“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3, ESV
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.
Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.
This reveals their brilliance and value. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.
God’s special nearness is available to each believer, especially those in the heat of the furnace. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father. Your faith must be purified, and this is never optional.
Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.
Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you. He delights to see your faith becoming solid and real.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”
Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability.
They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.
For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.
But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time?
We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.
But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of only ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.
After over 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.)
I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
His love is completely undeserved.
It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly lost and fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.
It is a relationship and not a religion.
We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).
We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy.
We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.
All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.
I must tell you that God loves you far more than you ever dreamed.
He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.
You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship. You display God’s love and grace so others can see it.
We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken.
We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.
There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.
“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “
“They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”
“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.”
2 Timothy 2:13, NLT
There are often times of great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.
I know that feeling quite well.
I have depressive bipolar disorder and because of that I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. (Or is it? I’m not always sure.)
We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.
We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us in the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that’s what we deserve.
“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.”
In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David had now gone outside of God’s grace and favor. Forever.
The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.
Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is even more extreme.
”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’‘
The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When He committed Himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).
You see, Jesus has taken every ounce of your sin upon Himself.
That includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”
Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever?
Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t ever fight fair.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past,saying:“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
A few weeks ago, my morning routine had taken me outside on our deck. I just sat and was soaking up the first rays and drinking a cup of coffee. My mind usually flits about; and I think about many different things. I’d like to say that at least some are engaged with challenging issues. But most though are a bit strange and out of bounds. It seems at times to be like trying to put a leash on a wild dog.
Sitting there on a deck chair, I thought about the shoes I was wearing. They were black clogs and I wore them everywhere. I’ve had them for four or five years. They had liners, so I could even wear them during winter. As I sat there, it occurred to me that I have always bought and worn either black, or brown shoes. Always. As I considered this preference, it struck me as odd. Why did I always buy dull and ordinary shoes?
I knew right then that I must buy red shoes!
Out back in the recesses of my mind, a thought burst into my thinking, it was like fireworks just went off. I would buy red shoes! I would retire my faithful sandals and wear red ones instead. I set down my coffee cup and headed for my laptop. I ordered a comfortable pair of Crocs, in crimson red.
I waited for the postman like a child waits for Christmas.
I was energized by the thought of having red shoes. I do a lot of things spontaneously. I can be far too impulsive, and it usually gets me in trouble. But when they arrived, they were even better then I expected. I put them on and started to prance around the house. And to see a 62 year old man acting like a ten year old must have been a sight. I didn’t want to take them off, and later I even flitted with the idea of even wearing them to bed.
Wearing my new red shoes was a profound experience which I didn’t anticipate. It may seem weird but when I wear them the feeling is somewhat like falling in love, or at least a reasonable facsimile. Perhaps if its nothing, I’m willing to accept that.
I think of God’s grace and how extraordinary it is.
We can reside in a barren wasteland of a tedious existence where joy is seldom found. I know this is true. But there can be an infusion of mercy in such places. A grace that meets with us and alters us. I believe we are to be “grace blasted” believers living with a sense of wonder over the kindness of God. He has chosen us to be His own sons and daughters.
“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”