Saturday, 28 February 2009

You ask amiss

 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4v3 

There are many false teachers out there who will tell us that if you don’t get what you pray for it is because you don’t have enough faith. Their prosperity gospel has Christians defeated and discouraged because they believe that their faith is too weak to name it and claim it. 

Not only do we fight and squabble and cheat and steal satisfy our own lusts and desires, but we often forget to pray. Then, if we do pray we don’t get what we ask for? Why? 

James doesn’t say it is because of our lack of faith. James says that we don’t have what we ask for because we are asking wrong. We don’t get what we want when we ask for the wrong reasons. We don’t get what we ask for when we ask in order to spend it on our own pleasures. As the King James translates this – you ask that ‘you may consume it on your own lust.’ 

God is not some genie in a bottle where we can rub the lamp and get our three wishes. He is God. He alone knows what is best for us. When we pray He knows if we are praying for what is best, or if we are praying to consume it on our own lusts. 

How many times do we not have simply because we ask amiss, to fulfil our own vile lusts? 

Friday, 27 February 2009

Why can’t we all just get along?

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? – James 4v1

Why do we fight? Why can’t we all just get along? Despite our best efforts as a world we just can’t seem to get it right. The Congress of Vienna, The League of Nations, and the UN were created to bring about peace. The Kellogg-Briand Act in 1928 even tried to outlaw war. But nothing has worked. All over the world today wars are waging and people are dying.

We have a hard time even getting along in the church. We not only fight over doctrine, which is worth fighting for, but we fight over the most petty of issues. We fight over music, Bible translation, clothing standards, and even as I saw lately, whether women should breast feed in a church service.

To be honest we struggle to get along as families. Husbands and wife and parent and kids fight. In law and outlaws fight. When we sit back we often see just how petty the fight is. Fights break out over who finished the last bag of crisps or who left the kettle empty.

Why is all this true? Why indeed can we all not just ‘get along?’ The word of God is pretty clear – we fight because we want things our way. We fight because we desire the pleasures that war in our members. We fight because we are selfish.

More to follow on the impact of our selfishness.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Willing to yield

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3v17-18 

When I think of the mindset of some of my brethren, and even myself sometimes, a picture of Ian Paisley screaming ‘No surrender!’ on the streets of Belfast comes to mind. I am not questioning his politics, simply using this as an illustration of a way of thinking. 

There are places when we simply cannot compromise and where there is no room for movement. Biblical doctrine is a place of ‘no surrender’ so that is not what we are talking about here. 

Once again we are talking about a mindset. Envy and pride will make us intransient and unworkable. We are going to stick to our opinion and our preferences no matter what. We can think that if we are tough and intractable enough we can possibly bully people around to our point of view.  That is simply human reasoning, for God says that His wisdom is: 




Willing to yield

Full of mercy

Full of good fruits

Without partiality

Without hypocrisy 

Then he goes on to say that the fruit of righteousness is produced not by bullying or strong arming, but it is sown in peace by those who make peace. 

Most of my Christian life has been spent in a kind of tough guy Christianity. If there is a disagreement it is settled by standing toe to toe until someone backs down. The guy backing down is rarely convinced or convicted but battered into submission. When that happens any real fruit is squelched and crushed and you end up with a bunch of people who have an appearance of righteousness because they have been cowed into obedience. 

How do we produce the fruit of true righteousness instead of just obedience? It is accomplished through God’s wisdom which is described above. The one that stuck out to me today is ‘willing to yield.’ That means that I don’t always have to be right. There are times when I can yield to a preference or opinion. It means in those areas I need not scream ‘No surrender!.’ 

Are we sowing the fruit of righteousness through fear and intimidation, or are we doing it through the seed of peace as we seek to make peace. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Earthly, sensual, demonic

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. – James 3v14-15 

It is sad that the Bible would even have to address issues like envy and self-seeking. True works are to be done in meekness of wisdom. As we serve the Lord our purpose is to just quietly and simply get the work done. There is no room for self glorification of for envy of those who may seem to have it better than we do. That old word meekness pops up here once again – do we act in meekness based wisdom? 

How does God describe a life that seeks to magnify self and that envies others? It is certainly nothing to brag about. It is certainly nothing to lie about. James uses some very harsh words for a prideful and envious believer. This kind of though process is not from God. Okay, not too bad I guess. But then he goes on to say, ‘ it is earthly, sensual, and demonic.’ 

Demonic? Did I read that right? Envying others in demonic? Self aggrandisement is demonic? It is dirty and sensual? 

I am afraid those are apt words to describe that kind of mindset. God has no use for self elevation or for petty jealousy in His servant. 

What if we tried a little meekness of wisdom in our service? 

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

These things ought not so to be

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? – James 3v10-11

First of all, I just like the sound of the phrase, ‘these things ought not so to be,’ so I would probably have included it just for that. But the truth behind it is so important that we simply cannot neglect it.

It is easy enough most of the time to praise, bless, and glorify God with our mouths. That is, after all, the right thing to do. We come to church full of ‘amens,’ ‘praise the Lords,’ ‘hallelujahs,’ and ‘bless Gods.’ We look like we are spiritual and God focused. And yet, at the same time and maybe even in the same building we will gossip, back bite, lie about, and falsely accuse brothers and sisters in Christ. Even worse we may have just come from a family row at home or on the way to church, then walk in with our ‘praise the Lords.’

Indeed, out of the same mouth proceed both blessings and cursings. This makes no more sense that the same spring giving sweet water and bitter water at the same time or a fig tree giving olives or a grapevine giving figs. These things truly ‘ought now so to be.’

It is the epitome of hypocrisy when our words claim that we love God then the same mouth spews out words of hatred against our fellow man. We cannot love God and hate the brethren – when we do this our words give evidence that we do just that.

These things certainly ought not so to be.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Forest Fires

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. – James 3v5-6

The news the last week or so has been full of images of great forest fires in Australia. As the fires raged across the land they killed hundreds of people and wiped out vast numbers of homes and property. Sadly we see this kind of story on a regular basis. Many times these fires are started by an arsonist with a simple little match. One little match lit by one little spark on the pack of matches has almost unimaginable destructive abilities.

Here is the picture James uses to describe the destructive power of the tongue. The tongue is a little member, just a small body part. If it is not controlled it will defile the whole body and from there is spreads out and destroys everything around. The source of this fire is hell itself.

I have been around a little while now. I have seen the destructive power of the tongue. There is no greater danger to the church than the unchecked tongue. One careless word can destroy a relationship, a home, or a church.

Before we speak that one word may we remember those images of the great forest fires and realise the damage that we are about to cause. May we remember the source of those words. May we, by the grace of God, hold those words in check. We can apologise, we can try to make it right, we may even be able to do some damage control, but we can’t ever retract those words.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. – James 3v1

I love to teach. It is what I ‘do.’ I love everything about as I have said probably many times in these writings. But as I teach there is something I need to always be aware of. Teaching is not something to be taken lightly.

Before James goes in to teaching about the dangers of the tongue we makes the comment that, because of what is to follow, not everyone is to be a teacher. The tongue is dangerous, and when teaching it has the possibility of inflicting even more damage.

When we teach we are accountable for what we say. Teaching is not to be our bully pulpit where we get to address our own personal views and deal with them. Teaching is not the place to put forth our own agendas.

Teaching has one purpose – to proclaim and explain God’s word. That is all it is to be used for. Those who abuse the privilege of teaching are going to receive a ‘stricter judgement.’ I am not sure at the moment what that entails, but one thing is clear. When we teach we are accountable for what we say. We had better be careful.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Making faith real

and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? - James 2v16

James uses the setting of the rich and poor man to introduce a vital concept of true faith. It is a pretty simple concept – true faith always works. In this illustrate it makes no sense to say to the poor man, ‘All the best now, take care of yourself’ while not doing anything about his real needs.

What a waste. To say something and do nothing about it is evidence that there is nothing real there. The illustrate leads into the teaching of faith and works. Where there are no works the faith is not real. Where there are no works, there really is no faith.

It is not really a hard concept to grasp. Faith, which does not produce the fruit of works, is a dead and useless faith. Just like the guy who says he cares about the poor, does nothing about it.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Mercy triumphs over judgement

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. – James 2v13

God draws a great and tremendously challenging correlation here. There will be no mercy in judgement for those who have shown no mercy. That sounds pretty tough, but Jesus taught the same thing when He said that God will not forgive those who are not willing to forgive others. 

While this is not the place to deal with the specifics there is a principle that we need to apply here. The context goes back to the rich man and the poor man discussed earlier. We have a tendency to judge based on appearance, according to our rules and depending our standards. Our judgement can triumph over our mercy in these situations. We choose to think the worst instead of thinking the best.

Then I stop to think of God’s triumphant mercy on me. I deserve only His judgement, but Jesus took that for me so that mercy triumphs over judgement when God deals with me. 

How dare I do any less when dealing with others. I am like that jerk who would not forgive the petty debt when he had been forgiven a massive debt of his own. Who am I to allow judgement to win out over mercy when I deal with others?   

If one can’t show mercy to others does he truly understand God’s mercy? Can one who has really experienced God’s mercy triumphing over judgement do any less for others? 

Thursday, 19 February 2009

All or nothing

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. – James 2v10 

There is something that I, at least, have a hard time grasping. There is a mindset that, I am somehow not as bas as so and so and therefore I a somehow am better in God’s sight because I don’t do this or that. We have our own set of rules about what is good or bad or right or wrong and always try to classify ourselves as better, or possibly worse. 

It is obvious that not all sins have the same consequences. My telling a little ‘white lie’ is not going to have the same earthly impact as committing a murder. Going 3 miles an hour over the speed limit is not likely to have the same consequences as robbing a bank. 

But that’s from our perspective. God sees sin, in its eternal impact, as sin. The most ‘insignificant’ sin is still sin to God and just as offensive. If we could somehow keep every single aspect of the law and only offend in one minor point we would still be guilty of breaking the entire law of God. 

As we look around at all the horrible stuff going on around us, may we be reminded that to God, all of our sins are just as filthy, vile, and horrendous.  

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Choosing the poor

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? – James 2v5 

I come across these verse and they keep reminding me that something is really wrong with the Church in some parts of the world. When we read about the early church we find a people who had nothing. They met in homes or in hired rooms at the Temple (before they were run off). Everything we read about them speaks of poverty and doing without. The church at Laodicea thought they were rich, but God told them they really had nothing. Here in James God talks about how God has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith. Jesus taught early on the difficulty of a rich man finding his way to heaven. 

Yet, in pockets around the world we find churches which exude wealth. The buildings are like palaces. They go far beyond comfort to the point of luxury. The members compete to have the best car, the fanciest clothes, and the nicest homes. Christians make decisions based in how it is going to affect them materially. Some of these churches have millions of euro worth of cars in their car parks alone. 

James says that we are not to look down on the poor because it is them that God has chosen to make rich in faith and the heirs of His kingdom. 

How do we reconcile the two? Do we just assume that the rich are not spiritual? No, that would be showing partiality. But there is something here that does not quite match up, isn’t there? 

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

No partiality

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? – James 2v1-4

Simple picture here.

Man #1 walks in to your church service. He is dressed to the nines. He is wearing an obviously expensive suit. Everything about him says – ‘money.’ His haircut is perfect. He shoes are made of the best leather. You notice that he drove up in a brand new luxury car. His teeth are perfect as he flashes a winning smile. He exudes confidence, charm, wit, and most of all – money.

Man #2 walks in a few minutes later. You wonder where is car is. His tattered and worn jeans are stained and look dirty. His AC/DC t-shirt is frayed at the edges. His hair is long, unkempt, and tied back in a pony tail. There are cigarettes in the pocket of his t-shirt, he has a rough, scraggily, partial beard that draws attention to a grin that reveals teeth that are either yellow or missing. There are tattoos on his arms and creeping up the side of his face.

Let’s cut to the chase here. Which man is going to draw your positive attention? Which one are you most apt to approach, shake his hand, and ask him to sit with you during the service? Which one are you most likely to invite to dinner afterwards. Which one are you most likely to ignore?

Now look back at the passage above. We haven’t a clue what is going on in the above scenario. It could very well be that man #1 is the biggest scam artist and thief in the city. It could also be that he is a very godly man. Man #2 might be the ‘waster’ he appears to me. He also might be someone looking for the love of God that he remembered hearing about in Sunday School when we was a child, or a new believer who knows he needs to be in fellowship with God’s people.

When our hearts reject one and accept the other we judge with evil thoughts. It is pretty simple. No partiality means we see both these men the same. No partiality means we welcome them both in with warm hearts and open arms.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Pure religion

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1v27

This is one of those passages I am going to have to do more study on to try and grasp. Yesterday was all about useless religion, today talks about pure religion and defines it in a way that might surprise us. The second part is obvious, to keep oneself unspotted from the world. That we know and seems to fit logically.

It is that first part that gives me pause to consider – to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. That doesn’t seem to be that big a deal really, does it? Why is that here? Why is that listed as part of ‘pure and undefiled religion’?

It seems to be a reminder of the concept that God talks about all the time. There are really three parts to true religion, dealing with God, dealing with others, and dealing with self. Here we see some of the same things.

Love others – visit the fatherless and widows
Walk rightly – keep yourself unspotted from the world
Love God – is proven when we keep ourselves unspotted from the world

But God could have just said – pure and undefiled is this – love others and help them and show your love for God by keeping yourself unspotted from the world.

Orphans and widows, especially when this was written, are the most helpless of the helpless. Perhaps that is why God uses them. There is something specific here. I need more study. Maybe there is something more that I need to be doing.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Useless religion

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. – James 1v26

 Useless religion. When we think of that we probably think of any number of pagan religions, non-Christian religions, or sometimes even those Christian ones that are not right where we are.

 Look at the context here though. If someone claims to be religious, but can’t control his tongue he is deceiving himself and his religion is useless. Not non-existent, not even false, but useless.

 How is it useless? Simple enough to see the answer. If we see someone who walks around talking about his faith, talking about the Lord, and trying to be a good witness, yet he can’t control his own tongue, how effective is he going to be?

 There is much more on the tongue coming in chapter two, but for the moment let’s dwell on our own tongues. Do they reflect the faith that we proclaim? Or do they reflect lying, gossip, backbiting, meanness, harshness, and crudeness that belie our faith? 

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Do Bees and Don't Bees

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. – James 1v22 

Way back in the dim recesses of my memory I remember a children’s programme called Romper Room. By the time my family got a telly in the early 60’s I was a little too old for the target audience, but I remember my brothers and sisters watching it. One of the key characters was and large bumblebee called Mr Do Bee. Strangely enough Mr Do Bee came to mind as I read this verse this morning. 

Mr Do Bee had he job of reminding the boys and girls of thing they should be doing. “Do be a helper. Do be polite. Do be obedient,’ and so on. If Mr Do Bee were here today he would tell us ‘Do be a doer. Don’t be just a hearer.’

We need to be careful that we ‘do be doers’ in addition to hearers. We can read, study, meditate, memorise, discuss, debate, deliberate, hear, and listen all we want, but if we never do it we may think we are okay, but we are deceiving ourselves. I think it is interesting that it doesn’t say anything about deceiving other. We are only fooling ourselves if we think that being a Bible expert or a Bible scholar is enough.   

Romper Room also had a Mr Don’t Bee. While Mr Do Bee was the good guy and did all of the proper things Mr Don’t Bee epitomised the opposite. 

Do be a doer.

Don’t be a hearer only.

 A little catch phrase from Romper Room comes to mind – ‘Do be a Do Bee, don’t be a Don’t Bee.’ 

Are we Do Bees or Don’t Bees? 

Friday, 13 February 2009

Superfluity of naughtiness

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1v21 

There are certain phrases that I grew up with in my Christian life that just sound right. (By the way, I didn’t realise until later in the day that yesterday was my 35th spiritual birthday!) . This phrase from the KJV in James 1v21.-  ‘Superfluity of naughtiness’ has a much better ring to it than ‘overflow of wickedness.’ But favouring an old phrase is not my purpose today. 

James is a book of practicality. There is a lot about living and serving here. The next verse talks about the ‘doing’ of the Christian life, but this verse prepares us for that one. 

God’s word has the power to save our souls. It saved us at salvation. It is saving us daily as we grow and mature. It will one day complete the salvific process. (Sorry, I have wanting to use that word for a while). Because of its power we are called on to meekly receive the word as it is engrafted in our lives. 

But we can’t do that unless we first are willing to lay aside all the filthiness and ‘superfluity of naughtiness’ in our lives. I don’t think I need to explain what that means. We all know what filth and superfluity of naughtiness we have to deal with in our own lives. The question has to be what we are going to do about it. 

We make it very complicated with books, videos, websites, and seminars. God makes it very simple – ‘lay it aside.’ Put it in the bin, take it to the dump, and leave it there. 

Lay aside all the filth. Lay aside the superfluity of naughtiness. Meekly receive the engrafted word of God whish is the only thing that saves out souls. 

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Slow to wrath

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1v19-20 

The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. What a powerful statement. God’s word is so clear here – ‘be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.’ 

I am amazed that in the body of Christ there is so much of he opposite –‘Don’t listen to anything. You are right, make your point known. Get angry, make your point known. After all, it is godly anger and that will get people sorted!’ 

The problem is simple. The common viewpoint has no Bible basis. In fact, it is destructive. Remember, ‘The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.’ We can’t produce righteousness with our wrath. It won’t work. It can’t happen. 

We may get people to conform. We may scare them into silent submission. We may keep them ‘in line.’ But we have not produced any true righteousness. 

Where does this wrath, which some excuse by calling it ‘righteous anger,’ come from? 

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.  – James 1v14-16 

I just had to use the KJV for today’s passage. It took me make decades, and the amazing thing is that the truth here is as valid as it was then. It has more of an impact when I first heard this illustration used, because although lysergic acid diethylamide is still around, and even gaining in popularity again, it doesn’t have the same general impact it once did. 

LSD – lust, sin, death – a dangerous ground on which to tread. James here tells us that if we don’t deal with lust it will develop into sin and if we don’t deal with sin it will bring about death. Not eternal death, of course, but a spiritual deadness. 

What is this spiritual deadness like? I think this illustration may suit. Here, for the most part, we don’t talk about our feet (or whatever) ‘falling asleep.’ Folks tend to say, ‘I have pins and needles,’ or ‘Oh my foot’s gone dead.’ It is obvious that the foot is not truly dead, but it is numb, weak, and powerless. Until the blood starts flowing it is useless. 

This is the kind of spiritual deadness that comes about if he ‘LSD’ runs its course. Deal with lust as soon as it rears its ugly head. If lust runs its course and degenerates into sin confess and deal with it before spiritual deadness happens. 

LSD – nip it in the bud. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Fading flowers

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits. – James 1v9-11

It is obvious that stuff dominates our lives. All of life seems to be a quest for more, better, and newer stuff. Success is measured by how much stuff we can accumulate. The more stuff we have the more we can show off and glory in.

It saddens, and somewhat concerns me, that even God’s people seem obsessed with glorying in what we have. Christians are proud of their new cars, fancy houses, stylish clothes, and latest electronics. I have been a circle of well know preachers who were showing of their suits and bragging about what they cost.

I don’t get this – I really don’t. On the one hand folks say ‘Give me Jesus’ while with the other hand they try to grab as much as they can. The successful Christian has somehow become equated with the rich Christian.

That flies in the face of what God’s word teaches. God’s word says that the poor man can rejoice in being exalted with Christ and the rich man should be humbled by his position with Christ. The ground should be level for believers. The truth is that all that stuff is like a fading flower. It looks great for a while. It is beautiful and catches people’s attention. But soon it is gone – poof – faded away into nothingness.

It is all fading flowers. It really doesn’t matter. It would be nice if we could all, rich and poor, could grasp that concept.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Ask in faith

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. – James 1v5-6

Right in the middle of teaching on dealing with trials we have this thought about asking for wisdom. The context seems to say that we may lack wisdom in dealing with trials and counting them as all joy, and that if we do we can ask God for wisdom. He will give it and He will not rebuke us for the asking.

There is a key to the asking. “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. Asking is faith means that faith is the basis for the asking. When I start asking I have faith that God is who He says He is and that He knows what He is doing. Instead of that our prayer in time of trials tends to be more like, “Why me?” or “What are you doing God?” When we have that kind of doubting we are tossed to and fro and never find stability.

How do we ask for wisdom in these times then? Maybe something like – ‘Lord, I don’t understand what is going on here, but I do know that you love me and that you know what is best for me and for your glory. Lord, give me the strength and wisdom that I need to serve you and glorify you through this trial.’

When we learn to do that we can learn to count our trials as ‘all joy’ instead of ‘all misery.’

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Perfect, complete, lacking nothing

knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1v3-4

Okay, God tells us to rejoice in our trials with all joy. Sounds great and when we think about it spiritually it even makes sense. But it would be nice to know why, wouldn’t it?

The nice thing is that God tells us the reason for suffering. He doesn’t just tell us to do and then leave us hanging. He tells is that our trials produce patience and that our patience does a perfecting work that at the end of the day makes us perfect, complete, and wanting nothing.

We hear the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ and that is not totally out of place here. In seems to be a principle of life that nothing comes easy. Strength always comes through trials. Soldiers will attest to the truth as will athletes. Training produces strength and training is not easy.

Our little AJ is about to go through a trial. He is going to hate it. If, after the procedure on his eye he has any vision he will have to wear a patch on his good eye. I cannot imagine the frustration of having the eye you can see out of blocked to force you to use the bad eye. It will be hard on him, and everyone around him. But the purpose is to give that weak eye strength. It may never be perfect and complete, but it may be functional as a result of the testing.

Our trials never seem to be an occasion for joy at the moment, but they do help us to mature. They do make us strong and mature and perfect and complete. And, if we let them work, they will leave us lacking nothing in our maturity.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, - James 1v2

‘All joy’ hardly describes the normal reaction to testing and trials. Instead of all joy words like panic, despair, fear, worry, anxiety, and fretfulness come to mind. When a trial comes we often get that awful feeling in the pit of stomachs, followed by a kind of breathlessness. Then we are all consumed with the trial and cannot get anything accomplished.

This week we got news that our grandson AJ has serious issues with his right eye. He may never have vision in that eye. When Jay first rang my thoughts were not ‘all joy.’ I got that awful gut feeling. I really don’t think there is a problem with our initial response - love, compassion, and concern are going to produce that kind of result. At that point we have a choice to make. Will we continue with the fear, despair, and anxiety or will we make another choice?

This is the point where we need to account the trial as all joy. We choose to consider the trial in a different way. We make the choice to account this trial as an occasion for joy instead of despair. We choose to see the situation from God’s perspective instead of our.

We don’t know yet if AJ is going to be able to see out his right eye. What do we do? Will our worrying, fretting, and anxiety help? Well, no. If we patiently wait to see how God is going to use it and in the meantime we worship, serve, and love Him we can begin the process of counting it as all joy.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Do good and share

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. – Hebrews 13:16

Most of the time a word like sacrifice is associated with spiritual sounding stuff. Please, don’t overreact, but when we think of sacrifice we think of the Old Testament, we think of Jesus on the cross, we think of giving, we think or praise, we think of thanksgiving, or any number of vitally important Bible truths. These truly are noble ideas and concepts of sacrifice.

But when we hear something like ‘do good’ or ‘share’ it sounds more like something we would tell our kids than spiritual instruction. Yet, here it is, right there in the Bible along with the sacrifice of praise.

What if I were to take those words of parental advice and picture them from my heavenly Father – ‘Roger, be good!’ ‘Roger, share!’ and saw these as Biblical sacrifice?

Do good. Share. It sounds pretty simple, but when we think about how important they are it really makes sense. Doing good means that I sacrifice my own selfish will and desires. It means I don’t always do what I want to do – it is a sacrifice. Sharing is obvious – it means I have to give up something of my own, be it stuff, money, time, or attention. It is obviously sacrifice.

Sometimes sacrifice is religious and spiritual and churchy. Sometimes it is very down to earth and practical. Both are vital. Both are real. And both are just as important.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Our sacrifice of praise

For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. – Hebrews 13v14-15

This morning was one of those mornings when I woke up in pity party pit. I won’t bore anyone with the reasons why I was there. Some may be considered somewhat serious, others were petty, and some were downright silly.

Then I open my Bible (actually read it on my phone) and am reminded that we don’t live in a ‘continuing city.’ Whenever I read this kind of thing the same old gospel song runs through my head – ‘This world is not my home…’

Once again, as I apparently need to be reminded over and over again, we seek a city to come. The way to get through this time of struggle is not to focus on what is going here and now, but to constantly offer up a ‘sacrifice of praise and give thanks to his name.’

As I sit here on a cold and snowy Irish morning I am warm and comfortable. I can pay my bills and buy food for our family. I have a good family. God has honoured me by allowing me to serve Him in another land. Our ministry has seen several people saved and Christians strengthened. We will have the chance this afternoon to share the gospel with about 25 children. My grandson, who needs surgery on his eye, will be in the hands of a qualified surgeon with the amazing technology of a laser scalpel.

I could go on and on and on, but I think we get the point. There is more to give thanks for than to complain about. There is more reason for praise than pity party pit.

Praise God for His reminder to praise. It is directed at Him, but it is good for me.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Bearing His reproach

Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. – Hebrews 13v13

This is a fascinating and challenging concept. As we go to Christ, into the world, we carry with us His reproach on the cross. As we go through life we do so with the joy of His salvation, but with the truth that He bore the cross for us. We often turn a cross into a piece of jewellery or a beautiful decoration. But the truth is that it was a cross of shame.

What amazes me is that too often we are ashamed of bearing Hs reproach. We keep quiet and are afraid to let the world know that we are His. Our reproach cost Him the pain and suffering of the cross. He bore that reproach gladly and willingly and we may be happy enough to wear a decoration, but we are somehow ashamed of Him in front of others?

He bore our reproach. Why do we have such a hard time bearing His?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A heart established by grace

Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. – Hebrews 13v9

Isn’t it amazing how God uses His word at just the right time? I have been frustrated since I received news yesterday that a church was dropping our support because we did not agree with them on a tiny issue of personal separation. There are churches that have made what are insignificant petty issues into various and strange doctrines that determine practices such as missionary support.

I respect their right as local churches to make such decisions. They, after all, are accountable to God for their decisions and stewardship.

I am grateful for the lessons God has been teaching me. There have been times in my like when I was occupied with issues such as came up yesterday. With no real Bible basis I was consumed with this or that practice that I used to determine who was spiritual or worthy of my fellowship. When Hebrews was written the issue was foods. Today we have different issues, today we have different issues but the result is the same. These kinds have no profit to those who are occupied with them.

How much better it is to be established by grace. Praise God for His marvellous grace that frees us from human regulations and requirements. It is a blessing to be established by grace and not issues like food and practices.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Hebrews 13v8 

The Bible is full of comfort. God shows His love and compassion for us over and over again. I have to wonder, however, if there is anything of more practical everyday comfort and encouraging that the simple little phrase ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ 

Why is this so comforting? He promises to be with me no matter what challenge or difficulty I face Jesus is with me. When I remember that this is the same Jesus who created everything and the same Jesus who rose victorious over death and the grave how can I help but be comforted? 

This Jesus is exactly the same as He was when He did these marvellous works. He will never change in the future. No matter how much things change Jesus is the same. If everything I depend on falls apart Jesus will be the same. If the economy collapses Jesus will be the same. If all my friends leave me Jesus will be the same. In addition to being the same He is not going anyplace, at all, ever, no matter what. 

Jesus will never leave me. Jesus never changes. What more comfort and hope could we ask for? 

Sunday, 1 February 2009

What can man do to me?

So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Hebrews 13v6

 What is the result of the fact that the Lord is with us and will not leave us? The answer is here in verse six. We can now proclaim with confidence that God is our helper and because He is our helper we don’t have to be afraid of anything, man can do nothing to us outside of God’s divine plans. 

It is so easy to be afraid of our situations and circumstances. When we look around it can indeed be very scary. Things are changing and it seems like everything we have put our confidence is collapsing. 

But there is one source of confidence that will not collapse or fail. There is one source of confidence that never changes. The omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and eternal King of kings and Lord of lords is still my helper. We won’t leave and He won’t forsake.

What do I have to fear with Him as my helper?