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.

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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!

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!

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.”