Happy 2017!

Thank you for sticking with me
in spite of all the blog breaks I needed to take this year.
I am so thankful for each of you!

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Now may the God of HOPE
fill you with all JOY and peace in believing,
that you may abound in HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Sunday Praise and Worship: A Christmas Alleluia

I am taking a short break from blogging and will be back the second week of January. I hope you all enjoy a wonderfully blessed and JOYFUL Christmas and a happy new year!

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Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior!
He alone is the Reason for our ultimate JOY!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold,an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

—Luke 2:8-14

The song “A Christmas Alleluia” is by Chris Tomlin featuring Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan. Close your eyes as you listen to this wonderful song of praise and worship to our Savior.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
to God who alone is wise,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 

—1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV)

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!

For true and righteous are His judgments,
because He has judged the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her fornication;
and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

—Revelation 19:1-3 (NKJV)

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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Alive and Active

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Alive and Active

by Joni Eareckson Tada

 

“For the word of God is living and active…”  Hebrews 4:12

One minute the night skies over Bethlehem were cool and quiet; the next minute someone turned on the light switch.  Stars that were twinkling suddenly stepped aside as the veil of heaven parted for an instant.  An angel stepped through the curtain of night, threw out his (or her?) hands to let loose divine fireworks.  “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'” (Luke 2:13-14 KJV).

Not long ago, I decided to paint this scene.  But I wondered, How do you paint an angel… much less one rejoicing?  I knew that the moment was packed with powerful emotion.  After all, the Word of God is living and active.  Those angels must have been jumping up and down for excitement!  That’s all the inspiration I needed.

I also needed someone to model as an angel.  I called my secretary into the art studio and asked her to stand on a chair and drape a sheet around her.  “Now,” I said when she was ready, “throw up your arms and yell, ‘Surprise!'”  She gave me a funny look and so I added, “Think of your happiest memory!”  She rubbed her chin and then an idea donned.  Throwing back her head she hollered, “Whoopee!”  I quickly sketched the joy in her face.  In no time, I had my angel on the canvas.  It was the best painting of angels I had ever rendered.

This month you will see lots of Christmas cards and store windows displaying the word “Rejoice!”  You’ll sing about joy and carols and read about it in the pages of scripture.  Smile when you say it… see it… or sing it.  After all, the announcement of the angels was the Word of God, alive,  active, and full of joy!

You, Lord Jesus, are what the joy is all about.  This alone makes my smile effervescent.  I rejoice!


Taken from More Precious Than Silver.  Copyright © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada.  Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Hope for a Difficult Christmas Season

This is from Dayspring by Rachel Wojo.

Hope for a Difficult
Christmas Season

by Rachel Wojo

Christmas carols fill the air; smiles and laughter are everywhere. A stroll through town reveals glistening windows boasting of tasty holiday treats and shiny red ribbon. Twinkling lights dance in unexpected places and bounce off sparkling trees.  Whether you appreciate lots of gold and glitter or simple candles, the blessing of our Lord’s birth is celebrated with expression!

While Christmas is full of joy and celebration, the world is not exempt from sorrow during this season. For many of us, our hurting hearts experience intensified ache as memories flood our minds. Perhaps the memory is of a loved one now in heaven. Maybe the memory haunts as part of a painful past; something we wish could be changed or undone. Pain not only exists from the past, but in the daily present. Discouragement doesn’t stop lurking. Disease doesn’t stop waging its war. Death doesn’t pause for a few days.

When Jesus was born, His parents didn’t plan a gender reveal party. No one ordered a baby shower cake. Oh, Mary, yes, as the mother, she prepared for the arrival of her baby. But a business trip for tax purposes was probably the last thing on her agenda. Riding a donkey most likely would have been her last wish in her ninth month of pregnancy. The point is: Jesus wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. Despite the stable which most of us would deem unsuitable accommodations, the Light of the World made His grand entrance in the form of a little baby. Human flesh held the Son of God and the glory of the night could not be contained. Angels sang their glory to God and hope, true Hope for the world was born!

Read the rest here.

Abundant #Joy

This is an excellent post by Sarah Walton of Set Apart: Hope on the Road Less Traveled.

Abundant Joy is Found
in the Presence of Christ,
not in the Absence of Pain

“Oh Lord, for years I have prayed for answers, healing, and understanding in this suffering you have allowed. Yet they have seemed not to come. Many have prayed to you on our behalf, as we have sought wisdom from the doctors you provided, and have longed for redemption of what’s been lost. By your grace, we have persevered through trial after trial, trusting  that you would uphold us and bring forth good from all our pain.

Yet, many answers we have hoped for haven’t come in the ways we desire. The world’s solutions to our pain have left us discouraged, confused, and fighting hopelessness, while the trials, burdens, questions, and uncertainties remain the same. 

I have longed for, cried, and pleaded for you to bring us out from under the pain and heaviness of these trials into a place of abundance. I have asked you to lift these crushing burdens, and carry us through the pounding waves and the raging fire that threatens  to consume our hope, testimony, and lives. 

However, in my desire for answers, I have missed something wonderful. You have answered our prayers – though different than I expected. You have been near, intimately working deep within our hearts as we have laid down our hopes and desires of this world. While you have chosen not to remove the heartache and overwhelming circumstances from our lives, you have done something greater. You have brought us into a place of abundance. For while I have been waiting for this place of abundance to come in the form of relief, you have instead brought it in the midst of the very trials I desired to be freed from. 

This place of abundance has been found in the presence of Christ, not in the absence of pain. 

Read the rest here.

I’m Joy-Happy

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I’m Joy-Happy

By Joni Eareckson Tada

“But may the righteous be glad and REJOICE before God;
may they be HAPPY and JOYFUL.”

—Psalm 68:3

We’re often taught to be careful of the difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness, it is said, is an emotion that depends upon what ‘happens.’  Joy by contrast, is supposed to be enduring, stemming deep from within our soul and which is not affected by the circumstances surrounding us.

It’s an appropriate linguistic distinction, I suppose.  But I don’t think God had any such hair-splitting in mind.  Scripture uses the terms interchangeably along with words like delight, gladness, blessed.  There is no scale of relative spiritual values applied to any of these.  Happiness is not relegated to fleshly-minded sinners nor joy to heaven-bound saints.

The terms are synonymous in their effect and too difficult to distinguish when we experience either one.  Would you, for example, respond to the wedding of your daughter with joy or with happiness?  Are you happy that your friend came to know Christ or are you joyful?  Is the moment of euphoric delight in worship of Him on Sunday morning just a happenstance or just as much a part of Jesus’ promise regarding our redeemed souls?

To rob joy of its elated twin, happiness, is to deprive our soul of God’s feast.  Seek both as part and parcel in all circumstances.  When your soul is stirred by a deep contentment, be happy.  When a delightful moment strikes that is quite outside yourself, be joyful.   Don’t think about which one you are supposed to feel.  Accept them both as a gift from a God who is rich in all such emotions.

Lord, I seek the blessing of a joyful heart, the gladness of a happy countenance, and the delight of Your eternal pleasure today.

Blessings,

Joni and Friends

(Emphasis mine)


Copyright © 1998. More Precious Than Silver, Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Experiencing Happiness in Christ, Even Through Depression and Sorrow

Experiencing Happiness in Christ,
Even Through Depression and Sorrow

By Randy Alcorn

The following is a recent interview I did on the topic of happiness. I appreciated being able to address how someone who is depressed can still move toward experiencing a deep happiness and joy in Christ, which is a question I’ve been asked about frequently since my book was released.

Question:  When you look at happiness, is there a distinction between joy and happiness?

Randy: Interestingly, this has been taught as if it were fact for many years, and there have been many sermons that say joy and happiness are two different things. But we get them both wrong, because people end up saying things like “Joy is not an emotion” and “Joy is not really based on anything; it‘s some transcendental, vague sort of thing. But don‘t seek happiness, because that‘s from the world, and involves sin.”

Well, a lot of people do seek happiness in sin, just like they seek joy in sin. But God is the true source of happiness, delight, and joy. In my study for Happiness, I went back to the Hebrew and Greek words and saw how there are many of them that are translated in various versions as “joy,” “gladness,” “merriment,” “happiness,” “delight,” “pleasure.” These words all have overlapping meanings. Ninety percent of a Hebrew word that‘s translated “joy” overlaps with one that‘s translated “gladness” or “happiness.” (I’m including here a diagram from Happiness, illustrating this.)

There’s been a false and negative distinction that‘s been made between joy and happiness. Unfortunately, the message we send to those both inside and outside the church is, “Seeking happiness is superficial and shallow. Go out and get it in the world, but you won’t find happiness in God.” But all people seek happiness, and because they do, we’re basically telling them, “Stop seeking what God Himself wired you to seek.” What we should be saying is, “Seek your happiness in the right place—in God Himself.”

Read the rest here.


Shared by permission of Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org