Faith Without Works is Dead

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But some will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26

I drive by and run by this tree many times per day. It is in the empty field beside of our house. It has had limbs to break free and land in the roadway. There are many dead limbs that have fallen at the base of the tree. I want someone to take it down before someone gets hurt. If it falls the way I think it will, we will all be without power for quite some time. It is a danger to the community.

You can’t see it very well but the tree has friends behind it. Full of foliage, some turning, some falling. But they are flourishing. Same piece of property, same soil, perhaps different species of trees but nonetheless one is dead and the others are thriving. What happened here? Was it an insect, damage to the root system, or was it diseased? I don’t have the answer but as I pondered it I began to think about faith.

Friends please hear me clearly on this. You can do all the good things that you can possibly perceive and not know Jesus and it has little benefit. It’s all about your heart motive. Works cannot and will not ever save you or get you into Heaven. Works are an overflow of what is going on in your heart. Out of our great love for our Savior, we seek to serve Him in the ways that He puts before us. When we act on it, it exhibits our faith.

On the flip side of that, you cannot be saved and not do good things for other people. Jesus is not to be hoarded up all to yourself. His love and grace should be an extension of our faith. If you don’t have these works, maybe you should check your relationship with Christ, maybe you have damage to your root system.  If you do have them and are doing them to be acknowledged by the world or other Christians, maybe you should check your relationship with Christ, there may be an insect eating away on the inside. I am by no means condemning anyone. I always talk to you about what I have experienced.

I love cardinals. I am so excited to see one. Every. Single. Time. We were driving down the road and I saw a dead one just lying right beside of the road! I was horrified! I thought, “Jesus, what does THAT mean?” Immediately faith without works is dead came to my mind. I had become so wrapped up in what was going on with me that I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me.

When my eyes were opened I began to see opportunities every day to serve Him. To be His hands and feet. As soon as one would pass another would open up. It was then that I started to wonder about that dead tree.  I thought, “Was that me Lord?” I didn’t feel a response but I know in my heart it was a yes. See we can get wrapped up in doing good things, church service and so on but miss the every day opportunities God places before us because we may think, “I am serving. I am doing my part.”

No! A thousand times no! Serving at church is fantastic and I applaud you for doing so. But please don’t mistake that for all you are called to do. It’s every day life where it happens. There is a sign above the exit of a church that says, “You are entering the mission field.” YES! That’s what I am talking about right there!

You don’t have to be the dead tree in the middle of the flourishing field! You can be one of the trees with all of the foliage! Every time one of those brightly colored leaves of yours falls, another person is fed, another person is invited to church, a weary Mom gets the afternoon off, another child gets to play catch, someone walking down the street gets a ride and it goes on and on…

Where will Jesus send you today? Aren’t you excited? Isn’t it just amazing to know that the Creator of all has an assignment just for YOU today? Be open, look in all places. He wants you to flourish! Pray and see what amazing thing lies in your path today! All praise to Him who is worthy!!

Joy!

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“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

As I trod through my latest band of trials, yes they come in numbers at times, these verses were some of the focal point of Sunday School a few weeks ago. Why do I talk about trials so much? Well, the way I see it you either are getting ready to have one, are in one or just left one.  I just love how God does it. No matter what I am facing, He sends the perfect message at the perfect time. Does He do that for you too? Isn’t He perfectly awesome?

As I studied, I parked on the word joy. Joy. Dictionary.com defines it as: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. Synonyms are bliss, delight, elation, merriment, rejoicing, you get the picture. So I wondered, “Okay God, how am I supposed to FEEL joy right now? This hurts.” And then I am redirected to the next part of the verse that states “the testing of your faith produces patience.” Okay now I am supposed to feel joy AND have patience? Is it even possible? Oh yes!!

I read the Forward Teaching Guide for High School Students by Randall House. They put it like this: “The world teaches that joy implies life is always, good-that ‘feeling’ joyful and ‘feeling’ good are synonymous. In God’s Word, however, the word joy does not translate as a ‘feeling’ word, but rather a ‘knowing’ word. James was not implying that whenever  we are being persecuted or hungry or sick we should ‘feel’ joyful. Instead, whenever we are experiencing trials of various kinds, we should ‘know’ that our experiences will result in perseverance, and for that reason they are joyful. Perseverance always produces a stronger faith.” And I will add that a stronger faith increases your patience. You KNOW God is working, you’ve experienced it in the past. If He came through then, He will come through now!

Wow! Joy is not a feeling but a knowing. That I can process. I do KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that no matter how hot the fire gets, God is with me. And that is reason to rejoice! I am not in it to win it, God is fighting for me every step of the way. He is stretching me and my faith continues to increase with every passing day. If I am looking, I can see glimpses of His hand on my life. I can thank Him for things He has thwarted out of my path that I didn’t even see. I can even thank Him for the trial because through it He has done a work in me that I might not have known if it weren’t for the pain.

I can even sing His praises during this stormy time because of who He is and what He has done. I think sometimes for some of us we want to blame God for not stopping what has come into our lives. Could He have? Most definitely. Did He? No. Why? That’s a risky question in my book to ask God. If God spoke to my heart and said, “Kim, I want you to expand your faith. Go ahead, do it right now.” Where would I begin? I would go into God’s Word which always increases my faith but would it really stretch me to the place He needs for me to be in order to carry out His purpose for me? Perhaps, but God knows me better than anyone else. He knows how to capture my attention. Unfortunately for me it involves some discomfort.

The other source of joy in my trials is the ensuing victory. God’s got this. We have to be open to what victory looks like to Him in our situation. It most often is not what we envisioned. But it works out perfectly, in His time, in His way. We can kick and scream and refuse to walk forward (not advisable, been there) or we can yield to the situation and turn it over to the source of joy Himself. And walk right through it, not limping, or crawling. Marching as a soldier ready for the battle. Our soldiers fight for us so that we don’t have to. So it is with your God.

I will leave you with words from the book of Nehemiah:

“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Photo credit to kingofwallpapers.com

 

 

God is Good

“So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Mark 10:18

He was the man that would give you the shirt off of his back. He had a huge heart and loved to help people. He was often misunderstood because of his rough, burly, manly, Navy exterior. He was so kind and gentle underneath. Those that took the time to know him, you understand what I am saying.

It was a slow decline in health. He had warnings from the doctors. He had warnings from his body. When he finally decided to heed those warnings, it was too late for him. I knew that he was very sick but I had no idea he was dying right before my eyes. To my understanding, people could live with this for years. The doctor would not give a time frame. I am not sure if they did not know exactly or didn’t want us or him to lose hope so quickly.

I prayed. I know others did too, especially my Mom. I prayed for healing if it was in the will of God. I remember a day when my Mom and I were talking and she was very shaken. She inferred that they were a little upset with God. I have been there before, haven’t you? It wasn’t too long ago that I literally looked up and said, “Really God?” Something that I had prayed for 20 years not to happen, did.

Within 30 minutes or so God reminded me of Job. My situation was no where near his. I am not saying we should compare hardship or trials on different levels. What is devastating to me may not be to you. I was able to quickly shift to, “I cannot tell the oceans where to stop. I did not hang the stars into place and know all of their names. I cannot know what every single person and animal on this planet is doing and are thinking. Only You, God are able. You are able. Forgive my question for I trust in You.”

I reminded my Mom that day that what was happening with Dad wasn’t by any means God’s fault. He didn’t cause it, it was a choice that Dad made. Sure God could have easily reversed the illness in a swift second. But He chose not to. For reasons we cannot know this side of Heaven.

God is good friends. Bad, sometimes unbearably bad things happen on this earth. Bad does not come from God. It comes from your enemy. God is there with you walking through the trial every step of the way. When He allows things in our lives that we don’t understand, He has a purpose for it. Sometimes we experience pain now to later liberate many in chains by the same captor.

I have often said to God, “If you can help one person through my testimony, it was worth the pain.” Is it well with your soul friend? Has something so overwhelming occurred in your life that you said, “Really God?” When I said it, I didn’t realize how disrespectful that it truly was. I mean this is God we are talking about. He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves. HE IS GOOD.

Lysa TerKuerst recently said, “God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God.” My addition is God will work out something good in this situation. I may not see it right away, but I fully believe that He will. Do you? Can you? My son said last night, “I can’t ______.” I said, “You most certainly can, you don’t want to.” Sometimes letting God have the pain and the permission to be God is more difficult than trying to control it yourself. After all to some of us, control is our comfortable place.

Control is an ugly, consuming monster. I believe that something in our lives happens along the way that is so out of our control that we are helpless. Most often it happens when we don’t yet know how to depend on God to be our strength in the situation. After that occurrence, it is easy to begin to manipulate and navigate hard places so that we won’t be hurt again. That is not part of God’s plan for our lives. He alone is in control, we are definitely not. You may think that you are but God always has the final word.

In our weakness He is strong. Covered by His feathers, we find refuge under His wings. He can be trusted. He is in control. He is good. In every situation. We would do well to remember that some things that happen may be the result of our own choices. Some are due to sinful choices of others. Regardless of the whys, we know the Who. The One who is able. I hope you will turn to Him today.  Even thank Him for where you are and watch and be amazed at what He will do.

It is well with my soul. Thy will be done.