Give Attention to Reading

Read through the Bible with friends

James 4-5: Don’t Let Tomorrow Mess Up Today

James 4:13-17 is a reminder I need today.

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV).

I recognize the point of this passage is about relying on God and understanding that I cannot boast as if to say I am somehow by my own power going to ensure that I survive another year and by my own power will make sure the business I conduct is profitable. However, where this struck me today was the reminder that the reason such mental games are foolish is because I don’t even know if I’m going to be here tomorrow.

My problem is often the very opposite. Instead of thinking about how successful I’m going to be over the next year, I can get bogged down in worries. “Oh no, the economy is failing. What will that do to my income or my retirement or…” “Oh no, my kids are growing up and I know they are going to be faced with all kinds of temptations. What am I going to do about that?” 

One of the crazy “Oh nos” I have happened last night. My wife took the car to go to the store. It was raining like crazy and she lingered. Suddenly my mind was filled with fear that something bad had happened, at any moment the police were going to show up and now I was going to be a single father of four children. Actually, nothing happened to her. She showed up at home just as usual. However, this morning as I was stuck in traffic I started thinking about that scary possibility and I actually began to be filled with fear as if it were already true. How crazy is that?

The fact is, someday my wife will die. It may be before me or after me. It may be while the kids are at home; it may be after they are on their own. The thing is, it has happened today. She is at home right now doing her part of our family work. Why let all the possibilities of tomorrow over which I have no control mess up today.

You see it works both ways. I shouldn’t let my arrogance think I am going to ensure some success is going to happen apart from God’s will. At the same time, I shouldn’t let my fears about what might happen tomorrow send my today in a panic. Rather, I should just rely on God and pray “As the Lord wills.” Then, each day, I can rely on the strength He gives me to make it through whatever happens today.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, James, relying on God, Surrender | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 13-James 1: Facing Trials with Joy and not Fear

fearI guess James 1:2-4 stands out to me right now because of our nation’s perilous perch on financial failure. We haven’t heard as much over the past few weeks since the bailout, but that was no more than a band-aid. A government bailout cannot fix America’s financial follies. It can only prolong the inevitable if business practices steeped in debt do not change. The great fear is another depression. What an amazing trial that would be. 

What if it does happen? 

We as Christians can count it all joy. Why? Because we know that the test of our faith will only serve to produce endurance and steadfastness. That will only make us stronger. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I lie awake at night praying for a depression. I don’t want to go through one of those anymore than anyone else. I’m totally unprepared for such an occurrence. But perhaps a testing such as that would be good for us. For Christians, it won’t be the end. It will merely be another time in which we can learn to more greatly rely on God. The more we rely on God, the stronger we will be. The stronger we are, the more we can accomplish for God’s kingdom, which is what is most important anyway.

Don’t fret the future. Just take it one day at a time. However, if the trial comes, lean on God and grow from it. The fact is, it is only the challenged who grow. The complacent who have it easy rarely do more than languish in their mediocrity.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, Finances, James, money, relying on God | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16-2 Corinthians 1:Relying on the Lord who Raises the Dead

II Corinthians 1:9-10 jumped out at me today.

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (ESV)

Paul and his companions were close to death. No doubt it was because of persecution. Yet, he saw a different purpose. Being pushed to that point forced him to rely on God. He knew he could not deliver himself from death, he could only rely on God. 

How often does that happen to us and yet we can’t see the lessons God has for us. We get sick to remind us our health is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose jobs to remind us our security is not in our hands, but God’s. We lose loved ones to remind us that life is not in our hands, but Gods.

All this goes on around us reminding us to quit relying on ourselves but to rely on God instead. No matter where we are, He is there. No matter what we face, He can deliver. The longer we try to work harder to preserve ourselves, the longer we wait to truly have God’s blessings.

I’m not saying we sit on our backsides and wait for God to hand us our free lunch. It doesn’t work like that. Rather, we must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and then He will add to us. Of course, God’s blessings are not merely the material and financial. Rather, He blesses us with contentment, peace and joy no matter what we face and He blesses us with a home in heaven.

Perhaps this struck me because I’m sick this week–strep throat. It has thrown major wrinkles in my plans. But maybe what I need to do is remember that God is in charge, not me.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, God, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galatians 3-4: God Can Use the Bad Times

I spent the week of New Years in the emergency room and then confined to my house because I developed pneumonia. I have never been so sick in my life. As I have heard other people say, for a time I was so sick, I was afraid I was going to die. Then I was so sick, I was afraid I wouldn’t. I was miserable. 

To be honest, in times like that I wonder why on earth God let that happen. It messed up an opportunity I had to teach at another congregation. It certainly didn’t help my family finances. It hit while Marita’s dad was extremely sick and she had to leave to go be with him. 

Now that it is eight months behind me, I recognize it really wasn’t that bad. I can hardly imagine what it must be like for people to go through really, really difficult times–the loss of a job, break up of a family, sickness and death of a child. 

There is one passage in today’s reading that really struck me. It almost seems like a throw-away statement just tucked in there between the important stuff. But it really gave me some comfort.

“You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 4:13-14, ESV).

This passage doesn’t give a great number of details. However, it does claim the reason Paul ended up preaching in Galatia was because he got sick. Perhaps it was something with his eyes as the continuing verses suggest. However, I can imagine how I would have felt if I were Paul. Here I am traveling around, trying to do the will of God, spreading the Gospel and saving souls. Then God up and lets me get majorly sick. I’m so sick it messes up my travel and teaching plans.

In the moment of sickness, I might be pretty upset. However, from the perspective of the letter written later, we can see God’s bigger plan. I don’t know what Paul’s interrupted plans were. However, God apparently had plans for Paul to teach the Galatians. In addition to that, God had plans for Paul to eventually write this letter to them, which would be incorporated in Scripture to help all Christians of all time. None of that would have happened if God hadn’t let Paul get sick.

Therefore, I have to remember my God is powerful enough to use my bad times in a great and glorious way to accomplish His plans. It may mess up my plans, but His plans are better anyway. 

I’m not saying it will be easy to face tough times. I’m just saying this faith can get me through, knowing that God is with me and He will use whatever happens in a way that makes me better and accomplishes His glorious work.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Galatians, providence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment