My friend Kristen encouraged me to pursue God's word for me for this year. This word is one that God reveals through His Word and not through human counsel--a word to focus on and to allow God to work out in me. I prayed that God would show me His word for me this year and that He would confirm it in scripture.
As I was praying about my God word, I read an article in the magazine ParentLife (www.lifeway.com/parentlife) about teaching your 6-8 year old child how to have a joyful attitude. The author, Brian Dembowczyk, explained that we are to teach more than obedience and respect, or a mere behavioral change; but that the goal is for a child to have joyful obedience out of a right heart. He explains what joy is: (1.) that joy is commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. (2.) that joy is a gift from God. It is listed in Galatians 5:22-23 as one of the fruits of the spirit. (3.) that joy is rooted in Christ as mentioned in Philippians 4:4. Pastor Dembowczyk says to "help your child understand that joy is not an emotion but that it is a perspective that God gives and that she needs to ask God for it." He says one of the main ways we can please God is by having a joyful attitude. This article may have been written about teaching our children to have a joyful attitude, but it might as well have been written for me.
I have been praying about what to speak about at the upcoming Fresh Fire Retreat--how to encourage the women. It was suggested that I read Psalm 98 which is a call to celebrate with joy the righteous reign of the Lord. This led me to other scriptures about joy including Psalm 42:5 and 43:5 which both ask, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Choosing joy in spite of our circumstances.
For some time I've been reading in the Old Testament. I read in Nehemiah 8:10 "Do not grieve, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH." This is the verse I want to explore further. This is the verse that has stuck with me. This is my verse for the year. And this is what I plan to speak on at the retreat--choosing joy and having our strength in the joy of the Lord. He turns our sorrow into joy. He is our joy!
Psalm 23:6 says "surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." The word "follow" literally means "pursue." I am reminded that God pursues us. He pursues us with goodness and love, and with JOY!