Rejoice

by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

When I think of the 4th of July, I think of back yard barbeques, family and friends getting together, and enjoying a great fireworks show. Despite all of its problems, we find the time to celebrate the United States of America. It’s the only country in the world people are fighting to get into, and I don’t hear of scores of people yearning to get out.

We have something in common with what the Bible has to say about rejoicing. 

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, and as I read through his book, I can see why. God’s people had come to the absolute end of His rope, and Jeremiah was the one who had to tell them. God even told Jeremiah not to take a wife or have children in the place where he was prophesying because everyone there would die a gruesome death (see Jeremiah 16:1-4.)

Even then, Jeremiah found something to rejoice about. He says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJ).

The Hebrew word for joy (sasown) means gladness and mirth, and the word for rejoicing that is used here (simchah) means exceeding gladness, pleasure, and glee. Jeremiah was able to rejoice in God’s Word. Even though the message was depressing, it was coming from God, and the knowledge that the God of Heaven was talking to him made Jeremiah rejoice.

Psalm 118:24 is a familiar verse that contains a different Hebrew word for rejoice. This verse says, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (NKJ). The word for rejoice that is used here is ‘giyl’ and it means to spin round under the influence of any violent emotion. It is realizing that God has made the day and seeing it is cause for celebration!

Even Paul, with all he suffered for the cause of Christ, gets in on the rejoicing act in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 as he says, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (NKJ) The Greek word for joy (chara) means cheerfulness, calm delight, and great gladness. The word for rejoicing (kauchesis) carries with it the idea of boasting and glorying in whatever is causing the emotion. Paul finds it a reason for joy that those to whom he preached will indeed make it into Heaven.

So, no matter what’s happening in our circumstances today, here are three reasons to rejoice:

  1. God speaks to us through His Word.
  2. God has made the day and we’re seeing it.
  3. God will embrace those to whom we have witnessed who have trusted Christ for salvation.

In the next 24 hours, I challenge you to live out your rejoicing. Enjoy the 4th of July, read the Bible, appreciate creation, and tell someone about Jesus.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sharon_elliot.png

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and HSBN.tv, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency. www.AuthorizeMe.net

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: What makes you rejoice today?

God is Up to Something

by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

Joseph’s scandalous brothers had sent him through hell, but the tables turned when they appeared before him needing food for their families during the famine. Joseph could have exacted harsh revenge, but instead he communicates God’s perspective on their situation. In Genesis 45:4 – 8 we read:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt” (NIV).

COVID-19 has caused many of us to make unscheduled changes. I was in the 36th year of my teaching career in March of 2019 when the pandemic forced schools to shut down. Like teachers all over the United States, our faculty pivoted and began teaching kids from home.

Boy, that was hard. The pressure of those months exclusively in front of my computer until the end of the school year sent me into physical therapy. My back, neck, and shoulders ached. The weight of those months added more anxiety on top of other work-related tensions. Why was all this mounting up on me at one time? God seemed silent. 

Then, at the end of July, well before vaccines, the administration at my school began talking about returning to classroom learning. I couldn’t see it. Either I could stay and risk my life, or I could quit and risk my livelihood. After prayer and consultation with my husband, I made the decision to retire early.

I felt God’s prompting to turn my avocation of freelance editing, coaching writers, and publishing my books into a full-time, entrepreneurial venture. He had plans. He directed me to hang out my shingle as a literary agent and start a writers’ academy by turning my one-hour seminars into 12 masterclasses.

After going through the business door God opened, I’ve never looked back. My agency represents dozens of clients, my clients are getting book contracts, my books are launching, and the book development and editing side of the business has no empty slots. I had to step out in faith before I would see God’s favor supporting me on this journey of total trust.

No matter what we’re facing, we too must realize that God is up to something in our lives. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered (“koon” in Hebrew, meaning rendered sure, confirmed, or made prosperous) by the LORD, and He delights in his way” (NKJ). We may not know why God is having us hike the paths we’re trodding, but our job is to just keep walking.

As long as we’re following Him, we can’t go wrong. When troubles threaten to drown us, no worries; He can help us walk on our fitful seas. If difficulties get heated, no problem; He can walk with us in our fiery furnaces. We won’t know until we grow through what we go through that God had us on that path because He had a plan all along.

Even though He’s leading through unfamiliar and possibly treacherous territory, trust God enough to keep following Him. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJ). God is up to something.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and HSBN.tv, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency. www.AuthorizeMe.net

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: What is God up to in your life right now?

The Census

by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

…there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus … Luke 2:1 KJV

Every ten years, the United States takes a census of the people. This headcount is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and was first taken in 1790. Every household is asked to list the number of people living in that home and indicate the race of each person. According to a PDF file found at www.mundelein.org, reasons for the census include:

  • to determine the number of seats for each state in the House of Representatives,
  • to help decision-makers know how communities are changing, and
  • to provide information to affect funding to communities.

Census-taking happened in the Bible, so this is nothing new. In the Old Testament, God had Moses take a census of the people to see how to divide up the Promised Land equitably: larger tribes needed more land, smaller tribes needed less land. He also took a census of the men to see how large the army was.

The most notable census was the one we read about in Luke 2. I have the words of the first seven verses emblazoned on my memory from hearing them annually, not only at church, but also in public elementary school Christmas programs.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed… And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7 (KJV)

Oh, my goodness, I can still see the narrator reading or reciting this from behind a podium at stage left as “Joseph” in his bathrobe and “Mary” in her mom’s head scarf and big muumuu covering the pillow belted to her tummy slowly entered from stage right. The couple knocked on each cardboard door only to meet other bathrobed boys who would roughly shoo them away announcing, “No room here.” Finally, they found one guy who at least let them stay in the stable. Turning her back to the audience, Mary would then “deliver” her son (by pulling out that pillow of course) and turn back to the audience cradling the baby doll wrapped up as the baby Jesus.

I understand now that that scene would not have been possible had it not been for the census. Caesar Augustus thought he was counting folks so he could levy more money, but God was behind the whole thing. God had to get Mary to Bethlehem because that’s where Jesus was supposed to be born. The lowliest possible birth would have only been possible if all the inns were full. After all, where else would a lamb be born but in a stable?

What can we learn from this? It’s simple: God can and will move every obstacle, reorder every circumstance, and even restructure societal order to work out and bring to pass His plans for our lives. All we need to do is our part; God is well able to handle all of the rest.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and HSBN.tv, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency. www.AuthorizeMe.net

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: How does knowing God has every circumstance in hand encourage you?

The Christmas Visitors

by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

For many of us, a part of Christmas is in entertaining visitors. As empty-nesters, my husband and I are excitedly looking forward to a houseful this year, as our one left in college is home, our working sons will be together, and our daughter and her family are flying in. Other relatives will join us as well for what undoubtedly will be an exuberant celebration.

But what of the visitors to Christ that first Christmas? Contrary to one popular Christmas carol, the Scriptures do not tell us of the visit of a little drummer boy at the manger. They do speak of shepherds as the first actual witnesses of the birth of the Christ child.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them… (and) said to them, ‘…I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger…’ So it was… that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass…” (Luke 2:8-17 NKJ).

Some time later, the young family received more visitors. Kings from the east visited Jesus, bringing gifts for Him. Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us that these wise men “are here called Magoi—Magicians… philosophers and their priests… men of the east… (also called) kings…” The Bible bears out the details of their visit:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him…’ Then Herod… sent them to Bethlehem… And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And… they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-11 NKJ).

I know why we are being visited by our Christmas guests this year; they are related to us in some way, but why did shepherds and kings visit Jesus? The relationship is clear. The shepherds would know a lamb when they saw one, and there in the manger lay the Lamb of God (see John 1:29 and 36). Kings would recognize a king when they saw one, and there in that house, although a young Child, was the One they had searched for, the One who was not only “born King of the Jews,” but who was King of Kings (see I Timothy 6:15).

Revelation 17:12-14 sums up the logical reason for a visit to Jesus from shepherds and kings. These verses say that ten kings will receive authority for one hour and “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings…” (NKJ).

As we celebrate Christmas with our visitors, let’s keep in mind those visitors who came to see Jesus during that first Christmas season and remember that Jesus is the Lamb who is King.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and HSBN.tv, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency. www.AuthorizeMe.net

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: What visitors do you expect this Christmas?

The Bag of Tricks

by Sharon Norris Elliott

My favorite cartoon was Felix the Cat. Felix started every episode just trying to live life without trouble. He’d whistle as he walked along or as he worked. But trouble always found him in the form of the evil Professor or Master Cylinder. Both of these adversaries wanted nothing more than to obtain Felix’s magic bag of tricks, which Felix was always able to use to escape from their sinister schemes.

Like Felix, most of us don’t go looking for trouble, but trouble often finds us. And trouble is real. Having faith doesn’t mean we ignore problems as if they didn’t exist and just skip on our merry way. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up because we feel hurt or frustrated or misused. Nothing is wrong with us if we experience a financial reversal, disappointment, disillusionment, or grief.

No, distress-producing tribulations that come our way are not indications of a weak faith. We are people of faith. Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough. No matter what trouble rears its ugly head, we have rock-solid assurance that the trouble won’t consume us. We have in our possession the ultimate bag of tricks – the real and true and powerful God.

King Hezekiah turned to this very “bag of tricks” when his nation was threatened. The Assyrian king sent his bullying messenger, Rabshakeh, to intimidate King Hezekiah. In a letter he had queried, “Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed?” Isaiah 37:12 (NKJ).

King Hezekiah took the letter, spread it before the Lord, and prayed, “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel… You are God, You alone… Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands– wood and stone. Therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone” (Isaiah 37:16-20 NKJ).

Felix the Cat realized the trouble that came his way was not ever really directed at him. The problems he faced were always ultimately focused on obtaining his bag of tricks. King Hezekiah saw the same ploy. If the Assyrians destroyed the children of Israel, they would essentially be destroying the assertion that Israel worshipped the true God.

It’s the same with us. Our evil adversary, the devil, couldn’t care less about us. He is trying to besmirch the glory of God. If he can get us to give up on our “bag of tricks” – our faith in God through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit – we’ll go down and God’s honor will be tarnished.

Hold on in faith. Let God show Himself mighty as He delivers you. There will be no other answer as to how you got out and got over except to give God the glory. Troubles are big, but our God is bigger. As Corrie ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that our God is not deeper still.”

“I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’” Psalm 91:2 NKJ

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and HSBN.tv, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency. www.AuthorizeMe.net

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: What distress-producing troubles has God solved for you?