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Posts Tagged ‘Joy’

If I asked a million people from across the world this question, 

“What do you want the most in your life?” 

I am certain these would be the four top responses:

Joy, peace, abundant life, and contentment

 

Whether rich or poor, well or ill, single or married, able or disabled, all people seek these four things.  

 

Perhaps this is why our forefathers wrote into the US Declaration of Independence, these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

Through out much of our lives we remain anxious for the things of the earth that we need for survival, security, and comfort.  We routinely ask ourselves these questions:

Can we afford to get married?

Can we afford to have kids?

Can I pay this week’s bills?

Do I have enough saved for retirement?

Even the rich worry about hanging onto their worldly wealth.

 

Eventually we learn that the things of the earth will not provide us with joy, peace, abundant life, or contentment.

 

The Bible promises that if we seek God first we will have these things added to our life:

Your joy will be complete.  (John 15:11)

You will have peace which passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4:7)

You will have an abundant life.  (John 10:10)

You will find contentment in all things.  (Phil 4:11)

 

This is why Thomas Kempis tells us:

“He who finds Jesus finds a rare treasure. 

The man who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor.” (1)

 

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(1) Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 75.

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… make my joy for you complete …

Philippians 2:2

 

It has been a good week for me as a parent.  Both of my sons texted me with good news.  One has landed a few new clients for his business and the other has been placed in a leadership role which he has sought at work.  

 

I want the very best for my two sons. While my sons are married and live far away, nothing gives    me more joy than to hear them rejoice.  

 

God wants the very best for us.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God proclaims:

I have plans for you, for your good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

In John 15:11, Jesus tells us His dreams for us:

I want my joy to be in you so that your joy may be complete.

 

Throughout scripture God calls us His children.  It is a term of affection and endearment which communicates His deep parental love and hopes for us.  

 

God wants you, His precious child to experience the depths of His joy for you. He dreams of your happiness.  

 

God’s desire for us to experience this joy is so deep that He tells us how to find it and to keep it through out the teachings of scripture.  God has shown us The Way to have complete joy.  

 

If you will simply follow and trust God’s Word, you will have His complete joy.  If you don’t you never will.

 

I know this from personal experience.  

 

When I live life my way, I may experience temporal pleasure, but not joy.  When I live life my way, I may boast in my freedom, until I find myself lodged in a mess.  

 

It’s amazing how we so easily exchange God’s gold for the world’s shiny brass. We loss so much in life polishing our brass idols, rather than seeking God’s gold.  

 

God wants the very best for you … His complete joy.  

 

It’s yours for the following.

 

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If you have been encouraged by Jesus …

if you have been comforted by His love …

if  you have fellowshipped with the Holy Spirit … 

if you have personally felt God’s tender love …

(Philippians 2:1)

In these words Paul reminds us of the personal blessings of our experiences of God’s grace, which God has showered upon up.

We frequently forget all which God has done for us in the course of our everyday lives.  It is these small yet significant blessings of encouragement, comfort, fellowship, and tender love which sustain us.

As a classic debater Paul uses his gift of persuasion to encourage us to live the life God calls us to live.  Paul believes we owe a personal debt to God.

His reasoning and pleading is, “Since God has been merciful and gracious to you, then you should joyfully live from the bounty of His love?”

As a Pastor, I fear that we live in a world where more and more Christians live with a sense of entitlement.

They believe God owes them.  They believe God is in debt to them. They believe they deserve special treatment from God.

I see this sense of entitlement expressed in worship.  Do you go to worship for the simple pleasure of adoring God and learning from His Word or do you go to worship expecting to be fulfilled, to sing music you enjoy, and to have worship your way?

I see this sense of entitlement expressed in our demands for grace. When you sin do you demand that their should be no consequences to your behavior or do you submit yourself to biblical discipline.

I see this sense of entitlement expressed in difficult times.  When life is hard do you complain to God, questioning His grace and love or do you see Him walking with you through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4)?

Christians who live from a sense of entitlement will never be happy and will never find joy in Christ, much-less in life.

This is why Paul begs us to remember our experiences of God’s grace, they are key to your joy and peace today.

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Inner peace through an implicit trust in the love of God 

is the real evidence of a mature Christian faith. (1)

Inner peace eludes us because we pursue it in venues in which it cannot be found.  It will never be found at the store, in the office, or under a trophy.  It can not be purchased, achieved, or won.  It can only be received.

Inner peace can only be found in the company of faith.  Thus, it is accessible to all.  You do not need privilege, wealth, or luck to have it.  In fact, these things have prevented many people from finding inner peace. 

My friend Earl had inner peace.  

In the eight years I knew him, I never saw him out of bed.  He spoke between shots of air delivered to his lungs by a ventilator.  He could not tend to any of his personal needs.  

While Earl was was totally dependent upon others to provide all of his physical and worldly needs, his mind and heart had been spared the disease which ravaged his body.

Earl could have given up, but he did not.

He could have instructed his doctors to pull-the-plug, but he did not.

He could have spewed anger, despair, and resentment on anyone who entered his room, but he did not.

Instead Earl was the happiest man I ever met.  

In contrast to Job who moped, whined, and raged when his worldly possessions and loves were stolen by an evil twist of fate, Earl smiled, praised God, and rejoiced after disease robbed him of anything which looked like quality of life.

Earl had a peace which surpassed all understanding because he had faith in God.  This peace, his companion in faith, guarded his heart and his mind. (2)

Earl’s faith grew while his body decayed.  

Earl knew that his body would not last forever, it does not for any of us.  Thus, he placed his whole life into the hands of Jesus.  When troubles came and health declined, Earl found peace not in little things, but in the great and wondrous grace of God.

When Earl died, we sang Horatio Spafford’s great hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul” (Click the title to hear this great hymn.)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 

when sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 

It is well with my soul. (3)

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  1. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 202.
  2. Philippians 4:7.
  3. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 202.

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“A glad heart makes a cheerful face.”

Proverbs 15:13

Music is a sweet salve for the soul.

When I am troubled, restless, or in a really rotten mood, the best thing I can do for the world is to put a song in my heart.

When my heart smiles, so does my face.

The Christian Church has had plenty of arguments over music. What God intended to be a blessing for the soul, we have made into a battleground.

The best form of worship is praise. The best way to praise God is to sing His praises. When you are praising God the style, form, shape, and beat of the music becomes incidental.

I have been searching the Bible and still cannot find the verse that says God prefers one form of praise music over another. Considering the decibel level of arguments in the Christian Church about music, there has to be a verse which I am missing.

The first song in the Bible was The Song of Moses:

I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (1)

God had just freed Moses and the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. They were filled with gratefulness and joy. There was no time to discuss whether to sing to organ, guitar, piano, or drums. The people were so happy they broke out into song.

Moses’ song sustained the people for 40 years.

I took a peek at the Book of Revelation. Guess what the agenda is for heaven. No sports, no political debates, no trips to the shore are mentioned. The only thing we know for sure is that we will be gathered in worship around God’s throne, singing God’s praise.

Here’s what they were singing:

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was and is and is to come!”

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.” (2)

There are no musical notes about instrumentation.

The instructions are simple, just sing praise.

Heaven will be a happy place! Praise God!

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Exodus 15:1–2.
  2. he Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Revelation 4:8 and 11.

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Everywhere love turns, it finds burdens to carry. (1)

I use to have a friend who I loved, as friends love each other, but I dropped the friendship because he became too difficult to love.  Carrying his burdens became more than I could bear.

We have all had this experience, whether with a friend, a spouse, a parent, a child, or a sibling.  It became too much of a burden to love them, so we dropped them.  While we did so with regret, we did so convinced that we had to.

Love brings burdens.  

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.  None of us are perfect.  

When my wife said, “I do” at our wedding nearly 32 years ago, she knew I was incomplete and imperfect.  Together we agreed to share each other’s burdens in the exchange of these vows:

I will you love you, comfort you, cherish, honor and keep you in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and health, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in whatever our life may bring, as long as we both shall live.

Yes, love brings burdens.  Yet, love also finds ways to carry those burdens either through a season of difficulty or until the burden has been relieved.  

This is where most love fails.  There is a weight limit to the load we are willing to carry.  When we reach the limits of the weight we can or are willing to carry, we cry out, “Loving you is killing me!”

I have wept with others who stand at this crossroads.  I understand the heaviness of the load and the pain and suffering it brings.  

Love is a heavy load.  

Love is a rose set in a bed of thorns, in this setting love is a many-splendored thing. (2)

Jesus said it best, 

“There is no greater love, than to lay down your life for your friends!” (3)

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
  2. This phrase is from the 1955 movie, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, which is based on Han Suyin’s 1952 autobiographical novel A Many-Splendored Thing.
  3. John 15:13.

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Careless Faithfulness

A few weeks ago I was at a fundraising dinner for a community ministry which is near and dear to my heart.  At the end of the evening I felt led by God to give a gift to the ministry.  I joyfully placed my gift into the offering.  I was grateful that I could make the gift.

The next day I received my annual property tax bill.  My property taxes had gone up by 7.5%.  Ouch!  My first thought was in regards to the gift I had given the evening before.  That extra cash would have come in handy.

God was rejoicing while I was fretting.

God loves it when we live with careless faithfulness.

God prefers this over calculated faithfulness or as Oswald Chambers calls it careful infidelity.

In contrast to the generous mercy and grace which God has freely extended to us, most Christians weigh the cost of being faithful.  We are careful not to overextend our time, finances, energy, or selves as we exercise our faith.

While we affirm God’s providence most of us hedge our bets and keep extra grain on the side, just in case God’s providence does not arrive as expected.

When God gave manna to Moses and the freed Hebrew slaves in the wilderness God only gave them enough manna for the day.  If the Hebrews carefully set aside some manna for the next day it spoiled and was not fit for consumption.

Quickly, the Hebrews learned that God would only provide for their daily needs one day at a time.

In America we are hounded to be wise and to save for the rainy day.  I understand this wisdom.  I  continually set aside money for retirement.  However, this wisdom runs contrary to God’s desire that I live with careless faithfulness.

God has covered me on rainy days, yet I still fret and worry.

Careless faithfulness does not come easy for me.

A few days after making my gift and getting my tax bill, I received a gift equal to the gift I had given.

God had everything covered.  I never saw it coming.

Abraham called the place,

the Lord will provide. 

Genesis 22:14

 

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