Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Cheerful Look


A cheerful look brings
joy to the heart,
and good news gives
health to the bones.

Proverbs 15:30  NIV

1980 was an eventful—stressful “health” year in my life; a mixture of the greatest joy with the birth of our youngest son and the deepest anxiety and stress as I awaited news on three separate occasions for the outcome of tumor biopsies.

But, after each opportunity to trust God, there came a smile and good news from the doctor. I remember feeling immediate relief, my muscles relaxed, my shoulders straightened, and the seeming loss of a thousand pounds lifting from my heavy heart. The doctor’s cheerful look and good news erased my doubts and fears and restored joy to my physical body as well as my emotional psyche.

Proverbs 15:13 (HCSB) says, “A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit…” My heart condition shows on my face. So does yours! How about when circumstances are out of your control, when the diagnosis is grave, or when the trauma is too great for your human mind to comprehend? What then?

The answer to that question is one of the most beautiful things about belonging to a body of Christian believers. When tragedy or trauma strikes, when your heavy heart rips the smile from your heart and face, or when it appears that no good thing can possibly come from your circumstance…what then?

Then our Heavenly Father rallies the troops, gathers the encouragers, and provides those cheerful faces and warm hugs (along with casseroles, cakes, and cookies.) That’s when He supplies sitters to sit with you, listeners to listen to you, and prayers to pray for you. That’s when He rejuvenates your hope through a smiling face, warms your heart through a cheerful word, and reminds you that you are not forgotten, forsaken, or forlorn. That is good news that will help restore health to your bones.

If your present circumstance is filled with heartache, it is the perfect time for God to intervene on your behalf. Watch for Him! If you are in a happy place, it is a great time to spread a cheerful look all over your face and warm the hearts of others. When you think there is nothing you can do for someone, remember, a cheerful look brings joy to the heart!



© Joyce Powell

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rejoice Always

Rejoice always!
1 Thessalonians 5:15 HCSB

Recently, my husband and I had the pleasure of joining in worship in my hometown church. A lot has changed since my childhood; the church is larger both in the physical size of the building and the congregation. Many of the precious older folks that I loved so well now walk the golden streets of heaven, and like me, many of my childhood friends have moved away. However, there remains enough friends and familiar faces to still make it feel like home.

As my husband and I lifted our voices joyfully singing the old hymns that we love so much, a childhood friend stepped from his seat a couple of rows in front of us and made his way to the end of our row. Placing his arm around my husband, the three of us melted into a trio of harmony as our voices lifted the praises of our Lord, and our hearts swelled with joy.

I felt the words of Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” spring to life as verse after verse drew me back to bygone years and pulled me forward towards the day I will meet my Savior face to face. In those moments, rejoicing flowed as natural as cool water from the top of a rain-soaked mountain.

Rejoicing comes easy during those sweet moments. However, rejoicing at the bedside of a dying parent, rejoicing with your hand pressed against a glass as you stare at a child in an orange jumpsuit, rejoicing when a friend turns her back on you—not as easy. Yet the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Thessalonica to embolden them to forge ahead in the midst of persecution. Rejoice always!

Rejoicing bubbles up from the depths of your soul. You cannot manufacture rejoicing. You cannot bring it to the surface on command. You cannot call it forward by an act of your will. It happens! When you trust in the Lord with all your heart! When you know without a doubt that God is able and in control! When you cannot see God’s plan but you trust His hand! Then, although your heart may be broken, your life may seem shattered, or your future may look hopeless, then you can rejoice and gain strength from the Lord.

Be encouraged! Remember, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” and rejoice always!


© Joyce Powell

Monday, June 12, 2017

Shout for Joy


For You have made me rejoice, LORD,
by what You have done;
I will shout for joy because of the
works of Your hands.

                    Psalm 92:4  HCSB


Last night I shouted for joy when I answered my phone to hear, “I asked Jesus into my heart!” Our six-year-old granddaughter, Ilayna Joy, enthusiastically repeated those words to me and again to her grandfather. As we shared our great joy with her and our son, I began to think of God’s bountiful blessings.

God gives many reasons to shout and sing for joy. However, I often get bogged down on the treadmill of daily living and store my joy to be expressed at another time, in another place, or on another day.  Have you had that experience? Then with the passage of time cobwebs cover your joy, sorrows silence your joy, or life’s stresses push your joy to a dark and distant corner of your mind. And before you know it, your joy is neatly tucked away like hay in a barn.

I would challenge you to try this experiment today—choose joy! Open the barn door of your stored joy, remember the God moments of your life, see the great and mighty things God has done. Focus on the goodness of God and His loving, holy, merciful, and patient faithfulness. Choose to see Him in your circumstance. Choose to acknowledge Him in your situation. Choose to recognize Him in what may seem an impossible path.

Choose joy! Recognize the works of His hands today. Look around. He is everywhere. He whispers through the breeze and rides on the wind. He shines through the sun and watches through the clouds. He speaks through His Word and waits patiently for you and me to recognize Him and “shout for joy because of the works of Your (His) hands.”

In Christ, there is reason for much joy. Choose joy. Shout for joy!


© Joyce Powell   

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hope in the Face of Grief

…We do not want you
 to be ignorant
about those who fall asleep,
 or to grieve
 like the rest of men,
 who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13


Three years ago, my baby sister closed her eyes to the pain of earth and woke up to see the glories of heaven. The cares of this world fell like shackles unlocked and released from a prisoner’s leg. The momentary sting of death delivered her into the arms of Jesus. Since then I have faced the loss of a nephew, my brother, an aunt, a cousin and a precious sister-in-law. Some losses were sudden and unexpected; others came after long battles with poor health.


I have learned well many lessons taught by loss. In the days following the death of my sister, grief dragged me into a pit of depression; giving me no opportunity to breathe without pain as unexpected tears marked a path from swollen eyes to my chin. Darkness hung over my heart trying to convince me I would never again see light. But slowly, shafts of light permeated the darkness and bad days gave way to okay days and finally good days.

You probably have your own such story to tell. Times of unbearable loss. Times when the darkness of grief swallowed you in its pit. Times when well-meaning words of comfort from friends rang hollow like an iron bell in an empty room. You may right now be grieving; wondering if the pain will ever end. Struggling to get out of bed. Laboring to place one foot in front of the other. There is hope.

There are many kinds of loss that can bring about grief, and while death is the focus of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians, the pain and grief caused by other losses can prove to be as debilitating as the grief of death. Loss of a friendship, financial security, physical ability, good health, a relationship breakup, etc. may cause symptoms of fear, anxiety, depression, or sleeplessness. There is hope.

I can tell you from personal experience that hope is in the Name of Jesus. During the darkest hours of my depression, I did not read the Bible; I did not pray and ask God to deliver me. I could not. You may now find yourself or a loved one in that place. But God caused His Holy Spirit to well up inside me like a spring of living water, and I began to whisper the Name of Jesus. Step one, whisper Jesus. Step two, whisper Jesus. Step three, whisper Jesus; until finally God’s undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor—grace—became a ladder of freedom from the bottom of the pit.

The Apostle Paul tells us we should not grieve like those who have no hope; those without Christ. Why? Because the resurrection of Christ brings hope. How do we have hope in times of distress? Romans 15:13 explains, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Unlike our English word for hope which allows for some uncertainty, the Biblical hope as found in Ephesians 1:18 allows us to know that in Christ we have complete assurance of indisputable, unequivocal, certain victory through God. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…”

So, whatever your circumstance today, whatever has caused your grief, your pain, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness, remember that you do not need to grieve as those who have no hope. If you are overwhelmed and without the energy needed to pick up your Bible, whisper Jesus. If you find it impossible to voice a prayer, whisper Jesus. If you are struggling to put one foot in front of the other, whisper Jesus. He will come. See God in His Glory, His Majesty, His Power, His Love, and His Grace.


Trust Christ, and do not grieve as those who have no hope.

© Joyce Powell

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hope When I Want to Give up!



“I am the LORD,
the God of all mankind.
 Is anything
too hard for me?”

Jeremiah 32:27 

Today, the Lord planted the words “Don’t Give Up” in my heart. I found a Scripture appropriate to the title and waited for inspiration. Nothing! I tried to write about areas in life where giving up may seem the best option. Nothing! I prayed and asked God to inspire me. Nothing!

I went to the laundry room to take clothes out of the dryer and throw them on the dining room table; my mind in deep contemplation as my body went through the necessary motions. I began to think about changing topics, but once again God spoke softly in my spirit, “Don’t Give Up.”

Finally, I got it! God was inspiring me by pushing me to the brink of giving up in order to get the message. “Don’t Give Up.” I wondered how many lost opportunities in life happened because I gave up right before success. How often did I see a situation as hopeless when God had a breakthrough waiting right around the corner? How many times did I assume the answer was no while God’s yes waited for my faithful perseverance?

I began to think about the characteristics of God, trying to remember if He had ever given up on me. He has not! He reminded me-

He is Able…..
He is Faithful…..
He is Merciful…..
He is God Who Sees…..
He is God Who Forgives…..
He is God My Exceeding Joy…..
He is God My Righteousness…..
He is The Lord My Redeemer…..
He is The Lord My Defense…..
He is The Lord Mighty in Battle…..

And He is the God Who NEVER GIVES UP! So, when like me you are tempted to throw in the towel, hang it up, or weasel out, remember the One who gave all for you, and Don’t Give Up!

Do you wish you could give up on something or someone? Explain.

Read Jeremiah 17:7-10. Ask God to search your heart and give you clarity concerning difficult areas in your life and/or relationships.
  
Read Philippians 1:20-21, and write it down. 

What area of your life are you willing to commit to God through prayer before you make a final decision to give up?  Commit to pray about it. Write down your prayer.

 Heavenly Father, I know that You are able, faithful, and merciful. I know that You see me, and You are my defense in battle. Today, I trust You with the difficult circumstances of my life. I believe You are my Righteous Redeemer and my Exceeding Great Joy. Help me, Lord, to hear and obey Your voice. In the precious Name of Jesus. Amen and Amen.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

He Is Risen

He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was upon him, and by his wounds we
are healed.
                             Isaiah 53:5 NIV 

…Why do you look for the living among the
dead? He is not here; He has risen!...
                             Luke 24:5-6 NIV


Jesus Christ humbled himself as a man and became obedient to death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8) He was betrayed by a friend, arrested by armed soldiers, denied by his disciples, and condemned by the religious leaders. He stood trial before the government, was beaten, spat upon, led away to be crucified and hung between two thieves.  


His forehead was pressed by a crown of thorns, His side was pierced with a sword while His Name hung above Him for all who would recognize the truth; King of the Jews.  
  
He was buried in a tomb hewn out of a rock, locked in by a stone which, by most historical accounts, weighed at least a ton, and guarded by Roman soldiers whose failure to achieve their mission could have cost them their lives. Yet Jesus could not be contained in His man-made grave. Matthew 28:1-4 explains the tomb’s opening.
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.”


 Lest we forget, Jesus did not need the angel to open the grave so He could get out but so others could look in and see the empty tomb; a reminder of the awesome power of our God.    


He came from heaven to fulfill God's plan for the redemption of mankind. He returned to heaven where he sits at the right hand of His Father interceding for those who have put their faith and trust in Him. 
   
So today, I am encouraged! You see, I know the man who has the power to work all these things together for good. He walks on water! He raises the dead! He makes blind eyes see! He gives hearing to deaf ears! He gives a voice to those who cannot speak! He lights the sky with His glory, and the earth shakes at His command.

He cares for me. He cares for you. I trust Him. I know that whatever I am going through at this moment, it could not happen without His knowledge or approval. Often I do not understand. Still, I trust Him. Often I plead with Him for change. Still, I trust Him. Often I am tempted to give up, but still, I trust Him.

Be encouraged! He cares for you. He understands your sorrow and your pain. He suffered. He died. Trust Him, for He is risen!

© Joyce Powell

Monday, April 10, 2017

Satisfaction

Satisfy us in the morning with your
unfailing love, that we may sing for
joy and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14 NIV

Satisfaction. Is it real or just an illusion that the mortals of this world seek like the fountain of youth; a mirage that looks lush and green but quickly fades when one arrives at the edge of its shore?

Satisfaction. Is it something that can ever be attained in this life? I know money can’t buy it, for I have traveled the halls of the malls across this land and watched as unhappy faces rush to and fro from store to store with arms full of packages as shoppers seek fulfillment…. but fulfillment does not come. I realize that as I hear mothers screaming at their children and husbands yelling at their wives, and all of them wanting to buy just one more thing because they have found no satisfaction in what they have.

Satisfaction. I know friends can’t provide it for I have watched as friends who have walked hand in hand for twenty years break the bond of that friendship over a meaningless argument—neither willing to surrender their will or their pride.

Satisfaction. I know beauty can’t deliver it. For I have seen the most beautiful of women checking their appearance as they walk by a mirror or a window and watched as their smile turned to a frown as they appeared to recognize some imperfection.

I do remember seeing true satisfaction once. I recognized it in a little granny who walked with a cane. She had nothing of material value. She did not own an automobile. Therefore, unless someone picked her up, she walked to church every Sunday. She was always there, always smiling and always happy. Her old Bible was falling apart. I used to think, “Poor granny, she needs a new Bible.” I now understand that ragged old Bible was the source of her strength, her life, her satisfaction.

Is satisfaction attainable in this life? I believe it is. Absolutely! You can’t buy it, which is wonderful news for those of us who are not wealthy. No person can give it to you, which is wonderful news because it means no person can take it away. Beauty doesn’t matter, which is wonderful news because most of us are just average looking people.

Satisfaction only comes from allowing Jesus Christ to live in and through us, totally, completely…in control of our lives. The price of this satisfaction….well that’s the best part; it is free because our Father gave it…a gift. But, it cost Him the greatest price anyone could pay; His only child.

So, I suppose the next time I begin to grumble, complain, or become dissatisfied, I’ll stop and look up. I’ll “Be still and Know that I Am God” is speaking. I’ll listen and hopefully, obey and be satisfied to know that the God of the Universe has my life in the palm of His hand. He cares for me. Nothing can touch me without His permission. And, when adversity comes, and it will, I’ll be satisfied to know that the God who holds me, leads me, and teaches me through His Word, will keep me.

When I think about it like that, I am… well, I am… satisfied!

©JP