How many of us begin the day with joy? It can seem like a tall order, I know – so many things can pull us down so quickly. But what if we were to try shifting the focus of our first morning thoughts. Taking just a moment to remember our Lord and the victory we have through Him will bring encouragement for the whole day. And It might just become a habit!
“The Christian community is a community of the cross, for it has been brought into being by the cross, and the focus of its worship is the Lamb once slain, now glorified. So the community of the cross is a community of celebration, a eucharistic community, ceaselessly offering to God through Christ the sacrifice of our praise and thanksgiving. The Christian life is an unending festival. And the festival we keep, now that our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us, is a joyful celebration of his sacrifice, together with a spiritual feasting upon it.”
”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
I like to start my prayer time by thanking God for something – it doesn’t really matter what. The act of acknowledging Him as the source of the blessing is the important thing. His love and generosity become the focus, and I am humbled yet again. Out of that comes a deeper sense of the Father’s heart, what He wants and how I can join Him.
“We should therefore learn that the only good we have is what the Lord has given us gratuitously; that the only good we do is what He does in us; that it is not that we do nothing ourselves, but that we act only when we have been acted upon, in other words under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit.”
“Every good and perfect gift is from above,coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
One of the signs of a healthy church body is a sense of excitement about what the Lord is doing in its midst. The people truly want to share a time of worshipping God together, and actively look for how He is working. Another is the expression, through words and acts, of that ‘agape’ love to its members and those beyond the building walls.
Becoming more like this kind of congregation takes humility and commitment, and lots of prayer. When we ask Him, God is ready and willing to lead us closer.
“One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.”
“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
“Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
God is able to bring about all sorts of renewal in your life. The question is, do you want Him to?
I’ve been guilty of resisting changes He’s wanted to make in my heart, mind or even circumstances. And I know in every case it’s been because of a very human desire to hold on to the familiar. It helps me to remember that familiar is usually a stop on the way to His best. I have to trust in God’s plan, release my own, and embrace moving forward.
“The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”
One of my favorite worship songs right now is “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury (The video of it is below). Every time I hear it I get excited all over again about how much God desires us, and what lengths He goes to in order to capture our hearts. The word lavish comes to mind. If we believe that we are valued so much by our Lord, how can we not respond?
“In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculations. The consequences of abandonment never enter into our outlook because our life is taken up in Him.”
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Many years ago, I ended up riding in an elevator with Elisabeth Elliot. It was during a Christian conference, and we were headed down from the hotel to the convention center. As soon as I recognized her, my brain started buzzing with things I wanted to say to her: how much I admired her, how her writing had inspired me, etc. But in the end, I didn’t say a word – partly out of shyness, but I also figured she might enjoy a quiet “elevator moment” in the midst of a crowded event. So instead, I just smiled, and let her presence remind me of how impact-fully God can use and bless a heart submitted to Him.
“Can we give up all for the love of God? When the surrender of ourselves seems too much to ask, it is first of all because our thoughts about God Himself are paltry. We have not really seen Him, we have hardly tested Him at all and learned how good He is. In our blindness we approach Him with suspicious reserve. We ask how much of our fun He intends to spoil, how much He will demand from us, how high is the price we must pay before He is placated.
If we had the least notion of His loving-kindness and tender mercy, His fatherly care for His poor children, His generosity, His beautiful plans for us; if we knew how patiently He waits for our turning to Him, how gently He means to lead us to green pastures and still waters, how carefully He is preparing a place for us, how ceaselessly He is ordering and ordaining and engineering His Master Plan for our good-if we had any inkling of all this, could we be reluctant to let go of our smashed dandelions or whatever we clutch so fiercely in our sweaty little hands?
“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him”
Our world today is full of people who don’t want to follow any authority besides themselves. I spent years in that mindset myself, and found it a confusing and frustrating place to be. But because I struggled with trusting other people, and had a fierce independent streak, I dug my heels in when someone tried to guide or help me.
Thankfully, God set me right in this area. Yes, His authority is complete and all-powerful. But it is motivated and guided by a deep love for what He has created. It took time, but as I learned more about our Heavenly Father I started letting go of controlling my own life. After all, I have always been His – resting in that is far better than fighting it.
“The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.”
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
I love what God declared to Jeremiah when he appointed the young man to be a prophet:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
With these words, God told Jeremiah an amazing truth: he had been designed by God, for God. When I start asking questions about my identity and purpose in life, I know Who has the answers. The One who created me has a plan for me – for each one of us!
“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman.”
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Whenever I feel small and insignificant, I imagine Jesus going to the cross to save me (Romans 5:8). And in the moments I am most overwhelmed by my weakness, I picture Him interceding for me (Romans 8:34). Just taking that second or two shifts my perspective and helps me take on a more accurate view of myself: nothing without the Lord, but precious in His sight. He sees you that way, too. Amen!
“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
Robert Murray McCheyne
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours…My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”