Count It All Joy

This passage from James has never been one of my favorites.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” – JAMES 1:2‭-‬3‭, ‬12‭-‬15‭, ‬17‭-‬18 NASB

I don’t want to hear that I can’t blame my sin on someone – or some thing – other than myself! Yet James said it clearly: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.I can’t say “the devil made me do it”? I mean, he introduced sin into the world, right? He’s the reason Eve, and Adam, sinned! No, that is flawed. The devil – Satan, the Evil One – did bring in the idea of sin, but we are the ones who choose it over what we know is right. Here’s the thing. Even though we have free will and it is our choice to sin, the LORD in His wisdom gives us a way to circumvent our lack of judgement. Not our free will, but our lack of judgement, our lack of wisdom. The LORD never takes away our free will!

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – JAMES 1:5 NASB

I almost think that James should have written it this way: “But as we all lack wisdom, let us all ask of God ….”

LORD, I ask for Your wisdom, because I know first-hand how flawed my own thinking is, having experienced the consequences of it. I ask for the faith to not doubt You and to wholly submit myself to Your desires over mine. Amen.

(https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Thinker-sculpture-by-Rodin)

I Just Don’t Get It

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” – JOHN 21:25 NASB

There are other, similar statements in the scriptures, stating that Jesus did innumerable unrecorded miracles. These miracles were witnessed by hundreds of people. Yet we still don’t believe? I just don’t get it. Millions follow Buddha. He never did a miracle, he never claimed to be sent by the Creator of the Universe, and he didn’t arise from the grave after he died. Research “great religions of man”. Belief in Jesus in not a religion. It is a way of life. There is no dictated behavior. I found this from the C.S. Lewis Institute, and it says what I mean to say much better than I am able to.

“When we look carefully at the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, the call to “follow me” takes on much greater clarity and specificity. It is indeed a call to “walk as Jesus walked,” to live a life of radical faith and love. Once we truly grasp this, our first reaction is likely to be one of dismay. If we are at all aware of the depth of indwelling sin and the dysfunctions that plague our lives, we know it is impossible for us to fulfill such a call. Yet this reaction is actually healthy, because it is based in reality. It is indeed impossible for us to live this way. And that is precisely the point.

Jesus knows we cannot follow him without a power beyond ourselves. And that is why he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us.

It is only through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can obey the teaching of Jesus and follow his example. He assures us of the Father’s love, he makes the things of Christ real to us; he makes the gospel precious to us; he convicts us of sin and assures of forgiveness when we repent; he transforms us from glory to glory, into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16–18). That is why we are taught to earnestly seek to be filled with the Spirit each day (Eph. 5:18) and to be led by him in all our ways (Gal. 5:16–25). When we do, we will find that we can live in newness of life. Not perfectly and not immediately. But day by day, as we walk in faith and obedience, the Spirit will produce in us the character of Jesus: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).” – Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min. Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

(http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Following_Jesus_Christ_Tarrants_Single-Page_Full_Article)

I’m grateful to have access to study such diverse sources! Study for yourself and determine the truth. I don’t believe that anyone who diligently and honestly searches for the Truth won’t find it. I know where it lies, and it is in the Person of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will discover the Truth – and accept the Truth – as well! Amen!!

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – JAMES 1:5 NASB

Where Do You Stand?

I would have loved to be standing in the room with Thomas and the other followers of Jesus when this happened!

“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” – JOHN 20:27‭-‬31 NASB

As I contemplate this meeting between Thomas and our Lord, I wonder where I would have stood on that day? Would I be next to Thomas, needing to see the wounds to believe that this man was truly Who He claimed to be? Or would I be across the room with Mary and the other followers, knowing that my Lord was in the room? I know where I stand today, firmly with the ones who believe without having seen. How can we not, when we look at the incredible things He did and the incomparable life He led, witnessed by hundreds – thousands – of people, and recorded by such diverse men?

I believe in Jesus Christ; I believe He is the only begotten Son of the Creator God. I believe that He died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day, and I know that on the day my earthly body dies, I will see His Face as He welcomes me into our eternal home. Where do you stand? It’s crucial to decide! Selfishly, I want to see you in heaven.

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Can I get an Amen?

(Image from Pinterest)

Storytellers

Throughout world history, storytellers have been revered. The bards of medieval Europe told tales of bravery and woe, tapestries have been woven to show stories; ancient peoples told stories through songs and tales and in cave paintings and pictographs. The Egyptians painted their tombs, the Romans had their plays and actors. From the beginning, children have gathered together to hear their elders share stories with them. The American native peoples have made clay figurines of storytellers for centuries.

Why do we read to our children, and have story times in Sunday School, and have musical productions and plays in the church? (It’s ALL storytelling…)

“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” [and Jesus answered] ” ……Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘ you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; …..But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” ” – MATTHEW 13:10‭, ‬13‭-‬14‭, ‬16 NASB

Jesus also said in Matthew 19:14 to “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t keep them away. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.”

We should be like children when it comes to listening and learning God’s Word. How else will we learn to HEAR what He is telling us? We should open our eyes to the splendor God created; and to SEE all things through a child’s eyes. They hear and see with wonder and with clear vision, and they know through the stories of God’s Word that He watches over His children!

When questioned by the High Priest, Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” – JOHN 18:20‭-‬21 NASB

Have you heard Jesus? Listened to His Words? Do you have what He brought to you? Read the book of John, and hear.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – JOHN 17:3 NASB

Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]

Undeserved Grace

Celebrating still!

Looking back at hymns and songs, it strikes me at how many songs we have that celebrate the Victory of Jesus over death and the grave.

UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!

VICTORY IN JESUS

DEATH WHERE IS YOUR STING

CHRIST IS RISEN

MIGHTY CROSS

OVERCOME

GLORIOUS DAY

WE ARE THE FREE

I WILL RISE

The list goes on and on – I’ve left many off. I am so grateful for the poets and lyricists and songwriters and composers for these beautiful expressions of our awe and gratefulness. Sometimes, all I can do is mouth the words, I’m so overcome by the emotion of realizing anew the sacrifice Jesus, Lord of everything, made for me. As if I were the only human ever to live, He made that sacrifice. As if you were the only one. That’s how much He loves us.

Pretty sobering thought.

Jesus bore my sins – every thought and every action – to the cross, and He left them there. They are gone, covered, literally, in His Blood. The Blood of The LAMB was shed for me, and I am free. Completely undeserved Grace. You can claim it anf receive it, too! All you need to do is open your heart to Jesus ❤ .

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

Restored

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” – MATTHEW 28:5‭-‬6 NASB

The cross couldn’t hold Him, death couldn’t retain Him, and the grave couldn’t keep Him. The cross and the tomb shall remain empty for the rest of eternity, and then forever more. He is Risen, Restored to His Glory, restored to His Throne! Jesus Christ, the LORD of Heaven and Earth has conquered death and hell, and He has arisen, Victorious and Glorious!

He is Risen, He is Risen indeed!