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.

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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.

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

 

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Day 3

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2

There’s a movie scene, where a King comes out to fight, and he is glorious on his war horse as he shouts and gallops in victory toward the enemy. The glory of this moment is spine-tingling to see the king arrayed in his royal cloak and his face is radiant and fierce, friendly and ferocious, all at the same time. It makes you want to cry.

If we could see God, it would take our breath away—at least that’s my take on it. Seeing God face to face would be too much for the mind to comprehend, it would be too beautiful. So we worship by faith, a God we have not seen, but who has become such a part of our lives, our identity is wrapped in him.

We, who have been saved by grace, are freed from condemning thoughts, from accusations, from the power of sin, because our great God has won the victory. He has gone before us, and conquered the power of sin and death.

No matter what our social status, no matter what kind of clothes we wear or car we drive, house we live in, job we work—we share this common ground at the foot of the cross. We are actually princes and princesses, children of the King of Kings.

No matter what circumstance we are in. Whether in plenty or in want, whether rich or poor we are loved by this great God, cherished by our creator. The God who made us loves us.

Doesn’t that make you want to sing? That you are loved by this God, the King!? I know there are a lot of songs on the radio about Jesus. But I challenge you to just sing aloud a song of worship all your own. Tell God how much you love him in your own tune with your own words. Praise the Lord with gladness. Bring him a brand new song, all your own, that is a love gift to his heart from yours.

Prayer: God, how I needed this uplift. Just to sing and release my heart freely in worshipful song to you. How I need to take my eyes off my self-interest and lift them to you.

I live in a broken world. I am broken, and so are those around me. But You God are perfect. There is never any reason to doubt your honesty and integrity. You have never done anything wrong, nor have any reason for anyone to think unwholesome things about you. You are entirely and completely trustworthy.

So many times when I’m trying to get joy from the world, it breaks, someone takes it away, or it wears out, or simply fades. But you God are eternal, and you promise to fill me up as with streams of living waters.

How joyous is this water you provide! It quenches my thirst, time after time. Only you can do that Jesus. When we try to quench our thirst at any other well, we will end up thirsty as before, and disappointed. Even the best of human joys, treasures and trinkets, or even our dearest loved ones are finite and flawed in places. Only You God are worthy of our worship.

Help us remember this, we pray in Jesus’s name, Amen.

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

Day 2- “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:18

Our one verse text for today is yanked and jerked out of its text. I wonder, can you relate?

What do we do when life doesn’t turn out the way we hoped?

The answer— we relocate where our hope is found.

We learn early in life to hope in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and then a little later in life, maybe we start hoping for grown up things. We may work very hard for something, only to be rewarded with failure, or we get just the opposite of that thing for which we thought we were entitled.

Somewhere, somehow in our Americanized life, it’s easy to begin to assume God understands our expectations and will come through for us. But when he doesn’t… When we don’t get the good we thought was coming to us, it’s very easy to think badly of God. It’s not unheard of to even have doubts about God’s existence.

The heart of this passage speaks to the challenge we feel in our hearts when we are disappointed with God.

Disappointment and hardship create a stunning stage on which joy can emerge. Focusing on God, our salvation, our Savior, strengthens our eternal perspective.

Eternal perspective makes bad circumstances fade. It zooms us in, so our life can focus on eternal, rather than temporary. We always have a choice where our thoughts end up. Jesus is the sweetest conclusion.

He causes all things to work together for our good. (Romans 8:28).

He is with us to lift our load (Matthew 11:28-32).

He is making us more like him through our trials (Romans 8:29, James 1:3-4).

He is making a home for us in heaven.

God can do miracles of changing our circumstance. He says faith in him can move mountains, but sometimes the biggest mountain moved is inside of us. For disappointments we thought would break us, in fact make us more like him.

Prayer: God, give me a tender heart to accept insight and wisdom you are trying to teach my heart through my disappointments. I need you to help me value what you value, so I can let go of my expectations, so I can hold the love you have for me close. I can’t do this on my own. I need you to show me the temporary nature of the material things I have learned to place value on.

I need to loosen my hold on relationships that have become more important to me than my relationship with you.

I need to stop depending upon and hoping in temporal things that will eventually wear out, or get thrown on a trash heap. I need you to redirect the focus of my life so I can be free to love you the way I want to.

Enable and empower this change in my heart. I am sorry for focusing my hopes and dreams on temporary things, instead of on your Kingdom. Help me seek your Kingdom and your righteousness, and help me trust you for the rest. Help me believe that you will indeed take care of my needs, in the way you deem best. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

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

Day 1- God’s will for my life is that I be joyful and that I cultivate a thankful spirit, always. Our first scripture text reads, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

God wills I be full of joy, always, praying, giving thanks in all circumstances. The Bible is specific and practical. God wants us to be joyful. To be joy filled always is not easy. This passage clues us in on how to start making joy a regular habit. It’s kind of like brushing your teeth, exercise, or, eating healthy. Being joyful takes some mental effort. Reading the verses again we see joy is not something disconnected from reality. I see a two-step process here. If we want to be joyful we have to

#1 pray continually. Why do we have to pray continually? Because the cares of this world are like stick-tights. When I was a little girl, we loved to take walks in the woods, often we took our puppy dog. After we came back we had seemingly hundreds of these little brownish/green Velcro-like seeds attached to our pant legs and socks and of course the puppy was covered. When we got back to the house, we had to take off all those little stick-tights from our clothing and from our puppy. It took time, just like praying. The cares of this world tend to stick tight to us, but when we give to our All powerful God whatever we care about and let him care about them for us, these things don’t weigh us down. We can give him every concern, every happy hope, every outcome, every fear. We can pray about everything that is sticking-tight to our life and God helps us cope, he helps us manage, and helps us grow. Praying lifts our burdens into God’s hands, where he can work all things for our good, even the hard stuff.

#2 Give thanks in every circumstance. Right now, hold up your 10 fingers. For every finger, give thanks to God for one thing. Be creative and specific. Thank him for the things around you, the shelter overhead, water, the clothing on you, clean air to breathe, victories he has helped you achieve, problems which are causing you to depend upon him more. Count out ten more things. As we do this again and again, perspective changes. Our outlook becomes more joyful.

Developing the habits of giving thanks and praying, will get us on our way to having a more joyful life.

Prayer: God, help me to be truly joy filled. In Jesus name, help me give you every care, every happiness, every hope, every outcome, every fear. Help me trust them all to your care, because you are personally concerned about my life and the things that stick tight to me. And you want to remove their Velcro-like hold on my life and help me hold tight to you instead.

Help me to thank you for each blessing. Help me to find joy, even in hard times, because I know that hard times are creating character, they are creating stamina, and they are rich opportunities to develop faith, and opportunities to see you work in ways I’ve never seen before and change me into a more sympathetic, person.

I pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.

GrOwInG uP tO bE a ChIlD

Celebration

Have you ever noticed how excited children get celebrating a birthday? Balloons, sweet icing all over faces, laughter, and bring on pin the tail on the donkey or any other silly game that will make us laugh!

Look into the eyes of a child, let that joy make you wistful. Let it make you want to splash in a rainy-day puddle, hold a balloon by a string, fly a kite, sing like a wild bird high up in a tree, or let a puppy lick your face with its soft pink tongue. Go ahead; get caught up in the wonder of living, without worrying. Celebrate, shout, and sing.

Tears

               When did we learn to hide our feelings? Why do we try? Oh, I know it’s no fun living life on your shirt-sleeve, but living life all bottled up just doesn’t work. Why do we, live life like a pop bottle, and try to keep the lid on when life shakes us up?

Yes, It takes courage to shed tears, it takes knowing we matter. Here on earth, we long for a tearless heaven, but maybe tears are a blessing wearing camouflage—a way we communicate beyond words. Pain and joy; these are uncontainable—why do we try?

Maybe children’s hearts are so tender because they haven’t learned how to keep all the fizz of life bottled up inside.

Honesty

Nor do children keep their feelings to themselves. When it hurts or doesn’t seem fair, they say so. When did we learn that it was not okay to feel deeply and know that is important? No, not all feelings are “saved and sanctified”… but our feelings tell us areas of our heart which need attention. And maybe that will mean our salvation and our eventual sanctification.

As I’ve prayer-journaled through some of my hardest moments as a wife, I have sensed God validating me, like a dear friend, helping me sift through feelings for the golden nuggets like—motivations, needing to forgive, needing to let go—instead of clenching so tightly to people and things I love. After all, a life of constantly holding our breath isn’t very fun, we need to exhale.

Play

When was the last time you listened to your inner child and obeyed that urge to color a picture, go running, read that favorite book, finish a page in your scrapbook, make a dress on your sewing machine, or just sit for a moment, and watch a bird? Who are we trying to impress being so serious?

In Ecclesiastes, it says that there is a time for everything—I guess that means, there is a time for play. Why not figure out what is fun again? (I’m saying this to myself too).

I remember as a little girl, growing up in the Michigan woods. Sometimes I took the canoe down the front hill and launched it into the wetland area that bordered our drive. I sat watching as frogs jumped and pollywogs wiggled. I picked flowers and chased butterflies. I dreamed of being an Indian princess or a frontier woman as my sisters and I designed homes from fallen branches.

And there was that special tree, with the horizontal branch just above my head. I would reach up and grasp it with my hands and work my way up the branch so I was higher off the ground, hold on tight and jump… like a bungee cord, it bounced me and I laughed and giggled. There was such joy in simplicity. I wonder where did that child-like heart go from us?

I think they’re still there, but we have to let go of the to-do list-lifestyle to find it. We have to let go of resentments, of frustrations, of tomorrows that might not come, and of people pleasing, and simply live today. Why not play with the puppy, sing out loud, listen to our favorite music and dance like you dream you could. And while we’re at it, why don’t we dance with our spouse more?

Love

Maybe my expectations for life haven’t all come true, but maybe the greatest dream is reality itself—a roof over head, a soft bed to lay in as I sleep, meaningful work, food to eat, and a family.

I marvel at the precious husband I have to share my life with, and the way he watches my eyes to interpret what I’m feeling or thinking.

As I grow older, I find myself wondering, when did we adults get so complicated? Why is what everyone else thinks so important? Why do we have to have a better home or garden? Nothing wrong with having fun and improving, but why do we compare our houses with magazine pages? If we hold our breath and never feel like we’re really living until we can get subway tiles in the kitchen, new carpet or wall to wall wood floors, we may wake up one day and realize we’ve held our breath too long and … what for?  Why not, like a child, just concern ourselves with loving and allowing ourselves to be loved by our Father-God?

Letting go of expectations to hold on to happily ever after.