Tag Archive | Joy

Giving Thanks As We Wait

Waiting isn’t optional, but waiting well is! I hope you learned some keys on how to wait well from Tuesday’s post. We learned that to wait well is to wait prayerfully, patiently, joyfully and expectantly. It is to wait with trust, believing what God says in His Word about His nature and His ways. It is to wait with strength and courage. It is to wait with worship. But I purposely left out one truth about waiting well. To wait well is to wait with thankfulness.

Psalm 13 is a short passage of Scripture, only six verses long, so take the time to read it. As you do, notice the question David repeatedly asks.

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

In these six brief verses, we see the words “how long” four times. Have you ever cried out to God with those same words during a time of waiting that seemed to drag on and on and on? I sure have. We don’t know the exact circumstances that David was facing when he wrote these words. But we do know he was sorrowful, even despairing of life. His enemies were prevailing and he was feeling shaken.

During extended times of waiting, we may feel forgotten or even forsaken. But instead of allowing our feelings to determine our attitude and actions, we can choose to remember what we know about God. We can choose to believe the truths He reveals in His Word. I believe that’s what David did, and it provides a clear pattern for us to follow.

Instead of fixing his eyes on his circumstances, instead of acting on his emotions, David turned his eyes on the Lord. He acknowledges his adversaries, but he also gives thanks to his God.

“And my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted and relied on and been confident in Your lovingkindness and faithfulness; My heart shall rejoice and delight in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” PSALM‬ ‭13:4-6‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Are you currently in a prolonged time of waiting? If so, are you willing to stop using your feelings as a guide? Are you willing to turn your focus off of your circumstances and onto the God who is bigger than your circumstances? Are you willing to look for what you can thank God for in the midst of your situation that still shows no signs of resolution?

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s learn from the psalmist David and reflect on the nature of our God. Where do you see His goodness? His faithfulness? His lovingkindness? Look at your situation and see where there is evidence that God is at work, even during this time of waiting. Then, let’s offer up to Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving for who He is and what He is doing.

“I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm‬ ‭116:17‬ ‭

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm‬ ‭50:23‬ ‭

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Joy From Abiding in Christ

In recent weeks, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I have been doing a study on the book of Acts. This week, I’ve been looking at Acts 8. The previous chapter focused on the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and Acts 8 begins with persecution spreading and many believers, both men and women, being dragged off to prison. The result was the dispersion of many of the believers from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria – which was God’s plan to begin with (see Acts 1:8). God used this difficult situation to begin spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the non-Jewish world.

As I was reading Acts 8:4-8, which talks about Philip going to the city of Samaria and proclaiming Christ to the crowds gathered to hear his message, verse 8 stood out to me. “So there was much joy in that city.

Facing severe persecution, being forced to leave my home and flee to a city of strangers that I really had nothing in common with doesn’t sound to me like the ideal soil for producing joy. But when God is in control, even the most difficult circumstances can be fertile soil for the growth of biblical joy.

The Greek word translated joy in Acts 8:8 is chara, which refers to “an inner gladness; a deep seated pleasure. It is a depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart. It is a cheerful heart that leads to cheerful behavior. Joy is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances but is God’s gift to believers. Joy is a part of God’s very essence and as discussed below His Spirit manifests this supernatural joy in His children. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord.” (from http://www.preceptaustin.org, Greek Word Studies)

Alfred Plummer, pastor and professor at Columbia Theological Seminary during the late 1800’s, wrote that joy is “the result of conscious union with God and good men, of conscious possession of eternal life…and which raises us above pain and sorrow and remorse.

Donald Campbell, former President of Dallas Theological Seminary, has defined joy as “a deep and abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in Christ. It does not depend on circumstances because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things.”

Jesus taught that abiding in Him is the secret to being filled with joy. Pastor John Piper explains what it means to abide in Jesus. He said, “active abiding is the act of receiving and trusting all that God is for us in Christ… It is trusting in Jesus, remaining in fellowship with Jesus, connecting to Jesus so that all that God is for us in him is flowing like a life-giving sap into our lives.”

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John‬ ‭15:5, 11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Even in the midst of suffering and weariness, abiding in Jesus is a key to walking in joy. And as Swiss theological Karl Barth has said, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”

Why Choose Gratitude? Eight Benefits of Being Thankful

Be 62C78836-C1F4-4DEA-A7F3-C7ED5F8AD6D6Today we are on Chapter Four in our ongoing study of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. (All Bible verses in ESV, unless noted.)

Have you ever faced such difficult circumstances that you felt being grateful was an impossible choice? Mrs. Wolgemuth begins this chapter on why we should choose gratitude in every situation, regardless of how difficult, with an interesting story from the diary of well known eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible commentary writer Matthew Henry.

While living in London, Matthew Henry was accosted and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

No matter what situation we are currently walking through, there is ALWAYS something we can thank God for in the midst of it. To quote our author, “the person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mind-set can view anything – anything! – through the eyes of thankfulness.

 

Whether you are “grieving a loss that never settles far from your conscious thoughts,” or “crying yourself to sleep at night over a situation with a son or daughter that is beyond your ability to control,” it’s still possible to give thanks. “Maybe you’re facing some health issues of your own, or your income just isn’t meeting your monthly expenses,” you can still choose to be grateful. Even if all of these or some other overwhelming problem is causing you to struggle, an attitude of gratitude is still possible.

But learning to do this may not happen overnight.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, “The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices. It is a godly habit and pattern that over time becomes a new muscle in our spiritual makeup.”

But in such bothersome circumstances, why should I choose to give thanks? What will I gain by doing so? In this chapter, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth lists eight positive benefits of expressing gratitude in even the most painful situations (with one Scripture and a short quote from the chapter on each benefit).

GRATITUDE IS A MATTER OF OBEDIENCE

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Be thankfulGod has commanded it – for our good and for His glory.” 

GRATITUDE DRAWS US CLOSE TO GOD

We are called to “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).

Or as Nancy puts it, “Thanksgiving puts us in God’s living room. It paves the way into His presence.

GRATITUDE IS A SURE PATH TO PEACE

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)

To put it even more simply: In every situation … prayer + thanksgiving = peace.”

GRATITUDE IS A GAUGE OF THE HEART

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.” (Psalms 140:13)

The only people who can sustain a consistent flow of thanksgiving between them and God are those who know who, what, and where they’d be if He hadn’t intervened and saved them from themselves.”

GRATITUDE IS THE WILL OF GOD

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)

In other words, you may find yourself a lot closer to hearing God’s heart on a certain time-sensitive matter, not by making pro- and con-lists or anguishing between multiple options, but simply by doing what you already know to be His will.

GRATITUDE IS AN EVIDENCE OF BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)

Being thankful is a prime example of being filled with the Spirit… The fact is, we cannot whine and complain and be filled with the Spirit at the same time. When a thankful spirit resides in our hearts and expresses itself on our lips, it’s an evidence that the Holy Spirit lives in us, that we are yielding to His control, and that He is producing His gracious fruit in and through our lives.”

GRATITUDE REFLECTS JESUS’ HEART

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28) 

On four occasions, it is recorded in Scripture that Jesus gave thanks to the Father, probably the most remarkable one within hours of His betrayal, arrest, scourging and crucifixion. As He observed the Passover feast with His disciples, Jesus gave thanks before partaking of the elements, which He fully understood “represented His body and blood, soon to be broken and poured out in horrific fashion for the salvation of sinful man. On a night when from a human perspective He had every reason to be self-absorbed and to give in to self-pity, resentment, or murmuring, He spoke words of thanks to His heavenly Father, words that flowed out of a thankful heart.” 

GRATITUDE GETS US READY FOR HEAVEN.

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.'” (Revelation 11:17)

So think of today as a ‘dress rehearsal.’ And do it just the way you will when you’re doing it ‘live’ at the actual performance.”

 

 

 

 

Passing Through the Valley of Weeping

Psalm 84:5–7 (NKJV):
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Weeping),
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.”

Our family has been walking through “the Valley of Weeping” since the death of our special-needs son David in November. It has been a time of God’s grace and sustaining peace, but there have also been times of weeping as we’ve said goodbye to the young man who has been such a big part of our lives for the past thirty-four years.

So when I read this familiar psalm this morning as a part of my daily Bible reading, these verses jumped out at me. They were especially meaningful since this isn’t the first time God has used them as a rhema (spoken) word in my life.

When we were walking through a particularly difficult time early in David’s life, one of many where I had been repeatedly in the hospital with our son, our pastor at that time, Michael J. Cave, specifically shared it with me as a word from the Lord for our situation, after a sermon he preached on these verses. Since that time, the truths of these verses have been a clear reminder of God’s strength that is available to continue the “pilgrimage” of life on this earth and turn the difficult seasons into springs of life.

During our “pilgrimage” as believers in Jesus Christ, we will face seasons of weeping. But even in the weeping, our strength is found in God. And as we move forward in God’s strength, the valley experiences are turned into springs of life and blessing. Psalm 107:35 speaks of God turning the wilderness into pools of water and dry land into watersprings. The dry and weeping places in our lives are transformed as we move forward in God’s strength, keeping our eyes on the Lord and on our heavenly destination. When our pilgrimage is complete and we reach the eternal kingdom that is our final destination, our God promises to wipe away every tear, and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”‭ (Revelation 21:4)

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The Discipline of Memorizing Scripture

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began a study earlier this year of Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, one of the first assignments was to memorize the above passage. As I struggled phrase by phrase to learn this rather long portion of Scripture, I had no idea of what our family would be facing a few months later – or of how God would use several of the truths in these verses to bring comfort in the midst of sorrow. This whole situation with the sudden loss of our son has given me fresh understanding of the importance of memorizing Scripture so it will be available for God to bring to mind in our times of need.

This passage written by the prophet Isaiah describes some of the reasons Almighty God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to the earth. Beth Moore wrote: “One of the primary reasons God sent His Son to this earth was to bring tender salve and relief to those whose hearts have been broken.”

As I’ve walked through many of the practical aspects of dealing with the death of our special-needs son David this week and of making preparations for his memorial service next Tuesday, this passage has taken on special meaning. I’ve experienced the Lord’s comfort in the midst of mourning, joy and a garment of praise instead of the deep despair I had always thought would be a part of this event which I have dreaded since David’s initial diagnosis as a three-month old. In those early days, we were told it was unlikely that David would live beyond early childhood, yet God graciously gave us thirty-four years with our precious son before He took him home to be with Him and to restore him to complete health.

So during this tough week of dealing with many of the practical aspects concerning David’s death, I’m grateful for the truths of Scripture that God has brought to mind and used to strengthen and comfort me. And I’m thankful that I didn’t give up when I was struggling a few months ago to commit these verses to memory.

Have you made memorizing Scripture a part of your daily walk with God? If not, I highly recommend making this discipline a part of your daily quiet time. I’ve personally found the Scripture Typer Bible Memory app to be a helpful tool for committing Scripture to memory and regularly reviewing those verses I’ve memorized. Our God can use many methods to speak truth to our hearts in our time of need, but as I’ve grown as a Christian I’ve learned that one method He uses repeatedly in my life is that of bringing to my mind a truth that I have already made the effort to memorize.

True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week 4 Summary

February, a month when my thoughts have been focused on love with both this True Love Bible Reading Challenge and the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book I Am Loved, is drawing to a close. But first, seven more passages to reflect upon God’s love for us and our appropriate response to that love.

Day 22 – Philippians. 2:1-11

Reflecting upon the love of God has brought encouragement, comfort and joy to our lives during this month. Today’s passage focuses on the ultimate picture of God’s love for us, as seen by Jesus’ willingness to empty Himself, take on the form of a servant, and become obedient to the point of death on a cross. God’s call to us in response is to have the same mind as Christ had, in humility loving others as He loves us.

Day 23 – Colossians 3:8-15

Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the first step in the process of our lives being transformed into the image of Christ. With the Holy Spirit within to empower us, we are then equipped for the disciplines of putting off the old self of our former manner of life, renewing our minds through the Word of God, and putting on the new self made in the image of God. We must put off (or put away) the practices that are rooted in sin, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to them. But to put off without putting on leaves a void. Replacement is a necessary part of transformation. Put off. Put on. Both are essential for us to be changed into the likeness of Christ. And the most important thing for us to put on is love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Day 24 – John 14:21-27

Loving God is closely linked with obedience to His Word. In these verses, Jesus made this truth clear to His disciples. And He also reminded them that the words they heard Him speak are not just His words, they were also the words of the Father who sent Jesus. Just as Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19), this passage tells us He only said what He heard the Father saying. Therefore there is no separating God’s Words – which we often think of as the Old Testament Scriptures – and the Words of Jesus which we read in the New Testament. If we truly love Jesus, our desire will be to obey all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testament. But we also need to balance this truth with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness, with the fact that our obedience during our days on earth will never be perfect. As Beth Moore says, “Obedient lives are not perfect lives. Obedience does not mean sinlessness but confession and repentance when we sin.”

Day 25 – John 15:9-13

How does Jesus love us? The same way the Father has loved Him. The Father’s love for Jesus is deep, tender, sacrificial, eternal and unchanging. Jesus’ love for us is a clear reflection, a mirror image, of the Father’s love for His own perfect Son. What an amazing thought! The Father loves the Son so much that He “has given all things into his hand” (John‬ ‭3:35‬).‬‬ The Father loves the Son so much that He “shows him all that he himself is doing” (John 5:20). The Father’s love for Jesus is perfect love. And this is the same way Jesus loves us.

And the response Jesus asks of us? We are to abide in His love, having an intimate, close relationship, not just a superficial acquaintance. When we do this, two things happen. We find delight in keeping His commandments and His joy fills our lives. And as we are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, we love others in the same way He has loved us, even to the point of laying down our lives for them.

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Day 26 – John 15:14-21

In this next section of John 15, Jesus says to those who abide in His love, as seen by laying down their own will and walking in obedience to God’s will and ways, “You are my friends.” What is the difference between a servant and a friend? A servant doesn’t know his master’s business. He simply does what he is told. But to His friends, Jesus says, “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” One of the ways the Father loves the Son that I listed above is by showing Jesus all He is doing. And if we are His friends, Jesus passes this information on to us.

So how do we know if we are living as a friend of Jesus? If we belong to Jesus, if we are His friends, there will be lasting spiritual fruit in our lives. And the primary fruit will be our love for one another. Plus an added benefit of this lifestyle: answered prayer.

Day 27 – 1 John 3:1-5

Sometimes I think we miss the fullness of all Jesus accomplished on the cross. Derek Prince has identified ten things from Scripture that Jesus achieved by His suffering and death on the cross. Today I’m just going to share three of those.

  • Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.
  • He tasted death for us that we might share His life.
  • He endured rejection (because of our sins being laid upon Him) that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

When we think of Jesus’ death on the cross, we usually focus on Him paying the penalty for our sin that we might be forgiven. That is a major truth, one I am eternally thankful for. But I’m equally grateful that His death made the way for me to share His life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I am a new creation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now I am one of God’s beloved children, fully accepted into the family of God. And that is good news today and for eternity.

Day 28 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Love is Who God is! God is the heart of true love. The characteristics of love are the characteristics of God. By knowing the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the Son, we learn what love is all about. The characteristics of love are also the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us expressed to others. As this “Love Month” of February comes to an end, this is my take-away from this month’s study of LOVE. It’s what I want to remember when circumstances feel overwhelming, when I’m tempted to lose heart. God is Love, and because this is true I have hope for the future!

True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week Three Summary

Day 15: 1 Peter 1:3-8

After walking with Jesus for over forty-five years, I can honestly say my life has been very much like what is described in this passage. “For a little while” in light of eternity (though it definitely doesn’t feel like “a little while” when we’re in the midst of such a time), I “have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (verse 6). These trials have proved my faith, refined it by fire (verse 7). But verse 8 is equally true. I can also honestly say each time I have come through a difficult season, as my knowledge of my Lord has grown, my love for Him has also grown.

Day 16: Ephesians 3:14-21

These words of the apostle Paul, originally his petition for the Ephesian church, make a beautiful prayer for us to pray for our loved ones – and even for ourselves. Lord, fill me will power through Your Spirit in my inner being. Help me to be rooted and grounded in Your love. And give me the power to grasp the vastness of Your love, Jesus, to know how wide and long, high and deep this love You have for me really is. Help me to know this unknowable love more each day.

Day 17: Galatians 5:1-6

How do freedom in Christ, faith and love fit together in the Christian life? Jesus Christ made a way for us to walk in freedom, but that requires that we not allow ourselves to come back under a list of laws we must keep in order to be justified, declared righteous. Freedom is the result of placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, in that alone with nothing added. The early Galatian believers were saying Jesus’ sacrifice plus circumcision was enough, but Paul’s message in this passage was faith is enough. And in verse 6 he added an observable evidence that we are truly walking in faith: love. Love is the expression of our faith, love for God and love for others.

Day 18: Galatians 5:22-26

Sometimes we read familiar Scriptures half-heartedly, thinking we already know those verses. But this morning as I read this well known passage, my eyes were opened to a new truth. The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t automatically grow in our lives because we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior. Spiritual fruit grows in those who have chosen to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, those who have put off the things that belong to the flesh and are seeking to keep in step with the Spirit. It’s growth requires our cooperation.

Day 19: 1 Peter 4:1-8

Suffering is a part of life on this earth. As believers in Christ, we are not exempted from difficulty, but we are called to live differently in the midst of it. Instead of living to fulfill our own desires, we are called to live for the will of God, recognizing we will stand before Jesus’ throne and give account to Him for how we have lives. We are to be alert and of sober mind, devoting ourselves to prayer. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our sins have been covered, and in response we are called to love those around us deeply, following Jesus example and covering their sins.

Day 20: 1 Peter 3:8-12

At some time in our lives, all of us will receive evil or insult from another person. When this happens, we are faced with a choice. Will we repay evil with evil, insult with insult, or will we repay evil with blessing? Peter encourages us in these verses to turn from evil and do good, even to those who have hurt us.

Day 21: Ephesians 4:10-16

God doesn’t want His children to stay immature and childish – yes, child-like in our faith, but not childish and easily swayed by the lies of the enemy. He has placed us in the body of Christ with other believers, so that we may be built up and grow to maturity. This happens as we learn the truth through the study of God’s Word, apply it in our own lives, and share it with others. But there is an important key in these verses about how we are to share truth with others. Well known Bible teacher and author Warren W. Wiersbe said, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” Lord, teach us to share truth balanced with love with one another.