God calls us to Patient Endurance “Look I’m developing Spiritual Muscles”!!

As I continued to meditate about Patience, I thought about the virtue in relation to time. It is all about time and trust. We have absolute assurance that God has good things planned for us. When we read His words in Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We know God is working to make us the best we can be in Him. As the phrase says-“Good things take time.” Consider these verses:

Proverbs 25:15 “Patience can persuade a prince,
    and soft speech can break bones. Luke 8:15 “And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” Hebrews 6:11-12 “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

In each of these verses the idea of waiting and waiting with patient expectation for godly results is expected of us. Whether it be in patient persuasion, the patience of a farmer waiting for his crops to grow and mature or the heroes of faith exhorting us to be patient in our words and actions so that they please God.

I don’t know about you but I’m not the most patient person. I’m an American and we often fall into the desire for immediate results. The idea of waiting for the results is painful. Have you ever thought about why God wants us to wait for results? He desires that we grow and develop in our faith, learn to walk with Him daily and trust in Him. All those things- growth, developing, walking daily and trusting all require us to endure and see things through to the end. The Bible calls this developing patient endurance. Hebrews 10:36 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” God knows we have to live through things, endure to the end- we need to develop perseverance! God knows before the end His people will face great persecution and hardships. Revelation 14:11-12 “And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” 12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” Living through that time will require perseverance, faith and patient endurance!

We each face challenges in our lives that help us build spiritual muscles. We see God’s faithfulness in our life and in the lives of those around us. We don’t have to endure all trials to learn and grow- we can observe, pray with others, and comfort them in their times of trial. If you are doing okay today, who do you know that is in a time requiring patient endurance of their faith? Pray for them, send them an encouraging note or card. If you are going through a time requiring patient endurance, ask a friend to pray for you and with you.

Look ahead with confidence and be encouraged the next time you struggle with circumstances requiring you to wait patiently for the Lord, to endure and persevere. God is building your spiritual muscles and making you stronger in Him!

Linda

Patience, right now Lord?

Patience is something God desires us to have within our character but in looking at scripture I’m seeing that God has it and wants us to have it too. There is always a function of time involved that often grates against our nature and causes us grief. It is called for in suffering and growth and is a part of life that opens us up to greater blessings from God. I am going to spend a few blogs meditating on patience as I, myself, see the need to increase this God given attribute in my life. I desire to see its fruit in my life.

First, let’s look at patience as something God desires for our character. Jesus wants us to show Him to others with patience. 1 Timothy 1:16 “ But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” We are to be his example to the world of great patience. If that is so, then I need to ask myself, What do I need to do to show patience towards others? How do I cultivate an attitude or ability to be patient?

Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruits of the Spirit. These are attitudes and attributes that come from allowing the Holy Spirit to work and reign within our lives.  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Do you seek to acknowledge the Spirit of the living God in your life daily? Do you pray with expectation and hope, knowing He can do all things? Do you seek to grow in Christ allowing Him to develop His character within you freely? Sanctification, or the process of becoming more and more like Jesus, is a life long journey. It definitively requires patience from God, or Him being longsuffering, with all of our ups and downs, steps forward and backwards! It also requires patient endurance on our part to seek to keep focused upon God and His ways in our life. In Colossians 3:12 Paul writes, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” This having patience with others is not an option for believers. God loves us and calls us to be His examples showing His character to the world.

Meditate on your own patience today. Are you allowing God to use patience to mold and shape your character? Are you seeing progress? If not, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to be able to show greater patience in your life. James 4:2b tells us “Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” Boldly ask God for greater patience so you can endure the trials of your life with greater joy.

I’m asking God to increase my patience and turn it to joy today.

Linda

P.S. Just as I am writing, I was called upon to show patience with someone new. A good reminder that patience is something I need to beware of and let God cultivate within me moment by moment. I want my reactions to life to show His character within me. Patience is truly required!

Fight for it! Love it! Be Steadfast!

And the summer journey ends with….Jude. I have loved my summer wanderings through the Bible where I have been writing on books of the Bible and my favorite passages. For my last blog in this series, until maybe next summer, I took a look at the short book of Jude. It is a letter with just 25 verses, but is packed with wisdom for the ages. Jude proclaims himself to be a servant of Jesus and a brother of James. James was a prominent Christian leader in the Jerusalem church after Jesus’ resurrection and the author of the book of James. Both were half-brothers of Jesus as listed in Matthew 13:55 “ Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.” Later in Acts 1:14 Jesus’ brothers are mentioned but not by name. They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” Jude or Judas was a humble man as he did not presume upon favoritism because he was Jesus’ brother. He saw Jesus as His Lord and Savior, and he desired to be known and seen as a servant.

In the beginning Jude says he desires to talk about salvation but feels compelled by the Holy Spirit to instruct and warn them about men who seek to disrupt, mislead and change the gospel message. In verse 16 he says,  These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.” Times have not changed that much as we also need to be aware, wary and alert to those who would distort and/or seek to change the gospel message of love, grace, salvation and hope we have in Jesus. Jude calls the believers then and now to persevere for the sake of Christ. Verses 17-23 are a call to step up in our faith and hold fast to Jesus. “

17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, which group am I in? Do I add to the descension and unrest in the church or am I a peacemaker that holds to the truth of the gospel seeking unity? Am I diligent in prayer and seek to focus on Jesus? Am I kind in dealing with others seeking to show mercy? Do I love the sinner and yet hate the sins that plague mankind? These are ancient questions that still need answers from dedicated believers today.

Lastly, my favorite benediction is found in Jude 24-25. It is worth memorizing! “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

We serve an a mighty God as He is able in all things!

Linda

Unchangeable, Promise Keeping God

And the journey continues….Ezra. Ezra is a history book about the Jewish people’s amazing return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Due to their evil idolatrous ways and forsaking of the worship of the one true God, they were carted away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was destroyed along with the temple. The precious gold bowls and articles of worship were carried away too. Their exile, which was warned about by a multitude of prophets, was accomplished by the Persian army and many of the Jewish citizens were deported to Babylon. All the prophets had foretold their exile and also their return. No date was given in earlier prophesy’s to their return but God promised to bring them back. As the time for exile approached, God sent a message to the people through Jeremiah that they would be exiled for 70 years and then be brought home to Jerusalem. The events in Ezra tell us how God used a pagan king to accomplish this feat and see to His people’s return 70 years after their deportation.

Daniel, one of the exiled Jews, spoke of how God uses all in His world to accomplish His will in his prayer. Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel knew that God controlled who was in power and determined the future of His people.

The book of Ezra opens 70 years later. Ezra is a Jewish official, a scribe and a priest in the service of King Cyrus of Persia. The regime has changed and Cyrus had a revelation from God and his heart was moved towards the Jewish people living in his realm. Ezra 1:1-4  “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

There are several amazing things about this occurrence. Their return was foretold by Jeremiah before their exile in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10. Here is 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” God was very specific on the number of years they would be in exile (70) and that when they returned they would have provisions. Cyrus ordered fellow Jews remaining in Babylon to support them and their efforts to rebuild the temple. He, a pagan king, was used by God in a mighty and miraculous way aid in the return of God’s people. They did return and began rebuilding the city, walls and temple. Ezra stayed, led in the instruction of the people in God’s ways so that they did not sin continue to sin against God. He had to return to Cyrus’ court and Nehemiah was led to go and continue this restoration.

What lessons can we take from this story? Foremost, God keeps His promises. God said they would go, they did. God said they would return, they did. The events were orchestrated by God and not by the Jews who were in exile. God knew the correct time for their return and who was going to be in power. God knew Cyrus would listen to His message and act upon it. One would never have thought that the golden bowls, etc. that were taken as plunder and placed in the Babylonian temple by King Nebuchadnezzar were there for safekeeping. Only God could take away, preserve and then return them to where He wanted them to be. That same God is the God we know today. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is our unchanging all powerful God who watches over all of us. This account gives me hope and assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, always and forever. It also assures me that God is Sovereign over nations, those in power and events happening in our world. When things look bleak, I need to always remember that God is indeed in control and walk trusting Him for my safekeeping. I know God keeps His promises!

Be encouraged by God today.

Linda

Paul’s Persuasion Points to Christ

And the journey continues…Philemon. This short letter from Paul to the slave owning believer Philemon in Colossae is an example of Christian persuasion at its best. Paul’s words seek to remind the believing slave owner, who has been wronged, of how his faith in Christ can and will transform his attitudes and opinions for the common good. It seems Onesimus, the slave, ran away from his master Philemon’s home in Colossae stealing from him in the process. His journey away from Colossae took him to Rome where he encountered Paul. Paul lead him to faith in Jesus and was witness to his transformed character. Onesimus decided that the right thing to do was to return to his master. Under Roman law, this was a crime punishable by death. Seeing the changed heart and his desire to return to ‘fix’ the situation, Paul writes this letter to persuade Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into this home and his service.

Paul’s steps to persuade Philemon start with their common ground. They are both believers and Paul thanks God for Philemon’s faith in Jesus and his willingness to share his faith with others. Paul tells him how he has been blessed and encouraged by the faith of the believers in Colossae. As we learned in Colossians, Paul had never been to Colossae but Epaphras whom he had led to Christ had started a church there. Paul had heard of their growing and vibrant faith. Philemon 1:7 “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. What Christian brother or sister are you grateful for? How has their love for Jesus impacted you? Does their witness and faith encourage you and build up your own faith? If so, make a point of telling them. It will be an encouragement to them and help them see how they are having an impact for Christ in the world.

Next Paul sets before Philemon a challenge of faith. He asks him, because of Jesus’ loves for him, to accept and forgive Onesimus back for several reasons. Paul tells him of his love for Onesimus and how much he has grown to love this young man since leading him to Christ. He tells him how helpful he has been, during his time in prison, and that it is as if Philemon is there helping him through Onesimus. As to the matter of what he stole from Philemon, Paul goes so far as to ask Philemon to charge the debt to him. He says he will pay whatever is owed when he sees Philemon. Lastly, he argues the point that if he should welcome Onesimus back he will get not only his slave returned to his service but a brother in Christ who will be serving him and the savior they share in faith.

As I pondered Paul’s pleas for the life of Onesimus, I was struck by the power of the gospel in our lives. Paul contributes Onesimus’ new attitudes and faith in Christ with his total change of heart and character. The power of Christ in our lives makes us do and say things that are contrary to our old nature. The truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is evident in Onesimus’ life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” He was also reminding Philemon that he too has a new nature that should not be motivated by worldly values. Is there someone or something you need to reevaluate in light of the cross of Christ?

Paul closes this letter with greetings to their common friends and asks Philemon to have a room ready for him when he visits. This is very personal and shows Paul’s willingness to come to him regardless of his decision concerning Onesimus. He is praying that Philemon will be lead by Christ to have compassion, mercy and love towards his slave. PauI’s pleas remind me God’s desire for each of us.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

May we seek to please God and walk humbly with Christ looking to serve him with justice and love towards others.

Linda

Fallen People and their Faithful God

And the journey continues….Judges. This Old Testament book highlights the time after the death of Joshua, the leader that had led them into Canaan, and the establishment of a monarchy. Their lives became a cycle as they lost sight of God as their ruler and leader. They would fall into idolatry, be oppressed by another nation then call on God to rescue them. God rescued them through a series of Judges who led the people back to God and out of harms way. Some are well known like Deborah, Gideon and Samson. Each led the armies of Israel to a victory miraculously provided by God.

The account of Deborah’s defeat of their attackers along with her commander Barak are given in Judges Chapters 4 and 5. Together with the Lord’s guidance they defeated Sisera and his 100 iron chariots. He fled the battle and was killed as he slept. The victory is recounted with praise to God in ‘The Song of Deborah’ in Chapter 5. We are reminded that victory is the Lord’s and He is worthy of all praises!

“That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
    that the people offered themselves willingly,
    bless the Lord! “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes;
    to the Lord I will sing;  I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Judges 5:2-3

What victory do you need to give praises to God for today? Where has God rescued you from enemies, your own mistakes, or your own selfishness? Just like the Israelites, we only need to call upon the Lord with a repentant heart and He will stand with us to face the consequences our actions have brought. I cling to the promise of Isaiah 49:16 “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;  your walls are continually before me.” God knows me and is with me 24/7 surrounding me with his love and protection.

Gideon’s story is told in Judges Chapters 6 and 7. The Israelites fell into idolatry again and were under domination by the Midianites for 7 years. The Midianites were oppressive as they stole their crops, livestock and ravaged their land. Many of the Israelites were very afraid and lived in caves hiding from them. The Israelites cried out to the Lord for deliverance. God called Gideon to lead the people and sent an angel to deliver his message. Gideon was doubtful of his ability to do what God asked. He asked God for a sign as proof that He was really calling him to lead the fight against the Midianites. Gideon set out an offering and the angel of the Lord consumed it with fire. (6:19-23) Gideon did as the Lord required and led a fight against the opposing forces. Then more forces came against Israel and Gideon asked for another sign that he should continue. Judges 6:36-40 “Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew. Gideon was convinced and led the army as God directed. They routed the Midianites in a miraculous way! Read the account in Chapter 7 of Judges.

I love this story of Gideon as it showed Gideon’s human doubts and God’s reassuring love, patience and longsuffering towards His servant Gideon. When Gideon stepped out in faith, God was faithful and gave him the victory. Where are you doubting God today? Take a lesson from Gideon and ask God for reassurance. It can be as simple as praying and asking God for His peace if you are to continue with…. or ask God to close a door/opportunity if He does not want you to proceed. Our answers do not have to be tangible fleeces but God wants to reassure us and resolve our doubts so we can step out with confident boldness. When He gives you the assurance, be bold, trust God and proceed in faith. I am reminded of God’s faithfulness in 2 Timothy 2:11-13

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.
God is always faithful even when we are not! Praise God!

If you have some time you might also enjoy reviewing the story of Samson in Chapter 13-15. He was called by God, given extraordinary strength, let his pride cause him to sin and give into his deceitful wife’s pleas, received awful abuse by the Philistines and then God gave him victory over their enemy. Again we see, in spite of our weaknesses, God can and does use us to bring His victory.

Linda

God’s Character Revealed

And the journey continues…Nahum. This short book in the Old Testament was written by Nahum the prophet. Like Jonah he was called to give a message from God to Assyria. Years earlier God sent Jonah to call the people of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, to repentance. They had repented and God had postponed their destruction. They had been an evil people practicing extreme cruelty towards others and had taken the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity. God had promised revenge upon those who used and abused His people. So the time for their downfall has arrived and Nahum tells how God will destroy them because of their sinful ways. In the midst of these 3 short chapters there are some nuggets that speak of God’s great character and promises of hope in the future for those who trust in Him.

Nahum 1:2-7 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
    the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
    and keeps wrath for his enemies.
God does not allow those who love Him to be taken advantage of and not avenged. He is the one who will right wrongs and take care of our enemies. This biblical truth is given many other places in scripture. See Deuteronomy 32:41-43,Isaiah 35:4, Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30.

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
    the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
    the world and all who dwell in it.
Here Nahum speaks of the sovereign control God has over His creation. He describes God’s character as being longsuffering, patient but just in the face of sin.

Who can stand before his indignation?
    Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
    and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him
. God is God and no one can stand against Him and His power. Verse 7 is one of my favorites as it extols the goodness of God for all who believe and take refuge in Him!

In 1:15 Nahum tells of good news to come. The coming destruction of Assyria was good news to the people of Judah who had been threatened and abused by them. The good news also foreshadows the coming of Jesus who brought good news for all mankind. Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off.

What can we learn from this ancient prophesy? We know that the destruction of the Assyrian empire was historically accomplished at the hands of the Babylonians years after this prophesy was written. God’s word was true and accurate and shows how God’s will will be accomplished as He says. The words within Nahum show us more about God’s holy character and how He is mighty, sovereign, holy and all powerful. It also gives us assurance that God will avenge wrongs done towards those who follow Him in faith and shows His love and care for each believer. I cling to the truth of verse 7- God is good and in Him I will find refuge as He cares for me! Amidst the destruction and unleashing of God’s wrath towards their unrepentant sin, we see hope and restoration for those who believe in Him– Jesus. He is the ultimate good news of God that brings love, peace, hope, forgiveness and life eternal in Him. John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Thank you Jesus.

May you have a clearer vision of who God is and what He has done for you through Jesus.

Linda

How do you do it? Live for Jesus

And the journey continues… James. This New Testament book is Oh so practical in nature. It was written by James, the oldest brother of Jesus. After his conversion, he became a pillar of the Christian church in Jerusalem and was widely known. His opening lines direct this letter to the dispersed Jewish Christians who had been scattered abroad after the death of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). James is referred to many times in the New Testament as Jesus appeared to him personally after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7), was known as a pillar in the church (Galatians 2:9), was visited by Paul on various occasions, was Paul’s first choice of whom to tell upon being released from prison, (Acts 12:17), was important in the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15:13, was the brother of Jude (Jude 1:1) and history records that he was martyred in A.D. 62.

His short letter of 5 Chapters is packed with practical knowledge and instruction on how to live out a life committed to Christ that is filled with faith and good works. James was a servant of Christ and desired that those following Jesus serve Him wholeheartedly. It is filled with wisdom on how to treat others, tame the tongue and submit to God. If you desire to learn to think biblically it is a great book to memorize. The truths will permeate your being and infuse godly thinking into your mind. As James would say, it leads to solid faith and good works that show our love for God as we serve Him. Here are a few of my most favorite verses that have transformed my thinking.

James 1:2-4 talks about attitude and the results of trusting all of life’s events to God.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1: 5-6 instructs us to go to the source of all wisdom when we need answers but to do it with faith!  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:17 confirms the immutability of God. He also assures us that God is good in all He gives. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

James 1:19-20 instructs us to control our anger.  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 2:1 begins his teaching on treating others with impartiality. “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” He concludes this chapter with words about faith and good works. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14)

James 3 delves into the harm and good that we can do with our tongues!  “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (3:6)

James 4:7-8 is one of my favorite promises as it shows us clearly the way to draw near to God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

In his last chapter James talks about the whining rich, the need for patience and the importance of prayer. James 5:15-16 encourages us in our prayer life! “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Which of these nuggets of wisdom do you need today? Are you struggling with trials in your life and need the perspective of joy? Are you concerned that God is perhaps whimsical and will change His mind about your salvation? Are you being confronted with favoritism, gossip or want to know how to get closer to God? Are you struggling with prayer and asking yourself why pray? James is a book that can be read, meditated upon and digested slowly so that the truths contained therein will permeate your life and allow the Holy Spirit to change you from the inside out.

Be encouraged today by the practicality of James and how he makes faith in Christ applicable to our daily walk with Jesus.

Linda

The All Seeing God who Always Wins

And the journey continues….2 Kings, again. I love this book of history as God has so much to teach us within its chapters. Chapter 6 relates the story of what happened to Elisha when the king of Arman came after him. The king was at war with Israel and told his officers where they were going to camp. Elisha was forewarned by God and warned the king of Israel. The king of Aram was enraged and thought he had a traitor in the midst of his army. When the soldier told him it wasn’t them but the prophet Elisha who was relaying even the words spoken in his bedroom to Israel’s king, the king of Aram sent horses and chariots to come and kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant saw the army coming and ran to tell Elisha in fear. Here is Elisha’s response and what happened.

2 Kings 6:15-23. “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Elisha was aware of God’s protective presence that was unseen by the servant until God opened his eyes. So it is with us. God has given us His angels to protect us even though we are totally unaware. Psalm 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” God is always with us and will never leave us nor forsake us! Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” If you are in a difficult situation, pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to feel and see His protection. Always remember that God is with you 24/7!

The last part of this story shows God’s mercy and compassion. The soldiers were struck with blindness, lead to the foreign city, their eyes opened and then treated with kindness and mercy just as if they were captives. The end result was the king of Aram stopped raiding and attacking Israel and God’s people were protected. James reminds us of this truth in James 2:12-13 that mercy triumphs over judgement. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. This is how we are to treat one another, erring on the side of mercy and allowing God to be glorified through our merciful actions and attitudes.

There is one other incident from 2 Kings that I recall often as I feel it totally applies to our lives today. King Hezekiah was a good king and followed the Lord. He was attacked by Sennecherib the king of Assyria who was threatening to invade Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew their army was not strong enough to repel the attack. Sennecherib sent an envoy with a letter demanding their surrender and in it he mocked the God of Israel. Here is what Hezekiah did. 2 Kings 19:14-19

 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

God replied through the prophet Isaiah and foretold the coming destruction of Assyria. God also sent encouragement to Hezekiah and said the would be saved. 2 Kings 19:32-36 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city
    or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
    or build a siege ramp against it.
33 By the way that he came he will return;
    he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
34 I will defend this city and save it,
    for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

Why this story resonates so much with me is because Hezekiah was at the ‘end of his rope’ and laid his problem before Almighty God. He knew by faith that God was greater and that no other god was more powerful. God spared the faithful Israelites and the Assyrians left in defeat without a shot being heard. When I feel I’m at the end of my rope, I remember this story and practice laying my burdens before Him. I claim His promise in 1 Peter 5:6-7  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Both of these stories show how amazing our God is and how He will fight for us if we look for His presence, and humble ourselves before Him. May the all seeing God who can victoriously fight any battle be with you today.

Linda

What Attitudes Do Others See in You?

And the journey continues… 2 Kings. This is a fascinating book with so many examples of God’s working in the lives of His people. The prophet Elijah ends his ministry in Chapter 2 when God takes him up into heaven without facing death. God made his departure spectacular as a fiery chariot appeared and took him to heaven in a whirlwind! 2 Kings 2:11. The only other person God took to heaven was Enoch in Genesis 5:24. 2 Kings highlights the ministry of Elisha the prophet and gives the history of the kings of both the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. There are many miracles written of Elisha; he was a man of God that walked humbly with God and followed His direction.

In Chapter 4 we find a widow whose husband belonged to a company of prophets who worked in Elisha’s service. She asked for Elisha’s help as her sons were about to be taken as slaves to pay their debt. He asks, “How can I help?” He asks her what she has in the house. She tells him she has a bit of oil. So Elisha directs her to gather a lot of jars, shut herself in the house and begin filling them. When all were filled and there were no more jars, the oil ran out. Then Elisha instructed her to sell the oil, pay the debt and use the money that remained to live with her family. I love this story as it shows Elisha’s compassion in helping the woman see how her few resources became great with God’s power. In that same chapter, Elisha often visits a well to do family in Shunem. The wife offers to make him a room on the roof, with her husband’s permission, so that Elisha and his servant could stay there whenever they are in the region. Elisha asks the woman what can he do for her as a way of thanks. She says she needs nothing but his servant points out she does not have a son and her husband is old. So Elisha calls to her and tells her she will have a son this time next year. She was amazed and grateful. A few years later the son is injured and she calls Elisha to come even after he is dead. Elisha comes and restores the young man to life. Here again we see Elisha modeling gratitude towards one who selflessly served him. God honored her attitude of devotion and faith in the man of God with a son. What touches me most is that she did not ask for anything, and yet God saw her hearts desire and then showered her with blessings because of her selfless attitude of service. Believe it or not there are still 2 other stories in Chapter 4. Elisha ordered a large pot be brought as there was a famine and he was going to provide a meal. A servant went out to gather herbs and accidently put a poisonous plant in the stew. The cook screamed for Elisha to come and he ordered they put in some flour. That fixed the stew and they all ate it with no harmful effects. The last miracle recorded in this chapter is the feeding of a hundred men. Elisha had 20 barley loaves and ordered it be given to the people saying there would be leftovers. To the amazement of the people, everyone ate and there was some left over as the Lord had said. These last 2 miracles show God’s sovereignty over the physical elements of this world and his compassion and care for those who believe in Him.

All of these miracles happened to everyday people living their everyday lives. We saw an attitude of gratitude in their lives that miraculously brought unexpected blessing. Who do you need to help see the resources God has given to them? Who do you need to thank for blessing you through their actions? Who are you feeding in the name of Jesus?

Linda

P.S. Take time to read Chapter 4 of 2 Kings and let the words bless you.