Apr 17, 2018

6 Ways to Rejoice in Jesus

For many of us, we're on the final stretch of a busy school year.  We can see the end; we're just not there yet.  So it's more pressing on, struggling forward, rising schedules, and late nights.

We have two options:  become overwhelmed by life or let Jesus overwhelm us with His beauty.

The first option brings us to emotions we're quite familiar with.  We're busy, tired, frustrated.  We get distracted, lose sight of what's important, and live a joyless life.  When we focus on ourselves, life overwhelms us and leaves us frazzled.

Or we could pick the latter option.  We're still busy and tired with full schedules and long nights.  But when we let Jesus overwhelm us with Himself, we can have joy amidst any trial.

It's easier said than done.  I just spent the last few weeks rushing from course to course, test to test, and forgetting to see Jesus in it all.  I grew tired and discouraged.  Yet Jesus was there waiting for me to take my eyes off myself and put them on Him.

I savor this song (and Michael W. Smith's edition is beautiful!),

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

But how?  How do we experience joy in every aspect of our life?  How do we turn our eyes upon Jesus?

Here are some ideas that will hopefully spark ones of your own.  They are not a 6-point plan to find joy, just some suggestions from a fellow sister-in-Christ who knows that living in joy is possible for those who seek Jesus with all their heart (Philippians 4:4).

#1  Discard Distractions

I'm a writer.  Yet when I become consumed by other things (school, schedules, busyness), writing falls away.  I push it to the back-burner because there are more important things in my life.  Or at least I think they're more important.

It's the same with Jesus.  We can make Him a priority, or we can hang up, telling Him we'll call back later (and then forget).  But Jesus is the reason we can have joy.  That's why Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

What distractions are we facing?  What issues are getting in the way?  Are they sin, offense, self-centeredness, or seemingly innocent things like distractions, schedules, and to-do lists?

Is Jesus more important than a deadline?  Because He's the Giver of all true joy.

#2  Write a Letter to Jesus

I've grown up writing letters, but only last year did I start writing them to Jesus.  There's something so special about pouring out our words in black ink spilling out of a pen and staining the paper.

If we want to abide in Jesus, we must abide in prayer.  We should talk to Him throughout the day, sharing our struggles, joys, frustrations.  After Paul wrote for the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always, he added,

...in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  But in addition to that, I challenge you to sit down and pen a letter to Jesus.  Tell Him exactly what you're feeling, thinking, hoping.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus by writing your words for Him.

#3  Look Around You

When I become joyless and frustrated, it's because I forget to stop, look around, and see Jesus in my life.  If we're not seeing the beauty He's given us, then we're focusing on the opposite - the bitterness of sin.

We have been blessed with a world of color, smells, tastes, and sounds.  Look at the dark sky full of dazzling stars, more in number than we could count.  Think of the sound of the rain against a metal roof as each drop contributes to the orchestra of His song.  

If we rush through life, we'll miss all that.  Often, the best days I've had are ones when I sat in silence and embraced the gifts He's put around me.

Thank You for the birds singing in those trees.  When those branches shiver in the wind, are they clapping to you?  And Lord, thank you for the fresh smell of country air.  I'm able to sit here and see and smell and embrace creation, Your beauty, the world you created and said it was very good.

My friend, rejoice in life.  Be glad when you see colors in a setting sun's horizon.  Embrace music, texture, laughter, hugs, silence.

Look around you and see Jesus in every area of life.

(Read Job 38 if you want to see God's power in nature.  It's an eye-opening chapter!)

#4  Worship

Why did the psalmists compose more than a hundred psalms?  And why do nearly all of them tell us to sing, make melody, and raise instruments?

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh shall bless His holy name
Forever and ever.

Worship isn't a time we reserve for Sunday gatherings.  It should be our daily life.  Maybe you don't sing or play an instrument, yet you can rejoice in Jesus by worshiping Him through your actions.

But there's something beautiful in singing words of praise to Jesus' name, both alone and with other believers.  I've been blessed with musically talented siblings who enjoy worshiping, and it's the best quality time we have - simply singing to Jesus.

And make sure to fill your mind with worship.  If the songs you listen to are eternally focused, how much easier it is to think of Him!  Waking up in the morning with a song of praise... is that not joy?

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

 #5  Fellowship

Beth Moore writes,

After we were born again, He did not leave us on earth to be loners.  He wants us to bring joy to one another!

Don't become so busy that you miss out on the precious friendships of our brothers and sisters-in-Christ.  They are a special source of encouragement, love, prayer, understanding, faithfulness, and yes - joy!   Have eternally minded relationships and rejoice in the fellowship of those who love Jesus!

Paul often wrote about his love for others.  He longed to see them.  He missed them.  He had joy because of them.

In the same way, we need relationships.  In our busy lives, we can become so stretched and tired that we just need to recharge.  What better way than to rejoice with others who are seeking Christ?

Someone needs you.  They need love, a listening ear, an embracing hug.  But friend, you need fellowship too.  Don't let busyness take you away from relationships.

#6  Be Still

Be sill and pour out your heart to Jesus.  Be still and listen.  Be still and see the beauty of life.  Be still and read His Word, listen to others, and savor the life He's given you.

But most of all,

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
- Psalm 46:10

He is God, and He is in control.  We can't let worry or tension invade our lives - be still.  And we can't let our schedules rule our lives as we rush from to and fro without catching our breath - be still.

Use the gifts and chase the passions He's given you, but never let go of what's most important.

Be still in Jesus.

And thus, rejoice in Jesus.

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
- Psalm 5:11

(ps)  Dear friend, if you are struggling or living a joyless life, know that you're never alone.  I would be glad to pray, help, listen, or be there for you.  You are being loved.


Apr 10, 2018

Alone Yet Not Alone movie review

Seeking religious freedom in America, a devout Christian family from Germany settles in the peaceful Pennsylvania colony - only to find themselves caught in the crossfire of the French & Indian War.  Following a merciless raid on their settlement, daughters Barbara and Regina Leininger are abducted, separated, then raised by their Delaware captors in the harsh Ohio wilderness.  Now, only their devotion to each other and faith in the Lord can lead them through their darkest hours and back to freedom in this inspirational story based on actual events.


103 Minutes
By Enthuse Entertainment
Directed by George D. Escobar, Ray Bengston
Rated: PG-13
Released: 2013

Negative Elements:

Ever since I first heard that this movie came out, it's been one I've been excited to watch.  And recently, a friend gave my family the opportunity.  I had high expectations for Alone Yet Not Alone, some of which were fulfilled and some that weren't.

First, the movie rated PG-13, which will turn off some viewers.  This is primarily because of violence.  While I didn't have an issue with it, more sensitive people should consider that the movie portrays images such as (spoilers in white) a man killed with a tomahawk, another man shot in the chest (blood shown), many minor characters killed or wounded in Indian raids, a bear attacking a man, and a woman burned alive.  The woman is shot after she suffers several hours without dying.  In several scenes, viewers see scalps that the Indians have taken, and one scalp belongs to the main character's father.  End of spoiler.  There are other forms of violence, such as hunting or characters coming close to death in other forms.

So yes, there were tense moments.  I felt like it was portrayed very well, but viewers should still take that into consideration.

Another slightly negative element was that I, as a picky story-creator, found some plot holes in the movie.  There were epic scenes that never happened, and I think they would have made the story so much better.  Instead, the plot was a little bland with lots of escaping but not many major points.  A better story would have created a stronger Biblical message as well.

I sound so negative here, and I really did enjoy the movie!  Let's move on to more positive themes.

My Review:

After I listed every bad thing I could think of, it's about time for me to share why this was a good movie.  I mean, it was promoted by Max Lucado and Dr. James Dobson, so it must be fantastic, right?!  There were certainly a lot of great aspects to Alone Yet Not Alone.

The acting, in my opinion, was well done.  I never thought about the actors as anyone other than their movie personas, and I think that says something.  (another note, the song that was a big part of the movie is performed by Joni Eareckson Tada.  And one of the actors surprised me by being Brett Harris.  See - what great actors already!)

Also, the costumes and make up...!  That was the best part of this film.  The Native Americans, settlers, and officers looked very authentic, and I would have enjoyed watching the movie just for that.  But then there were accents, Indian traditions, and other elements that made this historical piece come alive.

I liked that this movie has a Christian message - God will never leave you nor forsake you.  Characters stand up for their beliefs, and the Gospel is quickly shared in one scene.  I think the message could have been stronger and more challenging, but this was still an enjoyable, wholesome movie.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable movie that my family enjoyed.  I think it has room for improvement, but I would still recommend it to viewers who are not daunted by violence.  I'll have the song "Alone Yet Not Alone" stuck in my head for a long time.

Other Notes:

Did I mention that this movie is based off of a book that was written to remember the true story of Barbara and Regina Leininger?

On another note, if you're wanting another review on this movie, you can read one here.  Or you can discover more at the movie's home site.

I'll end this review with the key verse of this story,

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
- Deuteronomy 31:6


Apr 3, 2018

Why Biblical Love is Everything

A year ago, I thought God taught me something.  The truth is, He did.  And the problem?  I'm still learning it.

It was back during last April.  I looked at my life and realized that I was doing a lot of things for God, but I wasn't doing them with God.  Ever since then, I've been in a constant struggle where I often forget and fall back into the same patterns.  I write - for God.  I live - for God.  I read the Bible - for God.  But what's the point if I'm doing it out of obligation instead of love?

You can read the post here.  Or you could continue as I readjust my view slightly.

Those who are true Believers in Christ understand this verse from Titus,

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
- Titus 3:4-5

We can't do anything to be saved by Jesus.  It's all because of His mercy, His kindness, His love.  Jesus saved us, period.  But that doesn't mean we can throw up our hands and stop there.  We should be doing good.  (read verse 8)  But those good works we do are in response to His saving grace - because we simply can't help it.

Let's look at it from a different viewpoint.  A few weeks ago, I gave a handmade gift to a friend.  I didn't want anything in return; I gave it because I wanted to show my love for her.  But that friend chose to give me a gift when she came home from a trip.  She didn't have to, but she did it anyway.

God gave us the ultimate gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).  That's what Easter is all about, isn't it?  Read one of the Gospels, and you'll discover the most beautiful love story - a Savior who gave His life to deliver and transform you into someone who could tell His story.

But we often get stuck.  We understand that Story.  We "invite" Jesus into our heart.  But the relationship stops there.

The true value of love is something we just forget.

I try so hard to live a life for Jesus.  I want to spread His story, so I do it on my own.  I want others to have hope, so I try to give them a piece of mine.  But nothing will happen if I miss the point.

You know this passage already.  But do you live it?

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 Dear friend, what's life if you don't love?  What's ministry, serving, encouragement, if you don't do it out of love?

I can write the best books, the best blog posts, the best emails, but if I don't truly have love for the person at the other end, does it really matter?

Or what if we consider John's words?

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
- 1 John 4:8

If God is love, can't we read 1 Corinthians 13 and put His name in the text?

If we speak and write the most beautiful, elegant words apart from God, we're just meaningless noise.  If we're smart or wise or gifted or if we are more spiritual than anyone else but we don't have God, we are nothing.  If we are the most sacrificial, generous people but don't have God, it profits us nothing.  (my paraphrase)

Are we living lives that matter?  Or are we gaining no true profit?

We can't attain our salvation.  And we can't make a difference in the world on our own.  But we can seek to discover more of God and embrace love so we can give it away to others.

Let's stop saying we love others and actually do it.

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren... My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
- 1 John 3:16, 18

God's given us the opportunity to love.  But to do that, it starts with our relationship with God.  Do we love Him?  Do we keep His commandments (1 John 5:2)?  Do we seek Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)?

Let's not be meaningless noise.  Let's love.

But how?  How are you going to step out and love others radically, my friend?  How are you going to seek Jesus more?  Let's talk together below!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
- 1 John 4:7