Joyful, joyful we adore thee!

Growing with God: A daily devotion with Tonia Slimm.

Luke 2:20 (NIV)
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:20 (MSG)
The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
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“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.” -AMPLIFIED

The shepherds, that small band of uneducated, dirty, simple-living men, where the first to receive the message of the arrival and birth of the Messiah. Their response after seeing this new-born child was one of great joy and extreme delight.

The Message Version paints a picture of this group for us. It is one that is quite telling; the shepherds letting “loose”, praising and glorifying God. They were not piously standing, with their hands folded, heads bowed, praying and praising quietly. These guys were ecstatic! I can see them jumping up and down, shouting, excited; for everything that they had been told had happened exactly as they were told it would be! Hallelujah!

“…they glorified God on account of the birth of the Messiah; and praised him, wondering at his grace, and the high honor put upon them, that they should be acquainted with it; and that there was such an exact agreement between the things they had seen, and the angel’s account of them.” -Gill’s Exposition

The shepherds returned to the fields, but they would never be the same. For life could not go on as usual. They had an experience and encounter that would forever change the way they looked at things. Yes, they would still care for their sheep; yes, they would still live out in the fields, but now they had a story to tell, they had a first-hand experience that they could joyfully share with others. They would never be the same!

These guys were filled with joy and happiness. Nothing was going to quench that. Henry J. van Dyke wrote these words which fittingly portray what I feel these shepherds must have been feeling.

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!”

May the joy of Christmas, Jesus Christ, Himself, fill your hearts and minds. Never live life as it was, remember what Jesus has done for you, how He has changed you and let that joy permeate your life.

My Prayer:
Lord, fill my life with your joy. I want to be reminded and reminded often, of the wonders and joy you have brought to my life. You changed me and I will never be the same. I praise you and give you glory. You made all of this possible. You stepped down from Heaven and became a Man so that I could see Love exemplified. God, you are amazing! Joyful, joyful, I will adore you!

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Mary’s song of joy.

Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)
Mary’s Song
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55 (MSG)
And Mary said, “I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.”
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The Magnificat:
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; for behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God! “For He who is mighty has done great things for me; and holy is His name [to be worshiped in His purity, majesty, and glory]. “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who [stand in great awe of God and] fear Him. from generation to generation. “He has done mighty deeds with His [powerful] arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent the rich away empty-handed. “He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, just as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” -AMPLIFIED

If you have ever wondered what was going through Mary’s mind after her encounter with the Messenger Gabriel; we can know from reading this song of praise that she sang to God. To some people the placing of this song in Luke, when Mary has gone to visit Elizabeth, may appear strange. Let us consider though that Mary has probably been holding in her news for quite some time.

We do not know exactly how much time had passed from Gabriel’s visit until Mary went to see Elizabeth, but it appears that it happened immediately following. Scripture tells us only this, “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Luke 1:39-40 (NIV)

Upon Mary’s arrival Luke gives us a few pieces of information that definitely confirm Mary’s news, even before she has had a chance to deliver it. We find these words in Luke 1:41-45 “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (NIV)

In the Latin Vulgate our text is entitled the “Magnificat”. We find Mary’s opening words to this song beginning with, “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord”. Mary’s song is all about magnifying and glorifying Her Lord and Savior. In her song we find fifteen definite references to Old Testament prophecy. Mary knew the Scriptures and she realized what Gabriel’s good news meant not only to herself, but to her people. In fact, Mary makes mention to the certainty that God has, “embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.”

Mary’s joy in serving her Lord is undeniably evident in her song. Her response to Gabriel when he had given her the news was, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s attitude and acclamation had remained steadfast and strong. Her greatest desire was to please her Lord. May we too have her attitude when serving our Lord and Savior.

My Prayer:
Lord, may I have the right attitude when it comes to serving you; allow me to be a pleasing, sweet, smelling sacrifice. Mary was such a wonderful example in her response to you. You called her to do great things; that would definitely stretch her beyond her comfort zone. She was not afraid to step out and step out joyfully to do great things for you. Help me to have the same attitude, Lord. Help me to keep my focus firmly fixed on you. Your mercy and love is so wonderful, Heavenly Father, and my soul will magnify and exalt you. All praise, glory and honor belong to you; for you are the One who has made relationship with you possible. Glory to your Name!

Good Tidings of Great Joy!

Growing with God:A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:8-12 (MSG)
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
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“In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah). And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” -AMPLIFIED

The angel said to the shepherds, “Do Not be afraid; for I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people everywhere!” We certainly could use some joy in the World today. The Christmas season is upon us; yet instead of concentrating on the gift that God has so graciously given us, we are living in stress and fear. “Behold….I bring you good tidings of GREAT joy; which shall be to all people!”

The joy of the Lord is a central theme throughout Scripture. It is mentioned 242 times in the New International Version and 300 times in the Amplified. God sent His Son and this should fill us with immense and intense joy! C.S. Lewis reminds us of this, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” If joy is serious business with God than it stands to reason that it should be serious business for us too. As David said, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” -Psalm 43:5 (NIV)

A. W. Tozar gives us a few thoughts on joy. “What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” “….I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” How about, always wanting more of Him? Can we find great joy in pursuing God? You better believe it!

Nehemiah reminded the Israelites of this truth, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Where has your focus been? Has it been on the chaos in the World these days? Has it been on the stress of finding the perfect gift for someone for Christmas? Maybe, your focus has been on pleasing people who refuse to be pleased, because they themselves are missing out on God’s promised joy. The joy of the Lord, available to all people, the angel said. Will you receive that promised joy?

Let us be sure we are focusing on what truly matters; Jesus. Let us be careful that we do not become distracted or depressed over things that we have no control over; (Satan loves to do just that). Remember, this message of joy is to be for all people; so take some time to share the joy. As you share the joy it in turn fills your heart with more joy. The joy of the Lord is the gift that keeps on giving. Hallelujah!

My Prayer:
Lord, fill my heart with your joy; unspeakable and full of glory. I do not want to be focused on the negative, the chaos or the unlovely things of this life. I want to be focused on Jesus and what He can and will do in my life and in this World. Your joy, Lord, fills me with hope and strength; so when I feel that I cannot go on I know I can because of you. Thank you for the Good News! Thank You for your love! Thank you for you joy! God, you are so good to me!

In God’s presence is full and complete joy.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 (MSG)

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.

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“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” -AMPLIFIED

David discloses to us in Psalm 16:11 that in the presence of the Lord is “fullness” of joy. To abide in a constant nearness to God will in turn fill us with an overflowing sense of peace, yes, but also an overwhelming joy. David knew this from experience; he had stood in the presence of the Lord and had been overcome by that overwhelming, satisfying joy personally.

David acknowledges that it was God who had set his feet on the correct path and it was God who had made known to him the very path of life. David acknowledges the benefits of living a life committed to the Almighty; the child of God can know without a shadow of doubt that God Almighty will always be the One leading and guiding where they should go.

Understanding what joy is from a Biblical point of view could be helpful for many of us, because many of us probably think of it only as a sense of happiness, excitement or pleasure. Kay Warren, Rick Warren’s wife, gives us her definition of joy, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Joy is not dependent on my feelings of happiness, feelings of great pleasure or even a sense of delight, but it is calmness in knowing WHO is in charge of the paths of my life. It is in the quiet confidence in knowing ultimately that God is in charge and nothing at all can happen to me unless He allows it to happen. And if He allows it happen; then He will carry me through it.

Robert Schuller once said, “Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God.” Yes, there can be joy even in the midst of suffering. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” -Psalm 30:5b (NIV)

Keep your eyes focused on what is of the utmost importance, pleasing and glorifying God; there is much joy in service to the King. As David said, there will be “pleasures forevermore.” This life is but a vapor and one day you will stand in the Almighty’s presence and experience joy unspeakable and full of glory. Meanwhile, while you are still walking the road of this life make time to be in His presence where you will find that fullness of joy also.

My Prayer:

Lord, lest I look for happiness in all the wrong places; let me focus on standing in your presence and experiencing your fullness of joy. It is you that have set me on the correct paths of this life. It is you who have ransomed me and saved me. It is you who guides me and has promised to walk this journey with me, close by my side. Fill me with your peace and joy; give me that confidence in knowing that you will work all things out for my good and I have nothing to fear. Let your joy be in me; I will find my rest and peace only in you.

No matter what the circumstances let us praise the Almighty!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
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“Rejoice always and delight in your faith; be unceasing and persistent in prayer; in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” -AMPLIFIED

One of the most vital facts we must learn as children of God is to to praise and worship Him no matter what the circumstance may be at any point of time in our life. God is still God no matter what is happening in our lives. He is still the One who is in charge and nothing and no one will ever change that truth.

“Sometimes stuff hits the fan, and life is no longer the perfect picture we’d all hope it to be. And although our faith in Christ does bring us a new-found purpose and destiny, this is not to say that things aren’t ever going to be tough. No matter what you are going through, God is still good, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all comforting.” -Jarrid Wilson

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians some pretty tough standards it may appear. He said, always rejoice, always pray, always give thanks; no matter what your circumstances may be. We may read that and respond with, “Yeah, right. Okay, is that even possible?” Yes, my friend, yes it is. Paul would not have asked it of them if it was not an achievable goal.

There are a few things that we must remember in order to come to the point of obedience in achieving these goals. 1.) Satan will do everything in his power to stop us from worshiping and obeying God. 2.) Bad things often happen to God’s people. Face it there is sin in this World; it affects each and every one of us; even God’s children. 3.) Sometimes things happen that appear to be devastating and wrong, but God will never allow anything to happen to His children unless He can use it to bring glory to Himself.

Paul tells us to always rejoice. No matter what the circumstances may be; rejoice. Job experienced the worst of the worst; yet we find that he was able to worship God despite losing all he had, including family. Remember that the source of joy will not come from us, but from God, Himself. When we begin to praise Him, despite our circumstances, He will fill us with joy.

Always pray is Paul’s next admonition. Charles Spurgeon once facetiously told someone, “As you are tempted without ceasing, so pray without ceasing.” Oh, how true that is. If we truly understood and knew how often Satan was at work attempting to lead us away from God we would realize the urgency to be in continuous prayer for ourselves and others. A. W. Tozer depicted a praying Christian as a menace to the stability and establishment of Satan’s government writing that, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God”

Paul then reminds us to give thanks in all circumstances. Now, this may seem like a tall order; even an impossible one, but in obedience we must step up to the plate and do it. God asks us to give Him thanks no matter what the circumstances may be and there is a reason for that; not only does it bring glory to Him, but it shows that we are trusting Him no matter what comes our way. It all goes back to realizing that no matter what happens to us we understand that God is still in charge. We realize that even when the good, the bad and the ugly come our way God is still in charge; no matter what.

Paul concludes these thoughts with these words, “…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is what God desires of His children. It sounds difficult to do, but friend it is not impossible if we face each and every situation with the right attitude. God never sets us up to fail, remember that. He loves us and He wants only the best for His children. If things do not work out as you think they should; stop what you are doing and remember to rejoice, pray and give thanks no matter what the circumstances are God is still in control!

My Prayer:
Lord God, help me to remember to always rejoice in you, be in continual prayer to you and to always give thanks no matter what comes my way. I know that you love me immensely and want the very best for me. I may not understand why things happen in my life, but I can know that you are working all things out for my good. Help me to trust you no matter what. Help me to have a good attitude too. Give me a grateful heart, oh Lord.

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Worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

Acts 5:40-42 (NIV)
His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Acts 5:40-42 (MSG)
That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus’ name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute.
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“The Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court) took his advice; and after summoning the apostles, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and released them. So they left the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy [dignified by indignity] to suffer shame for [the sake of] His name. And every single day, in the temple [area] and in homes, they did not stop teaching and telling the good news of Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).” -AMPLIFIED

In this instance in Scripture we find that the apostles had been arrested and put into a public jail (see verses 17-18) because the high priest and his associates were jealous of them and filled with resentment. Those are the exact words used in Scripture. We find though that an angel of the Lord came to them in the night and released them from the prison. Mind you, no one knew that they had been released; for the high priest sent for them early in the morning only to find the prison empty and the soldiers still standing guard at a locked door.

Where were the apostles? They were in the temple teaching the people. Again they were dragged before the Sanhedrin to be questioned, (these guys tended to be in hot water quite often). The high priest gave them a stern lecture, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” -Acts 5:28 (NIV)

Peter and the other disciples response to the high priest was totally on point, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (vs. 29) The high priest’s response to this was to have them flogged; number 1: for disobeying his orders and number 2: for having a disrespectful attitude. Remember though, it was he and his associates who were jealous and filled with resentment toward the disciples.

What is ironic and wonderful is the disciples response to this beating. They left the Sanhedrin, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” What an amazing response and great attitude; sadly, I do not think that would be the response of most of us.

“What a great attitude! These disciples had so completely lost themselves in God that they didn’t think about personal suffering. Instead, they were rejoicing that they had been effective enough in their witness to suffer the same shame Jesus had encountered at these men’s hands. What a great honor to suffer shame for being associated with Jesus! Jesus died for us. The least we can do is live for Him, regardless of the costs.” -Andrew Wommack

So, what was the repercussion of the encounter between the apostles and the high priest after this point? We find, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” Strangely enough, persecution causes the church to grow.

So, when faced with trials and persecution we should take note of the disciples response and do like-wise. Peter wrote these words as a reminder, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” -1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV)

My Prayer:
Lord, I pray that you will help me to have the right attitude when faced with persecution and suffering. Help me to rejoice and count it an honor to suffer for your Name, just as the apostles of old did. Let your Word continue to go out and touch lives for you. Use your people in a mighty way once again to move this World. Let me remember that part of my testimony is in how I handle the persecution and trials. Let me remember to always have a good attitude in serving you Lord; help me to let my light shine.