Arise, Shine!! (Part 2)

As I share this series, it is my prayer that you will be moved to discover and stir up the gifts that God has placed within you.

Our theme scripture for the series is 2 Timothy 1:6-7. I want us to focus on verse 6 for the moment.

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. (2 Tim. 1:6, KJV)

The Greek word for “gift” is “charisma” and occurs in the Bible 17 times. The majority of these scriptural references to the “charismas” can be found in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. Our knowledge about spiritual gifts is obviously important as we see Paul, in his first letter to the believers in Corinth, telling them that he would be negligent in his duty to them if he did not remove any ignorance they still had concerning spiritual gifts.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. (1 Cor. 12:1)

He continues further in that same chapter to outline some of the spiritual gifts.

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Cor 12:4-11, emphasis mine)

These verses answer several questions. Today, we will answer the first 4 questions.

1. What are these gifts (charismas)?

I have highlighted the gifts in red in the scripture passage above. These are not all of the spiritual gifts. We see others mentioned further down in 1 Corinthians 28b and Romans 12:6-8, which I have again highlighted in red below.

………. then gifts of healings, helps, governments (administrations), diversities of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:28b, emphasis mine)

6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; (7) Or ministry, let us use it in our ministering: he who teaches, in teaching(8) he who exhorts, in exhortation: he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom. 12:6-8)

I just want to highlight further three of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12 above for better understanding. Ministry is the same as service e.g., ushering, hospitality and other acts of service. Mercy is compassion. So, compassion is a gift rather than a natural inclination. Exhortation refers to the gift of encouragement. Yes, there is such a gift. I first heard of it shortly after I became a believer, I was giving a young man from the church I was attending a lift in my car and in the midst of us having a conversation he said to me, “You have the gift of encouragement. Don’t lose it.” Of course, as soon as I reached home I went straight to my Bible concordance (no online Bible in those days :)) to find out if such a gift really exists. In my searching and cross referencing, I was led to Romans 12:8. I was functioning in a gift I didn’t even know existed! We will see how this was possible right now. Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 to find the answer to our second question.

2. Where do the gifts come from?

In other words, how do we get these gifts? We are told 5 times in 1 Corinthians 12 verses 8, 9 & 11 that these gifts are given by Holy Spirit according to His will. That is, He chooses who gets what gift(s). Which solves the mystery of how I could have been operating in the gift of encouragement without knowing it existed. It was a gift given to me by Holy Spirit and was now a part of who I was and how I was as a person. It had nothing to do with how good or bad I was but it was based on God’s purpose for my life.

3. Who are gifts given to?

Verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 12 tells us the gifts are given to “every man”. Here “man” is synonymous with humans so includes both men and women. Also, Paul was not writing to the public at large but to a group of believers, so we can conclude that “every man” means “every believer”. This verse actually says “the manifestation of the Spirit”, in making reference to the gifts that are listed subsequently, which is very insightful. A manifestation is “the action or fact of showing something”. Other words for “manifestation” are “indication”, “evidence” and “proof”. This brings us to question #4.

4. Why are the gifts given?

Based on what I just shared from verse 7, the gifts are physical evidence or proof of the existence of Holy Spirit and by extension of God the Father and Jesus the Son. As believers, we are expected to make these gifts evident so unbelievers can know that God is indeed real and very much alive. A case in point is Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:16-30). Through the “manifestation” of the spiritual gift of the word of knowledge the woman was convicted and believed in the deity of Jesus Christ and began immediately to spread the good news (witnessed about what she had experienced) so others could also share in that same experience. This is the power of the spiritual gifts we have been given.

Be sure to join me next week as we continue to explore the spiritual gifts and the importance of stirring them up!

Shalom.

 

Arise, Shine!! (Part 1)

Dear Transformation Today blog site Followers, it is my earnest prayer, in accordance with the prophetic word God has laid on my heart, that 2020 will be for you a year of new beginnings. May old things pass away and all things become new – thinking as God thinks, doing as God requires, His ways becoming your ways. Severing old destructive relationships and forging new life building and preserving ones, stripping away old destructive habits and seeking God’s strength and applying the power of His Word so that you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 2020 can be a year of prosperity and good success or a year of frustration and failure. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Our decisions always have consequences. Ask God for His wisdom and allow your steps to be ordered by Him.

You may have noticed a slowing down in the frequency with which I have been publishing blogs in the latter part of 2019. This will continue into 2020 as God has directed that I focus attention on compiling the blogs already published into several books. It’s been 88 blogs to date!! Really couldn’t have imagined it was so many. I guess that was God’s way of getting me to write my books – allowing me to use small chunks of time rather than always complaining that I don’t have the time. In fact, when God spoke to me years ago about writing books and knowing my busy schedule, I constantly worried about not being able to find the time. But now, over time, without my even realizing it, I not only have one book but several books. I just need to edit and make them ready for publication. God will provide the publisher and the funds. I have no doubt about that. Of course, I will keep you updated through this site and other media as each one becomes available. This is the legacy I am leaving behind.

This “Arise, Shine” series I am about to start is inspired by the Word the Lord gave to my family that 2019 was to be a “year of awakening”. It truly was!! Part of the Word instructed that we stir up our gifts as Paul instructed Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 1:6. In October 2019, I was approached by the Women’s Ministry of my church to be the speaker at a breakfast they were hosting, the biggest they had held to date. I was humbled and felt more than privileged to have been selected for such an auspicious occasion. Imagine how amazed I was when they shared that the theme was “Stir Up the Gifts of God Within You”!! Actually, this is exactly why I was able to accept this speaking invitation. Let me tell you, God has brought me a long, long way.  For years, I was afraid (that is an understatement, I am talking about fear that cripples) of speaking in public. But God………………………… He wouldn’t stop putting me in situations where I was forced to speak in public until I realized I had a gift of teaching and began to grow in confidence. What is more ironic, is the prophetic call God has placed on my life, which was preceded by ministering as a praise and worship leader. What two ministries can be more public than worship and prophecy??!! And what can be more fear provoking than singing in public and speaking forth messages from God??!! God does have a sense of humour. The point though is that I could have chosen to give in to my fear and not stir up my gifts. The two scriptures below, together with the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), convicted my heart of the need to step out with greater confidence into my calling.  This blog is just one of the outcomes of this decision. Our gifts are not for us but for ministry to bless and equip others.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1, emphasis mine)

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mk. 8:35 – see also Matt. 16:25; Lk. 9:24, 17:33)

It is my prayer that as I share this series, you will be moved to discover and stir up the gifts that God has placed within you. God is a purposeful God. Nothing happens by chance with Him. He has a reason for everything He does and says. Even as I began thinking that I would stop publishing these blogs and concentrate solely on compiling my books, He reminded me of this teaching and directed that I share in this forum. He has a divine appointment with you to make a shift in your life through a shift in your mindset. You never have an encounter with God and remain the same. God’s Word has transformative power but we have an active part to play in this power becoming a reality in our lives. It is the doers of the word (work) rather than just the hearers who will come into all the fullness that God has purposed for them (Jas 1:22-23, 25; Rom. 2:13).  Let this be our determination for 2020:

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world. I am the light of the world. (John 9:4-5)

The series will begin in full force next week. Please prepare your hearts and minds.

Shalom.

Insights from the Book of James (9)

Hi to my faithful followers and those joining my blog for the first time! This is the final in my series on the Book of James. I didn’t intend for it to stretch over such a long period but life happens. Thanks be to God for His patience with our weaknesses.

While doing my initial review of chapter 5, it seemed so fragmented. My first impression was that James must have been running out of time and wanted to be sure he touched on all the remaining issues that were of concern to him before time ran out. In my second round of reading, I recognized that in verses 1 – 6 James was continuing from the end of chapter 4 with his warning about pride and arrogance. I had to remind myself that this letter was being addressed to the early Christian churches and are a warning to us that many of the same issues relate to the Body of Christ today. There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9b). What pertained to the early church pertains to the church today.

Let us always remember that it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil and not money itself (1 Tim. 6:10). Timothy goes on to say that this love of mammon caused some believers to stray from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Hence, the common Jamaican saying “you get rich and switch”. We are again reminded by James in the beginning of chapter 5 that money in the hands of those whose hearts are not fully surrendered to God can result in pride and arrogance. Some of the symptoms and signs of this include oppression of the poor and those who are in the hire of the rich. James clearly spells out in dramatic imagery how Father God views such actions and what the ultimate end of such persons will be!! With riches comes responsibility to use those riches wisely and to remember from whence they came. Do not be too quick to want to be rich as it can lead to great temptation and ultimately destruction if your heart is not properly established to deal with such power.

In the rest of chapter 5, James outlined to believers in the early church some of the critical truths for living a victorious Christian life. I encourage us to be instructed likewise.

  1. Exercise patience with perseverance knowing that your latter end is in God’s hands.
  2. See suffering for Christ as an honour, a privilege. Christ is no man’s debtor and you will truly receive your reward.
  3. Always remember to judge yourself first and not be quick to judge others, especially fellow believers.
  4. Continually assess the condition of your own heart and keep it pure as the Lord’s return will be unannounced and you want to always be ready.
  5. Live a life of integrity so you have no need to swear an oath to convince others of your honesty and sincerity, no matter the situation.
  6. Have a heart of compassion for the suffering and be willing to pray with and for them.
  7. Encourage those who are joyful to give gratitude to God and give thanks to Him in praise.
  8. Access the ministry of those God has placed in authority over you, particularly when you are sick. He has given them special power and authority for this purpose. Don’t try to be a lone ranger. That’s why you have been placed in a church family.
  9. Build up relationships with fellow believers such that there are those to whom you can confess your secret faults and be healed. Do not keep it to yourself because that is how the enemy keeps you in bondage to shame and guilt. There is a connection between unconfessed sin and sickness. Keep short accounts and remain healthy.
  10. Be your brothers’ keeper. Do not waver in praying for one another. Do not discount the power of a righteous believer’s prayers.
  11. Keep an eye out for those who may be straying from the truth. See it as your responsibility to turn them back to the truth. They are part of you so do not turn your back on them.

Chapter 5 brings home so powerfully God’s desire for believers to be dependent on each other. This is His love being manifested for all to see. Jesus says the following to His disciples in John 13:34-35 and to us His disciples today,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, NKJV)

Note, it was not a suggestion it was a commandment. Why was Jesus so adamant about this show of love among His believers? Firstly, because this is the truest representation of His character. Secondly, because He knew that love would be the single most powerful testimony of belief in Christ that would draw others to Him. Love is indeed the principle thing!! (1 Cor. 13:13).

Shalom!!

 

 

Insights from the Book of James (8)

Today, we are jumping straight into the continuation and completion of chapter 4. I have divided verses 11 – 17 into two topics entitled – Check Your Motives and Who Is In Control?

Check Your Motives (James 4:11-12)

Simply put, if we do or say anything without love as the underlying motivation we are disobeying God’s law (Mt. 22:37-40) and we are not representing God’s character to the world for God is love (1 Jhn. 4:8, 16). In essence then, speaking evil of another is sin. You cannot be speaking evil of someone and do so in love. The two just don’t go hand in hand. Anything not in accordance with God’s will is sin. God’s will is evidenced in His law. All of the law is contained in the two commandments – love the Lord and love your neighbour as yourself. If we were really concerned about our brother or sister, when we see the need for correction we would go to them in love to help them and do so humbly (Gal 6:1). The earlier verses in this same chapter speak to the importance of humility (Jas. 4:6, 10). We must always remember that we are not better than our brothers or sisters. We are subject to the very same temptations and can fall just as they have. To think otherwise is to be proud and arrogant; to be self-righteous.  

When we know God’s law and do not obey it, we are actually saying that the law is of no importance; that we know more than God. When we are busy criticizing others for their actions, we are actually no better than they are because we are also breaking God’s law. This is why we are warned not to judge so that we do not lay ourselves open to being judged in the same manner (Mt. 7:1; Lk. 6:37). Also, many times we are busy focusing on other people’s sins when we have greater sins that we need to address (Mt. 7:3-5). We must continually do our own self-assessment and be sure that we are really in a position to correct another. Self-righteousness, hypocrisy and pride can so easily become our driving forces. Be on guard, lest you fall prey to a critical spirit.

If and when we are called to judge, we must do so with righteous judgment (Jhn. 7:24). Righteousness is always undergirded by love. Before we criticize or seek to speak ill of another let us assess our own motives and then choose to keep quiet if our motives are not pure. Nuff said!!

Who Is In Control? (James 4:13-17)

When we were born again, in some form or fashion we said to the Lord that we were ready to give over control of our lives to Him. We recognized in that time and at that moment that our best efforts had yielded only destruction and pain in our lives. It was time for God take up the reins. Why then do we always seek to take back control? It’s called the carnal nature. We take it with us into salvation and at its root is the original sin of PRIDE. I cannot say it loudly enough or frequently enough, PRIDE IS OUR GREATEST ENEMY!! Many times, pride is in operation in our lives and we don’t even realize it is at work. One of the indicators of pride is the belief that we determine our own fate; that we are in control of our own destinies. Although we do have a responsibility to partner with God in the fulfillment of His plan for our lives, ultimately He is the one who has to guide our footsteps in accordance with that plan. We don’t know when the plan is scheduled to come to an end but He does. Pride makes us become our own god. Pride is so pervasive and persistent that it is a recurring theme throughout James’ letter to his fellow believers. We too must take heed accordingly.

We must ALWAYS see ourselves as nothing compared with God. We are God’s creation not the other way around. As created beings, who are we to act as though we have the power to control anything that concerns our lives. Let us walk circumspectly (Eph. 5:15) and have reverence and awe of God always at the forefront of our minds. We are nothing when compared to our awesome Father. Everything we have and everything we are is because of Him. We have absolutely nothing to boast about.

The final thought I want to leave with us as I close this discourse on James chapter 4 is how little control we really do have over our lives and more so over when our sojourn here on earth will come to an end. With this in mind, we must work while it is day for we do not know how much longer we will have (Jhn. 9:4). Use time wisely. It is a valuable resource God has given us control of and we must do the things that have eternal value while we can. We cannot afford to procrastinate because we do not know if we will ever get a second chance to do what we chose to put off doing. Sin is not only about doing wrong things, it is also about failure to do the right things at the right time. If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit is constantly guiding you into the things Father God desires you to do each day (Phil. 2:13). You and I are therefore without excuse. When we feel the prompting of Holy Spirit and choose not to act accordingly God says that is sin (Jas. 4:17). We are operating outside of God’s will for our lives. I am the first to admit “guilty as charged”.

We must therefore prioritize. Treat the time you have been given with utmost respect and ensure you fulfill your God given purpose. Time wasted is opportunity lost. Consult God about every aspect of your life. He wrote down the plan and He has a vested interest in seeing its fulfillment (Psa. 23:3b). He alone knows the beginning from the end. Every day when we wake up we need to ask, “Father God, what is Your awesome plan for me today? How can I partner with You today to fulfill Your purpose for my life?” This is the relationship Father God wants to have with His children (Prov. 3:5-7).

Shalom.

Insights from the Book of James (7)

I am discovering more and more that you have to purposefully carve out time to do the Lord’s work. Experience has taught me that if I choose to go with the flow I will be continually distracted by those things that have no eternal value. Thanks be to God who always causes me to triumph!!

We are here again, continuing our insightful, and hopefully, transforming journey through the Book of James. Today, we will be reflecting on James 4:1-10, which I have entitled “Pride Prevents Provision”.

Pride Prevents Provision (James 4:1-10)

If you read my blog series “The Many Faces of Pride” (see link below), you would already be aware that pride is not always evident as the root cause of most of our problems. In the beginning of James chapter 4, we see pride as the underlying cause of strife. What is the link? Pride always puts “self” at the centre and strife usually occurs when things are not going the way “we” want them to go or “we” are not getting what “we” want or “we” feel that “we” should have what someone else has cause “we” are more deserving of it. Pride has at its core “lust” – the craving for things that will fulfill the pleasures of the flesh even if this means bringing pain to others to get them. In James 1:14-15, we saw how sin occurs when we are tempted as a result of the desires within us that demand to be satisfied. Therefore, the way to avoid sin is to keep these desires under subjection to our spirit, which has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to resist worldly pleasures. Satan is the “prince of this world” (Jhn. 14:30) so when we yield to worldly pleasures and follow the norms of this world we are, in fact, giving authority over ourselves to Satan and stepping into enemy territory. We are allowing ourselves to become entangled again by the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1).

Another sign of pride is being unwilling to admit that we are in need of help. So, rather than ask God to supply our needs or even ask others for help we prefer to use underhand means to have our needs satisfied. Most times trying to get things in this way still leaves us wanting more, feeling dissatisfied, as ill-gotten gains are never lasting or satisfying. James is telling us, if we would simply humble ourselves we could get what we need simply by asking for it. But no, that’s just too simple. When we ask though, we have to assess our motives because if we are asking God for something just so we can keep up with others, to profile, to show off, to satisfy our own lusts rather than to satisfy real needs, then God won’t be providing what we ask. To do so would be to encourage sin in our lives. Always remember, Father God is more interested in your character than your comfort. Been asking for something lately and not getting it? Maybe you need a heart check. God is constantly examining our hearts so maybe, just maybe, we ought to be doing so too :).

Throughout the earlier chapters in the Book of James, and again in these verses, James is pointing us to the “sin that so easily ensnares us” (Heb. 12:1). One that was prevalent among his community of believers and is still common among believers today. We are all at risk and must heed lest we ourselves fall or if having already done so will be able to recognize the signs outlined and acknowledge our sin; repent; receive God’s forgiveness; come out of agreement with the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 Jhn. 2:16); and refocus our lives on walking in the righteousness of God.

Verse 7 reveals that the antidote for pride is humility. Out of a humble heart you will willingly submit to God’s will and ways. Only then will you be able to resist the enemy’s temptations and cause him to flee from you. If we take the sin of pride lightly we will surely regret it; hence, we are warned to take matters into our own hands and follow through to consecrate ourselves so that God Himself will be the One to life us up rather than the pride of our own hearts which will lead us only to destruction.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people!!

Shalom.

The Many Faces of Pride (Part 1)

 

Insights from the Book of James (6)

First, my humblest apologies to my blog site followers. I indicated in my last blog (published August 17th) that the insights from the second part of James chapter 3 would be shared the following week. Well, obviously that didn’t happen………ooops!! No excuses. Yes, life happens but I need to do a better job of carving out the time required to keep the momentum going. I thank God that as a good fellow Christian you will extend grace and mercy to me………smile.

Without further ado, let us get into the second part of James chapter 3, which I have entitled “Discerning True Wisdom”.

(2) Discerning True Wisdom (James 3:13-18)

In these verses, James takes another opportunity to equip us to discern truth from evil. You may have already become aware that Satan is the great deceiver. He is so experienced that many times even believers are deceived by his subtle deceptions. Remember, he has mastered the art of imitation. He comes as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and we have to be alert (1 Pet. 5:8) to the one little chink in his armour that will be the indicator of the demonic inspiration that is at work (Gal. 5:9).

Father God wants us to hone our ability to be discerners of good and evil. Therefore, He provides us with clues to guide us in discerning between godly wisdom and “wisdom” that is seeking to mimic godly wisdom. Why is this so important? If we deem someone to be wise we become willing to seek and take instruction from such a person and can be easily led into error and evil if not discerning. Please see the importance of not falling prey to a spirit of error in my blog “The Spirit of Error” published August 26th, 2018 (link provided below).

James clearly outlines for us the main tenets of godly (divine, true) wisdom – HUMILITY (verse 13b) and PURITY (verse 17a). When something is pure, it is coming directly from the source without contamination or dilution or additives of any kind. It comes direct from Father God through Holy Spirit with nothing of self in it. It always, always lines up with the pure Word of God, no addition or subtraction (Deut. 12:32). The motive is always to bring glory to God and not to self (humility). The outward manifestation or character traits of one who is operating under the influence of heavenly wisdom, that is, the signs you must look out for when choosing one to instruct and mentor you are that such a person is peaceable; courteous; considerate; gentle (even in correction) (2 Tim. 2:24-25); willing to listen (to hear other viewpoints thereby willing to learn from others); reasonable; full of compassion, good works and good words; authentic (the same person in all areas of life); encouraging peace in relationships; not doing wrong and trying to cover it up (hypocrisy); showing evidence of spiritual maturity. Anything or anyone operating outside of these is not to be trusted or accepted as having true wisdom that comes from God.

What people say they are is less important than what they do (Mt. 7:16:20). Watch for a while for consistency, see the person operating in different situations over time before you complete your assessment and determine the source of wisdom that is at work.

Join me next time (which I will make every effort not to be too far in the distant future) as we journey into chapter 4 of James. Till then be strong in the Lord!!

The Spirit of Error

Shalom.

Insights from the Book of James (5)

Today, we take our journey into James chapter 3 – the midway point of this very transformational book. For those of you joining this blog series for the first time, the Book of James proved to be a great source of self-assessment as I went through a season of pruning (painful yes, but totally necessary) in my own life last year and I felt led to share so we can all see more clearly the areas in our own lives where transformation by the renewing of the mind is required. Always remember, Father God is more interested in our character than our comfort.

As a short recap, the topics covered in parts 1 – 4 of this blog series are: Profiting from Trials, Accessing Godly Wisdom, No Gain without Trust, The Curse of Riches, Strength through Temptation, Wrath – the Testimony Destroyer, Going Beyond Knowledge, The Sin of Partiality, and Practical Faith Equals Perfected Faith. Feel free to scroll back through the blog site to read any of the topics you believe will support your transformation process.

I have divided chapter 3 into two topics – (1) The Heart Meter and (2) Discerning True Wisdom. Let’s jump right in.

(1) The Heart Meter (James 3:1 – 12)

These verses speak specifically about the power of the tongue and the harm it can create if not controlled. At the same time, emphasis is placed on how difficult a job it is to tame or control the tongue. Why? Our tongues do not have a mind of their own. They are under the direction of our soul (emotions, mind & will). At salvation, our spirits are reborn (renewed, born again) but our souls are not. This is why Paul instructed the believers in Philippi to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12b). This applies to believers everywhere because as Jeremiah 17:9 so eloquently puts it, “the heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (NKJV). Throughout the scriptures, most times when we see reference being made to “the heart” it is really referring to the soul. For a while, we can pretend and deceive others that we believe things that we don’t really believe, feel what we don’t really feel, and are who we really are not. For a time!! But there comes a time when the true beliefs, feelings and self are revealed – the true condition of our hearts becomes evident – and by no other means than by a ‘slip’ of the tongue. The mask comes off in a moment of truth and the real self is displayed in all of its glory (or lack thereof) by our words.

You are known by your fruit (Mt. 7:16-20). It is insightful to see, both in these verses in James and those just cited in Matthew 7, that fruit is always reflective of the state of the source from which it was generated. Therefore, if my words are evil then my soul (heart) must be evil and vice versa. Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 tell us that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. Many times when we are caught off guard, we surprise even ourselves by what comes out of our mouths. So, your tongue is a good gauge of the condition of your heart. It actually reflects what is in your heart. Particularly, when you are placed in uncomfortable, suddenly distressful situations. Many times, Father God allows these very situations to come our way so that we can see evidence of the work that is still required to be done on the inside. This principle of fruit reflecting source underscores the importance of the vine and branches symbolization Jesus shares in John 15:4-5. Where you get your nourishment determines the nature of your fruit. The nature of your fruit (your words and actions) tells us the source of your nourishment. 

It is definitely a sign of maturity to have things come to mind and be able to stop it proceeding out of your mouth. We call it ‘biting your tongue’. Better to suffer the pain of a bitten tongue than to allow your tongue to ruin a lifetime of character building. It can all be destroyed in an instant by one tirade of words said at the wrong time in front of the wrong audience. This is specifically why Paul gives a special warning to teachers at the beginning of this chapter. In essence, he is pointing to the fact that those to whom others look for mentoring and instruction have a greater need to heed the words he is writing in this section of his letter. Their carelessly spoken words can cause the greatest damage, not only to themselves but to those who look up to them.

As a rule, engage brain before speaking!! In other words, think before you speak. Are your words going to bring life or death, encouragement or despair, growth or destruction, help or hindrance, faith or fear, error or truth? Is love the motive behind the words you intend to speak or is it pride, acrimony, resentment, insecurity, jealously, or some other unrighteous motivation? Are you walking in the spirit or in the flesh? You need to recognize that it is not by might nor by power but only by the power of the Holy Spirit that you will have the victory over this very small but very powerful member of your body. Ensure you wash your mind with the Word of God daily so that self-control (temperance, bridling) will be the fruit that is seen in your life (Gal. 5:22).

So as not to weary you with my much speaking (in written form…..smile) we will unwrap the second topic in James chapter 3 in my next blog (next week same time). Please join me then.

Shalom.

 

Insights from the Book of James (4)

Thanks for joining me as we continue our journey through the Book of James. If you are serious about being transformed by the renewing of your mind, the Book of James takes us to a higher level of self-assessment and recognition of what is really required to become a true son of God.

Today, I want to take us through chapter 2 of James, which I have divided into two topics – (1) The Sin of Partiality and (2) Practical Faith Equals Perfected Faith.

(1) The Sin of Partiality (James 2:1-13)

We have been told in Romans 12:2 that we must not be conformed to this world. Father God knows us better than we know ourselves so there is a reason why He chose to have Paul write these words to the believers in Rome and also to us. Before we surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ, we were steeped in the world’s belief system. Having become a believer, we are still living in enemy territory and many times we continue to be influenced more by the world’s way of thinking than by a biblical worldview that should set us apart as followers of Christ. There are some sins that we don’t even recognize to be sins because they are so much a part of the world’s culture. We accept them as norms and don’t realize that God sees them as sin. A case in point is partiality. As believers, there is a tendency to rank sins on a continuum from bad to worst. For example, we see adultery and murder as worse than rumour mongering, stealing and jealousy. This is not how God sees sin though. Sin is sin no matter what it is. Once it does not line up with God’s will it is sin and we need to repent and ask forgiveness to keep our account with God clean. He calls us to be holy as He is holy. Anything less is unacceptable and will leave Him with no option but to judge us. God cannot go back on His own word because then He would make Himself a liar and God cannot lie.

According to James 2:1-13, God wants us to treat everyone the same. Not to treat someone better because of having a seemingly higher socio-economic standing in life. God is not interested in the outward appearance – what we wear, what kind of car we drive, what area or type of house we live in. He wants to deliver us from this discriminatory mind-set. James was speaking to fellow believers just like us. Many times church leaders are guilty of this sin. As a prophetic minister, I have shared the word of the Lord with my church and there is no response from church leadership. Then, an overseas minister comes to town and brings the same word and it suddenly becomes “THE WORD OF GOD!!”. God understands our human nature. That is why the scripture says a prophet has no honour in his own country (Lk. 4:24, John 4:44). Jesus Himself suffered this type of discrimination. Some people were more interested in where He came from than the message He was preaching. Nathanael spoke what many were thinking, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This is a warning to us to be tapped into the Spirit of God so we hear with spiritual ears and not allow our eyes or our familiarity with the one bringing the word to rob us of what God is saying and requiring. God chooses whom He will to deliver His message. We are told that He chooses to use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).

Partiality is not pleasing to God. It is a warning to each of us to guard our hearts and minds against partiality. To see people through His eyes, no matter how they look outwardly. We are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves. So, what we want and how we want to be treated should be our standard for how we treat other people no matter who they are or how they appear. In case you missed it the first time, I will repeat here, “showing partiality is counted by God as sin” (Jas. 2:9). Determining to show no partiality displays God’s character of mercy. Guard your hearts and your minds lest you fall prey and it be counted against you. We are known by our fruit (Mt. 7:20).

(2) Practical Faith Equals Perfected Faith (James 2:14-26)

God is a very practical God. As Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, one of the things He said we should ask God for is to “give us this day our daily bread”. How much more practical can you get? Many times though, God chooses not to give to each of us directly but rather indirectly through His servants. God tests us to see if when He gives to us we will recognize that all that we have is not ours, it all belongs to Him. He expects us to ask Him what He requires us to do with that which He has given to us. God is calling us to be practical in our faith. Do not just wish people well but do something to ensure they are well. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you” but it is more needful to also give of your time, money, and skills to help others than just to mouth platitudes. Sometimes we don’t even pray.

In essence, James is telling us in verses 14 to 26 that we show our faith by what we say and what we do. More so, by what we do. If we really believe God has said to step out and do something, then we will do it even if we don’t fully understand how it’s going to work out or where the resources are coming from. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Based on what James has written here, faith is not simply believing, it is acting on what we say we believe. That is when we please God. But many times, doubt and unbelief hold us back in our Christian walk. We do not really believe who God says He is or that He is God of His Word. That is why we are unable to do “the greater works” and the “mighty exploits” that God said would be accomplished by those who know Him. If we really knew Him, we would act in obedience without hesitation.

We are justified by acting in accordance with faith, not simply by believing. Works brings faith alive even as the Spirit makes our bodies live. Today, think back on those things you have shrunk back from doing, repent and determine in your heart that come what may you are stepping out in faith. Has God said it and will He not do it (Num. 23:19)? Your faith is made perfect by making it practical faith (Jas. 2:22).

Shalom.

Taking Responsibility

A little detour from my series on the Book of James. This one is fresh from the Holy Spirit press and felt an urgency to share.

Father God has made us able to respond i.e. He has given us the ability to make choices (response-ability). So, when we make the wrong choices, when we are irresponsible (use response-ability incorrectly) and bring harm to ourselves and others we must acknowledge this and not shift the blame to others or to our circumstances.

Taking responsibility is the key step to maturity. We cannot begin the journey of change until we accept that we are culpable and acknowledge our foolishness, our error, our mistake, our irresponsibility. Then and only then can learning and change take place. When we fail to take responsibility we are walking in the sin of pride.

Prideful people cannot and will not accept that they could ever be wrong, that their response-ability was and is the cause of the current predicament in which they find themselves.  When I have chosen to act irresponsibly then I must be willing to acknowledge this fact and use my response-ability to make the necessary corrections on the road towards growth, development and maturity.  To do otherwise is to stay stuck in my ways, to believe and confess the lie,”a jus so me stay” and to live a life in which my true calling will never be fulfilled – the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13b).

So, next time you feel the urge to blame someone or something, look inward first and ask yourself, “What was my contribution? Did I act responsibly?”. The one who is quick to take responsibility for their actions is the one who is humble in spirit. This is the one God can use!!

Shalom.

 

 

Insights from the Book of James (3)

For those of you who are joining this blog series for the first time, I am sharing insights from the Holy Spirit as I was led to read the Book of James during a season of pruning last year. Just scroll in this blog and you will find the first two parts.

Today, I will be sharing from James 1 verse 19 to the end of the chapter.  I have divided these verses into two topics – Wrath, the Testimony Destroyer and Going Beyond Knowledge.

Wrath, the Testimony Destroyer (James 1:19-21)

The first thing I need us to be clear about is that there is nothing wrong with being angry in and of itself. There are times when anger is required, particularly when it is directed at something that has been done that we deem to be unjust. When I typed in the word “angry” in my YouVersion Bible verse search, a multitude of scriptures came up showing that even God gets angry. Jesus was angry when He overturned the tables of the money changers and those who were doing trade in the temple (Mt. 21:12; Mk. 11:15). Ephesians 4:26 and Psalms 4:4 imply that we can be angry without sinning but there is a line that can be crossed when anger becomes sin. We are also told in Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry. For anger rests in the bosom of fools.” This verse, together with the verses we are focusing on in James, point us to the fact that if we are easily angered then we must begin to look into ourselves because the propensity to be angry is not the disposition of someone who has the wisdom of God operating in his or her life.

The second thing I want to highlight is the difference between anger and wrath. In the KJV and NKJV, the word used by James is “wrath” while in some other versions such as the NIV the word “anger” is used. Wrath has at its root the desire for vengeance. The AMP version speaks to wrath as being resentful, deep-seated anger. It is obvious from James 1:20 that this type of anger does not produce the standard of behaviour that God requires and if we link it to verse 21 it is acknowledged that anger in the form of wrath is considered “filthiness” and an “overflow of wickedness”. It is an outworking of the wickedness that is within the heart of man.

Of course, we know when someone has tipped the scale from righteous anger to wrath by the words that are spoken. This is why we are warned to be slow to speak when we are experiencing anger. This allows us the time to assess the motivation behind the anger we are feeling and the emotions we are feeling towards the person(s) who has provoked anger in us. Is it righteous indignation? A desire to let the person see the wrong they have committed so we can bring about change? Or is this anger directed at attacking the person because we feel wronged and want them to hurt and somehow malign their character because of some wrong we feel they have done to us? A sign of a mature Christian is the ability to manage emotions. Temperance (self-control) is listed as one of the components of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. When our words spew with vitriol against another we are not representing God before men. We are, in fact, destroying our own testimony.  Rather than destroying the character of the other person against whom your anger is directed you are bringing your own character into disrepute. This can happen in a flash. All of the good you have done in your life and the good reputation you have built up to be able to spread the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation with credibility can be destroyed in an instant by an uncontrolled tongue speaking under the influence of wrath. Remember, wrath is deep seated anger. Deep seated where? In our souls. Therefore, we are told in James 1:21 that the way to overcome this propensity for vengeful anger is to humbly acknowledge that we have it, that it is wickedness and in this spirit of humility seek to displace wrath by implanting the Word of God in our hearts (souls) thereby saving our souls. This brings us to the second topic for today.

Going Beyond Knowledge (James 1:22-27)

Father God wants us to move beyond knowledge to understanding and wisdom (Prov. 2:3, 4:5-7). Understanding speaks to interpreting properly the meaning of the words gained from hearing or reading the Word while wisdom is the ability to apply the Word in accordance with what is intended by Father God to bring about transformation through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). We are told in 1 Corinthians 8:1 that knowledge is common place, we all have it, but knowledge by itself “puffs up”. In other words, knowledge alone without the proper spirit in operation can lead to pride and arrogance. We can go to church every Sunday, Bible study every week, and all the conferences that are on offer and, in the end, if we do not allow what we have heard to bring about a change in our mindset so we begin thinking and acting as God requires then the knowledge is useless. Even more than that, the knowledge can become harmful.

God expects us to apply His Word to our lives. Not just to read it and then go away as though it meant nothing. As you read God’s Word, you must allow the Word of God to read you. In other words, allow time for thoughtful reflection on the Word to see its relevance for your own life and obey what the Word says. When the Word begins to have an impact on you, you will not just say any and anything that comes to your mind without first thinking to see if it lines up with God’s truth.  Ultimately, if God’s Word is not having an impact on your thoughts, words and actions then you are simply pursuing a religious ritual when you read or listen to the Word.

Others know if we are who we say we are by our actions (Mt. 7:16, 20). God wants us to move beyond merely hearing His Word and gaining knowledge to putting His Word into action through righteous living and acts of service. What means most to God is the reflection of the image of His Son Jesus Christ through the lives of believers. Jesus Christ went about doing good (Acts 10:38) not just spending time in the Word but showing the Word in action by touching the lives of those in need and living a holy life. So, we who are called by His Name ought to do likewise. Therein is God glorified. 

Shalom.