Tag Archive: hope


Merry Christmas!!

GD Merry ChristmasFor to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NIV

 

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Week 11: Do I Know Joy In Christ?

music sheet

by DeAnn McCue, Director of Children’s Ministry

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. Romans 15:13

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

Jesus tells us in John 15:11 that we are not to have just any joy, we are to have His joy. What is the joy of Jesus?

It is abounding joy. He says, “…that your joy might be full.” Joy in Christ is not half-hearted joy, but joy that is abounding and supernatural.

It is abiding joy. Jesus says, “…that My joy might remain in you….” It’s not joy that comes and goes. It is joy in the good times, the bad times, the nighttime, the daytime, the rainy day, and sunny day. We’re to rejoice in the Lord always. And Jesus didn’t say these words lightly. He was facing a dark time when He instructed us to have His joy.

The joy of Jesus is given when you depend upon the Lord. John 15:5b says, “…without Me you can do nothing.”

There is a joy in seeking Christ. Jesus is the source of joy.

And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

O Lord, fill me with joy today—the joy of knowing my sins are forgiven, the joy of knowing I have been credited with the righteousness of Christ, the joy of knowing all this is mine through the gift of faith and not by works. Amen.

When the woes of life o’er-take me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy.
Never shall the cross forsake me;
Lo, it glows with peace and joy.
In The Cross of Christ I Glory, #427 LSB

O sacred Head, now wounded
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, #449 LSB

 

What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Philippians 3.8

What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.

Known then as Saul, he was zealous for the Jewish law. Born straight from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin, and circumcised at eight days old, he counted himself as righteous because he obeyed the law without fault. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And then…Saul met Jesus and his life was changed forever. He realized his value for upholding every aspect of the Jewish law paled in comparison to knowing Christ as his personal Savior.

Knowing Jesus changed him, and in turn, his values (and his name) changed.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

That’s what Christ does—He transforms us.

As our faith grows, our values change…because knowing Jesus changes us—from the inside out.

Walking with Jesus changes our hearts. It changes what we see as important. And it changes what we don’t want to live without.

How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Waiting on God

Jer 33.14-15

Have you ever noticed that waiting on someone else is so much more annoying than when someone is waiting on you?

When someone is waiting on me, I have control. I know I’ll deliver on what I said I would do. But when I’m waiting on someone else, I can’t be sure of the outcome. Best case scenario, I wait and the other person comes through, even if it’s a little late. Worst case scenario, the other person doesn’t follow though and I’m left waiting with something left undone.

When I’m waiting on God, it feels like I have no control.

I can’t control when He’ll fix a situation or a person.

I can’t control when God’s right time will be.

I can’t control when or where I’ll hear from Him or how He’ll call me.

And it’s annoying because from what I can see if I’m asking, then it must be the right time!

But when I’m not in the midst of turmoil and can take a step back, I see differently. My time is based on my emotions—emotions that feel out of control to me, but are just a minor storm to God.

I see only what’s around me, but God sees the big picture. He sees the storms raging and His people crying out. God sees it all, including our hearts, our needs, and our deepest desires.

My time of frustration and despair may not be the right time in God’s plan, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

God promised to never leave us and God always keeps His promises.

We can’t control God’s timing, but we can control what we do while we wait.

While we wait on God…we keep praying.

We keep walking close to Him.

And we keep trusting Him.

Because no matter how much of the picture we can see, God sees it all.

And His time is always the right time.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Small Steps to Big Growth

Last week, we talked about transformational growth—the changes God wants to make in us as we walk through the Land Between. This transformational growth is God’s work, but there is something needed from us.

Our willingness.

We need to be willing to see God’s work in us through the struggles and trials in life. If we’re not willing, He won’t force the issue. But when we’re willing and open to His work in us…a whole new perspective on life becomes ours.

Transformational growth requires small changes. It starts with incremental growth.

God is asking Will you trust Me? If we answer yes, then are we willing to take intentional steps toward growing in faith?

Incremental growth starts with…

Praying for those who hurt us instead of trying to get back at them.

Practicing forgiveness when we’d rather stay angry.

Trusting God with a situation instead of trying to make it happen on our own.

Trusting God with our finances…being good stewards with what God has blessed us with, and stepping out in faith when giving back to God.

Resisting the urge to complain, choosing to praise and thank God instead.

Choosing God’s path instead of what looks and feels good at the moment.

Acknowledging when we see God at work, giving Him the credit and glory, even when tempted to take the credit ourselves.

Being in God’s Word, starting with a schedule, if necessary, and sticking with it until spending time with God feels natural.

Learning Scripture…equipping ourselves with His Word to strengthen and nourish us.

As we take small steps toward growth, we see God moving in our lives and we learn to trust Him more and more. This incremental growth not only keeps us moving forward, but produces in us the desire to keep going.

Step-by-step, God is bringing us to a place of complete trust in Him. We’ve seen Him work in our lives, and we know He will continue, because despite what we see at the moment, we know God sees the big picture—He knows the plans He has for us.

We find that our willingness to let God make changes in us has led to transformational growth. Growth we didn’t realize was happening until we stood on the other side of the Land Between—stronger in our faith, and with a deeper trust in God.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

The Other Side

License: Public Domain

The Land Between is a time of uncertainty—what used to be normal has changed, and what the future will be is unknown. But eventually, whether it’s sooner or later, we reach the other side of the Land Between. Life has settled down and feels stable again, and we can look back at what we’ve gone through.

Now, consider this…

When you look back from the other side of the Land Between, what do you see?

Is your relationship with God stronger than it was before? Maybe you look back and see where He was walking along side you the entire time. Despite the grief and emotional pain, you know without a doubt God never left you.

Or, maybe you realize that somewhere along the way, you stopped turning to God. You remember only the negative experience and are still grumbling about it.

The Land Between is a perfect time for transformational growth to occur, and one of two things will happen—we move toward God or away from Him.

How we respond to difficult circumstances gives us a visual of which way we’re moving.

When life gets hard (illness, death, unemployment, financial setbacks, separation and divorce, unexplained depression, or something else), we cry out to God, knowing won’t leave us. We look for Him at every twist and turn, and let Him walk us through this time.

This reaction enables us to grow closer to God, experiencing His presence and provision in ways we’ve never seen before.

But sometimes, we put up a wall, withdrawing from family and friends…and God. Although He never leaves us, we choose to turn away from Him, refusing to let Him in. Worse yet, we might blame God for the trial we’re going through.

Reacting this way puts everything on our own shoulders and isolates us from the very One who can support and help us.

What do you see when you look back from the edge of the other side? Now, look to the future.

From your experience in the Land Between, what to you see ahead of you?

If you’ve grown closer to God, you’ve seen Him like you’ve never seen Him before. Your faith and trust in Him are stronger than ever, and you know when the next storm in life starts to brew He’ll be right there beside you, guiding you through it.

If you’ve pulled away from God, you might look to the future and dread knowing another trial will come your way. You might feel like the only one you can depend on is yourself…and that didn’t go so well the last time.

If you find yourself on the path leading away from God, know that it’s never too late to turn back to Him. There is growth in realizing where you strayed, and knowing you don’t want it to happen again when the next struggle comes.

As you look back on your journey in the Land Between, what do you see? And how does it help you as you move into the future?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Looking Back at God’s Provision

Photo credit: Greenfleet Forester, May 2013

Have you ever noticed it’s sometimes difficult to see God’s provision until after the fact?

After we walk through the valley or make it to the other side of the land between, that’s when it’s easier to look back and see where God was at work. But while we’re in the exhausting day-to-day of the land between, it can be harder to see the ways God provides for us.

We know what we’re looking for. We already have in mind what we need or want God to do, and when we don’t see it, it’s easy to assume He’s not doing anything.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. In that time, God supplied everything they needed. The obvious was food and water. They were looking for it, and they saw God provide it.

But I wonder if during those years anyone said, “Hey, have you noticed how long these sandals have lasted? And our clothes—seems like they should be worn out by now.”

God provided what they needed, whether they noticed it at the time or not. But as Moses prepared to die, he looked back over those years…

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:

Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 29:2-6

The Israelites weren’t getting it—all that time God took care of them. He wanted them to trust Him for everything and know that He would continue to provide.

Are we any different?

We get bogged down and miss seeing God’s ways, but when we look back, our vision of God’s provision is clearer. We’re able to see that God knew just what we needed, even when we didn’t.

The perfectly-timed phone call from a friend that turned a bad day around.

The utility bill we dreaded receiving, but turned out to be less than expected.

A good night’s sleep that enabled us to deal with the events of the next day.

The direction we needed and found in His Word.

It’s so important to look back at how God has provided because it allows us to see the full picture; where before we could only see one piece at a time.

Looking back strengthens our trust. We see how God provided then…and our trust that He will continue to take care of all of our needs grows stronger.

And the more we experience and know we can depend on Him, the more confident we are that God will provide…even when it’s not in the ways we’re looking for.

When you look back, is there a time in your life when you didn’t recognize God’s provision, but you see it now?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Emotional Meltdowns

The Land Between…life has been interrupted. What was normal is gone, and the future is unclear. Even in our grief, we must adjust to a time of transition and uncertainty.

We grieve over death, but we also experience sorrow and regret when there is a loss of a relationship (breakup or divorce), an unwanted change in lifestyle (loss of finances or home), or a change in family structure (child grows up and moves away).

Even when we know the change is coming, we grieve for the past. But there can also be regret over what might never be.

We may feel sadness or anger when what we hoped for in life doesn’t appear to be in God’s plans, and our dreams go unfulfilled…especially if we thought the dream was God’s plan.

Frustrated, discouraged, maybe even feeling lost in life, we have complaints and questions for God.

God, I thought this was Your plan for my life. Now what?!?

Really, God? One more thing?!? I can’t take any it more!

I’m barely staying afloat here, God. Where are You?!?

I miss ______. Why did You have to take ______ (him/her/it) away?

After a while, we are emotionally drained with nothing left to give.

Emotional meltdowns are not new to God. He knows there is only so much we can deal with—especially if we’re trying to cope all on our own.

Moses had reached his limit with leading the Israelites and listening to them complain against God over the manna He had provided.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6

With nothing of himself left to give, Moses cried out to God.

He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” Numbers 11:11-15

Don’t miss the difference in their complaints. The Israelites complained against God, discontent over what He had provided for them. While Moses, in distress, bared his heart and complained to God, in need of His comfort and help.

There is also a big difference in how God responded. The Israelites continued to make God angry with their complaints. But, for Moses, God responded by helping him.

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone. Numbers 11:16-17

God knew what Moses was capable of and how much he could handle. He didn’t get angry because Moses was worn out and emotionally exhausted. He had mercy on Moses and lifted a share of the burden.

He wants to do this for us, as well. He invites us to let the walls down and come to Him—with open, honest hearts and emotional meltdowns—where He will lift us up and give us rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

The invitation has been extended. How will you respond?

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Our Land Between

This is the Land Between—where life is not as it once was, where the future is in question. – Jeff Manion, The Land Between

We, as Gloria Dei, find ourselves in the Land Between…a time of transition between senior pastors. It’s not a desolate land, but an uncomfortable one…a time of change and wondering what the future will look like.

Maybe you’ve experienced your own personal Land Between…or maybe you’re in one now.

Whether it’s sudden, or you knew it was coming, life is not as it once was, and the future is in question.

“We’re moving.”

“Honey, I lost my job.”

“Mom, I’m in trouble.”

“I want a divorce.”

“The cancer has spread.”

Life has been interrupted. And, for a brief time, or maybe forever, what was normal is now gone.

The Land Between is unfamiliar, unwelcome, and unpleasant.

And…

It’s a time for growth—a time for God to work in our hearts.

You see, God has a purpose in the Land Between. It is a time for us to see Him more clearly through His provision and protection. It’s an opportunity for our faith to grow in ways that can only happen through times of trials and transition.

The Land Between isn’t time we would ask for, but when we look back, we can see God’s work.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert.By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:17-18, 20-21

If I’d been an Israelite escaping from Egypt, my vote would have been for the shortest and fastest route possible! But God had a reason for not using the shortest road—and it was for their own good.

I wonder how many times I’ve missed seeing God’s hand at work in my life because I was too focused on looking for a quicker way through the transition—a direct way to the end result.

On a shorter route, the Israelites probably wouldn’t have needed the Lord to guide them. But going the longer way, they saw God lead them—night and day. In other words, God stayed with the Israelites 24/7. He went before them and walked beside them, guiding and protecting.

Where is God in our Land Between?

He is right here—with our congregation and with each of us individually. He is going before us, guiding us and preparing the way. He’s walking beside us, ready to listen, and to comfort us when we’re hurting and in distress. And He is with us providing and protecting.

I wouldn’t ask for our Land Between, but I know God has a purpose for it. He has a plan for you, for me, and for our congregation.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Just Enough Light for This Moment

I have a few strategically placed nightlights in my house. Not because I have small children, but so I don’t have to turn on the bright overhead lights if I get up in the middle of the night. While I usually prefer bright light to dim, it’s too much in the dark night. My eyes can’t adjust from darkness to bright light quickly enough. I blink and squint and shade my eyes. It’s too much light all at once, but the soft glow from the nightlight is just enough light for that moment.

God has always given light to His people. At creation…

…God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3-4 NIV

He led the Israelites…

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:21-22 NIV

And God gave us light in the darkness through His Son, Jesus…

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. John 12:46 NLT

The darkness can never extinguish the light.

When I feel surrounded by darkness, I trust the light is there. I may only be able to see a pinprick of brightness, but I know it’s there.

While I would prefer a brighter beam to guide me, God knows how much light I need for that moment. Light that’s too bright may make me squint and shade my eyes. He knows seeing too much, too soon, may distract me. But His tiny spot of light at just the right time is what I need to focus on Him.

No matter how soft or brilliant the light may seem at the time, the Light of the world can never be extinguished by the darkness.

And it’s always just enough light for that moment.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT

In Christ,
Laura
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