“My eyes look to You, Lord!”

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:2

Father God, may our eyes focus more on You than what’s going on around us.  There are so many things pulling for attention.  There are troubles and disappointments that try to take a stand and demand to be noticed.  But Father God, may our eyes and our hearts rest on You and all the promises of heaven through every trying time.  May we see clearly, through it all, You are still for us.  You are He who is daily faithful, and daily offers grace and mercy.  You are where we find the strength to draw from when we feel weak.  When we feel like we’re at the end of our rope, it’s Your Spirit that whispers, “Hold on, for your story is not over.”

Father God, as we lift our eyes and our hearts to You, we place in Your hands our needs, our worries, our hurts, our everything.  You know it all better than we do and it’s in You we put our trust.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray, AMEN!

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“Before there was Egypt, there was a promise!”

Many times when we discuss the land of Egypt within the confines of the Bible, our minds automatically trackback to the time when the children of Israel were in bondage there.  We see them under the weight of the taskmasters, dealing with oppressive circumstances that are beyond their control.  They stand by and watch as some are beaten, others are killed; lack and degrading situations run rampant throughout their time there.  Fear, hatred, and jealousy by others drove them to the place where they are residing; a place where tough days seem like they will never come to an end.

Often times, when people find themselves in a hard spot of life, or when they find themselves coming up short and just not happy with the way things are turning out at this particular time, they refer to that circumstance as their place of “Egypt.”  This is where heartbreak and troubling times lie.  This is the place where it seems everything is fighting against them and no matter what one does it just doesn’t appear that they will ever come out on top.  People may not have taskmaster’s whips to deal with, but other things just lash and lash out at them, making it hard to get back up again.

As hard as this may be to believe, I assure you your Egypt will not last forever.  I’m sure the children of Israel had doubts about this.  After all, their time there lasted about four hundred years.  Yet, even before this family of seventy ventured into the land and grew to the astronomical numbers we see in Exodus, God knew all about their time there before they were even there.

In Genesis 15:13 God told Abram, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”  Outside of that prophecy God also said, “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance,” (Genesis 15:14).  In this we see, there was a promise before they even set one foot in Egypt; before they even encountered a problem, God already had a blessing lined up for when they came out.

Today, we fight against so many unknowns.  We deal with all the this and that’s of life that it simply just weighs one down.  One might not find themselves in a literal state of captivity, but something just sits on them heavy, becoming an almost unbearable burden, that they just don’t know what to do.  With a feeling of exasperation, some just give up, content just to go through the motions of life, without grabbing hold of the feeling of hope because of the fear of being let down again, just to drift back into that state of uncertainty once more.

But, I am here to tell you today, continue hoping and never give up.  Your “Egypt” is not lost on God.  God knows what you are facing.  He knows every disappointment you are dealing with.  He knows every struggle you are battling.  He knows everything that you are fighting through and that’s fighting against you.

It may be hard to see the proverbial silver lining in a dark cloud at times or the light at the end of the tunnel, but we have something better.  We have a promise!  God told Abram when his people came out, they were coming out better than when they went in.  God was going to judge those who did them wrong, and God was going to bless them greatly.

Another promise Abram received was in a few verses prior to those noted above.  God told him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5).  Not only were they going to be blessed, but they were going to come out increased in the people they were.  To go from one individual to the millions they would come out to be, they were going to grow not only in number but in experience through their troubling times.  They would have to learn to endure some stuff in order to be the people who would eventually be fit to take on the Promised Land.

While it may at times seem like the hard times are breaking you, they may be actually making you.  So remember, before there was Egypt, there was a promise.  And, I don’t know about you, but I will take a promise of God over a so-called silver lining any day.  The promises of God are sure.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are told, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

In other words, no matter what you are facing today, Jesus has you covered.  No matter the obstacles or hard places that make you feel like you are in Egypt and you just want to give up, God has an unfailing promise of His love, grace, mercy, peace, and deliverance through even the most difficult circumstances.

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“You are not alone!”

There can be days when the heaviness of life just won’t seem to let up.  There can be times when burdens leave you spent and wrung like a dirty little dish rag.  And, sometimes it’s hard during these down times to find something to smile about; to find hope in the midst of darkness; to know that you are not forgotten in the middle of the mess.

But, no matter what you may be feeling or going through, Jesus wants you to know, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you,” John 14:18.  He wants you to know that you are not in this alone.  His presence refuses to turn His back on you.  His presence doesn’t want you carrying these troubles by yourself.  His promise says that He cannot leave you without comfort.  You and I are not without the love of the Father present with us.  He said, “I will come to you!”

Our Lord Jesus Christ will not abandon you to deal with life on your own!  He is your help in the neediest of times!  He is your strength in the weakest of times!  He is your source in the emptiest of times!  He will not turn away from you!  He went to the cross for you that He might ever be with you!  He’s with you in the midst of it all to ease the turmoil you may be feeling.  He is with you to console raging emotions and thoughts.  He is with you to support you when nobody else will.  He is with you to show you how the love of the Father is very real and active for you!

He does this all through His abiding Spirit.  His loving presence takes up residence on the inside of those who believe in Him.  He is in there to fill any emptiness one may feel.  He is there to bring healing to the hurt and damage inflicted by others.  He is there to walk with you through all the ups and downs of this life, no matter how difficult it may appear right now!

He is with us as the rescuer of our heart, meeting the spiritual need in our life that nobody else can.  We don’t have to wonder about it because Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Did you see that word “never”?  By absolutely no means will He not ever be with you where you are and in what you are going through!  It can’t happen!  It won’t happen!  He loves you too much to leave you out there to deal with this world and this life on your own!

With confidence, let your prayer be, “Jesus, I need you,” and His promise stands sure that He is with you where you are through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.  You are not fighting this alone!  Every step of the way, He is there!

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee,” Deuteronomy 31:6.

“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” Matthew 28:20b

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“Better Days are Coming!”

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9)

What do you do when you look around and all you see is a mess?  Nothing is as you’d hoped it would be.  Life all of sudden doesn’t seem to make sense.  You’re glad for where you are and what you have, but you also recognize in the midst of circumstances the discouraging realization that you still have so far to go.

Boy, if that doesn’t ring true for what many are experiencing today.  One day we went to bed and everything was normal.  Then, just as quickly, it seems we woke up to a new reality and everything was different.  Everything was harder than it was the day before.  Where there was once freedom, now a new reality of limitations and restrictions has taken over.

What does all this have to do with the above verse?  Simply this.  In the time of Zechariah’s prophecy, the children of Israel had returned home from Babylonian captivity some 15-20 years prior.  Even at this point in history, when they look around they still see nothing but the marks of destruction; they still see broken walls and broken dreams in the land, and discouragement was running rampant.

But in the midst of that discouragement, Zechariah brings a word of hope from the Lord regarding their future.

What seems to be their new reality is not all there is.  They might not understand their times of walking through the rubble and living in the ruins of their former life, but God has something – God has Someone coming on the horizon who is going to usher in the greatest story of rebuilding and restoration the world has ever seen or known.

Although God delivered His people from Babylonian captivity and brought them back to their homeland to start living and inhabiting it again, He is not as interested in their physical buildings that lay in rubble.  He is more concerned with their spiritual buildings, their hearts, that may have collected just as much dust in them as the ruins around them.

Therefore, through Zechariah’s prophecy, God focuses His people to not dwell on the mess of today, but rather, focus on the message for all the tomorrows to come.  For that’s where they and we will find hope for the future.

Zechariah lets them know better days are coming because there is a coming King like no other.  When He comes in, His appearance and riding may appear to the masses as lowly.  But this King’s reign will be a reason to rejoice in the midst of rubble and ruins.  The King’s coming would be a reason to shout because true salvation and deliverance have never been so close.  This King’s coming will be a reason to celebrate in full jubilation, and to shout, “Hosanna in the highest,” (Mark 11:8) because when He comes, victory comes with Him.  When He comes, restoration comes with Him.  When He comes, better days come with Him!

The triumphal entry of our Lord was prophesied hundreds of years before it occurred, and still brings a message of hope to us who hear it thousands of years later because it reminds us in the face of all the turmoil this world was bound up in, Jesus marched forth toward His destiny of the cross to bring more peace and victory than we could ever hope to receive on our own.   And, although things may not seem to be the way we planned or look how we envisioned, with Him as our hope and guide, we can be assured that if nothing stopped Him from moving forward into the hardest thing He would ever face just so that we all would have a better future, then nothing will stop Him now from being that source of faith that many so long for.

Even in the midst of adversity and hardship, Jesus is still riding in our lives with a message of hope and peace today.  Days and circumstances may seem discouraging, but you’re not riding through them alone.

When He came in on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, “many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11:8-10).  But we know His story didn’t stop there.  In Zechariah’s prophecy, He is also seen as the One who subdues enemies and brings everlasting peace for His people.

When Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of riding in on the donkey He didn’t stop there for you either.  He came to usher so much more in your life and mine.  Where do you find yourself today?  For many that question may bring some very difficult answers.  Although the answers may appear difficult and we may not find an immediate solution to those answers, one thing we can do is still celebrate this day in victory, by faith,  as we would any other Palm Sunday.  We may not be in physical church buildings, gathering together and shouting the victory, but I believe where we are we can set aside some time to still proclaim, “Hosanna in the highest!” because that day was not the end of His story, neither is it the end of ours.

What we are facing today cannot diminish His promises for all our tomorrows to come.  If He already walked into the hardest thing for us, surely He will see us to a victorious ending.  It may not always feel like it, and what’s going on around us may make many sway, but rest assured, what’s going on does not have the last word.  Jesus rode in victory and through His resurrection power (which we celebrate next week for Easter Sunday), He remains victorious today and forevermore!  Therefore, even if we can’t see it right now we know that better days are coming!

So hold on, my friends.  Don’t let what you see today make you question your tomorrows.  Nobody loves you like that same Jesus who rode in to save your life and mine.  The King has come once, and He’s coming back again.  Victory is His, and victory can be yours too.  One day this will all be over (both now, and in eternity), and every promise He rode in for will come to pass (2 Corinthians 1:20).  How can it get any better than that!

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“Plant Kindness”

“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesian 4:32)

Is kindness a lost art?  The world, with its troubles and woes, has hardened so many.  Where is the tenderhearted?  Where are those who will show compassion to their brother and sister?  Where are those who forward their rights to let another pass freely?

Kindness is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) not grown on many trees these days.  A fruit forgotten in the “go get’m” mentality of many.

But kindness, if properly nourished, can transform lives and branch out beyond the individual.  Its seeds can blow in the wind and land on others, causing this precious fruit to plant, root, and grow farther than before, taking over the land of darkness to show His marvelous light.

Be kind.  Let tenderness grow where hardness tries to invade.  Give space for love to flourish.

Remember, you have been forgiven, dear friend.  The ultimate gift of kindness has been extended to your very soul.  Sow worthy fruit of that great gift.  Sow fruit that will last into eternity.  Sow fruit that will gain a heart to know Him through you.  Sow fruit that lets another know they are loved, they matter, and they, too, are important.

The flourishing of kindness makes a greater impact than the ugly fruit of hatefulness.

The sprouting of kindness pokes its head out of dismal soil, and says, “Friend, I see you as a person and I care about you.”

When kindness grows to be the biggest tree in all the forest, it overshadows and outshines everything else and shows others this is how we stand, live, and love.

What you plant today will grow tomorrow.  Why not plant something beautiful?  Plant kindness.

 

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Sunday School Lesson – “Count it All Joy!” James 1:1-12

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 1:1-12 (KJV, Public Domain)

What do you do when life doesn’t seem to want to play fair?  When all the boxes don’t check off in all the right places and everything seems out of whack – what do you do?

For some, remaining optimistic during trials is harder than others.  Firstly, every trial that every individual person deals with is not the same.  Some things that may be troubling to one, but in reality, is only a minor inconvenience and annoyance, to others, they may be battling tooth and nail to keep their head above the water of the adversity they are facing.

Then, we have each person’s natural dispositions on how they specifically handle tumultuous events.  Where one sees the dark clouds others can readily point out the silver lining.

For those whom James was addressing in his letter, he knew they were being hounded by real troubles and not just a matter of inconvenience.  He knew of the hardships and oppression they were experiencing.  Yet, through it all, he wanted these believers to focus on the positive fruit all the things they were experiencing in their life could produce.

Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work

James 1:1-4 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

This “James”, who addresses himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” is supposed by many to be the actual brother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  While Jesus was going about fulfilling His earthly ministry, his brothers were not part of those who supported that ministry (see John 7:3-5).  As a matter of fact, it is supposed that it wasn’t until after he had seen the risen Lord for himself, that James, the natural, half-brother of Jesus Christ, believed and became a follower and a leader in the early church (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14).

Which is why he is writing this letter “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  As a leader in the early church (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13-22), his care for members of the body of Christ is evident in the time and care he takes to write to them about their personal growth in the Lord, the discipline of the faith, conducting personal behaviors pleasing to the Lord, and yes, remaining hopeful in the midst of it all.

In this section of Scripture, James didn’t downplay the suffering some were experiencing.  Rather, he encouraged them to remain focused on what truly matters.  Therefore, he begins this letter by admonishing then to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”

“Count it all joy” – when you really think about that statement, it’s naturally a very difficult thing to do.  It’s very similar to the Apostle Paul’s teaching to which he says, “In every thing give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Those words “all” and “every thing” can encompass a great many circumstances.  Circumstances that wouldn’t need encouragement to remain joyful and thankful if they weren’t adverse.  Nobody needs to be encouraged to be happy when they are already happy.  It’s when things become hard and unbearable that leaders such as James try to cheer them on to see that silver lining in a dark cloud.

James goes on to say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” or, various trials.  You know what, I have given birth to four different children and each labor experience was different.  Some were scary, some were painful, some were eventful, while others were uneventful.  No two were alike.  Each one was different.  During one, I thought I was going to lose that baby, and during one, my own health was compromised.

But life is like that.  The degrees and variables surrounding each hardship are unique to that particular time, place, situation, and person.  They all don’t come packed in the same neat packaging, for if they did, we could really prepare our actions and reactions to each case.  Trials come looking and feeling many ways and sometimes it’s hard getting a grip on it all and adjusting one’s mindset to see the positive.

But James didn’t focus on the many things people see, feel, and experience now.  He focused on the many things it would produce.

First, he said, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”  If you have ever exercised with resistance bands, you know how difficult it can be.  You are using your own body’s strength, be it little or big, to purposely add pressure and pull to an already hard work out.

The “trying of our faith” is working for us, for our good, even though it seems to be opposing us.  That which is hard to deal with is actually teaching us in a way that an easy path, with no resistance, ever could.  It is producing in us virtues and spiritual fruit (Romans 5:3-6) that really will have no way of growing in us if it were not for the adverse circumstances we become occasionally planted in.

Here, in James’ teaching, he is showing them the flip side of what they are feeling.  He’s showing them that what they are going through, those things that feel like they are wearing their faith down, is actually producing “patience” in them.  This patience is all about endurance.  One will never know how to go through hardships and stand if they have never been given the opportunity to exercise that faith and endure.

We read about Bible characters and their stories, and we think, oh, put me in the lion’s den, or let me at Goliath, or some other situation alike, and I know what to do because the Bible tells us what they did.  When reading the lives in these stories, we must not become desensitized to the power and faith it took for an individual to keep remaining true to their faith despite a death threat or to face a monster of a man on the battlefield.  Until we have our own Nebuchadnezzar to stand before with the resolve to refuse to bow and worship a false image, no matter how hot the situation was getting, we will never know what it’s like to endure trials such as these that build our faith unless we go through it for ourselves.

“But let patience have her perfect work.”  If you want to grow and produce things conducive to strong faith, then let that same patience work it out in you.  Every Christian should strive for mature, tested, and tried fruit of these spiritual disciplines to be produced in their life.

Every day we should want to do better and to be better, but a lot of that will never come to be unless we work at letting “patience have her perfect work.”  Then, will we grow, being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the development of our Christian character, now being ripe fruit, fit for the Master’s use.

Ask in Faith and Don’t Waver

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

“Faith” is a key factor in this opening of James’ letter.  In the trying and in the producing, faith comes to the forefront of a must-have list.

“Wisdom” is needed in so many areas of life.  Proper wisdom is needed all the more when facing opposition.  Wisdom is one of the best tools one should have in their arsenal when navigating or combatting trying times.

Previously I wrote,

“Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,’ Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose Author is God?” (Wisdom is Better/Word for Life Says).

James said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”  It is very possible to be in the midst of contentions and not know what to do or how to respond.  God has opened Himself up to us to receive what we need to succeed in this Christian journey.  The Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples, wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3; emphasis mine) and that includes wisdom.  God gives it to the one who asks, but when he or she asks, it must be done in “faith.”

Faith supports faith.  The one here, who is in a trial and dealing with contentions because of their faith, are to ask in faith, of the Father, for the proper wisdom of how to continue forward in their faith while going through.

Steadfast, believing faith is necessary for every aspect of our Christian walk.  To “waver” in that is to sway in that belief and in the one who is the Author of that belief.

James gives the picture of this one being “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”  I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  When vacationing, it’s one of my favorite places to visit.  One of the things I most enjoy while there is standing on the shoreline and watching the waves come in and go out.  The ebb and flow of the waters are always moving, never still, and never steady.

While beautiful to look at in nature, in our Christian character that’s not what we’re looking for.  We want to be rooted and grounded in what we believe and whom we believe – that He is able to answer our prayers and give us the wisdom we need.  To shun that, through not asking in faith, is to shun the benefits one would have received otherwise.

James warns, “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”  Too many are living the faith they profess to have without living in complete faith and assurance in the “Lord.”  It may be possible for people to live in compliance with regulations of the faith and have the spirit of faith missing.

This one has a divided mindset.  James considers them to be a “double minded man” who is “unstable in all his ways.”  If he or she can’t get off the fence here, before the very foundation of their faith, when praying and asking of God, other areas of life are guaranteed to be constantly shifting and fluctuating as well, being blown about in uncertainty.

But for the one, who in complete faith, is asking God for wisdom, God will give it “liberally” and “it shall be given him.”  Wow!  What a promise!

Endure, There is an Eternal Reward

James 1:9-12 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.  For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.  Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.  Everyone will experience trials.  And, everyone can be taught valuable lessons through those trials.  All social classes and backgrounds can find joy during times of adversity.

How is that?

James explains it like this.  For the poor, or him of “low degree,” such a one can “rejoice in that he is exalted.”  This one’s “right now status” does not determine their joy in life.

It is easy to see the ones without… without as much as others, without as many financial resources, without proper education, and anything else this world stores up as markers for success and happiness.

This one may think he is justified in being sullen, withdrawn, and living a pity-party lifestyle that no one wants to attend.  Contrarily, James points out the opposite.  Regardless of what he has or didn’t have; no matter how others view his lowliness, or even how he views himself, James declares that joy and rejoicing should still be found in his heart because of the God whom he has placed his trust in, and not his haves and have nots.

In this, too, he can “rejoice.”  When it’s all said and done, when he parts from this world, it is God who will “exalt” him to the things he has never seen with human eyes or even imagined (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9).  He may not have as much as another, but in his trials and temptations, he can still count it all joy!

When Jesus was teaching the Beatitudes, at the end of all those “blessed are” statements that would point out circumstances in which one wouldn’t normally find joy in, Jesus speaks these words: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:12).  His comments were spoken in relation to being persecuted, something James’ readers are all too familiar with, yet, what He points out is that even in that hardship, Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice!”

And, He wasn’t teaching anything contrary to what He Himself was not willing to do.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”

As those who are linked to Him in faith, James said every believer can count it all joy no matter their privileged or underprivileged status and life.

And the “rich” are to remember, in humility, that though they may have a lot right now, their days are moving just as fast as anyone else’s in this lifespan each of us has been allotted.  Life is a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14).

“As the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”  Riches cannot increase his time or secure him a better end.  He, too, must depend on the same salvation, the same saving grace, as one who may be without and lacking.  The businesses, the homes, the money – nothing he has accumulated in this life will account for anything in eternity.  Outside of Christ, low or high, rich or poor, we are all nothing.

So, when this one faces trials and temptations, he too can count it all joy for he is made keenly aware that his days and life here are very brief.  That awareness brings him “low”; it centers and focuses him on what matters the most.

Both types of trials and temptations are a gift for they both, whether for the rich or poor, should keep us before the Lord in humility and dependence.  Not a one has a reason to glory in his own flesh or circumstances.  Before God, it’s the heart of the man that matters the most.  Not what he has or doesn’t have.

James adds, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.”  Counting it all joy is not because we have avoided temptations and trials from ever happening to us.  Counting it all joy for the blessedness that is ours for enduring the times of testing they brought.

Even Jesus was tried, tested, and tempted.  Hebrews reminds us again, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15).

Endure!

Let patience have her perfect work!  Because in the end, when the trials and trying times are all over with, that one that was “tried” and endured with faith intact through it – that one “shall receive the crown of life.”

Now, that’s real success.  That’s the real goal.  That’s the real reason to be happy when troubles just won’t seem to let up.

At one point or another, and many times in between, we are all going to be touched by the finger of adversity.  But, as the Word of God declares, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).

Don’t lose your joy!  There is a “crown of life” waiting for you with your name on it.  We are going through and enduring because there is a prize laid up for us at the end of this race (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Your running is not in vain.  Your joy is not in vain.  The “Lord” has “promised” this wonderful gift “to them that love him.”

it is spoken.  It is written.  It is ours if we remain in our holy joy and keep pushing for it and not giving up.

The opposite of the joy we are called to have is words like misery, sadness, and the like.  When one keeps swimming in the pools of these waters, they will soon feel overcome by the displeasure found there, let go of their grip, and drown.

Life may not be perfect but maintaining your spiritual joy will keep you buoyant in the murkiest of waters.

So, count it all joy!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Count it All Joy

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Lead In/Happy or Sad Activity: Print out one happy face and one sad face (you can just do one set for the teacher or multiple sets so that each student can have their own). Attach the faces to craft sticks. Prepare a list of things that might make one happy or sad (finding money, losing a tooth, receiving an unexpected gift, losing a puppy, etc.). Ask the class, using the faces, to show how each thing listed would make them feel, and why? Then ask, Is it possible to feel joy even in sad times? (Give them space to answer.)

Use this as a lead in to the lesson. Say, James wrote to people during a very hard time in life and one of the things he did was encouraged them to count it all joy. This concept is difficult for some adults to grasp, let alone children. Let them know a Christian’s joy is never based on the goodness of their circumstances. Rather, their joy is based on the goodness of God, who will give us the wisdom we need to make it through hard times.

Frown Upside Down Craft: Make your own frowning face that can be turned upside down to make a smiling face. If you don’t know how to do this, search the internet for great examples. Use this as a supplement to the lesson Count it All Joy.

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (These pages are great to use with the other journaling exercise provided in the PEARL lesson packet or to use to bring out any other area of the lesson you choose to focus on.  Enjoy!)

Draw the Scene: Count it All Joy Draw the Scene

Word Search: Count it All Joy Word Search  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Search Answers

Crossword: Count it All Joy Crossword  Answers: Count it All Joy Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Count it All Joy Word Scramble  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Scramble Answers 

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“Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Have you ever had those moments in life when you couldn’t really articulate the heart, but just the simplest of phrases seem to come to the forefront of your mind.

One of those moments just hit me, and all I could think was, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

You see, many thoughts come through our heads, and it’s literally when we start thinking of all that He has done for us, for this new day that He brought us through to see, and all the beautiful stuff in between, all my mind and my heart could say was, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Moments like that hit every Christian during their days and journeys on this earth.  Moments of reflection that cause us to spout in adoration the appreciation we feel for Him. The psalms are written because the hearts of individuals have been touched in a way that only God can touch them and their soul couldn’t help but tell of the goodness they found in Him, and inspire others through their words, songs, prayers, and recountings of His moving in their lives.

My soul takes joy when I read that the Lord will hear when I call (Psalm 4:3) and that He has set the godly apart for Himself.  When I read simple words that tell me He is my shield (Psalm 3:3), I feel so loved and protected under the safety of His refuge (see also Psalm 17:8).  When Your Word tells me, “Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies…” (Psalm 23:5), a tear of joyfulness comes in the midst of the concerns of my heart.  My times are truly in Your hands (Psalm 31:15) and over and over again in Your Word, Your goodness, love, and mercy show me just how valued I am in Your sight.

I really could go through His Word in the psalms and throughout this Holy Book and find reason after reason to say, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Nonetheless, today I will not allow my praise to be restricted.  Even if I have nothing magnanimous or grandiose to say according to others, I know that God loves to hear from His children, and I want to tell my beautiful Heavenly Father, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

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“FRAGILE!”

 

Handle with care I wish I could post,
a stick it note to remind of what matters the most.

Distractions, directions unprofitable and robbing;
relentless in their unfocused pulling and prodding.

But my days are few upon this earth,
to make an impact of valued worth.

The reins have to be taken back;
no longer the less valuable plans to detract.

Focus, you only have one life to live.
Frail, is this only life to give.

Here today, and gone tomorrow;
let me cherish each one without resentment and sorrow.

Life is fragile and can break like a dam.
So, Lord teach me to measure my days, that I may know how frail I am.

To gain the worth of each day given.
This time on earth; this limited edition.

Invest in the works, the love and matters of the soul.
To fulfill His glory is our heavenly goal.

“LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am,” (Psalms 39:4).

Copyright © Word For Life Says.com (Sharing any posts or lessons can only be done through the share buttons provided on this site from the original posts, lessons, and articles only. You can reblog from the original posts only using the reblog button provided, or share using the share buttons provided from these social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, etc., and they must be shared from the original posts only. All other repostings are prohibited. Posts and other items of interest found on this site may not be copied and pasted, downloaded, uploaded, etc to another website or entity not listed (physical or electronic). See COPYRIGHT PAGE for more details.

“But, what did God say?”

“And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?” Numbers 24:12-13

God’s people are truly blessed.  In the historical sense, covering the covenanted children of Israel, and even now for all those who are in a covenant relationship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The story is not new, even if the variables of the story change from one situation and/or person to another.  God’s people, then and now, are blessed, and that’s something no enemy likes to see or deal with.  Nonetheless, the truth is, God is for His people.  We see it in verses that state, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9), and when the psalmist writes, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6) we feel those words speak to our own hearts.

God is for His people, and what He has spoken over your life means more than any negative enemy talk, and it is always God’s word that will be performed as opposed to any enemy’s influence.

God does not speak in vain.  He says, “I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right,” (Isaiah 45:19).  And His word will always perform that which He commanded it: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it,” (Isaiah 55:11).

Yet, and still, in the story of Balak trying to hire Balaam to curse what God has already blessed, we see the enemy’s plan is to still try to thwart God’s plan for His people.  God showed Balaam that His people are blessed and not cursed.  He showed him His people are different than other nations and the number of His people is increasingly blessed as well (Numbers 23:8-10).

After another attempt by Balak to get Balaam to curse God’s people, when he spoke, this is what Balaam relayed to the king:

“Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:18-20)

Whether the enemy likes it or not, God was not going to change His mind about blessing His people.  As a matter of fact, Balaam went further, tell Balak, “The LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them,” (Numbers 23:21).

God is with them.  He brought them out.  He is responsible for their deliverance.  There is nothing the enemy can speak against what God has already blessed (Numbers 23:23)!

Throughout this story, leading into chapter 24, it is evident to Balaam that it “pleased the LORD to bless Israel,” (Numbers 24:1) and there was nothing he or anybody else can do about it.

And that’s our take away from this lengthy story.  Only what God says over our lives or about us matters.  No matter which way, shape, or form another tries to speak over you, if it is not in line with what God already spoke, it will not work.  He is the Author of your story, and only He gets to write your ending.

So, where does that leave us when others are speaking something contrary?  The responsibility is on each of us to believe more in what God said and to only accept His Word as valid over our lives.

There are going to be many situations and people we face in life that will try to thwart your faith.  The aim of it all is to shake our foundations.  It’s to get us worked up in a frenzy so that we will be discouraged or afraid to move forward into where God has called us.

One picture in this whole story I like is that of the children of Israel themselves.  While all these attempts of others trying to curse them were going on, they were just down there, in the plains of Moab, pitching their tents, and resting in where God was leading them (Numbers 22:1).  They were doing and being what God called them out to do and be.  They were marching toward the Promised Land and gaining victories under their belt along the way.  It didn’t matter what others were saying on the sidelines.

Someone will always find an occasion to speak negatively over your life.  Situations will arise that will try to make you believe this is all it’s ever going to be, and it won’t get any better than this.

But, what did God say?

We are told in the Word of God of how important and valued we are to Him (Matthew 10:29-31).  We are told that we are His children (1 John 1:12), and as any good father would do, God takes care of His own.  We are told that He has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3).  We are told that He loved us even before we got our act together (Romans 5:8), and He continues to love us today because “God is love,” (1 John 4:8).  We are told we are not what we used to be (2 Corinthians 5:17) and now our identity is in Christ (Galatians 2:20).  We are told that God has a plan for His people (Jeremiah 29:11) and no matter what it looks like, it will work out for our good (Romans 8:28).

It’s not about what we feel, what they speak, or what we see before us.  It’s about what God says, and what He says will come to pass.  No enemy or situation can go beyond His Word!

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“God is in Your Midst!”

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing,” Zephaniah 3:17

With the glow of the Christmas season behind us and packed away, the wonder of God coming near man should not be packed away also.  Oh, we hear it often leading up to December 25th, the promise that tells us, “They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us,” (Mt. 1:23).  What of the rest of our days?  Days past the Christmas season when trials of the mundane and every day rock your boat; when the disappointments of failure and difficulties of decisions come to war?

What then?

God is still here!

I thank God that that promise is just not for the Christmas season.  We are told over and over again in Scripture of the availability of God to draw near to man.  From Genesis through to Revelation speaks to the heart of man: “I am here.”  Exodus 17:7 asks the question, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”

The answer is a positive, “YES!”

Not only is He here but He is “mighty!”  Mighty means He is strong enough to handle whatever life throws at you.  Nothing surprises Him and nothing is impossible for Him, Luke 1:37.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Ps. 46:1).

The rest of this verse is just as reassuring.  God not only is in the midst, but He also specializes in deliverance.  In the above verse, it says, “He will save.”  To the person who yields to Him in faith, God can bring release.

Lastly, God will “rest in his love.”  God loves us.  His love is present with Him in the midst of where He is.  His love is assurance.  His love brings with it peace.  His love causes Him to “joy over thee with singing.”  Yes, God sings over the people He loves; “For God is love!” (1 Jn. 4:8).

God is here in your midst and with Him comes all His wonderful attributes of care and concern for His people.

Copyright © Word For Life Says.com (Sharing any posts or lessons can only be done through the share buttons provided on this site from the original posts, lessons, and articles only. You can reblog from the original posts only using the reblog button provided, or share using the share buttons provided from these social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, etc., and they must be shared from the original posts only. All other repostings are prohibited. Posts and other items of interest found on this site may not be copied and pasted, downloaded, uploaded, etc to another website or entity not listed (physical or electronic). See COPYRIGHT PAGE for more details.