Fatih and Actions Working Together

The crowd, somewhat calmed, but still heightened by James teaching, cautiously listens even as James calls them foolish. Accusing them of being empty of moral content and pretentious. By the power of Holy Spirit he continues to press them harder but they remain incredulous demanding evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Collectively they wonder, “Who is this man turning upside down our thought process, the very core of what we grew up learning? Who does he think he is? Isn’t he simply the brother, and half at that, of the man named Jesus who claimed to be The Messiah? And, he has the audacity to liken what Father Abraham did [offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice] as a deed because of his faith in God?”

James was on fire in his teaching, actually throughout the entire book of James, he is succinct and to the point not parsing words (oh, that the Bride would be more James-like holding herself accountable by drawing herself back to the truth of God’s word in love and grace rather than falling into the trap of societal correctness, when it is our job as believers to hold each other accountable and draw each other back to the truth of God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict and recognizing we are not judging each other but loving each other, but I digress).

How often do you, do I require evidence from God about anything?

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

James 2:21-22

Abraham didn’t need any evidence for what God was asking him to do. He allowed his faith to help him be obedient together with his action resulting in his faith made complete.

Do you often think about your faith connected to the deeds God asks of you as growing your faith? How gracious God is when He asks us to fill a need at the same time He is growing our faith! Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said we would do greater things than these (John 14:12-14). Collectively, spurred on by our ever increasing faith and by the power of Holy Spirit we can and ought to do the deeds or good work God calls us to do.

So, how do we apply this to our life? I will always lead you back to time spent with God. It is only through reading and studying His word and prayer that we begin to hear His voice guiding us in the direction He wants us to go and His will for our life.

Let’s aspire to take on the characteristics of James and Abraham believing that faith and deeds is an abundant way of living.

Shalom!

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People Don’t Care What You Know

Until they know you care (President Teddy Roosevelt). I’m on a soapbox this morning! It started with reading an article about the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state. A little history, well, because I love history. The land D.C. sits on was taken from the state of Maryland and the 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia do not vote for a senator but do have a delegate in the House of Representatives who does not have a House floor vote (Yahoo News 360).

There are several reasons for and against the District of Columbia becoming a state. Now, I’m not going to get political here but this comment caught my attention. “Political bribery is what the creation of states has been all about, with some exceptions. Whenever there’s a desire to create a new state, all Congress has to do is vote for it. But like animals on Noah’s ark, states have historically entered the union in pairs, with lawmakers using new states to maintain the balance of partisan power — or at least try to.” — Alan Greenblatt, Vox. Noah’s Ark? Of course that caught my attention! And if CA has its way it would change the histrocity of granting statehood in twos [but that is another political debate].

What really has me on the soapbox is the people reason for not wanting the District to become a state [in my opinion if we hadn’t taken God out of almost every area of life the world would be a much better place but I digress]. I don’t care what color your skin is, I don’t care what color your hair is, I don’t care what lifestyle you live, I don’t even care what political party you participate in.

What I do care is that you know you are loved.

When we choose to love others right where they are we begin to see past race, creed, nationality, addiction, homelessness, sexual orientation or a dozen other stereotypes the enemy uses to keep us fearful of simply loving. As the Church we need to learn to love like Jesus. We need to learn about others, their passions, what drives them, their dislikes, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry and truly listen and genuinely care.

As a believer in Christ you have the mind of Christ. It is your responsibility as a disciple of Jesus and an ambassador of eternity to think like Jesus, act like Jesus, speak like Jesus [in modern vernacular but you get the point] and love like Jesus. To build relationships and share what you are for…JESUS! And what you’re against-the enemy twisting and perverting your ideology and theology that causes you to perhaps operate from fear. To which I heartily rebuke in Jesus Name, Amen!

What does Jesus do? He loves and shares Himself with all people.

Let’s be like Jesus.

Shalom!

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Katapetasma

The earth shook, rocks were split and miraculously, before their eyes, those that had fallen asleep believing in Jesus were raised FROM the dead! Even more miraculously and after the resurrection of Jesus they left the tombs where their bodies had lain and entered the holy city appearing to many people. Can you EVEN imagine this?! If I were the relative or close friend of someone who had died and rose again and didn’t believe in Jesus that definitely would have sealed the deal for me. Alas, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. Holy Spirit gives to each of us the faith to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The decision to receive this gift is always up to us.

Prior to the earthquake and the rocks splitting the single most important thing that happened in this event was the katapetasma [veil] which hung in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This veil separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God lived, from the outer part of the temple in Jerusalem.

Prior to Jesus death and resurrection the veil was significant because only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies as an intermediary for Israel and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The moment Jesus breathed His last breath the katapetasma was torn and some believe this event symbolizes the departure of God’s presence from the temple. This event also ushered in direct access to God by all those who believe in His Son Jesus.

In our verse today Paul is talking about the hardened minds of the Israelites to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it isn’t only the nation of Israel that had hardened minds against Jesus even today there are many who believe if they do good, if they don’t lie, steal or cheat they are in good standing with God. Sadly, their minds are still covered by a veil that continues to keep them hardened toward God.

My prayer is that God will remove the katapetasma over all Israel so she will see Jesus the Messiah she has been looking for.

That He will remove the veil from all who are yet to believe revealing His beauty.

That He would simply cause the Bride to stop picking up and covering her mind with another veil. Jesus died once[.].

That we would see the beauty of the glory of the Lord reflected in us and grasp ahold of the freedom in and through Jesus in our life that spills onto the lives of others simply because Holy Spirit lives in us.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17.

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Seeking Wisdom in the Right Place

May we not miss Wisdom and thereby injure ourselves. Rather let us love Wisdom finding favor with the Lord and living the abundant life Christ has given us as our inheritance here on earth.

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Shalom!

Self Righteous or Righteousness?

…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Ephesians 6:14b.

Righteousness is one of those words that has been misconstrued through generations and cultural preference. Like many words it has lost its true meaning and has been skewed to fit a cultural climate. Some, perhaps many, might say born again believers are self righteous. That followers of Jesus feel they are morally superior. [If you feel this way, I am sorry and hope you can forgive anyone who has caused you to feel this way]. The truth is those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are challenged by moral behavior just as anyone else who walks this planet. The difference is followers of Jesus have the help of Holy Spirit to guide them in and to desire a righteous lifestyle.

Several years ago I heard from a sermon that we never take off our breastplate of righteousness. Through the years I have often thought about this and realize this thought doesn’t resonate with me.

When you make a choice to follow Jesus [asking for the forgiveness of your sins and committing to learning about and living like Jesus] righteousness becomes your identity in Jesus. You have the divine approval of God; you are approved in His sight. Therefore, you cannot loose your righteousness. Sin, however, causes a break in our fellowship with God and He graciously offers the gifts of confession and repentance and Holy Spirit is faithful to help us confess and repent and we enjoy restored communion with God.

The breastplate of righteousness is God’s divine approval of all who believe in Jesus, however, Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. This is an action we are instructed to take. The breastplate of the Roman soldier described in the Armor of God passage in Ephesians [Ephesians 6:10-17] was meant to protect a soldier’s heart. Paul encourages us to put on God’s righteousness to protect our hearts. When we actively choose to spend time with Him by reading and studying His word and through prayer and praise we are protecting our heart from a thief who wants to steal Truth from us.

The breastplate of righteousness is a choice. Will you go about your day believing you have everything under control? Or, will you seek Holy Spirit lifting your arms and choosing to have Him fit your customized breastplate over your head, cinching it into place, protecting your heart as you choose to ask Him to continue to guide you in living a life of freedom?

Choose well. Chose wisely.

Shalom!

Merry Christmas!

Whatever Happens

Whatever happens. This reminds me of a movie [not one in particular] but one where the characters have been fighting the good fight. All looks lost and the encouraging character says, whatever happens…

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel

Philippians 1:27

Paul is encouraging the Philippians to stay strong amid the provoking, teasing and ill-treatment they were receiving and would continue to receive because of their proclamation of faith in Jesus and their commitment to share Him. Whatever happens.

Where I live and maybe where you live the ill-treatment we receive isn’t the possibility of stoning with large boulders or massive crowds surrounding us, taunting us with slurs and bodily harm [as Paul and the Philippians faced, however, this still happens in many parts of the world because faith in Jesus is against the law]

But, when you are provoked by the driver at the stop sign who doesn’t acknowledge you and simply drives through even though you arrived first. Or, you’re in that store or perhaps someone you thought you were building a friendly relationship with suddenly becomes curt and distant. How will you respond?

As believers in Christ we have the mind of Christ but do our thoughts, actions and how we live our life reflect this?

Are we allowing Holy Spirit to transform our mind to think like Him?

Are we putting on the full armor of God daily?

Specifically, are we putting on the helmet of salvation, which is the protection of our soul and also a picture of protecting our head where our mind and thoughts live?

Are we conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?

Whatever happens?

Shalom!

The Weight Of It All

Solomon had twelve officials over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household…1Kings 4:7a.

Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of choice flour, and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl…1Kings 4:22,23.

Those officials supplied provisions for King Solomon and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month; they let nothing be lacking. 1Kings 4:27.

Can you imagine the people power and resources that were needed for these provisions? A cor is approximately 6.24 bushels of dry weight. One bushel, depending on the commodity, can be between 20 and 6o pounds. Thirty cors of choice flour good easily have weighed 11,232 pounds on the high end.

Yet, these twelve officials let nothing be lacking. They even provided barley and straw for King Solomon’s horses and swift steeds [he had forty thousand stalls of horses and twelve thousand horsemen].

They gave all this to a human king.

I wonder, especially in this season of celebrating the birth of our heavenly King, who gave his life so we could live, what can you offer-what can I offer that nothing is lacking from His kingdom, for His glory?

What a Wonderful Life

He takes it all in. All the different colors…red, blue, purple, green and yellow, as I stand holding his tiny body close to mine and he stares at this new wonder called a Christmas tree, with all its lights and decorations. I speak softly in his ear and point to all the different colors by name. Colors that one day he will know on his own. And I think to myself…

I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. King Solomon

1 Kings 3:7c

King Solomon was an adult when he said these words in 1 Kings 3:7 but he knew he could not be a successful leader without God. He set aside his will and any agendas or idiosyncrasies that were a part of his life. He chose and allowed himself to become teachable like a child.

As we grow and mature in our faith our goal is to set aside spiritual milk and feast on the spiritual food of God’s word. Choosing and allowing Holy Spirit to drop into our hearts his truth. At the same time we ought to also remain like a child. Teachable.

Many times our actions and attitudes can take away the simplicity of our relationship with Jesus. We have the opportunity to choose Him everyday over all that our day may contain.

As I think about our precious grandson I pray that he will always be in wonder of who God is to him. That he will always have a teachable heart. I pray that for you and for me.

Because regardless of life’s challenges and struggles, a life in Jesus is

…a wonderful life.

For His Glory

Have you had a situation where your heart and mind perceived that Jesus didn’t show up at the right time or at all? Maybe you are walking through a season right now wondering where He is.

Next month will be 13 years since my then 17 year old nephew was killed in a senseless and tragic auto accident. Remarkably drugs and alcohol were not involved but speed and rain were and the driver of the car lost control. The driver, who was expecting to attend college on a basketball scholarship after graduation in a few months, had to be extricated from the car and lost both his legs. Miraculously my niece and her friend, who were thrown from the backseat of the car and suffered broken backs, survived.

Three separate occasions I asked God why. Three times He dropped into my heart, for My glory.

My brother’s marriage couldn’t withstand the strain of the loss of a child and ended in divorce shortly after the accident. Last year my brother went home to Jesus after years of chronic illness and a broken heart.

In my humanness I would say that I have yet to see God’s glory in this particular situation over the last 13 years but the truth is I have seen His glory. The year before my brother passed he was hospitalized with some very serious issues that caused us to think he wouldn’t live through the night. I reached out to many praying friends and the next day we found almost every issue had disappeared overnight. God’s glory. During this same hospital visit God sent me in to pray with my brother. He was ready and we said a simple prayer of salvation. God’s glory.

In our verse above Martha makes a simple statement to the Lord, if He had been there her brother wouldn’t have died. At the same time she knew that God would give Jesus whatever he asked. Jesus brought Lazarus back to life.

There is a poignant sentiment Martha coneys. On the surface the story is about the loss of her brother and how Jesus could have saved him were He there while he was ill. But a few layers down…deeper we see Martha’s complete trust in the sovereignty of God. She knew regardless of how the situation looked on the outside Jesus was in control and His love for her and her family would never waver.

Through the generations Martha seems to have gotten a bad rap. She was the sister more concerned with preparing a meal for 13 men rather than sitting at the feet of Jesus as her sister Mary did. But Martha knew something to her very core.

She knew Jesus was the awaited Messiah and she trusted Him.

Have you put your trust in Jesus? When you do I can’t nor I won’t promise everything will be perfect in your life but I can promise His love for you will never falter. And if you allow Him the space Holy Spirit will fill you with His peace and comfort in the midst of adversity.

Shalom.