Tag Archives: Reflection

Are You Ready to Be Offered?

2 Timothy 4:6-8

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Have you ever had someone ask you this question? “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do differently?”  It’s an intriguing question and I would bet that every one of you have heard it at least once, if not multiple times.  I wonder how you answered that and would love to have you put that answer in the comments once you’re done reading today’s post.

Now you may be asking “How would Pete answer that question?” and you would be right to do so.  I think this is a question that should always be on our minds, because we do not know if this will be our last day on earth.  It could be your final minutes right now.  It could be mine.  I often think that if I knew that, I would be running through the streets telling everyone about the saving power of Jesus Christ.  That they need to repent and accept His sacrifice for their sins.  That they need to read their bibles and come to know how to live as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is what Paul was doing, after all.  And Paul knew His time was at hand.  He knew he was going to die at the hand of the Romans soon.  He knew his ministry would be over.

But would it be?  Would his ministry end at the hand of the Romans?  No, it would not.  Because he had built something that would last way past his lifetime.  He left teachers and pastors, like Timothy and Titus, in place to continue his ministry.  He wrote letters that are still used today to shape doctrine and help us see what Christ did and why.  This is a lasting legacy that still lives today.  I really think Paul knew that his letters would reach way past the churches he was sending them to.  I think he knew that his life was meant to bring glory to God for generations yet to come.   After all, he does say that he fought a good fight, finished his course and ran his race.  The fight he fought was against the false religions of the heathen and the false teaching of those who would pervert the gospel.  The course he ran was through Corinth and Ephesus and Galatian and many more towns.  His race was against the evil of the day which would eventually take his life.

His legacy is called the church, and it is just as alive today as it was in his day.  It may seem like it is waning.  It may seem like the church is turning away from the true teachings of Paul, Peter, John, and the others.  There is a watered down, counterfeit church out there that is succumbing to the ways of the world and giving in to false teachers, running to them with their itching ears.  They have lost sight of the true meaning of Paul’s words and decided to follow mans’ words instead.  They believe that man’s words are just as important as God’s words and slowly but surely, they are led into heresy.  The farther they go down that road, the farther away from God they get.  Soon, the church and the world will look the same.

But the true church is not moving away from God, but moving toward Him.  They are moving forward in spiritual power and authority.  They are storming the gates of hell as prayer warriors and spiritual leaders.  This is where we must keep the faith.  This is where we must fight the good fight.  God needs each and every one of us to take the same attitude Paul takes in verse 6.  We may not know this is our last party, but we should act that way.  We should give everything we’ve got to do what God has asked each one of us to do.  Do you know what God has asked of you?  Is it cleaning the church, or being an usher, or playing the piano, or writing a blog, or so many other things God can use you for?  Whatever it is, do it with all you have because you will only get one shot.  I know there are a lot of things I can work harder at and devote more time to.  I now God has a bigger plan for my life and that I must walk the path to fulfilling those things.  I Know that even at 69 years old, God isn’t even close to being done with me yet!  I have not fought as good a fight as I could have, I have not been as faithful as I am capable of and I have not finished my course.  My plan is to listen for the voice of God and go where He leads me.  What is your plan?

Paul then talks about the crown of righteousness.  He says this is laid up for those who love His appearing.  I have asked myself in the past how this relates to the previous 2 verses, and it just struck me.  If we love His appearing, we will do all we can to prepare others for when that event happens!  We will be sharing the Gospel with all who we meet.  We will sing His praise at every chance we get. We will share our testimony over and over again, telling people about the goodness of our God.  We will defend the Gospel, and our God, against those who do not believe and would try to say God is not good.  Personally, if I want this crown.  I need to work harder, write more, practice more, study more.  I need to simply put myself more deeply into His hands so that He can do His work in me.  It is my decision, after all.

Now I have to ask again: How would you answer that question? What would you do different if you knew this was your last day, or last week on this earth?  I can’t wait to get your comments.  May God give you strength to fight, endurance to run, and glory at the finish line.

 

Pray or Praise

James 5:13 KJV

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

 

James present two different pictures in one verse, one of affliction and one of being merry.  In both cases, he also tells us how to respond to the condition we are in.  To me, both of the reactions he mentions would be natural reactions.  I am an inquisitive kind of guy after all!  So let’s break it down and try to figure out why James finds it necessary to bring out these two points in the midst of so many seemingly more important subjects.  I know – it look like simple truths, but I think there is more here than meets the eye.

First is any afflicted.  This is an intriguing word that from the Greek means experiencing painful hardship, or a malicious disposition or suffering evil.  This is very different from just being sick, a subject that will be dealt with in the coming verses.  James is talking about someone who is being influenced in a negative way by forces out of his control.  I am not talking about demonic influences necessarily, although this type of affliction would be included in James’ point here.   He is talking about hardships that come on us and seem to contradict our faith and make us doubt God can bring us out.

I believe James is discussing things like depression, severe anxiety, an overwhelming sadness, or even extreme bitterness (which we just discussed).  These are afflictions of the mind and spirit, not sicknesses that affect the body, although letting these things linger will affect our body eventually.  It is imperative as Christians that we learn how to overcome these types of affliction before they get the best of us. James gives us a key to that escape – pray!

I realize that people in these situations typically find it very hard to pray.  They feel like their prayers are ineffective and that God is not listening to them.  They feel distant in their spirit and have lost hope that God want to help them.  Often they give up on God for a while and try to figure things out on their own.  Often, we will pray for them, thinking we can help them with our prayers, and we can.  But the remedy that James gives is that the afflicted person pray. Why?

I believe the afflicted must pray for two reasons.  The first is that they must pray for themselves.  God respects our cry for help when we are in distress.  Just look at the Psalms! They are full of cries for help in the midst of affliction and distress.  The psalmist was continually under siege by their enemy, and this is the same word for affliction that James uses here.  As you read through these episodes in the psalms, you will notice that the writer always reverts back to praise, knowing that God will not only hear but answer his  prayers.  The afflicted can always depend on that truth and as they pray God will make it clear to them that He will answer.

The second reason is to pray for others.  Intercessory prayer is our highest calling as Christians.  Bringing the needs of others before the throne of God lets God know that we have compassion and mercy in our hearts.  This is pleasing to God.  But the real reason is that intercessory prayer takes our focus off from ourselves and put our own troubles at a distance.  It helps us rise above those problems and lifts us to a different level  If we continue in these prayers, our affliction can lift completely.

I am not trying to imply this is easy.  James makes a simple statement that is very difficult to comply with, but it is very possible as well.  When we can learn to turn our hearts to prayer in the midst of any affliction, we will be able to overcome the affliction sooner.  It helps us to understand these things and put them into practice if we ever find ourselves in these circumstances.

Now to the singing!  Are we prone to praise?  Do we lift up our voices and worship when things are going right?  This word merry means to be of good cheer.  It is basically the opposite of being afflicted.  It denotes a time of rejoicing in our spirit.  Something has gone right for us and we are feeling good about life.  We should be singing psalms.

Do you take time to praise the Lord when things go right?  Do you acknowledge that He is behind the good things that take place in your life (James 1:17), no matter how small or trivial they may seem?  Does He receive the praise that is due Him?  I am amazed at the number of Christians who believe in coincidence, or that God did not play a part in some blessing they received.  I am amazed at how many forget to give God thanks when the are spared trouble.

Did that car skid through the intersection just after you got through it?  Did that branch fall from the tree just a couple feet away?  Did you get a check in the mail just in time to make that payment?  Did a bunch of co-workers get sick and you did not?  Have there been some homes broken into and yours was spared?  These are not coincidences, and you were not lucky.  Luck has no place in God’s kingdom.  These are the blessings of God, and we should be merry and sing psalms!

The truth is that God has His hand in everything that happens in our lives.  My favorite author, Fenelon for short, says “See only God”.  What he means by that is that we should see God in everything, involved in everything. wanting our best in everything.  The biblical basis for this is Proverbs 6-a where it says “In all thy ways acknowledge Him”.  All means all!  God is always there.  And we should always acknowledge His interaction in our lives by singing praise when we are merry, when things go right!  So let your praise ring out!

Patience revisited

James 5:7 KJV

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

I live in Iowa. For those of you who don’t know Iowa is a huge farming state. Our farmers produce more corn and soybeans than any other state in the country. We are the third largest farm economy in the country. We are proud of our farmers and our state would not survive if something happened to the farm economy.

I have grown to admire farmers very much. Some people think they only work to plant and harvest but when those two things aren’t going on they are always busy working on machinery to make sure it’s ready for the next phase. But nothing is more impressive then the fact that they have the patience to wait for a crop.

In the fall, after harvest, many actually start preparations for the next spring.  They till the soil and put fertilizer on so it sets in during the fall and winter, before the frost sets in.  a lot of farmers are now using manure from chicken and hog farms (we are also #1 in both of those categories). In the spring, once the frost is out and the ground temperatures are above 50, they put tens of thousands of dollars into the ground that is prepared ahead of time. Of course, all is dependent on the spring rains.  It often gets to wet at times and delays planting.

There’s also money for herbicides and pesticides for some of them. All of this money is usually borrowed from the bank in hopes that there will be a harvest. As the season goes on there’s nothing more thrilling to me in the spring then you start to see those little buds start to pop out of the ground. You drive down the road and for miles and miles and miles all you see is straight rows of these little green things popping out of the ground. Watching them grow is nothing short of a miracle.

And they just have to trust God and be patient until the harvest is ready.  They need timely rains, about an inch a week.  No strong winds are needed, or it can knock over the corn crops.  Hail and tornadoes can stay away!  Temperatures have to stay warm enough – corn loves hot and humid!. But the farmer waits and trusts God will bring what is necessary, and in the fall he is rewarded most of the time with a crop that will pay the bills.

James says that we need to be patient like that farmer. We’ve talked extensively about patience before.  It is an attribute that is highly admired by God in my opinion. When we can sit back and not worry about when we are going to be healed or when that financial blessing is going to come or when that enemy is going to walk away, and we can simply trust God to do it at the right time, the peace and the joy of the Lord will be there for us just waiting. We will never have to wonder if God is going to come through because we’ll know he will. We will never have to wonder if we are walking in God’s plan because we will know that we are despite the things that come our way. My job is to just keep moving forward and go through the circumstances that come into my life while trusting the Lord and having the patience to wait it out until God is ready to relieve me.

I read a Blog several days ago that talked about the fact that this person had never prayed for patience because she had always been told that praying for patience will bring trials. She said she already had enough trials in their life and didn’t want to bring on more. I couldn’t help but think how desperately this person needed to pray for patience and yet they were afraid because they weren’t sure how it would come out. This kind of fear has no place in the kingdom of God. Praying for patience so we can endure the trials that come our way is one of the basic prayers of our lives. Didn’t the Psalmist say “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me”. Isn’t that essentially claiming patience to walk through that Valley?

If you gave not been with us through this whole journey in James, please go back to the second post from James 1:2   This post may help you understand why trials are so necessary in our lives, and how we should approach them.  Then go to the next two posts in James 1:3 and James 1:4  These two will help you understand why patience is so important to our Christian life. And patience only comes trough trials.

Patience is also a fruit of the spirit. The way I see fruit of this kind is it the more we give it out the more we receive. The more we give patience to somebody else the more we will have for ourselves. It’s something that we can’t keep inside of us. If I want patience for my own life I need to make sure that I am being patient with those around me. If I can’t be patient with those around me why should God bless me with more patience.

If you find yourself in a place where you are impatient with other people you’ll probably have a tough time being patient with God. This is a good time to pray for patience. Do not fear more trials because if you’re in this situation you probably have plenty already. God will help you through every single time if you’re praying to gain strength to go through a battle. He is the deliverer and the protector and He says if we ask He will give.  One of the biggest blessings He wants us to have is patience.   Ask for it, desire it, seek after it with all your heart.

 

Don’t Sin – Just Do It!

—James 4:16-17 KJV

16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

I don’t know about you but I hear it quite often. “We are going to Disneyland next week on vacation!”  “I have a huge appointment for a job interview tomorrow!”  “In Jesus name I am not going to be sick tomorrow – I’m going to be well and healed!” These words are all based on whether we have tomorrow or not. As my last post said, we cannot count on tomorrow. So all these statements are what James is calling evil. They are boasts on what we are claiming for a day we do not even have for sure yet. It is hard for me to understand why James calls these evil, but here is how I see what James is saying.

We have the attitude that if we make plans, God has to honor them.  My prayers need to be tempered with God’ grace, as do my utterances about my future plans.  I have learned through reading several different authors that the best way to pray is to ask God to give me strength to make it through any sickness that He’s allowed in my life. I should ask God to give me wisdom as I face the appointment that I have tomorrow. AI should ask God for traveling mercy for any place I am planning to go tomorrow. I can never assume that any of these things will actually happen. Because I don’t know if God’s going to give me tomorrow.
I believe James call evil because it is assuming God is going to do something. There are many people who assume that if they ask something of God it is theirs. The name it claim it crowd think that they can ask anything and it will be done for them. After all, Jesus did say if you ask anything in my name I will do it. But I’ve come to understand that asking in His name means asking according to His will and His word.  His will is not always known to us. There are some who would say that the Bible certainly tells us His will and I would agree. And the Bible says that we were healed by Jesus on the cross – I  agree with that also. But there is nothing that says God has to do it today or tomorrow. There’s nothing that gives a timetable of when God has to act. So when we assume that we can tell God what to do just because we pray, that is what James calls evil. Because it is suppossing that we have some kind of authority over God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Then James says something that can knock us all back. He says that if we know that we should do something good and we don’t do it, that we sin. Most of us think that it takes an action to sin. We have to commit adultery. steal,  lie, gossip, murder or someone else against God’s moral law. That is what we consider sin.  We see sin as  an action that is actually carried out against ourselves or against God or against our fellow human beings. But James takes it a step further.
When we see someone or something that we can do for someone else that would help them in some way and we don’t do it James calls that sin. I believe what he says is true. I believe that God places things in front of us on a regular basis for us to accomplish. Then He whispers in our ear what He wants to us to accomplish. And the fact that it was brought to our attention tells me that we heard that whisper. When we don’t do it it is simple disobedience. And disobedience is sin. If we don’t know about the situation and we don’t do it then we are not held responsible.
It is like the watchman on the wall in Ezekiel 33.   Ezekiel tells us that if somebody knows that trouble is coming and they warn the people, then any blood shed will not be on the watchman’s hand. But if they do not warn the people then the blood will be on their hands. Once again they have been made aware of a situation and they have done what they can to help people understand how the situation is going to affect them. They were obedient to what God asked them to do.
So how do I know if God is asking me to do something? It really is very simple. If it has been brought to my attention that someone is in need of either a physical blessing, or just someone to sit with them and talk, or maybe even a correction that needs to be given to them, and we do not do it then we have missed an opportunity to bless them and that is sin to us. God brings things to our attention on a regular basis. He does this to see if we’re listening and obeying. He gives us opportunity day in and day out to be a blessing to others. Let’s not miss those opportunities.
This verse is not here to place any condemnation on anybody. It is here to make us aware of God’s expectation in our lives. I’m glad James brings this up because it ties in so well with his teaching on the necessity of works in our lives. If it was only grace that saved us this verse would be irrelevant. Works are what shows people our faith and those works need to be done as we further our salvation experience. Remember – we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling? This is how we do that. By taking every opportunity to bless those around us.
Get out there and do all the good you can today because you don’t know if you have tomorrow. As one of my favorite author says “Don’t insult today by looking for a better tomorrow.”
Be blessed

What About Tomorrow?

James 4:13-15 KJV

13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Planning for the future is something many of us spend a lot of time on. And it is good that we do. The Bible is very specific about planning my financial situation for the future.  You can read Proverbs 6:6-8 or Proverbs 27:23 to see this. We also need to plan our spiritual future. Have I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and made heaven my home?. That is a plan that we should never neglect. James is not talking about those two areas of the future. I believe what he’s addressing here are the day to day things that we do.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talks about day-to-day circumstances and I think James is trying to help people remember what the Lord said at that time. He wants people to remember that God has the ultimate say on what their plans will be. We do not know if we even have tomorrow! How often do we consult God and ask him what we should do tomorrow? How often do we sit and pray and seek guidance for tomorrow or even for the rest of today?

I probably mentioned it before but I sell Aflac insurance. Right now I am not working because of my cancer treatments and because of the frigid cold in the Midwest. But when I get back to work, I will always leave room for God to direct me during my day. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit to go into this business or that business when I hadn’t planned on doing that. And most of the time I follow that leading I am rewarded with a nice welcome and possibly a new customer. It’s essential that I try to listen for this prompting of the Holy Spirit as I make my way from business to business and town to town.

When I plan my tomorrows I need to leave room for God to move there. If I schedule so tightly that God does not have a place to move me then when the prompting of the Holy Spirit comes I will say “God, I don’t have the time!  My schedule is too full.” Remember James says that our time is like a vapor.  My life is gone in an instant and we hardly know that the day is past before it’s over. I need to make sure I am giving God every opportunity to bless me in the middle of that day by listening very closely and by following the prompt when I get it.

This does not only go for business. It also goes for my prayer life and my personal life. I need to stay open to hear what God has to say on these things too.  When a person comes into my mind during the day, I always start to pray, or I go visit them if I am able.  I may text them or call them to see ow their day is going.  God brings people to our minds on  constant basis because they need our prayers or an encouraging word.  Do I take the time to do those things?

If there’s one hing I need to make sure that I plan every day it’s to spend time in his word. If you do not spend this time when you first get up, then most likely the rest of the day will eat up any time you have planned for God. I strongly urge you to put God first thing in the day and spend 10 minutes to 2 hours, whatever you can, in his word and in devotion to Him in prayer and praise. These plans are always pleasing to God.

The second thing that Jesus addressed was worrying about tomorrow. There is absolutely no sense in doing that. God holds our tomorrow in his hands.  When we are fully devoted to him, nothing will come into our lives that will be harmful in the long run. Things may look harmful to us, and they may seem harmful – they may even seem like the end of the world to us. But if we are in God’s hands, and we know we are, then we have nothing to fear because He is always in control and He will bring us through just fine.

If you make it a habit to worry about tomorrow then I might suggest you need to draw closer to God. You need to allow Him to give you the assurance that He has you in the palm of His hands and He always will. He is intricately involved in your life and in every phase of your life. He knows you better than you know yourself. And He will watch over you and protect you no matter what circumstance comes your way. If you don’t know these things then get into the word more. Here are some scriptures that might help you realize how much God is involved in your life. Meditate on these and make them part of your belief system:

Psalm 33:18-19  But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

Psalm 139:1-14  You have searched me, Lordand you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;  you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;  you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast,
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,  they would outnumber the grains of sand, 
when I awake, I am still with you.

Jer 29:11-13  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Joshua 1:8  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Isaiah 40:31 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isa 41:10  10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

I could fill 100 pages with scriptures showing you ow much He loves you and will take care of you.  This is a start.  I urge you to find more on your own.  Allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you very day into is promises.  He has more for you than you can possibly imagine!