30 Days of Gratitude – Day 22

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Today I’m grateful for my Valentines.  I was single for 22 years and during that time I only had one Valentine, my Lord and Savior.  I figured that since I was the bride of Christ I would conduct myself as such and think of myself as married to Him.  I even wear a ring on my wedding ring finger reminding me of this position.

So when Valentines Day would come around I would be content most of the time with my Holy Valentine.  The times that I felt lonely and wishing for a Valentine with flesh and blood I would pray that if it was God’s will that He would bring one into my life and if it was not that He would fulfill these feelings I was having.

Now I still have my Holy Valentine and God has seen fit to bless me with a flesh and blood Valentine as well.  I feel so blessed to have both.

My human Valentine was so good to me and I’m so grateful to have him.  He sent me a beautiful bouquet and wonderful card.  I was sick Valentines day but he was so patient and kind with me, especially since I brought the sickness on myself.  I’m diabetic and had consumed so much sugar the day before that I had sugar poisoning.  Not smart and not something this addict is going to do again I pray that I’ve learned my lesson once and for all.  Anyway that’s another story.

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The next day I was feeling better and we took a lovely trip down the Pacific Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to Dana Point and came back home through the Majestic and Silverado canyons.  This day trip was beautiful and fun just talking and watching the third love of our lives Tessa my dog looking and sniffing and all the new things she was experiencing.  She was exhausted once we got her home.

Should you have felt alone this past Valentines Day my heart goes out to you.  I know all too well how that feels.  But may I encourage you to think of yourself as having a Holy Valentine and falling in love with that Valentine until He sees fit to give you an earthly Valentine?  Trust me it’ll be the best love affair of your life.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 14

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Today I’m grateful for the fact that in Christ I am a new creation.  The old is gone and the new has come.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  –  2 Cor.  5:16-21

How can one not be grateful for God making it possible for us to be new that we might be reconciled to Him?  What an honor and blessing!

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God could have wiped His hands of us so many times in history.  With the first sin He could have decided I’m done with them they made their choice against Me, but that’s not who God is.  His love wouldn’t allow Himself to turn His back on humanity when humanity has turned it’s back on Him time and time again.  Anytime that He did divorce Himself of mankind once they cried out to Him, He responded.  That’s just the way of love.

God’s ultimate act of love was; that He loved sinful man so much that He sent Christ to pay the penalty of our sins thus reconciling us to Him and making us new and the righteousness of God through Christ.

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If God never did anything else for me my entire life I would sing His praises my entire life for this awesome blessing!  Hallelujah!!! Praise the Lord, God Almighty!!!  Thank you my Savior for dying for me and all sinners!!!

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

30 Days of Gratitude – Day 8

Today I’m grateful for…all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me.

“27All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.  28Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  –  Matthew 11:27-30

Thank You for willing to reveal Yourself to me.  I know it was my choice but I also know that You knew ahead of time that I would choose you.

Thank You for a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light.  Thank You for being a place where I can find rest for my soul.  Rest for my soul is something that is needed so much and I’m so appreciative that You give that.

Lord You are so good and so loving!  Thank You for coming down to earth to be our Savior and for being obedient to the Father even when You wanted “this cup taken from” You.  I can’t imagine how hard that must have been to do but I’m eternally grateful to You for doing that for me and all the sinners that have ever been and will ever be.  You just never fail to amaze me!

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Wealth and Christ

Matthew 8:28-34 tells a story of two demon possessed men and of their freedom from that possession and the towns reaction.  This version of the story comes from The Voice Bible which is written in such a way as to tell it as a story.

28Eventually Jesus came to the other side of sea, to the region of the Gadarenes.  There, two men who lived near the tombs and were possessed by demons came out to the seaside and met Jesus.  They were flailing about, so violent that they obstructed the path of anyone who came their way.

Demons (screaming at Jesus): 29Why are You here? Have you come to torture us even before the judgment day, O Son of God?

30A ways off, though still visible, was a large herd of pigs.

Demons: 31If You cast us out of the bodies of these two men, do send us into that heard of pigs!

Jesus: 32Very well then, go!

And the demons flew out of the bodies of the two flailing men, they set upon the pigs, and every last pig rushed over a steep bank into the sea and drowned. 33The pig herders (totally undone, as you can imagine) took off; they headed straight for town, where they told everyone what they’d just seen – even about the demon-possessed men.  34And so the whole town came out to see Jesus for themselves.  And when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their area.

When confronted with Christ and the miracle He had done for the demon-possessed men, they didn’t welcome Him they did the exact opposite.

The herd of pigs signified wealth.  Often we are asked by God what are we going to do with our finances.  For some this can be a difficult thing.  Possibly you have come about difficult times financially, still setting some aside for the work of God is Biblical.  How much is between your heart and God, the Holy Spirit.  Maybe God has blessed you despite these difficult times and you find it easy to give, praise the Lord.

Perhaps you have great wealth and have been sensing that it was time to share that wealth with others but it has been difficult for you to let go of it.  May I encourage you that there are greater treasures in heaven than you could ever amount for yourself here on earth.  Please listen to that voice prodding you to be generous with what you have.

God has blessed you with the amount of income that He has chosen.  Yes you may be an entrepreneur but it is God who has blessed your business as He has seen fit.  And it is God who will either continue to bless that income or take it away.  His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts.  So whether rich or poor be grateful for what you have because God promises to supply all your needs if you seek Him.

Unfortunately this town never got to learn that blessed promise and wonderful joy.  Because when they were faced with the face of the Savior they chose wealth over salvation.  How sad that a whole town could be more concerned with their wealth and all that encompasses than learning about the man that can free men from demon-possession.  One would hope such a miracle would have people asking for more miracles of healing in their lives rather than looking at their pocketbooks and being fearful of what more money this Man might take from them.

This town is the perfect example of how it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

This town is also a reminder to us who follow Christ to keep our priorities in order.  It is just as easy for us to allow wealth to cause an area of a hardened heart and that gives the enemy a foothold in our life that we don’t want to happen.  We must listen to the Holy Spirit and obey it’s voice when It calls us to action in our giving.

We must only have one Master at all times.  So check yourself and ask God if you are in line with His will in this area.

Joy – A Fellow Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Who Is Your Identity?

Who are you?  Are you identifying yourself by your profession?  Perhaps you are identifying yourself as a husband or wife and putting everything you have into that relationship.  Perhaps your a mom and you are identifying yourself as a mom or in how your children behave or have matured and grown up?  Are you a student and identify yourself as such? Do you allow your grades to speak for who you are?  If you are identifying yourself in any of these ways or any other way other than in respect to Christ that is not your true identity.

I have mistakenly looked for my identity in nearly all of these except for mom, since God never blessed me with children.  When I was put on disability and lost my identity of a professional and it was very difficult when asked what I do to answer the question.  You see here I was (if I remember correctly) in my early 30’s and out of the workforce.  What was to be my identity?

I have had and continue to have the identity of daughter and sister but that never seemed enough.

When I went into early retirement as was suggested to call it by some, I became a student and although I love learning and am fairly good at it.  This too was not enough.

Actually being put on disability was a blessing because I had been so busy with work that I hadn’t realized how empty I was.  It was sometime after that and not without heartache and dealing with my pride that I came to realize that my identity comes from Christ and being in Christ.

Galatians 3:26-29 says this about our identity;

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior your identity belongs to Christ.  As you can see in Galatians 3:26-29 we who have been baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ.  It is Christ in us that the world must see and who we must identify ourselves with.

As the scripture says there is no distinguishing among us. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”  In today’s terms: Their is neither Baptist nor Methodist nor Lutheran nor Evangelical nor Charismatic nor Catholic, poor nor rich, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  There also isn’t doctor nor plumber, teacher nor homemaker, wife nor aunt, student nor retired.  There are followers of Christ which have clothed themselves in Christ Jesus.

The above list of denominations and non-denominational churches is incomplete I just listed what came to mind and am sure given time I could think of a number of other to add to this list.  Most importantly, instead of the different denominations and non-demominationals waring of non-fundamentals of the faith, let us do as the Bible teaches us and find our common ground and be united in that.  We are letting these insignificant things (in comparison to the fundamentals of our faith) to be used by the enemy to pull the Church (followers of Jesus) apart rather than being unified.  This is exactly what he wants because it destroys our witness to the world.  Church wake up!  It is time we take back what the enemy has cunningly got us to let go of.  There should be unity in love of the Church this is what will attract unbelievers to us.

When you find your true identity – either a follower of Christ or not.  One of three things will happen.

  1. Knowing your identity in Christ as a believer and follower that place in your heart that you were trying to fill with other identities will find peace and wholeness.
  2. If you are not a believer or follower of Christ but you heed the tugging in your heart that this could be the answer to that whole you feel – pray this simple prayer: Lord I see myself as the sinner I am and ask You to forgive me of all my sins.  I accept what Jesus did on the cross as a sacrifice for me so that I might have forgiveness of my sins and fellowship with you.  Lord help me to live the new life that I’ve just begun and bring believers around me to help me grow in You. Amen!
  3. If you are not a believer nor follower of Christ and you choose not to say the above pray and let Christ into your life, you can look through every profession, toy, relationship, or book other than the Bible and you will never fill that God shaped whole you feel.  You know the emptiness that nothing seems to fill.  It’s there for a reason.  God put it there so you would choose Him.  He also gave you free choice so you can run from Him all you want, He’s a gentleman He won’t force Himself on you.  But let me worn you the longer you run the harder your heart becomes.  The harder your heart becomes the less likely you are to turn to Him.  The reason I mention this is that hell is a very real place and if you don’t like things here on earth you have no idea what awaits you separated eternally from a loving and holy God.  It scares me to think that anyone I know would be sent to such a horrible place.  So please reconsider God’s gracious gift of forgiveness.  We’ve all sinned and fallen short of what God in His righteousness requires which is perfection.  Only one man ever walked the earth and did not sin, and that man is our Lord and Savior  Jesus Christ.

So let’s stop looking in all the wrong places and seek out Christ in the Bible and learn about Him so that we have a better understanding of our true identity.

Joy – A Fellow  Sojourner & A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

Are We Living As Christ Would Have Us?

There have been a lot of things that have been done in the name of Christ, some good and some not so good.  There have been majestic Cathedrals built by artisans over ages to honor Him.  There have been celebrities giving all the glory to Jesus Christ for their success.  Yet there have also been horrific things done in His name as well.  The crusades is one of the darkest time in the history of Christendom.  War was waged all because those calling themselves Christians thought that those who were not Christians should die.  This is not what the love of Christ is all about.

I know that the crusades may seem like a rather harsh example of not doing or rather walking the walk that God would have us walk, but in God’s eyes sin is sin.  Whether we are killing people in Christ’s name or killing His image in their sight, it is all the same to God.

Let me explain what I mean by killing His image.  Every time we do something that is contrary to following Christ those watching us we are actually destroying His image, because we are representatives of Him.

I know that for me there have been times when I have not been a good representative of Christ.  Much to my dismay I have given cause for others not to have a desire to come to Christ, which is our commission.

I have learned to be more responsible about how I act and what I say and how I say it.  Sometimes silence is the best and just allow the world to see your walk.

Most importantly we need to love people.  These are not only the people in the church (because unity is important) but the people outside of the church.  Those who don’t know Christ as their Savior need to see His love and the only way they can do that is for them to see that through you and me.

This is how Christ wants us to live, loving Him with all our heart and soul and mind and then to others as you love yourself.  It seems simply enough but to put it into action on a daily basis is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Joy – A Woman After God’s Own Heart!

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 6

Jack what are you going to do with what God has shown you today?” Stunned, “Janet, I’m not so sure I know what to do. You have been a very good wife to me and I’ve been I lousy husband and father to Julie. I just don’t know if what you have found is for me.” “Why? Do you think you are any worse than any other sinner on Earth that He died for? If you do think that you are too bad to be redeemed, let me point out that you are allowing your pride to get in your way and stopping you from receiving the most precious gift that was ever given to man” responded Janet. Jack replied, “How can I be sure that Christ could care for even me?” “Jack, it says in Romans 5:8 ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ That is how you can be sure that he cares for even you. The question is what are you going to do with this most precious gift? Are you going to reject it and in the process reject eternal life and all the blessings that go with it? Or are you going to accept this wonderful gift? With the acceptance of this gift comes blessings galore; love, joy, peace, gratitude for all that He has done for you and given you no matter how much that is. Jack you’ve lived a life of anger and bitterness and emptiness long enough don’t you want something better for yourself?” Jack’s heart ached worst than ever, “Janet, when you made your decision did your heart ache?” Janet responded tenderly, “Yes, Jack worst than it ever had in my life like it was crying out to God. That is when I knew I had to take the step to open my hearts door to the knocking of the Savior. Is that what you are feeling now?” “Yes,” said Jack, “I can hardly stand it.” Janet’s own heart beat with joy, “Then may I suggest you confess your sins and ask Jesus to become the Lord of your life. Thank Him for the gift of salvation that He gave you and promise to be obedient to His word.” “Lord,” said Jack, “I’ve never come to you before and I realize the folly of that. God I am so full of sins I hardly know where to start. Please forgive me for my cruelty to my family and employees and my pride, arrogance, materialism and ungratefulness. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the Cross for me and pay the price of my sins. I accept that gift and ask You to become the Lord of my life. I realize now I’m no good at running my own life. I need You. I promise to be obedient to Your word and will. Thank You for this evening Lord, for bringing Gab and Esther into my life and for giving me my family that I had taken for granted. Thank you for Janet’s sweet spirit all these years. Help me to be the husband she deserves. Make me into the father that Julie longs for. Amen.” “Oh, Jack, I can’t express how happy you have made me. I know that you have a lot on your mind. I also know that the two or rather the three of us can face anything with God. My sweet Jack, I’m so grateful that God took everything from us and used it to bring you to Him! I’d rather start all over again with all of us knowing Him than having everything and not having Him.”

A thought occurred to Jack, “What about the fire and you and Julie? Are you grateful for that as well? How could you be grateful for that?” Disbelief and anger were surfacing in Jack at the thought of this. Janet tried to calm him, “Jack, I won’t deny that it was awful and has been terrible painful and I wish with all my heart that it had only been me that had been burned and not Julie. But I trust God and His wisdom I know that even in this He has a plan that will work to good. If this is what it had to take to get your attention I gladly pay the price and although I wish Julie wasn’t affected by this I know her heart for you well enough to know that she would gladly go through anything to have the family she now has. Please Jack see the good in this, if the fire had not happened you may have not lost the business which in turn brought you to God and to me and Julie. In this we can be grateful for all that has happened because the end product has brought wholeness to our family. Jack, don’t beat yourself up over this. I beg you to do your best to see the master plan in all this – we have the family Julie and I have been praying for continually.” With tears in his eyes, “Are you sure that you and Julie won’t hate me for the rest of our days for the consequences of my hard heart?” “Never!” responded Janet with her own tears, “We love you! Apart from God you are the love of our lives! Plus we wouldn’t be living His word if we didn’t forgive you. For in Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus says, ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.’ Plus my joy is too great at having the husband I have been longing for.” “You can truly be grateful for this?” asked Jack. “Yes, my love, God has given me the gift of gratitude. I pray that you find that same gift.” Responded Janet her eyes shining in the dawning sun. “It’s a lot to take in” he admitted, “but I am getting there. I can say I’m grateful for you, Julie and the wholeness I feel in my heart, I’m grateful for your forgiveness. Hum! I guess I could say that I too have found the gift of gratitude. I love you so much Janet thank you for being so patient with me and for praying all those years that this night would one day come.” “It has been my pleasure and the joy of my heart to pray for this night. God is so good and I’m so grateful!”

“Father, another humbled and grateful heart.” says Gab, as he goes down the hospital hall and disappears.

By Joy Dara Stephenson

The Gift of Gratitude – A Short Story Part 5

Gab appeared in the hallway and stayed in the shadows where he observed as, Jack went on to first tell her how he had managed to not only loose the house in the fire but because of his ill temper as he put it he had managed to loose the business as well. How he had met Gab that night the last night of the business and all that they had done together.

Janet’s response surprised Jack. She seemed pleased that they had shared the food and his encounter with the homeless rather than being furious about loosing their livelihood. He went on to tell of Esther how peculiar she seemed in the light of that place and how her story had got him thinking. “Do you think that this Christ could truly do what this Esther woman claims He did for her?” he asked Janet. “What do you think?” Jack replied, “Janet if you could just see how Esther truly had nothing, not even most of her teeth anymore but the joy that she had seemed genuine enough. I can hardly believe that I’m finding myself envying a woman that has nothing but this Savior she speaks so lovingly about. I also need to tell you that I realize that I’ve been perfectly awful to you and Julie. I don’t understand how you could stand living with me. It’s like my eyes have been opened up to the man I’ve been and I can’t say that I like him very much, to be honest I very ashamed of the husband and father that I’ve been to you and Julie. I wouldn’t blame either one of you if you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. I felt that way coming here. I was hoping you would be asleep and I could just be near you with my thoughts. I was too ashamed to hope that you would want any part of me. I was bad enough when our life was perfect but since the fire I’ve avoided you and Julie when you both needed me the most.” At this Jack stopped he heard something he wasn’t sure his ears were serving him well, it sounded like tears and laughter. This is definitely not the response that he was expecting. Jack questioned, “Are you crying or laughing at me?” Janet softly responded, “Oh, Jack, don’t you know that this is what Julie and I have been longing for, even before the fire? The tears are tears of joy and relief that our life together might be all that I’ve been hoping and praying for, please forgive the laughter but it just hits me as funny that now that you’re becoming the man I’ve always loved, you think that now I would turn my back on you. Heaven’s no! God is finally granting the desires of my heart.” Jack was shocked, “How could I be married to you for so many years and not know that you were one of them, a Christian? You weren’t when we met and married were you?”Janet lovingly responded, “No, Jack, I did not deceive you when we were dating and got married into thinking you were marrying something other than what I was.

Not long after our marriage I got lonely. You were so distant and busy with the business. It seemed the only time you needed or wanted me was to parade me around and use me as a show piece at various events other than that you were content to have me stay at home and be a dutiful wife. You gave me everything but what I longed for most, you. Then a neighbor invited me to some teas at her church and at one of them I finally realized the emptiness in my heart could never be filled by anyone but God. So I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It wasn’t that I was trying to keep it from you; I desperately wanted to share it with you. The problem being we never really talked and you were always so busy that this has been our first real conversation since my conversion decades ago. I asked my Christian sisters how best to approach you with my faith. They suggested that I do as the Bible says for wives to be submissive to their husbands and to always be loving to you and that through my actions not my words an opportunity to speak might present itself. Since the restaurant kept you so busy it was easy to fellowship at church with you never even knowing I wasn’t home because you were always at work. Then when Julie was born my sisters in Christ helped me to train her up in the Lord. At every meal she prays that her daddy might love her like her Heavenly Father. She will be so pleased to know that your heart has changed.