Friday, July 21, 2017

Patience!

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" -- James 5:7-9 
In a time of great impatience, farmers are a rare breed. When the internet and rapid transit has made everything lightening fast to the touch, these stalwart souls still have to be patient. Over two thousand years have passed since the above writing and little has changed for the farmer. Patience remains the great imperative.
The same remains true for the believer who awaits the return of Christ. His coming is nearer today than in James' day, but we still need to be patient and stand firm. Our conduct should be God honoring with brotherly love. Our faith in the Lord's timing must continue strong through the darkest days. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:8, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."
All believers know the end of the story and we live in great expectation of the Lord's return. The question is; how then shall we live? Take a lesson from the farmer my friend, and patiently sow your seeds of Christ-like living. As the spring and autumn rains come, the Lord will also come... and He's never late!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A simple prescription...

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you..." -- James 4:7-8  
I have known too many people who have suffered physically rather than seeking the care of a doctor. I knew a man who came to a point that he daily swallowed a dose of Listerine for throat pain. One morning he just collapsed. He died of advanced cancer that was never diagnosed or treated. We can fight disease in our bodies all we want, but until we are willing to come under the care of a skilled physician, we will only get worse.
The soul is far more diseased than the body. We have a condition called sin and it will eat us up if we don't seek help. Choosing to deal with the habits of sin in our own strength is like taking aspirin for a tumor. We can determine to resist temptation, sin, and the devil all we want, but until we submit ourselves to the Great Physician of our souls, we will only get worse.
The simple prescription for spiritual health is found in the words, "Submit yourselves, then, to God". Place yourself under the care of the Great Physician. Allow him to heal your soul, knowing that if you "Come near to God and he will come near to you." Only then will sin, temptation and the devil flee, and you will get better.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Faith completed...

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'—and he was called a friend of God." - James 2:21-23
Nik Wallenda became the first man to walk over the Niagara Gorge in 116 years on Friday evening, June 15, 2012; the first ever to walk right over the falls. Nik had been interviewed during the previous days, questioned concerning the possibility of this walk being successful. His confidence was undaunted, but not until shortly after 10:30 p.m. on June 15 was his faith actively completed by his walk.
Abraham was clearly justified by faith many years earlier than Isaac's birth. He believed God in Genesis 15:6 and it was placed on his account as righteousness. Abraham traveled, settled and raised his family in a land promised to him by God. His confidence was undaunted, but not until the day of Genesis 22:12 was his faith actively completed by his works.
You may call yourself a friend of God my friend, but do you have an active faith? Belief in God is more than mental ascent. True faith is walking with God through the valleys and over the mountaintops. People who are firmly confident in God's promises willingly sacrifice everything for Him without fear. Your faith, as Abraham's, will always be completed by your works. 
Quote for the Day

"Fold the arms of your faith and wait in quietness until the light goes up in your darkness. Fold the arms of your faith, I say, but not of your action. Think of something you ought to do, and go do it. Heed not your feelings. Do your work." 
- George Macdonald

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Love them like Jesus...

"If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." - James 2:8-10 
Herb was a businessman who attended our church many years ago. Over time, his life fell apart and he became homeless, unkempt, with an unpleasant smell. In the colder months Herb used to stop by the church to get warm and have a bite to eat when we would have a church supper. I was thankful when some of our church family would talk with him and invite him in for a meal. But it saddened me when other believers would avoid him at any cost. How can we love one another and not love Herb?
James called us to a deeper level of compassion when he challenged our "Love Capacity". It's easy to love those who love us back and those who are lovable. Such are the people we choose to show that extra interest and care. But, if we are going to be consistent in our obedience to the second greatest commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), we must take time to love the Herbs of our world.
Today you will meet someone. They will not win your attention or your desire to show compassion. They may offend you by their conduct and attire. How will you choose to treat them, my friend? Will you avoid them in the name of inconvenience or will "Love them like Jesus"?

Monday, July 17, 2017

A tight rein...

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." - James 1:26
How often have we heard the phrase "I misspoke"? Day by day we read about a political  or popular figure that said the wrong thing at the wrong time. As social media quickly reports any and all verbal blunders, many treasured positions or jobs are lost as a result. It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
James makes the quality of thoughtful speech a significant characteristic for the believer. We can do all the right things and teach others with great insight, but with just one wrong word we can irreparably offend someone. Many a Christian testimony has been lost over a few thoughtless words. As James said earlier in verse 19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak". It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.
By the grace of God, there have been many thoughts that have come to mind that I refused to verbalize. I would encourage you to do the same, my friend. We may have "Freedom of Speech", but it's not freedom to offend. The treasures of friendship, peace, harmony and unity are far more valuable than words can say. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 25:11, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." and in Proverbs 17:28 "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." It pays to keep a tight rein on the tongue.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Power gone amuck...

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings." - James 1:1
Of the many humorous presidential quotes of all time consider this one by George H. W. Bush: "I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. I am President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." This could be qualified as "power" gone amuck.
James could have addressed the early church as the brother of Jesus or leader of the Jerusalem church. He could have reminded them of his close connection to the Lord and the incredible authority he wheeled among the apostles. But in this one introductory verse he gave clear evidence of being a true "servant-leader". James never let his "power" go amuck.
Are you overwhelmed and super impressed with yourself my friend? When you meet others for the first time do you make sure that they know all your accomplishments and titles? Or do you look for every opportunity to simply be a servant of the Lord to bring greetings and blessings in His name? Be careful to never allow your "power" to go amuck!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Never give up...

"Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said." - Acts 14:19-22
As we follow the Olympic games when scheduled, there are occasional reminders of past years. Stories are brought back about athletes that pressed through great pain to win the gold. They struggled through practice runs, but were determined to compete well on the day of competition. This is what being an Olympic athlete is all about... you never give up.
Paul was an Olympic Christian... he took a beating and kept on ticking! Not only did Paul continue on his mission trip, but he chose to return to the same towns that participated in his stoning. His passion for the gospel message and believers was undaunted by any amount of persecution. He knew that believers "must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God". Therefore... he never gave up.
Are you an Olympic Christian today? What will it take to stop you from fulfilling your mission for Christ? There may be pain and persecution of all kinds, but press on my friend. The leading of souls to Jesus is the greatest reward and the building up of believers is a valuable prize as well. But these rewards only go to Olympic Christians... that never give up.
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A QUOTE FOR THE DAY
  
Have you ever noticed that world-class runners have a "kick?" A kick is a technical runner's term that means when they get to that last one hundred yards or so, the runner can still sprint. No matter how much he's run before, he can sprint that last leg to the finish line and win that race. God wants you to have a kick. No matter what your circumstance, 
God wants you to finish strong.
-- Craig Brian Larson, "Strong to the Finish,"