Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Desert

Something that encouraged me this week was Luke 3:2, "the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert."

It's a simple verse, but it got me thinking. Where was John when the word of God came to him? I've learned that so often God speaks to us when we're in the "desert"!

Like Moses and the burning bush, the Israelites at Mount Sinai, Paul in the desert of Arabia, and even Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness.

The "desert" is often a time of hearing from God. It's also a time of preparation for something greater that is coming.

Even though the desert is lonely, barren, difficult, exhausting...it's part of God's plan for us.

The Lord wants to speak to you in your desert. He wants to reveal more of Himself to you. He is preparing you for something grand, something He can only accomplish through you after you have walked through the burning sand and the scorching wind.

The desert is the road to the fruitful harvest.

I hope that encourages you today like it encouraged me! In everything you're going through, God is right there with you. And He has a good purpose for all things, even the desert.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fragrance

What's your favorite smell?
To me the best smell in the whole world is horse.
Yep, you read that right. I love the way horses smell!

Now, most people think I'm crazy. They think horses smell like dust, dirt, hay, etc. But any horse lover will tell you that horses have a special fragrance all their own.
I love to stand right next to a horse and breathe in their rich, earthy aroma. It always leaves me with a smile and a sweet sigh of contentment.

In 2 Corinthians Paul wrote,
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." (2 Cor. 2:14-16)

To God, the best smell in the world is the life of His Son, Jesus. And God has chosen to use us to spread that divine fragrance.
However, just like non-horse people think horses stink, so non-God-fearing people will often think we stink. To them we are the 'smell of death.'
But not to worry. Other people will smell in us the 'fragrance of life.'

A horse doesn't worry about how it smells. It doesn't put on perfume or use scented lotion. It just lives as a horse. Those who love horses appreciate the smell. Others don't.

I think in the same way, we shouldn't worry and fret about how people perceive our 'smell.' As we focus on just knowing Christ, He will spread His divine fragrance through us, attracting some, repelling others.

I pray that those who do come, will be able to breathe deeply of Christ in us, and be left with a smile and a sweet sigh of contentment.


Question: What do you think Jesus 'smells' like?
(See John 1:17 for my opinion.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

my heart

"I love the LORD, for He heard my voice" (Ps. 116:1)

"We love (God) because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

"I love you, O LORD, my strength." (Ps. 18:1)

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Pet. 1:8)

"Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." (John 21:17)


Yes Lord, I love you! You have my heart.
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Friday, March 4, 2011

Happiness

Today I thought I'd post an excerpt from my book ("Grace In Time Of Need"). This chapter is about something I need to be reminded of often.
I hope it will be an encouraging reminder for you today too.
Blessings,
-Joanna


Happiness

When I was a kid, we used to sing a song about happiness that went something like…Happiness is catching a firefly, eating a pizza, five shiny marbles…. I guess as children it’s easy to find happiness in little things like fireflies and marbles.

I was a cheerful, optimistic kid, always seeing the rainbow in the storm clouds. Time and circumstances can change us though. After several years of non-stop trial, with no light at the end of the tunnel, I eventually lost all optimism. I had to work hard to find any cheer. Not that I wanted to be a gloomy, pessimistic person, but continual pain and hardship take their toll on everyone, even natural optimists.

One day I looked up and realized I couldn’t remember the last time I was happy – not just cheerful, but really, truly happy. It kind of scared me. I had concluded years before that God’s main goal for me wasn’t that I’d be happy but that I’d be transformed to be more like Jesus. I had accepted that. I knew pursuing happiness above all else results in more misery. Still, something inside me mourned that my life had gone by for so long without experiencing happiness.

For me, happiness was always connected with my circumstances. But if that’s what made me happy, I knew I’d have to say good-bye to happiness for a long time because my circumstances weren’t going to change any time soon.

One week as I read through Psalms, it seemed every Psalm had some reference to being glad. I was used to verses telling me to rejoice and praise God – that I could do, by His grace. Now I saw those other words, the ones telling me to be glad. That stopped me in my tracks. I actually tried to ignore it. Still, every day I read a Psalm, and every day there it was – God’s Word telling me to be glad!

"Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (Ps. 32:11)

I couldn’t take it anymore. I said, “Lord, you know how awful my circumstances are. I’ve accepted them as part of your sovereign plan. I’ve even given thanks for what you’re doing through them. I’ve experienced your peace and joy, knowing that I’m in your hands. But, please don’t ask me to give up my “right” to be sad. Please don’t ask me to be glad in the midst of this!”

I didn’t hear any audible response to my plea, and I continued to struggle in my heart. At last I told God that if He wanted me to be glad, He’d have to do it because I just couldn’t.

Later that week I was at the beach. As I stared out at the waves, I saw a group of dolphins close to shore. It looked like they were body-surfing. They would jump as a wave crested and “ride” it in before going under again. They seemed to be having so much fun! It was incredible! I know dolphins are supposed to be friendly, fun-loving creatures, but I’d never seen anything like this before.

Then I heard God whisper, “Can’t you be like those dolphins? Can’t you be happy in the ocean of my love?”

I began to cry. I had been mourning so much over my painful circumstances that I’d missed God calling me to a deeper level of happiness than I had ever experienced. 1 Peter 1:8 says, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy...." Even though we can’t see Jesus, we know Him. And knowing Him is the only source of inexpressible joy – of gladness – of genuine and lasting happiness.

I believe God does want us to be happy, but not with the shallow earthly happiness we experience from pleasant circumstances. He wants to give us His heaven-sent happiness – the kind that comes from knowing Him closely. His happiness comes from realizing that, like the dolphins, though we still have troubles, we are surrounded by an ocean of God’s love! Nothing can ever change that. So nothing can ever take away our happiness in Him.

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (Ps. 90:14)
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