Sorrowful Yet Always #REJOICING

As you know, my theme this year is all about JOY. When I read the following in my daily Streams in the Desert devotional recently, I knew I must share it with you. It is wonderful!

2Cor-6-10--AMP

 

…sorrowful, yet always REJOICING.
—2 Corinthians 6:10

SORROW was beautiful, but his beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the woods. His gentle light made little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss of the forest floor. And when he sang, his song was like the low, sweet calls of the nightingale, and in his eyes was the unexpectant gaze of someone who has ceased to look for coming GLADNESS. He could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to REJOICE with those who REJOICE was unknown to him.

JOY was beautiful, too, but hers was the radiant beauty of a summer morning. Her eyes still held the HAPPY laughter of childhood, and her hair glistened with the sunshine’s kiss. When she sang, her voice soared upward like a skylark’s, and her steps were the march of a conqueror who has never known defeat. She could REJOICE with anyone who REJOICES, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to her.

SORROW longingly said, “We can never be united as one.”

“No, never,” responded JOY, with eyes misting as she spoke, “for my path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom when I arrive, and songbirds await my coming to sing their most JOYOUS melodies.”

“Yes, and my path,” said SORROW, turning slowly away, “leads through the dark forest, and moonflowers, which open only at night, will fill my hands. Yet the sweetest of all earthly songs—the love song of the night—will be mine. So farewell, dear JOY,  farewell.”

Yet even as SORROW spoke, he and JOY became aware of someone standing beside them. In spite of the dim light, they sensed a kingly Presence, and suddenly a great and holy awe overwhelmed them. They then sank to their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of JOY,” whispered SORROW, “for on His head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. And before Him all my SORROW is melting away into deathless love and GLADNESS. I now give myself to Him forever.”

“No, SORROW,” said JOY softly, “for I see Him as the King of SORROW, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of terrible agony. I also give myself to Him forever, for SORROW with Him must be sweeter than any JOY I have ever known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in GLADNESS, “for no one but He could unite JOY and SORROW.” Therefore they walked hand in hand into the world, to follow Him through storms and sunshine, through winter’s severe cold and the warmth of summer’s GLADNESS, and to be “SORROWFUL, yet always REJOICING.”

All emphasis mine

Copyright © 1997. Streams in the Desert, by L. B. CowmanZondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Complex Creativity

Pitcher Plant

Complex Creativity

By Patricia Knight

All our enemies have gloated over us;
panic and pitfall have come upon us…
—Lamentations 3:46-47

 Lest we fail to recognize that all of God’s creations are spectacular, consider the amazing complexity of the pitcher plant.  It is so named to reflect the modified leaves rolled to resemble a receptacle such as a pitcher. Indigenous to marshy forests of the American continent, the pitcher plant is carnivorous, possessing a mechanism called a pitfall trap. The trap is a deep pit filled with digestive fluid. Insects are attracted to the plant’s cavity by visual lures or by its sweet-smelling nectar. The rim of the pitcher plant is wet and slippery, causing prey to fall into the trap. The one-way insidious pit is aided by downward growing hairs, waxy scales, or guard cells on the interior of the plant to ensure prey have no means of escape. Liquid inside the pitcher plant drowns and dissolves the insects, converting them into nutrients and minerals.

How many pitcher plants have we encountered in our personal lives? Disappointment, disillusionment, and discouragement are all capable of entrapping us. If we aren’t diligent, those same lures are capable of engulfing us with negative attitudes that, over time, drown our hope and dissolve our faith, leaving us no escape from danger or strife.

Satan is a spiritual pitcher plant. Like the insects that are attracted by fragrance and color, Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), though in reality he is the prince of evil and darkness. Satan isn’t the red-horned monster wielding a pitchfork as frequently depicted in cartoons. However, he always appears as something pleasing and captivating, making temptation attractive and irresistible. If Satan were to visibly appear to us, he would be stunningly beautiful and charming.

It is Satan’s purpose to rob us of joy and fellowship with our heavenly Father. He exploits God’s gifts to us by misrepresenting them. Reflect on his cunning methods of manipulating Eve in the Garden of Eden, misquoting God’s words to suit his purposes.

Satan is the epitome of sin and darkness. He is evil to the core, not possessing one good intention. The only way we are able to protect ourselves from his evil intrusion into our lives is to surround ourselves internally and externally with the overpowering love of God.

Don’t be a victim to Satan’s manipulative gimmicks. Claim the victory Almighty God offers:

James4-7-8--AMP

“Submit yourselves, then to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

God is a gentleman; He never cajoles or begs. He waits patiently for us to call upon His name. Immediately our Lord responds with forgiveness of any wrongdoing and surrounds us with His love and grace. We need only accept His free gift of salvation as He releases our bondage of sin.

The devil is the enemy of every believer. Each Christian is engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan and his minions. Our Lord doesn’t expect us to fight against Satan, for our strength is inadequate, but God’s power is undefeatable. We are urged to stand firmly as our Lord defends us. “Be prepared. You’re up against more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon” (Ephesians 6:15-17, The Message).

In spiritual battles, God has provided two weapons for our defense: the Word of God and prayer with God. Jesus quoted the living Word of God as His defense against Satan’s methods when He was tempted in the wilderness. The Word of God is also referred to as the sword of the Spirit. “His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what” (Hebrews 4:12-13, The Message).

As we immerse our thoughts in the Word of God, He guides our actions. God opens our hearts to understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. His Word is filled with assurances of love and grace, which He delights in lavishing upon us. When we spend quality time in sincere, secret prayer, Jesus intercedes for us to the heavenly Father.

Our second weapon of defense against Satan is prayer. If on earth we desire to know people more fully, we spend time communicating with them. The same holds true with God. Not only do we talk, but we also listen, as God directs us into His paths of righteousness.

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice as the perfect Lamb when He offered His one holy life to redeem the sins of those who believe in Him. Due to Christ’s grace, God now looks at us through Jesus’ righteousness. We still face temptation, as Jesus did when He walked this earth. But temptation only leads to sin when we yield to Satan’s lures.

The consequence of slipping away from God’s care is that Satan allures us with his devious, nefarious purposes. Like the pitcher plant, Satan’s methods are slippery. Before we realize it, we have succumbed to his wily ways, drowning in bitterness and anger, dissolved in hate, and digested in evil.

“Now that we know what we have—
Jesus, this Great high Priest with ready access to God—
let’s not let it slip through our fingers.
We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
He’s been through weakness and testing,
experienced it all—all but the sin.
So let’s walk right up to him
and get what he is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help”
(Hebrews 4:14-16, The Message).

Wait For the Lord

Wait-Walk-neonwaitwalk1-www_trafficsignalmuseum_com

Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
yes, wait for the LORD.

—Psalm 27:14

No one likes to wait.

I can remember when the only ways we got in touch with each other was to phone them or send them actual written letters. I know, I’m dating myself here! Then email became the preferred method of communication because it was so much quicker.

We still use email but most of us now text our messages to each other because that is even faster. And don’t even get me started on how much we rely on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to instantly transmit our thoughts.

We rush through fast-food drive-thrus.

We even drive faster than we should because posted speed limits seem impossibly slow to us.

How many times have you been waiting for an elevator where you or someone else has already pushed the “up” or “down” button. The button is already lit up but then another person approaches and presses the button again because that will obviously make the elevator arrive faster.

And check out the “Walk” light image above. In big cities, most people walk to their destinations. Waiting at crosswalks is always interesting. Many people repeatedly push the button that changes the light as if the light will immediately change in their favor. Some people step off the curb as they’re waiting so they’ll have a head start when the light does change. And then there are those who are so impatient to get across the street that they won’t wait for the “Walk” light to appear. They dodge cars as they force their way to the other side.

It strikes me that all of this is similar to the way we sometimes approach God when seeking direction in our lives.

Sometimes we swamp God with prayer because we think we might get our answer faster.

Other times we’re like those who step off the curb while waiting for the “Walk” light: we know God will answer our prayer but we step out ahead of His timing.

And how about when we rush headlong with our agenda without waiting for God to show us His will? We mistakenly proceed on our own to do what seems best to reach our goal but how often do we get tangled up in what might have been because we jump so far ahead of God’s timing?

Waiting-With-Faith-AMP

Beloved, I have been there more times than I can count! Waiting for God is not easy, is it? Sometimes that kind of silence can feel like forever. We start to think we’re praying the wrong way or that God doesn’t understand how urgent our situation is.

Beloved, God knows exactly what is going on in our lives and in our hearts. He has always been aware of what we need—before we were even born! His timing is always exactly right!

Even though I am still in a season of waiting, I am faithfully trying to remember that:

…with the LORD one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.

—1 Peter 2:8

What that means to me is that even though I may think it’s taking too long to see the Lord’s will in my life right now, that doesn’t mean He isn’t already working things out.

This is exactly the time for me to keep on praying while waiting and trusting. How about you?

The Law is Only a Shadow… Old and New, Part 2

From GraceThruFaith, Part 2 of 2.

Something Old, Something New

Part 2 of 2 in the series Old and New

From GraceThruFaith

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley 


What’s external and physical in the Old becomes internal and spiritual in the New.

The Epistle to the Hebrews underscores the issue we covered last time on the nature of the Bible. The 66 “books” penned by 40 scribes over hundreds of years are really components of a single message … a message describing two agreements or covenants, but consistent in design and intent from Genesis through Revelation. You’ll hear liberal scholars (oxymoron?) talk about the differences between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the new. Nonsense. It’s simply a matter of which side of the cross you’re on. We used prophecy as both an example and an authentication of the Bible’s singularity of purpose and its supernatural origin.

Demonstration Please

Now I’d like to demonstrate that every event and requirement commanded by the Lord in the Old Covenant has its fulfillment in the New. They all began as external and physical acts and became internal and spiritual principles. In addition to being real requirements given for sound purpose, they were also symbolic; models meant to teach us lessons about God and His incredible plan for us. Hebrews 10:1; the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.

And just as it is with prophecy, understanding the context of the old dramatically increases comprehension of the new. Let’s try a few examples. 

Read the rest here.

Something Old, Something New

From GraceThruFaith, Part 1 of 2.

Something Old, Something New

Part 1 of 2 in the series Old and New

From GraceThruFaith

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley


“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.’”
(Psalm 40:6-8, from the Septuagint translation. Attributed to Jesus in Hebrews 10:5-7).

People who don’t think of the Bible as one message for everyone, but see the Old Testament as the part for the Jews while the New testament is the part for the Church miss out on a lot. They don’t see that while the two parts of the Book are obviously different they are also tied together.

The Old Testament explained how the Israelites were supposed to behave while the New Testament takes some of those behavioral imperatives and presents them in the spiritual sense to show us what we’re supposed to believe. If you look closely you’ll find that things that obviously call for external, physical, and national behavior in the Old Testament often become internal, spiritual and personal beliefs in the New.

Read the rest here.

Mother Mink

Mother Mink

 By Patricia Knight

Mink usually do not make themselves known to people, especially during daylight hours.  One splendid warm summer day there were seven of us around our dock near the lake.  While our grandsons were captivated with fishing we adults detected a sleek, black, lithe creature slithering its way around the children’s sandal-clad feet. Our son commanded his boys to stand motionless, using only their eyes to observe the oddity of nature. 

The wet, glistening mink investigated everything, including foot gear worn by the boys and wet socks draped on a rock to dry. The mink’s nose never stopped wriggling and sniffing as it wove its body among every human foot firmly planted on the dock. Its conical snout with the incessant quivering was on a mission. What was bothering this mink so much that it would voluntarily wander among the enemy? We talked quietly. Then the mink slinked away as quickly as it had appeared. Our activity resumed in slow motion. The boys continued to fish as they cast a wary eye in the direction of the intruder, wondering if she would return.

It wasn’t long before mother mink emerged, this time on a new quest. She had previously disappeared into the rocks to the left of the dock, probably in the location of her den.  Now, with a limp kit helplessly dangling from her mouth, mama mink hastily scampered across the dock without stopping to socialize and plunged into the water, bound for the cribwork on the opposite side of the dock. There she remained with her kit, in an area her instincts told her would be much safer than their last home. We weren’t privileged to see the mother mink or her kit again. Their short performance left us astonished, albeit entertained.

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Jesus told this parable to His disciples: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:3-7).

Jesus taught a truth using familiar objects his audience would understand. One hundred sheep would comprise a flock for a modest shepherd of that day. Shepherds often worked in teams, so it would not be irresponsible for one shepherd to leave the ninety-nine safe sheep in the care of his other companions in the open field. The shepherd would not take the remainder of his herd home until the lost lamb was found.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd; we are His sheep or His flock. Sheep are without direction in life. They must be led to good grazing grounds and protected from danger. They are passive animals, unequipped to find their own food to fight predators. A good shepherd supplies his sheep’s needs. The picture we see in Jesus’ parable is one of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, protecting His own. He is willing to leave His glory in heaven to search for the one who is lost. When that person is found, Jesus places His beloved on His shoulders, the place of strength, and rejoins him with the rest of His flock. Jesus always rejoices when His people return to Him for salvation, safety, and guidance throughout life. 

The mother mink protected her one kit, going to great lengths and endangering her life by carrying her offspring past the enemy to safety. She was willing to risk her life for the security of her young.

Though initially the scene of the kit dangling from its mother’s mouth may appear pathetic, the instinctive submission and obedience of the kit saved its life. Though Jesus handles us much more gently, He requires our posture to be one of complete trust and reliance upon His care.

We confront danger on a daily basis. Are we willing to put our lives in the care of the Great Shepherd, who incessantly rescues His wayward children from harm, one individual life at a time? Trust Jesus daily as He readily  enfolds you beneath His protective arms and leads you to safety.

Jesus went further than risking His life for us. He came to earth with the express goals to sacrifice His one perfect life for mankind, to redeem us from our sins, and to carry us on His shoulders to our refuge in heaven for an eternity.

Jesus’ mission on earth was unselfish. He sacrificed His pure, unblemished life to save His children, one-by-one. The Good Shepherd came to secure an eternal victory for His wayward ones. Submit to Him, for His plans are always perfect.

The Marriage Triangle: Living for Jesus in Your Home #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle:
Living for Jesus in Your Home

by Anna Popescu

Marriage is a very strong yet fragile bond. It is both wonderful and difficult. That makes it somewhat of a paradox. We enter into marriage with the intent of staying true to our vows, but eventually real life breaks in and sometimes we end up treating our friends better than our spouses. Or we show our better side to our friends more often than to our spouses.

Why is that?

How do we get to the point where we’re on our best behavior for everyone but the person with whom we pledged to spend the rest of our life?

Living creatively for Christ in the home is the acid test for any Christian man or woman. It is far easier to live an excellent life among your friends, when you are putting your best foot forward and are conscious of public opinion, than it is to live for Christ in your home.1

Living under the same roof with anyone is difficult, whether that means spouses, children, extended family or friends. Dwelling in close quarters with others means we see can easily each other’s faults. Disagreements over the smallest things can easily escalate into huge arguments. We often forget to take into account individual preferences for food, TV shows, internet usage and noise levels. Often there are introverts who must figure out a way to get along with extroverts. One person may prefer neatness while another is a slob.

There is no easy way to live with other people unless you do your utmost to be respectful and polite to each other at all times. How realistic is that? It takes way too much work. So it’s no wonder that we eventually shut down or explode at home when nerves are frayed or someone rubs us the wrong way. It is so much easier is it to show your best self in public. After all, you’re not with them 24/7, so you can afford to be more laid-back. At home, you’re in one another’s face and bound to get overly caught up in the hyper emotion of the moment.

If you’re part of a married couple, it gets even more complicated. Satan is in the business of trying to demolish the bond that holds husbands and wives together, and he will do everything possible to see that happen.

In the six thousand years since the Garden of Eden, two of Satan’s most strategic assaults have been focused on destroying the sanctity of the marriage covenant and the unity of our homes. A detailed study of God’s Word will show us that the devil is focused on ripping our families apart. Satan will use any tactic he can; he will capitalize on every advantage imaginable to disrupt the harmony in our homes. 2

How do we combat this? By setting Jesus as the head of our home and marriage.

If you look closely at the Marriage Triangle image, you’ll read: The closer a husband and wife get to Jesus, the closer they get to each other! How is this done?

Pray-Together

  • It is imperative that we each make time everyday in the Word, learning more about Jesus and how He wants us to live. This will bring us closer to Him.
  • Pray daily for God to order your steps (Psalm 37:23-24), showing you how to love your spouse better. As you pray, mentally put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) and keep Him in your mind as you go about your day.
  • Pray for your spouse, that God will fill him/her with the desire to want to know more about Him.
  • Pray with your spouse for each other.
  • Pray for yourself, that God will show you exactly how to be the spouse He wants you to be. Ask God to open your eyes to ways you can serve your spouse with much love.
  • Finally, look for ways each day to uplift and treat your spouse the way you would want them to treat you. God has specific guidelines for this (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Throughout our marriage my husband has noticed a trend in my behavior. Maybe you can relate? I smile, laugh and engage with friends and family, only to jump into the car or leave with my husband and exhale how I really feel. My face scrunches up, my attitude turns cold, I sometimes snap at my husband with stern words or slump down with defeat.

My husband kindly expressed how he felt about me giving my best to others, mentioning that he wants me to be real and honest with him, but he would also love to be around the version of me that is kind, compassionate, joyful, and all the other ways I engage with others.(emphasis mine) 3

Do you remember your courtship days? Weren’t you on your finest behavior most of the time? Didn’t you want your date to think the best of you? Why should that change just because you’re married?

Beloved, let’s try to remember to show kindness and respect to the one who God has blessed us with as a mate—no matter how busy we are. Our marriages will reap untold benefits and blessings.

Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministry shared an excellent prayer for couples. This is the intro:

I would encourage you to take your spouse’s hand and either have someone read this prayer over you or read it together. Use it as a reminder and recommitment.

And if your marriage isn’t at a place where that’s possible, pray this in the quiet shrine of your heart. As our key verse, Psalm 34:15 tells us, God hears you. He knows. He loves you. He will show you the way.4

Please take the time to read the rest of this wonderful prayer here.Couples-Love-God-First

When couples love God first
they love each other better. 

–Brela Delahoussaye

Beloved, life is hard. There are too many ways our lives can get messed up and mixed up by what’s going on in the world today. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Instead, keep your eyes on Jesus and strive to put your spouse first, even though that idea goes against what we hear in the current society of “what’s in it for me?” attitudes. I have learned firsthand that not only does God bless a loving and giving attitude, but your marriage will thrive.


1 Live Creatively for Christ, by Billy Graham

2 The Reality of Spiritual Warfare in the Home

3 Do You Give Your Husband Your Best?

4 A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer