Monday, January 14, 2008
I began to list some practical steps to choosing joy, the first of which was abiding in the Word.
Once we are spending regular, daily time in the Word, reading it, hearing it, letting it seep into our beings, we need to take it a step further:
2. Think about what you think. In my "former" life, I was absolutely the Queen of Negative Thinking...nothing was so wonderful that I couldn't see the negative in it! I was slowly, painfully, and often unwillingly, convinced of the need to break this pattern of thinking...and the only way to do that is to REPLACE one thought with another. Rick Warren talks about this in the Purpose Driven Life. He says that we ALL meditate, it's a matter of what we choose to meditate ON...our problems, or God's Word. I began to purposely, consciously, try to catch myself each day when I became negative or starting dwelling on a problem, and instead, I replaced that thought with something from God's word. I was shocked by how much of my time was being spent on negative thinking!! But, as I began to replace that negative thinking with dwelling on the Word of God, it began to change me, literally...supernaturally..beyond anything I could ever have achieved on my own.
One of my very favorite verses is this from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5:
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
For me, negative thinking was a real stronghold--and I was trying to fight it the way we tend to fight so many of our strongholds, through the power of the flesh. But my flesh wasn't very powerful--it was weak...and it fell for satan's lies every time. I had to realize that I was fighting my battles with the wrong weapon! What I needed was every Christian's sole offensive weapon: the sword of the spirit...the Word of God. When I began to fight the lies of the devil with the Truth of God's Word, the battle turned!
I began to see that my negative thinking, and the lies of the devil, were really just arguments against what God said was true...in essence, every time I became negative, I was calling God a liar. Every time I didn't believe He could work through me in a circumstance, or the awful circumstance I was in was never going to change, I was setting up my OWN thoughts against the knowledge of God. So instead, I began to take every thought captive, and make it obedient to what Christ says. When I thought, "My life is just never going to be any better," I replaced it with God's truth..." I know the plans I have for you and they are plans to prosper you...to give you hope and a future." When I thought, "It's no use. I'm a failure," I replaced it by remembering that "he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it," and I was reminded that God himself thought He'd started something pretty good when He made me!
When you replace your thoughts with promises of God, it becomes difficult to stay negative for very long! You begin to look for what God has to say about a situation or thought instead of how you "feel" about it. And you begin to bear the fruit of joy, not because your circumstances are better, but because you begin to take hold of another step:
3) Believe God. Really, it all boils down to this, because if I really don't believe that what God tells me is true, then reading it and repeating it aren't going to help that much. I have to ask myself, who do you believe, yourself, the devil or God? Because we may say we believe God, but our lives will show whether we really do or not. The person who has joy is the person who has decided to believe God no matter what their circumstances are...they have decided toSee, when I look at my circumstances, when I review my past failures, when I focus on my fears, I am really trusting more in what I see than in what God says is true.
For me, a large part of the process of choosing to believe God was deciding to quit letting my emotions rule my faith, and instead live the other way around, letting my faith rule my emotions. Because sometimes my emotions lie--sometimes I don't feel like God could even love me, and it would be easy (trust me, I know, because I've done it!) to start to actually believe that...but the truth is that God loves me with a passion I can't even begin to understand, that makes my love for my kids seem like nothing. Sometimes, when my emotions take hold and feel unloved, I have to take a stand and choose to believe what God says...and when I make that choice, the emotions never rule for long...
There's a great song by Casting Crowns, called "The Voice of Truth"--it says,
Oh, what I would do
to have the kind of strength it takes
To stand before a giant
with just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound
of a thousand warriors
shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand
But the giant's calling out
my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
time and time again
"Boy you'll never win,
you'll never win."
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
The choice is yours--joy or misery, fear or love, trust or doubt--choose well.
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
So, my friend wanted to know, how do we find joy? And I, being older (barely), more experienced, and full of wisdom, said..."Good question." And I realized I wasn't really sure exactly how we find it. I mean, I know the stock scriptural answer, "Joy comes from the Lord," but if it is missing from our lives, how do we find it? Because, honestly? I could use more of it myself...there is a reason Eeyore is my profile picture! And while God has truly made me a new creation and removed the Eeyore from this heart, still, there are days....well, let's just say that if every cloud has a silver lining, there are days when I can find the tarnish on the silver lining...
So, I thought I'd look at how to find joy, and what I discovered anew is this: We don't find joy. We choose joy. If we are a Christian, God has already given us joy:
"The fruit of the spirit is love, JOY, peace..." 1 Cor 5:2
"Behold, I bring you good news of great JOY which shall be for all people..." Luke 2:10
Jesus is our joy, and through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, we have that joy placed within us.
But wait...if that's true, why don't I feel joyful? Because sometimes, I choose misery instead of joy, As ridiculous as that sounds, it's true--I choose focusing on my circumstances instead of on the promises of my Jesus.
Every morning when I wake up, I think, "no way. I am not getting up this morning...I hate getting up. I don't feel good. I'm still tired. Just forget it." And then I get up...
Why do I get up? Because I have two teenagers who depend on me, who won't get to school on time if Mom doesn't get them up and going. Because I have a job, and I like my job, and I especially like what my job affords me, like living in a house with a roof over my head.
So, even though I don't really want to leave the comfort and warmth of my bed, I choose to get up, because I know, deep down, that in the end, it's for the best.
Well, I need to remember that joy is a choice too...and sometimes, it is simply easier, more convenient, more "comfortable" to choose to focus on what I'm unhappy about. It's HARD sometimes to choose to look beyond the circumstances, but if we want what God has planned for us, we need to make that choice.
So, how do we CHOOSE joy? Because saying we need to, and being able to do it are very different things. Well, God has shown me over these past several days some very practical things we can do to help us learn to choose joy. Of course, there are many others, but these have proven to work for me. I'll break them into several blog entries, so this doesn't go on forever.
1. Spend time in the Word. It's my answer for almost everything, because it's God's answer for absolutely everything! We treat our reading of God's Word like it's optional, but if we want to live joyfully, passionately, abundantly, as God desires, this is NOT an option. The Word has the power to change our lives...literally! Jesus said, "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you shall ask what you will, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." Now remember, JOY is one of the fruits...so, by letting his word remain in us, we become more capable of bearing, showing forth, that fruit!
You'll have to wait for the next posting for #2 and #3!
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
Thursday, January 3, 2008
This was sent to me by a friend--it is by Rick Warren, written on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Saddleback Church. It was meant, evidently, as a charge to himself and his church--this is NOT just something to read and nod our heads and say, "yeah, I'd love to be like that." There is a place at the bottom to sign and date it--and while I urge others to print it and sign it, I also urge you NOT to do so lightly, just to say you've done it. Sign it because you MEAN it, and then commit to living it. Because following Christ, dying to self and living for Him and through Him, isn't something we should just "want" to do, it's something we must make the conscious decision to do. In my own life, this past year has been a process of coming to that point, of saying, "It's time to grow up, spiritually speaking. It's time to quit letting emotions rule, and quit letting satan eat my lunch like some big bully on the playground. It's time to simply say, 'this is where I stand, I can do no other' (quote from Martin Luther) and then press on toward the goal."
In short, I decided that it was time to really make a Radical Commitment, and Rick Warren has worded it as well as I ever could...
I have signed this statement, I have committed to LIVE this statement, and I have posted it on the wall in my office and stuck it in my Bible to remind me...it is my prayer that others will determine to live it too and that God's glory will begin to shine through our lives to a lost and hurting world.
A Call to Radical Commitment
Today I am stepping across the line. I'm tired of waffling, and I'm finished with wavering. I've made my choice; the verdict is in; and my decision is irrevocable. I'm going God's way. There's no turning back now!
I will live the rest of my life serving God's purposes with God's people on God's planet for God's glory. I will use my life to celebrate his presence, cultivate his character, participate in his family, demonstrate his love, and communicate his Word.
Since my past has been forgiven, and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.
Instead I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of his family.
Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, "we" over "me," character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most, and I'll give it all I've got. I'll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.
I won't be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems, debilitated by temptation, or intimidated by the devil. I'll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.
When times get tough, and I get tired, I won't back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide. I'll just keep moving forward by God's grace. I'm Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused, so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.
I'm a trophy of God's amazing grace, so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.
To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say: However, whenever, wherever, and whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes! Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I'm ready. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyway.
Whatever it takes Lord; whatever it takes!
I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I'll hear you say, "Well done, thou good and faithful one. Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!"
What does this mean?
Today, I affirm this commitment to God and submit to his plans and purposes for my life, no matter what it takes.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on
toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward
in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV)