“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!

Growing Your Soul Garden.

I have not written in almost a month, which that does bring a sting of sadness to my heart. I read a quote today that said, “our hearts wither when we love ourselves more than we love God.” Now, I am not stating that we should not love or focus on ourselves. That is vital. What I am saying is when we withdraw ourselves from a daily dosage of precious time with Jesus and we focus on our own plight, we begin to lose sight of the bigger picture. I have been in the pit of the valley my friend. It has been emotionally challenging and painful, but seeds have to root up out of the dirt before they can become beautiful flowers.

Today I want us to focus on this amazing Proverb. It is found in Chapter 8 of this book and the whole topic is on the word wisdom. I am going to go backwards just a tad bit to Proverbs 7. This chapter is all about the “Immoral Woman”. It depicts a woman who is seductive and full of sin and lures a married man into the darkness, knowing well the consequences and the damage he is leaving behind him. (All at once he follows her, as an ox goes into the slaughter or as a stag is caught fast. Proverbs 7:22). I was this man. I was attracted to the lust sin creates. I craved the taste of deception. My heart raced with the adrenaline of enticement. It was blinding and I slowly drifted into the wilderness. I searched and searched for ways to fill the void and pain I felt in my heart. I was reluctantly surprised that I let myself fall that hard. So here I am, laying on the cold, damp soil. But the goodness out of all of this, I am beginning to grow.

Now, back to Proverbs 8. This chapter is labeled in my New Living Translation bible as “Wisdom Calls for Hearing”. What a profound title! Wisdom calls for absolute quietness, seeking, and openness that God does provide. Wisdom in this chapter is portrayed as a woman who was present at the creation and works with the Creator. God is close to those who desire wisdom in their daily lives. Those who loathe wisdom are filled with deception and only crave death. Wisdom should affect every aspect of our entire life, beginning to end. Be sure to open corners of your life to God’s never ending direction and guidance.

The more a individual, especially a follower of Christ, fears and respects God, the more they will despise evil. Here is an important statement to keep close: “Love for God and sin CANNOT co-exist.” This is called a lukewarm faith. I fell deep into this entrapment. I picked up my bible, I rose my hands in prayer, but my mind was filled with lustful thoughts. My eyes were dimmed by the darkness sin instills. The hard thing I had to do was make a clean break with sin and commit myself completely to God. God states that wisdom has to be primary and fundamental in our present souls.

Jesus says, “Happy are those who listen to me, waiting for me outside my home. For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord. Today, if you are examining your soul garden and all you see is weeds, do not rip them out. Weeds need proper digging and pruning. It is painful, tedious, and a long process. Just remember though, a seed starts out small. With the proper watering and fertilizing of wisdom, love, joy, self control, and perseverance, your seeds with sprout into your life. Every person you encounter will become attracted to your soul garden, and you can help re-plant their’s as well.

“Dying to Self.”

“Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I am entering the wilderness, my friends. I just turned my back against the once known "civilization" my mind has created, and I'm stepping toe deep into loneliness again. I might seem odd or crazy to want to do this, believe me, my heart is scared. But, in order for me to completely grasp God. For me to fully express what my true identity is, how I feel of myself, I need to experience isolation. There are a few verses that have helped me with beginning this journey. I hope with the power of God they encourage you as well.

Focus on Heaven: “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth." Colossians‬ ‭3:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬
The first thing I am having to teach myself in this first week of isolation is, "what is my mind focusing on?" One things comes to my mind is, social media. I tend to waste so many minutes scrolling, posting, liking, etc. How is that vital to my personal time with God? I know 10 minutes a week is not acceptable. I just had to make a very difficult decision of giving it up. I am fasting my addiction over to God. I know some may think that's silly, but it's dangerous what I have been doing. I have created an idol of myself. I have been caring more of how the world sees rather than the One who created me in the first place. It's time that I focus on heaven. A Heavenly life is a righteous life.

Focusing on Faith, not fear: "Cast all your anxiety unto Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
So, following my downfall with living in a fearful life rather than faithful life, I have started to see the world in a negative light. I have woken up every morning these past few weeks just dreading the day. Apathetic of going to work, being angry on the long car trip there with the constant traffic. Feeling annoyed while at work because of the endless to-do lists just waiting for me as soon as I sit at my desk. I have completely shifted my focus to my earthly values, therefore causing me to be full of fear. A God driven person sees every day with hope. Goes through each path that lies ahead knowing God is their protector and guide. I want to be that! A faithful servant is one who will gain everlasting life, not everlasting fear.

Being a Doer for God: "Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. Deceiving yourselves!"
It is so easy for me to post this biblical post, lay my bible on my night stand, and delve into something that completely contradicts God's teaching. Shame on me if I use the word of God for my personal gain! The Bible is to guide us! To instruct us! To heal, protect, and grow us! The Bible isn't a tool to make our reputations seem greater. It's not just another book to read to pass time. It's to show and teach us how to be like Jesus! What we learn in our alone time, will help someone who is going through a rough time. What we pray by ourselves, will lead us to pray with someone else. It's important to be alone with God, grow with God, become who you are supposed to be with God, and go out into the world to help some other lost soul going through a spiritual drought! It's time we start taking God seriously and start dying to ourselves!

“Being You.”

I want to start this by saying this: "it's okay." Regardless of the season you're entering or exiting, not by the circumstances currently surrounding you, I mean it's okay just to be you. If you're feeling hollow, angry, or jealous. Feel that way. Embrace it. It's so unhealthy to pretend you're fine when your spirit is mentally dying. There are numerous things taking place in each of our lives that test our strength, character, and health. We need to be so cautious as to what we let into our hearts. This verse came at such a perfect timing in my life and I need to share it with you: “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:30‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have been experiencing a spiritual exhaustion this past week. I have taken my eyes off of the cross and focusing more on worldly perspectives. If you really want to know how I feel, I feel that my spirit is dying. I feel heaviness in my eyes, and hollowness in my chest. I feel my heart shriveling up because of what I've been feeding it: lies, envy, and anger. I am slowly drifting from the Truth. I am ashamed because I was just recently baptized. How could I possibly be doing this already? Some of the wisest followers I know told me that Satan works even harder to throw us off our paths when he knows we are becoming closer with Christ.

What I am trying to grasp myself is, I literally have the spirit of the living God residing in my lungs. He breathes what I breath. He sees my thoughts. He knows what words I will speak next.

I believe in the power of God. But, as the mere mortal I am, my own mere mind doesn't want to believe I have the power of God too. Now when I say that, I am not stating I have the physical powers of God. That is not true at all. What I am saying is, through the power of God, I can withstand any trial or temptation that comes my way. Correction, WE all do. I feel myself slowly going back into the wilderness of isolation. I feel like my back needs to be faced away from the world, and my eyes set once again on the cross. My hands need to let go of my own strength, and need to be lifted high to the One who gives me strength. It's time that I really face the storm that I keep creating within me. We all cannot control how certain people treat us, feel about us. But we can control how our Heavenly Father sees us. I leave you with this: whatever you believe, wherever you are at, just be you. Embrace who you are. Trust in the God who created you, not what other's opinions want you to be.

“Living with Integrity.”

“The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus really went to home on me today on my past. I feel like I've been in a spiritual slump this week, but Jesus took me down a detour of my past sinful self. I was analyzing my thoughts and I actions I displayed before, and I'm not proud of any of it. I realized that I used to be a "personality splitter." Meaning, I acted one way with the groups I encountered. When I was around people who were negative, I'd catch myself saying something downing just to get some feedback. Or if I was with a group who loves to gossip, I'd catch myself rambling words in my brain to create a poisonous outcome just to fit in. And at the end of every day, I'd sit, Bible open, just praising Jesus and asking for forgiveness, just to repeat the same pattern.

I feel so silly for being that way! I was always afraid of being my real self. I wanted people to see different versions of me so I would receive approval. Do you know what that got me? Disappointment. There's just one verse and word I want to leave you with and three reasonings why Jesus wants us to live a life of integrity.

  1. A life of integrity leads to a hopeful future: "The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.” Proverbs‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

That verse speaks volume to me. I have been striving to be a woman that resembles integrity. To be an example of a woman who exempts godly measures. To pray for my enemies, to not only read the word, but to apply it physically to my life. As I become a wife and mother one day, my children will see the path I've lived, and I'm praying right now they would want to live that way too! Our children need to be showing a life of respect not neglect!

2. When we show our enemies integrity, we show Jesus's love: "I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever." Psalms 41:11-12. It is one of the most trying acts of faith we endure daily of choosing to show integrity to those we have resentment. I have learned from personal experience that showing complete hatred to someone we have hurt is literally murdering ourselves. We burn a hole in our souls with Jesus and strip our true identity away when we show any act of worldliness to our foe. I recently, actually today, realized living that way is so exhausting. We all know that acting out purposefully towards someone who has hurt us is doing nothing. That person does not know or care about how you feel. But, Jesus does. And he told me and now you, love your enemies, be kind to your enemies, and pray for them. Showing that act of integrity grows your heart to love more and it grows your heart closer to Jesus.

3. A heart of integrity beats the strongest:“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.” Proverbs‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬
The enemy is never at rest, even when you are. When your bible is staying closed, collecting dust, your heart becomes more vulnerable to his devious plans. Your mind begins to create thoughts that do not come from heaven. We need to stay near our lord, my friends! It's better to be on your knees in prayer, than on your feet in despair. Let Jesus guide you down the path of integrity and strength. Let God shape your mind, heart, and spirit to be of heavenly things, not earthly.

Let us all remember this: we are a chosen few. Following the challenging, narrow path God has created is not easy, ever. It takes hard work, discipline, and faith to conquer every trial. Just when you survive one, another creeps along. Each trial we face tests our character, builds our strength, and grows our integrity.