Pure Joy!

Thursday, May 29, 2014, 8:16 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “May Christ Be Seen in Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (NIV).

Faith Tested

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him…

I think that, in our natural selves, that is one of the hardest things to do, i.e. to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. That just goes against human nature. Yet, praise Jesus, because of his grace to us in saving us from our sins, and because we have been given new lives in Jesus Christ, and his Spirit now dwells within us, we can rejoice, even when going through some of the darkest times in our lives. We do this through submitting ourselves to God, believing that he cares and that he is completely sovereign over every aspect of our lives. And so we trust our lives into his care, believing him to work all things for the good of us who love him; who have been called according to his purpose (See Ro. 8:28).

As we trust him more and more, he increases our understanding of the purpose of our trials. They are what help us to grow in our walks with the Lord Jesus, so we become mature. They humble us, too, so that we are not easily given over to pride.

Believe, Not Doubt

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do…

I believe that one of the biggest reasons we may begin to give in to doubt is that we get our eyes off of Jesus and we begin to fear the opinions and/or rejections of humans. We pray for wisdom. God gives us the wisdom. We act on it. Then someone says something to us that begins to work in our minds. And, so we begin to question God and/or ourselves. There are times, I believe, when we need to question ourselves, because maybe we were listening to the flesh and not to God, nonetheless, if we have prayed, and God has assured us of what we are to do, and we have trusted him, what good are we if we keep going back and forth all the time? At some point we need to just know God did answer us, he gave us the wisdom we asked for, and so we just need to trust him with the results, believing he knows what is best. We need to commit our lives into his hands, and we need to not allow ourselves to be so easily swayed by the opinions and/or potential rejections of humans.

Dragged Away

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

We should not blame others for our own failures. Some people blame God. Others blame the devil. Still others cast fault on other humans. This whole “blame game,” though, is used as a ploy to keep us from taking personal responsibility for our own sins. A common teaching today says that, once we have been regenerated of the Spirit of God, we are truly good at heart, so if we sin, it is because the devil made us do it, or something to that effect. If we can convince ourselves that fundamentally we are good, and thus if we sin it must be someone else’s fault, then we will never conquer the sins in our lives which so easily entangle us, because we can always convince ourselves that it really wasn’t us that did it. Wow! Satan is such a deceiver! The Bible does not teach this, though. Over and over again in the New Testament believers in Jesus are called upon to take personal responsibility for their own sin – to forsake it; throw it off; get rid of it!

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. ~ Ro. 8:12-13 NIV​

Every Good Gift

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

God does not tempt us with evil. No! He gives good gifts to his children – his grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, compassion, and freedom from sin. He is truth and he is love, and he never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can always count on him. He is completely faithful. He died so we would be free from the control of sin over our lives, and he will daily help us to resist Satan and to draw close to him.

Quick to Listen

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James is writing to believers in Jesus Christ. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of our sins, Christ’s righteousness is credited to our accounts, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are made alive in Christ Jesus to now walk in his righteousness and holiness. Yet, we still live in flesh bodies, which means we still have the propensity to sin, only now Jesus Christ has set us free from the control of sin over our lives so that, through him, we can now say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (See Tit. 2:11-14).

But, it is not like Jesus just comes into our hearts and now makes us puppets on a string and that we no longer have the ability to make our own choices. Each day we must choose to serve and to follow him or to revert to following after our own flesh. This is why we are given so many instructions in the NT on how to live godly lives. So, we must daily choose to resist Satan and his temptations, and we must yield to our Lord, follow his word, and do what he says. Yet, we do all this, not in the power of our own flesh, but in the power of the working of the Spirit in our lives. Then, we can learn to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because daily we are submitting to our Lord, yielding to the Spirit, and we are trusting in the Lord with our lives and with our circumstances. When we come up against difficult situations, we pray for wisdom and peace, and we choose to obey God.

Listen and Do

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

I believe that one of the greatest reasons Christians give way to sin, don’t live in victory, go nowhere with their Christian lives, and just kind of float through life doing their own thing with little regard for God and for his truths is that they fail to apply the knowledge that they take into their minds. They read and/or study the word of God, but then they walk away and forget what they read, if they are even taking in his word at all. We can’t just spend a few minutes in personal devotions each day thinking we have now met our obligation if we don’t apply to our lives the things we are learning. When Jesus speaks to our hearts, and he puts a finger on something in our lives (like looking at ourselves in a mirror), but then we just walk away and forget about it, it makes the exercise of reading his word kind of pointless, right? Why bother at all if we have no intention of doing what he shows us? The whole object of time spent in the word should be for us to learn, and then to apply what we are learning to our lives, i.e. for us to do what it says. I can tell you that it is really awesome when we do what the word teaches us! There is no other way to live!

A Tight Rein

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James has a lot to say about the tongue. Wow! This is so true! We must yield to the Holy Spirit in this. I pray regularly that the Lord, who knows the words on my tongue before I even say them, would speak to my heart before I speak, and he does, so that I don’t say some of the things that cross my mind that should not be said. Yet, when he prompts us, we must listen. We can totally undo our testimonies for Christ if we try to speak his grace and then have what is sinful come out of our mouths, too. Yet, we must also ask that he show us what is in our hearts, because scripture teaches that out of our hearts our mouths speak. Sometimes we need to first allow the Spirit to clean up some things that are in our hearts so that they don’t come flowing out of our mouths when we are put under pressure.

We should put our faith into practice, too, by ministering to the needs of others, and by not allowing ourselves to get caught up in the trappings of this sinful world. Scripture teaches that we are to come out from the world of sin and to be separate. We should take this seriously, and not try to blend in with the world in order to be accepted.

Open My Heart / An Original Work / July 2, 2013

“Be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil” (Rm. 16:19b).

Open my heart. Let Your truth in.
Make of me a servant, pure within;
Sing of Your praise all of my days.
Let Your Spirit transform all my ways.
Jesus Christ died on a cross to
Save me from my sin.
“Repent of sin. Be cleansed within.
Obey all of His commands today.”

“Why do you doubt? Why do you fear?
Jesus Christ will wipe away your tears.
He cares for you. He feels your pain.
Die to sin, and life with Him you’ll gain.
Follow Him where’er He leads you.
Talk with Him each day.
Then you will know what He has planned
For your life before your world began.”

“Come unto Me, weary in heart.
Let My love and grace to you impart.
Believe in Me. Trust in My care.
Take your burdens to the Lord in prayer.
He will meet all of your needs,
And give you peace within.
Rejoice in Him! Tell of His love.
He will give you comfort from above.”