Don’t Worry Be Happy!

Ok, this is confession time…when it comes to being content, I am a long ways from getting to that point. The Bible says that we are to be content in all circumstances…well, sorry to say, I’m not there yet. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (NLT) I must admit, I tend to do the worrying part more than the praying part. I also do quite a bit of complaining. So, this verse is talking to me a lot!

The Apostle Paul was encouraging the Philippians to do the same thing…pray, don’t worry, thank God, BE HAPPY! Remember the popular song a few years ago, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? It’s a catchy little tune, and when things are going well, it’s easy to sing it. But when things are not going well, then it’s not so easy. When we were kids our parents used to tell us not to complain because there was always someone who was worse off then we were. For me, that didn’t help me in my situation. I couldn’t do anything about that person who was worse off than me, and I sure wasn’t happy about where I was…so what was the point of that little lesson? It has taken me a very long time to figure that one out. God has blessed me so much! I have no right to complain. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a wonderful husband to share my life with. Maybe I don’t have everything I want, but God never promised to meet all my WANTS, He promised to supply all my NEEDS according to His riches in glory! (Philippians 4:19)

This is where contentment comes in. Once we figure out that what we have is what we need, then we can be content in knowing God is watching over us and supplying everything we need, and the wants will come if it’s for our good. This is can be a hard lesson to learn, and for me, it’s a life-long learning experience. I wish I could say I am there, but I can’t. God and I have a lot of work to do for me to get to that point.

Paul said that he had learned to be content no matter what circumstance he was in. For me, that’s hard to understand. I mean, he was imprisoned, ship-wrecked, beaten, left for dead, persecuted…you name it, he was abused in so many ways. Yet, he could say that he was content. So, from where does this contentment come? From Jesus Christ. He is the One who gives us contentment. He is the One who knows and understands all the things we encounter in our lives. He has taught us by His life how to be content. The Bible says that Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay His head! So, He understands being homeless! He was betrayed, He understands when we are betrayed by those we had trusted. He endured so much persecution, even to the point of death, He understands when we are persecuted for our faith. Everything we go through in life, He also had to endure. His life, and how He reacted to each situation, is an example for us. We are to be imitators of Jesus.

Will we do it perfectly? No, but then we aren’t perfect creatures. Only Jesus was perfect, and He was able to be the perfect example for us. We are, to the best of our ability, to imitate Him, learn to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. With that contentment comes joy. Philippians 4:4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (NLT) Contentment and joy are attitudes that we are to incorporate into the very fabric of our being. So, I hope this encourages you. For me, it’s a good kick in the seat to get me to that point of being content in every situation.

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Great Are You Lord

Once in a while God wakes me with a song. This morning He woke me up with a song our church has been singing for a little while now. The song is called “Great are You Lord”. I did some background checking on the Internet to see what Scripture it was based on and I found an article of an interview with the writers of the song. They talked about the passage in Ezekiel 37 where God told Ezekiel to speak to the bones in the field and God breathed life into them and they rose up to be a great army. The part of the song that keeps running through my mind is, “All the earth will shout Your praise, our hearts are stirred, these bones will sing, Great are You Lord.”

This song has been running through my head all week, and when I got to this part of the song, I wasn’t sure I was singing it right, because bones singing just didn’t make sense to me and I thought I was remembering it incorrectly. Then as I actually looked at the words of the song and found that the song says that, that’s what caused me to look into what the composers were thinking when they wrote that lyric.

As I read the article, the composers spoke about a message they heard where the pastor stated that, “Worship is when we give God His breath back.” The song says, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” Then as I read Ezekiel 37, it says that God breathed into the bones. Can you imagine being a great army that had been killed in battle, and then all of a sudden being made flesh and blood and breathing! I bet those bones were praising God with all their might!

Then I began to think about our Spiritual life…. sometimes we need a little breath breathed into us! Sometimes we become like dead men walking, there is no life in our walk with the Lord, for whatever reason. Worship and praise to God helps revive that life, we are giving God His breath back and He in turn breathes back into us to revive us.

Worship is our love song to Jesus. It has many benefits. The Bible says that God inhabits the praise of His people. (Psalm 22:3 KJV) When we lift our voices in praise to God, He is present, right there with us! So, as we lift our voices He draws near to us, we can feel His presence, and especially in dark times, His presence gives us strength. We find that we are more able to fight the battles, and we are encouraged. Life begins to swell in us and grow, making us stronger in the Lord.

I love how the song begins. It says, “You are life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness!” We are given life when He breathes into us physically, and Spiritually! He is the source of life! We praise Him for giving us life, love, and light to our spirit!

The past few weeks our church has gone to a whole new level in worship! God has really made His presence known. As I stand on the platform with the Worship Team, I look out over the congregation, and I see people praising God with tears streaming down their faces, there are shouts of praise, people walking the aisle with their hands raised, it’s the most phenomenal thing to see! There have been times when, while I’m playing my flute, I find it difficult to play because I’m on the verge of tears. God’s presence is so heavy on the platform, that it’s almost hard to breathe. It’s His breath in our lungs that gives us life, and we praise Him clear to our bones!

Have Faith

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NASB) Today’s devotional was about witnessing about Christ and telling others what He has done. I must admit, I’m not great about doing one-on-one witnessing. I’ve never been one to just strike up a conversation with someone about accepting Jesus into their lives. I have done it, don’t get me wrong, but those were instances where the other person left a door open for me to share, or they initiated the topic.

I’ve been around people who insert Jesus into everything, even when it was completely off topic and at times when it seemed inappropriate. You know the saying, “Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” One person I knew saw something prophetic in everything she saw, even normal every day occurrences, and there was nothing spiritual about what was happening or what she saw. It caused people to not want to be around her. In those instances, they become more of a hindrance to unbelievers than a help. For me, it just seems awkward to try to insert Jesus into conversations that are not spiritual in nature. Kind of like, someone says good morning and instantly they’re hit with, “Do you know Jesus?”

I want my witnessing to be God-ordained, and God-honoring. I want Him to present the opportunities and help me to be aware of those opportunities. In the last year I’ve found that God presented Bible Journaling to me as an avenue to minister to others. Bible Journaling and writing my blog have both been God-ordained. So, I’m finding my ministry in writing and Bible Journaling. My prayer is that someone will find Jesus through these avenues He has provided.

In thinking about witnessing and tying it in with today’s verse, I thought about what happens when we hear God’s Word. Romans says that as a result of hearing God’s Word, faith comes. Then I thought about once we have faith and continue in God’s Word, what is the outcome? The idea of growth came to me. That little mustard seed of faith grows the more we delve into God’s Word, and in order to plant a full garden, we need to share Jesus with others so that they also can grow. Then as they grow and share, others come to faith in Christ and begin to grow.

Do I need to work on witnessing one-on-one? Yes. God’s Word says that we are to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15 KJV) That’s our job! We are to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19 NASB) Is it easy? For some, it seems effortless, for others like me, it isn’t so easy. I think partly that’s because Satan puts fear into us and lies to us telling us that no one wants to hear it, or that they’ll make fun of us and we’ll be ostracized. At those times I must think about what Jesus went through when He was on earth. He was ridiculed, beaten, betrayed, denied, shunned, and ultimately killed to bring us salvation. For those of us who live in countries where sharing the Good News of Jesus is not a crime or looked down on, we can honestly say that we’ve never gone through any of that. Maybe a little ridiculing goes on, but nothing like what He went through.
So, this is an area of my life that needs work. As I share Jesus with others, not only do they have an opportunity to come to Him, but I get a benefit as well. It causes growth in my own life. For me, the hardest people to reach are family members. I think that for most of us we will say family is the most difficult. Especially if they have stated in no uncertain terms that they don’t want to hear it. That’s when a lot of prayer and living the Christ-filled life in front of them comes into play. Our actions must follow our words, otherwise we’re just a lot of noise to them. My prayer for today is that God will help me in my effort to witness to others, and that He will show me those opportunities, and that I will be aware of them and respond.

 

God’s Daily Planner

 

I did my Bible Journaling yesterday on Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (KJV) The New American Standard Bible says, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” I like the NASB better because not only does it tell me that God thinks about me, but He has plans for me.

As I was working on my Bible page the idea of a daily planner came to mind. Then the thought hit me, God has me on His daily planner! I am so important to Him that He makes time for me, He schedules me into His day! He makes plans for me and my life, and they are good plans. His plans for me are to give me a future and hope.

As I thought about this, I felt gratitude. To think that He not only thinks about me, and His thoughts are of peace, and He has plans for me and they are for my good, and that He has my whole life laid out ahead of time, and those plans for my life are to bring me a future and a hope! This has become another life verse for me. When I couple Hebrews 4:16 with Jeremiah 29:11, it combines into a picture of a Heavenly Father who loves me and wants the best for me. An Abba Father whom I can come to in times of joy and in times of sorrow and deep despair. A Heavenly Daddy who makes plans in His day to meet with me and to share with me His plans for my life.

I am so grateful for His love and attention. A couple of days ago I journaled on I Peter 1:7, “so that the proof of your faith; being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The thought crossed my mind that not only is my faith in God precious, but He sees me as precious, in fact, more precious than gold! The Bible says that we are so important to Him that He holds us in the palm of His hand, (Isaiah 41:10) that’s protection and safety. It also says He loves us with an everlasting love, (Jeremiah 31:3), and He also has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5), that’s security. That is so amazing to me! As many times as I make a mess of things, He still loves me, and I am treasured by Him.

I’m not a daily planner kind of person. I tend to kind of fly by the seat of my pants, as it were. That can be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing. But I have never been a rigid, plan out every second of my day, kind of person. Things happen so quickly that can upset those plans and then the whole thing is shot. So, I kind of go with the flow. Now that I am retired, I’m more inclined not to set schedules. But God is a planner! Each one of us are in His daily planner, and He has plans set for each one of us. He may not reveal everything to us, and that is a good thing, but He reveals just enough for us to see the next step. I’ve often heard it said that if God revealed His whole plan to us, we wouldn’t want to follow Him through the hard things. But it is in those trials that we grow, and we excel to the next level of faith in Him, and when it is finished, we can say we were glad we went through that because we learned something. That doesn’t mean we would want to go through it again, but the struggle was of benefit to us.
I hope this has brought encouragement to someone who may be experiencing doubt, fear, or hopelessness. Know this, God loves you, He thinks about you constantly, and you are precious to Him. You are on His daily planner!

Count it All Joy

I’ve been on vacation for the last month so, I haven’t had an opportunity to blog or do my Bible Journaling. I must say, I have missed this time of getting into God’s Word and sharing with you. Today’s Bible Journaling is from James 1:2-3, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (KJV) Divers temptations can be defined as trials, those hard situations that we go through in life. They can also literally be temptations.

Patience! Boy that is a big one for me. I am really bad about being patient. That goes along with my issue of anger. They kind of go hand in hand. I think this is a life-long struggle…I am more like my earthly father than I am my Heavenly Father, and that is something that bothers me, especially in this area. As a kid, I vowed I would never be like my Dad. He had a hair trigger temper, and I’m just like him. It makes me angry at myself because I don’t want to be like that. As hard as I try, every time something happens that sets me off, I automatically go to my default of being angry or being impatient.

James says that the trying of our faith works patience….so that means the only way to gain patience is through trials. Now, trials can be anything from life happening, hard situations, to our own expectations of how things should be. I have to admit, sometimes I do better with hard things like the death of my first husband, as hard as that was, than I do with everyday irritations. As I was doing my journaling today I realized that it’s the everyday stuff that seems to trip me up. Dealing with people that seem to have a knack of finding my “buttons” and pushing them just to see me blow. Sometimes it happens so quickly I don’t realize it until the storm is already passed, or the words are already out of my mouth. The counting to ten thing before speaking just doesn’t seem to work for me. I can’t seem to get to that point of even starting with one. It’s an automatic reaction to get angry or become aggravated.

While I was journaling the page, I had to remind myself that I need to “count it all joy”, and the realization came that there is joy in trials. Maybe we don’t realize it as we are going through it, but after we have had a chance to look back, we can see periods of growth in our lives, and those growth periods come during trials. There are times when the hard stuff comes that we can be glad we went through it, but we wouldn’t want to go through it again. We learn things through those hard struggles in life. If you are like me, we find ourselves going around the same mountain trying to conquer the same thing, over and over again. God tends to keep us there until we learn our lesson. I have a tendency to be hard-headed…so God has to practically beat me over the head to get me to learn anything. I feel sorry for Him …. how patient He is with me! My desire is to have that same patience. I am definitely a work in progress.

Trials are a necessary part of life. They take us from one level to another. The struggles we face are in preparation for the next level, where we need to use what we have just learned. They also show us God’s faithfulness. We can see that if He brought us through this trial, He can, and will, bring us through the next one. He doesn’t leave us to struggle alone, He walks with us, encouraging us, and helping us get through the trial so that we can come out victorious on the other side. And, in the meantime, we learn something as well.

If you are disappointed with yourself like I am, just remember, we are a work in progress, and even though we don’t want to go through those struggles, they are placed in our lives to help us grow and become more like our Heavenly Father. Be encouraged! Remember, He will never leave you to fend for yourself, He is always with you.

Whatever it Takes

It’s early morning and I’ve been up since 3:30.  I’ve been awakened by a song, Damaris Carbaugh sings called, “Whatever it Takes”.  Sometimes God wakes me in the middle of the night because He wants to talk to me.  This song is running in my mind over and over.  The words are so haunting, and it causes me to stop and re-evaluate my relationship with Jesus.

There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree
And it whispers, “Draw closer to Me;
Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb,
And a new place in Me you will find.”

CHORUS: For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do;
For whatever it takes to be more like You,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do.

Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be
To draw me closer to You;
Let the disappointments come, lonely days without the sun,
If through sorrow more like You I’ll become.

Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans,
For I’m placing my whole life in Your hands;
And if You call me today to a land far away,
Lord, I’ll go and Your will obey.

I can hear Damaris singing, with her deep, rich, alto voice resonating in my mind, and my heart is stirred within me.

I used to sing this song, without much thought to what it really was saying, not really applying it to my life.  But, one day my first husband asked me if I really meant what I was singing. Then he said, “You’d better be sure, because you don’t know what the future holds or if God will hold you to the words you sing.  Do you really mean, “Whatever it takes”? His statement and question caught me off guard.  I hadn’t really considered the fact that what I was singing, God may some day require me to prove my words.  Shortly after that my husband and I went through a very long trial. He had two strokes and became an invalid and I had to put him into a nursing home.  I had to carry a full-time job, try to manage all the things he had always taken care of, take care of him, and try to keep my head above water financially.  After a very long illness of seven years, God took him Home.  Then I spent six years alone before meeting my second husband.

I learned what those words meant! My second husband calls it my Job’s Trial. They were very dark days, but as I wandered through that haze of feeling nothing, I found out something. I found out that deep down inside, I really did mean those words.

It was so hard, but God showed me how I could trust Him with everything. I found that I had no one else to turn to, not in the way that I needed. Yes, God brought people into my pathway to help me, but they couldn’t be the Rock I needed to keep me standing.

So, as I listen to this song in my mind, I question, why is this song running through my mind now? It’s been a very long time since I’ve played the CD on which it is listed. God, what are You trying to tell me? I searched for Scriptures where Jesus is asking us to draw closer to Him and I found Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (NASB) Then the thought crossed my mind, “Am I about to go through a trial?” I don’t have to fear, because God has already proved Himself strong, and I know that whatever He asks me to do, I will be able to accomplish with Him by my side.

The verse talks about taking up our cross. Crosses are heavy. They are burdens we carry and can be almost anything that drags us down or brings us to a point of desperation. Do we try to carry them ourselves, or do we go to the One who says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NASB) Rest, that’s what we find when we draw closer to Jesus. Peace floods our soul as we lean upon Him to carry those things that overwhelm us. The closer we get to Jesus, the easier it is to carry the burden, because we are not carrying it alone, He is taking the brunt of the weight. It is much like oxen who are tied together in a yoke, they each carry a portion of the weight as they pull the plow across the field. The burden is lighter.

So, as I think about the words to this song, I can say, “Yes, Lord, whatever it takes, because You have already proven to me that You are faithful, and I have nothing to fear.”

Do Not Fear

There are many things that make us fearful. We can be afraid of anything from snakes and creepy crawlies to fear of being in a crowd, or fear of heights. I was curious as to how many phobias existed, and according to what I found on the Internet, there are more than 500 phobias, things that are legitimate fears and those that are not so much. Our society today is troubled by fear. We see it everyday just in the news reports alone. People are afraid to walk out their front door for fear that they will be harmed by violence. Fear permeates almost every area of people lives and some are so fearful they can’t function in society.

The children of Israel had a fear. They had been across the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land and now they were standing on the banks of the Jordan getting ready to cross over into the Promised Land. The spies were sent to scout out the land. When they came back to give a report to the people, the spies said that the land was rich with good things, but said the land was filled with giants and walled cities. They were so afraid, that they gave a bad report, and made the people fearful as well. However, Joshua and Caleb, who were with the spies, gave a good report and implored with the people to not be afraid, but trust God. They told the people that God would go before them and give their enemies into their hand. But the people became rebellious to the point of wanting to stone Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb told the people, “Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9) God was angry at the people’s rebellion and they paid for their disobedience. God made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation of fearful, disobedient, rebellious people had died.

Fear can rob us of so many things. It can rob us of peace and joy. It can make us see only what we are so fearful of and gets our eyes off God. We forget that God has promised that He will always be with us. There are at least 20 verses that remind us that God is with us. Even His name, Immanuel, is a reminder that He is with us because His name means, “God with us.” One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:5,” …. I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.” (NASB) He promises to stay with us always!

When we get our eyes off God and look at the circumstances around us or the thing that has us entrapped in fear, all we see is that fear, and God becomes so small. There is a saying that my husband uses that says, “Big problem, little God, little problem, big God”. The idea is to remember that no problem is bigger than God. When we focus on that problem, we make God so small that we see no way that He could ever solve the problem. But when our eyes are on God, He becomes bigger than any problem, and our faith is increased as we watch Him work on our behalf and remove that fear, that thing, that problem that has us entrapped. We must remember that our God is not a little God, He is greater than anything you may face!

When we give our fears over to Him, He releases us from what the Devil has had us bound. He breaks those chains, shows Himself strong, and delivers us from the fear that surrounds us. Peace begins to flood our soul, real joy begins to bubble up, and we find we can rest in His arms and allow Him to bring relief. The prison we have been in is opened and we can then walk in freedom. The chains of fear are broken!