Tests Produce Perseverance

3 Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4

These verses are translated using a few different English words that result as our faith is tested; perseverance, endurance, patience. Do you look at trials in your life as a test? That can seem cruel, can't it? We can think, "God is not convinced I really love Him or that I am truly serving Him so He tests me." But if you look closely, that is not what these verses say. Verse three tells us simply that our faith will be tested. And that testing will produce perseverance or endurance or patience.

Breaking it down, I see a couple key points of comfort in these verses. First of all, testing will come. We are not given a reason why, just an assurance that trials and tests will come. Maybe God allows these trials because He knows we'll be the better for it. Maybe He loves that after we come through a trial, we can minister in a more compassionate way to others that struggle as we have. When we are new Christians, we walk with a wobbly faith. But as you see God at work, as you see how He works in the trials, your faith grows. There are many ways our faith grows as we mature in Christ, but this is a big way.

Secondly, verse four in this passage starts with the word, "let." Huge word so don't miss it. So much of our Christian walk is our choice. Yes, Christ chose us. But our free will as humans allows us to choose or reject His ways time and time again. And we are promised, if we "let" perseverance finish its work (that's start to finish), we will be mature, complete, not lacking anything. That is starting to sound more and more like Jesus, isn't it?

Tests and trials are not the fun times, but as our faith in God is produced, through these very tests and trials, we can more and more trust that God is at work and He who started a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Radical Gospel

"One of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do." -Tim Keller

Do you feel this way about your faith sometimes? For me, I start to think I have down all the rules I'm supposed to follow (oh, how my heart is programmed for legalism) and then the Holy Spirit steps in to show me I am not caring for those I ought. Or He reminds me gently of all the ways I don't even get all the rules right. A question I pose to myself: "Who am I friends with because Jesus would be, not because I would be?" It's a good gauge of how much you are choosing to walk like Christ. True Christianity, when we walk in it, leaves us clueless about what the next step is, unaware of what the plans of our days actually hold and constantly struggling to be OK with uncomfortable. That's unique, that's radical.

Our Father, in all His wisdom, provided us with a way to live with this kind of uncertainty. He sent us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us; that too, is radical! According to the passage below found in John, this Helper speaks to us of what the Father would have us to do. He will guide us into all truth one step at a time. So, we don't need to know and follow a bunch of rules or be certain of what our future holds. All we really need to know is Jesus. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal Him to you more and more.

13When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from Me.’ John 16:13-15 (NLT)

One of Christianity's Little Secrets

"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should plese his neighbor for his good, to build him up. Romans 15:1-2

It was a month ago when these verses first came screaming up at me from the Holy Pages. I was on vacation, spending time with my younger brother, a true prodigal returned to his Father. His "weaknesses" are a strong part of his amazing testimony. He counts on his brothers and sisters in Christ to help him deal with these weaknesses (every day) and to remind him that we serve a God who knows him completely and loves him.

The HCSB translation tells us we "have an obligation to bear" with these weaknesses found in others. Furthermore, the Greek word for "weak" in this verse is used only one time in the New Testament. Right here. It's not the same word used in Romans 14:1 to describe one without strength, one who is made weak. It describes a person whose weakness is an impossible thing. A weakness they can do nothing about. Not a popular thought in our "I can do" society. But that's how it reads.

The call to action in these verses is one of Christianity's little secrets. We are instructed to "bear" with these weaknesses. Action verb. It will rip you from your comfort zone, convict you of your judgmental spirit, force you to give up your leisure time to get your hands dirty and it's our obligation.

The good news, the solution, to these impossible weaknesses are unfixable by human standards. But in Mark 10:27, Jesus tells us, "...With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Yesterday, the pastor spoke on these verses again (isn't that just how God works?) and it was an uncomfortable, convicting sermon. Christianity is not the easy road. If I had learned Romans 15:1-2 before I'd learned John 3:16 I would have perhaps given more thought to what I was getting myself into. But through God, through Whom all things are possible, we can put aside our selfish ambitions. We can consider others, in this case those who have impossible weaknesses. Bear with the weaknesses and build the individual up. For as we read all throughout scripture, that's exactly what God, through Christ, has done for us.

Superstar Christians

We can't all be superstar Christians (OK, we truly are in God's eyes but that's not the topic of this particular devotion). My daily Bible reading this morning was John 14. In this chapter, we hear from three of Jesus' disciples. Not Peter, superstar who Christ used to build the church; and not James, author of a book in the Bible. The three we hear from were Thomas (John 14:5), Philip (John 14:8) and Judas (not Iscariot) (John 14:22). Each one had walked side by side with Jesus, but still had questions. Things they didn't understand.

It raised a question in my mind. Did these three disciples with questions, one of which is even known as "doubting Thomas," still do great things for the Kingdom? Once the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them, did they have an effective ministry? So I looked up their stories to find the answer.

Thomas - "Tradition says he labored in Parthia, Persia and India. It is said that [Thomas] was commissioned to build a palace for the king of India, and he was killed with a spear as a martyr for his Lord."

Philip - "If this Philip is the same Philip [mentioned in Acts 6:5, 8:26 and 21:8], he was one of the major figures in the missionary enterprise of the early church. This simple Galilean gave all he had. It is said that he died by hanging. While he was dying, he requested that his body be wrapped not in linen but in papyrus for he was not worthy that even his dead body should be treated as the body of Jesus had been treated."

Judas "It is said that Jude went to preach the gospel in Edessa near the Euphrates River. There he healed many and many believed in the name of the Master. Jude went from there to preach the Gospel in other places. He was killed with arrows at Ararat."

* Quoted material found at http://www.swartzentrover.com/cotor/bible/Bible/NT/12Apostles.html

The lesson learned from these disciples of lesser notoriety is to not get caught up in being a superstar Christian. Think of some wonderful, strong believers whom you know personally. The quiet spirit they have as they serve their Lord. It's not about grand works or a name to be remembered for generations to come. And note that He can work in people among even doubts and questions. Once these disciples believed in Jesus and His mission, the Holy Spirit worked in them to do mighty things. Kingdom work. He who began a good work within you promises to do the same in your life (Philippians 1:6).

A Walk Through Holy Week

I've heard from some that it seems harder to get into the spirit of Easter than it does Christmas. I can relate to this. One of the most impacting Easters in recent memory was when I had prepared myself by going through a daily reading of Holy Week in a coffee table book by Max Lucado. It spoke to my heart each day and educated me as well. I found this walk through "Holy Week" online and thought it might help all of us get into the Spirit.

"Palm Sunday: This is the last Sunday of Lent and the first day of the Holy Week. This is the day when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem where he was welcomed with open arms. It is also the basis for the Palm Sunday processions.

The Holy Monday & Tuesday: The cleansing of the temple at Jerusalem supposedly took place on Holy Monday. It is also the day when Jesus reprimanded the moneychangers. The Holy Tuesday is the day when the famous incident between Jesus and Pharisees supposedly took place where an attempt was made to get Jesus to commit blasphemy.

Spy Wednesday: This is the day when Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus who betrayed him told the chief priests where they could find Jesus.

Maundy Thursday: This is the day of the last supper before crucifixion.

Good Friday: The day when Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, at the top of Calvary hill. This day is marked by solemn thoughts, fasting and abstinence to commemorate the pain and suffering of Jesus.

Easter Eve: This is the Holy Saturday and Easter Eve. It is a traditional time for baptism.

Easter Sunday: Finally the day of resurrection and the big feast. Jesus is said to have risen from the dead after crucifixion. He also joined his disciples for a meal and told them to carry on his works in his absence."

For this excerpt and more information on the history of Easter can be found at: http://www.historyofeaster.info/

Undignified by David Crowder Band

I've posted this video so you can go into your room, watch it in the privacy of your home, and D-A-N-C-E for your Lord. Get your undignified on girl!


Passover Seder Scripture Reading

This Friday, some women from our church will gather to learn more about the Passover Seder. In preparation for this event, attendees have been asked to read Exodus 12:1-30 to become more familiar with this traditional meal. I ask that you also turn your heart to the New Testament reading of our Lord's Last Supper. How beautiful to think that the meal we'll learn about on Friday is the very meal Jesus sat down to with His beloved disciples. He is our Passover Lamb.

The Last Supper

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” 18 “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there. 20 When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table[a] with the twelve disciples. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?” 23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” 25 Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.” 26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant[c] between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

Matthew 26:17-29 (New Living Translation)

Passover Seder at the Home of Katrina Pelfrey

Hello North Point Ladies!

Please join me, Katrina Pelfrey,in a Passover Seder at my home (3120 West C Ave) on Friday, March 25, from 7-9pm.

What is Passover?! I asked the same question about 12 years ago when we were invited to our first Passover meal!

I learned that the Passover was the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples, and it is considered one of the most important of all the feasts. The Seder is a series of readings and eating of different foods that remind us of the bondage the Israelites endured under Egyptian rule. It is a reminder also, of the miracles God performed as he delivered the Israelites from oppression and slavery.

As Christians, we have the opportunity to see Christ in every aspect of the Passover celebration- He is our deliverer from the bondage of sin and death. He is our Passover Lamb!

My family has enjoyed celebrating Passover for many years and I'd love to share this tradition with you.

Please RSVP Katrina Pelfrey at 216-4125 or dkpelfrey@juno.com by Friday, March 18th. I can only seat 25 comfortably in my home for this meal, so please RSVP soon if you know you'd like to attend.

*The seder will include matzoh crackers, grape juice, fruit, cheese and a special dessert.

Becoming a Woman of Excellence

A woman of excellence
Is what I long to be
Filled with your godly wisdom
So it is part of me

A woman of integrity
No matter what I face
Standing up for righteousness
And for your saving grace

A woman of destiny
Living out your plan
Knowing where you’d have me walk
Being guided by your hand

A woman of promise
Standing on your word
Holding on to all the truths
While carrying out your work

A woman of compassion
For the ones in the dark
Those that do not know your love
And have darkness in their hearts

A woman that will never
Compromise the faith
With what the world may offer
But will keep the narrow way

A woman who loves Jesus
And will only follow Him
Gladly to give up the world
So His light can shine within

Lord this is my earnest prayer
As a daughter by your grace
Grow in me these qualities
As I walk with you in faith

© By M.S.Lowndes

from: http://www.heavensinspirations.com/a-woman-of-excellence.html

Faith Challenged

We are blessed to have some new Christians in our Bible study. These beautiful women don't even have much familiarity with church or the Bible. This is foreign to me and, can I be honest, I am intimidated. I love my Jesus. Just His name brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I want to serve Him well by teaching these women how to baby step their way into the open arms of our Savior. I don't want to teach them about church rules or religious history. Like John in his gospel, I only want to testify concerning Him [Jesus] (John 1:15).

They ask some good questions. Ones I don't have answers to. They admit being scared of giving wrong answers and saying wrong things. Well, back at ya' girls! I pray the Holy Spirit will teach them, through our little group of women gathering for Bible study, that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6). He knows our hearts and looks right past our awkward, stumbling acts of faith. He just wants us to love and obey Him.

I'm thankful God gave us these new sisters in Christ. They inspire and challenge me. My faith needs that. So does yours. Has God placed people in your life that challenge your faith? Are you intimidated by conversations you have with other Christians? James reminds us, "In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17) My faith hits the pavement every Wednesday. It's scary but it's active. I pray the same for each of you.

Our Personal Testimonies

These past few weeks our Bible study has been sharing testimonies. Each is unique, as you can imagine. I keep fondly remembering the story of one lady in particular. Almost from the first sentence, her voice shook with great emotion. Her story has decades in it without knowing her Savior. While she was a good person, there were hurts from this time that Jesus continues to heal. She is reaching a greater understanding of how sometimes this world hurts us and it's not our fault.

She thinks her testimony falls short because it's not what she considers "common Christian." To me, the grace that God shows in placing the right people in her path, in drawing not just her but a larger extended family to Him, the hunger and appreciation she now experiences... it's a perfect picture of despondence to devotion. Common or not.

Much like the scripture passage found below. Do you remember the sinful woman that poured alabaster oil on Jesus' feet? Read the story. And, to Christians old and new alike, soak in the closing words from our Savior, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."


36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among [1] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)