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Trials and Temptations

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord 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 person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire 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. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” James 1:12-18

Oh how we all battle temptations and trials. So often we are just like Eve in the garden of eden. God said do not eat that fruit but then Eve takes the fruit regardless. So both Adam and Eve sin. We follow the same cycle in our daily lives. We get tempted and deceived by our eyes. We take the fruit we are not supposed to eat and we take a bite regardless. We fall. We sin. We die. But then we are given new life through Jesus’s death for us. We are given a new opportunity to live again. Hopefully we learn from our past mistakes so this time we run like crazy from that fruit.

When Satan tempts us with the fruit instead of taking the fruit we toss it out the window. We then run for the hills. It is better to be exhausted from running from temptation then to be dead. Plus Jesus will sustain us as long as we are running toward him. It’s when we stop our running that we have to be carful to not get caught in a trap.

We all as humans have temptations. But different people have different temptation. One way of running from your temptations is to know your temptations so that you can better recognize something creeping up on you. So what are your temptations? What strategies do you have in place to first recognize your temptation, second throw it out the window and third run from it? If you do not know the answer to these questions pastoral care can be helpful.

Have You Taken The Dip of Faith?

I think it interesting to talk to people about whether they are a Christian. In the US we have so many people these days that identify as Christian. I have done much thought over the years about what defines Christianity and what defines someone as being a Christian or not. Ultimately I am not the judge, God is. But I also find it interesting when you ask if someone is a Christian and they say yes. I believe in Jesus and I pray. Ok great. Have you been baptized? No. Hmmm. This makes me scratch my head. If you claim Christianity. If you claim faith in Jesus. Why have you not been baptized? Baptism is one of the greatest steps of faith we can make. If you are not willing to be baptized I question your faith. Why are you not taking the act of faith Jesus commands us as Christians to take? Do you claim Jesus? If so, have you been baptized? If not, why not take a step of faith.

“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” Acts 22:16

The Practice of Patience

If there was ever a time to discuss patience it would be now. We are in a season of social distancing, quarantine and our lives have all taken an unexpected turn. Similarly we do not have a end date. We do not know the future. We do not know when we will resume our prior lives. If there was ever a time for us to practice patience it is now.

We all like to make plans. Most people would say that it is a good idea to have a plan. For having plans helps us stay on track and accomplish the necessary tasks in life. Walking through life with no direction and no plan is a bit chaotic. We as humans instinctively make plans for the future. I do not think this wrong or bad per se but we should always keep in mind our plans are the product of us humans. We humans do not know what the future will bring. It is in this uncertainty that we should be turning our eyes to God and asking for his plans and will to be done. God very much knows the future. But we can make Jesus our plan. We can abide in Jesus so that we are part of God’s plan.

For people like me who prefer to do be doing something, prefer to be active and are the opposite extreme of lazy the mandate to wait and be patient is not something I like doing. The only times I have sat on my butt not doing anything have been when I was to sick or to injured to get up and do something. Even when I have been sick and injured I have been known to almost crawl in an attempt to be doing something. Patience has never been my greatest virtue. Similarly it is hard to be patient when you do not have an end in sight. How can we be patient when we have no idea what the future will hold? How do we be expectant when we do not know what to expect?

But we as Christians may not know the time but we do know the end result. We do not know when but we do know what to expect. We do have an end in sight. Jesus is the means to that end. We have the promise of eternity. We have the promise of being with our Heavenly Father. We have the promise of a new body not affected by the illness of this life. We have a promise of freedom from sin and suffering. We may not know the time. We may not know when but we should know what to expect. This is something worth being patient for. But similarly we know that until the time our father calls us home we should expect difficulty, illness, struggle and suffering. For just as Christ suffer we to suffer. But we do not suffer in vain for the promise of eternity with God is worth being patient and enduring. Amen

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.” James 6:7-12

Our Worldliness Is the Problem

My two littles dogs love each other very much. They are two peas in a pod for the most part. Most of the time they are snuggling with each other. But they also fight. Sometimes it is just play fighting but on occasion things can get heated between them. There fighting is no longer play it is full blown real. I think it interesting to note the cause of the REAL fighting. For it almost always is caused by something. Normally it is a fight over food, a bone, a chew toy or even my affections. But I have never seen them have a real fight over anything other than a worldly desire/things. We humans are not that different from my two dogs. When it comes to close interpersonal relationships most of our fight/quarrels are over things of this world that don’t really even matter. My two dogs fight over the food when in reality there is plenty of food for both of them. They fight over a bone when in reality there are 2 bones. They fight over a toy when in reality they should be playing with the toy together. They fight over my affections but I have two hands to pet each of them at the same time.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battlewithin you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:1-12

I am guilty of being just like my two dogs and just like the person this scripture is talking about. So what is the answer. We submit ourselves to the lord. We humble ourselves before him. We speak blessing, truth and love into our brother and sister. We leave our worldliness behind us so that we can put to death our flesh and walk in the spirit. But it starts with humble submission to the lord. If we all did this maybe we would have less fighting. There would be less quarrels. We would be more united as a body of Christ.

So would you join me today. Would you kneel down before the all mighty God. Would you humble yourself before him as a sinner in need of grace and mercy. Would you ask for his forgiveness. And would you submit all you are to him. Then would you stand up and be united with the body of Christ. No fighting and no quarreling. But as one body with a mind and heart like Christ that we can be united to make God’s name exalted on high. Amen.

Praying for those who Hurt Us

The emotional battle and turmoil within us after we have been hurt, harmed or neglected can be like a raging storm. Or at least it is for me. We often go through phases of anger. Then phases of sorrow. Then phase of numbness. But there is nothing as powerful for fighting this emotional roller coaster than praying for the very person who has harmed you. When you are angry, pray for them. When you are sad, pray for them. When you are tired, pray for them. When you are numb, pray for them. Pray for those who are the very source of your turmoil and the turmoil will eventually get better. God is no push over. He is all powerful and he is the answer to your turmoil. Your prayers for others will also bring healing for you. Amen.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

Put Away Your Jealousy

We humans are inclined to be jealous creatures. Some of us are naturally ambitious and that ambition, drive, and will power can easily lead us down a path where we are overcome with jealous, envy and desire for success by worldly standards. It is the selfishness of the ambition that makes it so deadly. For an ambition to make God’s name exalted, Jesus known to all and have others lives made better by the power of the gospel is a good thing. It is the heart of selfishness behind the ambition that makes it so horrible and ugly. It is when we are made low and humbled that Jesus is most exalted and lives are most transformed. Otherwise people start to idolize the person doing the good works rather than Jesus. It is only through Jesus and the Holy Spirit that we Christians are even capable of doing good works in the first place.

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:16-18

When I think of the times in my life I have failed to walk according to Jesus’s path for me it is often when I get caught up with trying to meet the standards others have set for me, standards I have set for myself or the standard of others around me. By trying to meet these worldly standards I then allow for jealousy and worldly ambition to creep into my heart. My eyes get turned away from Jesus and toward the worldly ambition. This has never worked out well in the end. Jesus is very good at turning my eyes back to him. I am thankful that he does turn my eyes back to him and the cross. For I have only ever experienced discontent, dissatisfaction and trouble from pursuing worldly ambition. On the other hand living a humble life in service to the Lord never cease to bring joy, peace and content.

When you evaluate your heart, is it filled with humility and desire to exalt the lord on high or is it filled with worldly ambition and jealousy? If it is filled with worldly ambition and jealousy I pray God would give you the heart to repent and allow him to cleanse you of all unrighteousness. That he would change your heart and mind so that that worldly ambition is turned to humility and desire for more Jesus in this world. Amen

My Tongue is Crazy!

When it comes to how vocal, my two little dogs are of opposite extremes. Coco is yappy. He is always barking, winning or making some sort of noise. He is very rarely quiet. He has some voice to him. I have had to work on training him to be quiet. It takes a bark collar to get him to shut up. Now you do not even have to put the collar on him. All you have to do is show it to him and he shuts up fast. Now Itsy on the other had was almost a year old before she ever made a single noise. She was a bit developmentally delayed because she did not bark until almost a year old. She is a quiet dog but I call her my rooster because she randomly howls out of the middle of no where. She makes few noises but when she howls all heads turn and look at her because it makes a statement. For such a small dog her howl is impressive. Similarly she sometimes gets a bit agitated and then she goes off growling, barking and howling until the thing agitating her is removed. She is a very interesting dog.

When it comes to us humans we are very much like my dogs. Some of us are talkers and we let our tongue go wild. Much like my dog Coco. We have to ability to speak truth and life but we also have the ability to speak all kinds of unholiness and unrighteousness. Our voice, tongue and words can get us into a whole world of trouble. But similarly we sometimes need a safe place to just let it all out. Otherwise we may let it all out in places that we should be taming our tongue.

When we are confronted with something that causes an emotional response within us it is very much like with my little dog Itsy. This agitation can cause us to go all haywire and our tongue may get us into a world of trouble. When something is agitating us it is easy to fall into a pattern of cursing or speaking negativity over people rather than speaking blessing. We are to be blessing others rather than cursing. This is sometimes challenging when we are agitated or uncomfortable. But our own discomfort does not justify our unrighteous words.

We through God’s strength have to learn how to go to him in prayer to calm our agitation and thus calm our tongue. Similarly I would say if something is causing you agitation and causing your tongue to go crazy maybe you need to make sure it is a safe place for you to be letting everything out and it not flee. For we should be fleeing from temptation.

We all have to work on taming our tongue. I myself am very much like my dog Itsy. I am quiet, a person of few words who tends to keep things to myself for the most part. But I am also easily agitated and when agitated my tongue goes wild. I have had to learn to have grace for myself for God has grace for my crazy tongue. But similarly I have had to learn how to find safe places for me to vent for my own emotional well-being without bringing harm to others. Similarly I have had to learn at the end of the day despite my agitation I through God’s strength have to learn how to bless and not curse others. Even those that have hurt or harmed me in some way. For it is through our tongue we speak life or death into others. Amen.

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-12