Tag Archives: joy

Leaving the Rut Behind

Stuck in a rut? Every couple of years, sometimes more often, I feel stuck in a rut. While meeting with a friend one day she asked me, “If you don’t like what you do right now, then what do you want to do? What would be your ideal job?” I described my top four or five things I enjoy doing, and suddenly I paused and said with surprise, “So I just described my current job.” Why do we become so dissatisfied with our circumstances, especially our jobs or our families, when often they are exactly what we want and need?

I heard my pastor tell the story of a young man who met a beautiful woman. Her skin was perfectly flawless, like an angel. The way she dressed was so chic and attractive. Her elegance took his breath away. Of course this attraction swept him off his feet. He immediately fell in love with her. The young couple got married, but soon after the man began questioning why his wife spent so much money on clothing and cosmetics. She always had to have the latest fashions and skin care treatments. His paychecks would have been better off going straight to the salons she visited on a weekly basis. Frustrated with his wife the man went to his pastor. Surely his pastor would advise him to correct his wife’s behavior, or better yet, tell him to file for divorce. After hearing all his marital woes, the pastor asked the man, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?” The man replied, “Because she was beautiful like an angel with flawless skin and elegant style.” The pastor persisted, “Is she still beautiful and elegant with flawless skin?” “Yes, she is,” the man replied. His pastor continued, “If your wife has not changed, who has?”

This was pretty much the question my friend asked me while discussing my discontent with my job. My response, in hindsight, was a poor excuse for a response. I basically fumbled for a decent reply to her question. Some of it made sense, but it basically comes down to losing sight of my purpose there. Today brought just one of many profound reminders of my purpose. In the afternoon I always await the smiling face of my coworker at the door of my office. She usually has something encouraging to say, and today was one of the best afternoon encouragement nuggets I’ve had in a long time. She told me how she’s experiencing God’s joy in her life even after recently struggling with some hard life changes, and for a few moments I loved my job. If I were to keep my eyes on Him even when my coworker’s smiling face was not at my door, I would always experience joy at my job, no matter the circumstances.

Is there an area in your life where you are experiencing discontent? Examine the reasoning behind it. Perhaps it is not your job or your spouse that has changed, but your focus that has changed. It’s not too late. Hit the reset button before bitterness and depression set in. This prayer will help you reset your thinking. Continue praying each morning, and celebrating God’s goodness and grace. You are sure to see a shift in your focus and in your joy.

Heavenly Father, help us to see the world through your eyes. May we no longer look through the lens of the world, but through the lens of Love. May we think of whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, any excellence, anything worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). When our focus is on You, the embodiment of love, our focus is to love. When we love we cannot help but experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. Fill our hearts today with the Holy Spirit, that we would give from the overflow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Inside Out

Sometimes I look at someone I’ve seen every weekday for years, and for no particular reason they look like they’ve had a major makeover. I can’t put my finger on what is different about them; same haircut, same size, same lipstick even, but something is NOT the same. I might even ask them, “Did you do something different with your hair?” Or say, “That color looks great on you!” But what it really comes down to is that each of the two of us has the Holy Spirit living in us, we are so connected in that moment that the other person looks as bright as the sun, as graceful as a dove, and as joyful as the angels. It’s like they have completely come alive.

Sara in Uganda 2014

Sara in Uganda 2014

In the last few weeks I have had the privilege of praying for my friend Sara who traveled to Uganda with Children of Grace. I have seen her happy before. We’ve had many laughs together, but the joy I see in her pictures is like the best makeover you could give someone. No amount of cosmetics, hair products, and stylists can make a person shine from the inside out. When I look at her pictures I cannot help but smile back.

God fills us up with His Holy Spirit when we submit ourselves to him, become vulnerable before him. He wants nothing more but to pour out this precious gift upon you, and take my word for it, it’s better than any alcohol buzz, any amount flattery and confidence, and any fireworks-y kiss. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Imagine the first church encountering the Holy Spirit. I wonder how many of them thought they had gone off their rocker. It’s Pentecost when the first church encounters the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. It says, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (I imagine Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.) “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” People looking in thought they were drunk, had too much wine. Then standing up, Peter announces, “They aren’t drunk. It’s only nine in the morning!” It turns out that this outpouring of God’s Spirit had been prophesied (foreseen by someone through whom God spoke) by Joel in the Old Testament.

This same amazing Spirit that rained down on the first church is still being poured out day. It is the living water; it never runs dry. And while it never runs dry, it is not attained without a commitment and life-change. Good things come to those who wait, so they say. The same is true for those who want the Holy Spirit.

You must first dedicate your life to Christ by repenting (confession and turning away from a life of sin) and vowing that you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior and gave His life for your sins. Once you have done this and fully understand the meaning of such commitment you can consider baptism. Baptism is a symbol of your old life of sin ending and the beginning of your new life of love which strives for Christ’s righteousness. After your new life as an adopted son or daughter in Christ has begun you may pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon you. Often others will pray for you, many times while resting their hands on your shoulders or head (this is called laying on of hands). Don’t be frustrated or feel embarrassed if the Spirit doesn’t come right away. It can take time, even years, but it is worth it.

When you are filled you will know it. You will begin to see people more as God sees them, broken yet beautiful and worthy of love. You will notice many changes within you.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, we ask that each person reading this who is already your adopted Son or Daughter would be filled with your Holy Spirit whether they are ending or beginning their day. May you not hold back, but give them abundant portions of this gift you generously give. And for those who have not yet dedicated their lives to you I pray you would give them a glimpse of your goodness, that they would just get a taste of who you are. Your grace is sufficient. Lord, whether they give their lives to you today or 30 years from now they would remember this moment when they caught a glimpse of the Living God. Amen.

For those of you who would like to pray a prayer to accept Jesus as your Savior. This is just a sample of what you can say. I always tell people to change it if they want, but the attitude of the heart is key.

Heavenly Father, I want so badly to know you more. I admit I have sinned, but I am tired of sinning. I want to give my life to you so you can make it a life of forgiveness and love. I dedicate my life to you as you are my Lord and Savior who gave his life to die for my sins. I truly believe this, and thank you that you love me enough to make me a part of your family. Help me to live a life transformed by you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Take a moment to meditate on the words to this song.

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Giddy God

God delights in you. You are His beloved. We have all heard it, but do we really believe it? Do we see the evidence in our lives?

I am part of an online prayer group that developed over the past several months. It started with just 3 or 4 of us and has developed into a group of 7 women. Some of us have never even met. We celebrate joys and cry for each other’s suffering, but most importantly we pray. Over the past several months there have been many answered prayers. Most recently one of the group members got into her dream school. When praying for her I didn’t know for sure that this was the school for her. My prayer was that God’s will be done and that he know the desire of her heart. It’s amazing that His will and her dream were perfectly aligned, and her prayer was answered in just the way she imagined. As she announced the news to the group she said, “I’m shaking!” As I read the news I imagined God’s response to His dear daughter’s excitement, like a parent able to give his child her dream. My response, “Imagine God shaking with excitement along with you.”

Every God-given joy is multiplied when you reflect on His response to your joy. It comes full circle. He gives joy, we show joy, He rejoices. Happiness doesn’t do this.

Last Sunday I met with my small group and discussed sin. It was the topic of our discipleship chapter. One person asked something like, “Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you weren’t a follower of God? Did you ever try it out even for just a season?” I admitted I had. In college I thought perhaps I could believe in God and still do whatever I wanted in pursuit of happiness. From that experience I learned that happiness is fleeting, but joy lasts even in our sobriety, even in our solitude. If you find you always need someone around, a drink in your hand, a comedy on TV to be happy then you aren’t experiencing joy. And one thing I’m slowly learning is that I can’t believe in God and do whatever because it feels good and be a follower of Jesus. For one it feels so double-minded, like multiple lives. Secondly, it snuffs out all joy. There are several other reasons, but these are most relevant to the topic at hand.

If you are seeking joy over fleeting happiness try this:

  1. Read a Psalm and underline every promise, every characteristic of God. If you would like to read Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Prayer click on the link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+23&version=NIV
  2. Write all the underlined words and phrases inserting the pronoun “You” for God and “I” for yourself. So that when you read it they are God’s promises specifically to you.
  3. Now sit back and experience the joy you have in hearing those words. Remember, they are for you, His beloved.
  4. Reflect on God’s response to your joy in hearing His promises. Is he shaking with excitement?
  5. Watch this video, read the lyrics, even sing or dance along. Revel in it.

Enjoy your day!

On Earth Peace, Goodwill Toward Men

Tonight I attended Christmas Eve service with my family. As with any such service the story of the first Christmas was told from scripture. Luke 2:13-14 was read, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” I pondered this scripture throughout the service.
First, what are heavenly hosts? According to Wikipedia “heavenly hosts” are a large army of good angels. This makes sense because right before the verses above Scripture describes an angel giving the message of the King’s birth to the shepherds. After the angel had finished the heavenly hosts joined the angel to praise the Lord.
The second point I pondered was why were they saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men?” Of all the things they could say, why was this what they chose to say, that for which they praised God? Tonight’s sermon highlighted the message the angel brought, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Of course the newborn King would bring good tidings of great joy. After all, He is our Savior, our Messiah, our Immanuel (God with us). As I think about the praise of the heavenly hosts I can see why they praise God for the King he sent; why they speak of the peace that will come over all the earth with the presence of this new King, for Jesus is the provider of peace that passes all understanding. But why do the heavenly hosts say, “goodwill toward men.” Perhaps the reason I didn’t understand is because I didn’t fully understand the definition of “goodwill.” Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “goodwill” as “a kindly feeling of approval and support : benevolent interest or concern.” God sent His son to be born fully human and fully God because he had a genuine interest and concern for His people. He was willing to give Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.
Because of these verses I have examined a bit of God’s character a little more deeply than before. He is a compassionate and generous giver of love, peace, grace, and mercy, and He NEVER desires for us to hold onto guilt and shame. Those things are from Satan and from our own misunderstanding. If he wanted us to struggle with guilt and shame He would have never sent his precious son. If there is a bit of guilt or shame, residue from past sins, and you have genuinely confessed and repented, remember that to deny His forgiveness is to say His sacrifice is not enough. Let the healing begin today because Christmas is about the peace and goodwill God provides which came in the form of a baby King.