“No Partiality.”

I absolutely love James 2 because this chapter is basically about one main thing: FAVORITISM! I do not know about you, but I cannot stand favoritism! Even if I am the one being favored! There is no joy in it! I’ll explain why I feel this way.

A few years back I was extremely involved in my youth group. I was very close to my youth leaders and a bunch of the girls in the same group I considered my best friends. Every Wednesday our youth leader put us on a rotation on who would open up the night, pick the worship music, or even do the lesson. He would sometimes ask for the following week and my hand seemed to always be raised. I did not think much of it. I have always had a passionate heart for serving. It brings me great joy to serve and bring others joy. Week after week though, less volunteering hands were raised and it began to become repetitive of me being in the spotlight. My mind slowly realized that I was being “favored.” After I left that youth group, I completely stepped down from serving. I was doing it out of self ambition, and reputation. Like, a slap on the back or a “good job!” I wasn’t really giving back to the One who deserved all the praise. James talks about favoritism in all levels, as well as faith with works. We cannot possibly

Another story I have is when I was getting back from working out at the walking trail I usually went every evening, I noticed this family of 4 was standing on the curb right outside a Subway, while holding a sign that said a dialogue of hopelessness. I began to feel led to serve them. I went inside Subway and bought two plain subs. As I walked outside to greet the family, I witnessed them all getting into their car and driving away. I began to feel a little angry because I realized that they mostly likely con people into thinking they’re dirt poor or just want “handouts”. I stated to walk back to my car when I glanced over at a nearby trash can and an old man was digging desperately through the trash. My heart felt heavy for this man. I looked down at my subs and immediately knew what I had to do. I bravely walked over to the man and said, “I’m not hungry. Please take these”. The man graciously took them and said a prayer for me. I knew in that moment God was acknowledged, and I served the humbled heart.

“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.” James‬ ‭2:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When.

Sometimes we just crave the “when’s” in life.

“When I get this job…”

“When I find the right man/woman…”

“When I pray this specific prayer…”

I will be honest with you, I’m in the guilty party of wanting the when’s. Sometimes though, those “when’s” are more like selfish “wants”.

I often catch myself feeling some heavy negative emotions that cause a selfish stir in my heart. I even get angry at God in my “seasons of waiting.” Which again, I have been lead into. My heart yearns constantly for things my own mind thinks I’m ready for. As always though, our thoughts processes are outweighed by the promises of God. He knows our hearts so much more than we do! So how could we even begin to question his ways or become a little impatient if I may be so blunt? That’s just how the human mind is. We live in a incredibly narcissistic society. A high percentage of people will do anything to get what they desire, especially with the usage of manipulation and fear. That’s not how God wants it! I love the stories of Abraham, Sarah and Hannah. Both sets of people desired a baby! With the gnashing of teeth and screaming cries of prayer, they both obtained a child. The more honoring and inspirational part though is, they gave back to God. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son to show his heart still belonged completely to God. Hannah, have her son back to the temple, only seeing him once a year at festivals. How unselfish that is, right? So that’s how we should be. Our “when’s” need to align with God’s “thy will be done.” His ways are better, higher, and faithful to the last.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” Psalms‬ ‭130:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Perseverance”.

This past month has been a whirlwind of changes and growth. God has revealed so much to me in what my flesh is still desiring and what my spirit needs to desire. This morning I read this powerful “sticky statement” (a statement that sticks out the most in an author’s piece or work) and it struck the rift I have been feeling in my spirit right out: “God leads us all into situations, circumstances, and experiences that break me, but mold me into a better version of myself.” We all can agree trials and tribulations are down right awful. None of us like the feeling of disappointment, failure, or my favorite word this week: perseverance. Today, I want to write to you what I have learned from our friend of the bible James, and how trials should be counted as “great joy” in our personal walk with God.

I entered into the dating arena again with hope in my heart and excitement in my brain. The last relationship I had been in was almost 2 years ago! I have been fresh out of the game for quite some time. I will tell you on a personal note that the last 2 years of being single were the best couple years of my life. I grew so intimately with God, learned heavily about forgiveness, and I found a love for myself I never knew I had instilled within me. I prayed for months to share what I learned with the opposite sex (of course, a relationship). God eventually did lead me to someone who was incredible. His mind, body, and soul attracted me so profoundly. I desired to be in this persons’ presence, sadly, more than I did with God. The relationship abruptly ended, and I surprisingly did not leave the relationship empty or broken. I felt two things I have never felt in my life over a break up: hope and peace. I quickly began to understand and truly see how much work God has done within my heart when I had to endure multiple trials of perseverance. James, incredible book of the bible, teaches us that very thing.

James 1:2-3:

Take Hope When Tests Come

My Christian brothers, you should be happy when you have all kinds of tests. You know these prove your faith. It helps you not to give up. 

What a bold statement, right? “Be happy when you have all kinds of tests”. I am currently enrolled in school, and I can gladly tell you I do not find any joy in tests. In fact, I LOATHE tests! But… what would be the point if we did not have tests? How would I be able to see if I understand what I am learning and able to retain it if I do not endure tests of learning? The same exact principle is used when it comes to our faith. We are commanded by our Lord to read His word and apply to our lives so that when we do enter into “trials of tribulation” we can have a hope that surpasses all worldly understanding. We can have joy in knowing that we can endure all attacks because of the living Spirit inside of us.

James 1:4

Learn well how to wait so you will be strong and complete and in need of nothing.

Patience is one of the most used words in the bible. We are called many, many times to be patient. I sometimes like to explore many different versions of the bible, and one version replaced patience with “long suffering.” Wow! My mind immediately went to the cross. Jesus endure an immense amount of long suffering. He was so faithful to God’s will, even though He was in great anguish. That powerful, loving example is what Jesus expects of us. Waiting is an act of obedience; trusting God to do the possible when contradictions around us say impossible.

James 1:6

You must have faith as you ask Him. You must not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave which is pushed around by the sea.

Trials are stepping stones in our faith. We must endure pain and tribulation, so that we will rely on God more and more. Just like the butterfly must complete the whole stage of metamorphosis, we must endure the whole trial of perseverance. We must allow God to mold us into His perfect character!

“The Process of the Butterfly.”

Butterflies are one of the most fascinating creatures God created, in my little opinion. Then entire entity of how a butterfly first starts as a Caterpillar. Just wandering around, exploring this vast world we live in. Venturing up soft, green stems to get its nutrients provided by the plants rooted in the ground or leaves covering the bright, blue skies. I love Spring time for sure. That is when you will see various amounts of these little missionaries fluttering around the beautiful flowers sprouting out after the shuddering cold winters have faded. I suppose you could say that I went through my little “morphing” into my personal butterfly. I remember the year 2016 like it was yesterday. It was one of the most painful, life challenging years of my existence (well, so far at least). I did not realize God has placed me in a hollow, cold cocoon for a purposeful reason He is still do this day revealing to me.

Take a look at how the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is demonstrated: “Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow. After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis. Although, from the outside, the 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really a time of rapid change. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge. The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks. This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two.”

Pretty amazing, right? What an incredible journey! This could also relate to our personal walks with Christ. When growing in our faith, we have to start off small. We cannot fully grasp God’s teaching by devouring solid foods with baby souls. We have to allow God to train our minds and hearts daily. It takes patience, diligence, and self discipline. I had to do that throughout 2016. I desired a more intimate, deep rooted relationship with Christ. He already knew that. He desired to be closer to me. I wanted Him to flow through my veins and feel His touch deeper than my own skin. So, my own “metamorphosis” happened. God enclosed me in His arms. While that incredible intimacy moved me, it was a heart wrenching process. I had to allow God to cut out areas in my heart that were hindering me to grow. It may take a caterpillar to morph into a gorgeous butterfly in only ten days, this process of total Christ transformation took much, much longer. But I wouldn’t trade for anything. All of those nights I clenched my chest while crying my eyes dry were healing. Those days I gnashed my teeth and fell to my knees due to spiritual deprivation were days I was falling at the throne of Abba. Each passing day, God was adding color. Strength. Beauty. Love. Himself. And here I am. I broke out of that spiritual cocoon and I am flying high. I can see the clouds bursting in front of me. I can feel the cool breath of God blowing through my wings. I feel nothing but peace. I am here. I am alive. I am a butterfly of God’s garden.

“Seasons.”

Well, another year is coming to a close. Twelve whole months have just rolled by in an instant. This may come off cliche, but something about this year has been different. I remember each physical as well as spiritual season vividly. I remember each feeling, each lesson, and each verse God put forth in my sight. I would love to write to you just how the seasons we have experienced naturally affected me.

Spring: The flowers were beginning to bloom. The grass surrounding me beamed a bright green color. Each bird flying above me in the baby blue sky chirped different types of melodies. Yet, with all these new, positive changes I felt the sting of my pain. I was lonely, confused, and felt forgotten. I thought I had mended a relationship that was on the verge of “ship-wrecked.” I am here. I am out in the open, ready to receive God. Ready for His nature design to speak into my deaf ears and cracking soul. I am here. Raising my hands to the Holy One, awaiting His presence to pour down on me like a cool rain shower. I am here. Seeking His heart first, knowing all things will be added to me. Verse: “I will seek His kingdom, then everything else will be added to me.” Matthew 6:33

Summer: The day had arrived. The summer heat was not the only thing burning today. I felt my soul igniting like a flame, keeping my insides warm and alive. I opened the door to my new future; a new hope. I was greeted with many hugs and bright smiles. I heard a dull roar of applause in the huge auditorium, filling my heart with love and eyes with salty tears. I was ready. God had lead me here. I sat into the small pool, feeling the embrace of a kind hand. I closed my eyes, feeling God close in on me. I submerged into the water, as if God and I were intertwined, becoming one. I arose from the water feeling a different feeling. I felt like a bride who just kissed her husband. I became a lily among the thistles, never shriveled or losing color. Verse: “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women.” Song of Songs 2:2

Fall: I watched the dead leaves fall from the huge oak trees as if I were staring at a reflection. I had let my flame dim. I began to develop hard emotions: guilt, shame, fear. My sadness consumed me like a tidal wave, crashing against my aching bones and pulling me into the deep, dark waters. I was losing grip of the light. I saw God’s hand reach out for me, but I kept getting distracted by the shininess of sin. My eyes began to grow heavy; the color of my skin pale. I turned to many things to fill this empty void, but I was only creating a bigger gaping hole in my soul. Yet through it all… God was with me. Verse: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Psalms 139:7. 

“Spiritual Wounds: Cleansing.”

I remember being a kid. Yeah, I know I’m technically still a kid (just a bit taller, and more developed). But the days where I woke up with massive “bed head syndrome” and wore the same pair of shorts and play T-shirt 3 days in a row, excited to discover some new grand adventure just awaiting for me in my own back yard. I can recall always grabbing the nearest rugged bag and packing a few snacks, a flash light, and a book. I would then venture out the old tree house and camp out for the most of the day, creating some sort of story and escaping my own little reality for awhile. I also can recall in my so called “adventures” I ended up getting scraped up by falling, jumping, or climbing onto our “Climbing Tree” that was just outside my window. My mom or dad would have to examine my wound, disinfect it so all the damaging bacteria would be cleansed out, and bandage it right up. I felt so comforted and healed after each wound I developed was properly taken care of.

But sadly, here I am. An actual adult facing my reality adventures. Whether it’s going to work and being yelled at by a rude customer or getting onto for not executing my job properly, or to many broken end relationships. I have dealt with many wounds. The sad thing is, not each one did I properly clean. Each one I would face the pain very briefly, and cover it up with temporary, sinful pleasures or another relationship. I just reached a climax into these “uncleaned wounds” pattern and it broke me entirely. I discovered that God has been trying to tell me something all along: “Covering up infected wounds won’t provide any healing, just more collateral damage for the next wound.”

I have always been the kind of girl who HATES pain. I try to avoid it at any cost. I stay away from dangerous sports or drinking parties because I am afraid my life will be in fatal danger. Which, that is a good mind set to have. But when it comes to facing our wounds developed into a broken relationships, secret sins, or self loathing, I have been even more eager to avoid facing pain. Instead of living in fear, God DESIRES us to face our pain and work through it. I know He understands everyone’s healing process varies, but through God’s grace and the strength He provides, we can persevere and gain in what is called a “once-and-for-all-healing.”

“If we confess out sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us for our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

I am not saying at all this is easy. It took me YEARS to finally accept that pain is apart of our lives, especially in the walk of Christ. Jesus endured all of this kind of pain, and was incredibly faithful. Why? Because He trusted in the One who knows all, sees all, loves all. Our cleansing starts when we reach the end of ourselves. When the wound grows deep into our veins, throbbing deep and we feel our souls dying. Jesus wants you to be healed. Will you do the very hard thing and just letting go and trusting?

“He heals those who have a broken heart. He heals their sorrows.” Psalms 147:3

“Designed for Gratitude.”

We are vastly again, entering the holiday season. When I was a wee bit younger, this time of the year brought me so much joy. The cooler weather (well, the minimum cool air we get here in Florida), the songs about being jolly and bright, and being surrounded by loved ones and most of all, GIFTS. Yet, as I have gotten older and now the age 22, my “holiday perspective” I will call it, has drastically changed. I no longer desire to receive, I desire to give. I desire to be full of gratitude. Which displays while I am calling this blog post ” Designed for Gratitude.” God is a vast, mysterious God. But he is also welcoming and full of love. So, it is no wonder he designed our hearts to be full of praise, worship, and gratitude. So the question you may ask is, “why are we designed for gratitude?”

1) Being grateful makes you happier and healthier.

  • It is easy for all of us to be ungrateful. Magnitudes of bad things happen constantly. It is easy to fall in the trap of fear, doubt, and bitterness. In Psalms 7, David was faced with this very thing. He was in a dangerous pursuit against King Saul. Many acquisitions were made against David about him overthrowing Saul by killing him so he could have the thrown himself. David could have easily become hateful and full of vengeance, but he instead did something spectacular. He decided to give thanks to God instead.
  • The proper response when facing adversity is prayer. Remembering that God is just, loving, kind. He is there in the darkest hour. Your broken praises are heard, and He loves you.
  • 2) Being grateful helps you see more blessings.
  • When we all feel our lowest or our problems seem endless, it is important to take heart.
  • When we choose to seek gratitude above our troubles, we begin to see God’s work. In Psalms 33, David reminds us that because God is our Creator, everything we seek needs to be aligned with His perfect will. He is worthy of our praise. Because God is forever faithful and his word is dependable, we can rejoice, sing, and give thanks.
  • “Always give thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
  • “Be full of joy all the time. Never stop praying. In everything give thanks. This is what God wants you to do because of Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
  • 3) Because there are sad consequences of ingratitude.
  • Webster’s Dictionary defines “Ingratitude” as: “Forgetfulness of, or poor return for, kindness received.” It can also be defined as not appreciating or valuing what you have, or have been given. Unexpressed gratitude is also ingratitude!
  • When we get caught up in our worldly obligations, we begin to develop a worldly perspective. We take our eyes off the cross, and our hearts begin to harden. Daily we face hardships and it is easy to want “more stuff.”
  • Paul wrote to us in the book of Colossians Ch. 2 verse 7 about the importance of being rooted in Christ. He uses the analogy of plants receiving nourishment while being rooted into the soil, so should our own souls be rooted in the Word, so that no enemy can uproot us and let us wither. Have your roots planted deep in Christ. Grow in Him. Get your strength from Him. Let Him make you strong.

So this holiday season, you may be dreading it or excited. But one thing is for certain no matter what circumstance: “We are designed for gratitude towards our Holy God.”