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  • encouragefaith 8:24 pm on September 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Vision or Voice? 

    Do I follow the vision that I have been given, making my life choices line up with that vision, or do I follow God’s voice in the here and now, each day, listening for the steps He would have me take next, waiting to see how the vision unfolds in the manner and timing He wants it to, thus becoming a servant and child of the heavenly Father, instead of a slave to the heavenly vision?

    Ref. Abraham, Jesus, Peter, Paul

     
  • encouragefaith 1:28 am on August 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Steadfast 

    “What’ll ya have what’ll ya have!!??”

    If you’ve never been to the Varsity in downtown Atlanta, it’s likely you won’t appreciate the words above.  The Varsity was established in 1928 and is now said to be the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world and continues to serve more coca cola product than any single location in the world.  In Atlanta, even if you don’t eat at the Varsity you know where it is.  It takes up two city blocks and has seen nearly a century of history pass through and in front of its doors.  It is an institution.

    While reading the first chapter of the Book of James, I noticed the word ‘steadfast’ used 3X in close proximity and in context with some serious stuff.  Realizing that I did not have a clear definition in my mind of the word, I looked it up..

    stead•fast

    1    a : firmly fixed in place : immovable

    b : not subject to change

    2    : firm in belief, determination, or adherence

    Dictionary.com uses these words “firmly established, as an institution”.  The context in which James uses this word deals with trials:

    Jas 1:2–4Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (ESV, emphasis added)

    Jas 1:12 “ Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial…”

    It is not uncommon in Atlanta to receive directions that include some type of reference to going past the Varsity, or Go down North Avenue and the Varsity will be on your left.  In Marrietta, we have “The Big Chicken”, yet another landmark that has stood the test of time.  It is said that Pilots flying into Dobbins air force base use the Big Chicken as reference when coming into the area.  The Big Chicken has been in Atlanta since 1956, and in that time has faced near destruction.  In 1993 this landmark was severely damaged by a storm and nearly taken down due to the extensive damage, however the public persistently demanded that the Icon be repaired.  The Big Chicken stands today, in its original location as another one of Atlanta’s institutions.

    What if the Big Chicken were built of straw and sticks, would people be saying “when you pass the Big Chicken turn right…”  Would pilots be using it as a reference point?  No, more than likely it wouldn’t be there, and if it were it would be a dilapidated sign of what once was.  You’re probably thinking “man, this guy really has a thing for fast food”.  The food is not the point, the landmarks are.  These landmarks have stood the test of time, they are firmly established.  Our faith, unlike these locations, is fixed upon a direction, or purpose.

    James doesn’t leave the how up to us, he spells it out.  If you are wondering “how do I establish steadfastness of faith?” Fear not!  “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  The temptation is to focus on the trial, but aren’t we told to focus on the prize?  I know that I am not in the practice of counting my trials as ‘joy’.  Perhaps that is why as I read through the verses speaking of joy, I feel as though I come up short.  Could it be that I focus on the trial, I get down, pessimistic, ho hum?  When I get to the other side of the trial I count it as perseverance, but was anything gained?  Or, are trials like blocks in the game of “Jenga” where pieces are removed one at a time until the whole stack crashes down.

    “God Forbid!”  Instead of losing something through trials we should be gaining something.  “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”   

    Imagine for a minute your faith as a landmark.  What if our faith were at an intersection on another’s journey?  “When you see the man/woman of Great Faith, follow him/her until you see glory…”  NEWS FLASH:  No matter if we have little faith, no faith, or the faith to move mountains we are an intersection on the journeys of all those who cross our path.

    “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”   -James 1:2 (ESV emphasis added)

     
  • encouragefaith 3:10 am on May 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s All In the Eyes 

    I have not been able to shake the mental image from the last post – that of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not on the waves and the storm.  If our thoughts and our mental “eyes” are truly fixed on Jesus, everything else falls out of the picture – every hindrance, fear, doubt, distraction, evil thought, discouragement, and anything else that would keep us from moving forward. The simple act of turning our thoughts to Him whenever we are facing internal mental & spiritual struggles will immediately quell the storm.  And when we our feet are finding themselves like stone, unable to take the steps that we know we were created to take, lifting our heads and our eyes to Jesus will most assuredly create a fire that melts the stone and propels us forward.

     1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. – Hebrews 3

     
    • Steve 9:35 am on May 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      AMEN,…It is Jesus that brought us this far,….and Jesus Who takes us forward. We can do nothing apart from Him.

  • encouragefaith 6:05 pm on April 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    What is in your toolbag? 

    I recently read a blog post which convicted me with its title alone… ”Are you proud of your tools or your Results ?” I realize that I spend most of my time talking about, saving money for, upgrading, and looking at my “tools”, but when do I actually use them?  A few years ago I was introduced to an incredible Bible software program which was capable of far more than I would ever be able to learn.  At the time my spiritual walk was focused and progressive (as in moving forward).  I felt that with the Software program my studies would be amplified.  I began to plan and save for the program and eventually received my first copy, I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn if I wanted to make this tool ‘effective’.  Before I could get my head around my new purchase the New upgraded version came out making my version obsolete in a matter of months.  Now, in order to run the new upgrade I had to not only purchase the new version, I also had to upgrade my computer to meet the requirements.  The story doesn’t end here, but I have made my point.  I love my bible software program, however, when I began to focus more on the tool and less on the purpose my spiritual walk suffered.  The very thing that I set out to improve (my studies) became nearly insignificant as I sought to sharpen and ready my tools.  I lost sight of what the tool was for.
    I am not saying that bible software is evil, in fact it can be a great supplement to ones studies.  No matter what the “tool” may be; a building, sound system, ministry program, etc.  The second we take our eyes off Jesus we begin to sink, this happened to Peter in the presence of Jesus.  Do not think that because you are in His presence you are out of the way of danger, instead we must steady our eyes on Him as the enemy pulls his hardest when we are this close.  Matthew tells us “Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink…”   Peter was walking to JESUS!  Do not forget the storm that was raging around Him, as he focused on Christ nothing stood in the way, but when he began to process the howling winds the Bible tells us he became afraid and as a result began to sink.  Jesus is able and willing to save even when we look away.  When we look to Christ He will do the impossible through us.
    Do you have any “tools” that are in the way of your Relationship and effectiveness as a follower of Christ?  Please share any insights you have.   Our collective experience as Christ followers will unveil a multi-dimensional understanding of God’s character.

     
    • Steve 4:25 am on April 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I talked to a fellow christian last week that mirrored my own lack of ‘gospel’ perspective spanning much of my walk of faith. She said,…”I don’t want to publish my testimony until I have the opportunity to copywrite it”. She then went on to say that she had felt called to write for years – but fearing that someone would steal her material – she had not released anything yet. (I was tempted to ask how long she had sat on the valuable material)

      Her writing was her perceived tool – her unique gift,…rendered used-less because of her fear. Think about that,…(as I did for several days). The best thing in the world would haave been if someone HAD stolen her writings and printed a double ‘best-seller’….or pasted it into a song that whole world came to know Jesus better.

      This story isn’t one of failure – or loss – or retold here to belittle a fellow journeyman on the road to life. No; it is used here to say,…Don’t wait on the conditions,…DO what you CAN,…with what you HAVE,…right where you ARE.

      I came to let you know
      All the joy I’ve found
      In U N I O N to Christ our lord
      Walking H E R E,.. on Heaven’s ground

      BE sober be D I L I G E N T
      BE WARY
      BE Heaven sent
      BE A N Y T H I N G – your heart’s desire
      Once you’ve surrendered it TO THE PYRE

      Hearts on FIRE
      Burning Brighter
      Burning SLOW
      JUST leave me here
      When Jesus is near

      He brought me here
      He pulled me from my FEAR
      Into the light
      Into the Light of Joy

  • encouragefaith 3:41 am on February 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    What Does it Cost? 

    Consider this From  Matt. 8:

    Now when Jesus saw a large crowd around him, he gave orders to go to the other side of the lake.

    Then an expert in the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

    Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens, and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

    Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

    But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

    What is our immediate response to this passage?  Do we immediately look at the mental image of Jesus in a flowing robe, maybe with open toed sandals, standing in the dirt, the sun burning down on him, a few mud huts nearby, and so detach this passage from anything pertaining to our own life and our current situations?  I would have to honestly say this is my normal immediate response to this passage and others like it.  But I can’t do this anymore.  Somehow, I have to let these words, and this concept (“whatever the cost”) translate into my own world, my own situation, and go straight to my heart (and to my hands and feet as well).  How much does following Jesus really cost?  And have I paid the price yet?  Or have I kept trying to find the escape clause?

     
    • Lida 11:43 pm on February 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I am a scared of change and oblivious most of the time. I get nervous and second guess the directions that God gives me. I often fail at the little things he tells me to do every day. Yet I continue to try to improve. Over the past few years the nightly prayer from my husband and myself has been for God to tell us what to do in an obvious, blatant way and to leave us no possible way to get out of it. It sounds silly but it has worked amazingly well for us. Constantly when we are unsure of what he wants us to do he sends us an obvious sign and the knowledge that it is from him, sometimes that sign is painful like the loss of a job, yet we continue to pray it. I like having no choice in doing what he wants me to mostly because I don’t trust myself most of the time. Sometimes I get stubborn and want to do my own thing even if I know its the wrong thing yet in the end I am always more content when I know I did his will even if it more painful. In the end I just cling to the knowledge that his plan will always end well even if I can’t see it.

      • Steve 3:21 pm on February 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        That resonates with me so much Lida,… thank you

        Not too many years ago I was driving along a road speaking ‘communication frustration’ to God and literally shaking my fist near the windshield as if that would help Him see it! I was saying aloud,…”Why don’t You just speak to us plainly,….why does this [hearing God’s voice] have to be so hard! Why all the guess-work?” I’ve since learned that God loves honest stupidity in His little children. I was fourty two at the time, and had been an Elder in my church for many years, …had conducted ministry far and wide. As I rounded a curve along a pasture near Auburn, Alabama I heard the ‘softest voice’ in the stunningly loudest and yet most intimate way say ,…”Why do you think it [scripture] is called the Word of God?” I woke up a few minutes later in the shoulder of the road un-harmed – but never the same. Jesus Christ is as alive today as He has always and forever been and will be. He is closer than a brother or a spouse, and as the True and Faithful Witness we see in Revelation, invites us to be ‘co-heirs’ in a marriage type relationship. Look at what he is saying from Romans 8:17 today:

        Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.(NIV)

        What does it mean to ‘share in His sufferings’? It must be important because notice that Jesus speaking through Paul says that we are co-heirs “If indeed we share in His sufferings”. The KJV says ‘suffer with Him”.

  • encouragefaith 4:50 am on February 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Christ Transforming Us 

    For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3

     
    • Steve 1:44 am on February 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you. Fabulous answer.

  • encouragefaith 9:38 pm on January 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Today We Continue… 

    This week we will continue with last weeks thread from the book of James.  Steve left us with a great question, the type that requires more than a cursory glance and a response from the hip.  Take the time to consider this question:

    “I have a question;.. how does one blend your own ‘story’ with that of a neighbor that we simply do not know? I will internize the question and re-phrase it,….how do I make the ‘unlovely’ neighbor’s story fit into my own? Take the homeless guys that live under an over-pass in a nearby city. I would have to re-write my story in order to find it including them more than it does now. How do we connect James 2:8 and Liviticus 19:2?…for surely they are indeed connected by a Holy and unchanging God.”

    Read the book of James again, in what ways does this epistle apply to what is happening in your life?

     
    • Tim 2:01 pm on January 18, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It must surely cause a reworking, a re-writing of our own story…. a twist in the chapter, a “book two” if you will. Take a look at this website, greenpastureshousing.co.uk, and you will see a group of people who indeed reworked their stories in a dramatic way to include the “unlovely” neighbour. These are friends of mine, and I have seen their work first-hand. It is no easy task. It is messy, challenging, and requires great sacrifice. But the fruit is worth the planting. How do we indeed not be polluted by the world, whose mind is clouded to the needs of its neighbour? What can we do in our own community that which goes beyond a “hand-out, a cup of soup, and a second jacket?” How do we include them into our own story?

      • Steve 1:26 pm on January 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Not to be overly simple,…..But to include fellowman into our story is to ‘do what you can – with what you have – right where you are’. If we all actually did that while also being husband or wives,..sons or daughters,.. fathers or mothers,…neighbor or contrymen,…soon everyone would be included in the ‘story’ of what God is purposing for the world today. The last generation of fallen mankind WILL actually do that (and not just talk about it). The thought that we could actually see this day by choice in our idividual lives is very stimulating. Can you think of any bible verses that speak to you in assurance that God can perform this miricle in the life of commoners?

        You asked “what can we do that goes beyond the outreach (programmed charity) we’ve all seen.” – and for me personally the answer is to have a spiritual eyesalve applied by Christ – to actually learn to ‘see’ people for their value in sight of Jesus Christ. I must confess my prejudice until it is replaced by un-created life through the indwelling of Christ. 1 Peter 1:5-6

        James 3:13 – Peace

    • Steve 6:03 pm on January 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      In Leviticus God says (paraphrased) “Be holy because [for] I AM Holy” – James repeats one of Jesus’ two condensed commandments after having called it the royal law in 2:8 – “love your neighbor as much as yourself”. James goes on to compare what we think to what we do under the high standards of a Holy God….and goes on even to say ‘so speak and so do as they that will be judged by the law of liberty’. I’m sturggling to marry ‘liberty’ to such high standards. It is alien to my carnal mind – and yet deeply satisfying to my spirit. It feels like the fig (3:12) tree bearing olives. There must be something bigger here for us to find!

    • Lace 4:51 pm on January 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Today…Praise be to GOD! my simple reply and the invitation to become a part of this dialogue by a very dear friend is how we write ourselves into the lives of others.

  • encouragefaith 3:13 am on January 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Today We Start 

    Why do we wait to start doing what we know we are supposed to? Is it really because, “we don’t have time”, or “there’s no rush”, or “I’ll get to it eventually”? We know that we are supposed to be a close community of faith, encouraging each other, inspiring each other to courageous acts of faith, letting our guards down, and letting others help us along the road of the journey we call “faith”. But still we keep to ourselves, and wonder why we just can’t make it all work like it’s supposed to. I think it’s designed that way. Not to work unless we really do it together. So…. today we start. Today. Read the book of James, and see what act of faith is inspired deep inside of you. Post your thoughts and processes here. Today we start.

     
    • Rob 2:23 am on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I will shamelessly admit that I have not moved to the second chapter of James! What a call to action! “but be ye doers of the Word” 1:27. Those words drive straight to the heart of the matter. Notice how they are followed by a definition of “pure religion”. The definition does not require a master or a doctorate to carry out. It requires no training in some and pure sacrifice in others “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”. Do I visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction? Am I spotted by the world? Unfortunately I do not like my own answer to these questions, this changes Today. The first chapter of James has brought me the fuel I need.
      How does one become spotted by the world?

      • encouragefaith 3:23 am on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I will admit that I did move to the second chapter of James, but it felt the same as if I had eaten a 2 pound steak, and continued on to the 3 baked potatoes in the middle of the table! It was difficult, for there was so much to digest from the first chapter, but I wanted to continue on and see what the 2nd chapter had to offer. Again: a deeper and stronger call to action! That which we have been taught, and believe, and profess – we must move onto action. We must respond with a physical response, and not just a head or heart response. Possibly, to be “spotted by the world” could mean (at least for us), to be another face in the crowd of “non-response”. The way of the world – the automatic, no-brainer way is to simply do nothing! No one else is responding to what they have heard, so it’s not going to be easy for me to fly in the face of that with my response. But I must “persevere” as James calls us to in the first chapter, so that my faith will proved real. What do we believe so strongly… that it requires action?

    • Stephen Cruze 6:01 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I haven’t read James yet,…this being the first day of opportunity within the context of this blog. But,..I will tell you that in the context of recent experience I heard the book of James – word for word, man to men. It was an experience more than an event and one I will never forget. What is most note worthy is that the Holy Spirit caused the spoken word to become alive in our hearts as a woman addressed about 40 of us in a room that was not a church in any common sense of word,…and yet a ‘church’ we became for the space of about 45 minutes as James addressed us as “My bretheren”. I was moved to action as James arrived at the admonition “..have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” I was moved to tears as James reminded us with the question “are you not then partial in yourselves, and are becoming judges of evil thoughts?”…. only to feel my prejudice melting under the gaze of the brother of Christ.
      To be ‘spotted by the world’ is to live our lives somewhere other than right here and right now ‘today’ – this very minute in obedience to what the Spirit of Christ speaks from His Word. To do anything worthy requires we square everything with our understanding ‘in’ the day that we call ‘today’.
      Take verse 2:8 – As adults we know a bit more about ‘loving your neighbor’ than when we first believed. Would you agree?

      • encouragefaith 4:29 pm on January 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        That’s really good. Waiting until tomorrow to obey is the way of the world. Waiting until tomorrow to love our neighbor is the way of the world. Simply being nice to our neighbor is the way of the world as well. Anyone can be nice to their neighbor, but what if we went beyond that, and met their real needs? What do they need in their life, and how can we meet that need? Something that is so powerful, that their eyes will be opened to the true love of God, and they will know that our “religion” is real and different.

    • Steve 8:59 pm on January 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I have a question;.. how does one blend your own ‘story’ with that of a neighbor that we simply do not know? I will internize the question and re-phrase it,….how do I make the ‘unlovely’ neighbor’s story fit into my own? Take the homeless guys that live under an over-pass in a nearby city. I would have to re-write my story in order to find it including them more than it does now. How do we connect James 2:8 and Liviticus 19:2?…for surely they are indeed connected by a Holy and unchanging God.

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