Joy, Joy, Joy!

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’?” – Job 38:4‭-‬11 NASB

Oh, the Absolute Joy of Creation!

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.” – Psalms 100:1‭-‬2 NASB

Listen to All of Creation by Mercy Me!

“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His Lovingkindness is everlasting.” – Psalms 106:1 NASB (Psalm 118:1, 136:1)

There is so much to be thankful for! So much JOY to be had, if we just reach out for it. Finding beauty in our pain, our loneliness, our darkness…. it isn’t easy, but it’s possible. I woke up today. Sometimes, I think about the alternative to waking up here and how utterly glorious it will be to wake up with Jesus, but I’m not ready to leave just yet. So I am thankful I woke up! I walk out the door and view the profusion of God’s decorations – flowers, trees, birds – and I rejoice at His Creation. Our birth families may not be what we hoped for, but we have many opportunities to forge our own families with people we love. I am blessed to love and be loved by my birth family. We should always be able to find something to fing joy in and rejoice over!

“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” – John 15:11 NASB

Jesus gives us an even greater reason for joy. He came to us, stooped down to our level, to bring His Joy to us. Amazing Grace! His Joy can be in us! Accept it!

Photo credit to http://www.ministry.com

Trust and Obey

I remember standing in church as a child and a youth, singing Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, than to Trust and Obey. I believed it; I knew, deep in my heart, the profound Truth in the words. I knew Solomon was right when he wrote this proverb:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6 NASB

Even then, knowing what I knew, I didn’t let myself completely trust God, especially once I hit the teen years. I began to believe the enemy’s lies. I viewed myself as unlovable – not pretty enough, or popular enough. My body didn’t look good enough. I wasn’t as smart as my older sister or good enough to be part of my brother’s life. My voice wasn’t as clear as I thought it should be, and my range was too limited. I wasn’t one of the ‘popular’ girls. I hated that I was so painfully, excruciatingly shy, and that I wasn’t strong enough to overcome it.

The enemy was winning that battle, and I gave up; surrendered to him for years. As in Ezekiel’s time, I became like the dry bones:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.” – Ezekiel 37:1-2 NASB

My God is stronger than our enemy!

“Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord .'” – Ezekiel 37:5‭-‬6 NASB

“And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” – Isaiah 58:11 NASB

I learned over the years that Isaiah was right, too! The world we live in is like the velley Ezekiel was in, full of the dry bones of people who don’t know the goodness of the LORD; who haven’t received His Mercy and His Grace. Testify of the Goodness of the Lord! Expose the enemy for what he is: deceiver, manipulator, the Father of Lies. We may lose a skirmish, but the war has been won. The battle belongs to the LORD…… and the enemy knows it!

“….. for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:47 NASB

AMEN!

Pay Attention!

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:8‭-‬9 NASB

The devil, the adversary. The word Satan means adversary. He is also called the god of this age, god of this world, deceiver, camouflager, Father of lies ….. he goes by many names. The words used here, seeking to devour, mean to gulp down. He wants to DESTROY us. Where is he? Is he real?

“Now there was a day when the sons of God [angelic hosts] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” ” – JOB 1:6‭-‬7 NASB

It amazes me to hear that people don’t believe he exists. I read an article online by Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, on the existence of the devil from his book, The Secular Life. Some excerpts:

How can people seriously believe in the devil? The year is 2015, not 1315. And yet, the fact remains that tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that there is a magical, wicked, evil — oh, and smart — being out there doing magical, wicked, evil deeds and presiding over a fiery realm, where demons crawl and witches cackle. Oh, wait. No cackling witches. Just demons, right?

According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 57% of Americans believe in the devil. And yes, that is 57% of American adults — not kindergarteners.

But there is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world — Christianity and Islam — teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans who tried their best to explain why bad things happen to good people, why good people sometimes do bad things, and why there is so much needless suffering in the world.

He also included this:

In October, 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that, yes, he most certainly believes in the existence of Satan. But why don’t we see him? Well, “you know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore…It’s because he’s smart….What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” (Emphasis mine)

I belong on the side with Justice Scalia. Why? Because, like Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible says so, and I have done business with him.” May I add, it is not a pleasant experience. Does this mean I have dealt with Satan, the adversary, himself? Probably not. He has many fallen angels and demons who work beside him. Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – EPHESIANS 6:12 NASB

He is sneaky; he is a liar and a thief. He incites persecution against followers of Christ, and he hinders the work of Christians. He sows doubt and distrust anywhere he can. How can one created being do all this and create such havoc in the world, when he is NOT omnipresent? He relies on his demons, his followers and all of the other fallen angels (back to Ephesians 6), but he is also a spirit and can travel quickly. The ultimate power behind persecution is Satan.

Even many Christians don’t believe Satan exists. If we can’t see it, it can’t be real….. but, we can’t see God, either. Does Satan exist? If not, where does the mayhem and evil come from? He is as real as you and I. An interesting note: the devil, Satan, is not currently residing in hell; he is very much alive and living here on earth. During the Tribulation period (still to come) he will be permanently expelled from heaven, although based on scriptures, he currently has at least limited access to heaven, to have conversations with God. He is seeking and stalking his prey, and his prey is anyone aligning themselves with Jesus Christ!

“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:9 NASB

The Good News is this: JESUS has already defeated him, on Calvary! Calvary is our Hope, because it is where Satan was defeated. We don’t fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory, and we apply it in everyday life. Be ready! Don’t focus on Satan, focus on Christ, but don’t underestimate the deceiver. After all, if an actual lion gets loose, do we ignore it, or try to get away from it? Don’t be ignorant of the devil, just be aware and stand firm; submit to the LORD in every aspect of our lives. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We are not alone in this battle. We – all Christians – are all in the same spiritual battle, and we need to be, and should be, watching each others backs.

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – JAMES 4:7 NASB

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of Lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” – REVELATION 17:14 NASB

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah defeats the lion known as the devil, aka Satan!

Peace of Christ

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” – COLOSSIANS 3:15 NASB

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – PHILIPPIANS 4:7 NASB

Peace. What a wonderful word. Sometimes, when I hear it, I have to chuckle as I recall the idealized thoughts of teenagers – “I want to see peace on earth; Give peace a chance; All the world needs is love, love, love…..” Sure, sure. Who doesn’t want all the fighting and evil to go away? It’s a nice thought, granted, but is it realistic in the world we live in? Unfortunately, no. As a follower of Jesus Christ – not as a Christian who is defined by the world – I believe it is for us to speak out:

“…… but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness …..” – 1 THESSALONIANS 2:4‭-‬5 NASB

When I allow the Peace of Christ in my heart, it allows me to more easily see the evil, manipulating ways of the world, and enables me to speak out against it. His peace teaches me to be content in my circumstance ……. and I continually work on that!

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the Will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – ROMANS 12:2 NASB

Righteous, or Justified?

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; ….. Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; …..” – ROMANS 3:9-11, 19‭-‬25 NASB

I’m so glad Jesus made sure of my justification, because I know I am not righteous! I love how Charles Spurgeon says it:

“Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord. Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, ‘God, my exceeding joy.’ Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that He sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things! Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That He is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That He is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness.” —Charles Spurgeon

So, are you Righteous? Or Justified? That is the question. I choose Justified, because I can never be Righteous.

Worried?

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 PETER 5:6‭-‬7 NASB

Verse 7, especially, is favorite verse of many, used to assure people that God loves them, and it’s true! He loves us very much, and He wants us to cast aside our anxieties, our worries, onto Him to carry instead of us. But, is it okay to just quote verse 7? It must be taken in context, as we should be diligent to use any scriptures. Verse 7 is not a new sentence, and must be included with verse 6. In humility, give your cares to God….. Are we doing this? Do we hand over our worries and our anxieties in humility? Worry is overwhelming! It is chocked off, divided; it gives a small thing a BIG shadow, and it can give us the ILLUSION of control. Worry is telling God we don’t trust Him to take care of the things that matter to our hearts. Our pride takes over, evidence of a prideful heart – the opposite of humility. Pride prevents us from giving our worries and anxieties to God. The word used here in verse 7 is singular, so it includes all of our anxiety, worry, and what if’s in one big bundle….. not some of them, ALL of them.

Sometimes it’s easy to get our concern confused with our anxiety. Concern is different; it’s a “good” worry. Concern isn’t self-focused or self-reliant. Jesus modeled the attitude and behavior for us; the perfect example:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. …..but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” – PHILIPPIANS 2:3-4, 7 NASB

Like David, in Psalm 55, we need to turn our worry and anxiety over to God, and have confidence that He will provide what we need. (Remember though, need is not always the same as want!) Concern is not worry. Trust God – Carry it or cast it on Him. Trade worry for trust.

Thank God for what He is going to do instead of trying to fix it myself. He already took care of our biggest burden, our sin burden. why wouldn’t he take care of our little burdens?

I Surrender

“Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.” Dwight L Moody

Continuing Pastor Mark Hitchcock’s sermon from Sunday …… he talked about humility in our Christian life. It makes me wonder why so many Christians are so proud.

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 PETER 5:5‭-‬7 NASB

“Pride is the soil from which all sin grows.” Mark Hitchcock

Merriam-Webster describes “servant” as “someone that serves other. A “subject” is “to make oneself amenable to the discipline and authority of another,” or, to be under someone, a servant, of service to someone else; humble. nothing we can do on our own, all depends on GOD. The phrase here, to “clothe yourselves” means to tie it on, like an apron on a servant – like Jesus did when He washed the disciples feet.

“….. and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to – continually fighting, open warfare – the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34, 16:5, 6:16-19) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, ….” – 1 PETER 5:5‭-‬6 (Deuteronomy 8:2-6, James 4:10)

“Clothed in humility” ….. are we scantally clad?

Do you see what the message is? We must consciously come under the Hand of GOD. Not just in this moment, but continuously, as we go through life. It’s so easy to let pride, the I can do it attitude, creep in! GOD will exalt the humble, not man. It may be this life, and it may not be, but it will definitely be in GOD’s Kingdom and Eternity.

Remember these words of the old hymn by Judson W. Van DeVenter, published in 1896? This is what he said of his inspiration for the hymn:

For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing. (Emphasis mine)

I Surrender All
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Jesus, I surrender all.