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My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Rob Cruver, senior pastor of Zarephath Christian Church, in Zarephath, NJ recently provided some valuable insight to the James 1 Bible passage. He shared that back in the day when this epistle was penned, Christian Jews were severely ostracised for their new-found faith in Jesus. They were fired from jobs, excluded from events, banished from the temple, shunned by their friends, and rejected by their families. The ‘divers (various) temptations’ that James was referring to was the allure for these believers to tone-down their Christian rhetoric just enough so they could keep their jobs, friends, and families.

liteTempting Indeed

Is that not what we are witnessing today? Aren’t Christians willingly toning down their religious presence so as to not be rejected. Isn’t the government regularly chiming-in, “Be as Christian as you want, but just keep it to yourself.” Don’t our well-meaning friends and families consistently echo the same advice?

This is not the counsel of James.  He admonishes us to stand firm in our convictions and to try (test) our faith and witness what God will do as a result. In this time of patience, our Lord and Savior is working our perfection and wholeness in us. He will meet every need.  If jobs, friends, and families be lost, so be it! God has something better in store for us. It was a tough message for these early believers and it is a tough message for us. The question that remains is do you trust Jesus to keep His word; are you willing to patiently standby while your faith is tried?

Trust Him. He is faithful.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ’How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ’Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–’and let us serve them, ’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 12:29 -13:3

More Than Yoga

God’s admonition to His church is exceedingly clear; leave the false religions alone–don’t listen, don’t inquire, and don’t be curious. Is our Father in Heaven envious of these false gods? No, He is jealous for us. In the same way a dad is jealous for his daughter; wanting only the best for her, our Lord is jealous for His bride wanting only the best for us. God knows there is a very present danger when we commence poking around in realms we ought not to be. Quite frankly, how non-believers choose to worship their false gods is none of our business.

What does that have to do with yoga? Consider that ‘yoga‘ is a Sanskrit word that means to join with (in this case, the false god named Brahman) and the mantras that yoga instructors have followers chant are the names of Hindu gods and many are designed to call them forth. Sadly a large percentage of those who get involved with yoga also get involved with Hinduism, New Age religion and the occult.

Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. Exodus 23:13
Are there benefits to doing yoga? Apparently there are, but those benefits do not outweigh the risks, and at best they are temporary. Do not be deceived. Just because you have taken part in yoga (or horoscopes, astrology, etc) and haven’t been adversely affected does not mean you won’t be. Most importantly, these practices are not pleasing to God and He should never take a backseat to what we find pleasurable.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…1 Peter 3:15

Study His Word

Every moment that we spend investigating the ways of another religion, we could be spending in God’s word. There is of course the argument that suggests that by knowing more about these other beliefs we can become better witnesses for Jesus. It’s a ridiculous claim. That’s like saying Tiger Woods can teach Michael Phelps how to golf if he first learns how to swim.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. 2 John 1:10
Another Strong Warning
Does that mean we should turn away the Jehovah Witness and the Mormon who show up at our door steps? I believe it does, if it is our intention to learn something. When we listen to lies, we risk spiritual injury. Having said that, a few years ago (in ignorance) I took the risk and listened to two very nice and very knowledgeable Jehovah Witness ladies. What I learned from that experience was that these women knew their fake bible better than I knew the truth. From that moment on I set out to correct that. The Apostle Paul warned us in the book of Ephesians that we should give no place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27), but I think God spoke most clearly through His servant David when he penned these words:

I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalm 119:101-105

And there you have it, ‘Hate every false way.’

It’s not a matter of intolerance or narrow-mindedness; it’s a matter of defense. God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and every other way only serves to diffuse that light. It’s my testimony that before I knew Jesus I packed my head with the refuse of this world and at this moment there is precious little space left, therefore I will choose wisely the things I allow to take up residence therein. God’s counsel is wise counsel—drop the yoga and any other practice that is ungodly in its design.

“That I may know him.” Philippians 3:10a

(Taken from: C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, Jan 31, 1864)

Imagine for a moment that you are living in the age of the Roman emperors. You have been captured by Roman soldiers and dragged from your native country; you have been sold for a slave, stripped, whipped, branded, imprisoned, and treated with shameful cruelty. At last yon are appointed to die in the amphitheatre, to make holiday for a tyrant.

The populace assemble with delight. There they are, tens of thousands of them, gazing down from the living sides of the capacious Colosseum. You stand alone, and naked, lionarmed only with a single dagger — a poor defense against gigantic beasts. A ponderous door is drawn up by machinery, and forth there rushes the monarch of the forest — a huge lion; you must slay him or be torn to pieces. You are absolutely certain that the conflict is too stern for you, and that the sure result must and will be that those terrible teeth will grind your bones and drip with your blood. You tremble; your joints are loosed; you are paralyzed with fear, like the timid deer when the lion has dashed it to the ground. But what is this? O wonder of mercy! — a deliverer appears.

A great unknown leaps from among the gazing multitude, and confronts the savage monster. He quails not at the roaring of the devourer, but dashes upon him with terrible fury, till, like a whipped cur, the lion slinks towards his den, dragging himself along in pain and fear. The hero lifts you up, smiles into your bloodless face, whispers comfort in your ear, and bids you be of good courage, for you are free. Do you not think that there would arise at once in your heart a desire to know your deliverer?

As the guards conducted you into the open street, and you breathed the cool, fresh air, would not the first question be, “Who was my deliverer, that I may fall at his feet and bless him?” You are not, however, informed, but instead of it you are gently led away to a noble mansion house, where your many wounds are washed and healed with salve of rarest power. You are clothed in sumptuous apparel; you are made to sit down at a feast; you eat and are satisfied; you rest upon the softest down. The next morning you are attended by servants who guard you from evil and minister to your good. Day after day, week after week, your wants are supplied. You live like a courtier. There is nothing that you can ask which you do not receive.

Who was my deliverer, that I may fall at his feet and bless him?”

 

I am sure that your curiosity would grow more and more intense till it would ripen into an insatiable craving. You would scarcely neglect an opportunity of asking the servants, “Tell me, who does all this, who is my noble benefactor, for I must know him?”

“Well, but” they would say, “is it not enough for you that you are delivered from the lion?”

“Nay,” say you, “it is for that very reason that I pant to know him.”

“Your wants are richly supplied — why are yon vexed by curiosity as to the hand which reaches you the boon? If your garment is worn out, there is another. Long before hunger oppresses you, the table is well loaded. What more do you want?”

But your reply is, “It is because I have no wants, that, therefore, my soul longs and yearns even to hungering and to thirsting, that I may know my generous loving friend.”

Suppose that as you wake up one morning, you find lying up on your pillow a precious love-token from your unknown friend, a ring sparkling with jewels and engraved with a tender inscription, a bouquet of flowers bound about with a love-motto! Your curiosity now knows no bounds. But you are informed that this wondrous being has not only done for you what you have seen, but a thousand deeds of love which you did not see, which were higher and greater still as proofs of his affection. You are told that he was wounded, and imprisoned, and scourged for your sake, for he had a love to yon so great, that death itself could not overcome it: you are informed that he is every moment occupied in your interests, because he has sworn by himself that where he is there you shall be; his honors you shall share, and of his happiness you shall be the crown.

Why, methinks you would say, “Tell me, men and women, any of you who know him, tell me who he is and what he is;” and if they said, “But it is enough for you to know that he loves you, and to have daily proofs of his goodness,” you would say, “No, these love-tokens increase my thirst. If ye see him, tell him I am sick of love. The flagons which he sends me, and the love-tokens which he gives me, they stay me for awhile with the assurance of his affection but they only impel me onward with the more unconquerable desire that I may know him. I must know him; I cannot live without knowing him. His goodness makes me thirst, and pant, and faint, and even die, that I may know him.”

Have I imagined emotions which would not be natural? I think not. The most cool and calculating would be warmed with desires like these. Methinks what I have now pictured before you will wake the echoes in your breasts, and you will say, “Ah, it is even so! It is because Christ loved me and gave himself for me that I want to know him; it is because he has shed his blood for me and has chosen me that I may be one with him for ever, that my soul desires a fuller acquaintance with him.”

“O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25-26

Do you know Him?

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We ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God… 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5

Stop Praying?

Well not entirely.

I simply want to draw attention to our need to stop asking God to release us from things that He may have allowed to happen. These seemingly negative events could be evidence of His righteous judgment that counts us worthy and simultaneously brings Him mountains of glory. Consider that these trials could be confirmation from God Himself that we are obediently in His will (assuming the persecutions and tribulations that occurred were because we were operating in the Holy Spirit and were not the consequences of working in our flesh). I submit to you that suffering while in the Spirit is yet another proof you are in Christ and He is in you.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12

That’s something to rejoice about, but wait, there’s more! As we face these trials, God is with us. In fact, it is in these situations He chooses to mold and refine us. This Bible passage gives illumination:

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. James 1:2-4 

Patience? Perfection? Completion? Without Lack?

Why in Heaven’s name would anyone desire to pray against those things? I am not aaproposing a Christian go looking for trouble ———->(Heaven forbid), but when trouble has found us we need to recognize it for the God-ordained refining process that it is. While all believers delight in mountain-top experiences, obedient Christians know that the real fruit of our faith grows in these valleys of tribulation.

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)

 

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 1 Thessalonians 5:2
~
It Takes a Thief

Jesus is not coming as a thief in the night for believers, but for those who have been led astray. The very next verse tells us who they are: those who say, dPeace and safety!” or in other words, those who have been duped into a false sense of security or naivety outside of a faith in Christ Jesus, perhaps depending upon the doctrines of men and governments. These are the ones who will be caught off guard who when Christ comes will react as if He was a stranger in their house. When ruin comes their way, there will be no escape.

Sons of Light

Believers (followers of Jesus Christ) cannot be overtaken by this Day because we are in His light and sons of His inheritance. However there is a warning lest we become lax, Let us not sleep…let us watch and be sober.” The answer to how are we to stay awake, vigilant, and alert is found (at least in part) in Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

As the Day of His return nears (and everyday we are one-day closer), we need to embrace fellowship, and in this realm, as we worship and praise our Lord, we are to encourage each other and kindle the flames of love and good works. I say woe to those who fail to love and encourage the brothers and the sisters; and woe to those who instill discouragement in the hearts of the brethren.

Are You Ready?

By that I mean do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you were to die today, do you have the assurance of spending the rest of eternity with Jesus in Heaven? You can. Please click HERE if you want to follow Jesus.

But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead… Philippians 3:13

In chapter 13 of the Book of Numbers, twelve spies were sent to spy-out the Promised Land and were ordered to bring back a report. Two men brought back a favorable report and ten men turned in a negative one. Now as quick as you can (and without looking in your Bible), name the ten men who brought back a negative report.

You Can’t

You can’t do it, can you. Nobody I know can, but rest assured they’re all recorded in the Bible. Funny how the only names we remember are Joshua and Caleb.  The fact that we know theirs and not the others is in itself a witness to what Paul is declaring here in his letter to the Philippians: focus on the positive and forget the negative.

Even Jesus reminds us in Luke 9:62:

“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus isn’t saying that those who dwell in the past or focus on the negative will not enter the kingdom of God, but is saying that we’re not fit. In other words, we are out of shape, and not in the best spiritual condition that we could be if we were looking and moving forward. This Spiritual weakness is the byproduct of dwelling upon the negative, while spiritual muscle is promoted as we move forward in Christ. Of course this verse also speaks to those who yearn for the sinful things they’ve left behind to follow Jesus. These folks are a selfish lot, double-minded and unstable in all their ways.

Where is Your Focus?

There is one good thing we can glean from the ten spies — they serve as an example of what not to do. Rather than moving in faith, they succumb to fear and the report they turned-in reflected their spiritual condition: they lost touch with their God of provision and promise. We can all relate to this condition, can’t we. The solution is found in confession and repentance: admitting to Jesus our failure(s) and turning again to Him and away from our offenses.  It’s not necessarily a matter of starting from scratch, but getting up where you have fallen and moving forward in the will of Christ Jesus.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
~
It took me a while…

I always misunderstood the implication of the verse, Work out your own salvation,” thinking that it somehow meant I was in this sanctification thing alone. Sure, I was saved by the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ, but I errantly thought I was left to do it single-handedly, having only the fear of God and the trembling of what He might do to me if I stepped out of line as incentive. Despite comprehending the fear of the Lord, being a lone ranger is not what is being conveyed in this passage.

Cross Training

We’re being told to ‘work out’ or to literally exercise these things that Jesus has taught us by His example in order that we may be strengthened in faith. We are not being told to figure it out alone and most definitely we’re not being told that salvation is something we need to work for. We’re being told to exercise in the truth that we know so that we will encourage and maintain spiritual fitness.

Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

The Exercises

Not to be flippant, but here are three basic exercises: the ‘Humility Walk’, the ‘Servant Squat’, and the ‘Self-esteem Toss.’ Our Trainer (Jesus), having taken on the form of a man, demonstrated them each and it would serve us well to remember that it was Jesus the man who is our example. Jesus the man was able, just as we are able, by solely relying on the power of the Father.

Walk in Humility

And being found in fashion as a man, (Jesus) humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8

Service to Others

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant… Matthew 20:26-27

Toss away Selfishness

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

And lest we forget…

Obedience

Obedience is the essence of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8) and it speaks directly to ‘showing up’ when you’re called to. When believers talk about taking up the cross and following Him, they’re making a strong reference to obedience, as well as dying to the flesh on a daily basis. Clearly, if we love Jesus and if we’re grateful for His love for us, we exercise that love by obeying Him in all things.

The MOST Important Rule!

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

You can search long and hard, but you won’t find that credo in Work Out World or any other gym for that matter. The world doesn’t get it, but the church does. When a Christian is humble, or when he stumbles or when he is emptied, he is in the best position to be strengthened by the Lord, if of course that person is submitted to Christ and His workout ethic.

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