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Posts Tagged ‘James 1:4’

Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

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Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

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  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

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(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

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Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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Oh, boy. Here she comes again. ‘Seems like she seeks me out every week. Lord, help me.

As Mrs. T. approached me after church, I braced myself for a lengthy, one-sided conversation. Mrs. T. loved to talk, usually about herself, her pains and struggles. As annoyance and frustration would build within me, all I could think about was how to get away without offending.

Now I realize there is a remedy for such situations.

I could have had V-8!

No, not the fortified tomato juice—the VICTORY x 8!

 

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I can win over annoyance and frustration—when faced with situations I cannot change—even those circumstances much bigger than aggravating people.

The “times eight” refers to eight ways the battle can be fought. By implementing the following actions, victory can be mine:

  1. Confession and repentance provide the best place to begin. Lord, my attitude toward Mrs. T is negative and unloving; bitterness and self-pity have taken root. Help me to abandon those roots so they shrivel up and die.
  1. Forgiveness.  You, oh God, have forgiven me of so much; how dare I withhold forgiveness from Mrs. T? Help me to remember that forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s a commitment to lay aside the offense—as many times as necessary.
  1. Prayer for the person(s). Father, my first inclination is to pray you reveal to Mrs. T. how annoying her self-centered chatter can be! But your wisdom dictates I pray blessing upon her (Luke 6:28). Ease the distresses and frustrations in her.  Show me how I can help, beyond providing a listening ear.

 

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  1. Thought Control. Those resentful, self-pitying thoughts in my mind want front-and-center attention, Lord. Turn my focus instead to gratitude. Thank you for the privilege of being your ears and perhaps your voice for Mrs. T.  
  1. Attitude Adjustment. Oh God, help me keep a proper perspective. On a “Scale of Measurement for Difficulties in Life”, Mrs. T rates only a 1 or 2. Forgive me for allowing such a small annoyance to steal my joy.
  1. Affirmation of God’s sovereignty and attributes. It is well within your power to redeem this situation, Lord. Help me to embrace the fact you may have a different plan– that redemptive change take place within me rather than in the situation. May I avail myself of your strength, determination, and wisdom for that change.
  1. Expectation. As Mrs. T. approaches, Father, remind me that you are working for my good and hers. My good undoubtedly includes growing the fruit of the Spirit. But it’s also possible you have planned an additional positive outcome that will surprise and delight—at the proper time.

 

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  1. Perseverance.  Thank you for that glorious promise in James 1:4–that perseverance in faith principles produces maturity and sound character. Thank you for the joy and peace that results—so much more satisfying that allowing frustration to fester!

 

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Since those days of listening to Mrs. T, have I always applied V-8 to difficult situations? No. Annoyance, bitterness, and a host of other negative emotions can still crop up as challenges arise. This post was much more for me than anyone else.

When the next problem occurs and I feel weak to handle it, I’m serving up some V-8!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.faithmessenger.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.indulgy.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Years ago I read a story that still comes to mind now and then.

As I recall, an older church member (a woman of very high standards which she vocalized frequently), came to visit a young mother of the church—unannounced.

The impromptu hostess—we’ll call her Beth—invited Mrs. Perfect into her home, grateful that she’d straightened up a bit after her two older children left for school. The two younger ones were playing quietly with new Legos (How fortunate was that?), allowing the two women to chat.

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As they sat at the kitchen table, Beth considered the room from her guest’s perspective: table cleared, dishes done, counters not too cluttered or spotted. Whew.

Then she saw it: an orange peel on the floor—not a fresh strip from breakfast; more likely from last week. How did I miss that? Beth thought. One thing for sure: Mrs. Perfect wouldn’t miss it. It was in plain view from where she sat, too.

Suddenly, Beth experienced an epiphany. What difference did it make to her if this poor, old woman noticed the orange peel? Mrs. Perfect, however, would leave with a spring in her step because she would never allow such filth to remain undetected on her floor.

And Beth smiled to herself as the other woman prattled on about the upcoming bazaar.   I hope that orange peel makes her day. And Beth truly meant it.

God brings that story to my mind because I have to fight against perfectionism, too.

Obsessive man laying on grass, perfection

And the reasons? So others will be pleased with me, appreciate me, and admire my efforts. Notice: me, me, my.

Clearly perfectionism is a close relative of self-centeredness.  Oh, Lord, forgive me.

I pray God steers me away from such counter-productive expectations of myself. Instead, I want to strive for excellence.

Yes, there is a difference between perfection and excellence.

Perfectionists have the tendency to:

  • Set unreasonably high standards
  • Experience satisfaction only when those high standards are met
  • Become depressed over failures and disappointments
  • Be controlled by fear of failure and therefore procrastinate
  • Worry about disapproval when mistakes are made

On the other hand, those striving for excellence are likely to:

  • Set standards that are high but reachable
  • Enjoy the process as well as the outcome
  • Recover quickly from failures and disappointments
  • Keep fear under control with positive truth
  • View mistakes as opportunities for growth

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For the Christian, excellence should be our loving response to God, with the desire to please him.

And what might those responses look like, as we strive for excellence?

  • Ask God to reveal what his expectations are. Then invite him to work in us toward meeting his standard:  maturity (James 1:4).
  • Take pleasure in signs of spiritual growth, as we manifest the fruit of the Spirit more and more each day (Philippians 1:9-11).
  • Turn to him for encouragement and strength when failures and disappointments come (Psalm 18:25-33).
  • Keep fear under control with appropriate scriptures and uplifting devotionals (Psalm 118:5-8).
  • View mistakes as opportunities to grow in maturity and in our relationship with God (Proverbs 24:16).

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(By the way, when the Bible tells us to be perfect (as in Matthew 5:48), the words, mature and complete are helpful synonyms to interpose. Perfection is not within our abilities to achieve (Romans 3:23). We know it and God knows it.

Here’s what we can do:

“Strive toward holiness, yet relax in grace.”

–Philip Yancey

 

Isn’t that a wonderfully balanced goal?

Let’s remember: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone [including ourselves] put a harness of slavery [to perfectionism] on you.” – Galatians 5:1 (MSG)*

*Words in brackets added.

Photo credits:  www.deeprootsathome.com; http://www.femhack.com; http://www.worshipmatters.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

What are your thoughts about perfectionism and Christian excellence?  Share your comments below!

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Elena, almost eighteen months old, loves to collect acorns. A grand oak tree, on the church property across the street from her home, provides perfect hunting grounds. She trundles along the edge of the sidewalk, her eyes on the grassy edge. Now and then she bends over, chooses a prime specimen, and clutches it tightly to her chest.

Yesterday was a banner day for acorns. Way too many shiny nuts with perfect caps. Her little hands couldn’t carry them all. I was given the honor of transporting a few of her treasures home. And this opportunity became the starting point for a train of thoughts.

You’ve no doubt noticed this yourself:  Acorns do not appear capable of producing oak trees.  They’re too small and too hard.  How can the seeds inside even escape those tough shells?   Yet given the right soil, the right climate, and plenty of time, the miracle of growth occurs.  White oak trees can reach the height of 150 feet, growing twelve to fourteen inches per year.  Acorns do not appear until the twentieth year.  In the end, the majestic giant provides hundreds of benefits (www.arborday.org and http://www.ehow.com).

 

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Now a few tall plants, like bamboo, grow very quickly. But not tall, strong trees.  I wonder why?

We humans are also slow-growing–in body and spirit. And I wonder about that, too.  Why didn’t God make us more like bamboo, able to reach maturity quickly? Instead, we progress through a protracted, sometimes painful, learning process to become “mature, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).

Perhaps God willed our development to happen slowly so we have many opportunities to follow his chosen path and fulfill the potential he’s especially prepared for each of us. A false step in the wrong direction can be corrected, just as a crooked tree can be straightened if attended to promptly.

 

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Yes, there are those who choose not to mature, not to participate with God.

But we know that God is good, that what he does is good. I want him to train and teach me (Psalm 119:68). My guess is you feel the same.

Day by day, choice by choice, we can progress along the spectrum from self-centered to selfless, from impatient to patient, from lesser to greater.  But we have to realize: it happens slowly over time.

Here’s another possibility, even better than just accepting slow progress.  Let’s embrace it.

You see, our culture tends to look at time as a thief who steals away our youth, worth, mental acuity, and energy.

But what if we view time as a gift–a gift of countless opportunities provided day by day, choice by choice–to grow into the mature and gracious people God ordained?  Instead of regretting the passage of time we can celebrate:

  • Our progress to become rooted and built up in Jesus, strengthened in our faith (Colossians 2:6).
  • The growing ability to bear fruit (the fruit of the Spirit, exemplary living, glorifying God to others)–even into old age (Psalm 92:14).
  • Becoming “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).

Oh, I like that last verse especially, don’t you?

And it can happen through  slow and steady perseverance, with God as our guide.

 

(Photo credits:  www.bio.brandeis.edu; http://www.treetopics.com; http://www.awesometools.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Steve and I received a calendar for Christmas with a quote for each day. Sometimes the choice is quite meaningful, such as:

Babe Ruth, full-length portrait, standing, fac...

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way” – Babe Ruth.

We can actually find similar truth in scripture.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Sometimes, as I turn the calendar page to a new day, I have to wonder what the selection committee was thinking. See if you agree.

Sample #1:

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” (I won’t name the person who said that!)

Forgive me, but that makes no sense. Am I missing something? If so, please set me straight.

But here’s what makes sense to me:

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes” — Winston Churchill.

Wise men also admit mistakes and correct them. When we don’t, we heap another mistake on top of the first: pride.  Ouch!

When we do admit and correct, we develop humility and maturity. And God values those traits (James 4:6, 1:4)

Sample #2:

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

Here’s what makes sense to me:

Although there is joy in the journey, it is not home. Our final home is heaven. I do not want to become enamored with the journey and lose sight of my home.

With Paul, I want to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Heaven

(Photo credit: irunandshoot)

Sample #3:

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Problem is, no matter how well we take care of ourselves, these bodies have expiration dates. But praise God our earthly bodies are not the only place to live!

In fact, for those of us who know Jesus, “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We’ll have new, spiritual bodies fit for heaven — strong and vibrant, with no expiration date.  Can you imagine?

Paul said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (v. 23).

Oh, yes.

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Thank you, Father, for your Word that speaks reliable wisdom and truth—truth that guides, teaches, and protects. But I need your help to live by its truths. Remind me that only fools despise your wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).

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