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Verse of the Day
Wednesday
Jul232014

Looking for Joy in All the Right Places: Part One

 

Recently, my daughter posted a quote from Ann Voskamp on facebook.  It read, “Busy is a choice.  Stress is a choice.  Joy is a choice.  Choose well.”  My daughter’s response was, “I need to think on this some more before I decide how I feel about it...”  I get what she is saying. Do we really choose crazy, out-of-control lives? Can there actually be joy within demanding, consuming circumstances?  Real joy?  Heck, some days, I’d settle for a little pretend joy.

I have learned, however, that there is great, comforting truth to what A. Voskamp wrote.  The key is believing that it really is a CHOICE.  Somehow, we expect God to just give us peace; give us joy.  We pray for it.  We beg for it.  Why does it allude us?  I believe it is because we do not see our own role in the choosing part. 

Here is a bad example (I honestly couldn’t think of a good one):  I am a traditionally built woman (as in the Renaissance tradition---you’ve seen the statues at the museum, right?).  I would love to be svelte.  Okay I’d settle for a size 14.  So, I pray to God.  I ask him to help me be less “traditional.”  He always seems so silent, especially when I stealthily throw in that Hershey’s with Almonds bar in with my grocery order on the check-out belt.  “Oh, Look.  My favorite candy bar.  Now how did that get in there.”  What I am saying is that we have a real part in this whole process.  He provides us with the path to joy; we have to jump on the path!  Intentionally.

 

 As I was thinking about this, I picked up the July newsletter from In Touch Ministries.  I turned right to a page whose banner headline read, “How Do We Chase Joy?” by Andrew Wilson.  The article focused on just what I was trying to congeal in my own thoughts.  He suggests, “One, make joy in God your priority, and, two, make it a discipline.”  He went on to provide excellent, detailed suggestions for how/what to choose as we chase joy: 

Let’s just consider One:  Make joy in God a priority. In his article, Wilson discussed George Muller’s*  view on this.  Here is Wilson’s paraphrase:  “He [Muller] knew that if he didn’t have joy, then ministry, prayer, study, and evangelism were empty, desperate attempts to find satisfaction somewhere other than in the Lord.”  And where is THAT joy?  In Him!  I suggested to my daughter to begin her day reflecting on Him (even before getting our of bed).  Make Him her/our first priority.  Here is a great scripture with which to begin each day (throughout the day works, too):

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

 

Now think about this: everyone of these attributes describe Jesus!  Love Him; thank Him; praise Him; give the day to Him. That’s our first “choice” in finding Joy.  You can do this.

Next, Wilson offers concrete suggestions for making joy a discipline.  That’s Part Two.  (Sorry.  You’ll have to wait a bit).

*George Muller (1805-1898): Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England.  Muller cared for 10,024  orphans in his life.

Myra
(part two will post next Wednesday) 

 

Monday
Jul212014

John - Week 4

Hi Ladies!

Welcome to week 4 of Bible study!  This week we are going to see Jesus drive people out of the temple with a whip (imagine that!), see an interesting conversation with one of the Jewish leaders, learn what it means to be "born again", and see the context of the most famous verse in the Bible - John 3:16, among much more.  Don't miss out on an amazing encounter with God in His Word!

You can download this week's lesson here.

Please let me know if you have any questions along the way (and if you're joining us late and are following along, I would love to know that!  Please post a comment to let me know that you're participating!)

May the Lord meet you right where you are at today and bring you hope through His Word.

With much love,
Stephanie

(Previous lesson here  -  All lessons here)

Wednesday
Jul162014

Two Years?!

Two years?!  Can it possibly be true?  On one hand it seems like “an eternity” and on the other hand it was just yesterday.

The days are full and busy now, but the void is still there.   feel like there will always be a missing part of me until that day that I am made whole in His presence.  It really makes me consider my relationship with the Lord.  Do I feel the same way when I leave His presence?  Am I seeking to fill the void in my life that only God can truly fill? 

A friend mentioned how “some move on while others are unable to move on,” and it really resonated with me.  A significant part of me died the day Bill went to glory.  I will never be the same.  That is the reality.  I will never forget.

Yet somehow, life does go on.  I’ve come to conclude that I “carry on” and in so doing, I will always carry Bill with me, memories, love and because of him the character that he helped to develop in me.  I was reminded that we are called to live.

So, I carry on, I live by choice.  And by God’s grace I have been able to see first hand the Lord’s care and provision for me.  I realize God’s great love for me and the great capacity that He gives us to love.  It brings great joy.  It comes with the potential of pain.  It again makes me think of Him.  In His great love He made us with the joy of an eternal relationship that once marred through the fall, brought such great sorrow….death.  And it is only because of His great unfailing love and the sacrificial death of His own Son that I could be reconciled to Him.  Quite an amazing sequence.

I recently read that understanding grief is more like surrendering (not resignation but allowing ourselves to accept).  The grief that touches our soul has its own voice that should not be compromised by our need to compare, judge or completely understand it.  “Surrendering” is a courageous choice, an act of faith, a trust in God and not in ourselves.  We can only hold this mystery in our hearts and surround ourselves with love. ~ Understanding Grief by Alan Wolfelt

Life is not what our western mentality has glorified through Hollywood. While it is entirely accurate to say that “true love never dies” the real meaning of that is so much more than what is in the movies.  I guess we only really know true love because of God’s great example to us.  And as we accept His love for us we are then enabled to love others, not perfectly as God does, but hopefully with true love as we actively seek the highest value of others.

Dying to self and living for Christ.  Loving others, living for His glory.  I am thankful for the opportunity to continue loving, even at the risk of possible loss and pain.  I remind myself again, the Lord knows these things, and He knows what is best.  Even when, or should I say “especially when,” I don’t get it.  I will trust Him.  He IS faithful. 

I am so thankful for music and how God uses it in our lives;
Sometimes this world starts breaking me down 
I get so lost I think I'll never be found 
And there are moments of fear and doubt 
Even the best fall to the ground 

I see the world through my jaded eyes
I get frustrated when there is no Why
I put my focus on worthless things
Even the strong fall to their knees 
God only knows what we all need

I am a mess, I am a wrecking ball
I must confess that I still don't get it all
Lord I believe that all Your words are true
Doesn't matter where I'm going if I'm going with You
I press on, I press on, I press on
When I still don't get it (Building 429 Press On)

Several people have said that I am different.  (I even heard myself being the voice of reason lately, hard to believe, I know!)  I am different, in a good way I think! 

This year’s verse: 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit! (Romans 15:13) 

God - the One, True, Eternal Love, Faithful One
Hope - my earnest expectation! I know I will be in heaven one day!
Peace - the sense of God’s love, care and provision when my life is “out of control”
Joy - He truly has given me overflowing joy throughout the heartache!
Trust - Knowing that God IS good and has a plan for good!
Overflow - a continual flood of more of His character in my life
Power - Not of my own volition but by His Strength
Holy Spirit - my constant companion.

God has still not changed! Nor can He!  I can still count on Him moment by moment! 
Thank you for your part in this journey with us!  We are so blessed! 

Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.  Jude 24

(This is re-posted from a facebook post with permission by it's author, Debbie Williamson)  We dedicate this to the memory of Pastor Bill Williamson and look forward to the day we will rejoice with him in Glory!)

Monday
Jul142014

John - Week 3

Hi Ladies!

I hope you are thoroughly enjoying the Word of God!!  (If you haven't joined us yet, it's never too late! See link below for previous lessons)

In this week's lesson, we will get into a little geography, watch the disciples begin to follow Jesus, and see some connections to the Old Testament.  I promise that His Word will not disappoint!

As always, leave a question or a comment below and I will respond pretty quickly.  I love that you are along for this blessed journey!

Download John Lesson 3 here.

All for Him,

Stephanie

(Previous lesson here  -  Next lesson here  -  All lessons here)

 

Wednesday
Jul092014

I Do

Recently, my husband and I attended a wedding which was officiated by a lovely couple who took turns addressing the bride and groom.  It was different and lovely.  The pastors had prepared a message which has “stuck” with me. 

They pointed out that the Bible begins and ends with a wedding, and Jesus began his earthly ministry at a wedding. 

We don’t usually think of the union between Adam and Eve as an “official” wedding. I mean, there was no wedding gown, ring bearer, special music, or weeping mother-of-the-bride, but, when you think about it, Adam and Eve were certainly joined together as lifelong partners (if only they had paid more attention to the “for better or worse” part; there was no better, but they sure got to experience the worse). 

The advice to the young couple in regards to this first wedding was to protect their “garden.” They were advised to watch for snakes and to make sure no unwanted, destructive forces were allowed to wiggle their way into the marriage. 

Next, they discussed the wedding feast which marked Jesus’s earthly ministry.  He turned water into wine, remember?  The advice which followed here was the same that Mary (Jesus’s Mom) gave to the servants at the wedding: “Do whatever He tells you.” What great advice to the young couple:  you can’t go wrong in marriage or any other human endeavor if you simply do what Jesus says to do. 

Now, the third point--the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Revelation--was left to our imaginations.  I don’t know why this point remained without comment, but I have had a good time considering what I might have said.  (Actually, this was an outside wedding, and the bugs were feasting on all of those in attendance; maybe the pastors simply had pity on us).  However, three things come to mind concerning this third point:  it is a great event for whose who love Jesus to look forward to; it is a “party” of awesome proportions; it is the fulfillment of a long line of prophecies.  In short,

1.  Always have something to look forward to--a goal, a vision, a dream.

2.  Celebrate milestones in relationships.  God loves a party.  The Scriptures are full of times God has His people set aside times to “remember.”  Create “traditions” unique to your family.  Share those milestones with others who love you.

3.   Perhaps, most importantly, God keeps His promises; we should too. 

It is obvious that I never went to seminary; I know these are simplistic ideas, but I have been married long enough to know that such advice is wise. 

~Keep an eye on your “garden.”

~Do whatever Jesus says.

~Keep your promises while celebrating the joy of loving each other and Him.

Sigh.  I love weddings.  I do.

Myra