Full Joy

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

The first question we must ask when reading this verse is what are “these things” that Jesus is talking about? So I backed up a bit to look at the full context of this verse. This is a passage in John where Jesus is talking about abiding in Him. When you back up to verse one it begins the passage. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

Jesus goes into an explanation about abiding in Him, just as the grapevine abides in the plant. You see you can’t cut away the vine from the base of the plant and expect it to continue to produce fruit. That is impossible. And it is impossible for us to live for Him if we are cut away from Him. When we abide in Him, and He in us we will live a productive life as a Christian. We will only be able to bear fruit for the kingdom if we remain connected to the vine. We must remain connected to Him, in order to fulfill the purposes of God. 

Another point here is that when we are abiding we are in a position to ask Him for blessings

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

Now the point in this statement is not just to give us a way to get whatever we want. But the fact of the matter is if you are abiding in Him, you will want the things that will line up with His will. So as you learn to abide, your thoughts will change to kingdom thoughts and your wishes and desires will have a kingdom purpose. 

But then Jesus wraps up this little lesson with our focus verse today. You see He is not trying to get us to abide in Him just so we can do the work. He is telling us that abiding in Him is how to have a fullness of joy. The kind of joy that will only come by living for Him, and living in His will. The kind of joy that comes as a result of abiding in His love. I am on a pursuit of joy this week. And really I want to live my life that way all the time. Abiding in the joy of Jesus is not living a life void of problems, but it is living a life in step with Him so as to know He’s got whatever is concerning me. It’s living a life that is producing fruit for the kingdom. It’s knowing that my joy is full and complete because of Him. 

Choose Joy!

“yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18

I was having a very bad day. This was one day last week. I had to go to my office last weekend on Sunday because there was a hurricane coming on Monday and we would not be working and there was something that had to be done. On my way home I heard a rock hit a window and I looked all over my windshield and the car windows, including my sunroof and did not see anything, no rock chips, nothing. So on Tuesday morning I get in the car and my sunroof was shattered. It was still holding together but it was obvious it would have to be replaced. Not knowing if it would hold together or not, I closed the panel on the inside and headed to work. On my way to work I began to hear glass falling on the panel and I knew I would have to turn around and take my car home to sit under a covering until I could get it fixed. Now I know that a busted sunroof is nothing to necessarily cry about. But you know how on some days that one thing can happen that just might push you over the edge. This had the potential to be a one thing pushing me. I didn’t cry over it, but I did feel I was teetering on the edge. 

On my way back to work, in my husband’s truck, I felt myself teetering so I began saying out loud “Lord I am so grateful that my joy is not tied up in a sunroof!” After I said that one it set me going I began to out loud say to the Lord, “Lord I am grateful that my joy is not tied up in hurricanes!” “Lord I am grateful that my joy is not tied up in my work.” “Lord, I am grateful that my joy is not tied up in my children, and whether they are doing or acting like I think they should.” “Lord I am grateful my joy is not tied up in my finances” I did this all the way back to work for about 15 minutes or so. And you know what, by the time I drove up at work I could honestly say “Lord I am grateful my joy is tied up in YOU!” 

You see the point is this, some days are bad days, some years are bad years and some seasons of life are hard seasons, but if you belong to Him, we get to choose joy! This verse is actually part of a passage by the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk is never considered a particularly happy book to study. However, this prophet, even though he was prophesying the coming judgement of Judah still knew how to put his faith, trust and joy in God. The book itself is only three chapters, and while you see his complaining and crying out to God, he ends it with a prayer and a declaration that his joy is not in circumstances but in God. This is his declaration. 

“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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk wasn’t looking at his circumstances to bring him joy. He claimed joy in the Lord in spite of his circumstances. Sometimes we have to reach out and claim the joy because the circumstances surrounding us just aren’t cutting it. Won’t you do that with me today. Won’t you name a few things that you are grateful are not the source of your joy and then tell Him how grateful you are that your joy is in Him not in your circumstances. 

Trust and be Safe!

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1-2

What does it mean to dwell in God’s shelter and abide in His shadow? I think we could think that is just for the super spiritual, those who are pastors and/or scholars. But I don’t think so. I think dwelling in His shelter and abiding in His shadow is very simple really when you think about it. It means having fellowship with Him every single day. It means having a time set aside to study His word and to listen for His voice. It means going through your day knowing He is with you. Even when the going can be hard. It means knowing that even when bad things do happen that they have sifted through His fingers. And it truly means trusting Him to work things out the way that is best! 

I wish I could say that I went about every day like this. I try, I really do. I have a habit now of getting up early and having some time with my God! But some days, even though I may have had a wonderful time with the Lord, something will happen that sets the mood for the day in a way that does not feel like dwelling and abiding with Him. Something will happen that makes me want to shake my fist or to scream that this doesn’t feel very safe. On those days I have to work even harder to make sure I am putting my trust where it belongs and not in the things of the world ,or my mood, or whatever is happening that day. It takes a little extra effort to dwell and to abide. 

It’s days like that, when I feel like I am having to remind myself to breathe in, breathe out, when I feel like I am at the end of a very thin thread and one wrong move will break the thread that I know I better retreat. It’s time for me to be intentional about my dwelling and abiding. It’s days like this that I will turn on a podcast of a sermon or some worship music on my phone to play in the background while I work. Let’s face it, sometimes you just have to quiet the noise of the world and that has been my secret weapon in order to do that. 

No, dwelling and abiding does not mean that you have to appear super spiritual all the time. At least I don’t think so. But dwelling and abiding just means you know where your heart is at home. My heart is more at home when I am in close communion with Jesus than at any other time. It’s when I quiet the noise of the world, no matter how bad or how good the day is and bring my concerns, and my joys to Him whatever they are. Dwelling and abiding just means spending time with Him and asking His direction and His will for my life. Dwelling and abiding means laying it all down at His feet and then trusting Him to carry it out the best way He sees fit. Dwelling and abiding is knowing that your concerns, your prayers, your heart is safe with Him!

Again, I am going to give you this verse in the NLT. I love the simplicity of it. 

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” Psalms 91:1-2

May we be people who live in His shelter and find rest in His shadow, and may we know that we are safe and we can trust Him. 

Trust and Delight

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will act.” Psalms 37:3-5

I think these verses here say a whole lot about how we should trust. You see trust is not a passive verb. Trusting in God takes action on our part as well. First of all, we can’t just get up and say I am going to trust you today Lord and then sit in our chair all day long and expect everything to fall into place if we do nothing. We trust as we go about our day. We trust and we do whatever good we can do for the day. To dwell in the land, and befriend faithfulness means we are going about our day and trying to remain faithful in our walk, in our speech and in our day to day activities. We trust the Lord to work out the stuff of life as we continue to live the life He gave us. It would be so easy, especially these hard days of Covid and the craziness in the world to lock ourselves in our homes and try to stay there until it’s all over. But part of trusting Him is to keep on living our day to day life.

The next part of this verse has often been quoted as a way some people think they will just get what they want but it requires action on our part too. You can’t just get up and say I’m delighting in you Lord, now give me what I want. Let me put it this way. One of the greatest delights of my life is to spend time with my grandchildren. Just thinking of them, and looking at pictures of them can bring a smile to my face. But how would they ever know the they are a delight to me if I didn’t make an effort to spend time with them. They live an hour and a half from me, so I don’t have opportunity to see them on a daily basis, but you let a few weeks pass and I am calling my son to make a plan to see them. I want them to know how much I delight in them. Oh they are little and they don’t realize to call it that right now, but one day I want them to look back and see the good memories we made together. Much the same, if you aren’t spending time with God, how would He ever know that you take delight in Him. And as far as that giving you the desires of your heart thing, what happens as you spend time with Him, the desires of His heart become the desires of your heart and He blesses you through them. Some of your desires may stay the same, but if your desire is not in line with His will, then you will find over time, your heart’s desires have changed. 

Finally, make a commitment to Him. Make your commitment to His will and way for your life and He will act. Trusting Him is following where He leads you. It means praying about that job offer and letting Him direct your path. It means praying about your relationships. If you are single and looking for a mate, praying for God to show you and direct you to the right person. It means praying about your friendships. It means praying about big decisions in life that come your way. And it means praying about small decisions that come your way and everything in between, where you will serve your church and community. Commit your way to Him and trust Him to direct you and He will do it! 

I want to end with these verses out of The Passion Translation. I love to use some of these translations for understanding and clarity when I am studying. I personally like to read out of the ESV, NIV or NKJV but I use TPT, NLT and the MSG to give me a different approach to the verses I am studying. Sometimes the way it reads is so perfectly put that I like to share. 

“Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in his eyes. Fix your heart on the promises of God, and you will dwell in the land, feasting on his faithfulness. Find your delight and true pleasure in Yahweh, and he will give you what you desire most. Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way, you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!” Psalm 37:3-5

Let’s trust Him today and everyday, letting Him direct our steps day by day and He will pull it off perfectly! 

Trust and Hope

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such tress are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

I like the way this verse reads in the NLT. I like it in other versions too, but I truly like the way this version reads about the Lord being their hope and confidence. You see that is what trusting the Lord gives you. It’s not that everything is going right all the time when you trust in the Lord, but it’s the hope and the confidence that He will see you through until things do go right again. At least that is my opinion of it. Trusting that the Lord has you in whatever season or circumstance is not waking up with some Pollyanna worldview that all is right with the world today. But it’s that hope, it’s living with the confidence that better days are coming. 

I love the way this verse says that those who put their trust in the Lord are like trees planted by a riverbank. Have you ever floated down a river or just looked out over a bridge at the lush greenery that will be planted beside the riverbank? Trees that are planted by a river will always be green and lush even in hot and dry seasons because of the source of water. You look at trees or greenery planted out in the middle of a field with no water source nearby and when the season is hot and dry the leaves begin to wither and fall off. 

We are much the same way, when we put our trust in the Lord and place our hope and confidence in Him we will thrive. But we have to stay close to the source to keep our hope and confidence, especially in the hard seasons of life. We have to make sure that our roots are planted deep by the riverbank. And when they are we may feel the heat but deep down it will not shake us. We may know that things are dry out there in the world but we have the river and deep in our souls we can know that we will make it. And best of all we can keep producing fruit. We can keep loving people, we can keep spreading hope to others and hopefully we will invite others to come plant their roots by our riverbank as well so they may have the hope and confidence that comes from the river! 

Every Day Trust

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I found this verse many years ago and it has often been a go to when life gets confusing and I can’t see clearly what is going on in front of me. Well the first verse anyway, verse 5. I have wanted to, in the past only use the first part, because well verse 6 seemed like too much of a commitment at times. Can I say that? That’s not a super spiritual thing to say that I have not always wanted to acknowledge him in all my ways. But it is truth. 

There have been many times in my life that I didn’t necessarily want to go the way that I felt God wanted me to go. I wanted to do things my way. Only now looking back I can’t imagine why. But that’s perspective isn’t it? I have to remind myself that while I am trying to acknowledge Him and His direction on my life now and I can’t imagine living any other way, that I have not always been this way. This way I, hopefully will not come across judgmental to the people I know and love who are not living their life attempting to stay in step with Jesus. 

We as humans sure do complicate things don’t we? This Proverb was given by Solomon to his son. Solomon had learned that acknowledging God, consulting Him when there were decisions to be made and seeking to follow His will and way for his life were a daily task and that if he did that then his life would stay on track. It’s simple really. But I think that we many times forget to include God in the mundane every day parts of life. We forget to ask Him if we should take that job offer or if we should do that thing that has been put in front of us. And sometimes we forget to ask Him about the big things of life, Like if we should date that person or marry that man. I can honestly say that in my younger years I didn’t consult God on many of those issues. Praise Jesus. He blessed me in spite of me many times. But I do wonder sometimes how much better my life could have been if I had learned this lesson younger. I am always so grateful when I hear younger people making the choice to pray about those big things. But I am really encouraged when I know someone who is asking Him about the mundane every day things of life! 

“Self-sufficiency and self-dependence have been the ruin of mankind ever since the fall of Adam. The grand sin of the human race is their continual endeavor to live independently of God” ~ Adam Clarke

Ouch! This quote hit me hard. We, as humans tend to categorize sin don’t we. We look at the murderer, the adulterer and the child molester as the unredeemable sins. But Mr. Clarke says here the grand sin of the human race is simply living independently of God. It would solve a multitude of problems in society if people would simply learn how to love Jesus and ask Him what our next steps would be and stop trying to do this life without Him. So let’s, at least you and me, do that today, let’s trust God to our future and our big decisions but more than that, let’s do our part and trust Him with our mundane of today. And we will trust that He will make our path straight!

TRUST

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

David penned this Psalm as he did many of the Psalms. But it is necessary to note that David didn’t write this as he was sitting in a meadow playing his harp watching over his sheep who were all accounted for and in their rightful places. No David penned this Psalm when he was fleeing Saul, and being pursued and seized by Philistines in Gath. David was very afraid of what they would do to him. He was in fact the young shepherd boy who had killed their giant warrior Goliath. He was very afraid. 

One thing to note here is that David says “when” I am afraid. He doesn’t say if, he doesn’t declare he will never be afraid. We talked a few weeks ago on fear and ways to conquer fear. But the one thing we know is that it will rear its head again. As I write this we are being pounded outside by tropical storm Ida. I am not afraid as I sit in my house with the rain pounding outside. I hear my wind chimes as the wind is strong. But yesterday there were people very afraid. And they had true cause to be. Yesterday Ida was a major hurricane and for those who stayed behind and for those who left they were afraid and many are probably still dealing with fear today. Some were afraid for their lives yesterday as they stayed behind and encountered the strength of nature. But they are still afraid today for the life they had that they will now have to rebuild because of loss of property. No David didn’t declare he would never be afraid, but he declared what he would do WHEN he was afraid. “I put my trust in you”! 

David declared action, he declared praise to God and that he would actively trust God and that would help him to not be afraid. He recognized that while he was at the hand of the Philistines and they very well could kill him, that he belonged to God and that was where he would put his trust. 

Something else to note here. As I was studying this Psalm it led me to 1 Samuel 21 which is believed to be when David penned the Psalm. In this chapter it pretty much says that David walked right into the situation he had with the Philistines. He was under some false impression that the citizens of Gath would welcome him. But when they recognized him and the servants pointed out to the king who David was, he realized they would not be as welcoming as he thought. David was fleeing Saul but when he went to Gath it was not under the direction of God. He went of his own free will and it had the potential to not turn out so well. But when David became afraid and recognized that he had not handled this rightly and he returned to God and put his trust in Him, God delivered him from the hands of the Philistines. 

That’s comforting to me, you see David is considered a man after God’s own heart. But what I love about David so much is the fact that while he was a man after God’s own heart, he was far from perfect. He was a man who went off on his own decisions and made lots of mistakes. But he knew his God and when he returned, God would deliver him, God would protect him. God blessed him. This just lets me know that when I don’t get it right, I can still return to God and he will still deliver, protect and bless me. And you can to. All you have to do is trust Him. 

Faith = Hope!

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

We have talked about faith for the past couple of weeks. This verse to me is the culmination of all of the verses we have studied. Faith is our assurance of the things we hope for! Having faith is what gives us hope! I personally don’t see how anyone lives without it! I know that for me when things get tough it’s faith that God has me and has the situation in mind that gives me the hope I need to keep going. Having faith that all things really do work for good for those that love Him. Having faith that even when we lose people we love, or we get that diagnosis that we know will take our life on earth, that  we don’t live as if we have no hope. We know to be absent from the body is to be present with Jesus for those of us in the faith! 

I have heard Priscilla Shirer and her father Dr. Tony Evans quote this saying that I believe Dr. Evans penned. 

“Faith is acting like it is so even when it is not so in order that it might be so simply because God said so.” 

Yes, I know that sometimes circumstances and situations will weigh us down. But when you have faith in God and when you believe His word when it says that He will work it out, we can live in hope to see better days. Sure there are times that are hard to hang onto the hope. I know that, I’ve lived it. But every time I am struggling to hang onto hope if I ask Him, to let me just see that He is still got it, then I look for it, He will show me something every time. It’s those little things that fuel my faith and give me hope for the things I can’t see yet. 

Friends, I know life can be hard. I promise you I have had things that I have hurt over and have wondered how in the world God could work this one out? But I am so grateful for the ways He has grown my faith over the years that keep me coming back to my faith in Him. I am grateful for the ways I have seen Him work out impossible situations that in my mind would have to be written off. Faith in God is what gives me hope for what I can’t see right now. Faith in Him the one who saved me and who rescues me from myself and my own poor choices is what gives me hope for a better tomorrow. He is the reason I continually lay my stuff at His feet every day and I hope for a better today than I had yesterday! He gives me hope for what I can’t see right in front of me. Please if your faith is wavering right now, please ask Him to show you something to show that He’s still got you! I have faith that He will do it if you only ask! 

Shield of Faith

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16

This verse is in the middle of the description of the Armor of God that Paul tells us to put on in the book of Ephesians. When we put on the Armor of God, we have put on the belt of truth, and the shoes of the Gospel of peace. But we “take up” the shield of faith. Look at that, it is an action word. Now I know that putting on the belt and the shoes take action too. We have to do those things. We have to think on the righteousness that we have through the blood of Jesus. The way to do that is to know the gospel of peace. We have to know God’s word to really have the gospel of peace. But even with knowing our place under the blood of Jesus and with knowing His peace, we still must take up the shield of faith. We must actively hold our shield in place to “extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one.” 

The explanation of the armor to the people in Ephesians that Paul was speaking to would be easy for them to imagine as they had a picture of what all of this armor would look like. They also knew that in battles that there would be arrows or darts that were set aflame and shot at them by the enemy. Therefore, they could picture the warrior actively taking up his shield and having to protect himself from arrows that were truly set aflame. Paul using these word pictures was to let them know the seriousness of the attacks that would still be coming at them even after knowing their place in the kingdom and knowing the gospel. We would love to think that once we become a Christian that Satan is just going to leave us alone. Right? But he doesn’t, unfortunately! But the good news is when we put on our armor of God it comes with a shield of faith. 

You see Satan will continue to play with your mind. He will give you thoughts and feelings, he will fuel your imagination with fear and with lies and he will hurl all of these things at you until, if we are not careful the rest of our armor will get stiff and rusty. But when you take up that shield of faith and you turn them back on Satan’s head you can stand tall in your armor. 

Faith is a very important element of our armor. You have to exercise it, sometimes those darts may be coming at you so much that you have to take extra steps for it. I know I have been there. Sometimes that shield just gets heavy doesn’t it? So you have to take extra steps to keep that shield up. When the devil’s lies and torments begin to take over, watch what you are putting in. For instance, when I feel myself getting overwhelmed with what ifs and I feel my imagination run wild and I know it’s because Satan is hurling a few darts, I will turn on some praise music as my background noise. If I have something very specific that I need to keep in my mind to pray, I will write out verses on sticky notes and paste them everywhere. All of these are the ways that I take up my shield of faith. It’s active, it’s purposeful. We have the power to stand against those fiery darts my friends, we just have to take up that shield and to put on our armor. We need to know where we stand in truth, we need to know the gospel of peace and we take up that shield and stand and extinguish those darts coming at us. 

Asking in Faith

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6

When we ask God for something, sometimes we get a yes, sometimes we get a no and sometimes we get a not yet, because His timing is way better than ours. But one thing you can always count on a yes from God if you ask Him for, is wisdom. But you have to know that He will give it. You don’t doubt Him for this one. He will give you wisdom to walk out your circumstance or situation. He will give you wisdom to understand His word. He will give you wisdom wherever you need it. But you must ask and you will receive. 

I remember in my early adult years when I really began to study the Bible. I would read it at times and I had no clue what I had just read. That is also back before you had dozens of translations at your fingertips. I would read and I really had a hard time understanding. Then I found this verse. 

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” Psalm 19:7

And I truly started praying for God to give me understanding of His word. I am a simple minded woman and I needed His wisdom to decipher and to understand. And His word said He would make wise the simple! I would never be so bold as to say I understand fully. But His word really began to open up to me. And not only did I begin to understand it more, as I understood it more, I fell in love with His word more and more. I love God’s word, I love reading the Bible, I get excited when the written, God breathed words breathe fresh life into me!  It never gets old! God has given me a love for His word and it really is my desire for all to have the same love. 

God has also given me wisdom in circumstances and situations. When I reign myself in and ask God to direct my steps, and my thoughts, he will do it. He does it every time. But I can’t doubt that He will give me that direction. James’ description of being tossed by the wind is exactly how my insides feel when I am not leaning into Him for wisdom in my circumstances. 

I like to read other translations just to get different perspectives. I always stick with a translation like the ESV, NIV or NKJV at the beginning of my study. But I will support it with the Message, or NLT or The Passion Translation. I read these to get a different wording. I really liked the Message translation of these verses. 

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves.” James 1:5-7 (MSG)

I just like the plain English that this translation puts it. Many times I ask for His help when I don’t know which way to turn. And yes sometimes it’s hard to ask Him and then not “worry my prayers”. But that is not how we are supposed to ask. We should ask Him, lay them at His feet and then wait in FAITH for His direction to show us what we need to do next.