29
Jul
15

The Blessing Of Humble Circumstances

James 1:9-11 (NIV)

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Is being poor a blessing or a curse?  Well, it depends on what you mean by being poor.  ​James says that those in “humble circumstances” should “take pride in their high position” (James 1:9, NIV).  We hear the words, “humble circumstances” and we may think, “That sounds like me.”  What is the basis for your comparison?  Is my 3 bedroom home with indoor plumbing, central air conditioning, two televisions, stainless steel appliances and washer and dryer really the definition of “humble circumstances?”  I’ve been to Haiti on a mission trip.  I saw large families living in tin shacks with dirt floors.  There was a curtain to separate one room from the other room (meaning, yes, that there were two rooms in the “house”).  Talk about humble circumstances!  Yet, when they gather for worship on a Sunday, they praise the Lord for hours.  So again, I ask, what is the basis for our comparison of poor versus rich?
I am poor compared to a CEO of a multi-national corporation.  I am wealthy beyond belief compared to about 90% of the rest of the world.  The question must be asked, “Why do I feel like I am poor?”  Whose fault is it that I live in what I consider to be “humble circumstances?”  Is it God’s fault for not blessing me like a Gates or Trump?  Is it my fault for not being wiser with my money?  Is it my fault for not realizing just how rich I truly am?  The fault lies with me.  God has blessed me and continues to do so despite my lack of financial responsibility in the past.  He forgives my poor stewardship of His resources and blesses me anyway much more than I deserve.  
I should rejoice in this “trial” of humble circumstances for in it I learn to lean on Jesus.  I learn to rely on God to provide for my needs.  The wealthy man or woman may not have a faith that grows and matures because they believe that they are self-made.  God provides for our needs over and over again.  Let us learn to be grateful, humble and faithful to the One who is so faithful to us.
28
Jul
15

The Prayer Of Faith

James 1:5-8 (NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Faith is an essential part of prayer.  Praying in faith is hard to do.  To say, “God, I know and believe that You can and will answer my prayer” seems presumptuous and quite arrogant.  James exhorts us to pray for wisdom.  We should believe that God will answer that prayer.  James says that “God…gives generously to all” (James 1:5, NIV).  We sometimes have this idea that God is kind of like a stingy miser.  It is almost as if we don’t believe that He even likes us.  Why would He want to bless us?  So we doubt as we pray.  We doubt God’s love and generosity.  
James is telling us to stop doubting and believe.  We can expect God to answer our prayers (in our favor, no less) when we pray first and foremost for wisdom.  Why?  Because wisdom is the prayer of a mature Christian.  Wisdom allows the maturing believer to know the difference between “my will be done” and “Thy will be done.”  If I can have a better understanding of God’s will, I will find that more of my prayers are answered in my favor.  It is because I am praying in faith according to God’s will.  God truly knows what is best for me.  I desire His will to be done in my life.  I need wisdom to be able to discern His will and His plan for my life.  Then, when I pray, I can pray in faith and confidence that He will do what is best for me and I will find my faith growing and maturing.
27
Jul
15

Jesus Meets Our Needs

The latest message from Griffith First Christian Church in Griffith, Indiana.

27
Jul
15

The Joy of Tests and Trials

James 1:1-4 (NIV)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

When was the last time you rejoiced in your trials?  When was the last time you celebrated your struggles?  Notice that in verse 1 James does not say, “If you face trials of many kinds.”  No, James says, “…whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2, NIV).  In other words, trials and tests of our faith are inevitable.  We will be tested in our faith.  Why should we rejoice in this fact?  It is because there is a greater purpose to our suffering.  When we face the trials of life and the tests of our faith, we learn perseverance.  We learn how to press on through the trials and tests.
I don’t want to minimize our own suffering in 21st century America, but we really can’t understand the tests of faith that James’ audience was experiencing.  He was writing to Jewish Christians who had lost everything.  Like our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq who have been forced to leave everything because of persecution, so had these Christians in the first century.  They were experiencing intense persecution for their faith.  They knew suffering.  While we do not experience such persecution in America, we do sometimes experience trials and tests of faith.  The testing of our faith helps us grow and mature in our walk with God.  It was never God’s desire that we remain spiritual infants.  Rather, God wants us to be mature in our faith.  The only way that we can grow to maturity is to persevere through the trials and tests of our faith that God allows.
Do not be afraid of trials and tests.  Instead, find the joy in them because when they come, they are teaching you to rely on God’s grace and power to overcome and persevere.
Prayer: Lord God, I have experienced trials and tests in my life.  I thank you for allowing such tests of my faith.  I want to grow to maturity in Jesus.  I don’t want to be a baby Christian anymore.  Test my faith gently until I am able to withstand greater tests.  Restore me when I fail.  Give me strength to overcome.  In all things, may I give thanks to You through Jesus, my Lord.  Amen.
24
Jul
15

21st Century Idolatry


13 
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:13-21 (NIV)

Verse 21 ends this book with an abrupt and simple command.  “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”  We tend to think of idol worship as an activity of primitive cultures.  We think of idols of metal or stone or wood.  The people of John’s day were required to worship the emperor of Rome and had little idols of him.  They were required to burn incense in homage to the emperor to prove their loyalty to the state.  We tend to think that we are so beyond idolatry, but I disagree.  We do have idols in the 21st century.  Think of the things that we worship in our day and age:
  • Money (we even call it the “almighty dollar!”)
  • Fame and celebrity
  • Entertainment (billions spent on movies)
  • Leisure
  • Food
  • Pleasure
  • Toys and gadgets (guilty!)
  • Work
  • Family
  • Sports (guilty again!)

The list could go on and on and on.  An idol is anything that gets in the way of your relationship with God.  I once heard that a great way to discover what you worship is to check two things: your calendar and your checkbook.  What do you spend your time doing and on what do you spend your money?  I’m not saying that work and family and food are bad.  It is when they take God’s place that they become idols.  We say that we’re too busy to pray or go to worship every week and that we can’t afford to tithe.  Our lives are filled with an incredible amount of clutter!  Our time is cluttered and so are our homes.  Take some time today to inventory your life.  Is it time to make some new priorities?  Is it time to de-clutter a little bit?  Can you clear out 15 minutes from your schedule to read your Bible and pray today?  Can you free up some of your resources to give a tithe or offering that expresses your thanksgiving and gratitude to God this weekend?  May we do away with the idolatry in our lives and give our true worship to Jesus.

 

23
Jul
15

What God Requires

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)

Every Sunday we show up with our checks and offering envelopes.  We come to sing our songs and perform our rituals.  What about our hearts?

These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men. — Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

Jesus quoted the passage from Isaiah when He talked about the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in Matthew 15:8-9.  The heart is the key to worship.  How do we truly honor God with our hearts?  What does God require of His people?

  • Act justly
  • Love mercy
  • Walk humbly with your God

I believe that what God requires most of His people is love.  That we love others and treat them fairly.  To love mercy and being merciful.  To have the kind of love for people that is focused on healing and forgiveness.  To love God and walk before Him in humility.  We can bring our tithes and offerings and sing amazing songs of praise, but if our hearts aren’t filled with love for God and love for others what good are our offerings?  Rather than trying to atone for our lack of love with offerings, let us allow God’s Spirit to transform us into the loving people He desires.

22
Jul
15

A Solid Foundation

But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.  — Matthew 7:26-27 (NIV)

Jesus’ longest recorded sermon is the Sermon on the Mount.  It is full of practical ways to live for the Kingdom of God.  Jesus clearly defines what a Kingdom person looks like.  The one thing that a Kingdom person will do is to put His words into practice.  Why?  Because they provide a solid foundation for our lives.  He compares the wise and foolish people with two men building homes.  One builds his home on a foundation of rock and the other on a foundation of sand.  When the storms come, one house stands and the other falls flat.

How true is this in our lives?  When the storms of life come, we discover the foundation on which we’ve built our lives.  If we are putting Jesus’ words into practice (especially, I believe, Matthew 6:25-34), then we can withstand the storm.  If we are not putting Jesus’ words into practice, our lives fall apart quickly.  As we face storms in our lives over the next few weeks, may we read Jesus’ words and put them into practice.  It’s not good enough just to hear them.  We need to live them!

Have a great weekend!




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