Happy With Jesus Alone

prov 15 16Recently a friend of mine and I have both been in the midst of circumstances that have made us face personal limitations. It has been a joy to walk the road with another sister in Christ because we have helped one another reach and remain at a place of contentment. We have encouraged one another to stay close to God and dwell in His presence at all times. As we share every week or so; we have both been so happy to find that His presence is completely fulfilling. We have not found ourselves feeling lacking, rather we are in joy!
However, that is not the case for everyone all of the time. This world we live in compels us to seek more; to be more; to have more; to do more; to desire more. Time and time again I hear people saying don’t settle for this or that. I agree that we should all live out our God given purpose – that is to be sure! But what if God hasn’t created you to be 1st; to be at the top; to lead everybody …. What if His purpose for you includes suffering for the sake of His Kingdom?!?! What if He is teaching you to be grateful where you are? What if your difficulties are meant to teach someone what faith looks like?
I had a friend once who would not let her husband enter ministry because it would mean she’d have to give up her lifestyle. Her life was wrapped up in her life! Very sad, because all things pass away …
Contentment – it is a God reflecting character trait. Contentment – it is an attitude that says His presence is enough. Contentment – it means that my status and circumstances don’t cause me fear. Contentment – it means that personal gain will not make me the center of my own world. Contentment – it means that I won’t do what is evil to gain what the world says is good. Contentment – it means that all that He gives to me I will be grateful for, but none of it will mean more to me than Him!
Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Proverbs 15:16
I’m Happy with Jesus Alone
by: Charles Prince Jones
There’s nothing so precious as Jesus to me;
Let earth with its treasures be gone.
I’m rich as can be when my Savior I see;
I’m happy in Jesus alone.
 
Refrain:
I’m happy with Jesus alone,
I’m happy with Jesus alone;
Though poor and deserted, thank God, I can say,
I’m happy with Jesus alone.
 

Expect Nothing – Appreciate Everything!

Expect Nothing Appreciate EverythingWhen Lloyd and I were doing marriage ministry early in our ministry life, I used to tell the wives that I did not trust in my husband, but in God.  For some, that caused alarm — they could not understand what I meant.  I don’t mean that I expect my husband to behave badly – what I mean is that I understand that my husband cannot ever meet every need in my life.  Because he is flesh, as am I, he will undoubtedly fail me and I will undoubtedly fail him!

Understand this — I am married to arguably the best man on the planet!  He is kind to me; he is loving towards me; he is patient with me; he cares for me tenderly; he is careful to protect me; he’s a good friend to me; he is my very best friend; he makes me laugh; he rejoices in my joys; he feels my sorrows —  he is not, however, perfect; but I truly do believe that for me – he’s the perfect guy. When we started this journey together as man and wife we made deliberate choices to give the marriage back to God.  We learned early in our marriage that it was best to expect nothing at all from one another but rather to depend upon God in all things.  This attitude, I believe, has made us both find enormous pleasure in the ways that we bless each other.  That may not be clear so let me break that down for you.  Men and women generally have roles in a marriage — he takes care of the car; she ensures that healthy food is in the house; he will be the provider; she will be the counselor; etc.  While Lloyd and I surely understood these role expectations — neither of us held the other to these roles.  We never assumed that the other would be perfectly suited for any particular role.  He agreed to love me like Christ loved the church and I agreed to respect Him and build Him up as head of my home; and we agreed that the rest would work itself out.  Here’s what happened over these 22 years and 4 months:  when I cook for Lloyd, he is genuinely grateful for it because he knows I could choose not to.  When Lloyd gets the car serviced and fills it with gas, I am genuinely grateful because I know he could choose not to.  Now — neither of us has ever made the choice not to serve the other – but because our hope lies in God and not each other, each act of love is truly a blessing that is gratefully received and graciously given!

Because this has worked in our marriage – we have translated it to our relationship with our God.  Instead of expecting him to meet our expectations – we simply depend upon Him to do what He does as God and Father.  Instead of walking in an attitude of entitlement to His blessings; we choose to walk in an attitude of humility before Him; laying our requests about before Him and leaving them there.  We moved from saying “Good job, God!” to saying “Wow! Thank you Father for caring for me in such an extravagant way!”

Many believers have relegated God to the role of “Genie”.  We say “God is a Healer” and say it as if our words demand that He heal; instead of saying “God is a Healer” and leaving that illness at His feet expecting only that His will be done and poising ourselves to be surprised by the extravagance of His great love. We do the same with every attribute of God – Provider, Peace Giver, Keeper, etc.  What if we made the decision to expect that we can depend upon Him and decide even while waiting that whatever the outcome we will respond with profound gratefulness.  He has told us that we will have trials and should count them as joy — how can we do that sincerely if we are always expecting Him to fix them to our liking instead of expecting Him to work them out for our good and His glory?!  I’m not saying it is easy — but I do believe that He will empower us to respond in a right way.  He is Sovereign!  He is Just!  All of His ways are Good and Holy!  Won’t you trust Him with your life today?!  Expect Nothing – just Depend Upon God!

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.  For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also.  The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land.  Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.  Today, if you would hear His voice, (Psalm 95:1-7)

Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. (Psalm 146:3)

Life Happens and sometimes you step in S***!

life-happensIt is much easier to recognize what is going wrong in our lives that it is to rejoice for the good.  I don’t know why that is, but it seems that our natural bent is to complain about what is happening to us rather than recognize what God is doing in the difficulty.  I’m sure that I have been guilty of that in my own life.  As we come out of the Christmas season and I have seen people returning those precious Christmas gifts complaining that the gift didn’t work; was the wrong size; didn’t meet with their liking; etc. — I could only think about how dissatisfied we are most of the time!  Just like we forgot that someone sacrificed something in order that we might have that gift; we forget that He sacrificed all so that we might have eternal life.

When Lloyd and I moved to Ghana in 2004 we didn’t speak the language; we couldn’t eat the food; we didn’t know the rules; we didn’t understand the culture.  People stole from us; people told us that they did work that they didn’t actually do; the car kept breaking down; pipes kept bursting (once so badly that we had to fetch water and bring large barrels into and around the house for use); bugs were getting into everything; the ceiling fell in; malaria happened; dysentery happened; etc.   When all of these things happened – we were careful to encourage one another to rejoice at how God was going to fix it for us; how He was going to use us to be Him to the people we were trusting to fix the problems; how our headaches would bring Him glory.  Lloyd and I would go into our room and inspect one another – miraculously we found that neither of us had scars from a thorny crown; holes from nails in our wrists or feet; and not even a spear in our sides!  Incredible isn’t it!  None of it was Calvary! We believed every time that He would give us the strength to bear it – and He did!!  Time and time again – He brought us through all of it.

My dear friend Mike Pickett wrote a song that serves to remind me daily of what it means to count all of it as joy.  The lyrics say,

“You are the salt of the earth, a preservative for some.  You may be the ONLY reason destruction hasn’t come.  If while following God you find yourself in the midst of circumstance; you may have been sent there to let someone know that today may be the last chance to walk in righteousness; holiness; love; peace; and joy in the Holy Spirit of God”

So, yeah — you may be driving a car that is a little older than you like, and it may require a lot of repair; but are you taking that opportunity to be salt and light to the person who will repair the car?  You might be facing a different trial everyday in your health (thanks for this lesson, Lorenita!); but are you being salt and light to all who visit you and to the doctors and nurses that serve you?

This life on this earth is temporal!  Don’t lose sight of that!  Our home is in heaven – a place where all will be well!  As for the “momentary light afflictions” you WILL face down here — count it as joy AND count it as an opportunity for you to be His glory in this fallen world.  Know that as you face each hardship with joy – you will have more patience and endurance to face the next thing.  Being used for His glory in the midst of it all is just the icing on the cake!  I like icing and the thought of being icing on His cake is an incredible gift to my heart!  May the Father move me to trust Him in the midst of it all and may He bend my heart toward full joy and the hope of my eternal hope.  Remind yourself in the midst of difficulties and hardships  — It Ain’t Calvary!

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2,3)

A Little more about satisfaction

philippians-4-13God is more knowledgeable about us than we are about ourselves. He knows that the temptation to fall into line with the world’s systems are too much for us to bear alone. He does not leave us to our own devices, but will work within us to teach us to be satisfied – to give us hearts that are content.

As you start this New Year, I encourage you not to cry over the things that you did not accomplish; the stuff that you did not get; the relationship that ended; the project that you did not complete. Ask the Lord to help you to accept that all that happened in 2014 was what He had for you in 2014 — and then walk into 2015 with a new attitude that says “I am beginning again!”

Paul said that he could be content in any situation because Christ within him gave Him the strength. You have access to that same resurrection power! Ask the Holy Spirit today to teach you the way to be satisfied/content with what is over and done with and ask Him to teach you the new lessons you’ll need in the coming days to move ahead.

God’s plan for you in 2015 are perfect – tailor made for you! There is nothing that He intends for you to have that you cannot not have. There is nothing He intends for you to accomplish that you cannot accomplish. There is no good thing that He will withhold from you. What God has destined for your life is for your life.

You are a part of God’s great plan to redeem this world and reconcile it to Himself. Get in the game in 2015 – realize that there is something that God created you to do that no other person can accomplish. Know this — when you identify that purpose; you will know satisfaction in a way that you have never known it before!

Happy New Year! Be New! Be Changed! Be All HIS!!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Divine Do Overs

DoOverBob Carlisle wrote a song back in 1996 that was made popular by Donnie McClurkin, “We Fall Down”. The song talks about a person discovering the grace of God in His failures – realizing even people of God made mistakes and the grace of God covered them and gave them a new start. We all have different testimonies – but all of us have made our share of mistakes – we have all said and done things that we later regretted and as we take a backwards look at our lives, we know it was the grace of God that kept us. As for me – I am amazed at how the Lord has kept me in spite of me! My testimony is that I faltered, but  because of His grace – it was never fatal!

God does not delight in our mistakes but He delights in our desire  to obey Him. Even when we falter, He sees our hearts and knows whether we are truly seeking His will or seeking to satisfy ourselves. When you desire to obey Him — when YOU desire to obey Him — when you DESIRE to obey Him — when you desire to OBEY Him; He will honor your obedience with His presence and power in your life!

Sometimes we step out in front of God; moving before we get his direction about something that seems urgent. What does stepping out in front of God look like?  It looks like:  getting something off our chests when we should’ve keep quiet; taking out a payday loan when we need to manage the funds we have; buying that sale item when we don’t really need to be spending; eating that last piece of pie when we know we don’t need it; getting into a relationship that we know is ungodly; compromising our morals because it seems like an easier way; etc.  When we move outside of His will, we are failing to exercise our right to rely on The One who will always guide us to the best action and decision for our lives. When we fail to follow His lead – we will miss out of His best for us.

The great thing about being a Christ follower is that because we are His chosen ones – we have access to His grace. Because we have access to His grace — we always have access to a course correction.  We might have to go back to the drawing board — but He will be there waiting to redirect us – to get us headed in the right direction.  He knew we were going to muddle things; He knew we couldn’t keep His commandments without His intervention; He knew that we would botch even His simplest commands — so, in His great love, He sent us a Savior! He gave us unlimited access to His grace!  When we mess up He has a giant eraser AND a beautiful paint canvass!  How awesome is that?!

Here’s the deal — we all make mistakes; but He, in His infinite kindness towards us, will always be willing to give us a do over. We can rest assured that as we trust in Him and seek to obey Him (seek to OBEY Him!); He will honor us with His direction and His presence in our situation. Take a step back from your situation; your temptation; your stressor — He will gladly guide you in the right way allowing you to start over because it gives Him great joy to bless your life when you are leaning on His understanding and not your own.

Our mistakes do not have to be fatal errors — we really can start over!  CTRL/ALT/DEL — reboot — start again.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. (‭Psalms‬ ‭37‬:‭23‬)