Fullness Of Joy

LIFT’s theme verse for 2015 comes from Psalm 16:11.  “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence . . .”  As I was pondering this verse two separate thoughts came to mind.

First, the idea of being filled with joy.  My mind quickly went to Philippians 4:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16.  In both of those verses Paul tells us we should be rejoicing—full of joy!  And he doesn’t leave room for exceptions or excuses.  We’re just instructed to rejoice—because this is God’s will for us.

Many people have wondered (maybe you have, too) how or why that instruction could be written in the form of a command.  “Be joyful always.”  “Rejoice!”  After all, the circumstances of life are constantly changing.  We have no way of knowing from one day to the next if we’ll have cause for rejoicing, right?

Well . . . .  Not quite.  And that brings me to the other thought.  “In Your Presence . . .”

Wow!  That’s a really big thought if we allow it to sink in.  Sometimes we take it for granted and skip over the magnitude of this privilege.  But really, who are we to deserve an audience with the King of the Universe–24/7!!!???

When Esther sought an audience with King Xerxes she knew she could be killed for her audacity, and he was just the king of one small country.  (See Esther 4:16.)  Yet as Christians we have the amazing gift of being always in the presence of the King of All Kings.  He told us He would be with us wherever we go, and He will never leave us or forsake us.    To seal His promises He placed His Holy Spirit in our hearts to live with us moment by moment—teaching, guiding, comforting, empowering.

Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the 1600’s wrote about this in a small book titled, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”  The forward to this collection of writings says, “Discover the key to living a life of joy:  the cultivation of a continual sense of God’s presence.”

Toward the end of his life Brother Lawrence wrote, “I am always happy.  All the world suffer; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and so great that I can scarce contain them.”

Paying attention to His Presence does take practice.  Practicing an awareness of His Presence.   Being mindful of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Brother Lawrence found that the better he became at being aware of God’s Presence with him, the more joyful and satisfied he was.  Not a coincidence, right?

No.  It was the confirmation in one humble life of the truth of our verse, “Lord, in Your Presence is fullness of joy.”  Not just for David the Psalmist, not just for Brother Lawrence, but for each of us who practice an awareness of His Presence.  Who recognize the amazing love of our God who promised to be with us always.  Who choose to rejoice in the truth that God knows each one of us and is working in our individual circumstances.

Regardless of what’s going on around you today, will you rejoice with us in the continual Presence of the One who loves us and chose us for His own?

Blessings,

Deborah

 

A Day of Tears and Joy

The cry of every woman’s heart is to know and be known.  To share our joy and tears with people who understand us.  Who weep with us, and laugh with us, and love us all the while.

That deep need for connection was answered in every part of LIFT’s latest event this past Friday.  With generous vulnerability our speakers shared their own hurts with us, and taught us how to do the same.  To see past the surface of the women around us, and to care enough to go deeper.

It starts with the heart of Jesus, and His admonition to heal the wounds of the broken.  It is carried forward in the hearts of His women, who look with eyes of compassion to see where they can serve.

Jill Rhodes pointed us first to Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

Jesus referred to this scripture in the first sermon of His ministry, and it characterized His time on earth.  Our speakers taught us by their example how to carry this intention into our own ministries.

What did you learn from this LIFT event that you can apply to your ministry and your life?  Who needs you to offer the comfort and compassion of Christ?  Did you catch a new idea to help you go past the surface and see the hidden needs?

I pray that you were blessed by our time together on Friday.  If you missed it I hope you plan now to be with us for our next meeting on November 7.  We want to connect with YOU!

Blessings,

Deborah Barber

 

Stepping Away From Comfortable

As leaders in Christian ministry I think it’s a safe guess to assume all of us want to make a difference in the world in general, and in the lives of women in particular.  And it’s probably also true that we sometimes fall short of our own expectations.

Why is that?  What keeps us from accomplishing the good we want to do?  Here’s a big one for me:  it’s easier to be comfortable.  It’s safer to stay in my familiar routine and not get out there too far where I may attract disapproval or judgment or even (gasp) rejection!

Here’s something posted this week by Ann Voskamp that jumped out at me and poked me right in my good intentions.

I wish there was a way to make a difference from right here in my comfort zone.  But that doesn’t seem to be the way God works.

So many stories in the Bible are about people who are called to step away from comfortable.

Moses wanted to stay safely out of the public eye, comfortably tending his sheep.  Instead he got to confront the king with an ultimatum.

Gideon was called out of “unknown” to become a war hero.

Peter was more comfortable as a rough fisherman.  And he found himself speaking in front of the religious leaders of the day.

Esther had to get very uncomfortable–risking her life by presenting herself uninvited before the king.

What do you think?  Is God asking you to step away from comfortable in order to accomplish something for Him?  If He is, there’s a good opportunity right around the corner to get some help with that.

Join us for our next LIFT event on September 12, where Jill Rhodes will be sharing important information about how we can address some of the issues facing women today.  Whatever God asks us to do next might still be uncomfortable, but at least we’ll have some tools and insight to apply, as well as the support of the LIFT network.

See you there?

Blessings,

Deborah

What Encourages You?

I was thinking today about the spiritual gift of encouragement, trying to nail down exactly what it looks like.  And, of course, my thoughts turned to LIFT.  One of our core purposes here at LIFT is to encourage leaders in Christian women’s ministry.  So how do we do that?  What does it mean to encourage someone?

Webster’s New College Dictionary defines the word encourage as “to inspire with hope, courage, or confidence; to hearten.”  (I love that word “hearten.”  It fits with our LIFT logo, don’t you think?)

And the word courage is described as “the quality or state of mind or spirit enabling one to face danger or hardship with confidence and resolution.”

In God’s charge to Joshua, as Joshua was entrusted with responsibility for leading the Israelite people after the death of Moses, God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous.  Three times in three verses God repeated the directive.

The third time, in Joshua 1:9, God said, “This is my command–be strong and courageous!”  (The New Living Translation even includes the exclamation point!)  So this was not something God wanted Joshua to take lightly.

Isn’t it interesting that God was giving Joshua this particular command just as he was taking over the leadership of a ministry?  God knew Joshua would need strength and courage to accomplish the work that was being assigned to him.

As leaders in ministry we’ve been in Joshua’s shoes before, right?  No, we’re probably not leading a group as large as the Israelite nation, but any size ministry can be overwhelming at times.  It takes strength and courage (and humility, wisdom, patience, grace, and more) to be an effective leader.

So where does the courage, the encouragement, come from?  Fortunately, God did not leave Joshua to figure that part out on his own.  God was very clear about Joshua’s source for courage and strength.

Joshua 1:9 “This is my command–be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Hopefully as leaders we regularly reflect on this amazing truth–that the LORD our God is with us right here, right now, and wherever He might take us in the course of our days.  The promise is meant to give us the encouragement we need to accomplish the work before us.

If you’re like me it’s sometimes too easy to let courage and confidence wane in the face of challenges.  We look around us at the difficulty rather than recognizing God’s presence and power.  That’s when we need to encourage and support, remind and refresh each other, maybe even with God’s own words:  ”Be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Where do you find your encouragement for ministry?  Leave a comment and share with us.  We would love to hear about what LIFTs you up.

Many Blessings,

Deborah