Tag Archives: Choices

Chocolate-Covered, Grace-Covered

25 Nov

One of the funniest people I know is Rhonda Rhea—author, humor columnist, TV personality and quirky-wise pastor’s wife. I decided as a change of pace to feature her here, in this “Christmas is coming” fun post.

Enjoy . . . 

I never cease to be amazed—and pretty thrilled—at the new things people come up with to cover with chocolate each year.

We’re relatively in the neighborhood of “National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.” December 16th. Oh my. That seems like such a great idea.

I highly—yea, emphatically—support chocolate coverings for the food beauty treatments they are.

But some of these people have gone and made it weird.

Chocolate-covered bacon. What?

Eat your bacon. It’s good.

Then eat your chocolate. That’s even better.

There’s an order to these things.

Chocolate-covered beef jerky? Chocolate-covered pickles? Chocolate-covered onions? Chocolate-covered squid?

Come on. Why would any of those ever be a thing?

Just because there’s no law against it, that does not make it okay, people.

In my book, all those ideas are terrible wastes of good chocolate and should be punishable by…well, maybe by making the people who came up with them actually eat them.

All of us in general are pretty good at coming up with bad ideas—everything that’s wrong for us. The curse of sin does that.

How amazing it is that Jesus can change our sin condition. He exchanges our sin for His own righteousness. And then He keeps working on us and in us even after that.

Jesus gives us a new “wanter.”

Paul said in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose,” (HCSB).

Jesus has us “covered,” in the best way, when it comes to both the ability to do the work we’re called to do, and then the desire to do it. By His grace, He’s the One at work inside us by the indwelling presence and power of His Holy Spirit. And He’s the One who causes our lives to be sweet. Fruitful.

Covered with His delicious purposes.

I think Joseph was a man who wanted to accomplish the purposes of God in His life. What a kick in the gut it must’ve been for him when he found that the girl he was to marry was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his. Under Jewish law, he had every right to make her humiliation public and have her stoned.

But Matthew 1:19 tells us that Joseph was a “righteous man.”

I picture a heartbroken Joseph tossing and turning, then slipping off into a troubled sleep. But what a wake-up call! It was a stunning message from an angel in a dream.

The angel told Joseph that it was okay to take Mary as his wife and that her baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He would be the Savior!

So what did Joseph do? He woke up from his dream and he did exactly what he was told.

I wonder if he ever even stopped to think about what he “wanted” to do. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out that God had already tweaked his “wanter.” Joseph wanted to honor God’s plan.

O Lord, by Your Spirit, help us to ever want what You want. Let us respond to You with unhesitating obedience.

No ifs. No maybes. No sugar-coating.

And, dare I say it? Probably not even any chocolate-coating.

 – Recipe for Chocolate Covered Bacon Skewers (and source for photo) is available here.

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Broken Joy? How to Get It Fixed

6 Oct

Pinterest has inspired many great crafts. 

But in at least a few cases, it has also inspired broken dishes!

I recently read about “12 Creative Crafts that Take Broken China from Trash to Treasure!”

Some of the new creations suggested were a watering can, a birdhouse, a birdbath and an end table. (I’ve pictured some in this article.)

A friend of mine actually broke some perfectly fine old—I would call them beautiful antique—dishes so she could make some “broken dishes” crafts with the pieces!

It’s not a Pinterest thing, but when I saw the picture of  the broken joy pottery (above), it inspired me to piece together a piece about “broken joy.”

Joy is such a beautiful thing. It’s extremely sad when it gets broken.

Pastor Jim Johnston wrote, “One key sign of spiritual danger is losing your joy. … Joy is one of the vital gauges on the dashboard of the Christian life.”

Here are 10 thoughts about fixing or rebuilding broken joy.

1. Joy wanes when we neglect time with God and His Word.

When I came to the Lord in faith, receiving what He did for me on the cross as the sacrifice for my sin, He made me a new creation and He fills my hearts with joy. He delights in His beloved children.

But many things can rob me of His joy—distractions and “joy-killers.”

That’s why David, after committing horrendous sins, prayed to the Lord, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Psalm 51:12).

After I confess my sin, I need the Word of God to water my soul and continually restore me to spiritual health. 

Joy is a byproduct of a relationship with the Lord through the Spirit of God. As a praise song says, “Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart when the King is in residence there.”

In the Lord’s presence is “fullness of joy,” and if we want joy full to overflowing, we must remember what Jesus has spoken to us in the Word of God.

2. Joy abounds when we are safe and satisfied in the Lord.

Being “safe” in my salvation, with my name written in heaven, helps me rejoice. Abundant joy comes when my heart is fully satisfied in Christ and not tempted by lesser things.

Whenever I am tempted to trust in something or someone other than God for my ultimate satisfaction, I quickly find these chosen idols can’t help me.

The Lord is the only One who can make known to His children the “path of life that leads to satisfaction. We are wise to take refuge in Him. When we rejoice in the Lord and share our heart and requests with Him, He floods our hearts with protective peace.  Kingdom Life is filled with God’s goodness, peace and joy in the Spirit. But to experience this kind of joy, we must shift our focus to Jesus and His work in and through us.

3. Scripture connects joy to spiritual obedience and ministry.

Believers are twice commanded to “rejoice” in one verse: Philippians 4:4. It’s a powerful command! I will abide in God’s love and experience His joy when I keep His commandments. It’s not a feeling. It’s a response of love.

The Psalmist says we will “come home with shouts of joy” when we minister to and invest in people. This is especially true when we bear the “seed” of the Word of God. We are to help others walk in the truth to experience the Lord’s love and joy. Be a disciple-maker.

4. To be more joyful, choose holiness.

Simply put, when I am “pure in heart,” I will see God; and dwelling in His holy presence, there is “fullness of joy.”

Pastor John Starke explained why holy people are happy people: “Not surprisingly, God’s designs for our sanctification are most satisfying. In contrast, a life in sin is tiring, placing joy just outside our reach.”

Our reason for choosing holiness is a key factor, however. “We aren’t pursuing holiness in order to be happy with ourselves. No, our holiness focuses our vision on Christ….” We want to put aside anything that obscures our view of and satisfaction in Him.

5. Life-building within God’s will brings us greater joy.

The Apostle Paul says joy comes when we “finish our course,” the ministry given to us by the Lord (Acts 20:24). God wants us to grow, and we need a plan for the process to cooperate with Him.

As I am intentional to build within God’s will, I can become more like Jesus, “increasing” in every area of life: spiritually, socially, mentally and physically.

6. For more joy, squelch conflicts with humility and forgiveness.

Paul encouraged Christ-followers to interact with unity and pursue peace. This takes humility and love for others that grows from the love of God within us. We are to bear with one another, but also forgive each other’s offenses.

Sometimes we come across tough situations. When we have done all we can, it may be necessary to follow the biblical process for confrontation with the goal of reconciliation.

7. Joy is enhanced by gratitude and diminished by comparisons.

A God-ward focus will tend to make us more grateful; but I’ve noticed in my own life how much “comparisons” with others diminish my ability to be grateful. It’s foolish to measure others by my own measuring stick in order to commend myself. A grateful-to-God heart has no time for silly comparisons.

When we cannot find anything else to be thankful for, we can always thank God for our salvation! But we need to cultivate thankfulness, because it is God’s will for us. Make a list of God’s blessings. Watch your joy increase.

8. Practice contentment to experience real-time joy.

Whenever I have a lot of “what ifs” in my life, I struggle with joy. Don’t you? It’s the silly “grass is greener” syndrome; we want what others have and fail to see our own blessings.

The Lord wants us to practice contentment. He knows our many expectations for things and entitlements. “Hope deferred,” not getting what we hope for, can make our heart “sick.” Contentment has to be learned, and the greatest source of contentment is to remember “The Lord is my portion.” He is all I need!

Some of my favorite ways to let go of my attachment to “stuff” and practice contentment are: to give away what I think I need; to stop self-focusing, and to think of ways to invest in others’ lives.

9. Walking in wisdom can set you up for joy no matter what you face.

Walking in wisdom, making the best use of time and seeking the Lord’s will, is a set-up for more joy! When I listen to God’s counsel and hear His voice, I can walk confidently in Him.

Circumstances change and can even be painful, but joy comes in embracing godly wisdom in the midst of struggles (Psalm 30:5; Romans 8:28).

10. Guard against the joy-robber himself: Satan. 

Just as the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10b), broken joy from our enemy saps our strength!

I’m learning to be alert to the schemes of the devil as I watch and pray. Also, focusing on the Lord helps me not be shaken when tough times come. I don’t want to neglect the body of Christ either, because it’s a source of encouragement and instruction in joyful living.

If your joy is broken, don’t lose heart. Follow these suggestions and search the Word of God, speak to Him daily and seek to know His heart. In due season, you will reap a heap of joy!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of MissCaraReads, Pixabay

Better Than ‘All or Nothing’

14 Jul

I continue to struggle with my “soft food addiction,” especially hoarding chocolate candy, cookies and other sweet things. (It’s not that I can’t ever have something sweet, but it is a dangerous area for me.)

But one Wednesday during an appointment, I told Kim, my nutritionist, “I finally got rid of all the junk food in my house.”

Kim looked surprised and pleased. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. “Was it hard?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I ATE it all!”

I’m sort of an all-or-nothing person.  Some days I’m “all in” and thriving physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Other days, not so much.

I’ve discovered one sinful habit or attitude in one area cascades into other areas, and soon I’m walking far off the righteous path the Lord has designed for me. The path of life.

It was just a little sin, I rationalize. But it still was sin if the Lord told me “no.” And all sin is continuing evidence of how much I need Him.

I love the American Dream, but for a long time I carried over the concept of independence into my walk with God.

I thought, “The more I’m independent—the less I have to call upon the Lord for help—this will be evidence of spiritual maturity.”

That couldn’t have been more foolish.

The true sign of spiritual maturity is

greater understanding of our need

and growing dependence on the Lord.

So I’m learning to step back and evaluate why I ran ahead of God … why I made a decision without consulting Him … why I lagged behind in disobedience … why I mindlessly walked through life.

It’s usually about some form of pride, selfishness, willfulness or outright rebellion. But sometimes it’s just forgetfulness. I forget how needy I truly am. 

In “performance mode,” I bounce back and forth between legalism and giving up.

In those times, I ultimately am most desperate.

But I’m learning to walk under God’s protective grace:

Observing, confessing and correcting. Not beating myself up. Moving forward in grace and trusting Him.

There is no condemnation in Christ, but there are constant opportunities to learn to depend on Him.

For everything.

Just as my silly conversation with Kim indicated, I have often made foolish choices.

But I’m learning to keep in step with the Spirit. 

How? It’s a process:

  1. Acknowledge – I admit your errors and mistakes; confess my sins. (Again, this is not a matter of beating myself up!)
  2. Accept – I receive the forgiveness I have in Christ.
  3. Allow – I let God’s grace flood over me, encouraging me; I remember what Christ has done for me!
  4. Adjust – I correct my thoughts, attitudes and behavior. It’s a matter of becoming obedient to God’s Word and will, and walking in the Spirit afresh. It’s a walk in freedom!

All-or-nothing? No.

The better perspective is ALL-IN-ALL.

This song expresses what’s in my heart as I think about this today:

“You are my strength when I am weak.

You are the treasure that I seek.

You are my all in all.”

(“You Are My All in All,” sung here

by David Phelps/Gaither Vocal Band.)

Jesus wants to be my Everything.

And I sincerely want that too. Even when I stray. Even when I mess up.

I want to be a woman after God’s own heart.

Why? I’m learning He is my strength, my wisdom, my victory, my only hope and so much more.

Is this your heart too? Is Jesus your “all in all?

 

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