Praying God’s Will; 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1

Happy Monday, Friends!  I’m so glad you can join me!  As we’ve been learning in our series on experiencing More Power in Prayer, one of the keys to effective prayer is praying according to God’s will.  So starting today, I’m going to be spending Mondays reading to see, “What is God’s Will?” and then pray it!  I’m beginning in the book of 1 Thessalonians, chapter one.

Gods will 1 Thessalonians

I’m sitting here with my cup of hot herbal tea and my own notebook, with “1 Thessalonians” written across the top of the page.  My husband is finishing a remodel on the sunroom off my kitchen and diningroom.  He just finished installing the flooring, and I can’t wait for the trim to be completed so we can clean up the construction mess.  I’m looking forward to being able to sit in front of the windows and take in God’s creation while I study.

When I study a new book, I like to look at the what historians know about the background so I have a better understanding of where the author is coming from.  Then I group verses with similar ideas together and summarize them for myself, and finally I go back and look at how they may apply today.  I may learn something new each time I go over a passage, so this devotional will in no way be comprehensive!  I am not a Bible scholar or professor.  I am just a daughter of God who loves His Word and am seeking His wisdom in living for Him.  Lets ask God to show us what He wants to teach us in this chapter and get to work!  Shall we compare notes?!?  Please share your insights and musings in the comments so we can all learn from one another!

The book of 1 Thessalonians is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica.  Thessalonica was a busy seaport, an important communication and trade center, the largest city in Macedonia, and the capitol of its province.  Paul was able to spend only a short time discipling the new believers there before he was forced to leave, suddenly, leaving them without outside support during a time of persecution.  Paul wrote to encourage them, teach them Godly living, and give them assurance about their future.  This book is 5 short chapters.

vs. 1–an introduction

vs. 2–Paul prayed thanks for the Thessalonian Church

vs. 3–specific thanks: work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope

vs. 4–Paul knew God chose them

vs. 5–the church didn’t receive the gospel by word only, but in power, in the Holy Spirit with FULL conviction!

vs. 6&7–they became imitators of Christ & Paul, AND they became an example for other believers.  (1 Cor. 11:1)

vs. 8–they shared the gospel–everywhere they went, their faith sounded forth

vs. 9&10–other believers were talking about their faith (they had turned from idols, were serving a living & true God, and waiting for Jesus’s return).

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As I read this chapter, I wondered if perhaps it was written like we write an English essay, with verse 3 being like an introductory sentence that the following verses unpack?

*Whether or not this was Paul’s intention, I can imagine that the work of faith Paul gives thanks for in verse 3 points forward to the Thessalonian Church receiving the gospel in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction” (vs.5).  We know (vs. 4) that all Christians are chosen by God first, and that we need the Holy Spirit to give us faith to believe the gospel.  Once we are saved, this faith grows and results in lives full of spiritual fruit.

*I can imagine that when Paul gave thanks in verse 3 for their “labor of love,” that he could be referring to the way they became an example for other believers, and shared the gospel everywhere, sounding forth their faith (vs. 6-8)

*I can imagine that when Paul gave thanks for their steadfastness of hope, that he could be referring to the way they turned from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for Jesus’s return (vs.9&10)

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How can I use these observations to pray according to God’s will?

  • Give thanks for my church, being mindful that God has chosen them, and look for ways that God is specifically producing a work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope…  For example: My home church enjoys meeting together, truth is taught, we pray together, discipleship happens, hospitality is practiced, etc…  When my church ladies met to discuss this, they pointed out that Paul is not only praying thanks for the fruit He sees in the church in Thessalonica, He’s writing to tell them about it!  He is encouraging them in the process.  Hebrews 10:24 tells us to consider how we can spur each other on to good works—Imitating Paul’s action here is one of those ways!
  • Pray for myself, my family, and the Church, that God’s word will always penetrate our hearts and minds in Power, in the Holy Spirit, and in full conviction (renew our minds and sanctify our hearts.)
  • Pray that we will be imitators of Christ and live lives worthy of being imitated by others–an example for other believers.  Godly examples help us learn what God’s word looks like in real time, and lets face it, some of us learn best by watching and doing.
  • Pray that we will be thankful and enthusiastic–sharing with others what God has done and is doing in our lives.  Our testimony is more than just sharing how we were saved.  God is constantly working.  Sound forth our faith!!
  • Pray that we will have steadfastness of hope, remembering daily that we serve a living Savior who we are waiting to return!
  • For the Lost: pray verse 5 (that they will become saved by receiving the gospel in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction… that they may also become verses 6 and following.  Who in your life is in need of Jesus?  Make a list, and mention them by name.

What did you learn from this chapter?  I can’t wait to hear how God is moving in your life.  And I can’t wait to see how God uses our prayers this week!

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  1 John 5:14-15

Meet you next Monday to explore 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2! 😉

Growing in the Fruit of Peace

Several years ago, I read Elizabeth George’s book, “Loving God with all Your Mind.”  It was the first time I had read her work, and I was intrigued with the title.  It wasn’t the easiest read.  I had to take it in small bites, and it took me several months, but it was so worth the effort.

Growing in the Fruit of Peace

I had no idea how God was going to use that little book in my life in a very short while.  Ms. George shared about a period of time during which she had struggled with depression, and how loving God with her mind pulled her out of darkness and into precious hope.  Unknown to me, our own young daughter was developing serious anxiety, and it was this knowledge of how to love God with abandon, giving up our rights to worry, that provided a life line to pull our daughter back.

It is still fresh to me.  I cannot hold back the tears as I share this with you, but they are tears of thankfulness as I can tell you with full confidence that even in times of struggle, because struggle we all must, God is so very very good.

As Elizabeth George shared in her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit,”   Peace is the sacrifice of trust.

Ms. George points out that Peace is:

  • not a result of our worldly circumstances, but in the assurance that we have a right relationship with God.
  • not affected by daily challenges, but remains in the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands.
  • is not dependent on the conditions of our life, but upon knowing that God is all-sufficient.  He will supply our every need, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19
  • It is “an inward repose and serenity of soul that indicates a heart at rest–regardless of our circumstances–as we place complete confidence in God minute by minute.”  He is continuously with us.  Psalm 139:7-12

Trusting God

Several years ago I met a Christian woman and song writer when she and her husband answered a Craig’s List ad and came to see the van we had for sale.  She and I ended up spending quite a bit of time visiting, and we stayed in touch through email for a long time after.  She asked me to be praying for their family, as her daughter was making what they felt were foolish choices, so I prayed.

Some months later she sent me an update.  “I had a dream,” she told me.  She and her husband were rowing frantically in a small boat with their daughter, as a storm blew and crashed upon them.  “But then,” she said, “it was like a camera in a movie panned back, and I could see that we were actually rowing inside a fish bowl.”  The bowl was being carried by the hands of God himself, and it was this very act–being carried–that caused the waves that they were struggling to row against.  Just knowing that God was in it brought her peace.

If God is carrying your boat, He is taking you to a better place.

You have to believe that.

You have to have confidence that He will not waste an iota of your struggle.  He will use it to draw you deeper with Him, to grow your faith, and open eyes to His glory.

If God is carrying your boat

Hes taking you to a better place

The word God uses for peace also means rest and tranquility~”of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”`

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Just like joy, and all 9 of the fruit of the Spirit, our peace is positional.  Because of Jesus’s work on the cross we have peace with God.  We are no longer enemies of God.  We are His beloved children.  Because of this, we can rely on all God’s promises, and we can be content in any and every circumstance.

The Secret to Experiencing Peace

In Philippians chapter 4, Paul tells us the secret to experiencing God’s peace.  We also continue to see how all 9 of the Fruit of the Spirit are to be present in a believer’s life, and are interdependent.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” verses 4-7

Did you catch that?  Loving God with all our hearts involves making the conscious choice not to wallow in unfavorable circumstances, but rather, to rejoice in the Lord.  Choose not to be anxious, but instead pray and tell God what you need, trusting in His ability and His desire to meet those needs.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” verse 8

Loving God with all our minds involves meditating on the right things.  How often does anxiety overtake us because we allow ourselves to dwell on the “what if’s”?  My daughter will tell you it is a slippery slope, once you allow yourself to visit there.  What about the “if only’s”?  How often do we lose our focus and take a ride on an emotional roller coaster because, like Lots wife, we look back longingly on the the past that is behind us, or allow the present opportunities to slip through our fingers because we’re dwelling on unrealistic hopes for the future?

All these things: the what if’s, the if only’s, the past, and the future are not “whatever is true.”  The past was true in it’s time, and the future is unknown to us.  Dwelling on them will not provide peace, but is likely to steal it away.

What we do know is that God has plans for us right now today.  He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.  And He wants us to trust Him with all our hearts, leaning on His understanding, acknowledging Him (rejoicing in Him and trusting Him!) and He promises to make our paths straight… Proverbs 3:5,6

He has your back, no matter what storm you encounter.  He is the one carrying your boat.

 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” verse 9

Paul is always saying that, isn’t he?  Follow my example because I’m following God, and God will be with you!

…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” verses 11-13

We quote that last part a lot, don’t we?  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Many times, we take it out of context.

Paul said he knew how to be content in ANY circumstance.  He knew how to get along with little, and he knew how to live with much.  The secret of being filled and going hungry… having an abundance and suffering in need!

How did he do it?  How did he go on through poverty, being stoned, being the recipient of hate talk, being ship wrecked, living under house arrest for many years, and eventually losing his life for the sake of Christ?  All the while, he remained content.  He knew God’s peace.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Paul didn’t have to experience anxiety or worry, doubt or discouragement.  Jesus would empower him to stand firm through anything while experiencing contentment, and we can have this same confidence, because as verse 19 tells us,

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Sometimes we experience wonderful peace in our own storms, but watching our loved ones struggle, that can be harder.  Giving them to God can be a greater exercise in trust, and we need to hold our loved ones with open hands.  God loves them more than we do, and His plans for them are every bit as wonderful and good as the plans we know He has for us.

When our daughter was struggling the most, we did some practical things to help her.  I was able to provide her with Bach Flowers that were helpful for her emotional state.

We used accupressure to help remove the strain that the anxiety placed on her body, and in return, her anxiety was lessened.

But more than anything else, she memorized scripture, taped it up all around her bed, and recited it whenever she felt the temptation to allow her thoughts to go where she knew they shouldn’t.  Instead she reminded herself to love God with her mind and meditate on His truth.    

She continued to rejoice in the Lord, recording the good gifts He has placed in her life in her special notebook… 3 things she’s thankful for each day, and the record is well into the thousands today.

We talked about what God says is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise!

And we prayed, often, asking God to give her His peace.

Our daughter still sometimes experiences worry, but it is temporary because she knows where to go, and instead of being paralyzed by anxiety, she is freed by trust.  It was hard to understand, when we were in that difficult place with her, why she was going through that storm, but when I hear her talk about it today I believe God will someday use her to lead others to peace.  She is uniquely equipped to show true understanding and compassion to others.  God won’t waste her pain, and He won’t waste yours… He will bring it to good.

Praise God for giving us so many reasons to trust in Him, and for making contentment in any circumstance possible!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not leave (fail) you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

“For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’”  Jeremiah 29:11   God had just caused His people to be carried into Babylon for 70 of exile.  They were looking for deliverance and He told them to build houses and have families and make a life there—they were being disciplined for their good.

God is good.  His love for us endures forever.  He is faithful.  And not a single thing that will ever happen to us isn’t filtered through His loving hands first.  And everything that he allows, even the tough love, is for our ultimate good and for God’s glory.

Psalm 136 is the all about Giving Thanks to God.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For his lovingkindness is everlasting.  {His love endures forever.}

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

 

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #2 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite 2

When I was in charge of coordinating the Women’s Events at Camp JIM, I once booked a speaker to share at a retreat on the subject of Forgiving.  The speaker had several talks she had prepared for events and she told me, in all the years she had been traveling, I was the first to ask her to use this seminar.

Wow.

When the topic is the heart warming reminder of our own forgiveness, we’re all over it; but, no one wanted to trudge through a weekend of emotional sludge to let go of their own grievances.  Ouch.

However, we can’t afford not to.  Forgiveness is a prerequisite to to more powerful, effective prayer.

There are several occasions in the New Testament when God promises to hold us to our own standards.  In Matthew 6:12, Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray,

“And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” TLB

The King James Version says, “forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”  We all know a debt is something we owe, but did you know that debt, offence and sin can be used interchangeably?  It changes our perspective, doesn’t it?

Do we want to be forgiven “as” (in the same way) we have forgiven others?

Mark 11:24-25 says it even more clearly:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

God wants us to pray for one another in intercessory prayer.

And we’ve learned that if we want God to hear our prayers, we have to confess all known sins, and seek His forgiveness.  But these verses take that even further by saying that we also need to forgive anyone against whom we are holding a grievance.

Isn’t it easy to hold a grievance?  Without even realizing it, we can nurse it along, holding onto it like an old friend.  It becomes a part of who we are and we may not even realize we’ve developed a critical spirit toward that person who hurt us.

God says forgive.

It is a required of us in order for God to listen to our prayers.

Many years ago, on a Good Friday, tragedy snuck into our family unannounced.  On Saturday my husband took me to see “Passion of the Christ” in the dollar theater in his home town.  Ugh.  I have never been so torn by a movie.  Christ’s suffering was so large on that screen, I know I was swollen and blotchy and pathetic when we came out of the theater and into the light.  I was burdened afresh with the opportunity to meditate on the message of Easter, that Christ’s passion was to save me. It was my sin that brought Him all that pain, but I could rejoice because He is risen and I am forgiven.

The testing came Easter Sunday, when the silent offence came screaming into the light and tore the cover right off my heart.  You know those movies that show a person in shock, experiencing the moment in slow motion, and every sense is cranked up to high?  Too many individuals were affected for me to share the details.  Suffice it to say, no grievance against oneself ever comes close to the pain you enter into when the grievance is against your child.

When the weekend had ended, my heart finally quieted, and my eyes ran dry.  I’m sure God orchestrated our weekend so that I would watch that movie at that exact time.  I knew the choice I faced was no choice at all.

No matter how grieved I was by this offence, a perfect God was more offended, and yet Jesus died to forgive that person who grieved our family.  He died once and for all, for all people, just as much as He died to forgive me.  He loves us all the same.  So how could I refuse to forgive?

How dare I refuse to forgive?

Isn’t that what it boils down to?  The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 depicts it perfectly.

So we make the choice to forgive.

We don’t wait until we feel like it.  Emotions are fickle, and we could wait an eternity without ever “feeling like forgiving”.  Make the choice, even if it means choosing daily.  Healing is a process.

But now comes the awkward, and how do we act when we encounter this person again?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

In her book, “What Happens When Women Pray?” Evelyn Christenson shares that once we commit to forgive, God expects us to illustrate follow through.

Now if anyone has caused pain…  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”  2 Cor. 2:5,7,8

Paul is writing to the Corinthian church regarding a brother who has grieved the congregation, most likely received church discipline, and has repented.  Paul tells the church to not only forgive him, but to comfort him… and reaffirm their love for him.  What this person has been through has been hard, and feeling ostracized by the church could overwhelm him with grief.

Don’t we do this, as parents?  When our kids have a quarrel, and we mediate, we make sure they reaffirm their love for each other.  “Now give each other a hug!”  I have just about cracked up when scowly faced children say, “I forgive you,” but can barely bring themselves to touch each other.  And yet, once embraced, the tension drains from their bodies, is replaced by a genuine smile, a REAL hug, and fast friends return to play.

confirm forgiveness

It’s easy to say we forgive, but the proof is in the follow through.

Maybe it’s time for a heart to heart, a hug, and tears all around.

Maybe the proof is in doing something to serve this person who has grieved  you.

Perhaps, like our family and the church in Corinth, it is bringing him or her back into your fellowship.

What if they’re not sorry?

The grief and subsequent bitterness will eat you alive if you choose not to forgive.  In Evelyn’s words, your prayer life will become “like straw”.  And as Paul warned the Corinthians, forgive, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

For Christ’s sake, and for yours, you still need to forgive.  Lay it at the foot of the cross.  Pray how God wants you to confirm your love. Perhaps it is as simple as sending a ‘Thinking of You’.  Or, perhaps God has another opportunity prepared for such a time as this.

What if they don’t want anything to do with you?  Then honoring their wishes in keeping your distance may be the best way to confirm your love.  Even if they never know, God will know, and He will give you His peace.

That your prayers may not be hindered: (page 40-41 of “What Happens When Women Pray):

*  Ask God to remind you of anyone whom you need to forgive.

*  Ask forgiveness for the sin of not forgiving that person.

*  Forgive that person, even if you need to ask God to enable you to do so.  He will provide you with the strength and ability.

*  Ask God for as much love as He wants you to have for the person who grieved you.

*  Ask God how He would have you to confirm your love for them.

*  Wait in silence for His answer.

*  Pray, promising God that you will do whatever He has told you.

*  Go do it!

“Lord, forgive me for holding onto grievances.  I forgive ______________ for _____________________.  Give me the heart you want me to have toward him/her.  Show me how you desire for me to confirm my love for them, and give me the strength to follow through.”

You can find the rest of the posts in this series at the end of this post.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

The Light in Us

Have you read missionary Sheila Scorziello’s beautiful blog about the country of Italy where she lives, and the culture and people she loves?  I recently discovered her corner of WordPress, and I am just so delighted to meet her.  Her writing just draws one in.

She wrote a post sharing how Italians celebrate February 2nd, as opposed to the American “Ground Hog Day”.  They call it Candlemas Day.  She wrote,

Candlemas, in many Christian traditions, marks the presentation of the Christ child in the temple. It is also the day when many take their candles to the church for the minister to bless. Using these blessed candles throughout the year serves as a reminder that Christ is the light of the world.”

The Light in Us

As I thought about it, I had to do the math… if Christ was born on December 25th, and in keeping with Levitical tradition, she would have gone with Joseph to the temple for purification rituals 40 days after Christ’s birth.  This would have fallen around February 3rd.  Mary and Joseph brought Jesus with them to the temple, as the first born child was to be set aside to the Lord.

The Bible introduces us to some beautiful people there at the temple that day.  Simeon, an old man and a prophet, had been told by the Spirit of the Lord that he would not die until he laid eyes on God’s promised one.  He recognized Jesus, and taking the baby in his arms, he blessed the Lord, saying,

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation
     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph also.

Anna, a prophetess was also at the temple that day, as she always was, worshipping with fasting and prayer.  Scripture says she came up at that very hour and began giving thanks to God, speaking about him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

After this, when Mary and Joseph had completed what was required of them at the temple, they returned home.  Luke chapter 2 tells of all this, and in verse 40 we are told that Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

I know I’m random, but all of this got me to think about the fact that this account is one of the very few we have about Christ as a child.  Only one other is recorded.  Most of what we know of Jesus’s life begins when he started his ministry around age 30.  So that leaves 10,950 days of his life that are not recorded, and yet, we know that the baby grew to be a boy, shared a home and meals and memories with family, had brothers who didn’t always like him, went to school and followed all of the traditions that every Jewish boy was expected to observe.  He had the same kind of relationships we have.  He faced the same temptations we face.  Day after day, year after year, he fulfilled, step by step, every iota  required to grow up into the man who ministered, died and rose again on our behalf.

Every second, Jesus was faithful.  Not only at the end, but every moment of His life that carried Him to the end.

Every moment, God with us…

Precious babe, bearer of hope…

Growing bigger, audacious love….

Son of God, strong and wise and boldly humble…

Light of the world, extinguished on a cross to be ignited in the hearts of men and women across the world… of a kingdom not built with hands or won with swords, but on bowed knees, bent wills, and by the power of the Spirit.  

Children of God, the light of the world (Christ) lives in usMay we bear His brilliance faithfully and authentically in the low and mundane moments of life as well as the moments that crescendo into seasons of fulfillment, as we see God’s plans unfold in miraculous, because it takes all of the moments to hasten the return of Christ.

It takes all of the moments to bear hope to a helpless world.

It takes all of the moments to  love audaciously.

It takes all of the moments to testify loudly.

And it takes all of us.  What a privilege to be part of God’s plans.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galations 6:9-10

 

When God Brings You Out

I was reading over at Beauty Beyond Bones, and was touched by her very vulnerable post, sharing  how the enemy of our souls can use memories of dark times in our lives to discourage and disparage.  I’ve been going through some personal evaluation myself, and her story just struck a chord.

Haven’t we all been there?  We long to leave difficult seasons in the past, but we visit a place, run into someone with a really good memory, hear a song, or maybe it’s a smell?  Anniversaries come around, or perhaps we run across a belonging from that forgotten time period, and it all comes rushing back.

When God Brings You Out

It really reminds me of how God used Joshua to lead the camp of Israel across the Jordan and into their promised land. (Joshua 3 &4)  God had already brought them out of Egypt, and He could have brought them to the Promised Land through a short and uncomplicated path, but I kind of think God knew they needed time and difficult circumstances to teach them to trust Him after all those years in captivity.  They went the long way, and had opportunity to witness miracle after miracle, but because of their lack of faith they ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.

When God decided it was time for Israel to leave the wilderness, He used no less spectacular means than usual to lead them homeHe parted the waters of the Jordan for them to cross on dry land. Of those who crossed over, Scriptures tells that 40,000 of them were dressed and ready for battle.  And only after they crossed over safely did the Ark of the Lord come up out of the Jordan and allow the waters to return to their place.

Afterward, the Lord had them take 12 large stones from the Jordan, one for each tribe of Israel, and they set them up where they camped.  Likewise, Joshua erected 12 stones in the midst of the Jordan, where they would remain.

The stones?  Stones of Remembrance that God wanted them to be able to see and remember what God had done for them.  Some of those people probably wished they could just forget the past and make a new start.  But God wanted them to have Memorials to testify to them, and to their children, and to the world that the “hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

There was a time when the pain of losing my parents was still quite fresh, and the grief was still so strong that it choked.  I feared drowning in the waters when I remembered where I had come from, and who I could have been if I had followed the example that had been set for me.  I cried out to the Lord and told him I didn’t want to be that person.

Immediately He answered me, saying simply, “I brought you out.”

Simple as that.  I didn’t need to be anxious about what could have been.  My current path is different because God intentionally intervened on my behalf.  He brought me out and into His will.  

God lets us dwell in those dark periods for a time, and then like Israel, He brings us out.  He parts the waters for us, and makes straight the way for us to travel. He then brings up the rear to make sure we land safely on the other side.  He makes sure we are prepared for the battles required to take the ground He has purposed for us, giving us the Armor of the Lord, and then He fights alongside us, delivering victory into our hands a day at a time.

No matter how dark our dark places have been, or how fierce the battle is today, God promises us that He works it all together for our good as we love and follow Him.

“I brought you out,” is His reminder to us.

He doesn’t want us to forget where we came from.  He wants us to be able to look back and testify to His faithfulness, His goodness, and His loving kindness toward us.  These are faith building because there are more Jordans ahead, and we need to trust Him if we’re going to keep our bearing.

So let healing continue to take its course.  Smile when people remember who you used to be and invite them to praise God with you for what He has done and what He still wants to do.  Praise Him for being a God of Restoration. Transformation. Recovery. And Hope!

Get rid of the things that don’t speak life to you anymore.  Surround yourself with people who affirm God’s goodness in your life, as well as things that affirm truth.  Wallow in God’s Word!

When those old memories threaten to get you down, call them what they are.  They are your Stones of Remembrance.  They don’t define you.  They can’t break you.  They simply remind you that the hand of the Lord is mighty.

He is the one who lifts you up, and He Brings You Out, Safely, every single time.  He will always lead you home.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

George calls her chapter on Faithfulness, “Following Through in Faithfulness”.  She has built this picture of how love, joy and peace change hearts. As a result, patience, kindness and goodness desire the best for everyone. Then, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control bring us victory in life’s “more challenging moments,” giving us follow-through by conquering self.

In Galations, the word for faithfulness is the Greek word, “pistis,” which refers to the character of one who can be relied on.

George teaches that a woman of faithfulness:

  • always comes through, no matter what
  • shows up for others, “whether a message or a meal”
  • keeps her word,”her yes means yes, and her no means no” (James 5:12)
  • doesn’t cancel out of commitments or appointments, and “successfully transacts business—carrying out any instructions given to her,”
  • “discharges her official duties in the church”–and is still committed to worship,
  • and is devoted to duty just as Jesus was in His example here on earth.

Elizabeth George also pointed out the struggle involved in being faithful… feeling tired or lazy ever get the best of you?

Or how about feeling discouraged?

Procrastination?  I might be looking forward to the devotional on self-control.

Rationalizing?

What about apathy… sometimes we just don’t care, even when we really do.  Life can get hard.  Some may drift from God.  Sometimes we just plain ole’ rebel, and we can develop a spiritual numbness.

As a Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is something God is responsible for cultivating in our lives. Charles Stanley, in his book, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, says that when we’re living life led by the Spirit, that these characteristics come about with little effort.   Yet reading over this list left me feeling overwhelmed and a little discouraged.

But wait. . .

This word pistis, which is used in Galations 5:22, can also be interpreted as faith; that’s how the King James Version interprets it.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galations 5:22,23 KJV

Faith is:

1.) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.

2.)  a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

3.)  belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same

Faith, like faithfulness, is provided to us by the Holy Spirit, and isn’t possible for us to experience in our own power.

“. . .  no one can say, “Jesus is [my] Lord,” except by [the power and influence of] the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 Amplified Version

By the grace of faith, God grows the character of faithfulness, or reliability, in our character.  He helps us be faithful to Him, and faithful to our calling.

 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3 NIV

That list of “works” that Elizabeth George explained personifies a woman of faithfulness… it’s possible, if our work is produced by faith in Christ Jesus.  Obedience becomes a labor of love for our Savior, and we can persevere even when we feel tired, discouraged, unmotivated or apathetic because of the hope we have in Christ.  That hope, Hebrews tells us, is anchored to the Throne of Grace in heaven; it pulls us onward.

Hands And Leaf Purpose

If you are a believing child of God, then you have been given Spiritual Gifts to use in whatever way that He has determined you should serve; God also gives each of us the faith to use those gifts.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

Do you know how God has wired you to serve?  If you’ve never given thought to this, you can visit www.spiritualgiftstest.com to learn more about the different Spiritual Gifts.  Your results will be based on your current experience, and can help you identify your areas of strength so that you can pray about how God wants you to use the gifts He has given you.  Don’t be surprised if different strengths rise to the top of the list in different stages of your life, depending on how your experience changes and on how God wants to use you at in different seasons.  He will gift you appropriately for your purpose.

God also wired you with personality, learning style, love languages, skills and talents, ministry style, resources and experiences to compliment your service within the Body of Christ.  They make you unique.  I would love to give you resources to explore each of these areas in a future post.  Don’t compare yourself to others!  Each individual is equally important to the function of the Church, and God’s plans.  Comparison is a trap that can discourage you, or it can lead to an inflated ego. . .  but, humility is what God requires.

If you struggle with following through on your commitments, it may be wise to prayerfully re-evaluate the tasks you have undertaken and ask God if what you are trying to do is suited to your gifts.

I’m not talking about the marriage covenant, responsibilities as a parent, or promises made–if you have made them, God will give you the strength to keep them.  What I do mean is, for example: that someone with a gift of helps, who likes working in the background, may not be cut out to be an up front teacher! The areas we choose to serve within need to compliment our Spiritual Gifts.  They also need to compliment the season of life we are currently in.  The Proverbs 31 woman did a LOT of good things, but I often think she probably didn’t do them all at once!

Be intentional about doing good.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

When you feel discouraged, remember that your help is always with you.  God poured His Holy Spirit out on you, generously!  And He will never leave you.  Being faithful does not have to be tedious.

Choose your commitments carefully, and don’t try to do more than is truly possible.  When we leave others in the lurch, we damage our testimony.  When we follow through, we are blessed too. (James 1:25)

 

Work produced by faith in a faithful God.

Labor prompted by love for a loving Savior.

Endurance, inspired by hope in Savior who gave what He had for the hope that was set before Him–securing your eternity. 

 

What Happens When Women Pray

What happens when women pray photo

Every year or so, there is a theme that God chooses to teach me.  One year it was Biblical Womanhood, another it was Gratitude, yet another was Being Established.  The past 2 years have been on the topic of Prayer.

Have you ever shopped for books written about prayer??  Oh, my goodness, there are SO MANY!!  I have not actually gone looking, but when God picks a topic, it pops up everywhere.  Before I know it, I’ve accumulated a shelf full of resources without even trying.  I’ve read a little in this one and a little in that, however, my all time favorites are

1) simply reading what God says about prayer and the examples we’re given in God’s Word, and

2) Evelyn Christenson’s book, “What Happens When Women Pray”.  I found this little book at a garage sale, full of notes (so it must be good, right?).  I’ve read it 4 times, and I learn something new every time.

The Christian Missionary Alliance Church also chooses a theme every year, and their women’s ministry piggybacks on that.  This year the Alliance Women’s theme is “MORE”.

In my home church, our own Alliance Women are specifically studying how we can experience “MORE” power in prayer.  I’m so blessed to be able to do this study with my own church family, and I am over the moon to see how God is going to use these women and their prayers in the life of our church.

Prayer Is:

*A privilege*  ~My husband’s grandpa taught me that.  He called me monthly, until the day he died, to catch up and find out how he could be praying for us.  I was so blessed by this man who was not a blood relative, but who loved me so strongly in word and in deed.

*A responsibility*  ~Did you know that it is designed by God as part of our relationship with Him, and the health of our prayer life is an indication of the health of our Spiritual lives?

*A gift*  ~Imagine if we could not go to God.  Or imagine if we still, like the Israelites of old, had to go through a priest as a mediator, offering sacrifices, in order to maintain our relationship with God?  When Jesus died for us, and conquered sin and death by rising again, HE became our mediator and now we can go directly to God in Jesus’ name.

What a precious gift, and yet, it is one of the most neglected privileges and responsibilities within the Church Body today.  The truth is that too often we do not give enough thought to how and when we talk to God.  What’s more, many of us are not aware of the stumbling blocks that prevent God from inclining His ear to answer.

As my Jesus Sisters and I go through this study together, I’ll be sharing what God is teaching me in a series of posts entitled, “More Power in Prayer.”

I hope you’ll join me!

The next posts in this series are:

More Power in Prayer; Prerequisite #1 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #2 for Effective Prayer

More Power in Prayer, Prerequisite #3 for Effective Prayer

Growing Grateful, and How to Love Wounded People this Holiday Season

growing grateful

It’s November, the month we adults dedicate to Thanksgiving.

I see friends on Facebook, sharing what they’re thankful for each day, and I wish we could continue the tradition 365 days a year.  What encouragement.

I am reminded of what God has lifted me out of, and I am truly grateful.

The Back Story:

I didn’t grow up in an atmosphere of thanksgiving and praise.  Rather, the atmosphere was heavy with pessimism, and there was a critical spirit.  The adults in my family were fault finders and worry warts.

Looking back, I realize I “inherited” many anxieties.  When my folks walked away from relationship with me, it was the beginning of a season in which the Lord would allow my list of “I could never survive if……” fears to come true, one by one.  I think He knew it was the only way to get me over myself so I could lead a fruitful life… He was pruning me.

I felt like I was drowning in a tidal wave at the time.  We were new to this camp and this town.  God surrounded me with people who didn’t let me wallow in the “Woe is me’s.”  Instead they politely acknowledged what I was going through, if I even dared to share, and they simply pulled me along, even when it meant I tripped over my own feet.

It was a season in which I dared not sit with my own thoughts.  I kept myself busy, always, and the radio was always on to distract me when I wasn’t working with the children.

Then one day I was sitting in the rocking chair of our camp living room with a nursing baby in my arms.  Music turned to an interview with a pastor who had lost his voice for years and was told that recovery was impossible.  He shared about his diagnosis, having to step down from his position at his church, his depression and process.  Then he shared about how he was eventually asked to speak to his former congregation in circumstances only God could have arranged.  Of course, he had a microphone, and his church family was listening carefully to hear him as he delivered a message about miracles today.  As he spoke, his voice came back loud and strong. The radio program replayed the recording of his message, and as I listened, in his voice I could hear him being undone as he realized that the prayer he thought would never receive a “Yes” to had just been granted.  You can listen to his story, and the recording, at this address.

And then he shared with the audience– with me–how God will heal me if only I ask, but this nugget came with the warning that healing would most certainly be a long and arduous process.

I sat and cried.  I didn’t care if it was going to be hard.  I wanted it, and so I prayed right then and there, and I begged God to heal my heart.  That was the beginning.

There have been so many beautiful people and circumstances God has used along the way.  One tool was the book, Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyers.  Her book shares how what we think dictates what we believe, and therefore how we live.  Our minds are the battlefield where Satan prefers to attack us first, in an attempt to derail us.  This book opened my eyes to recognize and be able to accept the wrong thoughts and attitudes I had adopted growing up, and I was able to become more intentional to change my thought patterns.

Several years later, I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.   I love this book.  I’ve lost count of how many copies I have given away.  One copy was returned to me with Ann Voskamp’s autograph!!  What joy!

In her book, Ann Voskamp shares that pivotal, heart breaking moment in her childhood which played a major role in shaping her world view and held her back from the full life God wanted her to possess.  She describes the process by which she learned to become grateful, and in sharing that with all of us, God used her powerfully.  She began a grass roots movement of precious people, recognizing God in the daily, and remembering to give thanks.  The whole book was good, but it was these 3 little words in the very last chapter that changed me: “Be the blessing…”

YOU BE THE BLESSING!!

And I began to recognize that all my discontent was rooted in SO.MUCH.NEEDY.

This is where I tell you that I’ve been wrestling with this post all week, and every time I get to this point, I end up someplace I didn’t intend to go with it.  There’ve been no few tears, and in frustration I put the laptop away.  Last night I told God I’m okay with not writing a Thanksgiving post this year… maybe we should table it until next year when I understand better what Grateful looks like.  He ministered to my heart last night, and as I started afresh today I realized that “HERE” is where God wanted this post to be.

Wounded People

This time of year is dedicated to Thankful, but it is also a time when people gather together, and I lose track of how many times I am asked to pray for family gatherings and the interactions that will take place there.  That’s because we all need to remember this:

Grace is beautiful, but the process–this healing–is MESSY.  People are messy.

We are wounded, every one.

Wounded by sin.

We are wounded by the consequences of sin in the world, by other people’s sin… by our own sin.

The good news?  By His stripes, we are healed.  Jesus sweeps into our hearts when we invite him and he heals our sin laden souls by removing all the guilty stains.

But what about the hurt that remains as a result of all that sin?

Wounded people wound people.  It’s true, and it’s unlovely, and forgiven people still have to live with this–with each other.

Being Grateful looks like continuing to realize that we are the recipients of God’s grace, daily, allowing our hearts to remain soft and responsive to God and to others.

The alternative is to embrace the belief that we are victims, and allow our hearts to become hard and cynical.  Hardness protects us from being hurt again, but it also keeps out so much good.

But there is an in-between that so many of us fall into, at some point in our journey, and we can get stuck if we’re not careful.  Sometimes wounded people who are afraid of being hurt again haven’t learned healthy expectations.  Sometimes we look to others to fill the sucking wound we still feel when we haven’t learned how to balance grief and joy, and then we push them away when they. just. can’t.

…when other people don’t smile at us enough, reach out to us enough, invite often enough, give enough, do enough, be there often enough, and dare I say?–Be Enough.  We pull people in to try to fill our needy, and we blame and push them away when they can’t –and the wounded becomes the wounder.   We’ve all done it.  Sometimes we look to things, instead of people, to fill our wounds.  Again–healing doesn’t look like that.

Healing only happens when turn to this Jesus, who we have invited into our hearts, and invite Him into our hurts as well.  Ask him to sweep it out, even when the process is long and arduous.   We don’t get what we don’t ask for.  Jesus waits to be wanted.

“But You, O Lord, know me [and understand my devotion to You];
You see me;  And You examine the attitude of my heart toward You.”  Jeremiah 12:3 Amplified Version

Wherever you are in the process, now we pick up where we left off…

Be the blessing.  Yes, you, and me.

When You’re Wounded

Jesus wants to heal our broken places, but part of that healing involves being broken for HIM.  We only get well when we choose to start walking forward, even when it means we trip on our own feet–because we can’t make progress until we stop looking in and start looking up and out.  We must stop dwelling on our need–acknowledge it, yes, but not dwell on it– because that is when need becomes needy.

Instead, give thanks, even when you don’t feel like it.

It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
 proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,                                                                                                    For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;

    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

                                                         Psalm 92:1,2,4

Ann Voskamp encourages her readers to begin a journal to chronicle the gifts God bestows in our lives, from great to small.

It could be the song of a bird outside your window, a delicious meal, a provision, or the kindness of a stranger…

… something that made you laugh, the sunrise, or your Salvation.

There are so many blessings that God pours into our lives, and when we begin to notice and voice our appreciation, our faith grows and we believe that Jesus has our needs covered, even now, and more, so that when we look up long enough to notice the needs around us, we can pour some of that “more” out to bless others.  This is growing Grace-Full.  It’s being Grateful.

Research has proven that people who record just 3 blessings a day for 2 weeks are happier for months after.

Record 3 blessings a day for a year, and you will have journaled One Thousand Gifts.  Do that for years, as I have encouraged my children to do, and you have, well, Legacy of Epic Proportion that will bring about a transformation in the way you view everything.  As Ann Voskamp shared, it became addictive, finding all the blessings and counting them up.

God is so Good, and He Loves Us So Much.

Our church Ladies Group is learning how to pray more effectively, and this has brought us into a season of repentance.  I hear a lot of questions about whether their responses to people who have hurt them, or who they have hurt, are okay?  It’s good to evaluate.

How Do You Love the Wounded?  

I honestly can’t give you comprehensive answer, but I can think of a few words.

Be a Comforter.

Remember when we talked about MORE?  This is it.  This is when we realize that God has given us so much comfort that we have enough to share with someone else.  We learn by experience how to hold others, and God gives us supernatural ability to follow through.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”            2 Corinthians 1:3-5 emphasis mine

Follow Christ’s Example: don’t enter in where you aren’t invited.

Remember that you can’t fix it.  Listen if invited, being mindful of that line called gossip.  Comfort, yes, but remember only God can fix it.  Point them to Him, always.  He is the only one who can heal.  And sometimes, God plans to use the hurt to bring about His will for them. This is sacred space.   It’s important that we stay out of the way, even if that means we aren’t invited into their pain.  Even when it’s through discernment that we choose to take a step back.  Even if that means we miss being close to them while God draws them closer to Him.

Forgive.

Wounded people often wound others.  Remembering that helps keep us compassionate.  At the same time, remembering all that God has forgiven us helps us to remain humble enough to keep our hearts tender.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-13

Run to confession.

Yes, this.  If you are part of the problem, run to make it right.  Confess your sin and ask forgiveness.  This is what’s between you and them.  And then LOVE, even if they don’t extend forgiveness to you.  God forgives you and expects you to love on… this is what’s between you and the Lord.

Don’t let them wallow in it.

For real.  And yes, depending on the person, they may find it annoying that you aren’t going to sit around and feel sorry with them.  But I thank God for those people who drug me along when I was too broken to walk on my own.  Even if they trip along the way, gently urge them forward.  Invite them to joint the fun.  Pull them into your service projects.  Encourage them by occasionally praising some of those blessings in their lives.  Hopefully they will someday thank you, but even if not, enabling them to wallow is not going to help them heal.

Pray for them.

The most powerful thing you can do for them is to invite God’s will in their life.  You may not know all the off-roads God has planned for them, but you know the highways.

  • He wants them to be in a solid relationship with Him.
  • He wants to heal their hearts.
  • He wants them to obey Him.
  • He wants to use them to bless others and to point back to him.
  • He wants them to reach spiritual and emotional maturity.
  • He wants them develop Godly character,
  • He wants them to use their gifts and abilities to build and encourage the church, and to give Him Glory.

How many more can you think of?  Now, pray.

Be Grateful.

Yes, again.  It’s impossible to complain when we’re giving thanks.  And just like a negative attitude can be contagious, so can positivity.  Be the thermostat, not the thermometer.

From the bottom of my heart, I am sending you love this Thanksgiving.  Whatever your story, whatever your wound, wherever God is in your process,  let Thanksgiving become a lifestyle and not a holiday.   May you experience the boundless love and comfort of Christ in your life, and the healing that God holds for you and yours.  May you experience the wonder and fulfillment of learning to grow grateful, one day at a time.

Love hard, and be the blessing.

~Linda

 

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:2-8

 

 

 

Growing in the Fruit of Joy

joy bubble

 

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8,9

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

 

Of all the Fruit of the Spirit, I find at times, joy is the one most difficult to be deceived by a counterfeit.  When hard times come, and heart break is inevitable, joy cannot be pretended.

1~ Joy is Supernatural.

Joy is only available to the Believer who is living a life in step with God.  None of the Fruit of the Spirit are available without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, leaning in close to the Savior, walking in His will.

In John 15, versus 8-11, Jesus tells His disciples that when we bear fruit (lives oozing with Godly character) we glorify God and prove to be Christ’s disciples.  He explains how He loves us as God the Father loves Him.

He has been explaining our relationship with Him, using the analogy of a vine and its branches.  Can you picture Him, walking the disciples through a vineyard as He talks and points out the familiar vines, and paints for them a word picture they can understand and keep close to their hearts?

“Abide in my love.” He tells them.  “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

And then Jesus explains why it is so important that we abide (remain, tarry, be held).

 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  John 15:8-11

This word, full, also means full to the brim, so that nothing shall be wanting.  It means to render complete; perfect.

Just picture your heart, so full of joy that it can’t contain anymore.  It is complete.  It is perfect; but only if we are abiding. Obeying. Tarrying for Christ and his desire for us.

2~ Our joy is Positional, not Circumstantial.

Happiness the counterfeit we most often mistake for joy, but happiness is circumstantial.  The very word tells us it is so.  “HAP” means chance.  It is the root of happen, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), happenstance (a chance circumstance), and the word “happy”.

Happiness is an emotion that changes with our circumstances, but our emotions are not a reliable reflection of the truth of our position; our situation.

Before we believe in Jesus and what he did, trusting in Him, and relying on his death, burial and resurrection as payment for our sin–before that, we were enemies of God.  That was our position.

Praise the Lord, we don’t stay there, because when we place our trust in Him and accept the beautiful gift of sacrifice he gave on our behalf, our position changes.  He removes us from the position of enemy and places us in the position of friend of God.  And now our position allows us to experience the full life and full joy that Jesus wills us to have.

But only in Christ!

The New Testament word for Joy, or Gladness, is Chara.

  • the joy received from you
  • the cause or occasion of joy
  • of persons who are one’s joy

Jesus is our salvation, and we (Believers) are the recipients of the surpassing riches of His grace (that which affords joy! 🙂  )  Ephesians 2:4-8

Our joy doesn’t disappear, diminish, or change when hard times come calling.  It stays, because He stays.  Our joy is positional, not circumstantial.

3~ “Joy looks out and up, not inward.”

God doesn’t want us to dwell on our circumstances.  He wants us to look to Him, trusting His goodness and His faithfulness, and to stay mindful of our position and His promises.  When we focus on those things, a wonderful thing happens.  Gratitude.

The natural result of Grace is Praise.

Gratitude is an essential ingredient for joy.  And, it is a commandment.

1 Thesselonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Emphasis Mine

Psalm 50:23 tells us that the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies God.

How?  To borrow from Charles Stanley:

  • Giving Thanks strengthens our witness to unbelievers,
  • gives us eternal perspective,
  • motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstances,
  • keeps us continually aware that God is close by,
  • brings us our will into submission to God,
  • and it reminds us of our dependence upon HIM.

What about Sorrow?  What place does it have for a people of joy?

Godly Sorrow is Okay.

According to Isaiah 53:3, Jesus was “… a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Jesus felt sorrow over our sin, and grief over what He was to suffer on our behalf.  And yet, Hebrews 12:2 explains that “for the joy that was set before Him, he endured the cross.”

How should we treat sorrow?

In the book of Lamentations, chapter 3, Jeremiah sets an example for us.  He spends the first 19 verses acknowledging his terrible circumstances, like this:

verses 17-19,

“I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.”

But then, in verse 21 he begins to turn it around and he praises God.

“Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

And Jeremiah goes on praising the Lord.

It is okay to acknowledge our sorrow, just do not go on about it until it becomes toxic.  Turn it around and praise God.

“Although I am going through this _____________, the Lord___________________.”

When I was going through this last miscarriage, I was grieving.  I was sad… confused…helpless…frustrated.  I didn’t understand why God was allowing me to go through such loss, yet again.  But smack dab in the middle of the grief there was joy in knowing I was not alone.  God was right there in the middle of the grief with me, and he was holding me, giving me strength, and reassuring me.  At the end of the day I could say, “Although my heart is hurting, the Lord is good.  Although I don’t understand, the Lord is trustworthy.  Although I am helpless, God is my Helper.”

We will have bad days.  Some of us will have a bad decade,  but “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed”.  Because of his love, compassion, and faithfulness our hope is anchored to the throne of heaven, and we take joy, even in times of sorrow.

The Lord is our portion… our “possession, reward”;

therefore we will wait for him.

This word “wait”, it’s a different word than Jesus used for “abide” in John 15, but it carries a similar meaning… to expect, hope in, tarry.

Isn’t that beautiful?  So many years before Jesus walked in the garden with his disciples, Jeremiah vowed to do exactly what Jesus would command them to do.

Tarry for the Lord… abide, and he will give you His joy, and your joy will be over the top, greater than all you could ask or imagine, FULL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Funding for Missions in Unusual Places

The collection deadline for Samaritan’s Purse missional shoe boxes is fast approaching!  Our church collected the last of our donated boxes on Sunday.  My kids were SO excited to send ours on its way, and rightly so, because they played a big part in providing the funding to make it possible.

A few months back, I mentioned that we wanted to come up with funds for supporting missions.  We set a goal to reach by the end of the year, and the kids caught the vision that they could be God’s hands by helping send the gospel into the world, literally.  Excited, they went through their rooms looking for spare change.  They found a lot, actually.  I think they probably dipped into their hard earned spending money.  They caught the “giving bug”.

Being God's hands to the world

We joke that our 9 year old is a money magnet.  She loves going to town with me, and no wonder since she always comes home with change in her pocket.  It helps that she is very observant, but this kids finds money everywhere!  She began the habit of tucking it into my hand and telling me, “Here, you can put this in our missions money.”

I offered that maybe she should keep every other coin, and give every other coin (cuz honestly, some days she comes home with more than a dollar), but she wouldn’t be deterred.  She set such a good example that we all decided to do as she is doing.  When we find coins in town, we bring them home and add them to the mission fund. 🙂  Bring on all those nice Aldi shoppers who give away their carts when leaving the store!  They have no idea the good that they are doing!

Nearly all the contents of our Samaritan Purse shoe box was paid for with lost change.  We’re pretty excited, because we’re re-starting our mission fund now for next year, and I can’t wait to see how much we’ll be able to do.  I’m positive that we find far more change than we used to find, whether because we’re more aware of our surroundings (ulterior motives) or God is blessing our plans.  Probably both.  😉

I paid for our shoe box label/shipping donation online.  You can learn more about it at this address.  When you pay for shipping online they track your shoe box so you know to which country it has gone, and that knowledge is going to be such joy for my crew.  It will keep them motivated to want to do this again!

One thing I will do differently from now on is that I will more intentional when shopping this coming year:  I will notice bargain items that are appropriate to put in these shoe boxes.  I  will buy school type supplies ahead of time, when they are on sale in August/September.  EVERYONE was buying shoe box stuffers in November, and I ended up paying more for items like colored pencils and a pencil sharpener because the “deal items” were completely gone, even at the Dollar Store!  I did find a Ty Beanie Baby at the thrift store for 50 CENTS that was like new, tag and all.  Kinda the frosting on the cake!

Anyway, the purpose of sharing all this is not to show off, but hopefully to inspire you that it’s possible to give more… pray how God would have you do it.  Maybe it’s:

  • Buying less Starbucks
  • Buying a more affordable cell phone so the monthly bill is less
  • Contributing funds you save when couponing
  • Raising money with a garage sale
  • Have a bake sale!  One of the families we know sells cookies, pies, and other delectables to raise money for missions–their friends are very generous when they know where it’s going!
  • Or, perhaps you’re just a money magnet too, LOL.

Do you have ideas?  How does your family set aside funds for missions?  Please share them with me so all our mission funds can benefit from your creativity!