Understanding your role

I did a sermon on the first chapter of James last week which I will break up into 2 sections. One will be here, which will be about half of the sermon, since it is a bit long. The second part will be at my other site, thelivingmessage.com. I pray that those of you who read this will take the lessons of it in stride because it has much to say about how we are supposed to live as Christians.

Faith responds with practical godliness under testing (1:1-27).

James uses the description of himself as a servant or in some other translations “a bond servant” of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to show that he willingly and lovingly served. He could’ve claimed status since he was the Lord’s half-brother, according to history. But, he didn’t. A bond servant serves out of love not because of being bound. This is the service that we should be giving unto Jesus and to our faith!

Your faith and your Christian life is no good if the people that you are around can’t tell that anything has changed in your life. Testing is like polishing a car or a piece of jewelry, it needs to be done from time to time so that your life reflects Jesus more than it does yourself. Sometimes the testing or pruning in your life may not be very enjoyable, I mean look at Job! In the first chapter of Job, God actually brags to Satan about him. Yet, when Satan challenges God on this he is given permission to do anything he wishes EXCEPT take his life.

Will we be tested quite that hard? It is possible, I mean when you are given a diagnosis of cancer or some other disease which can kill you, that is pretty hard testing. Sometimes the test is just getting through one day at a time, getting past the treatments and the medicine and the side effects of that. Lean on God’s strength when yours fails you and He won’t let you down. Because, James used the word “when” to say that we will go through testing because we are His servants in this world and this world hates Him.

A. Faith responds with joy when it faces testing (1:2-4).

This one is tough, especially when you may not be in the midst of testing right now. But, if you ever have been I am sure it didn’t seem like a joyful time. Our joy comes from knowing that Jesus is also God and He won’t let you down, no matter what. “Joy comes in the morning” is something which I turn to almost every day when my legs and hips hurt and when my spine feels like it won’t flex at all. (Psalm 30:5)

God is there with you in your pain and in the joyful times. He is near when tragedy strikes and when a child is born. In all things give thanks that He loves you and is working the best out in your life so that others will see Him in your life! Trials will cause you to develop patience and endurance in Him, if you will stay close to Jesus during your trials. Don’t think or even consider that your strength is enough to get you through any trial, regardless of the hardness of the trial, because if you do Satan can make the trial hard enough to make you look to Him even though he isn’t trying to turn you toward Jesus our Lord.

B. Faith seeks God for wisdom in times of testing (1:5-8).

In our trials, whatever they may be, we truly should seek God’s wisdom during these times. Trying to lean on your own understanding and your own wisdom will bring more problems and even harder testing because you think that you can get through without God! God’s Word contains all of the wisdom that you need to get through trials. Prayer and fasting can increase your faith to bring you even closer to God and His Wisdom. Even Jesus said that “when ye fast”, it was not a command but He knew that even in our time, there will be days and problems which require fasting to bring the solution to our knowledge from God!

Life is….

Our life is one day at a time, whether you are religious or not. It doesn’t matter whether you have faith in God or not, it goes by faster than most people realize. If you are a parent or a grandparent then you know how fast days and weeks and even years can rush by. Should we take note of everything that is going on around us? Absolutely! Not so much in a “nosy neighbor” way, but don’t shut yourself inside and not notice that life is going on around you either.

True Life is in Jesus and if you don’t know Him then you should get to know Him. Seek Him out because He will come to you if you are looking for Him. God loves each of us and really has a plan for us, whether you believe in Him or His plan or not. Some of us He has a plan which includes working for Him in His Kingdom, now or in the future. Some of us, may not fit into that right now but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a role to play in some way.

Each of us is important or God wouldn’t have placed us here on Earth with our parents to grow up in the place where we grew up. He knows the intricate details of how you grew up, what influenced you and who influenced you. Those who had a positive impact on your future were likely sent into your life by Him. If there was a negative person in your life, then they may have been sent by Satan or one of his cronies, trying to derail you from serving God’s purpose.

The problem with that is: God’s purpose is never derailed, no matter how many negative influences get in the way. His plans always work out, the time-table may change a bit but in the end the result will be what God had intended in the beginning. Life, through Jesus, always works out for His purposes regardless of the intent of the enemy. All that we need to do is cooperate with Him in life and live it the very best we can through Him and with Him.

In that way, our legacy will be His legacy and His purpose and our treasure, our eternal reward will be in Heaven where moth and decay can’t destroy any of it! Amen!

Time and pain

Pain brings to mind the time and the strength needed to handle it, no matter how hard it is. Time is something that we all seem to think we have plenty of, especially when we are teens. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it isn’t true. There never is plenty of time or too much time. There never is enough time for people to say ‘I love you’. Yes, it sounds sappy, but if that someone you love, is lost in a drive-by shooting or a wreck…where is your time now? It is gone and you can’t get it back.

Just as words said in anger can’t be taken back or un-said, bullets and wrecks and other sudden ways of dying can’t be undone. So what will you do? Have you considered your time on Earth? Have you lived say twenty years? Forty years? Sixty years? Eighty years? Have you been blessed with good health enough to live for an entire century? Yes, adding twenty years at a time brings time into perspective a bit. Now, what about your life? Has it been enjoyable and fun? Did you really enjoy it and not have much in the way of sadness and sorrow?

Most of us can’t answer that last question with anything except “no, not really”. Why is that? One reason is that we live in a world that is paying the price for the sins of the past. Yes, the sins of our world and the consequences of that sin have been around ever since the Garden. In truth, our world and every person on the Earth is paying that price and the consequences of past disobedience. As the Bible says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:22-23

The world groans because of the damage that has been done by Satan and his demons, his fallen ones, who are confined to the Earth and we are subject to them. They hate us because of their position and they know the consequences of their actions both in Heaven and for the destruction and death that they have caused here. All of the religions made by mankind, the evil committed by men in the past and now have been influenced by them in some way.

Mankind tends toward sinful behavior even without demonic influence, because it is our nature and we are born with it. That is not to say that we can’t do good things or be charitable, but for the most part we are doing those things for recognition, for pride’s sake, to make us feel good. Our time is short and we only have the life that we are given today to make a difference. Tomorrow is not given until you wake up in it and God is in charge of your time here, not you or your job or your family. It is up to His grace and His purpose whether you wake in the morning or not. If you have a part to play in tomorrow’s dealings for His purpose then you will live another day, if not then your time may be up tonight.

Pain, whether it is physical or emotional, is just a part of our lives. We have to live with it one way or another, but through God’s power and seeking Him in our lives we can have the strength to get past the painful times and enjoy the happy times. Seek Him, learn about Him through reading His Word and prayer because when you get to know the Creator better, then your life becomes easier and more useful to Him.

The truth of the Bible!

Emperors like Diocletian have decreed its extermination, atheists like Voltaire have railed against it, agnostics through the years have cynically sneered at it, and liberals strive to remove the miracles from the Bible. Materialists have simply ignored it. How is it that the Bible still stands after centuries of attempts to destroy it? Because the Bible is eternal, settled in heaven.

It is, very simply, God’s Word to mankind! Breathed by the Holy Spirit into the minds of men who wrote the words down so that we can benefit from its wisdom. There is no way of getting rid of its timeless wisdom or ignoring it in any way. You may do so, if you wish, but it will gain you nothing except a life of missed chances to be of any worth to the Kingdom of God. You can ignore it, but when you face your judgement in the presence of God, it will convict you of your ignorance and your reluctance toward the message that it carries.

It is a book of knowledge and power, and one which contains historical words of wisdom and the history of the Jewish people. It contains the story of creation, betrayal, murder and redemption, adultery, incest, and savage cruelty and slavery. But…it also carries a line of hope and love beyond measure and a promise that your life and mine can be made whole again regardless of the way we may have been before coming to Jesus!

God’s Word contained in the Bible has all of these elements in it as well as the hope that we can come back into the perfect relationship that was intended at the beginning. For that, we shouldn’t give up on its wisdom or dismiss it as an old book which is outdated for our time. We should use it, every day to bring new meaning and purpose into our lives and to learn the wisdom contained in its pages as well. If for no other reason than to teach it to our children and our grandchildren, that is why it exists.

God gave all of the books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, to us for instruction and learning, for wisdom and for the Truth that it contains. We cannot ignore it or deny its existence and we can’t just throw it away. It is a Holy Book and truly should be treated as such. In reality, we should treat the Bible at least as necessary as our cell phones which people can’t live without these days. We should carry it with us every day and miss it if we find out we have left it behind. Its wisdom is necessary for our existence and we should use it and treat it as being important to us, especially if we are born-again Christians!

Although today people who don’t believe the words contained in it are very vocal with their opinions, some are even belligerent to the point of being rude and obnoxious. Just because the Word of God tells the absolute Truth and has been the model for much of our nations laws is no reason to be this way. It does step on people’s toes a bit because it brings to light their sins and their nature that is opposite of the Word of God and many people can’t handle their faults being brought into the light this way. The Bible is still and will always be the Word of God!

It has been established in Heaven and the words in it were given to the writers by the Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity. The Word of God, contained in the Bible, has been around for over three thousand years and it is NOT going away, EVER!! You can get rid of them, burn them, destroy them, but the Word is still around in the hearts and minds of Christians and Jewish people! These two faiths contain the entirety of the Bible and the Word of God cannot be destroyed and never will be, regardless of the feelings of many who don’t go along with its words and beliefs.

The Dark side….

In my last post I spoke about being self-righteous and many people seem to feel this way, although if you told them this they would be offended.

Self-righteousness was and has been a problem in religious circles for many generations but that is not what I have seen in the news or on talk shows lately. What is cropping up is apathy and a lack of respect between parents and children, teachers and their students and those who claim to be Christians and those who don’t.

(Darth Vader breathing)

This is the shadow of the dark side, not so much from a science fiction point of view, but the dark side of Creation. There was always a dividing line between light and dark and there really is not grey area in that spot. It is either one or the other, dark and light don’t blend in nature nor in the spiritual realm.

It seems that many people don’t exactly believe that the Bible nor anything referred to in it are real today. As if a few thousand years has obliterated Satan and his demons as well as God and His angels. That is fine if you want to believe that, I have no problem with your beliefs or lack of belief.

But…just hypothetically speaking, what if all of the things prophesied in the Bible really come true one day in the not too distant future? Would you change your thinking or your beliefs? Or would you cling to blissfully being an unbeliever and just disregard anything that your eyes see as nonsense? When your life is over on this plane of existence, what do you think will happen to you?

Many people seem to think that they just stop existing and that is that. Some say they go to a place of happiness and bliss. I don’t claim to have gone over the threshold to see what is there, but according to what is in the Bible you stand before God to be judged for your life. What you did while you lived, if you came to believe in Jesus or not and the sins that you committed during your life will all be judged either for you or against you.

How do you think your life will look to God, if you chose to go through it without Jesus or believing in Him either? The Bible says this about our life and our righteousness, “Our righteousness is as filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6. The expression there is like unwashed clothes that have been worn for weeks and are so filthy that they are coming apart.

The dark side of the spiritual realm, where Satan and his fallen angels are, is at war with God and all of His angels and those of us who tell of His love and compassion for you. Satan has no love for man, he hates us because we are made in the image of God and that is only one of his reasons. He hates us because God loves us and because we were placed above him in responsibilities in God’s kingdom.

Please, don’t go over to the dark side. Give your heart to Jesus and live for Him. Make Satan uncomfortable and angry because when you work for and with Jesus, that is what you will do.

What can I do?

Many times we don’t think that there is anything that we can do that would make the world a better place. It is just too much to do, there are too many things that need to be done, one person can’t possibly do so much; these are the excuses that we use in order for us to not feel so bad about what we think we cannot do. The problem with this kind of thinking is that if everyone felt this way, and we probably do many times, and decided not to do anything then nothing at all would get done!

But, if we would choose to do just one thing that would help the person standing next to them such as pay for their cup of coffee and yours or pay their parking meter when it expires. One selfless gesture from each person on Earth for the next person, every day for a year, there would scarcely be any poverty or war or homeless people in the world!

Instead of thinking of yourself, think of your co-workers, your neighbors, people that you don’t know but pass by on the street and do something, even a small thing, for that person. Many times a small gesture can make a very big difference. Even in your everyday life, a choice that you make can make a big difference in your outlook and the outcome of your daily walk. For instance, here is part of a devotional that I read and I thought that it might touch some of you:

Did you know that happiness is a choice? A man said to a beggar one day, “Good day my friend.”The beggar answered, “Well, thank you, but I never have a bad one.” The man responded, “Well, may God give you a happy life, my friend.” And the beggar replied, “I thank God that I am never unhappy.” The man was speechless. And the beggar continued, “When I have plenty to eat, I thank God. When I am hungry, I thank God. If it is God’s will for me to endure this, then whatever is God’s will for me makes me happy.”

We can choose to be happy in our situation, whatever that may be in life. We can choose contentment and a positive outlook regardless of our situation or circumstances. Choice makes a difference in our lives and it can make a difference in someone else’s life when we choose to be a blessing to them, regardless of the cost to us. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, your choice may be just to pay for a cup of coffee or their breakfast at a fast food place, but the gesture and the attitude behind it go a long way in the other person’s eyes.

Kindness goes a long way, especially in today’s world, because it is rare. People don’t seem to be or even try to be kind to each other these days, unless they are Christians. Most Christians are kind to each other, although there is some animosity between doctrines and ideologies. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the differences are what is considered news so that is what is reported. We need to be concentrating on being Christians and not on our doctrines and differences.

Christ is coming back sooner than most people think and it is time we started being the people that we are called to be, reflections of His Will and purpose and not our own.

 

What version of truth do you believe?

Today, many people claim to have their own version of truth, because many people say that “truth is relative”. Is it really?

How large is the Earth? Would you accept that its equatorial diameter is 12,756 km as the truth? Considering that we can all look this number up in the library or online, I would think that it would be accepted. All of the planets in the solar system have been mapped and measured and the Sun has too, so any statements made about them will be accepted as truth as long as I don’t change anything.

What about your beliefs? Do you have a faith in something that is accepted as fact and can be proven by other means rather than faith? Many people who are religious in any way, can’t prove their faith or belief scientifically because the major religions of the world were started hundreds or thousands of years ago. All that they have to base their belief on is a written account which was written many years ago. So, how do you know it is the truth? Can you prove it?

Most of the great scientists of the last few centuries like Newton, Bohr, Kepler and others were Christians who were trying to prove things which were found in the Scriptures. In the book, “Temple at the Center of Time”, it is written that Isaac Newton was searching for the knowledge that was given to those who lived before the flood. Original knowledge given by God. Could this be proven? By today’s scientific methods?

If you read this book and look at Newton’s work and the math that he used, then it is possible to prove many of the theories as well as much of the prophecies contained in Scripture. Considering this, the proof is in the Book itself and since it was inspired by God, Who cannot lie, then it must be the truth!

Of course, there are people who don’t believe anything that is in the Scriptures. It is supposedly a book that was dreamed up by the men who wrote it and very little of it is true. The Jewish scholars would have to disagree with you on that point because they were very meticulous about the written history of their people, which is what most, if not all, of the Old Testament is. Also, the prophecies written by those prophets hundreds of years before Jesus was born were fulfilled by Him and many other prophecies concerning the Jewish people have been fulfilled as well. Prophecies that have been fulfilled are not “dreamed up”, they were inspired by God.

He is the only One who could have given them the words of prophecy that would come true because He knew that it would come true. So, the truth about absolute truth is in the proof. Read it, ask questions, study it and find out the real truth, then look at the way the world is going and ask yourself: “Which truth will carry me to Heaven and which one will condemn me to hell?”

Following your own path and your own truth without Jesus will lead you to a place that you do not want to spend eternity. And, if you think that there is no eternity and that we just stop being alive when we die, you are right. Our body does die but our soul lives on in a glorified body, one that cannot die regardless of the final destination.