Posted on October 10, 2019
Even surrounded by people, we can still be painfully lonely if our relationships fall out of alignment with God’s purpose for them in our lives. When we’re looking for others to fulfill our every need and comfort our every hurt, we are bound to be disappointed. And in my own lonely season, I was. But the wonderful thing about our Almighty God he is always with us – we are never alone, never apart from his unfailing love.
Seasons of loneliness leave us vulnerable – we begin placing our trust in things or people other than God. In one such lonely season of my life, I began to rely on the people around me more than the Father who placed them there. Suddenly, their opinions mattered the most to me. I began blindly following their advice, assuming my best interest was always at the center of their universe.
Posted on September 19, 2019
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This verse has evolved in my heart like a fine wine over time. What used to be a handy Biblical version of my childhood motto, “Don’t worry, be happy,” now drifts through my tired-mom soul like the aroma of freshly-ground. Joyful takes on new meaning when I am striding through life with Jesus. The more I run with Him, the deeper into the concept of joy I go.
The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “rejoicing might be associated with praise,” and it references some of the following verses:
“I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:2 (NLT)
“Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing sound praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord- rejoice in his presence!” Psalm 68:4 (NLT)
Joy is more than giddy happiness. It’s praise. Rejoicing. The Strong’s definition of the original Greek word for “rejoice” includes: “to be well, thrive; and in salutations, hail!”
We see how to thrive, be well, and rejoice exceedingly (regardless of our circumstances) when we observe how Jesus maintained joy though He knew the cross was coming.
Posted on January 29, 2019
“Be joyful always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (GLT)
The Bible commands us to “be joyful always,”(1Thessalonians 5:16) but it takes strength to hold onto joy when life threatens to snatch it from our hands. How do we recognize a threat to our joy, employ a strategy to refute it, and come out stronger on the other side of it …still gripping our God-given joy?
The misconception of Biblical joy is that it feels like happiness. Even though “always”encompasses happy times and feelings of bliss, true Christian joy can endure through extreme hardship and pain. Happy feelings aren’t a requirement to be “cheerful no matter what,” as the Message paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:16reads.
“Be full of joy all of the time,” the New Life Version translates. “Always be joyful,”reads the New Living Translation. “Celebrate always,” the VOICE paraphrases, and“Rejoice always,” the New International Version states. Joy is an emotion of great delight. Praise expresses approval. Worship regards something as sacred. Celebration makes something known! (dictionary.com) Where do we find the strength to rejoice in the middle of trials, frustrations, and heartbreak …sickness, death, and despair …loneliness, fatigue, and unfairness? The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “rejoicing might be associated with praise.”
Posted on November 28, 2018
Marveling at the sweetness of my first-born daughter, I couldn’t image being blessed with another child like her. When God says that He’ll bless us more than we can ask or imagine, He isn’t kidding. Lauren came into the world before she was supposed to, and that has typified her personality. She plays life by her own set of rules …ours being completely optional.
There is a frustration that attempts to surge through my disciplinary side as her mother. Impoliteness and lack of manners from either of my daughters simply isn’t tolerated under any circumstance. And boy, does my second child test the limit of my fore-head vein.
But there is something so pure and innocent about her, that makes it very easy to forgive her and hard to want to change anything about her. Though she is fiery, she wears this verse from Nehemiah on her shoulders. It’s truly who she is. The joy of the Lord is her strength. She has a gift to lift other’s spirits like I’ve never seen before. She’s funny and carefree, confident in who she is and Whose she is …imperfections and all.
To me, she’s a testament to the lack of control I have over who my daughters are. They are completely different! What works with my first hardly ever sticks to my second. And that draws me to Him even more. Just when I thought I had parenting figured out, He showed me that it’s been Him all along. Prayers and answers. Seeking and finding. Asking and waiting. Hoping and knowing …that they are His first.
Lauren reminds me that God created us each so differently, and with our own purpose according to His plan. It’s exciting to watch her grow, and even more exciting to dream about what His plans are for her life.
Our job as mothers is a pretty crucial one. We teach them manners, how to respect themselves, respect others, and how they should be treated with respect. We teach them how to be kind and how to be a good friend. Girls are sensitive and conversational, and weaving their faith into the very thread of who they are helps them to understand themselves. By pointing them to Him, we give them the greatest gift of comfort a girl can have: knowing they can count on a dependable God. A Joy that will never leave. A Love that will embrace them, always.
Father, Praise You for Lauren! Thank You so much for her joy! Forgive me for being too hard on her at times …and other times not hard enough. She is amazing, and I am blessed beyond belief to be her mom. God, You are so good. Help me to lead her to You, always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Get the conversation started by commenting below, and let’s encourage one another as we face life in 2017 armed with grace!
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Posted on January 25, 2018
The voice outside the door was pretty routine. I had tried to steal a moment away to go to the bathroom, and fooled myself into thinking that shutting the door would signal the little people in the house to allow me a moment of privacy. (Bah. Ha. Ha.) God’s sense of humor never ceases to amaze me, and the state in which He met me for this moment was right on cue.
The uncharacteristic hesitation in my daughter’s voice led me to ask if she was OK. It hadn’t been the easiest year, and my heart broke right along with hers. I had been covering her in prayer and God’s Truth. That day, my eyes glazed over as she peeked through a crack in that bathroom door to tell me what was weighing on her heart.
” I want to have Jesus in my heart,” my daughter whimpered, “it’s just too hard without Him.”
“I need Jesus, Mommy.” I excused myself to “wash my hands” and then witnessed my daughter handing her life over to Christ as we prayed together. It was a marking moment of pure joy, that sent my prayer life into overdrive on a completely new level. A heart surrendered to Jesus will most certainly face trials and challenges, and strength is what I pray for my girl as she faces the start of the next decade in-step with her Savior.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy many be complete.” John 15:11 (NIV)
His strength enables my feet to keep trekking on. “Be joyful always,” ( 1 Thesalonians 5:16), is a lot easier to live out when things are sunny-side up. But when life becomes painful, hard, and unfair …lonely and badgered with doubt …it takes His strength to keep hiking through the snowy woods.
The Greek word for “joy” in John 15:11 is “chara,” which means “joy, gladness.” But underneath a part of the definition that says, “the cause or occasion of joy,” it’s defined a little further as, “of person’s who are one’s joy.”
When Jesus is our joy, it is complete. His joy becomes ours. He becomes our joy. The root word of chara is “chairo,“ a primary Greek word that expands the meaning unto “to be well, thrive.” The strength to find Joy comes from Him.
The source of our strength isn’t something that we can grip, it’s a surrender to a source that flows through us.
Surrender means to yield the possession of power, to give oneself up, relinquish, abandon, or “to give oneself up to some influence, course, or emotion.” Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
“The branch must remain open to the flow of the vine’s life. If the branch were simply wound around the vine tightly, it would still die without producing any fruit.” Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, Day 216.
On whose accord to we lay down our lives for our friends if we have not surrendered our own into His hands? Surrendering our self-centered disposition for a Christ-centered perspective takes Holy Spirit strength. A daily, soul-surrendering strengthening, from the vine.
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” John 15:10
Why is that so hard for humanity to accept that uninterrupted obedience is unattainable this side of heaven? Even before the constant clamor of criticism that bombards us through social streams, internal doubt has always threatened to disqualify us from the full and vibrant life Christ died to give us.
The same little voice that peeked into the bathroom weeks earlier, recently discovered that discipline remained a part of a Christ-committed life. Frustrated by her own disobedience, that sweet child asked me if He was even in there.
“Of course He is,” I reassured her, pointing to her heart,“He will never leave you.”
Christianity is a slow change, an individual walk. Yet, we compare our obedience to those around us and entertain benchmarks that may not be realistic for the current way-point of our hearts. Each day that we choose to walk with Jesus, we get a little stronger. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides us with the strength to obediently follow Him.
Lucky for me I grew up in the 90’s, or my struggle with perfectionism would have been glaringly obvious. Don’t mistake my life for a suffered one …I’m the same high energy crack-up that I’ve always been. I just don’t own a scale, talk about weight, or lose sleep over my reflection. God convicted me of that negative thought cycle long ago, and I choose to obediently stop it. We will never lack strength to accomplish His will in our lives.
How easily our hearts can be led down a road full of absolute crap.
“It’s a lesson, not your life-story,” I assure my daughters when they make mistakes. “Everyone struggles with difficult choices.”
How can we let our soul’s find their worth in a grade, paycheck, weight, good review, re-tweet, or accolade ? The strength to be imperfect comes from Christ. If we hold onto anything else but His validation, then we set ourselves up for a good crushing when the external feedback we receive inevitably fails us.
“There is no fear in love,” 1 John 4:18a says. Guilt and shame over the mistakes we have made in our lives does not come from God. Romans 3:10 states, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Jesus died so that we could live life to the full (John 10:10b). He never said we had to be perfect.
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hiding all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)
How often do we take a look around our lives and gently rebuke and remove incorrect theology and religious practices? How often do we speak up and speak out about Christ when a worldly world-ism wafts across our eardrums? Paul was confident! He was strong enough to put up healthy boundaries as to what he was willing to absorb and entertain. We would be smart to focus on Christ the way Paul did.
It takes strength to walk away, kindly disagree, pray for an enemy, forgive and unfairness, process criticism with humility, or forgive ourselves for failure. “If you want to change, surround yourself with people that get it,” my pastor preached this past Sunday.
What if God asks us to obediently embrace a season of isolation as we tune into His voice above all others? The Book of 1 Kings tells how God prepared the prophet Elijah. Through my daily journey with First5, I learned that he obediently hid for three years, relying on ravens to bring Him meals twice a day. “But God wasn’t setting Elijah aside — He was setting Elijah apart.” Krista Williams, First5
“ Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)
God has laid this lesson of strength upon my heart this year, and He continues to teach me how His strength lies behind our joy, surrendering, obedience, imperfection, and construction of healthy boundaries. “Listen, stay alert, stand tall in the faith, be courageous, and be strong. Let love prevail in your life, words, and actions.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (VOICE) For Love to prevail in our lives, our connection to the Vine must be strong. We can accomplish this by training daily in study of His Word, and obediently following His lead for our lives.