Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study)

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Day 10

Psalm 43:3-5

Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Have you felt as if everyone and everything is working against you and even bent on misunderstanding you and causing you pain? I have. It’s a terrible feeling.

King David writes from a very dark place in his life. Yet, he pleads with God to send to him light and faithful care. He has experienced God’s presence in the past. And as David pours out his heart, he asks God to lead him once again to that place, an altar.

The king prays, leading his heart to God’s presence. And then God responds, leading him still deeper. As his heart moves into that sacred place, into God’s presence, God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, inspires David to ponder why he is downcast? Why is he disturbed? God re-calibrates David’s desire to be loved and treasured toward the only one who can truly do this right.

God alone is the perfect lover of our soul. God wants us to bring to the altar all the concerns weighing us down. Our need for love, our desire to be treasured… God cares about the way we feel. He cares when it feels like no one else does. He knows every problem and need. And in his presence, as we lay each of our concerns down on the altar, we can take up hope. God is our Savior.

Prayer: God help us to lead our hearts to your altar. Help us practice being in your presence. Lead us from our places of darkness, into your light. Into your hope. Into your salvation, into your love! In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study

 

needing a hug

Day 9

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon 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?” Job 38:4-7

Job didn’t realize he was God’s chosen vessel through which the Lord was going to reveal a mysterious side of himself. He didn’t realize his story would be included in the best selling book of all time, the Bible. All he knew was he had a wonderful life and somebody took it away.

Although these questions seem a little harsh, God knows how to get our attention and he knows how to speak to us, so we know it’s him. God was trying to redirect Job’s focus off his problems to God’s eternal perspective…

The questions God asks inspire a sense of awe. They help me realize 1.) there was a time I didn’t exist. And 2.) the world will go right on turning when I go to heaven.

There is humility in realizing these two facts. The moment we realize this and make God the center of our universe, instead of self, is a moment of joyful discovery, a redirection of purpose, a reorienting of the meaning of life itself.

Life is about glorifying God and relating to him, and enjoying him.

In your life, how can you begin embracing eternal perspective? How can putting God at the center of your universe create a sense of joy?

How might God want to use your story, even the very hard parts, to minister to someone who is needing encouragement?

Prayer: God, you know right where I am right now. You are aware of every single concern. In fact whoever it concerns, or whatever the need, you care more than me about it. You desire to redirect my focus away from my self-interest and toward you.

And the wonder of it all, is that somehow you can use me, and redeem my hurts and humbling circumstances, by blessing someone else with the comfort you gave to me, at the time I was hurt (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Sometimes you ask us to wait, but sometimes, the person or persons who need the comfort are right in our midst, today. Show me Jesus, where you’re working (Romans 8:28-29) and help me adjust my life so I am where you desire to use me, even my life, as seemingly small and insignificant as that may seem. Because you love me, my life matters. Thank you.

Thank you for being creator of the entire universe, and also a personal God who promises to carry the weight of my concerns as your own personal concerns (1 Peter 5:7, Phillips). I love you Jesus! Amen.

Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study)

Day 8

“Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews through the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” Esther 9:20-22

Have you experienced a moment where your sorrow was turned to joy, and completely lifted from your heart?

The Israelites had a very close call. A strong enemy wanted them annihilated. But God intervened in unlikely ways. Now Esther was queen, and Mordecai was elevated to honor and position. He declared a holiday, and had the people give of their resources to one another and to the poor.

What has God done in your life? How has he blessed you?

When you are blessed, it multiplies your blessing, when you give to others. Who might God want you to bless today?

Prayer: God the week is coming to an end. We feel tired, but we are blessed. We think of the many ways you have helped us recently. We also remember, the ways you have seen us through difficult times as we think back over our lives. We feel great joy, for all you have done for us!

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. God, some of us have the gift of helps, the gift of encouragement; some of us have money someone might benefit from. Some have a super servant heart and want to serve someone who cannot do for themselves. God show us what your desire is for us, in giving to others, to multiply our joy by giving to someone else. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study)

Day 7

Text: ‘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

Has God ever spoken to you that something you were doing was wrong? How did you react?

The first response I have when God taps me on the shoulder and looks me in the eye with his holiness, is usually sorrow. I cry.

This was what happened to God’s people when they heard the Bible in a way they could understand. They felt heartbroken they had sinned. They wept, and wouldn’t stop. Nehemiah, finally had to calm them down. He told them not to cry. For the joy of the LORD is their strength.

There are two kinds of sorrow. The sorrow that God loves is the sorrow of repentance. This type of sorrow brings great joy to God’s heart and to ours.

It is similar to a child, confessing a wrong to his parent and the child saying she now understands why it was wrong and she does not have a desire to do it again. God loves when a sinner turns from sin. The Bible says that when a sinner turns from her sinful life and decides to enter into a loving relationship with God, there is great rejoicing in heaven.

There is however another sorrow. It is the sorrow of self-interest. It is the sorrow filled with poor-me-isms. This is the sorrow that refuses to persevere, because the way of obedience is “too hard”. It wants to give up because the going is rough and what’s more, plain uncomfortable and inconvenient. It is this type of selfish sorrow that keeps a person from truly following Jesus with a whole heart. After all, if they really follow Christ, it may cost them something. Maybe it will cost popularity, maybe they will be labeled, and maybe they won’t be comfortable with some of the activities others think are fun.

I’d like to say that this sorrow doesn’t tempt genuine believers, but, if the Apostle Peter is any indication, this type of sorrow may be more common than we may want to believe.

Remember Peter’s response when Jesus hinted at his death? Peter tried to talk Jesus out of it. And what was Jesus’s response?

He called Peter Satan, and commanded him to get behind him.

Satan is the tempter behind all the wrong kind of sorrow. And his sorrow, when put to the test, only yields more sorrow. Whereas the sorrow that leads to repentance leads to rejoicing!

God doesn’t want us to be dragging our past around with us. He has seen our sorrow and our repentance. And I believe he would say to us, too, not to grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Prayer: God, how thin a line exists between true Christian sorrow that leads to repentance and joy, and the sorrow that is full of self-interest.

Help us know the difference between the two, and may we rejoice in all you have done for us and the victory you have accomplished for us, through Christ Jesus our LORD. Who went to the cross, died, and was resurrected.

This resurrection power is available for us, to live a life of joy, celebrating our freedom from bondage. God, we rejoice in you! Amen.

Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life ( A Daily Bible Study)

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Day 6

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” 1 Chronicles 16:27

Think about these description words.

Splendor: magnificence, sumptuousness, grandeur, impressiveness, resplendence, opulence, luxury, richness, fineness, lavishness, ornateness, glory, beauty, elegance

Majesty: regal, lofty, or stately dignity; imposing character; grandeur; majesty of bearing; supreme greatness or authority; sovereignty

This is God’s home we’re talking about… his dwelling place.

And yet God didn’t send his son Jesus to a palace. God sent Jesus to a filthy stinking stable.

That’s a little upside down, isn’t it?

In all Jesus’s ministry, there is not record of him behaving as a king such as wearing a crown or a regal robe. The only time, he was treated that way, was when the soldiers mocked him at his crucifixion. Do you wonder what Jesus’s thoughts were? Did he think back to his heavenly home, the luxury, the majesty that were once his?

I don’t know what kind of home you came from. But if you are a Christian, I know what home you are going to live in for eternity. Look again at the above adjectives. Splendor and majesty… and strength and joy…

For now we, live like Jesus did when he was on earth. We function in a upside down kingdom where it is better to serve than to serve. Where those who are first here will be last in heaven and the first in heaven will be those who were last and least here on earth.

God sees everything. One of his names is, El Rohoi, or the God who sees. And the God who is enthroned in glorious joy and splendor, and majesty, and strength will reward all unselfish service done in his name.

Are you growing weary of serving? Are you enduring, to the point it hurts? Are you feeling your work is ignored or that all you do is unseen by anyone? That your life is just poured out like a drink?

Think again, God sees, and one day he will reward all those who have served him, through serving even the least of these.

Prayer: God sometimes I just need fresh perspective. I need to realize you are at work all over the place, that you see my work… that you know my name, that you are aware of my struggles to please you.

Sometimes the weight of this world weighs me down. When I feel the desire to please people, and be esteemed by people, and impress them…remind me of who you are. Remind me of whose I am.

Remind me that you see my hard work. Remind me you care. Remind me you will reward me. And remind me that sometimes the most mundane of tasks are preparing me for things I may not know about yet, things I would never imagine. Remind me that one day, I will take my place in your great household of the faithful. And I will experience the reward for my labor. Help me know, as the Bible says, that my troubles down here are really achieving for me an eternal reward that outdoes anything I might go through down here, on this earth. And Jesus, on the hardest of days, when I feel bent out of shape with inconvenience, my body is hurting, my pride has splinters, remind me of your presence, and that you came down to earth, and that you are here with me through your precious Holy Spirit. Amen.

Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study)

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Day 5

Deuteronomy 16:11-16

What is your response when good things happen to you?

In this passage, God tells his people they are to celebrate onto him, with feasting for a whole week after harvesting. He desires for his people to be joyful, for he, the LORD would bless the harvest and the works of their hands.

The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes from God. God also says that we are to remember that it’s him who gives us the ability to make wealth.

In some of my husband Jeff’s and my hardest times, I sensed God reminding me of these truths. I remember scrounging for food in the back of the freezer and finding no meat but a deer liver to cook. I did my best to make it into chili to hide the taste. (It is a well-known fact I have never cared much for the taste of venison, especially liver, since I was a little girl).

We blessed the food, and then proceeded to eat it. I took one taste and got up for the ketchup. Then it was the barbecue sauce. Finally, as I was dousing my chili with ranch dressing, Jeff looked over at me. “What is it?” he asked with a curious grin spreading over his face.

“Deer liver chili” I confessed.

All at once a scant meal was transformed into a feast of laughter. In fact, I almost fell out of my chair because I was laughing so hard.

We who live in America are mostly bothered by first world problems. God has blessed us with so much! Even when we are needy and have only a little to eat, it is much more than those in third world countries.

When was the last time you really meant it when you thanked God for the food? When was the last time you looked over your wardrobe and thanked God you don’t have to go without clothing? When was the last time you celebrated with a jubilant heart, the blessings God has given to you?

God desires me and you to live life realizing that he is the one who has blessed us.

Today, celebrate the Lord’s goodness to you by doing a prayer walk inside the place where you live. Look in your cupboards and rejoice in the LORD, even if you don’t have much, rejoice thanking him. Look to him for future provision as you celebrate.

Prayer: Our God, Jehovah-Jireh, you revealed yourself in the Old testament by this name meaning “the Lord will provide” or “the Lord will see to it”.

I rejoice for you have blessed me! You have provided for me. And you will be faithful. You don’t promise a rose garden, a life of luxury, or even the American Dream. But you promise to be all we need.

How beautiful that even in the wilderness, when your people journeyed through a place of scarcity, you provided manna, daily for them to eat. Likewise, Jesus Christ is our daily bread, giving of himself freely to all of us who will come to him with our hungry hearts. Help us always remember to come and to be grateful. You will never leave us empty. All we need do is come to you. Help us to rejoice in you, that our joy may reflect back to you the thanksgiving you deserve! Amen.

Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study)

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Day 4

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4

In a modern pop rock classic, the singer talks about how it would feel to lose every material thing. It would be a very dark and personal place the songwriter claims.

Yet as believers, we can be living a rich joy filled life, in Christ, no matter what our bank account has in it. How? I think John shows us some insights here in this verse.

  1. John had his perspective heavenward-focused on God. The LORD was his first thought and his consuming passion. He wasn’t living in denial. He was simply convinced Christ was the main thing. And John kept the main thing the main thing.
  1. John’s life-focus pointed upward to Christ and secondly, outward to his “children” in the LORD, those who God had placed in his spiritual care.

I can think back to people in my life in whom I invested, but God doesn’t want us to live in the past. When I read this passage, it challenged me to continue to engage in mentoring. God has given us a lot as Christians. We have the regular teaching in church, listening to sermons. God has given us many trying experiences through which he has comforted us with his love and wise counsel. God’s desire we share the comfort with others that he has given us is not just for the sake of giving. I believe it is for the sake of the joy!

With whom is God leading you to share your testimony? With whom is God leading you to come alongside and mentor?

It’s easy to grow inward as Christians and actually live in cocoons. But Jesus said we were to be reaching out not reaching in. Yes the experience of working with others can be challenging and take a lot of energy. Yet the joy of seeing “our children” learning to walk in Christ’s truth, and in turn see them reaching out to mentor others, is the stuff of real joy! Nothing we can possess in the material world compares to this spiritual blessing.

Jesus knew what he was talking about when he urged us to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, he knew that if we throw off self-interest, and seek his kingdom, our lives would gain joyous perspective (Matthew 6:33).

Prayer: God, when my life lacks joy, help me to reach out to someone who needs my encouragement. Help me to throw off the heavy weight of self-interest. Help me to seek your kingdom first. You see how these things are counter cultural. Culture would lead us dive in to life me first. So we need your help God. We cannot do this on our own. Give us courage to focus on you first, and then help us have an outward focus on helping those who you have placed in our lives for us to help along the way. In Jesus’s name, Amen.