Jump for Joy

I struggle with worry. And sometimes even knowing that God is on the throne does not decrease my worry because, as we all have experienced, God does allow some terribly painful things in our lives at times. Sometimes I even fear what’s next- what He will allow.

Yet Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice! And shortly after this in verse 6, “Don’t worry about anything…”

I’ve been trying to think about this today, how we can rejoice even when we know that as long as we are on this side of heaven, we will have troubles.

“Rejoice” is defined this way… “to be ecstatic, be euphoric, be overjoyed, be as pleased as punch, be jubilant, be in raptures, be beside oneself with joy, be delirious, jump for joy, be thrilled, be on cloud nine” (Click here for source)

Makes me laugh… how can I ecstatically jump for joy in the midst of suffering? There must be a way or God would not have commanded us to rejoice. So I think the key must be having my mind fixed on Christ, heaven, and eternity... not the here and now. That no matter how horrible our experience on earth, even if we should have to go through what Job went through… this is as bad as it’s going to get for those who have believed and accepted Jesus’ free gift of eternal life with Him, because the God who is in control loves us so much that He made a way for us to never have to experience hell though we deserve it...

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” 1 Peter 5:10.

That is something to be delirious with joy over for sure! 😊

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Life from Death

I am amazed at how our Creator often brings life from what appears to be dead in creation.

In late summer, we had several webworm nests on the end of different branches of a tree in our yard. At the time, the tree was full of green leaves except within these nests, where the leaves were brown and largely eaten by caterpillars.

But now, in this Fall season when the rest of the tree is empty of leaves, fresh new green leaves are growing out of the decay of the old empty nests.

New life out of what appeared to be dead.

Often I think God gives us a picture in nature of spiritual principles. See, He’s the One who makes life from what was once dead.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭

Thank You Lord for seeing us when we were dead in our mistakes and failures, and not leaving us this way but making us alive spiritually through Your undeserved grace and favor.

Second Fiddle

Jesus attracted both large crowds and little children, in part I believe, because He showed genuine interest in them.

Everyone likes to be on the receiving end of this. And so, for the past few days I’ve asked God to help me show genuine interest in at least 3 people each day… and I’ve been surprised at the opportunities He’s given me.

Three people may seem small, but how often have I been guilty of rushing through my day, trying to get others to stick to my agenda or listen to what I want to talk about, instead of truly putting my needs second place to others?

I love the Message version of Romans 12:9-10 below:

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it….practice playing second fiddle.

Please share a time that someone stopped to take a genuine interest in you that made an impact. I look forward to reading your responses!

Small Beginnings

Do you ever get discouraged by small beginnings? You branch out to start a ministry and few respond, you’re passionate about helping others but funds are inadequate for the need, you work to show love to a difficult person with little noticeable result?

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin...”. Zechariah‬ ‭4:10‬a

I love this verse, but today is the first time I’ve read it in the large context, reading through the Bible chronologically this year.

See, Israel had turned from God, and as a result God allowed Babylonians to destroy the temple and take Israelites captive for 70 years.

But now the time of captivity had ended, Israelites had returned to their homeland, and God said,

My Temple will be rebuilt, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and measurements will be taken for the reconstruction of Jerusalem. ’” Zechariah‬ ‭1:16‬b

“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Zechariah‬ ‭4:6‬b

God had already said the rebuilding would be accomplished. He promised it would happen by His Spirit not by our strength. And it would be for His glory, not man’s prestige.

The beginning would look small. There would be opposition and delay, yet God saw the end result in advance.

Has God given you a task to complete, a passionate heart for a certain people group, a calling, a ministry? Something that will glorify His name and reflect His heart? Then don’t be discouraged, and don’t despise these small beginnings, for God rejoices to see the work begin.

When Cares are Many

“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalms‬ ‭94:19‬ ‭

This is the verse of the day in the Bible app. It touched me because right now the cares of my heart ARE many.

My grandma is in the hospital. I alternate between optimism and sadness with each new day. I worry about family members, how they are coping. My job has recently made changes that increase stress and competition between coworkers. I fear I won’t meet all my deadlines, or that I will meet them but at the cost of family time with my husband and kids. I’m tired. I’m eating comfort food then worrying about the calories. My children are facing things at school that weigh on this mother’s heart. My church is making great strides moving out to follow Christ more, and there is opposition. I had to provide information for a DFCS report lately for a child who seems to be neglected, always hungry without enough food to eat despite adequate funds in the family. I think about the specific individual prayer needs of the ladies and young girls I minister to, lifting them up in prayer. I feel the weight of all these things and more.

I know you can relate.

But today’s verse is exactly what we need to hear.

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalms‬ ‭94:19‬

I looked up the word “consolations,” since it’s not a word I use often.

Definition: Comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment. To console. (www.dictionary.com)

A synonym… ache. (www.thesaurus.com)

God consoles me. God comforts me after loss or disappointment.

God aches with me.

How comforting to know how deeply we are loved by God, that even though the cares of our hearts are many, and even though this world is full of sadness and trouble, He is right there with us. Aching with us. Consoling us.

Thank You Lord for Your consolations that cheer my soul.

Photo credit: An image I made using the backdrop provided by the YouVersion Bible App.

Don’t Give Up

I serve in a ministry that lets me respond to emails from people all over the world who are seeking Jesus. Three years ago, one particular lady (I’ll call Sandy) and I wrote back and forth about 30 times. Sandy is a Christian but found herself in an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. We shared such long, mutually respectful emails back and forth. My heart broke over her situation in life, the terrible hardships she had been through, the struggles her other children had faced.

She said she knew her baby was alive, a real person, and that abortion was ending that life, but she saw no other way despite the many resources I provided.

Then suddenly, she stopped replying to my emails.

Per policy, I could only write a maximum of three more times if she was no longer responding. I prayerfully wrote those emails (then one final one) and let her know I was praying. That I loved her. That no matter her choice, I would still care for her and want to stay in touch.

I was so discouraged at one point that I almost quit this ministry. But I kept thinking, “What if Sandy writes back?”

This week, three years later, she did.

No, I didn’t ask the outcome of her pregnancy. I didn’t ask if her 3-year old son or daughter was doing well or if she’d aborted. Instead, I felt God say just love her, as I said I would. Just remind her of God’s great love for her. Pray for her. Don’t give up on her.

She said she’s praying each night before bed. She’s still seeking to be closer to the Lord. And all this time, God’s still been working behind the scenes.

Have you given up on the one you are praying for? Seeing no results? Don’t give up. God’s still working.

Weekly Report

The day we picked up our foster children, I realized this was not at all like the training.  Sure, I’d finished the courses, gone through the inspections – but when those two living, breathing children came home with us, my heart was not fully equipped to handle it.  I texted and emailed my case worker every detail, wanting to make sure I was doing everything right.  I expressed concern that certain behaviors meant they had experienced certain negative things in the past, and I also shared positives, good things I saw in the children, promising behaviors and things that worked well.  Finally I decided I should type up a full weekly report.  It felt so strange to care for children when I’d never met their parents, didn’t have a checklist from parents that would let me know their bedtime routine, favorite stories, food allergies, likes and dislikes… I wanted the reassurance of knowing someone else shared responsibility over these children’s lives too, not just me and my husband.  But the case worker said no, don’t send her a weekly report.

Lately I’ve been thinking, what if I had to send God a weekly report of my interactions with my own children – how well I have served them, listened to them without distraction, put them before my work (while still getting work done), corrected them in love when necessary, encouraged them, shown them mercy, modeled a selfless life of giving, led by example.  Of course, God’s with us every moment so He already knows, but if I saw it in written form at the end of each week, in black and white, would I be pleased?  Would God?  Yet too often I forget that my children are ultimately His, as if they are on loan to me for a short while.  Lord, help me honor You in every little way I live in front of my children this week and each week… because I know they are watching, and I want to honor You.

Misunderstood

It’s dangerous to jump to conclusions about another person’s actions or motives. In Joshua 22, thousands of people nearly face death over a misunderstanding between people of the Lord.

The Background: The Israelites had finally entered the Promised Land, the wars were over, and each tribe had their assigned portion of land. The tribes living on the opposite side of the Jordan River were sent home in favor after keeping their promise and fighting well on behalf of the other tribes.

They returned home in victory, and built an altar to the Lord. The other tribes heard of it and were upset. See, the Lord had commanded that the only place Israelites could worship was at the place He designated.

“So the whole community of Israel gathered at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against them. First, however, they sent a delegation led by Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to talk with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.” Joshua‬ ‭22:12-13‬ ‭

Thank goodness they sent the delegation to talk first. Turns out, not only were the accused’s motives pure, they were making efforts to ensure future descendants would be able to still worship the Lord as He commanded.

“So we decided to build the altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a memorial. It will remind our descendants and your descendants that we, too, have the right to worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and peace offerings. Then your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no claim to the Lord.’ “If they say this, our descendants can reply, ‘Look at this copy of the Lord’s altar that our ancestors made. It is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices; it is a reminder of the relationship both of us have with the Lord.’” Joshua‬ ‭22:26-28‬ ‭

Do you feel like going to war against a Christian brother or sister? Feeling angry that you think they are dishonoring the Lord? Be sure to talk it over with them first, in private (not on social media), and take time to listen. It may turn out that their motives are pure and that the steps they are taking are actually to ensure descendants of both parties worship God with unity.

Tired

It’s hard stepping out of my comfort zone. Especially to do something I know I’m not good at. It means facing possible correction, rejection, exhaustion, dissatisfaction… it means wanting to quit halfway through, saying it was a mistake, alternating between failure and success and more failure.

I’m at a halfway point now- halfway through extra ministries I started in response to our church’s series on discipleship, on reaching and raising the next generation to live out God’s truth.

And I’m tired. Sometimes I see only small successes- like getting my 5th grade girls to stay seated for our whole lesson (I confess, the only way I accomplish this is by bribing them with candy 😬). I see others who are much more gifted in these ministries than myself. And I confess, when combined with recent illness over Christmas break and a sudden increase in both hours and stress at work, I’ve found myself thinking that next year, I’m not going to do so many ministries- I’m just going to do my paid job and take care of my family, that’s it.

And yet, when I feel like giving up, I feel like God is saying this time it’s NOT like times in the past where I have overcommitted myself because I couldn’t say no, and so I SHOULD quit some things- this time I spent time in prayer before committing to each of these areas, and I feel like He’s saying to honor my commitments, press in and do my best, to keep running this race with endurance. “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.” Hebrews 12:12

God reminds me of how He loves using us who are weak- like jars of clay holding precious treasure- so it will be obvious to others that it’s God (and not us) who gets the credit and glory for anything good in our lives.

Lord, please help us to keep pressing on to do the ministries we feel You want us to do. Let us find renewed strength as we wait on You. Work in us and through us to bless and encourage others in ways that it’s obvious You are the One who deserves all the glory. Thank You for my weaknesses because I know that You can use these to show Your great strength and power. Amen. < em>