Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Starting this week, a friend and I are going to be going through the book of James, one chapter a week, and posting about it on our blogs! We just wanted to encourage each other to stay in the Word, and also (hopefully) spend some time discussing what we read. So here goes, James Chapter 1 for this week! I won't copy it all on here, just certain verses and portions that spoke to me....
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (vs 2-4)
Trials are outward circumstances - conflicts, sufferings, and troubles - that all of us, as believers, will encounter. But God doesn't call us to concentrate on the unpleasantness, or grief, associated with the trials we face. Instead, he calls us to consider trials as an opportunity for rejoicing, because when we go through troubles and difficulties it refines and purifies our faith, producing patience and endurance! If we never went through anything that challenged us, we would never grow. This is still really hard for me, because in my flesh, I don't want to suffer. No one wants to experience pain or hardship! But I am truly learning how, even when I do fall into trials or heartaches, God is always sufficient. He's always enough.
Also, I was reading in one of the notes below (I have a study bible with extra stuff), and it says that the term "testing of your faith" comes from when coins were tested to see if they were genuine and not debased. So when we are allowed to go through trials, God isn't trying to destroy or afflict us, but instead he wants to purge and refine us. It is all for our own good. Does it make it easy? Not always. But when we have the right perspective going into trials, it will make it easier, knowing that when we come through at the other end we will be better for it, and one day will be "perfect" and "complete."
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." (vs 5-6)
The first thing that comes to my mind is, "You have not because you ask not." So let's ask! And not only just ask, but let's believe and show faith and commitment, for the wisdom of God begins with genuine reverence for Him, and a steadfast confidence that God is in control of everything.
We can't have any doubt or division within ourselves. If one part of us is set on God and the other is still set on the world, there will be a constant conflict within and God doesn't want that for us! In the next verse it describes that uncertain person as "a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Let's not be that guy.
"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (vs 13-15)
I think what stands out the most to me in this portion is fact that it is a process. It first starts with a desire, which then pulls the person away into temptation, and then temptation turns to sin, and then sin, in the end, leads to destruction. One of my Project Director's on the Africa trip gave us this quote:
"A thought sows an action,
an action sows a habit,
a habit sows a character,
and a character sows a destiny."
There's this really cool song by Casting Crowns that I like called "Slow Fade." It's basically about this whole "process" - how it never just happens in an instant, but it's a slow fade... Sometimes it may seem like it was just a snap decision - "Man, I don't know what I was thinking, I just lost it!" - but if you take a careful look backward, and rewind a little, there's all sorts of little decisions, thoughts, or actions that led up to it. So I guess what my "take-away" from this section is...STOP IT BEFORE IT STARTS.
In 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 it says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ..."
If our thoughts are not on the things or Christ, we're heading down the wrong path. We shouldn't be clinging to thoughts that do not conform to the life and teachings of Christ, because when we walk in the flesh...we know where that's going to end.
"There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death." - Proverbs 14:12 AND Proverbs 16:25. I think there's definitely a reason the same advice is given twice here.
"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (vs 21-22)
If we truly believe what we say we believe, and we hear (or read) the word of God, we need to receive it with a teachable spirit, and then apply it to our daily lives. If we hear and do not obey we deceived ourselves...for what is the point of hearing but not doing? It's empty.
"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." (vs 25)
So yeah...that's basically what I got and what fired me up in this chapter. But for all my gleanings and passionate words, do not mistake my intent. I by no means think that I've got this all together, or that I'm more spiritual because I'm typing it up on my blog. I'm just learning with the rest of everyone, and I want to share in hopes it might help someone else learn as well. God is so good! He wants to bless us and give us peace, but I think too often we settle for less. I don't want to settle anymore.
So jump on board. I've found that Jesus is where it's happening, and if you think that too, great! If you're not so sure, but want to know more about Jesus, or have any questions about anything from this chapter, feel free to comment or email me!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Well, it's been one week since coming home from my two month excursion to Africa!! I have no idea where to start in telling you about this trip, because there are hundreds of stories and moments that I want to start typing up right now. I guess I'll start by saying that this summer truly changed my life. What I was able to see and experience over there was both amazing and very hard, but the Lord worked so much in and through me.
In South Africa, we partnered with an organization called Impact Africa. It was started by the Franzen family in 2003, and they have been working in the different squatter camps to advance the gospel and bring hope and help to these people. The Franzens truly have a heart for the lost, the hurting, and the desperate, and it was such a privilege to be able to work alongside them in some of the darkest, most poverty-stricken areas. Altogether we came as a group of 65 people, but we were divided into three teams of about 20 people each when we did ministry. The team I was on was called "Team Fearless," which comes from 2 Timothy 1:7 where Paul writes: "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind."
This verse definitely helped us find the courage to push through many fears, discomforts, and hard times! God gave me so many opportunities to conquer fears and grow through this trip - I am so thankful!
Our ministry consisted of VBS with the kids, shack-to-shack evangelism, and anything else we could do to help or build relationships with the people. Because the World Cup was going on during our stay in SA, we also had "soccer field ministry," which basically consisted of us just spending the day out at this soccer field that had a huge screen playing the game, and we would play soccer or talk with the different people who had gathered. On one of our last days doing soccer field ministry, I ended up talking with this woman named Ruth who had just been passing by. The rest of my group was up on the field, but I had started a conversation with her and so I stayed down by the roadside. It's funny, too, because it was really cloudy and gloomy out, and my spirits had been down and I just wasn't "feeling it" that day, but I started talking with this woman anyway, and ended up getting to share the gospel with her and she decided to trust in Christ as her Lord and Savior! It was such an amazing moment, and we talked for quite awhile after that, just about life and struggles, and how God could help her in all those areas. I think my heart broke a little that day, in-spite of the joy, because she was so excited about Jesus that she wanted me to come to her house down the road and read scriptures with her and her daughter, and I couldn't go because our group was leaving in 5 minutes. Still, I'm thankful for the time I had with her, and I was able to get her information to share with the local church, who will follow-up with her and start discipleship. I'll never forget her face, or how special that moment was.
In Zambia, I think there was 69 of us all together as a project. The reason the number is different than SA is because they divide the trips into an A, B, or C category. A is a one month trip to South Africa, B is a one month trip to Zambia, and C is a two month trip covering both. I was on C trip, along with 15 others, so most of the people who went to SA didn't continue on to ZAM, and the people who came to ZAM were totally new faces to us! Thus we had 69 in Zambia, but it was a whole new team! Anyway, enough of that side trail...
In Zambia we partnered with an organization called "Every Orphan's Hope," and with their help we got to do a huge VBS camp for 5 days with over 300 kids. Me and another girl had our own group of 10 kids, who we got to see everyday, and it was just such a wonderful experience getting to know these kids, and spending all that time with them. Yes, at times it was quite tiring, but the smiles on their faces and the growth we got to see in each of them was well worth everything it took out of us. Not to mention that 9 of the kids prayed to receive Christ at the end of the week, which was wonderful! Their names and faces are forever imprinted upon my heart, and one of my favorite memories was near the end of the week when we actually got to wash their feet. We had read them the story about how Jesus had washed his disciples feet as an act of service and love to them, and to demonstrate we did it ourselves. The kids loved it!
Also in Zambia we did more hut-to-hut ministry, and we got to volunteer at several clinics in the area (cleaning, visiting with patients, and praying for healing). I got to see some things I had never seen before, and there's one day that I will never, ever be able to forget. We had been helping out at the clinic the whole morning, washing linens and visiting with different people. The staff there were very friendly, and had showed us all around, even to the maternity ward, where all the moms (about 30 of them!) had come with their babies for various shots and checkups. The babies were so cute! So little and precious. When early afternoon came around, though, we ate lunch and then were preparing to leave when there was this commotion. I heard a woman screaming and wailing, and saw that they were dragging this young woman away. I went over to see what had happened and they told us her baby had just died right there. And I don't know, I just had never seen such pain before as I saw in this young mom's eyes. My leader and I ended up going in to see the baby, and she was so beautiful. She just looked like she was sleeping there, but I knew she was dead, and so we prayed for her. You may think we were crazy, but God has chosen to raise some people from the dead before, and I completely believed he could do the same for this child. Did he? No. He didn't. But what I learned is that, even when we don't understand why God allows some things to happen, such as a mom losing her precious little baby, he's still God... and His ways are not our ways. Did he work healing while we were there this summer? Absolutely. There was even a crippled lady who walked! But that's not always His will, and I was just glad we were able to be there for the mom. Just holding her and sharing in her grief, letting her know that someone was there for her in that time was such a privilege. It changed me.
So yeah, there was a lot of stuff that happened this summer that was not easy, but through it all God taught me so much, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I have so many stories to share, but all in all I know that God wanted me to be in Africa this summer, and it was just so life-changing. Being home I'm just not the same. There's so much God has put on my heart to change and do in my life, and I'm very excited about it!
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