Faith Without Works is Dead

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (NASB) Sometimes I think this passage can cause a little conflict and confusion in the Believer. When we read what James says in this passage and then compare it to what the Apostle Paul states in Romans 3:27-28, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:21, and other verses, the Bible seems to contradict itself.

However, there is no contradiction. James is not saying that our salvation comes by works, but that our salvation is shown in the works we do. We do those works because of our love for Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, and not because we feel we must work our way to Heaven. Paul focused on the fact that salvation comes by faith alone, and James believed that also, but he was pointing out that we can talk about having faith in God all day long, but if that faith is not poured out in action, it’s basically all talk and nothing more.

James gives an example in verses15-16, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Faith is important, for without it we cannot be saved, our lives are made more difficult if we don’t have faith to believe God for the things we need, and we cannot grow in our Christian lives. But having faith and not showing that faith by our actions, does no good. James explains that we should show our faith by our works.

I remember having a conversation with a young man many years ago. He was in a denomination that was very works driven and he hammered away at this passage as his proof for why he believed as he did. I tried to explain that works could not buy his way into Heaven, it takes faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection that gets us a place with the Father in Heaven. He had a very hard time grasping it. It was obvious he had read his Bible, but the idea that faith alone would get him to Heaven, and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for his sins, was something he just couldn’t understand. I tried to explain that it takes a personal relationship with Jesus that is the basis of our faith, and that through that faith and love for Jesus that our works are displayed. I don’t know if that young man ever came to know Jesus as His Savior, but I pray that he ran into someone who could minister to him in a way that he could understand.

Faith requires obedience as well. The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 1:5 that it is through Jesus that we receive grace that brings about obedience of faith. Because we have faith in what Jesus has done for us, we are obedient to His will for us, and that obedience of our faith shows forth in our deeds.

I believe that as we act on our faith, it will show forth the love of Jesus to others as well. That is where we can become an example to unbelievers. As we pour out our love for them in the deeds we do, they begin to see that it is because of our faith in Jesus that we love them and show our concern for them and their spiritual condition, and that makes them want that same love and faith. So, let your faith take action!

Advertisements

Pray for Wisdom and Knowledge

Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture passage is Colossians 1:9-10, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (NASB) The Apostle Paul is commending the Colossians for their faith and their love of the brethren. He encourages them by telling them he is praying continually for them, and he is praying that they would gain wisdom, understanding and knowledge of God so that they can walk their spiritual lives in a manner that is pleasing and honorable to the Lord.

Gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God’s Word is essential in the life of a Believer. Without understanding His Word, we are not able to live a life that is in “a manner worthy of the Lord.” Given to our own devices, we will fail miserably, and it also makes us an easy target for the enemy of our souls to set traps for us without us recognizing them. Praying for wisdom and knowledge from God must be done daily. We need His guidance for daily living.

Asking for wisdom in other situations is also needed. James encourages the early Christians, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NASB) Wisdom is something God is more than happy to give to His children. When God told Solomon to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon chose wisdom. (I Kings 3:3-14) God was pleased with Solomon because he didn’t ask for riches or long life or that his enemies would be killed. Because Solomon asked for wisdom, God chose to also give him riches and honor among the people.

Daily prayer and Bible reading, studying God’s Word and then applying it to our lives is what brings honor to God. We must read our Bibles with understanding. When we understand what God is telling us, not only can we bring honor to God in the way we apply what we read to our lives, but we become a light for others to see. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s Word, also helps us in fighting our battles against the enemy. Without a sound understanding of God’s Word, we have no defense against Satan’s attacks. We must remember, the enemy also knows God’s Word, and we must be able to fight back with Scripture and the correct application of that Scripture to defeat him. Satan will take Scripture and twist it for his own devices, and if we are not familiar with the true meaning of God’s Word, the enemy can lead us astray easily.

Jesus defeated Satan as the enemy tried to tempt Him to relinquish His authority and to refrain from doing the task God had assigned Jesus. How did He defeat the enemy? When Satan quoted Scripture attempting to trip up Jesus, the Lord came back with Scripture properly applied to fight back against the enemy’s attempts at bringing Him down. That’s how we win at defeating the enemy as well. Spiritual warfare can be very difficult because we have an adversary who is bent on crushing us and make us defeated Christians with no joy, peace, or victory in our lives. As we apply that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, we receive Spiritual fruit that will grow and make us stronger in our daily walk with the Lord. So, asking God to reveal His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding through His Word, is the key to growth in living for Jesus, and being a light in a dark world.

Think Carefully

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Haggai 1:5, “Think carefully about your ways.” (CSB). This month we’ve been talking about having goals, making plans, and God’s plans and promises. To give a little background on this passage, the prophet, Haggai was directed by God to give a message to Zerubbabel, who was the governor of Judah. God was displeased with the children of Israel because they had tended to their own houses and left the temple in ruins. They were supposed to be rebuilding the temple, but they were more concerned with their own personal comfort and well-being, that they disregarded God’s house while reconstructing their own homes.

God gave them a directive, “Think carefully about your ways.” He mentions this twice, in verse 8 God once again tells them, “Think carefully about your ways.” He’s dead serious about this, hence the repeating of his instruction. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They did not desire to be obedient, and God showed His displeasure with their heart attitudes. Verse 6 talks about how they planted but their harvest amounted to little. They eat and drink, but they are not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they never have enough to stay warm. God held back blessings from them because of their disobedience and disregard for His house. Therefore, He charges them to think carefully about all they have done.

As we sit down and make our goals, and make plans to accomplish those goals, we must think carefully about how we are going to accomplish what we want. Whether it’s something as physical as losing weight, or as spiritual as becoming more like Christ in attitude and action, we must carefully think about how we are going to meet that goal.

As I recently recounted about a neighbor who failed to sit down and plan out the building of his house and failed miserably, we can fail in accomplishing our goals without careful planning, thinking about what steps we must take to be successful, setting ourselves up for meeting that goal.

In a spiritual sense, not only must we think carefully about how we will be more like Jesus, but we must also consult God. Spending time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom from godly counselors, all help us to accomplish our desire to be more like Him.

For me, the first step is taking account of where I am right now with Jesus. What attitudes and actions am I exhibiting? Are they reflecting a Christ-like attitude? If not, what do I need to do to change? Then I need to go to God in prayer, asking Him to help me be the person He wants me to be. As I look into His Word, I must ask Him to show me verses that will help me to succeed. Accomplishing my goal is done one step at a time. As I succeed with each trial that makes me choose the right attitude or action, I then need to thank Him for His help. When I have reached the goal then I must remember not to let pride take hold, for if I become prideful then I am like the children of Israel who disregarded God’s instruction.

Heart attitude is so important. We can cause all the good we do to be of no account because of a poor heart attitude. Then the goals we have accomplished become as nothing. “Think carefully about your ways.” Only then can we be truly successful in achieving our goals.

You Can Trust God’s Promises

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (NASB) I find so much comfort in reading this passage. God has made so many promises to us, and to know that He will do as He promises brings a sense of well-being, a sense that He is in control and will never go back on His word.

I was talking with my hubby about this passage and he relayed a story of something that happened when he lived in California. He had been offered a position as a maintenance man at a trailer park by a lady, and there was no contract drawn up, but an agreement was made by shaking hands. In my husband’s mind your word is your bond and should be taken as seriously as a contract. Well, a month goes by and he hears by way of the grapevine that he’s been let go and a relative of this lady has been put in the position. She never told him and so he confronted her. She gave some excuse and that was that. Well, evidently the relative didn’t work out because she came back to my hubby and asked if he would take the job again. Well, she had gone back on her word before and my husband wasn’t about to give her that opportunity again, so he said no because he couldn’t trust her. People will make promises and then not keep their word. But Moses writes that God is not man, He does not lie, and what He says He will do, He will do it.

Some people have problems in trusting God because of the actions of people. Especially if they have issues with their father. God is our Heavenly Father, and for us, our earthly father is supposed to be an example of our Heavenly Father. When that example is not a good one, then our view of God is skewed. Then it is hard to see God as a loving, Father who will keep His promises. Too many times those who have had that poor example have a hard time trusting. They can’t believe that what they are promised will come to fruition and that they will always be disappointed.

God keeps His promises. His love for us is so vast it is hard for us to comprehend, and because He loves us so much, He wants to provide for us in all ways. He promises good for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We can trust Him, even when we don’t understand what is going on, when things are turned upside down, when it feels like we are standing in the middle of a hurricane, we KNOW we can trust Him, because as we look at how He has taken care of us in the past, we can see that His character is to be truthful, and to keep His promises.

Trust is a big issue for some people, I know for me, it is. If I don’t feel I can trust you, then I will be careful about what I tell you, I will watch closely at what you do to be sure that I will be protected. I don’t have that issue with God. I know I can always trust Him. I can trust His Word, I can trust His actions, I can trust everything about Him. I’ve seen Him work in my life in the past and He has always come through, even when I didn’t understand what He was doing at the time. I found that He always had my good in mind. He had a plan for me, and it was a good plan, even though I couldn’t see what the next step was, or how He was leading me. Even in the times when it felt like He was far away from me, He was there guiding my footsteps, holding my hand. I look back now and see His handiwork in it all.

Be encouraged dear reader, God can be trusted to keep His promises. Do you have family members far from God? God hears your prayers and He loves them more than you do. He is working in the background even when you can’t see it. (Isaiah 65:24) Trust Him. Are you going through a situation that seems as if there is no solution? He knows all about it and He is working in your favor. (Psalm 91:5) Trust Him. He loves you and He will see you through. Are you in a financial crisis? He knows all about it and He will provide because He has promised that He will. (Exodus 23:25) Trust Him. Have you wandered far from Him? He’s drawing you back to Himself. He loves you. (Ephesians2:4-5) You can trust Him!

God Has a Plan

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Isaiah 14:24-27. As I searched for a way to create artwork for this passage, I came upon an image in Pinterest that seemed to resonate with me, so I traced it into my Bible. The image is of the cross with a heart on it. God’s love poured out on the cross.

Because this Scripture is a long passage, I won’t include it here, but I encourage you to read the passage for yourself. I read the entire 14th chapter to get background on this section. The chapter is about Israel’s release from Babylon, and they are taunting Babylon, telling them what God will do to them. In the last part of the chapter God says he will lay Assyria and Philistia to ruin for their persecution of His people. What I want to focus on is, throughout this passage God says, “I have planned”, and the 27th verse popped out at me,” For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it?”

I think what jumped out at me in this passage was not only does God have a plan, but His plan can not be stopped or changed unless He deems it. His timing is not our timing, nor His thoughts or plans like ours. (Isaiah 55:8) Oftentimes that means we are waiting on His timing for His plan in our lives to work itself out. The song, “While I’m Waiting” by Josh Waller is playing, and it’s the perfect song for this idea of God’s plan not being ours. God sees the end from the beginning and knows what He will do in our lives. His plan is far better than our plan will ever be.

As I look at the image of the cross with the heart, I’m thinking that God’s greatest plan was to send His Son to die on the cross for our sins and take our place as the punishment for our sin. God had that plan from the foundation of creation. Adam and Eve’s sin did not come as any surprise to Him and He already had a plan in place!

As for me, I can relate with the “hurry up and wait” idea. I seem to spend a lot of my life in that mode. Patience has never been a strong suit of mine, so waiting on God to do something in a specific situation sometimes gets very frustrating for me. But then, I must remember that He knows what He’s doing in my life far better than I do. I’m so glad He has a plan for my life, for without His plans, my life would be a mess! I can not even think of what my life would be like without Him. He has taken me on an adventure that is unequal to any other. I have been places I never would have imagined being. I’ve done things that, as a kid, I never would have dreamed doing! Waiting on His plan in my life is the best thing for me to do.

Even the hard times have not been as bad as they could have been, because He has walked right beside me through each situation. I didn’t have to go through those times alone. His presence was always with me, and it is still today. The joys of life seem that much better and the sorrows of life aren’t as dark as they could be. Even those times when I felt I was at the bottom of a very dark hole, God was with me, so I wasn’t alone, and He let me crawl up into His lap and cry and pour my heart out to Him as He wrapped His arms around me. Even the hard times are part of His plan, and He allows them to show me how much I desperately need Him and rely on Him. In the mountain top experiences, He rejoiced with me, and life was one big party! Those times were just that much sweeter with Him at my side. Each step of my life is planned out by God, and it is for my good and for His Glory! He receives all the praise and honor for what He is accomplishing in my life. Praise God for His plan!

Jesus-Our Wonderful Counselor

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (NASB) The names of Jesus struck me, but mostly the name of Wonderful Counselor.

In researching what this means, I found a website called “Walk in the Word” by James MacDonald. (https://jamesmacdonald.com/jesus-the-wonderful-counselor/) He had some insightful things to say about the name given Jesus as Wonderful Counselor. As we read this passage in Isaiah, James MacDonald says, “Isaiah says, “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor.” He’s not the angry counselor, the gruff counselor, or the disconnected counselor. He understands what we’re going through and can advise us while He accompanies us through whatever we are facing. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).” (CSB)

He also explained the meaning of Wonderful. It is not as we would think of today, but we need to look at it from the perspective of Isaiah. MacDonald says, “…the Hebrew word for wonderful is “pela” which actually means wonder or miracle. So the “wonderful” in Wonderful Counselor doesn’t just mean delightful and pleasing but also miraculous. He is a miracle-working Counselor who does what no one else can do for you. The biblical idea of counsel involves both careful listening and clear advising. It describes someone who is wise; someone who really knows how to live and will share that knowledge.”

Just think, Jesus is our miracle-working Counselor, someone who knows what we are going through, who guides us with wisdom and understanding. He also walks with us through those times when we are confused or do not understand the what’s and why’s of the situation. He directs our pathway. (Isaiah 48:17) Proverbs 16:9 says that He “establishes our steps.” (NIV)

He is far greater than any human counselor can be. People can only give advice, imperfect as we are, for we can offer only what we understand. God Himself, Jesus, has perfect understanding because He sees our lives from beginning to the end. He sees the whole picture, and we can only see a portion. He also knows what He wants to accomplish in our lives. He has a plan mapped out for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (NIV) His plans are the best for our lives. We may think we have our lives all planned out, but they can’t supersede what God has in store for us. It’s up to us to decide to follow God’s plan for us or not. He has only good in mind for our lives. The end result is for our betterment, even if the situation may not seem good at the time, the result is for our good.

How many times have we gone through something that was so horrible that we would not want to ever repeat it? But once it is over and we’ve come through it victoriously, we have found that if it were not for the experience, where we are right now would never have come about if we had not gone through it. Jesus’ counseling, guiding, leading, and directing has brought us to a higher level of relationship with Him, and we have become stronger in the process.

I look back at my life and I can see His Hand in so many areas. I have often said that my life is an adventure with Jesus. I have had so many experiences that I never would have imagined when I was a young teenager. One example is my life with my first husband. When I was in high school, if someone would have told me that I would be on radio and television, I would have told them they were crazy, and yet God saw fit to have me meet my first husband and marry him, and enter the world of broadcasting, because he was a chief engineer of Christian radio and television and we found ourselves on the air in front of a mic or TV camera quite often. This was not something I had planned for myself, but Jesus guided me, “counseled” me, and led me into a life of ministry that has spanned almost 50 years.

I praise God for being my Counselor. Left to my own devices, I would have made a miserable mess out of my life. He knows and loves me, and He wants the best for me! Are you going through a time of difficulty or indecision? Look to Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, He will walk with and guide you.

Adopted into God’s Family

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (ESV) The thought that popped out at me in this passage was the idea of adoption. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection made the way for us to be adopted into God’s family.

Jesus came as a baby, fully human, to be our Sacrificial Lamb, to redeem us from the penalty of our sins. The verse says “when the fullness of time came…” At the right time, and in the right place, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin. Jesus was fully God and yet He was fully human. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, humankind was under the law. God gave Moses the law so that we would be faced with the fact that we are not perfect, and can not fulfil the law, but God sent Jesus to rescue us from the penalty of not following the law. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God adopts us into His family. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12 KJV) Because of that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. We experience God’s grace and mercy because of our acceptance of His Son and His finished work on the cross.

Now, in the Old Testament, those who trusted and obeyed God, the Father, were accepted by God as His people. They were faithful to Him and worshipped Him. But they still had to offer sacrifices for their sins because Jesus had not yet come to take the penalty for their sins. Romans 9:4 says, “…Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” (NIV)

Once Jesus’ sacrifice was completed, the sacrifice of animals was no longer needed because He was the final sacrifice. When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins, He does just that, and we then become children of God through adoption.

Adoption is such an awesome thing. It takes a child who is without a family and makes them part of a family. By law, that child is a bonafide member of that family, they have the same rights legally as a child born into that family. Because of Jesus and what He did for us, we can be part of God’s family and become a child of God. We can share in the same rights that Jesus has. God doesn’t see our sin, but He sees Jesus’ shed blood covering our sins and we are made perfect because of His blood shed for us. Ephesians 1:5 says, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (NIV)

I have a friend who has adopted several children. Those children are her kids! She sees no difference between her blood birthed children and her adopted ones. She loves them all equally. In God’s family, God sees us as His sons and daughters, there is no difference between Jesus and us…we are His! We have the same rights of sonship as our big brother, Jesus!

I am so grateful to God for adopting me into His family. I can go to my Abba Father anytime and talk to Him about my struggles, my joys, my anxieties, and those things I need His help with. Jesus’ birth and death has helped make all of that possible, and I love Him so much for what He has done for me!