Thursday, May 28, 2015

Withholding Nothing

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” - James 1:16-17
I heard this song on the way home from church last night.  William McDowell’s soft voice singing the words “withholding nothing” stuck with me.  The song says “I give myself away”, speaking of giving all of me to God, no part of life left to cling to as my own, in which I would say, “No God, I’ve got this thing just like I want it, let me reign over this by myself.”

Over the course of my life there have been many things God has asked me to surrender to Him.  I’ve left jobs, relationships, past times that I enjoyed, plans I had made, the controlling nature I have over my children and others, situations in which I wanted control.  But looking back on these 51 years He has given me, I can honestly say that not one thing – not one - have I given to Him that He did not give me back something more precious.

James 1:16-17 says Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  He is the “Father of lights”, meaning brightness, pureness, all things made visible and exposed, all power of understanding.  He never has moments of “variation or shadow” when He is not understanding and seeing all things clearly.

It took struggles to get there, but I now understand this verse.  He is my source of all good and perfect things.  Yet often I lived life looking for those desires to be filled by things of this world.  The job, I thought, would do it.  The money would do it.  The friends would do it.  The power and authority and control and prestige and popularity - the world taught me these would do it.  But the simple truth is, Sovereign God is the source of all good and perfect things. 

Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:7-11 about God’s great gifts.  He says:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

There have been times I figuratively asked for the stone, and He gave bread instead.  I asked for the serpent, and He gave me the fish.  I didn’t like the gift at the time because I didn’t understand that God’s way and God’s plan were greater than anything I could dream up.  I thought I knew what was best for my life.  I mean, after all, it was “mine”, LOL! 

There is nothing to fear in giving over even your most precious parts of your life to God.  He seeks to do you good and not harm.  The One who knew us even before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 29:11) certainly knows what we need most!  His plan for us is perfect, as He alone can see the future as history (Isaiah 46:10).  The struggles I’ve had in life, which by His grace were few, have been because I choose to interfere in His plan, to hold on to things He told me to let go of and give over to His will.  It will always be a struggle when we go against the will of God.  When I stopped withholding them from Him, and turned them over in prayer, He gave me better than I expected.

Victorious life is found in complete surrender to Him.  Lord, help me to live in complete surrender.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Absence of Faith

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:6-8

There are times when we pray that we just cannot see how God can give us what we desire.  Doubts are present where faith is absent.  Faith is multi-facetted, with each facet being an areas in which God tests and proves to us His power.  It is only as strong as it is tested and proven.  Our faith is often lacking in the areas that we have not fully understood the power of God.  For example, if we have never seen miraculous healing occur, we have trouble believing it is possible.  The Apostle Thomas had doubts about Jesus’ resurrection for that same reason – he could not see how it could be possible.  In that area, Thomas’ faith had not been tested and proved.  Peter, stepping out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus found that his faith had not been fully developed for the sport of water walking as well.  Yet in both incidents, Jesus was there to help them overcome their unbelief by showing Thomas his nail scarred hands, and by reaching out to Peter and raising him out of the water.

James says that a man that doubts is double-minded, meaning his mind is wavering, uncertain, and divided.  He also says that he is “unstable in ALL his ways”, meaning his conduct, feeling, and decisions are inconsistent and restless.  He cannot fully trust God because his faith is shifting, as sand under the feet. 

We are all unstable on every point of faith at some point in our walk with Christ.  But from the time we first believe in Him until we die, He works to perfect that faith in us.  Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without it, we cannot please God.  It also tell us that we are rewarded for our faith.

God would never require of us something that was not within our grasp.  In Luke 17:5 the apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”  He tells them how little faith is needed (as much as a mustard seed) to accomplish great things.  In Mark 9:23-24, Jesus has a conversation with the father of a young boy who was suffering from an unclean spirit causing him to have seizures and be thrown into the fire.  Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”, and the father replied through tears “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  Jesus immediately cured his son, which built the father’s faith. 

We can ask for God to do the same thing.  We can pray and ask Him to grant us more faith, so we can fully trust Him and not be unstable in our ways.  God wants to increase our faith. 

 More verses on faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6


Monday, May 25, 2015

Finding Contentment

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4 (NLT)

If happiness had a seed from which it would grow, that seed would be contentment.  Yet few of us have found it.  We continually want for something.  We want for material goods, career success, better health, stronger relationships, rest, peace – the list is endless.  Yet few of us ever find it, and when we do it is most often momentary.  So just how to we find and hold on to contentment?

Paul did it.  He says in Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT) “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Paul accredits Christ and the strength found by living and abiding in Christ as the key to contentment. 

To fully understand that, we must also understand what happens when we are not content.  In a state of discontent, we find ourselves continually in want, lusting after things we do not and sometimes cannot have.  This leads to a heart empty of gratitude, and self-centeredness.  It also leads to sin as James 1:13-15 says “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.  Being “drawn away” points to the fact that we are moving away from God.  If our “own desires” draw us away from God, we lose the peace we have in abiding with Him.  Sin is an open door leading to discontentment, confusion, frustration, and want. 

To have contentment we have to live in Christ, abiding in Him.  That’s not the same as having Him as our savior, although you will not have peace until He is your savior (Ephesians 2:14).  Abiding in Christ is a relationship with Him that is first in our lives, given the greatest importance.  Abiding in Christ is when you allow Him to sit on the throne of your heart, and govern your actions, your desires, and your will.  This is where contentment is found.  This is where we have the strength that Paul found, to “do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

James writes of that same strength in chapter 1:2-4 when he says that when trouble comes, our faith is tested.  If we pass the test, our endurance grows.  Once it grows to its fullest strength, as Paul’s did, we will be perfected, completed, and need nothing.  Active faith is required for endurance to grow, and that active faith can only be found in living with Christ on the throne of your heart. 

Contentment is great gain, but it does not come just because you want it to.  Finding contentment comes by walking through the troubles and trials of this life with Christ.  You can do all things with Him.

More scriptures on contentment:

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Hebrews 13:5-6

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” – Luke 12:15

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” – 1 Timothy 6:10-11

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalms 16:11

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You Can’t Run – You Can’t Hide

"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." - Genesis 3:8


"Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,

And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there Your hand shall lead me,

And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”

Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,

But the night shines as the day;

The darkness and the light are both alike to You." - Psalms 139:7.12

Our reaction to sin is always the same.  We'd rather not discuss it with God, and we'd just prefer not to have Him acknowledge it.  Yet, through His Spirit, He does.  Conviction in the heart, that shame and guilt we feel, is brought about by the God's acknowledgement of our sin through the Holy Spirit within those of us that are His.  It's the quietness of the call of God saying as He did to Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" 

David felt the same shame when he penned Psalms 139 and proclaimed that he had made his bed in hell, but yet God was there.  We can try to run, and we can try to hide.  We can stop going to church, we can stop reading our Bibles, stop praying, trying our best to just live out a happy life of sin.  But God is relentless in His love for us.  He will not give up on His children.  He will continually seek you out until the prodigal has returned.   

Luke 15:4-7 describes God as the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep who did not go astray, and goes after the one that did.  It says He will go after the "one which is lost until he finds it".  Until he finds it, he seeks and seeks and seeks.  Sometimes God seeks us for years and years, but He is relentless.  His love never ends.  And when He finds you, He rejoices and all of Heaven rejoices with Him.  But even greater joy comes to the one who repents, and walks out of the guilt and shame like a pile of dirty clothes on the laundry room floor.