Sword Fighting Class – Our Anger

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind; that man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”James 1 1 -9

“The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  While the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, for he will pass away like the wildflower.  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.  In the same way, a rich man fades away even as he goes about his business.”

When tempted, no one should say ‘God is tempting me’, for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”James 1= 13-18

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”

Dear brothers and sisters, take note of this; everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Yeah!  We’re memorizing James 1 and we’re doing great!  If you’re doing this with me, I know you are being blessed.  I am.  I love having this portion of scripture etched on my brain.  God uses it all of the time in my life.  Here’s the next verse,

” because man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. ”

Our anger is not right for us.

It makes us say things we shouldn’t say.  It makes us do things we shouldn’t do.  We are not quick to listen and not slow to speak when we are angry.

Our anger is often based on self-centeredness.  Something was done to us.  Something was said to us or about us.  It focuses our attention on ourselves, our emotions.

Away from God.  Away from the peace of God.  Away from the forgiveness of God.  Away from the unconditional acceptance that we only get from God.

James tells us in his third chapter that true righteousness is sown in peace, not in anger.

Dear Father, please help us deal positively with our anger and grow our righteousness.

What I Didn’t Do

When we think about our sins, we often focus on the things we did or said that we shouldn’t have.  These are our sins of commission.Feb 23 b 2015 what I didn't do

We don’t think about our sins of omission as often.  These are the things we should have done but didn’t:

* a word of encouragement to a leader at our church.

* a pat on the back to a co-worker.

* a special treat for a mother or father.

* a smile to stranger.

That last one reminds me of a recent Thursday morning when I was walking through a restaurant where my Bible Study small group meets bright and early at 6 am.  As I walked past a man sitting at the eating counter by himself, he looked at me and I felt a nudge from God so I made eye contact, smiled and said, ‘hi’.  Instead of greeting me back, he said, ‘Thank you”.

A thank you.

I got the impression that he really needed someone in this restaurant crowded with groups of people to acknowledge his existence and smile.  I’m really glad I didn’t miss that opportunity, that nudge from the Holy Spirit.

I wish I could say that I was always listening and responding to those nudges, but if I said that, it would be a sin of commission :)  Because it’s not true.

It was just a very small encounter at the start of a hectic day, but God has used it to remind me to be ready to respond to his nudges.  Who else in my world is looking for a smile and a ‘hi’?

Are there people in your world who need a smile and a ‘hi’?  Or a word spoken?  Or a door opened?  Or a text sent?  Or a card given?

Dear Father, please open our eyes to the things we might fail to do without your nudge.  We don’t want to miss the opportunity to be your light.

 

Blessings Come After Obedience

We obey,

and then we are blessed.

We read this in Deuteronomy 11 and we also see this same principle mentioned several more times through the scriptures.Feb 17 2015 Blessings come after obedience

God’s blessings come as a result of obedience.

It would be easier if it was the other way around, wouldn’t it?  “God, if you do this thing I want, then I will do what you want.”

We pray to God asking for his blessings on our life and on the lives of others.

But – are we obeying?

That’s the first step.  Then the blessings follow.

Moses told the Israelites to love the Lord with all of their heart and soul and strength.  If they did this,  THEN God would send the rain for their crops and their cattle.

Moses warns them against being enticed by other gods and disobeying.  In their time, these gods were wooden and metal statues.  In our time, it’s often money and possessions.  The god of More can often get more of our attention that the Master of Universe.

Moses told the Israelites that, if they worship other gods, the One True God would shut the heavens and they wouldn’t get rain.  They wouldn’t be blessed.

This leads to some very important self-evaluation for us today –

Are we experiencing the abundant raining down of God’s blessings as a result of our consistent obedience?

Or has God shut down the flow of blessings as a result of our disobedience?

Abba Father, please open our eyes to your truth.

The Main Thing

The main thing has been the main thing since the beginning of time.  Way back in Deuteronomy, Moses told his people to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

The main thing.

When we get this right, we put God in a position in our lives where he helps us with everything else.feb 16 2015 the main thing

That’s my reality.  When I seriously started putting God first, he helped me be a better mother, a better wife, a better employee, a better boss, a better friend…..a better person.

I know, it sounds like loving God with our whole self is even more stuff to do – seriously studying the Bible, faithfully participating in worship, serving God with my spiritual family, growing a solid prayer life and  regularly meeting with others to grow my faith and be encouraged.  And I decided to seriously put God first at a time in my life when there was NO extra time for any more things to do.  I was a wife and a mother of two little kids who travelled regularly for work.  My calendar was stuffed!  It’s a good thing I’ve never been very excited about watching TV because I had no time to watch anything – for years.

I found out that this was the perfect time for me to put God first because, as I watched, he supernaturally worked it all out.  Very quickly, I felt less stretched, less stressed and more joy.  God took my burdens which were very heavy and gave me peace and purpose – he filled a hole in my life that I wasn’t even aware I had.

I had been a Christian my whole life but I had never let God have first place in my life. Putting God first made all of the rest easier – and more fun!

If you’ve made that commitment, you know what I mean.  If you’ve never done this, you want to go for it.  It’s worth it.

It’s true – I still struggle sometimes and get my priorities mixed up.  But now I know where to go for peace and restoration.  My Abba Father is always waiting, ready to help.

A huge area where we need his help is identified in the next verses in Deuteronomy – teaching our children, passing this life of faith.  This command comes right after the command to love God first.

It’s our responsibility.

And not just to our own children but also to the children of our spiritual family – the next generation.  We all play a part in passing our faith down to those that are coming down this path of faith behind us.

There are lots of ways to do this.  We can lead classes at church, support and lead youth activities, participate in and  lead Bible study groups, disciple others and mentor others – just to name a few.

It’s not a suggestion from God.  It’s a command.

May we be found faithful, Abba Father.

 

Sword Fighting Class- Quick and Slow

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1 1 -9 If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without fault and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  James 1= 13-18But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, for he will pass away like the wildflower.  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the plant; it’s blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.  In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because, when he has stood the test, he will receive the Crown of Life that God has promised to all who love him.”

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’, for God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.  And sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly light, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”

Awesome!  We’re memorizing James 1 with God’s help and we’re doing great!  God is doing most of it at this point, right?  Because it’s a lot and no way would we be this far without the help of the Holy Spirit!

Here’s the next verse:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

It’s hard to listen – I need to get better at it.

It’s hard to be slow to speak – I need to get better at that, too.

Well, here’s one I don’t have a lot of issues with – anger.  One out of three :)

God is telling us that we should be all about listening to the word of truth.  Focused.  Committed.

Being slow to speak will help us keep away from the temptation to say things we shouldn’t say.  It will give us more time to listen.

And, when we are angry, we aren’t open to the truth.  We’re turned inward and only considering ourselves.  Not concerned about others.

Dear Father,  We ask for your help in being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Please grow these qualities in us.

 

High Walls

When the Israelites entered the Promised land, its cities all had high, fortified gates and walls.  This was because the culture of the time was very destructive.  Wars included total extermination or enslavement of the men, women and children.  This was the culture that the people of the time lived in and understood.  Later, we will see God start to change this thinking with the Israelites as he made specific laws about how to treat each other and how to respect the belongs of other people.Feb 15 b 2015 high walls

So, when we see the Israelites totally annihilating a city, that was in line with how people dealt with these issues at the time.  It seems extremely excessive to us and hard to understand.  It was the only thing the Israelites understood and that’s why we see God using these methods to complete his will.

Getting rid of cultures that were committed to worshipping pagan gods should have also helped the Israelites avoid being enticed by the allure these other gods had…..but we read that often the Israelites still strayed and paid the penalty for their lack of commitment to the One True God.  God was trying to teach the Israelites to hold themselves separate from the pagans.  But they didn’t always get it.  Sound familiar?

All of the fighting and devastation in the Old Testament sounds gory and unforgiving to us…..until we remember the righteousness and holiness of God.  He is perfect.  He is always right.

Just because we don’t understand all of it doesn’t make it not true.  When we believe that God is in total control and that he is perfect, we can accept the reality of God working in this savage time as the right thing to do.

This is where faith kicks in.

Our 3 1/2 pound brain is limited.

God is limitless.

So we accept and believe….

OR we get all hung up on things that are beyond our comprehension.

Dear Father God, We believe you are perfect and righteous and holy.  Please help our faith grow in the areas where we don’t understand – in the areas where we will never understand.  We thank you for your truth.  In the redeeming name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Not Listening

Sometimes we’re just not listening.

We’re focused on ourselves,Feb 15 2015 listening

our plans,

what we want to make happen.

So we move forward,

in the direction we want to go.

Doing what we want to do,

when we want to do it.

With our ears closed to God.

Not listening.

Not really wanting to hear anything that could change the direction we want to go.

Because we know where we want to go.

We have big plans……this is going to be great!

So we march out to the hill country just like the Israelites did in Deuteronomy 1.

Without God’s direction.

Without God’s protection.

And we are chased back down the hill of failure – defeated by our own arrogance and rebellion.

How we wish we had listened!  The consequences of our own choices can be very severe – beating us down.

Unlike the Israelites, those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior have been redeemed and the Spirit of God lives within us.  He is always available – we just need to confess our rebellion and turn away from our sin.

Away from ourselves.

Our will.

We turn back to God.

And we recommit to listen….

very closely…..

everyday.

We’re listening, Abba Father.

Celebrating The Creator of Love

Our Father God created love for us.

He wants us to feel loved, all of the time.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:2.Roses 2..

The book of 1 John is jam-packed full of truth about love.  Reread it today as we celebrate the love that the Father of the Heavenly Lights lavishes upon us.

“This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” 1 John 3:16.

Thank you, Jesus.  That’s what real love is.

” This is how God showed his love among us.  He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”Roses 1

Thank you, dear Father, for showing us your love and giving us life.

God loves us perfectly and he desires to love others through us.

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:12

Please help us show your love to others, Abba Father, so they can feel it and be made whole.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18.

Please guide our actions and our tongue, Abba Father.  Let them be filled with your love.  And thank you for leading us on this Journey Towards the Truth.

 

 

 

Sword Fighting Class- Redeemed!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without fault, and it will be given to him. James 1 1 -9 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.’

“The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, for he will pass away like a wildflower.  The sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. James 1= 13-18 In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business”.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because, when he has stood the test, he will receive crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

“When tempted, no one should say “God is tempting me” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.  And sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Awesome!  We are memorizing James 1 and we are doing great!  We are doing our part and God is definitely doing his part!  Here is our next verse:

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”

God has redeemed us with his grace.  His gospel is the truth which transforms us from creatures forever separated from God’s light into his adopted children, reborn and reconciled to him.

There is no better news than this!

Thank you, Abba Father!

 

 

Sound the Trumpet

The Israelites were reminded that God was with them when the trumpet sounded.  Different trumpet blasts were used to communicate various messages to them.feb 7 2015 Sound the trumpets

One of the blasts told them the leaders were supposed to gather.  Another told them the whole community was supposed to congregate.  A different blast told them to pick up their tents and start moving.  Another one was used when they were going into battle.  Or, at festival time, the trumpets were blown over their burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.

In all of these situations the trumpet sound reminded them that God was with them.

Sometimes we could really use a trumpet blast today, couldn’t we?  We’d love a loud reminder that God is with us.

We forget.

We get distracted.

We start focusing on ourselves (again) and we forget that the Holy Spirit lives within us and that God wants to be involved in every part of our lives.

Developing good spiritual habits is the best way for us to be constantly plugged in to God so that we don’t wander into ‘me’ land.

* Regularly reading and studying our Bible, applying his word to our lives.

* talking with God often and then listening, expecting a reply.

* Regularly participating in worship with our spiritual family.

* Regularly meeting with other Christians – encouraging each other and growing together as we walk this path of faith.

Each one of these habits is  trumpet blast – reminding us that God is alive within us and he is very busy transforming us to be more like Jesus.

Thank you for our trumpet blasts, Abba Father.