Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Week 2, Day 1: Face the Fear

I used to fear a lot of things.  As a child I was petrified of thunderstorms.  They scared me so much that all I could do was grab my Bible and sit in the bathroom as the thunder boomed and lightning flashed all around our house.  There in the "throne room" I sat with God's Word, barely able to swallow because I was scared for my life.  I grew up in Miami, Florida where thunderstorms are a daily occurrence in the summer time and the target of 100% of hurricanes (to me, it seemed like it anyway... every hurricane was headed straight for my house!)  Oh, how I dreaded the summers!   Brian Norcross was my hero!  (He was the local meteorologist... I watched him religiously to see what the next day's weather might bring... I even contemplated a degree in journalism to become a meteorologist because of him).  As I sit here and think about the terrible fear these storms conjured up within me, I see how I was robbed of my joy, not only in the present, but in the future also as the forecast for daily storms loomed.  In today's lesson, Margaret challenges us to face such fears. I had that opportunity in August of 1992.  I was almost 16 when it happened.  I had to face my worst fear.  I had to bravely endure Hurricane Andrew ~ a category 5 storm that, at the time of its occurrence, was the most destructive storm in United States history.  The highest winds were clocked at 175mph.  Our front door at the time was made of sturdy wood... french doors, nonetheless!  I remember that we had to place our sofa in the front of the doors ~ the wind was so powerful that it was causing the doors to bend inward.  The wind howled so loudly that I remember asking my mom, "Who opened the windows?"  She replied, "The windows aren't open, it's just the powerful wind."  Oh my goodness... the night was never~ending.  I was scared out of my mind.  I ended up trying to sleep in a hallway on a cushion from our patio furniture ~ it wasn't safe to sleep near windows; the wind transformed and launched even innocent debris into destructive missiles.  Needless to say, I didn't get much rest; hearing the debris crash against my house through the night kept me in a tangled ball of worry.  Here's the the thing, though.  Not a single one of those thunderstorms, nor any of the hurricanes I lived through, harmed or injured me in any way.  I am alive to tell the story of how God protects His children under the shadow of His wings!

My 4 year old has inherited the same fear I used to have over storms... she is terrified when she hears even a distant thunder.  When she sees the wind blow and the sky grow dark, she wines, "Mommyyyy?  Is there gonna be a thundastum?"  I have to be honest with her and say, "Well, yes, BUT!  God is going to protect us and we will be ok!"  Just a few weeks ago we experienced a very bad storm... terrible winds and rain with all kinds of thundering ruckus.  She asked her usual question and I gave my typical response.  I then walked into the kitchen to go about my usual activities.  As I stood there at our kitchen island, I watched her walk into the kitchen with great trepidation.  She slowly walked up to our large kitchen window and proceeded to bravely watch the rain beat against the window as the lightning flashed and thunder clapped all around the house.  She simply stood there with her blankie and watched for a minute... then I heard the sweetest little voice sing, "He's got the wind and the rain in His hands, He's got the wind and the rain in His hands, He's got the wind and the rain in His hands, He's got the whole world in His hands."  I began to weep.  I could not contain my tears.  At such a young age she understands!  He's GOT everything... the world, you, me, the wind, the rain, the tiny babies... all in His hands!  The lessons we learn from our children are, sometimes, more profound than the ones we experience for ourselves.  Our fears... our worries... they are lies from Satan.  Satan is the author of fear!!  God, however wants us to have joy and peace! Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."  All we have to do is believe!

Since Hurricane Andrew I no longer fear storms; matter of fact, I now enjoy a good thunderstorm.  Ladies, face the fear knowing that God has gone before you, is now standing beside you, and will walk behind you.  God is all over you, loving you and protecting you.  He is everywhere and all powerful.  Confidently face your greatest fear knowing "...the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self~discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Psalm 56:3
Isaiah 41:10
Philippians 4:6~7
Matthew 6:25~34

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Week 1, Day 5: Litter liberally!

Ladies, it is time to start littering.  Litter as if today you will breathe your last breath, and litter audaciously, with intention.  Litter your JOY!  Needtobreathe captures this picture best, in my opinion, with their song "Multiplied."  The lyric says, "Your love is like radiant diamonds bursting inside us, we cannot contain."   YES!!  This is what I was referring to yesterday... the fire in our bones!!  We cannot contain His love; the urge is unstoppable... we have to bomb people with our joy or we will lose it.  As children of God we are all gifted with the talent of sharing His love... it is the very reason we were created!  Sharing His love means that we are intentionally activating our joy by sharing His (joy) out of reverent obedience to His commands.  Being out of touch with who we are in Christ, continuing in sin, and satisfying our own selfish ambition cheats us of joy... we find ourselves devoid of meaning and purpose because of the enemy's lies.  Pursue your joy, ladies!  Stay in the Word so you will know how to activate the authority God has given you over Satan (Luke 10:19).

I adore Margaret's "7 Ways to Litter The World With Joy Today" (p. 35).  They are conduits through which we can channel our joy.  On page 37 she challenges us to add ways we can litter the world with joy.  I added "random acts of kindness" to my list; like when I'm at a drive~thru and bless the person behind me with a free meal!  I cannot tell you how that blesses me and fills my heart!  I have no idea how that blesses the person behind me, but when I pay the cashier, I have him/her relay a simple message; I ask the cashier if she would please tell that person God loves them.  I have never had a cashier tell me no.  I relish such things; it deeply touches me!  It truly is better to give than to receive and fills everyone's cup of joy.  Serve others.  PERIOD.  Litter joy!  Give it away freely and liberally, with intention and purpose, but don't forget yourself.  It is ok to take personal time away to unwind, reflect, REST and pray.  Not only is it ok, but it is important and necessary.  Jesus set the perfect example for us here (see Matt 14:22~23, Mark 6:30~32, Mark 7:24).  Choose joy, no matter the circumstance, and pray for God to show you how you might activate joy in your own life so you can litter the world.

Acts 8:8
Acts 20:35
Psalm 51:12
Psalm 100:2

Week 1, Day 4: Unwrap Your Gifts!

I love how Margaret brings us into a scripturally sound awareness of the gifts of joy God so freely gives; He is not stingy, and His gifts are always wrapped in perfection.  I am enamored by the thought that God's joy is the glue that holds the universe together... that "All of creation isn't just born in joy but is sustained by the joy of God.  This makes God's joy foundational and essential to everything that was, is and will be." (p.32). My goodness that is a radical concept!  We exist and are sustained by the joy of our Creator.  It makes me wonder if I ever bless God and give Him back at least a portion of the joy He created me with.  The thought brings my sins into awareness, for they certainly displease God, but knowing that He created me by and for His joy makes me want to strive to please Him.  Praying Psalm 139:23~24 daily, with a sincere heart, helps exploit my transgressions so that I may ask for forgiveness for them and, consequently, walk in tandem with His commands.

By recognizing the gifts that God so generously showers us with... I mean really taking time out of the hustle bustle of life and thanking God for specific gifts... family, health, life, nature, freedom, provision, shelter, food, church, friends, etc., allows us to experience more joy (p.33).  Margaret specifically says, "We must pay attention to where we are and whom we're with," and then inquires, "When is God tossing joy bombs into our lives and we aren't even noticing?"  Every person or circumstance we counter on a daily basis is an opportunity for more joy... every ~ single ~ one... good or bad!  Think about that.  For instance, when you're at the gas station filling your car with gas, what is the person beside or across from you doing?  Do you ever consider how God might compel you to start a conversation about His goodness with that person? Or even bless them by paying for their gas!?  When you are genuinely filled with the joy of the Lord, you cannot help but splash it all over others... it cannot be contained!  It is like fire your bones (see Jeremiah 20:9).  How many times have I been to busy, or too self~absorbed to notice strangers around me?  People who God has strategically placed in my life as opportunities to spread His joy?   I will courageously answer:  TOO MANY!  I pray daily for God to make me aware of those who surround me ~ those who need to feel and experience the encouragement, love and joy of God.  I have even placed a sticky note in my car so that before I go in to the grocery store, bank, or wherever it is I am going, I am reminded to consider OTHERS before myself and pray for God to direct my words/steps.  When you encourage a total stranger and share God's love, that is, by far, the greatest gift that you could ever unwrap, give away, and see return to God for His glory.  That, sweet friends, is the kind of action that liberates unfathomable joy for both you and God!  I pray that we may be emboldened to shower God with joy from this day forward!

Job 23:12
Psalm 119:103~105
Psalm 19:9~10
Isaiah 55:11~13

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Week 1, Day 3: Celebrate Joy!

How do I think culture has influenced my definition of JOY?  Ha!  What a loaded question (p. 23).  This is a fantastic question, actually, for us as Christians.  Culture would have us believe that joy comes from fame, riches, and the accumulation of the latest and greatest everything.  Do you ever notice how the tabloids are replete with celebrities who are back in rehab, divorced, have tons of plastic surgery to perfect their outward appearance, etc?  They are forlorn and lonely, trying to fill a void with outward perfection and, well, just stuff!  They buy seven $150K cars ~ one for each day of the week ~ they live in multi~million dollar mansions and rub shoulders with Hollywood's A~listers, yet they are despondent to the point of suicide.  Why?  They get to the top and there is nothing there but stuff... "things" that they idolize.  The fact of the matter is "stuff" never showed anyone love and you cannot trust it to carry you through; it cannot impart wisdom, discernment or understanding, nor can it give you hope.  Money cannot buy eternity in Heaven and it cannot buy your way out of hell.  Isaiah 44:9~20 is a wonderful passage about idols... verse 20 says, "The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.  He trusts something that can't help him at all.  Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, 'Is this idol that I'm holding in my hand a lie?'"  Huh.  That is so drastic, is it not?  No idol ever created anybody like our Creator can, and no idol can redeem us from our sins like our Redeemer can.  "Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers," the psalmists write in 1:1.  As we continue in this study, we are becoming increasingly aware that true joy comes from knowing our Father and being obedient to His commands.  He dances and sings over us... I adore Zephaniah 3:17; God rejoices over ME!!  That is enough.  If everything else in my world withers, I am learning that God and His love are enough, and that gives me joy!  My joy truly emanates out of the abiding sense that God fiercely loves me.  We need to boldly profess this truth to our despairing Hollywood friends; it deeply saddens me to think they place all of their hope in "stuff" and are missing out on life's greatest love story ~ and ~ the opportunity to celebrate genuine joy.

I also took extra time to contemplate where I've said "no" to joy in my life (p. 27).  I love this study because it compels me to search where my deficiencies are.  Personally, I tend to pray for God to fix them, him or her.  If I have been wronged, I become so hurt, angry, and frustrated because of the injustices done that, sometimes, the only thing that would make me happy is to literally see God judge them.  How self~centered and wrong is that?  See Proverbs 24:17~20.  Rather than pray for God to change THEM, I must pray for God to change ME; I must stay in my own lane, fight my own fight, run my own race, and trust that God will be faithful to His promises (I Thessalonians 4:11).  That way, no matter what has been done to destroy me, I can rest in and celebrate JOY knowing that God will be faithful to his promises to take care of me (Romans 12:19~20).

Did anything grab you from today's study?

Deuteronomy 4:29, 10:12, 11:13, 30:2
Psalm 119:1~3
Proverbs 11:20

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 1, Day 2: Manifest Joy

There are two things that really take my heart captive from today's homework.  On page 19 Margaret states that the quest for joy is something we are commanded to pursue.  Not only are we called to seek and obey God, but we are also called to enJOY God and partake in the most satisfying pleasure imaginable ~ a joy that can only be found in Him.  As I pondered that I was reminded of a question that had been asked of me by a dear friend years ago.  She is one of those friends who has the courage to ask brutally honest questions... you know... one of those friends who tells you what you NEED to hear, not what you want to hear.  If you do not have a friend like this, PLEASE ask the Lord to bring you one!  Had it not been for her there is no telling where I would be right now!  The question was, "Are you willing to be obedient to God whether it makes you happy or not?"  At the time I was on a very self~destructive path wrought with pride and selfish ambition.  You may find it interesting that, during that time, I had commented to my father that I felt the happiest I ever had in life... everything was going my way.  Oh sweet friends!  The ONLY power Satan has over us is his lies and getting us to believe them.  That was a lie straight from the mouth of Satan because I was so far off course and the farthest away from God I had ever been.  As I now sit and think about that question my friend asked, it makes sense to me that obedience to God, regardless of our emotions, will always fulfill our joy.  As children of God we have authority over Satan, therefore, we have what it takes within us to defeat the enemy's lies and obey God's commands (see Luke 10:19).  Obedience to God brings blessings.... the very pleasures that Margaret speaks of here.  Several months later whilst on that sordid journey, I found myself broken and at a dead end.  I was at the bottom and had no other place to look but up.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of that question... "Are you willing?  To be obedient?"  I then asked myself if I was willing to swallow my pride, my happiness, my SELF, and trust that the same God who spoke the universe into existence could restore me to live in joy under his blessing... and even be considered righteous.  The answer was an emphatic YES!  I did suffer consequences for my disobedience (and still do to this day), BUT, because I chose to confess and repent I am redeemed, and by the grace of God I have lived to tell the story.  It was not an easy journey by any means, but I was willing to do whatever it took ~ I was desperate, and God both honored and blessed my humility and obedience.  I have turned the utter wreck from my past ~ my mess ~ into my message.  I am living proof that anyone can be redeemed!

The second thing that really grabbed my attention was on page 21 when Margaret says we are to manifest Jesus.  WOW!  That is so incredibly profound!  The manifestation of Jesus is quite literally, "What Would Jesus Do?"  Mimicking Jesus is simply copying or imitating Him, but manifesting Jesus means to display or show others Jesus through our actions.  Whoa!  It reminds me of what James says in James 2... that faith without deeds is dead and useless.  Remember!  Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45).  There is a song that was written for children out of John 15:11~12.  I used to sing it as a child... The lyrics: "This is my commandment that you love one another that your joy may be full."  Some of you may know it... what truth there is in that simple song!  Love one another, serve one another, do both out of obedience to His commands, and then your joy will be full.  So simple, yet so very esoteric for us Christians.  My prayer is that we all will strive to manifest Jesus, whose very character is comprised of joy.  As we endeavor to pursue and activate joy, may we manifest joy out of obedience to God's commands.

What stood out to you from today's lesson?

Philippians 3:1
Psalm 34:8, 40:4, 84:12
James 2:14~26

Friday, September 25, 2015

Week 1, Day 1: AWAKEN!!

Before immersing myself in my homework this morning I asked God to allow me to truly understand the depth and intensity of His love.  As my thoughts raced I confessed that I have taken God's love for granted for so many years.  Yes, God loves me but, honestly, I have never allowed that to steep and saturate to the depths of my soul.  After pondering for a few minutes I then prepared to hear what God has to say about His immaculate love.  I began my homework.....

HOLY MOLY!  Boy am I ever awake now!  As I read Isaiah 43:4 the tears welled up!  The very same God who spoke the WORLD into existence would sell the whole world.... the world He created... He would sell it to get ME back AND trade THE ENTIRE CREATION?!  For me?!  Can you wrap your head around that?  I am so dunderheaded... this is hard to grasp.   I am breathless.  My face is wet with my tears.  As I consider the majesty of the mountains, the fragrant flowers of the field, the animals, the fish, the birds, humankind, the sky, the stars, the galaxies, the vastness of the universe... the supreme complexity and utter splendor of it all... and God would trade it ALL for a wretch like me!!  Whoa!  Just, wow!  Once again, my Bible is spattered with tears.  And what's even sweeter is He PROVED it!!  He loves me so much that he died a horrendous death...  for me.  He did not sin, but He chose to suffer for mine.  Who am I to be worthy of such love?  This is so incredibly humbling and compelling.

At the end of today's homework Margaret essentially challenges us to become more intentional about choosing, pursuing and activating joy.  The requirement for joy is activation.  We must muster a craving to find within ourselves what it takes to activate joy; it doesn't just happen.  Activation requirements are different for each of us, but intention and discipline comprise the foundation on which we can build.  We must purposefully discipline ourselves to choose and pursue joy; just like we must feed ourselves food to sustain life, we must also feed ourselves God's infallible Word to sustain joy.  What a sweet day it will be when we find ourselves in a sullen valley and can circle that 10 on the joy scale!  I aspire to know that kind of joy.

What did God reveal to YOU today about His love?

Proverbs 8:17
Isaiah 63:9
Ephesians 2:4~5
Ephesians 3:18
Romans 8:38~39
Romans 5:3~8
I John 4:9~11

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Welcome! Ready to Rumble?

Welcome to TJC's Bible Study blog!  We are so glad you came by to check us out!  Whether you are visiting to actively participate or to simply read along, it is no accident that you find yourself here!  God has something special prepared just for YOU!  Let's get ready to rumble, shall we?  

I am excited to take this study a bit deeper through this blog.  I'd like to provoke you to mull over life's experiences and, no matter how abysmal they may seem, consider how you might still have JOY underneath it all.  You have been prayed for!  I have journaled prayers for weeks for each and every one of you, and my desire is to see this study and blog spawn a new~found passion for life through God's joy.  At the end of each post, you will find some "Power Jabs."  That's right!  More weapons straight out of God's Word to spur you onward to a life of victory in Jesus' name using joy!  What a glorious and powerful weapon! I praise God for joy!  May you all walk away from this study with supreme confidence and utter JOY, knowing how enormously God loves you and wants you to succeed.

See you in the ring, and remember... THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH!  (Nehemiah 8:10  "...Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.")

Ding, ding, round 1.  Here we go!  I love you dearly and am cheering for you!!  You've got this!


(I thought about putting the verses beside the reference, but it is important for you to SEE where these are in your Bible... training technique #1!  Seek and ye shall find!!  You never know when you're gonna have to help someone else train!  See it, read it, absorb it, teach it!)
Zephaniah 3:17
Proverbs 24: 5, 6, 10, 16~20, 27
Job 4: 5~6
Hebrews 12:1~4