Friday, June 28, 2013

Learning Joy

Wanna know my favorite thing about joy? That it comes from God. Not from circumstances, not from possessions, not from people. Which means that mere circumstances, possessions (or lack thereof) and people CAN’T take joy away.
It is a fruit produced when living in the Spirit. It is a gift given by God.

I met a lady recently who didn’t have much in this life, except for the beautiful hope of salvation in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even without the best circumstances or possessions, she had a remarkably sincere, peaceful joy that I’ve been struggling in prayer to ask for since I met her.
She is a perfect example of what Paul prays in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” She was abounding, and I long to abound as well.

Here’s what I know and believe and am asking for faith to believe more and more:
That my dear Savior, Jesus has called me to abide in His love by obeying His commands, and promises that His joy will be in me and my joy will be full. (From John 15)

This means that wherever I am, with whatever and whomever, when I am abiding in Him, I will experience the joy I’m called to have in Phil 4:4- “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” How beautiful is that?

This Summer, I believe I’ve been tested/am being tested to reveal if I have this abiding joy all the way to the deepest part of my soul- not just knowledge about it in my head and a mouth that says I believe it. Some of the tests, I’ve passed. Others, I’ve needed to heart-check and retake. God is refining me.

God has called me to participate in wonderful things for His kingdom. It is my responsibility to make sure my joy is coming not from the wonderful things for God’s kingdom, but from the God who called me to those things. (So, when the wonderful things change to other wonderful things, the joy is still there... you see?!)

God is so gracious and faithful to me as I learn and relearn truths from His Word. 
I’m sure I’ll experience downhearted days every once in a while, but as I’m abiding in Jesus, there should be many, many joy-filled days for every downhearted one. 
Thank God for His provision for us:
You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Abiding in His presence,

Friday, June 7, 2013

All Over the Place

Today, I was out running errands for only an hour and it was astounding to me how many expressions of blatant selfishness I saw- even more than normal, whether by drivers on the road or customers in stores. But not only that, watching the rude reactionary responses of those they came in contact with was absolutely disheartening.
It caused me to do my own personal heart-check, to look at my actions. Are they self-serving or selfless? How are my responses to others selfish actions? Do I respond in love and patience, or react with ugly thoughts and actions?

Honestly, at one point I found myself thinking ill of a complete stranger whose words to me had been uncalled for and rude. I immediately was convicted of how my attitude reflected not a heart set on God, but a heart bent on self.
I asked God for forgiveness and became more intentional about living love and hopefully being light to the people around me for the rest of my trip.

It really felt like I was weaving in and out of scenes from a movie as I watched broken people interact with other broken people in a very broken way over and over again.

It brought to my mind the verses I have been studying with our World Changers team:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.              Philippians 2:1-11

That’s the beautiful way life is supposed to be lived- in harmony with one another, considering others more significant than ourselves, looking out for others’ interests above our own to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ our Lord and God our Father.

I was so profoundly convicted by how easy it is for me to slip into the ever-popular attitude of our culture: entitled,  “me” focused, looking out for number “1”. Our Enemy tries to feed us the lie, “If I don’t look out for myself, no one will.”
But God teaches us very differently. His way says, “As part of loving and serving Me, everyone should look out for everyone else. Then, everyone will be taken care of.”

If I am looking out for you, and you’re looking out for me, we’re both being looked out for. That’s the mended way God has graciously given us to live in this broken world.

I feel I’m rambling a bit, but just hang with me for a few more seconds…
Something developed in the minutes between my errand running and my writing this post. A very dear friend and brother in Christ passed away. My heart is full of aches to know that I will not see him anymore on this side of eternity, but after all I’ve seen out in the world today, I’m rejoicing in the fact that He is free from this brokenness and I’m also rejoicing in the legacy he leaves behind.
I can hardly think of another person who more beautifully looks out for the interests of others than he did. Whether it was offering encouragement just because, leading others to know Christ in a deeper way, or serving in whatever capacity was needed, he continually put Jesus first and put others above his own self. I miss him excruciatingly and I cherish his memory.

I am inspired, in light of my errand running, the Word of Truth that the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance, and my dear friend’s passing to strive all the harder to keep my eyes focused on God and keep my actions selfless toward others so that my legacy might one day be a beautiful example of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of this broken human being.

God showed up all over the place in my life today.
And I just thought I’d share.