Sunday, July 16, 2017

#8 Devotion: July 16 - 22

Warning Against Worldliness

Have you ever wanted something you could not have? Have you seen someone else get what you wanted, and you thought, “That is not fair. I wanted that and she got it.” Then, before you know it, you have become jealous of what she has that you don’t. Eventually, you begin to fill up with envy and even resentment toward that person for having something you want but do not have.

If any of this sounds l­­­ike something you have experienced at any time (even maybe right now), please know that you are normal and the human part of you has these tendencies. However, this week we are going to discover how this kind of attitude brings destruction upon us and displeases God our Father. We will spend time in prayer and devotion working through the process of weeding this kind of thinking from our minds before too much damage is done.

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

Sunday: Read James 4:1-2a “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel…”  Let those verses sink in one at a time. Now, focus on the following questions and answer them one at a time in your journal. Take your time and process the questions as you go. If you truly want freedom from this turmoil and war in your friendship and in your heart, be honest and allow God to guide you through this process. You may have a tendency to sugar coat or deny your actual feelings and thoughts; sometimes these kinds of feelings are difficult to admit. To move beyond this, you must face these feelings truthfully and  head-on.

Here are the questions to answer: Have you recently been at odds with someone? Are you at odds with someone right now? What is the reason? Did this person honestly do something intentionally to hurt you, or are you merely jealous because that person has something that you would love to have? What is it this person has that you desire to have? Is it a bigger house, new car, more financial stability, more peaceful home life, job promotion, etc., The list reveals only  a few reasons. If you are having ill feelings toward someone, you already know why. Write that in your journal. Yes, there are times that certain people do things intentionally to hurt us. That is not the issue here. I am referring to those people or that person with whom are truly jealous, envious, or bitter toward because of things they have in their life that you do not.

Now that you have answered those questions, let’s look at the verses again and see what God says about us regarding those emotions and feelings. Verse 1 asks us what causes the quarrels and fights among us? Have you ever quarrelled with someone such as your husband, family, friends, or colleagues at work? What caused that quarrel or argument? The next question in verse 1 points out the primary cause: “Is it because of the passions or desires within us that causes us to be at odds with someone. Most quarrels or arguments occur because someone is not getting his/her way. This causes a battle to rage within us, and eventually that battle surfaces as we lash out at others with words or at least within our hearts and minds (verse 2).  Please note that even if  we keep it to ourselves and only think it, our minds will corrupt our hearts and cause problems not only with the person involved but also with God.

Now, look at your journal and these verses. Answer these questions in your journal: What is God telling you regarding your attitude toward the person He has brought to your mind? What is God calling you to do at this very moment regarding this issue? Now, pray thanking God for pointing this out to you and ask Him to forgive you and cleanse your heart from these negative feelings toward this person. Ask God to remove the bitterness, envy, anger, etc., toward this person from your heart. Ask God to replace the negative thought about this person with positive thoughts. Ask God to help you to not hold it against this person for what he/she has that you do not.

Monday: Focus on James 4:2b-3 You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” What do these verses tell us regarding why we don’t have the things we want? First it tells us that we do not have what we want because we do not ask for it. Sometimes we simply don’t have the things we want because we have not asked God to give us those things. However, it goes a bit father than that. Sometimes the things we want are for selfish gain that is not in alignment with God’s plan for our lives. The old saying, “Father knows best” is definitely true in this sense. He knows all things, and He especially knows what is good for us to have and what is not good for us to have. There are reasons sometimes that He not allow us to have all the things we want. Sometimes if we are allowed to have certain things such as the job promotion or an abundance of money, it could take precedence in our lives over our relationship with God. That would be the worse thing that could happen to us. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and knows the things that could cause more temptation and harm to us. That is why He may choose to withhold certain things from us.

You may thinking, then why did He allow him/her to have those things? God knows his/her heart and the plan He has for his/her life. We have to trust God with what He chooses for us and let go of the lives of others. They are not our concern; they are God’s. I know your next thought is what about those people who have no relationship with God and are not focused on serving Him or even acknowledging Him with their life. Again, those people are not our concern, and their life is between them and God—not us, them, and God.

We must learn to keep our focus on God and seek Him diligently for His desires for our lives. If our desires begin to align with His desires, He will give us the desires of our hearts. However, the key here is that our desires must align with the desires that God has for us. Remember, He created us for a specific plan and purpose. We are to seek Him to find that plan and purpose, and trust Him to give what we need and what He desires we have.

Where is your focus today? What are the desires of your heart? What are the reasons for those desires? Are you focused on obtaining things in life only for your own selfish pleasure, or do you desire to be used by God and to utilize the things with which He blesses you for His kingdom and His purpose. Do you need to realign your desires today? Answer these questions in your journal, and then, write a statement of commitment to God that you will be satisfied with what He has given you, and you will only seek after the things He desires for you. Also make a commitment to focus more on Him instead of your own selfish desires.

Tuesday: Focus on James 4:4-6 “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” Sometimes we tend to think that we can participate in our selfish desires at certain times as long as we attend church, read our Bible, and have a prayer time with God. That may be well and good if our selfish desire is a hobby or an activity that we use as a downtime stress release. God wants us to enjoy life, but He does not want to be replaced in life with the things we enjoy. In fact, in verse 4, God says that we are an adulterous people when we replace Him with the worldly pleasures. The verse goes on to say that the world is enmity with God. This, of course, is a result of the sin that entered into the world back in the Garden of Eden causing a separation in relationship between man and God the creator. The key word here is creator. God created us to have a relationship and fellowship with Him. When other things in our life take precedence over Him, we have committed the act of adultery upon our creator. If we think we can tinker with the world in worldly pleasures that displeases God and maintain a right relationship with Him, we are sadly mistaken. The world is an enemy to God, and the ways of the world completely go against the very nature of God. Verse 5 says that God jealously yearns for the Spirit that He has created to dwell within us.

Let’s think about this aspect from the role of a mother to her daughter. If you have a daughter, you will understand; if you don’t think in terms of you as the daughter and how your mother might feel. Suppose your daughter decides she wants another mother figure in her life, so she ignores you as her mother, but dotes on another lady for chats, advice, shopping sprees, having pedicures together, etc., How would you feel? That is your daughter that you gave birth to. You want to love her as your daughter and want a special mother/daughter relationship with her, but you feel very unimportant and as though you have been replaced.

God feels the same way when He sees His beloved creation replacing Him with other things in their lives. When we do this, it is the same as committing an adulterous affair. It literally breaks the heart of God our Father.

There is hope for us if we recognize what we have done and humble ourselves before God and ask forgiveness. He will provide us with much grace and restore our relationship. On the other hand, for those who are too proud to humble themselves before the Lord and center their focus on Him, He will oppose.

Today in your journal, list the desires of your heart, the activities, and people that take precedence in your life. In other words, list who or what has priority in your life. If it is not God, humble yourself before Him right now and ask His forgiveness and ask Him to develop in you a strong yearning desire to have a stronger relationship with Him. Ask for the same kind of yearning for Him that He has for you. Write that commitment in your journal once you have prayed for it. (Remember, He wants to give us the desires of our hearts once our desires are aligned with His desires, and having this kind of yearning for a relationship with Him is definitely a desire He wants to grant).

Wednesday: Focus on James 4:7-10: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” Today’s passage is very special to me. I learned to practice this action in order to receive this promise many years ago. I taught this to my first daughter when she was old enough to understand. It was extremely special to me one day when I was working at the kitchen sink and watching through the window as my two daughters were playing on the swing set in the back yard and I heard my older daughter (who was about ten at the time) explaining this practice with a promise to my younger daughter (who was about seven). That was a very proud moment for me to see that not only had my older daughter learned and practiced this principal I had taught her, but now she was teaching it to her younger sister.

This action to practice with a promise is to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” This is a necessity in my life. In fact, it is as necessary as brushing my teeth each morning and evening. When I am tempted to stray, when I am tempted to become  distracted from God’s plan, or when I feel oppressed by Satanic attacks,  I will quote this scripture and sometimes I will verbalize it aloud, so Satan will be forced to flee from my presence and I can get back to my focus on God. Satan will not stay in the presence of God, so when we submit to God resist him—that is the action, he must fleee—that is the promise. Then, we are to draw near to God—the action, and He will draw near to us—that is the promise.

No matter what our temptations, struggles, or obstacles in life, if we will practice the actions mentioned above, we will receive the promises from God. Because we are sinners by nature, we must also practice cleansing our hands and purifying our hearts when we find ourselves headed toward becoming a double-minded person. We should come to the Lord with a mournful heart that is saddened by the wicked and sinful condition we are in. If we come to God with true sorrow for our sinful condition and humble ourselves before Him, He will forgive us and lift us up to where He wants us to be. This also is part of connecting our desires to the desires of God.

In your journal today, list some situations in which you need to  practice the the actions discussed and received God’s promises. Maybe there are some circumstances in which you are feeling so overwhelmed with an attack from Satan, and you are desperate for God chase him out of your presence and lift you to the presence of God. Maybe there is a struggle or temptation with which you struggling, and no matter how hard you have tried, you can not overcome it. Submit that to the Lord, resist the devil, and he will be forced to leave. Do that action right now and claim that promise. God is wanting to give you victory and lift you up to a higher place.

Thursday: Focus on James 4:11-12 “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” Today we are going to focus on how we view others. We are instructed by the scripture not to say slanderous things about other people. We are not even to judge them in our minds. Sometimes it is hard to control our thoughts especially when we see someone who is different. I remember when my older daughter came home from a summer long mission trip, and she had tattoos of symbols down her arms and legs. She had been doing medical missions in the African bush. When it was time for her to leave the little village, the women she had  helped wanted to show their appreciation by painting these symbols (which had meaning to them) on her arms to her fingers and her legs to her toes. It was special that they wanted to bless her with these symbols. After picking her up from the airport, my husband and I took her to the mall and then out to eat. She was excited to be in the mall, but I remember one lady walking by us who stopped, looked at our daughter, made a face of disgust, shook her ahead, and walked away. Of course, the mother bear in me who understood why she was covered with these tattoo symbols, also knowing it was henna and was not permanent, wanted to tell that lady a thing or two. However, I refrained, but in my mind I was thinking, “Lady, you have no right to judge my daughter because you have no clue what she has been through nor what she has been doing.” I saw the lady in apparent judgment toward my daughter without taking a moment to understand the reasons as to why she looked like that. I was very proud of my daughter. I considered her reaction very insulting. After all, my daughter had been serving God to a group of people who desperately needed the gospel. She also had sacrificed a great deal to be there and had even become very ill while she was there. However, her heart and passion was to be where God wanted her to be and serve Him according to His plan, and she never once considered coming home before her commitment was complete regardless of her health issues. It was by God’s grace that she made it back home and was regaining her strength and health.

How do you perceive people who look differently from you? Are you quick to judge them based on their outward appearance? Have you ever stopped to take a moment to get to know that person on the inside?

What is God bringing to your mind right now? Is he revealing ways that you have misjudged someone or said slanderous things about someone? Take a moment and write in your journal what God is bringing to your mind. Ask God to forgive you and help you to overcome this habit of being judgemental toward others.

Remember, God made us all to be different. Just because someone is not like us or doing things the way we would do them, does not mean they are bad people. Try to begin seeing people through God’s eyes instead of through our perceptions of what we think people should be. God will hold us accountable if we become the judge to others. God is the ultimate judge who goes beyond the outward appearance into the heart of people.

Boasting About Tomorrow
Friday: Focus on James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” We have been focusing all week on the influences of the world and how they can lead us to negative actions, thoughts, and words. Today we are going to put a little more study into the way we think about our future and the paths we choose. Today’s passage has more to do with us making our plans rather than depending on God to lead and guide us according to His plans for us. We have said this before throughout our study of James, but God created each of us for certain purpose and plan. Although God intends for us to enjoy our lives, we are not here to serve ourselves and do as we please.
Read the passage again very slowly and let it soak in. We are only here for a short season compared to the reality of time. That means we only have a short time to accomplish God’s will. It would be a shame to waste our time on a selfish lifestyle that will only last a very short time. We need to put our focus on the eternal destination and the things that we do to enhance God’s kingdom. Every person we encounter should bring an opportunity to share Christ with them. We should be striving to live the kind of life that draws others to Christ rather than driving them away due to our selfish attitudes and actions.
In your journal today, list the things in which you have been involved. Write out beside each one listed if it was an action led by God or self.
Now, think about the plans you have made for your future. Did those plans come from the direction of God or self? Write out those plans in your journal. Begin praying and asking God to reveal if those plans are in alignment with His plans for you. Do you sense that you need to change those plans? Are you not quite sure what plans you are to follow? If that is the case, write that in your journal and begin praying for God to show you His plans. Continue your devotions and journaling. God will show you what He has planned for you to do when the time is right. Be patient and wait upon the Lord.
Saturday: Read James 4:16-17 “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Yesterday we talked about following our plans and following God’s plans. We discovered that we are only here on earth for a short time, so we should make every moment count for God’s glory and purpose. Today, we are going to focus on the point that if we follow our own path and have some success and boast in our own accomplishments, it is as though we are boasting in our arrogant schemes. God considers boasting such as that to be evil boasting. We are merely bragging on ourselves and what we are capable of doing. Our actions should be done according to God’s direction and plan, and our boasting should be about what God is doing in our lives and through our actions for Him. We should never think more highly of ourselves, but all boasting must be given to God our Creator and Father. If it were not for Him, we would not have the things we have, and we would not be able to do the things we do. We have what we have because we have been blessed by God. He has blessed us with certain abilities and talents, so we can be used by to complete His will. We certainly do not have these attributes of our own accord.
Verse 17 points out that if anyone knows the good they should be doing and chooses not to do it, it is a sin. God will hold us accountable for what He is guiding us to do. We have no excuses for not doing what He created and called us to do.
In your journal today, review your plans from yesterday. Reflect on who has been guiding and directing your life. If you seem to have more control than God, submit your life to Him now, and write a statement of commitment in your journal. God has wonderful blessings in store for those who are willing to submit their lives completely to Him for His service. Is He calling you to go a different direction?  Listen carefully to the voice of God=

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