Tag Archives: Joy

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

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Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

I didn’t have a very good week.  The  first day of my much awaited month off  started with an extreme gallbladder attack, though I didn’t know what it was for a day.  Day two involved having it removed.  Day 5, I hit a deer, smashing our car and causing the airbags to go off.   Our deductible from our health insurance will cost up to $8000 out of pocket.  

Different versions use the words perseverance, endurance and patience instead of steadfastness.   So, be joyful when troubles come your way, and be steady, persevering, patient, and not crumbling like a cheap card table.  Somehow our trials and troubles, given their full effect, will make us mature, perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said that they thought they were going to die and didn’t think they could endure.  But then he said it happened so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead.  Paul was saying there was a purpose in his suffering, which was so that he wouldn’t rely on himself, but on God.  I’ve been saving extra money away, dreaming of retiring from my job which has gotten more grueling for several reasons, including me getting older.  And in a snap that money goes toward something  else.  Perhaps God wants me to rely on Him and not my own resources.  

God also wants to produce in us  a wholehearted faith.   He values that so much that He may, in His love, take away all the other things that we might be tempted to rely on.  In my case, maybe it was money.  God’s aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence of Him, knowing that He’s all we need.

Finally, God wants our faith to be strong.  Being joyful when troubles come is a reaction that is counter our own emotional response.  Being steady and unwavering because God is our refuge in times of trouble can be a showcase for those around us to see His life at work in us.  Satan stood before God saying that Job’s faith was really because he was so rich and prosperous.  God responded by making a wager that if all of the stuff was gone, Job would still worship Him.  Job proved that his faith wasn’t built on all of the stuff, but that he worshiped God because God is worth it.   

Job’s faith was strong because God planted it in him, just like He did in Moses and the other Hall of Famers, and just like He does in us.  He will grow and build our faith, even protect it.  Jesus told Peter that in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

So take heart in your trials, making them a source of your joy.  God will use those troubles to cause us to rely on Him, and to show us that He’s all we need.  When we let God do His work in us through our struggles, He grows us.  God protects our faith even when we are sifted like wheat by Satan.  And in the end, it is “He who keeps us from falling and will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”


What has God done in your life?

Psalm 107, various verses

psalm 107(2) Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble, (8-22) Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!  For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.  Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.  

So He bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.  Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!  For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.  He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.

(35-38)  He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.  And there He lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.  By His blessing they multiply greatly, and He does not let their livestock diminish.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” is another way of saying:  “Tell how God has saved you, blessed you and worked in your life.”  He has done great things and He is good.  Some of you have been redeemed from trouble because you have rebelled against the words of God.  You used to play the victim card, or wonder why life has been so hard on you.  But now you realize that the trouble you have been in has been because of your rebellion.  Or maybe you’re still figuring that out.  You have called out to Jesus, and He has saved you.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Others of you have maybe had rough things in your life that were unexpected.  The life you’re living now isn’t the one you dreamt of when you graduated from high school.  The hard knocks have left you hungry and thirsty, and when you called out to God, He answered you.  He has turned your desert into a pool of water.

As for me, I praise God for showing Himself to me at an early age through a Vacation Bible School.  He used two humble ladies who diligently came to my little farm community each summer for 35 years to show me the words of life that come through life in Him.  Though I have had short spells of stupidity and rebellion, I am thankful that God has pulled me out of them to follow hard after Him.  He has truly placed me near springs of water.

What has God done in your life?  What does your psalm of praise look like?  Who can you tell of the great things God has done?

 

*Graphic from Bulldozer Faith

 


A New Citizenship

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He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14

Renunciation is the voluntary act of giving up our citizenship.  Naturalization is voluntarily acquiring a new citizenship.  Jesus has made us a naturalized citizen in a new dominion, or kingdom.  We voluntarily renounce our affiliation with the dominion of darkness, our old citizenship.  We now serve a new king.

The NIV words it that we were ‘rescued’ from the dominion of darkness.  This conjures up an image of Jesus making a daring Tom Cruise-like rescue from some foreign, dark, rat infested prison cell, like in “Locked up Abroad.”  It’s a drama that was played out on that dark Friday 2000 years ago on Mt. Calvary.

In Colossians 2, Paul describes what happened when Jesus died on the cross.  In verses 14-15, we find that Jesus “canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the demonic rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them on the cross.”  Jesus won the battle for our citizenship on the cross of Calvary.  He made a public spectacle of Satan’s minions, announcing to the spiritual realm that He won the battle.

In doing so, Jesus took our rap sheet, the record of debt that stood against us because of our sin,  and nailed it to the cross.  We lay claim to this by giving our lives to God.  It begins somehow by admitting that we are sinners that cannot save ourselves, trusting Jesus for what He did on the cross to pay for our sin, and consciously living a different life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And when we do so, we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son Jesus.

Philippians 3:19-20 describes the contrast of those whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The connotation is that our lives are to be dramatically different because of this great rescue and redemption.  Our destiny is not destruction, but Heaven with eternal glory.  Our god is no longer our stomach, with its fleshly desires, but Jesus is now Lord of our passions.  Our glory now lies in making Jesus’ name great, because He is the king of our domain.  Our mind is set on things above, where Christ is seated at the right of God.  We eagerly wait for the return of our King, who has gone on a long journey and will some great day come back for us in the clouds.

I can’t wait.

 

*Photo from angeloakcreative.com

 


Grab a hold of the God of hope and the Spirit of power

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Are you ever short on hope? God is the God of hope.  Have you ever thought of that?  Turn to the God of hope!  You may look back on your life and feel deep regret for things that you have done that has caused great pain.  Or, you may look ahead and not feel hope, just tiredness and pessimism.  If you belong to Jesus, the good news is that you can rewrite your script.  God holds the key to hope and  when you cry out to Him, you can grab a hold of things you never imagined.

Our hope isn’t built on fantasy.  It is built on God’s promises that are true.  He has delivered on them in the past and He will in the future.  His character backs that up.  Our hope is based on a God who can do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” as Ephesians 3:20 proclaims.  We are placing our trust in the same God who made the lame walk, fed 5000 people with a bag lunch, and  raised Jesus from the dead.

As we place our faith in the God of hope, He fills us with joy and peace.  I can’t think of any other thing that can promise and deliver true joy and peace.  Drugs and alcohol offer a temporary blast of elation, but they are soon followed by regret and an emptiness that only magnifies despair.  In Romans 5:1-5, Paul describes how God has accomplished peace with Him through the blood of Jesus and how the Holy  Spirit  pours His love into our hearts.

It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to abound in hope and to have the faith to believe in this. It is His power that pours so much hope into our hearts that it overflows into others’ lives.  Our faith is in the God of hope and in the Spirit of power.

Put into the context of our lives, this means that all of the things that lie behind and before you are covered by the God of hope and the Spirit of power.  It could be lack of money, uncertainty of health, troubling relationships, or fear and anxiety that keep popping up.  Call on the power of the Holy Spirit today to give you the faith to trust that God will pour His hope, joy and peace into your heart.  Give Him the specifics of your life today, and picture God taking a water bucket and pouring His living water on them.

(The studies that I have been posting were originally written to send to some women in prison that I correspond with. They get a more in depth study to go with each devotional thought.  I connected with them at our county’s jail Bible studies that I lead.  They have invited Jesus into their lives, but struggle to break free from the things of the past, old habit patterns and ways of living, and to walk victoriously. As you read these posts, please pray for them–Tina, Arlene and Randi–that they would grab onto Jesus because He has grabbed a hold of  them–Philippians 3:12.)

 


Are You Thirsty?

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On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’  Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not glorified.   John 7:37-39

Jesus was in His last six months of ministry on the earth.  He was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths.  The  arguments about who He really was began to get more intense.  Some people said that Jesus was a good man, others said that He led people astray.  Jesus taught in the Temple that His authority was from God and asked them why they sought to kill Him.  The crowd accused Him of having a demon while the chief priests wanted to arrest Him.

In the middle of all of the debates and questions, Jesus stood up in the middle of the arguing crowd and shouted out a question that cut straight to the heart: “Is anybody thirsty?”  In other words, ‘you can argue and write Me off, but who will fix the hole in your hearts?’   We could ask the same question today.  Many people say they believe in God, but when you start to talk about Jesus, or even use His name, people either argue, change the subject or tell you that you can’t say His name.

But to the few who are aware of their  desperate spiritual condition, the bankruptcy of their lives, or their dissatisfaction with filling the holes in their hearts with stuff, drugs, or alcohol,  money, even with busyness, this is the answer that they are looking for.  To them Jesus says, “Come to Me and rivers of living water will flow from your heart.”  

That river of living water is the Holy Spirit, which believers receive at their new birth.  He comes and fills us and plugs those holes.  The Christian life  is a process of turning to God to meet our emotional needs rather than some poor substitute that ends up being bad for  us in some way.  It is also a process to learn to walk in the Spirit, to seek Him to empower you and to overflow in you to others.

Let God do His work in your heart.  Begin each day asking that the Holy Spirit would be alive and active in your life, naming the activities that are ahead of you.  Give them to God and ask Him to give you the power to obey Him, listen to His voice, and then victoriously and joyously go forth.

This isn’t just for new believers!  Are you thirsty?  Do you need God to do something that you can’t do?  Are you calling out for God to work because you see the darkness getting darker and the pull of the world growing so strong you can barely stand it?  Call out to Jesus to fill you with living water each day that fills your innermost being so that you are filled up and then you are actually overflowing with joy, with the Spirit, and with the power of God to speak into dry bones.

I am thirsty!  Give me a fresh power and awakening that comes from God’s Holy Spirit.