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Monday, March 20, 2017

Guest Post: Fighting for Joy

This young woman’s story will touch your heart. Erica is a beautiful single mother of four. She had to escape an abusive situation. Whoever you are, what Erica shares will challenge your heart.

"I hope this blesses you today, wherever you are in your life. Here's my story about my fight for joy:

Since my divorce, I came across Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, the New York Times bestseller. Reading this book was a turning point in my life in my fight for joy. She tells her story. I learned from her book to take my eyes off the mess of my life and to start counting things I could be thankful for—writing a few things down each day in a notebook with the goal to get to one thousand things and just keep going from there. I started this notebook and I'm almost at my one thousand after two years of writing. A miracle began in my heart as I began to see God in every part of my life by being thankful and grateful, even in the heartache and mess of my divorce. It was something I had to force myself to do (finding things to be thankful for) but then it came easier and easier. I began to find myself automatically thanking God for everything and seeing God in everything rather than focusing on the mess of my life. The result of this was pure JOY! I was amazed at the work that was being done in my heart by just being thankful.

Then I read these verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will] concerning you. I just sat there and said it over and over to myself this is God's Number One Will for me . . . to give thanks . . . give thanks . . . and then another verse, Psalm 100:4, Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 16:11,
 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. As I meditated on these verses I thought to myself, "Okay, it's God's will for me to give thanks in everything, and as I am giving thanks in all things I am entering into His presence, and in His presence is pure JOY!"

God showed me how to be thankful-grateful in the midst of deep pain and the messiness of life! My life has been forever changed. It has changed my heart not only into a joyful heart, but I found myself content. (I was very discontent with my life—very angry at times with my life.) 
Philippians 4:11, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am (Yes there are days when I find myself fighting to find things to be thankful for . . . and slipping back into discontentment and frustration . . . when I fall off the wagon, I just have to ask God to help me pick myself up and jump back on.), therewith to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted).
 When I look for it there is always something I can be thankful for, and then my joy and contentment returns. I thank God every day for this miracle He performed in my heart. It's the best place to be joyful and content even in the deep pain and mess of my divorce and seeing my children and what they are going through now—so much heartache! I never thought I'd come to this place of contentment and joy . . . or even thought it possible to have joy even in the midst of so much pain. It's like Paul and Silas when they sang praises to God in the prison. They had joy that came from entering into the presence of God through thanksgiving! It wasn't until three years after my divorce in the fight for joy that I came to this turning point in my life.

I am praying for all those fighting for joy.”

Lou Ann: Thank you, Erica, for sharing your testimony of how you fought for joy. I appreciate your letting me share it with my readers.

If you've been blessed by reading Erica’s story, please comment and let her know.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Singles and God

When Jesus walked this earth, he loved spending time with three adult singles who lived together. Now, we don’t know if any of them was widowed, but the brother and two sisters lived in Bethany. Each had a personal relationship with Him. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus (John 11:5).

Let’s look at them individually.

Lazarus was the man of the family. We don’t know much about him personally, but the Bible says that Jesus loved him. One of the few times that the Bible records Jesus weeping was after his death. (John 11:35) We also know that Lazarus followed Jesus before and after he was raised from the dead. Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him (John 12:2b). What did he do for a living? We’re not sure. Jesus’ purpose in raising Lazarus from the dead seems to be that people would believe in God. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me (John 11:41b-42).

Martha was probably the elder of the sisters. The Bible says the house they lived in was Martha’s. Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house (Luke 10:39). We usually find her directing people. She even told Jesus what to do on several occasions. Jesus scolded her, but at the same time, it’s evident he loved her. Martha was a hard-working, service-minded, hospitable, practical, and organized woman. Martha was cumbered about much serving (Luke 10:40b). On a later occasion: There they made him a supper; and Martha served (John 12:2a). She had great faith in Jesus, evidenced when she said, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:21b).

Mary is the sister who’s known for her worship. She’s always found at Jesus’ feet, listening, adoring, and worshiping. Jesus praised her, saying, But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42). Mary is a role model for every woman who wants to worship Jesus as He deserves.
  • And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his Word (Luke 10:39).
  • Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:32).
  • Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment (John 12:3).

What can we learn from these three single adults?
  • Like Lazarus, be Jesus’ faithful friend.
  • Like Martha, have faith and be hospitable.
  • Like Mary, worship. Sacrifice time and money to adore Him.

It’s fascinating that Jesus’ often stopped in at their home. Would Jesus feel at home in our house? Would He feel comfortable stopping by to visit?

Would we take advantage of the opportunity and sit at His feet to hear the Word of God from God Himself?

What would it be like to have such a transparent friendship with the Son of God?

Is it possible today? I believe it is. 

Here’s how we can have this same, intimate friendship with Jesus:
  1. Become acquainted. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life (1 John 5:20). Do you know Jesus?
  2. Invite Him to drop in and see you where you live. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20). Do you have a relationship with Jesus?
  3. Trust Jesus to do what only He can do. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world (John 11:21-27). Do you trust Jesus as the Son of God—Someone who’s all-wise and all-powerful?
  4. Worship Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment (John 12:3). How do you worship Jesus?

Let’s be like Lazarus, Martha and Mary!