The concept of joy in the Bible is interesting indeed. Consider this:
Heb 12:1-3 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
This is a rather amazing verse. When we commonly think of joy, we tend to think of happy things going on in our lives. When things are going well, we are joyful. When they are not, then we may be sad, or upset, or fearful, or angry, or any of a number of other emotions. But, here, we see the model of Jesus, who, in the midst of pain and excruciating suffering, focused on the joy of what he was accomplishing: Our reconciliation to God in heaven and his imminent return to the Father!
In America today, just about everything is about and everyone loves instant gratification. What pleases me at the moment is what I will do. Our society is geared towards satisfying our cry, “I want what I want and I want it now.” Patience and Boredom are the antithesis of the focus of our society. We avoid them at all costs. We want to be active, doing things that we want to do. We don’t want anyone to get in our way, or slow us down, because, of course, the world revolves around us!
This is really impossible, because the world doesn’t really revolve around us, no matter what all the t.v. and internet commercials tell us! And it certainly causes harm to the type of person God wants us to be! It causes us to forget God’s priorities of Loving others, even strangers! It is so easy to forget about others if we just focus on ourselves. Thankfully, God is continually at work to disrupt that pattern in our lives and He is at work opening our eyes to the needs of the world that we can help solve.
Something I love about going to Palomas every month is that life slows down! There is not a lot of money around, there are not a lot of things to do, there is very little instant gratification. It gives us a chance to focus on the girls at Casa and the kids in our scholarship program. It gives us a chance to reflect on finding joy in one another, and in little things that go on around us. And often we find that several of the girls at Casa are causing major concerns, as only teenagers can do! Even there, if we are not careful, we forget to keep our eyes on the big picture. We need to remember that God is at work in all of us, and that going through these issues is really just a part of growing into people who act more like Jesus! The process is far more important than the problems of the moment!
So often we focus on the moment, on the thing that has our immediate attention, and we lose sight of the bigger picture–Yes, perhaps we are, or a loved one is going through a terrible trial, perhaps even pain, suffering, and feelings of hopelessness. The writer of Hebrews tells us to respond to these things like Jesus did–focusing on the joy set before us!
And then there is
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy , my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We see Paul himself showing this in Philippians Chapter 1, where Paul is in prison in Rome and yet exhorting the church at Philippi to see the good things that are coming from it, as he is given the chance to be a living testimony of joy even as his physical body suffers greatly. The process is more important than the trials and tribulations of the moment!
This past couple of months, our family lost 2 members. It is always bittersweet as you reflect back on the life of the loved one and yet have joy, knowing that they have finished the trials of this life and we pray that they have gone to be with the Lord!–the joy set before all of us who are Believers!
It is important for all of us to remember, even though the world may focus on pleasing Self at the moment, our focus as Believers is to focus on what God is doing in us through the moment in preparing for not only our future, but the future of all of our loved ones. We can pray and praise as Peter did:
1 Peter 1:3-9 Grace and peace be yours in abundance. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This is something we keep trying to place in front of our girls at Casa, and also the kids in the scholarship program: Focusing on the dreams God has given you is far more important than instant gratification. Focusing on the dreams God has given you is far more important than the setbacks and problems of the moment. Focusing on the dreams God has given us will keep us filled with joy no matter what we are going through right now, and in fact, we can understand the difficulties and hurts we may be suffering now are only preparing us to be set apart and useful for God. In other words, all of these obstacles to our joy are really, the very things that are preparing us for ultimate joy when we see the Holy Spirit in action in our lives, the lives of loved ones, and ultimately when we ourselves get to stand in the throne room of God!
I pray that God will all fill us with patience, peace, and joy this year, and that we will all end this year more refined by Him than when we started it!
Teamwork is defined as “the ability of a group of people to work well together. The combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient.” Teamwork is a simple word, but when we put it into practice, it can have a big impact. Working in an effective, harmonious and efficient way with others is a requirement in our daily lives, even more importantly it is a demand from God to us.
This month two of our monthly volunteers Raquel and Abraham prepared several activities for all of our students and their parents. The different games/activities were focused on making all of them work together to achieve a goal. For each one of the activities it was impossible to win if each team didn’t work as one. For example, one of the activities was to locate a list of objects within the team. This sounds really simple, right? However, imagine what would happen if the members of group wouldn’t help collect the objects? The team would lose. This activity was simple to execute, but meaningful. If we all work together without conflict great things can happen.
We decided to share this concept with our students because we want them to learn that God expects from us to work as one.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
At the end of the activities we took time to reflect with all of them on the importance and significance of teamwork. We asked what it was and why it was good… all the answers were great. Some of the answers were, "we get to learn from others; it is fun; we have better ideas."
This upcoming month we will be celebrating Valentine’s day. We will be sharing a topic with parents and our older students about what love is by God’s definition vs. society's definition of Love.
We want to thank you, for your continued support and prayers. We hope you have a great month.
You should have received your 2017 donation report from Pat recently. If you did not, please call her or e-mail her!
Bere , Jim and Pat