Wednesday, 5 September 2018

James - Digging Deeper 7


Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 1 vs 22 – 27:  22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone [a]among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 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 says that if we just read the word, and not act on it, we will essentially forget it.  It will not be ingrained in us.  Like a man who looks at his reflection, and walks away forgetting what he looked like.  I think of it as, “acting on the word, experiencing the results thereof, will cement it into us, become part of us, and thus the word will change us”.  And James says, therein, the doing of the word, we will be blessed in what we do.

A valid point to consider as per EH is ‘ “Now that we have established that our knowledge calls us to action, we must pass our actions through this acid test:  “Do my words and actions reflect the priorities of Christ?”  This is imperative to finding out whether or not our religion is “pure and undefiled”. ‘  Does what we do bring attention to Christ, or attention to ourselves?


When we truly focus on the word, read it, absorb it, and then act on it, we are internalizing it and it becomes part of who we are and we pour out our lives for others, in the name of Jesus.  You know how it is with experience? Experience teaches right?!

Matthew Henry Notes
With regards to Vs 22:  True religion teaches us to do everything as in the presence of God;  and to seek His favour, and study to please Him in all our actions.

I think this is a very profound statement that we do whatever it is we do, as if in the presence of God.  Ultimately, God sees everything, but we don’t always behave as we might were we aware of the fact that God is present.  I know there are many times I may speak or act differently if I realized that Jesus was in the room with me every moment of every day. 

That wraps up Chapter 1 😊

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture for today:
Psalm 119 vs 9:  How can a man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word.






Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4
James - Digging Deeper 5
James - Digging Deeper 6

James - Digging Deeper 8 coming soon 😊

Sunday, 2 September 2018

James - Digging Deeper 6

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James Study – James 1 vs 19 – 21
(19) “Understand [this], my beloved brethren.  Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.  (2) For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires].  (3) So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.”  AMP

Meekness can be described as:
·         A deep understanding that God is on our side – Justin Kendrick
·         Power under control
·         Meekness is not weakness

Three behaviours that are near impossible without Jesus:
1                     Quick to hear
2                     Slow to speak
3                     Slow to anger



1                     Quick to Hear
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, but with the intent to reply!
If we are not listening then more often than not we are talking, about ourselves, others, our knowledge, me me me me me…  Listening implies trying to understand what it is that the person you are listening to is saying.  What is their intent?  What is their need?  How can I respond selflessly?  How can I respond in love?
Quick to listen is also necessary if we want to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.

2              Slow to Speak speaks to:
·         Don’t gossip
·         Don’t give unwanted or unasked for advice
·         Don’t share all your varied knowledge on a subject
Our ability to be slow to speak talks into our self-centredness!

3              Slow to Anger
Being angry seldom does anyone any good, and most times does not lead to the righteousness of God.  It hardly ever looks good on a person either!  And as EH points out, it often stems from something else, maybe fear, maybe rejection, maybe unresolved emotions…

Litmus test for righteous anger:  Next time you are angry, are your emotions in subjection to God or are you using “righteousness” as a pretext to scorch someone? 
Prov 16 vs 32:  Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Prov 14 vs 29:  A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Prov 15 vs 1:  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Psalm 86 vs 15:  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

All these skills are essential for our growth and our ability to share the gospel. 
All these skills are expressed in humility and selflessness.  If we focused on “self” we cannot listen to hear, keep quiet, or contain our anger.
All these skills demonstrate a growing meekness, a trust in knowing God is for us.

Implanted and Engrafted
Our hearts need to be rich soil to receive God’s word, a willingness to hear Him.  Thanksgiving, gratitude, humility.  None of these things work well without the ability to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  These things blind us to the richness that God offers us and wants to plant deep in our hearts.
In these few verses James is leading us to get rid of sin and selfishness and replace these with God’s word and in so doing we are renewing our minds to His will.
Rom 12 vs 2:  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Matthew Henry
·         For thus the connection stands – an angry and hasty spirit is soon provoked to ill things by afflictions, and errors and ill opinions become prevalent through the workings of our own vile and vain affections, but the renewing grace of God and the word of the gospel teach us to subdue these – quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
·         It is our duty rather to hear God’s word, and apply our minds to understand it, than to speak according to our own fancies or the opinions of men, and to run into heat and passion thereupon. 
·         In hearing the word of God we are to receive it (graft it in) and assent to the truth of it, to receive it with meekness, hear in order to “do”.  (To hear and hear well is useless without applying it)

As I go through this study I am really loving the Matthew Henry Commentary.  He definitely brings a practical slant on the word that I find refreshing.

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture this week is:
James 1 vs 19:  So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.






Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4
James - Digging Deeper 5

James - Digging Deeper 7 coming soon 😊

Friday, 3 August 2018

Flourish, where God has Planted you!

I am South African, and truly, of late, I have been very negative about being, well... South African!  Everything around us seems to be a struggle.  There is so much ugliness under the surface and so much corruption and there are those few outspoken "trouble-makers" who strive to promote hate instead of peace.

This country, South Africa, has SO MUCH potential.  The people in general want to get on with one another, grow together, find a way forward while embracing all our differences.  But those "trouble-makers" voices drown out all reason and objectivity, and encourage those easily influenced, to focus on the negative and harmful.

These very same "trouble-makers" in my opinion, seek only to make only their lives wealthy and opulent.  Their concern is not for those they influence.  But, I am no politician (thank the Lord).  I however have been questioning my existence here, and that of my family.

Do I really want to be here?
Is there really any hope?
History in those countries around us is not very encouraging...
Why bother?
Shouldn't we just go where there are more like-minded people?
Could we, even if we wanted to?
Will things ever change?

And the questions just go on and on, and buzz around my head, and I have of late spoken very negatively about my country and its people.  I have felt so anxious. 

So, in my anxiety, I went to the Word.  I decided to have a quiet time at a time I would ordinarily not, seeking peace and answers to my anxiety. 

My next chapter to read was Jeremiah 29.  It is a letter from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon.

Jer 29 vs 5 - 7: (5) Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. (6) Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. (7) And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 

I immediately felt the Lord had answered my anxiety about my country, about my city, about my home, and my part to play in it.


I felt the Lord say the following to me:

  • Build your lives, and commit to them
  • Plant gardens and establish yourself where you live
  • Increase in your lives, family, friends, business
  • Seek the peace of your city
  • Pray to the Lord for the peace of your city
  • For, the peace of your city will be your peace!

Is that not awesome?!  I feel as though God has spoken into all my fears and removed them by saying, "Flourish where I have planted you!"

I have wasted many anxious moments and words on being negative and losing hope.  Feeling at a loss and wanting to abandon ship so to speak.  But I feel God is calling me on this and saying, "No, I've got this, just flourish and trust the rest to Me!"

From now on, I choose to speak positively about South Africa, I choose to have hope in my country and its people, and in the God who placed us all here.  I will pray for Cape Town with fervor and for South Africa and its leaders as well. 

I hope this resonates with someone out there who feels hopeless in their city!  Don't give up hope!  God is aware of everything going on, and He is aware of you and your place in it!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for this post is:
Jeremiah 29 vs 11:  For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

James - Digging Deeper 5

And so we continue on in our James study.  This post we cover James 1 vs 16 - 18.  It always astounds me how much one can get out of just a few verses.  And the next time I visit in James, I will not be surprised when God shows me another facet to His character through His word.

Notes: EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle

James 1 vs 16 – 18:
(16) “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  (18) Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

Deceived:
  • Deceived here in the Greek is “Led astray”.  
  • God does not want us to be led astray into thinking anything good in us, is of us.  That is pride.  EVERY GOOD THING comes from the Father.
  • The “running away from temptation” sounds negative, but perceived differently, its “running to and pursuing every good thing”, which is from the Father.
Every Good gift:
  • When we think that we are the author of good in us, we deceive ourselves and set ourselves up for temptation, open doors, and pride.
  • We should remember, “There is no goodness apart from God, so we must count on God’s good gifts to see us through each moment.” (EH)
  • When we realize that every good gift comes from God, we will start to intentionally depend on Him and shall reap the blessing that comes from that.  Independence does not bring blessing.  It brings flesh into play, which brings death.  Dependence on God brings blessing and life.
  • James is saying the way to avoid being deceived is to decipher what is of God and what is not.  He says here in James 1 vs 17:  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above; it comes from the Father of all light, in whom there can be no variation…
  • If we, who are parents know how to give good gifts to our children (Matt 7 vs 11), how much more our Heavenly Father… Thus if it is good, glorifies Christ, good and useful for our sanctification, our continued transformation, then it is of God. 
  • If something leads us away from God, into darkness, into pride, self-reliance, etc etc, it is not of God.
  • God is the father of all light, and if we look on temptation, through the beam of His light, then the temptation looks pale, unattractive, with no draw.  Because God’s light exposes it for what it is.  Death.
  • Choosing God’s goodness, choosing light, choosing life, is not always easy and when we do so, God rewards us.  We must always remember that God’s mercies are new every morning for us because He loves us and wants us to be renewed daily and not weighed down by guilt, shame and despair.
  • I feel it needs to be mentioned here that James points out that that God is unchanging!  We may change, we may fail or succeed, but God never changes.  What He means yesterday, He means for today and tomorrow.  That is comforting in this ever changing world.
Firstfruits:
  • James says that we are a kind of firstfruits of the Lord’s creatures.  EH goes on to say that the reason for this is that God views us through the lens of Jesus.  Because Jesus is our righteousness. 
  • We are saved, born-again and transformed daily, but far from perfect.  He sees us for what we are right now, but also what He created us to be.  He treats us as He intends us to be, but gives us grace and mercy to journey to that place. 
  • We are made valuable simply because God has picked us. (EH)  We are His firstfruits, because it is His will for us to be so. 
  • As humans, made in the likeness of God and redeemed by Jesus, we are God’s most glorious creation, or at least we will end up being so once He is finished with our transformation. (EH)



John Henry’s commentary says the following:
  • We are taught yet further that, while we are the authors and procurers of all sin and misery to ourselves, God is the Father and fountain of all good.
  • Let corrupt men run into what notions they will, the truth, as it is in Jesus, stands thus: That God is not, cannot be, the author and patronizer of anything that is evil; but must be acknowledged as the cause and spring of everything that is good.
  • Father of lights: vs 17: God is the Creator of the sun and its rising and setting are the same, unchanging. So, God is unchangeable. What the sun is in nature, God is in grace, providence, and glory; aye, and infinitely more. 
  • As every good gift is from God, so particularly the renovation of our natures, our regeneration, and all the holy happy consequences of it, must be ascribed to Him.
  • Us as God’s firstfruits: That we should be God’s portion and treasure, and a more peculiar property to him, as the firstfruits were; and that we should become holy to the Lord, as the firstfruits were consecrated to Him, Christ is the firstfruits of Christians, Christians are the firstfruits of creatures.

By God’s will, we have been chosen to be His firstfruits, holy and set apart, for His glory and enjoyment.

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture this week is:
Prov 16 vs 3:  Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.




Also in this James Study series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 2
James - Digging Deeper 3
James - Digging Deeper 4

James - Digging Deeper 6 coming soon 😊

Monday, 25 June 2018

True Worship or False?

What are you reading at the moment that is helping you in your journey to a closer relationship with God?  For me I am currently reading "Man's Purpose" by AW Tozer.  That man does not mince words let me tell you. 

I have found his forthrightness very much like a bucket of cold water thrown in your face.  Its very refreshing! 😊

Tozer says that our prime reason for being, is to worship God.  And through this book he is trying to get across exactly how one does this.  I have been praying and asking the Lord to quicken my mind so that I can understand and absorb all that he has to say.  I want to know all I can about worshiping God so that I do it in a manner that is acceptable to Him. 

I was struggling with something that Tozer had said.  Not so much that it was not understandable.  Just in that what he said made me feel that nothing I do is satisfactory worship for God.  And while I believe my acceptability comes from a place of God's righteousness and grace and mercy, and nothing of my own, I felt Tozer was expressing an impossibility of my being able to worship God in such a manner as I thought to be acceptable.  He was eliminating all the ways I thought I was worshiping God.

He states the only way to worship God is in (1) spirit, and (2) in truth.  (John 4 vs 24)

I can understand this just fine.  God is spirit and we can worship Him anywhere.  Its not about where, a building, a place.  We can worship God anywhere because He is in us.  It is not about physical sacrificing and outward show.  It is about our hearts and souls seeking to worship God.  Worshiping God in truth, means to acknowledge the truth of Who He is.  He is Lord, Saviour, Creator.  There is no way to God but through belief in His Son, belief in His death and resurrection.  This is the truth of God.  We can only truly worship God if we believe the truth of Who He is. 

Tozer went on to say that much of today's "worship" of God, in church and among us as Christians is NOT true worship.  Its more about us, and entertainment, etc.  And while I do see this, and believe this to be true in many circumstances, I felt as if Tozer is saying that when I go to church and sing our praise and worship songs, that I am not worshiping, or at least, not in a way acceptable to God.


I went to bed that night confused and worried about my ability to worship God in a way that is acceptable to Him.  Then, in the morning I got up, fed the dogs, made my cuppa and headed for my bible for a quiet time.  And.... the next chapter to read was Isaiah 66.  The last chapter of Isaiah. 

The heading in my bible reads:  True Worship and False

And I smiled.  God has a way of letting you know He knows what you are doing.  He knows that you want to learn.  He knows you want clarity.  He knows what you are thinking!  Yes, He knows! 

The next verses really sum Worship, acceptable or not:
Isaiah 66 vs 1 - 2(*red italic notes are mine)
(1)  Thus says the Lord:  "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.  Where is the house that you will build Me?  And where is the place of My rest? (God does not need a building, a place to be worshiped. earth and heaven are His footstool)
(2)  For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist," says the Lord.  "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my Word.

The true worship that God accepts is from a contrite heart, a broken heart, a humble spirit.  One who looks to God for salvation and who fears Him as Lord and Saviour.  Who respects His word.  Thus, to truly worship God, in spirit and in truth, we must be humble, contrite, and fear Him, as in: respect and honour Him as Lord of all.

What then is false worship, unacceptable to God?
Isaiah 66 vs 3 - 4:    
(3)  "He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;  he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck;  he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood;  he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.  Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, (people doing outward shows of worship with no desire to change their hearts and actions)
(4)  So will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them, because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear;  but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight."

False worship comes from external show, self-reliance and pride. This "worship" is not acceptable in God's eyes.  God was not happy with those who outwardly showed worship by sacrifice, but continued in sin and their own pleasures.  Their hearts were not right before Him.

So, I feel the Lord as allayed my fears and reminded me its about my heart.  Its about the intent of my heart.  When I praise and worship God in church, in my home, in my car, my intention is to love God, to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I do not do it for anyone else, I do not do it to show anyone else anything else.  It is me, worshiping Him.  And I believe that when I do worship God in this manner, He accepts it. 

I do however pray that God show me where I fail, how I can improve, and where I need to change so that my worship remains acceptable in His sight.

Let me know your thoughts.

God bless
Tracy

 

My ABIDE scripture this week is:
John 4 vs 24:  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

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