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.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

James - Digging Deeper 4

James 1 vs 13 - 15: (13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. (14) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. (15) Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

(Note:  EH = Everett Hill - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle
           MH = Matthew Henry)

EH Notes:
  • We will be tempted, its when not if.
  • God allows temptation and difficulties for our growth and strength of character. We need these so that we can stand against, and withstand the wiles of the devil.
  • Don’t be discouraged by temptation, but don’t underestimate it either.
  • When tempted, do as Jesus did, use God’s word, as it’s alive and powerful, and will protect you.
  • Do not panic, or fear the temptation, but look to God, as His word says He will give you a way out of temptation. 
  • The temptation can’t harm us, unless we let it – its very much our choice to pick it up or not.
  • When we stand firm on God’s word (thus we need to know God’s word) no temptation will overpower us. Its power is our choice. Choose God’s way in faith 

EH then goes on to discuss IF/WHEN we do fall into temptation and sin
  • He explains that God’s forgiveness is there
  • Not accepting His forgiveness is at its core, disobedience. (← is this not profound?)
  • We tend to not ask forgiveness because we feel shame, we deserve the consequences, we feel we need to earn the forgiveness - when all along, God is extending forgiveness with no strings attached. It doesn’t fit our thinking because we know we fell, thus we need to suffer in it, but God restores because He extends grace and mercy, and doesn’t want us to suffer needlessly.
  • Also, the price He paid to save us from those failings, we need to honour His sacrifice by accepting His forgiveness, repenting and walking in the right way.



Life Application notes:
God doesn’t tempt people, He tests them. He does allow Satan to tempt people, however, in order to refine their faith and to help them grow in their dependence on Christ. We can resist the temptation to sin by turning to God for strength and choosing to obey His word.

When having fallen to temptation don’t blame others, situations, worldly ease etc. The Christian accepts responsibility for his or her wrongs, confesses them, and asks God’s forgiveness.


Matthew Henry notes:

MH lays the blame firmly at the feet of man for responding to temptation and completely refutes anyone trying to turn blame onto God.
  • “Our first father Adam, tells God, the woman thou gavest me tempted me, thereby, in effect, throwing blame upon God for giving him the tempter. Let no man speak thus!”
  • “It is very bad to sin, but is much worse, when we have done amiss, to charge it upon God, and say it was owing to Him.”
  • “Afflictions, as sent by God, are designed to draw out our graces, but not our corruptions.” (I love love love this statement)
  • “Stop the beginnings of sin therefore, or else all the evils it produces must be wholly charged upon us.”


My thoughts: Therefore, don’t pick up the temptation, because if you do, the resultant sin and consequences is all on you.  Its all about choices in the moment of temptation!

EH notes that temptation in of itself has no power over us, but if we act on it, we give it power to plant seed and grow to full blown sin.

To summarise:
  • Temptation is a given
  • It has no power over us, except that which we allow
  • God allows temptation and trial to strengthen us
  • Its all about choices
  • If/when we fall, the buck stops with us, its on us, our choice, take responsibility
  • If/when we fall, God is ready to forgive
  • Not accepting God’s forgiveness is pride and disobedience
  • Accepting His forgiveness immediately restores your relationship with Him

I hope you are as encouraged as I am that temptation is not to feared as much as we do fear it!  God has given us a way out, no matter how far along in our faith walk we are.  

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture for this week is:
1 Corith 10 vs 13:  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The more you ABIDE, the more you WANT to ABIDE!

My One Word for this year is ABIDE (See post HERE).  My goal therefore for this year was to spend more time in the Word, dig deeper, know more, get closer to the Lord, invest more time, heart and mind to getting closer to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus.  I am finding in doing so, I just want more!  More of the Word.  More knowledge.  More understanding.  More history.  I want more of Jesus!

My ladies bible study (God's Girls) are currently digging deeper into the book of James.  We are loving it!  I love how I am looking up things I never considered before.  Who is this person in scripture?  Where do they come from?  What part do they play?  What happened to them?  Google is marvellous for some of those questions.  I just want to pick everyone's brain about what they know.
I also find I am not just taking what someone says at face value!  I am checking what they say for myself, in the Word!

I am going through 1 John at the moment in my quiet time and there are so many references to ABIDE.  They are all so encouraging and uplifting.  John is writing to Christians and encouraging them to not be influenced by false teachers and teachings.  If we ABIDE in God and in His word we will be able to prevent ourselves from being waylaid and deceived, and.... we begin to understand His love for us.


1 John 2 v 24:  Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.   

If God's word, the truth, is in us, then God is in us and abides in us.  Thus we have His protection and His love in us.

1 John 2 vs 26 - 27: (26) These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (27) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Because we abide in Christ and thus Him in us, we will not be deceived by false teachers.  Our consciences will be on high alert!

1 John 2 v 28:  And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

We will recognise Jesus when He appears!  Does that not give you peace?!  It makes me feel confident that if someone comes claiming to be Christ, we will know the truth and not be fooled!

1 John 3 v 6:  Whoever abides in Him does not sin.

This means that if we abide in Christ and in His word, we will recognise sin and steer clear.  We will not be able to sin on purpose.  We will not be able to stomach hurting Jesus or the Holy Spirit on purpose.  Abiding in Christ protects us from sin.

The "LOVE" connection!

1 John 4 vs 12(b) - 13:  If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.  (13) By this we know that we abide in Him, and He is us, because he has given us of His Spirit. 

1 John 4 vs 15 - 16:  (15) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  (16) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

If we have love in us for our fellow man, then God abides in us.  If not, we need to abide more!  Spend more time in His word until we start to love people the way God wants us to.  And we are only able to love the way God wants us to, if we are able to confess Jesus as the Son of God, and we believe in Him.  When we understand God's love for us, and the love He wants us to extend, we are starting to abide in Him and Him in us.

This is a place, a way of being, that we should desire with all our hearts.  Let us ABIDE in Him daily, now and always.

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture today is:
1 John 3 v 16:  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  

Monday, 4 June 2018

James - Digging Deeper 3

NOTE: Where I have quoted from the James study "Exploring the Elements of an authentic Christian Lifestyle" I have added (EH) for the writer Everett Hill

James 1 vs 9 – 12: (9)Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, (10) but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. (11) 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. (12) Blessed is the man who endures temptations; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Rich and poor – it’s the attitude in your wealth!

When your heart is right with God and your walk daily is about “winning the race”, pushing through and persevering to the end, then:
  • Being poor is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, the poor are to glory in the fact that riches/or lack thereof, are not an issue. 
  • Riches – “God’s riches” are to be desired and in being “poor” worldly riches should not blind you to God’s plan for your life.  As we are all human, we know that these right attitudes are to be aimed for, not necessarily a given!

James writes to the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’ Christian from an eternal viewpoint (EH). Obviously in this life we need money to survive, buy food, have shelter, etc, but James is saying the poor man is actually blessed to not have the stresses of worldly wealth.

If our lives, filled with difficulty though they are, are only a fraction of our total existence, the rest of our existence must matter the most, right?! (EH)




When James addresses the wealthy Christian he is pointing out a number of things:
  • Don’t trust in your wealth, its fleeting 
  • Your wealth/money is meaningless to God 
  • Your wealth is temporary and you and it will fade away 

I think he makes the point that “having” actually makes you “poorer” because instead of relying on Christ, you rely on yourself and your wealth instead of building your heart and soul for your future in eternity, your focus is on building your wealth on earth. The wealthy have a huge potential to miss the boat. James is saying if you realise your wealth is as nothing to God, then you are truly wealthy and your riches are in Him alone and eternal. James encourages the poor to glory in not being wealthy, and the wealthy to be humble in their wealth because it’s not theirs to keep and is from the Lord for His glory not theirs.

  • We are being encouraged to keep away from the love of money, whether we have it or not! 
  • We are to put Christ ahead of wealth or the lack thereof!   Don’t let it be an idol! 
  • James takes wealth out of the equation, thus all are equal before Christ, now, make Christ your focus and live from that perspective, not from the perspective of having or not having…. 

Matthew Henry says: Both these are allowed to rejoice… If we do not rejoice in Him always, it is our own fault. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, as they produce a lowly and humbling disposition of mind, which is highly valuable in the sight of God.


Verse 12: 
 When James commends steadfastness under trial, the word “trial” that he uses can be translated as “temptation”, or a test of one’s integrity (EH). In the amplified bible it says: Blessed is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive the victor’s crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

Matthew Henry says: It is not the man who suffers only that is blessed, but he who endures, who with patience and constancy goes through all difficulties in the way of his duty.

I think James is saying: “Stand…. Stand firm… don’t give in, don’t give up… push through, because you love God! AND because you love God more than you love man’s approval and immediate satisfaction, your hope and reward is in eternity where God will reward your perseverance with the crown of life.”

Matthew Henry says: We only bear the cross for a while, but we shall wear the crown to eternity.

What is the crown of life?
  • It is the title of our reward for persevering (EH) 
  • It alludes to the glory, honour, and power found within the life of Christ that is given to us as a reward for believing AND acting on that belief (EH) 
In the end our joy is made complete by our glorious dependence in Christ and the reward is eternal life with Him (EH).

A final thought from Matthew Henry: The crown of life is promised not only to great and eminent saints, but to all those who have the love of God reigning in their hearts. Every soul that truly loves God shall have its trials in this world fully recompensed in that world above where love is made perfect.

I am finding that digging deeper is an awesome activity and gets the brain and heart engaged and sharpened for God's use when He chooses 😉

God bless
Tracy




My ABIDE scripture for this post is:  
Isaiah 40 vs 8:  The grass withers the flower fades,  but the Word of our God stands forever.




See also in this series:
Coming soon:
James - Digging Deeper 4

Friday, 25 May 2018

In Whom is your Trust?

Lately, we have been feeling like the Israelites at the edge of the Red Sea!  It has been a very trying interesting time.  We as a couple have chosen to commit to faith in God and trust that He is going to part our proverbial Red Sea.  And, having decided to walk this path of faith and trust in God, we have had numerous scriptures and quotes that have encouraged us to do just that.  Yes, we feel we are doing the right thing... instead of making a plan, again, we are choosing to wait on the Lord, knowing that His word is good and true and tried and tested and thus.... trustworthy.

Is it easy?  No!  Is it worth it?  I have absolutely no doubt it will be!

Now, in a recent quiet time I was reading Isaiah 30.  Wow, what an encouraging chapter of scripture.  Judah was in the process of trying to form an alliance with Egypt for protection against Assyria.  And God says the following to them through Isaiah:
Isaiah 30 vs 1 - 3:  (1)“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin;  (2) Who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of  Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  (3) Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation.

God is saying here that not only did they not ask Him for guidance and advice, they have not trusted Him to protect them.  He says that their "making a plan", an alliance with Egypt would result in their humiliation.  That is just awful.  In vs 7 Isaiah says that Egypt's help would result in nothing, and calls her (Egypt) a name that is a likeness to a hippo sitting on the banks of the Nile, doing...nothing!

Isaiah says to them in vs 15:  For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:  "In returning and rest you shall be saved;  In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." But you would not...

They would not!  They would not?!  Did these people not remember all that God had already done for them?  Well, um, same for us right?!  Do we remember all that God has already done for us?  Are we going to try another 'wisdom of man' solution?  Are we going to try another 'world view' plan?

For us, I stand right now and say NO!  This time we are going to trust God and return to His rest, and be quiet in confidence and His strength!  This time we are going to trust and watch what the Lord will do!


God was so gracious with the Israelites!  Knowing that they were going to go ahead and do their own thing, reap the consequences of their own actions, He says through Isaiah:  Vs 18:  Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;  and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice;  Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
(Italics and bold print mine)

Isaiah continues and says how the Lord will hear when they cry and answer because He longs to be merciful and gracious toward them.  And, when they choose to trust Him and wait on Him....
Vs 21:  Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it,"  whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. 

This is what I desire.  I desire to hear the Lord, that still small voice, speaking so that I hear, "This is the way, walk in it!"  This is my desire!  To hear God speak to me.  So, in order for this desire to be met I need to trust God with everything that is in me.  I need to rest in Him, trust in Him, glorify Him and in quiet confidence, wait on Him, as a demonstration of my faith!  Waiting in faith is an action!!!!

I hope these scriptures have encouraged you as much as they have me.  Isaiah gives us the route to follow, the way to go, the "how" to live each day!

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for this post is:
Psalm 25 vs 20:  Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

James - Digging Deeper 2

Day 2 of our Digging Deeper in James has been really eye opening.  I have always enjoyed reading James.  I find it direct, helpful, practical and no nonsense.  But when you dig deeper, you find so much more to chew on, so much more to consider and learn, so much more that makes you grow.

This week we tackled James 1 vs 5 - 8: (5) 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.  (6) 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.  (7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

God tells us that we can ask Him for wisdom, but we must ask, believing that He will give it to us.  We are to ask in faith.  The author of the study guide we are using (James - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle - Everett Hill) says wisdom is a tool for sustained endurance.  I like that.  James first tells us to hang in there, be steadfast, and then he tells us the tool to do so is God's wisdom.  When we choose to ask for and practice Godly wisdom, the confusion as demonstrated in a world of human wisdom fades away.  We find the ability to wait on God, to hear His guidance, to be able to determine the advice or still small voice IS actually His.  We find our path forward, through trial or not, clearer.


The morning of our bible study, the scripture of the day from a devotional I follow was 1 Corinth 2 vs 5:  That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  Such great confirmation that James is encouraging us to seek God's wisdom.

James also makes it clear that the asking of wisdom is available to ALL WHO BELIEVE, not just a select few, or someone of higher authority, or someone more knowledgeable, etc.  No, God's wisdom is available to ANYONE who asks in faith.

Everett Hill makes an awesome statement that God's wisdom is designed to supersede/take the place of, human wisdom.  If we choose to operate under God's wisdom and not earthly wisdom, we will find God's will for our lives coming alive and our journey will be victorious and joyful.

Double-mindedness.  The tossing and turning from one idea to the next, the non-committing to a direction, the not choosing, the not making a decision... yes, like the waves tossed and driven by the wind.  My Life Application notes calls it restlessness and that is most certainly how I feel when I cannot determine a direction for my life.  Fearful maybe to make the wrong decision, to not be hearing from the Lord, but basically in the end, getting no where in a hurry!!!!

The notes say further, "Doubt leaves a person as unsettled as the restless waves.  If you want to stop being tossed about, rely on God to show you what is best for you.  Ask Him for wisdom, and trust that He will give it to you.  Then your decisions  will be sure and solid."

I love how Matthew Henry (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible) puts perspective on these scriptures:

  • What we ought more especially to pray for - wisdom:  if any lack wisdom, let him ask of God.  We should not pray so much for the removal of an affliction as for the wisdom to make a right use of it.
  • It is not said, "Let such ask of man," no, not of any man, but, "Let him ask of God," Who made him, and gave him his understanding and reasonable powers at first, of Him in whom are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Let us confess our want  of wisdom to God and daily ask it of Him.  
  • He to whom we are sent, we are sure, has it to give:  and He is of a giving disposition, inclined to bestow this upon those who ask.  Nor is there any fear of His favours being limited to some in this case, so as to exclude others, or any humble petitioning soul;  for He gives to all men.
  • But, there is one thing necessary to be observed in our asking, namely, that we do it with a believing, steady mind:  Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  
  • There must be no wavering, no staggering at the promise of God through unbelief, or through a sense of any disadvantages that lie on our own part.
  • A wavering faith and spirit has a bad influence upon our conversations.  A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
This last point above makes the very valid point about our words and what we speak out.  If we are filled with doubt and lack faith, we will speak that in our conversation.  If we make a stand in faith, ask God for wisdom, and commit to that faith, we will speak that and our conversation will be rightly influenced and positive and filled with faith.  That will build us up in faith and those around us.

And so, we have been encouraged to ask God daily for wisdom, believing that He will give it to us, and thus we will not be double-minded or like a churning sea.

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture this week is:  1 Corinth 2 vs 5:  That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.





Other posts in this series:
James - Digging Deeper 1
James - Digging Deeper 3 (coming soon)

Friday, 11 May 2018

James - Digging Deeper 1

Our bible study group, God's Girls (we call ourselves 😊), has finally tucked into our study of James.  We purchased a book called "James - Exploring the Elements of an Authentic Christian Lifestyle" written by Everett Hill, and along with our bibles, life application sources as well as Matthew Henry's "Commentary on the Whole Bible" we are digging as deep as we possibly can with prayer and sharing!

We have been at it for 2 weeks now (meeting once a week) and have dealt with Chapter 1 v 1 - 8!  When you consider Mr Everett covers chapter 1 in 64 pages we are doing well!!! 😏

In this post I want to summerize what we have learnt thus far. 

James 1 vs 1:  (NKJV)
Greeting to the Twelve Tribes
1)  James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:  Greetings.

Here we learn that James is speaking to the twelve tribes, specifically to those Jews who have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, God and Saviour.  They were scattered all over and he wanted to unite them and encourage them as brothers and sisters in Christ.  And thus, this letter applies to us too, who have accepted Jesus as Christ and Saviour, we the Christian!

We also learn that James was a brother of Jesus.  They grew up in the same household.  When you consider siblings, and the usual spats, love/hate relationships they can have, it is amazing and humbling to know that James ALWAYS followed Christ, in life and once He was crucified and risen from the dead, James continued on in the faith.

James 1 vs 2 - 4:  
Profiting from Trials
2)  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  (4)  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Another version of the bibles says that we are to remain steadfast.  The author of this study guide says that steadfast as a Christian is to remain firm, in the One who never changes, God.  And that steadfastness (in the context of a Christian remaining firm) is the ability to adapt and change and grow, whilst trusting the One who never changes.  The picture that comes to mind is of a little boat launching dock, which moves up and down with the tide, but remains anchored to the post in the ground, which prevents it from sailing off into the big wide scary ocean.  We are to be adaptable and not stubborn or reluctant to change as God would have us change.  Not headstrong and prideful.  But steadfast and humble.  


Another point made is that one needs to be able to remain steadfast, firm and true in the face of trials, but also to remain joyful.  The writer uses the analogy of  healthy eyes being able to see traffic on the highway as you travel, but also to be able to see the beautiful trees that line the highway.  We ladies added the birds one sees flying in formation above you as well, whilst driving! 😊

James encourages us to remain joyful in trials because we know that the outcome of that trial will make us better people, more patient, firmer in our faith, closer to God. 

  • We need to be thankful that God is with us through our trials.  
  • We need to be joyful, because we KNOW that trials better us and bring us closer to Jesus.  
  • We need to be steadfast, tenacious in faith, hanging in there, because we know  we serve a God who only allows things in our lives as they work together for our good!  
  • We need to remember that God, our Creator, loves us so deeply, He allowed His own Son to die for our sins!  Such love! 
We cannot but choose to do things His way, a way that James conveys in his letter to us.

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture this week is:
Phil 4 vs 12 - 13:  (12) I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  (13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


PS:  Watch this space for James - Digging Deeper 2

Monday, 23 April 2018

Red Sea Shores - Now What?

So we are marching up to the Red Sea and what do we do?  We start looking for wood to build a boat!  How else is one to get to the other side?  Right?!  Right?!

Well, yes, in the natural!  But God does not want us to operate in the natural.  Today, we took a stand in faith.  We decided upon reaching the metaphorical shores of the Red Sea, not to try to build a boat to get to the other side.  But to put out our metaphorical rod of faith, and trust our great and mighty God to part the sea, so that we can safely get to the other side.

Now, God, who ACTUALLY parted the Red Sea, can part our metaphorical Sea with ease.  How can we doubt, that a God who created heaven and earth, parted the Red Sea, and the Jordan River, how can we doubt Him when we get to the shores of our Red Sea?


Maybe we feel we are on a journey not set out by God.  This might be so.  But God's word says that everything works out for the good of those who trust the Lord (Gal 8 vs 28).  Maybe we feel we are on these shores because of errors of judgement, foolhardiness, sin, not listening to God, etc.  That also may be so.  But God is gracious with us, and uses even our own mistakes for our good (Isaiah 30 vs 18).  Maybe we are here today because we feel chased by the enemy.  Well, so were the Israelites.  And God still parted the sea for them.  And, just by the way, drowned the enemy!  (Exodus 14 vs 23)

In my heart I feel God saying, "Just trust Me!  Don't try to figure it out!  Just trust Me!"  So, today, as we stand at the shores of the Red Sea, let us shout out our faith, raise our rod and trust God to part the Sea of whatever it is in our way, be it debt, heartache, indecision, drought of any kind... and wait and see what the Lord will do!

Now, most importantly, when God does part that metaphorical sea for you, because He will, remember to give Him ALL the glory and ALL the honour due His name.  He wants us to have the victory, but He wants and deserves all the glory. (2 Chron 20 vs 13 - 30)

God bless
Tracy


My ABIDE scripture for this post is:

Exodus 14 v 16:  But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Cling to God, with everything in you!

This past weekend I felt the Lord tell me that I had hardened my heart towards Him in that I no longer had hope in His word.  Not that I don't believe the Lord is capable of all He says He will do, but I was feeling He won't do it for me.  The Lord reminded me to soften my heart and remember that His word is true and alive and He is not a man that He should lie, but He will do as He says He will do (Numbers 23 vs 19).


I wrote down all the scripture I had read of late that I felt I could hold onto in the circumstances we are experiencing and started reading them out aloud.  Reminding myself that God's word is true, its alive, its real, and He does as He says He will do.  I must remain hopeful, and faithful and trust Him and His word with everything that is in me.  

I wrote this down:  Your word says:
  • You will restore to us what the locust has eaten (Joel 2 vs 25) 
  • You will expose and destroy the liars and their lies (Prov 19 vs 5)
  • You will silence the lips of the liars (Ps 31 vs 18)
  • You will expose the lies and reveal the truth (Prov 19 v 9)
  • You will not let us who believe in You be put to shame (Ps 25 v 3)
  • If we tithe of our first fruits You will open the windows of heaven that we cannot contain the blessings (Mal 3 vs 10)
  • You will not let our foot slide ((Ps 121 vs 3)
  • You will protect us... (Ps 91 vs 14)

I was so encouraged!

Then, I woke up this morning!!!! 😉

I woke up trying to encourage myself with God's word.  I reminded myself that all the Lord says in His word is true and I can trust Him.  But you know that feeling of doubt, insecurity, that feeling of "will He do it for me?"   Well, those feelings were niggling in the back of my brain while I read my quiet time.  

Then, I read my devotional!  Oh.My.Goodness!  Does God not just read our minds and hearts so well?!

I am going to quote my devotional word for word and I hope it encourages you as it has me!  It is from the devotional by Angus Buchan, Called A Mustard Seed


"Clinging"
 Genesis 32 vs 26(b) - "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."
"JR Miller says that Jacob won the victory and the blessing not by wrestling with God but by clinging onto God, holding onto God in faith.  The Lord is too big and too strong for any man to try and wrestle Him.  He is God.  He is so big, so huge, that He said one Word and this universe came into being. There is no man that has ever lived who can wrestle with God and win.  Jacob's  hip was displaced but, as Miller says, he got the Lord around the neck, as it were, and he hung on.  The Lord was so impressed with his perseverance, that He said, "Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed" (vs28).

Christianity is not a case of a once-off experience.  Sometimes we need to hang on literally by the skin of our teeth until God comes through for us. And He will. He’s come through for me and He can come through for you. Sometimes you cry out, “Lord, where are You?” because the going is so tough.  maybe you feel like that this morning.  God says, “Cling onto Me and I’ll take you through.”

When my younger son Fergus was a small little boy, he had an obstruction in the bowel. The doctor said he was in a very serious state.  He was running a fever and needed to be operated on immediately. I was absolutely shattered.  My life came to a standstill.  I was busy harvesting maize at the time.  I was dirty, full of chaff and dust, and when I was called to the phone, I asked, "well, do I have time to have a shower?"  he said, "No, you don't.  Go to Pietermaritzburg immediately," (this was the nearest city) "and they will be waiting for you at the emergency entrance.  If the boy is not operated on immediately, he will die."  

I will never forget driving those forty kilometres with my son lying in the front seat. The doctor had put a drip into his arm and sedated him.  The little sachet was stuck to the windscreen of the car.  My wife and other children were weeping when I left them behind on the farm.  On that road I cried out to God. I wrestled with God. When wrestling no longer had any effect, I clung onto God.

I remembered just the week before at Bible Study we had been talking about Abraham and the incredible faith he had, that after a hundred years, God gave him his heart's desire, a little boy named Isaac.  When Isaac turned thirteen God said, "I want him back."  Abraham didn't hesitate.  At that moment a peace came over me and, in the Spirit, I gave my son back to God.  I just remained clinging onto Him.  

When we got to the hospital they examined my son. They were going to operate the next morning. I sat by his bed the whole night, totally at peace but clinging onto God. The next morning the doctor could not believe what had happened. The obstruction of the bowel had cleared itself.  There was nothing left on the x-ray.  He said, "You can take your son home."
Just cling onto God today. He won’t let you down."

Just cling to God!   In Faith!
Just cling to God!   In Faith!
Just cling to God!   In Faith!

If we trust God on His word, we need to just cling to Him as Jacob did, and God will honour our perseverance and our heart's desire, and He will work in our circumstances!

Just cling to God!

God bless
Tracy



My ABIDE scripture today is:
Psalm 130 vs 5:  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope.

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