The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

What a wonderful time of year this is! What makes this time of year special for you?  It might be being with family and friends. Maybe it’s the decorating, food eating and gift buying that brings you joy. What about Jesus? Does He have a place in your life during this season?

Let’s talk about gifts. Gifts are exciting! All the pretty wrappings and the suspense of what is hidden beneath those wrappings. We have all heard and probably sang the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Someone tried to add up how much it would cost to give the gifts named in this song.  The grand total came to about $15,000! It seems we get all tied up in the busyness of the season and we forget about the simplicity.

Christmas, a wonderful story and a gentle reminder of the true meaning. It is about the gifts. However, it is not about the gifts that can be purchased with a credit or debit card.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “ Isaiah 9:6

The real message is not the gifts we give each other but the gifts God has given to each of us.  His gifts are the only ones that keep on giving.  Let’s look at 4 things:

1. God’s gift to us was a total surprise.  Who would have imagined that Jesus would be willing to leave perfection to come into a sinful world and in human form?

2. God’s gift came to us in humble wrappings. He wasn’t born in a palace.  We all have been taught that He was born in a stable. The reality is He was born in a cave. This cave was a cave where lambs were born to be used for religious sacrifices. The lambs had to be perfect, it was mandatory that they were unblemished. Therefore, they were wrapped in rags to prevent blemishes. We know ultimately Jesus became our sacrificial lamb, which will become another gift in the future. Just as the lambs were wrapped, Jesus was wrapped in cloths or rags and laid in a feeding trough.

3. We don’t deserve this gift. We usually give gifts to those we love and care about. We don’t usually give gifts to those that have been unkind to us. Yet, God still gave us His Son as a gift, because of love, even though the human race had become an enemy of his. They broke religious laws. To top it off,Jesus was already rejected even before his birth when there was no room in the Inn. (Luke 2:7)

4. The gift tells us something about the giver.  Just as we think ahead and plan what we want to give to others, God did the same for us. Through Jesus, our gift, He gave us an opportunity at eternal life. However, we first have to accept the gift. Then we must unwrap that gift. What are you going to do with the gift after you unwrap it?  Push it to the side and think about it later or start utilizing it and discover everything it has to offer?  If we choose to utilize it we will discover that not only is Jesus THE gift but He also brought other gifts with Him. He brought peace, hope, forgiveness, healing and purpose. He also brought a new way to live and see, a joy that can’t be taken and a way to relate to others. He brought so much more that we are still trying to unwrap it all.

It’s not about the gifts that will be under your tree. These gifts are temporary and will be gone one day. Life is about knowing the God who made you and gave you the greatest gift you will ever receive. His gift is eternal and will never wear out. His gift always fits and you never have to return it. Most importantly, His gifts are worth more than $15,000, they are priceless.  Jesus is THE greatest gift of all.

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Heart to Serve

Heart to Serve

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

“Can we go home now?” was the usual complaint from me on a Sunday afternoon. My family was the first ones to show up and last ones to leave any given church event. Serving was modeled for me long before I could walk it out. One of my favorite memories is getting to sneak out of “Big church” and help my mom serve in nursery, but I’m not so sure my heart was in it for serving as much as it was for the snacks.

For many years serving was something that I just did; just did to be with friends, just did to get the approval of my parents, just did to play out the “good” Christian girl. What I didn’t realize was that serving from myself and for myself would lead to disappointment and exhaustion. When we serve out of our own need for approval, we end up pouring from an empty cup. God created us with a heart to serve. It says in Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. If Jesus, who was God, was meant to serve, how much more are we, who were created by God, meant to.

Serving is an inside-out reality that requires a constant connection to the Father in order to be life-giving. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”. We can’t serve without God’s strength. His strength allows us to push past our own desires and love without promise of return.

As you are empowered by Him, He will reveal the desire of where to serve. For some it will be front and center, but for others, it might be more behind the scenes. My call to serve came when I was a teenager sitting in youth group. My desire to help walk students through difficult times and watch them encounter the Gospel stirred my heart to serve in the children’s ministry and then youth. I am encouraged by the bold faith of the next generation. As pastor Brad always says, “there is no junior Holy Spirit”. The wisdom that comes from their innocent faith teaches me how to live unashamed of the Gospel.

Serving was never optional. We must consistently realign our heart to want to serve God first and through that love serve others. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try serving in a new area. God just may awaken new desires in your heart. Serving, when done from a full cup, leads to the abundant life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10.

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this blog post.

Jesus, the Servant

Jesus, the Servant

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

Have you ever thought of Jesus as a servant? There is no doubt that when Christ came to earth, He revealed his skills as a leader. However, He also showed himself as a servant. He laid aside His majesty to come to earth to show us the love of God. As a result, the action displays the attributes of Jesus as a servant- leader.

Looking back over my life, from youth to adulthood, I feel as though I have always been a servant. I didn’t know enough about Jesus or His word to say my service was a call to be a servant for God’s glory, but I knew I loved to serve.

Even though I didn’t know about Jesus and His word, my mom did. She set the tone for me to be a servant, by her acts of service. 

Reminiscing on my life as a youth and all the ways my mom served her family and the church was somewhat unbelievable. If you ask me, my mom was a Proverbs 31:10-31 type of woman.

A Proverb 31 woman is a noble woman who is productive and ingenious. She can even be intimidating to women who would seek to follow her example. But while everyone can benefit from her example of initiative and hard work the main lesson she offers is her outlook rather than her output. 

All of this woman’s qualities and accomplishments grow out of the fear of the Lord. Fearing God is our central virtue, and this attitude towards God is as crucial for today’s woman as it was then. The fear (respect) of God not only undergrounds our growth in the wisdom but also draws us to the grace of Christ who forgives our sins and equips us for righteous living. 

Another timeless virtue of this woman is her service to others, her husband, her children, her servant, and the poor and needy. She serves them with eagerness, resourcefulness, and strength. She is neither hindered nor demeaned by serving others. Rather, she is fulfilled by it, because godly service is the source of her nobility.

Proverbs 31: Is the saying of King Lemuel, who shares his wisdom that came from his mother, stressing the role a mother can have in building character into her children? The wisdom that King Lemuel’s mother stressed to him is much like my mom’s character.

Because mom was such a loving, and caring woman, I wanted to be exactly like her. I think that’s why, whenever I see a need and I can help, jumping all in with both hands and feet comes natural for me. I don’t have to be front and center. I am ok being behind the scenes. I just love to serve in God‘s kingdom. Serving makes me happy and giving makes me very happy.

We are all called to serve if we are Christians (Christ like). In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “just as the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus, as a servant leader, is a powerful example to follow. It would benefit any leader to follow his example. John Scott put it this way: “The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion.”

John 15:12-15 “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, For everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Be a servant for Jesus, do what He commands, and He will call you friends.

We would like to thank Georgia Wall for writing this blog post.

Serving is a Sacrifice of Praise

Serving is a Sacrifice of Praise

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

Each one of us is called to be a servant and have been given gifts used by God to serve others.

1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

As a child, I was in church and watched others serve, so this was just part of the culture I grew up to know.  I did not question the why, how, or where of these actions. After I accepted Christ as my Savior, then I began to wonder about the gifts that Jesus gave me.  I do not know that I ever actually asked what my gifts were, I just started serving others.  First, I began in the music ministry.  Yes, I sang specials in front of the congregation!  I was never one to speak to a group of people, but I could sing of God’s glory!

There have been several ministries that I have been involved with over the years in different churches: music ministry, children’s ministry, Bible studies, administrative, and hospitality. My husband, Robert, and I now serve on the coffee team and host a life group at Harvest Christian Fellowship.  Serving others also continues outside of our local church in our community and where we work. 

Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your word, and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do.”

As I began to pray about my personal gifts, I began to realize how gifts were meant to help others. God wants me to glorify Him and bless others. This is what I am created to do!  I find joy in serving! 

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Ann Voskamp: “When you are waiting, do what waiters do: Serve”

Aren’t we waiting for something most of the time?  We wait for God to speak to us, for prayers to be answered, for life changing events, and for changes that come in each season of our own lives.

Serving is a sacrifice of praise. Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

How are you using your gifts to honor God? Look around and there will always be an opportunity to serve others. Galatians 6:10  “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

We would like to thank Sharon Biles for writing this blog post.

Serving Man or God

Serving Man or God

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

I am a servant.  No matter how many times I take the gifts test, my number 1 gift is always servanthood.  I have even thought about changing my answers so I can be something more “spiritual”, but it still comes out “servant”. 

Even as a child, I always wanted to help.  I loved helping my grandmother wash dishes, cook and clean. She always said I was too young to help so I would sneak around the house and find something to clean just so I could please her.  I believe this is where I started my journey of serving just to please others.  

In Matthew 25:21 it says “…well done good and faithful servant.”  This is what I always wanted to hear from everyone…look at me, look at me!  I didn’t grow up in the church so I probably didn’t know this scripture, but it is what I wanted to hear.  I was all about pleasing everyone, but not the Lord.

When I started attending church with a friend in junior high, I wanted to please everyone and started doing all I could for everyone in the church.  You see, I was going and hearing the word, but I really didn’t understand it all. I thought I needed to serve people!

When I grew up and got married, I was still going to this church and I was still not saying no. I did everything, except teach. I am not a teacher, and I didn’t know much about what needed to be taught.  I was learning more but still felt so inadequate, so I served more.  I helped with youth, was in the choir, and I was even the church treasurer for a time.  I was doing all I could to fulfill Ephesians 6:7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”  I felt that the way to get to heaven was to serve more.  Yes, I had asked Jesus into my heart and really loved Him and wanted to serve Him, but I was a little mixed up about needing to serve God and not just men. Colossians 3:24 says, “Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, it is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  This is the part I was missing.  When you serve Jesus, you are serving man also, but you need to have the right perspective and serve the Lord first.  I really started feeling kind of condemned no matter how much I did.  

I left the church, divorced my husband, and decided that I couldn’t measure up.  Because of all I did, it got in the way of just loving and serving the Lord.  I was burned out and was so tired of “serving God”.  I started living in the world and saying I didn’t need Him or church.  But He never left me. He very patiently stayed with me and every chance He got, when I would get out of the way, He tugged at my heart.  Thank You, Jesus for loving me so much! 

This world was not my home and I got tired of living worldly.  It took me several years, but I went on a Walk to Emmaus and headed back to the Lord.  I met Dewitt who is also a servant and together, we knew we wanted to serve the Lord. 

In December of 2010, the Lord led us to Harvest. I finally heard the truth and I got it.  I had heard the truth before, but the key here is that I GOT IT! We loved our church and had a strong desire to serve. I learned so much more about serving and the main thing for me was that you can say “NO” sometimes. Romans 12:11 states, “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.  I serve because I love Him and believe that He has saved me from the darkness.  God has freed me from a life of inadequacy to a life of joy and rest. 

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you; then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

I am still a servant and feel blessed that God chose this gift for me.  I serve Him through praise and worship, communion, tithe and offerings, altar team, making coffee, laundry, sewing and whatever else He calls me to do.  I love serving Him.  No matter what I do, I can never out-serve Him.  

“Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28

We would like to thank Debbie Crosby for writing this blog post.

Enjoy the Journey

Enjoy the Journey

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

“Since you have been raised to a new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”. Col. 3:1-2

I enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning, but a big part of the goodness is the kind of cup used to hold the drink. One of my favorites is the one with the little fox smelling a flower and written in bold letters ENJOY THE JOURNEY. It reminds me to not waste a moment of this precious life God has given me. Not on anger, fear, worry, jealousy, condemnation, or unforgiveness, but instead to choose the fruits of the spirit: “joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23.

Stewart and I love to travel (RVing) and have been blessed to see and experience many beautiful and amazing places. I have discovered in these travels that most of our memories are not of the final destination, but of our journey to get there! Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  We know as children of the Heavenly Father our destination (Heaven) is secure in Christ Jesus our Lord. Col.1:12-14, Jn.5:24, Jn.3:16.

It’s in the everyday living (our journey) that our memories are made. In our travels, we have had days filled with such beauty that it takes your breath away, joy and laughter that makes your stomach hurt and peace that is so all-consuming you know it can only come from the Holy Spirit. There have also been times that have made me wonder if I was going to make it through the day. There have been valleys, detours, roadblocks and even fire. It’s during these times I have felt closest to my Lord, where my memories are the most defining and beautiful. Where God’s love, promises and goodness are the most evident.

Romans 8:39 says “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On one of our trips to Canada, we had set aside several days to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. When we arrived they had several forest fires. After a couple of days of heavy smoke, we decided it was time to move on into Canada. A day trip was planned to visit the little village of Waterton, a little Swiss village sitting by a crystal clear lake surrounded by beautiful, majestic mountains. There is a RV park on the edge of the village next to the Lake. We were told at the Waterton visitor center the RV park was first come parking, no reservations needed. Not knowing Canada’s Park system, we return to our RVs and pack up for a very early morning trip back. Arriving at the upper park entrance, the attendant asked for our reservations. Not having any, we were told all campsites were full in the park. We knew it would take a miracle to be able to stay there. There on top of that mountain, the four of us, with our two trucks pulling our 5th wheel campers and no place to turn around, chose to trust our loving Father and His promises to take care of us! Our mindset is our responsibility! We head down to the village RV park entrance booth and ask about vacancy. God Wink Moment! Two spots just became available, close to the water and right next to each other. What a loving, faithful, good Father we have! 

Our father cares about the big and small things that involve his children. He only asks us to trust him, to set our eyes on the realities of Heaven (Jesus finished work on the Cross), to bring to memory His love and goodness, of the times He turned our ashes into diamonds, our sorrows into dancing, the miracles and blessings He provides for us each day. We have a choice to set our eyes on the things of heaven or the things of earth. CHOOSE LIFE!

We would like to thank Elaine Norrell for writing this blog post.

The Cotton Fields of Life

The Cotton Fields of Life

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Growing up a farm kid, my summer job was hoeing cotton.  For those who know…. you feel my pain.  For those of you that don’t- follow along.  The day would begin before the sun was up: packing the drinks in the cooler that would wait for you at the end of the never-ending rows.  Making sure you were first outside to get the best hoe. The hat that would keep you shaded but make you sweat even more.  The long-sleeved shirt to keep away mosquitos and again, make you sweat even more. The gloves to keep you from getting blisters, and you guessed it- make you sweat even more! Some fields were not so bad – just a few weeds spaced out here and there and could be walked and hoed rather quickly.  Some fields, though, were so overgrown with weeds you didn’t even want to begin.  

Isn’t this how our lives are? Sometimes, not so bad, just a few little issues here and there that can be easily handled without much heartache.  Yet at times, our lives look like these overgrown fields. It feels like trying to sort it all out is so heart wrenching that we would rather not even begin.  

The part of hoeing fields as a kid that made it bearable was that my siblings were there to work with me, sweat with me, talk with me, laugh with me, sing with me, and I am not going to lie – sometimes cry with me.  

Our lives as Christians should be no different. 

In John 16:33, God tells us we will have trials, that the road may not always be easy, we will face hard times.  At some point our lives are going to look and feel like those weedy fields.  There will be times in our lives we need others to walk with us, talk with us, laugh and cry with us.  But most importantly, during these times, we need others to pray with us and for us.  God never asked His people to live this life alone, that was not His intention at all.  

In Philippians 2 Paul challenged Christians to agree wholeheartedly with each other, love one another, work together with one mind and purpose, be humble, think of others as better than themselves, and take interest in others. Paul is encouraging us to have the same attitude as Jesus.

Just like the tools needed to make a day in the field easier – God has given us the tools for this life He has called us to.  He has given us His Word, the Holy Spirit, and other believers that can help us through.   This world we live in is much easier to handle when we have others in which we can count on to go through the weeds of life with us.  People we trust that will point us to the Word of God, ones that will spur us on to fulfill our purpose and cover us in prayer.  

I Corinthians 12:27 says “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

This is true for the people we live with and around at this very minute.  I encourage you to surround yourself with people that have the attitude of Jesus.  Intentionally seek out those who challenge you to walk in the truth and encourage you when you slip up.  Even more importantly… Be that person for others!

We would like to thank Jill Winders for writing this blog post.

Strength in a Blended Family

Strength in a Blended Family

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Being the oldest of six in a Hispanic family, I had a big responsibility to help my mom take care of the house and my siblings. Then one day, because of problems within my parents’ marriage, my mother left and my father and I were completely on our own raising the family.  At just 12 years old, I found myself broken, angry, bitter, not knowing where I belonged in my family, and who I was. This led me to believe lies about myself and in general family life.

Then at the age of 14 years old I found myself pregnant with my first child, still dealing with the same issues of my past. But God is so good! He never leaves us where we are at. He is always working on our behalf and for our future. He has done it for me and is still continuing to do his work in my life. I know he will do the exact same for you!   “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banished them in my furious anger; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.” Jeremiah 32:37-40 (NIV)
When I was pregnant with my 4th child, I came to a point in my life where I had lived in so much brokenness and hurt. I didn’t feel like I was a good person, good mom, good enough for anything. This is when I surrendered my life to God and the real journey of healing began. I came to a place where I was honest to deal with what was in my heart and my past. If we are not careful to find healing in Jesus, we will just pass on all our hurts and sin to our children. After this, God began healing and redeeming this area of my life. It allowed God to start transforming how I was with my children and also our home life.

God has healed my brokenness and has freed me from living in anger and bitterness. God is still healing and redeeming my life but it had to begin with me. 

Here are some truths God has shown me about myself: 
I belong! I am loved! I’m a vital part in my family, desperately needed in the body of Christ. I am exactly who God made me to be and what this world needs. I hope that you will choose to believe and accept this truth for yourself too!

  1 Corinthians 12-18talks about how the human body has many parts and all the parts make up one body. It is the same way with the body of Christ. We, as the body of Christ, have many different parts but are one body and one spirit. Some of us are the hands, feet, eyes, ears and nose. Nevertheless none of us is less than the other. 

Those living parts are also found in your home among your own family members. Every person in my family contributes to the life in my house and we definitely would not be the same if even one of them was missing. 

In 2010, I married my husband, Andrew. Coming into the marriage, I had four children and he had three. The first four years of our marriage, we fought for custody of his children. By 2015, we had won custody of all three of them. In 2018, my special needs niece was going to be awarded to the state so our family stepped in. We said “Yes” to opening up our home to another child.  

Just when we thought our lives were full, God surely didn’t think so! After praying and hearing God for what is right for our family, I had a tubal reversal surgery and here we are welcoming a baby boy in September. 

Having a large, blended family is difficult at times. I’m not a super mom and could never do this on my own strength. It’s always dependent on God and where he leads my husband and me. Through all the hard times (financially, emotionally and blending a family with different backgrounds), I have NEVER regretted saying yes to my husband and to every child God offered to me. 

As I think about the Body of Christ, I can’t help but think how we all look like a blended family, too. God calls people from every race, color, different background and past. He puts us together to form one body, His bride. My prayer is that you, too, will see yourself and your family as Christ sees them, as the body of Christ in both your home and the church.  

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this blog post.

When JOY is Missing

When JOY is Missing

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

“I’ve got the JOY, JOY, JOY, JOY down in my heart! Down in my heart to stay!!!” Do you remember singing that song as a child? For most of my life, I’ve been full of JOY down in my heart. But if I can be honest and vulnerable, there have been many times that I didn’t feel so joyful. Maybe you are in a season of JOY-LESS living right now! What can you do to get some JOY back in your life? 

1.Refocusing on God is the first step to rediscovering your joy.

Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, who resides in the heart of the believer, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”  (Galatians 5:22 ESV).  Since God is the author of all these good things, when one becomes a Christian, and is united to God through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit imparts these qualities to the believer.  Rediscovering your JOY is found by looking back and seeing the faithfulness of God. One of the beautiful things about being middle aged is being able to look back on my life and seeing God’s faithfulness. He is a good, good Father and He will turn our hurts and disappointments to JOY through our lives if we allow Him to.

2. Doing God’s will increases our JOY

The writer of Third John experienced the joy of ministry, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4 ESV).  When we follow the will of God and walk in obedience to His ways, I believe that He will give us JOY in our hearts! 

3. Being intentional about seeking and finding JOY:  

A couple of years ago, my “word of the year” was JOY. I wanted to be intentional about recognizing JOY in all areas of my life.Throughout the year, I looked for JOY signs or scriptures. I underlined them in my Bible and placed JOY signs around my home and in my office. I wanted to seek out and recognize true joy. Was it a year of pure happiness? Did nothing bad ever happen to me? Of course not. I’m sure I had my fair share of disappointments and things didn’t always go as planned, but when you surround yourself with reminders of JOY, you can be confident in the goodness of God. 

4. Ask God to give you JOY within (fruit of the spirit)

Wherever people know, love, and worship God, His love instills a joy, that only He can give, into the hearts of His worshipers. Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you!”

This means that even when we are in the midst of a situation that legitimately brings us sorrow, our inner joy is never taken away.  The very core of our being can still rejoice in the fact that we are forgiven children of God who enjoy an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.  Our joy is strengthened when we remember that, no matter what the circumstances, God is with us and He is for us. 

The last verse of the song that I sang as a little girl, “I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart….and if the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack. ouch! Sit on a tack to stay…”

Satan wants to convince us that our circumstances mean God is not for us or He has abandoned us. That simply is not true. We can KNOW and BE CERTAIN that God’s faithfulness can bring us pure joy. Have faith that as you look back on your circumstances and see that God used your grief, your disease, your sadness, your disappointments…whatever it is you are walking through…to bring JOY into your life.

Have I experienced sadness over circumstances in my life? Absolutely. Have I been disappointed at times? Most definitely. But as I look back, I know that God is good and He wants to fill me with JOY. 

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with ALL JOY and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this blog post.

JOY in Uncertainty

JOY in Uncertainty

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

You know, the Lord always has an interesting way of working things out for me. Of course, it is always for my good. I was asked to write a blog about joy, to which I obviously said, “yes!” and about a week and a half later, I entered into what I like to call a “funk.” I started enduring some personal trails like disappointment and discouragement. And I’m over here thinking, “Lord, I’m supposed to be writing a blog about joy! How am I supposed to do that in the midst of all this?” He quickly reminded me of where my joy comes from and to just share my story.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my post about my funk. I typically try to keep my page positive and full of cute pictures of my kiddos and my family while just sharing tidbits of life and truth. That day, however, I was just honest about what I was going through so that others may not feel quite so alone in whatever it is they might be going through. To be truthful, I didn’t really think much would come of the post, but to my surprise, I was bombarded with support and love from people near and far. I even had people private message me to encourage me or tell me I had been on their heart. It was as if the Lord was say, “See?”

You see, I had been feeling quite lonely, wondering why it seems like I am in a season of pruning. I was feeling left out, wondering when it would ever feel like anyone wanted to include me as their “bestie”. I had spent a day or two, unfortunately, allowing the enemy to creep into my thoughts and convince me I wasn’t good enough for anyone to call friend. One night, with my sweet husband asleep to the world beside me, I laid in bed and just cried myself to sleep crying out to Jesus. I begged him, “if I’m not supposed to have a bestie-type friendship right now, can you please show me how to grow so close to you that you’re my true best friend that I know will never leave me?” It was in that moment that I was reminded of where my JOY comes from.

My JOY doesn’t come from having a picture perfect day with my four sweet kids not fighting and actually obeying what I say. My JOY doesn’t come from everyone on the internet being nice to me and liking all the stuff I post. My JOY doesn’t even come from having friendships. My JOY comes from Jesus! Not my circumstances. Not when everything is going my way. In the midst of uncertainty, God’s word says that we will rejoice and that during various trials is an opportunity to choose JOY. And that JOY comes from Him alone!

So today, I choose JOY! I choose to seek the One from where my JOY comes from!

We would like to thank Paige Keller for writing this blog post.