Sunday Love Letter

Today’s Reading: Matthew 25

Recently I started receiving these random emails with the subject line: Your Sunday Love Letter. I didn’t sign up for them and I don’t know the person or should I say personality that is sending them. I haven’t unsubscribed because honestly, I sort of look forward to reading them! The email addresses me by name and proceeds with an inspirational note and is signed, “Carley.” Today my email said: “Hey Jillian…What a beautiful like it would be if we learned to treat ourselveswith the love, kindness and patience we so freely give to others.”

As I sat down to write to you this week, I started thinking about Matthew 25 as a love letter from Jesus. So often we feel a little lost in our own circumstance. Prayer and obedience can feel like a one-way street as we wait for His response in one form or another. But when we go to God’s word we don’t have to wait. His response is right there on the printed page. Since it is Sunday, and I have my Bible open to Matthew 25, I’ve decided to write you a love letter from Jesus (Carley style!). I don’t have the magic algorithm to populate your name into the subject line so I’m going to need you to fill it in.

Dear _________________,

I hope you are not growing tired of waiting for my return. When I am away from you, I long for the sound of your singing and praise. It is so important to me that you remain vigilant in your anticipation of my return. For when that day comes the moment of my arrival will be sudden and unexpected. Do not give in to the temptation to become lazy in your faith. I am your bridegroom, you will find your salvation in me if you can be a true disciple.

I delight in giving you gifts so that you may prosper. I love to see you use those gifts to bless others. Please know that the more you share your riches and talents the more I will bestow upon you. Do not be afraid to generous, I will fill your cup. Be humble and compassionate. If your neighbor is hungry, give him food to eat. If she is homeless and alone, let her in. Visit the ones that are imprisoned, they are my disciples.

I know that the journey is long, dear one. I know that so often the spinning of the earth roars loud in your ears and drowns out my voice. But I assure you that what you do for the least of my people, you are doing for me. I am with you always. You have freedom and rest in me.

Love,

Jesus

 

 

 

Matters of the Heart

Today’s Reading Matthew 19

Marriage, children, and money: all of these are subjects that are very taboo and personal, yet Jesus uses these to examine the heart of us.  These subjects have been for several ages the most difficult topics to discuss with our family, friends, or even acquaintances.  The reason is the true emotions and passion that is associated with each of them can result in beneficial or detrimental consequence. For instance, if your friend had something to say about your spouse or children they would have to have a deep understanding of your family to impart any advice or suggestions.  You would not be able to tell any friend your opinion on how they are should:  treat their spouse, or raise their children, or how to spend their money without first creating a bond with them.

What Christ is doing in Chapter 19 is reexamining these topics with individuals that have alternative motives but there are some very powerful pieces of knowledge and joy to attain from this passage.

  • Marriage is a blessing from God. In all forms of marriage, God has created a union to bring together two individuals.  The human though of marriage as in Deuteronomy and as seen in today’s society is when the toughest time arise, then you can dissolve the marriage at anytime. In Deuteronomy, before Moses created the law, people would marry a person, then divorce and remarry, then divorce and remarry the previous person.  People were not able to work things out and create harmony in the midst of conflict.  But Christ states that the reason that Moses made the law was because the hearts of the people were not able to compromise and resolve their intimate issues.  God created marriage as a forever bond, but the heart of man has allowed other influences to change the initial intent.
  • Children are a blessing from God. We have been very fortunate and blessed our present society with the birth rate high and birth mortality low.   There are places that still the child mortality rate is significantly high. Sometimes we may take for granted our children and want them to grow up faster.  I have three beautiful children, and there are times that we are tired and need rest, but we must continually not hinder them in any fashion.  Many times, I am out with my children and they will ask me about 500 questions in an hour and it continues.  Or they will have endless “recycling” projects everywhere.  But, we must be attentive to their questions, and their projects, and them daily.  When we attend to them, we can see how God attends to us and our needs and wants and questions.
  • What we have is a blessing from God. In the chapter the young rich man doses not fully understand the concept of management and ownership.  He has been given so much in the terms of possessions that he forgot whom the true owner of the possessions.  We are God’s stewards and are the managers of the gifts that he has given us.  If only his heart knew the true return-on-investment that was in store.  All that is given to us is a gift from God and we have to be the best managers of this bounty.

In these examples that Christ have given us, Christ has a central message: God wants your heart.  In all the examples, the individuals were not fully devoted to God in their heart and this causes them not able to see the beauty of his Creations in a different light.  As God conveyed in the story of Abraham and Isaac, God is not concerned with the sacrifice, but the true heart and obedience of the person.  As we mediate on these thoughts and this passage, lets ask ourselves: Is our heart in the place that God wants?  If not, what can I do to align myself with God to become a better steward of my heart?

Seeing, Hearing and Understanding

“Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:10-13

Good morning friends! I had a last minute opportunity to take the McGriff Party of 5 camping this weekend so I’m writing to you from my chair in the woods. If this post smells like a campfire, please grab a marshmallow and enjoy! There is just so much for us to soak up in Matthew 13 but I wanted to write to you today about verses 10-13. When I first read this part of scripture, when I was new to Bible reading I interpreted Jesus’ words differently than I do now. At first I thought Jesus was telling his disciples that not all people are chosen that there are only a few “lucky” ones. Now that I am reading through a different lens, I see that it is usthat must choose Him.

Recently I suffered a great disappointment. And by suffered, I mean suffered. It was the kind thing where I was left feeling singled out, rejected and just plain not worthy. To make things worse, many of my friends were selected to do the thing, the thing that I thought I wanted so badly. When the judgment came down I felt the feels. I cried the tears and mourned the loss. I told myself a story about the loser I am and I believed it. Have you ever told yourself that story? Have you ever thought of yourself as not as good as other Christians? Have you compared yourself to others and thought, I’ll never be as close to God as they are? After losing the thing a few good people in my life talked with me about who I really am. They reminded me that I am a child of God, that I am surrounded by abundance. I prayed and prayed for things to go my way but I wasn’t truly seeing. All of us who give our lives to Jesus have also been given the secret to the kingdom. It isn’t that the disciples were perfect people hand-picked by Jesus to be the perfect Christians. On the contrary, they were imperfect people that gave their life to Christ in an extraordinary, all-in kind of way. They committed despite having to live the everyday reality that we can’t see or hear God’s plan.

When it comes to my big disappointment, what I was lacking is understanding. Ok, maybe I’m still lacking it. Although I can see many great opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus in my future, I can’t really understand why God would skip over this one. And although I can hear the encouragement of Christian elders in my life that say, “wait for it, this plan will be revealed it’s just not time yet.” It’s still really hard to understand. What I can take away from our scripture today is that if I make that commitment to follow Him, I will have and experience more abundance in my life. If I choose to turn away, more could be taken from me. The disciples asked Jesus, why he speaks in parables. I think maybe as broken, fallen people we relate more to the story than we do the harsh words of truth. The truth is, I wasn’t chosen this time but I’m always chosen by God. You will always be His child no matter what hurt, sadness, loss or pain you’re experiencing. Jesus still talks with us in parables or stories. When we are willing to share those stories with one another I think we get closer to Him. So, I hope you’ll share your personal parable this week with someone that needs to hear it. I pray that God blesses you with abundance and then more. Have a great (holiday) Monday!

 

 

Building a Relationship

 

Today’s Reading: Matthew Chapter 7

Spending time with my children has always been a blessing to me.  During the earlier years of their lives I had to work long days and did not have the privilege to spend significant quality time with them.  During the last several weekends, Oliver and I have been able to have some meaningful and important Father-Son time.

In April, we moved to a new house and now we have the chance to make special projects in the yard and the garage.  A couple of weeks ago, Oliver and I were able to clear some brush from around the backyard and we were able to fix the roof of our storage shed.  A couple of days ago, while I started work on restoring some tools, he came and assisted me.  The tools that we had to clean and restore were some axes and some hedge trimmers.  It was really fun and awesome to share some of my hands-on knowledge with him.  He learned how to brush off the rust from the metal, then file and sharpen the edge of the tools, then how to oil and keep the tools ready for use.

This has been something that I have looked forward to for a while: true bonding time with my son.  This is something that cannot be replaced with books, the Internet, or podcast.  This is time that is spent in the warm summer air under the Cedar tree in our backyard. These are memories that he and I will remember.    There are memories that I have with my father, uncles, father-in-law, and grandfather (Jillian’s Grandfather) that have had profound impact and memories that have shaped me to be the man I am today.

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus is concluding his Sermon on the Mount.  This is intimate time that Jesus is spending with his followers and I can only imagine the awesomeness of the scene and the words that he used.  The topics that we have are:

  • Jesus teaches about Judging Others
  • Jesus teaches about Asking, Seeking, and Knocking
  • Jesus teaches about the Way to Heaven
  • Jesus teaches about Fruit in People’s Lives
  • Jesus teaches about building on a Solid Foundation

These topics all are relevant to today’s society and our walk with Christ, but one thing that stands out is what is your relationship with Christ and how do we increase the bond of this relationship. There are two basic types of relationship that you can have with God through Christ.  First type is one that is only reading the Word and seeing the world through the Word.  The second type is living the Word that you have read and bringing the Word to life in the world.  This is theory versus practice model.  This can be seen in these above topics.

  • When we are in a true relationship with Christ and living out the love of Christ, we will be more likely to acknowledge our own areas of improvement and ask others to assist us to make each other better.
  • When we are in true relationship with Christ we will be confident and know that the good things that the Father have for us will be given if we show up and ask.
  • We know that the when in true relationship with Christ we will bear fruit that is like him. Fruit that will support each other and care for others.  There may be “good” people that do “ good” things, but the true faith and relationship with Christ is what holds true.
  • As stated in the commentary of the solid foundation “ Many people do not deliberately build on a false or inferior foundation; they don’t think about their life’s purpose. It is the responsibility of the body of Christ to help others to reassess and support each other in our lives.”

The main theme is relationship matters. During the past several years, the lives of my family and I have changed many times over.  My relationship with each of them has grown and molded into a beautiful picture.  I have been able to spend more time with them:  I am able to drop off the kids at school; we eat dinner together; I read and pray with them at bedtime; and I able to be there in many of the precious times. This time that I have been blessed to spend with them has created this relationship that I cherish.  Some of the things that I have done with Christ to increase our relationship is: serve when there is a need; help others that cannot repay me; love when you have been hurt; smile when there seems to be all hope is gone.  I am continually seeking a relationship with God, through Christ, with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Similarly, like the time that Oliver and I have enjoyed with each other, I seek to spend quality time with Christ daily.  My relationship is far from perfect and I will continually strive to grow in all my relationships daily.

Dear God, please allow me to know you more today than yesterday, and tomorrow more than today. Amen.

Ordinary Descendants

Today’s Reading: Matthew Chapter 1

Good morning friends. I’m excited to begin a new series with you all today on the words of Jesus. For the next several weeks we’ll study the actual words of Jesus Christ as they appear in the gospels. Today, we’re going to begin at the beginning; the genealogy and birth of Jesus. In the first seventeen verses of Mathew 1, we are presented with three sets of fourteen descendants of Jesus beginning with Abraham and ending with King David. The list of 46 people spans more than two thousand years and includes both icons of faith and some shady characters! We hear about the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Ruth and David which connect the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah to Jesus’ birth. We also hear of Tamar and Rahab as part of Jesus’ birth line. We know from Genesis 38 and Joshua 6 that both women have a reputation for prostitution. Matthew isn’t just ticking off a list of descendants in verses 1-17, he is showing us that God’s work is not limited by human sin. Matthew reveals to us in his very first lines that our heavenly Father uses all of us for His glory. Of course, this genealogy offers proof that Jesus is the Messiah but it also shows that God uses ordinary people to establish His kingdom.

 

Perhaps one of the best examples of an ordinary man making extraordinary history is Joseph. Beginning in verse 18, Matthew describes Joseph’s dilemma. After discovering that Mary is pregnant he finds himself with two choices: divorce her quietly or expose her apparent unfaithfulness and have her stoned by the Jewish authorities.

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:19-20

Joseph could only see two ways out of his situation but God showed him another solution. So often God shows us that there are more options available if we are just willing to trust in Him. I think there is so much encouragement in today’s Jesus story that is right here waiting for us. According to Jewish law, Joseph had every right to divorce Mary when he discovered her pregnancy. He faced significant social stigma for staying with her as her husband. How often do we face social stigma at work or school when our beliefs about Jesus are challenged. Joseph may have been an ordinary man, but he made an extraordinary choice in the name of his faith in God.

Today’s words of Jesus show us that although he was born of a woman, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ lineage is full of faith filled prophets and ordinary sinners. As Christians, we are now the descendants of Jesus. As we move about our modern world we have the opportunity to make extraordinary choices in the name of Jesus. I pray that you will take that encouragement to work, school, the grocery store or the doctor’s office today. I pray that you will be strengthened by His grace to be a witness of His love.

Have a great Monday!

 

John’s Caution for the World

Todays Reading : I John 2:15-17

John has the distinction of being one of the most known apostles and known as the eyewitness of Jesus Christ.  In many of the historical accounts, it shows that the apostle John was first a disciple of John the Baptist and then was called to be a disciple of Christ after Jesus’ baptism.  So John was there with Jesus from his baptism, talked with him, saw him heal, heard him teach, watch him being tried and crucified, met him risen, and saw him ascend into heaven.   In this letter, John is addressing the church and modeling a method in which to acknowledge and battle against the flesh and heresies.  At the time that John writes this letter he is nearly 90 years old. He has had blessed life and continues to shine the gospel into the dark places of the church and our lives.

 

I John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

I John 4: 14-16

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

 

As we look at today’s reading with additional support from later in the letter we have some defining moments in our faith and our reality. John instructs us to not love the world or anything that is in the world specifically: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

These three items are always present in our daily lives.  We all have been a victim to these items at some point and time because we are part of the flesh.  According the Life Application Study “The lust of the flesh is – gratifying the physical desires; the lust of the eyes – craving and accumulating things; the pride of life – obsession with one’s statue”.  These items are detrimental to us if these are the end goals and there is no thought of God or others.  God wants us to make him the main goal and prize for ourselves.

When I look at both passages it is almost impossible to truly love anything in the absence of God because God is Love and whoever lives in love lives in God.   God wants us to show discipline and control of the body, give unconditionally, and humble our selves to the service of the kingdom.  We have to be vigilant and ready to show God’s love in the world at all times.  May God allow us to continue to hold these teachings, so that we may be able to continue to shine the light of God into our journey.

Show Me the Sign

Today’s Reading: Luke 11:29-36

Today’s reading from Luke follows Jesus on his preaching journey on the way to Jerusalem. Written in about 60 AD, Luke sets the scene:

“When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” Luke 11:29

So basically, not much has changed in the last nineteen hundred years. We are just as focused on the desire to be uniquely blessed. Everyone wants to have a special experience that sets them above others in terms of their salvation and closeness to God. We ask for signs and look for signs in order to confirm the validity of our faith in Jesus. Jesus points to the sign of Jonah as a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection. Just as the prophet Jonah was rescued after three days in the belly of a whale, Jesus will die and rise after three days. God had asked Jonah to preach the importance of repentance to the Gentiles. Jesus is now affirming Jonah’s message; salvation is not only for the Jews but for all people. This specific part of Jesus’ teaching got me thinking about how we too seek for signs in our modern everyday life. I loved the sermon we had last week at Eastview when Pastor Jordan Rice talked about turning to the “big G in the sky….Google!” Although I laughed out loud, his insight spoke to my heart. As a medical professional, I am so guilty of turning to science to solve a problem before turning to the big G: God.

In our generation we are always seeking proof. We want evidence of that which we cannot plainly see.  In Jesus’ day, the people demanded signs. When Jesus healed a blind man, his doubters demanded another sign, more proof that he was the Messiah. Are we perhaps demanding the same? Are we satisfied by the gifts he’s given us, the miracles he’s performed in our lives? Are we able to truly say, “Christ IS enough for me!”

Jesus goes on to teach about the light within us:

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” Luke 11: 34

 In this moment, Jesus is holding the light of the gospel for us all to see. Those that reject Him and his message have poor vision. That lack of clarity turn the light of Christ into darkness. In contrast those who receive Christ by faith are filled with light. The lamp is Christ and the eyes are representative of our spiritual relationship with him. Sin distorts our spiritual vision. It blinds us to the ability to see God at work in our lives. I challenge us as we focus on our own relationship with Him to work toward identifying sins that are blinding us to life with Him. Pray intentionally for eyes that are healthy and ask God to fill your body with light.

 

 

 

 

 

Pressing Toward the Mark

Todays Reading : Phil 3:12-16

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

This is another one of my solid scriptures to mediate during the joys and the struggles of life. In the beginning of the chapter Paul gives an account of his stature before Christ.

Philippians 3:3-6

  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal ,persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

In the main section of Scriptures: 12-16, Paul tells that he has not made the goal or mark of fully living his life for Christ. Paul by many accounts would have been the best of the best.

  • Circumcised on the eighth day
  • Member of the tribe of Benjamin
  • A Pharisee – high ranking religious official
  • Persecutor of the Jewish law

But all of these “things” that he had were not enough to give him the richness that he has attained in Christ.  Even after Paul has been in the actual presence of the risen Christ, he still feels that he has not received the fullness that Christ has to offer.  Here we are seeing that the continual pursuit of Christ is the true nature of our faith. We should always search and seek the face and presence of God.

I have been fortunate to witness God and the embodiment of these scriptures with my son.  My son, Oliver, is a really amazing and beautiful person.  I know that I am biased, but it is true. He truly has a heart that is kind, loving, and affectionate.  He has become a constant reminder of the grace and the tenacity of faith that many aspire.  Two years ago, Oliver suffered several weeks in the hospital, where the physicians and providers could not find what was crippling my child.  We were in the hospital for 21 days and could not have a definitive answer.  During his stay, his stomach and intestines stopped work properly and he was in terrible pain. He had a condition that is called an ileus.  This condition can be remedied with surgery or walking.   We decided walking.  This was one of the hardest times for me as a father, because I was the main person who had to get him up every couple of hours to walk around the hospital.  This was both hard and challenging for both of us. But six weeks later he was able to run and play on the beach at East Bearskin Lake in Minnesota.   Two weeks ago, he again was at East Bearskin where he was still able to run and play in the lake.  Now he is able to kayak to the center of the lake and jump off the floating dock by himself.

After the hospital stay two years ago, Oliver was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  This is where the body is fight against itself in the gastrointestinal tract. Many times individuals that are affected by this disease are left weakened and unable to do many things. Through God’s compassion and Ollie’s faith, he has been healthy and strong.  He will tell you proudly that he is 4’9”, 75lbs, and 7 & ½ years old.

Two weeks ago, Oliver also completed his first outside rock climb.  This was on a 40-foot cliff, without any predrilled or placed foot or hand holds. He climbed this cliff several times without stopping.    At the beginning, he looked up and stated, “ Let’s go”, not one word of hesitation or fear.   He knew he was ready and able to have faith in himself and God (and mom and dad) to take on this rock.

I write these things to express that

  • Let us renew our child-like faith and attempt the impossible
  • The circumstance that we face will prepare us for something amazing in the future – next week, next year, or two years
  • No matter what has happened in our past or is affecting us, God is working on us to perfect us to his Glory.

 

 

Immeasurable Greatness

Thanksgiving and Prayer

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. Ephesians 1:15-19

Isn’t that just the most healing, powerful collection of words you’ve taken in to your mind in a long time? If you breezed over it or if you mind is full of everything you have to do today just stop and make some space for this beautiful scripture. Give it room to breathe in your heart before you move on.

As I sit down to write to you again friends, I want to just be in this word with you today rather than comment on it. When I take this one in, I hear Him saying, just listen…don’t speak. So instead of processing or contextualizing today, I just want to live in it together.

 Verse 15-16: “Because I have heard of your faith and your love….I remember you in my prayers and I give thanks for you” Our faith is not just an inward commitment to a specific creed but a live and active trust in God’s plan. When our faith is outward, people will “hear” of it. Paul thanks the Ephesians for the love the show through action, the outward manifestation of their faith.

Verse 17: “The spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”A spirit of wisdom. With each and every decision I make Lord, give me the spirit of your wisdom. Help me to revel, truly revel in the knowledge of you and your character. Give us the wisdom Lord to live in community and to build love in our relationships with one another.

Verse 18: “the hope to which he has called you and the riches of his inheritance” He has called us to hope. He does not call us to despair, not to worry or carry burdens. That is so powerful if you let it really soak in. God calls us to hope. That alone gives us the opportunity for a total shift in our perception. He calls us to hope, he promises that faith in Him brings the knowledge, the awareness and the eventual manifestation of our inheritance with Him. No matter how dark our current situation, he calls us out of the spirit of darkness.

Verse 19: “immeasurable greatness”a specific reminder of God’s activity in our lives. He establishes and defines us. We are redeemed not by what we have done but by what God has done. Far above place, far above power, far above time…immeasurable.

Choose to have a great week.

 

 

Progressive Refinement

 

Today’s Reading: James 1:19-27

Good Morning,  I apologize for the delay this morning.  Last night we didn’t have internet access, so this morning I made a 25 mile trek to the city to send off this post.  One amazing aspects of this journey is I saw my first moose ever. This was awesome.   Let’s get into the reading.

In the letter of James, the apostle is writing to the new church and reinforcing the teachings of Christ.  James is now an elder in the church and is witnessing some of the same issues that had been present before Christ in Judaism to continue in the new church among the Christians.   The issues that are presented are: 1.) Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 2.) Be doers of the word and not only hearers, 3.) Anyone who is doing the work of God, but doesn’t control his words is not doing true works of God.  In these issues presented there is a progressive refinement movement present where you cannot only do part of the process, but you must continually strive to get better.

In the first issue, we are called to listen and allow this to guide our thoughts and actions.  We should be proactive and not allow the situations or our feelings dictate our responses.  This is an area that is more difficult to harness without practice.   It seems that many of the early church leaders would allow their own personal opinions and perceptions cloud their judgement and this would lead to frustrations and conflict.  How many times in a day can you allow your own emotions to interfere your service?  How many times are you not fully listening to others and assuming you know what the other person is wanting or how to react?  This is an area that I am continually progressively refining in myself. As I write this, I am reminded of a situation today where I helped my son to rethink his reactions to his sisters. Progressive refinement.

The second issue, is to be doers and not only hearers of the Word.  We can listen to all the newest sermons, bible talks, podcasts, and other outlets; but if we are not actively engaging and being intentional in our service we are no better than those who do not know the Word.  In the first issue, we were not hearing the word.  Then James tells us since you are listening and hearing the word, you must continue to move forward and now be active in the word.  There are times that we have listen to the word and then we get excited and start to become active and motivated.  After a while we are back to where we began or sometimes further than where we started.  We should be intentional about the service and the way God moves in our lives.  We must engage God, through the Spirit to actively be a part of our lives and work in us for the Glory of the kingdom.

The final issue, you are doing these works that you have heard from God to be active in His works, we must be careful to not allow our own ambitions and desires cloud the true objective.  God is in search of you and desires you to promote the kingdom which is the true objective.  We should seek God, do His will, and remember that it is not us that is in charge. Sometimes, I forget that this is not my life and my hopes and dreams, but it is God’s purpose for me that allows me to be here and serving him.  Again James makes it plain and simple,

James  1:27  “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their afflictions”

 This is true religion.  It is not who is better than the other, it is not about who can speak better than the other, it is not about who can out do the other.  True religion is love others unconditionally, without the expectation of acknowledgement in return.   When we have question if the works that we are doing are pleasing to God, we should ask ourselves “Are we taking care of those that are not able to assist themselves and are we doing it with love?”

As we look at these issues, we must see that it is not a finite and limited progression of growth, but a constant changing and dynamic process.  We have a glimpse of the road map, but we need to continually ask for direction and clarification of the directions that Christ has for us.  Progressive Refinement.  James continues to give us insight if we are receptive to the Word.  Be Blessed.