JOY

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
~ Psalm 30:11-12, NLT

I recently had a birthday; and, as usual, I began taking stock of where I am in life. Feeling overwhelmed at work, cramped at home, and just overall exhausted, I was in a real funk for about two weeks.

Then, yesterday on my way home, it hit me like a warm ray of sunshine…JOY.

Where did it come from? I’m not sure, but suddenly I was giddy about some of the changes to come…a new two bedroom apartment, a new pet, a possible part-time job for some extra income. It was in that moment that I remembered: happiness is fleeting but joy is everlasting.

How can that be so? Because joy comes from a separate place that’s unrelated to my circumstances; and it allows me to be thankful in any situation. It’s funny, because I’m always reminding myself that my hope is in Christ, but I seem to easily forget that so is my joy! The prophet Nehemiah (8:10) actually says that the joy of the Lord is our strength! That means the joy we have in Christ Jesus is what carries us through when we’re feeling weak or unable to continue; just as I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.FontCandy (9)

And what joy can be found in Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the Savior of the world, the One who suffered and died for us because He loves us and cares for us! (Yes, He does care for us. He had to remind me of that this week, too.)

As believers, we know that one day we’ll get to worship before His throne! One day we’ll get to see His glory in all its fullness! We know that this world is temporary, and that one day we’ll see the earth in all its original splendor and perfection, and live eternally with Him. But until then, we need to let the joy found in Him sustain and empower us to reach our broken world, and reach out to those without hope, without joy, and without the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Lastly, as Paul said to the Philippians (4:4), “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”

But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew
on your people in the place of the dead!

~ Isaiah 26:19, NLT

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A Quiet Place

Yesterday, I woke up feeling ill. I ended up calling out sick for work and didn’t get out of bed until 10:30.

This seems to happen every so often–I later noted to Wilfredo, my husband–that I think that my body often knows what I need sooner than my mind or heart…but I needed some quiet time. I needed time alone to clean the house, relax, and reflect on what God’s been doing in my life through prayer (I love praying aloud during my quiet time).

In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been covering 1 & 2 Samuel, and we’ve been discussing 2 Samuel 5 which takes place after Saul & his sons have been killed in battle, and David has become king. After running from Saul for so long, here, David comes face-to-face with a new enemy–the Philistines–the same army that just wiped out Saul’s family. It’s so interesting to me that the first thing David does when he’s threatened, is return to the place where he’d spent so much of his time seeking the Lord, crying out to Him in anguish, questioning, and praising Him, when Saul was hunting him down: his quiet place, his stronghold in the mountains. (Even more interesting are the words David often uses to describe the Lord: Rock, Fortress, Refuge, and Stronghold…Kind of sounds like a mountain to me. 😉 Just something else to think about; perhaps a discussion for another time.)IMG_3489 (2)

David’s a prime example of what God desires from us at all times. He desires that we go to our secret, quiet place, wherever that may be, and seek Him first; but not only in moments like these, when the enemy is knocking at our door, but in the mundane of everyday life! To just talk to Him about our day, to reveal our fears and worries, to ask Him to walk with us through the changes and growth processes in our marriages/relationships, as parents, in our careers and school, and to take us further and beyond what we could ever expect to do on our own, especially in areas of ministry and sharing the gospel–which we’re ALL called to do as believers. So don’t delay…find your quiet place.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress [on the mountain] and my rescuer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge,
My Savior—You save me from violence.
 “I call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
“For the waves of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction overwhelmed and terrified me.
“The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
“In my distress I called upon the Lord;
I cried out to my God,
And from His temple [in the heavens] He heard my voice;
My cry for help came into His ears.
“Then the earth shook and quaked,
The foundations of the heavens trembled
And were shaken, because He was angry.
“Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
“He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
“He rode on a cherub and flew;
He appeared upon the wings of the wind.
“He made darkness canopies around Him,
A mass of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
“Out of the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were set aflame.
“The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
“He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning, and confused them. 
“The channels of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
“He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of great waters.
“He rescued me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
“They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
“He also brought me out to an open place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me.
“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not acted wickedly against my God.
“For all His judgments (legal decisions) were before me,
And from His statutes I did not turn aside.
“I was also blameless before Him,
And kept myself from wrongdoing.
“Therefore the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His sight.
“With the loving and loyal You show Yourself loving and loyal,
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless.
“With the pure You show Yourself pure,
With the perverted You show Yourself astute.
“And You save the afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase (humiliate). 
“For You, O Lord, are my lamp;
The Lord illumines and dispels my darkness. 
“For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
“As for God, His way is blameless and perfect;
The word of the Lord is tested.
He is a shield to all those who take refuge and trust in Him.
“For who is God, besides the Lord?
And who is a rock, besides our God?
“God is my strong fortress;
He sets the blameless in His way.
“He makes my feet like the doe’s feet [firm and swift];
He sets me [secure and confident] on my high places.
“He trains my hands for war,
So that my arms can bend (pull back) a bow of bronze.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help and gentleness make me great.
“You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.
“I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
And I did not turn back until they were consumed (eliminated).
“I consumed them and shattered them, so that they did not rise;
They fell under my feet.
“For You have surrounded me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who stood against me.
“You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me [in retreat],
And I destroyed those who hated me.
“They looked, but there was no savior for them
Even to the Lord [they looked], but He did not answer them.
“Then I beat them as [small as] the dust of the earth;
I crushed and stamped them as the mire (dirt, mud) of the streets.
“You also have rescued me from strife with my [own] people;
You have kept me as the head of the nations.
People whom I have not known served me.
“Foreigners pretend obedience to me;
As soon as they hear [me], they obey me.
“Foreigners lose heart;
They come trembling out of their strongholds.
“The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
And exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation. 
“It is God who executes vengeance for me,
And brings down [and disciplines] the peoples under me,
Who also brings me out from my enemies.
You even lift me above those who rise up against me;
You rescue me from the violent man.
“For this I will give thanks and praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing praises to Your name.
“He is a tower of salvation and great deliverance to His king,
And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
To David and his offspring forever.”

2 Samuel 22:2-51, AMP

Multiply

I love to learn and I love to share with others the things I learn; and one of the reasons I began this blog is so that I could do just that: share the things I learn. This week I began reading Multiply by Francis Chan (with Mark Beuving) and as I read the introduction, I realized the book is really meant to be a Bible study. Therefore, I decided to read/work through it with my blog friends 😉

If you don’t know anything about the book, it’s all about teaching disciples of Christ to do just what God called us to do…make disciples of Christ. Yes, you read that right, it’s about teaching disciples of Christ to make more disciples of Christ. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll understand why I really wanted to read this book.

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

1: What is a disciple?multiply_square_black1[1]

We’ve talked about what it means to be a true follower of Christ in previous posts, such as Justified By Faith, Burning One, and Watchful Eyes, but Francis Chan describes it this way:

The Word disciple refers to a student or apprentice. Disciples in Jesus’s day would follow their rabbi (which means teacher) wherever he went, learning from the rabbis teaching and being trained to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying His call to follow…

It’s impossible to be a disciple or follower of someone and not end up like that person. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process.

Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. A “follower” who doesn’t follow. How does that make any sense? Many people in the church have decided to take on the name of Christ and nothing else. This would be like Jesus walking up to those first disciples and saying, “Hey would you guys mind identifying yourselves with Me in some way? Don’t worry, I don’t actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. I’m just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in Me and call themselves Christians.” Seriously? (Chan, 2012, pp.16-17)

(Lol, I love the fact that Francis Chan is so straightforward when he writes!) The big question we must ask ourselves before we continue this study is, of course, are we really a follower of Christ? Or have we just taken on the name?

If you’ve found that you’ve only taken on the name of a  “Christian” but aren’t serving Christ in your lifestyle, then you need to realize that you’re still living in sin and that repentance is required.

Jesus says we need to repent. This implies that we all need to turn from the way we are current thinking and living. Romans 3:23 explains that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person reading this sentence has done things that are evil and offensive to this King [God]. Romans later explains that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Because of our sin, which is an offense to God we should expect death. But then comes an amazing truth.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The death penalty we should have faced from this King was actually paid for by someone else. The King’s Son, Jesus Christ!”

The Scriptures then say, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is all about who Jesus is and what He has done. Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves–for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ. (Chan, 2012, pp. 18-19)

What an amazing God we serve! A God who loves us so much that He offered His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross for our sins! I know I don’t deserve it; but that’s what’s so incredible…He did it, even though we don’t merit it! And all we have to do is believe! However, with that being said…

Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Romans 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner–that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life. (Chan, 2012, pp. 20-21)

Woo!! This part of the book really speaks to me, for a number of reasons. 1) Because I lived this way before I re-dedicated my life to Christ; I “believed,” but I wasn’t living in obedience to His word. 2) Even after re-dedicating my life to Christ I had (and, sometimes, still have) trouble relinquishing full control over my life to Him. There are certain “callings” on my life that I’ve been fighting for a long time, because I wanted to be like everybody else and I wanted to be liked by everybody else; but as much as I tried, I’ve realized that I’m not like everybody else and I will never be liked by all, simply because of the calling on my life, which I can no longer deny.

Francis Chan ends this chapter describing how we obey God out of our love for Him, not because we have a need to earn His love; but because we know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-40), and because the way we show that we love God is by obeying His commands (John 14:15).

Most of this is not new; if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll notice we’ve discussed much of this before, but it’s always nice to read another’s words in order to gain new perspective, and to confirm things perviously written. I tried not to copy the entire text here, but there was just so much truth in Chan’s words that I think I got a little carried away 😉 Stay tuned for next week’s continuance of Multiply.

It’s About a Relationship, Not Spirituality

I recently came across a letter that I’d written to a friend of mine last year. He’d made a comment about being “spiritual” that just sat with me the wrong way. I felt like he just didn’t “get it;” which, I feel may be the case with a lot of people, so I decided to share my letter with you all.

That’s just it. It’s not about being “spiritual.” It’s about having a relationship with someone who cares about you and loves you so much that He sent his only son to die on the cross for you. He’s my best friend and knows everything about me; things that nobody else in the world knows. He forgave me for things that I’ve done in my past, before I could even learn to forgive myself. It took me a long time to get where I am—and I still have a long way to go; it doesn’t come overnight, and I, too, struggle with doubt every once in a while. But there’s so much freedom and joy that comes from being able to give over all your fear, anxiety, frustration, shame, and doubt to someone who loves you unconditionally and has so many promises for us when we turn to Him. Remember, the Israelites were God’s chosen people, but they struggled repeatedly because they kept putting their faith in things other than God. God gave them all these promises if they stayed true to Him, but He also provided a list of curses if they turned from Him. That’s why Israel lost just about everything!

Lately, I’ve been reading the book of Psalms, but I keep coming across the same thing in all the Old Testament. We, as human beings, have a hard time being obedient and submissive. We think that to submit makes us weak. That’s why we have a hard time working under other people and being told what to do as children and teens; the same goes for us, as children of God. When we ask God for help or to provide something for us, and he gives us a “no” response or doesn’t respond quickly enough for us, we don’t want to hear it! We want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But if we just submit and accept His “no” answer or wait around for Him to respond, he rewards our faithfulness and gives us even greater responsibilities and gifts.

Now, I’m not saying that we should be obedient to Him just because He’ll provide us with rewards. It has to come from your heart. You know how when you like/love somebody you want to spend as much time with them as you can? That’s how our lives should be. We love the Lord, so we spend as much time with Him, so that we can get to know Him better. And you know how married couples start to look alike over time? The other thing that comes from spending a lot of time with that other person is that we slowly start to look alike. That’s when and how our lives are transformed and we begin to see the world as He does. Then the desire to see His will on Earth and spend even more time with Him, becomes even greater!