Choose Joy

 Wednesday, September 23rd

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1:1-3.

 The opening Psalm before us a choice. We can mock everything, we can complain or just go along with everything we hear and see in the world or we can choose joy. And how do we choose joy—by spending time learning who God is and getting to know Him as we read his word. When we mock, we make fun of everything and everyone. We end up tearing down everything. It is so easy to be critical and complain. It is so easy to point fingers at others and blame them. It is a negative mindset and undercuts the ability to enjoy life and enjoy God.

That psalmist says that if we want joy then we must choose to turn away from cultural values that do not reflect God’s perspective and heart; we must turn away from a negative, complaining, and cynical attitude. And then we must turn towards God and learn about Him. When we choose to follow Jesus and really let God into our lives, then we see beauty. We see how much God loves us and all that He does for us. We see the beauty in God’s creation and the rich ways He provides for us. We discover his presence, that He is always with us. We learn about his kind and loving heart that wants to wrap us up in his love. And if we do that the Psalmist says that we will grow and produce rich fruit and that we will not grow weary of doing good but will continue to prosper in all we do. We will find life; we will find joy.

Paul says in Galatians 5:23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy . . . “ If we want real joy, not just a temporary pleasure or happiness based on circumstances, then we have a choice to make. We choose to get to know God and his heart and ways. We choose to think about God’s character and nature and his plans for us as people. There we will be enabled to leave behind the negative, complaining attitudes of our hearts and minds and will find joy in embracing God’s ways. But it is a choice we must intentionally make. What choice will you make today?

God, help to daily make the choice to know you better and to find the life and joy you have for me.

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God Shows His Strength in Our Weakness

Monday, September 21st

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26.“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29.

These are some of the great promises of Scripture. When we are feeling on top of the world and feeling good about everything, we often just engage life without any thought or dependence on God. On the other hand, when we feel tired and weary in heart and mind or feel inadequate and unsure about life and what lays ahead for me, we will turn to God and ask for His help.

God has a habit of showing up in those moments, especially when we recognize our dependence on and need for Him. The tragedy of that reality is that we miss out on so much of what God wants to do for us and in us. In those moments of accomplishment and feeling good about our lives and what we are doing, we are usually leaving out our awareness of and dependence on God.

Whether we are feeling good or bad, we should begin each day acknowledging God’s presence in our lives and asking for his help through out the day and for help and wisdom in anything special happening that day. And when we do that, we are acknowledging our need for Him in our lives. We are saying to God, “You are my helper; I need you in every moment of my day.” And God delights in showing up in our lives throughout the day, manifesting His strength in our lives.

And it is especially sweet when God shows up in those moments when we feel exhausted and weary in mind, body, and spirit. He takes great delight in doing that for us. When the apostle Paul three times prayed for deliverance from some struggle or weakness in his life, God responded, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” “2 Corinthians 12:9  

 God, thank you for your promise to help me in all the circumstances of my life. Each day I know that I am dependent upon You for everything. Whether I feel weak or strong, I want to say that I love you and need you in everything I do.

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God Searches for Those Who Do Not Know Him

Friday, September 18th

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Psalm 14:2“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly . . . .  for if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:6, 10

 God is constantly searching for those who do not know Him, but are looking for truth, for purpose, for something bigger than themselves or for those who recognize their own limitations and failings. The full measure of God’s love and grace is seen in that he is always willing to forgive even His enemies, those who actively oppose him or do blatant evil.

And the amazing things is that God doesn’t save us by zapping us with a thunderbolt and grabbing us out of our other life. Rather, he sent His Son, Jesus, to live as a poor man in our midst, born in a stable without wealth or great fanfare. He showed us His kindness through the servant life of His son who was abandoned, despised, rejected tortured and even put to death on the cross.

Why did God do it that way? So that we would see his great love and mercy and choose to come to Him of our own free will because of all that He has done for us in Jesus Christ. In Jesus we see that God was willing to make any sacrifice for us; He was going to hold nothing back. He wants us to come to Him voluntarily.

Is that how I would have done it? I doubt it. If I were all powerful and creator of the world, would I have made such a sacrifice? It would have been much easier to point a finger, zap someone, like a modern-day superhero and miraculously transform their circumstances and their lives. But then we would never know what it means to be really loved.

God, thank you for the amazing way that you have demonstrated your love for us. Open our eyes to see and recognize that no one will ever love us the way you do for you held nothing back. You gave everything You had so that we would see and find real life. Continue to open our eyes that we would understand your great love. Amen.

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Jesus Longs to Be with Us

Wednesday, September 16th

“Jesus said to his disciples, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God . . . And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” Mark 10:14, 16. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18.

 Sometimes we may be tempted to think that God is far away, or he has so much to do that he does not have the time or the interest to really spend time with us. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus wants to welcome us into His arms like a little child resting in the love and security of their parent’s arms.

Julian of Norwich, a devout believer of the fourteenth century who had an extremely dramatic encounter with God, wrote, “Everything that is beneath God, everything that is less than God, is not good enough for us.” God wants everyone of us to know this.  That’s why Jesus came to live among us; he wanted to be with us. We must constantly remind ourselves that God wants to be with us even more than we want to be with Him most times. Everything in our thinking and emotions wants to find security in the things of this world. But there is only one place to find true security—that is in the arms of Jesus.

So, we must fight our natural emotions and feelings remind ourselves constantly that He offers us the absolute best for our souls, nothing else can compare or is adequate. When we pray, we then should begin by first reminding ourselves of God’s goodness and his desires to bless us and provide rest for our lives. Before we start talking to God about everything and everyone in our lives, pause to reflect on His goodness and rest quietly in His presence for a few precious minutes.

When a young child is hurt or upset or confused, they usually just need to nestle in the arms of their parents, hearing the parents’ words, “I love you; it will be okay.” And that is exactly what Jesus wants us to do—to come rest in his arms, to feel his warmth and hear his assuring words of love.

Gracious God, so often I come to you with so much on my mind, with things I want to tell you and ask you to do. Forgive me for not resting in and receiving your love. You have said that you will not leave us as orphans, but that you will love us and surround us with your love and goodness. Help me to be still, to rest in your arms.

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