Saturday, May 26, 2012

Teachers Pet

...Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism...James 2:1

The first half of the second chapter of James has a lot to save about favoritism. He's against it.  Don't have a higher opinion of people that have money, and don't treat people who have less as if they are in some way less. Often, if is the "haves" who make our lives as Christians more complicated, and often it is those who have little to cling to in this world that God uses for AMAZING eternal purposes. When I have favorites or "pets" I am in fact sinning.  Well, there isn't much wiggle room there. God says love your neighbor as your self. For God there is no little sin. He doesn't rate sin on a sliding or progressive scale like I sometimes do. He hates all of it.  All of it separates me from Him.

Money doesn't really trip me up much - there have been times when we've had more and times when we've had less. I've known some amazingly giving and Godly people with truly minimal finances that would do almost anything to help a person in need, and I've known people with limitless financial resources and a great desire to hold on to all that earthly wealth.  I've also known poor people that work the system harder than they work to support themselves and meet their own needs and I have known wealthy people who work hard to share with others every blessing that God has given them.  It's not the money - it's the condition of the heart. All that said, I was feeling pretty good about this passage - cause like I said, money doesn't play a lot into my thought process.

But then God started talking to me about other types of favoritism.
  • Do I ask the person who has the most amazing voice ever to do all of the specials and lead all of the songs - even when there are others with willing hearts and good voices?
  • Is the kid that is the "ideal" student mentor the one I always pick to be a class leader, even though there are other kids that could learn to lead if I would invest a bit more effort and time in them?
  • When there is a job to be done, do I always and only look to my faithful friends that I like to work with and know will get the job done, or do I look to involve the new or un-invested people in our church family?
  • Do I make my time and energy available to those around me who might need some extra love and encouragement even tho they can be needy and hard to love at times, or do I mostly invest myself in those who are "easy" to love?
  • When I am planning events, do I pick dates that work for me and my friends, or do I pick dates that meet the needs of my entire faith community?
  • When I ask someone to do something and they kindly tell me "no", do I love, respect and treat them the same as if they had said "yes"?
So it looks like God wants me to think about some stuff, and really examine if my actions reflect his love.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Am I Fooling Myself?

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue,
you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:26-27

Talk is easy, talk is cheap. Talk will and sometimes does get me into trouble. Talk is not what makes a relationship with Jesus, but it does say something about the state of that relationship, "If you claim to be religious but don't control our tongue, you are fooling youself."  James is pretty clear about what he thinks about what comes out of someones mouth.  There is a direct link between what I say and who I am. My words reflect the status of my heart. When me and God get real - the first thing that gets touched is my mouth. It's not the conversation that I think over first, it's all the stuff that comes out when I am not thinking at all. My first responses, the words that flow when I am with people that know me well and love me anyway. And I know when I have crossed the line. I know when my words do not reflect my Father. I know when something that should have been left unsaid gets said. I know whey it's a "my opinion" thing and not a "God's Holy Word" thing. I spend a lot of time meditating on the verse that says "speak the truth in love" - no where have I found the verse that says "open mouth and tell people exactly what is on your mind". My mom use to say "opinions are like earlobes, everybody has at least two," maybe you have heard similar idea's in your circle of influence.  "Your fooling yourself and your religion is worthless."  Ouch. Relationship with God changes things. It changes my priorities, it changes my passions, it changes my motives, it changes my behaviours, it should change my language too. If it does not - well then that is something God and I really do need to look into.

"Caring for orphans and widows in their distress." When I am a Jesus follower, I care about the things that matter to Him.  People that cannot protect themselves, people who are mistreated and oppressed. But more than just "caring", there is action that needs to happen. It's not about efforts that are easy or comfortable for me, but instead I should be looking for where and what the need is and meeting them there to help how I can.

"And refusing to let the world corrupt you."  Easy to say. Takes effort to do. This doesn't mean I dig a hole and hide, God calls us to be light and salt and not protected colonies of Christians. There has to be more of God in me. I need to cling to Him. For me this is spending time with God first, taking time to know Him, His character, His standard, His truth. Then it is spending time with the lost, the hurting, the broken, the struggling. It is making sure that my relationship with God lifts them up, and draws them closer to the love of Abba, and it is making sure that my walk doesn't suffer in the process. It means creating opportunity but avoiding temptation. It's hard. I can't do it by myself. But God doesn't want me to. He's there - and He is big enough.

These two verses lead my mind to this: The words that come out of my mouth are directly related to how closely I am doing life with Jesus. It's not about what I say I do, it's all about what I actually do. How does my journey with Jesus impact my interaction with those around me, and how does it impact my personal purity? If I am a Jesus follower, I should be different than the people around me who are not. How easy is it for those around me to see the difference? Lot's to pray thru today...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't Just Listen

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:22-25

So I will be honest. I haven't been doing much "listening to God's word" the last few days.  Truth is...get ready 'cause here comes my long list of's the last week of school, I had 2 big meetings this week, I am speaking at a Jr. High, there are 3 daily mentoring programs to finish writing and editing, summer curriculum starts in 2 weeks and I am still compiling resources, Matt's working afternoons and we wanted a date day, teen camp is soon, I am not ready for the family hike, there was a death in the family (true), there was a birth in the circle of people I call friends (true), there is laundry, and food shopping, and the placement of 4000 bricks that needs to take place.  Every single bit of that is truth.  And every single bit of that is a BIG FAT LIE.  None of that is the reason that God and I have not spent face time together like we should this week. None of that has kept me out of God's word in my private (and not for other people or ministry) study of God's real time truth for me. Truth is...I am lazy. I slept in. I fed my words with friends habit. I played. I went on a field trip. I ate ice cream. I sacrificed what matters most for "lesser things". None of those things are bad, or wrong. None of things are things I think I should not do from time to time. In fact I think God wants me to invest in my relationship with my husband and my kids and my friends and my community. It wasn't the things that tripped me up. It was me. My choice. And yeah, I think that maybe, just maybe I grieved my Savior a bit. I let Him be less that what He desires - to be first.

I told you this might get ugly.

Look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free. When I look carefully at God's plan, and when I remember to live by His truth life just gets easier. My attitude is better. My stress level is lower. I am better able to respond to my day - and all of the surprises that it brings - with God's perspective of what really matters and what is just temporary.

I guess you could say my day started at 5pm today. That's when God and I got real. He said hmmm and I said ohhh. It may not seem like much to you, but I understood everything He meant. So glad that my Abba is patient, forgiving and full of love. So tomorrow is the first day of summer break. The Wilson's have no place to be. No alarm to be set. No rush to get out the door. But tomorrow things will be different, God and I got that settled today. Tomorrow my day will start with some cafe mocha and a strong dose of God time. I miss it. I need it. It matters. To both of us :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.  So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 

James 1:19-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

As I process through this next uncomfortable truth, there I several things that continue to rattle around in my brain. 

Quick to listen.  Yep. I get it. I need to stop thinking ahead to what my response or input will be.  I need to listen.  I need to hear. People want to be heard.  Stop thinking about what I am going to say and start really listening. I want to talk WITH people who hear me, and I take the time to hear them.

 Slow to speak. I find that eating a banana when on the phone can really help with this (thanks mom). No really, it fills my mouth so I cannot talk and it is quiet to chew. I also drink lots of water. I always take a BIG glass of water to meetings I am not leading. Drinking water gives me the chance to pause - and think before I open my mouth. When I go into a face to face setting where I know there will be group discussion I try and make sure I have water (or coffee) to sip - again my mouth is full and thus I am quiet. Also, when I am not talking, it makes the listening thing easier (see above).

Slow to become angry. Well, now James is really getting personal isn’t he. It doesn’t say “never become angry”, but it is pretty clear that anger should not be my default response.  

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. Great, now it’s some truth about my anger and God's anger. My anger can, will, and always does get in the way of how God and I can do life together. My anger is a GREAT BIG WALL. God gets angry. Sometimes God gets very angry. But, is what angers me the same as what angers God? Do I even know what truly angers Him? My anger rarely creates or reflects in me or those around me the characteristics of my Creator.  My anger usually isn’t about God at all. It’s usually about my pride, my ego, my desire, what I want or like or don’t want or don’t like; the bottom line is that my anger is usually about me, or someone close to me getting their feelings stepped on. And that’s a problem.

Get rid of filth and accept the word God has planted. There it is; free will again. I get to choose. I have the ability to set aside all the junk that is not of God.  And this isn’t junk that just happened to me, it’s stuff I stepped right into the middle of.  I can decide to embrace the work that God is doing in me.  Life isn’t something that just happens to me. I am not just along for the ride. I can choose to listen, I can exercise control with the words that do or don’t come out of my mouth; anger isn’t my only option; the junk doesn’t have to weigh me down or trip me up; if I am willing to accept it – God’s power is enough.

So these 3 simple verses really aren’t that simple at all. For me to live these truths out in my daily journey, it will take conscious obedience on my part and regular great big doses of God’s transforming power.  God is faithful.

God, keep working on me. Shape me, mold me, and transform me. I want my “defaults” to reflect your love, your character and your righteousness. I know it’s a great big task – but you are a great big God. Amen.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Trial vs. Temptation

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. Don't let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, "God is trying to trip me up." God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one's way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.  So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.  James 1:12-18  The Message

What keeps returning to my mind here is trial vs. temptation.  I will face trials. I will be tempted.  God sends and allows one, and yet is not the source of the other.  Give me some clarity here God. Please!

Trial and Temptation – both can be seen as a test or a challenge. Hum.  What’s the point?  How about this, a trial is a test, a challenge, and unpleasant set of circumstances that is designed specifically to draw me in and draw me closer to God. To His wisdom, His power, His character, His mercy and love, His plan that is greater that I can fully see or understand. Ok –so where does that leave me with temptation.  Well, it’s not about drawing me to God. It’s about my personal relationship with the sins that trip me up.  Temptations seek to draw me away from God; from His presence, from His love, from His best plan for my life. Temptation seeks to steal my passion, my focus, my commitment. Temptation is not sin. It’s what I do with temptation that matters. Lingering in temptation, acting on temptation, pondering the pleasure or short term satisfactions of temptation with motion…that’s all sin…at least for me. 

God, today help me to clearly see what is trial and what is temptation. Grow in me the desire to linger with you. Amen

$100 Distressed Jeans - Please!

When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don't ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that's a picture of the "prosperous life." At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.  Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.  James 1:9-11 The Message

When I read this passage I think about earthly success and eternal success.  Sometimes what people think matters doesn’t really matter at all.  Professional athletes get paid more than professional teachers – as general rule.  That makes no sense to me. Many of us fill our time and use our finances on the necessities. Big houses and shiny cars;  the latest, greatest fastest computer;  the smallest quickest most versatile cell phone. The biggest, boldest and most adaptive entertainment centers and systems; Distressed jeans that are a steal at $100 or more a pair and tee shirts that are $50.  Coach purses, cute shoes, and good coffee - see now it really is personal-  and the list goes on and on.  Are these things wrong, are they sin? NO. But, these things are not lasting either.

I think God wants me to cheer for the underdog.  I think He wants me to treat people well regardless of where they live, who they vote for, how long they went to school, what their check book balance says, or where they work now. I think God wants me to remember that earthy admiration is temporary.  It fades away, it becomes a distant memory. And there is hope.  I will be tested. But God will be there too. If I don’t give up on God, He won’t give up on me…and I will be more blessed for it in the long run.  These blessing may not be easy to see…it might not be a financial or physical blessing.  I may still have more month than money, and the aches to prove I am not in my 20's any more. People that take work to love will still come in and out of my life, and my feelings will still get hurt. Things will happen that I don't like or understand. I still live in a fallen world. There is still consequence for sin, and its devastating costs.  But one day I will hear “well done, my good and faithful servant” – man, is there any richer blessing than that?

God – today please help me not to focus on the things that fade.
Help me to see what has eternal value and invest there with you. Amen

Keeping My Options Limited - Kinda

If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believing, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:5-8 The Message

Wow! Story of my life right now J  There a still moments God, when I don’t feel like I know at all what I am doing, and yet, I know that I am exactly where you want me to me. Sometimes I forget that you love to help.  Sometimes I forget that when I take a deep breath and say “Hey God, I need you and I need your help, your wisdom. And I am just gonna wait for you on this one”…then you take a deep breath and say “Yep. That’s my girl. She’s figuring it out. She needs me. She’s not all that.”  I don’t want to “worry my prayers”.  Worry is invested effort that does not change effect.  I am pretty sure that this is the exact opposite of prayer. It’s like me saying to you “Ok God, you take care of this, just check with me first.  Handle it your way, but in my time. Give me the details now because you see God, I don’t have time to wait, to trust.” 

It’s almost like if I went to Matt and said, “There is this thing that needs to be handled and it’s bigger than me and I don’t know what to do next, can you take care of it”; and of course Matt says yes. Then for no explainable reason, I go and attempt to handle on my own what I have already specifically asked Matt to do – which he has agreed to do because he can and he loves me. This would cause conflict in our relationship.  Duh – I’d be really ticked if he did that to me!

But how many times do I do that to you God? 
Help me to limit my option to one – trusting in you fully and consistently.  God bring it to the front of my mind that you have been and always will be.  You created everything from nothing. You even know how many tears I have shed and the number (and various colors) of hairs on my head.  So I will choose with my heart and mind to believe that you are big enough for me to come to you in prayer and leave my issues there.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Practical tips for every day

Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.  Because, you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.    James 1:2-4

To Persevere – Going on with a fixed purpose in spite of difficulties

Earlier this month, I was studying this passage with a group of ladies I love dearly.  When we talked about what James could have possibly been thinking when he wrote this, we diverged into what we may have written to make the same point.  So this is what the consensus was with regard to what I would probably have written.

 “Hey friends, listen up.  Life is gonna get hard and messy so expect it. But don’t get bummed out. You’re just gonna have to suck it up and put on your big girl panties.  The longer you do life with God, the more natural it will become to trust in God’s plan and obey even when you don’t understand. That’s how we roll when we are walking side by side with Jesus.  It’s all part of growing up into the girl God wants you to be. It’s a process. It’s a journey.”

I have to admit, this made me smile.  These women knew what most of my words would be, and didn’t hesitate to offer them up J They know me.  They know my heart.

James knew his audience too.  In this book he offers up practical advice on how to do life in a way that is pleasing to God when life gets messy.  God’s way isn’t easy. Sometimes there are tests.  And my test may be different than my friends.  God is going to stretch me. Life will give me the chance to decide “do I go on with fixed purpose in spite of difficulties?”  Do I keep my attitude in check?  Do I check my ego at the door?  What is my motivation? Do I keep my mouth shut when speaking is not what is needed?  Do I offer up honor and respect to those in authority over me?

Today God, help me to let perseverance do its work.  Help me not to rush the process, but to instead draw close to you.  Amen.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan.                     Ephesians 6:14-19  NLT

So what does the armor of God look like for me?

The belt of truth.  The belt of truth – with a little “t”.  What is my truth?  God loves me and has a plan for me.  He works all things together for my good. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will be with me always.  Truth with a big “T.”  Who is my Truth? Jesus. Period.  The End.

The body armor of God’s righteousness.  Matt said it great this week in Class when he said that this is what protects my core.  For me, God’s righteousness is the Character of Christ. When I put on the breastplate, I am literally putting aside myself and putting on His character; His love, His compassion, His obedience, His priority. The list goes on and on.

For shoes, put on peace.  When I read this I think of the child’s song that says, ‘oh be carefully little feet where you go’... but with a twist.  My shoes can walk me away from a fight.  My shoes can also walk me into a conflict as an instrument of peace.  But peace takes willful choice.  Peace takes action.  Peace begins with the quieting of my soul.

Shield of faith.  Belief in what I know and who I know is truth, regardless of what I see or feel.  It is only with the power that comes from God that I can be protected from the flamed attacks of Satan.

Helmet of salvation.  I must submit my mind to the will and direction of God.  My salvation is not a feeling.  My salvation is a decision that I made to accept the presence of Christ in my life.  When times are difficult and scary, when I feel vulnerable, beat up and afraid, I must cling to the knowledge that Christ is with me. I have to know that I am saved even when I don’t feel it.

Sword of the Spirit.  (Which is the word of God/The Bible)  A sword is useless in the hands of someone who does not know how to wield it.  A true swordsman studies their weapon. They know it completely. They keep the edge sharp and practice with it daily. In the same way we need to keep our skills with our sword (the Bible) honed and ready for battle.  If we want to use His Word to block attacks and cut through hate and skepticism, then we need to know what is in it.  We can’t apply His Truth to our lives and correctly tell others about His Truth if we don’t know what His Truth is. Time spent in His Word daily prepares us for the battles of everyday life.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on all occasions. What good is my armor if I am not in constant contact with my leader?  And oh yeah, prayer is not a one sided conversation.  It’s not my little email that I send to God and then wait to see if He has a ‘reply’.  It’s my honoring who He is. It’s me seeking His voice. It’s me doing the ‘shut up and listen’…and not just between breaths.  And it covers the victories too.  It is praise filled. It’s in the moment.  Instead of saying “I will pray about that”, it is taking a moment, a deep breath, and a step of faith and saying “lets just take a sec and pray about that right now.”  WARNING : Even the most seasoned Christians are sometimes surprised with this transition.  Having someone just stop in the mall and put their hand on you and pray, or stop in the hall, or heaven forbid  stop in the middle of a Bible lesson or service – to pray – this can and will catch people off guard.  But I think God loves it!

Stay alert and persistent in all your prayers.  Alert – I need to keep my head in the game.  I need to remember what “the game” actually is. Am I paying attention to the direction of my leader?  Am I listening to what He actually has to say and not just checking in to make sure that He is on my page?  Do I approach life with eternal perspective?  Persistent – constant, unending, unwavering, without ceasing.  

So this is a new day.  And today I think I shall start a new tradition.  Today I will start with praying on my armor.

***    A great big shout out to Larry Fortado and the great people in "No Walls".  I love doing life with you every Sunday Morning. Our lesson this past week really got my mind working and my heart searching.  And giant thank you's to Matt Wilson for his wisdom as I chewed through this truth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Warrior...Who Me???

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground.  And after you have done everything to (prepare to) stand, stand firm.   Ephesians 6:10-13
Warrior – a person engaged in a struggle between competing forces
Armor – protective outer layer used in combat
My dad says “sometimes we have to choose between winning the battle and winning the war”.  It’s true in parenting and it’s true in life.  The war is made up of many battles.  Can we win every skirmish?  No.  But we can keep the big picture in mind.  My dad was referring to the parent/child relationship and relationships in general.  I can win a battle – think argument, disagreement, difference of opinion and lose the war – think long term relationship/friendship, desired outcome.  In a conflict with my boss over “an event”, I can prove that I am right (win the battle) and in the long term also negatively impact my employment goals (the war).  I can force my child to do what I want simply because it’s what I want (the battle) and in doing so, not teach my child the process of making good self directed decisions (the war).
When you make the choice to be a Jesus Follower, you become a warrior.  Please, make no mistake.  We are at war. It is not a war over song selection of Bible Translation.  It is not a war over dedication or baptism, to be sprinkled or to be dunked.  It is not a war with undocumented workers or foreign governments. It’s not a war with Muslims, or Islamic ideology. It’s a war for eternity.  It’s a war with Satan, and we know how it ends.  But the battles are up for grabs, and it’s not something we can do on our own.
  “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”   Wow…Paul didn’t even mention me once!  Maybe that’s because in a battle with eternal consequence it is God’s power that is needed and not my ‘skill’.  “Put on the FULL armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes”.  If I don’t use all of the tools and resources that God has given to me, then I choose to be less than fully protected.  I have a weak spot.  Satan loves those! “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but…against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”  Satan has the end game in mind and his end game is to separate me from the love of God Almighty for forever.  He wants me. He wants my husband, he wants my marriage. He wants my children and my family.  “And after you have done everything to stand, stand firm.”  Once I have done the prep with God to get ready for battle, then I am expected to in fact engage in the battle.  Warriors don’t sit on the sidelines.  Warriors don’t report back the news.  Warriors don’t wait and see what happens. Warriors don’t hope for the best. Warriors understand their part in the battle plan, even when they don’t understand the plan itself or see the entirety of the plan.  Warriors prepare to do their assigned task and then follow their leader into battle.  Warriors lay it all on the line. 
God, today help me to embrace the truth that I am your warrior. When I chose you, I chose a side. Prepare my heart now for what you will teach me tomorrow about your armor for me.