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James 5: Be patient

James 5:7-8 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

I imagine most people could use some help in the area of patience.  I know it’s a big struggle of mine.

During a Beth Moore study I did earlier this year, I  realized that when I hastily wish for Jesus to return sooner rather than later, I am being incredibly selfish.

Because if he were to come today, there would still be loads of people who never even got the chance to know about him.  Some who had never even heard his name.  Never had a chance to decide if they wanted to entrust their lives to him or not.  And still  others who had heard and rejected him.   But, perhaps, would come back to him if only they had more time to realize that life without him was not a life worth living.

It seems to be a fine line.  Remembering that we are not of this world, but still making the most of our time while we are here.  Keeping eternal things in mind, and yet not just pining away for the day we will spend eternity in heaven.

Wow!  This is probably the shortest post I’ve ever written in my life.  I think it’s because writing daily for the 31 days is using up my million words a  day (or however many words a day it is that the typical female says in a day).

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James 4: Making Plans

 James 4:13-14  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

When I met DH, we had time frames for all kinds of things we  planned to do.

1) Before we got married, I would move to his city, find a roommate and a job.  No job was found and the one potential roommate I met did not excite me after living gloriously by myself.  So, I stayed in my city until we married.

2) I would find a full-time job once we got married.  I continued to have  a terrible time finding work.  Even the temp agencies (my old standby) were so inundated with people looking for work and companies not looking for employees that they never even responded when I called or emailed them.   About 4 months later I did get a very part-time job through a lady DH knew.

3) We compromised on when we’d start trying for our first child.  We ended up getting pregnant about 5 months sooner than we had anticipated.

4) We planned to sell my car (a two door without four-wheel drive in a state that gets lots of snow and we live in a mountainous region) and get a more family friendly vehicle before our daughter arrived.   I was furious with DH for agreeing to meet somebody who was interested in my car when we were supposed to be at lamaze class.  Thankfully he did though (he had them meet him in the parking lot where the class was so he was only gone for a few minutes) because we sold the car to those very people.

5) DH had planned to buy a specific car for me a few days after my car sold.  But  I went into labor (two weeks early) the night before he was to see the car.  We did end up getting that car, only a few days later than we had planned.   And DD ended up in DH Jeep for the ride home from the hospital.

6) We bought a new house and planned to sell the old one.  Except not only is it a terrible time to be selling a house, nobody has even made any kind of offer on our old house!  So, we are renting it out for the time being.

I am a planner by nature, and DH is too.  I don’t think it is entirely wrong to plan for the future.  In fact, I think it can be wise.

At the same time, I think it is wise to be flexible and open to whatever the Lord has in mind that may will differ from your lovely timeline.

When I think about my life being just a mist, it boggles my  mind.  It gets me thinking about what kind of impact I’ve had on the people in our world.  It makes me want to set aside everything that steals my time and energy – the mundane – and focus on what’s important.  Eternity. Leading others to Christ.

But for the most part, I tend to get bogged down in the everyday things.  Caring for my daughter.  Trying to declutter our home.  Figuring out what’s for dinner.

This past Sunday we had a guest speaker at church that really got me excited about an opportunity to meet and influence international students for Christ.  I was making plans in my head, figuring out who would watch our daughter while we went to the training etc.  But, DH has been involved with the organization (before we met) and as I started telling him about my plans, he told me he felt the time commitment was too much for our family right now.

So now here I am, still feeling passionate about meeting non believers  (pretty much the only people I know here are from our church).   But not feeling like I have an outlet.

Lord, I pray that you would bring non believers into my life, help me to step out of my comfort zone and be bold for you.   And help me to not get too attached to my plans.  Amen.

James 3: Taming the tongue

James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

As a mother, am I not a teacher?  What relationship is more influential than that of a mother to her children?  I hadn’t ever made that connection until I was reading James 3.  But the responsibility of raising children, as well as the fact that I’ll be held responsible  by God for how I do it, freaks me out.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

You  know how you’ve read a passage  a million times before and then at some point, it just really hits you?  That’s what happened with the above verses.  It blows my mind that we can tame a wild creature (fitting picture as we just went to the zoo last week), but cannot tame our own tongue.

Even if I don’t always broadcast the slanderous speech going on in my head, I do still think it and dwell on it.
Why do we like to point out others weaknesses and poor choices?  DH is not one to gossip or appreciate negative talk about others.   In fact, I couldn’t tell you the last time he said something unkind about anyone.  And when I say something about someone that is not uplifting or kind, he doesn’t approve.  So, I don’t say things like that to him as often as I might (I more often say them to other people who will appreciate the gossip and slander).

 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Like fortune tellers, who may have “wisdom,” their source of power is not anyone I want to associate with.

The devil counterfeits so many things that the Lord created for good.  Wisdom is yet another example of something he counterfeits.

The way to tell the difference between wisdom from God and wisdom from Satan?  Here is what wisdom from the Lord will look like.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

I’d like an order (or two or 10 or 1,000) of wisdom from the Lord, please!

James 2: Feeling Convicted

Once again, the outline of what I thought my focus was going to be on for this post on James 2, is nothing like what it’s turned out to be!

I’ve been listening to David Platt’s sermons while reading through James, and wow, the combo is doing a number on me!

That, plus, a devotional DH and I are working through that our generosity pastor recently wrote.

I have started asking myself:  What am I doing to help meet the needs of the poor?  (No real answer comes to mind).  I think about how we tithe, support missionary friends, and give to the occasional cause that tugs at our hearts.  But, are we giving sacrificially?

I suppose that depends on how you view a sacrifice.  If you view it being a sacrifice to give when you have a mortgage hanging over your heads and yet are still giving, then you could say yes, we are sacrificing.  But, as I mentioned to DH earlier this week, who doesn’t have bills of their own to pay? Almost everybody has some kind of ongoing debt, and so if the Bible was saying, only help the poor after you have completely helped yourself, what percentage of people would actually be expected to give to the poor?  Not very many.  So, I am viewing a sacrifice as meaning this.  Giving until it hurts.  Giving in faith, trusting God to meet my needs and allowing me to bless others who have needs far greater than mine.

I was thinking about how our major goal is to pay off our mortgage.  But then I started to wonder if we’d really give more once that happens.  Because then we’d be focusing on the cost of college for DD, and then perhaps on retirement and then on who knows what.  There will always be things (some legitimate, some not) vying for our money.  So at what point do we decide to just go ahead and give more than we currently are?

My final thought in this area is that we need to be giving now and trusting God to continue to provide for us.  And if he wants us to pay off our mortgage, he can make that happen, even while we are giving to those in need, what we might feel more comfortable putting into paying off our mortgage.  (Now DH just needs to get on board with this way of thinking and I need to not change my mind in a moment of doubt!!!)

The devotional we read last night talked about a couple who had a $4 million house (paid off) that they’d been unable to sell.  It suddenly dawned on the husband that they hadn’t talked about what they would do with the money when the house sold and he wondered if that’s why it hadn’t sold.  So, they drew up a plan, they’d give a chunk to their church, some to their kids etc. Shortly after writing up their plan, the house sold!

I didn’t make this connection, but DH goes, “Maybe that’s why our old house hasn’t sold!!!”  It’s been on and off the market for a year and a half. Right now we are renting it out.  Let me tell you, being a landlord is not fun.  For a variety of reasons.  We did have a plan for the money when the house sold though.  It was to put it towards our current mortgage.  But that’s not a very generous plan, is it?

So last night we decided on an amount we’d give once the house sold and what three causes we’d give towards.  Our current tenants lease doesn’t expire until August of next year, so unless something drastic happens, our house won’t be on the market until then.  But, I am putting this in writing, in faith, just waiting to see what God will do.

The verses I’d love to ignore in this passage are:

James 2:14-17  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.”

I’ve been in church all my life and don’t recall hearing anything about your works being related to if you are truly saved.  I do believe that we should be grateful for all that God has done for us, and give out of that overflow.  But, as far as not being truly saved if we don’t, my flesh doesn’t want to touch that thought right now.

James 1: He is in control

I’m a doubter.

There I said it.

I grew up in the church and have been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I do believe in God and that he is completely in control.

Yet I still doubt him.

I’m not sure if my doubting is in his being good or if it’s a trust issue or how to label it.  Basically, I have a hard time allowing God to have complete control in my life.  Which is hilarious since he is in complete control regardless of how I feel about it!  My problem is that he allows bad things to happen.  (I won’t use the common phrase that he allows bad things to happen to good people.  Because who of us is actually good?  And we all have bad things happen to us).

How can I trust him fully when I know that he can allow bad things to happen?   Looking back on my life, I wouldn’t say he’s allowed anything to happen up to this point that I hold against him.   Certainly in the midst of certain trials, I did question him outright.  But, now that I have some perspective and distance from those things, I am just grateful that he hasn’t allowed more trials in my life than he has.

My fear is of what he could allow to happen in my future.  And I don’t know what to do about that.  I watch other people struggling with horrific things and I feel so bad for them.  And I wonder how I would ever survive if I were in their shoes. How can I have any solace knowing God is in control when he might allow something harmful to happen to me or someone I care about?

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

I often find myself relating to the man in Mark 9:24.  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I hate being double-minded, but I find so often that I am.

Here’s a scary thought.  If I can’t bring myself to trust God, who is 100% good, how can I trust any human, when we are all sinful?

James 1:22  “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

I love to read for pleasure.    I love to learn and I want to always be growing.  So I tend to read self-help type books.  But, I have to wonder how much of what I read actually sinks in.  My brain can only hold so much information.  So, is all of this learning a waste of time?  Especially when I can’t possibly put into action every thing that I read?  Should I focus on only reading the Bible for a time and putting into action what I’m reading?

James 1:26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

When I was young, I loved a good conflict and I always had great comebacks.  I’ve since learned that being right or having the last word is not worth the harm it does to relationships.

What I struggle with lately is reining in the thoughts in my head.  I suppose God allowed us to have private thoughts for a reason.  We let hurtful things slip out of our mouths as it is.  How could we ever get past all the hurtful things that others think in their heads, if we actually knew their every thought?

Wow, this post is nothing like the one I outlined as I was reading over James 1.  It’s full of questions and no answers.  And I don’t have a way to neatly tie it up in a bow.  So I’ll just stop here for now.

James Study

Once again, my church is offering a host of wonderful Bible Studies this semester.  I’d love to join one, but just don’t feel that it would work out very well since most of the studies are in the morning, during DD nap time.  I also have some reservations about putting her in child care  while I’m in Bible Study.  There is another online study that meets once a month on the weekend (which is what I did last semester), but I’ve already done the study they are doing!

So, I am opting to do an online study that a blogger I follow  is leading.  It’s on the book of James in the Bible.  Part of the online study is to write a blog post corresponding to the chapter you are studying that week.  I hope to get a post up here each week of the study.  Some people are planning to memorize the entire book of James!  It’s 5 chapters long, which is surely a lot shorter than other books in the Bible, but it’s still a lot to memorize, in my opinion!Several years back I went to a seminar where the leader suggested memorizing the Psalm that corresponds with your age each year.  I started with Psalm 27, but I never did learn the entire Psalm.  I started again this year with Psalm 32 a few months ago.  I’m still working on memorizing the entire Psalm.   DH said I better hope I don’t live to be 119, because Psalm 119 is the longest one there is!

Isn’t it amazing how we can memorize lyrics to songs, the names of celebrity babies etc.  But when it comes to memorizing the Bible, it can be such a challenge?  And not something we are overly motivated to do?  I’ll be honest.  I have been terrible at memorizing Bible verses my whole life.  I do often hear or read the same verses from time to time and I recognize them, but probably wouldn’t be able to outright quote them without any help.  Hopefully I can gradually work at memorizing more verses as well as the Psalm that corresponds with my age each year.