Christian women, this blog post may not make you happy. And if that is the case, you may need to hear it more than anyone. As I type this today I want you to know that when I write about something, it means God is dealing with it in my own heart. He is a God of loving discipline (Heb. 12), and I often feel very loved by him! Yet, there are some of you who need to hear this just like I do. I do not see or hear happiness, contentment, satisfaction or a pleasure of the Lord from you. I see and hear the world. I see anxiety, busyness, and self-absorption pushing out the goodness of the Lord that should be on display.
Many of us have deceived ourselves into separating joy and happiness into different categories. As if one is real and the other fake. We too often allow ourselves to be moody, downcast or grumpy. When asked about joy in our lives, we may respond that we have a deep joy in the Lord, but that doesn’t mean we have to be happy every day. Is this a true statement? The bible teaches us that what is in the heart will be displayed in our lives (and thus our days):
As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. – Proverbs 27:19
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45
Joy is a fruit from the Spirit within us. Happiness is not separate from joy or a superficial form of it. Happiness should be a “symptom” of the joy within us. We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always;” (Phil. 4:4). Even in this verse (and many others like it) the Greek for “rejoice” (chairō ) is translated as “to be cheerful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off” (blueletterbible.org). Being cheerful and calmly happy sounds like a beautiful demonstration of being satisfied with the Lord.
There will certainly be times of sorrow, mourning and seriousness. However, these are not the norm and not adequate excuses to cover the majority of our lives. For even in times of difficulty there should be an undercurrent of contentment as we abide in Christ. What a wondrous testimony to be able to smile and praise while the fiery darts of the enemy are coming at you! The knowledge of victory with Jesus is that sweet.
Does this mean I want you to wear a “mask” of happiness? To slap on a smile and call it good? No. The joy of the Lord cannot be faked, so don’t bother trying. My desire is that you come to a point in your relationship with Christ that you do not feel the need for a mask. That your satisfaction in Jesus is so paramount that you are not hindered by worldly concerns. That offenses, disagreements, and the pains of life all seem petty and microscopic compared to the vast riches you have in God and the depth of grace you see in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is not a simple teaching, this comes with maturity in your walk with God. I see very few women who display such characteristics as this consistently, though it must be pursued. Do not think it will be accomplished without time and effort. And the ONLY way it comes is with deep and long fellowship with God himself. It comes from increasing in your knowledge of him through his Word and finding him infinitely valuable and precious above all else. It is only in his presence that “there is fullness of joy” Psalm 16:11.
Preacher, caretaker of orphans, and man of great faith, George Muller (1805-1898) made happiness in the Lord a priority:
According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord's work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life…after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself. (http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god)
If reading this blog stings today, I hope it is God’s Word doing its work on your heart. Allow it to bite and then take action on it. Go to God who is the source of all joy and abide (live, dwell, remain) in his Word. Be happy in Christ.
Go ahead, count your blessings and give thanks this week. Really… do that. Be sure that you are praising God, knowing that “every perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. He deserves all credit, if you don’t understand that, you won’t understand the purpose of life. Displaying gratitude is a great practice, but let’s be honest, it’s really easy to do and all too often it can keep us focused on ourselves and what we have. We may nod our heads at God but then go right on shoveling mashed potatoes into our faces. How about getting more serious this year?
Don’t stop at being thankful for what you have. Take inventory of your blessings and then give them away. Yes, that’s right, give them away.
Many of us women go through cycles of downsizing and “purging” of what we own. This is good, but why do we participate in this cycle at all? We give, but then we take stuff up again. If we were to look at how Christ dealt with possessions we would see a shocking lifestyle! He depended fully on his Father to provide for him as he traveled and went seeking and saving the lost. Jesus never worried about how his needs would be met but they were.
Jesus didn’t even have a place to call home during his ministry. “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58. He was constantly surrounded by crowds whom he ministered to, often sharing what he had available like fish and bread (Matt. 14:13-21). Jesus also walked the grain fields with his disciples where they found lunch “and His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.” Matt. 12:1. This was only done by those who did not have enough food of their own to eat. By the time Jesus died on the cross his only possessions were the clothes on his back and even those were divided up and taken away.
We need to do a better job at looking like Jesus in this area. We may not sell our homes and walk the fields for dinner, but come on, we aren’t even in the ballpark of Christ-likeness here. So time to go beyond the “thanks” and get serious about the “giving”. You may find yourself parting with material possessions like jewelry, clothing, collections, hobby items, a vehicle, or even careers. What you do keep, you need to share and use for the glory of God. Your home should be a ministry outpost, where people gather to be fed from your pantry and the Word of God. You could become foster parents, host Bible studies or house those in need. Or, God may call you to look very much like Jesus and sell everything and trust him in mission work.
This sharing and giving holds true for all areas of life, so don’t neglect a full inventory. Share your skills in order to share Christ. Use your time pouring out love and help onto others as you share biblical knowledge, encouragement and exhortation. Don’t accumulate financial abundance; use your money for Kingdom building, locally and worldwide. Reach the end of your life like Christ, with nothing earthly clinging to you, having given all away for the sake of his name.
Finally, I encourage you to give up the blessings that usually top every list: family and friends. You need to give them to God. Entrust them to his care at all times. You do this by praying for them daily, sharing God’s Word and by understanding that he has full authority over their lives. Lovingly push all those who are precious to you toward Jesus.
Ladies, we need to reflect the generous quality of our God and give freely of all we have been blessed with. Praise God as you count your blessings this year, but don’t stop with an inventory, continue to worship him in how you use every single thing he gives you. Focus on growing rich in Christ as you praise him with open hands, allowing the blessings to flow through.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:24, 25.
…but God is good and I will praise him anyway. I am a Christian and I live in this sinful world right along with the rest of you. I have good days and I have rotten “please don’t make me get out of bed” days. Life can feel full of blessings one day and curses the next.
Yet, once you are a heart-deep, follower of Christ these highs and lows do not determine or deter your purpose for breathing. Every day and every night is meant for praise. Praise for the gracious God who plans our steps and has written out our days – the easy breezy, the messy and the miserable (Ps. 139:16).
Things will not always go well for us, there is no such thing as karma and you don’t deserve easy living no matter how hard you work. When in doubt, take some time to talk to my good friends Noah, Moses, Aaron, Abraham, Sarah, Leah, Job, Ruth, Naomi, Daniel, Rahab, Joseph, Joshua, Esther, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Mary, Peter, Paul, John, and Stephen. And then sit down and have a chat with my best friend, Jesus, and ask him all about his life on this planet.
True Christians are not allowed to be fair-weather followers and neither are they to be storm-soaked beggars. We praise, because that’s what were created to do. “…all things were created by him and for him.” Col. 1:6. We praise God day in, day out, in sunshine and hail, at the beach and knee deep in the swamp.
Why? I think the better question is why not?
Is God always good? Yes (Ps. 136:9). Does he promise to have you, hold you and never let you go? Yes (Heb. 13:5). Does he promise that everything he does is for your good and that you will receive a glorious eternity? Yes and yes (Rom. 8:28, Jn. 3:16). Umm…why are we complaining again? Praise seems the only logical expression when you serve a God this wonderful.
Peter said it well, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9. If you have been called out of darkness into his light, you are to declare his excellencies. That is the purpose that he called you for.
So, ladies, while we are living in this world together, let’s praise God. On the days of cute selfies, happy children, helpful husbands and clean houses. AND on the days of ugly tears, unruly homes, rude spouses, and fat clothes. Praise God. Whether it is a victory shout or a whisper of hope in the darkness - praise God!
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Hebrews 13:15
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. These are the words written by the Apostle Paul as he gives his final instructions in his letter to the Church in Thessalonica.
I love Thanksgiving. Where Halloween is surrounded by darkness and plunges into evil, the holiday of Thanksgiving begins the glimmer of light that leads to Christmas. It is the entryway into a season of increased joy and a great way to prepare our hearts for the weeks ahead. Is your heart ready?
Notice in the verse above how Paul exhorts the people to “give thanks in all circumstances”. Too often we try to use what is outside of us to transform what is inside of us. We look around and see our family, friends and a table full of food; we have money in our pockets, a car to drive and our health. After evaluating these external factors (counting our blessings so to speak) we determine our lot in life is good, the Lord has dealt bountifully with us and we are able to give him thanks. Is this wrong? By no means! Give God the glory due him, for “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” James 1:17.
However if these external blessings are what motivates your praise, your heart is in the wrong place and this is very dangerous. Quoting Isaiah in Matthew chapter 15, Jesus says to the Pharisees and scribes “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (verses 8 and 9). God will not accept “lip service” or artificial gratitude coming from a dead heart.
The question is, if you were alone, had no food, no money, no possessions of your own and were sick, would you be praising God? Would you still be thankful? This is difficult to answer. Most of us will never experience being in a position like that. This is why thanksgiving must be from the heart, a heart changed from within.
We don’t give thanks to God in light of our material blessings or because he has given us beautiful children and good friends. We don’t look at the less fortunate and thank God we are not like them. We give thanks to God because all praise belongs to him. Our hearts produce thanksgiving toward God in light of what his son, Jesus Christ, did for us on the cross in paying the debt we owe for our sin.
In the words of Isaiah: “You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-2.
When God has redeemed your heart to be his, it produces supernatural qualities like real gratitude, allowing you to offer up thanksgiving in ALL circumstances.
I have traveled to three different third world countries, yet the most impoverished hearts I have witnessed remain those in this country; those too secure in their own wealth to see clearly. I don’t say this to point fingers, because if I did, I would have to point at myself first.
I once knelt beside a dying man near my own age, skin and bones, sitting on the edge of a ragged bed in a dirt floor hut with paper walls as he praised God as we prayed. He could confidently say he was thankful in all situations. We need to be more like him. We need to find our hope in God alone through Christ.
Thanksgiving is truly a matter of the heart, a heart purchased by God himself. How is your heart this Thanksgiving? I encourage you to dwell on the eternal riches you have in Christ Jesus as you celebrate this year. May your heart be overflowing in gratitude toward the one who holds it in his hands no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” Psalms 7:17
I am continually amazed by God. I am amazed by what he has created, how gracious and merciful he is and how he has planned out each person’s life with a purpose. It is important to stay in constant amazement of our Savior and to teach our children and others to do the same. We need to look at the world around us and recognize the awesome handiwork of our Creator. These are gifts that we should enjoy and that point us toward belief in him (see Romans 1:20).
One gift I will always be amazed at is prayer. Take some time to think on this with me today. What kind of God would allow us full access to him at all times and in all circumstances? What kind of God calls us to hand over all our needs and concerns to him to take care of so we no longer have to be anxious about them? What kind of God would send his only son to die to make a way to allow this connection to happen?
What kind of God is this? Only a perfect and loving God who has complete authority and control over every instance of every life is able to offer a gift like this to us. My God is that God. I would not worship any lesser kind, would you?
Through the gift of prayer we have full access to God. We are allowed to present our requests before him as Jesus sits to his right interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). What a glorious and humbling picture that is. What an amazing gift that we should utilize and never take for granted. No wonder the Bible tell us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17); don’t ever stop appreciating and utilizing this precious gift!
Can it get better? Yes, for those who have Christ in their hearts, we are guaranteed that our prayers are heard and answered if we pray in accordance with the will of God. “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. Be sure that the word of God abides in you, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” - John 15:7.
I made a promise while in Guatemala; I told those I ministered to that I would be praying for them and would continue asking for God to intervene in their situations. I am keeping that promise and would like to invite others to join me.
Below is a list of real prayer needs that people asked me to pray for. If you have no intentions of praying, don’t read them, just close this page and move on. However, for those that feel called to pray, I ask that you read this list and realize there are very real people behind each of these requests, oftentimes a child. I ask you to use the powerful gift of prayer that God has given to those who truly believe and present these requests before him. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” - James 5:16.
God is the only one who can do the work needed to change the hearts and lives of the people these petitions represent. The good news of Jesus Christ is what is needed above all else. I thank you for joining me in this and enCOURAGE each of you to continually use the gift of prayer in your own life. Trust God with your burdens: “Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:6-7.
· A husband has left his wife and family and will soon be kicking them out of their home and they have no place to go. One of the children also struggles with hearing loss and illness. They also currently have no water source.
· A man has diabetes and is quickly losing his eyesight. His body has wasted and he is very ill. He is only 38 and has a family to take care of.
· A woman is struggling with a grown, handicapped son who is aggressive at times and they are unable to leave their house because of his behavior. Their family has isolated them. Her husband is unfaithful and cruel, yet he continues to live in the same house and she continues to take care of him too.
· Two sisters that have recently given their lives to Christ and will deal with persecution from family and the community.
· Translators and drivers who receive threats of bodily harm and extortion because they associate with “rich” Americans.
· A young woman whose husband is in jail. She works very hard and is raising two children on her own.
· A little girl with an unknown illness that causes a strange rash all over her body.
· Many children with alcoholic parents.
· Many children with abusive parents.
· Children with siblings in gangs.
· A little boy whose father was killed by mistake when the murderers were actually after his uncle.
· Children with a mom who is rarely home.
· Many children with no father in the home.
· Many children whose parents are addicted to drugs.
· Children who are fed drugs.
· A child whose mom does “bad things”.
· Families that live within the walls of the city garbage dump.
· An American missionary family spreading the gospel in Guatemala City.
· A local church displaying the light of Jesus Christ to a dark community.
· A school in need.
· Teachers and instructors facing difficult situations every day.
· Teachers and a principal of a school and childcare facility in the city dump. They need strength, health, and support. Pray that they are provided with plenty food to feed the hungry children each day.
Spring has arrived! I can see the evidence all over my front yard. No, not green grass, robins or tulips, I’m talking about the scooters, bikes, footballs, and baseball gloves. That is a sure sign around here that the weather is improving (despite the recent snow).
Spring is always an exciting time of year. It’s as if God allowed much of his creation to rest for the season of winter and now slowly coaxes it all back to life right before our eyes. It is a time full of happy anticipation as we watch the earth awaken to colorful beauty once again.
As a mother, we live our lives in anticipation. We eagerly wait nine months for the arrival of a baby, and when they are finally placed in our arms we are responsible for anticipating all of their needs. As they grow we continue to prepare and plan ahead for what they will need to be nourished and well cared for. We anticipate their excitement at birthdays and holidays and we anticipate their need for comfort and love when they are hurt or disappointed. You could say it is a part of our job description.
It is also in the job description of being a follower of Christ. We are called to live lives of anticipation. It may be better phrased that we are allowed to live lives of anticipation. Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse for many people for good reason; it gives us great hope. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
When we have surrendered our lives to Christ and understand that God has full authority and control over everything that happens to us (full sovereignty), we have great freedom. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Catch that? If you love God, ALL things work together for GOOD.
Once again: God is in control, God has your best interests in mind, he intends everything for your good, and it is all done ultimately for his purpose, his glory.
What will God do in your life? I don’t have that answer, but God does. He wrote your story long ago and it ends very well (if your heart belongs to him). You get to live in anticipation of what is in store for your future. This doesn’t mean that life will be roses, God’s Word does not promise that. Only that what happens is for your benefit and will magnify God in your life. As it says in Psalms 112, “He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
We also get to anticipate meeting our Savior face to face one day. Whether this life ends and we join him in paradise or he returns to us before then. We get to live in great excitement of this glorious event occurring in our futures! What an amazing thing to look forward to. Everything we do, say, read and think should be in preparation for that exact moment.
“It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” – Isaiah 25:9
I have a smile on my face just typing about seeing Jesus someday! How about you? Are you excitedly anticipating the return of your Savior? If so, continue to rejoice, for that day is on the horizon. Be ready (see Luke 12:35-40)! If this is not something you feel excitement for, time for a serious heart check. Do not delay another second; seek Jesus now. Allow him to bring spring to your heart, regenerating life where before there was death. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26
I enCOURAGE you to let the signs of springtime remind you to live in excited anticipation of what God desires to unfold in your heart and life and ultimately of Jesus’ glorious return to gather his beloved to himself!
Ladies, please let me know if you have ever experienced one of these days (if you haven’t just keep quiet). I sat down at the computer to write a blog but forgot my Bible. As I went to grab it I saw cleaning supplies left out and remembered that I had started to clean the bathroom but only got halfway done. I better get that done, but I should shower first. After I showered I remembered I needed to switch the clothes in the washer to the dryer. I get to the laundry room and realize I never started the washer because it wasn’t a full load yet. So I went to the boys’ room to get dirty cloths and see that I still needed to hang up the clean clothes I left there earlier. After finishing, I remembered I really had to get that blog done. So I sat down at the computer but forgot my Bible. As I went to grab it I saw cleaning supplies left out and remembered that I had started to clean the… wait a minute…
So here I sit, feeling like I have been running crazy today and I still have only a half clean bathroom (which may be better than a half dirty bathroom depending on how you see things), a washer full of dirty clothes and a blog still needing done.
Some days I wonder… is this how it starts? That slow decline of brain functioning they talk about on the radio? Where is that Sudoku book I had around here? When is the last time I did a crossword puzzle? OR… has all my Diet Pepsi drinking finally caught up to me? Did the aspartame turn my brain to Swiss cheese like Tristan Miles always told me it would?
Its scatter brained days like this that keep me truly thankful that I have a Heavenly Father that has everything under control. He never forgets to feed the sparrows, stock the snow reserves or cue the sun for its rising. Nothing is beyond his capabilities or grasp. God always accomplishes what he sets out to do each and every day. There is nothing left at the end of his “to do list” ever.
I praise God that he is forever perfect and his goodness never ends. God never changes. What comfort I take in that! He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is no need for God to change, you can’t improve on perfection. You can never add to or take away from it; otherwise it would not have been perfect in the first place.
The word I love to read in the Bible is “steadfast”. It appears 219 times in the ESV Bible according to my search on biblegateway.com. 132 of those times are in the Psalms, which is where I have been reading it morning after morning as I study that book of the Bible.
202 times out of the 219 it is connected to the word “love”. Here are a few instances:
Psalms 63:3, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
Psalms 59:16, “I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
Psalms 100:8, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
My heart rejoices every time I come across that word. I love serving a God that is steadfast. I looked up the definition and here are the words I found: firmly loyal, constant, unswerving, fixed, unchanging, and unmovable. How awesome is that? Yes! Those words describe my God and his love for me! Woo Hoo!
So on days like this when I feel a little out of sorts and wonder about the soundness of my mind, I breathe deep and praise a God that is constant and unmovable. He doesn’t experience forgetfulness or have senior moments. He never doubts, worries or struggles. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:3). This does not tire him or wear him out even a little. He is fully and eternally sufficient to handle all he plans to do. That includes loving you with his steadfast, unswerving, fixed and unchanging love. He had it written down 219 times so you would understand it.
I must wrap this blog up now (just remembered I turned my hot iron on two hours ago to do my hair). Ladies, take comfort in knowing no matter how crazy or scattered we feel, we serve a God that is infinitely secure. He is deep and still, perfect and unchanging. He is steadfast. I enCOURAGE you to place your scattered mind and heart in his hands today. Trust in him to be your rock and solid footing always!
This past Sunday afternoon I was in a dark and cold building sweeping up what looked like dust bunnies that had been hit by an enlarger ray in a sci-fi movie. I did this for nearly two hours and the place was still a mess after I was done. I was wearing Carhartts, long underwear and rubberized work gloves (that still somehow don’t keep my hands from turning black). The mask I had to wear over my mouth and nose was uncomfortable and made it hard to breath. Not exactly how someone wants to spend their day off…yet…for some reason I found myself smiling.
It has been a rough year for a variety of reasons, not the least of which has been the fire that consumed our business in November. As you can see from above, the cleanup process has been messy, slow and time consuming. The gigantic dust bunnies are the insulation that fell when the ceiling came down. It covered everything in the back half of the shop, things like burned up cars, melted electronics, ruined tools and tons of broken glass. There is no electricity so the only light comes from our headlamps and the meager sunlight that comes through the few windows that are not boarded up. It is a dark and cold place (another reminder that I want no part of Hell). Despite all of the gloom, my heart was still warm that afternoon and at times I even found myself singing the songs I had heard at church that morning.
These are the final days of 2014 and my mind was on the past twelve months. If I had to gauge the worth of our past year by the world’s standards I may have a right to feel sorry for myself and complain (the fire, canceled family vacations, kidney stones, surgery, etc.).
Praise God, I don’t care what the world’s opinion is. I only desire to gauge my success through the eyes of God. He has blessed me with so much in 2014: watching our church family grow and desire more of God, an opportunity to serve alongside brothers and sisters in Kentucky, seeing a friend give her life to Jesus, being provided more opportunities to share my faith, seeing the love of Christ grow in my children, watching my husband handle difficult situations with godly grace and strength, and so much more. Wow, what an awesome year!
Don’t worry, I’m not always this cheerful, I have to get my attitude adjusted frequently. At times my perspective gets skewed and I can feel the pity party starting. There are times I have been in the same burned out shop hauling garbage and I had no desire to sing or smile. I have learned it’s those times that I need a good slap of truth to get my head back on straight. One of my favorites is the same one the Pastor used on Sunday morning –
Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And if you start Romans 12, you might as well just keep on reading, because the whole chapter is great. Verses 9-21 are about the marks of a True Christian. Verse 11, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (NIV). I love that verse, it sums up how we should take on every New Year (heck, every new day)!
How has your past twelve months been? Have you seen growth towards God in your life? Have you been working towards what pleases Him or yourself? Are you closer to Jesus now then on January 1, 2014, do you know him better? That is how each and every year must be gauged. If you aren’t sure or if you haven’t experienced growth towards Christ, this is the perfect time to start!
If you are tired of the same old resolutions of weight loss, exercise and home organization (yep, I’m reading your mind) then make a change toward eternal betterment. Let 2015 be the year that you put yourself aside and choose to please Jesus instead. Then no matter what occurs in the next twelve months, whether it’s health problems, parenting issues or losing your job, if you truly strive to serve and glorify God you will have had the best year yet. It’s time to go for it and have a truly Happy New Year!
Thanksgiving is here! I encourage you today to lift your gratitude to the heart and ears of God. Thank him for all good in your life and the trials too; be boldly thankful like I encouraged you in last week’s blog. Above all, give thanks to God for the victory he has won in your life through Jesus Christ your savior.
For each true follower of Christ, there is a battle raging daily. You can feel it in every decision you make and action you take as your flesh (the sin in you) battles your spirit (the Holy Spirit that dwells in you after salvation). Paul recognized this easily and he wrote about it to the Romans in chapter 7. He writes at length regarding the desire of the Spirit in us to do good, God-pleasing works, while our flesh causes us to continue to sin. In verses 19 and 21 he says, “ For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”
After a lengthy discourse, Paul says (I picture him shouting it), “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (verse 24). Oh, the frustration! It is overwhelming! The deeper your walk with Jesus is the more you hate the sin you see in yourself. And you see it constantly. You know that it is this sin that keeps you from serving your Lord with all of your heart. Yet, you can’t seem to get away from it. Like Paul says, you want to do right, but evil is always right there with you.
Are we without any hope? I am totally wretched, it’s true! I feel it just like Paul explains it in Romans 7. So who will rescue us from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! - verse 25
Paul gives the answer quickly…it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only answer possible; he killed our sins when he died on the cross for us. Through Christ, the battle is already won! For those of us who follow Jesus, we know that he died once for all of our sins, every sin we will ever commit. The direct result and only appropriate response is thanksgiving! For that reason we shout, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This knowledge causes us to surrender in thankful worship to the one who saves us from our wretchedness.
Lift your voices to God today and every day; give him the thanks due his name!
Ladies, my goal of this blog today is to encourage you to become boldly thankful every day. If you want joy in your life then giving thanks to God is the path that gets you there. Being thankful is the antidote to the dissatisfaction you are experiencing in life today. This may seem too simple and too close to wishful thinking, but I challenge you to put it into practice and see for yourself.
Here is what Paul has to say about giving thanks – “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This verse includes three activities that we should be doing perpetually: rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. That is what our days should look like; these are what should be on our lips continually: praise, prayers, and thanks to God. I want to focus on giving thanks because I believe that the other two will follow if you get that one right.
Give thanks in all circumstances. What does it take to always be thankful? An easy life? A life free from troubles and pain? Did Paul’s life look like that? No…read the book of Acts. Paul’s life after receiving Christ included beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and more. He had no life of leisure. More importantly, look at the life of Jesus; he was hated, had no place to lay his head, and was brutally beaten and crucified. These examples should speak volumes to us today. We tend to think that those who lived two thousand years ago can’t identify with our lives or the pain we go through. Quite the opposite is true! We can’t relate to their lives of difficulties because of our lives of comfort. If Paul and Jesus could rejoice and give thanks to God in everything they went through, then I certainly can do the same in my life and through my difficulties.
I want to get very practical with you now, Ladies. I want to deal with the anti-thankful state we often find ourselves in; the state of want or dissatisfaction. If you are like me, you hate those feelings; always feeling a little behind and a little less than everyone else around you. Here is how you combat that emotion: get your eyes on Christ. Remove from your eyesight all earthly things that make you covet and want “more”. If you feel unsatisfied with your looks after reading a fashion magazine, trash it. If you feel unhappy with your home after watching HGTV, block the channel. If going to the mall makes you want to buy more stuff, stop going there. Be firm with yourself and get rid of distractions to thanksgiving. “Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” - Hebrews 12:1.
Recognize that these are all the Enemy’s attempts at stealing your joy. Fight that by giving thanks to God for what he has given you. I find that when I am thankful for the house, body and life situation that God has blessed me with, there is no room for discontent. With Christ I am completely full; there is no lacking or need unmet. This is not to say that I don’t have earthly needs, but my eternal needs (what is of utmost importance) are fully satisfied.
Paul knew exactly what he was talking about when he told the Thessalonians to “give thanks in all circumstances.” He knew that our varying circumstances don’t change our relationship with our Savior. No matter what else goes on around us, or what happens to us, if we have Jesus, we have everything. If you have accepted what he has done for you on the cross, you are eternally well and safe. You can never lose that relationship and that is why there is always reason to give thanks. Our God is an awesome and mighty God, and has promised that once you are his, no one can snatch you out of his hand (John 10:28,29). In that we rejoice and give thanks in every season and in all circumstances!
If you have not started this relationship with Jesus, you are not eternally secure and no amount of thanksgiving will get you there. There is no better time than right now to accept his gift. Allow God to fill you with his eternal blessings and begin a new life of thanksgiving; always living in anticipation of his goodness.
Ladies, I want you to be determined in this quest of giving thanks. Not just in the next couple of weeks, but always. Get rid of distractions in life that lead to dissatisfaction. Mothers, teach your children to be continually thankful. Let them see you praise God when difficulties come. With a thankful heart fully satisfied in God you will find true and everlasting joy.