Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ephesians: Devotion 2 - August 13-19

Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.


Do you ever get so busy with your daily routine of life that you that you don’t take time to focus on the blessings from God? I know I do. This past week has kept me busy and preoccupied with the new student enrollment and scheduling appointments with my current students in the teacher education program. It seems that I have been so inundated with work and students that I have had very little time for reflecting on the greatness of God and all the things He has done for me. As I moved into the weekend, I began putting a bit more focus on God and the sacrifices made by Him on my behalf.

This week in our devotion time, we are going to spend a great deal of time reflecting on praise and adoration to God for all that He has done for us. With this being the beginning of a new school year, this is an ideal time to get a new focus that will carry us through this new year.

By Grace Through Faith

Sunday: Read Ephesian 2:1-7 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”   This is a long passage, but it is very important to consider as we move into the new school year. The first verse says that we were dead in our transgressions, and it goes on throughout the next couple of verses to point out our sinful nature and remind us who wa

s in control of our lives and actions before Christ. Verse 4 brings us to the realization that because of the great love God had for us, He bestowed His mercy upon us and provided grace to cover our transgressions and redeem us from our corrupted life. He saved us from this type of life and gave us hope for our future. He provided all of this kindness to us through His Son Jesus Christ.


As we are preparing for the beginning of the new school year, lets all focus today on the what our lives were before Christ and think about how our lives would be if we did not have Christ. Read this passage again and in your journal make a list of the actions, attitudes, hurled words, and thoughts that consumed you last year that you know were not characteristic of a person of  Christ. Look over the list. Circle the ones that you might still be hanging on to. Now, pray and ask God to remove those and replace them with an attribute that comes from Him. Make a commitment that you are going to be different this year and that you will reflect His grace to others just as He has reflected Grace to you.


Monday: Focus on Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Today let’s meditate on the same passage as yesterday, but today let’s focus on our the fact that our old ways are gone and no longer a part of our lives. Think about how you want to be with your children, your husband, your work, and your friends. Let go of the negative aspects that controlled your thoughts, words, and actions from the previous year. Focus on how you want to be perceived by others in your life this year. Focus on how you want God to see you.

Make a list in your journal of the ways you want to behave and think this new school year. Number that list according to the top priority down. Begin praying and ask God to enable you to become transformed as you start this new school year with your children, husband, work, and friends. Keep in mind that as sure as you make a commitment to act in transformed ways, you will be tempted and tested. Stay strong and keep your focus on God and what He desires to do in you and through you. If you start each day by spending time with God first, you will be better equipped to face the temptations and tests with success. You will also want to keep your focus on God throughout the day and call upon Him to guide you and enable you.

Tuesday: Focus on Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Today we will turn our focus to the wonderful grace that God has bestowed upon us through His son Jesus Christ. He provided us with salvation that He graciously gave us as a gift. There was no charge, and we did not have to work for it either. Therefore, we have no right to boast in ourselves because all that we have and have accomplished is not of our own doing, but is strictly by the doing of God Almighty through His Son.

Verse ten points out that we have been created to be His workmanship through Jesus Christ, so we may accomplish the good works God planned and prepared before we were even born. We are told in this passage that for these reasons, we should walk in the path that God has prepared for us.

In your journal today, list your daily activities. Now, take a few minutes and reflect on that list. How much of that list is focused on spending time with God? How much on that list is completely in line with what God has called you to do? Do you need to make some changes? Spend time seeking God and aligning your daily routine and plans with those that God has planned for you.

Wednesday: Focus on Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Today let’s spend some reading the same verses as yesterday. Today, turn your prayers toward the plans that God has set for you. Perhaps yesterday God revealed to you that you have not been completely following His plan. Reflect on the thought that you were not created to live for yourself, but you were created to live for God and His plan. He has plans to accomplish, and He chose you and created you in a special and unique way, so you could be a part of accomplishing His plan. This is a special honour that God has created you for a special purpose and task.

If you already know the plan that God intends for you to follow, write that in your journal. If you are struggling with letting go of your plans and desires, write that in your journal. Write down the reasons you are holding back. Now, begin praying that God will give you the desire and the ability to let go of yourself and your plans and accept and willingly slide into His plans.


If you are not quite sure what His plans are for you at this time, write that in your journal and begin praying that God will reveal to you your purpose. Ask Him to help you have a desire to earnestly seek Him and His desires. God will reveal His plans to you when you are completely ready to accept whatever He has in store for you.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ephesians - Devotion 1: Week Aug. 6 - 12

Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.
Many times our days are filled with stress and frustrations that seem to raise our blood pressure, cause our hearts to race, and cause us to speak in snappy ways to others. Sometimes during our most stressful moments during the day, we encounter that person or those people who tend to push our buttons and push us over the top with our stress levels. We tend to struggle with such physical conditions as tensity and stiffness in our necks, headaches, migraines, and even TMJ. After long periods of such stress, our physical conditions can increase leading to serious health issues such at heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

We have got to learn how to handle such stress and focus on a more peaceful lifestyle. Of course, diet and exercise are two great factors that can help alleviate such health issues, but one of the most important factors is alleviating stress by focusing on the peace that only God can bring to us. We must learn to go in His peace and leadership at work and rest. This week we will focus on doing just that. 

Greeting

Sunday: Read Ephesian 1:1-2 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Today as you meditate on these verses, pray think about the Grace you have received from God and the peace He bestows. Take a deep breath and read these two verses several times. Absorb the word “peace,” and meditate on the peacefulness of God through Jesus Christ. Pray and ask God to give you His peace and to help you recognize it all day. This may also be a good day to sit outside on your patio or porch, sip coffee, listen to the birds, and meditate on the peacefulness of God.

In your journal write a commitment statement that you will relax in the peace of God all day and all week.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

Monday: Focus on Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Today let’s meditate on the blessings that God has bestowed upon us through His Son Jesus Christ. God planned before we were born and even before the foundation of the world to provide us with His special blessing which is eternal life with Him. He has chosen for us to receive spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, which means these blessings are coming from the heavenly realms. In order to fully understand and enjoy these blessings, we must put our focus and affections on spiritual things rather than earthly things. If we can develop the mindset that although we live here on earth, we have our focus on spiritual matters, we will strive to be holy and blameless before God our Father, He will bless us and provide all we need to get through our daily routines of life. This kind of mindset will require us to relinquish our ideas of living for self and accept the mindset of living for God here on earth.

As we develop this heavenly and spiritual mindset in our daily lives, we will recognize the spiritual blessings of God. Then, we should, in turn, show our adoration and thankfulness for what God is doing for us by giving Him praise for His glorious grace and blessings. It seems that we are quick to ask God for help and beg for His assistance, deliverance, and blessings, but we are not always prone to praise Him as He deserves. Today, focus on your praise to God for all He has done and will continue to do for you. Start by praising Him for the blessing of salvation through the sacrifice He made by offering His Son on our behalf to cover our sins.

In your journal today make a list of the blessings God has given you. Write a praise to Him for each blessing. Get creative in how you choose to praise Him. Begin to recognize the exceptional qualities of God. For example, praise Him for being the all loving God who willingly gave His Son, who knew no sin, to die in your place as you are from a sinful nature. Praise Him for being the all knowing God who guides and directs your paths and keeps you from harm even when you don’t know it is coming. I’m sure your list can go on and on.

Tuesday: Focus on Ephesians 1:7-10 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Today, we will go deeper into the act of God giving His only Son to cover our sins, so we can we can have eternal life. We are the ones who have trespasses and sins against our Holy Father, but Christ is the one who paid the price to cover our sins. God, through His Son, offers us forgiveness as a free gift. Not only is this free gift offered to us, but we are also lavished with all the blessings from God on behalf of what His Son has sacrificed for us. We are allowed to have the wisdom and insight of God as He reveals to us His will and purpose for our lives. He trusts us enough to allow us to know His heart.

Have you spent time focusing and comprehending the magnitude of exactly what Christ has done in order for us have such blessings and redemption? Spend time today comprehending the reality of what was sacrificed so you could receive God’s grace and blessings freely. In your journal give God praise for that and thank Him for your redemption.

Wednesday: Focus on Ephesians 1:11-14 “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Today we will think about the inheritance we have received as a result of believing in Christ and accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. We who have done this are considered the children of God and are guaranteed our inheritance in Him. Therefore, we are to offer praises to Him for His glory. Once again, we are going to focus on the praise God deserves from us because of the way He has included us in His family and has provided an inheritance for us as a beloved family member. We are actually children of a King! We are in the royal family!

In your journal, write a statement praise and gratification for the inheritance that has been promised to you. As you write this statement, consider the eternal alternative you could have faced had God not provided this inheritance for you.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

Thursday: Read Ephesians 1:15-21. “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Today let’s think about how Paul prayed for those who were close to him and striving to live a faithful life in Christ. He acknowledged their willingness to be faithful regardless of what they were experiencing or facing in their daily lives, and he made a special point of praying for them to be strengthened and provided the wisdom needed as they continue and the enlightenment of hope they have as they remain faithful.

Today, turn your focus from yourself to others who could benefit from that same kind of prayer and encouragement that Paul offered to the saints to whom he considered close friends. In your journal make a list of people who need your prayer support and encouragement as they continue in their pursuit of remaining faithful to God and the path He has directed them to follow. Once your list is made, fervently pray for their protection, wisdom, and continued guidance in their daily lives. Now, take that prayer a step further and write a note or card to one or all on that list. In this note state that you are praying for them according to Ephesians 1:15-21, and offer them a word of encouragement for their faithfulness.

Friday: Read again Ephesians 1:15-21. “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Today let’s focus specifically on verse 19 that expresses the fact that we today have the same great power available to us as was exerted when God raised Christ from the dead. Today as you go about your daily routine and face adversity, stress, frustrations, etc., relax in and trust the power of God that is available to you through Christ Jesus. Move in His power and overcome whatever comes your way. Allow that power to be perfect and real in all you do and face all day. Remember, you do not have to fight against the obstacles; you just have to proceed in the power of God Almighty, who has all things under His control.

It is our nature to want to fight back, or take control and put people in their place. That method causes us lots of stress and frustration. Let it go, and let God take care of it in His power and strength. This will alleviate your stress as you are able to practice this kind of Godly power in your life.

In your journal today, write a prayer of thanks for all that God will take care of for you. Of course, you also will want to write a statement of your willingness to allow Him to have control over your day and exert His power over all situations and people you encounter all day. Once you have made this commitment, relax and go about your day with a spirit of peace, knowing God has all things under control.

Saturday: Read Ephesians 1:22-23. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Today we will acknowledge who is actually over all things to the church. God has placed Christ to be the head of the church; therefore, all are to subject and yield in sincere obedience to Christ. It was God’s gift to Christ just as it is our gift as well to have a such a dominant head over us who has such power and authority to control all things. He has been given all power in heaven and earth. As Christ is the head of the church, He will guide and protect the body as it is His pride and joy. We can rest in the fact that if Christ is allowed by us to be the head of the church, the church will flourish and thrive.

Take a moment today to reflect on Christ as the head. Understand what it means for us to let go of controlling factors within the church according to our thoughts and ways, and give the control back to Christ, so He can accomplish His desires for the church.

In your journal today list activities that have recently occurred that verify Christ is in control. Are there areas that need to be relinquished to His control? Pray that God will give all members the ability to give Him complete control over the church and to allow Christ to be the ultimate head of the church. Relax now in the leadership of Christ rather than fighting to enforce the will of man. 

Blessings, 

Cheryl

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Devotion 10: July 30 - Aug. 5


Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.
Prayer and Praise
What is the first thing you do when you begin facing difficult situations or you feel as though everything around you is crashing in on you? Often many of us begin to crumble, cry, and/or complain. The verses we will look at this week will guide to us pray, give praise, seek spiritual nurturing, and provide spiritual encouragement and guidance to others who are struggling.
Sunday: Read James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”  Today our verse tells us if anyone is suffering, he should pray. It does not matter the cause of our suffering. It could be an illness, a disease, a situation, or a person causing us to suffer. Regardless of what it is we are to immediately turn to God in prayer. We are to pray in the name of Jesus, who serves as our intercessor. Although God already knows about our suffering, He wants us to have communication with Him and talk to Him about the situation and how we are feeling. He is there for us in times of trouble and distress, and He wants to comfort and guide us through.

We also see in this scripture that we are to sing praises if we are feeling cheerful. We are usually really good at going to God with our troubles and sufferings, but too often we neglect to go to Him during the good times. It seems that once God has gotten us through a difficult situation, we get busy with our lives and forget to spend time with Him. It is really sad that we only seem to go to Him and need Him when we are struggling. He also wants our communication during the peaceful and smooth times in our lives. In fact, not only does He want it, but also He deserves it. We are to give Him praise and sing praises to His name for His greatness in our lives.

In your journal today make two lists. One will be a list of the sufferings you are facing right now. You may only have one, or you may have several. These sufferings may be physical (health related) or difficult situations, or the list could consist of both types of sufferings. The second list will be a list of praises to God for the good and positive things in your life. The praises on this list could be anything from your health, your family, your job, etc., Hopefully, your praise list will be much longer than your sufferings lists.

Once both lists are made, pray for God’s help, healing, strength, and guidance for the sufferings you are facing. Then, begin praising God for all the positive things you have in your life. This part of your prayer time may take a while, so be prepared to give God lots of praise today. All day today, reflect on the positive things for which God has blessed you.

Monday: Focus on James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Today let’s see what the scripture says about those who are really sick or have been suffering from an ailment for quite some time. The practice laid out in today’s passage is not practiced very much anymore, but it was important enough for James to include it in his book of instructions guiding us in how we are to live a Godly life. I have witnessed this practice being implemented a couple of times in my life, and I promise the effects afterward were positive. One occasion in which this practice was implemented was in regards to a man who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Our church came together with the elders to pray and anoint this man. We prayed fervently that God would do the miraculous and heal this man. At his next doctor’s appointment later that week, his doctor said the cancer spot was diminishing and the it was in remission. Over the period of the next several weeks, the cancer continued to shrink until it was completely gone. The doctor said the only time he has ever witnessed this type of cancer doing that on its own was a direct result of prayers and an act of God. This healing process involved no human influence whatsoever. What is this practice?

This practice involves the one who is really sick calling upon the elders of the church to come together and pray over the sick one and anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The key for this practice to be effective lies in the depth of faith of all participants. Of course, this is done only in the name of the Lord.  This type of prayer certainly requires complete trust and faith in the power of the Almighty God. The person seeking this kind of healing cannot go into such an act with doubt or even a slight wavering in faith.

Do you have that kind of faith? Have you ever seen or experienced for yourself God’s miraculous healing in this manner? In your journal today, either reflect on the incident you have witnessed or been involved, or discuss your lack of faith and why you might be reluctant to demonstrating such strong faith. This reflection time should open your eyes to the mighty power of God and strengthen your faith in who He is.

Tuesday: Focus on James 5:15-16 “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Today, we will go deeper into the meaning and the power of our faith. As we reflect on this passage and the depth of our faith, let’s think about the woman who had been having problems with a bleeding issues for twelve years. She merely reached touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed (Matthew 9:20). Was it the garment of clothing that had the power to heal this woman? No, of course it wasn’t. The thing that healed her was her faith in who Christ was (and still is) that if she could just get close enough to Him to touch the bottom edge of his clothing, she would be healed. Her faith was so strong, that she only needed to be close enough to reach out and barely touch His clothing. It was her faith in the powerful God that healed her.

The verse today tells us the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. How strong is your faith? Do you have the same kind of faith as the woman in Matthew 9:20? Do you have a tendency to be weak in your faith? Often, we tend to think of the miracles as being something that was done in the days of Jesus’ life on earth or through His disciples when He left earth. We don’t realize that Jesus still has the same power and will utilize it through us today just as He did in the days of His disciples ministry on earth. In order for us to experience that same kind of power, we must have strong faith.

In your journal today answer this question, “Is my faith as strong as the woman in Matthew 9:20?” If your answer no, write a prayer asking God to help you to have that same kind of faith. Ask God to help you recall moments in which situations worked out and the only answer as to how they worked out is attributed to an act of God. As God brings such an occasion or occasions to your mind, write them in your journal. Analyze the entire sitaution and discover the miraculous power of God.

Wednesday: Focus on James 5:15-16 “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Today let’s continue looking at the same passage as yesterday, but let’s go a bit further in our thoughts. Yesterday, we talked about the strong faith that is required if we are to experience the miraculous healing power of God. Today, we will focus on our sins as a possible cause of our sickness. Of course, sin is not the only reason we incur sickness. There are times when God allows it for other reasons such as to prove His power and strength to others observing His children as they are suffering. Sometimes it occurs so others can begin to understand their need for such a saviour.

Today the perspective on which we will spend some time  is the sins we have in our life and how we will be forgiven for them if we confess them to God and ask forgiveness. There are times that our sin will lead to physical sickness, and there are other times when our sin merely leads to spiritual sickness. Regardless of the kind of sickness our sin has caused us, we are to handle them both in the same way. We are to confess our sin before a Holy God and ask His forgiveness. Too many times we get so busy with the routine of our life that we fail to acknowledge our sin and seek His forgiveness. We even get in the habit of suppressing our sin rather than dealing with it.

Consider some faults that you are aware that you have. Are those faults hindering your faith and possibly hindering your health? List the faults as they come to your mind. Beside each one indicate if it is hindering only your spiritual well-being or your physical health, or both. Do you need to confess any or all of these faults? If so, begin confessing, which means acknowledging they are in your life and are not pleasing to God. After confessing, ask God to help you remove them from your life.

Thursday: Read on James 5:15-16 one more time. “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Today let’s look now at the sins in our life that are visible to others. There are times that our sins are a hindrance to others, and we must confess them to others as a public commitment that we are sorry and are being cleansed from them. Other times we need to confess to others as an act of accountability. When our sins are too strong for us to walk away from, we need the help of strong Christian brothers and sisters. In this case, we are to confess to them our struggles and sins and ask them to pray with us and periodically hold us accountable. God knows that some sins have such strongholds that we need a physical person in our presence to talk with us and pray with us when we delve into our weak and stumbling moments. We should never try to get through some things alone; we are designed to need each other. We are to pray for one another from a heart of love and not judgement.

Today, in your journal list the sins that you need to confess to others. Now, pray that God will guide you to a trustworthy prayer partner or team that can be a strong accountability partner or team for you. Contact that person or persons and set a definite time to meet, talk, and pray consistently (weekly or monthly). Write their names and the meeting times in your journal.

Remember, as you come together with a prayer team, you will all begin to experience the ultimate power of God at work in all of your lives.

Friday: Focus on James 5:17-18. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” Today let’s look at the consistent prayers of the great saint, Elijah. Elijah fervently and consistently prayed for three and a half years for the rains to come and restore the barren land. For three and half years nothing happened. The earth remained dry, but he never gave up. Finally, one day he prayed that same prayer again just as fervently and with the same intensity of faith as before, and God answered that prayer and poured out rain upon the earth. As the rains came, the fruit began to grow and flourish.

How was Elijah able to continue praying and to continue having faith day after day for three and half years? It seems like after waiting so long, a person would have a tendency to become frustrated and even begin doubting. Remember as we have learned from previous devotions in James that doubt goes against the grain of having complete faith, resulting in God not hearing and answering our prayers. Elijah was able to continue regardless of the rains coming because he guarded his heart and kept his faith and relationship with God in check. He knew that God was hearing his prayers and would restore his land when the time was right.

In the same way as Elijah’s case, we are to continue praying in faith without wavering. We are to trust that the Almighty and All-powerful God hears our prayers, cares about our needs, and is in control. Sometimes He chooses to wait before sending His blessings, so that others will see the miraculous act was done only by Him. In these cases, He desires to prove Himself to an unbelieving world. Trust Him even when you are not getting the answers or the blessings for which you are asking.

In your journal write down something for which you have been praying that God has not yet provided the answer or the blessing. Now, pray and ask God to give you the ability to continue trusting Him and to continue to strengthen your faith regardless of the prayers being answered or not being answered.

Saturday: Read James 5:19-20. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” Today is a hard one to swallow. This passage gives us instructions that we may prefer not to do more than we prefer not to do some of the other commands from this book. The first idea is to bring those into salvation that have never repented and accepted Christ. When we present Christ and explain to the lost their need for salvation, we have played a part in saving the soul of a person. That is an extremely important command that we are to follow and apply regularly.

The second idea here is when we see a fellow Christian who is living in error according to the scriptures, we are to truthfully show them the error of their ways and guide them back to a right relationship with Christ. We are not to persecute them, accuse them, or attempt to destroy them, but we are to first pray that God through the Holy Spirit will open their hearts and help them to see the error of their ways. Then, we are to approach them from a heart of love and compassion to help them to see what they are doing and how it aligns against the backdrop of Christ and the scriptures. There will be special blessings from God for those who lead the lost to a newfound relationship with Christ and for those who help restore a misguided or off track believer.

Has God been using you effectively in the lives of others as discussed in today’s devotion? In your journal list the people whom God has used you to draw them to Him or back to Him. Write down the most recent incident. Has it been a while? Have you always allowed God to use you in these ways of having the right attitude and heart of love and compassion? Do you need to surrender your personal thoughts about the actions of others who have strayed away from God? If so, write that in your journal and begin praying.

Recap of James
James is a powerful book of commands, instructions, and promises. I hope God has spoken to your heart in a powerful way and this study has strengthened your faith and walk with God. Are you still struggling in some areas? If so, that is normal. Continue praying and seeking God, and He will continue to guide you and bless with according to His will. This is the kind of study that you may need to revisit from time to time. Read through your journal periodically and see if God has completed a work in you, or if He is still working in certain areas. Journal reflections are great for keeping us on track and reminding us of where we once were and how we have grown.
Please reach out to me with any questions or struggles you are facing and need extra prayer support. I will continue to pray for those who went through this study. I will pray that God will continue to show you His ways.
Cheryl Toon

Sunday, July 23, 2017

#9 Devotion: July 23-29

Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.

Warning, Patience, and Prayer

Of course, it is more pleasant and fun to always have what we want and to never suffer. However, that is not the kind of life that was promised to us when we became a Christian. We were promised to have exactly what we need exactly when we need it as we remain faithful to God and ask Him to give us the desire of His heart. He is always faithful and just to those who seek Him and love Him with his/her whole heart.

This week we are going to focus on the warnings for those who live according selfish indulgences, especially at the expense of others. We will also focus on being patient and striving to be Godly as though we are expecting Christ’s return, as well as, maintaining a faithful commitment to prayer and trust that God will bless us and use us to accomplish His good will.

Warning to the Rich Oppressors

Sunday: Read James 5:1-6 “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”  Today’s passage is a warning against those who have been indulging in their own pleasures with no regard to God’s plan or direction for their lives. These are the people who are selfish and want to enjoy the earthly pleasures regardless of the harm their indulgences may cause others. The passage today is a warning that their pleasures will soon end, and they will receive their just punishment for such life choices. That punishment will bring extreme misery. Those who were oppressed by these selfish and unjust people also will receive their reward. They will be blessed throughout eternity.

One thing we need to keep in mind regarding today’s passage is that the pleasures of this world and our selfish indulgences will only be fun and last for a short season in comparison to eternity. It is far better to suffer with Christ today for a short season than throughout all eternity.
One way to look at this is from the perspective of a baby. Today my eight month old grandson badly wanted my husband’s dirty, sweaty cap that he wears while doing yard work. I cannot begin to describe the smell and grime that is penetrated in that hat. For some reason, it was very appealing to my little grandson. I knew it was not good for him, but he wanted so badly that when I took it from him, he cried.

We are sometimes like that baby when it comes to the things we desperately desire. Not all things we want are bad, and God does want to bless us with some nice, even extravagant things we want in life. However, those items should not become our treasure. God, family, Bible study, prayer, and friends should be our treasure.

Think about your life and where you stand in these issues. Read the passage again slowly; then, answer the following questions in your journal. Are you living for self or God? Make a list of the things you strongly believe you MUST have. How many of these items fall in the category that of things that will rot or corrode? Also in your journal write the things you treasure most in life. Again, look at this list and indicate which of these items will rot or corrode.

Monday: Focus on James 5:1-6 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you..” Today, look at the same passage as yesterday, but focus on the people in your life or that you encounter. Think about how you treat others. Do you have a tendency to use others to get what you want? If you have ever been guilty of doing that write the person or people in your journal beside each name, write a brief description of the incident.  Have you ever cheated someone from something that rightfully should have been theirs? (This is not only referring to an inheritance, but possibly taking credit for something that someone else did in order to make yourself look better). In your journal make a list of those people and beside each name, write a brief description of the incident.

Now, look at both lists. Is God prompting you to do something? Is it possible to right a wrong you have done to someone else as you climbed to the top or strove for the limelight? Write your responses to both questions in your journal.

Tuesday: Focus on James 5:7-8 “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Patience! These verses tell us we are to be patient and continue living according the standards given to us by God until the day Christ returns. We are to patiently treat others with the respect that comes from God, we are to demonstrate God’s love to others, and we are to live pure and holy before an almighty God until Christ returns. As I am writing this, I realize there are times when maintaining patience is next to impossible. Sometimes we get down right tired of the struggles, the frustrations, the obstacles, the attacks, and the routine of the daily grind. We even get to the point that things will never get better, yet we are instructed to be patient and wait.

What are we to do while we patiently wait? The last part of this passage tells us to “establish our hearts.” What does that mean? It means we are to continue to be faithful to God, strive for perfection, trust and allow him to guide us through our journey. Even though we endure difficult times, He promises to greatly bless us in the end if we have remained true and faithful to Him. He also promises to carry us through the difficult times. The best thing we can do is to set our mindset on the goal of persevering and continuing the pace until He provides an alternative route.

I recently experienced that myself. For four years, I felt the stress of a situation and saw no change for the better coming my way. I prayed, even begged and pleaded with God to provide a change for me. I began searching and probing into every potential new avenue, but nothing seemed to be the appropriate direction for me. I had been the Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God several times, and I knew deep within my heart the avenue I was seeking was not right, but I was becoming so desperate for a change, I was willing to step out and pursue regardless as to whether it was right for me or not. There were a few opportunities that I was moving toward that I knew was definitely wrong for me, so I prayed and asked God to close the door because I knew if it were offered to me, I would take it knowing it was wrong. I am so glad that God is always in control. He did just as I asked and closed all the doors that I certainly did not need to walk through. Last year, God opened the perfect door, and in my opinion, it seemed as though the timing was out of the blue; however, in God’s mind the timing was perfect. He greatly blessed me with the perfect fit for me.

What should you do when you are instructed to be patient and continue where you are doing what you are doing? Continue to pray and ask God to bless you with His perfect blessing for His plan for your life while continuing where you are doing what you are doing. I promise from personal experience, God will bless you and relieve your distress when the timing is right according to His plan. Keep in mind, God is never late, but He is always on time. Trust Him and keep going.

In your journal today, write about the stress or difficult situation that you are enduring and would love to have it changed. Next, write a prayer to God expressing your exact feelings about the scenario. (Remember, be honest because God already knows; He just wants you to communicate your feelings with Him). Finally, write a statement of commitment that you will remain faithful exactly where you are until He provides the perfect new direction.
Wednesday: Focus on James 5:9: “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” Today’s passage is short but powerful. Yesterday, we talked about remaining faithful even in stressful or difficult situations when we see no escape at all. Today, we are going to expand that thought a bit further. We are not to grumble against each other as we are enduring these circumstances. If it is your co-workers or your boss who are causing the stress you are experiencing, you are not to grumble against them. Now, as those words came out of my mouth onto the paper just now, I realized how difficult it is to comply to this command. It is our nature to grumble and complain when people seem to be working against us and making our lives more stressful. Right now take a deep breath and absorb what this scripture is telling us to do (or not to do) and why.
If we begin telling the negative things about others, even if they are true, we cause others to see the negative aspects more readily. It is not our place to be their judge; it is God’s place. This passage tells us clearly why we are not to speak about others negatively; it is because as we do so, we appear to be judging them, and that will cause God to judge us for our words and actions. As I am stating these words, I am well aware that I have been guilty of doing this action myself. It is so hard to keep our mouths shut and continue when we know what is being done is wrong. However, God is the ultimate judge, and when the time is right, He will take care of the ones who are wilfully doing wrong to His beloved faithful children. I know it seems as though the ones who are doing wrong are “getting away with it,” and it seems so unfair. This is where our patience and enduring until God changes things comes into play. This may be a struggle for you, as it has been a struggle for me. However, if we can remain close to God, continue where we are and doing exactly what we have been doing until He opens a new door and redirects our paths. Remember also that God can deal with those who are in the wrong far better than we can, and He will, in turn, bless us if we follow His commands and trust Him. We tend to make situations worse and even get ourselves into trouble if we take matters into our own hands.

Today, write down the times you can remember when you broke this command and spoke in a grumbling way against those who were doing wrong to you. Did your grumbling make things better, or did it cause you to get more riled up and frustrated? Ask God to forgive you and to help you move forward with Him. Also ask God to give you the ability to keep your mouth shut and to continue where you are regardless of the circumstances and actions of others. Write a statement of trusting Him to handle things with those people and to remove you from the situation if He chooses when He is ready.


Thursday: Focus on James 5:10-11 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Today we are going to go a step further with the idea of not grumbling. We are to be an example of Christ-like patience to others as we are enduring suffering. This is not easy to do, but others are constantly watching us, and the best witness for Christ we can give to others is our ability to maintain patience in the midst of difficulties. On the other hand, the worst witness of Christ we offer others is the way we lose control, explode, and gripe and grumble about the way things are going. People are watching us even when we are unaware. I have had moments when I must have handled situations correctly because I have received cards from students and sometimes from adults who have indicated they learned from me how to handle difficult situations in a Godly manner by watching me calmly and graciously demonstrate kindness and love to someone who was behaving in ways that were just the opposite. As I have read such cards and notes, I have thought, Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to demonstrate You enough to teach others how You expect us to act during adversity.” I also am very sorry for all the times when I have blown witness opportunities because I reacted from my own selfish thinking and anger or frustration (and believe me, I have done that a few times).

In your journal today, list times when you have reacted to adversity from others in a way that was pleasing to God and presented an appropriate picture of the patience of Christ. Now, make a list of the times when you behaved just the opposite. I know as you are thinking about the second list you are more than likely feeling rotten inside because I still have those feelings. Pray and ask God to forgive you; then, ask Him to remove those negative thoughts about yourself and your behaviour, so you can now move forward with God. Ask God to help you to always allow Him to have control over your thoughts and actions, so you will react according to His pleasing and not react out of hostility and anger. This is a prayer that you may have to pray daily. This is also a prayer that you should pray when you know you are going to be in situations that will test your patience. 

Remember, you are a work in progress. If you falter with your reactions and patience, dont beat yourself up. Pick yourself up, pray and ask forgiveness, and move on with the right attitude during the next opportunity. Let me caution you; once you make a commitment and set your mind to demonstrate the patience of Christ, you may be tested. Be ready!

Friday: Focus on James 5:10-11 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Today, we are going to focus on the compassion God has toward those who have remained steadfast in the midst of their struggles and difficulties as well as our need for conversation and encouragement from Godly friends during these struggles. This passage reminds us of the saints of old who persevered in their trials and struggles and how we consider them to be very blessed people. Their example is there for us to use as a pattern for our lives and actions. The passage specifically points out the perseverance of Job and the favour he found from God as a result of his faithfulness. He certainly was a perfect example of remaining faithful and not complaining in the midst of the worst sufferings a person can endure. He did talk with his closest friends about his situation. He was seeking their spiritual guidance and seriously needed the companionship and open ears of his most trusted God fearing friends. Although they gave him poor advice by telling him to go on and curse God and end his suffering, the human nature of Job required him to need his friends and to have deep conversations in which he could express his emotions and confusion regarding his situation.  

We discovered earlier this week that we are not to complain and grumble. Keep in mind, there is a difference in confiding in our closest friends and seeking support and guidance from those we trust regarding spiritual matters and grumbling and complaining to others. Our human nature compels us to need each other for strength and encouragement to help us through our difficult times. When we share our burdens, as we are instructed from the scripture to bear one another's burdens, we must make sure that we are truly going to those who are spiritually grounded and solid in their faith in Christ and truly strive to live Godly lives themselves.

In your journal today make a list of those in your spiritual circle that you know you can trust to provide you prayer support, Godly guidance, and encouragement in times of suffering and difficulties. Write a statement of praise and thanks to God for placing such people in your life. You may even consider writing each person a note of thanks for the Godly love and support they have provided you through the years.

Saturday: Read James 5:12 “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” When we are upset and must give a response, we may tend to add expletives to our answer. However, this verse warns us against doing that. This verse begins by saying “Above all…do not swear…” The two words “above all” puts a strong emphasis that this is a very serious command that we are to follow. Then, it goes on to tell us to not swear by heaven, earth, or any other oath. Those who must swear or curse are considered an enemy of God. James tells us here to simply say “yes” or “no,” so we will not fall under condemnation. There is no reason that we need to add to the meaning of our intentions; we simply need to make a definite decision, state it in simple terms, and stand firm. The added expletives do not bring gain or pleasure to the situation; in fact, these expletives harm the reputation of a Christian. We must be very careful and guard our language especially in the heat of the moment. We will damage our witness. Besides, no one ever admires or respects a woman with a potty mouth.

Think about your language when you have been upset in the past. What kinds of words did you choose to use to express how you were feeling? In your journal evaluate the language you typically use when you are upset. Do you need to ask for forgiveness? Do you need to clean up your language? Submit that part of your life to God right now and let the the transformation begin.