Meet and Greet

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials,” -James the brother of Jesus Christ

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t one of my favorite memory verses. I mean I can deal with the part about encountering or meeting with trials. I can agree with what James is saying, but the joy part? Well, that’s difficult.

To be honest there are so many different variations of this verse. The one above is from the New American Standard Bible. Others use the words- “fall into temptations” or “whenever trouble comes your way” and even “whenever you face trials of any kind” Regardless, they all seem to agree that it is is not an if but a when. Life is full of troubles and trials. We get that. It is impossible to live this life without them.

I really like the version that uses the word encounter. I was recently reading a devotional from Dr. Charles Stanley of INTOUCH ministries and he compared the word encounter with meeting trials, like you would meet another person. Face to face-. It inspired me to think about this verse in those terms. How do I face trials? Do I greet them as I would a person on the street? As an acquaintance? As an adversary? Welcoming them with joy, seems very counterintuitive. I do not like trials. Why would I greet them as if they are a long lost friend, whom I am excited to be reunited with?

But can I really see them as that? Most of the time I rejoice whenever trials are over. Like whenever I recover from an illness, or when a project that has been trying and time consuming is accomplished and over. But, at the beginning? When I first meet them? If I let my feelings rule, I would run the other way, thank you very much! But, no thank you, I don’t need to greet you today troubles and trials, I think I’ll just turn off the path and avoid you today. But, I fear in doing that I would miss the opportunity for God to be there with me through this awkward introduction and greeting. Avoidance limits the pain, but also limits the joy and comfort I would receive from God.

As we read further on in the book of James, we see that these trials are to strengthen our faith and give us perseverance and mature our faith. These sound very inspiring and give the reader encouragement. Just as it would have for the early Jewish Christians James was writing to who had been scattered away from Jerusalem into the many areas of the Roman Empire. As many scholars believe, James was martyred sometime after writing this letter of encouragement, probably around AD 64. It was not an easy time to be a follower of Christ.

If James were writing the church today, he might have say, “Hey, I know you are going through these trials and difficult times, but just remember they are serving a purpose- to mature your faith, teach you perseverance- something you will definitely need to keep on going. So, welcome them, they are for your benefit. Yes, they are bound to happen, but God’s got this.”

In chapter 1, verse 5, James writes if we are lacking wisdom we should ask God. For many years I have read that verse as a stand alone verse, but this week as I read it again, it began to dawn on me that maybe it closely relates to dealing with the troubles and trials.

You see, that is one of my biggest issues when troubles or trials come. I wonder to myself, “What should I do to handle this, or fix this situation? How do I navigate this? What is my strategy? I also try to figure out if this is something I have brought upon myself, or is it a spiritual attack, or just a life issue? What I need is wisdom in dealing with it all; for discernment, for a pathway through the trial, for a way to handle it, to understand it’s origin, to have a peaceful attitude through it, yup, I lack wisdom on my own, and I need to ask God for wisdom for this trial. I have faith that God will show me what to do, how to navigate this and will bring me out the other side, better not because I will be stronger in myself, but that my faith in God will be stronger, because I will see how He is with me. Not all these trials have quick resolutions, and I need to keep believing – as James adds in verses 6 and 7- but God will come through.

So, these trials are a way for me to be drawn closer to God,to my faith in Him, my reliance on Him to give me wisdom and help me through, to strengthen my perseverance muscle. They are not designed to destroy me, but make me better, to help me mature in my faith, so that I lack nothing (v4).

If we can focus on that, then we can meet and greet trials with a more positive attitude. We can count it joy.

God Bless –

Nancy

Letting Go….

Hi, my name is Nancy and my superpower is worrying and overthinking. Everything. Or at least it was. With the new year I have decided to let go of my superpowers for a bit. Or at least try to. If you’ve read my posts before, then you know I over plan and over think and over worry. Is that really a thing? I think it can be. I think there is nothing wrong with a bit of concern, but when we take it too far and what ever we are concerned with takes up all our thoughts, well yup you got it!, over worry.

So, while I might not admit to making a New Year’s resolution, I usually do; I just don’t tell anyone, so that way if I fail, no one has to know. Pretty good plan, huh? Well, this year it isn’t so much what I am adding to my resolve, like exercise, but what I’m leaving behind. I’ve decided to leave the past, right where it should be, the past. Everything that went wrong and everywhere I fell short, or others fell short. I’m just going to not bring it up in my mind. This year is a new chance for falling short, both mine and others.

When we hold onto those past short comings we label people and ourselves in such rigid ways, that we end up only seeing ourselves and others in that way. So we enter a new year expecting the worst from ourselves and others. We limit them and us and restrict any growth.

I really don’t like labels. People can move forward and grow. We are all capable and with God’s help we will continue to grow in our faith walk and in life in general. No one would expect a kindergartner to do Algebra and neither would they stay at the kindergarten level. They will grow and learn. Adults can grow too. We learn from the past and give ourselves the grace to move forward despite making past mistakes. We should offer this grace to others as well. Putting the past behind and moving forward is not just a cliche, but is a part of living.

But what about worry? Are you going to mention that again? Yes. Yes, I am. I am still a work in progress in this area and a verse came to mind this morning as I thought about what to write. It’s from Matthew: Here’s Jesus’ words on the subject of worrying: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?(6:25-27, NIV).

Many of you might be familiar with this passage, but I think the best part is found further on in the reading of chapter 6 from verse 34;  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for today is its own trouble” (ESV).

Ahh, see there’s my biggest nemesis! Being anxious and worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. Today is enough for today. And this is also where letting go of the past comes in. I think much of what we base our worry and anxiety on is from our past. If something went wrong before, surely it will go wrong in the same way tomorrow, right? Well, no. Yesterday’s mistakes were so yesterday, tomorrow’s mistakes will be tomorrow’s, we need to be concerned about today. And when we focus on that, the part about not worrying about our stuff, as mentioned in verses 24-27 about food and clothes comes in to play. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Think about today. And oh yeah don’t worry about today. God’s got this. That might be a unofficial version of the text, but I think that is what it is saying. Just something to think about. God Bless -Nancy

Bloom

Bloom where you’re planted. Have you ever heard someone say that? What did you think when you heard it? Did you agree? Or did you feel a little bit anxious?  I would probably be in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we just need to stay put and learn to adapt and grow where ever we find ourselves. We need to persevere throughout the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in. But, then there are other times when we need to move on. Sometimes change can be good for us, but it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck where we are.

The known is comfortable and safe. We might not like our circumstances, but we are afraid to step out and try something new and different. For some of us we are afraid of getting hurt again. For others we are afraid of failure. Or we are afraid of rejection. So, we stay in our circumstances and become fruitless, rather than fruitful.

When my husband was in the military, we moved to new stations about every three to five years. Every move was a chance to start over, learning a new area, its culture, its best food places and stores, and changing churches. Some people might not understand this nomadic lifestyle, but I actually enjoyed it very much. I really like to travel and I like to discover new places. I actually get bored if I am in a place too long without finding something new to discover.

Over the years I have learned that to be fruitful I need others who will inspire me. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I would always begin with a search for a new church home. We would choose carefully, looking at doctrine and fellowship. There were times when churches shifted their focus and doctrines and we needed to find another church.

Now that we are retired, we don’t move as often and there have been times when we have grown complacent with church. It’s too easy to stay than to try somewhere new. We put up with doctrine and people who did little to encourage and spur us on to be fruitful. We needed to be challenged to move on and find others who spur us on to bloom.

Sometimes it is true that we do need to bloom where we find ourselves, but if we aren’t blooming then maybe we need to ask if God is telling us to step out of our comfortable complacency. Maybe we need a new church or new friends.

This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and found myself reminded how much Paul encourages this church. He was an encourager, who prayed for them and wrote encouraging letters to them. He sent others to encourage them and promised to visit them. We all need Paul’s in our life and we need to be Paul’s in other’s lives. we need good friends who will build us up not drain us. We are called to be fruitful, not fruitless and we need others to bloom who encourage us to bloom. The point is to bloom. Blooms produce fruit. Are you blooming?  -God Bless Nancy