Category Archives: James

1 Chronicles 18; James 5; Jonah 2; Luke 7

10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.

James 5:10-11a ESV

When we get lost in the suffering instead of God’s promise we show a lack of patience and an increase of selfishness. If we want our faith to truly go the distance, it must transform every square inch of our souls.

29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

Luke 7:29,30 ESV

The message of the gospel can easily stop not far below the surface of our intellect. We might grab on to the hope of forgiveness, the promise of eternal life, or the feel good story of God’s love for us. All of those require only a perfunctory understanding of sin, Jesus, and redemption.

38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Luke 7:38 ESV

But, when you allow yourself to be swallowed up by the incredible depth of the gospel message, you discover the true beauty of it. Christ’s imputed righteousness, unconditional forgiveness and justification, mercy beyond logic, a God who knows us and chose to sacrifice on our behalf anyway. When that washes over you, you cannot help but respond.

So many people through history have made the mistake of being satisfied with a surface understanding of God’s message. Jonah, pharisees, me.

This week I realized that I have become quite consistent in my daily quiet time. Each morning I listen to numerous chapters in my bible app. I go through one or two lessons in my current devotional book, and even spend other times each day listening to a sermon, reading an article, or studying God’s Word with other family members. And yet, how often does it really sink in?

This may seem unrelated, but bear with me a moment . . . A couple years ago I realized that my marriage lacked a little of the zip that it had once had. I suppose that was understandable after 24 plus years, but I felt a bit of envy when I heard couples in their fourth or fifth decade talking about how they were “more in love now than ever.” I couldn’t really relate. I mean, I love my husband, have loved him for many years. But, could I say I love him more now than before? I wasn’t so sure.

I started reading some marriage books and looking for ways to express my love and try to nurture it so it would bloom a bit more fully. I came across an interesting challenge to kiss your spouse for 15 seconds everyday. After trying it for a while (since I’m such a box-checking kind of gal), I still wasn’t quite getting it, although it did seem like I was on the right path.

Then I changed my goal. Not just a time span, but an experience. I was looking to get lost in that kiss everyday. Game changer! It didn’t happen overnight, but that habit of trying to get lost in my husband’s arms and lips each day (well, most days . . .) brought us closer together and re-lit something that had gotten a little dimmer over the years. Now, at 27 plus years I can definitely say I am more in love with him now than ever before and each year just keeps getting better.

Okay, back to my relationship with God. I realized this week that my relationship with God was getting a little routine. I love Him, of course. Can never deny all that He has done for me, but does it really get to my heart? If I’m honest, most days, no. My quiet time has become just that. Reading, praying through lists, filling out devotionals, box-checking.

This week, I renewed my effort to “get lost” (which might look different for each of us) in worship and God’s Word each day, and God has showed up in a big way. I don’t wrap up my time with Him until I have seen a truth hit close to home, until I have that moment of God’s word pricking my conscience or sparking my response or rousing my heart in worship.

Those who pay regard to vain idols
    forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

Jonah 2:8,9 ESV

Even in this, we can sometimes not fully get it. Jonah clearly had a moment with God while in the belly of the fish. He poured his heart out and confessed, praised, threw himself on God’s mercy, cried out, prayed, gave thanks, and recognized God as his only hope. God heard his heart, and dumped him back on the beach for a second chance. But the next chapters will show that his heart still lacked God’s vision for Ninevah.

Continually pressing into Him needs to be a lifelong endeavor of every Christian.

Lord God, I don’t want to be a Christian out of habit, I want to follow you passionately all of my days. I want an eye so focused on the eternal hope, that the suffering I experience in this world is irrelevant. Everyday relight my fire for You that I may never stop growing and never stop visibly living for You. In Jesus Name ~Amen

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Filed under James, Jonah, Luke, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan

Lamentations 1-2; Obadiah; James 5

“All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem has been stripped away.  Her princes are like starving deer searching for pasture.  They are too weak to run from pursuing the enemy.  In the midst of her sadness and wondering, Jerusalem remembers her ancient splendor.  But now she has fallen to her enemy, and there is no one to help her.  Her enemy struck her down and laughed as she fell.  Jerusalem has sinned greatly, so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag.  All  who once honored her now despise her, for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated.  All she can do is groan and hide her face. ”  Lamentations 1:6-8  NLT

I feel the hopelessness in these verses.  Having the wind knocked out of me and blindsided by attacks of the enemy. Times when I want to run and hide, instead of remembering the goodness of God.  I am thankful for a God who rescues and pursues me.  Who heals the innermost parts of my soul. Who tells me what to pray when I don’t know what to pray anymore. Who hears and answers my prayers in his timing not mine.  James urges me to keep praying when I don’t see the miracle yet.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield crops.  My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about forgiveness of many sins.” James 5:16-19 NLT

What if Elijah thought his prayers didn’t matter, like I sometimes do?

“But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape; it will be a holy place.  And the people of Israel will come back to reclaim their inheritance.  The people of Israel will be a raging fire, and Edom a field of dry stubble.  The descendants of Joseph will be a flame roaring across the field, devouring everything.  There will be no survivors in Edom.  I, the Lord, have spoken!  The exiles of Israel will return to their land and occupy the Phoenician coast as far north as Zarephath.  The captives from Jerusalem  exiled in the north will return home and resettle the towns of the Negev.  Those who have been rescued will go up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem to rule over the mountains of Edom.  And the Lord himself will be king!” Obadiah 1:17-21 NLT  

My prayers are effecting future generations.

Strongholds and generational bondage breaking.

Hearts turning back to him.

Dear Father, help me to trust you when I can’t see.  Give me eyes to see your goodness. Help me not to hide in fear.  But to live with a knowledge and hope in you. Thank you for your patience with me.  Give me rest when I am weary.  Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Ezekiel 31-32; James 2

James 2:14-24 (NIV)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

 

Faith requires action.

It’s easy to say I believe something. But it’s not always easy to prove it.

I once heard someone say that a faith that costs you nothing is not faith at all.

Here in James 2 we read of the importance of putting action into our faith. As an illustration, we are reminded of Abraham’s faith, when he carried his son to the altar to sacrifice to God. While he did not physically sacrifice him, Abraham proved his faith in God by surrendering his son to God’s will, whatever that may look like, believing that God was good, God loved him, and that God would keep His promise to Abraham. But this was not an easy journey for Abraham – it took him decades to learn this kind of faith.

But what about me? What does my faith look like? Do my actions match my speech?

It’s easy to say I believe God loves me. But am I living as though I am confident of His acceptance?

It’s easy to say I believe God is good. But when bad things happen, am I choosing to “trust and obey” until I see that goodness?

It’s easy to say God answers prayer. But is prayer my first response when I am in need?

It’s easy to say I love my neighbor. But am I actually encouraging, strengthening, and providing for them as opportunities arise?

It’s easy to say I care about the lost. But when was the last time I shared God’s hope with someone who does not know Him?

My dad used to say, “Your walk talks and your talk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

What does my walk say? Does it say I have faith in me, in my own abilities, and in what I feel to be true? Or does my walk show that I have put my trust in God and I believe Him to be who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do?

Faith in myself leads me to be self-centered. If I’m not noticing those around me, if I’m not praying for those I know, if I’m not offering encouragement to those who are hopeless, if I’m not providing for those in need, it is a sign that I’m paying more attention to me than to God.

But when my faith in God is secure, I can trust Him to provide for me. This leads me to be a giver. I can be generous with everyone I encounter and give of them what I have received from God, whether spiritual, emotional, or physical.

 

Father, forgive me for becoming self-consumed and unaware of those around me. Forgive me for not trusting You to provide for me and for becoming overly concerned with my own needs instead of letting you provide for them. Help me to see those around me. Help me to meet the needs of those you place in my path each and every day. Help me to prove my faith by my actions of love and generosity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Ezekiel 37-39; Psalm 87; John 13

Someone noticed that I talk a lot about God’s care and protection.  It seems like I come across these themes quite a bit, especially in my readings found in the Old Testament.

Their king will always come from the family of my servant King David and will care for them like a shepherd. The people of Israel will faithfully obey my laws. They and their descendants will live in the land I gave my servant Jacob, just as their ancestors did. I solemnly promise to bless the people of Israel with unending peace. I will protect them and let them become a powerful nation. My temple will stand in Israel for all time – Ezekiel 37:24-26  CEV

I think it excites me to read these passages of scripture because they relate so freely to the love that Jesus has for me.  If He can love a group of people who reject Him so often, so fully, lacking so much gratitude for what He has done in their lives, then I know His love for me can equal such actions from me.

It was before Passover, and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and to return to the Father. He had always loved his followers in this world, and he loved them to the very end. – John 13:1  CEV

Unconditional love, a word that is known but a word rarely experienced.  I look for it in all my relationships that matter.  It is inside me to want and I believe it is in me to give, but I choose judgement over love sometimes.  Somehow I feel it gives me more power.  But love changes the world, as it has me.  If I want someone to know just how much they mean to me, how much I cherish them, how much they matter to God, then I need to let them know of Jesus love for them.  Jesus can care and protect more than anyone or anything this world has to offer. What other gift can I give to you other than Jesus and His love – what other gift would you want from me?

Father, remind me that your unconditional love is the greatest gift I can give to someone today.  No matter if they are looking for something else, like the forty year old lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate who was looking for a gift of money.  Peter and John said, we do not have money, but we have Jesus, can we give Him to you? Taking the man by the hand they said stand up and walk.  That Lord, that image of love, has not left my mind for some time.  That is the kind of love I want to give away today.  Fill me with Your Spirit and enable me to do that with those I meet.  Thank you for allowing me to be a bit of You in someone’s life. Amen.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, BG2, Ezekiel, James, John, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Zechariah

Jeremiah 37, 21, 34; Psalms 79; James 5

“Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim as the king of Judah.  He was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the Lord said through Jeremiah.  Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to ask Jeremiah, “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”  Jeremiah 37:1-3 NLT

King Zedekiah’s heart wasn’t right before the Lord.  He didn’t want to listen to what Jeremiah said.  But, he wanted his prayers answered.  How many times have I come before the Lord with the wrong heart? Feeling far from him.  Knowing that I needed to ask for forgiveness.  What a contrast to David’s humble plea…

“Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name.  Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name.” Psalms 79:9 NLT

Sometimes “Help” is the only word I can utter.

“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.  Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.  Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.  And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.” James 5:13-15 NLT 

I am amazed at all the prayers God has answered in my life.  I look through old photos and pause to reflect on his goodness.  A verse comes to mind, “Who am I Lord, that you have brought me and my family this far?” (2 Sam 7:18).  But, still at times I forget all he has done. I get tired in the waiting.

“Elijah was human as we are, and yet he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!  Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.” James 5:17&18

If it would have been three and a half days, I’m sure Elijah would have been grateful .  But, I can imagine how elated he was after three and a half years.  Did he ever want to give up hope? Maybe. But, he didn’t give up praying. What an example his faith is to me.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT

Dear Father, I praise you for who you are.  Thank you for your faithfulness.  How you care about my every need.  Thank you for your promises and for the hope I have in you. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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