Friday, November 4, 2011

God Wants Me to Be Happy.....Right?

"If they obey Him and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment." - Job 36:11 (NIV)

Happiness - everyone wants it! Some people spend their whole lives trying to attain it. Some think having money will make them happy...NOT. Some think sex will make them happy...NOT. Some think drugs & alcohol will make them happy...NOT. Some think having lots of "things" will make them happy...NOT. Married men think being single will make them happy while single men think being married will make them happy...NOT. Women think having a rich husband with the biggest house will make them happy...NOT. The one person that can and will bring us happiness - contentment - is usually the last person anyone wants to turn to....JESUS!!

God doesn't care if we're happy or not. Really, He doesn't!! There's no where in the Bible that says God wants us to be happy. But it does say He wants us to be holy & live righteously. He wants us in obedience and service to Him. He wants us to be joyful in Him. Not in what we have, where we live, how much money we have or make, our children or grandchildren, our families and friends, our marriages, our lives....only in HIM!!

This verse in Job says it clearly. When I am in obedience and service to God, then He will prosper me and I will be content. True joy and happiness is only going to be found when we reach Heaven; until then, it's fleeting. There will always be something or someone in this world that will rob me of happiness, but Heaven will be different. In Isaiah 51:11 (NIV), we are told, "The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.". In Revelation 21:4 (NIV), John tells us this: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.". If that's not a promise of true joy and contentment, I don't know what is!

Finding happiness in all circumstances of life is difficult at best. That's what God expects of me, though. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) says it's God's will for me: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.". If I can live this verse, obey and serve my God, then I will know contentment in this life. I desire to be like Paul in Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV): "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." To walk in obedience and service to God, to be holy and righteous in God's eyes, is the greatest pleasure I can bring to Him and is the best thing I can do for myself. "But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV). I can find joy and contentment in this life; God has shown me the way through His Word.

"Perfect obedience would be perfect happiness, if only we had perfect confidence in the power we were obeying." - Corrie ten Boom

Dear Lord, whether in need or in plenty, I ask that You teach me to be satisfied. I don't want my happiness to rely on earthly things, which are fleeting. I desire to live as Paul did, content in every situation. May I walk in obedience and service to You. May I live my life to please You and not myself. Guide me in all that I do today. Let me be a joyful Christian and share Your joy with my family and friends. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seeking God's Will

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever - do not abandon the works of Your hands." - Psalm 138:8 (NIV)

Am I seeking God's will?

That is the question I have to ask myself this morning. Am I truly seeking His will or am I sitting back and just expecting God to reveal Himself and His will to me? I know God has a purpose for my life. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) tells me this: "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." God has things for me to do and people for me to help. He has places He wants me to serve. But why should He reveal these things to me if I'm not actively seeking Him and His will? If I'm not willing to do what is necessary - praying to God, searching my Bible, journaling my findings, fellowship with other believers - why would I think I'm ready for God's will to be made known to me?

God knew me before I was even born. In Jeremiah 1:5a (NIV), the Lord says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you". He had plans in place for me before I even drew my first breath. But He left it up to me to make the choice to accept His plans or not. If I truly, truly want to know what my purpose is, then I must choose to seek it and not just expect God to show me what it is. It's call free will and it's one of the gifts He has bestowed on me.

At my church, we have some core values for discipleship. They're called the 3 D', develop, deploy. As I grow in each of these areas, I become more and more like Jesus...I become His disciple. I believe it's while in the discover phase...which, by the way, is a phase that will last my whole life because there's always something new to discover about Jesus...that I can learn what God's purpose is for me. There are keys to this value that will lead me to know God's will...if I choose to do them. Just to be up front, the following came from the message preached at church 3 weeks ago.

Key #1 - Opening
This means being open-minded and considering something I've never considered before. God's constantly looking for me and working in me, even if I'm not looking for Him. I demonstrate this key by being willing to investigate the unknown and being responsive to God's prompting in my heart; to open myself up to possibilities and staying curious about God.
Revelation 3:20 (NIV): "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me."
Ephesians 1:13 (NIV): "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. 

Key #2 - Seeking
This means looking diligently for something with an open heart. Actively putting in an effort to find out more about God. Adrian Rogers put it this way: "An atheist can't find God for the same reason a thief can't find a policeman." It's because I'm not seeking God that I can't find Him. I demonstrate this key by being willing to pursue all the possibilities (prayer, Bible study, fellowship, church, service, etc.) available to find Him.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV): "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV): "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Key #3 - Hearing
This means truly listening for the voice of God. Spending time quietly with Him, waiting to hear Him speak to me. I tend to hear what I'm listening for. If I'm watching my grandkids and listening for their voices, I can hear them over everything else because I am truly listening for them. When I truly, honestly, openly listen for God's voice, He speaks to me. I demonstrate this key by being willing to comprehend (think deeply) about the implications God's Word has for me.
Psalm 46:10 (NIV): "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 131:2 (NIV): "But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."

Key #4 - Trusting
This means hearing with faith and acting on what I say I believe. It's taking a risk for something truly worthwhile: a relationship with a living God! Because I am a believer, I trusted Jesus when I confessed my sins, repented and was baptized. I must continue to trust Him by stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing my beliefs. I demonstrate this key by being willing to apply (receive and act on) the truth (God's Word).
Hebrews 4:2 (NIV): "For we have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith."
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV): "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

I have a choice to make: do I truly want to seek God's will for my life or not? The answer is: Yes I do! Now it's up to me to do what God wants me to do so I can find the purpose I was born for.

"I believe that in every time and place, it is within our power to acquiesce in the will of God - and what peace it brings to do so!" - Elisabeth Elliot

Lord, I want to seek Your will today and not my own. I know You have a plan for my life, Lord. I ask that You let me discover it and live it in full faith. May I never stop seeking Your will and being curious and hungry for You. Use me this day, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

His Love Endures Forever!

"You are my God, and I will give You thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." - Psalm 118:28-29 (NIV)

"Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King. HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER! For He is good, He is above all things. HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER! Sing praise, sing praise! With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER! For the life that's been reborn, HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER! Sing praise, sing praise! Sing praise, sing praise! Forever God is faithful, forever God is strong, forever God is with us, forever! Forever! (Chris Tomlin - "Forever").

I absolutely love this song. It makes my heart sing and brings me joy. It brings me into worship with my Lord. The words and the music do exactly what this verse says to do - exalt God and give Him thanks for His love.

Until recently, I was always uncomfortable when I would visit a church where some in the congregation would lift their arms and hands high in the air while they sang, clap along to the music and sway to the beat. I thought it was wrong. I thought the Bible specifically spoke against it. We just didn't do that in the church I was raised in. We sang the same hymns every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday evening. Now, please don't get me wrong, I really like some of the old hymns but we just didn't sing them with any passion. So I've always assumed that was the way it should be.

Until I started going to Central. Now I'm one of those people who used to make me uncomfortable. I'm the one with my hands and arms in the air, worshipping my Savior. I never realized, until the last few years, that I feel closest to God when I'm worshipping Him with songs filled with passion and that speak directly to my heart. I can't help but stand with arms outstretched, giving myself over to God and allowing myself to be filled with His presence and His love. I realize this isn't for everyone and I'm not saying other ways of worship are wrong. I'm just saying that, for me, give me some contemporary Christian music and a great message and I'm filled up. During the week, I listen to KLOVE online or on the radio in my vehicle, just to keep my heart full. When I'm feeling down or things aren't going very well, it's the music that reminds me that God loves me and how good He is to me.

His love is deeper than I can ever imagine; so deep, in fact, that He sent His Son to earth to die for  my sins. I can't fathom loving someone else enough, ever, to sacrifice one of my children or grandchildren for. Yet, God did that for me. He continues to love me, showers me with His grace and mercy, forgives me of my sins. HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!!!

"To love God is the greatest of virtues; to be loved by God is the greatest of blessings." - Author Unknown

Dearest Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Beloved Son for my sins. A love like that is hard to imagine but that is the way You love me. Your love for me is limitless, deep, strong and eternal. I can never earn it; all I have to do is accept it. It is a gift from You. I accept Your love today and ask that You help me to share it with every person I come into contact with. I praise and exalt Your name and Your love. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No Problem Is Too Big for MY God!

"As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him." - Psalm 18:30 (NIV)

It's been a crazy few days. Too much to do; not enough time. October through April, my life is out of whack. Tax extensions, holidays, birthdays, year-end reports for clients, getting ready for and then tax season itself....excuses, excuses, excuses! Really, I have no good excuse for not blogging the last 3 days. I've been doing my Bible study but not the blog. The problem lies in not giving my days and my time over to God to handle. I make my problems bigger and my days shorter than they are or ever should be just because I want to be in control.

God is perfect - "His way is perfect" - He is able to take my problems and handle them. My way is flawed and leads to more problems and difficulties.  So, why don't I give Him my difficulties until I've totally screwed them up? Until they are out of my control? Until I am an anxious, worried mess? Not only have I been asking myself these questions, but in every verse I'm studying, every song I hear, every devotion I read, even in the message this past weekend, God is bringing these same things to my attention. Give everything to Him, He is ready to take on all challenges, get back on track, He is a forgiving God, He loves me, He is bigger and more powerful than any problem or challenge I will EVER face.

I don't know how many of you have heard or know of Joni Eareckson Tada. She has a devotional website called Joni and Friends, has written books and devotionals and is a gifted speaker. But, in 1967, at age 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. She belongs to an organization that delivers wheelchairs, free of charge, to children and adults around the world. She travels extensively, speaks all over the world and has a faith in God that is just amazing. I'm telling you all of this because Joni did not allow her challenges, which are more than many of us will ever have to face, stop her from serving and having faith in God, even though she couldn't see what God's purpose was for her life at the time of her accident. My everyday challenges and difficulties are nothing compared to hers. Yet, she knew and still knows that there is no problem too big for God to handle.

Let me say that again and again and again: there is NO problem too big for my God. There is no PROBLEM too big for my God. There is no problem TOO BIG for my God. There is no problem too big for MY GOD. THERE IS NO PROBLEM TOO BIG FOR MY GOD!!! Thank you, Lord.

"As God's children, we are the recipients of lavish love - a love that motivates us to keep trusting even when we have no idea what God is doing." - Beth Moore

Dear God, I know You are bigger and more powerful than any challenge I will ever face in this life. I know You love me and Your way is perfect. In You I will find strength, courage & wisdom. Please keep reminding me that there isn't any problem too big for You to handle. I trust You with this day and give You total control over my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.