Author Archives: marilynnchadwick

Deceived!

Have you ever trusted someone only to be deceived?  Deception is as old as—well—as time itself.  A deceiver works his magic by flashing one set of motives, while armed with another.

Deceivers are cunning.  Their tricks work for a reason.  But in order for deception to work, we first have to believe the deceiver’s lie.  Take the Garden of Eden, for example:

The devil appeared to Eve in an irresistible package. He presented a temptation tailor-made to her secret longings.   “You won’t die when you eat the fruit from the forbidden tree,” soothed the serpent.  “God knows that if you eat the fruit, you’ll be like Him…knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-13).

Eve “saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.”  Turning a deaf ear to her heavenly Father’s warning, she “took some of the fruit and ate it” (Genesis 1:6).  She gave a bite to Adam, their eyes were opened, and they “suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.”

Horrors.  Eve had wanted to be like God only to realize she was not dressed for the job. She and Adam were stricken by deception, shamed at their utter inadequacy. Sin was downloaded into their DNA. Humanity has wrestled with our fallen condition ever since.

The most deadly deception, however, was the devil’s attack on God’s character.  “God’s motives are not pure,” he lied.  “His rules are not from a heart of love…He just wants to keep you from being all you can be.”  Sound familiar? Satan found a strategy that works, so he uses it again and again. When will we ever learn?

James gives us a moment to ponder the heart of our loving heavenly Father:

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows  (James 1:16,17).

Think about it. Everything good thing that has ever happened to you is from your loving, heavenly Father. Even His boundaries are for your good. And the bad stuff?  Suffering will always be something of a mystery, but James challenges us to greet the hard places with joy (James 1:2). Throw a counter-attack, he urges. Trust God to use those very trials to grow our faith roots deep.

Make no mistake about it. You do have an enemy, but it’s not God. Don’t let anyone tell you that God is not for you! He is all loving, infinitely good, and in complete control.  Grasp that one, dear friend, and you’ll resist the deceiver when he comes knocking.


Fade!

Faded jeans.  Faded furniture. Faded memories—mental images grown dim over time. Let’s be honest. Life here on earth fades.

Time tricks us, tempts us, promises what it can’t deliver.  So we humans buy the lie and exhaust ourselves—chasing after that which fades.

Riches. Achievements. Beauty.  All are satisfying at first. But they don’t last. Anyone who has watched a loved one age and die knows that the joys we experience on this earth are fleeting.

Life fades. So James beckons us to turn our eyes toward eternity, reminding us how “the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. (James 1:11 NLT).

Let’s reflect on the complete passage from The Message. I’m stirred by this artful paraphrase, a nice companion to my Study Bible:

Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing (James 1:9-11 MSG).

God’s Word always points us toward things unseen.  Eternity. Right from the start, James reminds us that our trials build perseverance (James 1:2-4). Trials also reveal what lasts—and what fades.  Trials can loosen our grip on the goods of this life so that we anchor ourselves firmly in the eternal.

For reflection:

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12 NIV). That kind of crown is eternal!

God wants us to freely enjoy this life. But it’s wise to sit lightly on its fleeting pleasures. We’re to build our foundation on the eternal life given to us only in Christ. A blessing which will never fade!


Complicated!

Following Christ gets complicated when we try to live by the standards of this world:  Work hard. Dream big.  Solve life’s problems with good sense and hard work.  Measure your worth by your success.

James points us to another reality—a different power source.  A God who cares. Who answers prayers. Who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves:  When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is… double-minded and unstable in all they do (James 1:6-8).

Ask. Believe. But be sure to resist doubt, says James. Easier said than done.  Sometimes, living in two worlds can get very complicated.

The Greek word translated “ask” also means “to pray.” James knew a thing or two about prayer.  His reputation as a man of fervent prayer earned him the nickname “camel knees.”  The oldest half-brother of Jesus, he was an eye-witness to the resurrection.  James became the leader of the believers in Jerusalem.  The book of James is thought to be written shortly before he was martyred.

Who better to teach us to stand firm in our faith? To believe and not doubt. To resist the dangers of being double-minded.

Double-minded, or dipsychos, describes someone who has “two minds.”  That’s the very definition of complicated, according to Spiros Zhodiates, PhD, editor of the Key Word Study Bible. I lovingly call this my “Big Fat Greek Bible.” It’s my personal favorite!

Let’s take a few minutes to read and reflect on these verses from James in the Amplified version:

It must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind.  For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides]  (James 1:6-8 AMP).

Wow. These verses challenge me to believe when I pray. They warn me about the dangers of doubt. I’m letting the words sink deep. Searching my heart for unbelief. Repenting of doubt.  When it comes to my faith, maybe it’s time to stop being so complicated.


Trials!

The Olympic Trials are a spectacular event. Young athletes from all over the United States compete for the few coveted spots on the US Olympic team.

Of all the Olympic hopefuls, swimmers endure some of the most grueling training schedules. They practice before dawn. Miss out on vacations. Barely remember a lazy day off.  Pretty much sacrifice a normal life—all for the chance to make it to the Olympic Trials.  “Training for trials” has become familiar jargon around here since our youngest son happens to be a competitive swimmer.

As believers we, too, should train for our trials. Like any good coach, James encourages us to face our trials head on: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2 NIV).

I’m so glad you’ve dropped in for our One Word Devotional:  “Journey through James.” Today’s focus is on the word trials. Have you thought about how your daily routine of prayer, reading God’s Word, listening, and obeying—day after day after day—prepares you to stand strong when you are faced with a trial?

Training for trials prepares you for the battles ahead.  Dear friend, do you love the fight of faith? Paul calls it a “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12).  It’s been said that we should love the fight of faith in the same way an athlete loves his sport.

I don’t know if I’d say I love trials.  But there’s something invigorating about approaching each day on the offensive. Strengthening myself in God’s Word. Being intentional about prayer.

I should walk away from my devotional time armed and ready.  Expectant and watchful.  Alert to signs of God at work. Prepared for opportunities to step out in faith.  Ready to share the Gospel. Meet a need. Take back territory from the enemy.  Determined to stand strong in the inevitable trials of life.

Let’s reflect on the rest of this passage from James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4 NIV).

Meditate on these verses, paying special attention to the word trials. Notice that James takes us beyond merely enduring trials.  He encourages us to consider our trials as an opportunity for joy. The very tools God uses to strengthen us, build endurance, make us complete!

Think about the joy of an athlete winning his race. What if that same kind of joy awaits us when we prevail in our trial?  Today, let’s agree to train for our trials. And look forward to our victory through Christ!


One Word Devotionals

Your minutes matter—especially when life gets busy. That’s why I’m starting a new series called One Word Devotionals. You can read each devotional in about three minutes. Honest—I timed it.

I hope you’ll join me for the first in this series—a journey through the book of James.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll post a short devotional each morning on this practical epistle written by the half-brother of Jesus. These reflections are designed to help you meditate on a very small portion of Scripture.

Why One Word? Meditation on a single facet of Scripture helps you focus on a specific truth. It’s a good way to fill your mind with God’s Word.  Plus, it helps you frontload your prayers with a burst of power for the rest of your day.

If you were with me for the 21 Day Experiment in John, you know I’m a “word nerd.” I like to explore the Scriptures in the original Greek. It’s a good way to unpack every morsel of truth in God’s Word.

It’s often challenging to keep our faith—and our cool—when the stresses of life hit. Maybe you need a “little faith-fix” as you approach the holiday season.  I know I do. The book of James is filled with lots of practical wisdom. That’s why some call it “The Proverbs of the New Testament.” Just the book to help us focus on what really matters!

Sometimes, all the craziness in the world today threatens to wreck our calm. Plus, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season can cause us to lose focus. Let’s reflect on what James has to teach us as we anticipate the birthday of Jesus.

The five short chapters in the book of James pack a wallop!  Over the years, the powerful truth in this little book has ignited several life-changing moments for me.  So I can’t wait to dive in again!

God’s Word never returns void. Never leaves us empty. So…are you ready?  Tomorrow, we’ll begin our Journey through James.  Expect to be changed.

I encourage you to stay alert. Be sure to watch for signs of God at work all around you.  And remember, Jesus loves to surprise us with Christmas miracles!