The Depth of God’s Love

The Word for Today – Thurday, Jan. 23

In one of my devotions for today, I read a portion of Jesus’ prayer from John 17 (see image for a portion of that passage). The first two reflection questions asked were:
“How much does God the Father love you? What does that truth mean to you?”
As I pondered these two questions, I began thinking of Jesus’ crucifixion, the ultimate statement of God’s love.

33At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Mark 15:33-34 NLT

I realized in a new way that when God removed His presence from Jesus on the cross, so He could experience in our place not only the weight of our sins, the punishment of death for our sins, but even a taste of the eternal separation from God that hell holds for those that do not receive Him.

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 BSB

I always knew God had to turn away from Jesus because at that moment He became sin, the sin of all mankind, and God the Father could not stay connected to Him in that state. But today Holy Spirit revealed this to me that Jesus experienced separation from God, so we (all who receive Him – John 1:12) never have to experience true separation from God ourselves! That is true love! Thank You, Jesus!

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Joy Williams
https://youtu.be/FLDLU2QnFjM

No Longer a Slave – Zach Williams
https://youtu.be/3r2djNvPe9o

Ways of Practicing Silence

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10 ESV

Be Still and Know That He is God- Steven Curtis Chapman
https://youtu.be/BgaHaioAjyg

The “be still” in this Psalm in the Hebrew is raphah (raw-faw’) meaning: sink, relax. Doesn’t that just give you a picture of being nestled in Jesus’ arms?

I have made it a practice to do silence during the day when I am home. When I was growing up my mom always had the TV on in on the background even if she wasn’t watching it. Hubby does the same thing. I did, too, for much of our marriage. But now that I stay at home again, I have learned to enjoy the silence and the ability to hear God without the noise. I have also discovered there are other “noises” that are not audible – visual distractions and my thoughts. No wonder even Jesus needed to slip away to a desolate place of solitude to be alone with His/our Father.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Mark 1:35 ESV

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Luke 5:16 NLT

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship
https://youtu.be/jR7r0Br_HNs

My own thoughts can be very distracting. I’ve learned to keep a pad of paper nearby to write down to-dos and other things that come to mind, so I can focus on the Lord. Also, I confess, I am not a great housekeeper and my home can become cluttered quickly. But it also makes the environment very stressful. I never know where to start to clean it up and put it away, which is also stressful, so it sits a long time. Anyway, that can be very distracting to being still in God’s presence and hearing His voice. I can sometimes tune it all out, but other times I just feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I find it easier to have my “silence” in a restaurant or coffee shop with music and people talking in the background, than I can a completely silent apartment with the chores screaming at me.
Sometimes the environment I have created gets the better of me and I can’t seem to connect to the Lord at all. Lord help me, I need to get a handle on this!

Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips.
Psalm 141:3 NLT

He who guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from distress.
Psalm 21:23 BSB*

May the Words of My Mouth – Internation Chapel of Vienna
https://youtu.be/w5JOFclZUpc

As far as silence where other people are concerned, yes I have been learning to edit myself (my words, attitude, and behavior), with Holy Spirit’s help. Most of the time I do pretty well now. Not so much “foot-in-mouth- disease” going on anymore. And when it does happen it’s more often with an attitude of good intentions instead of anger, and I have learned to apologize instead of being stubborn. A lot of the time I can just say nothing if it’s something petty and really doesn’t need to be mentioned. If something needs to be said, I have been learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and seek His wisdom for words and timing, so not only am I not responding in anger, but it will be a time when the other person is prepared to hear and discuss.

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
Psalm 32:7 ESV

For surely You, O LORD, bless the righteous; You surround them with the shield of your favor.
Psalm 5:12 BSB*

You Are My Hiding Place – Selah
https://youtu.be/ElVC6rfX3Z8

As far as retreating with the Lord goes, I do have a favorite retreat center that I try to do a personal weekend retreat about once a year or so. Sometimes I just take a day and go off to a park, walk, sit, talk (pray), journal – spending the day with the Lord. When that’s not possible I will spend an extended period of 2-3 hours in a coffee shop or a calm corner of our home with the Bible, coffee or tea, maybe a snack, and my journal. I seriously think Miss Clara in the “War Room” movie had the right idea about a prayer closet. In the Bible, too, Jesus said, “…go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray…” (Matthew 6:6).

Silence is wonderful, once we acclimate to it and it it’s one of God’s greatest desires for us to have that refreshing time with Him. It’s something we are unfortunately not taught. We even teach new moms to let their babies become accustomed to the household noises while sleeping. But we all need silence: time to listen to the voice of the Lord, soak in His presence, time to think and pray about our responses to life situations, and time to just “be” without all the “noise” of this world, so we can practicing being citizens of God’s kingdom.

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
Ephesians 2:29 NLT

14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.a 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:14-17 ESV

How do you practice silence in your life?

Blessings of Hope & Joy,

Julia

© 2020 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

*BSB is the Berean Study Bible

Looking Forward

2019 was a challenging year. It was a year of reaching some goals. Here are a few:

  • Published my first book.
  • Reached the first of many weight loss goals.
  • Finally found a new church fellowship.
  • Made a long distance road trip by myself.
  • Posting more consistently on my blog.

I did not reach my goal of writing 1-2 additional new books this year. One of the challenges I’ve dealt with has been the ups and downs of depression and anxiety, even though I am on medication. Because of this, I have been less than motivated to write, craft, or do a lot of things that I enjoy.

One of the bad things about the depression and anxiety is that if I am not deliberate about making time for God it just makes matters worse. I must become more purposeful about my time with Jesus.

Jim and I also had some health challenges this year, but praise God, we both ended the year in good health!

I started writing this a couple weeks ago. As I review what I’ve written I have to smile as I read the verse below. I was asking God for my word for the year on New Year’s Eve and He led me to this verse in a devotional on biblehub.com. Since then I have come across this verse 4 times already (including right now).

The words He gave me were not actually in this verse, though I think maybe He’s giving me a “theme” for the year as well of “I Am doing a new thing.” Also the “I will” statements jumped off the page. The words were in the devotional: victory, courage, and joy. I also got stand from the Dayspring quiz (here’s a link for the quiz if you want to try it).

Dayspring Word Quiz

I’m trying to learn from my missed goals and failures, no regrets, no looking back, to move into the new year with wisdom and tools to succeed in 2020.

God makes it plain in these verses that none of our goals can be made or accomplished with any real value in our own wisdom and power. We need to take them to the Lord and see where His plans and purpose leads us. We can do all kinds of “good” things, but if God is not in it we work in vain.

As I discovered from this last year, goals alone we not help us succeed. I spent all day New Year’s Eve seeking the Lord and putting together a DIY planner/journal with vision board for 2020. The objective with planner is that I will be able to:

  • Set mini goals within my larger goals.
  • track and schedule goals and new habits on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis.
  • Set priorities.
  • Keep my focus.
  • Plan meals, track my weight and health goals…

Here are several of the goals we set:

  • Be more purposeful about and spend more time with Jesus.
  • Build up my retreat and speaking ministries.
  • Write something everyday.
  • Publish 2 new books.
  • Continue my weight loss/health goals.
  • Be a more active long-distant Grammy.
  • Keep choosing joy with a gratitude attitude.

I’m feeling pretty good and inspired right now. It’s going to be a good year no matter what comes along, because God is in it!

What goals, words, or other preparations for the new year have you made? Leave me a comment and let me know. Visit me on Facebook at Hope and Joy Ministries.

Blessings of Hope & Joy,

Julia

© 2020 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

Rejoice in Hope

Christmas Day

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2:8‭-‬20 ESV

Happy Birthday Jesus

Joy to the World – Jeremy Camp

May you not only remember whose birthday it is today, but evdn more importantly why He left heaven to come to earth:
16For God so loved the world that He gave His one and onlye Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
John 3:16-17 BSB
12But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.

John 1:12-14 BSB
9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 10:9-11 ESV

May the Lord bless your day today! May you rejoice and be thankful for the gift of hope for salvation that was born on Noel, the forst Christmas Day.

Blessings of Hope & Joy,

Julia

© 2019 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

Christmas is Coming

4th Sunday of Advent
1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration whena Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
Luke 2:1-3 ESV

Make Room – Casting Crowns featuring Matt Maher

Christmas is Coming – Jason Gray

God has a way of orchestrating and using life events in ways we cannot begin to phathom. Look at Joseph in the Bible. God gsvd him dreams about his future, which made hos brothers jealous. Then his brothers sold him into slavery, which got him to Egypt where Potiphar’s wife accused him and jad him arrested, which positioned him to meet Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker and interpreting their dreams, eventually this led to his being brought to Pharaoh to interpret his dream. Tjst led to Pharaoh rewarding Joseph with a position of authority second only to himself in all Egypt fulfilling the dream God had given him many years before.

Mary believed the angel that said she would be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She said, “let it be done to me as you have said.” She did not refuse out of fear for her life or fear of losing her fiance Joseph.

What thing(s) has God prepared and fulfilled or is fuldilling in your life? Are you cooperative like Mary and patient like Joseph?

Father God, in Jesus’ name we ask Your blessings and wisdom upon each person praying this prayer. Speak life and purpose over us. Help us to be cooperative/submissive, obedient, and patient with waiting times, but also attentive that we may learn what You’re teaching us in the waiting well and without delay. May our lives glorify You in all things. We praise and thank You! Amen.

Blessings of Hope & Joy,

Julia

© 2019 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

Jesus Will Come Again

Sunday Word & Worship
3rd Sunday of Advent

10A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
12O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you.
Psalm 84:10-12 NLT

Better is One Day – Matt Redman

1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”
3At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, 4“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! 5What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
7“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

This is the first appearance of God’s name, El Shaddai – God Almighty or the All-sufficient One. God’s covenant with Abraham is also a step in the events and prophecies leading up to the coming of the Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus. As we prepare to celebrate His birthday we also look forward to His second coming when He will make all things new.

El Shaddai – Amy Grant

Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus! He truly is the one gift that never stops giving! He gave up heaven to live a lowly life on earth

He humbled Himself as a servant to all and then, as the perfect, sinless, Lamb of God He became sin with all of our sins upon Him to pay our debt for us to make us whole and clean. What an indescribable gift that is! Then You raised Him from death to give us eternal life! Amazing!

Lord what can we give You in return? Our love and abiding devotion with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We give You our lives as a living sacrifice with open hands. May we love others as You have loved us and as we want to be loved. Make us useful vessels in Your hands, Our Potter. Prepare our hearts for a Christmas focused on Christ first. Make this Christmas a time of peace and reconciliation in families.

Thank you, Lord! On Jesus’ blessed name, amen.

Blessings of Hope & Joy,

Julia

© 2019 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

A Season of Anticipation

Sunday Word & Worship
2nd Sunday of Advent

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10 ESV

“Be still” – Strong’s Hebrew 7503: הַרְפּ֣וּ (har·pū) Sink, relax
I love that definition! That’s what our being still is supposed to feel like, surrendered trust and resting in the Lord our God!

This is not a typical Advent verse, but I’m throwing it in the mix because it’s perfect for the message God’s been giving me this year about preparing for and celebrating Christmas.

How many of you are all about the “doing” of Christmas — decorating everything, baking like there’s no tomorrow, shopping, wrapping, hosting and/or going to parties, arts & crafts fairs, festivals, Christmas light displays to see…? I’m exhausted just thinking about them. How many of these activities really help you remember the true meaning of Christmas? Do you make time to just “be” and experience the anticipation of the “waiting time.” God gives us times of waiting and resting and we tend to fill them up with activity. Why do you suppose that is? When it happens to me, it’s usually a sign I’m avoiding thinking about something. If I slow down I’ll have time to think and I will have to confront whatever is bothering me. This last week this behavior landed me in the hospital with chest pains and palpitations and undergoing 2 days of not eating or drinking, so they could run a battery of cardiac tests on me, including a cardiac catheterization. Praise God it was not my heart, it is in good shape. I need to stop pushing down my stressors and deal with them and let my body really rest instead of being in a perpetual state of anxiety. What reasons might you have for being busy, busy all the time? Do you use our Sunday Sabbaths as days of worship, rest, and family bonding time as God intended? Or are you just as busy and stressed out as on any other day? Let us try using this season of Advent (the beginning of the Christian calendar) as a way to build new habits of Sabbath rest and refreshment as God’s commands so blessed us (Exodus 20:8-11).

I Surrender – Hillsong

This year I saw one tree lot selling trees 3 or 4 days before Thanksgiving. I couldn’t believe it! And many people on Facebook were saying they had their Christmas decorations up a week or more before Thanksgiving. I still haven’t decorated my tree or put out my menagerie of Nativity scenes. I often don’t decorate until closer to Christmas Day. That’s okay, because Christmas Day is the beginning of the Christmas season, not the end. Did you know that the 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas and end January 5th, which is the day before Epiphany, when we celebrate the arrival of the wisemen to visit Jesus?

Make Room – Casting Crowns feat. Matt Maher

I hope you will take time this Advent to enjoy the anticipation, and rest in the hope, peace, and joy Jesus came to bring us!

19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:19-21 ESV

Breath of Heaven – Amy Grant

Father God, we thank You for the gift of having Jesus, “Immanuel-God with us,”* in our lives. During this season of Advent help us to make time to “be still and know You are God.”* To take advantage of this season of anticipation, not just of celebrating Jesus’ birthday, but of the hope we have in the eternal pleasures* You have prepared for us. May our lives shine the light of Your glory for all the world to see and know Jesus is the “good news of great joy for all the people”.* We rejoice in the plan of salvation that was born that first Christmas. Help us to be bold in sharing this gift everywhere we go to see lives changed and people saved! May this joy and boldness overflow into 2020 to bring revival and change to our cities, and our country. In Jesus’ name, amen.

*[Matthew 1:23, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 16:11, Luke 2:10]

Blessings of Hope & Joy,

Julia

© 2019 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

Happy Christian New Year!

Sunday Word & Worship
1st Sunday of Advent

Happy Christian New Year! Advent is the beginning of the Christian (seasonal) calendar. I thought since this is the beginning of a new year it would be appropriate to start with this song as our opening prayer. Really think about the words as you sing along. May it be your prayer and heart’s desire.

Keep Making Me – Sidewalk Prophets

14But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
16With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
17O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
19Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
22I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.
Psalm 71:14-24 ESV

Amazing God – Anthony Evans
[Click the down arrow next to the title under the video to see the lyrics]

14“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
Jeremiah 33:14-16 ESV

NOTES
Yes, God is truly amazing! He created Adam and Eve full knowing the fall would come and what He would do to redeem us. This passage from Jeremiah is just one of the many passages foretelling the coming of Christ. God’s heart is to restore relationship with those whom He created in His image. He has done all that is required to make that happen. We only need to agree that we need to be saved, repent, and receive His saving grace. That is the process that was set in motion in the Garden of Eden with the first Messianic prophecy…

14The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:14-15 ESV

…and was completed on thst first Resurrection Sunday.

Advent means coming or arrival. It’s supposed to be a time of anticipation and excitement! When you’re preparing for Christmas is that how you feel? Or do your preparations cause you anxiety? If so, let Jesus change your attitiude to focus on whay is truly important and let everything else go.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3 NLT

Can we anticipate and celebrate Advent and Christmas with a child-like heart and eyes?

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy

Father God, thank You for keeping Your promises. Your Word never comes back empty or void. You promised a Savior the day sin happened. Over the centuries and millennia you gave Your Word, You gave the Law, promises and prophecies that You would redeem what was lost. Us. Relationship with You. Holiness. Jesus willingly chose to come to us as a babe and leave all His privilege and glory behind in heaven, so He could become the final sacrificial Lamb to finally fulfill every prophecy, promise, and feast. You raised Him up again on the third day in power and glory to break the final curse of eternal death and hell. We recommit ourselves to You today, this New Year day, as we anticipate the glory that awaits us at Your second coming, Lord Jesus! Your birth at Christmas is just a foreshadow of the joy that awaits us when You come again! In Your name we pray, amen. Hallelujah!

Blessings, Joy, and peace,

Julia

© 2019 All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the link to this website on your social media accounts. All other copying of this material is protected whether in print, electronic, or otherwise stored or distributed elsewhere.

What Does Giving Thanks Look Like?

1Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 147:1-11 ESV23

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Luke 9:23-26 ESVThen Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.
Matthew 21:21 NLT

25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:25-33 ESV

A FEW THOUGHTS

With the Thanksgiving holiday being this week I wanted to focus on thanks. Then when I was picking music I came across this song and I was blown away by what Holy Spirit was speaking to me. First listen to the song.

Giving thanks to the Lord is not merely the words of gratitude we speak about the things He gives us. “Thank You God for my family, friends, church, our jobs, home, cars, food, clothes,” and so on. We worship and show our gratitide to Jesus in our attitude and in our actions.
By how we:
– live our lives in public and in private.
– trust Him with all parts of our lives- work, recreation, as well as, spiritual, home and family.
– include Him in making decisions, not just the big ones.
– take care of what we’ve already been given.
-bless others.Have you ever thought about these things as acts of Thanksgiving. Some of them I have, but others I’ve thought they were things we should do, but not necessarily as a way of expressing gratitiude. When I think about it, everything in our lives, as disciples of Jesus, really should be an act of Worship and gratitude for what He has done for us, everything He continues to bless us with, walk with us through, burdens He shoulders, things He heals for us and more. Is there any reason not to trust Him? Any reason not to thank Him?

16Always be joyful. 17Never stop praying. 18Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT

I used to read verse 18 wrong. It says be thankful IN all circumstances not for all circumstances. No matter what is going on in our lives we can find something to be thankful for, even if it is nothing else than our salvation itself and who God is, for He is love and is always good, just, righteous, and holy. He has given us a hope for our eternal future that does not disappoint us. Can I get an amen?!

[1 Peter 1:3-9, 1 John 4:8 & 16, Psalm 135:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:6, Romans 1:17, 1 Samuel 2:2, Romans 5:5, Titus 1:2]

Father God, we do thank You for the abundant blessings and favor You have poured out upon us, Your children.
Some of us may have had a tough year, may still be going through it, or just starting a rough patch, but we know without a doubt that You are with us every step of the way. Remind each of us of Your Word in Psalm 139:5 (NLT) “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Remind us, too, to ask You, “What do you want me to learn from this trial?” We are never alone and we need but seek You to find You, and to be still (stop striving) and listen to hear Your voice. May we remember to be thankful IN all circumstances and rejoice because Your presence and power are within us and this is Your will for us in Christ Jesus Our Lord.
Thank You, Lord, for all those who put their lives down (literally or figuratively) for us every day: every branch of the military, police, government agents, fire, forest/park rangers, emts/ambulance, tow truck drivers, highway workers, snow plow drivers, electric line workers, storm chasers, nurses & doctors, and others I may have missed, bless, protect, and favor them and their families, Father.
Thank You for others who work in service industries who also don’t get holidays off: food service workers, custodians, gas station workers, retail/grocery workers, and others. May we and those who use their services be kind and generous to them and Lord, please bless, protect, and favor them as well.
Thank You most of all for Your only begotten Son Jesus/Yeshua to come as a babe, live a sinless life, preach the good news of redemption, become our substitutionary sacrifice, and our risen King, so we can receive salvation and eternal life! What sacrifice! What a gift! We can never thank You enough! Help us Holy Spirit to live our lives as a continual act of worship and gratitude to Your glory and praise! In Jesus’ holy and precious name, amen.

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Attitude is Everything

Read the verses in the image.
Even in Old Testament times God’s people, Israel, were supposed to be God’s light to the world. To bring others to God. Sadly many took the “chosen people” thing too literally and shunned other people/nations completely.

Do we do the same thing? Do we as Christians, God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12), look down on the “sinners,” outsiders, avoiding them, condemning them, instead of shining Jesus’ light and showing them the love of Christ, His mercy and grace?

If people in the church, including my parents, had not shown love and grace toward me in my teens there is no telling where I would be today.

Growing up “going to church” is no guarantee of anything. Only a real relationship with Jesus through repentance saves.

My dad says I accepted Jesus when I was 3 years old, but I can’t remember that. I do remember praying a prayer alone in my bedroom one day when I was 14 or 15 years old. But I did not tell anyone and did not understand how salvation was supposed to change my life. The next several years were really a spiritual war inside me.

I got pregnant at 16 years old. He left our lives when I was 2 months pregnant. I was a mess, but because I was pregnant, I didn’t turn to the alcohol and pot I had begun to depend upon. Praise God!

Unlike the parents of other girls I knew, mine though disappointed, did not kick me out of the house. My church also, unlike others I knew, did not kick me out. They were kind and supportive, bringing me things for the baby. Years later during a Bible study some ladies told me that they had admired me for continuing to come to church when I got pregnant. I don’t think I could have if I had felt judged or ridiculed.

After she was born I still had dreams of a fairy tale ending for the 3 of us, and coupled with what I now know was postpartum depression, one day I came close to suicide. But God (my two favorite words!), But God intervened as I was crying out in desperation on the edge of my twin bed; my tiny babe (not yet rolling over or crawling) on the other side up against the wall. He said, “No you can’t do this, and you can’t do this to her.” Just then my baby was behind me putting her little arms around me in a hug. My whole outlook changed after that. God healed me! I began focusing on being a good mom and planning for our future. I started taking my faith more seriously. But, still not completely changing my ways. It was the 70s. A very confusing time for me, especially not really knowing the Word. It wasn’t until after marrying a different man just before my 19th birthday (against my father’s wishes because he is not a believer) that I really began getting into the Word and prayer and letting it transform me.

But what might have happened to me and my baby if my parents and church had not been supportive and prayerful toward me? I have lost touch long ago with those friends who had been kicked out of home and church, but last I heard of them they were not on good paths.

I have seen many “grow up in church” go down wrong paths in adulthood. Somehow, even in the church we often expect people, even the children, to get faith and salvation by osmosis or something. But it isn’t just talking about salvation; it’s living it! Has the Word of God so penetrated our very being that we live and breathe it?

Do we want to be instruments of healing and salvation or destruction? Our attitude toward others who are not believers is a critical component in determining whether they will ever become believers.

Look at our world. It has become a battlefield between Christians and non-believers. The non-believers are becoming more and more intolerant of our faith and many “Christians” become offended and lash back instead of turning it over to the Lord prayerfully and shining His light in love. Dark clouds of anger and hate move in and overshadow the light.

Yes, it is hard when the sin is being legalized, taught as “good” in our schools, flaunted in public libraries, and half naked in our streets.

It is important that we follow God’s lead in how to respond to these things and not let offense or any emotions be our guide. None of this is a surprise to God. We must use the fruit of the Spirit: from love to self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) to overcome evil with good. Only God can truly judge if someone’s heart is too evil to turn to Him. That is not our call. Our job is to obey whatever the Lord tells us to do.
Go….where He sends you.
Do….what He tells you.
Be….who He created you to be in Jesus.
Shine!

Shine – Newsboys

Blessings & Peace,
Julia

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