Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 a year of Joy...

It is important to look back...though not always easy. 6 months ago we started an unbelievable journey and you all joined us. The blessings that we are experiencing are beyond comprehension - as are the trials. We continue to learn and grow and as we walk forward the tragedies of others come to our attention. We desire so much for the community that we have experienced to be the reality in the lives of others as they go through trials. Cancer, surgery, divorce, addiction, neglect, depression and oh so much more punch us knock the wind out of our souls. And yet as we are embraced by community we feel the hand of God in the midst of the pain. If there is no pain, life is over for we can be assured that more trials will come. But we are not those that shrink back and surrender. We are children of the King and the God who saves and restores and pours out His love into our hearts. In the midst of brokenness, new life is found. This new life no longer fits into the former system for that will stifle growth. New life needs new patterns of thinking - new wine skins as the Bible calls it. My prayer as we begin 2010 is that we find new ways of pursing joy - not focusing on the old way of doing things for we have seen life anew. My prayer is that we will reflect the character of Christ in increasing measure. That I will respond to my family with love, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control... that I will not demand my way first but sacrificially pursue that which is best for others. At least for me, I am praying that 2010 will be a year of Joy - and what I am discovering is that I do have control over that for it is more an attitude than a feeling. Joy is not dependent on all things happening they way I think they should but rests with my brokenness being restored as I surrender to God. 2010 will have more opportunities for steps of faith, more opportunities for testing our hope. and more opportunities to see the hand of God work. We can find joy in these times as well as times of bounty. In life and in death, healing and sickness, in richness and in poverty we can still find joy. As we find joy and give our full attention to the Cross of Christ, to salvation, to the grace of God...our lives, the community and the world is transformed.

I feel like the verses below really sum up things well for this Journey. I know that not all who have stuck with us share our faith or belief. I also know that many who do share our faith struggle with sticking with it. I know we do. Yet looking back we see the hand of God. Despite the imperfections and hypocrisy we see in others and within ourselves, we have found that God is hanging with us and continues to breathe life so that we can take one more step forward. These verses below do not come from an ivory tower but from a prison cell penned with a hand that has known suffering - they are so comforting and encouraging and the more I read the more I gain from them. I wanted to shorten it and yet find richness in the wholeness - in fact I should even add more. If so inclined read Philippians straight through each day for a week you will find such incredible insight.

Philippians 1:3-30
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.   
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."

Finding joy...

Tom (Daddy) 

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