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Shout for Joy

 

ShoutForJoy

Shout for Joy

Shout for joy, O heavens;
rejoice, O earth;
burst into song, mountains!
For the LORD comforts His people
and will have compassion on His afflicted ones
—Isaiah 49:13

 

Here comes the bus!

The entire camp staff had assembled to greet our campers. We gathered in a circle, each in turn offering prayers for these precious children who had been placed in our charge for the week.

Years ago, I was one of the counselors at this camp for abused and abandoned children. Because of all the hurt, pain and anger they experienced every day, we were determined to show them the joy, love and grace of their Heavenly Father.

We heard the rumble of the diesel engine before we saw the bus and smiled nervously before turning to greet the unknown faces in the windows. We waved, wondering if they were as nervous as us—probably more so.

The bus stopped in front of us and the door opened. When Peter, our ‘fearless leader,’ appeared at the top of the steps, we began waving again and welcomed our little visitors with shouts and whoops. Peter smiled his approval at our enthusiasm, then yelled, “Are you ready to meet your kids?” We clapped as hard as we could and were rewarded with smiles and waves from many of the children.

Peter stepped out of the bus and consulted his clipboard. Every time he yelled a camper’s name, we jumped, clapped and shouted a spirited welcome. The children seemed to enjoy the noise and attention so we continued to act like crazy fools, hopping and jumping in accompaniment to our shouts of welcome.

These children, who usually had no hope or joy in their lives, were like sponges in our care. They soaked in the wonderful news about a Father Who truly loves and cares for them and during that short week, learned how to turn to Him for comfort and peace.

Unlike those little children, we’re old enough to understand that life isn’t always easy. Instead of lamenting what we can no longer do, let’s try shouting and singing joyfully for what we do have. No matter what is going on in our lives, God is always there with us and shouldn’t that make us want to shout for joy?

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Hidden with Christ

 

HIDDEN WITH CHRIST

Col3-1-3--set your mind on things above

Since, then, you have been raised in Christ, set
your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at
the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things. For you died, and your life
is now hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

 

What does it really mean to be hidden with Christ? 

The word “hidden” means covered, concealed … in other words, safe. It means that this very day, I am safe in Christ’s arms as one of His very own children.

This is a tremendous comfort, especially when life throws us curve balls. So often we plan something only to find we don’t have the energy to accomplish that plan. Or perhaps our pain is so bad that we can only lie in bed and brood about how our illness interferes with the stuff of life. That’s how we start believing we’re not much good to our loved ones or anyone else.

Well, I’m here to tell you that God uses everything and everyone to His advantage, even those of us feeling yucky and unproductive.

My Mom was a good example. For 11 long years, she suffered with congestive heart failure with its associated complications. One time in the midst of another terrible bout of pneumonia, we were told she only had about two months to live. But God apparently had more for her to do here on earth because she lived quite a few years after that!

My mother raised up a family of five girls. She was always cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry or a host of other household tasks. After she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, she had to learn to learn to pace herself to get through each day.

A great deal of her time was spent in her recliner and what did she do to keep busy? She prayed! Mom was in constant communication with her Savior, and found such complete comfort and strength in Him. She learned what it means to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” She focused on the eternal rather than the temporary, and God continued to use her in spite of her limited physical abilities.

So take heart, Beloved. You are much more important to God than your particular set of circumstances. God can use you in your present situation to show His love to those around you!

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Great is His Faithfulness

Great is His Faithfulness

Lam3-21-23VictoriaHarborSunset

 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.
—Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices:
to dwell on our misery
or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.”

Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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4 Principles for Overcoming Fear [Precept Ministries Repost]

The other day on their Established BlogPrecept Ministries posted this great article about overcoming fear.

4 Principles for overcoming fear,worry,doubt,inductive bible study,precept ministries

4 Principles for Overcoming Fear

Fear unleashes a host of doubts. It chips away at our confidence in God’s goodness. If Jesus can sleep in the storms of the Sea of Galilee, is he asleep in our storms? Does He care? Our minds continue, “If God doesn’t care, then we must take control.” We become control freaks because we perceive a loss of control and somebody has to do something!

The disciples had every reason to trust Jesus. They had heard Him teach the Word and had even seen Him perform miracles, and yet they still had little faith in a crisis, when their lives were at risk.

Read the rest here.

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Living by Faith

 

Heb11-13--faith-cross

All these people were still living by faith when they died.
They did not receive the things promised;
they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
And they admitted that they were
aliens and strangers on earth.
—Hebrews 11:13

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A writer colleague of mine once wrote me about her mother’s recent death. She said she missed her mother a great deal but didn’t wish her back because the last months of her illness were terrible. At the same time, my own mother was struggling with various life-threatening illnesses and we didn’t know how much longer she would be with us.

As I read my friend’s words, I knew I would feel the same way when it came time for the Lord to take Mom home. Although I love my mother dearly, she struggled so much in the last few years of her life. She shared with me more than once that she was ready to be with Jesus. She knew—by faith—that there was a much better life for her in heaven with Jesus.

Can I get a huge AMEN on that?

Faith.

Paul describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). So many of our ancestors lived by faith: Abraham, Enoch, Noah and David, to name just a few. They lived with the hope promised to all of us by God our Father—the hope of living an eternal life free of cares or worries.

Have you ever wondered if this was easy for them?

Beloved, faith and trust go hand in hand. Our Biblical ancestors understood that. They trusted in a God they could not see and had faith in the His promises. We can follow their example by faithfully leaning on the only One who truly cares and understands our pain and frustration.

Faith isn’t the ability to believe
long and far into the misty future.

It’s simply taking God at His Word
and taking the next step. 

—Joni Eareckson Tada

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Faith is taking the first step
even when you don’t see the whole staircase. 
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called
when you made your good confession
in the presence of many witnesses.
—1 Timothy 6:12

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Day by Day Renewal

Saturday

On this Sweet Saturday, please remember that although we may lose heart during very trying circumstances, God does not lose heart with us. He is always ready to enfold us in His everlasting arms and remind us that through the pain we are being renewed day by day.

Day by Day Renewal

2Cor4-16-18


“Coffee Break: Recharge Your Brain”
read an Internet headline and could I ever relate to that! I am definitely a coffee drinker and very thankful that its pick-me-up properties help ease me into my day. I awaken foggy brained most days, but after an hour or two of java sipping, I feel better able to face whatever the day holds.

JustPourTheCoffeeAfter reading that headline, it occurred to me that if coffee can boost our energy levels, how much more could we be recharged by diving into the Word of God?

In this particular Scripture passage Paul is urging us to not dwell on our present circumstances and trials, but rather to focus on God’s grace in our lives.

I am always impressed by how often Paul—who continually praised God in the midst of the many trials, persecutions and imprisonments he endured—encourages us to look outwardly to God rather than inwardly focusing on our daily concerns.

What an example Paul is! He never lost heart over his dire circumstances and in fact urged his followers to use these situations to draw closer to God in order to be spiritually and emotionally renewed. Paul’s close relationship with the Lord gave him the confidence to rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength when things were toughest for him.

Beloved, we can do the same thing! During those times when we feel we positively cannot go on, let’s not let fatigue or pain keep us from drawing closer to God and renewing ourselves with His refreshing spiritual nourishment.
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Our Shelter in the Storm

WonderfulWednesdays
Sometimes I write about things that have happened in my life and then put them aside for a future time. The other day I was thinking about my Mom and remembered that I had written something about one of the times I was with her. This incident happened a couple of years before the Lord took her home.

Our Shelter from the Storm

Is25-4--ShelterFromTheStorm


You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
—Isaiah 25:4 

My mother and I watched as high winds hurled the driving rain against the living room windows. We were supposed to leave in a little while to visit Dad in the rehab hospital where he was undergoing physical therapy after knee replacement surgery.

Mom started to get ready but I talked her out of going. Her long battle with congestive heart failure and angina has left her very weak, and it doesn’t take much to stress her. I thought it better for her to stay snug and cozy at home this time, so I went alone.

As I walked out to the car, the high winds almost carried my umbrella away and I was glad Mom had agreed to stay home. She would have gotten soaked in her wheelchair and again while transferring to the car. The stress of that could have caused her to have another episode in which she had trouble breathing.

I felt the assault of the rain and wind on the car as I drove to the hospital, but was comforted knowing that I was protected and dry inside. It struck me how much this resembled living with chronic illness. Even though we are battered by our health problems, God protects us in much the same way. He is our refuge in the midst of the physical and emotional storms we experience every day.

Chronic illness is not easy to cope with but what a privilege it is to be able to lean on Jesus to get through the storms in our lives. Just when we feel we’re going to drown in our pain, God surrounds us with His arms—our refuge and source of joy—especially in the midst of the pain.

Jesus-snuggling-a-lamb

Beloved, when it all gets to be too much, just turn to Jesus and snuggle within His comforting arms.

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Suffering Well [repost]

I published this around the same time last year and thought it would be a good idea to share it again.

--SweetSat

It may be strange to have a post about suffering on a Sweet Saturday, but if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ this special message will be sweet to you in its truest sense.

I follow the Desiring God blog, and last week this particular post by Jonathan Parnell greatly spoke to me. This is the Philippians 3:7-8 passage to which Mr. Parnell refers:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ… —Philippians 3:7-8

Beloved, I pray you are edified by Mr. Parnell’s words too.

How Christians Prepare for Suffering

By Jonathan Parnell | Mar 07, 2013 12:00 am

Original

The apostle Paul suffered. Did he ever.

He was imprisoned. He was beaten, often near death. He took 195 total lashes from his Jewish kinsmen on five occasions. He took three pummels with rods. He was once stoned — and then also shipwrecked three times. Then there are the endless dangers of travel in the first century, plus countless other experiences mentioned and unmentioned in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:21–33).

It doesn’t take long until we wonder how in the world he did it. How did he take so much pain? So much loss? How did he prepare for suffering?

The answer is in Philippians 3:7–8.

Counting Everything As Loss

In the 1992 sermon “Called to Suffer and Rejoice: That We Might Gain Christ,” John Piper unfolds the significance of Paul counting his gain as loss. Basically, the apostle took a long look at his life apart from Christ. All the things that he valued — his Jewish pedigree, his place in the upper echelon of religious society, his law-keeping — he took a long look at this list and wrote “LOSS” over it with a giant Sharpie.

And then we went a step further.

It wasn’t just the past values of his personal life. It wasn’t just “whatever gain he had.” Paul looks out into the future and declares everything as loss. Everything out there that could pass as positive. Everything good that he has yet to experience and everything which he will never experience. Compared to Jesus, everything is loss.

This Is Normal Christianity

And lest we think this puts Paul on a pious pedestal, that he is at a spiritual level we’d never reach, Piper reminds us that this sort of reckoning is normal Christianity (Matthew 13:44; Luke 14:33). To consider Jesus better than everything else in the world is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

It may be worth reading that last sentence a couple more times, until it feels uncomfortable. Many of us are so quick to console our hearts when the least bit of unsettling winds blow through. But what about conviction? It’s a good thing not to be comfortable with a watered-down Christianity foreign to the Bible. It’s not works-righteousness to say that saving faith in Jesus means we have to really love him. It’s works-righteousness to think that our really loving him is the reason we’re saved. Paul said that everything is loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Paul said that and so should we.

Jesus Is Better

And that’s how Paul prepared for suffering. He saw Jesus as superior to everything else. Piper lays it out this way:

Suffering is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment — reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, sexual life, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer. But if we have followed Paul and the teaching of Jesus and have already counted them as loss for the surpassing value of gaining Christ, then we are prepared to suffer.

This means that if we treasure Jesus, then every aspect of suffering in our lives is losing something we have already declared as loss.

If when you become a Christian you write a big red “LOSS” across all the things in the world except Christ, then when Christ calls you to forfeit some of those things, it is not strange or unexpected. The pain and the sorrow may be great. The tears may be many, as they were for Jesus in Gethsemane. But we will be prepared. We will know that the value of Christ surpasses all the things the world can offer and that in losing them we gain more of Christ.

Loving Him Today

None of us knows the sorrows that may meet us tomorrow and are sure to meet us if Jesus tarries. We don’t know what hardships God will call us to walk through. But even though we don’t know them, we can prepare for them. And the way we prepare for afflictions then is by gaining Jesus now.

It will not minimize the pain. Not at all. But we will know, even in the darkest night, that Jesus is our God and all, that he is our Rock and treasure, that he is enough.

The way we suit up for our sufferings tomorrow is by cultivating our love for Jesus today.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-christians-prepare-for-suffering

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My Consolation

Wonderful Wednesday

It has been quite a long time since I’ve posted anything new in my Wonderful” series on the Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord, so I think it is time to share another one.

1Thes-1-5

The Consolation of Israel

There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. —Luke 2:25

For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. —1 Thessalonians 1:5

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Simeon was just and devout and waited for the “Consolation of Israel.”  “Consolation” means “paraclete” (One coming alongside) as we think and speak of the Holy Spirit who comes to abide in and lead us out in our daily life. Simeon was waiting for the deliverance of the Jews by the coming of the Messiah. They did not as a nation receive Him, but some did and were consoled, and Israel shall yet have the promised consolation, as Paul was comforted by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5). 

Lord, may we also rely upon the abiding comfort of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit all the day. Amen.

[Taken from Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord, by Charles E. Hurlburt and T. C. Horton. Copyright © 2002 by Barbour Publishing, Inc.]

My thoughts

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” Your love, O LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul. —Psalm 94:18-19 

Psalm-94.18.19

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Years ago people with whom I worked gave me the nickname Smiley. Someone even found a smiley face poster and placed it in my workspace. I guess I’ve always been an optimist no matter how bad things are. But some have not believed this to be a good
thing, rather that I should be more of a realist.

I say there is plenty of reality surrounding me every day that I don’t like at all. There have been times I’ve been so anxious about  my situation, I’ve lost sight of the most important thing of all: my relationship with God. Whenever I concentrate too much on the reality of things, I focus more on myself and my circumstances and I lose sight of the Lord.

In Psalm 94:18-19, we are assured that our Lord is ever waiting to console our anxiety and to support us in our times of greatest need. I’ve personally found that every time I turn from my pain and frustration to the face of the One who loves me and cares for me so much, my viewpoint completely changes. Instead of the harsh reality of my illnesses, I feel surrounded by a love too great to measure.

It is as if God’s arms are holding me close in a calm, soothing embrace.

I’d much rather be known as Smiley than Grouchy any day. Who knows? My outward smile may reach inside someone else’s hurt and help them see that they are not alone in their pain, that there is One who is ready to console them right there and then.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, some days are more difficult to get through than others. Just when I’m feeling a little better, I’ll have a day that brings me to my knees. But maybe that’s exactly what you want from me, and if so, then by Your grace I will smile as I look to You for my consolation. Amen.

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Handling the Impossible Moments in Life

Gen17-1-ElShaddai

Life is hard. That’s an undeniable fact. We struggle in so many ways daily, wondering if life will ever get any easier. I firmly believe that if life was easy here on earth, we would probably not yearn for our heavenly home!

This wonderful article about El Shaddai is from Precept Ministries, one of my favorite sites. I have enjoyed many Precept Bible studies and always learn a lot from them. In fact, my New American Standard (NAS) Bible is an International Inductive Study Bible (IISB) written by Precept Ministries and published by Harvest House. This is the Bible my dear friend Donna gave me for my birthday way back in 1997, and is marked up with all kinds of notes and highlighting. It has been my go-to Bible ever since. Here’s a peek:

AnnaBible1

See what I mean about all my notes, markings and highlighting? I’ve started using a couple of different Bible apps on my iPad, but my NAS Bible is still the one I consult most often.

The blog post I’m sharing here today was published last year on the Precept Ministries’ Established blog. I printed it out and kept it for future use because the subject is very near to my heart. 

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God’s Name for the Impossible Moments in Life

The names of God reveal the character of God. And, knowing the character of God brings comfort to the hurting, healing to the broken, peace to the anxious, and confidence to the fearful. Perhaps no name brings more confidence to God’s people than the name God Almighty, or El Shaddai.

Read the rest here.

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Beloved, our Lord God Almighty—our El Shaddai—is always with us. All we have to do is cry out to Him for help and comfort when we need it. 

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