Author Archives: jsmitchell1027

Gen. 21; Matt. 20; Neh. 10; Acts 20

So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Matt. 20:16

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matt: 20:26-28

I’ve been reminded a lot lately of the destruction pride brings about and the importance of humility.  Much of it is because of my own struggles with pride, and my health, but these last few days some things that have been happening in pop culture (sports in particular) that have really driven home the point of these verses.

Since coming to know God, it truly amazes me how prideful we humans are.  My own pride keeps me up at night.  I struggle daily with trying to “serve the lord with great humility” (Acts 20:19a) and making peace in my heart about not getting my way – not being “first.”  What is up with that?  I often ask the question when I pray – “why is my pride so deep?” I’ve become very good at not showing outward signs of pridefulness, but it is still in my heart.

Watching recent news events, only served to make this aspect of my sin sting more.  As some of you may know, I am an endurance athlete.  And while I don’t have that “win at any cost” attitude, I do struggle with not being as fast or as strong as others – not being first.  What I really want is to be able to compete truly for His Glory and not for my own.   How do “star” athletes who are believers (Ray Lewis, Tim Tebow, Matt Stover) get to that level without being prideful?  My pride keeps me up at night.  Does theirs?

I guess I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s not about me.  There is something bigger going on here.  God is here – Jesus DIED for me.

Father, help me work out my pride.  Help me to always know that you are the reason I exist.  And that I exist to serve only you.  I commit to living my life to that ideal.  Amen

Jim (jmitch1)

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Gen. 6; Matt. 6; Ezra 6; Acts 6

The Sermon on the Mount.  Those words are likely some of the most often quoted words about the bible.  I’m not talking about the words Jesus actually spoke in the sermon, but the words, “The Sermon on the Mount.”  Many people know about the series of teachings that make up that sermon, but how many have actually stopped and really read them.  My wife says one of her most traumatizing times as a 4th grader in Catholic school was having to memorize the Beatitudes.  She recalls crying hysterically because she just couldn’t do it.  Of course when we are in 4th grade memorizing things because the teacher says so is a lot different than memorizing them in a meaningful way. Which brings me to my point for this post.

Matthew Chapter 6 begins the discussion of practicing the disciplines.  If we really read what Jesus is saying here, we see that he means for us to practice these things – giving to the needy, fasting, praying – in a meaningful way.  He essentially saying, don’t be legalistic about it – don’t do these things for others to see so you can be proud of it – do them for God and God alone.

I have read several books on the disciplines and the bottom line in all of them points back to this main theme.  Practice the disciplines because they are pleasing to God, and not so that others can take note.  Of course the added benefit, for me anyway, is that they bring me closer to God.  Pleasing God makes Him smile on me and fills me with joy. Pleasing God results in treasures being stored. Pleasing God is the whole point.

Father, I commit today and every day to try and please you.  Help me when I falter, and forgive me when I fail. You are the whole point! Amen

Jim (jmitch1)

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Ps 107,126; Rev 10

 

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men,

for he satisfies the thirsty

and fills the hungry with good things. Ps. 107: 8-9

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men,

for he breaks down gates of bronze

and cuts through bars of iron. Ps. 107: 15-16

Like so many, my heart has been heavy these last few days.  I’ve found myself angry with God. Asking why would He let such an awful thing happen to the innocent.   I’m not sure I’m quite over my anger yet.  Perhaps that’s because I’ve been dealt several personal blows recently so I’m feeling tested.  Even the events of the last few days feel like a personal attack.  A trial I’m meant to endure.  A test of my faith.

When my health started to become an issue a few months ago, I found myself in prayer one morning telling God, “go ahead God, test me!  My faith won’t falter!”  Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for.  I’m not suggesting I had anything to do with that evil last week, but it did have me shaking my fist at Him.  Wondering again why my faith was being tested.

Then I read these words in the Psalms.  I love how the Psalms always comfort me.  Even the laments for some reason have a way of calming my spirit.  I read them and they drive home the point that God’s love is unfailing. He will, eventually, satisfy our thirst and hunger.  He will break down the gates for us.  It isn’t my right to judge Him for not intervening, because only He has the power to satisfy, to cut through the bars of iron, to heal.  After all, I wasn’t there when he created the heavens and the earth.  I wasn’t there when he breathed life into Adam.  God’s plan is so much bigger than I could ever wrap my head around, and I trust that He has a purpose for this current set of circumstances happening in my life.

Thank you God for your plans for me.  Help me to either understand them (even if just a little bit) or to truly trust you.  And please grant us all strength and peace in these difficult days. I love you God. Amen

Jim

(jmitch1)

 

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Ezekiel 47,48; 1John3

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3: 4-6

I struggle with this line of thinking – especially in light of 1 John 1:8-10 which says if we say we are not sinners, we are calling Him a liar. But, according to this verse, if we keep on sinning, we can’t know Him.  Ah, but, that’s the cool part about interpreting scripture with scripture.  Because John starts by telling us that, without a doubt, we are sinners, and to deny that, is to deny Him, and if we we believe that scripture is infallible, then it stands to reason there must be a slightly different thinking in this verse.  Rather than digging into my own concordance and researching a detailed commentary, I turned to my study bible notes.  The authors there put it this way (and I’m paraphrasing here), John is not asserting that we are to attain sinless perfection, only that our lives should not be characterized by sin.

The fact of the matter is, one of the hardest things to understand, especially for non-believers, is that because of the Original sin, we are all sinners.  The key to living a life not characterized by sin is to accept that even though I sin, it doesn’t own me.  I’m aware of my sin and am able to make choices (not always good ones) that move me away from my sinful nature.  I worship Him, not the world!

I heard once that guilt is the devil’s work. I’m not sure I entirely believe that.  I think it is when it’s used as a tool by people who have an agenda, but guilt is what makes me realize I have sinned.  It’s what drives me to my knees.  The beauty of being saved, though, is that I know I am forgiven.

Father, I know I don’t have to beg for your forgiveness.  You give it freely.  I know, though, that I need to acknowledge my sin and I thank you for teaching me how to repent. In Jesus name. Amen

Jim (jmitch1)

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Ez. 14, 15; 2 Tim 1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Tim 2:7 (NLT)

Fear is said to be a sin.  Why is that?  Is seems strange that we sin when we are faced with something that scares us.  Is it a sin because as this verse alludes to the Spirit lives in us and He fears nothing so why should we?  Perhaps, but I think it’s simpler than that. Fear is a sin because it means we are not trusting God to take care of us.  Quite honestly, for me as a human that’s hard to fathom. There seems to be a fine line between putting my complete trust in God to see me through and fearing the worst.  I feel like I need to have some level of control. But that’s the pride in me.

One of the things I’ve come to realize, though, is that putting my complete trust in Him means letting go and trusting other people as well.  We aren’t meant to do life alone.  He uses people to bring glory to His kingdom, so it stands to reason that, when we find faithful people to live this Christian life with, we need to trust them.  And trust that God is working through them to help us through our trails.

I have recently had the opportunity to do just that, and God did not disappoint. I was fearful and worried about a trial I am going through and put it out there to some trusted friends. Sure enough, they prayed, and encouraged me and I find myself at peace.  I think there will always be some level of fear, but I know I don’t want to be afraid.  And I know that I can completely trust Him and those faithful others.  I just have to do it.

Trusted Father. I love how you work through my friends and family to show me your love.  Give me courage to trust you completely.  Take my fear from me.  Amen

Jim (jmitch1)

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Jer. 41,42; Heb. 11: 1-19

If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down… If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die. Jer 42: 10, 15b-16

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Heb. 11:1

In the OT verses above, God is laying out the simplistic nature of having faith.  He is saying, trust me and I will eventually lift you up.  Don’t trust me and I will strike you down.  He is asking them to follow the essence of how the writer of Hebrews defines faith.  Be sure of what you hope for.

Sounds simple enough.  But, the problem is, God doesn’t actually use the word “eventually” anywhere.  And of course we know the Israelites got impatient waiting for God to follow through on  his eventual promise.

I’m going through a trying time right now, health wise, and reading these passages helps me a great deal, but they also knock me back a few pegs.  I am getting impatient waiting.  Waiting for answers, waiting for healing, waiting to hear Him.  But, I must realize (as I’m sure some of the Israelites did) that God’s eventuality is different than mine.  His idea of time is something I can’t really grasp.  What I truly need to realize is that his plan for me (Jer. 29: 11) is for his Glory and the fact that He even considers me in His plan for glory, is amazing.  I may not like it, and I may get angry with Him, but I’ve come to realize He can handle my anger.  He can take away my pain. He hears me and He will heal me – eventually – for His glory.

Oh glorious God, Thank you for simple faith.  Help me to truly know that faith.  Amen

Jim (jmitch1)

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Jeremiah 15, 16, 17; Col 2

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. Col 2: 20-23 (NLT)

What I find interesting about this scripture is the reason Paul was writing it and the cultural environment the Colossians were faced with.  At the time of this writing, the church in Colosse was young and as Satan would have it, very susceptible to heretical teachings.  Among those false teachers were those who insisted that the Old Testament ceremonial law (“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch”) the pious worship, and harsh treatment of the body, were a means to salvation.  As we know, they are not.  And Paul’s letter explains that practicing these “religious philosophies” does nothing to control sinful desires.  They are quite simply, superficial.

But even in today’s world, these things are still happening.  People still try to earn salvation.  Even those professing to be Christians.  It still amazes me.  Although I guess it shouldn’t.  It wasn’t until I truly came to Christ and started really listening to Him through others and scripture did I finally get it.  Grace is a free gift received by belief in the Gospel.  I guess it’s human nature to think that we have to earn something as amazing as Grace.  After all, we’re brought up being told we have to “earn a degree,” “earn a living,” “earn respect.” How, then, could salvation be free?

That’s God’s plan.  If you think about it, even though it is free, true salvation is hard to come by.  It goes against our humanness to accept the free gift because it seems too good to be true, but the fact is, overcoming that nature is the hardest part. Truly accepting the Gift is a huge sacrifice.  It forces us to change a deeply engrained paradigm.  That is, everything comes with a price.  That’s why Paul was so worried about the Colossians.  He knew that if the church there wasn’t careful, the heretics would have their way.  To the Colossians, practicing the religious philosophies was easier than changing their paradigm.

God, I pray that I am able to truly change my paradigm.  I struggle every day with my “practices.”  Only you know my heart.  Help me to be sure I’m yours. Amen.

Jim (jmitch1)

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