Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Focus on Today (James 8) (Isaiah 43:18-21, James 4:13-17, Luke 9:62, Matt 6:34)

My prayer and a beautiful song for Oklahoma, Texas and all of us. 

Dear Heavenly Father I lift up those who lost loved ones and homes in Oklahoma.  Such a terrible tragedy and I know that many are in Your arms today.  I am so grateful our lives don't end on earth, and that we have this hope from You.  One day the storms will end.  We will dance around Your throne with no worries or cares.  We will know paradise at last.  Until then, I pray You will pour out Your love and blessings on these people.  Send the angels Father to guide and direct.  Please let Your Holy Spirit give the ministers words to say.  Sometimes we are speechless and just need Your Word to speak to us Father.  Please bring peace to the weather and stop the storms.  Nothing is impossible for You.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

After 9-11 (I saw it across the bay from my job), and our NJ storms, this song has been a great encouragement to me.  Hope it blesses others too. 
In my arms by Plumb (link)

I hope I didn't confuse people too much by my comments about Reality TV on my last post.  It did come out harsh.   Sorry!  Suppose I should just say it.  I was watching a movie on the We station and they kept advertising a new reality show.  It will be about pregnant women who are looking for men to date.  My heart broke for God's babies and women who chose not to marry, or maybe didn't have the choice.  I don't get shocked, but that one just sent me over the edge.  So many things on so many levels are not right.  Babies without Dads, women trying to raise kids alone.  This must break God's heart.  We should pray for our country.  Last time we prayed for repentance- I honestly had no idea... wow!  The government has been up to all sorts of stuff.  Yikes!

The concept of time is interesting in the Bible.  God has given us one time period to live in.  Today.  That's all we really have, yesterday is gone, and tomorrow isn't here yet.  If you talk to people from New Jersey who experienced the last 2 hurricanes, and the people in North Texas and Oklahoma about time.  We'd all unanimously agree!  Seize the day.  We just don't know what will happen next.

I'm not a perfect wife in any way.  But, someone told me once to tell your family you love them every chance you get and it stuck with me.  You don't know what will happen in the future.  My husband and I constantly say this.  Even after a fight... "I still love you."

The past:
"Do not call to mind the former things,
or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert..."
Isaiah 43:18-21

The future:
James 4:13-17

13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Jesus said, "No procrastination.  No backward looks.  You can't put God's kingdom off til tomorrow.  Seize the day."
Luke 9:62 The Message
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matt 6:34 NKJV

To be honest though, these verses helped me move beyond the past and into today.  I've memorized these verses and recite them whenever I get stuck on a past mistake or worry about the future.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reality really? (James 7) (James 4:1-12)

"The richest things in life are free"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
I was out shooting at a local park last fall and saw this little family.
It was so sweet.  I had to capture the moment.

My prayer for Texas, they actually had a tornado that was a mile wide.  Feel free to join me in prayer if you like.

Dear Heavenly Father I lift up those in Texas to You.  I don't understand the weather these days, yet I know You are in control.  I trust in Your unfailing love. There have been so many tragedies.  I pray You will protect those who were struck by the tornadoes.  Help them find ways to rebuild their homes and businesses.  Please provide the words to say for those in ministry.  Comfort Your people Father, draw us near and help us find strength.  Provide a way for them to move forward.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

This part of James reminds me of American TV.  Don't know what happened and why.  It used to be fun to watch some of the comedies.  But, then everything went to "Reality" TV.  Lucky producers, we pay for cable and they get money for the advertisements.  In return we get "Reality" with no creative writers to entertain us.  If we really wanted "REALITY" would we turn on the TV?  This is probably a very good thing for our country.  My husband, Todd, and I, just watch the News now.  He also watches sports.  I like computer games, reading and artsy stuff. I can hear the neighbor teenagers playing basketball outside as I finish this post.  Wonder how much safer our neighborhoods would be if we all got outside more.

The tone of voice in these verses is a bit harsh.  It sounds as though James is really frustrated as he writes.  This must be coming from deep within his heart.  He really wants to see us all live good lives of faith.  A lot of this has been on Reality TV.

James 4:1-12

1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?
With TV and the internet, we're more aware of the earth,the "world."  The word, "world" James is referring to is the marketplace where people dwell.  Worldliness is the mentality of selfishness, to buy what we don't need and take without considering how it affects others.  It's like the Temple in Jerusalem that had fallen from a house of worship to a den of thieves.  When we are captivated by evil and abuse others, verse 5 says this selfishness makes us an enemy of God.  I can't imagine living without His joy now.  I used to be full of anger. It was a terrible dark place.  We are definitely supposed to spend time with others, without judging, as servants of God.  God is the judge.  

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

"God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble."
He has opened his heart to allow us to turn away from sin and receive forgiveness.  Jesus died and became the sacrifice for our sin.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:9
He wants to protect all of us from evil and harm.  He never gives up on us. We're the ones who get the worst of it when we're selfish. However, if we refuse to repent and turn to God there will be a time of judgement.  

Some good news.  
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
As an artist, I've always loved where it says, "draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." ; )  These four verses are some of the top favorites of Christians.  We've all messed up at times.  We can claim these verses to help us out.

Oy!  Here's gossip again.  This must be very important to God, it's humbling for sure.
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

*Made some edits on this post.  I looked at it later in the evening and found problems in my writing.  Sorry!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wisdom from above (James 6) (James 3:13-18, Matt 6:33, Luke 6:38, Zechariah 4:6)

"Bunnies are so meek"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

This part of James is a little kinder so we can all take a breath and relax.

James 3:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 
I imagine this as someone who works quietly behind the scenes.  It's a good listener who doesn't interrupt when someone is trying to talk.  A person who focusses on what's going on around them, praying for guidance and inspiration.

14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 
So... the wrong approach to being a Christian is to set out to be the best Christian on earth and seek out all the top positions in the Church. : )  That's not really what God had in mind when He sent Jesus.  We're not to be boasters, seeking what we want first.  
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matt 6:33
For me, it's like emptying myself and my desires out.  Then I silently pray, "I am Your servant Lord, guide me in your will."  That's when the great stuff begins.  Sometimes it takes a bit to get there.

I mentioned before about stopping to visit an elderly woman who was playing with her dog.  Our friendship has blossomed.  I took a picture of "Bochi," her dog.  So I made a print and left it on her door, because she wasn't home.  I messed up and put the wrong phone number and we both kept missing each other after that.  So I finally went over to her house to check up on her.  I found out she loved the photo.  We sat and talked for awhile.  I told her some of my story and she told me about her family.  We had a great time.  The Lord must've put this desire in my heart because I normally wouldn't think of it.  I just said, "Here's my phone number (the right one).  Feel free to call me if you feel scared or need help.  I'm right here in the neighborhood."

She was so relieved and smiled real big.  Barbara had recently had a knee replacement, and is recuperating before she has the other knee replaced.  Her family lives near by but not in the same housing development.

Now here's another mystery.  As we were talking, she told me that her son is very busy in leadership of a local museum.  She is going to talk to him about my doing a photo exhibit there...  Ok, that was definitely a God enhanced moment!  He is full of surprises.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38
I can testify that this is definitely true.  I've experienced it so many times.  Sometimes His blessings are financial, a new friend who makes your day, healing, or new direction.  He knows exactly what we need, He is God after all : )

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
I want to be like this.  No worries though, no one is perfect.  And His plan is to help us become the people we were created to be.  

 ...'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.
Zechariah 4:6

Friday, May 10, 2013

Taming the tongue... (James 5) (James 3:1-12, John 14:26)

"Words kindle fires..."
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

You might think I'm silly, but Prince Harry from England has come to visit the USA.  That's so great.  I've always thought the English are classy and respectable.  He plans to stop by the Jersey Shore.  How very nice : )  It should be fun to hear how it goes. We heard on the News that Governor Christie (NJ), has been tasked with keeping him out of trouble.  Although I have a hunch he's doing just fine.

This part of James is straight forward, with some strong words.  So brace yourself.

James 3:1-12

1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 
To me these verses are a warning to take our faith seriously.  It reminds me to study the Bible and learn what it means myself.  There's two ways to study: 

  1. By reading the Bible believing we already know everything, thus rolling our eyes across the page without any words truly sinking in.  Not sure, but I suspect God might be rolling His eyes too...  I've had days like that too (sigh).  We can also add our own opinions, or a leader's beliefs and use all this to make a point that seems interesting.  It's good to listen to other people's testimonies and ideas but the real source of faith comes from God Himself. 
  2. The second way is by praying each day before reading.  Before I write these posts I ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me through God's Word.  Including God in Bible Study is best, and leads to a relationship with Him.  Add in some prayers, praise, and maybe a hymn and you have a nice Quiet Time with God.  There's no rules it's entirely between you and God.  He knows we need to get to work or take care of little kids too, so I'm sure He's never disappointed.  
This is the verse describing what the Holy Spirit does:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Back to James.

3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
Ouch!  This verse reminds me of gossip.  I've done my share of gossiping.  The sad thing is it always leaves me wondering what I was thinking of.  It's such a bad feeling to know I hurt someone.  

6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 
That pretty much sums it up...  maybe I'll just be quiet for a minute...

9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 
I don't always think about all of us being made in the image of God.  If God were standing in front of me in a grocery store line, I'd be very patient and kind to Him.  Not so much when I'm driving or impatiently waiting my turn in line with humans.  Maybe I need to realize God is with me everyday in my car, work, and play.

10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
It's much better to bless than to curse- but I have to admit sometimes I'm not very kind.  It's probably the ones we love the most, that get the worst sometimes.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Faith that works (James 4) (Matt. 7:24-27, James 2:14-26)

This is the perfect time to put faith in action.  We're having a wonderful Spring this year in New Jersey.  The temperatures are in the 50's after 9am.  By May we're usually drenched in humidity and sweltering heat. 

In other states all sorts of weather events are taking place.  There's snow storms in the mid west and fires in California.  One of the islands in Washington is falling into the ocean.  I posted a Psalm a couple of years ago that describes how the earth was designed (link)- never holding still, always changing.  Our country is changing as well.  This is the first time I can remember, that I don't have medical insurance.  Companies are a lot more cautious now because of the government.  So my husband and I will need to wait awhile until he is vested in the company to get insurance.  A good test of our faith.

There's still no boardwalk on the Jersey Shore.  Homeowners are waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.  It's hard for them.  They bought ocean front property thinking it would be a lot of fun to run outside and splash in the waves, to see the sunrises.  Instead it's turned into a nightmare.  It's hard to watch.  I can't help but wonder about the wisdom of building a house on sand, on a coastline that's changing.  All the dreams and memories swept out to sea must be heartbreaking.

Insurance companies want to charge a great deal of money to protect these homes and themselves.  Yet my heart goes out to those struggling.  Prayer for wisdom and understanding is probably the greatest gift we can give.

Jesus had something to say about houses built on sand.
24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:  27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Matt 7:24-27 NKJV
God's Word is our rock.  It's solid and steady, no sinking in it.   The only catch is, God gave us His Word to do it.  The promise is that He will never leave us or forsake us.

James 2:14-26 
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 
A lot of people claim they believe in God yet don't want to invest any time into a relationship with Him.  When I spend time reading His Word (like today), I find encouragement and hope.

15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 
There's a time to pray for people, for wisdom when they can't see it.  Then there's a time to pass out food, blankets and water.  I've seen many people who've naturally done this. I must admit going through the hurricane was much easier with my neighbors.

17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
It's easy to say, "I'm a Christian."  The majority of Americans say this. I believe sometimes we are lazy about our faith.  It's not easy getting to Church every Sunday.

18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 
I've heard of Christians who have given great amounts of money to someone in need expecting nothing in return.  Then they receive more than they gave in the end.  If we truly believe God is real and present shouldn't it change how we act?  He has changed my heart from angry and bitter to joy.  And when I step out the joy is magnified.

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!
Ouch.  This is true.  Most of the people I've met believe there is a God, yet they have no desire to know Him.

20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 
Abraham offered his one and only son to God at His request.  He had the knife ready and his heart was broken.  An angel stepped in and told Abraham that his willingness was enough to release his son.  He had a lot of faith.  God made His only Son a sacrifice for us.

22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 
God isn't looking for us to change the world.  He's looking for us to allow Him to change it through us.  By our faith.

23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 
What will happen next if I believe God?  I'm sure He has a lot more adventures for me.  I was out walking and taking photos on a trail, day before yesterday. I kept seeing this little dog running and catching a ball.  I had to smile and went closer to figure out what was going on.  There was an elderly lady sitting on a bench playing catch with her little dog.  I stopped to visit.  We became friends immediately.  God blessed us both.  Simply stopping to talk is a ministry.

24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 
Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho before David led Israel through.  She protected Israeli messengers that were sent in to scout out the city from being caught by the bad guys.  God isn't looking for perfect people- He's looking for open hearts.  He wants to use us to share His message of love and forgiveness in this fallen world.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.