Tag Archive | joy

Worship through Mourning

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

© DepositPhotos/efired

© DepositPhotos/efired

The past few days I’ve been feeling a little heavy-hearted. We have all the regular holiday festivities going on: shopping, Christmas shows, gatherings, food, and exchanging of gifts. We’ve been sharing memories and making new ones laughing through most of it.

So why the heavy heart?

As I think about Jesus being born in the stable, I can’t help but remember that He was born to die. He had one purpose: To make God known and provide a way for us to have eternal life with Him. That required His death.

There are a couple of questions that come to mind as I work through this feeling knowing that there is ultimate and complete joy because of all Jesus endured.

  1. If Christmas is all about the birth of a baby, why think about death?
  2. If life in Christ is all about joy, how can we worship when we mourn?

It’s easy to gloss over His death, especially at Christmas. “Yeah, He died, but He rose again and we have life. Right now, He’s just a baby. Let’s celebrate!” But…

Jesus was not born so He, God, could visit us human beings. The reality is that Jesus was born because we were in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus was born to die so we could live.

Death is the consequence of sin even for Jesus. The difference is that it wasn’t His sin that brought about His death, it was ours. The corruption and wicked desires of man’s heart nailed Him to the tree.

We mourn, experience godly sorrow, when we recognize our sin and need for Jesus. My sin put him on that cross as much as the sin of those living at the time, as much as those who were yelling, “Crucify him!”

Understand this as well: mourning is not the same as sadness. I equate the feeling of sadness to the feeling of happiness. It can change based on our circumstances. Where mourning is a response to godly sorrow, a true understanding of the sin that separates us from God.

What do we learn about God through the death of Jesus? Sin is serious and it’s real. Sin as no place in God’s kingdom. At the same time, there is no length He won’t go to bring you home. There is nothing He won’t sacrifice so you can live in peace and freedom with Him. He is good because not even death can separate us from His love when we trust Him, choosing to turn from our sin.

Our worship of God is complete not just because we are happy that God is good. Our worship is complete because our joy is increased when we recognize the goodness of God toward us even in our sinfulness. We can more fully experience His joy when we allow ourselves to more deeply mourn.

Something to Consider…

How does knowing Jesus was born to die affect how you view the Christmas season: activities, events, and your own worship during this time?

Do you find it natural or difficult to allow yourself to recognize your own sinfulness? Are you able to process the truth of your sin or do you tend to ignore or deny the seriousness of it? If this is hard for you, find a trusted Christian friend you can talk with. You don’t necessarily need to share all of the details of your sin, but share your struggle and let God’s love and grace be experienced along with His truth.

How does knowing Jesus was born for not just your sins, but for the sins of the whole world affect how, during the Christmas season, you interact with others who may not know Jesus?

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

What new thing is  God calling you to do out of worship for Him? How is God growing you in your relationship with Him? Is God asking you to sacrifice to serve Him and others in a greater way? Do you celebrate the fullness of all God has done when you come to Him in worship? Christmas is the beginning of God’s plan coming to fruition. It may not be realized until Jesus dies on the cross and is raised to new life, but today we have the gift of a baby. God has come to dwell with and save His people.

PCH Front Cover

 

 

 

Visit www.marikeisling.com to check out other studies available.

Give Thanks

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5

© DepositPhotos/satariel

© DepositPhotos/satariel

My husband and I love to host gatherings at our house. Whether it’s a formal dinner, potluck barbeque or snack-filled game night, we eagerly anticipate time with family and friends.

There are definitely times of stress leading up to our events. Do we have enough food? Have we cleaned everything that needed to be cleaned? Are we on the same page about what we are trying to accomplish before everyone shows up? Will our guests enjoy their time? What if they don’t like anything we’ve made?

And as I consider all of these questions and concerns I realize how much I love to prepare for the arrival of my guests. I want everything to be just right. I hope they know how much we appreciate them and are able to relax and enjoy their time with us.

Today, as I was preparing dinner knowing we still had to figure out how we were going to fit everyone into the same space, Jesus said, “I’m preparing for your arrival as well and am excited for the day when you are finally home with me.”

Jesus is not passively waiting to return. He is actively preparing hearts and minds. His Father’s house has many rooms and they all need to be ready. He is not worried about space. There will be room enough for all who respond to His invitation to come.

We are imperfect people flawed in our thinking, our behavior and our handling of relationships, and yet, I can’t wait to spend time with those I love. How much more does Jesus look forward to the day when His people will be made complete in Him? When we finally enter the courts of God’s kingdom, we will give Him all our praise with great thanksgiving.

Something to Consider…

We get to practice now for life in His kingdom. We give Him our first thanks as we recognize that He alone could and did make it possible for us to enter His kingdom courts.

What will be your attitude when you walk through the doors to meet with family and friends? Do you focus more on the people or the concerns as you prepare your home for others?

Love as He loves and give Him thanks.

Summer Days, Winter Nights

conceptI’m sitting here on this beautiful summer day thinking about Christmas. Why? Because that’s just how fast time seems to pass.

Life is busy. In Minnesota, summers are busier. We have three, maybe four months to enjoy the warm temps, warm water, and not have to layer up just to get the mail. We cram weekends “up north” into our schedules, do everything we can to get to “the lake.” In some ways normal life seems to stop and our outdoor summer life kicks in. Now, don’t get me wrong. We like our winters, too. Just not that many of us like them as much as summer.

I lived in southern California for 18 short months and it wasn’t like that there. Summer or school year, so much of it seemed the same. There seemed to be a natural flow from one time of the year to the next with no dramatic shifts. I love the seasons of Minnesota, but there was something quite peaceful about our So Cal life.

So as summer begins to draw to an end (August begins this weekend, school the end of the month) and our summer thinking turns to fall activities, winter will be here before we know it. The changing of the seasons works that way. Different times in our lives distinctly marked out by the weather.

And if we’re not careful, we let our lives be directed and guided by what’s going on around us rather than by Who is in us. We let our actions be determined by the season we are in, rather than by the One we belong to.

Christmas is one such time when the ways of the world can quickly overshadow what we say is truly important to us. We make decisions because of what’s expected rather than because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We act as if this holiday is all about us when others don’t respond to or hold the holiday in the same regard as we do whether they are friends, family or complete strangers.

We forget that it’s all about Christ. We act in a way that doesn’t accurately represent who He is to a lost world. We expect others to conform to our way of thinking when we ourselves, those who claim to know Christ, have not conformed to His way of thinking. We have higher expectations of those who don’t know Christ than we have for ourselves.

Jesus had something to say about this:

“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.'” Luke 11:46

And He says something about Himself:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We can’t expect a world to come to us to find Jesus if we are doing all the same things they are. We can’t expect a world to come to know Jesus if we make it hard for them see and know His gentle and humble heart.

So what’s the answer?

We keep Christ at the center of our hearts, lives and activities. We find our joy, peace and strength in Him. And we remember that He came as a gentle and humble baby, not for His own benefit, but for ours and for others.

Our hearts need to be open to His leading at all times, but it seems like we need to be more aware of what’s truly in our hearts when the spotlight shines on us more brightly…like at Christmas. What will your heart tell others about Jesus? What will others learn about Jesus because of your words and actions? Choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to prepare your heart for the coming Christ so that the world may know and believe.

Something to Consider…

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Being intentional in our relationship with Jesus is necessary at all times. It’s easy to think that just because we are involved in ministry, work for or go to school in a Christian environment, or we are in a season that is focused on Jesus, we will have a heart set on Him in all we do. The world creeps in and we can be easily distracted .

What steps will you take this Christmas to be intentional in your relationship with Jesus? He is gentle and His burden is light. Help others know Him this way.

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

I am (fill in the blank)

2015-03-01 NGChurch (80)2

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God –” John 1:12

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety. I have some understanding of the issue, at least as it pertains to my circumstances. Everyone’s issues are different so what I’ve learned can’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it will apply to some. My hope is that for those “some”, they will find hope in what I have to say.

I recently read an article in which the author states, “I am depression,” over and over again.

What I’ve found through my experience is that in stating it this way, you take on the reality of it. It actually does become who you are. You’ve given it permission to be you and for you to be it.

For a long time I let myself be a worrier. I let myself be consumed with a negative view of the world, of people and of myself. But in Christ, there is no reason to worry because He is good, does good, gives good things and brings good of every situation for those who love Him.

Even though I suffered from depression, I am not depression. Rather, I am a child of God.

I am loved by the Creator of the universe and have at my disposal every blessing possible according to His will and who He is. When I look at myself, I can become depressed because I am flawed, at times I don’t measure up and I will always find someone else who is just a bit better than me at something. But when I turn to God and receive His love, I have reason to rejoice and be glad. I am who HE says I am. I am precious. I am loved. I am a delight. I am worthy of His love. I am able to do all that He has created me to do. I am protected by His grace and mercy. I am able to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patience, faithful, gentle, kind, good and exhibit self-control because this is who He is in me. I am free, healed, redeemed, restored, content, and new because this is what He came to do for me, and for you.

I am not depression. And for at least some of you, you don’t have to be either. You do get to choose. God lets you have that freedom.

Jesus came to heal you and set you free from the things that weigh you down. Will you choose to accept that freedom? The sad reality is that sometimes it’s easier to live as a prisoner. I’ve considered it. As a prisoner we’re free from responsibility and accountability. We’re able to excuse, justify and blame – we just can’t do anything about it. Freedom requires action. And the strength to step into that freedom and action, responsibility and accountability is part of the blessing we receive in Jesus.

Who will you choose to be? What will you choose to accept as your foundation in this uncertain world?

Today I choose to be who God says I am. Today I choose Jesus and the gift of freedom He offers.

Why Go to Church?

IMG_1781“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Luke 4:16a

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.” Mark 10:1

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with Christians about why we go to church. Or better yet, why people don’t want to go to church. Conversations that honestly surprise me. I don’t expect people who don’t know Jesus to want to go to church. But when they decide to seek Jesus, when they decide they want to at least get some information about knowing Jesus, people often decide to go to church. So if those who don’t know Jesus go to church to find Him, why don’t those who know Him go there to experience His presence as well? Why don’t those who know Him go there to help others find Him?

Going to church is not a salvation issue. Let me repeat, not going to church will not send you to hell if you know Jesus and have faith in His saving grace.

You are not a bad person for not going to church. However, you are a sinner. And I’m a sinner. And in Christ we are washed cleaned clothed in His righteousness and are adopted into the family of God as His child.

So if you are a Christian and you battle with why you should go to church, let me offer this one perspective and hopefully you will find it to be an encouragement to begin or continue going to church.

We have an opportunity to know God and experience His presence. Jesus promises that when two or more gather together, there He is as well. (Matthew 18) So when we come together at church, as the church, we join in unity with others to love and worship God and experience His presence. Yes, we can meet other places but understand that the gathering of God’s people is His church so you may already be doing the very thing you think you don’t want to do. And when we gather and God is present, there is joy and blessing found in His presence. Do you need a little joy in your life? Go to church with the expectation of experiencing God’s presence and joy.

We also have the opportunity to love others who love Jesus. Just like you go to visit your family at their homes for various reasons at various times because you love them, we can gather together and spend time with our spiritual family. Each person who knows Jesus is your brother or sister in Christ. Do brothers and sisters sometimes hurt each other? Of course they do. People who go to church are no different. Sometimes there are pains and hurts, but in Christ, the goal is restoration and reconciliation. The hope is that those difficulties can be overcome because God is our perfect Father who works out our relationships. He helps us understand what it means to love our families the way He loves us. Do you need some hope for your family and relationships? Go to church with an expectation of help to love and hope that it will be better.

And we have the opportunity to love those who are wanting to know Jesus and looking for a family of their own. You can be the one to introduce them to Jesus. Do you need to be at church to do this? No. Hopefully, you are introducing people to Jesus all the time because you display Him through your words and actions. They know the truth about Him because of who He is in you. Do you let Him show? Do you want others to know Him? Do you want to be encouraged by the hearts of those seeking Jesus so that you can remember why it matters? Go to church with a heart set on Christ so you can see others through His eyes.

There is one issue of salvation: Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

Then there are issues of the heart. Is church an issue of your heart? Ask Jesus to be the ultimate authority on whether or not you go.

“Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Matthew 4:25

We have the opportunity to gather together to hear the teachings of Jesus from someone anointed with the Holy Spirit to preach and teach His Word. People came from all over traveling great distances on foot so they could be in the presence of Jesus. You can give whatever reasons you want not to go, but Jesus went, so I go, too. He is the one whose example I want to follow.

Joy and Suffering

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

My daughter came home from her evening activities one night the other week. She stopped and turned, looked at me and I could tell she was looking for the right words. She is careful with her words and she doesn’t like to complain, but there was something on her mind and I don’t think she meant to complain as much as she was looking for someone to validate how she was feeling.

She started explaining her day; how everything had gone well for the most part: she had a good day at school, did well on a test, enjoyed her time with friends, had a good evening at her job…and then she got an email that something wasn’t quite how it should be. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible thing but it was something she would need to address and it was weighing on her mind a bit as to just how she would handle it.

Her overall question was basically, “Why does it always seem like when things are going well, something has to happen to mess it up?”

Welcome to adulthood and responsibility, my child. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

In a nutshell, this was my response. Just when I think everything is going well, something happens. And just when I think it won’t get any worse, it does. There will always be something that causes us to stop, turn and think about the change that just happened in our day, our situation, or maybe our life.

The truth is we all suffer at some level; some more often than others, but we all do suffer just the same. We all suffer in different ways and as we get older, we have more responsibility and become more practiced at suffering, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

In this world there is pain and suffering all around us. Each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to add to or increase the level of pain, discomfort, or struggle in our lives.  Everyone’s pain is just as important from the perspective of God and He has compassion and mercy for each of us in our own personal condition. This trouble we face has the ability to stop us in our tracks and keep us from an abundant life in Christ. The question is, at what point do we acknowledge our difficulties and turn to God and other brothers and sisters for help?

 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed (because God brings hope and healing); perplexed, but not driven to despair (because God gives knowledge and clarity); persecuted, but not forsaken (because God is always with us); struck down, but not destroyed (because God delivers us to life through Christ); always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (We live in victory, not defeat!) 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (Notes and emphasis added.)

Contrary to this world, in Christ, each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to increase our joy and happiness because we know He is with us and it will end. We already have victory! Regardless of how any current situation plays out in this world, one day it will be over and we will be without tears, without pain, and without sorrow. (Revelation 21:4) It is coming, do not give up!

The beauty of our victory is that we can experience and share it with people now. Do you believe in the victory enough to live it out? Do you share with others the reason for your joy in the midst of what others would consider unbearable? Are you willing to allow others to witness your hope even if they think you are crazy for really believing in that hope? The truth is that the idea of Jesus is crazy! It turns this world upside down and shakes it loose of all its preconceived notions and ideas of what it means to suffer and how to find true happiness and joy in spite of suffering.

Something to Consider…

As you consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, is there a situation that you feel afflicted or in pain; perplexed or uncertain; persecuted or abandoned; struck down or hopeless? Call on God with your whole heart, seek Him and His truth. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how God brings healing, hope, clarity, knowledge, life and victory! God is faithful and trustworthy in all that He does.

It’s important to keep a good perspective regarding the significance of your pain and suffering. It’s easy to make something out of almost nothing and we can often try to downplay our problems not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. Don’t be afraid of letting Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ come along side of you so you can remember His perspective and be encouraged.

Let’s Go!

Bobo What's up (2)“‘Master,’ Simon answered, ‘we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down.’” Luke 5:5 (CEV)

I am on a health kick struggle. Some call it a journey, but for me it’s a constant battle of the will to even decide how I’m going to tackle the food and exercise choices each day. Is variety the answer or a consistent planned out routine?

The other day, I chose to walk my dog. He needs to get out more often so it was a twofer. The best part of taking him for a walk is the moment I tell him we are going. Actually, I ask with excitement and anticipation in my voice, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

His head lifts and tilts, his ears perk and his body is at attention. I ask again, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

He turns, stops, and looks at me as if to ask, “Now?”

And then the moment he’s been waiting for, “Let’s go!” He bolts for the door, tail wagging while pacing back and forth as he waits for me to catch up. I love every minute of it!

And if there’s anything he loves, it’s taking a walk. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he drops everything for this one thing…even though he’s on a leash and never more than four feet from me. Even though he never gets to stay and check out a scent for too long. Even though he doesn’t get to choose the direction or the pace, he joyfully comes with me whenever I call.

His excitement, energy and joy made me wonder. What call do I willingly, joyfully drop everything to answer and follow? Is it an activity, a person, or a purpose? Does it matter if I get to choose the destination or the route to get there? Does it matter how fast or slow we go? Do my desires get in my way of being able to stay close, stay focused or continue in excitement? Do I see it as a burden rather than a gift – a gift of spending intentional time with another for a specific reason because I’ve been asked to join in and be part of what’s going on, take part in what this other person is doing?

I love the way Luke 5 tells the story of Jesus calling Peter to come and follow. Other versions simply say he dropped everything and followed. But here in this version we see the real thoughts and emotions of a person who is going about his day, tired from his work, and struggling to follow instructions that seem from his perspective and experience a waste of time.

 “They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.” Luke 5:6-7 (CEV)

After, out of obedience, doing the very thing he didn’t want to do, Peter sees the results that come when working with Jesus.

God is at work in this world. He is everywhere at all times and while He could go alone, He doesn’t. He calls to us to come with, to follow Him and to be part of what He’s doing.

God has made me an offer better than anything I or anyone else could imagine. I know who He is, I know what He’s done, and I know who I’ve been, as does He, which makes the offer all that much more incredible. He wants me to see what He’s doing, listen for His call, and be ready to act when He says, “Let’s go!”

That is my prayer today: that I would be aware of what God is doing, in tune with and listening for His voice above all others and in that moment when He calls I would willingly, joyfully and with great anticipation drop everything in response to His invitation to join Him in His work.

Something to Consider…

How has Jesus called to you and invited you to join Him in what He’s doing? What activities do you struggle to drop so you can follow Him fully?

What results have you seen in your work with Him? What actions do you hesitate to take because you don’t understand how it will play out?

How does knowing God doesn’t need you, but wants you to join Him encourage you to follow Him in whatever way He calls?

Practice and Experience Change

Butterfly“Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:9 (The Message)

I’ve been co-leading a morning women’s group with a friend and have been thinking about some of our first lessons and topics of discussion. I’ve found it can be so easy to read, talk about and consider various verses that are meant to help us understand what God really wants for us. We are to put into practice all we have learned, seen, heard and come to understand. But I wonder, do we really or rarely apply them to our lives?

Our very first discussion was on Philippians 4:8 and what we think about. We recently talked about self-control, one of the traits of the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control is the turning to God in all situations and decisions. It is the giving up of our excuses, justifications and blame games and allowing Him to lead us knowing He is in control of everything.

So when we who have the Holy Spirit living inside us say we can’t stop thinking about something that is troublesome or worrisome, ugly, evil or hateful, we choose to rely on ourselves rather than God and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us make the change.

My oldest daughter has a friend who had said some very mean and ugly things to her. She accused her and condemned her based on information from a third-party.

My daughter is relationship oriented. She loves friendships! Always has. As a toddler, nothing made her more excited than seeing a friend outside playing and knowing she was able to go out and join the fun. A friend constituted anyone her same size! Sleepovers, play dates and outings were her source of enjoyment. As a teenager, she didn’t have as many friends, but she was very loyal and mindful of all her friends.

So when this particular friend decided to act out on what she heard rather than talking to her and expressing her concern, I was quite upset and put out. I wanted to lash out at this girl…and her mother. I replayed over and over in my mind the messages my daughter had received and all the things I could say or do in response. I was consumed for a time with very angry and bitter thoughts. It carried over into conversations affecting the tone I used with others. As I realized how this was hindering my joy and relationships, I knew my thoughts needed to change.

Philippians 4:8 came to mind and I realized that nothing going through my mind was lovely, excellent or praiseworthy. It may or may not be true, but I didn’t even know the whole story at that point and was making judgments based on partial information just as this friend had done to my daughter. That wasn’t just or noble.

I began to thank God for the relationship I have with my daughter and that she chose to talk with me about the problem. I prayed the truth would be revealed and her reputation restored. I praised God who can heal any wound and reconcile any relationship. My thoughts changed and so did my heart.

While there were still problems and issues to work through, eventually this friendship was restored. There was understanding, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

This is the ultimate goal in everything we believe about our loving Father in heaven. We come to know and understand the truth of who He is, what He did, why He did it and just how much He loves us. We acknowledge our part in the problem with a desire to turn from our old ways. We accept His forgiveness and move forward with God confident in our restored and reconciled relationship with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

We can choose to set our minds on the things of this world or on the Creator of this world. We can concentrate on the problem or trust in the One who knows the solution. We can sit in our bitterness and resentment or we can allow God to replace it with His love and kindness. We can call out every issue we have with every person or we can be grateful that God, who is always right and just in His actions, did not hold our mistakes, or even our intentional disobedience against us.

Something to consider…

Do you have a heaviness of heart? Do you replay your troubles over and over in your mind? What thoughts do you need to replace with His truth and righteousness? He can lighten your load and change your thoughts.

Do you have deep wounds from broken relationships? Does it feel like there is just no way anything good can come of it? Jesus can change your thinking, change your perspective and give you hope that changes your heart.

Even Though…

Lilacs“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a while.”     1 Peter 1:6 (NLT)

I slept so well last night. I didn’t wake up, I didn’t move, and I felt good when the alarm finally went off. This rarely happens. I tend to wake up a few times, toss and turn a bit trying to find a comfortable position and inevitably, even though I didn’t sleep well, I want to stay in bed rather than get up and get on with something different.

I have been trying very hard to settle into a comfortable position with God. I start reading my Bible and I get up, distracted, moving, tossing and turning, coming back, only to struggle again with trying so hard to hear what God has to say.

This morning, I thought I would try to get on with something different. I grabbed my cup of coffee, went out to our three-season porch and enjoyed the view of our lilac bushes which are in full bloom. It’s been a very rainy two months. Gloomy, cloudy and wet. Today, the sun is shining. The light is warm, the air is cool and it feels like we’ve finally arrived at what we’ve been hoping for: summer.

As I walked my dog this morning, I thought about the lilacs. They didn’t just appear today in a magical display. The sun didn’t just rise with a smile and the flowers burst forth.

The sun has been there every day, behind the clouds, waiting for them to complete their work watering the ground. It has been faithful even when we couldn’t see it.

And the flowers were growing, being nurtured along, being prepared for the full show of their glory. Every cloudy day, they were moving. Every gloomy day, they were being changed. Every drop of rain that fell was put to work in the growing and watering of the bush.

And I wondered, “What work is God doing in me? In what way is He being faithful to grow and change me? This uncomfortable feeling, what beautiful thing will I think suddenly appeared only to realize it’s been there all along? In what way am I being prepared?”

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 (The Message)

On the darkest days of your life, know that God is faithful. He is always there working in your life. Every seemingly difficult experience is growing a beautiful work in you and one day the clouds will lift and you will see the beauty God has brought forth from your trials.

Never give up on the hope and joy you know is coming in Christ Jesus. Never stop believing that even in your waiting, God is changing you and growing you in ways you can’t fully see or understand. He is so gentle and loving through the trials of this life. In Him, we can truly be glad and have joy even though!

Something to Consider…

Does it feel like there is a cloud looming over you in this season of your life? Do you feel like God is absent? Do you avoid Him or run from Him? There is no where you can go that He isn’t. He is faithful and trustworthy even when we can’t see Him at work. Choose to trust Him despite the cloud.

Are you working really hard to fix yourself? Be the right kind of person, get it all together so then you can be all you were meant to be? God is loving, kind and gentle. He knows exactly who He made you to be so He knows exactly how to nurture your growth. Don’t wait to change before you come to Him. Let Him do the work and enjoy the process.

Freedom

Numazawako Lake Reflecting Sky“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)

I know, I know, I know…

I know all the things I should do, all the things I shouldn’t, why I do, why I don’t, I just should, I just shouldn’t, the guilt, the worry, the fear.

I know it all, and yet…

In Christ, none of it matters.

I don’t need to consider my response to the world, but my response to Christ because He knows how my response to Him will impact the world; those in my life who I can influence and effect for Him.

It’s hard though, to remember the difference, to separate myself from the expectations of others trusting that their immediate reaction is temporary because if Jesus truly is going to have His way, their real need will be met whether it’s through me or someone else.

I can think of people who I no longer see because their reaction to my action was not pleasant and while I can’t say that I handled my part perfectly, I trust that God is showing them their part as well and is working it out in them to bring them peace in the situation. I pray they have grown from it as I believe I have and one day we will be reconciled. I’m open to whatever God has in these relationships. It may not be until heaven, but that’s really not so far off.

There are also people in my life who I worry about losing if I do not perform to expectation. Talk when it’s okay and when I do, say what they want to hear. Do the things the way they prefer in order to show them they matter to me hoping I get it right, hoping I remember, hoping they aren’t having an off day and really want something completely different. It sounds like the people I know are tough and hard, but really, it’s what we all do. We want what we want when we want it and are hurt when we don’t get it.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” James 4:1 (NIV)

I trust Jesus knows my heart and I’m serious about that. I know there was a time when I wasn’t so sure I wanted Him knowing what was in my heart: the hurt, the anger, and the unforgiveness.  But now, I want Him to clearly see the intentions of my heart so He can correct anything not in line with His ways. And I trust that my desire for that matters to Him.

This is also my desire for those I know: to know and trust my heart, not only for them, but for Jesus. I hope that in trusting Him, they can trust me even though I may screw up and miss the mark on occasion.

Something to Consider…

Do you trust that Jesus knows your heart? Is your heart right with Him to begin with? Are there areas of your heart you hold back from Him? He has good things for you. Let Him in and trust His goodness.

Do you worry about holding all the pieces together, wondering what will happen if they fall? Who will walk away, who will be disappointed, who will help you pick them up again? In Christ, we have the freedom to do the right thing and sometimes the hard thing trusting He will bring good even from our mistakes.