Friday, October 18, 2013

Where Can I Find JOY?

Wendy Blight
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." James 1:2 (NLT)

My daughter's journey with scoliosis was a heart-breaking time for me as a mother. There were days I couldn't see past Lauren's extreme physical pain and my wondering heart questioned, why hasn't God healed her yet?

Through those years, I struggled. I felt empty ... void of hope ... void of joy. I knew what God's Word said about joy: "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy" (James 1:2 NLT). But in the midst of Lauren's circumstances, her broken heart and wounded body, it was hard to follow that command.

How could I obey this scripture and find joy when someone I loved was in such pain? God graciously answered the cry of my heart by revealing to me these three words ... Jesus Only You.

I noticed the first letter of each of those words spelled J O Y. And it clicked with me. Jesus is our joy!
When God says in James 1:2 to consider trials as opportunities for joy, He's not talking about the joy found in earthly things. Circumstances turning out how we desire, possessions and positions, and even good health only offer happiness. They are temporary. What God longs for us to have is deep, lasting joy found in Jesus.

The King James Version says we are to "count it all joy" when we walk through trials. This word "count" means "evaluate."

When trials come, we must evaluate them in light of God's truths and promises. It's not the trial itself we consider a joy. Rather, it's the results that will come from the trial that we consider pure joy.

This involves trusting that God is actively working for our good even in the midst of painful circumstances. And as we trust Him, we will find an inner gladness rooted not in our circumstances, but in the reality of the living God who transcends our circumstances.

After years of praying, asking God to heal my daughter, He did. It still hurts to remember the excruciating pain Lauren suffered. But God was and is faithful. God didn't heal my girl in the miraculous way I was expecting. Instead, she endured a seven-hour surgery to place two rods in her spine. She missed nearly six weeks of school and labored through months of relearning how to sit and walk and move. She had to quit competitive cheerleading. But in and through that time, God did a new thing.

Looking back, I can see how He held us up, deepened Lauren's faith, and drew our family closer to each other. In real and personal ways, God showed us His tender, loving care. And He taught me the meaning of true J O Y.

Jesus alone is the source of our joy.

When discouragement comes and you feel you cannot take one more step, remember these three words, Jesus Only You!

Jesus came so that I . . . so that you . . . can experience His joy fully and completely in us through any and all circumstances.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the joy that is ours in Him. Every time our thoughts turn to our hurt, cause our pain to bring us back to J O Y . . . Jesus Only You. We ask this in the Name of Jesus, amen.
Related Resources:
Read about how Wendy Blight found joy in her book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner.
Visit Wendy's blog to enter to win a copy of her book and to sign up for her newest online Bible study on the names of God: Who is God and Why Should I Care? It begins October 30th and runs through December 3rd.
Meet every day with the only One Who brings true joy through reading the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, filled with 366 devotions. Pick up your copy by clicking here.
Reflect and Respond:
What does it mean to be filled with the joy of the Lord?
What keeps you from receiving the fullness of His Joy?
Memorize and personalize James 1:2 so that you can recall it the next time you walk through a difficult trial and feel the absence of joy.
Power Verses:
Galatians 5:22, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." (NLT)
Nehemiah 8:10b, " Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (NIV)
© 2013 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In the Midst of Dirty Dishes

Sharon Glasgow
"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: ... whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 4:9–11 ESV)
She and her husband had been missionaries for over sixty years and led countless people to Christ. Now she was in her eighties and still serving. My friend Sheli and I were honored to stay with her for a week to minister alongside her.
After traveling thirty hours to her home in Takamatsu, Japan, we arrived late in the evening. She ushered us into her kitchen for a hearty meal, then prayed for us before we all went to bed. When the sun was barely up the next morning, we feasted on an enormous breakfast in her tiny kitchen.
The kitchen was crowded, her appliances old and worn, dishes piled high in the sink from her lavish food preparation—yet the atmosphere felt entirely like home. As she and her husband read Scripture and encouraged us, tears welled up in my eyes, the love of Christ enveloped us; it overwhelmed me.
Immediately after breakfast, she began cooking again, this time for 100 women. She'd rented a banquet hall and invited friends, telling them an American would be speaking and there would be food. We cooked, set up tables for the luncheon, and then I was ushered to the front to speak. Her objective in hosting the event was to build a bridge in hopes that those who came for lunch would come back again for church on Sunday. Many did!
While driving home after the lunch, she told me she'd invited a large group to the house for dinner that night. I couldn't imagine how we could clean up the mess we'd left behind and simultaneously prepare another meal. How would we get it all done? She didn't seem concerned. Instead, she was fueled by the energy of what the Lord had done at the luncheon.
There have been times I've worried more about my kitchen than how I can serve others. I fret over the size and messiness. But I was inspired as I watched this woman who had no concerns about the dirty pots in her sink. She didn't let an unswept floor keep her from ministering. She set the table beautifully and welcomed her guests. She and her husband prayed and read Scripture. Hearts melted.
Years have passed since that week in Japan and I think of her whenever I have company. Over the course of her life, she has ministered to thousands in her home, and many have come to know Jesus there. Her ministry has nothing to do with a spotless kitchen. In fact, her kitchen was a mess. But whenever God opens a window of opportunity, she seizes it.
I want my service to be like that described by the apostle Peter, grounded "in the strength that God supplies." I want to long for people to know Jesus more than I long for the perfect kitchen.
God cares more about what's happening among the people in our kitchen than He cares about the state of it. My missionary friend taught me that it is possible to share God's love, demonstrate His character, and offer hospitality, even in the midst of dirty dishes.
Dear Lord, show me ways to serve through the resources You've given me. Help me care more about people than things like dirty dishes. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Related Resources
Sometimes we need a trusted friend to remind us that God supplies all our needs, including strength to serve others. We would love to be a voice of encouragement and godly perspective to you through the 100 devotions found in our new book, Encouragement for Today: Devotionals for Everyday Living.
You may notice the format below is different. That's because today's devotion is a sample pulled directly from Encouragement for Today to give you a taste of our new book. Click here to pick up your copy.
Visit Sharon Glasgow's blog for more encouragement.
Your kitchen is a perfect place to show hospitality. Don't wait for it to be perfect to invite guests. God will supply the ability you need to minister in your kitchen, and He will be glorified.
Would you be willing to invite people to stay for dinner if they dropped by unannounced—even if your kitchen were a mess? Why or why not?
Can you think of a one person, family, or neighbor who doesn't know Jesus that you could invite for dinner? Make a call and get it on the calendar.
Power Verses
Proverbs 31:15; Proverbs 31:25–27
Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On being a Christian

To meditate

Yeshua expects no more and no less than a fundamental total orientation of man's life toward God: an undivided heart, in the last resort serving not two masters but only one. Awaiting God's rule in the midst of the world and among his fellow men, man should give his heart...solely to God...not to money and possessions, not to rights and honor, not even to parents and family...

It is a decisive change of will, an awareness changed from the root upwards, a new basic attitude, a different scale of values.

Hans Kung "On being a Christian"