To boast or not to boast, that is the ?

1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it…. (2 Cor 12:1)

That’s right! . . . right there in the Bible, Paul is boasting, and says he will continue!

Of course, as you probably have imagined, this is taken out of context, let’s see what else he said:

I know a man in Christ who . . . .

On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast (2 Cor 12:2, 5a)

So, we see that Paul was not boasting of self, but of others.

In fact, let’s continue to see what else he said: 

but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:5b-10)

So….

What should all these teach us?  To boast or not to boast?  The Bible clearly tells us not to be proud. However, I think when it comes to telling others about the glory of God in our lives, there may be a small exception.  🙂

Modeling Job

Today I was asked about my prior experience in modeling.

I know what most of you are thinking. So what kind of modeling experience does James have? Maybe you are thinking “I know he is an attractive and handsome guy, but modeling, really?” 🙂

The answer is yes – I have experience modeling. For years, I have spent time putting my experience and knowledge into computer simulating and modeling programs…. What? That isn’t the kind of modeling you were thinking of?

OK, so maybe I was a little vague in my explanation.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about modeling, and in particular modeling life.

You see, we are rather intelligent beings (some more so than others). And we can piece together small bits of information to form hypotheses, that can be tested, and tried to prove a multitude of theories.

We can even formulate suppositions based on prior knowledge and experience to predict outcomes and establish probabilities on certain future events. However, there is one variable in the equation that we haven’t quite figured out how to manage yet, and that variable is God. You see, no matter how much experience, how much knowledge, or how much we think we know of something, God can turn the tables on anything and cause the outcome to be drastically different than we would ever expect.

The interesting phenomenon to this “variable” however is that God is constant. He doesn’t change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)

He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. We know this. We know He doesn’t change, so why can’t we predict Him. We call Him a “variable” in the equation, when in fact He doesn’t vary, He remains constant.

So, if we know that His position is constant, why can’t we predict the outcomes of events? For example, why do we have trouble sometimes trusting in Him when we are in a valley of trials? life_planWhy do we struggle and worry over the outcomes of our children or our friends?

We know that God is a God of love and that He has a greater plan than we do.

Recently, I saw this Facebook posting which I believe is a great depiction of how we may think Christian life is. While I really do love the contrasting picture that this shows, I feel that there is one thing missing from the picture that would better help us focus on the reality of life. And that one thing missing is God. You see, despite our ups and downs, no matter what struggles we endure, in spite of how hard we may think our life journey is, God is there, right beside us the entire time. He is just patiently waiting for us to reach over and hold His hand and ask for His help. Will you put out your hand to His today?

It’s marathon time!

With the advent of Facebook, we can see (almost) real time, the actions of all of our “friends.” Although I have never personally been an advocate of posting where I am at the exact time I’m there, due to some slight security paranoia, I do find it interesting to keep up with my friends and their activities on occasion.

Lately, as the weather breaks, I have noticed that marathons and outdoor races have started their seasons.  As an ex-runner, I know how hard these races can be on one’s mind and body. It seems when I started a race, that the end would never get near. It would elude me for such a long time. But finally, after watching for the end for what seemed an eternity, and not giving up, the end would draw near, and the satisfaction of finishing was a great reward. The sense of accomplishment was so great, that it would want me to try harder and faster next time.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NKJV) says:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We may not all run marathons (I know I won’t).  But God compares our spiritual growth several times to that of an endurance race.

He didn’t say come to Him, be saved, sprint for 60 seconds, and your life is over. He said come to Him, repent, be saved, and become my disciple – a lifelong commitment, growing in faith and love; then your new life will begin.

 

Down and Out? or Up and Over?

“Everybody’s been down;
Hit the bottom, hit the ground,
Ooh, you’re not alone.
Just take a breath, don’t forget,
Hang on to His promises
He wants you to know.” *

 . . . You’re an OVERCOMER!

This morning on my way into work, I heard this song, and although it’s been #1 on the charts for many weeks in the past year, I never really took time to listen to all the words.  They really are good!

So, the question is will you stay “down and out” or come up and over? Will you allow God to take your trials?

“Take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises!” *

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. – (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – (John 14:12-14 NIV)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. – (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV)

* Lyrics taken from “Overcomer” by Mandisa.

Hope in Front of Me

Many of us go through everyday life with disappointing news. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. A recent Facebook post I saw said something like “Being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t get knocked down, it just means you won’t stay down.” This is a good paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:9 which states:

We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (2 Cor 4:9 NLT)

Today, as I was driving to work, I heard the song “There is Hope in Front of Me”  I didn’t know much of the background to this song, but the announcer briefly gave some history of the singer.  Danny Gokey was a contestant on the 8th season of American Idol. His wife had encouraged him to audition, and soon it became both of their dreams for him to become a superstar. Just four weeks before his audition, his wife underwent routine surgery (her third for a congenital heart disease), but unfortunately due to complications did not survive.

He went on to audition, and became a finalist.  Now, just 4 years later, after continued pursuit of his dream, he has succeeded as a prominent Country singer, but with strong ties to his church and a great new song “There is Hope in Front of Me.”

Despite how bad your circumstances may seem, God is watching over you. In spite of not seeing hope, we can all have hope.

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Romans 4:18 NLT)

 

It’s a Beautiful Day!

Today as I travel to Atlanta, I think not about snow, but about the beautiful weather, and it reminds me of one of Wesley’s favorite songs: “Beautiful Day” by Jamie Grace.

The link to her video can be found here: Click HERE to listen while you read

The song reminds me not only of Wesley’s love for music and love for the Lord, but also of how wonderful God truly is.

No matter what our trials, like “rain on my dreams,” instead of letting things get me down, I can let the rain “wash all the bugs off my windshield.” You see, God has a plan for each of us, and for every day of our lives. We get caught up sometimes in the moment and fail to see the forest for the trees.

But, “I’ve got no need to worry, I’ve got no room for doubt; No matter what’s coming at me, You’ll always be the beautiful I sing about.”

And more than anything, the song reminds us “There ain’t no limitations to Your amazing grace.”

“It’s a beautiful day!”

Today, just one week after we saw a historical Winter snowfall in the southeast, we will be seeing Springtime, with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. Just a reminder that, like the weather, God can help us turn around in mighty ways.

Don’t believe me? Think of David & Goliath (1 Samuel 17), Moses and the Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 1, 5, & 6), the Feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:14-21). Despite overwhelming odds, God turned situations around that no one thought possible!

“There’s something ‘bout the way,
Your love shines on my face,
Oh no I could never get enough of You,
This feeling can’t be wrong,
I’m about to get my worship on,
I’m gonna sing a brand new song.
It’s a beautiful day!”

URL Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPy0ctqMwE0  (I apologize in advance for any advertisements prior to the song playing).

Winter Weather Advisory

It’s not uncommon for the south to receive Winter Weather Advisories.  Of course, schools have already been closed in preparation for the event, allowing parents adequate time to have contingency plans for a babysitter or daycare, should the parents attempt to go to work.

However, for the snow to actually fall in a manner that the weathermen predict can be quite unusual.  Today, the Atlanta forecast is for about 1-2″ of snow, which is predicted to come in between 9-11 am. Because the temperatures won’t rise anytime this evening, the news is predicting that poor road conditions may last up to 24 hours or more.  Normally, during such events, the roads will be closed to help prevent accidents and loss of life.

If you do decide to venture out today, I hope you will be careful.  Winter driving can be quite tricky, especially if you are not accustomed to driving in snow. Roads that appear safe may have layers of ice underneath the snow and cause your car to slide or drift to one side of the road or the other.  Likewise, the beauty of the snow can be distracting visually.  I pray that you use extreme caution IF you must leave your house in such weather.

Likewise, driving down the road of life can also be quite tricky.  It is easy to begin to slide off the road to righteousness.

Jesus described the path to Heaven as a narrow gate:

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 HCSB)

In my opinion, He was not describing that Salvation is hard, but that following Jesus can be a tough road to follow – not in the sense that it is a hard decision, but in the sense that there are many distractions that can lead us astray throughout our life.  There are many worldly items that can cause us to slip and slide from our heart’s desire to do right.

As we venture down the road of life, we need to be aware of the dangerous items that can lead us astray.

When we go on a road trip, we generally recon a route, or utilize a GPS (or map) to find our way to new locations. In the same manner, we should this with life.

  • To do this, it is important to study the Bible daily, so that we know the path of righteousness.
  • Likewise, we should be in prayer concerning our decisions as we come to crossroads in life to aid us in choosing the right direction to turn.

I pray today that each of us will be physically careful while driving on today’s wintery roads, but I will also continue to pray for each of you that you drive cautiously down the road of life.

God has a plan (part 2)

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with

thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God,

which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phillippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

As many of you know, these past few months have been extremely trying on my family, with most of the stress coming in the last 7 days. Even as strong believers, it was difficult to believe that there was a way to pull everything together.

However, God isn’t limited by our ideals, our thoughts, or our imaginations. And as He rolls out His plans, He gives us power, strength, and faith to believe more and more:

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Phil 4:13 KJV)

Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

God has a plan

After what seems to be an eternity, my wife and I are now settled in (well at least in possession of) our new house. What started last December when we found out we were moving, has now finished almost 11 months later.

I’ll admit that there were many days that I did question whether this day would ever get here. After all, we were not even close to our timeline. In fact, we were scheduled to move in Sept 13, but God decided to let it rain a little here (understatement of the year). After a few more builder delays, we finally got to see a slab foundation, and then soon after walls. Then, a roof, siding, and finally interior finishing.

With just a month left, we could see the end, and were poised to close on Nov 20. However, not everything was in place just yet, and we were delayed several more times until today, our move in day.

But last week, specifically Thursday was probably the most trying day of all. You see, we got the appraisal back, and due to specific VA guidelines, the lender would not approve the mortgage. At the same time, we found out that our apartment had been rented, and we had 6 days to move out (with no place to go). Finally, on Thursday afternoon, after much much much much anticipation, we finally received word that everything lined up for a Tuesday 11/26 closing.

I could not have imagined early on Thursday that there was a possible way for us to get all the paperwork signed, submitted, approved, and cleared to get here today. However, this is much like how God works.

He doesn’t follow OUR rules. He is not limited by OUR imagination. He does not follow OUR logic in accomplishing tasks. God’s ways are not our ways.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

We feel stressed and unfortunate when we are reminded of that when we try to do things our way. It’s so easy to fall victim to not trusting God, or thinking that maybe He has another plan. Yet, many times, I feel like God has to remind us to be patient. You see … (end of part 1)

He never let’s go

Ever been down on your luck?

Well, let’s not say “luck,” but just down? Feeling low, empty…, almost like God is not there?

Each of us has our “ups” and “downs.” And, it seems so lonely sometimes, when we are in the valley and, experiencing what appears to be a new low to our life. How do we recover when we have these moments in our life?

For some, it just takes time. We sleep, we eat.  Activities fill our lives until somehow, we seem to appear OK again, and on the other side, almost like we didn’t do anything to change it.

Well, there’s definitely some truth to that. We didn’t do anything. I mean, it’s hard to change your attitude. Not impossible, but for many, it does seem impossible.

.   .   .

Everything just seems to be going against you. You can’t dig out, and feel like you’re falling deeper and deeper into the rut.  So, what should we do when this happens in our life?

The first thing, obviously, is PRAY. There is power in prayer. Matthew 21:22 “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (ASV)

I heard of a small tribe in Africa one time that when they had a sickness, the first thing they did was pray. Now, that doesn’t seem strange, does it?  . . . until we honestly think about what the first thing that we do when we are sick.  If it’s only a minor sickness, we go to the medicine cabinet and try to find something appropriate to deal with our symptoms. If it’s serious, we go to a Medical center for treatment. And then…., and only then, do we sometimes stop to pray about it.

Matt Redman sings the song “He Never Let’s Go” that contains the following lyrics:

Even though I walk, through the valley, of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught, in the middle, of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know you are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

The song continues to sing the praise the Lord for His everlasting presence and love. So just remember the next time that you are having a down day, He hasn’t let go. The Lord is right there beside you, “in every high and every low.”

Jesus told us, as recorded in the last verse of Matthew, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”(ASV)