Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I Will Rejoice

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice, 

for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Philippians 1:18-21 (NASB)

Paul rejoiced. In prison. Yes, in prison. It couldn’t have been easy, so why did he rejoice? How can anyone express delight when their circumstances are less than perfect, even horrible? 

The Sunday School answer is God and/or Jesus. Usually when a question is asked at church, children answer with the names of God or Jesus. Seems simple, right? And yet so pure. Jesus pointed to children as good examples of God’s kingdom. Maybe a look at children can show us how to find joy in difficult situations. 

One day as Jesus traveled through Judea, some parents brought their children to Him for a blessing. The disciples scolded them for bothering Jesus. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” (see Matthew 19:13-15)

Another time after traveling into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus entered the temple. He performed many miracles and created quite a stir among the religious elites. The children shouted praises to Him, while the chief priests and scribes reprimanded Him. He responded, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” (If you haven’t already, take time to read this exciting account of Jesus’ life in the twenty-first chapter of Matthew.)

How do these stories of children relate to Paul’s delight? Youngsters live with a sense of freedom and utter expressions of compelling innocence. Jesus said His Kingdom is comprised of people like them. The same fearless honor that poured from the lips of children gushed from Paul’s heart, even while in prison. But why? How? 

Paul rejoiced because Jesus had transformed his life on the road to Damascus—he had been set free. As Saul, he intended to kill believers of The Way, to stop this growing belief in a Savior named Jesus Christ (see Acts 9). On his journey, Saul met the risen Jesus. His belief system changed. God chose him and he chose to follow God. Murderous Saul became missionary Paul as he set out to change the world. 

Paul’s journeys took him to many ports. He shared the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with all those he came in contact with. And he encountered numerous obstacles, one being imprisonment in a jail in Philippi. Yet nothing could stop him, not imprisonment, not even the risk of death. He had one vision, one mission, one purpose—to serve his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

From jail, Paul sent an encouraging letter to the Philippians. The joy spilling onto paper from his heart through his pen strengthened his followers. Because they trusted God, a multitude of believers began to proclaim the word of God without fear. Surprisingly, some people even preached Christ out of jealousy for the spiritual power filling the hearts of followers. It didn’t matter to Paul because either way, Christ’s name was preached. The Savior proclaimed. Many heard and believed. And Paul rejoiced. 

Can I rejoice in a bad situation? Will I choose joy in difficult circumstances? Choosing joy in the hardships of life is hard. Yet as believers our attitudes can proclaim or defame Jesus. Will I allow conflict to prevent me from speaking His Name? If it requires some push back and risk of injury, will I run away? Can I rejoice in the good news of Jesus and His love in the middle of pain?

Paul’s life was dramatically changed when he encountered the risen Christ. Afterwards he had but one desire—to serve Christ Jesus wholeheartedly so that others might be saved. Paul knew Jesus died for him. Paul offered his life to Jesus. 

Christ died for you and me. Will we offer our lives to Him? Will we rejoice in suffering for Him, no matter the pain and sadness? In the midst of everyday trials, can we choose joy? 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Choosing JOY

Christmas is over. Brilliant lights have been dimmed. Colorful ornaments are packed away. The new year has begun. And hopes were dashed during the holidays. A sense of sadness surrounds me. Why? What happened or didn’t happen to cause such glumness?

I delighted in the expectation of family near and far celebrating together. Experiencing joy. Hearing the good news. Gathering around the table. Sitting around the tree. Listening to carols. It all occurred, but not as I dreamed. 

Instead delight was shrouded in disappointment. Clouded with disagreement. Covered with despair. Veiled in anger. Wrapped in tears. And Jesus visited us anyway.


Angels announced a notable birth (Luke 2:8-14). The promised Savior laid in a manger, come to live with mankind. He entered into the darkness of this world. To live and eventually die to take away the sins of humans. TO SHOW US ALL A BETTER WAY.

Christmas is the celebration of Immanuel, God with us through Jesus Christ. He doesn't leave when the holidays are over. He has promised to be with us always (Matt. 28:20). He lived among us. His death resulted in salvation for us. His resurrection enabled the Holy Spirit to live in us. The result for believers in Him—abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. So why be glum? Where’s my hope? 

I need to live joyfully, but I’ll be honest. It’s hard to remain joyful when festivities are over. No familiar carols, no special family gatherings, no extra frills. The delight of expectation is over. Or is it? 

We may have concluded with celebrations, but what about remembrances of our God and His promises? Surely we didn't put Him away with our ornaments. Our God wrapped Himself in flesh to live among us, to understand us, to save us from ourselves. He loves us so much. How can we not delight in the expectation of daily life with Him? How can we not simply delight in Him? Joy is possible.

King David experienced despair in life and yet remained confident in the Lord’s promises. Amidst distress he delighted in the Lord. His inspired words redirect my feelings of gloom to joy. If you have encountered any letdowns lately, I pray your discouraged heart will be encouraged with renewed joy in the Lord as you meditate on these words. 

As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him? 

Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help. 

Yet I am standing here depressed and gloomy, but I will meditate upon your kindness... All your waves and billows have gone over me, and floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering cataract.  

Yet day by day the Lord also pours out his steadfast love upon me, and through the night I sing his songs and pray to God who gives me life. 

But, O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!  Psalm 42:1-2, 4-8, 11 (TLB)

Oh, send out your light and your truth—let them lead me. Let them lead me to your Temple on your holy mountain, Zion. There I will go to the altar of God, my exceeding joy, and praise him with my harp. O God—my God! O my soul, why be so gloomy and discouraged? Trust in God! I shall again praise him for his wondrous help; he will make me smile again, for he is my God!  Psalm 43:3-5 (TLB)

And all God’s people said, “AMEN.”