Rejoice Always

Today I’m sharing from the Ligonier blog.

Rejoice Always

From

Do you know what the shortest verse in the New Testament is? The obvious answer is John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” It is the shortest verse in our English translations of the Bible. But the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is 1 Thessalonians 5:16: “Rejoice always.” It is a little verse with big implications.

The word “rejoice” is a call to joy. The term was a watchword among early Christians. More than a term of worship, it was a word of salutation. Jesus used it as a greeting (Matt. 28:9). Paul used it as a farewell (2 Cor. 13:11). We typically greet one another with “Hello” or “Goodbye.” But what an encouragement it would be if we entered and departed one another’s presence with a call to rejoice.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul exhorts the saints to rejoice. It is a command, which makes it clear that joy is more than happiness. Happiness is an emotional response to favorable, pleasant, or rewarding circumstances. You cannot compel a person to be happy. It’s based on what happens to a person. But Christians are commanded by God to rejoice. This command to rejoice is in the present tense. It means “keep on rejoicing.” This makes 1 Thessalonians 5:16 a hard command. This divine mandate would be easier to swallow if it simply directed us to rejoice. Indeed, there are many times, reasons, and occasions that call for rejoicing. But the command is to rejoice always, not only sometimes. How does the Christian rejoice always?

First Thessalonians 5:16–18 features what have been called “the standing orders of the gospel.” These exhortations apply to all Christians in every place and every situation. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” These commands may be familiar. But the justification for the commands is often overlooked: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Do we want to know God’s will for us in any situation? It is God’s will that we rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. We are in spiritual rebellion if we are not joyful, prayerful, and thankful. God’s will for our lives is about more than the circumstances we face. It is about how we respond to those circumstances.

It is the will of God for us to rejoice always. But obedience to this command is not accomplished by an act of the will. It is only accomplished by faith in Christ. The believer’s unceasing rejoicing is the will of God for us “in Christ Jesus.” This is the key to the life of rejoicing. Unsaved people do not rejoice in God, pray to God, or give thanks to God. Religious people rejoice sometimes, pray when they feel like it, and give thanks when things are going well. But Christians rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. This is not the believer’s response because we are impervious to life’s dangers, toils, and snares. It is our response to life because we are in Christ Jesus.

Read the rest here.

Victorious Living

Victorious Living

By Pat Knight

I have always known that as a child of God, I have the ability to lead a victorious life. When I was young, I naively believed spiritual victory was instinctive. Now I understand that in order for victory to be won, a battle must be overcome. How will any of us achieve triumph without previously encountering conflict? How else do we experience trust unless we practice the art? During hardships, we are commanded to persevere, but we are incapable of acquiring perseverance without habitually practicing it. There is no healing without sickness; no power without weakness; no success without failure. Trials offer the opportunity to grow in faith, and as a result, we mature in our walk with Christ himself.

Few believers have been tested by God more intensely than Abraham. The patriarchs’ only son was a direct gift from God, through whom God would complete His promise to Abraham, with “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).

Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his covenant son as a burnt offering, was poised with knife in hand, ready to plunge it into Isaac, who was strapped to the sacrificial altar. On their three-day journey to the mountaintop, Isaac questioned his father as to where they would find the lamb for the altar. Abraham answered, “‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son’” (v. 8).

God was testing Abraham’s obedience. The best Abraham hoped for was that God might raise his son from the dead. He never questioned God, nor did his resolve falter. Just as the father was positioned to slay his son, “the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham! … Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’”

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son” (vv. 11-13).

As we know, obedience is a difficult discipline, especially when the investment is so costly. However, our Lord accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. Not only did Abraham experience God’s faithfulness, but he also learned the measure of his own trust—the extent to which he followed and obeyed his heavenly Father.

Words are easily dispensed and often insignificant, but submissive actions require commitment, determination, and tenacious faith. Abraham could hardly have understood God’s reasons for providing a son in his old age, only to take him away. In spite of his lack of comprehension, Abraham believed in God so passionately, that His faith overwhelmed his doubt. He was willing to place all of his confidence in the Lord’s plans, for Abraham had witnessed His glory and faithfulness previously. He believed in Almighty God without reservation.

God already knew Abraham would react courageously that day, for He is omniscient (all-knowing). God tested Abraham so he would learn about His God and himself. Abraham’s personal, adamant faith and steadfast obedience were reinforced in the face of huge consequences. Most importantly, Abraham ascertained the unlimited extent to which he could trust the living God; His faithfulness, loving kindness, protection, and promises; God’s desire and ability to provide all of his needs (Philippians 4:19).

Abraham’s test of faith is included in God’s Word to stimulate in believers’ hearts a similar love of our heavenly Father. Satan tempts us to fail. God never tempts; He tests us to illustrate His love and mercy. It is important for every believer to acquire knowledge of self-motivation and priorities; any limits that might inhibit our growth in faith. Obedience is evidence of genuine faith. Questions are raised during a test of faith. To what extent do my actions reflect my love for God? Am I willing to yield to His will? How much of my life am I capable of surrendering in light of Jesus’ humiliating, heinous suffering on the cross to secure my redemption? Like Jesus, may we pray that God’s will be accomplished in all of life’s circumstances.

There can be no victory when there is no submission to the will of God. ─J. Vernon McGee

Some of our most important lessons are mastered while struggling with unrelenting trials. The apostle, Paul, admitted, “‘that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul accessed God’s power, transforming his afflictions into spiritual victory. Hardships of any kind are best approached with confidence, acknowledging that God’s perfect plans, in His precise timing, are sovereign components to victory.

To navigate adversity, call on your heavenly Father, for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). God is always in control of His creation. We need never fear when He is directing our lives, a comforting declaration of his mighty, sustaining presence.

The apostle James instructs us how to react to the variety of adversities that assail us: “‘Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’” (James 1:2-4). Joy results from recognizing that God has included our welfare in His plans, for He loves and cares for His own.

Christian maturity is an impossible journey without God’s abiding presence and assistance. When faced with hardship or grief, we learn to run straight into the arms of Jesus, trading our weakness for His incredible power, trusting Him unconditionally. The happy outcome is that we draw closer to our Lord, producing Christlikeness in our lives.

Experiencing joy amidst trials is an avenue to spiritual victory. We gain Christian maturity by navigating life’s trials with perseverance and steadfastness, obeying God in all situations. Our Lord’s mercy, grace, and compassion encourage us to navigate afflictions as we resolve to develop wholehearted faith. We are commanded to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). There are no exceptions to God’s directive. His plans for our lives are perfectly designed and authenticated, with higher purposes than we fully understand. Our responsibility, then, is to acknowledge that God has chosen wisely for each of His followers. Such knowledge produces joy. Therein is the victory!

Songs in the Night

I have the fun privilege of announcing that Pat’s new book, A FEAST OF JOY, is now available for purchase! FEAST OF JOY is Pat’s third book of devotionals in which she connects real-life situations with Biblical truths. Pat’s writing is so vividly descriptive that you will easily imagine yourself present in each story. She sprinkles pertinent Scripture references throughout her writing to help you apply the verses to your own life. Her writing is sure to inspire and teach you more about how to live daily with joy no matter what your circumstances may be. Below her post, I have placed links to online booksellers where you can buy FEAST OF JOY.

Songs in the Night

By Pat Knight

The evening was still and peaceful. Only the water’s rhythmical lapping against the shoreline was detectable. Suddenly, out of the silent night, a cacophony of sounds erupted, as if a celestial baton signaled nature to commence a disharmonic concert. The large, common loons were the first to warm up, with mournful, eerie cries. The vocal wail usually opened the birds’ evening conversation, followed by yodels and hoots for social interaction. As their powerful voices were propelled across the waters, human listeners were privileged to peer into the private verbal world of the prehistoric loons. Their variety of strident sounds comprised night choruses. At times, the loons’ calls were eerie; at others, musical. But they always pierced the tranquility of the night, shocking listeners with sudden exclamation and impetuous strength.

As if on cue, perching owls began to softly but persistently hoot, the tone increasing in intensity with mating calls, vociferous and overbearing to human ears. Then, when the imaginary baton snapped the animal world to attention, the plaintive wails produced a rackety, raucous ensemble of dissonant notes. With no attempt to harmonize, neighboring dogs and an occasional coyote chimed in. It was increasingly more difficult to merely listen to the developing discord of sounds. I had the growing urge to leap through the front door, yelling my own primitive, obnoxious sounds, to add a little more confused clatter. It was then I was reminded that there are no clashes in nature. Just as God created the improbable blending of conflicting color hues to form beautiful blankets of wildflowers on land, so the animal kingdom comingles with songs in the night.

Praise to God is the ultimate expression of worship.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:1-2; 4-5).

Interestingly, God does not specify that we sing hymns of praise with perfect pitch or with trained voices. Our mass of vocal tones may reach God’s ears as discordant, just as we detect the animal concert. Of utmost importance to our Lord is our praise and gratitude, glorifying His name.

King Agrippa I (Herod) seized and imprisoned the apostle Peter, who was kept heavily guarded by four soldiers at all times. Peter prayed in prison, while in their homes, fellow Christians fervently petitioned God for his release. Assured of a guilty conviction, the night before Peter’s scheduled trial he was asleep in prison, chained between two soldiers. Guards stood at his prison door. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared, shining light in the dark dungeon, reflecting the glory of God. With immediacy, the angel jostled Peter awake and persuaded him to get up. As Peter stood, the chains spontaneously fell from his wrists. The angel instructed Peter to get dressed and follow him out of prison. They walked past guards without incident. The prison doors opened to them, as the angel escorted Peter the length of a city street and disappeared, leaving the disciple to mentally grasp the full ramifications of the miracle that had just occurred. “Peter admitted, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen’” (Acts 12:11). When Christians pray, God graciously answers, often with miraculous results.

The early Christian church grew exceptionally fast numerically and in faith, in spite of rabid persecution. Jesus had taught them while on earth that if they had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, “‘Nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20). The early Christians had embraced Christ’s teachings and were witnessing miraculous outcomes. When believers join in prayer, there is no limit to what God will accomplish in their lives, individually or collectively. God’s promises have not changed in centuries: His supreme power, like that which resurrected His Son from death, is available to each of us. “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2b-3).

God is neither a puppet provider nor a magician, who caters to our every materialistic whim and desire. But, if we have sincere, pressing needs in our lives, God listens to our requests, and He promises to respond positively, if the petition conforms to His will.

 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need”
(Hebrews 4:16).

Dorcas, an excellent seamstress, spent her days performing good deeds, helping the poor and sewing garments for the needy. As soon as her death was reported to the disciples, Peter traveled to her hometown of Joppa. The sight he witnessed was one of devotion and friendship: local widows readily displayed the clothing Dorcas had made for the desperate. Many recipients were in prayer for her recovery. Peter understood the loss of Dorcas’ love and good works to the community. When he prayed for her still life to revive, Dorcas immediately sat upright in response to the powers endowed on Jesus’ disciple. Her friends still talked about her miraculous healing days later, and many people believed in the Lord because of Dorcas’ life and her revival from the dead. Prayer by one or a multitude of people produces magnificent results. 

What a wonderful, unique privilege we are granted as children of the King! Our words are music to God, who separates the cacophony of sounds to create individual clarity from believers around the globe, all searching for Him at one time. Unlike the animal and bird calls that produce nighttime pandemonium, those seeking God approach the throne of grace with pure motives, making a joyful noise.


You can find FEAST OF JOY at:
Amazon
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Xulon

A Happy and Blessed 2020 to You!

This was our Christmas card for 2019. The pictures show some of the bright spots of our year. 

2019 passed much too quickly for us but it was a year of great joy in our family. Although Rick and I have considered ourselves grandparents to twins Austin and Alex since June 2016, their adoption became final on April 3, 2019. They will be 4 years old next February and are the light of our lives. Their cuteness and energy keep Alan and Denise very busy. It’s not easy keeping up with twins!

Although Rick and I are both dealing with health problems these days, we want to do more traveling and enjoyed a trip to Morro Bay last month. Morro Bay is a sweet town on the central California coast, one of our favorite places where we used to camp when we lived in California.

We have much to be joyful and thankful for this Christmas. In the busy-ness of our lives, let us never forget what the birth of Jesus means to us. Let us echo the angels in praising God.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Merry Christmas 2019!

Welcome to my annual Christmas post. From my house to yours, I wish you a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior!
He alone is the Reason for the Christmas season and our ultimate JOY!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
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, goodwill toward men!”

—Luke 2:8-14

The song “A Christmas Alleluia” is by Chris Tomlin featuring Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan. Close your eyes as you listen to this wonderful song of praise and worship to our Savior.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
to God who alone is wise,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 

—1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV)

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power
belong to the Lord our God!

For true and righteous are His judgments,
because He has judged the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her fornication;
and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

—Revelation 19:1-3 (NKJV)

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

How to Find Joy in Our Circumstances

Sometimes God needs to teach us certain things several times. I wrote something very similar to this in 2011, but the message still holds true for me today. I know Whose I am and the value He sees in me, but apparently, I need to keep relearning this. Every time I try to do more than I know I can handle, I’ve compromised my health—again. Praise God that He doesn’t give up on me! I decided to share this today in hopes that God will use it in your lives too.

Genuine, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being, goodness, and power of God, but a faith which believes that the things which “he saith, shall come to pass.” 
—E. M. Bounds¹

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But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
—Job 2:10

Don’t you wonder how Job could say this after everything he went through? Does it make you shake your head and think, “yeah, right”? How could Job even think to say this after everything—and I do mean everything—was taken away from him?

Job had it all: a loving family, great wealth, a thriving business and good health. He was loved and respected by his family and the community because he was a very gentle and loving man. He indeed had it all … until suddenly it is all taken away and he is left helpless and hopeless.

Oh, did I say hopeless? Hardly.

Like many of you, I live with daily chronic pain. Among the several illnesses I endure, my most persistent “thorn in the flesh” was daily migraines. I say was because I do not get them every day because they are finally under better control from some special treatments I have been having. Although I can still tell I’m having a migraine because of blurry vision and sometimes nausea, I do not have the head pain most of the time.

Over the last 19 years I have tried many migraine medications and treatments, as well as for Fibromyalgia (FMS) and Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Either they did not work at all for me, or the side effects were horrendous.

So many times over the years I have felt as if I was sliding through what I called wasted days—when all I was capable of doing was sleeping, resting, eating and some light household chores. I have spent lots of time praying and asking God why these things were happening to me and if they would ever end. I thought my days were wasted because I wasn’t doing anything that I deemed valuable, but in reality, God was doing a work in me that I finally understand… and hopefully will remember.

Before this time of pain and frustration, I understood how to be joyful in spite of my circumstances. However, I finally understand that God has shown me how to be joyful and thankful because of those same circumstances. In effect, God increased my faith by allowing me to travel through those tough times in order to bring me to the realization that not all bad things are bad!

God allows circumstances and situations in our lives that are sometimes very difficult to navigate, and all He wants us to do is trust that He knows what is best for us. It is all about having faith in spite of not seeing or knowing the why of it. When we cannot understand the meaning behind our suffering, we immediately want to tell God how angry and frustrated we are. I know, because I’ve been there.

Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for,
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Faith essentially does not make sense to our human way of thinking. I guess that’s why it’s called faith— “a belief that is not based on proof,” according to the dictionary definition.

When we pray in faith, we are saying in effect that we believe God knows what is best for us—in spite of what our circumstances appear to be and that we ultimately acknowledge what we know to be true: God knows all and we do not!

In spite of that, we want to breeze through life without experiencing any kind of pain or disappointment. We think that “if only” this or that wasn’t happening in our lives, everything would be so much easier or better. If only we had more money or more time or better health or a larger home or a different job… and the list goes on. What if the circumstances in our lives—good or bad—are there to make us stronger? What if—bear with me here—we try to change our outlook so that the “bad stuff” doesn’t seem so bad after all?

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. —George Seaton

Beloved, if life on earth was one big picnic would we ever yearn for heaven? Would we truly be able to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross?

Oh, and our friend Job? In spite of all the horrible things that happened to him, “Job did not sin with his lips.” Obviously, Job was not happy that he had lost so much and did not like what God was allowing in his life, but he trusted God even as he was going through that terrible time. Oh, that we could all be as Job and exhibit such trust in our Creator!

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life here on earth is meant to grow our faith, to show us how to live joyfully and victoriously because of our circumstances, not merely in spite of them. How about if we try to keep foremost in our minds that what we are going through is for our good and God’s glory? That kind of attitude will cause us to remember that we are not alone in our misery and enable us to praise Him for always being with us.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
—Psalm 104:33


¹ The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds

Cultivating Joy

Today I’m sharing an article by that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Cultivating Joy

When I was young, I thought that following God and being a Christian would lead to a life that was kind of easy, filled only with happiness and free from pain and sorrow. Silly me. I’m not even sure where I got that idea, except maybe from teachings spouted by TV evangelists who espoused a prosperity “name it and claim it” doctrine that was popular when I first chose to follow Jesus. It tickles the ears, doesn’t it? It’s so appealing, this thought that if you are a true believer you are spared suffering and gifted only with a positive existence.

It is also completely contrary to what the Scriptures teach.

If Jesus was perfected through His suffering, who are we to think we won’t be perfected through the same means? (Hebrews 2:10).

Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesus came that we might have life and life to the full (John 10:10), and it’s the joy of the Lord that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). It’s just that this promised joy and life come to us in the midst of the easy and the hard, the triumphs and the travails.

The key, then, is to intentionally cultivate that joy in our hearts — to choose it — no matter what season we’re in, the easy or the hard.

And life is hard a lot of the time. This world we live in is not Eden. We are not in Heaven. Not yet. But, in the middle of this often difficult journey, God “has taken great measures to preserve our freedom of choice.”1 We have the freedom to choose to grow in joy or to retreat from it.

Said another way, life will inevitably be hard, and as maturing believers with our eyes set on Jesus, we will constantly be presented with opportunities to make choices that will either lead to a deeper joy or not. Here’s what I mean:

It’s hard to stand up against the group when they are going the wrong direction — spiritually or any other way. But it’s also hard on our consciences afterward if we don’t. That Jiminy Cricket won’t be quiet.

It’s hard to be kind to the mean, curmudgeonly neighbor. It’s hard as well to be convicted later of being unloving. It’s hard to not spend the money on the item we so desire.

It’s hard to save money. It’s also hard to be in debt.

It’s hard to have a loving but tough confrontational conversation with a friend. It’s also hard to not have one and then have offense and distance creep into that friendship.