The Joy of the Lord is my Strength


joyofthelord

“Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 

Has life knocked you down?

Have you lost your joy?

Friend, all throughout our lives we are going to face trials. These trials will try to steal our joy. They will take the wind out of our sails.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we often wonder how we will ever get back up, how we will ever survive.

I want to encourage your heart this morning. You are not defeated. You are not alone.

Today’s verse tells us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

You see, life is more than we can handle. The day to day struggles that we face are too much for us. The sudden blows that come from the devil will surely knock us to the ground.

The good news is that we do not have to stay there. We have a source of strength, and His name is Jesus.

When life hands you a situation that you can not bear alone, Jesus is there. The joy that can be found in knowing Him and serving Him is enough to pick us back up and dust us off.

Having Jesus in our hearts does not guarantee us a life free from struggles. However, knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him brings a peace and a joy that can get us through these difficult times.

Do you know Jesus?

Do you have the joy of the Lord in your heart?

I want you to know, today, that Jesus loves you. He is standing, with arms stretched wide, waiting for you to run to Him.

Will you choose Jesus today? Will you let the joy of the Lord be your strength?

Fighting an Unseen Battle


Sword_and_Shield

 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 

 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 

 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”

Colossians 3:8-10

As I sit here this morning and ponder these verses, I feel the need to share with you the burden that has been on my heart.

I was trying to think of some clever story I could tell, or some fun analogy I could use to grab the attention of my readers, but I feel this morning that I need to just say what is on my heart.

Friends, we, as Christians, are under attack. I am not talking about an attack from some foreign country, or from our government. I am talking about a spiritual attack that we can not see, yet one that is all round us.

 We are told in Ephesians 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

I firmly believe that the devil knows his time is coming to an end and he is fighting with every trick he has left in his book to destroy Christians.

If we do not open our eyes to these tricks, we are putting ourselves in danger of being defeated.

You may read the verses that I have chosen for today and ask, “Why did you choose these verses to talk about an attack by the devil?”

Friends, the devil wants to use us to defeat each other. You see, the devil in himself has no power, but if we allow him to, he will use us to do his dirty work.

The devil knows that if he can get us as Christian brothers and sisters to turn on each other then his battle will be won for him. He knows that we will defeat ourselves. We need to wake up to this reality and realize the threat that we are under every day.

Our verse today warns us against the very things that the devil wants to use to defeat us. He wants us to be angry, and to fight and bicker with each other. He wants us to talk about each other and lie to each other. He wants to cause discord between God’s people.

This is why we are told to put off these things. We can not grow together as Christians and encourage each other as long as we are holding on to things such as this.

We go on to read in Colossians 3:12-17:

 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

These are the things that we need to be sharing with each other. Instead of anger we need kindness, meekness and long-suffering. Instead of talking about each other and telling lies about one another we need to be loving each other, forgiving each other, and encouraging one another.

Ephesians 6:13-18 tells us:

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

In order to live as Christian brothers and sisters we need to put on the whole armor of God. This is the only way that we are going to be able to stand against the devil and the things he uses to defeat us every day.

We as Christians need one another. We need each other’s friendship, and prayers. We need to hold each other up and defend each other, not fight with one  another and tear each other down.

I would ask that you commit to pray with me about these things as we stand together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray these verses have encouraged your heart today. Yes, the devil fights hard against us, but as long as we are under the shed blood of Jesus Christ, there is no fiery dart that can harm us. It is vital for us as Christians to recognize the things that the devil wants to use against us, but to also understand the things with which God has equipped us to stand together.

 

 

 

One for the Ladies


bible and ring

  An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.

Proverbs 31:10-12

Okay ladies, this one is for us. Many times what I write is very general and can be enjoyed be everyone. Today, however, I feel the need to have a good heart to heart with you.

How many of you had no idea what you were doing when you got married? Go ahead, you can raise your hand. I know I am raising mine. When I married my husband 13 years ago, I was so love struck and young. From the time I was a little girl I had dreamed of finding the man of my dreams, getting married, and having babies of my own. I would imagine that most little girls do this. This in and of itself was not a mistake. Where I messed up was when I did not stop to consider what each of those positions would require from me. I did not take the time to prepare myself for the task ahead.

Most of the time, when trying something for the first time, we take the time to prepare and make sure we are equipped for the task at hand. If you are going to run a marathon do you wait until the day of the race to find running shoes and begin to run? No! That would be crazy. You start months, maybe even years, in advance and train. You begin small and run short distances. You train and practice for the big race to come. If you are going to cook a meal, do you just walk in the kitchen and begin to cook? No. You prepare. You first decide what you are going to cook and then you find a recipe for it. You make sure you have all the ingredients. You get everything in order and you follow your recipe.

Why then do we as young women believe that we can just jump into marriage without being prepared?

When I married my husband I am sad to admit that I did not pray about it first. I did not seek God’s will for my life. I did not search my Bible to find out what kind of woman God wanted me to be. Somehow I fooled myself into thinking that I had it all figured out.  I would be a natural, just like June Clever. How hard could it be? I would cook, and clean. I would eventually have a few children. Life would be perfect. It did not take me long to realize that I was wrong.  I had no idea what it meant to be a submissive wife, or what it meant to let my husband be the head of our household. I had no idea how to make the day-to-day decisions that came with being a wife. On top of that, we decided to start a family right away. Within nine months of marriage, I was already a new mom. So, not only was I trying to be the perfect wife, even though I had no idea what that meant, but I was also now trying to be the perfect mom. Can I just tell you that I was headed for disaster?

It took me quite a few years of struggling to be June Clever before I realized that I was failing miserably. What was I doing wrong? All those years as a little girl, I had dreamed of this day and now that it was finally here I was a wreck. Why? Because I had not prepared. Sure, my mom had taught me to cook and clean. She had taught me how to carry a baby on my hip while shopping for groceries. Looking back, she had even tried to warn me about getting married before I was ready, before I had searched for God’s will for my life. But, I was young and did not realize the wisdom in her words until much later in life.

So, when did things begin to get better for our family? It was when I submitted my life to God and admitted that I was not June Clever. Our marriage began to improve when I committed to being that submissive wife that God wanted me to be. Our lives began to improve the day I realized that I needed to trust my husband and let him step up as the man of our household. Our whole life together changed the day that I committed to pray for my marriage, my husband, and our children every day. You see, I put my priorities in order. I allowed God to show me what it meant to be a Godly wife and mother. I allowed God to teach me that I did not need to be June Clever to be a good woman. God taught me, through His word, that He had equipped me with all the things I needed to be a good wife, mother, and woman. When I messed up was when I tried to do it on my own.

Do we still have our struggles? Yes. Do I still mess up on a daily basis as a mom and a wife? Yes. But, God is faithful in extending his grace and mercy to me every day. With God’s help I am learning what it means to be the woman He wants me to be. It is my desire every day to be more like the woman I read about in Proverbs 31, and less like the women I see on television.

Ladies, let me encourage you today. Whether you are preparing for marriage or have been married for fifty years, God wants to help you grow. He wants to teach you what it means to be a submissive wife. God wants to teach you to be that precious jewel in the life of the man who God has planned for you.

To you ladies who are not yet married, I want to encourage you to take the time to seek God first in your life. Allow God to lead you to the man who you are to marry, and then take the time to prepare for that marriage. Take the time to read your Bible and find out what kind of woman God wants you to be. Learn what it means to be a submissive wife. Learn what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman.

To the lady who can, in agreement, nod her head and say, “Yes, I have learned that too,” I want to say to you, “Good job.” You are well on your way to being the woman God wants you to be. Stay committed to Him and His word. Cover your family and your marriage in prayer daily. God wants to bless your family and He will, if you will seek Him in all that you do.

To the lady that may be reading this thinking that this can never happen in your marriage and in your life, let me reassure you that it absolutely can. No marriage is too far gone that God can not mend it. No family is too torn apart that God can not put the pieces back together. I want to encourage you to commit to pray for your family every day. Seek God first, and ask Him to help you become the woman He intended for you to be. Ask God to bless your family and to mend the broken pieces. Yes, it is going to take some work, but God is faithful. He will mend the broken pieces and He can help your marriage and your family to grow if you will allow it.

Dig Into the Meat of God’s Word


knife--plate--knives--fork

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14

I have a confession to make. I am a meat and potatoes kind of girl.

Do not get me wrong. I love to eat fruits and vegetables. I love a good grilled chicken salad. I enjoy eating the different things we grow in the garden each year, but you give me a good steak and baked potato and I am one happy girl.

I thought about this as I was reading my Bible yesterday morning. I came across the Scripture that I have shared with you today and the thought came to me: “What are you chewing on spiritually?” My dad will sometimes use this analogy when he is preaching at our church and I have always loved it. It has always painted such a clear picture, in my mind, of how God wants us to be as Christians. Many times in our Christian walks we miss out on the “meat” of God’s word and are content to just drink the milk.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying this morning. There is a time and a place for the milk of God’s word. When we are young Christians it is important that we study God’s word in a way that we can understand it. I believe that it is important to focus on the Scriptures that will help us to get rooted in our faith. But, we should not be content to just stay there.

As infants, we are given only milk and it is enough to sustain us for a while, but as we grow we require more solid food. This is how we mature and grow into healthy adults. Our spiritual lives are no different.

It is wonderful as a young Christian to study the parts of the Bible that will help us develop our beliefs and to strengthen our faith. As we grow as Christians, however, I believe that it is important that we not stop there. We need to begin to delve deeper into God’s word and get down to the “meat” of it. These are the parts of the Bible where God shows us what he wants from us as an individual. These are the Scriptures that God will use to show us how He wants to use us to minister for Him.

I understand that the Scriptures can sometimes be confusing. There are times when I will read a passage and have to go back and read it again and again. Do not get discouraged if you find yourself in this place. God will reveal to you the things He wants you to have as He sees fit for you to have them. This is the amazing thing about the Bible. It never gets old. It does not matter how many times you have read it, there is always something new that God wants to reveal to you as you read His word.

I pray that this has encouraged your heart today. If you are a new Christian I want to encourage you to read your Bible daily. There is so much encouragement and knowledge to be gained from God’s W ord. These Scriptures that you will find will be beneficial to you as you face trials and troubles every day. When Satan throws a snare in your path, when he places a temptation in your way, Scripture will be the most valuable tool you have.

If you are not a new Christian and you find yourself slacking on your Bible reading I want to encourage you as well. Do not let this part of your Christian walk slip. No matter how many times you have read the Bible, keep on. As you seek out God’s wisdom and His will, He will lead you to the things He has for you each day.

Remember: The milk of God’s Word is beneficial to all Christians, but the meat of God’s Word is what will sustain you as you follow Christ, so dig into the “meat” of God’s Word today. You will be surprised what God reveals to you as you search for Him.

Give Your All


miracle_of_the_loaves_and_fishes“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7

Sunday night at church I had the privilege of teaching our children’s class. Since I was working with preschool and kindergarten ages I decided to teach them about Jesus feeding the multitude with five loaves and two fish. We talked about how Jesus performed a miracle with just one little boys lunch. I explained to them that God will provide for their needs no matter how big they are and no matter how little they have to give.

Last night, as I thought back on the lesson I had taught the kids and how God does supply all our needs, He brought another point to my mind. When we hear the story of the multitude being fed with such a small amount of food, we are often in awe at that miracle. Last night, my attention was drawn back to the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus. Not a lot is said about the little boy, but having children of my own I can only imagine what must have been going through his mind as he watched the whole story unfold before his little eyes.

Put yourself in this little boy’s place for a moment if you will:

You wake up one morning, get dressed and ready for your day. Just before you run out the door, your mom hands you a small basket or bag of some sort and assures you that there is enough food in it for your lunch that day. Being a little fella you do not think much about it. You kiss your mom good-bye and you run out the door.

As you wander along, carrying your lunch, you happen upon a crowd of people. This is not just a couple of people standing around visiting. No, this is a very large group of people (a multitude the Bible says.) Being the curious child you are, you push your way through the people until you get close enough to the front to see what all the fuss is about. As you peek through the crowd, you see Him. It is Jesus and He is speaking, teaching the people who have gathered here. You stand there, gazing into the face of this man with the kind eyes, and you listen to His words as you try to understand what He is teaching these people.

As the day carries on you get so caught up in the words of this kind man who you forget all about the time. As it gets later in the day, maybe your stomach lets out a little growl reminding you of the lunch that your mom packed for you just this morning. As you find a quiet place to sit, away from the crowd, you open your lunch and find your favorite meal: fish and bread. Just about the time you begin to take the first bite, one of Jesus’ disciples comes up and asks you for your lunch.

What would you do? Would you gladly hand it over to this man, or would you tell him no? Would you be willing to part with the only food you had for that day, or would you tuck your little lunch under your arm, turn and walk away? We are not told what the little boy’s response is to the disciple, but we do know that the lunch was given and it was taken to Jesus.

Maybe the little boy had heard about Jesus. Maybe he had heard his parents talking about a man who performed miracles. Maybe the little boy, having the faith of a child, gladly handed his lunch over to the disciple knowing that it was going to Jesus. Can you imagine the surprise on the little boy’s face when he saw Jesus take his little lunch, bless it, and begin to pass it out?

I do not know where the little boy fell in the line of getting some of the meal, but it being the little boy’s lunch to begin with he knew that there were only fives loaves of bread and two fish. How must he have felt as he saw Jesus break it into pieces and give it to His disciples? I can only imagine how excited he must have been when the disciples came to him and handed him his part. How glad must he have been to sit down and share in this meal with this great crowd of people? The Bible tells us that they ate until they were full.

What do you think was going through this little boys mind as he watched the disciples gather the left over food? What must he have been thinking as he counted the baskets as they were filled and brought back to Jesus?

What started out as five loaves of bread and two fish had not only fed over five thousand people, but had also resulted in twelve baskets of left over food. Wow, what a miracle!

What do I want us to get from this story today? Well, There are a couple of things that God revealed to me as I put myself in this little boy’s place.

First, I believe that God wants us to have the faith of a child. This little boy had no idea what was going to happen when he gave away his lunch. But he gave it willingly.  I believe that God wants us to give what we have. Even when we do not know God’s plan he wants us to trust that He can and will use it for His honor and His glory.

The second thing that God laid on my heart about this story is that the little boy gave his whole lunch. He did not just give the disciples a fish and a couple of loaves of bread and say, “I will keep the rest.” No, that little boy gave all that he had. In turn, God took it, blessed it, and multiplied it.

You see, God wants what we have. However, he does not just want part. God wants us to willingly give all that we are and all that we have to Him. I understand that just the thought of this can be a little scary and overwhelming, but just as Jesus took this little boys lunch and used it in ways the little boy could not imagine, God can do the same thing for each of us. If we will hand our lives over to God fully, He will take them and do unimaginable miracles in our lives.

I want to encourage you today. No matter how little you think you have, give it to God. Hand it over to Him fully. I promise that you will be amazed at the work God will do. I pray today that no matter what you have to offer that you will be willing to give your all.