Psalm 90 — The Work of our Hands

At every stage of our lives, the work of our hands significantly impacts both this earthly realm we now occupy and the eternal one to come. Psalm 90 encourages us to continue with our efforts — large and small.

Several years ago, I retired from occupational employment and re-positioned myself into the full-time ministry of writing, artistry, and raising up faith-filled believers in God. The value of the work of our hands does not equate to the size of our paycheck at the end of each month. What we do carries eternal impact in the lives of many others. Only eternity will reveal the true merit of our efforts.

In reading Psalm 90, I find perspective to the ups and downs, and the successes and failures of life.

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

Wisdom

Another version says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Of course, only God knows how many days we have been granted. Sadly, I have heard people say at the end of their life, “I thought I would have more time.” More time? For what? To do the things we knew to do earlier but didn’t do? For another chance to live better?

May we learn to appreciate and make the best of our days. May we have godly wisdom to realize this moment only comes once. We aren’t promised this opportunity tomorrow. Life is short — very short. Eternity is long — very long. With wisdom, may we live fully and love wholly, without regret and with eternity in focus.

Often, how we begin our day sets the trajectory for the rest of it.

“Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.”
Psalm 90:14

If we awake each morning with a sense of gratitude, thankfulness forms the climate of the day. The psalmist had already learned that a thankful attitude comes not from circumstances but the “unfailing love” of God. When we are grounded and rooted in His love, the decision to choose joy comes much more easily.

The psalmist considers the shortness of his life on earth. He wants to finish well — settled and secure in God’s love.

Request

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote the words of Psalm 90. We gain a further glimpse into his heart in the next couple verses as he prays.

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.”
Psalm 90:15-16

When we remember Moses, we often think of his great exploits in facing pharaoh and leading Israel out of Egypt. Or we remember him speaking face-to-face with God until God’s glory had settled on him.

But how quickly we forget about the Moses who was ripped from his family as a toddler and taught to worship every god but God. We forget about the Moses who fled for his life and spent forty years in the backside of a desert. Did Moses know misery? Absolutely! Had he experienced many evil years? Most certainly! But all those years of misery drew Moses into an unshakeable relationship with God which grounded him for whatever may come.

So as Moses considers the shortness of his life on earth, he asks God for one thing — that he might finish well.

The Work of our Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.”
Psalm 90:17 NIV

Jesus taught his disciples that without Him they could do nothing (John 15:5). Neither could Moses. And neither can we. But when the favor of God — His grace and delight — rests on us, everything changes. Then, He establishes the work of our hands.

Wisdom displays itself through “the work of our hands.” Wisdom determines how we spend our time and where we focus our energy. The New Living Translation says, “make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful.”

I don’t know about you, but I can be full of good intentions. But God never promises to bless our good intentions. He never promises to make our good intentions successful. It is only the work of our hands — that collaboration between wisdom, prayer, and effort — that He blesses, establishes, and makes successful.

Prayer

Father, by Your grace, may all our good intentions transfer into the purposeful work of our hands — a work that focuses on You and others. Whether we are stay-at-home mothers or airplane pilots, may we number our days with wisdom. Whether we are young with our lives ahead of us or grey hair and wrinkles mark the end of our days, may we live with eternity in mind. Give us the single-hearted assurance of Your unfailing love and the deep-seated joy to live each day to the fullest. Though our efforts may feel weak and insignificant, breathe life upon them. May the work of our hands create a long-lasting impact in the lives of others. Lord Jesus, it is only through You and by You that we can and will make a difference in our world and for eternity. So today, we commit to You the work of our hands.

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A Time for Rest and Joy

Recently, God nudged my heart to pursue a greater level of consistent rest and joy and bring a healthier balance to committed service. As a retiree, I have the freedom to pack into my self-imposed schedule whatever I desire. Because I enjoy so many things, I tend to fill my time to the brim. Or perhaps over-pack would be more accurate! But I sense I am on the cusp of change.

Cusp refers to “a point of transition between two different states or a pointed end when two curves meet. With many curves to my life and ministry, I’m uncertain to the exact “cusp” ahead. But I need an opportunity to refresh. So, Lord, whatever Your plan, bring it on!

From the beginning, God created work for humanity and humanity for work.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 2:15

I look out my window and laugh as I watch a man walking his dog. Or rather a dog dragging a man through knee-deep snow while chasing a rabbit.

Sometimes my work bares resemblance. I too feel like I’m being dragged into knee-deep pursuits against my will. I wonder if God looks at the pace of my life and laughs. More probably, He shakes His head knowing His plan is better than that.

Rest

I find it interesting that God made Adam at the very end of the sixth day of creation. I’m reminded again that Adam’s first full day was one of rest. Timing perfectly orchestrated!

God planned Adam’s work to be so significant that he needed rest before plunging in. God repeats the pattern again and again for many other people.

  • God removed Moses from the busy affluence of Pharoah’s palace, giving him a forty-year “rest” in the wilderness as a shepherd before his ministry began.
  • The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days before He began His earthly ministry.
  • After his conversion, Paul spent several years in Arabia before embarking on his ministry as apostle, writing the majority of the New Testament.

None of these illustrations would fit snuggly into our definition of “restful.” Even in rest, work was accomplished. But on the cusp of something new, God drew His chosen leaders aside for “rest” — away from the influence of crowds and earthly demands. Rest realigns our souls with God.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

Return

God designs the prime motivation of rest to turn, or “return,” our hearts and focus back to Him. When we quiet the chatter of “have to, must do, should do,” we find strength.

The word for strength, in Hebrew, also means “force, valor, victory.” In rest, God brings increased power and strength. He also amplifies our “valor,” or “courage in the face of danger or battle.” To ensure victory in the season ahead, He calls us to rest.

But we, like Israel, don’t always accept His loving invitation.

” … But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

I’m not sure what Israel used for an excuse. I know mine. “I must finish _____.” “Let me do _____ first.” “Wait until it’s a little less busy.” “Rest might cost me financially.”

On and on my list of excuses roll. I clearly understand the pressures to work, but only vaguely comprehend the significance of rest.

Rest proves God’s Presence goes with us.

“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

God gifts us with rest! Despite the insomnia which plagues our culture, God promises,

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

Another passage resonates with many of us,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Psalm 23:1,2

Perhaps, our restlessness exposes our need for God’s Presence more than we realize. Will we listen?

Joy

If I find rest difficult, what about joy? At first glance, most people who know me would consider me quite joyful. I enjoy every aspect of my life. My faith, family, work, and ministry all bring me joy. And yet God welcomes me into deeper levels of both rest and joy.

I shared God’s prompting with a close friend. She laughed at me! Yes, laughed! Then she pointed to Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-28. The master gave one servant five talents, who quickly went out and earned five more. The master also gave another servant two talents, who faithfully went out and earned two more. Then a wasteful servant, who was given one talent, buried it in the dirt.

My friend asked, “What was the response of the master to the first two servants?”

I quickly responded,

Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she questioned. Hesitantly, I responded,

“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she asked again. My blank look invited her to complete the passage.

And

I remembered how the master gave each person talents. He rewarded their good work with more responsibility. But I forgot there was more. He invited them, as He is inviting us all, into the best part.

Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21

What? How could I miss something so significant?

Other Bibles versions say, “the joy of the Lord!” How much joy does God have? Everything about Him, including His joy, is immeasurably more than we could ever think or imagine.

Do we consider God to be such a cruel task master, that He would deprive us of joy? Is that why it is easier to work “for” Him than “rest” in Him, experiencing His unlimited “joy?”

I don’t comprehend, even in a limited way, the exceedingly great joy God has for us — not just later in Heaven, but for us now.

Strength

Nehemiah refused to allow his people to become stuck in a rut of mourning or weeping. God gifts us with joy!

” … This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

This Hebrew word translated “strength” means “a place or means of safety and protection.”

Both rest and joy come from God, originate with Him, and flow out of Him. Even amidst seasons of grief and loss, God offers us His gift of rest and joy. This combination becomes our strength, protection, power, courage, and victory.

God prepares us today for the unseen tomorrows. Through rest and joy, He builds in us everything we will need beyond the cusp of transitions ahead.

I resolve to not follow the example of yesterday by committing myself to a season of God’s rest and joy. Whether that season is forty years, forty days, or forty hours, I trust Him to do through and for me what He knows I need.

My friend acknowledged that God was speaking to her in a similar way. Would anyone else like to join us for a little more rest and joy?

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Be Filled — Fill My Fuel Tank, Please!

Maybe I’m lazy, but I like pulling into a full-service station. They cheerfully fill my fuel tank, check the oil, and wash my windows. It feels a bit luxurious at the best of times, but even more so when the temperature dips low and wind blows hard.

I never let the fuel gauge reach the critical red zone, edging toward empty. Only once, in all the years of driving, did I ignore when the warning light flashed, signaling the urgent need to refuel. I remember how relieved I was to safely make it to the next fuel stop.

I’d far rather experience that “full” feeling over the “empty” one. The joy of our home full of family and friends, the comfort of a full stomach after a hearty meal, or a life full of peace and joy, all symbolize the rich blessing of God.

Yet, I often push myself physically, emotionally, and even spiritually into the red danger zone. Just like with my car, I then have a limited capacity to proceed much farther before my “engine” slows to sputtering stop. And just like with my car, I need to take serious action to refuel and refill.

Filled with God

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19

I don’t expect to eat a single meal and expect my body to survive long. Yet, as Christians we might be tempted to take one taste of God and say, “That’s enough for me!”

Later, in the same letter Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians,

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18

The Greek word for “be filled” means to continuously be filled. It’s an ongoing action, rather than a one-time fix. If I want to go the full distance, I need to slow down enough for the Holy Spirit to fill my internal fuel tank. In Scripture, to be filled means “to be made full, to occupy to full capacity, to satiate or satisfy, and to have plenty.

Filling my fuel tank with the wrong liquid will destroy my car’s engine. I, too, must also be sure to refill with the right commodity — the Holy Spirit.

Once, Jesus’ future disciples fished all night without catching a single fish. Jesus came, telling them to throw their nets over the other side of the boat? Immediately, fish rushed into their nets, filling them to overflowing capacity. Their once sturdy nets began to break. Now, that’s God’s definition of being filled!

God is Full

An empty cupboard lacks the contents to fill my hungry stomach. An empty service station can’t provide me with the fuel I need for my vehicle. In contrast, we come to a God who exemplifies the meaning of full!

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
Exodus 34:6 NLT

Out of His fullness, He stands ever ready to fill those who come to Him.

“He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”
Psalm 103:5 NLT

Whatever our lack, wherever our emptiness, whatever our need, our loving, compassionate, and faithful God desires to fill us to maximum capacity — unable to contain one ounce more of His blessing. Renewed in Him, we rise like eagles!

Fill My Fuel Tank

After pulling into a service station, I could turn off my engine, waiting for hours for the fuel gauge to move upward. I must have an expectation and a willingness to receive the fuel I need after asking for it. I always need to clearly ask for the type and amount of fuel I desire. However, I sometimes come to God, driving up in prayer, parking for a few moments, hours, or even days, and leaving just as empty as I came.

God has been challenging me lately about my low level of expectation. I approach God with a high level of expectation that He will meet the needs of others. Yet at other times, I possess a much lower level of expectation that He will do the same for me.

We must come with an expectation of receiving what we ask for. The good news is that we don’t need to empty our wallets or fix a long list of faults to come to Him. Jesus already paid a huge price to give us ready access to the Father.

Here is a reminder of a few nuggets of what God has available:

  • Joy, peace, and hope

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NLT

  • Love

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:5 NLT

  • Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

Filled to Overflowing

Living “full” prepares us for every situation ahead. Jesus began and lived His ministry full of the Holy Spirit. He often withdrew for concentrated times of prayer and communion with the Father, continually being filled and refilled.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness …”
Luke 4:1

Jesus was every bit human. He experienced every human temptation and faced every human weakness. Yet even robed in full humanity, He lived victoriously. We cannot expect to live triumphantly while running on empty!

Again, we hear Paul instruct both the Ephesian church and us,

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Ephesians 6:11

God has given us everything we need. It is up to us to apply it. As we learn how to regularly refuel in the Holy Spirit, we will experience everything God has for us. Do you want to be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:5-6)?” Would you like to experience “full restoration” with God and others to “encourage one another, being of one mind, living in peace. And knowing the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).”

God has made it available for you! He offers it to me! May the desire of our hearts be, “Lord, through the Holy Spirit, fill my fuel tank — today, tomorrow, and always!”

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Choose Joy! 20 Bible Verses About Joy

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As we step into a new season, may we have the wisdom and courage to lay aside the things that weigh us down. Let’s lighten our load and choose joy. Could it be that simple? Yes, and no!

Long before mechanization transformed the industry, my husband owned a seed cleaning plant. At that time, the export market preferred pulse crops bagged in one-hundred-pound grain bags. Often, our children and I joined in the labor. During the frigid cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer, we toted and stacked those heavy bags. Our bodies ached under the load. My collar bone arched permanently outward from the repetitive pressure and overexertion.

Most often the weights we carry damage our hearts rather than our bodies. Burdens come unannounced. Tragedies strike without warning — a sudden death, financial collapse, marriage breakup, and more. The scenarios seem endless. Hearts easily become bent and scarred under the pressure.

Over 430 times, the Bible encourages us to choose joy. In contrast, the words “happy” or “happiness” only appear ten times. Joy refers to an inner settledness that sustains someone through hardship and trials. It is no wonder that when the Bible speaks of joy there is a direct connection to personal or corporate struggle. Feelings of happiness may quickly come and go, but joy endures.

20 Bible Verses

Let God’s Word inspire you as read and meditate on these verses:

Joy is an offering of praise to God — singing, shouting, and thanking Him. Psalm 95:1-2

Even the most difficult circumstances cause us to rejoice, knowing God will produce perseverance in us through them. James 1:2-3

God’s greatness inspires joyous celebration in people of every nation. Psalm 47:1

Because of who You are, O Most High God, joy will fill us! We will sing praises to You! Psalm 9:2

God loves and protects us. So, we will sing and praise Him with “shouts of joy.” Psalm 27:5-6

When sleep evades us, it presents a perfect opportunity to think about God with joyous praise. Psalm 63:6-7

Joy celebrates God’s goodness and kindness. Psalm 32:11

One day every source of sorrow will disappear. Joy and gladness will be our continuous portion. Isaiah 35:10

God, Himself, sings and shouts joyously over us, bringing breakthrough and victory. Psalm 32:7

“Ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory” belongs to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:8-9

Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving lead us into God’s perfect plan. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

No matter how dark the time of sorrow may be, it will give way to “shouts of ecstatic joy.” Psalm 30:5

God shows us the path to complete joy in His Word, the Bible. John 15:10-12

Even when everything seems to fall apart, we may still rejoice in who God is! Habakkuk 3:18

The Holy Spirit produces joy in those who believe in God. Galatians 5:22-23

Every new day give us a reason for joy! Psalm 118:24

We find the greatest source of joy in God’s Presence. Psalm 16:11

The joy God gives becomes our strength — like a walled fortress, protecting and supporting us. Nehemiah 8:10

God welcomes us to experience His joy, in every season. Philippians 4:4

Prayer

Singing, shouting, praising, and thanking God through life’s trials and pressures induce a joy-filled life. God intends joy to become our spiritual normal. Is it easy? Not always! Is it possible? Absolutely!

Father, I ask that Your Word would settle deep within us, and that hope would arise. Many people reading this are facing tremendous opposition and enduring severe trials. Restore them and renew them, Lord. Give them fresh faith to choose the joy of Your Presence. May the fruit of joy produce spiritual maturity in each life. Father, even in the watches of the night, may joy and hope begin to spring up again. May everything that has been bent under the pressures of the past be made straight and whole. May Your joy become life and strength to each one. Thank You, Father, for your gift and provision of joy. We choose joy, receiving it today.

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5 Ways to Overcome Adversity — Part 2

We all face various levels of distress, trouble, and hardship. Today, we look at five ways to overcome adversity, no matter the source.

Yesterday during prayer, I saw a vision of a paved, mountainous road completely covered with huge boulders. Many people attempted to navigate the road, pain-stakingly climbing over boulder after boulder. Fatigued and weary, some had already given up. Their garments hung torn from their frail bodies, exposing scaped arms and legs. Then I saw sand being poured out over the boulders, filling in the crevices between the rocks and making the road smooth. Although the boulders remained, the road became easily passable.

Through the vision God showed me the plight of many people — weary from struggle, battered from their efforts, and on the verge of giving up. Perhaps, you face similar circumstances. The road ahead seems too rough and your strength too little.

From Genesis to Revelation, we read of many people who also faced insurmountable odds. Their examples continue to speak encouragement to us all.

#1 Stand in Battle

As Christians, we fight a real battle against a real enemy who attempts to slow or stop our progress. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy at every level. As Christ followers, we position ourselves with others on the battlefield, not on a relaxing sunny beach.

Paul encouraged young Timothy,

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”
2 Timothy 2:3-4

Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-13, and Luke 4:1-13, all record Satan’s attack on Jesus to destroy His mission before He even began. Jesus stood His ground. His only weapon was the Word of God.

“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
Matthew 4:11

Luke uses the Greek word apeste for “left him,” meaning “retreat, desert, or remove.” I love that! Jesus stood His ground until the enemy turned tail and ran! Immediately, angels moved in to minister to Jesus. As the devil fled the scene, God figuratively poured sand over the rugged road for Jesus to walk upon.

May we learn from our Master and stand upon the unchanging Word of God as we, too, overcome adversity.

At the end of his life, the mighty warrior and military leader, Joshua, declared,

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14

#2 Persevere

In the vision, some people were sitting on the rocks their heads bent in defeat. Others were standing on the boulders. They appeared to be immobilized — uncertain whether to go back or move forward.

Most of us have heard or seen illustrations of people giving up just before they uncover a treasure, or on the edge of breakthrough. But when we are the ones broken and weary, perseverance seems trite or even cruel.

“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5

Every successful athlete undergoes strict training. Few, if any, athletes enjoy the discipline required. They all look to the end goal — “the victor’s crown,” a gold metal, a personal best, public recognition, or reward. And so, they persevere through arduous training, preparing themselves physically and psychologically to excel.

Perseverance perfectly describes both athletes and Christians, who give continued effort to achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

As we overcome adversity through perseverance, God pours more sand upon our path, smoothing our way.

#3 Choose Joy

Jesus again becomes our prime example.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of fath. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:2-3

No one will ever undergo what Jesus endured. Words fail to define the fullness of what He bore as He carried the weight of every sin committed to set humanity free and declared righteous before Holy God.

How did He do it? With joy! In joy! Through joy!

During times when my boulders, though small by comparison, seemed insurmountable, as I chose joy, God poured sand upon my path, creating a way to press through rough territory and eventually overcome. Joy is a choice — a decision of the will. In Christ, joy becomes a viable option.

Paul wrote to a church under extreme persecution the following words:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-8

#4 Focus Forward

In the vision, the people near the beginning clawed their way up the rocks inch by inch. While further along, others took giant leaps of faith from one boulder to another. I feared they would miss the mark and become wedged between the boulders. Yet, they moved with a capacity beyond natural ability. More often than not, as they leapt forward sand filled the chasms between the boulders. Even their misses weren’t fatal. Solid ground appeared beneath them, enabling them to more easily ascend the boulders.

Along this stretch of road, no one looked back. They all focused forward. They experienced God’s supernatural intervention enough to increase their faith for what was ahead.

No longer focused on the boulders, their gaze fixed on the bigness of God. Rather than the adversity, they looked to the God possibility ahead. Perhaps, these are the ones Jeremiah spoke about,


“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7

#5 Take Courage

As more and more sand filled the gaps and covered the rocks, the boulders became completely concealed beneath the sand. The road, once cluttered and impassable now became level. Not smooth black pavement but soft pliable sand softened the travellers’ footsteps.

These now walked unhindered with confidence and boldness. They knew, beyond a doubt, God enabled every step. He was with them.

As Joshua assumed leadership, replacing Moses, Moses commanded him,

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 21:6

To overcome adversity, we must possess an abiding assurance and an unwavering awareness, that God is with us. The same miracle-moving God who parted the Red Sea walks with us. God, who empowered people of old to overcome, works the impossible on our behalf. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.

Overcome Adversity

In the vision, the forerunners, those who were making the most progress, encouraged those who followed as they pressed ahead. The weak drew strength from the strong. The fearful found hope in the courageous. Confused travellers regained direction from the focused leaders.

No matter what “boulders” you are attempting to overcome, may Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians encourage you.

“My heart is always full and overflowing with thanks to God for you as I constantly remember you in my prayers. I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him. I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling — that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones! I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him to the place of highest honor and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! And now he is exalted as first above every ruler, authority, government, and realm of power in existence! He is gloriously enthroned over every name that is ever praised, not only in this age, but in the age that is coming!”
Ephesians 1:16-21 TPT

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The Wedding at Cana — Jesus Revealed His Glory

Today we look at Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana without becoming sidetracked by peripheral issues. Recently, we discussed this passage at a small home group meeting. They helped unlock some aspects of the miracle I had previously failed to notice. Hopefully, I now see a greater piece of God’s heart. Here at the wedding, Jesus revealed His glory through His first miracle.

We may easily become lost in the symbolic imagery of wedding feasts, motherly meddling, water and wine. Cana means “reed,” and comes from the verb, to twist together. Even here we see symbolism of humanities fallen condition for which Jesus willingly came.

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee, Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.”
John 2:1

Who doesn’t love a wedding? Families and friends gather to celebrate the beautiful remaking of two unique individuals into one covenant relationship. Weddings connect us with people we rarely see and help develop new relationships that otherwise would have had no opportunity to form. We leave tired, happy, stomachs full, cheeks aching from laughter, and hearts filled with thanksgiving.

A word-by-word study of the John 2:1-12 would benefit each of us, but today, rather than zoom in, we will take a panoramic view of the occasion.

New Wine

As a former alcoholic, I am all to familiar with the negative affects of liquor. When Jesus turned water into wine, He made new wine — a wine unlike any previous wine. No aging or fermentation went into this brand of wine.

Biblically, new wine prophetically speaks of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2:13, onlookers laughed and mocked.

“But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.'”
Acts 2:13 ESV

Inside and outside the church, people thirst for something more. They have tasted the old wine the world offers and have come away lacking. Jesus revealed His glory by offering everyone new wine — again prophetically pointing to the Holy Spirit.

Many prophets today are hearing God say, “A new era is here! This is the season of new wine. You are about to encounter Me as you never have before.”

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus revealed His glory. Through a supernatural sign, He showed the power of His worth, His weightiness, greatness, honor, and splendor. Yet few recognized Him. Most were too caught up in the events of the day to see or understand that the King of Glory came to celebrate with them, hang out among them, and bring them joy.

A Dream

Though the author of this dream remains anonymous, the dream carries a wonderful message.

Imagine you and the Lord Jesus were walking along the beach together. For much of the way, the Lord’s footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace. But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns. For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord’s, soon paralleling His consistently. You and Jesus are walking as true friends!

This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens. Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus’ are now walking precisely in His steps. Inside His large footprints are your small ones; you and Jesus are becoming one.

This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints; they have become one. This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back.

Zigzags all over the place. Stops, starts, gashes in the sand. A veritable mess of prints. This time it seems even worse! You are amazed and shocked. Your dream ends. (Tim Sheet, Planting the Heavens, Destiny, pg 33)

The Meaning

You pray, “Lord, I understand the first scene with the zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian, and I was just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You.”

And He spoke softly, “That is correct.”

“And when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps; I followed You very closely.”

And He answered, “Very good. You have understood everything so far.”

When the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like You in every way.”

He beamed, “Precisely.”

“So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than before. Zigzags, gashes in the sand, turns every which way, circles.”

There is a pause as the Lord answers with a smile in His voice, “You didn’t know? That was when we danced!

The Dance

In the beginning when God made humanity, He came every day, without fail, to walk with them, talk with them, laugh with them. God loved to be with them, hanging out together. God and man dancing in relationship!

For thousands of years, the gap of sin separated God from His deepest longing — to be with us! Now He came disguised as a carpenter. He came to a wedding, bringing new wine in abundance! He sat among them, listening, laughing, playing, and enjoying their face-to-face company.

Tears flow as I catch but a glimmer of the Father’s heart to be with each one of us.

Jesus came with the new wine of the Holy Spirit — not just a little, but gallons upon gallons upon gallons. More than we need! More than we could ask or hope for!

“And do not get drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18 NLT

Greek scholars and Bible commentators point out that the Greek present imperative tense is used for “be filled.” It has the connotation of a continuous replenishment, an ongoing state of being filled.

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 4:31

Always More

As they prayed, a continuous replenishing of the Holy Spirit poured into believers. As they prayed, Jesus revealed his glory through the Holy Spirit.

Are you thirsty? Do you long for new wine of the Spirit to be poured into your life? Is your heart stirred to dance with Jesus?

For this reason, Jesus revealed His glory! So that those who were empty would be empty no longer! So that all who are thirsty would be fully satisfied.

“O Jesus, we declare our love for You! May our lives become a messy swirl of swoops and twirls, dancing with abandon in Your presence. May our times of sitting with You become supernaturally normal, encountering the wonder and greatness of who You are in ways we never have before. Lord, stir our hearts with fresh awareness of Your delight for us and longing to just hang out with us. You need no special occasion to celebrate Your pleasure in being with us. Today, we welcome You into our reedy, twisted ordinary. Fill us! Fill us again and again and again! Pour into us the overflow of Your joyous Presence through the Holy Spirit. Captivate our hearts again, Lord. Forgive us for losing the big picture of Your love within the miniscule mundane of the now. May we celebrate You as much as You celebrate us! Oh Lord, fill our hearts with Your new wine! Saturate us! May we encounter You in new ways in this new season, discovering Your glory.”

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Expressing Thanks, “Thank You. Well Done!”

Expressings Thanks

I want to take a moment to say, “Thank you. Well done!” A fruitful, productive life requires effort, perseverance, and faithfulness, among a multitude of other qualities. Though our efforts don’t always produce the benefits hoped for, our attempts to follow Christ’s example have not gone unnoticed, either in Heaven or here on Earth.

A distinct vein of musical ability runs in my ancestry. For many of them, music flowed as easily as water running downhill. For me, however, it required much effort and dedication. Years ago, I had the privilege of being the accompanist for a choral group. My mother acknowledged the excellence of the performance with, “Well done! Your father would have been very proud.”

That simple and unexpected expression of gratitude caught my breath away. Something in me inexplicably broke. I loved my father deeply and desired to please him. The thought of him finding pleasure in my accomplishments, even years after his passing, touched a chord indefinably deep within me. It didn’t matter that I was decades old. Again, I felt like a child, known and loved by her father.

Romans 1:8

Today, I’m seizing this opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude for every kind word and gesture you have shown toward me and others.

Thank You

Paul articulated the Father’s heart so well.

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I fall short of God’s desires for me. We live bombarded by put-downs, critical attitudes, and never-quite-enough expectations which often taint our perception of ourselves, God, and others.

Although I don’t personally know the vast majority of you, like Paul, I thank God “for all of you and continually mentioning you in (my) prayers.” What an honor to have you take time, stopping by to read these little God promptings. With sincere humility and gratitude, I thank God for you.

Philemon 1:4,5

God sees everything you do — “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He recognizes your effort and says, “Thank you. Well done!” Your example forms a powerful witness to others as they watch you set your goal, again and again, toward excellence in Christ.

Well Done

People don’t always notice, but God sees. He knows both your faith and faithfulness as you work to overcome an area of struggle, perform silent acts of service, offer gentle care to the vulnerable, or give sacrificially of your time, attention, and resources. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

Paul wrote to the church in Colossae,

” . . . I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works in me.”
Colossians 1:29 NLT

Living for Christ often feels like real work and hard struggle, right? In one way or another, we are all working out our faith, struggling with everything in us, while leaning wholly on God to do the impossible through us. Like a mother giving birth, we endure the pains of labor because of our love for Him and each other. Jesus alone gives us all we need to endure.

Ephesians 1:15-16

God sees the weariness of our hearts. He understands how we’ve poured ourselves out without seeing tangible results. He looks upon us, not with disdain, but with deep compassion, and whispers, “Thank you. Well done!”

The Lord’s Delight

God works in you, through you, with you, and for you. He walks beside you each step of the way. He leads and empowers to live fully, bringing Him great pleasure.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what please him.”
Philippians 2:13

May we each take a moment to rest and sense His pleasure, as our Father delighting in us, His children.

1 Timothy 2:1

” . . . the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Psalms 147:11 NLT

God doesn’t evaluate us like the world does. Rather, He measures us by our love and devotion to Him — our willingness to wait, hope, and trust in Him. Then, He encourages, “Thank you. Well done!”

Agreement

So today, let’s come into agreement with God’s assessment. Set aside the weariness of labor, the shame of failure, and the heaviness of defeat. God is pleased! What else matters?

Let’s give Him our best, allowing Him to do the rest! Like a little child, sink deep into the love of your Heavenly Father, feel the pleasure of His heart.

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Numberss 6:24-26

That word “rejoice” literally means that God jumps with great joy, twirling and spinning as He triumphantly delights over His “kids.” What an incredible image of His extravagant pleasure in us! As we come into agreement with His great happiness over us, our response aligns with His,

“Sing . . . shout aloud . . . be glad and rejoice with all your heart . . . “
Zephaniah 3:14

For good reason, the Bible commands us to “be glad and rejoice.” When we do, we share in His over-flowing joy. Thank you. Well done!

Expressing Thanks

Finally, I want to be sure to give you my sincerest thanks. Every time you read these posts, share them with your friends, or offer comments, you bring tremendous encouragement to me. Your gracious support means more than simple words express.

In return, I faithfully pray for you and your nation. God knows your name, situation, and the circumstances you face. He loves you and believes in you, as He calls you to Himself. I join my voice with Him, “Thank you! Well done!”

1 Thessalonians 3:12

A Time to Dance – Lavish, Unrestrained Worship, Warfare and Praise

It’s time to dance!  The bible affirms dance, both individually and corporately, as a significant and powerful expression of worship, celebrating God’s presence. Many Christians around the world freely worship God through dance. North America perhaps lags a little behind, however.

Clinical studies have shown the positive effects of dance for both physical and mental health. One study using MRI scans showed that even people watching dance “activated the same neurons that would fire if they themselves were dancing.” Is that why dance mobilizes the Body of Christ to deeper levels of worship?

Even today, worship leaders echo Solomon’s words, “Everyone should dance!”

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
…a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Over twenty-five years ago, I stood awestruck as I watched worship dance for the first time. I had danced before God in the privacy of my own basement many times, but to see it as a public form of worship stirred something deep within me to pursue worship in every dimension.

It’s Time

The first bible reference to corporate dance in worship involved over a million people. It was led by a woman over 85 years old!

“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister,
took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her,
with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the LORD; for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.’ ”
Exodus 15:20,21

This brother-sister dual of Moses and Miriam led the greatest worship service ever conducted. On the banks of the Red Sea, they watched their mortal enemy floating dead on the waves. Four hundred and thirty years of oppression broken! (Ex 12:40)

From slavery to freedom,
oppression to deliverance,
poverty to abundance,
captives no more!

When I remember what God has done in my life, separating my past from my present, I can’t help but break into worship. He released me from a inescapable pit, shattering the chains of addictions too strong for me to break. He softened my hardened heart. This mind clouded with depression, He renewed. He filled me with a passion to live sold-out for Him.

For me, it is time to dance!

Everyone Together

David was also lifted “out of the depths.”

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and
clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises
and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.”
Psalm 30:11-12

Israel knew how to dance through oppression. Dancing as joyous praise weaves throughout the psalms.

“Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Jeremiah 31:13

Sometimes dance expresses joyous gratitude toward God. At other times, God himself inspires and motivates believers to dance. Either way, it is time to dance!

God of Movement

The very first verse in the bible describes the Holy Spirit actively moving over the void establishing rhythm.

“In the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth.
Now 
the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Genesis 1:1-2

Hovering describes an eagle fluttering over her young, shaking and trembling, vibrating, and moving. By divine strategy and in preparation for creation, Holy Spirit actively moved, fluttered, and shook. Then God spoke the elements into existence.

In preparation to creative release, Holy Spirit knew it was time to dance!

Bringing in the Presence

Perhaps, David best illustrates another purpose for dance. He longed for the Ark of God’s Presence to return to Jerusalem. His first attempt failed with Uzzah losing his life, but David didn’t give up.

“Wearing a linen ephod,
David was dancing before the LORD
with all his might,
while he and all Israel
were bringing up the ark of the LORD
with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
2 Samuel 6:14-15

David danced “before the LORD with all his might.” He poured himself out in lavish praise with dance as an offering unto God. Dressed as a priest, the king led. All Israel followed.

Extravagant, vulnerable worship is risky. Some, like David’s wife, will misunderstand such devotion, rejecting what God calls pure and beautiful.

David remained unwavering,

“…I will celebrate before the LORD.
I will become even more undignified than this,
and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”
2 Samuel 6:21-22

For those desiring to usher in the Presence of God, the time to dance can be costly.

Collaborative Dance

Zephaniah reveals God in collaborative dance with His Bride, Israel. First, “Daughter Zion” celebrates in her God.

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!”
Zephaniah 3:14

Shouting aloud and other whole-hearted expressions of adoration and worship becomes contagious.  Expressions of utter joy radiate from faces turned God-ward. The word “rejoice” means jumping for joy, triumphant leaping forth.”

Worship includes quiet, solitary encounters with God. Instrumental, vocal and dance movement also create beautiful expressions of adoration to the Lord as a demonstrating of worship.

How does God respond to such extravagant worship?

“The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

God, the Mighty Warrior, rises with great delight and absolute joy. He breaks into twirling and spinning “over you with singing.” Am I exaggerating? Not at all! “Rejoice” here means to be “bright, cheerful, having great joy, twirling and spinning.”

When God rises in collaboration to our frail but expressive worship, dancing breaks forth on earth and in heaven!

Warfare Dance

Dance also fights spiritual battles.

“Praise and worship is the highest form of warfare
that is possible against the enemy of our soul.
Worshiping God…is the best form of warfare —
refusing to give the enemy our time or attention!”
Called to Flag

The united activation of people in extravagant praise and adoration to God, ushers in God’s presence in powerful ways. Although biblical flags and banners were not used in the same context that dancers use them today, dancers often symbolically use flags and banners as instruments of worship movement.

When dancing and flagging is used as an expression of worship to God, it is a powerful, non-verbal declaration of love and adoration to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

David’s wife Michal misunderstood David’s worship and criticized him. As a result, she remained barren all her life. (2 Sam. 6:23) God takes worship seriously. He honors and protects those who without reservation give Him all their worship.

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind.”
Luke 10:27

The dance of worship truly includes all these aspects. Perhaps for all of us, it is time to dance.

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(Special thanks to RAC Worship Dance Team for their inspiring movements through dance and breathing life into my worship. Photo credits Amanda Chernesky)

Birthing the New: Change, Transition, Beginning

As a mother of five sons, I have had some practice in “birthing the new.” Birthing can happen in many ways, however. Have you birthed a business venture, a ministry, published a work or started a career? Each of these also contains processes similar to birthing.

I have had a new book, or should I say, a series of books, almost ready to reach full term. Pregnancy can present challenges, but pregnancy isn’t an end in itself. The goal or the new thing about to be released is the ultimate purpose. Every pregnancy is unique to itself yet contains similarities to others. Each birth both predictable and unpredictable.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and
make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16

Count them! Five times God says “I will!” I am the blind one; He is the “I will”. Are you pregnant with a new ministry, industry or purpose? Or are you in the birthing process right now?

Unfamiliar Paths

Sometimes pregnancy can be unexpected and unplanned. I remember well, my mother coming home from town crying a torrent of tears. She was pregnant “again!” This was not her plan, desire or longing. Her present children were all in school and she was enjoying some independence. But this child to come would be the cream of the crop. He would become the adoration of her heart and fulfillment of voids she didn’t realize she possessed.

What unfamiliar paths does God have you walking down?

It seems every year God drags me into unfamiliar terrain. I both love it and dread it! It can be intimidating and daunting, to say the least. “Just own it” has become my new motto. One of my present “paths” is attempting to write and publish my next book. It is giant leap from anything I have ever done.

Talk about “unfamiliar paths”; every one of the processes involved contains new, even fearful elements of a journey I never asked to take or ever anticipated travelling.

Mine, it turns out, is an adventure of joy!  But like most unfamiliar places, this pathway

exposed deep insecurities,
revealed hidden fears,
demanded new levels of submission to God,
required more time than anticipated,
and has been a refiner’s fire of cleansing and healing
that I didn’t even know I needed.

Giving Birth

Five times God said, “I will.” Five times in the natural I gave birth as I co-operated with His desire to bring forth something new in my life. Each birth embodied a promise fulfilled and a promise to be revealed.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish because of her joy
that a child is born into the world.”
John 16:21

Birthing brings unavoidable pain; a pain that seems impossibly more than one can endure.  Unfortunately, there is no birthing without first going through the process of labor. “Labor” defines it well! In the final moments before delivery, a woman goes through what is called transition — where she expends every once of energy, endures beyond what she thought possible and draws from a deep well of fortitude she never knew existed.

There is no shrinking back, tagging out or throwing in the towel. Pain marks this life-giving struggle. Selfless love propels her through the temporary transition phase to ultimate joy. With that indescribable joy, she finally sees what has been hidden, carried, nurtured, and labored for.

Birthing the new cannot be fully explained, only experienced!

God Births

Just in case you male readers are getting a little squeamish with all this feminine birthing stuff, relax. God is into birthing too! He is birthing forth amazing things in the lives of all of us — corporate and individual.

A multitude of people have been pregnant and holding on to God dreams for many years. They have surrendered to the process of humility, struggled through training and development, fostered destinies and withstood the season of transition. Like a baby’s first cry, freedom shouts, “The new has arrived! Make way!” The umbilical cord has been cut; a new independent life begins to grow outside the protection of the “womb.”

In the previous stage, everything was provided. Not now! At least not in the same way. The Source always is and always will be God — never of our own efforts, ingenuity, or skill.

I see God birthing in this season like never before. He is releasing spiritual gifts in unprecedented proportions. New ministries are springing up with maturity and vitality. Communities and cities are being changed.  Spiritual landscapes redefined!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles,
the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
to equip his people for works of service, 

so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 4:11-12

Birthing the New

Pride has no claim to either the gift or the work being birthed in this season. We receive God’s gifts as evidence of His unmerited blessing and favor. The Giver asks only that we use His gifts wisely for the encouragement and benefit of others.

Like any true gift, it is ours — freely given and freely received.  If we choose to misuse or neglect it, it is still ours! Luke 19 makes it clear that gifts come with responsibility, however.

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
  Isaiah 43:19

Babies arrive without instruction manuals. As much as we plan and prepare, unexpected surprises accompany birthing the new. The “I Will” makes a way, providing all that is needed.

“Take courage,” Jesus told his disciples who were losing the stormy battle. (Matthew 14:27) Remember God is always the I WILL. He never leaves you nor forsakes you.

He says, “I WILL be
on the ground beside you while you crawl,
the hand lifting you up when you stumble,
the ONE at the finish line cheering you on,
the gentle arm of encouragement,
the whatever you need in the moment
…I WILL

You aren’t alone! God accompanies you every step of the way. No matter what the processes you are in or the pathways ahead, you are guaranteed to experience Him in ways you would never have known otherwise.

In birthing the new, with a sense of peace and joy, we both look back and gaze ahead. We are confident not in ourselves but in God alone. He is leading, empowering, directing, and holding us fast.

Many more pains and joys of birthing the new are ahead for each of us. Hold to His sovereign hand.

Laughter is Good Like a Medicine! It is Time to Laugh!

Solomon, the wisest man who lived, said laughter is good. Just as good as medicine! Tell that to the 1150-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry! Perhaps with a little more chuckling, those figures might drop!

Let’s face it, the cares of this world easily rob us of joy.

“A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

Laughter is contagious! Few can hold back a smile when deep, belly laughter erupts. I’m not talking about the kind that is serrated with sarcasm, barbed with ridicule, or is a satirical stab. Just that free unrestrained joy in the present.

It is Good!

Let’s look at the “good” hidden in this joyful behaviour.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Proverbs 17:22

Laughter is like medicine

“Medicine” means “a healing and cure“. Several studies declare a cheerful attitude can improve the outcome of even the most serious illness.

One commentary says laughter makes good recovery!”  I like that! Even when ailments inflict, a good recovery sounds promising! If a “good recovery” includes healthier hearts, relaxed bodies, and boosted immune systems, then laughter delivers.

Believe it or not, joy is a personal choice — a way of “recovering”. Choosing joy creates a perspective that can make a big difference.

A few years ago, a difficult swirl threatened to engulf me. Every morning God encouraged “Choose joy!” So each day before my feet hit the floor, I agreed with God’s view and aligned my thinking.

That decision prevented the dysfunctional atmosphere from drowning me emotionally.  Joy kept strength from being “sapped”!  To “sap” here means “to be ashamed, confused, disappointed, to dry up, and wither.” 

Was it easy? Certainly not!

Was it possible? By God’s grace, yes!

It is Godly

Do you know that God laughs? Discovering God’s response to situations will change our own view of things.

“The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.”
Psalm 37:12-13

We have an enemy intentionally stealing, killing and destroying everything he can. He specifically targets our joy!

Laugh! I am!

Recently, I was feeling the intensity of an onslaught.  Problems of all sorts were hitting hard: physically, financially, relationally, and spiritually. The enemy’s thrusts worked overtime in the lives of those I love and are close to.

During prayer, I felt God prompt, “Why don’t you laugh? I am!”

So, I did! First strained and loudly! Then authentic laughter rolled naturally from some deep recess.

First, it was an act of obedience. Then I remembered I have a lot to laugh about. The enemy is still “gnashing his teeth” at us, but he was

crushed at the cross,
defeated on resurrection morning,
rendered powerless by the blood,
and sentenced to destruction.

Laughter is good! It reminds me the enemy’s “day is coming” when God brings justice. It produces alignment with God’s attitude, in some way bringing heaven’s glory to earth.

A time to laugh!

Strength

In Nehemiah’s day, the exiles returned after a long banishment to re-establish their homes. Under Ezra’s instruction,

“They read from the Book of the Law of God,
making it clear and giving the meaning
so that the people understood
what was being read.”
Nehemiah 8:8

The grief-stricken people realized that disobedience to God brought about their captivity.

Mourning sounds logical to me! Countless times, I’ve been on my face distressed over the contradiction between my attitudes, words or conduct and God’s holiness. Reading “the book” puts things into perspective!

Joy in the Lord is strength

Nehemiah says something surprising under the circumstances,

“…This day is holy to our Lord.
Do not grieve,
for the joy of the LORD
is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10b

Sometimes we need encouragement to move from grief to joy, sorrow to gladness, or wailing to laughing. When they felt like grieving, Nehemiah reminded them, “Laughter is good!”

This word “strength” means “a place of safety and protection.”  It pictures standing on a solid rock, protected within a fortress, or secure in a strong defense.

A sports motto states, “The strongest offense is a powerful defense.”

God affirms that laughter implements both offensive and defensive action against Satan’s attacks.

Laughter is good! It creates a synergy between heaven and earth. Laughing at the enemy, no matter what his ploy, reminds me that God remains in control.

Laughing at Myself

I don’t purposely do incredibly foolish things! They spontaneously occur naturally and often! Laughter seems only logical in this moments.

A solid sense of self-worth releases me to laugh at my blunders and make light of my forgetfulness. Whether I have a particularly good day or not, my value securely resides with God alone.

Second, I demonstrate grace in even my ungraceful moments. I’m not what I used to be, but I sure haven’t arrived. Allowing myself time to laugh at my shortcomings liberates me to get up and try again.

Third, deliberately create time to laugh. It takes less energy to smile than to frown, I’m told.

Laugh together

Fourth, laugh at life! My father taught me well how to laugh during times of stress and pressure. He possessed an incredible ability to find a pool of joy in an ocean of despair.

Fifth, laugh at the past! I’m “getting long in the tooth”! Or in other words, I have more life behind me than ahead. Many situations threatened to crush me forever. By God’s grace, they served to refine me instead and in many ways make me stronger. Now, I smile in remembrance of those once painful times.

Life’s Journey

Pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals sang the Songs of Ascent, Psalm 120-134. The priests also repeated them as they ascended the steps to the temple. One song declared at each step forward and upward.

Joy resonates throughout these psalms.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord.'”
Psalm 122:1

Songs triumphantly raised in praise to a God so faithful!

“We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124:7-8

Laugh throughout life

Listen to this declaration of praise and rejoicing!

“When the LORD restored
the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
P
salm 126:1,2

And hear the promise!

I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
Psalm 132:15-16

If the pilgrims going to the temple praised God with rejoicing, perhaps I should take time to laugh as I journey through life’s course. If the priests sang praise while entering God’s presence, I’m thinking the same is important as I approach our Awesome God.

Laugh often!
https://www.facebook.com/glimpsesofgloryphotos

Have you captured the importance yet? Let’s all make today a time to laugh!

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