I will #REJOICE in the Lord

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Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will REJOICE in the LORD,
I will be JOYFUL in God my Savior.  

—Habakkuk 3:17-18

When Rick and I lived in the central valley of California, we lived in the midst of a farm belt that feeds the whole country. We lived near groves of almost every kind of fruit and nut trees. Cotton, strawberry and corn fields bordered farms and housing developments alike. I could therefore relate to the words of these verses as I gazed upon field after field of grape vines.

During the summer months, we could see certain fields of grapes drying in the sun to make raisins. And when we looked out into our backyard, there was our fig tree, several weeks past harvest but still in full leaf.

As I contemplated these verses, I wondered about Habakkuk’s strong faith. Here was a man who questioned his LORD’s motives and supposed inaction, yet he also learned to trust and REJOICE in Him, no matter what. His JOYFUL attitude makes his words sing.

What about me? Can I still “be JOYFUL in God my Savior” in spite of how I feel each day?

I have spent many years learning to live with chronic illness. In addition to several illnesses, my immune system doesn’t work that well after years of taking too many antibiotics. I seem to fall prey to all the little bugs that are going around, and it takes me more time than most people to recover. I have little energy to complete the smallest tasks in my home; even sweeping the floor seems a monumental project. But in spite of all this, I can still trust that God is taking care of me, that He is still in control, and that I can actually REJOICE in that fact.

This season of my life in which I’m struggling with different illnesses is a time when I can complain about the injustice of it, or I can instead be JOYFUL and thankful for God’s presence in my life, no matter what. I choose to be JOYFUL because God promises to be with us in every situation, good or bad.

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REJOICE in the Lord always.
I will say it again: REJOICE!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
—Philippians 4:4

Heavenly Father: Thank you for the JOY You provide in every situation. Help me to be Your light, your JOY and your promise of hope for others, even during times of pain and frustration. Amen.

The God Without … A Thanksgiving Message

I have shared this message from Grace Thru Faith before, but it is so good that it bears repeating. May you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

The God Without …
A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message by Jack Kelley

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.   For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Each year on the 4th Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US.  It’s a holiday begun by the early settlers to express their gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest, and it’s patterned after the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

After the harvest Israelites from all over the country would gather in Jerusalem for a week-long celebration. This was to commemorate the time God had spent with them in the wilderness and to give thanks for another good harvest. All year they saved up their tithes, the first-born of their flocks and herds, the first sheaves of grain, the first grapes, figs, olives and other fruit and vegetables and brought it all to Jerusalem in the fall where they cooked and ate everything in a national celebration of praise (Deut. 12:5-7).

After surviving a very difficult year in the new world, the Pilgrims of New England instituted a similar, though much smaller, thanksgiving feast, again with the intent of praising God.   This event finally became a national holiday in the US in 1863, but it took until 1941 to settle on the 4th Thursday of November as its official observance.

My parents made sure we never forgot that it was the Lord who provided for us and so Thanksgiving was a religious observance in our house. Prayers were offered and each family member gave thanks to the Lord for all the good things we had received.

Read the rest here.

Thankful for God’s Generosity

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It’s been awhile since I shared one of my devotionals that were published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleSince Thanksgiving is this week, I think this one is particularly appropriate. It is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

I have so much to be JOYFUL and THANKFUL for. Each day God provides me with exactly enough of everything I need. This year is special to me because He is using a new-to-me medication to keep my migraines away. Since mid-August, I have not had one migraine, and that in itself is cause for much celebration and thanksgiving. 

Beloved, what blessings from God are you especially thankful for today?

When I want to thank God
for His generosity . . .

To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church.
—Ephesians 3:20-21

Generous to a fault,
you [God] lavish your favor on all creatures.
—Psalm 145:16 MSG

All sunshine and sovereign is GOD,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
—Psalm 84:11 MSG

Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial.
 
—Psalm 111:3-4 MSG

. . . I will pray.

Bountiful God,

How can I look at my life and not be thankful for everything You have given me? I’m not referring to material possessions, although I am grateful for all those blessings. I’m thinking of the magnificent ways You help me get through each day.

When I need patience, I reach out to You—and You’re there. When I need courage—I reach out and You’re there. When I need hope, joy, faith—You’re there. You’re always there with all I need to face each day with dignity.

Some people would say that You are generous to a fault! I know You don’t have any faults, Lord, but it’s partly true. You give me so much more than I could ever even imagine, far more than I could ever ask for.

Thank You, Lord, for opening Your generous arms and bestowing on me so many blessings. Thanks for meeting my every need. Show me ways to be generous with others in return. I want to be like You in every way, but especially in this way—I want to be called “generous to a fault” in honor of my heavenly Father.

Amen.

Accustom yourself to the wonderful thought
that God loves you with a tenderness, a generosity,
and an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams.
—Abbe Henri de Tourville


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

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The Gift of Illness

This excellent article about a difficult subject is from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

The Gift of Illness

 

I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not on chemo. I’ve ended up in the hospital only two times, for brief outpatient visits. To see me, you’d assume I’m the picture of perfect health. But underneath this strong exterior lies deep weakness.

I’ve been given the gift of chronic illness. And while I would love to reject such a gift, it has been my invitation into a thousand moments of grace—to feel where I was once numb, see where I was once blind, hear where I was once deaf. It’s been my merciful undoing and my gracious remaking.

You see, in my own strength, pain-free and healthy, I am Pride and Self-sufficiency and The Greatest People Pleaser. But here, in the throes of weakness, I am forced into postures of humility and dependency upon God. This brokenness has surfaced every cranky, weary, impatient, mean, insecure, fearful, shortsighted aspect of my character. So I cry out to Him.

And I find Him.

Read the rest here.

Mourning Yet Praising

Today’s post is taken from one of Today in the Word’s devotionals by Moody Bible Institute. I think this pairs well with my Prayer When Struggling With Depression post. 

Is it really possible to be depressed or in mourning and still be praising God? This might sound like a paradox but it is indeed possible. We can mourn or be depressed about a situation and yet praise God because of who He is and how He is always with us. If we have trusted Him in the past we can trust Him again and again because we know that He will see us through this particular storm. And because He has been faithful to us before, we can count on that faithfulness every single day.

Beloved, please read on. I believe you will be blessed by this as much as I am.

Mourning yet Praising

StreamWaterfall-www.todayintheword.org

Read Psalm 42 

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you. 
—Psalm 42:6 

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Ten years ago, Chuck and Lynette’s daughter Joy died of complications from epilepsy. She was 28 years old. Joy was a vibrant Christian who had lived up to her name—everyone who knew her testified to her sweet spirit. “I miss her so much every day,” Lynette said. “We used to sing together in church, and I have so many special memories of singing and laughing together. When I sing those songs today, sometimes I cry instead of laugh, but I know that one day we’ll be reunited at the feet of Jesus.”

Lynette’s statement beautifully captures the paradoxical tension within biblical lament. We can feel loss and hope at the same time. We can sing hymns of praise even while we weep and mourn.Our reading for today, Psalm 42, concludes our focus this month on lament. Unlike some of the other lament psalms, this one does not move in a straight line from lament over circumstances to trust in God’s character. Throughout the psalm, the poet describes how desperation and faith wrestle with one another.

In the first four verses, the psalmist articulates his loneliness, torment, grief, and longing. The opening image of the deer panting for water vividly conveys the psalmist’s desperate yearning. Verses 5 and 6 serve as both a summary of the psalm and a hinge between its two sections. The psalmist indicates that he is both downcast and trusting God. He has hope that the time for praise will come.

But the psalm doesn’t end there. Expressions of trust in God don’t end the experience of suffering and sorrow. The psalmist experiences God’s love (v. 8) and also feels abandoned by God (v. 9). The psalmist persists in biblical lament—he is downcast and disturbed, but he also trusts in God and looks forward to praise (v. 11).

Apply the Word

Biblical lament defies our cultural expectations to process grief in certain ways or to just get on with things. You don’t have to feel better before you praise God. Coming to Him with your desperation and suffering is itself an act of trust. Make verse 11 your own personal prayer and statement of faith that you will one day praise God at the feet of Jesus.

http://www.todayintheword.org/titw_devotion.aspx?id=142179

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After the Election

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I purposely have not written anything about either Presidential candidate. That’s not what this blog is about. Plus I couldn’t in good conscience fully endorse either of the candidates. When I woke up this morning and read that Donald Trump had won the election, several thoughts were swirling through my mind. I feel the need to write about them today.

My prayers to God during this entire campaign were that He would not forsake our nation. He does have every right to do so because the United States of America, which was founded on Christian principles and beliefs, has strayed very far away from those roots. But still I prayed for Him to give us another chance, and I know many others were praying for the same thing.

God is still in control. He is the one who puts people in positions of authority, including our government leaders. Romans 13:1-2 says:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

This is what has given me peace about this election—no matter what the outcome. God is and will always be the great I AM, and His plan is always perfect. As my sweet hubby said the other night when we were talking about this, God’s will be done!

Let me leave you with these wise and truthful words that a close friend sent to me this morning:

After the election is over, we can still guarantee these results:


1.  God will still be on His throne.
2.  Jesus will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
3.  The Bible will still have every answer to every problem.
4.  The tomb will still be empty.
5.  Jesus will still be the only way to heaven.
6.  Prayer will still work; it will still make a difference,
…..and God will still answer prayer.
7.  The cross—not the government—will still be our salvation.
8.  There will still be room at the cross.
9.  Jesus will still save anyone who places
…..their faith and trust in Him.
10. God will still be with us always—
…..He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Thank You, Lord, for these truths!
 
And thank you, Kara, for sharing these truths with me and for allowing me to share them with my readers!

Wholehearted #Faith


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By Patricia Knight

When Scripture refers to the heart, it does not allude to the muscular pump located in our left chest. Heart and soul were commonly interchanged in Greek literature. The soul is identified as our invisible psyche where Jesus abides. The heart/soul symbolizes our intellectual, moral, and emotional control central. It contains personality, shelters memory and love, the longing for God, and is the only part of a believer transported to heaven immediately following physical death.

In modern times our hearts are described as the epicenter of our emotions and worship. It is a wellspring of life in which wickedness must not be allowed to take root. Jesus knows the thoughts and motives of our hearts at all times, discerning whether we are wholeheartedly devoted to him alone, hard-hearted unbelievers, or indifferent to His love and sacrifice. “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

God is involved in the heart affairs of our lives. He is far more interested in our souls, the inner characteristics of a follower of Christ, than with our outward features.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Amaziah was 25 years old when he became king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2a). Amaziah typically manifested obedience toward the Lord, but after conquering a pagan country, he brought their gods home. “He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them. The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah” (2 Chronicles 25:14-15).

Amaziah began his 29 year reign as king with zeal and determination to uphold God’s laws. What caused Amaziah’s downfall? At one time he apparently served the Lord with his whole heart. Though we have few details of King Amaziah’s  career, evidently he suffered gradual loss of commitment and devotion to his Lord and to his people. Selfishness and greed replaced wholehearted devotion. He no longer possessed intense passion for leading a nation with God as his priority and guide.

To serve God wholeheartedly is to express in thought or action, in the most exuberant but sincere way, with every part of one’s being, a dynamic commitment to walk with our Lord. Jesus commanded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you  love your neighbor as well as you do yourself’” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

What do our individual lives disclose about our heart focus? Do we display the fervent desire to serve God? Do we possess the eagerness and energy that should flood our hearts when we pray? Exhilarating joy bursts into wholehearted service when we are committed wholly to our Lord. Jesus gave His life as the ultimate gift to redeem our sins and to secure for us eternal life. As our response, Jesus expects a wholehearted relationship of absolute devotion, intense love, and unmitigated obedience. Jesus then extends to us dynamic power to follow his commandments.

Caleb was one of twelve Israeli men sent into the Promised Land for a fact-finding mission. Upon their return, ten of the spies claimed exaggerated details, intending to evoke fear among the masses. Caleb and Joshua presented realistic, encouraging information, asking the people to depend upon God’s power to lead them into triumphant victory in the new land. “God said, ‘Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to’” (Numbers 14:24).

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Many parents instruct their children from an early age, “Do a job well or don’t do it at all.”  If secular teaching devalues half-hearted efforts, our love and service for our Lord must attain a much higher standard. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

The adverse of wholeheartedness toward God was best exemplified by the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time Moses was negotiating release of the nation of Israel from slavery. God created ten major, horrific plagues affecting every aspect of the Egyptian’s lives. With each increasingly ugly plague, Pharaoh weakened his resolve to let God’s people go, until he begged Moses to appeal to God to discontinue the most current plague. Exhibiting patience and mercy, God granted Pharaoh’s request. But, when Pharaoh witnessed evidence of relief from the plagues, he sunk into his old behavior with an unyielding hard heart, ultimately refusing to permit the Israelites to travel. Pharaoh’s hardened heart revealed a consistently sinful life of unbelief, dispassion, and bitterness.

Hardheartedness implies refusal to take God and His Word seriously. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by his own deceit. Later, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart permanently to accomplish His purpose of releasing His children from slavery. If it had been available in Pharaoh’s lifetime, his heart/soul ECG would have printed a straight line of apathy and death.

Suppose your name and life accomplishments were included in Scripture, exposed for all generations to read.  Would God declare you as wholeheartedly devoted to Him? Or, would He have to clarify, as He did for King Amaziah, that you did right in God’s eyes, but not wholeheartedly? There are times in life when we display eager enthusiasm, animated dedication, or intense thirst. We love a spouse wholeheartedly; we often pursue a hobby with energy and commitment; we may thirst after knowledge. Most of us would accept a financial windfall with wholehearted ecstasy.

Why is a wholehearted lifestyle often applied to our physical endeavors, but ignored in our spiritual relationship to our Savior? Jesus desires that we open our heart/soul as His residence, to proclaim complete trust and zeal toward Him. Our relationship then becomes a wholehearted witness to the world that we are passionate and effervescent about serving our Savior. Let us perfect our wholehearted health and outreach, glorifying our Lord as we serve Him and others.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1-2,The Msg.).

Faith is a wholehearted affair!