Joy of the Lord

The bible teaches us that the joy of the Lord is our strength; but is it really?

The simple truth is that faith and joy go hand in hand. As we walk in faith, we can be joyful in knowing that God is in control of whatever we’re experiencing. Our confidence should be grounded in the absolute assurance that we’re in the center of His hands: He is at work. When we allow fear and the dread of “what if” and to take root, our Faith plummets and Joy is lost.

This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:10b

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Is. 55:12

Our prayers move the hand of God

“As a teacher, I always ask my students to avoid clichés. But now I’m going to use one on purpose and I don’t care how many people have already said it before me and will say it after me (and I know there have been and will be a lot). This book is a blessing – it has been such personally for me. There are so many books that impress, but so very few books that change. This small book makes a great difference, and in this is its greatest value. I decided to read one principle a day, but couldn’t help finishing it in a couple of days – like the ladies from my women’s home group to whom I left the book as a present before moving to a different town.
This book is very special to me because while reading it I witnessed the greatest miracle in my life – two stripes on my pregnancy test after six years of marriage.
Barb, the truth that ‘our prayers move the hands of God’ will keep echoing in my heart forever.”
-Marina Rybachenko, Latvia

I’m a stuff person

I tend to gather stuff, especially good “deals.” If I find something on sale, I’ll often buy several.  I’m not a “clutterer”, mind you. As a matter of fact, I hate clutter. So most of the stuff I buy, I give away, but I do gather on occasion.

Lately, I’m finding this to be true with my time with God. As I come before him in prayer, there are tons of thoughts that begin swirling through my mind. These are not evil or even bad thoughts: They may be things I need to take care of, or something I’d like to do or buy for someone. It may be an email I’d like to write, or a note of encouragement I’d like to send via Facebook. Maybe it’s a lesson I need to plan for. They’re good things, but they distract and clutter my mind; and most importantly they keep me from prayer.

When these things come to my mind, I always have an immediate choice. I can continue in the direction of the distraction, or I can take the thought captive and bring my focus back on God. I may need to close my iPad or put my phone down. That initial decision seems to make all the difference.

The crazy thing is, what good can I really do without the Lord’s enabling? What do I have to offer in my own strength and understanding? It’s all rubble without the power of the Holy Spirit. But through him, mountains can be moved, lives changed and my life can make a difference.
Lord, help me to keep you in control; to walk in the power of your spirit. Teach me today to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Demanding Faith

Let me begin by declaring I believe in praying in faith. I encourage others to step out and trust God for mighty acts of divine intervention; for lives to be changed; mountains to be moved. I often ask God to work above and beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.  I deeply believe God will heal, not always, but probably more than we trust him to. That said, there’s a big difference between stepping out in faith to pray for the impossible and demanding God to do as we deem fit.

Lately I’ve heard several “testimonies” of people sharing of how God answered a prayer when they laid the request before him and basically ordered him to work.  I heard one person tell God that she would go back on the mission field only if he provided a place for her to stay. My husband recently heard a man on a Christian radio program share of how his wife demanded God to heal her and amazingly he did! They used phrases like “you must” and “you have to”. They remind me of spoiled children with their arms crossed, digging their heals in the ground until they get their way. Who are we to demand of God? Yes, we should pray in faith, believing and declaring the miraculous power of God but who is in the driver’s seat? Who’s in control? Where is our faith, really?

In the 3rd chapter of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were threatened and thrown into a fiery furnace for not worshipping the pagan gods the king had established. Their response in Daniel 3:17-18 describes exactly what I’m talking about. “17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” If you’re familiar with this bible story, you know that God did save them, not from but in the fiery furnace. He did perform a miracle. Who received the glory? God did. He was in control and all knew it.

Where is our faith, really? What or who do we depend on? Can we have joy, no matter the outcome? Yes, we should step out and ask God to work in amazing ways, beyond human possibility.  Let’s ask him to move those mountains, to heal the sick, to provide the impossible, to part the waters; but if he chooses not to, our faith in him – in his love, his mercy, his sovereignty – must stand firm!

The prophet Habakkuk faced a daunting situation. He knew an army was coming to basically wipe out his people. He pleaded with God to stop this from happening but God allowed it. Verses 17-19 close chapter 3 with these words “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

Pray, seek, ask. But find peace and joy in the knowledge that God is ultimately in control.

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today I almost died. I had no idea that when I woke up early that morning feeling absolutely terrible, my life was about to change. I had a 4-inch blood clot that was lodged in my heart. Danny rushed me to the hospital and the memory of the words spoken by the ER doctor are still, to this day, more than surreal: “Ma’am, you’re having a heart attack.” I should have known the seriousness of the procedure by the words my cardiologist kept repeating to the nurse, “keep the paddles ready!” We found out later how touch and go the whole thing was and how God really did spare my life that day, one year ago, today!

So much has changed since then. I’ve gotten in shape. I exercise regularly, and have lost a bunch of weight. I take daily medicines that my doctor says should keep me alive for many years to come. But most of all, I have a new perspective on life. I’m not afraid of death. I know where I’ll be spending eternity and honestly look forward to meeting the Lord face to face as well as seeing loved ones again who have gone ahead. But even more than before, I appreciate people. I appreciate time. I appreciate life.

One of the things I grappled with following my near death experience was a deep desire for life; something I’ve always taken for granted. I begged God to give me more time. I struggled with wondering if it was a bit “unspiritual” to want to stay on earth longer. Shouldn’t I want to see the Lord? The conclusion I came up with is that life is a gift. Many times throughout the Bible, God blessed people with long life; it’s a blessing he gives and we were born with a natural, innate desire to live. This may sound a bit crazy but I guess people struggle with all kinds of different thoughts when they go through a time like the one I went through.

They say the deeper an emotion is, the deeper the memory. That said, there are people I will never forget; cards written, phone calls, meals sent. People who drove many miles to visit; others who sacraficially gave us money to help cover the financial costs.  One dear friend came to my hospital room and braided my hair, combing through the tangled mess for one whole hour. And the words “I’m praying for you,” well, they took on a whole new meaning, one year ago today.

Romans 8 reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  I can vouch for that! God has worked good in my life, and I know it’s for His purpose. I’m blessed today; that much I do know.

So, one year and four stents later, here I am, rejoicing in life: Thanking God for being so kind, so merciful, so generous. It’s been a different ride, full of lots of unexpected turns, but what a great ride it’s been. And it all began one year ago today!