Praying Hard

James 1-5

James_1-6

Wednesday, July 12

I have seen several ruined relationships within families, friendships, and significant others due to not taming the tongue. Most of these situations would probably have been avoided if everyone were “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV). It is frowned upon to show favoritism to one person over another because it shows discrimination; instead we should be loving our neighbors as ourselves by showing them mercy and compassion.

Within the community that I live in, there has been a lot of (verbal) fighting via complaining, judgment, swearing, and insults. According to James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” The community dynamic would undoubtedly be a lot better to live in, despite having completely different personalities and interests, if the people involved thought before they spoke avoiding hurt feelings and strained relationships.

As Christians, our faith will be tested numerously throughout our lifetimes. This testing produces endurance and develops perseverance. Through the testing of our faith, it is imperative to follow what God’s word says while facing several trials. To live wisely, we need to show our faith to God and Jesus through our actions because “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 NIV). We also need to submit ourselves to God and never have doubts when asking for His provision. If we have the right intentions in asking, God will provide. It is important to humble ourselves before the Lord and stop boasting about the future. As a planner—I love making lists, looking at events to attend, and making plans with friends. However, I have no idea if I will even be here tomorrow. James 4:15 says that we should say “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that,” instead of making plans that might not even happen.

Prayer is significant and powerful in every life situation. I know quite a few people who have given up on hope and stopped being patient in waiting for God. As Christians, it is our job to help those who have wandered away from the truth. James 5:20 states that “… whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” So please pray for everyone you know that may need God and Jesus back into their life.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that whoever reads this will ask you for help in whatever situation that they may be facing. I pray that people will stop fighting and instead listen to each other with better understanding. I hope that people turn from their wicked ways and “confess their sins and pray for each other so that they may be healed” (James 5:16). Please help me find a way to aid my friends back to you so that they may be saved. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. I love you, Lord, and cannot wait for your return.

In Jesus’s Glorious Name, I pray, Amen.

-Cynthia Fyfe

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/James-1-6_Inspirational_Image/)

Rest

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Hebrews 1-4

One of my favorite things to do on a dark stormy day is to curl up with a good book, relax, and ultimately take a nap.  It’s one of the best times for me to forget all the things to do that swirl around my mind and just rest. After that period of rest, I feel refreshed, renewed, and better able to work through what needs to be done.  Rest is not just something we enjoy but we are actually commanded to rest in both the Old and New Testament but since today’s reading is Hebrews 1-4 that is what we will stick with.

Hebrews 4:11 says, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” We NEED to rest.  It doesn’t say rest if you have the time or only rest when you are tired but instead it says to be “diligent.”  I am diligent to eat dinner every night and I am diligent to read my Bible each day but am I diligent to rest every day?

We are reminded in 4:13 that nothing that we do is hidden from our creator.  We might be able to hide our lack of rest from our friends and family but we cannot hide the truth from God. One day we will enter God’s rest in God’s Kingdom but until then let us rest from the turmoil of each day and focus on the one who promises us peace.

If you haven’t tried it already for the remainder of the time that you are reading through the Bible, before you jump into reading take a few minutes to rest.  Turn off your phone, go to a quiet place, breathe deep, and be still.  When you feel as though your mind is no longer racing then spend time in prayer and begin your study.

-Lacey Dunn

Perseverance in Suffering

2 Thessalonians 1-3

What does it mean to suffer? By Webster’s definition, it is, “To submit to or be forced to endure.”  In chapter 1 verse 5 we find that Paul speaking about how the Thessalonians are suffering.  They don’t appear to be suffering from hunger, thirst or illness but instead, Paul says they are suffering for The Kingdom of God. They are suffering persecution for their faith and because they have chosen to commit themselves to endure suffering they are commended for their great faith and perseverance.

Sadly until God’s Kingdom is established we, as Christians, will suffer persecution.  Chapter 2 even discusses that the Kingdom will not come until after a period of suffering where a “man of lawlessness” will “display himself as being God” (vs.4). This will be a dark time for all Christians and whether or not we witness this event we must always encourage each other.  If we spread love and encouragement to one another in our current sufferings it will continue to ripple through to generations in times to come.

Remember that no matter what comes, you were created and loved by the God who created the entire universe.  It is He who can give you the peace, wisdom, and strength you need to endure the suffering you are faced with every day.  The suffering is only temporary, the outcome is the eternal gift of God’s Kingdom where there will be no suffering ever again.

-Lacey Dunn

Say No to Cheap Imitation

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1 Thess. 1-3
When I think of the word “imitation” my mind links the word to things that aren’t so great. Think “imitation cheese product” instead of cheese carved off the block or “pleather” compared to the feel and smell of real leather. We would do well to remember that imitation isn’t reserved only for things that aren’t so great but rather that imitation can be powerful and amazing. The imitation that is spoken of in this passage isn’t of the “imitation crab” variety but instead it paints a picture of faithful and unwavering believers spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God like wildfire.
In 1 Thessalonians 1-3 we are told of how the Thessalonians were being imitators of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy and yet ultimately imitators of God. 1 Thess 2:13 NASB says, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy were not spreading their own words but God’s words. Had Paul decided to be a cheap imitation of God and not spread God’s truth the message would not have spread with such conviction yet because Paul poured his heart and life into being a true imitation of God the message did spread with that same conviction which allowed both Jews and Gentiles to hear the good news.
We live in a world where cheap imitations are the norm. If you can’t afford some designer luxury item a cheap imitation is usually available to replace it. It makes it appear like you have the real thing but you really don’t. Please understand I’m not saying go throw away your processed cheese and pleather shoes, those are just material things. What I’m asking you to do is to truly and passionately accept the love and grace given to you by your heavenly Father and to live in such a way that others can see His light in you. Don’t say you are a Christian yet live the same way everyone else does. Stand out! Be unique! Be that true imitation of God like Paul and the Thessalonians and let your light shine into the darkness all around you!

– Lacey Dunn

Greetings from Michigan! My name is Lacey Dunn and I am part of the Garden Park Church of God family in Grand Rapids, Michigan but I am originally from Missouri. I have an amazing husband, three adorable (most of the time) kiddos, an unofficially adopted 21 year old and a lazy dog. In my spare time I love to read, chill at the beach, and have dance parties with my kids.

I’ve Been Robbed of My Peace and Happiness

Philippians

verse-of-the-day (3)

Friday, June 30

There are three different types of problems, which sometimes can also be referred to as opportunities.  First, there are problems that are only problems because our perception of the situation is not what it should be.  Second, there are problems that are in our control and could be solved if we put our mind to it.  Lastly, there are troubling situations in our lives that we have little or no control over.  They all can rob our peace and happiness, but fortunately the first two types of problems can be eliminated.  But how can we find peace and happiness if there is a problem that won’t go away and we can’t do anything about?

Some examples of the type of problem where our perception needs to be altered are when they forget to put the French fries in the bag at the drive thru, when you can’t watch your television show because someone else had the television first, or when the strap on your purse breaks.  If these types of things make you upset or unhappy, you need to work on your perspective in life.  Stuff happens; we need to learn how to deal with it without getting so upset.  These are not the types of “problems” that I want to talk about today.

The types of problems in our control are that I cough too much because I smoke, I am getting poor grades in school because I waste too much time, or I don’t have enough energy because I am overweight.  We can solve these problems with a good dose of self-discipline.  Stop smoking, do your homework, exercise, and eat less.  You’ll be amazed at how your problems will disappear.  I’m not saying it will necessarily be easy, but it can be done.  I am also not going to talk anymore about these types of problems today.

I’ll be honest; I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people that get upset about the small stuff that aren’t really problems (sometimes referred to as first-world problems) or for people that have self-inflicted problems that they could fix if they wanted to.  However, there are problems that are quite real and there is little or nothing they can do to fix them.  They can be quite serious in nature and can very easily rob you of your peace and happiness.  I am talking about someone with an alcoholic spouse that refuses to get help, yourself or a loved one that has been diagnosed with an incurable disease, someone who has been paralyzed due to an injury, a parent who has a child who refuses to be a Christian, someone who made a big mistake and will be spending the rest of their life in prison, or someone who just had a parent die.  These problems are real and they suck.  These problems might not go away.  They can really weigh on your heart and mind and they can make you extremely sad or very stressed out.  How can you still have peace and happiness if your problem doesn’t go away?

The answer lies in Philippians 4:6-9.  In verse 6 we are told to never be anxious and to let our requests be known to God through earnest prayer and thanksgiving.  Verse 7 does not say that your problem will go away; instead, it says you will receive the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension.  God is saying that He will give you peace in your heart and mind in situations that peace doesn’t even seem possible.  How can you feel true peace when you know someone you dearly love is going to die soon?  That doesn’t begin to make sense, but that is exactly what God said, it surpasses comprehension.  It makes no sense that you could have peace, but God can give you an amazing gift of peace that we can’t understand because He is God.

I had a problem that pretty much sucked the joy out of my life for a long time.  I tried hard to make the problem go away, but to no avail.  I really struggled with this because I had always had a pretty easy life with few problems, and I couldn’t change this situation no matter how hard I tried.  I didn’t know what to do.  Then I stumbled across Philippians 4:8, which is now one of my favorite verses in the Bible because of the peace and happiness that it gave back to me.  “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”  It all makes perfect sense.  If we dwell on the stuff that makes us sad or stressed out, we are going to be sad or stressed out.  Duh.  If we dwell on the excellent things in life that make us happy, we are going to be happy.  It was too simple, but I couldn’t figure that out until I read that verse.  It was life-changing.  Do I still think of my problem from time to time?  Sure, but I don’t dwell on it.  I will no longer let it rob my joy.

If you have a problem that you can’t fix, pray for some peace that surpasses comprehension and start dwelling on the good things in life.  It works.

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/esv/Phil%204.8)

Let’s Talk About Temptation

1 Corinthians 10-13

verse-of-the-day (1)

Tuesday, June 20

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

Let’s talk about temptation. Everyone is tempted, and everyone has succumbed to temptation at some point in their life, and probably numerous times. I will be the first to admit that fact in my own life. The first thing Paul does is acknowledge the universality of temptation—temptation is ubiquitous. Temptation is a common experience for all humankind. Some people might think that they are experiencing a unique type or degree of temptation, but Paul overwrites that attitude by confirming that no one is alone in experiencing any form of temptation, for every possible sort of temptation has been shared by other individuals.

 

We all struggle with temptation, that is the common thread that unites the human race. But unlike individuals who do not trust in God, the experience of temptation for believers can be different. Those who believe in God are not in a position of helplessness.

 

Some people have told me about their experience facing temptation, “I couldn’t help it. It was too appealing. I got tired of resisting. I just couldn’t stop myself.” The idea that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent sin is calling God a LIAR.

 

Paul says, “God is faithful!” What is God faithful for? He is faithful to: 1) limit the power of the temptation in your life, and 2) provide strength to endure or a possibility to remove the temptation. These are two promises of God when it comes to facing temptation. Either they are true or God is a liar. The problem many people face is that they doubt God is able to actually help them overcome temptation. They feel like it is all a matter of the will to resist temptation, and when their will weakens (as everyone’s does at some point), they feel like they just couldn’t continue to stand against the temptation and decide to just give in.

 

Satan is constantly battling for our mind and to entice our flesh. Elsewhere, Paul describes this battle in terms of “the schemes of the devil” and the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:11, 16). To combat these threats, Paul encourages believers to equip themselves with the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-17) in order to stand firm against the devil and his tactics and influence. While Paul describes a set of defensive armaments to be prepared to engage in spiritual warfare with the devil in Ephesians 6, his point in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that of trust and reliance upon God to keep one’s foot from slipping and falling into sin.

 

It takes a resolved heart and mind to build the confidence that God will come through and be there in your time of need. Furthermore, there are two practices that can be of great help in overcoming temptation: 1) knowing Scripture (like verse 13) can turn the tables in the struggle against temptation, and 2) prayer.

 

If you are able to bring to mind what God has revealed about a particular temptation, it has the power to release the grip of the temptation to the point that you can endure it or eliminate the cause of the temptation altogether. That is the reason Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It has the ability to defeat thoughts, attitudes, and desire that contend against the knowledge and will of God and to free a person from feeling like there is no other way out.

 

Secondly, prayer is always helpful and necessary when facing temptation. Temptations can come from our own desires or as a spiritual attack from the devil. Whichever it is, we can go to God in prayer asking for strength and wisdom to allow his will to prevail and to help us bring our body into subjection to what is godly and be led by the spirit away from the temptation. James writes in his letter, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Jas. 1:5).

 

If you struggle with a certain temptation, ask God for wisdom, and he will give it to you. And remember that we all have temptations, and nothing is new that we might encounter. God has seen it all before, and he has helped people through it all before. He promises to help you too, if you will but trust him and look to him for deliverance from it.

 

God is faithful, but do we have the courage to let him prove it?

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/niv/1%20Corinthians%2010.13)

Suffering!

Romans 4-7

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Wednesday, June 14

I really don’t like tribulations but I do like what they produce in my life.  When I think about the hard times that I have been through, I see how God proved himself to me over and over again.  It is those times that have built my faith in an invisible God.

 

Romans 5:1-4

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

 

Looking back, the trials and tribulations that I have suffered were well worth it.  Of course, at the time, in the midst of the storm, I was filled with angst and anxiety.  What often helped me was prayer.  I know my limitations and how powerless I am but God has no limits and He intervenes on our behalf.  Now when I look back at those hard times, I don’t feel the sting of stress but I see the power of perseverance!  I persevered with prayer and God answered me.  Whatever the situation was, God helped me and my faith grew stronger and stronger each time.  This helped me to mature as a believer and it changed my character for the better.

 

I also see, as I reflect back, the strength I have gained from seeing God prove himself time and again, and knowing and believing that the promises He has made will come to pass. This is hope.  This hope is what helps us to push through the trials and not give up.  We have hope that God will hear our cry, incline His ear to our prayers, and touch our lives.  I am reminded of the section in James where it talks about joy in tribulation…what??  That can’t be right, can it?

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

I will be completely honest.  I am not there yet.  I do not view trials with joy, not even in the slightest.  I wish I could encounter a trial with a smile and look forward to what it will produce in me.  I only smile when it is over and some time has passed and then the joy part sets in.  So, I have some work to do and I am sure that I will have plenty of opportunities to get better at this.

 

This whole section of scripture we read today is also about faith…each trial and tribulation has strengthened my faith.  Even when my faith was shaken, I came out the other side stronger.  My brother John and his wife Grace, almost 9 years ago, found out they were expecting a baby.  We were so excited!  Early on in the pregnancy, they found out there were some complications, all was not right.  We quickly went from excited to shaken and scared.  This doesn’t happen to us, this could not be.

 

My mom, myself, and Grace decided that we would pray together every day until the baby was born.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  I had never prayed so diligently before this.  We were certain God was going to perform a miracle.  Grace felt God was leading her to name the baby Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was born and we did not get the miracle we prayed for…in fact his condition was worse than we expected and he would continue to have more challenges as he grew.  This shook our faith and tore us up inside.  I won’t go through all the questions I hurled at God and the sorrow we felt but I will say, that through it all, God was with us.  Jeremiah may not be like everyone else, but he is a miracle and he has given our family such joy.  In the end, my faith is stronger because I know that we live in a broken world and that bad things happen…even to us.  But, then I think of this scripture:

 

Isaiah 35:6

Then the lame will leap like a deer,

And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.

For waters will break forth in the wilderness

And streams in the Arabah.

 

One day, all will be made right and we just need to have faith.  Faith to keep going, to tackle each trial with hope and perseverance and that will mold our character for the better.  Take some time to reflect on your life and your hard times.  What did they produce in you?  Do you have a stronger appreciation of the hope we have because of your trials?

This is Jeremiah.  He is full of joy, laughter, and kindness.  He is nonverbal, has low tone, and other issues but one day, when our Lord returns, he will run fast like the wind and talk up a storm.

jeremiah

– Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/hope/romans-5-3-5/)