Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Peace and Joy in Difficult Circumstances

Do you ever have times when a particular theme keeps reoccurring? Maybe you just read about a topic and then you see a sign about it or hear a song on the radio that reminds you again. God has been whispering in my ear… “Child, pay attention”.

I just finished a month long study on the book of Philippians. One of the main themes is Joy and another is Peace. Joy is not a fleeting or a superficial and soon forgotten feeling but a deep inner emotion that lasts and is remembered. Russell M Nelson stated, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

In this pandemic crisis and world of social distancing it is hard to feel joyful. Instead,we are afraid, depressed, sad, overwhelmed and over worked. Our brains are tired from adjusting and trying to live with new restrictions, changing rules and new expectations. Remember, the apostle Paul was writing from prison when he challenged the early Church.

                    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice        Phil 4:4

We are to make the Lord our focus and not our circumstances. He is the source of our strength in each new day.  Our relationship with Him needs to take higher priority over anything else. It’s easy in times like this to reverse that order but we will only feel more exhausted. When I am “too busy” to read my Bible and pray I end up with a bad attitude and more stress.

Contrary to popular opinion, Christians do not have to have it all together. It’s okay to feel burnt out, confused or frazzled….or whatever emotion you may be feeling. And it is okay to have good days and bad ones. That is the only thing normal right now. Most Moms weren’t planning to run their own one room schoolhouse. Most service people weren’t expecting to be facing a health risk on the job. We were created for community not isolation. Every day we are facing a lot of uncertainty and it is stressful but we can choose our focus and adjust our attitude.

Anxiety is a joy robber. It’s been said that “worry is like sitting in a rocking chair – you think you are moving but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.      Phil 4:5-7

Remember “the Lord is near” : we need to live with an awareness of God’s presence (read Psalm 139:1-12 and Joshua 1:8,9)  Other translations for “reasonableness” are; be considerate, gentleness, forbearance, work together. God gave us our emotions so it’s okay to talk to Him about how you are feeling. Get it off your chest – He already knows anyway. When we leave our fear and doubt at His feet we exchange those negative feelings for inner peace. He will guard our hearts and minds – our attitudes, emotions and thoughts.

Our problems are real and won’t go away instantly but our hearts can change. Faith is exercised when things cannot be seen. We can have peace and joy in difficult circumstances when we remind ourselves that God is Sovereign and in control. We choose to trust in His faithfulness and promises for each day – one at a time.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you       2 Cor 13:11

 

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My A,B,C’s to a Merrier Christmas

My A,B,C’s to a Merrier Christmas

Angels –  The first messengers of Jesus’ birth.  They heralded the good news for all mankind – and they sang loud and clear.

Baking –  I enjoy making, sharing  and eating Christmas cookies. It’s fun receiving them too!

Cleaning – is not optional but you can focus on the main living areas if you don’t have company coming. Nobody is going to look in your closets or under the bed  (except the kids).

Deck the HallsThe 3 main areas you should decorate if you don’t have time or the money are the tree, the Door and the Mantle or table. (however I tend to deck the whole downstairs)

Enjoy – What is the point if you run yourself ragged and don’t enjoy the celebration?  Savor the memories!  Remember Emmanuel means “God with us.”

Food & Fa-la-la  Every holiday in America seems to include food. Make the favorites and forget the experiments. If you have a big gang coming – use paper and forget the china!!!

GiftsSanta promises a gift if you are good, NOT that you will get everything you ever dreamed of.  Being thoughtful and creative is best. Shorten your lists if need be or have a “Yankee Swap”.

Humor – Try not to be so uptight. Laugh at yourself and the foibles around you. It is really OK – no one will remember if the cake fell or your furnace died.  (I know because the oil man had to fix ours one Christmas and the kids paid no attention to that nice man!)

Invitation- you may get many invitations during the holidays but you do not have to say yes to them all. Most of us already have extra concerts, programs and family obligations on the calendar. Do not over extend yourself or your family – it only makes everyone grumpy.

JESUS He is THE reason for the season. Read the Christmas story to your family. Set up a manger that the children can touch. Have a birthday cake for Jesus.

KingListen to the Hallelujah chorus –“King of kings and Lord of lords!”  It will lift your spirits!

Lights –  There are many beautiful light displays to enjoy.  The bright lights make the gloomy short days of December so much better and remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World.

Music – Listen to music in your home and car. Sing along! Sing with your children. I can’t imagine Christmas without singing carols.

Noel – means Christmas. It comes from an old Latin word meaning “to be born.”

Open – your hearts to the One who loves you most. Open your home and open your arms for hugging.

Peace – Shalom means wholeness, wellness and inner peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Quiet Time – Play games, do puzzles, have some old fashioned fun!

Rest  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Treat yourself to cat naps whenever possible. When we get over tired we lose our cheer and sanity.

Shepherds – were outcasts in their day – dirty and ceremonially unclean.  But God came down at Christmas for even the “least of these.”  Sharing with those who are needy is good for our soul and teaches our children to be grateful.

Tree – is more than a decoration to Christians. The tree is a symbol of everlasting life with God. It can also serve as a reminder of the Tree in the Garden of Eden and the tree (cross) Jesus died on.

Unplug shut the news off! Very little on TV is uplifting.  Limit your own time on electronic devices as well as your children. Sometimes the constant input can crank you up instead of calm you down.

Vintage I sometimes get miffed that toys I played with are now called “Vintage”. Sharing your stories and traditions with each other brings happy memories and laughter. Looking at old photos is also a wonderful way to remember those we loved who are not with us anymore.

Wisemen – The wisemen came from afar with costly gifts seeking the  prophesied infant King. Wisemen and women still seek Him.

Xmass is not offensive to me. The X represents the Greek letter chi, the initial letter in the word Xpiotoc (Christos)

Yuletide – the Christmas season  (remember it is only a season!)

Zzzzz it’s time to take that nap I mentioned.  Have a blessed, not stressed, Christmas season everyone!

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Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

Jerusalem – To Walk Where Jesus Walked- part 5

“Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During its long history it has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times.”* Today Jerusalem’s status is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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The gospels all give accounts of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem but it would be impossible to tell the total amount of time there. We only have two accounts of Jesus’ childhood visits to Jerusalem and the Temple. During His first visit as an infant, His parents dedicated their first-born to the Lord.  It was then that the prophets Simeon and Anna proclaimed the child as Messiah, the redemption of Jerusalem, salvation and light to the Gentiles.

In Luke we also read of the boy Jesus lagging behind in the Temple after Passover and his parents departure.  After frantically looking for him, they found Him sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[     Luke 2:49 (NLT)

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The Cardo – marketplace

During the reign of Herod the Great the city underwent great architectural achievement. Herod tried to show off his wealth, wisdom and cultural prowess by “Romanizing” much of his kingdom.  He rebuilt the Temple, created an opulent palace for himself and homes for the elite. During Jesus’ visits much engineering and construction would have added to the excitement as well as congestion in the city.

Jesus’ last week was spent in Jerusalem with His disciples. They traveled there to celebrate Passover not knowing it would be their last feast with Him.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him.37 When palm sundaythey reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” Luke 19:36-38      41 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep.42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Luke 19:41-42 (NLT)

Jesus’ last week was spent teaching in the Temple, sharing time with His disciples, and celebrating Passover. His huge welcome would be soon forgotten by mob mentality. He was betrayed, beaten, condemned, crucified and then buried in a borrowed tomb. But on the third day that tomb was empty! Jesus is alive! The grave could not keep Him, Death could not hold Him and as He promised He will return.

IMG_2352So many scriptures, so many visuals passed through my mind as I stood on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple.  This was the place where Jesus often came to pray. And it is believed that Messiah will return here to the New Temple and claim it for His own during His Millennial reign. (read Ezekiel 40-47 and Zechariah 14). So much history is here past, present and future!

The questions I ask myself and you dear Reader:

Do I love God’s Word, as much as Jesus did; to read, study and apply it to my daily life?

Do I appreciate the freedom I have to worship in a church building without persecution?

Do I fully understand the power and victory available to me because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death?

Do I live each day fully as if it were my last?

And finally – am I ready for His return? What if it were today?

 

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I Choose Joy

I Choose Joy

Several of my friends choose a word to focus on for the New Year and I chose JOY. Joy is a major theme of Christmas but it isn’t the same as happiness. Events or experiences that

have been hard earned or long awaited for bring a sense of joy.  Examples like the birth of a child, good news from a doctor, a college graduation and a wedding day bring a joy to remember. Joy is not fleeting or a superficial and soon forgotten feeling. Oh no, joy is a deep inner emotion that lasts and is remembered.

In the middle of a dark and ordinary night, angels appeared to ordinary shepherds with “good news and tidings of joy for all people”.  Frightened at first but then reassured they were told to go into the city and find the newborn Messiah. The shepherds quickly left birth-of-jesus-1150128__340their flocks and ran to see if this was true or a dream. They found the baby Jesus in a very humble place just as the angels had said and they worshiped him.  These humble men were filled with awe and wonder and joy. The long awaited Messiah had come and they shared with everyone what was told to them. They went back to tending their sheep but their lives would never be the same!

There are dozens (maybe thousands) of books, songs and quotes about joy. I found, The Gospel of Joy, Christmas Joy, Quest for Joy, The Chemistry of Joy and the rock group Three Dog Night’s, “Joy to the World”.  What is true joy?  Russell M. Nelson stated it best, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives”.

My husband and I chose Psalm 119:24 for our wedding day. During my last year of college I had become very ill requiring surgery and a postponement of our wedding day. This was a very difficult time as you can imagine! We trusted in God for my healing and celebrated April 2nd all the more.  

           “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps.119:24

                       “for the joy of the Lord is your strength”      Neh 8:10 (ESV)

                 “ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice “        Phil 4:4 (ESV)

My father passed away on December 15th but this Christmas I chose joy. He loved God and believed that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of his sin so he could enter heaven for eternity. Not a perfect man by any means but Dad tried to live a life pleasing to God.

I explained to friends that if I say I believe that Jesus died so we can have eternal life with Him, I need to act in faith.  I am grieving but my Dad has gone to celebrate Christmas with Jesus.  Imagine what an awesome birthday party that must be!  We don’t really know what heaven will look like but we are told,

1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s oldwomanheavenhouse are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also       John 14:1-3 (ESV)

     Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.   Psalms 116:15 (ESV)

 OR       When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him. (MSG)

 My focus this year will be on JOY. I will try to find joy in good times or bad. I will search for God’s promises instead of focusing on my problems.  We do not have a choice in many of the circumstances that come our way but we always have a choice in the way we respond. Joy comes from an inward peace and contentment.

What is your word for the New Year?  How will you respond to events in 2019? Will you choose JOY?

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WELCOME HOME

 

 

Joy of the Shepherds

Joy of the Shepherds

adventjoyJoy and happiness are both emotions where a person has feelings of contentment or satisfaction. But both of these feelings differ from one another.  Happiness is an emotion in which feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure. Happiness is caused by earthly experiences and material objects and is often expressed by outward elation. It is often temporary and based on outward circumstances.

Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion or feeling spiritually connected to a god or people. It is caused by spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude and thankfulness. Joy is felt as inward peace and contentment.  It is lasting and based on inward circumstances.  ( definitions from Diffen website)

For the past month we have been hearing and singing about Joy. The familiar passage in the book of Luke chapter 2 tells us that ordinary shepherds experienced the most incredibly terrifying experience that somehow turned into great joy.

shepherdangels28 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God …….16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.shepherd17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,…     20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.   Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)

 During the time of Jesus, shepherds in general were near the bottom of the social status.  They were ceremonially, physically and spiritually unclean. Only during King David’s reign did they enjoy a higher recognition. Even though sheep were needed for sacrifices, food and clothing, it was a dirty job. They couldn’t leave the fields to attend the Tabernacle or participate in many of the feasts. So why did the birth announcement of the long awaited Messiah come first to a group of poor Shepherds?

birth-of-jesus-1150128__340The shepherds anxiously went to find this newborn King as the angels had instructed. They were not afraid to approach Him small and in such humble circumstances. Baby Jesus was the One who would shepherd our souls as David had written in Psalm 23.  “Do not be afraid” the angels proclaimed, “this is good news for all people”.  Messiah had come! They saw the glory of the Lord but could not understand that this child would one day be the final sacrificial Lamb for all our sin.

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.        John 3:16-17 (NLT)

The rich and powerful were not looking for Messiah and liked things the way they were. Most of us are like shepherds, ordinary working folks. They didn’t get cleaned up or go to the Temple first….they came just as they were. We too can experience a deep, personal and lasting inward peace and contentment in our soul by approaching a holy God because of what Jesus did for us. Come to Him just as you are and find His JOY.

 

 

 Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King:

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

 

 PS – If anyone has any questions or comments, email me and I would love to get back to you personally. I wish you all a happy, healthy and joyful New Year!