Friday, April 29, 2011

A Blessing

When I was in college I went on a mission trip to Northern Ireland. One of my teammates had an interesting habit. Whenever anything difficult or bad happened, she'd just smile and say "What a blessing!"

* We get a flat tire - "What a blessing!"
* It pours rain - "What a blessing!"
* Our van was broken into and wallets stolen - "What a blessing!"

At the begining of the trip, most of us rolled our eyes whenever she said this. But gradually it began to affect us. By the end we were all saying it with her!

When I got home, I continued this habit...for a while. But eventually I reverted to my old habits of complaining or frustration. Ocassionally the Lord would remind me of this phrase and I'd try again to use it.

Then today I realized something - Jesus never had a bad attitude!
- not when He was mocked or persecuted
- not when His disciples did stupid things
- not when the Pharisees tried to "trap" Him into saying something wrong...

Jesus always had the perfect response to every situation. Maybe that's because He knew His Father is in control of all things. And living in the Father's care is always a "blessing."

Now, through Jesus, we have the same privilege as Jesus - to live in God's perfect care, love, acceptance and favor. Everything that happens to us comes through His gracious hands. And we even have Jesus living in us!

We have everything we need to be able to lay down our bad attitudes and to say at all times, in all things - "What a blessing!"

Will you join me? Let's start a "blessing" revolution! =)

"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another." -John 1:16
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Overflowing...

Lately I've been learning more about how powerful gratitude is. It seems it's the best remedy for just about every negative thought or attitude.

Maybe that's why God said to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:18)

Obviously thankfulness helps us combat complaining and grumbling. But I've also been seeing it work for -

- impatience: instead of wanting something NOW, give thanks that God knows the perfect timing for me.

- a critical spirit: rather than picking apart some thing or someone, thank God for it (or them) and for how He's working in and through it (or them)

- sorrow & grief: when my heart is breaking, thank my Father that He knows my pain, that He is my Healer, that my sorrow is only temporary because one day He will wipe away all my tears.

- worry: instead of fretting about things I can't change, give thanks that my Heavenly Father is in control of all things, and that HE can change anything!

These are just a few of the ways I've been trying to practice gratitude lately. I know it's so simple, I've heard it for years, but I thought it was just something I SHOULD do.

Now I think I'm finally beginning to see what a precious gift it is. Not that it's always easy, but when I do give thanks, it always brings good results in my heart and mind. Like God said in Psalm 50:23:

"He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

Giving thanks honors God, but it also prepares our hearts for more of Him.

The passage about gratitude that continues to stand out in my mind is Colossians 2:6-7:

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

I don't want to just give thanks at meals or when someone reminds me I should. I want to OVERFLOW with thankfulness!

Lord, make it so. Amen.

Whatever you're experiencing today, I pray you'll have a joyful Easter, OVERFLOWING with gratitude to our Lord Jesus for His love and power!

Blessings,
-Joanna
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Friday, April 15, 2011

The "Right" Thing

I love it when, by God's grace, I actually cooperate with Him and rely on His help to do the "right" thing.

Sometimes doing the "right" thing means choosing between what's "right or wrong." Other times it's deciding between "right or left." Either way, I believe God will always direct us in what HIS will is, through His Word, His Spirit, godly counsel, etc.

What are the benefits of doing the "right" thing?

Some specific times when I did the "right" thing, I -
- gained an unexpected but lifelong friend
- got an excellent Bible college education
- touched a life desperate for hope
- was freed from bitterness
- watched God do the impossible!

It isn't always easy to do the "right" thing. At times I've had to -
- humble myself instead of protesting my innocence
- take advice from that other person
- open my mouth when I was afraid to speak
- forgive though I never received an apology
- stand in faith, believing with God ALL things are possible!

Because of who He is, God will always give us the ability to do everything He asks us to do. And the cherry on top, is that then He blesses us with benefits we can't foresee from doing the "right" thing!

There's never been a single time when I've regretted doing the "right" thing. I guess that's why I love it when God helps me do it! =)

Whether you're facing a decision of "right or wrong" or of "right or left," I hope you'll remember (and you can remind me too) that -
The "Right" thing is always the right thing!

- What do you love about how God works in your life?
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Power

Recently I was reading a publisher's blog, and he made the statement that unlike all the other forms of media, books can be life-changing. He commented that you never hear someone say "that movie (or TV show, CD, blog or twitter post, etc.) changed my life!" But you frequently hear people say, "that book changed my life!"

I heartily agree that books can change lives. I could list several books that had a life-changing impact on me. However, I think that all the other forms of media also change our lives, just not in the same way. Media like TV, music, & internet may not affect us immediately with a big punch, but they do have a very powerful cumulative effect.

How many movies have you watched in your lifetime? 217? 356? 1074?
We may not realize it, but all those movies (and songs, magazines, internet sites, etc.) , are communicating and reinforcing subtle messages. Depending on how careful we are about what we watch, read & listen to, we may be taking in all kinds of wrong thoughts - things like,
- when you find the "right" person, you'll be completely fulfilled and happy
- dishonesty and immorality are ok
- violence is justified
- disobedience and rebellion have no consequences
etc, etc, etc.

So while, reading one very good book can have a positive impact on our lives, often the cumulative effect of everything else we take in has a very negative impact on us, and we don't even realize it.

Jesus said, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)

Whatever we watch, read, or listen to becomes part of us, ultimately changing our thinking, our character and our actions. We don't see ourselves as evil, but if we keep 'storing up' evil things in our hearts, eventually they will overflow out of us.

I think it was Beth Moore who said that purity = power; no purity = no power.
God takes purity seriously, and purity starts with what comes in, not what goes out.

Lately the Lord has been continually pounding away on this theme of purity in my life. I wish I could go back 10 years and erase many of the things I allowed into my mind and heart. Instead, I'm asking God for strength to resist impure media and grace to 'store up' in my heart all the GOOD things He wants to fill me with.

So, by all means, let's keep reading those good, powerful, impacting books. But let's also resist the cumulative effect of stubtle, deceptive, worldly media.

I long to see God raise up a generation of Christians whose lives are Powerful in impact because of their pursuit of Purity.

Lord, let it begin with me.

"And this is my prayer: that...you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."
-Philippians 1:9-11

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Surrounded

"Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds His people
both now and forevermore."
-Psalm 125:1-2

'Nuf said.
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