Tag Archive | joy

Love Never Fails

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Love ListWe’ve had some trouble in our family as of late, a bit of poking and prodding, provoking and pushing of buttons. We pass it on to our friends and others we come in contact with whether we realize it or not. They notice our attitude, look, tone and body language, making judgments on the state of our hearts and minds. They don’t mean to be judgmental; they just don’t know how close they want to get to us in our current state. And they have good reason to want to keep their distance. Our demeanor could rub off on them. They could feel the rough sting of our indifference toward them. We are so caught up in how we feel, it doesn’t really matter to us how we make others feel.

God is not indifferent. His heart longs for each child He has created to know His great love. Jesus came to make His love known in this world. He truly cares what we believe about His love for us and what face we put on our relationship with Him. How will His love through us rub off on those we are around? What does His love look like? What does His love convey? What does His love do?

My daughter’s favorite section of Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I read this section and decided to take it apart. On one side of my paper I listed everything it said love is. On the other, everything love is not. I decided to type it out and hang it on our refrigerator at home where we could all see it.

Love: Love:
Is patient Does not envy
Is kind Does not boast
Rejoices in truth Is not proud
Always protects Does not dishonor others
Always trusts Is not self-seeking
Always hopes Is not easily angered
Always perseveres Keeps no record or wrongs
Never Fails Does not delight in evil

Everything we do will fall on one side or the other of love. God is love so everything love is, God does in love. And everything love is, we can also do in His love. I’ve already found myself recalling these two lists and recognizing when I’m on the wrong side – the “is not”, “does not”, don’t do side. God has helped me reconsider my attitude and bring it into alignment with who He is and what He does. In this practice, I’ve been more at peace with letting go of issues rather than holding them over the other person.

Something to Consider…

When you think of God’s character, which side of the list do you gravitate towards? Do you think God is patient and kind or do you think He is easily angered, keeping track of everything you’ve done wrong?

When you think of those closest to you, how do you see yourself in this list? Do you protect and rejoice with them or do you compare and think they deserve the bad things that happen?

God offers His love freely to those who come to Him through Jesus. Embrace His love, choose to rejoice in His truth and let His love change how you love today.

What Do You Think On?

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

It didn’t take long after I woke up Monday morning for my mind to start thinking about all I had to do. And it wasn’t just about what I had to do that day; it was my whole week right in front of me.

My mom told me that when she found out she was pregnant with me (she and my dad already had six kids between the two of them) all she could think was that there was going to be another pile of laundry. Maybe you’ve picked up on the fact that I was not planned and when I think of this story, it’s easy to assume I was more of a burden than a bundle of joy, but that’s not true.  I am loved and have always known it; but as an adult, I now have a very clear idea of what she was feeling.

I have piles everywhere! There is no order to the piles; there is no order to the placement of the piles. The piles never really seem to go down. Just as I remove and check off some items, more gets thrown on top. My mom had no idea how she was going to do more and provide more without being more. She couldn’t see an end to the piles or the process. I feel this same way at times: scattered, helpless and overwhelmed with no end in sight.

While my piles are not physical piles of clothes, toys or dishes; they are the things that weigh on my mind, take my time and cause me to invest myself sometimes at levels that I am consumed with love, sorrow, joy and regret all at the same time. When I am on top of things, dealing with one specific pile, things are good. But it’s the running between the piles, back and forth with no clarity or plan where I struggle.

The valley: the place I need God to meet me, settle my heart, bring focus and clarity to my mind and walk me from pile to pile, mountain top to mountain top in His time, in His way.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to stop, but I do truly love what I do! Everything I get to do centers on what I believe God wants me doing. So why are the piles so overwhelming? Why does it appear that there no order when God is all about order – planning, preparation and purpose fulfilled?

Because my thoughts go to what I can’t do in my own power, what will happen if I don’t get through my piles and what other people will think of me and my efforts or lack thereof. And that’s the kicker…what others will think of my lack of ability to perform at a high enough standard to meet their expectations.

I haven’t even talked to anyone for them to tell me their expectations, if they even have any, and I’ve already assumed the worst about them and myself!

Regardless of whether you run your own business, work for a Fortune 500 company or stay at home with the kids, there’s stuff to get done! But according to Philippians 4:4, I’m not supposed to rejoice in meeting the expectations of others. I’m supposed to rejoice in the Lord – always! He is with me in everything I do and He alone brings peace to my mind, heart, and soul. When I rely on Him to help me work through it, rejoicing and thanking Him each step of the way, I will be doing what He expects of me. I will be moving forward in His power, plan and purpose for my life.

Something to Consider…

How does what you think about determine your ability to rejoice and be thankful?

Do you experience peace? Do you turn to something or someone other than God to fill the gaps between the piles?

What are your piles? Are there some that can go? Which are your priorities? Which ones are God’s priority for you?

Seek Him today in the valley between the piles. Thank Him today on the mountain top of progress. Rejoice in Him always!

Merry Christmas to All!

Image“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NIV)

I recently wrapped up a Christmas study (no pun intended) with a few dear friends titled Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason. It’s not about the advent season specifically, although it is about hope, preparation, joy, love, and most importantly, Christ himself.

At Christmas, we celebrate God’s promise being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. He will be a Savior for all people throughout the entire world. While we don’t have to do anything to be saved except accept the gift of Jesus as the truth, we get to be part of His love, truth and grace at work in this world.

The last night of the study ended with a discussion about forgiveness; the absolute complete forgiveness and reconciliation of those who will believe to the one true and living God while we were still sinners. Before we recognized our need for a Savior. Before we acknowledged need of forgiveness. Before we knew we were far from God.

God has forgiven each of us and views us through the lens of Jesus when we accept Him into our heart. God longs for all of His children to know His love and put their trust in Him.

As we go out into this world this Christmas, I challenge you to look beyond the attitudes, words and actions of another and see the child God longs to love and live with for all eternity. As a child of God, you have the ability to make Him known in this world. Is there another, better gift for you to give this Christmas?

Something to Consider…

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:17-18 (NIV)

Truth seems to be an easier concept than grace when it comes to spreading the Good News in this world. Truth is what we know, or should I say Who we know, grace is what we offer. How do you freely offer grace to those who hurt you or don’t even realize they’ve wronged you?

As it is so easy and common to complain about others who make life difficult, how can you radiate the joy, peace, love and patience of Jesus?

We can be put off and irritated with the wishing of “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings”. Instead, take time to pray for those who do not yet know the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ?

There is nothing that separates two people like a grudge. God’s plan through Jesus is to reconcile the world to Himself. How can the willingness of your heart to forgive not only bring you closer to Jesus, but show others the truth of His grace for them?

May God’s peace and joy be your gift this Christmas! May His truth and grace be your gift to others!

If you find encouragement in this message, please share with others. Blessings to you today!

Overjoyed!

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:10

“Are we there yet? When will we be there? I have to go potty! I’m tired! Are we almost there?”

We have taken many road trips as a family. Some short, little two-hour jaunts to our cabin every other weekend or so. Some 15 hour hauls across the country! Sometimes, we play games like the alphabet game or look for license plates from all 50 states. One time when the girls were little, two and five I believe, we had to duck every time we went under a bridge. This kept them occupied for at least 20 minutes laughing the entire time. I don’t remember what was so funny, but it didn’t matter; we were all together and enjoying our time.

I am reading through the Gospel of Matthew during my quiet time each morning and this tiny verse caught my attention. The wise men had traveled quite awhile. For how long they had been waiting and watching for the sign that the Messiah had been born, I don’t know, but it had finally come and they were on their way. Not many road signs or licenses plates to keep them occupied. And I’m guessing not many Country Inn’s or Country Kitchen’s to pull over at and rest.

Whenever we would be on a road trip, we would start out all excited, “We’re on our way!” Somewhere down the road, an hour in or so in to the trip, the attitudes and atmosphere would change. It would be the same old scenery, not much variety, just driving and driving and driving until we were just outside our destination city. Then, once again, the excitement would begin to build. “We’re almost there! How much longer do you think it will take? It will be so nice to finally be there.”

The wise men had made it to Jerusalem, met up with King Herod and were beginning the final leg of their journey to find the new-born King. This was not a short jaunt or even a full day’s trip. This journey took months to complete. I can imagine their excitement building; all this time, all this distance and they were almost there!

When they saw the star over the house where Jesus was lying, they were overjoyed! Jesus was just a baby. He had done nothing but be born and yet these men who held some position of authority, prestige and power came to worship Him as an infant, a toddler, and they were overjoyed to do so.

We are just over two months away from the anniversary of the birth of Jesus and I wonder, what will be my state of mind when Christmas finally arrives? Will I have been preoccupied with all the to-do’s, events, get-together’s and conflicting  schedules or will I have been celebrating and preparing for His arrival? Will I be stressed out, strung out and worn out, or will I be settled and at peace in the rest only He can provide? Will my mind, focus and energy be drawn toward the busyness of the season or will I remain focused on my purpose in Him, keeping Him at the center of all I do?

Will I be overjoyed each and every day to simply be in His presence?

Something to Consider…

As Christmas draws close, remember Jesus came so that we could be reconciled to God and live in relationship with Him forever. Take time throughout this season and coming year to grow and invest in your relationship with Him. On this day, He has given us the greatest gift of all!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

What activities or concerns weigh you down during the holidays? Bring these concerns to Jesus and allow Him to carry the weight, remove the burdens and give you His perspective of the situation. Allow yourself to experience the joy of His presence!

Joy and Thanksgiving

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I want to hang this verse on my wall. I have the perfect spot between the bottom of my stairs and the laundry room. I pass this wall every day since it is between the bedrooms and the main living area of our home. And I don’t just pass it once a day; I pass it many times as I go up and down the stairs. I grab my purse but forget my shoes. The receipt is on the desk not in my purse. I left my sunglasses on the desk while looking for the receipt. Oops, I forgot to brush my teeth. Where is my phone? NOW, am I ready to leave the house?

It’s amazing what piles up in my kitchen because it needs to go upstairs. I also end up with piles of clothing in the laundry room. I definitely do not rejoice in carrying loads of laundry up and down the stairs. I used to rejoice in this simple task. At one time, we lived in an apartment on the third floor. When we moved into our first home, the laundry was in the basement. I would carry our clothes up and down three half-flights of stairs and be giddy. In the apartment, I would carry the laundry down three full flights of stairs, across the parking lot to my car, drive to my parents home and carry it down to their basement only to carry it all back and up again. My own laundry space in my own home was a dream come true. It didn’t matter where the laundry was located.

But then it happened. We moved. The laundry room was now located upstairs right next to the bedrooms. It was like the clouds parted and angels were singing. How could I be so fortunate? I had 18 glorious months of loving my laundry room and the task itself.

Of course, things do change and we moved again. The best I could do this time was a main floor laundry room, one full flight of stairs from bedrooms to washer and dryer. It was still better than the first house and way better than the apartment, right? Had I never had the upstairs laundry room, I would’ve thought it couldn’t get better than this. Now, anything less than two steps from my bedroom door is not good enough.

I began to wonder how many petty issues I allow to ruin my day and steal my joy?

I should be glad that I have machines to wash and dry the clothes for me. I should be rejoicing in the fact that I have clean water to drink, much less running water in my home to wash my clothes. I should be thrilled that I not only have the arms to carry my loads of laundry and legs to carry me up and down the stairs, but that I have the clothes to wash in the first place.

What is it that makes me think I deserve to have it easier when I already have so much compared to so many? Why am I not grateful for simply having another day to enjoy with those I love, another day to serve those I love?

Lord, I pray that I not only appreciate what I do have but that I would be content with what I don’t have. I pray that my desire to do your will would not be determined by my comfort, convenience or contentment but simply because I know you love me. You have already given me all I need. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Something to Consider…

I’ve heard it said that nothing seems small in the moment. While that may be true from our perspective, it doesn’t mean we need to look at it from our perspective.

In what area of your life do you need a new perspective? What irritations can be replaced by joy and thanksgiving? How can His love and goodness be seen in your life?

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 118:29

Shining His Light

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

I’m sitting here feeling like I’m frittering away my time. I’m enjoy some mindless activities but I know I have things to do today and people who are expecting me to be where I need to be when I need to be there. It feels like it should be a “pajama day”. You know those days when you just wear your comfy clothes all day, don’t worry about your hair or make-up and watch movies or read all day long. Yeah, that’s today.

But, then reality hits. I need to exercise. I have been hit and miss with this activity for way too long. And if I exercise, I definitely need a shower. I can’t even be around myself without cleaning up after a run. I do need to go grocery shopping which also includes checking my calendar, making a menu and organizing my shopping list…which is done by aisle so I can be efficient.

Once I’m home and groceries are put away, it’s out to dinner with my mom, daughters and friends for some food, fun and fellowship. Eating is considered a fun activity which is why I do need the exercise. And to finish off the night, we are doing a little summer clothes shopping. I will probably not be able to keep my eyes open at the end of the night for a movie or a book.

As I look at the day ahead, I wonder what else I’ll be doing. Who will I run into? What unexpected things will come my way? How will I handle the challenges and potential problems I may face? Will I reach out to someone, be willing to adjust and trust that all that needs to get done will get done?

Before I go or do anything, I quiet myself and spend some time with God.

Lord, what are your plans for my day? Who do you want me to talk to? How will I be able to shine your light to someone who needs to see it? What words of encouragement will you have me speak to someone who is wanting to hear it? Lord, this day is not my own. I give it to you. I pray I will let your light shine for all to see. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Something to Consider…

Our fellowship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit takes place in His light. Our joy is made complete when we shine His light and share in His fellowship with others.

Who are the people you see and do life with day in and day out? Is there somewhere you spend time that is dark in attitude and heavy in atmosphere? Consider how you can shine the light of Jesus in this place and with these people so they may also have fellowship with us.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,  so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 (NIV)

Time Well Spent

It’s been a while since I’ve written…well, since I’ve written a post. I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of writing the past two months. I am almost finished with my third Bible Study!

Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk This Way is based on the book of 1 John. I knew this book was about love, but I originally saw it as God’s love for us. After digging in and doing a bit of research and study, I realized it’s as much about our love for Him and each other. The key verse that caught my attention is “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6.

How did Jesus walk?

He spent time in fellowship with His disciples and anyone who wanted to know His truth. He spoke His truth and shined His light into every situation.

He was obedient to His Father always doing and only doing those things His Father was doing. God can be in everything you do whether it’s praying for healing or taking a nap.

He was humble, so humble. I think of all He faced while here for 33 short years: resentment, mocking, scorn, anger, hatred, temptation and of course, physical suffering and death on a cross. And these challenges didn’t only come from those you would expect to hate Him but from His own family and those who claimed to know and love God.  Our own pride is often a bigger problem than anything else that can come at us.

He knew God’s Word. Yes, He is God’s Word but still, He studied it, knew it and used it. We are to do the same. And through reading the Bible and participating in studies such as this one, we grown in wisdom and our understanding of Him.

And finally, He prayed. He drew close to His loving Father and lived a life of purpose for Him. Can anything else we do here on this earth even compare with living a life of purpose for our God?

These are the five disciplines we will be discussing during this study: Fellowship, Obedience, Humility, Meditation and Prayer.

I would love to have you join me for the study this summer. Workbooks are $10 and we meet in Ramsey, MN in both the morning and evening. You can either register or just purchase the workbook online through Northgate Church.

I’m in the process of the final edits and I am completely blessed as I read through the material one more time remembering all God has done and revealed to me this spring!

Victory in Jesus

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the LORD, because you know that your labor in the LORD is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Have you ever purchased an item that you just had to have only to get rid of it a year or so later? You didn’t use it as much as you thought you would or it didn’t work the way it said it would. I’ve done this way too many times. Usually, I’ve been looking for something that would make life easy and convenient. Sometimes, we just want the hot new product so we can be part of the “in” crowd. Sometimes, we just want to prove we can have it.

I recently saw a restaurant menu that said, “You can have it all!” The truth of that statement is you can have it all…eventually. It comes at a price. And then, you will be empty again because it does not last.

This is the way of the world. We can have it all. All the world has to offer, that is. And the lie the enemy wants us to believe is that it’s worth the price. You can satisfy your every desire. You deserve it, you’ve earned it and without it, you won’t really be happy.

The truth of Jesus says you don’t deserve it, you can’t earn it but with Him, you will have unending joy. In Jesus, there is joy and satisfaction like you’ve never experienced. No food or drink can feed your hunger or quench your thirst like the love of Christ.

When we live like we believe this, we are not distracted from our work, our purpose in the LORD. God has something for each of us to do for His world, His kingdom. The enemy loves it when we don’t complete our missions, don’t live out our purpose and are completely ineffective for Christ. He throws material possessions, status, and conveniences at us hoping to distract us. He uses struggles, troubles and temptations through our circumstances and people in our lives to try to get us to give up. We may begin to think we will never really be able to do what the LORD has called us to do. We can’t really have victory in Jesus here and now in this time and place. It’s just too hard, too much work.

We allow the perishable things of this world to keep us from a life of victory in Christ. Once we accept the gift of Jesus and His salvation, we know we will be with Him in heaven some day; but, we do not need to wait until then to live in that victory.

Something to Consider…

Where do you go to find satisfaction? Do you look to the people and things around you to fill you and bring you happiness?

Do situations, emotions and others move you? Do they cause you to doubt your faith or why you do what you do?

If we stand firm in our faith we cannot be moved from the purpose God has set before us. And what is that purpose? To share Jesus with others. What does the way you live your life say about what you believe about Jesus?

Ask Him to show you any areas of your life where you do not believe victory in Jesus is really for you right here, right now. He has overcome the world. In Him, so have you.

God’s Will for You

“Be joyful 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)

“…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18b

Really, is that it? Is that all I have to do to be in God’s will? Sound too easy – be joyful, pray and give thanks?

Here’s the hard part: be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. That sounds impossible!

What does it mean to have joy?

Joy is our excitement in expectation of good. It is also our enjoyment of the good we already have. It is not the same as simply being happy. Joy is an emotion but it is an emotion provoked by knowing, not feeling. We know that as followers of Jesus, we have received the Holy Spirit. Christ is in us. We have received the Eternal Life. It is with us always. We also know that we have been sealed with Holy Spirit guaranteeing our inheritance, salvation through Christ. Regardless of the battles and turmoil we face every day, we can have joy always.

How can we pray continually?

So often we think of prayer as carving out time to sit and be still. We lay out all of our prayers at one time. We get all worked up when we miss one and can be really hard on ourselves. But God knows our hearts and our thoughts at all times. It is necessary to spend intentional time with Him, talking to and listening to God; but, as we go through our day we can continue to lift up each situation, conversation, relationship, and burden to Him and lay it at His feet.  Sometimes, the simple prayers are the best because it means He is at the forefront of our minds at all times. We don’t just give Him the big things, the things we think we can’t handle or control; we give Him the small, simple things that we tend to think we can handle and control without His help.  When we are in constant communication with God, we will be better able to recognize His will.

Why should we give thanks or even be thankful in all circumstances?

Life is hard. We don’t want to deal with or face some of the situations and problems we do each day. Why should we be thankful when it doesn’t appear God has helped us, when He hasn’t taken our problem away? Isn’t that how we know God is with us? He answers our prayers the way we want Him to? We are to be thankful because He has made it possible to be joyful always and has given us the ability to be in prayer, communication with Him continually. We know that no matter what our situation, no one and nothing can take away what He has guaranteed. While all circumstances are not good, we know that He works all circumstances out for His good so that He can be gloried bringing others to know Him and have the same guarantee we do. We are an active participant in the kingdom of God. And that makes our joy complete!

Something to Consider…

Do you lack joy? Jesus is joy. Remind yourself daily of what Jesus has done for you and what that means going forward. His kingdom is here for you now. Enjoy what you have already received.

Do you feel like you have no time to pray or don’t know how?  He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Talk to your friend, Jesus, about anything and everything on your mind.

Do you wonder how you can possibly be thankful in the middle of your mess? We are not our circumstances but we do have the opportunity to show others the love of Christ in the midst of our circumstances. How will you show Christ’s love to others facing difficult circumstances?

Sing a New Song

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:3a

If He, Christ, has put a new song in my mouth, what was the old song?

We sing the song loud and proud! Words of complaining (Can anything be good?), blaming (It’s not really my fault!), venting (I can’t believe what I have to put up with!), gossip (Don’t tell anyone but…) and derogatory remarks (Oh, it’s just a joke.) come so easily. Sometimes they are meant for one set of ears, other times ringing out for anyone who will listen.

There was a time when the worst we had to worry about was our words being repeated by someone else. We could always say they didn’t really understand us: no evidence, simply hearsay.

Then there was the possibility that it would be recorded either by audio or video tape. Ever been in a position of watching a fun family video and suddenly you realize what’s coming next? Ouch!

With email came the accidental “Reply All” and the intentional “Blind Copy”.  “NOOOOOO!” can be heard echoing over the tops of the cubicles.

With the internet and social networks, the world suddenly got a lot smaller and our words go much further than we ever imagined. If I comment on a friend of a friends post, and he has different privacy settings than me, whose settings rule? Yikes!

And texting – who’s really on the other side of that phone?

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:3a

But now we can have a new song; one we want shouted out at the top of our lungs for all people, all nations to hear! I don’t know about you, but I want the words I speak to lift others up, not tear them down. I need my words to be an encouragement to myself as well. Most of all, I want the words of my mouth, those that come from the depth of my heart, to be pleasing and bring glory to my God and Savior, Rock and Redeemer!

Because we live in the love of Christ, He has removed the old words of multiple complaints and has placed them with new words of joy and adoration that glorify and bring honor to Him – the one true living God who is holy and over all creation. If we, who have been without Him and now know Him, are changed by Him, we should be joyfully sharing Him with others. Why share?

“Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” Psalm 40:3b

Because of our words and actions, a great number of people will see the change God has made in our lives. Our words will tell of Christ’s great love for us and our complete joy in what He’s done. They will choose for themselves to seek out and understand our God, and when they do, they will find Him and put their confidence in Him.

And in that, our joy is made complete!

Something to Consider…

Are you wanting, needing something to change? Do you want to replace a dismal and dreary outlook with one of hope and joy? You cannot know Christ and not be changed.

At Northgate Church, there is a new song being sung; a song of love and life and joy! Prayer covers everything and encouragement abounds! If you do not know Jesus, I invite you to join us this and every Sunday! He’s always there!