October 18, 2017

Living the Good Life

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For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship),
recreated in Christ Jesus,
[born anew] that we may do those good works
which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us
[taking paths which He prepared ahead of time],
that we should walk in them
[living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].
Ephesians 2:10 AMP

Did you catch that?  We are ‘predestined for…living the good life’!  Not only has God prepared us to do the good works He planned before we were born, He also prearranged a good life for us.  Psalm 16:11 HCSB states, “You reveal the path of life to me.”  God reveals the paths He has made ready for us.  We don’t have to earn the good life.  We don’t have to work for it.   It is a gracious gift from God (should we choose to receive it).

John 10:10 NKJV tells us Christ came so “…that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  In Jeremiah 31:12 NLT it says, “They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts—the abundant crops of grain, new wine, and olive oil, and the healthy flocks and herds. Their life will be like a watered garden….”  Not once does it mention that we must work to receive these blessings.

I love this quote from the Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Bible Commentary:
“Works do not justify, but the justified man works.”

Works will not save us.  Works will not earn us the love of God.  But works are something we do because we love God.  When we carry out the good deeds God has predestined for us, it is a way of expressing our gratitude for the good life He has provided for us.  In turn, God blesses us even more.

The Lord will open for you His abundant storehouse….
Deuteronomy 28:12 HCSB

I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.
Zephaniah 9:12 NLT

Job was blessed more in the latter part of His life than in the beginning (Job 42:12).  As if His abundant gift of mercy and grace wasn’t enough, God chooses to bless us even more.  We cannot outdo God.  His gifts are never ending!

Why does God give us gifts we could never earn or hope to repay?  Because we are His handiwork—His masterpiece—born anew through the death of Christ on the Cross; which is the greatest gift of all.  All because God loves each one of us more than we could ever imagine!

What IS Joy?

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As I began to study JOY, one question kept coming to mind – what is joy?  The more I researched…the more frustrated I became.  Oh, there is LOTS of information out there about joy.  Most of the information is very vague and I wanted concrete.

Then I stumbled across Rick Warren’s definition of joy:

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life,
the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright,
and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

I love that!  Joy is a ‘settled assurance…a quiet confidence’ in God.  Lexham’s Bible Dictionary defines joy as “a natural result of having received salvation.  Joy comes on account of what Christ has done, irrelevant of whatever circumstances are happening in one’s life”.

Psalm 92: 4 (NLT) puts it like this,

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what you have done.

When I recall all He has done for me, I can look forward to what He will do with assurance and confidence. I trust Him.  That is true joy.  According to Matthew Henry, “From a joyful remembrance of what God has done for us, we may raise a joyful prospect of what He will do.”

As I continued to think about what Christ has done for me, two things came to mind:

  1. He has given me a future
  2. He has given me hope

Jeremiah 29:11 (HCSB) states “I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope….”

And Psalm 16:11 (HCSB) says “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.”

Happiness is often associated with joy.  Joy is so much more than being happy. Happiness is a temporary emotion while joy is an attitude, a state of being. Happiness often comes from external situations or material things. The joy of the Lord is found within and gives us strength no matter what we are experiencing.  Joy is the result of our choice to trust Him.

That’s where I find my joy – in Him alone.

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Father, thank You for being the source of my joy. You are my Strength and my Portion forever. Remind me when I struggle that joy and happiness are not the same thing. May I always look to You and recall all You have done, and will do, in my life. That is my true joy. In Jesus’ name I ask this – Amen, so be it!

Before The Morning

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Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you
If there’s a God who loves you
Where is He now

Maybe there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Some day, some how, you’ll see, you’ll see

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe
That you still have a reason to sing
‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
Can’t compare to the joy that’s coming

So hold on, you got to wait for the light
Press on, just fight the good fight
Because the pain you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
And you know where you’re going
You just don’t know how you get there
So say a prayer

And hold on, ’cause there’s good for those who love God
Life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time
But you’ll see the bigger picture

Once you feel the way of glory
All your pain will fade to memory
Once you feel the way of glory
All your pain will fade to memory
Memory, memory, yeah

 Singer / Songwriter: Josh Wilson with Ben Glover

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There are times when I question God. In my sinful nature, I say, “If He is good, why is this happening and why does it feel so bad?”  (Are you with me?)  And “If He loves me so much, why would He allow me to hurt?”

The answer is that there is sin in the world.

The Lord saw how great man’s sin on the earth had become,
and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
Genesis 6:5

But He didn’t leave it this way, He sent a Savior so that joy could replace sorrow.

See, in our minds, we can only see the picture up close.  Our problems seem so big, and at the time they are.  It feels sometimes that the mountain that is in front of us will be there forever.  But God is still writing our stories.  He knows the ending and He sees our lives with a different view.  He is trustworthy and good. He loves you so much that He can’t get enough of you.

The hope in this song is this: You can dare to believe that you still have a reason to sing — to sing His praises!  ‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that He has for you.  You’ve got to wait for the light…press on and keep fighting the good fight because the pain you’ve been dealing with is just the hurt before the healing and the dark before the morning.

As God promises in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your Presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  He will fill us with joy and He will give us flickers of light when we are in a season of darkness and He will bring us out victoriously.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 40:5

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Let us pray: Dear God, You are so good.  You wrote each one of our stories with a beautiful ending.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy and patience when we doubt Your perfect plan.  We only see what is in front of us, so we ask that You increase our faith and endurance.  Give us the strength to keep on fighting the fight and give us the willingness to stay on the right path.  And most of all, we thank You for the Joy that comes in the morning all because of Your precious Son saving us from ourselves.  We love you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Strangely Dim

psalmshymnsspiritualsongskjv

I’ve got all these plans piled up sky high
A thousand dreams on hold
And I don’t know why
I got a front row seat
To the longest wait
And I just can’t see
Past the things I pray
Today

But when I fix my eyes on all that You are
Then every doubt I feel deep in my heart
Grows strangely dim
All my worries fade and fall to the ground
‘Cause when I seek Your face and don’t look around
Any place I’m in grows strangely dim

Sometimes where I stand
On this narrow road
Is in a raging storm
Or a valley low
But oh oh oh oh oh oh

But when I fix my eyes on all that You are
Then every doubt I feel deep in my heart
Grows strangely dim
All my worries fade and fall to the ground
‘Cause when I seek Your face and don’t look around
Any place I’m in grows strangely dim

I don’t know, I don’t know
What tomorrow may hold
But I know, but I know
That You’re holding it all
So no matter what may come

I’m gonna fix my eyes on all that You are
Then every doubt I feel deep in my heart
Grows strangely dim
All my worries fade and fall to the ground
I’m gonna seek Your face and not look around
‘Til the  place I’m in grows strangely dim, strangely, strangely dim

Songwriters – Mia Fieldes, Seth Mosely, and Francesca Battistelli
Performed by Francesca Battistelli

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I once heard it described to me that what you focus on is what you magnify. Imagine looking through the lens of a camera when you focus on what you are taking a picture of the things around it grow dim. When life’s circumstances are coming at us it is easy to get distracted by what’s coming at us instead of turning our focus to the One Who will bring us through it.

I love these words from this old hymn…
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

When we choose to turn our focus to Jesus the things of this world—our circumstances, doubts, and worries—grow strangely dim.  When we are fully focused on Him there is fullness of joy!!!

Psalm 16:11 ESV states it beautifully,
You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

“What’s the secret to joyful heart living and to having fullness of joy?  According to the Scriptures listed above, we obtain fullness of joy from being in the Presence of God.  And we enter into the Presence of God by praising Him.  And when we have joy, then we also have strength.

So, whenever I am feeling less than joyFUL, or am feeling weak or am facing something difficult and need more strength, I stop what I am doing and begin to praise God. Sometimes it may take awhile for me to get my mind to quit thinking about everything else and just focus on HIM, but before long, I can feel His Presence and my joy returns, along with strength.

Isn’t it great to know that we have the power to enter into the Presence of Almighty God whenever we want to?”
(excerpt from JoyfulHeartLiving.com)

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Heavenly Father, I thank You that when we turn our focus to ALL that You are the things of this world grow strangely dim.  Thank You for the peace in Your presence.  May we be filled with the fullness of joy that can only come from You…in Jesus’ name!!!  AMEN!!

My One Word ~ Joyful

I just love this concept of having ‘a word’ as a spiritual discipline. (I’m sure you have stumbled across this idea…recently the blogging world has been crazy busy writing about it!) Somehow…ok, God’s grace, of course…I was introduced to this idea three years ago. A bit ahead of the crowd which is sort of typical for me. You see, I don’t do trendy things, I surely dance to the beat of a different drum. But I am perfectly settled with that…it is who I am and who I imagine I will always be.

Here’s how it works:  the plan is to pray and, following God’s lead, choose ‘one word’ that will be your focus for the next year. In working through this concept it seems to be so simple and, yet, so vast in its application. I have found that my eyes and ears (and spirit!) are aware and attentive to ‘hearing’ my word whether in the Scriptures, or in study of other books, or in listening to a sermon or teaching, etc. But isn’t that just the way that the Holy Spirit leads, and guides, and teaches us? It is the still, small voice that we hear. It is His gentle leading that always bring us to ‘see’ a revelation. Haven’t you found this true?

Each of my words has always been in relation to Almighty God. My ‘one word’ in 2013 has been TRUST, in 2012 it was PEACE, and in 2011 my word was REFUGE. And these are the verses that I began with and stood upon:

TRUST
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
Psalms 56:3 and 4

PEACE
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything,
but in every circumstance and in everything,
by prayer and petition (definite requests),
with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul
assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God
and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace]
which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard
over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6 and 7

REFUGE
But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,
and spread Your protection over them, and that those who love Your Name may exult in you.
Psalm 5:11

I can honestly tell you that drawing closer in my relationship with God in light of each of those words has changed my heart. No doubt about it; absolutely! And so I joyfully anticipate ALL that God is going to do in me in 2014 as I focus on one word—JOYFUL.

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 16:11

So, what do you think…is this something you might consider doing? If you have already been praying and asking God to lead you in selecting your ‘one word,’ I would love to hear about it! And, if not, pray! Seek God’s guidance and direction! He surely knows what your heart needs. He absolutely knows what will come along your path in the next year. And, most importantly, He loves you so very much and wants to guide you along the right path for you!

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
Lamentations 3:25

I am praying for you, too! If you would like, I would love to pray with you…send me a FaceBook message!

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{ For those of you who love to read, Pastor Mike Ashcraft wrote this marvelous book My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word sharing the journey that he took along with the congregation of the church he shepherds. It’s a great book and in it he shares much more of the heart behind the discipline of ‘one word.’ }

The Living Praise the Lord

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The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.
Praise the LORD.
Psalms 115:17-18

God is sovereign, meaning that He is completely independent.  He did not need to create us.  He does not need us for anything.  Based on this we might come to the conclusion that we are not important to God, or that we are not needed, or that we have no purpose. But, that is not the end of the story.

God tells us throughout the Scripture that we were created to glorify Him. That’s our purpose and means we are important to Him personally.

So our purpose of living is to

Glorify God   Talking about mankind in the Book of Isaiah, God says about us, “…whom I created for my glory…” (Isaiah 43:7).  God created us for His own glory.  When we are praising God it means we are glorifying Him. “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever” (Psalm 86:12).

How do we glorify God?

  • to glorify God means to bring Him honor through what we say, how we act, and how we think.
  • to glorify God means to acknowledge His glory and to value it above all things.
  • to glorify God means we make it known to others.
  • to glorify God means we have a heartfelt gratitude.

We glorify God through our faith and trust. We glorify God through our love. We glorify God through our desire to obey Him. We glorify God through our desire to know Him.  Therefore, my sisters, this has to be our habit when driving, doing household chores, talking among ourselves.  How sweet He is…how wonderful to us, how cared for we feel. He is such a loving Father, I tell you!

Enjoy God  Psalm 16:11 tells us, “In your [God’s] presence there is fulness of joy, in Your [God’s] right hand are pleasures for evermore.”  Hence verse 18 of Psalm 115 says “We will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”  Praising God should be a joyful thing for us to do. How do you feel when your loved one praises you after you have cooked a delicious meal?  I see many posts here on cookery and some are helped by their husbands; others tell us how their spouses have enjoyed the meal (definitely they must have uttered pleasing words). How do we feel? It feels good, huh!!  We are alive…not dead!  Let God delight in us through our praise to Him!

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Dear God, we delight in You for who You are in our lives.  You are a Great God.  We lift our hearts in worship and with praise on our lips to You alone.  Let our praises be with sweet aroma to the glory of Your name!  In Jesus name, we have prayed.  Amen!