Rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, ‘Rejoice!”  (Philippians 4:4)rejoice

Ever wake up and feel like not rejoicing?  Ever have a week where you would rather not speak to anyone or utter a sound, let a lone rejoice?  Let me comfort you with these words, “You are not alone.” There have been days, maybe even a season, that I did not feel like rejoicing because I felt the world around me was against me. This thing called life was hard and I just didn’t have the get up and go at ’em attitude.  I would rather have sung the glums and ate chopped liver than to let myself rejoice.  My attitude stunk and I left that odor expel from my pores affecting other’s personal spaces.  So, again, let me comfort you and say, “If you are feeling that way – you are not alone.  Chances are your very own pastor (yes, go ahead and gasp- he or she isn’t perfect), mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, friend, neighbor, teacher, principal, employer and fellow employees and anyone else that has breath to breathe has felt this same way. Tough stuff happens, enough said.” 

But, God… oh, yes, there are those infamous words, but God!  Two precious words that remind me and help me to push through and find it in me to rejoice!  I may not feel like it and I might not want to – I can even in a thirty something year old body find the inner two year old who wants to stamp her feet, whine, cry and even wail.  That child who can point fingers, blame others and can throw a full fledge tantrum –  I think that child is somewhere in all of us- the Word calls it our flesh.  But the Word never fails, just like God never fails, he is always gently leading us as the good Shepherd.  Yes, us sheep, that seem to stray off the path, he lovingly nudges us to follow.  That desire is in us to follow, we just have to stop and listen to the voice then choose to follow.

But God in his Word tells us to Rejoice!  And then it is repeated in the same sentence, “…I will say it again, ‘Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).   I am not a theologian and I do not pretend to be, I am just a chick that is in love with a God who loves me more.  I am enthralled by his Words and they light up my life.. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love to hear, “You are the apple of my eye,” (Zechariah 2:8).   In my fascination and delight of knowing that God loves me despite me, that  his love is neverending – how can I not find it in me to rejoice?  I must rejoice despite trials, hard times, sad times, lonely times, desperate times and even depressed times.  Even when I do all right and everything goes wrong, I must find it in me to rejoice!  I will say it again…. REJOICE!

Paul in the Book of Philippians is giving his final exhortation, he begins by saying: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends,” (Philippians 4:1).  What are we standing firm in?  Paul is telling us to stand firm despite our present struggles.  Stand firm and hold on, set your minds on heavenly things.   And there in the black and white text of my NIV Bible I get it – as though the letters dance along the page and leap only to swirl through my brain and waltz in my heart – the connection that I and maybe you need, is an answer.  How do I rejoice in my present struggle when I don’t feel like, when my world seems like it is falling apart and the days seem long and the time seems slow and I feel like I’m the only one?

 I set my mind on heavenly things…..   (Philppians 3:20-21)

When I set my mind on things that are temporary, a sense of defeat, deflate and discouragement creep in sucking life, energy and joy.  But when I turn upward and look past the clouds and search into the heavenly realms, my heart and mind tango with this beautiful song that there is more and I can rejoice.

If I am to rejoice, how does it come about?  The answer comes from Philippians 4:5-7.  I am going to list them in order which they appear in the Bible.

  • Let your gentleness be evident to all.   

Show those around you, whomever they are, your gentleness.  May people think, “I cannot believe her gentleness despite her heartache or cicrumstance (or whatever has you chained to be downcast).”

  • The Lord is near.

 Remember you are not alone.  The Lord is with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you, you are the apple of his eye!

  • Do not be anxious  about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.

Let the worries flow from you up to heaven in the form of prayer and petitions – asking God for help.  When we can stop and let go of our natural tendency to control the unknowns, we make room for peace to flood our hearts and take up the vacancy.  When we can stop and be thankful we can let joy return to the void places that held brokenness and rejuvenate the heart.  We can rest assured that when we present our prayers and petitions, our requests, to God they do not go unheard.  He hears every one of them and has seen every tear.  He feels your heartache and the weight of your disappointments.  Yet, he says, “Rejoice!”  and the Holy Spirit echoes, “Rejoice!” and our inner spiritual man says, “Rejoice!”  

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, ‘Rejoice!”  Philippians 4:4

Rejoicing keeps my mind focus on heaven, my eternal future, not on things that are temporal and that one day will pass away with this Earth.  It keeps me moving forward, pressing forward and I keep in the forefront of my mind that all that I have  gives me reason to rejoice and I let God move in those areas where I hurt, I let go of what keeps me back from seeing Him wholeheartedly.

Paul gives us a filter to help us do exactly what he is preaching to those he loves, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things….. And the peace of God will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:8-9)  What is Paul telling me?  That if I filter my thoughts, emotions, words, attitudes through this purifier of a scripture and stand firm focusing on what is yet to come I will receive peace.  

To rejoice welcomes peace.   The connection of one to the other, the dots connecting from one to two leads us somewhere a final picture of finding peace through the process of rejoicing.

May the God of peace be with you, in you and expel from you as your rejoice in him despite your present struggles.

Blessings.

Michelle Blog info

God is the Potter: Part 1

“So, I went down to the potter’s house and saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot; shaping it as it seemed best to him.”  Jeremiah 18:3

The potter is God.  The potter is not other people.  When we go to the potter’s house, other people are not sitting at the wheel spinning the clay while the potter drinks lemonade, lays back and thinks amateurs can make the clay into the perfect pot that he had in mind.  Honestly, when you think about it like that it sounds absurd.  It would be like an architect who draws plans for a new building, but then lets random people try to build it or the interior decorator who knows exactly how to decorate the new lobby, he/she can see it in her mind and the plan has been drawn, but they just let someone else do it?  In all seriousness, that does not make sense.  Why would the master designer get off his stool and allow someone else to shape his clay into the design only he knows?  He would not and he does not.

As we go through life, we are influenced by multitudes of people!  Commericals, trends, movie stars, cliques, even opposite genders try and shape us and mold us.  They are quick to show us what we do not have and entice appetites to feast our eyes on what we lack instead of illuminating the bundle of potential and packaged good that we are.  The words and pictures of flat screen tv’s and magazine racks sting our hearts and spin the wheel of our thoughts to focus on what we do not have, thus, we begin to move ourselves in certain ways, bending and twisting trying to shape ourselves into something that was never intended for our clay.  We no longer lay in the hands of the potter, relaxed, feeling the warmth of his hands pressing in on us, but now have looked at the other pieces he has made and decided that we do not like the shape he is forming us and we push back becoming unpliable clay. I believe in the bible the word was “stiff necked.”

Friends, especially girlfriends, why do we get ourselves in a bind all by ourselves by allowing our eyes to deceive our hearts to believing we need to be like someone else?  We can look at other people’s ministry and say, “Why not me, God? I can do that, too.”  We look at marriages and envy that ours does not look like theirs or why can’t I wear clothes like her and be a size just like her, too.  Why not?  I want to do that, too!  We get our eyes so focused on what others look like that we convince ourselves it would be better to be them!  What we fail to do with our roaming eyes is to remember that they too are clay.  They were created by the same potter that you were and I was.  They too sat on the potter’s wheel.  No one is exempt from being in the potter’s hands.  And all clay has flaws.

Selah.

While you look to them for what you think  is right and best for you, they look at someone else and think how they would like to be like them!  Why can we not become clay that is content being the piece of pottery that our potter, God, intended?  If we would take the time, energy and thoughts that we burst forth in our discontentment imagine what would happen if we flipped that energy and honed it in on what we do have to be content with?  How much good for the kingdom could be done if we were just content being what the potter had in mind?

Every piece of pottery made by the potter has a different shape, size and purpose!  Some are created to be bowls, some are created to pour water, some are made to serve food.  One is not less important than the other.  We  need to understand that while we may look different, be shaped different than other people, it does not diminish the value and the need for us.  We were all created to do something different, but here is the cool thing, it all works together to bring glory and honor and praise to the King of Kings.  We could not feast with one pot!  One pot may be used for cooking, but it cannot serve the drinking water too.  One pot is used for cooking, another as a pitcher to pour water, another as a plate to hold the meal.  But there is not a piece of pottery that can do all three things alone.  We need each piece in order to come together for one purpose.

This truth can set us free of misconceived ideas of who we need to be, because of what others have said and for what our eyes think we should be.  If we can look in our design, see the treasures that lie within our own pieces of clay; then we can say no to what consumes us and allow the potter to develop us into the vessel to be used for its original purpose.

“O house of Israel can I not do with you as this potter does? declares the Lord.  Like clay in the hand of the potter so are you in my hand. ”  Jeremiah 18:6

Friends, let us remember this and allow Jesus to say, “Be still!” to our discontentment and dissatisfaction within us:

  • God holds me in his hand.  I am in the hand of the one who is perfect.
  • We can find rest, peace and affirmation in the truth that other human beings have limited knowledge, insight and power.  They do not hold us in the palms of their hands, it is God himself who does.  We are his treasured possession.

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6