Saturday, August 20, 2011

Complete Joy

"I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." - John 15:11
This is the second time in the last few days that God has given me a verse that ends with "your joy will be complete". Notice He said "joy", not "happiness". What's the difference? Well, for me, joy comes from deep inside, spiritual, lasting. Happiness comes from the outside, worldly, fleeting. Joy is part of having spiritual abundance, not worldly abundance. I could have all of the worldy riches available to me - money, big beautiful house, closet full of beautiful clothes, nice cars, boats, vacations all over the world, etc. - and still be the unhappiest person alive because it's never enough. It's not fulfilling and it can all be gone in an instant. But having all of the spiritual riches available to me - peace, hope, love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, patience - will bring the deepest joy into my heart and it will be enough. I will be fulfilled and this abundance is always available to me.

So my focus has to change. I want to shift from worrying about my worldly needs and desires to following God's commandments for my life. His will, His desires, His plans, His priorities, His wisdom, His judgement, His Son. Not mine....HIS! And I know that when I seek God's will for my life, because He has promised me so, that I will be filled with a joy so deep and so complete that nothing in this life can take it away from me. I don't want to forfeit my spiritual abundance for worldly abundance. Do you?

Dear God, thank You for the complete joy that is mine through Your Son, Jesus. I ask that You guide me according to Your plan today. Give me Your wisdom and Your courage to keep my focus on You. Show me Your will for me today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Trusting God to Help

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will help you." - Psalm 37:5 (NIV)
When life is going good, our dreams are coming true, our plans are succeeding and everything looks bright and rosy, it's easy to trust God and count our blessings. But, in times of trouble, when nothing seems to be going right, our plans fail and our dreams fall by the wayside - so does our trust in God. But those are exactly the times when we need to place more faith in Him. To count our blessings. To commit our lives to Him. To trust His plans for us.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.".

We don't always understand God's plan for our lives, but we should always trust His plan. It takes wisdom and courage on our part to say to Him, "Lord, I trust you, despite my circumstances. I have faith that you are preparing me for something great. I place my trust in your plans for my life.". It's during these times that we should count God's blessings and seek God's peace. Continue to follow His commandments, be thankful, be obedient, be patient, have faith. Easier said than done, but, by doing these things, we can continue to be filled with hope and joy no matter what is happening in our lives. God's peace is true peace - the kind of peace I want to enjoy.

"To know God as He really is - in His essential nature and character - is to arrive at a citadel of peace that circumstances may storm, but can never capture" (Catherine Marshall)

Heavenly Father, open my eyes and my heart to Your blessings - in both the good and the bad times. I want to know the true peace that only comes from You. I trust You and Your plans for me in all circumstances. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

God's Hands

"If the Lord delights in a man's ways, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand." - Psalm 37:23-24 (NIV)
I have to be honest this morning. I have been stumbling the last few hours, actually since yesterday afternoon. Satan has been hard at work, trying to destroy my joy and peace. He's been filling me with fears & worries about bills, lack of work, anger, discouragement & impatience. And, I gave in...for a while. I had my pity party, my woe is me time and then I turned to God. I prayed (well, it was actually more like begging) to God to take control. I asked for forgiveness for my lack of faith. I asked Him to lift the burden that Satan was placing on my shoulders and replace it with His courage and strength. I asked Him to restore my joy and peace. I laid each of my worries at His feet, I counted each of my blessings, I thanked Him for both the wonderful and not so wonderful things going on in my life right now. I prayed that His will, His plan for my life be done and not my own. And I trusted. And you know what - He answered! He lead me out of Satan's grasp through His Word.

First, with verses I am memorizing:
  - Romans 12:12 - "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
  - 1 Thessalonians  5:16-18 - "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all
    circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
  - Philippians 4:6 - "Do not be anxious in anything, but in everything, by prayer and
    petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
  - Psalm 37:4 - "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your

Second, with the devotional called "Jesus Calling". Summarized, it basically reminded me to expect adversity in my life that is beyond my own ability to handle. It's the best place to encounter God and deepen my faith.

Third, with the verses above. These verses let me know that I am going to stumble, I'm human after all, but He is there to lift me back up, to keep me from falling. When I turn to God, when I lay my problems in His hands and lean on Him, Satan doesn't have a snowballs chance in (you know where!) of taking over. Again, being honest - my peace and joy have been restored. My situation hasn't changed but God has changed my outlook. His hands are holding me up today and I give thanks for His Word. He knew exactly what I needed and provided it this morning.

Dear God, I know You are greater than this world and the troubles I face. I stand on Your promises and Your assurances. Forgive me when I stumble. Let me lean on You for strength and courage. Fill me with Your joy and peace. Lead me in Your will today and let me live according to Your plans for my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

God of Miracles

"Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." - Genesis 18:14 (NIV)
I love what God is saying here! Nothing is impossible for Him!! Just as He performed the miracle of Sarah giving birth to Isaac at the age of ninety (!), He continues to perform miracles today. They come in all shapes and sizes - we just need to expect them and be aware of them. They're not just for special occasions or for great healing or for a select few. They happen all the time, all around us. Every breath we take is a miracle, every sunrise is a miracle, every baby born is a miracle, every prayer answered is a miracle, every flower blooming is a miracle, every friendship is a miracle, every healing is a miracle, every smile is a miracle....I could go on and on. The point is to look around and see God's handiwork. To see the miracle of the small things. We always notice the big miracles - someone walking away uninjured from a deadly car crash or someone at death's door making a recovery or an answer to a huge prayer - those aren't easy to miss and thank Him for. But it's the small everyday miracles, the blessings and gifts we take for granted, that we are missing. That we forget to get excited about and thank Him for. The parking spot He opened up close to the door on a hot day, the laughter of children, losing that last 10 pounds, a smile from a stranger, hearing from an old friend, electricity, indoor plumbing (especially indoor plumbing!!)...again, I could go on and on.  I desire to be more aware of the small miracles because they are the ones that will make me more aware of God's presence in my life. They are the ones that will bring me closer to Him. May we all be aware of His presence and miracles as we go about our day.

Awesome God, make me aware of all Your blessings and miracles in my life. You are the God of miracles, God of the impossible. Let me expect Your miracles and praise you and be thankful for them. In Jesus' name, Amen.

In Jesus' Name

Repost from yesterday 8/16/11

"Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." - John 16:24 (NIV)
Ask and I will receive - Jesus couldn't be any clearer than that. He tells us to ask, for anything, in His name, and we will receive it. No matter how big or small our need, a mountain or a molehill, ask! At this point you may be saying, "I do ask but my prayers aren't being answered." and my questions to you are this: are you asking in faith and in Jesus' name? I always end my prayers in Jesus' name but I can tell you this...I don't always have faith that my prayers will be answered. In the back of my mind, there's this little voice (Satan) saying to me, "God won't answer this. You're not worthy to ask this of Him. What are you thinking?". There goes my faith, right out the window!! I always find it's easier to have faith that my prayers will be answered when they're for someone else. But when they're for me, well, that's when that little voice is really LOUD! And the bigger the need I'm praying for, the smaller my faith is that it will be answered. That is not what God wants. He wants me to have complete faith and trust in Him, in His Word, in His promises. God answers ALL prayers - some with a "Yes", some with a "No" and some with "Later". Looking back at some of the things I've prayed for, I see that God did answer my prayers, not always in the way I expected but always, always in the way that was best for me and that brought me closer to Him. My prayer now is that God give me the faith to believe and trust His promises and smother that voice that says I'm not good enough. And I am asking in Jesus' name.

Dear God, I will be a Christian who prays and trusts You in all matters, big or small. To have faith in Your promises and patience to wait for Your answers. Take away the small voice that mocks me and in it's place let me hear Your voice. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blessings in Disguise

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair." - 1 Cor. 4:8 (NIV).

Difficulties, disappointments, adversity, trials, tribulations - whatever you want to call them - we all have them in our lives. I don't think I'm easily discouraged by them or I don't stay that way for long when I'm faced with them. At least not anymore. In the past, I've been known to be negative about my troubles, to complain, to get angry, to hold a grudge...for a really, really long time. And when things got better, to think it was something I had done. But, as I began to faithfully, excitedly and enthusiastically attend church, pray and study my Bible, my perspective has been changing. I used to see difficulties as punishment from God for my sins. My idea of God was of a judging, vengeful, punishing God....and I deserved to be punished because I was a sinner. Boy, was I wrong!! Not about being a sinner, because I am. But about God. He is a God who loves me, who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins because of the great love He has for me - for all of us. He wants me to lean on Him, to pray, to turn my thoughts to Him, to trust Him to guide me through the dark times. Not myself...HIM! He is a God of infinite possibilities. Instead of allowing myself to become discouraged by the difficulties that life throws my way, I find myself turning to God to lead me through. I am learning to be thankful for the hard times and beginning to see them as blessings in disguise. I am beginning to understand that God uses my problems to bring me closer to Him, to honor and glorify Him. The peace & hope that He gives me, knowing I don't have to face anything alone, that He is always present, always able and willing to help me, is worth more than anything else in this world. If you're facing discouragement right now, He is waiting for you to turn to Him for direction and guidance. He is waiting to give you a renewed spirit of peace and hope. Allow Him to lead you through to the blessing waiting on the other side.

"Every misfortune, every failure, every loss may be transformed. God has the power to transform all misfortunes into 'God-sends'." (Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

Dear Lord, Thank You for each difficult circumstance that comes my way. Teach me, through them, to lean on You, the God of all possibilities, for guidance, peace and hope. Help me to see them as blessings in disguise. Amen.