My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
Do you count it "all joy" when you fall into various trials? It's not an easy thing to do, is it? It's hard to find joy when your life is falling apart. I speak from experience. I have had my fair share of trials. From a tumour the size of a grapefruit to an incurable disease to mistakes by doctors and a fall down a flight of stairs that left me partially disabled. According to the above verse, I am to count those trials as "all joy." With my five-month stay in the hospital last year that resulted in even more health problems, it seems a bit much to ask. But look at who wrote those words.
James, the brother of Jesus, whose death is debated even to this day, prayed so much on his knees that they became calloused and hard. Some commentaries say he was stoned to death because he refused to deny the Lord. Others say he was beheaded. Either way, he endured his fair share of persecution, as did the rest of the Apostles. Peter was crucified upside down on a cross. The Apostle John was boiled in oil - survived! - and was then exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he would write the book of the Revelation. The Apostle Paul endured prison, snake bites, whippings, beatings, and shipwrecks. Knowing the extreme persecution each new believer faced, James still asked us to count our trials as "all joy." Why? Because they are necessary to grow in our faith. When our faith is tested, we learn patience.
But we need to, as James suggests, let patience have its perfect work. If we only look at our trials and all the bad things that happen to us, our focus gets really distorted. We become depressed when nothing positive happens in our lives. We become discouraged, and if we don't see the real reason for our trials, we might even begin to doubt that God even loves us. Trials, sickness, hardships, call it what you will. If you are enduring them and you don't look at their ultimate purpose in your life, you will not count them as all joy.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
The verse above comes after King Solomon had finished the Temple in Jerusalem. He and the people celebrated its completion for twenty-three days, with offerings and sacrifices, music and praise. It was a joyful time, and God had made His presence known by causing fire to come down from heaven to consume the burnt offerings (2 Chronicles 7:1). His glory filled the Temple, and because it did, even the priests who were dedicated to Him could not enter the Temple.
Try to imagine what that was like. Fire came down from heaven, and this fire represented the glory of God. It completely filled the Temple, and everyone there saw it bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped God. Imagine how you would be feeling if you had been there. Indeed, you would be afraid. Fire from heaven is not a normal thing you see every day. You would also be in awe. You would be grateful because, as a person in that era, you would know about the gods of the other nations, and you would now be comparing them to the Most High God. And you would realize without a doubt that there was only one God, and all the rest were fake. You would also feel loved because the God of the universe had blessed your people by showing favour to you. The honour, the implications of that alone, would be overwhelming. Would you ever be able to get off your knees?
But the day came when the celebrations ended, and King Solomon sent everyone back to their homes. That night, God came to him and told him He had heard his prayer (2 Chronicles 6). He reminded Solomon that He had chosen the Temple as a place for Himself, a house of sacrifice. Then He said:
While reading Colossians 1:9-14, I was struck by the prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for the people of Colosse. He prayed that God would fill the people of Colosse with the knowledge of God's will through the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit gives (Colossians 1:9). Why did Paul pray for that in particular? He answers that in the rest of the verse. So that they may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way. By asking God to fill the people of Colosse with the knowledge of His will, Paul is asking for them to grow in their faith. And how do Christians grow? Through the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives through God's Holy Word. As we read it, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, ears, and hearts to its message, and we grow in the knowledge of God's will.
For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.
Before I begin my devotions, I always pray that God will lead me into all truth and that any words I write here will be words from Him, not from me. I want to be very careful about what I say because the Word of God is not to be taken lightly. So when I write, it is always with trepidation and with an ear listening for guidance from the Holy Spirit so that I do not go off on a tangent, leading God's people astray. I take the discerning of Scripture very seriously. So let's look at the verses above, and I will attempt to convey what I heard the Holy Spirit telling me about this passage.
The chosen and precious cornerstone spoken above is Jesus Christ. How do we know this? Scripture confirms it (Acts 4:10-12; Ephesians 2:20-22; Isaiah 28:16). What is the importance of a cornerstone? The cornerstone (also known as the foundation stone) is the first stone set in constructing a masonry foundation. This stone is the most important in the structure because all the other stones will be set around this stone. So it determines the position of the entire structure.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
One of the things I found most difficult when I became a Christian was learning not to be anxious or worried about things. Every time something troubling occurred, I would worry, or at the very least try to figure out how to make things work so that I didn't have to worry anymore.
When I ran across the above verse in my Bible, I couldn't understand how prayer and thanksgiving would make my worries go away. As far as supplication went - well...it took me a while to figure out what that even meant. So, let's look at these two verses and find out what they are really saying.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
The twenty-third psalm is probably the most well-known of all the psalms. It is memorized and said during times of fear, despair and grief. Like the Lord's Prayer, the twenty-third psalm was something I learned when I was very young. And also, like the Lord's Prayer, it was something that was recited at almost every funeral I attended. Why? Because Psalm 23 offers comfort and hope to a weary soul. But it also shows us the attributes of God and what our relationship with Him should be like.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor,
When Jesus began his famous sermon on the mount, the Bible says that he was talking to his disciples - in other words - his followers (Matthew 5:1). These words were geared specifically for those who had given up everything to follow him, and they still apply to his disciples today.
In my last post I talked about the Eight Blessings Jesus Gives Us. Today I want to talk about the "woes," Jesus added to those blessings when he gave his famous Sermon on the Mount.
You don't usually hear about these woes because many of us rely on Matthew 5:1-11 for the list of the blessings (or beatitudes). But in Luke 6:24-26 Jesus followed with four woes (or condemnations) that are the reason many people do not not experience God's blessings today.
The following is updated from a previous post.
In Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-11) he gives us eight definitions of those who are blessed and the outcomes of those blessings. Who are the recipients of these blessings?
Read James 5:1-12
In this final chapter of James, he seems to be touching on all manner of miscellaneous subjects. From the responsibilities of Christians who are wealthy, to persevere in our faith, to the sick, and bringing back those who have strayed from the truth. He begins by addressing the rich. Jesus once said it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25). Does this mean that wealthy people can’t know Jesus? Not at all! I know many wealthy Christians who serve God humbly, using their money to support missions and the church. But we must remember the culture of the day when reading this chapter.
New believers in the early church came from all walks of life, and some of them were rich. Most of the wealthy were landowners who had people working for them. It would appear that James is talking specifically to them. Whether or not they were believers is unclear, although James 5:9 seems to imply the wealthy were believers. What is clear are their sins, which James addresses in the first six verses. His warnings to the rich are somewhat prophetic because it was the aristocracy who, a few years after this letter was written, were mostly obliterated during the Jewish revolt from Rome.