Imperfect Perseverance

James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’

As I look often into the heart of my Perfect Saviour, I see more and more how Imperfect I really am. This is not with a spirit of condemnation but it releases me to love more and judge less, to surrender the things that hinder my relationship with Jesus more readily and to be present with other Imperfect people where they are at.

James is speaking to Christian Jews in this passage above and he knew through firsthand experience that to get through this life, we needed perseverance. He was speaking to a people scattered among the nations and facing many trials. This text is applicable today as even now I can sit and count many in just my life alone who are in the midst of hard things. Loss of loved ones, addictions, illness, financial strain and the day to day of just pressing through sometimes. James is saying your trial is not the time to rejoice less, your sickness is not the time to pray less, your loss is not the time to love others less but a time to practice the joy, peace and love Jesus died for us to have.

I love that God gives us a choice, ‘Consider’ it pure joy, or think carefully about if before making a decision. We can choose the opposite of joy and there have been times when I have done that. This does not make the process go away or any easier, in fact it is probably more difficult because my attitude stinks. If I have learned anything in this life it is that if we choose the opposite of God’s heart for us, we will get to try and learn that again in another form, another time. He is true to His promise that He will finish what He starts in us until the day of Christ Jesus. Decide right here and now that He is for you! Decide that the fire you may be in will burn off the dross and just leave pure gold in your character. Decide that He loves you! Period! Perseverance actually means steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Decide to look for Jesus in every situation. I love what I read yesterday. Exhale the world. Inhale Jesus. Blow out your circumstances, inhale the life of Jesus. I don’t say any of this lightly, I have been in many situations that seemed like a dark blanket that  I could not get out from under. Keeping my eyes on God was my only lifeline.

Last week I was returning from taking my daughter back to her home a couple of hours away. I ended up in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. As I was driving in the pounding rain that forced me to pull over when my wipers couldn’t keep up, I was praying for all the people in my life that are in the midst of difficult times. God showed me that when we are in the midst of a storm, it sometimes never feels like it is going to let up, the pressure feels almost too much to bear. The thunder rattles us to our soul and the lightning blinds us to the truth, the darkness and heaviness of the clouds weighs in on our perception. But God…sends a vehicle with flashing hazards to light the way and if you look in the distance you can see a break in the darkness of the clouds, even a little blue if you squint hard enough. And you press on toward the light and hope of the storm letting up so you can stop hydroplaning through your life and let God have control of your wheel. As I prayed I kid you not, He set out a rainbow in different parts of the sky to light my trip the rest of the way home and to be reminded of His promises for life.

God knows you and is for you and is patient with your imperfection. Press on and don’t stop looking and squinting and choosing joy and love in your consideration. Look for the ones that have their lights flashing to walk with you toward your rainbow. He doesn’t intend for us to persevere alone. Our confidence is in God who will safely bring us home.

Jude 1:24-25New International Version (NIV)

Doxology

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Processing in the Process

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Trusting God when you are in the midst of a process can be a difficult thing to do and even more so when it is a pressure cooker and more than one process is happening.  You may be in a position where running away from it all and trying to ‘figure’ it out in peace seems like a logical thing to do. You may just want to run away period, nevermind the figuring things out. Or you are just plain asking for a break in the process so you don’t feel stretched thin.

What if, your reaction to the process is what is making it more difficult for you? Now stick with me here, don’t close this window just yet. Have you heard the term that I know Joyce Meyer says, new level, new devil? Most of us resist brokenness but it is in this place that we know God better. Are you submitting to the dealings of God? Or resisting them? I heard a saying the other day that we do go from glory to glory but it is sometimes hell in the hallway! As we go deeper with God, He builds our character through process, we learn perserverance in our own training with Him.

Graham Cooke says, ‘If you let go of God in your development you will not be able to keep hold of him when the days get tough in ministry. Look for the majesty of God in the training ground. You cannot take ground from the enemy if he has ground in you.’ Our training or processes are part of killing off our flesh so we can give God our excellence.

Is it painful sometimes?  You bet your boots. I am experiencing some of that squeezing right now in my life and I haven’t been real pretty about it either. I have sworn and cried and questioned, like stretch armstrong on steroids, But God…I sing His praises, I find something to be grateful about, I am so honored to be His child and know that there is something redemptive in everything that we go through. My amazing friend Lee said in the midst of one of my struggles, what is the redemptive purpose in what is happening? What is being redeemed in me that God wants to refine? God is concerned about our growth and character.

We decrease so that there will be an increase of God. I was reminded last night that my word this year is Finish, James 1:4 “Let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Today I need to choose to circumcise my feelings from my beliefs because my flesh is saying to that, ya NO! I listened to a teaching by Bill Johnson called Faith Versus Entitlement  (see bethel church podcast below)- ouch, entitlement – the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. He said that if looking at a problem doesn’t release joy then we aren’t seeing it right, we aren’t seeing that there is a divine purpose because on the other side, we lack Nothing.  Count it all joy means do the math because on the other side of the trial, in that place redeemed in us, we will lack nothing. Can you wrap your mind around that idea? Does it mean we are done? No. Pruning is always positioning us for a greater increase, a greater manifestation and purpose, God being greater in and through us. It always goes back to it is not about us, God won’t do it without us but we can’t do it without Him. I need to get over myself, bottom line. God’s grace is the only place where that will happen.

It is not about finding joy In the trial but in what the trial will bring. I believe it is a mindset, it is about our mentality when facing the trials in front of us. I heard Jim Richards the other day say that forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. I believe this is applicable in trials as well, it is a decision to find the joy that we will be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. It doesn’t mean that there will be no pain or grief and I think a lot of the times that is my expectation because I seek comfort over growth more than I care to admit. Trials have the ability to make us bitter or better. We need to choose to send away our judgment and release our offence over our situations in order to see through to the end of it with Jesus.

I was in a position the other day that revisited an old wound in a new way. At first I was frustrated that there were still more layers to this hurt but when the person was sorry for the situation creating this reaction, I became grateful that because of this I was becoming more whole in order to minister better to others. Was it painful and did it suck? Absolutely! At my healing trauma class later that week our facilitator reminded us that all things are in layers and when one layer is exposed and allowed to heal in the light of Jesus it builds a better foundation and our tool kit increases to deal with the next layer that will come as God wants to go deeper. You see our healing is not to revisit things to be hurt again but to be free from them crippling us because Jesus changes the nature of things. I have been processing these truths as I write this out to you, tough stuff especially with an entitlement attitude that my life needs to look easy, but that was never promised, it is my false expectation. I want to have the capacity for life and service for the God that loves me, finish your work Lord.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/bethel-church-sermon-week/id76583739?mt=2

Spinning Tire Perspectives

I went for my first walk in the snow today. What, you say, don’t you live in Saskatchewan where that stuff has been on the ground for a while? Why yes I do and I guess that is not entirely true about it being my first, I have walked from the house to the garage, from the car to my destination and returning again from the garage to the house. This one was for real, a bundle up and walk for an hour with snow crunching underneath and going through the park. I had a walk in mind when I saw that the air was not cold enough to hurt my face today. As I sat worshipping this morning though God placed an urgency in my spirit to go for a walk right away. Who am I to argue?

My first block in I encountered a young man slamming out of his car, hands in the air #@%&!!! I asked God, is this why the urgency? The man proceeded to slam back into the car and rev the engine, forward, spin, reverse, spin, slam on the steering wheel. By this point God moved me to stand on the sidewalk near him until he caught my eye. He looked over, probably thinking oh great, or some sort of that kind of sentiment and opened the door. ‘Can I help you? I could drive if you want to push?’  Resigned as I was his only option he jumped out and started shoveling furiously. The car was a standard and I just happen to love and know how to drive a stick. For me it was a fun adventure, not so much for him. After a few maneuvers we were free of the sinkhole that had swallowed his little sports car tires. ‘Thank you lady, you saved my day.’

‘You are welcome, I hope the rest of your day is blessed. ‘

He apologized for having to see him that way. I patted his shoulder as we switched spots and said,’ It is just a stuck car.’

‘It is now, it wasn’t then. Thanks again,’ He smiled and got in to carry on to whatever his day held for him.

As I continued walking and asking God to show me His perspective in that situation a few things came to mind. First of all, we never know a lot of the time the impact we may have on someone by going where God wants us to go. I have no idea what that gentleman had going on nor did I need to know but perhaps He needed Jesus to love him through me for that short period. Maybe his quick frustration was habitual and next time he may pause and think life is not an emergency, just breathe. God also showed me how His presence in me, without me even saying a word sometimes can bring awareness of sin.

He also reminded me that even though it was just a stuck car, when we are in the middle of a situation and it is frustrating or rather we lack the patience in it, it is difficult to see past the spinning tires sometimes. It took just a few little moves for us to release from the snow trap. What kind of perspective change do you or can you make when your tires are spinning? I encourage you to take a step back, tilt your head, press in to Jesus, call a friend, buy a vowel, whatever it takes to see more clearly. Even if a situation has been long-suffering or seems too painful to bear much longer, one turn of the wheel or a word of gratitude or even a push may give you enough momentum to get free and be hopeful. ‘May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’ Romans 15:13

Jacob, after he dreamed of angels and ladders, awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.’ Genesis 28:16. When you feel distant from God, pray these words and ask Him to give you an awareness of His Presence. He delights to show us and it may even come in the form of spinning tires or some old lady who knows how to drive a stick.

 

You Talked to the Monk?

Do you know when you get so tickled by something that you giggle everytime you think about it after it happens? My son, Owen and I were telling my husband, Wade about a story from school. Owen’s class has had some bullying and damaged relationships so their teacher/school arranged for a retreat to try and repair some issues. The day after the retreat Owen’s teacher told him that the leader shared that he liked that Owen kid. As we relayed this story to Wade, he said to Owen, ” You talked to the Monk?” We immediately cracked up not knowing that Wade was uncertain of the retreat set up, thinking maybe it was lecture style more than interactive. (side note – the leader was actually a monk in training).

God reminded me of this story as I was preparing for this entry about joy. Joy as defined by dictionary.com is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness or rejoice as a verb. Some things that bring a feeling of great pleasure to me and make me rejoice are: Jesus in me, Jesus healing hearts, my husband, my children, friends, my family, babies, baby bunnies, thunder, lightening, rain, walking in the rain, walking, stories that make me giggle, laughter, love, writing, listening to others, spontaneous adventures, my church, smells of spring and summer, flowers, butterflies, sunrises and sunsets… I realized as I began this list it could be quite endless but you get the picture.

Joy comes from the Greek root word chara (pronounced khar-ah’) meaning to be exceedingly glad or the awareness of God’s grace and favour. If I was counting on my happiness from these things, it could rise and fall with the circumstances or the people. True joy is not dependent on circumstances. It is an abiding sense of happiness that is the result of hope, faith and love. The joy I receive from the things on my list are the result of knowing God’s grace and favour and that all good gifts are given by Him. Joy is a consequence of having an intimate relationship with Jesus.

I have been listening to teachings of Graham Cooke lately and they are blowing my mind with his spiritual truths. Joy rises up in my spirit as the truth of his message hits me.  I highly recommend any of his teachings posted online. One of the things he says is that the fruit of the spirit is in us already, we just have to practice using it. Galatians 5:22 ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I don’t believe there is any coincidence about the order of this list, the gifts are anchored by love and self-control but joy is the result of knowing God’s love and showing it.

The word joy appears in the Bible 214 times. We can swallow the exciting words about joy in the Word like Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Woohoo, these are sweet promises from God, or Psalm 71:23, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed.”

What about the passage Hebrews 12:2, ” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the Joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Ok we reason, this is Jesus, the Son of God and even though he was fully human, he was without sin and He knew His purpose was to bring salvation and restore people to God’s heart. His joy was knowing what was to come when He fulfilled His purpose.   

How about us? How do we reconcile a passage like this one, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” This one needs a little bit more saliva to make its journey. It is not just joy either, it is pure joy or free of any contamination the definition clarifies. To completely swallow this word, we need a bit more fullness. Verses 3 and 4 continue, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Ahhh a purpose in this paradox. Graham Cooke describes this as two conflicting ideas contained in the same truth. How do trials and joy mix together in one truth? Joy rises in persevering with God through life and trials and our faith is matured and strengthened. I think the trick is to seperate the pain associated with trials and trust the process even if you can’t see the end of it.

I know this is not easy in our own strength but we need to fix our eyes on Jesus as we walk through any trial. He promises in John 16:33, ” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So live life, choose joy, practice it until Jesus comes back. You never know if you will get to talk to a monk 🙂