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Archive for December, 2013

God is my Heavenly Father, and I am His adopted child. When I act wisely, this brings joy to God just as wisdom brings joy to an earthly parent. Proverbs 15:20 – “A wise son brings joy to his father…”

Wisdom is desirable and brings about all kinds of great harvest in our lives…not the least of which is personal joy we feel when we have behaved in such a way that our Father in Heaven is honored.

Let’s be honest with ourselves! How often do I truly slow down in my jog through my daily “to do” list to make sure I am making wise choices that fall in line with God’s will and ways?

In what circumstances am I most prone to step out in foolishness?

Do I see a common theme in the times I choose foolishness over wisdom, like the people I am with, or irresponsible alcohol consumption, or exhaustion, or when I am overscheduled and overwhelmed?

How can we give joy to God? By purposing to make wise choices in our conversations, with our behavior, and with what we choose to focus on.

My list of how I can give joy to God:

1.  Choose joy!

2.  Choose meaningful time with God!  (prayer, meditation, and reading Scripture)

3.  Choose to pursue wise choices!  (words, actions, thought life….)

4.

5.

6.

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We are talking about Joy this week! That difficult-to-define, soul-level emotional response that bubbles up from deep within as a gift from Above… Is joy really something that I can give back to God? I believe Scripture indicates we can indeed give the gift of joy to God in our own humanly limited way.

In the same way that God is love and He is peace, God also already “owns” joy in its most complete form. Joy is yet another one of His perfect attributes that He gifts to us as His children. Just as we are able to love because He first loved us, we can offer the gift of joy because God has provided us with it first through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”

But spiritual fruit, and specifically for us during this week, the gift of joy, won’t just drop on to the dinner plate of our life. As Christians, we have access to the fruit of the Spirit, but we still need to choose to live our lives in such a way that the Spirit is in control and has access to our heart and minds. We can be a Christian, yet not allow these fruits a place at our table because we resist allowing God the control of our lives, the precedence in our life. And when we get distracted from the main thing (God) we step away from the good fruit we could be enjoying. And anytime we step away from God, it not only harms us but it also saddens our Father in heaven. By the same token, anytime I step towards God, I embrace what is good and I bring joy to my Heavenly Father. Think about the story of the Prodigal son and the Father’s response to his departure and then to his return.

Yesterday I mentioned that I made a short list of ways I can give joy to God. Daily interaction with God my Father is number 2 on my list of ways I can “give joy” to Jesus.

My list of how I can give joy to God:

1.  Choose joy!

2.  Choose meaningful time with God!  (prayer, meditation, and reading Scripture)

3.

4.

5.

6.

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If you are like me, you haven’t always experienced true and abundant joy during the holidays…or for that matter, throughout this past year of 2013. Perhaps we had moments, or even seasons of joy, but a pure abiding joy can be elusive. Have hard circumstances cropped up like choking weeds, or have challenging relationships been particularly draining? Whatever the cause of our distraction, joy has not always been part of our daily existence. As for me, I want this to change.

To make this change in my life where personal joy is abundant rather than scarce, I will need to make a conscious choice to have joy as I focus on what I can control…my own attitude. (Wow, my therapist friend would be so proud of that statement!) Because joy is an enduring and spiritually based gift from God, joy is a choice I can make and an attitude I can embrace through choosing to connect with God.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The joy of the Lord is always available to be our strength!

In hard times, joy can be present, because God is present. In times of persecution, people can still have joy. In times of sorrow, joy is not unattainable. Just ask King David, or Paul and Silas, or Naomi from Scripture…each felt hard times, persecution, and depth of sorrow but each allowed their personal journey to lead them closer to God and His strength and toward embracing the gift of joy He offers in His Presence.

So this week, as we think about joy and what that can mean to actually offer this gift back to the Lord, join me in making that conscious choice to choose joy! Choosing joy is number one on my list of ways we can “give joy” to Jesus Christ.

My list of how I can give joy to God:

1.  Choose joy!

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

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“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

~ John 14:26 (ESV)

When I think about the Holy Spirit, the words comforter, educator, liaison, and friend come to my mind. I know it is a different kind of combination, yet they are all connected. Truthfully said, these words and so many more, when we really stop to think about it, can’t possibly fully describe this gift of love. The Holy Spirit supplies so much to our spiritual life and to our emotional well-being. Trusting, believing, in the Holy Spirit bring about a peace unobtainable apart from Him.

Jesus says in the next verse, John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” In this, He reassures our hearts and tells us not to be afraid. He is with us through the Holy Spirit. Oh, how I love this gift of love! This is my security, this is where the rocky ground all around me becomes like fresh, soft grass on a firm bed of dirt. This is where my heart, when brokenness surrounds me, becomes whole and full of joyfulness, beauty and grace. This is where I find my solace.

Christmas time in my family is a bit broken right now. Differences of opinion, clashing personalities, and circumstances beyond my control leave my earthly heart crying for peace and understanding. I long for respect to be given and for all to live by the serenity prayer, “God grant me the ability to change the things I can change, to accept the things I can not, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In the midst of all this, my solace is found in the steadfast gift of love through the Holy Spirit. He alone can take my prayers, the ones I don’t even know how to say, to my Lord Jesus; and, through Him alone I find my peace. Joyfulness exists. Laughter is found. Love shines through the cracks, and my God is glorified through it all. Praise be to God for the Great things He has done and the wonderful things that are yet to come, for He is in control of all things!

He will give perfect peace to those whose minds are stayed on Him: this I know and I hope you do too. Sometimes I wish I could fix all the family things. Sometimes I wish I could go back to a simpler time, when Christmases were beyond fun, they were the best! But…not possible! So, I pray, and I smile, and I hold on to right now. AND I BELIEVE! The Holy Spirit is at work in my family and in families everywhere. God has given us a precious Gift of Love in the comfort and the security of the Holy Spirit. Thank You, Father God, for Your agape gift of love.

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“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”

~ John 14:1-3 (ESV)

Now this is a gift of love that is… Well, I am speechless! There are no words to describe this gift. This gift can only be imagined, for it is only by description it has ever been revealed. But, what has been revealed leaves the unimaginable to be the inevitable knowledge of the truth. For this is what God wanted for His creation from the moment He created it: a true and wonderful relationship between us.

Jesus states in John 14 that He is going to prepare a place for us in His eternal home. He is stating He is taking us with Him. We have the privilege to walk with Jesus, to see God in His home; and, not only will we see Him, but He has prepared this home for all who believe. That means we will see those we love, who have gone home before us, and will be with them also forever! What peace of mind this gift of love gives me!

The gifts of love bestowed upon us from God are so many they cannot be counted. These gifts are in the beauty of the landscapes, the intricacy of the snowflakes, the sunsets that encompass the world at all its angles, and in every visionary of creation filled with the colors only God could have created. They are in the awesome creation of every living creature. From its shape, size, color, and habitat, each one’s place is perfect for the life it lives. These gifts are in the heart of a child as they do something special for someone they love or in the mentoring heart of someone whose life circumstances have brought wisdom to be shared with someone in need.

Gifts of love come in so many things and in so many ways…we are so very blessed! But, do we recognize them? Are we open to them? God wants us to see them, feel them, and acknowledge them, so that we will see, hear, and know Him. He gave us His most precious gift of love, His Son. He was ridiculed, scorned, beaten, and killed for us! Because He loved us first, because He wants us to be with Him forever…He gave us His Son.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

The Greatest Gift of Love was, is and always will be Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, so we could be with Him Forever!

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“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

~ Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

What a Gift of Love! A baby, the miracle of life wrapped up in a bundle of love. But, this baby would be different. This baby came to love, came to teach, came to heal those who were sick and help those in need. This baby came to save the world!

Jesus is our gift of love from God above. Through Him, we have the privilege to know the heart of God, not just the facts of God. Through the Old Testament, we learn the expectations of God and discover that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and that He is everywhere, He sees all. We know that He loves us, for His love is shown through His grace and His mercy, but we really don’t see His heart the way we see and know it through Jesus. This is an additional gift through the birth and life of our Savior, Jesus. This is what touched my life so completely when I came to walk with Jesus.

Jesus came to save the world, of which I am a part of. However, in the beginning, when I acknowledged and believed that Jesus is God’s Son, I did not believe that this gift of love would be something I deserved. It was not until I researched Jesus and truly understood His heart that I believed He meant His love for all people, not just some. As I researched His actions, His mind, and His heart for others through the study of God’s Word, something miraculous began to happen in my heart. I started believing that I was worthy of this awesome gift of love and that God has a purpose in this world just for me.

God has a purpose for all people. Through this precious little baby, He has opened the life gate that we all may walk in and share in this gift of love He has so graciously provided. There is one catch, however: We must believe!

So what do you think? Are you willing to seek out this gift? If you are not quite sure, are you willing to do some research? I can promise you this…if you are, and you do it with an open heart, you will be amazed at the outcome God reveals and the endless blessings you will realize through this precious gift of love, this little baby and the man He grew to be, which is Jesus, Immanuel, God with us! What a Gift of Love!

Merry Christmas to you all! May your Blessings be filled with memories galore!

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

~ Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

When I think about adoption, the Christmas message is the first that comes to mind, for that is what Joseph did when he agreed to marry Mary and raise her son, God’s Son. In a time period of cultural traditions that were so strong and so obeyed, where judgments were critical and consequences were harsh, Joseph took on a situation that would inevitably change the way his character would be looked upon and change the path of his life forever. Why? He obeyed God! He accepted this most precious gift, realizing it was God’s greatest gift of love. God had chosen Joseph to love this baby because God knew his heart, and God knew he would indeed love Jesus and care for Him completely!

God predestined Joseph before the world began. He knew the outcome. He knew the road that would be traveled and how hard things would be. He knew what the critics would say. He knew some would condemn. He knew the heartache that would be felt. He knew the fear that Jesus would feel the night he was arrested. But…He also knew the love that would be cherished forever. He knew the lives that would be touched. He knew the Joy that Jesus would bring. He knew how much Jesus would teach all of us the gift of love! Jesus taught us to love in the midst of every situation. Christmas is a time when many are in need and many are hurting. It’s a time when love abounds and memories are made. It’s a time for Joyfulness. It is a time when people need people!

I had the opportunity to meet a Caucasian couple, at a candlelight service this year, that are foster parents to two beautiful African American babies, not quite one-year old. The babies are not related, with the exception of the relationship of their extended family. The couple have three children of their own. I was so taken by the love expressed to these children by every member of their family. They all had adopted these babies into their family through a gift of love. This is the love of Jesus. This is the heart of Jesus, filtered by God, and orchestrated by His character. No one knows the outcome of a heart that is helped via a gift of love, no matter how young or how old. No one except God.

On this special night, as we ponder the awesomeness of this blessed event, let us remember the gift of adoption, Jesus into Joseph’s family and ours into God’s.

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