Monday, August 31, 2009

Acts, chapter 1 revisited

Sometimes, you just have to do something. That was the original impetus behind starting this blog, and it is what I am doing now with it. I have no idea where my life is going or what I am doing lately. Each step forward is more confusing than the last, but I am at least trying to step forward. I move not of my own strength, but of the strength provided by the spirit.

We see that a little bit today as we take a looks at Acts, chapter 1 again. After getting some final instructions from Jesus Himself, the apostles are left on their own to carry on His mission. Even these men, who spent a ton of time in the physical presence of Jesus, did not know what to do next.

7He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." – Acts 1:7-11

One of my favorite movies, the Shawshank Redemption, has a line similar to what the angel says here. It is simply, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” When you think about it, that is very true here. With Jesus’ final earthly words He challenged his disciples with the task to spread the gospel as far as they could. That work continues today. In a way, it continues here as I do my small part to spread His word. We see that the next step the disciples took was to replace Judas and pray about their task, but from this point forward we don’t see them limited to the area around Jerusalem any more.

Friday, August 28, 2009

James, chapter 5 revisited

Today we will talk about the final chapter of the book of James. Once again, it deals with the issue of patience. Patience is certainly something I have struggled with throughout my life. This chapter in particular is speaking to me this morning because of the nature of its lesson on patience. Today, James preaches patience in suffering and the prayer of faith. Right now, I feel like I have neither.

10Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. – James 5:10-11

The bitterness within me sees these as just words, but they are words with truth behind them. Sometime you just to bite your bottom lip and give life hell in order to get through it. That is how I am going through life at the moment. On most days, I simply exist, but at least I am persevering.

13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. – James 5:13-15

Finally, I feel like I have forgotten how to pray. I still do whenever I get the chance, but my prayer life is virtually non-existent in terms of substance. It sucks to end this on a down note, but it is the truth.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

James, chapter 4 revisited

I must say, it has been good to be back here this week after a long absence. I feel this blog has been something missing in my life, and that I have put other things in the way because they were deemed as more important. I will work to improve upon that in the future.

Part of this comes from an inability to submit myself fully to God. That is touched on in this chapter. I feel like I have been trying to do things on my own again. Sure, I have tried to submit myself to God, but I don't think I have had very much success in the matter. As a result, I have felt an isolation that is very hard to describe, but it is one that grows every day.

2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. – James 4:2-3

I see a passage like this and it is confusing and frustrating at the same time. Is it wrong to want a job so I can have some security and possibly start a family? Is it wrong to have personal professional goals for myself? I feel like every day that goes by with no development on this front is a wasted day. I feel like I am not allowed to plan, but instead I am supposed to leap blindly.

Then I see news from other friends of mine. I envy those that can live on faith and have the ability to truly leap blindly into whatever God has for them. It is my prayer today that I will ask with the proper motives for which I seek.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

James, Chapter 3 revisited

For those that know me, I don't have a good brain to mouth filter. This has been a failing of mine for some time, as I commonly say exactly what I think. I believe that the truth, no matter how brutal, needs to be said at all time. Because of that, I have a hard time working in a society like ours that does not value truth as much as kissing up to the right people. It is not my nature, and it has gotten me in trouble more times than I care to think.

That is why it is interesting that we talk of taming the tongue in James chapter 3. The tongue is a dangerous thing to deal with us. Since much of what I say is overly bitter due to a lot of what I have been through, it tends to control my thoughts almost at all times. This is a warning that serves us well even if we work to follow Christ more.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. – James 3:9-12

I have no defense in this. I have spent too much time of late cursing mankind and what is going wrong rather than praising God. Even this morning I did so, as I got a call from my temp agency about a short term assignment being offered to me. Yes, I am thankful for the work, but I was frustrated because it means six more weeks of living a temporary life as opposed to actually advancing my career. I admit that I am not producing a whole lot of praise lately. I must seek this out more actively.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

James, chapter 2 revisited

As usually happens when I go back and re-read a passage I have already read in the Bible, it teaches me something new. As I mentioned yesterday, James is my favorite book in all the Bible. It is one of the first books I read that really spoke to me on a personal level. Even when I go back to it now I find that God reveals something new in it almost every time. Today I wanted to concentrate on the second part of the chapter concerning faith and deeds.

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:14-17

Yesterday was a day that relates to this. I felt empowered by the faith of god’s promises for the first time in a long time. As a result, I plowed through the work I had planned for myself in seemingly record time. Unfortunately, I was done by noon and had the afternoon free for myself. Since I do not relax well when this happens, I was left with idle hands for the entire afternoon.

Much like most of my unemployment, I feel paralyzed by inaction when I have nothing to do. I have the fire and the faith to do deeds, but I have trouble putting words to action because I feel there are literally no deeds to do. That made yesterday afternoon a waste, and I am tired of it.

As a result, I am seeking to maximize this unexpected time better. If I can use it for resting and recharging my drained spirit, I will do so. If I can use it to accomplish something else for the kingdom, I will do so. If I can use it as a time of prayer and fasting, I will do so. These are the deeds that I choose to add to my faith, in order to have a more complete life experience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

James, chapter 1 revisited

I am back. Sure, I don't feel any closer to any answers than I did before this most recent hiatus, but I did want to come back for a short time. For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, you know that I began writing here with the book of James. It is, by far, my favorite book in the Bible. I wanted to return to it this week because I was reading it once again this morning. As is often the case with God's Word, it has something different to say to me this time, so here are my thoughts.

5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. – James 1:5-8

If there is one thing I know about lately, it is doubt. I have doubted myself, other people, and sometimes the actual wisdom of God. Shoot, I have even struggled with doubt about the existence of God. I can speak from personal experience that this is indeed true. I have felt tossed about like a wave on the sea of late, but I have no idea where the answers I seek will come from.

Fortunately, we know that true doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. The only problem is when we doubt that God's Word can be trusted. Now I admit that it is probably not a good thing to question the very existence of God, but I have no doubt that if He exists, He is indeed in control. There is no way an all-powerful begin such as Him couldn't be in control.

12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

A major theme of this chapter is one of perseverance. My favorite verse in the Bible is James 1:4, referring to how perseverance must finish its work in us. I think that is why I am going through everything I am going through right now. Doubt is something that can be overcome, but only through the perseverance that comes from sticking through these tough times.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An update and a praise

I wanted to come back today and give an update about the blog. I honestly don't know when I will be able to return here, as I am seeking more regular employment. Once it is found, I will likely be able to post more regularly, but who knows. Hopefully I can get back to making this what I meant for it to be when I created it, but right now I am not sure if it has served its purpose or not.

In the meantime, I do have an amazing praise to share. I have an aunt who has suffered with multiple sclerosis for over 20 years. The disease has made her very bitter, and she has been in a nursing home for over 10 years now. I recently heard from my father that she has possibly come to know the Lord, however, which is a huge boost to our family's attitude. Her health has taken a recent turn for the worst, but I am praising God today that she has finally come home to Him.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Apology for my abscence

I apologize for not updating in nearly two weeks. Life has been beating me up pretty hard of late and I have never felt further from God in my spiritual walk. I am working hard to get back on track, but mentally it has been a massive struggle of late. I feel like I can no longer hear God's voice or His call in my life.