(This is just a personal post. For those of you reading for David updates, I’ve not abandoned you, I just haven’t heard anything in the last 24 hours.)
The past few weeks have been busy/scary/tiring/uncertain/hopeful and full of reminders of God’s sovereignty and his power to heal and protect, as well as promptings that he is in a deep pursuit for ALL of me … for ALL of you … and the pursuit after my heart is in ALL times.
Giving into the chase for the ALL of me is relatively easy, if even effortless, during the happy seasons where “all is well”. However, its the vulnerability of my surrendering a tender, bruised, and aching heart during painful, rejection-filled darkness, which often curbs short the time of mountain top highs, that takes the real effort and exercising of my faith. Its easy to scurry and hide, only announcing my faith and not acting in faith, when the testing through trial is upon me. I place limits on God and his steadfast faithfulness to see me through, forgetting how he is always equipping me for the journey. I rely on self, or worse, on others. As if the Creator and owner of all things and his brilliant omnipotence is inferior to my extremely limited, feeble, and pathetic sole abilities! Oh Julie, at least you are aware!
So, our small group has started a James Source Study and it’s a great reminder as to why James has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. If you don’t know, James was written as a letter to Jewish Christians that were being persecuted in their scattered regions of the Mediterranean outside their Gentile communities. They were living in the midst of hostility towards their faith and were faced with the temptation to allow intellectual agreement, read as spiritual know-how, to take the place of active and true faith. Much of James’ letter was written as a guide to Christian living and it began with a challenge to see hardship as opportunity. Okay, so a guide to being a Christian, great stuff! But choosing to count hardship as opportunity to show your faith, all the while considering it joyful testing nonetheless, just screams oxymoron, right?! James appealed to his brethren that it was all about an attitude–a decision–to be joyful. Not mistaking joy for a temporary happy emotion, but a deeply routed joy that takes that opportunity–that testing fire–and refuses to sit still, but rather to GROW! In my translation of James 1:2, it says “whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.” Allow it to be. Choose it to be. Why? So I can be fully developed, lacking in nothing. That must mean God really wants something more for me. Heck, I can’t even love myself that good to be “lacking in nothing”. But, God sure does love me that much!
Obviously for James to be one of my favorite books and to have delivered such a slicing message so early on, I know it gets better! This time, I’m going about this study slowly, hanging on to a few messages, word(s), or phrases and soaking in it. I just wanted to share where this first chapter of James has taken me over that past few days.
First, to share a funny (to me) insight as to why I titled this post He Hears, Do I? I’ll share how last week a friend was encouraged to ask God to wake her up early one morning, ready to have quiet time. The next morning she awoke at 6:59 a.m. refreshed, rested, and ready to spend sweet time with her LORD. So I thought last night, you know, I could pray the same thing and just see where it gets me. So, at 5:40 a.m. I awoke for a quick trip to the bathroom and I pondered, “LORD, is this our time?” I was thoroughly convinced it wasn’t! Then at 6:45 a.m., like every morning, my daily alarm clock went off on my cell phone. Just like every morning, I silenced it to snooze and went back to sleeping for the next 4 minutes and 58 seconds. Again, the phone sounded the alarm and I realized I was ignoring both the alarm and the answer to my previous night’s prayer. So as I went to disable the deedle-deedle-dee chime, a strange occurrence took place. It was as if my hand and the phone were repelling magnetic forces! As I reached, the phone seemed to slide off the night stand to the floor and landed somewhere beneath my bed. It was still chiming, and in the darkened room, I could see the lights of the phone illuminating my bedskirt and the floor around it. I reached, grasped, felt around–nothing! Okay fine! I’ll get out of bed! I squatted down to reach once again–nothing! So belly to floor I went, lifting up the bedskirt, I could finally see where the phone came to a halt. Way, way, way under the bed. At this point, I think I heard my husband snickering.
Finally, I retrieved my phone and made my mind up that it was time to get up for good. Disabling the alarm until the next day, I sat on the edge of my bed wondering what do I do first. Brush my teeth? Get dressed? Make coffee? Make Vivi’s bottle? Pray first? Read first? And then…plop! I was back on my pillow, exhausted from the hunt for my phone, all the while thinking, “He must really, really want to talk to me this morning.” And then, as I laid there inching my legs dangerously close to being under the covers again, I shut my eyes thinking I’ll start my prayer time off in the bed, then move to downstairs with my bible and coffee. And, He spoke! Repeatedly. A cyclical phrase over and over. Monotonously toned. I can honestly say I had NO appreciation for whatever variety of boring bird and said bird’s song he used to chirp my wake-up call just outside my window. But what a reward for that little bird to be used of God, I guess! He was just up singing his praises like the rest of Creation was made to do!
I’m up! I’m up, I’m up, I’m up! You heard me, now I hear you.
Now onto my review of James chapter 1 and what I’m hanging onto for today. In James 1:22, I am mindful after this morning’s events that I am to obey, not just listen.
Listen and obey.
Listen and OBEY.
Listen and OBEY.
Listen and OBEY!
James further encourages us to seek out ways to obey as a method to improve ourselves. My standard belief in obedience has been that there were just some rules to follow, and confining as rules can be, they just had to be followed. But no, that’s only listening and it’s a bad understanding on why laws and rules are in place. (I’m learning at a more advanced speed now that I’m a parent!)
True obedience, or active obedience, that’s within God’s perfect law gives much freedom by doing what is obedient. Hence, it leads to self-improvement. For me, I take the verse in James 1:23-24 to heart in many areas of my life, namely and most hurtful at times, my weight and health. I “fool myself … looking in the mirror (seeing the flaws and shortcomings) … and do nothing to improve my appearance … walking away … forgetting what I look like.” I can see clearly the areas that need improving and I can listen to myself moan all day long about the burden of the cumulation of disobedience or lack of self-improvement. But only noticing and listening does nothing for me. Verse 25 points out that in order to see change, to be obedient, to take charge for self-improvement, I must “keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law … the law that sets me free … do what it says not forgetting what I’ve seen and heard and God will bless my works.”
We are fooled into believing that disobedience and non-compliance within God’s law affords us personal freedom. However, by not following God’s perfect law, aren’t we then enslaved to our own laws, where true freedom and life is choked out, leading to moral, spiritual, emotional, and physical decay, sin, and death?
I’m challenging myself to take a hard look at my daily choices–every choice–and question myself:
- Am I listening AND obeying?
- Am I looking steadily into God’s truth for the freedom it will offer rather than giving into temptation?
- Lastly, am I choosing to have an attitude of joy when facing those temptations and trials?
All of this reflection has me singing a childhood song … He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be … How loving and patient he must be, ’cause he’s still working on me!