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!

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Producing Fruit

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Psalm 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water; which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (NASB) As I was considering this passage, the phrases “firmly planted” and “yields its fruit” seemed to pop out at me.

The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. (Galatians 5:22 KJV) The New American Standard Bible says, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These are the fruits that we, as Christians, are to exhibit. So, how do we go about incorporating these into our lives? Well, Psalm 1:3 tells us. We are to be firmly planted in God’s Word! Once we have these fruits imbedded into our lives, we find that joy is a result.

For some, like me, it is very difficult, to get these things deep into my heart. Love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness…for me, these are easy. The hard ones are patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. I’ve been thinking about last month’s devotion series I studied on “Being Content”, and that goes right along with having a joyful heart. If I’m not content, there is no joy. On top of these devotions, my Pastor has been preaching on “What Were You Thinking?” All these combined have given me a lot to digest, and let me tell you, the struggle is real! Have I conquered my anger issues? No, but I’m working on it. Have I overcome my impatience? No, but I’m working on it.

I am most definitely a work in progress. These are things that have plagued me my entire life. It took a life-time for me to develop these behaviors and it will take a life-time for me to overcome them, unless God delivers a miracle!

The first key that I see in today’s Scripture is that as Believers, we are to be “firmly planted” in God’s Word. If I don’t take the time every day to read and study His Word, I have no clue what I am to do, how I am to act, and worse, I have no relationship with Jesus! If I don’t spend that time with Him, I’m out here on my own trying to do my own thing, and when that happens, it always ends up a disaster. The Psalmist gives us the picture of a tree planted by the water. Trees need lots of water! Their source of nourishment comes from the water and the soil for their roots. The tap root of a tree seeks out that good source of water to keep it alive and bearing fruit.

Secondly, when I am trying to do things on my own, I am vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. He knows what my faults are, and he takes full advantage of that by putting me in situations where it is easy for me to fail. Additionally, if a tree doesn’t have a good source for nourishment, it will fall because its roots haven’t found a good source to sink into to keep it stable.

The second key I see is that we are to produce fruit. When we are deeply rooted in Jesus, it gives us the ability to produce the correct type of fruit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Left to our own devices, we can produce hatred, discontentment, turmoil, impatience, and other unhealthy attitudes. The latter group is just what the enemy wants to see in our lives because then we become ineffective in our witness for the Lord. Our actions and attitudes don’t match up with our words. You know the adage, “actions speak louder than words”. It’s true! When our lives don’t match what we say, others tend not to want to listen or become a follower of God.

I will be the first to tell you that it isn’t easy. It is a definite war going on inside of me. I try so hard, and I will do well for a while, but then, something will happen, and I fall back into my old ways and I completely erase any progress I have made and I’m back asking for forgiveness from God and asking for His help once again.

If I keep my mind fixed on Him, study His Word, listen to His voice, and put what I hear and learn into practice, I can move forward and bear the fruit that draws people to Jesus. I hope that this has been an encouragement to you and that you will find something in todays devotion time that will help you in your walk with the Lord.

A Joyful Heart

I’m beginning a devotional series on having a joyful heart. Yesterday’s Scripture was Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (NASB) Today’s Scripture is II Corinthians 6:10, “As sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.” (NASB) I combined both Scriptures today because the source of joy is from God, and yet, even though we are going through trials, we can still be joyful because that joy comes from Him.

As I was doing both pages, yesterday and today, I couldn’t help but think of situations where I needed God’s joy in my life. Once was when I miscarried the only time I became pregnant, and the other was when my first husband died. Both times I needed God’s joy even though I was in deep pain and sorrow. I could honestly say that God’s joy was in my heart despite the circumstances. To the average person that concept doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How can you be joyful and be in sorrow at the same time? First, I think we need to look at what we are talking about. Joy is not happiness and happiness is not necessarily joy. Joy is deep in your heart and doesn’t depend on circumstances. Happiness is fleeting. We can be happy in one second and unhappy in the next. We can be joyful even though we are not happy.

Confusing? Yes, it can be. But when we understand that joy doesn’t come from our emotions but from deep inside, whereas happiness is emotion driven, then it isn’t so confusing. Joy comes from God and He places that joy deep inside of us.

When my first husband, Allen, died, I felt a multitude of emotions…grief, relief, joy, exhausted, lost, isolated, not whole…the list went on and on. All of those emotions were piled on me at the same time. I grieved because I was missing my life partner and best friend. Relief, because I was his primary caregiver and it hurt me to see him suffer. Joy, because I knew he was in Heaven with God and was no more in a debilitated condition and suffering. Exhausted, because there was nothing left in me after caring for him for seven years from strokes and epilepsy. Lost and not whole, because a part of me was missing. Isolated, because I felt all alone. Yet I still had a deep joy, knowing God was in control despite my circumstances. I knew He would never leave me, and He would walk with me through this. Was I happy? No, but I still had joy and my faith in God was not shaken.

II Corinthians 6:10 talks about being sorrowful, yet rejoicing, about being poor but making others rich, and having nothing but possessing everything. These things are happening simultaneously. Our circumstances don’t dictate our joyfulness, but they can dictate our happiness. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people who have next to nothing in possessions talk about how contented they are with their lives in spite of the fact that they are poor. They scrimp and save and eke out an existence with little to show for it. Yet, they seem to be the happiest, most joyful people on the planet, and more often than not, they are the biggest givers. They may not have much, but what little they have, they are willing to share with others. Whereas the people with everything financially and materially seem to be the most unhappy people. Living lives of “I have to keep everything to myself” and not willing to really share from the bounty they possess. II Corinthians says that because of joy, even though we have nothing, we possess all things. Only God can do that! Only God can give us that joyful heart that leads to contentment and brings peace into our heart and life.

Be Intentional

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Haggai 1:9, ‘“You look for much, but behold, it comes to little: when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of my house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.”’ God spoke to Haggai about why the temple had not been rebuilt, while the Israelites kept their own homes in spotless condition, not thinking, or caring, how much God wanted His home rebuilt and taken care of. Being content begins with being intentional about the things of God. That means taking time with God and doing His Will in our lives and making that our first priority.

I know for myself, the past few weeks have been scattered. I’m feeling disconnected to everything. I have no energy or desire to do the things I need to be doing. This is partly because I haven’t taken my time with God every day as I should. When that happens life kind of falls apart. Today, while reading and studying this devotion, the word, “Intentional” came to mind. It was like God was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “If you want harmony and contentment in your life, you must be intentional about spending time with Me by studying My Word on a daily basis.” Yep, He’s right. I need to be intentional about my time with Him. I can’t let anything distract me. Believe me, that’s a big one. I tend to become easily distracted. I’m a little bit of a Jack Russell Terrier in that regard. Have you ever watched a Jack Russell? They are the most hyper dog I’ve ever seen. They bounce off the wall and go from one thing to another, and it doesn’t take much to divert their attention…especially if there’s a rabbit or other critter involved! LOL

I need to focus on making time with God. For me, that means Bible Journaling. It has been the best tool to help me maintain my Quiet Time every day. As I journal, I’m meditating on the passage, and allowing God to speak to me through it. Hearing God’s Voice, for me, has always been somewhat of a mystery. I’m never sure that whether I am truly hearing from Him, or whether it’s my own wishful desires or thinking. However, Bible Journaling causes me to focus on what I’m doing and reading, and that opens my mind, heart, and spirit up to hearing from God. I’ve heard it said that when you allow yourself to hear God’s Voice, it no longer is a mystery whether what you hear, or the thought that comes to you, is from God. Obviously, when you read something in God’s Word and it speaks to you, you know it is from God. But, when random thoughts pop into your head, that’s when discernment comes into play. Knowing if the thought is yours or one from God.

My Pastor has spoken about this in his sermons. He says, first see if the thought lines up with God’s Word. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t from God, and may very well be from the enemy. Does the thought echo your own fleshly desires? If so, what is the attitude behind it? If there is pride involved, whereby you find yourself wanting to look good in front of others in how holy or Godly you are, then no, it’s not from God, and is just you wanting a feeling of importance. But if the thought echoes the heart of God, His desires to reach the lost, or His plan for your life, then listen to His Voice and follow His leading.

Being intentional, as I have previously stated, brings contentment. When we find that we are intentional in following God’s leading, everything seems to fall into place. Peace comes to our heart and soul, and even when things on the outside seem to be going sideways, we still have peace inside, by being intentional with God, contentment comes. That’s where God wants us! Learning to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves starts with being intentional with God!

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.

Wonderful Peace

A couple of weeks ago I was awakened in the middle of the night as sometimes happens, by God, Who wanted to talk to me. He often does this as I think I tend to be so full of whatever is going on during the day that He can’t get through to me, so He catches me when I’m asleep and He can speak and I’m more able to listen. He woke me with a memory and a song. A few years ago, a dear lady in our church passed away during the church service. She had many medical issues, one of which was a heart condition. In fact, her medical problems were so many that she had many medical alert ID bracelets and necklaces on her in case of emergency. She didn’t drive, and she asked me to pick her up for church and take her home, which I was happy to do.

As we were in church we were in the worship and praise portion of our service, and the congregation was singing the song, “Wonderful Peace”, when in the middle of the song we heard a commotion toward the back of the sanctuary. Several of the nurses in our church rushed over to this dear lady to help her, and one came and spoke to my girlfriend, who happened to be diabetic and asked for some test strips, as this woman also had diabetes. She went over to help, and I continued to stay in my place singing. But the longer things transpired in the back, I grew increasingly concerned and went over to see if there was anything I could do to help. By this time the ambulance had arrived, and the paramedics were trying to assist her. She was completely unresponsive, and they were eventually able to get her onto a gurney and transport her to the hospital. While all this was going on in the back, the church was continuing to sing this old hymn. “Peace, Peace, Wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above, Sweep over my spirit forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.” We were to learn later that this dear Saint had passed away. We knew that she had died in church, hearing the words of this old hymn, instead of at the hospital, which is what the medical team stated. She went from singing about God’s peace to experiencing it first hand as she saw the face of Jesus for the first time.

The interesting thing about all of this is, as I was talking to one of the nurses to who knew this lady’s medical history quite well, and was a good friend of hers, she made a curious statement. She said, our friend had once told her that when it was her time to go, God would let her know, and she was ready. On that very day, our friend came to church not wearing any of her medical alert identification. I began to think about when I had picked this friend up at her apartment. She was unusually quiet that morning, but I didn’t really think anything about it until later.

The words of the old hymn resonated in my heart on this early morning when God awoke me. I began to think of how awesome that must have been for her, not only to be singing about God’s peace, but experiencing it in it’s totality. She quietly slipped from here to glory in the middle of singing about her Lord. I knew God wanted me to Bible Journal on this song. I wasn’t particularly anxious about anything. We have been on vacation and have been having a wonderful time, so there was nothing that was worrying me or bothering me. But I began to look for the song in one of the many hymnals I have and pulled out the page from the hymn book and began to search for a Scripture to put with it. I came upon the verse, Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you.” (NLT) As I did my journaling on this verse and hymn, I thought back to how peacefully my friend had gone to see Jesus. Those who were assisting her were not in a state of peace as they tried to help her, but the look on her face was not one of pain or concern. As the nurses and technicians were trying to help her, I remember thinking, “What a perfect song to be singing right now.”

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get this finished, not because it is such a large task, but because we have been traveling quite a bit and visiting family, and I haven’t had the time to get it done until now. Again, I am up in the middle of the night, not because God woke me, or maybe He did, I don’t know. I’m in a little pain this morning, making it hard to sleep, but the desire to finish this page kind of haunted me, and I still am not sure what is so pressing about getting it done and this blog posted. All I know is, the memory of my friend hearing and singing this song as she stepped through the gates of Heaven, is a warm source of joy to my heart. She has been missed, but we wouldn’t want her to trade her mansion to come back here.

I don’t know if this blog is meant for someone who is going through a struggle right now, but I just want you to know, that God gives perfect peace in the midst of struggle when we put our full trust in Him. Whatever the problem, He has everything under control, He walks with you, He holds you, He loves you, and He can be trusted with your situation. You will find perfect peace in Jesus, just run to Him and let Him give you that “Wonderful Peace.”