Humility, Grace and Strength!

1 Peter 5

Peter is giving out exhortations for the elders of the church as well as to the younger people in the church. 

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:1-4

Peter had the authority and the insight to give direction to the elders of the church, first as a fellow elder but also, Peter was an eyewitness to the sufferings of Christ. And Peter was there and witnessed the glory of Christ too. He was there on the mount of transfiguration, he was there for countless miracles, he saw Jesus walk on water and actually walked on water himself. And he saw Him after his resurrection. Think of it this way, if someone is telling you about something they heard about, you may believe them, but when someone is telling you about something they witnessed, it brings a different kind of credibility and energy to the story. Peter wants to be sure that they realize, that he has credibility and energy to bring to them and to teach them about Jesus. Peter was the one Jesus told “feed my sheep”. He had received this exhortation straight from Jesus. And he had learned what that meant from the Master. He wants to teach the elders how to shepherd the flock as well. 

But he also does not leave out the flock in his exhortation. 

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” 1 Peter 5:5

Peter begins addressing the younger people of the church, but he quickly realizes this is really a lesson for all. He wants them to serve each other, but he also quoted scripture to them. He reminds them of Proverbs 3:34 when he quotes “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Following Jesus means setting aside our own agenda and pride and living under God’s grace. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

Acting in humility under the hand of God, is simply following His direction for your life. It is realizing that we wouldn’t be anywhere without His lead. I have tried many times in my life to make something happen. But I have come to learn that when I submit my will to His will things always turn out so much better. Sometimes I receive what I was wanting and sometimes I receive a direction that is better than I could have ever thought. I remember once I was up for a job I thought I wanted so bad. I didn’t pray for God’s will, I kept praying for that job. Well, I didn’t get it, and it hurt my feelings so bad. But I also had to humble myself a little bit and I had to congratulate the person who got it, and still had to work with her and be gracious even though she got the job I thought I wanted. But about a year later, another job came available that I was better suited for and was more money, and was way better for me than the first one would have been. I can’t help but think that the attitude I made myself have, to act in humility and be gracious to her, and believe me it was not always easy, had to have helped me to land the other job. I also know God knew what was coming later and He knew what would be better for me at the time and for my future. 

The next verses are some of the most famous of this entire book. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9

We must always be aware that we have an adversary and if he can’t take us out, he wants to take us down. Once you accept Christ and become a Christian, the devil knows that he can’t own you anymore. But that doesn’t mean he gives up. His aim then becomes to cripple you, he will watch you and he will know your weaknesses and he will throw every fiery dart your way that he possibly can just to make us lose our credibility and to question our faith. But if you resist the darts, and you stand firm in your faith, you will gain more and more strength in order to resist him. I know that the devil never gives up completely but that thing that he is throwing at you, that is driving you to your knees in prayer, is making you stronger in Christ. Friends, don’t let him take you down on your back, let him take you down on your knees. Whatever tactic he is using to cripple you, you take it to the Lord in prayer and then you get up and you brush yourself off, and you stand firm and resist the devil and the darts he is throwing. You see I think after a while, he gets tired of that tactic. And yes, he will move on to another tactic. But you, because of the time you have spent in prayer, your faith will be restored and confirmed, you are stronger and strengthened and more established in your faith. And you will be able to stand firm against him again and again until Christ returns. 

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 5:10-11

Surprised by Suffering

1 Peter 4

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2

I have to admit that the phrase in this passage “ceased from sin” bothered me just a little. First of all, we know that no one will ever “cease” from sin until he or she goes on to glory. I thought it strange that Peter would put that in there. So I went digging into commentary and other versions and read forward and what I came up with, and what made sense to me is not that Peter was saying we would never sin again if we have suffered with Christ, but that the resistance to sin and the fleshly desires to LIVE in sin would become easier as we place our trust and our lives in Christ. Peter goes on in the next few verses and explains this a little further. He gives a list of sins that would most definitely be aligned with “living in sin or in the flesh”. 

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery and they malign you, but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” 1 Peter 4:3-6

When Peter says “what the Gentiles do” we can interpret this to be what the world is doing. He is saying that it surprises the “world” when we, as Christians do not live the same way as they do. Think about it, generally speaking does it not seem to surprise them that we live the way we do. And going back to the first thought in the first verse where Peter says once you suffer for Christ you will “cease from sin”, is it not true? As you put away fleshly desires, and as you align your life with Christ does it not become easier to resist those fleshly desires over time. When you have been through things that only Christ can get you through, the things of the world become less important and following Christ becomes your aim. And people who are living worldly lives will never understand as long as that is their aim. 

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:7-11

We hear all the time we are living in the last days. Here it sounds to me like Peter thought they were living in the last days. Whether we are or we are not, the bottom line is it says in scripture that no one knows the day or the hour, not even the son, so we should be living self controlled lives. The NKJV says “be serious and watchful in your prayers”. When it comes to prayer we should take it seriously whether we think we are living in the last days or whether the last days are still 100s of years from now. And then above all, we have to love each other. Peter says to love and show hospitality and serve without grumbling. Oh that is the hard part for me. I find myself grumbling and whining and falling into that critical spirit so fast. I need to write these verses on my forehead! We have to remember love and service and that serving each other is the way we serve Christ and that is what glorifies God! 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

Suffering can come in many ways, we may feel that we suffer persecution for our christian beliefs, but we also may be suffering because of bad choices that we have made. One thing we can be sure of is as long as we are still on this earth, there will be suffering. Sometimes we want to be surprised by the suffering, because we don’t understand how this could be happening to me? Oh, I’ve been there, I have asked God a lot of why’s over things that have come my way. Some by my own hand, some by the hand of others and some just because we live in a sinful fallen world. But the the one thing I know and can testify to, is that every amount of suffering that I have endured has not been wasted IF I lay it at the foot of the cross and ask Him to use the pain and to grow me and to be glorified in it. 

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” 1 Peter 4:16-19

Friends, we are being watched by the world. Let us be sure that we are handling the things that come our way in a way that glorifies God. If we don’t then what is to become of them? How we handle the sufferings that come our way is what will either point the world to Jesus or away from Him. 

Faith that is more precious than Gold!

1 Peter 1

I am very excited to look into 1 and 2 Peter. I have always loved Peter and identified with him a little. Not so much because of who he became. Peter was an apostle and was considered a very important leader of the church. But because of who he was in the beginning. Many stories about Peter make me smile. He is a bit spontaneous, he does things before he thinks of them. He gets himself into so much because he doesn’t think before he speaks. At least that is the Peter of the Gospels. The Peter who has written these letters has matured in his faith. He has grown up so to speak and I can’t wait to see what he is going to teach us. 

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter begins this letter stating who he is, “an apostle of Jesus Christ”. That is pretty much all he had to say because Peter was known among Christians of his day. Peter is writing this letter to all Christians, not just in one region as we see many of Paul’s letters he wrote. According to commentary, the list of the places that he names was probably the places that his letter would be delivered. 

After his greeting, Peter jumps right into praising God. A statement I read in the commentary was “When Peter considered the salvation of God, his immediate response was to simply praise Him.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are bing guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

There is one of the exclamation points I have come to love. Let us not forget this is the same Peter who denied Jesus 3 times on the night before his crucifixion. This is the same Peter who Jesus restored after His resurrection and Jesus asked him 3 times, Peter, do you love me? And He told him, “Feed my sheep”. It looks to me like Peter was still grateful for his restoration and his salvation. Peter knows his salvation, Peter knows a little something about grace and it looks to me like he is living in it. He knows the living hope of the resurrection of Jesus. 

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Peter was talking to some people who had possibly been through some stuff! He mentions that they had been “grieved by various trials” but that even though they had been grieved that the trials had produced a “tested genuineness of faith”. This faith that Peter is talking about is deep, abiding faith, and Peter tells them that this kind of faith is “more precious than gold”. Have you ever known someone who had gone through some stuff and come out on the other side? These people usually have such a deep abiding faith that it appears to the outside world nothing can shake them. One of the things that was pointed out in my studying, and I had never thought of it this way, was that when our faith is going through a testing by God, it’s not because God wants us to prove something to Him, so much as it is to prove our faith to ourselves. See God already knows if we have that deep, abiding faith! But many times, we don’t know if we have it or not. We say things like “I could never live through that.” I’have things that I ask God all the time, “please don’t prove to me I could live through that.” The truth is, when He is testing our faith with various trials, it is not to prove to Him that we will stand strong, it’s to prove to us that with Him, we can stand strong through anything that comes our way. 

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

In light of this faith that we have, the faith that the trials we have been through have proven to us, we should prepare our minds for action, we should be serious in our thlnking that we have a hope that can rely fully on the grace that we receive because of Jesus. Jesus calls us to be set apart, to live a life that would be holy in the way we conduct ourselves. Not because of us, but because of who He is in us! Peter says in this chapter that if we call on Him as Father, He who will judge us each according to our own conduct, not in comparison to anyone else. He is the most impartial judge. He will look at our lives on the whole and He will judge us, BUT if we know Jesus, when we are judged by the Father it will be: 

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

He will not look on us and see all of of our past mistakes and our bad habits and our sinful nature. All He will see when He judges us is the precious blood of Jesus, of His son! 

Peter ends by giving us a charge. 

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” 1 Peter 1:22-23

If our souls have been purified by Jesus blood and by our obedience to the truth, we should be able to love one another earnestly from a pure heart! 

Lord, help us to hold fast to the faith that we have, to see that faith as more precious than gold,   and help us Lord to Love each other earnestly, the way You would have us to love! 

Warnings, Patience & Prayers!

James 5

All throughout the book of James, he is trying to teach complete dependence on God. At the beginning of chapter 5 James addresses the rich people in his audience. Not because James thinks it is impossible for a rich person to have complete dependence on God, but because it is more rare for a rich person to have complete dependence on God. Many times a very wealthy person will begin to depend much more on their own wealth and riches than they do on their God. Apparently also their were rich people in James midst who were wicked, they used their wealth to oppress their workers. This would be the audience that James was talking to in the first part of chapter 5. 

“Behold the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” James 5:4

Jesus also pointed out that it is more difficult for the wealthy to have complete dependence on God. 

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’” Mark 10:23 

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25 

But Jesus, nor is James saying it is impossible. They are just pointing out where our dependence should lie, where our faith should lie. Regardless of how much wealth someone has. A wealthy person may have to make a more conscience effort to be sure that their faith lies in God, rather than their own riches but it is not impossible. 

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27 

James next addresses suffering. 

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also be patient. Establish your hears for the the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8

When we have something that we are praying for, something that we are having to wait a long time for an answer, James is using the illustration of the farmer waiting for his crops to show us how we should be patient while we wait for an answer. A farmer plants his seeds, then he waits. Much the same way, we pray the prayer, then we wait. I love the phrase he uses here “establish your hearts”. When you are waiting for an answer to a prayer you must “establish” your heart. You must plant your heart in Jesus and let Him sustain you while you wait. He goes on to use the steadfastness of Job as his example. 

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11

We can look to Job as our example, he remained steadfast in the face of unimaginable affliction and while we all still may shake our heads at how much Job had to endure, we also see how God blessed Job’s steadfastness in the end. Also, we see how Job’s story is used to build our faith! I am sure while Job was enduring the afflictions that were heaped upon him that he never dreamed his story would go down through the ages and that people would be using his example to endure hardship thousands of years later. One thing we can learn from Job, God will never waste our pain. 

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:13-14 

James is covering all bases here. We should pray when we are suffering, we should sing praise when we are happy and if we are very sick we should call on others to pray. Our job is to pray, it is God’s job to act. 

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:15-16

Clearly not all sick who are prayed for receive physical healing on earth. Many times, I think we are afraid to pray for physical healing because what if we don’t receive the answer we want. James is saying here, we should pray with the knowledge that the Lord can handle it. I love the last line of those verses and I especially love it in the NKJV. 

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16b NKJV

When we pray do we pray fervently? The word fervent means “having or displaying a passionate intensity”. Are we coming boldly to the throne of grace of the Most High God and laying our requests down with the knowledge that He will answer. I saw this statement in my studies of commentary. 

“Effective prayer must be fervent, not because we must emotionally persuade a reluctant God, but because we must gain God’s heart by being fervent for the things He is fervent for.” 

Yes, when we begin to pray for something, we pray for the answers we want but at the end of the day even if the answer doesn’t come AS we want it, when we pray with fervency, what we gain is far greater than the answer we were pursuing, because in the end what we gain is our hearts intertwined with our God’s. We have gained the heart of God!

James 7

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:1-3

Everyone has their own agenda, and when everyone has their own agenda there will be quarrels and fights among them. We see that in our homes, we see it in our communities and we are see it play out in our country. James says you do not have because you do not ask and when you do you ask with the wrong motives. What we as Christians have to remember is James next statements. 

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

We do not want to be friends with the world and the worldly things that are going on around us. We also have to remember that no matter how bad things may appear, God is still on the throne and He is still in control! 

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:6-8

Where do we fit in with all the mayhem going on at this time. We must remember and live in the grace that comes from God. James says resist the devil. This word for resist means ‘stand against’. We have to stand against the devil in our own every day life. And when we do that he will flee from you. It goes like this, if you have something that is a tug for you, a sin that you wrestle with, and you feel the pull to do that sin, the more you stand against it, the more you resist it, the easier it is to resist it. As you stand against it, you feel stronger and the devil, who is trying to entice you to it, because he knows it is your weakness, will over time stop trying to entice you to it. The best and really the only way to stand against or to resist the devil is to get closer to God. God desires relationship with us, He doesn’t need it, but He desires it, and if we do our part and work toward relationship with Him, He will in turn draw near to us! 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10

We should live our day to day life in humility and grace. As we draw nearer to God and we live in the humility that all we have are blessings from Him and that He gives us the grace to go through every day, it is amazing to see how many blessings can come our way. I am not saying that life will be perfect. We still live in a fallen world, and there are still going to be sickness, and  strife that happens all around us. But I truly believe that if we live in the grace He gives and follow His will, that we will also see many blessings. 

James carries on to say that we should all realize also that this life is short. We don’t know what is coming at us tomorrow. 

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16

I don’t think James is telling us here not to make plans at all. We have heard it said “Failure to plan is planning to fail”. However, we must submit our plans to the Lord. When you submit your plans to Him and allow Him to lead you, then you are living in the grace that He gives. 

Lord, help us to live humbly in the grace that comes only from You. Lord we desire to draw nearer to you and we are grateful that as we draw near that you draw near to us! Show us Your way that we may walk with You!

Blessing and Cursing

James 3

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

Years ago, I was asked to speak at a women’s conference at our church. I was so afraid to say yes to it at first. I prayed about it and asked the Lord to show me if this was something that He wanted me to do. I wasn’t sure I could get over my fear of actually opening my mouth in front of a large group of people and having sound come out of it. The next Sunday our pastor stood in front of our church and told a story of little children asking him if he ever was afraid to stand in front of the church. My ears perked up. He went on to say that yes he was afraid but it was not for the reasons they thought, it was because he was afraid of not handling the word of truth rightly or being taken wrong and of not living out what he was preaching. I realized in that moment that my fears had been misplaced. I didn’t need to be afraid of looking silly or if my knees were going to knock together or if I would trip going up and down the stairs, that if I was going to speak at a conference I needed to be afraid of not handling the word of truth correctly and then of not living it out. I am not saying I never get afraid of those other things too. But I do realize that if I write, or if I speak or if I lead a Bible Study then yes, my life will be judged more strictly than if not. I fear what your opinion of my Jesus would be more than if I were to look silly to you. I pray that I can live up to my writing of who He is and that I will always handle His word rightly. 

James also expresses that we all will stumble and if anyone can control themselves so as to never stumble that he would be a perfect man. Then he gives a lot of language to the tongue. The tongue is a small member of the body, yet it is the hardest member of the body to control. He compares it to the fact that we can put a bit in the mouth of the horse and we can guide the horses whole body by that bit. The rudder of a ship is small yet it guides and turns the whole ship. Much the same the tongue is small, yet with it we can build things up, we can edify others and praise our God. But we can also tear things down. 

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongues is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6

I have let my mouth get me in trouble more times than I can count. I have destroyed relationships and I have seen other peoples relationships destroyed by things said. I am still trying to learn how to control my mouth. James calls it a “restless evil, full of deadly poison”. I pray that I can get my tongue under control before I take my last breath and I pray that I will be forgiven for the things I allow my tongue to say before my brain can catch up and stop it. 

“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.” James 3:9-10

I beg forgiveness of anyone I have said something that was stupid or came out as cursing another person. I want to praise and bless God with my tongue and I pray that I will be able to tame my tongue. 

James goes on to discuss wisdom from above. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13

There is a difference in what the world calls wisdom and the wisdom from above. We can see the big difference in these days. I don’t want any part of the earthly wisdom that is around these days for sure. We are surrounded by thoughts and practices that are different from what is in God’s word. 

“This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:15-16

I think we can say that we are surrounded by disorder and vile practices. But we, as Christians should seek the wisdom from above. 

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18

I pray that we will seek the wisdom from above and that we will allow that wisdom to help us to tame our tongues so that we may bless people and God! 

Joy, Trials, Blessings!

James 1

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.” James 1:1

James starts right out of the gate here increasing his credibility as a follower of Christ. This James was the half brother of Jesus, but he does not use that title as a hook for his audience. James, calls himself a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. This is important because if you remember back in the book of John, Jesus’ brothers were not supportive of his ministry. But at some point James had become a follower of him as the Christ and not as his brother. 

He jumps right into his teaching with the following verse. 

“Count it all joy, my bothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

If you have followed along with my devotions at all, you know that I have had trouble with this verse in the past. For so long, I could not imagine counting all joy my trials as it says in verse 2. This is why you need verses 3 and 4. It is not the trial itself that you count as joy, it is what the trial produces in you. When we go through trials we can either run from God or run to God, and what we do is what is going to be the measure of the faith we have in God. If we run to God, knowing that He is the only way we can get through the trial then we are exercising our faith in God, and that produces the steadfastness, or patience (NKJV), or perseverance (NIV). As our patience, steadfastness, perseverance grows it produces in us perfection of our faith. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all with our reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6

God loves to give us wisdom and He will give it generously and it is one thing we can ask of God that will never bring reproach from Him. He wants to give us wisdom to understand His word. We need to know that He will always give us wisdom if we just ask for it. I know that I have found in my quiet times, that I can open God’s word and I can read the words on the page and I can close the book and then wonder what it was that I just read. But if I pray before I open the word and ask God to give me understanding of it, that is when something will stand out to me, That is when He will give me a word that feels like it was meant just for me, but I must ask for that understanding, knowing and believing that it is His desire to give it to me. 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

When we remain steadfast under our trials and wait for God’s answer under our trials, and we stand the test of time, we receive a “crown of life”. What James is saying here is that when we endure trials and we persevere through them, it is worth it. When we hold fast to Him through whatever we are going through and allow Him to do the work He will use it for His glory. I know I am making this sound so easy by the words on the page. Please know that I know it is not always easy. There are times I have had to drag my will to persevere, to the cross. It is not always easy, there have been times that I have cried and felt like the answers that I wanted, that I needed would never come. But I can honestly tell you that through tears, and through heartache and through pain, He has never let me down. I have felt battered and bruised at times, but I also know that He doesn’t waste my pain and that if I lay it all down at His feet He will redeem it and He will be glorified and that will make it worth it in the end. 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at this natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

When we open God’s word and we read it, we have two choices. We can check the box that, well I did that today, or we can let it work in us, we can be doers of the word. We want to be doers, the doers of the word let it change them, the doers of the word have the tools to persevere in the trials, the doers of the word will minister to others even when things may not all be going right in their world. The doers of the word will be blessed. 

I pray we will be doers and will be blessed!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Let’s make it a good one!

All this week I have been listing out 10 things I learned this year. New Year’s Day I like to make a few goals of things I would like to do this year, spiritually as well as creatively and intellectually (although I am not an intellect!). I do not like to call them resolutions as I think those are meant to be broken but I call them goals. I also realize some of them I may accomplish and some I may not. And I start off with giving myself grace in that area. For instance I did not read nearly as many books this past year as I have done the past few years. But I did write more so I will give myself grace in that area. 

I also ask God to give me my focus word for the year. I sometimes have my word the first day of the year and sometime it will come in the first couple of weeks of January. I have asked the Lord for my word and I think I know where He is leaning but I do not want to put it out there until I am sure. He will always give me a verse to go with my word so I will wait to reveal. Last year my word was Grace. I wrote about that a little earlier in the week. I had no idea how much grace I would have to give this year but I really did not know how much grace I would need to receive this year. It has certainly been a year for the books now hasn’t it. 

“But he said to me. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 

He has given me sufficient grace this year and there have been many times I have felt very weak. But I know that He has carried me through one of the hardest years I have ever had. So grace was definitely a fitting word for this past year.

I will also make a plan concerning my quiet time for the year. I will look at what worked and what I want to change. I have been doing this quiet time thing for a long time so not much changes year to year anymore. I get up early, I read my Bible and I read a couple of devotional plans and I journal. This past year, I started the devotionals when the pandemic started and have kept them going for the most part with the exception of a couple of weeks for illness and a week I took off because of some family circumstances. I have been honored and humbled that so many of you have commented that you read along. I am just sharing how my heart feels and how grateful I am to Jesus for what He carries me through on a daily basis. I will continue this year as long as He gives me words to write. I try most days to have it post at 7:00 am although when I am off work and don’t have to get up so early then I may run a little late. But this year my plan is for my quiet time to look like this. 

*.    Read (the Word and some devotionals on Youversion, as well as a book I am planning to add: “A Year with C.S. Lewis” that I picked up a while back) 

*.    Write (Blessings journal – 3 blessings, Prayer Journal (personally), and Devotional. 

My creative goals include painting and sewing more. I have also joined an online class to learn more about my painting. 

My intellectual (that always makes me laugh) goals are to get back to my reading. I will set a goal to read one book a month and see where that takes me. 

I am sharing my plan with you here simply because I seem to stay on task a little better when I make a plan. I am not rigid with it, and I don’t believe we are supposed to be. But I do believe the saying “failure to plan is planning to fail”. So I like making plans/goals whatever you want to call it. 

I encourage you to sit down today and look at what time you have spent with Jesus this past year and see what you can do to enhance or increase that time. Then ask the Lord to bless the time. He will surely do it! 

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 

I pray you all have a great New Year’s Day. Eat those black eye peas today! And let’s set ourselves up for blessings in 2021!  Love to you all!