Do You See It?

Seek It

Do you see it?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard this scripture quoted many times, you’ve probably even read it many times.  What I want to know, is if you see and hear what I’ve missed?  Let’s read it again, only slower.

“Religion – that God our Father accepts – as pure and faultless is this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Yep, that’s what I’ve heard quoted time and time again over the years.  What a wonderful God we serve!  He cares for each of us and wants us to love each other too.  He wants us to look after each other, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, to mow the lawn and visit the lonely.  Meet the need!  Doesn’t it feel good when we get to do so?

But, did you see it?  It’s so often overlooked or just never said.  We read the verse.  We quote the words.  We have it quoted to us.  Though like in the above, it’s rarely said in its entirety.  We often stop reading before the “and,” or if we do read it our minds have already stop listening.  Why?

For those of us who have heard it regularly, I think we’ve been conditioned to stop before the “and” because we think we already know the verse.  Our human nature kicks in and we’re already onto wanting next.  I mean, ok, take care of widows and children who do not have parents.  Now, tell me something I don’t know!  I also think we fail to see and hear the “and” because it’s the hardest thing to do.  Giving a meal to a hungry person or hugging a child is easy compared to what else is required of us.  Then again, maybe we stop hearing it because we simply don’t want to, or it just doesn’t fit in with our agenda we’re trying to push that day–if ever.

Here it is, the “and,”

“and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

WHAT?!  Yep, it’s really there!  I read about eight different translations and they’re all the same.  How does keeping “oneself from being polluted by the world” fit in with looking after orphans and widows?  It does tie in, because the worldview is for us to do anything and everything that makes me feel good about me, and to be or become whatever will gain me social accolades.  Sure, feeding hungry children can get you those accolades, but then the heart’s motive is selfish (polluted) not God pleasing.  Try saying you believe in and long to live by the Ten Commandments today.  See how the world responds to that.  They will be quick to point out where you fail, treat you as if you are a lesser species, and many will call you intolerant, even if you are caring for the needs of others.

God knows that for us to have a pure heart, we have to have our heart right with Him.  If we allow the world to pollute us with its ideologies, then He can’t pour Himself through us to love those in need around us.  Sin will erode our minds and harden our hearts toward God and others.  It will hinder us from experiencing all the tenderness He has for us and dampen our ability to give and receive sincere love.

We’re told in verse one that James was writing to the Christians, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  So this tells me, a Christ follower, that I am vulnerable to the sins of this world and must guard against its deception.

We’re reminded in verse fourteen, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” The New Living Translation states it this way, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.”

It is my responsibility to “keep from being polluted by the world.”  I will only have myself to blame if I don’t.  The temptation will look and taste good for a moment.  It’s enticing!  But, it will soon become bitter in the stomach and poison the body, leaving us unable to care for the needs of others.  What goes in will come out, so we must stay on guard!

Am I the only one who has failed to see the “and” in James 1:27?  It makes me wonder how many other ands, therefore, ifs, or buts I’ve missed.  How many times have I put a period on a verse where there’s only a comma?  It may just be time to revisit a few of our favorite verses, those we think we already know, and the words surrounding them.  God’s word is alive!  He is always speaking!  We will hear Him if we’ll pause to truly listen, and see.  It’s our responsibility.

How do we stay on guard against the pollutants of this world?  By filling ourselves with the entire Word of God, all of the ifs ands and buts.

~Shannan

~ Lord give us sight ~

To Weed or Not To Weed

“The only way we can create and maintain a hunger for God is to protect our soul by choosing what we fill it with.” – John Bevere

Healthy Soil

As I was mopping my floors, I paused to look out my dining room window. While looking down from the second story of my home, I let out a sigh of both frustration and relief. My frustration was for the fact that I am the only one to blame for the mess my lawn is in, and my relief is for the amazing Cutting Crew who did such a great job aerating and seeding my yard a few weeks ago.

This house is a lot of work. With the help of a few friends and a few emotional meltdowns, I’ve done okay with keeping up with it (for the most part). Unfortunately, the time needed and the absence of man-muscles on this feminine body caused me to shrug my shoulders when it came to caring for the soil on which my house is built. I reasoned away my neglect by becoming content with the weeds and with the image that all was being cultivated properly. As long the yard looked tidy and green for the neighbors, it was easier to live with the weeds than to deal with them. They just take so much time and energy.

I stood peering out my window and thought about how much easier it would have been had I dealt with the few weeds when I moved into this house. Now those few weeds have grown and overtaken my entire yard. At the time it seemed okay and logical to not be so concerned with a few small issues. It didn’t seem to be such a big deal. After all, my yard was trimmed and looked colorful and well-kept on its surface, but underneath the facade the life was slowly being sucked from the soil–the very foundation on which my house is built. Thankfully there’s a thread of healthy grass that remains, though not easily seen. It too would have been choked to death had I not begun the process of healing my lawn this past fall.

The lessons from my lawn are a great example of how quickly one small compromise can grown into a massive life-saving renovation. I could continue to ignore my yard and hope the weeds will stay and remain a nice green color to appease myself and trick my neighbors, but then who would be the fooled? That green color soon turns to a yard washed away by erosion and my neighbors are not fools, so that would leave only me wearing that title.

Sin does the same thing in our minds and hearts. First we reason away our choice to compromise, then that compromise leads to a softening of the soil of our heart. Each compromise to follow becomes easier and our hearts become less and less concerned or aware of the erosion taking place. The facade gets harder to keep up, if possible at all. A heart that was once so passionate for righteousness becomes desensitized to God and all He asked of us when we first placed our trust in Him.

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “How did I ever end up here?” Have you ever questioned where the zeal went that you had when you first trusted Christ as Savior? I’m not referring to just the emotions you had. Emotions ebb and flow, but what happened to the sold out commitment that burned in your innermost part of your heart and soul?

dandelions-66719_640

The weeds trick us with their outward beauty, making it appear easier to live with them than to deal with them. They can be painful and really hard to uproot, but if we continue to ignore them we will only be left dried up and thirsty in the soil of our soul. Choosing to be content with only the appearance of a healthy heart will rob us of the abundant life God has for us. We fool no one but ourselves. Sure it seems easier at the moment, but there’s always a high price in the end and a whole lot more energy exhausted fixing a bigger problem than what we first started with.

Though the weeds try to fool us, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we choose to turn a blind eye to something that needs to be uprooted in our lives, or if we compromise and let something in that never should have been allowed in the first place.

So much can be learned from my experience with my yard. God’s immeasurable love for us causes Him to relentlessly pursue us. He’s so rich in grace that He will even have His creation speak His truth to us. Our job is to listen, to respond, and then to continue cultivating the soil of our heart by filling it with His life-giving Word.

Thankfully there’s a thread of healthy grass that remains, so it’s not too late to begin caring for the soil on which your house is built.

~ Shannan

Have Courage To Cultivate

Have Courage To Cultivate

Unaware of His Awareness

Presence

Could it be that God’s delay is His compassion to help us understand the reality that He understands our heartache?  If He answers with His promised answer too fast, we may remain unaware of His awareness of our human questioning hearts.  He understands when we cry out “My God, why have You forsaken me.”  We may feel He is absent in our seasons of pain, but our feelings do not make His presence any less existent.

So often I feel God stands too far removed to see or care about what pains me, but truth is for me like truth was for Jesus.  God never leaves.  God never forsakes.  God is always present and always unfolds His victories in our lives.

“My God!  My God!  Why have You forsaken Me”*, Jesus cried… Then morning came three days later.  The stone was rolled away and Jesus exposed the truth.  God was never removed.  God was fulfilling the promise that He had made so many years before in the Garden of Eden.

The promise.

In The Garden of Eden He said, “He (Jesus) shall bruise your head,”  (Gen. 3:15).

At The Garden Tomb, God stripped death of its sting and bridged the gap sin had created between God and man.

“Jesus from Nazareth, who has been crucified.  He has risen from the dead; He is not here.  Look, here is the place they laid Him.” – Mark 16:6

The victory!

Just as God rose Jesus from the ashes of death, God promises to raise us from ours.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His glory.” – Is. 61:3

He gives a “crown of Beauty” in place of the thorns Jesus wore.  God is fully aware, and fully engaged, and will fully redeem all that was stolen.  If we wait on Him, we’ll not just have beauty but we will wear it as a crown for all to see.  The beauty – God’s glory on display – for our good.  Amen!

Hang On!  All the unmet expectations do not surprise God.  They are a means for God to intersect our lives with His plan.

How has an unexpected event in your life allowed God to crown you with His beauty?

~Shannan

2014, Staying Faithful and Walking In New Beginnings.

His ways are perfect.  His plan is perfect.  His timing is perfect.

*(Matt. 27:46)