Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our God of Joy

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

The late entertainer Joe E. Brown once said, “I have no understanding of the long‐faced Christian. If God is anything, He must be joy.” How true! We have a God who loves us more than we love our children or even ourselves—a God who sent His Son to die for us and who has prepared a place in eternity just for us. He is indeed a God of joy—and we have much to be joyful about!

This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. When we were first married, Jim and I taught school, served in the church, and carried many responsibilities. Jim was working on his master’s degree at the time, so he wasn’t able to help me carry my load. I looked forward every week to Saturday, when I could rest and recuperate. Gradually, I fell into the trap of being truly happy only one day a week. And if anything took that day away from me, I was very frustrated. Slowly, I learned to enjoy every day of the week, even though I was busy. It was a simple change in attitude that brightened my life. Someone once said, “If you have to cross the street to be happy, you’re not seeing things properly.” I agree.

There are many “long‐faced” Christians who are caught up in the trials of this world. It’s not always easy to remember that we can experience joy even in the midst of struggles. We forget that Jesus told us that our worldly grief would be like a mother giving birth: She experiences pain during labor, but then forgets her anguish because of her joy over the birth of her child (John 16:21). We forget that the apostles, after being flogged on orders of the Sanhedrin, left there “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).

Joy is something we experience when we begin to understand the magnitude of God and the love He freely gives us. It’s not something to be grasped, but shared. It’s not something to be contained, but made available to all. Joy is a selfless, abundant quality modeled by our Lord Jesus. He is the one who has called us to “rejoice” and “leap for joy” when we are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, and rejected, because “great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23).

Joy can begin right now—if we choose! “Rejoice in the Lord always…!”

- Shirley M Dobson

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Why Did I Lose My Job if God Loves Me?

Silence Is An Answer

When he heard this, Jesus said, ”This sickness will not end in death. no, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.” now Jesus loved martha and her sister and Lazarus. so when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” —John 11:4–7
Have you ever wondered why Jesus, when he heard that his dear friend Lazarus was seriously ill, waited two days before going to be with him? Though Jesus’ delay seemed inexplicable — at least from the point of view of Lazarus’s sisters, who requested his presence — he would be “glorified” because of it. Jesus didn’t immediately respond to their request, and the end result revealed that he was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.

In other words, “silence” was the answer he gave. Yes, the answer. That silence turned into an amazing demonstration of deliverance from a situation that Mary, Martha and their neighbors had never known was possible — the resurrection of a person who had died.

Here’s the connection to those of us on a transition journey. When we’re out of work we continuously ask God to answer our prayer for a new career opportunity. Like King David of Biblical times, we cry out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint . . . My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:2 – 3). We wonder how long it will be before we get a job — primarily because we assume that a new job is the only possible answer to our prayer.

What’s more, we believe anything short of getting a job means that the Lord is ignoring our prayer. We are tempted to believe that he has forsaken us if our prayer isn’t answered with a new job. Doesn’t God realize that I am afraid? That I need money? That I need self-esteem? That I need to rebuild my sense of self-worth?
Actually, God realizes much more than that. He is well aware of our needs, yet his desire is for us to grow closer to him, to trust in him, to experience the marvelous feeling of contentment that comes from a closer walk with him. The fact that Jesus didn’t drop everything and rush to Mary and Martha’s aid demonstrates that God doesn’t operate on our schedule. Clearly we are to operate on his schedule. That new job will come through on the exact day and at the exact moment he has planned it for us — and not one minute of worrying will change this.

We can make any bargains we wish with God, we can promise to be all he would want us to be — when we get that new job. But the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that once we get that new job, we will revert to work-schedule mode and he will take the backseat again — that is, until we need him again.

Granted, we might be afraid; we might be unsure of ourselves and our abilities. We might feel rejected, overlooked and embarrassed, having heard nothing but silence from the Lord in answer to our prayers. If that’s you, I encourage you to take this time to know that he is God (see Psalm 46:10; 100:3). Silence is some- times his answer. Why? Because he wants us to spend more time working on our relationship with him.

Why not take a moment right now to actually praise the Lord for his silence? Praise him for the opportunity to grow closer to him. Enjoy the pleasure of his close company while you have the time to develop that habit of intimacy. Bask in the glory of his silence. Just lean back and feel his presence. It is peace.

This is the last entry in this seven-day devotional. We hope you've found it both encouraging and challenging. If you want to read more devotionals on this topic, take a look at the book from which this devotional is drawn: Why Did I Lose My Job If God Loves Me: Help and Hope for Those in Career Transition by Rick J. Pritikin.

John Donne, Priest

Today the church remembers John Donne, Priest, 1631.

"No man is an island". These oft-quoted words from John Donne are not only a terse statement of a universal truth, they also point to a perplexing dilemma in this great man's life. How could John Donne be reconciled to the baffling world in which he lived: an age struggling with change, shattered by "the new government" and even "the new religion"? He felt deeply his own responsibility to deal with these changes. He refused to retreat to an island.

Donne went through a troubled and reckless youth, characterized by cavalier gaiety on the one hand and by deep-seated anxiety on the other. His elegant poetry and the brilliance of his personality gained him many influential friends, but little success otherwise. He married, but could hardly be said to have settled down. His charming wife bore him lovely children, but peace and satisfaction did not enter his life until he took his life to the Master.

Finally, he plunged himself into the church's life with all the fervor of his cavalier days. He was ordained and, after serving as a royal chaplain and as rector of Sevenoaks, he became Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London. There he preached many celebrated sermons. His hearers were astonished and many of their lives were profoundly changed. His works have continued to stimulate thinkers and writers into our own time.

Our prayer today comes from Donne: Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our callings that we may sleep in thy peace and wake in thy glory. Amen.

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for March 31, 2016 - Thursday in Easter Week

Psalm 8
1   O LORD our Governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2   Out of the mouths of infants and children your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3   You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, to quell the enemy and the avenger.
4   When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
5   What is man that you should be mindful of him? the son of man that you should seek him out?
6   You have made him but little lower than the angels; you adorn him with glory and honor;
7   You give him mastery over the works of your hands; you put all things under his feet:
8   All sheep and oxen, even the wild beasts of the field,
9   The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10   O LORD our Governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Acts 3:11-26
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, "You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. "And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.' And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, 'And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

Luke 24:36-48
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Daily Meditation for March 31, 2016 - Thursday in Easter Week

From Forward Day by Day

Luke 24:39 Jesus said, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Easter isn’t easy to comprehend. There are places in the scriptures, such as this one, where post-resurrection Jesus goes out of his way to prove that he is as real as you or I. Elsewhere, he invites Thomas to touch him. But then there are other places where Jesus forbids people from touching him after Easter. He appears inside a locked room and then disappears. On the road to Emmaus, he is not recognized. We can believe Jesus is raised from the dead, but we may not understand every nuance.

Perhaps the post-Easter Jesus isn’t so different from our own life of faith. We can believe that God works in our world and in our own lives, though we may not understand every nuance. At times, God might seem concretely real. Other times, God’s presence is elusive. If we have trouble sorting this out, we should be gentle with ourselves. Even Jesus’ followers, those who had witnessed many miracles and who had been taught by Jesus himself, sometimes had trouble recognizing him in their midst. Let us all seek Jesus, but let us do it patiently

His Princess Every Day - Thursday, March 31, 2016

Devotionals for Women - Inspirational author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd imagines what a letter written from God to you would look like.
The Blame Game
My Warrior,

Don’t engage in relational battles and drain your strength trying to prove your point, win your way, or defend yourself. I am your defense, and if you will fight the temptation to give in to relational battles, I will reward you with perfect peace You are called to live above a life of blame and bitterness. The truth is that nothing anyone has said or done to you can stop My perfect plans or promises from coming to pass in your life. Now break through to a life filled with peace by walking away from the relational wars of wrath. It is time to fight for the things worth fighting for, and win souls for My kingdom!

Your King who has made you blameless

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. - Romans 12:18–19 (NLT)

A Prayer for the Blameless

Blameless Princess! I pray that our God will give you the wisdom how to navigate through relational traps set by the enemy to distract you. I pray you will feel his Holy Spirit rise up inside of you and take control of what you say when your are in a relational war. May you never again exhaust yourself with useless arguments. I pray that you will see the bigger picture and push past relationships that stop you from being all God wants you to be. I pray that you will be filled with your Father’s grace and love in every difficult relationship that you encounter. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin. - 2 Samuel 22:24

This devotional is written by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All content copyright Sheri Rose Shepherd 2015. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Visit for devotionals, books, videos, and more from Sheri Rose Shepherd.

Girlfriends in God - March 31, 2016

Stop Running From Fear
Gwen Smith
Today’s Truth

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)

Friend to Friend

Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be afraid.

Case in point. I was a tween with pimples; long, lanky limbs; and an attitude the summer our family went to Ohio to visit friends of my parents who lived on a farm. I didn’t much care if these people were nice. I didn’t much care what we would eat for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner. It wasn’t the beach, and I wasn’t overly thrilled to be in Ohio for a vacation. (No offense, Ohio people.) But I had heard they had horses, and that calmed my grump a good bit because, truth be told, I was giddy to ride one.

I just knew I was born to ride! My cousin Beth had horses, but up to that point, she hadn’t had the chance to teach me the ropes. Finally I would have my chance.

The sun danced with a summer breeze the morning we journeyed past the barn out into the pasture for our horse adventure. It was beautiful. A perfect day for an eager girl to do something new and exciting.

I got a quick bit of instructions, and then I mounted the saddled creature, grabbed the reins, and ventured out into the grassy fields. All by my big-tween-girl self.

Freedom met me in the tall grass as Butterscotch and I became fast friends.

We walked. We cantered. We even galloped! I was so good at this!

And then I turned him around, back toward his owner and the barn, and Butterscotch got his run on in a fierce way.

Scared. Me. To. Death.

I didn’t know what to do. I screamed, dropped the reins, and held on to the horn of the saddle for dear life. The owner was waving her hands trying to tell me what to do, but she sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and the moment was blurry mayhem.

Then when I was sure we would crash into the barn, causing me to meet Jesus way too young, Butterscotch came to a halt.

And I went inside to change my pants. (Joking.)

I was so scared that I collapsed into an ugly cry. Couldn’t even control my emotions. And on that day, one thing became crystal clear to me: I do not like to be afraid.


If I see a snake, a mouse, or a spider (generally anything with more or fewer legs than I have), chances are I’m going to run the other way screaming louder than a middle-school girl at a Taylor Swift concert. Why? Because those creatures freak me out. It’s an unsettling kind of fear. And remember? I don’t like to be afraid.

Yet the Bible says we are to fear the Lord. Come again? How does this make sense?

I’ve come to understand that the fear of the Lord is a good kind of fear; it’s a righteous fear. The best kind. When God says we are to fear Him, He’s saying we are to be in awe of Him, to revere Him as the One who dwells in unapproachable light. To recognize Him as the eternal eminence who sits on the throne of grace and lovingly welcomes us to encounter Him intimately as we worship.

I fear God when I reflect on His greatness, when I whisper, “Good job on that flower, God!” when I trace the jawline of my sleeping, whiskered man-child and give thanks to the loving Creator who created him.

I fear God by giving Him the honor, esteem, and adoration due Him. In good times and bad.

I fear God by recognizing that He is God and I am not.

I fear God by understanding that all of the power in heaven and on earth is His. And in doing so, I’m ushered into a fresh beginning. To the greatest resource of power. To a starting gate that opens wide to knowledge, wisdom, and instruction—all of which are worth far more than any understanding this world offers.

Straight up: The world is a faction of fools who laugh at godly wisdom. It whispers venom to our souls ... 

“You don’t have to pay attention to God.”
“Do things your way.”
“More! You need more!”
“It’s okay to watch that raunchy movie or read that trashy novel.”
Blah. Blah. Blah...

No thank you, world. I’ve got a mad crush on my God, and I don’t need your misguided direction. The fear of the Lord leads me to wisdom in a beautifully sacred way. And that’s a fear worth running toward full force.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, You are holy, and powerful, and full of grace. Please forgive me of my independence, indifference and stubbornness that keeps me from Your best. Please lead me in wisdom, knowledge and depth today.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn

How intense is your fear of the Lord? How often do you prioritize Him, honor Him, reflect on His attributes, worship in spirit and in truth, fall before Him in awe of His God-ness? 

Read Psalm 112:1-4. Write out a prayer of response in your journal or click here to write a prayer response on the wall of my blog.

More from the Girlfriends

Today’s post is an excerpt from Gwen Smith’s new book, I Want It All.

Order your copy today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite retailer.

Seeking God? 

Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God
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Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

The personal and trusting relationship between God and His followers now leads the believer to the commissioning aspect of commitment—a task that is characteristic of being His true followers—“and follow me.” This commitment is not to a task but to a person. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is one who follows the teaching of another; one who is like another; one who models after another.

What is the task to which he has called us? The task is none other than the words of what we call “The Great Commission”:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

The Christian’s task is nothing short of being a servant of Jesus Christ proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ and helping others become followers of Jesus. Our primary responsibility is neither overthrowing governments nor opposing ideologies but a proactive one of making disciples of all nations.

In the course of our obedience to God’s authority, we may come in conflict with the existing government. We have been called to be good citizens and history has proven that Christians are generally law-abiding and hard working. But when conflicts come, the Christian is ready to choose his commitment to Christ over his or her commitment to local authorities (Acts 4:19–20).

RESPONSE: Today I complete my commitment to follow Jesus in sharing His love with others.

PRAYER: As a true disciple, I give myself, Lord, to the task of world evangelization starting where You place me today.

Verse of the Day - March 31, 2016

Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.