January 23, 2018

Joy To The World

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Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love

Pentatonix
Written by Isaac Watts ~ Music composed by Handel

*   ♥   ~   ✝   ~   ★   *

He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Luke 19:40 ESV

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
Psalms 96:11-13 NJKV

Joy

Defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1a) the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b) the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
2- a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3- a source or cause of delight

Based on these definitions, joy is something to be achieved, and is fleeting or short-lived.  But is that how the Bible defines joy?

Let’s start with where our joy come from. Psalm 16:11 NASB says

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

Jesus is our joy!  His birth makes it possible to have constant permanent joy in our lives though the Holy Spirit.  Look at these Scriptures:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him
Romans 15:13 HCSB

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is…joy
Galatians 5:22 AMP

…the joy supplied by the Holy Spirit;
1 Thessalonians 1:6 AMP

And the disciples were continually filled with joy
Acts 13:52 NASB

When we believed in Jesus…when our ‘hearts prepared room’ for Him…the Holy Spirit entered our hearts and joy is one of the many fruits He provided.

 Joy is within us – continual joy.

Jesus’ birth is the beginning of constant, permanent joy in our lives. Our joy is not tied to our emotions or our circumstances. Our joy is tied directly to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and our relationship with Him.  Joy lives within us.

God brought joy to the world in the form of an infant named Jesus. That joy is still with us today. As Luke 19:40 says, even if we remain silent, the stones will cry out.  Psalm 96:11 reminds us that even heaven and earth sing.

Shouldn’t we, too, then ‘repeat the sounding joy’
as we celebrate ‘the wonders of His love’?

16 Day Love Challenge – Chapter 2: Love is Kind

Luke 6 35

Kindness.  Just seeing the word makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?  It makes you smile.  If I asked you to share a time when someone was kind to you, what comes to your mind?  We read at the beginning of Chapter 2 that “Kindness can be described as having the qualities of being friendly, generous and considerate.”  But is it really that easy or simple?  Let’s not dismiss this attribute as elementary, sisters.  We are challenged at the end of the chapter to ask God to show you where you have been unkind.  If you will, take a moment now and ask God; “Lord, am I truly and consistently kind?  To everyone?”

When we look in the Bible, there are MANY directives given to be kind or show kindness.  We see in Galatians 5:22 that it is one of the many fruits of the Spirit—evidences that we are being led by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  In 2 Peter 1: 5-9 we see that kindness is one of several qualities that will help us to be more effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus.  In Ephesians 2:6 and 7 we are told that “God raised us up with Christ” in order to show us the “incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” We are directed to be kind to women, children, the poor and the oppressed, so there must be more to kindness than just being “friendly.”

When I looked up the word, “kindness” again, I saw the same definition—friendly, generous, considerate.  Then I looked up the word “kind.”  The fourth definition was “forbearing or tolerant.”  Here we go… here is where we are shown the difference between just opening the door for someone and truly taking on the nature of God.  In Luke 6: 32-35 we are shown a challenging passage that, like our passage in 1 Corinthians 13, exemplifies the true actions of a loving person.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?
Even ‘sinners’ do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners’, expecting to be repaid in full.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them
without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,
because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (NIV)

In preparation for this blog, I started the 16 Day Love Challenge a little early. Even as I was reading about patience (yep, I need to work on that…), God was convicting me about “kindness.”  He showed me two areas that needed improvement—how I spoke to my husband and how I dealt with customers at work.  Now don’t get me wrong, I try very hard to be a submissive, loving, supportive wife (AND a godly, cheerful, positive person at my job!).  But with my husband, sometimes I can be…critical. <Ugh. Anyone out there with me?>   There are times when, instead of seeing and recognizing what my husband does right, I pick out the small detail that is not to my liking and make some kind of comment about it.  Often, after it comes out of my mouth, I think “Why did I say that???”  Well, for the past several days I have been HIGHLY aware of what comes out of my mouth, because those little, tiny, nitpicky things have a tendency to wear someone down.   (And you know what, sisters?  We reap what we sow.  Do you have relationships that have a problem with criticism?  Do an honest check to see what you are sowing into it….) Not only have I tried to bring every thought under submission to God, but I’ve been happier…as has my husband.   I work part-time at a cute shop in town that sells cupcakes, and it can get rather busy.   I am the only person that works during my shift, and so a line to the door of often impatient customers can raise the stress level a bit.  There are many times when a customer wants to take a LONG time figuring out what just the right cupcake will be, and wants a description of the ingredients/frosting/sprinkles, etc. for every cupcake!  (Did I mention the line of customers behind him/her is to the door?  And they are being audibly impatient?)  Needless to say, I have a tendency to then become impatient and try to rush the customer along.  Is that showing love to that person?  NO.  I am being neither patient nor kind to those types of customers.   So I prayed to be more loving (patient and kind) to the difficult customers that came in the door.  It made for a much less stressful shift!

Let’s accept the challenge to exemplify “kindness” today – not only to those that are kind to us, but especially to those that are not!  If we do, our “reward will be great!” (Luke 6:35)

Let’s pray:

Kind father, THANK YOU for loving me!  Thank You for your blessings, and for every good and perfect gift that comes from You, especially for Your Son Jesus, and the hope we have through Him!  Show me where I can be kinder to those around me, and help me today to show the true love of Jesus in my actions.  Help me to give kindness as generously as You have given it to me.  In the name of Your Son we pray.

Amen.

Esther – Chapter 2:11-15

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Hello again, sisters!

In Esther 2:11-15, we see Esther in a rather exciting, yet anticipatory time in her life. The King is looking for a new queen, and Esther has been chosen out of many beautiful women in her province to be considered for the position. (Almost like the ultimate “Dating Game” – only the ancient royal Persian version!) Before any of the women were presented to the King for his consideration, they underwent an incredible beauty treatment – six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics. Six months for each treatment! (Anyone complain to you about how long it takes you to get ready??  Now that’s high maintenance!)
For those of us who are married, remember when you would get ready for a date with your husband? (Some of us may have to reach back in the memory bank a bit….) For those of you who are single – think about an important date or event that caused a bit of preparation. I remember when I was dating my husband…I wanted just the right outfit, something that made me look good, but not that I was trying too hard; something appropriate for the outing. I needed the right makeup, the right shoes – you get the picture. Sometimes I would shop for something new (even though my oldest shirt would have been new to him!), and I definitely called my Mom, sister, and several friends to get their opinions on how to present myself. On date night I would spend quite some time preparing myself to put my best foot forward.  I would be nervous and excited and would count the minutes until I heard his knock on my door.  Sound familiar to any of you?
Likewise, in our own lives, we are preparing to meet our King—Jesus!  We know that when we are presented as his Bride that we want to be our best.  The wonderful difference in our scenario is that 1) we know that when we belong to Jesus, He has already accepted us, so we need not fear rejection when we meet him; and 2) Jesus is not concerned with how we look on the outside; He looks at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  So if Jesus is not looking for our best outfit, but looking for our best “inside person,” how do we get that ready?  What beauty treatments are going to help us make that wonderful presentation of our ultimate selves to the King?
Darlene reminds us of a lovely Scripture.

1 Peter 3:3-5 (NIV)
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands.

Now let me just put this argument to rest …. Does this Scripture say that it is unbiblical to braid your hair, wear jewelry or get dressed up?  NO.  What it says is that your beauty should not be skin deep.  Hair, jewelry, and clothes are all perishable and therefore are undependable.  They aren’t the mark of true beauty, which comes from the inside.  No one and nothing can take away your true beauty!

When the Holy Spirit is your helper (like Hegai helped Esther), and you follow His beauty advice, the result is amazing.  Galatians 5:22 tells us what a beautiful woman looks like, one who is ready to meet her King (you might also know this verse as describing the fruits of the Spirit).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Our “beauty regimen” should consist of daily cultivation of the fruits of the Spirit.  I say daily cultivation because we don’t just wake up filled with all of the patience or gentleness we will need for the rest of our lives, do we?  Every day situations will present themselves that will require us to practice those fruits.  You want patience? Be careful what you pray for – you will only develop patience when you are placed in a situation that requires you to be patient.  The same for all of the fruits. The same for our lives of submission and obedience to Christ.

Every day we will be presented opportunities to follow, to submit, to obey, and to believe. We will become better followers when we make the choice to fall in behind the leader, and then act accordingly. Not the most submissive wife yesterday? You know what? That’s ok – but be different today. Rebelling against authority figures in your life?  Choose to be different today.  Resistant to the leading of Jesus? Change and be different today!  You can’t do anything about the past except repent of it, ask God to forgive you, and then choose to act differently today!  That is how we get ready for the King.  Daily ask God – “How can You make me more beautiful today?  Holy Spirit, can You show me how to be more like Christ today? Can You show me how to be more submissive…more obedient?”  Ask, and then trust that just like Hegai, the Holy Spirit will show you exactly what is needed today to be gorgeous—a radiant light that shines for the King!

Let’s Pray:

Holy Spirit, thank You for being our ultimate Helper! Help us today to see our beauty not as the world sees it, in the outward woman, but as our Father sees it. Help us in our “beauty regimen”, to make ourselves pure, holy and beautiful for our Lord Jesus.  Forgive us when we are resistant to Your leading.  Thank You for the great example of an obedient spirit in Esther, and help us to develop our own obedient spirit!  Thank You for Your abundant blessings and protection!  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.