Ever felt that if someone could just spend some time in your shoes, they would not be so quick to judge you? Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about another woman without knowing the facts of her story?
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The first morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.
'That laundry is not clean', she said. 'Apparently she doesn't know how to wash correctly or maybe she needs better laundry soap'.
Her husband looked on but remained silent. Every time their neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.
A month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: 'Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?'
Her husband said, 'I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.'
This story tells us that what we see when watching others, depends on the cleanliness of our own window!
Every woman has a story; a story that involves challenges and victories, pain and joy, fear, and peace. But what if we were able to spend some time in her shoes? Would what see, think, or feel about her change?
We do not know all that has taken place in the life of the divorced mom who must leave her kids with a sitter so she can work 2 jobs to put food on the table. We might look at her as someone who is more interested in her career than her family. But perhaps she was involved in an abusive relationship or was deserted by her husband, left alone to take care of her children without help.
Or what about the young mom who is on government assistance and going to college? Are we tempted to make a snap judgment about her and assume that she is using the system or taking advantage?
Ladies, we need to remember that how we see others is not always who they are. It’s possible that we are looking through a window colored by that person’s past actions or associations.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
This verse tells us that we become a new person when we accept Jesus. If we believe that is true for us, then we must believe that is true for others.
Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, please reveal to me any woman I might be judging without knowing the facts of her life. Please guide me to reach out to her and get to know her story. Amen.
Written By: Sherry Poundstone
For more from Sherry, check out her website: www.sherrypoundstone.com.
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That’s such a loaded word, isn’t it? There’s something about that word that makes everything feel so easy when you are in it and everything feel so difficult when you are out of it. In it, life is simple and out of it, life is endlessly complicated. In it, everything is bright and clear. Out of it, everything is dim and confusing. In it, you feel like a kid again and out of it, you feel like the cranky old man yelling at kids to get off the lawn.
John Piper, possibly one of the greatest theologians of our lifetime, has a saying, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” While I have a million feelings and thoughts about joy, both personally and theologically, I just want to hang out in one place tonight while keeping that quote in mind…
"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Friend, that drive to be happy… God put that there inside of you. And it’s your job as a Jesus lover, a child of God, to FIRST and FOREMOST passionately pursue pleasure that is all-satisfying… that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Read that scripture again and soak it in…
“You make known to me the path of life…”
What questions do you have? What answers do you need? What decisions need to be made? Who are you really? Why are you here? What’s your purpose in life? HE will make known to you the path of life. He will answer those questions. He will direct your steps. He will guide you, lead you, walk alongside you. But you have to stick close. You can’t hear the voice of someone who is far away. You can’t follow along The Path of Life when you are on your own path doing your own thing. You need to be close to Jesus.
“In your presence there is fullness of joy…”
I want it. You want it. We all want it. We all NEED it! If you are a follower of Jesus and you could not be easily identified by others as a joyful person… you need to spend some more time with Jesus, sweet friend. In His presence, there isn’t just a little joy, some joy, or enough joy. It says in His presence there is FULLNESS of joy! I want to be filled to overflowing with so much joy it just leaks out all over the people around me until they are filled up too because of the presence of God in my life! Wowza! I’ve got tingles all over my arms thinking about the kind of JOY I have in the presence of God! Take notice: it doesn’t say “In your presence, sometimes there’s joy,” and it doesn’t say, “In your presence, there is joy if you [x y z].” There are no qualifiers in the statement. It’s just what happens when you step into the presence of God as His baby girl! As His beloved daughter! As His favorite kid!
“At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
In his presence, there is joy overflowing. And at his right hand, which symbolizes a special place of honor, there are pleasures forevermore. Eternal, everlasting, never-ending pleasures.
Listen. I don’t think the people of God can do the work of God and fully obey the will of God if we do not understand the position we hold in the Kingdom of God. If you feel like you have to earn it, you don’t understand what your salvation bought. Eternal life is just one part of the package. It’s a side-effect of an even greater work. Salvation found only in Jesus Christ restores you to your place as a sinless, righteous son or daughter of God. You were made for the Garden, we stepped off the Path of Life and royally screwed up the world, and lost access to the Garden which is a picture of perfect intimacy with the Father. What did Adam and Eve do in the Garden? Walk around every evening talking with God. In person. They had perfect communication with God. They were in perfect standing with God. There was absolutely no shame or hindrance between them and their Father. Joy was EASY to find. Joy was ALWAYS around because God was always around! They were FRIENDS with the God of the universe and HE was their dad!
That is what you and I were made for! Because of sin, we lost access to God who is our eternal joy! Jesus made a way back for us by sacrificing his perfect life on behalf of our sin-filled lives so that we could be God’s kids again… so we could go back to the Garden.
If you love Jesus and have been saved, but are still walking around like you are carrying the yoke of slavery to sin… girl, pick yourself up and dust yourself off! You are a child of God. You are the head and not the tail. The devil may strike your heal but you will crush his head. You live with the eternal, everlasting, never-ending, all-fulfilling, all-encompassing victory of Jesus over every sin in your life! If that doesn’t fill you with JOY I don’t know what will!
Pray that verse over yourself. You remind yourself that, because of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, you have 24/7/365 from now until forever access to JOY. You tell yourself the truth…
So today, go find the fullness of Joy! Go be in the presence of God. Worship, read the Word, soak up His presence, spend some time in prayer… like more than 2 minutes. Get on your knees, lay facedown, whatever… just get in His presence and get your heart back in the Garden! Your joy will start spilling out all over! I promise!
“God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” - John Piper
WRITTEN BY:LYNDSAY TERRY
Read more from Lyndsay @ www.lyndsayterry.com
Well, sweet friends, I must be honest with you: I have been procrastinating sitting down to write about joy for about as long as I possibly can.
It's like JOY is a loaded word right now. It's like my heart doesn't even want to go there right now because mostly I just feel tender; mostly I'm just lamenting; mostly I'm just crying out; mostly I'm just in need.
I resonate a lot with Gay's article and maybe you do, too. It doesn't take much time to scroll social media, catch a glimpse of the news or to talk with neighbors and family and friends to see a great deficit of joy in our world right now.
When I think of joy, I think of just a fullness and at the same time, a weightlessness. Joy is overwhelming. Joy is like surface tension: have you ever seen drops of water on the surface of a coin? The water just fills and fills and fills until it makes almost a dome shape and somehow, it stays intact. Somehow it doesn't burst- but it's filled to the brim and just ready to burst.
I can think of many times when my insides have felt just like that surface tension looks, like I could just burst. I cannot contain myself. The tension of being held in is too much and I just want to spill that joy over onto all around me!! What good does this joy do if I don't release it?? I have to do something with it!
Although this particular season has not exactly been marked by the fullness, lightness and tension that I envision joy to be, this does not mean that joy has been absent. I am still learning about true joy that is found in the Lord; He is still teaching me.
In this wrestling with joy, friends, the Lord did something so unexpected and ridiculously beautiful.
One day a couple of weeks ago, I woke up full of joy. Just. FULL. Everything seemed different to me; brighter, more beautiful, more hopeful. I wondered about it, especially since the day before had seemed like a real battle with heaviness and darkness.
The next day, as I scrolled my Facebook memories, there was a message from a sweet woman I had befriended eight years ago that day. As soon as I saw it, my heart leaped and I immediately understood what had happened.
The day before, eight years ago, was the day that I surrendered my life to Christ.
I had forgotten, but God remembered.
He cared enough to remind me.
And my soul needed to celebrate with Him.
Just as I was filled with joy that day eight years ago, like a dam bursting in my heart; so was there joy in heaven over my repentance and salvation (Luke 15:7).
Sisters, if we are feeling weighed down by our circumstances, maybe we need to cry out to the Lord: “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12)
Maybe what the Lord had to say to the church in Ephesus is for us today, too: “I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2: 3-5a)
When I surrendered, when I was saved, on my knees and face tear-stained at the altar on June 3, 2012, I was radically changed. It was perceptible. I was eager. I went home and immediately began seeking His face with a hunger. I longed for more of Jesus, I did everything I could think of to get to know my Savior, this Lover of my soul. He permeated every part of my heart, my soul and my life. In an instant. With just one look.
I had found this Jesus to be real, to be true. He is magnificent. He is better than anything in this world; He is even better than I can imagine, even now.
So, then: have we in some way or another abandoned the love we had at first?
Let's return to Him with repentance. We will surely receive refreshment for our weary and overwhelmed souls.
Be still, sister, and sing this to the King of your heart.
I'm still in love
You're still enough for me
Still all I want
You're still my everything
No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I'm old and gray
And all my days are numbered on the earth
Let it be known
In you alone
My joy was found
I've found my joy.
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
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Joy. I wrote about joy on my blog two years ago. I rambled on about pizza, and a dream and whether the dream was from my subconscious, from God, or just indigestion from the pizza I had eaten from the previous night.
I had written the dream down in my journal because I rarely remember dreams as vividly as that particular one and I know that God sometimes speaks to me through those kinds of dreams.
I'd like to share some of what I wrote then with you now. Not the dream part, but the joy part.
Just 7 days after the journal entry about the dream I wrote these words...
May 10, 2018. Thursday p.m.
WHERE IS THE JOY?!?!
That's it. Just three words.
I honestly don't even remember what happened to prompt me to write those words down, but apparently, at the time something had occurred that made me question God.
You see, over a span of two years, I had multiple people prophesy over me that God is going to restore my joy. I thought...what? I have joy! I'm not a 'joyless' person.
And then it occurred to me... when I was younger I had so much more joy that it was evident to others around me. My mama would tell me that I was such a happy little girl that I would go around singing all the time. When I was twelve she wrote a short poem about me. Here are the last lines of that poem...
...How does your laughter grow?
With God's merry blessing,
We can all learn a lesson__
By watching your inner glow!
In my teens, an older gentleman in the choir at my church nicknamed me Happy. Even my husband has told me that I don't sing around the house the way I used to. I realized that I'm not THAT joy-filled girl anymore. What happened?
A song is playing in my head. Cue the song, Where is the Love? sung by Roberta Flack. Only in my head, I am hearing the word love replaced with the word joy.
Where is the joy?
You said was mine all mine, 'till the end of time
Was it just a lie?
Where is the joy?
I know ...I know! The rest of the song is totally inappropriate to my point. Still...it's on replay in my brain. And so I cry out with the words of the psalmist, "Restore to me the joy of my salvation!"
Sometimes, life creeps in...disappointment, unmet expectation, family illness, death, you name it...bringing with it all the drama and trauma to destroy our boundless joy in the Lord. It can happen...and the boundless energy that joy brings is replaced with a 'tired' that just sits in your bones. You know what I mean? Even though we are relatively happy and still trusting in the goodness of God...that bone aching weariness can set in and steal our joy.
I think that I struggle with that weariness from time to time. Life can be hard. I struggled even writing this article about joy because I have been feeling the angst of the current climate of unrest in our world. When there is unrest, when there is uncertainty, in some sense we lose a bit of our security.
Security...we all long to feel secure, loved, safe, protected. When I was a little girl I felt all of that at once...loved, safe, protected, secure...all of it. Perhaps that is why I was a joyful child. Laughter came easy.
Even though my dad died when I was just 10 years old, my mother managed to continue to make us all feel safe and secure. As my mom explained to us, God had chosen to take my daddy home instead of letting him die the slow, painful death his doctors had predicted. God loved us so much that he took daddy home to not only prevent his suffering but our own as well. So, instead of such a traumatic event taking away my sense of security, it reinforced it because I was secure in knowing that God was taking care of me, my daddy, and our family. God is good. And my joy was abundant because I was not abandoned. I was not alone. I was secure in His hands.
As a child, the ability to trust God is so pure and simple. But then as we grow up, life happens, and our sense of security weakens. And we begin to ask God questions.
Job, who lost everything, had questions too. Pain tends to do that...pain from loss, physical pain...emotional pain...leaves us asking, "WHY?"
Job asked that same question from different angles. He wrestled with the big questions. God, what is your purpose in all of this? Please God, help me understand your ways! Why am I even here on this earth? I'm thinking Job surely lost his joy because in losing it all he lost his sense of security.
Job, had friends who failed him miserably. They began well...they took the time to just sit with him...not talking, just offering their presence. But then they opened their big mouths and began offering their own opinions as to why Job was suffering and it all went downhill from there. Job's pain actually worsened! There is no joy in being judged by one's friends.
In Job 38:1 we read...
"Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm..."
...and the answer continues with God's questions through four chapters! Those questions reveal the very nature and character of God. And while we know Job never questioned the existence of God, he certainly had been feeling abandoned by God. So, within all those questions, God was letting Job know that He was with him through it all. He had not abandoned Job.
God, who was with him through it all, pulled back the veil to reveal His presence at the most important moment of Job's life and Job replied...
"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you"
God restored Job and we are told that the Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. I'm thinking in all of that restoration the "joy of his salvation" was restored as well. He was again safe and secure in his relationship with God.
So if my premise is correct, that our joy is toggled to our sense of security. Then I need to ask myself, "Where are you looking to find that sense of security...of being held, being heard, being loved, and carried through the storm?
And the realization floods over me...God answered Job "out of the storm" because He was in the storm with him.
He is with me in this storm...He is carrying me...He hears me...He loves me! In His arms, I am safe and secure.
And tears of JOY flood my eyes! God is good!
WRITTEN BY: GAY IDLE
For more from Gay, head to her website: www.gayidle.com
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
John 15 is one of my absolute, hands-down favorite chapters in the Bible! Words penned in red spoken by my Savior, Jesus. I love the picture He paints for us. Check this out …
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit…
Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in Me…
I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
Ten times in the first eleven verses Jesus used the word “remain”. I hope you are stepping in the truth of the matter here. If we want joy ~ we must remain in Jesus.
I looked up that word remain since it is the obvious key to joy. This totally blessed my socks off! Are you ready for this? By definition it means to continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist. (Google Dictionary) Push pause and let that sink in.
Immediately the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” * came to my mind that says –
“Though none go with me
I still will follow
no turning back
no turning back.”
So, what does it look like to remain in Jesus Christ?
For starters, let’s get in the Bible and find out who this man is that refers to Himself as the Vine and the only One who can give us the joy that we are thirsty for. When you and I read the Bible and meditate on it, the Spirit of God will teach us not only who He is but also who we can be as His followers!
It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. A journey. That’s where the remaining comes in.
I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart March 12, 1981. My salvation and eternity were sealed that night! That part was once and done - I pray yours has been as well. With that established, let’s return to the analogy that Jesus gave us in John 15.
I became part of the vine that night. By reading the Bible, being taught and discipled by godly teachers and preachers, I have grown spiritually and the roots of my faith have gotten deeper. And guess what the fruit of that looks like? Yep, joy. Mmmmm say that word with me joy.
Joy is so different than happiness.
Happiness is dependent on my circumstances. Case in point: I purchased an adorable dress last summer. My post COVID quarantine-menopausal body has jerked the happy right out of my dance about that dress! See what I mean? Happiness is temporary and overrated!
Joy remains regardless of my circumstances because of who I am in Jesus Christ. Remember ~ it’s all about remaining in the Vine! The size of my dress doesn’t determine my identity nor the joy thereof! Can I get an amen?!
Now, take a sip of sweet tea or your favorite coffee and let’s switch gears.
Jesus gave us a heads-up in verse two of John 15. God, the Gardener, prunes every branch so that it will produce more fruit.
Sometimes God will cut things out of our life that brings us happiness. (Don’t spit that drink, sister!) He always prunes with purpose! He wants to produce something deeper in us. Something beautiful and more meaningful than temporary happiness. He wants us to have joy in His Son and our Savior!
The more I keep His commands and walk in His ways, the more He prunes non-essentials out of my life. As a result, the fuller and more complete my joy is!
I can’t produce joy in and of myself. No amount of retail therapy, pill, drink or earthly pleasure can bring me true, unadulterated joy! That, my pretty and wise sister, can only be found in Jesus Christ.
But take heed … you have an enemy that hates God and, therefore, hates you. Jesus gave us another heads-up about that schemer known as Satan. In John 10:10 Jesus warned us: “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
So, you know what we have to do? Guard our vineyard!
Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch the foxes for us – the little foxes that ruin the vineyards – for our vineyards are in bloom.”
Mmmmm, girl, when you remain in Jesus by spending time in His Word and begin understanding who you are in Him, your joy-fruit will be in full bloom! That’s when you better watch out! Satan will attack!
He hits below the belt and he will use the people we love the most to try and steal our joy! He uses financial hardships, family drama, workplace chaos and the like to kill and destroy your joy!
Don’t put up with that! O Holy No!
It’s times like this that we are going to run to Jesus and tell Him to catch those foxes that are trying to steal, kill and destroy our vineyard of joy! Because, listen to me, those ‘people’ are not our enemy! Paul told us in Ephesians 6 that we don’t fight against flesh and blood! There’s a much bigger war that has been waged! Before you freak out, there’s good news!
Jesus went on to tell us in John 15 and 16 that we would face all kinds of trials and tribulations in this world. So, girlfriend, let’s not be caught off guard by them. Don’t get down and discouraged! Because in John 16:33 Jesus said, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
(I can’t believe John didn’t use an exclamation point right there!!)
Whew, that deserves a HALLELUJAH!
That’s the Vine that I want to remain in right there! HE is my Source of joy and the ultimate Defender of my vineyard!
Let’s put this ensemble together …
If we want joy, we must …
*I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, WORDS: St. 1,2, Garo Christians; st. 3 John Clark
Written By: Tina Craighead
Tina Craighead is a speaker, blogger, and leads Still Waters Ministry. You can catch up with Tina on facebook, her website, or by email!
Photo by Nika Akin on Unsplash
I looked out the window of the kitchen at our little farm and saw my husband working in the yard. A little way away in the green grass, our middle daughter, Alora, was spinning circles. The green grass, the blue sky, the wind in her hair, the sun on her head, her blue dress and hot pink rain boots. It was a perfect moment. One of those that you want to capture in your heart. Your sweet little girl is as wonderful and innocent and free as the wind itself. She doesn’t doubt her worth or her beauty. She doesn’t worry about how she looks. She doesn’t worry about anything. This has to be part of what Jesus is referring to when he says we have to “become like little children” so we can enter into the kingdom (Matthew 18:3).
It is sad to say that along the way I have lost that child-like freeness. I am assuming some of you have as well. It makes me a little sad when I think about that loss. But I am reminded that God still sees me as his little girl. The thing about little girls, if you haven’t been around one lately, is that they are little sparking balls of joy. Even the ones that are rough and tumble tomboys! It is just something they can’t help! Where does this come from? I have thought about this a LOT lately. I have been reading a book written by someone I went to college with - Brad Montague. You probably know him as the adult behind Kid President. He wrote a book recently called “Becoming Better Grownups”. It is full of simple wisdom on the subject of how adults can become more like children and be better adults. It is really wonderful, and I think it is worth the read. He spends a good amount of time in the book talking about the concept of child-like joy. He even labels children as “joy rebels” because they can find joy in ANYTHING!
To me, joy is something that is deep within. Nothing can hinder it. Not a bad day, grumpy spouse, cranky children, messy hair...it is an attitude more than anything. James 1:2 even tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” And he even gives us a reason why in verses 3-4:
“because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
So if I understand this right, we are supposed to be happy even when things are not good because it will make us mature, complete, and not lack anything. That seems kind of important. I would like to feel like I am all those things. I would love to capture the feeling that I see in my daughter as she spins circles in the sunshine or after she comes across something hard and joyfully says “It’s ok, I can try again!” The hard part is getting back to that place after all the cynicism of the world has been drummed into our heads. I would like to share a few simple reasons to regain some joy:
WRitten BY: Angie Reese
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JOY… Have you ever looked at that word and just wondered what is it? Is it the appearance of happiness in ones life? Is it giddiness? Laughter? Smiling? What is it about that word that causes us to crave it so desperately? To see it in others when we ourselves don’t have it?
In James 1:2 (TPT)
My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!
Joy is a response. Joy is not something that we make up. Joy to me does not seem to happen by chance or be our natural human default. After all there are few times in my life when I have met or can claim that I have responded with joy immediately when things seem to be going in the dumps. Joy doesn’t mean that everything is fine and dandy.
Joy is a choice to respond to our circumstances knowing and trusting that God works in all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
So many times I have talked and seen people beaten up by that statement… Joy is a choice.
If you really trust God, then choose joy. We see it on t-shirts and coffee mugs. I have seen and heard and even been that person that that said or thought, in not so many words, "it’s your fault you are miserable because you are not choosing joy." And I remember every one of those people I listened to saying that "that did not make them feel better." It did not make a light bulb go on in their head as if to say, "duh, why haven’t I done that before." Instead they left feeling more and more defeated. Feeling even more of a failure than before and thinking that they just must not be good enough.
You know what I realized? I was wrong.
Joy is a choice to respond. Yes. But, it is not in response to our circumstances. It’s not created by our sheer will or desire. It is our response to draw close to our Father.
Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place.
1Chronicles 16:27(NIV) [emphasis added]
I use to believe that to choose joy you just needed to fake it till you make it. I would tell that to those around me. But I have come to realize that true joy, the kind of joy that shifts our circumstances and difficulties to invaluable opportunities to experience God’s presence can only be done by getting close to our Daddy.
So when people say that famous quote “choose joy”, they are only partly right. I was only partly right. Yes, joy is a choice, a choice to get closer to God than you were before. A choice to, despite how we feel and what is going on, to sit in His presence.
The funny thing is when we are going through hard times we often feel overwhelmed, exhausted, feeling like we are weak and can’t overcome, but the Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is my strength. When we choose to come into Abba’s presence we are filled with His joy which is our strength. Is is then that we can see our difficulties as opportunities to see God do what only He can do.
I love the passage that about the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
You don’t earn the fruit of the Spirit, but it is evidence of a relationship with our Perfect Daddy. The more time we spend with Him, the more we start to look like Him.
The more He can transform our minds. The more He can open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and give us hearts to understand how He is working all things for the good of those who love Him.
We don’t have to come to God faking it 'til we make it.
It says in Psalms 30:11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent, Lord my God, I will praise You forever.
God never asked us to just put a smile on and pretend like we don’t have difficulties. In fact, I believe that when we choose to come to Him right where we are at, in the good, the bad AND the ugly, it is a great gift that we can give to Him. No pretenses, no facade, just us and Him. It is an offering that that only we can give. That’s when He can show off the most.
Joy is not a choice that we make. Godly joy is a gift. A free gift. A gift that can only be received as a byproduct of spending time with our Father.
I want to do one last thing before I sign off today…
I want to apologize on behalf of any one who has ever said to you or made you feel that you are not enough. Anyone who has ever told you that joy is just a choice YOU have to make. I want to repent for those of us who have helped to keep you in the bondage of depression, anxiousness, and fear by our lack of understanding. I ask forgiveness for speaking lies over you and your situations. And I ask, Holy Spirit, that even through this writing, that You do what only You can do. Come and invade Holy Spirit. I invite you into the secret place with the Lord that His presence of strength and joy would fill you and overwhelm your circumstances so that you can see them as opportunities for Daddy to do great and wondrous things in your life.
Please don’t wait… He wants to see you… Yes, you. You are His beloved.
Written by: Alexandria Brown
For more from Alexandria, visit her website at www.alexandriabrown.org.
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If we are to make God our priority, we must understand why we worship Him.
We are to praise and worship God for both who He is as well as what He does for us.
The Bible says: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3, and, “Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!” Psalm 150:2
This tells us that as believers, we are to worship only the living God, not saints, religious persons, angels, or shrines.
Many times, we associate worship with music and singing. That is a wonderful form of worship, but it is only one form. We are to live a life of worship and that can include prayer, fasting, obedience, kneeling, and so much more.
We worship God because of who He is and to express to Him our love, devotion, and dedication.
He is not the “big guy in the sky” or the “man upstairs”. He is the creator of the universe, the alpha, and the omega (the beginning and the end), the all-knowing and the all loving God.
We were created to live in an atmosphere of praise and worship to the Lord. Everything changed in the garden and Genesis 3: 9-12 tells us that the fall of man introduced self-centeredness and self- pity and that it stifled our praise.
Remember, the church was born in a worship service. At Pentecost, it was the worship of the Lord because of the miraculous that ushered in the power of God’s Kingdom.
Pastor Jack Hayford said “Just as God created man and woman in His image, the gods we choose to worship manifest their attributes in the worshiper. So, in deciding what or whom to worship, you are making life decisions regarding your values, your priorities, and how you are to live.”
We become like who we worship. So, the more we worship God, the more we become like Him.
Worship also allows us to move the focus away from ourselves and toward God. Our greatest blessings come when we take the focus off us and onto Him.
If you are having a bad day, facing a trial or difficult circumstance…worship! It changes everything because it changes our focus from our problem to the problem solver.
Let’s focus this month on increasing our worship of the Lord for who He is through music, prayer, the Word, thanksgiving and serving others. Let’s dig deeper into the Bible and study worship in both the old testament and the new.
Written by: Sherry Poundstone
For more from Sherry, go to www.sherrypoundstone.com.
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There’s a story in 2 Chronicles 20 that is one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture and it has dramatically altered how I handle crises in my life. I’ll give you the reader’s digest version, but there are so many beautiful treasures hidden in this passage that I really want you to make sure you go read this short chapter this week and let the Word of the Lord minister to you, encourage you, embolden you, and empower you to listen and obey Him.
Here’s the cliff notes:
Judah (the southern kingdom) was about to be under attack by three enemy nations coming together to destroy them. King Jehoshaphat called for the entire nation to fast and pray together. God’s Spirit fell on a man named Jahaziel (whose name means “God gives visions” or “God sees”) and he prophesied that God would fight this battle for them, the location where their enemies would be hiding the next morning, and instructed that they needed to meet them at the battle lines and only hold firm while God rescued them. They obeyed and Jehoshaphat sends people to the front lines, not men with swords or shields, not warriors or champions, but singers instructed to trust God for victory and to sing praises to God. When they begin to sing praises, the enemy armies begin attacking each other until every single enemy fighter is dead. The Kingdom of Judah ends up taking three entire days to gather the spoils of war (money, precious jewels, etc.) because there were so many riches to be gathered.
In the New Testament, we see another similar story. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are thrown into prison, the inner dungeon with their feet in stocks so that they wouldn’t escape, after they were stripped and beaten severely. That evening they were praying and singing praises. Suddenly there was a massive earthquake that shook the entire prison. Their chains fell off and prison doors flung wide open along with all of the other prisoners’ chains and cell doors! They helped a prison guard receive salvation through Jesus and then his entire family and they were freed.
There are so many amazing things about both of these stories and so many treasures tucked into each passage of scripture for you to seek out, so please do that, but today we’re just going to talk about a few of them. Before anything else, I want to make sure we notice the response to the battle or trial that each of these three men took. First - prayer. They were met with the unexpected, the scary, the unovercomable, the impossible, the “end”, and they responded with prayer. The sought out God for direction as their first response, not last resort.
Ask yourself this right now: Have I been on my face before the Father seeking him out?
Jehoshaphat fasted. He even had his entire nation fast before the Lord. Have you considered fasting? Fasting is a denial of self to highlight our own brokenness and reliance on the Father. Fasting is intended to quicken our spirit to His voice and our heart to obedience.
The second response these men had to their trial: Praise. Notice it’s not the word for worship. It’s both the greek and the Hebrew word for praise - “humneō” which is a celebratory song (used in Acts) and “hâlal” which means to shine, to boast, and to act like a madman (that’s my favorite description - used in 2 Chronicles). They weren’t singing songs that were begging God to rescue them, to see them in the middle of their mess, to comfort them - at least that’s not what is recorded. What is recorded is that they were singing songs of celebration, boasting about God’s beauty and holiness, and acting like madmen while doing it! There was some joy to be found in those songs of praise! Not sorrow or fear or worry.
These were songs of declaration - not desperation!
Ask yourself this right now: Have I been weeping or rejoicing in my trial? Have I been declaring or despairing in my trial?
It was the praise that made way for the breakthrough! It was the praise that invited God to come and do what only He can do! And sis, you need a miracle right now, don’t you?
If that’s you today, I want you to boast about our God and make him shine right where you are, right this moment, whether you are alone in the car reading this, sitting in your living room with a horde of children, or wherever you find yourself right now. If you are ready for God to come and do what only He can do with the battle you face, girl you better start praising like a madwoman! You better start praising like you believe He is fighting on your behalf. You better start praising like you know He wins every war he wages! It's time to celebrate! There is a reward for that kind of faith! Jehoshaphat was rewarded with riches and treasures, Paul and Silas were rewarded with freedom and salvations. What reward is hidden in your victory?
Ask yourself this right now: Do I believe that God has a spoil of riches for me to receive through the battle I am facing now once I let Him fight for me?
When you focus on the praise, God wins the fight and rewards our trust in Him. What kind of great spiritual treasures are hidden in the battle you are facing? What precious truths and gems of wisdom are in the victory spoils of the fight you face? I can’t even begin to imagine what beauty God will bring from our enemy’s defeat, but I know it’ll take you more than three days to carry back all the spoils from the victory!
I want to leave you with some really solid truth so that when you are tempted to despair, you can arm yourself with scripture that will empower you to praise! Here are some of my favorite passages…
“But I promise you, no weapon meant to hurt you will succeed, and you will refute every accusing word spoken against you. This promise is the inheritance of Yahweh’s servants, and their vindication is from me,” says Yahweh.”
“A thief has only one thing in mind - he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect - life in its fullness until. You overflow!”
"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
“Who could ever separate us from the endless love of God’s Anointed One? Absolutely no one! For nothing in the universe has the power to diminish his love toward us. Troubles, pressures, and problems are unable to come between us and heaven’s love. What about persecutions, deprivations, dangers, and death threats? No, for they are all impotent to hinder omnipotent love, even though it is written:
You can’t sustain what you don’t feed so start feeding yourself God’s truth! Pray and seek His face. Give him the kind of praise that makes him shine, boasts about Him, and makes you act like a madwoman. Start speaking God’s truth over your life and believe Him for the victory. If you are overwhelmed, tired, scared, or anxious as you look at the battle in front of you, then it's probably time to start celebrating the goodness, the holiness, of God!
This is something I have declared over my own life that I want to share with you. I hope it is just another tool in your tool belt to help you stand firm in Truth, sing praise, and watch God win your fight! Declare this over yourself today… I am declaring this over your life too.
I am made for supernatural life. In your presence, I have total joy and you reveal the path of life. Your Spirit compels me to greater levels of love and power. I am aware that you are with me and I release your presence in every situation and to every person I encounter. What you say is true forever. Miracles, signs, wonders, power, and love follow me as I move through trials into triumph. You win every war you wage and you are winning my battle today. I receive the spiritual riches you have won for me that will empower me to pursue you wholeheartedly. Thank you for the victory!
WRITTEN BY: LYNDSAY TERRY
Read more from Lyndsay @ www.lyndsayterry.com.
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What’s worship really made of? Is it a list of pre-planned songs we sing at our Sunday morning services? Or is it our devotion to diligent Bible study and prayer? Or is it so sacred and beautiful that it’s hard to define? I’ve been asking myself those questions these days because my life has taken a turn in a direction I never expected. Let me back up so I can paint the picture for you.
I used to be a traveling worship leader and Christian music artist. In those days, the essence of worship meant singing mostly. I thought worship was all about congregational singing, as well as my own private singing unto the Lord, and of course, church attendance. Our lives were full of sacrifices and discomfort as we led worship services on very little sleep or convenience sometimes.
It was a dream of mine since childhood to write and share the music God gave me with the church at large. I got to live that dream out for a few years. But then, life for my husband and myself changed dramatically. Within one year, we closed our business, church that we pastored and eventually my dream ministry crumbled. It was overwhelmingly challenging to pick up the pieces of my broken life and move on. But somehow, by God’s grace I pressed on to the next season.
That season involved a banking career that served to polish some of the rough places in me. I refer to that time as a providential prison. I felt trapped and I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps you have been in one or currently find yourself there. If so, hold on because God has a purpose for you there.
One of the things I truly learned in my prison season of confinement was the foundational truths about worship. It’s more than a song, more than a religious service, more than a script we follow. Worship is a complete and total lifestyle that flows from a heart of adoration fueled by obedience. Simply put: we worship God by being obedient in whatever He tells us. It’s how we express our love for Him and to Him.
I want to back this up by looking at Abraham’s life of obedience and worship. After 25 years of waiting on the promise, God gives Abraham a son. I can only imagine the tears of joy Abraham and Sarah shed over their bouncing baby boy. I’m sure Abraham carried a gleam in his eye when he met new people and said, “That’s my boy, Isaac” with a lump in his throat and a shaky voice. “We waited a long time for him!”
I’m sure fatherly pride spilled over into everyday life when Isaac did even small things well, like watering the sheep, or cleaning up their pens. Abraham probably went overboard with his parental praise of Isaac. How could he not? Isaac was the child of promise. To say Abraham was a doting parent would probably be an understatement. Wouldn’t we all feel that way?
So we can all feel the stab of pain in Abraham’s heart when God issues the strong command in Genesis:
Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.
“Whom you love so much”........
Whom you waited so long for.....whom you cried over for many years.......your pride and joy.........your promise
Has God ever asked you to take the very thing He gave you and lay it down on the altar as a sacrifice? Perhaps a ministry that you care deeply about and waited for a very long time for? Or maybe it was a career you loved and you were at the top of the world there? What about a relationship you thought He brought into your life that was a promise fulfilled? But now He is asking you to put it on His brazen altar.
Friends I have been here. Actually, I am here right now. It’s not easy and it doesn’t make sense. But this is the essence of true worship: obedience flowing from a heart in adoration of God.
Abraham defines his act of obedience as worship:
The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
Abraham didn’t say he and Isaac were going to sacrifice an offering, he said “we are going to worship.”
We can make sacrifices all day long to try and show God our love and devotion, but that’s not worship. Those are nice and all, but it is obedience that moves God’s heart. Think for a minute about Saul when he refused to wait on Samuel to make the sacrifice but took matters into His own hands and made the sacrifice. He thought (as we mistakenly do sometimes) that God would honor the sacrifice because it cost him something and showed his piety and earnestness toward God. But as we all know, God was angry and declared that He would remove the kingdom from Saul. And just 2 chapters later Samuel says this:
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
And with those words he pronounces judgment and the removal of the kingdom from Saul. Sacrifice is not always worship friends; obedience is.
I believe the reason God chose David over Saul was his heart of obedience and worship. Yes he made mistakes, but his track record of obedience is quite astounding. He rarely EVER prematurely acted without a word from the Lord and then he always followed through with swift obedience. That’s why God referred to him as “a man after my own heart.”
Friends, just because something seems sacrificial and hard doesn’t make it the thing God wants from you. Sometimes whatever God is asking of you might involve sacrifice (like it did with Abraham) but even in that He provides what is needed! Just like he did with Abraham and the ram caught in the bushes, which by the way was a symbolic foreshadowing of Jesus, God will provide the sacrifice. Your act of worship is the obedience part. But sometimes God may be calling you to a quiet life of a wife and Godly mother to your children, but you really wanted a platform ministry. So you think sacrificing, staying up late, working really hard to get opportunities is what God wants from you and that it’s your duty to build this ministry, career, etc. But what if God is calling you to obedience to focus on your spouse and children right now? Can you do that?
The truth is that when you obey God to lay down your own ideas of sacrificing for Him and instead obey Him, He considers that worship! And He blesses and honors that. You will have the privilege of experiencing His presence in such a powerful way. In all of my years on this earth, no calling or success has ever compared to experiencing His powerful and beautiful presence in my life.
When I truly worship, I encounter the living God who fills me with such love I become undone. Let me give you my real life example, if you would be so kind to hear me out.
A couple of months ago, a group of us felt the call to start a prayer room. Within a month we were hosting multiple worship and intercession sets during the week and I was helping lead several of them. I enjoyed it immensely, but it was a sacrifice. Some of the sets were at 5am. We were interceding for our communities, churches, nation, the world etc.
I thought that God must be pleased with our sacrifice, surely. But then I started to feel a tug at my heart. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I wasn’t being a caring wife or mother. I was so focused on the prayer room that my family was getting crumbs from me.
The tug on my heart started to turn into overwhelming conviction. My husband works out of town and rarely comes home. I decided to decrease my outside ministry drastically and go be with him several times a month. I did it because I love him of course, but also because I felt the Lord issue a command to me. As a wife and mother, I feel my primary calling is to help my husband and care for my daughter as well. So I am obeying the Lord and focusing on my family.
That’s worship to the Lord, friends. It’s a beautiful, sweet smelling scent that is rising up to Him. Don’t cave in to the pressures of this world’s view and systems that tell you what’s important and that you have to sacrifice to get what you want. No, you have one need: to be obedient to your God. Sacrificing to get something from God is manipulation. Ouch! It’s counterfeit worship in real terms. That’s the reason God cannot accept it.
So I encourage you today to rethink your view on worship. Get into alignment with God and how He defines it. Let your worship and love for God flow from your obedience and experience His beautiful presence in your life. This is what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.
Written by: Shana Strange
Shana is a recording artist, worship leader, speaker, writer, and podcaster (and so much more)! Catch up with her on Facebook or her website: www.shanastrange.net
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