Thursday, May 26, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

We grow up taking tests through out school, and it doesn’t stop when we leave the formal education arena. On many jobs a new employee is put on probation for 3-6 months. That’s a testing period to see if we can handle the job assignment. We implement “test runs” on certain projects and machinery. We test would be suitors or potential mates. Life is full of tests. So why is it any surprise to us that our faith is tested? Why is it that when it comes to God and spiritual things we expect a smooth, unquestionable ride? Due to the eternal life and death consequences of spiritual choices, influences and roles, it only makes sense that our spiritual maturity which is directly related to the strength of our faith, will be tested.

     Physical and natural abilities and experiences are more easily proven and discerned. You may have certificates and degrees, letters of recommendations, resume`s and the like that give credibility to your ability to perform a job or task. But in the spirit realm, Bible School degrees, Bible Institute certificates, titles and even resume`s with mountains of experience is not what proves ones faith with God, but rather how we face and endure the trials we go through. It is the testing of our faith that develops perseverance and “Perseverance must finish its work so that (we) may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Verse 4)

     I’m still not at the point where I can say that I enjoy spiritual tests and I’ve been saved for a long time. I’m not sure that’s what the scripture means when it says, “Count it all joy when you go through diverse trials…” (KJV) But rather, be thankful, be glad because you’re anticipating the outcome once you pass the test. It’s kind of like when you start working out or exercising. The initial pain of the workout is not “enjoyable,” but you’re looking forward to the results. For the veteran athlete it gets easier the more experience and the accomplished they become. They start looking forward to testing their skills through increased levels of difficulty or competition, but it’s still painful, just on a different level. So it is also in the spirit realm. You can appreciate, be glad about where the test is taking you, doing in you or preparing you for. You have to make the choice to “count it all joy;” mentally coach or encourage yourself. In Hebrews 12:2-3, the writer says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the JOY set BEFORE him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

     Be alert. Differentiate, are you being tempted by your own lustful desires or is your faith being tested so that you may grow and become more mature? You may not like the pain of the test, but allow it to prepare you for what God has in store for you. It's God's measuring stick of maturity.

     The Lord be with you. You can do all things, through Christ who gives you strength!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Message is Love

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"...don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." (NLT)
 - We do not belong to ourselves. We are bought with an incredibly high price. Our bodies are to be an offering of love and gratitude back unto God.

1 Corinthians 7:19
"Circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts."
- And what are his commands, considering circumcision was one of his commands?

Galatians 6:2
"Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
- By carrying each other's burdens we fulfill the law of Christ? And what is the law of Christ?

Matthew 20:25-28
"...whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
- If the Son of Man, Jesus, did not come to be served, but to serve others; if the Son of Man gave his life as a ransom for many, what message is he sending to us, his disciples?

Matthew 22:37-40
"...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
- Ah, the message, the law of love.

Romans 13:8
"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."

1 Corinthians 13:13
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity." (KJV)

John 3:16
 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotton Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."
- The message is love.

John 17:23
"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me."
- There can be no unity without love.

1 Peter 4:8
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of  wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..."
God's message to us through Christ is love.
 I want the message of Christ, the gospel, to be hammered (stamped) into my head, into my heart, into my life, so that the world around me will know Him.

(**Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are NIV)