God will Bring the Rain

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Joel 2:23, “Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain He sends demonstrates His faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.” (NLT) The New American Standard Bible (NASB) puts it this way, “So rejoice, oh sons of Zion, And be glad in the Lord your God; For He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, The early and the latter rain as before.”

The prophet Joel was giving the people of Israel a message from God, encouraging them to turn their hearts to Him, and He would give them blessings far above anything they could imagine. God demanded obedience, and when they disobeyed and went after other gods, punishment was inevitable. But the time for punishment was coming to an end and God was pleading for His people to return to Him, and when they did, He would pour out blessings as the rain!

When I think of the blessings as of rain, my mind goes to a real gully-washer! Rain pouring out of the sky, so hard and so fast, one can not even see! That’s how I see God’s blessings. We may be in a time of trial, but that trial will not last forever, and God promises to bless us as only He can.

For me at this point in my life, trial comes in the form of pain, I have pain all the time. Yesterday was a prime example. I was pretty much laid up all day long with pain. The pain was so bad, I couldn’t even do my Bible Journaling, and spent the whole day on a heating pad stuck in my recliner. But I know this will eventually end…either in a complete healing from God here on earth, or when I meet Him face to face. My hubby spent yesterday praying for the pain to leave me. I must say, I still have pain, but it isn’t like it was yesterday, so there is my blessing. Learning to live with pain is a day by day process. But I have a God who promises me it will not always be like this, and I can praise Him because He will bless me one day with a pain-free life.

Each of us has trials or we are walking in disobedience. But God will walk through the trials with us, desires for us to turn to Him in obedience, and promises blessings like the rain. Some rain comes as a sprinkle, just barely noticeable, other rain showers come as a steady, quiet rain, still others are an outright downpour! God’s blessings are also like that. Some come quietly, and sometimes we don’t even recognize them as blessings from God, others come where we have no doubt that God was the source, and still other blessings fall so fast and so quickly, that we become overwhelmed with the enormity of the blessings God has for us.

Notice in our Scripture, God says He will pour down the rain “as before.” That is a promise for us to hold on to. He’s telling us that just as He has blessed us before, He will bless us again. When we doubt that God will bless us, all we need to do is look at what He has done in the past and know that what He did then, He will do again.

Advertisements

God Blessed Them

Today I am looking at Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’” Adam and Eve had it made! God blessed them with everything they would ever need including a beautiful Garden to live in.

God created them and loved them so much that He gave them every blessing they would ever need. How awesome is that? Can you imagine not having to toil to get food…it was already there, all they needed to do was just pluck it off a tree. They didn’t have to worry about any need, it was already provided. There was no need of money, food was provided, a home was provided, and God gave them dominion over every living creature to take care of. That was Adam’s responsibility. God also gave him another responsibility, and that was to be obedient to God’s instruction, for there was one tree Adam and Eve were not to eat from.

However, God also gave them a free will, it was their decision to obey or not. Therefore, they became disobedient and because of their disobedience, God needed to punish them. They were banished from the Garden, God required an animal sacrifice for atonement, Adam had to toil to provide food for him and his wife, and Eve would go through pain in delivering her children. Even in this, God provided. He provided the animals needed for sacrifice, for food, for clothing, He provided the materials needed for a shelter. Despite Adam and Eve’s disobedience, He still provided blessings for them. He loved them and wanted to show His love by blessing them.

What I get from this is that even when we are disobedient, God still loves us, and He still blesses us. There will be punishment for our sin, but our sin doesn’t negate God’s blessings. There will be consequences, but He still blesses. The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) God sends His blessings on those who love Him and those who don’t. Does that mean we can keep on sinning? No, God desires for us to repent for our sin and reestablish our relationship with Him. He is a good Father who wants to be in constant contact with His children, loving them, providing for them, blessing them.

I find that an encouragement. Even when I do something or say something that God is not pleased with, He still loves me, He still provides for me, He still wants to see me prosper in everything I do, He still wants me to come to Him for everything. He doesn’t turn His back on me, and when I’m so far away from Him, He guides me back to His side. In my despair, He wraps His arms around me and loves me. He protects me from the enemy and a lot of times, from myself.

I think that sometimes, we don’t see God’s blessings, we see our circumstances. When life gets hard, it is difficult to see that God is in the hard times, blessing us. It seems like He is so far away, but in reality, He is right by our side. He is waiting for us to look to Him for the solution. Many times, it isn’t God who moved, but us. We strayed from the pathway He laid out for us, and now we are struggling to find Him again. All during this time, He is ready to pour out blessing upon blessing over us when we acknowledge our need of Him. Be encouraged! God loves you no matter where you are in your walk with Him, and He wants to bless you!

Remain in My Joy

Today’s Bible Journaling is from John 15:11, “I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be made full.” (NLT) As I concluded this series on joy, the thought that struck me was, the secret to having joy is to remain in God’s joy and be obedient. How are we to do that? If we read the entire 15th chapter, Jesus starts by talking about remaining in the vine. He is the vine, we are the branches. (John 15:5) We are to get our nourishment from Him, and as we grow in Him, by following His commands, He in turn fill us with joy. We are to remain in His joy, and as we do that, we are full of His joy.

That joy comes by developing a close relationship with Jesus, reading His Word, and being obedient to His commands. As we grow in Him, we produce fruit (Galatians 5:22), the more Spiritual fruit we produce, the more joy. Contentment comes, peace reigns in our hearts and lives, and our outlook on life is one of deep, abiding joy. Jesus promises that if we remain in Him that His joy will overflow in our lives.

Growth comes not only from obedience and a close relationship with God, but also through difficult times that could be characterized as a pruning process. In order for plants and trees to grow properly, they need to go through a pruning so that old, dead parts of the plant are cut away to allow for new growth to come. The same is with our lives as Christians, those who are Christ-followers. Those difficult times we experience are times when the Father cuts away those things in our lives that are hindering our growth process. As much as we don’t want to go through the pruning process, it is a necessary part of growth in a Believer’s life. It is during those times that we find it difficult to exhibit much joy. Pruning is hard, but so necessary!

I can look back on my life and see times when God has done some extensive pruning, and it was not a pleasant experience. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I learned so much, and I grew the most during those times. Sometimes those times are preparation time for what is to come next. We need to be strong for the next level. Pruning also helps make us strong to encounter whatever the next level has to throw at us. We also can take the things we learn from those growth spurts and use them to help someone else who is going through the same thing we did, and thereby we become instruments that God can use to help someone else to grow. There is no greater joy for me than to be used by God in that manner. It makes my heart happy when I see that someone has gained strength through something I shared, and that God has brought them so far, and they grow more in Christ!

This is one area in our lives that we can become intentional in pursuing joy in our lives. There are many ways to be filled with God’s joy. I’ve already mentioned studying His Word and being obedient to His commands. Other ways are singing or playing music as a means to worship and praise Him. For me, this is a really big thing. Music is such an important part of my life. I love nothing more than singing, playing my flute, and playing Christian music on my laptop or radio. Participating in the worship team at my church is where I find myself in a state of peace and contentment, and joy. Also, just being part of my church brings me joy. Being in the company of my fellow Believers in unity is the most awesome experience ever! I’m sure there are many more things that could be included, and I encourage my readers to seek out ways to be filled in God’s joy. You may just find that you are filled with a joy that you have never experienced before in your life.

A Willing Spirit

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Psalm 51:12, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (KJV) As I read this I looked at other translations and found kind of a revelation to me. The Living Bible says, “make me willing to obey You.” That jumped out at me. God’s free Spirit makes us willing to obey Him!

Joy comes from God! When we receive His joy, it makes us willing to be obedient to Him. We are then walking in the pathway He has laid out before us. That pathway may have a few twists and turns, potholes and otherwise, not so comfortable situations, but we know that His way is always the best for us.

To give a little background on this Scripture, Psalm 51 is David’s heartfelt prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. When you read the entire chapter, you can just feel the despair and broken heartedness of David. Nathan has confronted David with his sin, and now David knows he must ask for forgiveness to be right with God and continue to be a “man after God’s own heart.”

The devotion today points out that it is ok to ask for your joy to be restored. John 16:24 says, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (NIV) It’s God’s desire that we have joy in our hearts despite the circumstances or station we find ourselves in life. He is more than willing to restore joy into our hearts when we ask Him.

Another thing that popped out at me was that when we are obedient, we have joy! We die to our own desires and wants and change our desires for what God wants in our lives. Everything in life traces back to obedience to God’s will. When we are on the right track we have joy, peace, and contentment. We are in a good place with Him at our side.

Do we get ourselves off track and sin? Sure we do! We’re not perfect! We will make mistakes and sometimes become down right rebellious. But the great thing is, God is always there to offer forgiveness, set us on the right track, and gives us a second chance.

We must have a spirit that is willing to ask for forgiveness and endeavor to be obedient to His plan and will for our lives. Sometimes obedience doesn’t come easy, especially if we are stubborn in wanting our own way. Yep, that’s me! Stubborn could be my middle name! The hard part is getting rid of the stubbornness and being pliable in God’s Hands to be molded to what it is He wants us to become.

Another thing I began to think about is that becoming pliable requires us to make an active determination to be obedient and willing to follow God and His ways by getting rid of those things in our lives that is a hindrance to our growth and witness. Words and actions must line up, as well as attitudes. The key for me is, have I allowed Jesus to shine in me so that others see Him, or do they see me in all my sin and stubbornness and disobedience? Does my behavior and attitude show Christ in everything I do and say? When we can say yes to that last question, then we can have the joy and peace that is rightfully ours as children of God.

The more we seek God’s will for our lives and search out His joy, we can know we are walking in obedience and following His pathway for our lives. His plan is always good, and He has a plan for each one of us. (Jeremiah 29:11) Following His plan brings us joy!

Contentment Begins with Obedience

This series on contentment has been a real wake up call for me. Today’s verse is Jeremiah 7:23, “But this is what I commanded them saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I commanded you, that it may be well with you.’” As I was working on the devotional part of my journaling, I felt God say, “Contentment begins with Obedience!” Wow, that was definitely an eyeopener. Then I remembered something I’ve carried with me at least for the last 25 years.

I had heard a Christian radio program while I was driving in my car, and the pastor speaking said, “Look at the word ‘obedience’, right in the middle of the word is another word, ‘DIE’. To be obedient means to die to ourselves and our wants and obey God’s will and desires for our lives.” When I heard God say, “Contentment Begins with Obedience!” it was as if I was being disciplined. My discontent was disobedience to Him. My anger and worry are disobedience to Him. Not only am I miserable when I am angry, worried and discontent, I make everyone else around me miserable, and God is not pleased with me. At that point, I am not allowing Him to rule and reign in my life. I am not displaying God-honoring behavior or attitudes. I am not allowing Jesus to shine in my life, and others don’t see Him in me, they see me in all my ugliness of attitude, words and behavior. I had to stop and ask for forgiveness and ask for His help to be obedient in being content and conquering my issues of anger and worry.

As I read the Scripture passage I read a little before and after the focus verse. God is telling Jeremiah what to tell the Israelites. He reminds them that their forefathers coming out of Egypt on the way to the Promised Land were disobedient in their complaining, stubbornness, always looking back to Egypt and walking in their own way instead of listening to God and obeying Him. Their constant rebellion was what inevitably caused a whole generation to be punished by wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, until everyone in that generation had died, not being able to enter the Promised Land.

With disobedience comes consequences, discontentment, and loss of joy. I need to not just say I’m working on my struggles, but actually put my words into action. Each day, every moment, every second, I must be aware of what I say, reign in my emotions, change my thinking, and trust God that even when I am not happy about something, He knows what is best for me, and will work in that situation for my good. It may not be something I want, but it will be for my good.

This past Sunday’s sermon wasn’t really on contentment, but on changing our thinking, and it ties in with what I’ve been studying in this series on contentment. Everything starts in the mind, which affects attitudes, behaviors, speech, and motivations. At the very beginning, I must decide in my mind that I will be obedient, to be content, to not worry, to not become angry at the drop of a hat. Forgiving others for past injustices also go toward being content. Forgiveness is not actually for the other person, it’s for me! It frees me up to be obedient and thereby be content.

This morning I was watching Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today Show and they were talking about being happy. Kathie Lee is a Christian and she gave her view on happiness, and she was right on the money. She said happiness is not constant, but joy is. We can be happy one minute but then the next minute not be happy. However, joy is constant, and she said her joy comes from Father God. I love how she boldly proclaims her faith. She works for NBC, a network I used to work for a long time ago, and I know what she preaches flies in the face of the network’s viewpoint. I’m surprised they haven’t toned her down, but I’m glad they haven’t. She is an encouragement to those of us who are Believers living in this world of sin and darkness. Contentment also brings joy, or maybe it should be the other way around, joy brings contentment. When we have the joy that Jesus gives, we are content.

I have a lot of work to do to get to where I need to be, but I’m so glad my Heavenly Father is so patient with me. He keeps at me until I get it right. One day I will be able to look back and see how far I’ve come. It’s during times like this that I grow. I am thankful for His love and discipline.

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.

 

The Cross

 

Today I read a post on social media from a friend of mine. She and her husband, pastor a church in a suburb of a large city. Her post dealt with something God impressed upon her husband to do, carry the cross around the perimeter of the city in which he pastors. As he was walking with the cross upon his back, she was at home enjoying the day in her back yard. As she was sitting in her yard, she began to think about what it was her husband was doing and the reaction that others may have about him walking with a cross out in public. As he would check in with her by text, her thoughts began with wondering if the people of their church really wanted him to do this. What would people say? As she continued pondering this, she began to think of why churches now seem to diminish the meaning and significance of the cross. Then her thoughts turned to why the Cross is so important in the life of a Christian.

As I was reading, I began to think of things my pastor has said regarding certain denominations beginning to lessen the meaning of the cross in their services. Some not wanting to emphasize the blood, others seeing the Cross as a dirty, bloody instrument of torture and death upon which we should not put too much focus. Some have taken hymns about the Cross out of their line up of worship music, some have not spoken about how important the Cross is, from the pulpit.

My mind began to think about how the whole purpose of our faith is buried deep in the significance of the Cross. Yes, it’s a dirty, bloody instrument of death, and yes it was a tortuous way for Jesus to die, but it was so necessary! Without the Cross, our faith is meaningless! As I was thinking about this, God impressed upon me the need to do a Bible Journaling page with a page from a hymn book. As I was trying to choose the right song to use, I had a hard time deciding because there are so many songs that feature the Cross. I finally decided to use the song, “The Old Rugged Cross”, after my husband offered it as a suggestion.

As I was working on the page, I began to think about how in many churches today, the focus seems to be on aesthetics…music, lighting, sound, almost a theatrical appearance. The message from the pulpit is desensitized, if you will, so that no one will be offended by the gruesomeness of the Cross. Our churches have lost the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit today.

A friend of my first husband and mine used to say that where there is no peace, the Holy Spirit can not abide. People are in turmoil today, and pulpits are not giving them the answer to resolve that turmoil, hence, no peace. Churches do not focus on allowing God to work in their services because everything is a performance, not a worship service.

Back when I was a little girl, I remember going to church at my Grandparent’s church in the summer when we visited, and I heard plenty of Hell-fire and brimstone messages from the pulpit. Sin was a topic in almost every sermon. Now, pastors don’t mention sin so much for fear of insulting or offending someone in the congregation.

The Cross is the centerpiece of our faith because without it, we are lost in our sin. God provided a means for us to be forgiven, through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ gave up His life willingly so that we could escape the death penalty for sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT) Notice, not one person is without sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT) Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because He was God and Man, lived on this earth, was tempted as we are, yet did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Therefore, He was the Only One qualified to take the punishment for our sin.

John 3:16 says, “This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT) Death on the Cross was the most horrendous means to die that was ever conceived. The Cross was not made of smoothed out wood. It was not something beautiful, as some cross jewelry is today. It was rough, and rugged. To add to that pain, nails were pounded into the hands and feet of the person being hung on it. It was the most excruciating, painful means of punishment that was given. As if that was not enough, Jesus was also beaten, almost to the point of death, with leather straps that had bits of bone and glass at the end of each strap, before He was hung on the Cross. The punishment of Jesus was so horrific, that the Bible says He was almost unrecognizable.

Jesus shed His blood on the Cross for us, so that we might be made free. He took our punishment upon Himself. Why? Because He loves us so much! II Peter 3:9 says that God “was not willing that any should perish”! (KJV) His love for us is so strong, that He had a plan set up from the very beginning of creation to save us from sin.

What is sin, you ask? Sin is anything that goes against God’s standard. A look at the Ten Commandments gives us a look at what God’s standard is. So, since no one is perfect, and all have sinned, no one has ever kept the Commandments perfectly. Jesus’ death on the Cross pays for our sins.

How? God made the process so simple even a small child can do it. We must surrender our hearts and our lives to Him. By admitting we are sinners, accepting His death on the cross as the punishment for our sin, promising to live in total obedience to Him and His will, and asking for His forgiveness, we can experience eternal life. We must make Him the Lord and Master of our lives. When we do that, we begin a relationship with Him that transcends any human bond we can experience.

My hope and prayer is that you, dear reader, come to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, that you will accept His free gift of salvation, and that the Cross becomes the standard which you can cling to and be released from the punishment of sin. Then you can say with the old hymn, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.”