Monday, November 30, 2015

James 4

Happy Monday! I hope your Thanksgiving was full of joy and blessings. Mine was wonderful and reminded me of all the things I have to be thankful for. Please enjoy these thoughts of James 4.

James 4

Verses 1-12
I think one of the key phrases here is "submit yourselves to God." When we realize how small we are, we won't be proud in our own strengths. It will humble us. I think that many of our failings in life probably have to do with our pride. For example, when we covet something it seems to me that we are thinking that we should have what others have because we deserve it!  Jesus tell us that we will receive what we ask for in his name, and so James points out. However, he reminds us that it must be done from pure motives. We cannot expect our Father to grant our every selfish whim. So when we submit to the Father, He really will grant our prayers because we will be asking for what HE wants. 

There are really only two choices: friend of God or friend of the world. James warns us that being a friend of the world means being an enemy of God. That's scary! I sure don't want to be an enemy of our all-powerful God. I want to be like Abraham, who was called a friend of God. Right before he is called a friend of God in James 2, it says that Abraham BELIEVED God. So our belief and submission to Him must be what makes us His friend.

When James touches on gossiping about people, I think the same idea of pride still rings true. The reason we put others down is because it makes us feel built up. If someone is doing something wrong, we can take pride in the fact that we aren't! Trust me, you've failed where someone else hasn't, so be careful with your words. Who are we to judge another? Rather, humble yourself before God and realize that you are flawed as well. He will carry us through His grace.

Lastly, I LOVE the idea that when we draw nigh to God, He draws nigh to us! How beautiful. As I mentioned here, the idea of God being like the sun, never changing, is powerful to me. The heat and light we receive from it depend on OUR position. When we push God away, He doesn't move-- we do.

Verses 13-17
Again, the theme here is submitting to the Lord. If we do, we realize that all plans are subject to His will. We can't ever say for sure WHAT will happen, but we do know that God will faithfully work things out so that His will is accomplished. Sometimes that's so much easier to say than live. But we need to acknowledge that even though it feels like we have some measure of control over what happens in our life, we don't really. God does. I don't think it necessarily means tacking a "God willing" at the end of every sentence we say about our plans, but it does mean that we recognize Him as the real source of authority. He makes the plans, not us.  Thankfully, He ALWAYS knows what is in our best interest, so much better than we do ourselves! 

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

James 3

Ahh, James 3... a chapter that was written directly for me! (-: Controlling the tongue is so difficult for me; I have lots of strong opinions and of course I'm always right, right??

James 3

Verses 1-12
It's amazing, isn't it, how the tongue is such a powerful thing? We let is take over and control our lives. James says we let  it "boast" and it's so true! Our tongue is what says it will do things, but it really is our other body parts that accomplish the task. For example, it is our tongue that might brag about how we can run a marathon, but it's our legs that actually do it! Hopefully we aren't the tongue in our own churches, boasting of things that we leave for others to do.
"But I tell you that men will have to give account of the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."  Matthew 12:36-37

The things we say are so powerful and they DO matter.  Often I forget how much they matter. We can do great good or great harm with our words. We can build people up and we can tear them down. It's scary because I, and others, often don't realize the destructive power of the tongue. The things that fly out of our mouths without thought can never be retrieved.  

Verses 13-18
But it's not just our words that matter. James says that if we are wise, we will show it in our good lives. However, if we (unwisely) have selfishness in our hearts, it will be manifest in our life. We can try to boast that we are wise, but our life will reveal otherwise.

Think about all the things James lists as aspects of wisdom: pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, fruitful, impartial, and sincere.  These are usually not considered to be virtues in our society!! They are often belittled along with those who practice them. But God tells us to "sow in peace" to "raise a harvest of righteousness!"

Choose to do it God's way!

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

James 2

Hope your week is looking great on this nice Tuesday! I love Tuesdays because I get out of school at noon and get to spend the whole afternoon at home (studying, but oh well!). Love this reminder of God's mercy in James. 

James 2

Verses 1-13:
James starts out with a plea to believers: to not let their walk in the Lord be tainted with favoritism.  This is about more than just treating our brothers and sisters unfairly (although it is certainly wrong too)-- it's also saying that we are the judge and we know best. If we favor some, we judge that they are more worthy than another. That is truly only the decision of God and Christ.  Even more so, the "poor" that we might look down on are really only poor in the eyes of the world. To God, they might be immeasurably rich.  
Truly, we cannot be keeping the greatest commandment if we show favoritism. When we show favoritism, we are NOT loving our neighbor.  As Christ has pointed out, James points out as well-- if you break one point of the law, you break them all! Sadly, we all fall short, but thankfully, God is merciful!
So if God is merciful towards us, shouldn't we be all the more merciful with others? After all, we are only human, not an all-powerful Being. Yet He chooses to forgive and have mercy, and so should we. It reminds me of the time Christ says that with the same measure you use, so it shall be used toward you. The example of David in regards to this is brilliant.  When David is fleeing from the evil King Saul, he time and time again shows mercy to the undeserving King in sparing his life.  Later, when David sinned by committing adultery and murder, God forgives him. Perhaps it was David's very mercy toward Saul that God remembered when He decided to show the same mercy to David.

Verses 14-26:
Faith and works seems to be a never ending discussion that can get very tricky. But the point of the matter is, works won't save you because they don't necessarily come from faith. BUT faith isn't real unless it is manifested in works.  When James points out that Abraham was justified by believing God, we should note that the very act of believing God was a work in itself!  In the end, it's so easy to say something, but we must actually DO! God knows our hearts... which can be either immeasurably comforting or very frightening. 

But He knows. He knows when you are doing your absolute best. He knows your heart, and He is merciful. 

Chapter 1

Monday, November 23, 2015

James 1

Daniel and I read the book of James again yesterday and man, there is not a book in the Bible that screams at me more, Danielle! You have a lot of work to do!

A while ago I posted about my "James challenge" and I thought I would share these thoughts again this week as a reminder of all this wonderful book has to offer. If you haven't read James recently, do yourself a favor and read the whole book in one sitting!

James 1

I will divide it into the 3 sections my Bible has it divided into-- verse 1, verses 2-18, and verses 19-27. I'm not going to quote the verses here so make sure to read the chapter first.

Verse 1: 
James is the brother of Jesus, but it is interesting to note that he doesn't make mention of this fact. He appeals to them merely on the basis of his servitude to God and Christ. We, too, come before God and the believers not for our parents or family, but on the merits of OUR character and faith.

Verses 2-18:
Obviously I love verse 2 because that's what I have called my blog... Pure Joy. What does it truly mean to take joy in our trials? As I have suggested on this blog before, I believe this joy is different than just being happy. It is much deeper. It's a joy in our hope that doesn't depend on outward circumstances. While our trials might not make us happy, we can take joy in the fact that they bring us closer to our hope! However, taking joy in our trials is a hugely difficult task, so James reminds us in verse 5 that if we lack the wisdom to be able to do so, all we have to do is ASK! Ask your Heavenly Father, and He will come to your aid!
In a similar vein, when we waver or are "two-souled" we are literally saying that we doubt God's ability. We may well doubt ourselves but we should never doubt Him! Instead, when we falter, turn to Him to persevere. James points out that God is ALWAYS faithful and doesn't change. People change, but God doesn't, and we should be so thankful for that! The idea of the of our God being like the Sun is beautiful. The Sun never changes but the heat and light we receive from it depend on OUR position to it! 

Verses 19-27
Ahh... quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It's an age-old proverb and yet many (including myself!) fail to do so. But James warns us that this lifestyle isn't just a good suggestion, it is essential to bringing about the life that God wants in us!  
It's so easy to hear something and think it's great advice but forget to actually apply it's lessons. James reminds us that we must constantly focus ourselves to achieve the results desired.
Lastly, one of my favorite verses is verse 27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." I've heard it suggested that the "and" isn't actually in the original text, so the meaning becomes that looking after orphans and widows is what keeps us from being polluted by the world! 

Hope you have enjoyed just a few comments on James chapter 1. Please share any comments you may have!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Comfort for the Weekend

My sweet husband made this delicious warm soup with toasty bread to dip in it! It's been cold here and it was so nice! Mmm!

Bacon Potato Corn Chowder

1/2 lb bacon strips
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
14 3/4 oz cream style corn
12 oz evaporated milk
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and drain on paper towels. Discard drippings, reserving 1 1/2 tsp in the pan. Add onion to drippings; cook and stir over medium-high heat until tender.

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, uncovered, 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup potato water.

Add corn, milk, salt, pepper, and reserved potato water to saucepan; heat through. Stir in bacon and onion.


Galway Potato Bread

2 russet potatoes, peeled, divided
1 egg plus 1 egg white
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
3 1/4 cups flour, plus additional for kneading
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Cut one potato into eighths and add to pot; cover and steam for 15 minutes or until tender. Mash with a potato masher in a large bowl and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 375 and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Coarsely grate remaining potato; squeeze out any extra moisture and add to mashed potatoes. Stir in egg, egg white, milk, oil, and caraway seeds until fairly smooth. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until mixture forms a soft but sticky dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for 1 minute, adding a little more flour if dough is sticky. Shape into circle and place on prepared baking sheet; flatten slightly, keeping the dough mounded in the center. Using a sharp knife, make an X in the top of the dough. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden brown.

Dip in soup!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Least of These

Jesus will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." -Matthew 25:45

Having just moved into a poorer area of town, I am having a whole new experience than I had growing up. I don't think I ever saw a homeless person in my town growing up. Now every day I see multiple people begging on the street. I see homeless people with carts full of stuff. I even saw a mom with a little baby, sitting out beside Target and asking for diapers. May our hearts never get too hard to feel compassion on these people.

Growing up, my parents always taught me by example to give what I could. Now, more than ever, my heart is opened to those around me who don't have what I do. To think about being cold all winter long and to never have a nice warm home to go into. To think of not ever having a full belly. To think of not being able to go get a snack when you start getting a headache from being hungry. To think of not knowing if you were going to be able to care for your children tomorrow. What would that be like? I really can't imagine.

Sometimes we are too quick to refuse to help. What if they buy drugs with our money? we think. What if they are just pretending to need help to scam me? 

I've long since come to the conclusion that it is not my choice to make whether someone truly deserves help. It's my duty to love. It's my duty to give. I encourage you to do the same.

Lately, I've been praying to be able to find the best ways to love the poor and needy. So often, I do something small like giving them a few dollars. There's nothing wrong with that, but I get the feeling that the act makes me feel better about myself while doing very little for that person. I'm praying to find the best way to impact those around me and show them God's love. 

Do share if you have any ideas! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Apple Crumble

Oh, my, goodness. I made this yesterday with some old(ish) apples that needed to be used and it is AMAZING. So easy, so good-- make it now. 

Slow Cooker Apple Crumble (adapted from Fake Ginger)

1 cup brown sugar 
5 large apples, cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon salt 

For the topping:
2/3 cup oats
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3-4 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, apples, and salt. Spread onto bottom of slow cooker.
  2. Mix your crumble topping ingredients until it comes together. Sprinkle it over top of the apples. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  3. Turn off heat and let sit, covered, for one hour to let the caramel thicken.