deceive many. And many are being deceived. Some of the most listened to and sought after as Bible scholars are diverting the masses to believe as they do and step as they step. Ordinarily this would be great. But the best televangelists in the world are causing people to be led astray, because they don't recognize within themselves and the world what Satan is doing and has been doing. Satan is underhandedly leading people away from Jesus' truth and life to a way that leads to death. Be careful....be wary as foxes. Focus on and believe in the NEW Testament, how God ordained us to live based on Jesus' life and resurrection, and by following him and doing as he guides and directs. Then you shall have life everlasting.
Is your faith being tested? Then "your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." These are right words and strong words. James tells us essentially to carry on....breakthrough.
Next, James tell us: "If you need wisdom--if you want to know what God wants you to do--ask him and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do." To this I add, be sure to then do as God says. If he tells you something, do you question him? Do you then find the path not easy going? I have. I am human. I have questioned him, still made the proverbial left turn, and, I have found the path not easy going at all times. We all have moments like this in our lives, but our task is to then, go back to the 'drawing board', the 'author of life', God, and say, "Ok, I boofed, please forgive me, and, will you please direct me to the right path again?" Pay attention: you cannot, should not, may not continue to keep doing the same sin over and over again and expect God to continue to forgive you. At some point he will say, "I know you not". I can hear you now, "Oh, he loves me, he saved me, he won't leave me to die and go to hell." He won't? You need to read your Bible a little closer... a lot closer. READ it, don't just listen to me, or anyone else in the pulpit, or in front of the church, or on a website. Get in the trenches with the Holy Spirit and let him show you what God, Jesus and he have to say to you. My Mother used to say, "Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see." I have no idea where that came from, but when it comes to all of life, I have found it to hold water. You might say, 'that is a negative statement'. It may sound like a negative, and may sound like it leads to negative impressions or visual perceptions, but it causes a person to seek out the truth in all situations and the nature of truth is always positive, albeit painful at times.
I'm going to jump a paragraph for a moment because the next one follows what I have mentioned above. "God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions and evil actions lead to death. So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters." I've covered the basic gist of this above. But consider the first sentence....'God blesses those who patiently endure testing.' This is a statement to those not sinning who are being sinned against. Those who don't sin purposely, by nature and by choice, truly love God. He knows the heart of those who love him and who choose to show him how much by doing as he asks, not sinning. Those who sin, do not fully love God, or may believe they do, but they are not following his ways, his truth, nor are they walking in his light. They are doing the 'talking the talk' part, but not 'walking the walk' part. They are as false as Satan and in line with him rather than Christ. If you choose to do something you know is wrong, you sin. Plain and simple. Everytime you choose to knowingly sin, you stab Jesus in the heart, yet one more time. You flog him, you spit on him, you nail him to the cross. You curse God, and you eliminate Holy Spirit from your life. Knowing the words from the Bible are meaningless, if your actions are not in line with it. Ok, so I heard you say, "Oh, but I give, when I go to church, and, I've helped others." Right. You may have. What percentage of your life is Christ's and what percentage is yours? Do you LIVE for him? Are you wanting to die WITH HIM? Yup, well, make some better choices. Do not expect to receive love and acceptance, if you are not willing to love...really love....and accept him and follow his ways. Trying to get others to do things your way and they are not? Are you crazy? Why would they? What example have you shown them that they should or would want to? There is an old saying, 'Get off the pot and fly right'. I get it now. It fits real well with this. One is sitting around piling toxic waste and one needs to fly like an eagle soaring to new heights.
James says, "Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should be glad, for God has humbled them. They will fade away like a flower in the field. The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away. So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of their achievements." This is touching in light of my life. I am certainly going to be honored at this point, and, I certainly have been humbled. Does this mean that you should not strive to attain riches? No. I find it a slight on others based on James' experience. It is very hard for wealthy people to leave behind their wealth and follow Jesus. It needs to be put into perspective. Should you give up your 50 room mansion in lieu of desert tramping? No, I don't think that is what Jesus, God or Holy Spirit is calling people to do. I do believe there is balance in everything, or should be. If you see a neigbor suffering, you are to help them. This is the golden rule....do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you were suffering, wouldn't you want someone to help you? You should plant your seeds now, so you can sow later. So if you are wealthy, indeed, help others. Don't just keep it to yourself. Share with those in need or give to those organizations that touch your heart, so they can help others. And wealth is not only in dollars. It is in spiritual wealth, talents,time, and gifts. Give of whatever you have. If you are poor, you have been honored by God. Honored with the ability to see the needs of others. Having recognized those needs, now you have a responsibilty to step forth to serve those needs in the name of God. And what a blessing you shall reap. Are you wealthy? Stand in awe of God. And step forth in his name. You, too, shall reap a blessing....you will be humbled...as you reach out to touch.
Look how James concludes this thought: "Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights. Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possessions." How special a statement this is. "Whatever is good and perfect comes from God". If you truly love God and are living according to his will, you are good and seen as perfect in God's eyes. He accepts you as his. All things that come to us that are good and perfect come to us from God. Is the money you won at the casino, good and perfect? Are the wages of sin perfect? Correct, I did not say 'wagers'. Is there really any difference? It may be good to you to win some money, even a lot of money. But is it worth spending/wasting God's money to say you won? What have you won? Have you won at life...the life God gives: eternal life? Is gambling God's money and your life really worth what you will receive as spoils? Spoils....money...death. Not incongruent here spiritually speaking. Is drinking alcohol good and perfect in God's eyes. Time for you to read more in the Bible. What about cigarette smoking? And lying to anyone? And cheating on your partner, with whom you should not be living? Cheating on your spouse? Have you been accountable, responsibile? And the list goes on. Your body is the temple of the living God. Your life depends on him. One cannot be changing and be shadowy and be considered one of God's own people. God chose to give us his true word. We are to live it, share it, and be that, for others. He wants us to be his choice possessions.....beheld in his heart of love. He doesn't want to negatively own us as the world sees as standard of ownership. He wants to possess us to embrace us, and uplift us, and enrapture us with his love, as he nurtures us, and builds us up to new heights of living in and with him. That is what real, true love is.
It's time to stop testing the waters of life...Holy Spirit, God and Jesus. It's time to grow up, grow on, and turn to the ever living ever loving Jehovah God, Jesus, to make him Lord of your life, and Holy Spirit, so he may guide you and direct you on a new path of life. Are you being protected by alter egos? Are you dealing with multiple personalities within yourself? Are you switching back and forth between people and getting lost in your self and your memories are losing ground? You can't keep up with what is going on around you? Satan is trying to confuse you and control you and you need to let go and get back to God. Find people sincerely strong in Christ and have them pray for you...it is not too late, but it may become too late. Go to whom you truly trust in Christ, so you are not sent to a psych ward. It is Christ Jesus you need, and a minister of faith, not a doctor of medicine. Are you failing in health and want to live it abundantly, but that abundance is not of God? You need to make better choices, both in your nutrition and in your life choices. Are you young and you want to try and test new things? Oh....please....be careful. The eye does see and the ear does hear, and you need not have certain mental images and taunts in life. If what you want is an abundant life in Christ, I've quoted it before, "When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and sef-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate on another, or be jealous of one another. Gal. 5:22-26
In closing, know, that you know, that you know who God, Jesus and Holy Spirit are and who you are in them. And live in them, with them, for them, letting them fully and completely into you and all areas of your life. They have given you opportunity to live your life abundantly and opportunity for eternal life. Not only that, they have promised that if you receive them fully and 'follow them nearly day by day, loving them more dearly' you will have an abundant life and eternal life. You don't have to have a 'feeling' such as a newly felt passion. You have to commit to them and honor that committment. You will need to share them with others, but ONLY if you are walking the walk, while you talk the talk. Can't walk it? Don't talk it. You blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and for you, only hell awaits your coming. So decide today whom you will serve. Will you serve the ever living ever loving God, Jesus and Holy Spirit? Author of eternal life and forgiver of sins? I hope so. I'd like to be able to call you brothers and sisters, knowing that you have received the gift of salvation, and that you are thanking them by doing the will of them, and that I will see you in heaven some day. Make the right choices in life and be blessed!
Let Us Pray
Dear Heavenly Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. I want the opportunity and the promise you offer. I want to know that I know that you are in me and I am in you. I want to know that I have been forgiven and can have eternal life. So, I ask you now, please forgive me of my sins, known and unknown, and don't let me fool you that what I know is what I don't know or visa versa. You are the one person I should not absolutely lie to...you know anyway. I hope that you have forgiven me because you have said you would. But I have had a reprobate mind, so there are no guarantees here. I can only hope, pray, and show you how I've changed by my lifelong actions and love towards you. Now, please help me to not sin again. I know you will test me, and I know I have deluded myself a lot into believing you won't care, and will forgive me anyway, no matter how many times I sin. I know now that is not scriptural despite what I may have been falsely taught in the past. I have to prove to you, and that still may not hold water by the nature of the years I have already sinned. But I am going to try. There are others around me who are good, and I would like to emulate them. I am good sometimes, but not all the time, and I don't understand myself a lot of times. But you do. And you will help me....won't you? I pray you will. I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. I pray I will be found worthy of the promise. I haven't loved myself very much despite the fact I've certainly shown you I love me more than you. I hope you will send others to help me and that I will regcogize them and let them. It gets pretty scary sometimes in my head. I have tender moments and angry spiteful moments, and I don't understand myself at all sometimes. But you do. So help me, please, won't you? Let me hear from you through other people, as well as directly. I hope I can continue to hear your voice....oh, it wasn't always your voice? Well that's hard to hear. That means I've been sinning more than I thought. Oh my. Onward and upward, right? Ok, so here we go. You and me. Hold on....I will, too. I love you, Lord. Keep me close. Hold me tight...I'm kinda scared. Please don't let me go. Amen.
Let us hear from Paul as he prays:
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT
Scroll down to read Jesus' Prayer of Thanksgiving...'The Unforced Rythms of Grace'.
Definition of a Christian: Anyone who believes in God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. Regardless of church name or religious affiliation.
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"Go and make disciples out of all the nations
baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this:
I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Our Current Cause
It is time to reach into the community and the world around you to see wherein lies the greatest need. As you choose to focus on these areas, do so with a servant's heart. Whether the need is for children, adults, or animals, or any cause in between that will help those in need, ask God how you can best serve his needs, what path you must take, and how long you should persevere. Sometimes we are to be in the lives of others merely as stepping stones. Sometimes we are to touch those lives forever. Whatever journey you are called to take, whatever team you will be a member of, know this: God is with you always...even til the end of time. He loves you, is grateful for you, and will help you along life's way, especially if you are helping others along theirs, persevering with a servant's heart.
Please accept my sincerest thanks....and God's....and may God richly bless you!
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One last thing....
Jesus' Prayer of Thanksgiving
'The Unforced Rythms of Grace'
"Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father - Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen."
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11: 25-30
And the people said,
I now write most prayers in the position of ' I ' (first person) because most people are sitting at their computer alone, not in groups, and it allows those reading and praying to personalize the prayer as coming from them going to God. Variations may appear on holidays when families may wish to use the prayer provided.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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