“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1.17
Every one I know, including myself, likes to receive gifts. James encourages us with this powerful statement: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above … ” Is your mind racing like mine is right now? I am thinking about the good gift(s) and the perfect gift that I have received from my Heavenly Father. I do not wish to be simplistic or redundant, but here are some of the gifts that I have received from God: (1) life itself, (2) eternal life, (3) the health to serve Him each day, (4) a wife whom I love dearly, (5) children who have brought so much joy to my life, (6) grandchildren and great grandchildren that are a bonus from God, (7) a wonderful church in which to serve, (8) a job that allows me at my age to continue serving God, and the list is almost endless.
I want to come now to the perfect gift that is from above. The only perfect gift I have ever received is the person of Jesus Christ. I must never question His perfection. To do so is to put myself in a place of weakened faith. When there is a question regarding something that God does through His Son, the question is on my end because God’s way is perfect (Psalm 18.30).
Notice how James describes God in these phrases: (1) the Father of lights, (2) God is not variable, and (3) God does not cast a changing shadow. One translation says this: “he never changes or casts shifting shadows.” In other words, whatever God does, He does well, with no attempt to deceive or trick us, and He is not changeable. That is the kind of God I want to know more intimately. How about you? Just my thoughts …
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3.13
Does it seem to you that as Christians we are asked to put up with a lot from other Christians? Why can’t I just be myself? I don’t want to be a phony! Have those thoughts ever gone through your mind? I’m sure some of us have answered yes to that question.
So what is Paul telling us to do here? I have a choice when another believer has wronged me. I can either just “be myself” or I can be Christ-like! Who would you rather interact with? Someone who is just “being themselves”, or someone whose very demeanor is a reflection of Christ? Paul is telling us, “Be Christ-like! Be forbearing. Be forgiving!”
I think the strongest argument he makes is this one: “if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” When you think of all that Christ had to deal with when He forgave you, forgiving someone else for whatever the offense may be, is a very small matter in comparison Let’s not make excuses for why we cannot forgive someone. But rather let’s remember the grace and mercy extended to us and with willing heart forgive one who has offended us. Can I suggest that such action on our part will display Christ to a brother or sister in the Lord, but it will also show a watching world that Christ really has made a difference in our lives! Just my thoughts …
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5.44
These words of Jesus to His disciples must have come as difficult words to hear. They were facing opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducees. And Jesus was telling them to love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. I don’t know about you, but that would seem pretty difficult to do. While we may not face similar enemies like the Lord’s disciples, we will have those in our lives who do not like who we are in Christ, what we stand for, and the way we live our lives.
So let’s take a closer look at the words of Jesus and what they mean to us. “Love your enemies … ” You say, “I can’t do that. You don’t know what they did to me.” Stay with me here … love them for who they are, not for what they did. What they did is an action. Who they are identifies them as a person. Jesus said to love THEM. Next He says to “bless them … ” Do something for them they would never expect. What does that accomplish? It shows the presence of God at work in your heart. “do good to them” goes hand in hand with “bless them”. When God is at work in us and through us, the result is one that is totally the opposite of what the ungodly world would expect.
The final thing Jesus says is to “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do of everything that Jesus has said. How so? In order to pray for someone, we must hold no anger in our hearts toward them. In order to pray for someone who is persecuting us, we must look beyond the pain they are causing and see the eternal need that exists. These words of Jesus call all of us to a lifestyle that is impossible unless He is living through us. Just my thoughts …
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (4) And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Roans 5.3-5
“glory in tribulations … ” Wow … that seems difficult to imagine that anyone would glory in tribulations. But then we read the next phrase and begin to understand the value of tribulations. No one that I know of enjoys tribulations. So then, how do tribulations work patience? When you and I have struggled with something – a tribulation – long enough, we realize that there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. At that point we have two choices. We can either continue fretting over it and stay frustrated or we can say to God, “I can’t handle this. Give me the patience to release it and turn it over to you.” I am suggesting that is the way tribulations work patience.
What next? I like this translation: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given unto us.” Consider this thought. As we endure the things God brings to or allows in our path, those things produce character. Isn’t that what we all want? A better character? That’s what we want for our children. And that is what God wants for us! Let’s allow those things God has placed in our lives to produce the character that will glorify Him and reflect His image to this lost world. Just my thoughts …
“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 54.17
Did you know the devil has you in his crosshairs? Did you know that if he pulls the trigger, God’s got your back? “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper … ” Satan may have a variety of weapons that he wants to use against you, but remember, NO weapon that is formed against you will prosper. That is not MY promise to you. That is God’s promise to you. I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that God’s got my back. He isn’t just standing by, watching Satan take his best shot at me. He is BETWEEN Satan’s weapon and me, and He is my ultimate shield. Does this mean that I won’t be attacked? No it doesn’t. What it does mean is that Satan’s attack will not succeed. I need to remember that my heavenly Father always has my best interests at heart.
“This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord … ” What is our heritage? God’s protection is our heritage. How could we ask any more of the Lord than this? He gives us something that those who come after us will be able to observe. God has ALWAYS been there for us and He will always be thee for them.
“ … their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” The ability for you and me to live for God in a righteous manner does not come from some superhuman effort on my part. It comes from the God who wants me to live for Him. I must remember that with His calling to a righteous life is His enabling me to live a righteous life. He never asks me to do anything that He is unwilling to enable me to do. Keep that tucked away in your thinking. Just my thoughts …
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43.2
I remember several occasions when I was a child that my dad would be driving in the car and come to a road that was blocked by floodwaters. I was petrified that he might try to drive through the waters. He never did, for which I am thankful. So, when I read this verse, I am greatly encouraged. I know the verse is not talking about floodwaters, but about the circumstances in our lives that threaten us like flood waters. I suspect that most if not all who are reading this have experienced those life circumstances. Here is God’s promise: “I will be with thee.” How many times have we asked, “Where is God when …?”, only to discover that He was there all the time. You aren’t the only one who has ever felt forsaken. While hanging on the cross Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” God had not gone anywhere. It just seemed that way!
“ … when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned … ” Talk to the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They experienced this very thing and came out of the literal fire with no evidence that they had ever been in it. Even Nebuchadnezzar had to admit, “It looks like Jesus is in there with them.” (Burton translation) You and I won’t be going through any “fires” as such, but we will experience some life circumstances that will seem like fire. Aren’t you glad to know that God’s concern for you and protection of you includes even the worst conceivable circumstances? “neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Amen! Just my thoughts …
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8.18
Every person reading these words … every person that you or I know has experienced suffering – whether physically or emotionally and probably both. I don’t know anyone who wants to experience suffering. I have known many who have experienced what seemed like a lifetime of suffering.
“the sufferings of this present time … ” If you are engaged in full time ministry, you see people in your ministry who are going through unimaginable suffering. If you are a fellow believer and you interact with other believers, you have friends and acquaintances who are experiencing suffering right now. In this verse, Paul is contrasting the present time with that which is to come: “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” It is unrealistic to think that we will ever reach a time in this life when there will be no more suffering. How many times have you walked by the casket of a loved one and said, “Well, they aren’t suffering anymore”? Suffering ends when life ends.
But if you and I can ever learn to filter time through the prism of eternity, then perspective will change. The whole event called life is about perspective. When a child hears a parent say, “Next Saturday we are going to the zoo,” and it is just now Monday, every thing is measured by how long it is ‘til Saturday. “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” We don’t know when that will be. As a chaplain in the hospital, I hear patients say often, “I’m ready to go. I just want to get out of this suffering.” They have a sense that the end is near. Can I issue us both a challenge today? Can we look at our lives, and all that causes suffering, and ask God to help us filter our time here on earth through the prism of eternity and realize that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Just my thoughts …
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; ” Psalm 33.18
What do you think it means when the psalmist says, “ … the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him … ”? If you actually believe that, does it change anything in your daily living? You and I know that children behave differently when they know their parents are watching. Should it not make a difference in the life of God’s child to KNOW that the Heavenly Father is watching? If I am willing to acknowledge that He is watching me, then it enhances the probability that I will fear Him. Though I have stated this often, fearing God is not living with such trepidation that if I step out of line He will somehow strike me with a bolt of lightening or some other horrible consequence. Fearing God is simply an acknowledgment of God’s greatness and for us to stand in awe of who He is. I am awed by the knowledge of His presence. I am awed that He chooses to interact in my life everyday. I am awed by His love that is not based on my performance but on the action of His divine will to just love me.
“ … the eye of the LORD is upon them that … hope in his mercy;” Since God is watching us and knows that we fear Him, He also knows that we have great hope in His mercy toward us. We remember that mercy is not getting what we do deserve from God. When you and I live each day in light of the information contained in this verse, it allows us to glorify God in all that we do and ti allows the lost world to notice that God really does make a difference in our lives. Just my thoughts …
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4.29-30
I wonder if we realize how important words are? How important OUR words are? Paul speaks here about corrupt communication. The word corrupt means to speak in an evil or morally depraved way. No believer should be guilty of this manner of communication, no matter how angry they are or how deeply they feel they have been wronged. Paul quickly qualifies what he means: “but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” The key word here is “edify”. You may or may not know the meaning of the word. It is important that we grasp how that word edify must qualify our words. Literally, the word “edify” means “to build the house of another.” Clearly it is a positive thing. My words, your words must be words that will build up the one to whom we are speaking. Even if we are in a correcting mode, we can still speak in a manner that will build up.
Paul further speaks to this matter when he says: “that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” How do we minister grace to another with our words? We measure what we say, how we say it, and we think before we speak. A tongue without a bridle is as wild as a horse without a bridle. Neither one works very well.
I think it is interesting that Paul links our communication with the issue of not grieving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is very sensitive and always wants the very best experiences for us. Therefore, He is grieved when we allow corrupt communication to come from our lips. Let’s make a concentrated effort to put the Spirit in charge of our lives each day, including our tongues, so that we can and will glorify God each day. Just my thoughts …
“There is no one holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. ” 1 Samuel 2.2
The author of 1 Samuel seems to state the obvious, but I wonder how many times we have acknowledged the truths he states to ourselves. “There is no one holy as the LORD … ” Remember there is absolute holiness and that is God. Then there is relative holiness and that is what we are. When Peter said, “Be ye holy; for I am holy … ” God was calling for holy lives, not perfect lives. When you and I wonder about God’s view of sin, remember that absolute holiness cannot be in the presence of sin.
“… there is none beside thee … ” It is totally inappropriate for us to entertain the idea that there is anyone else like our God. He is not A god, but He is THE God. When we recognize the uniqueness of our God and His relationship with us, that will create a different mindset for us.
“ … neither is there any rock like our God.” What does it mean to you to say that God is your rock? When I think of God as my rock, I think that my Rock is immovable. No matter what kind of issue or pressure may come to me, my Rock is immovable. Not only is He immovable, but He is also dependable. I can rest on Him with no fear that He will ever give way under pressure. In addition to being immovable and dependable, He is unchangeable. There is a certain confidence in consistency. So there you have unchangeable truth ; (1) God is holy, (2) God is unique, and (3) and God is the Rock on which you can always count. Just my thoughts …