THIS IS THE DAY

Frequently we anticipate the next day of our lives when we expect something momentous to happen.  When I was a child, my birthday party was the source of excitement and anticipation, and when I would awaken in the morning, my Mother would say “This is the day!” 

birthday party and balloons (c)

When graduation day came, I remember thinking well, “This is the day!” 

After delivery of my firstborn, I thought “This is the day I will never forget!” 

baby jonathan tummy time '76

And then I repeated that same thought when my second child was born.

“This is the day”.  It is a phrase that we say, or think, often and for good reason.  As human beings, we celebrate things and anticipate things.  It is appropriate, and it is good.

In Scripture we read of things that are to come and the words “this is the day” speak of a time when the anticipated thing will occur.

God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel and said:

“And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.  Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord GOD. This is the day of which I have spoken.”

Ezekiel 39:7-8 NKJV

Some days bring judgment, as prophesied by Ezekiel.  We may not see the final judgment of God during our lifetime, no one knows when that will occur.  But each of us has known of a time when judgment came for our actions, whether it be by judicial fiat, by way of reversal of fortune due to improper greed, whether it is illness brought on by a reckless lifestyle, or a breakdown of a marriage because of abuse, and the list goes on and on.  If you are one who cannot think of any such judgment time in your life, be aware that there will be a judgment later … you will not escape!

The Apostle Paul said:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Galatians 6:7 

We must remember that while our Lord God is patient in His steadfast love, He is also a God of justice.  The only way we can come before Him and escape punishment for our sin is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our sinless Lord has taken our guilt and our sin through His death on the cross and His resurrection establishes the sufficiency of His work to redeem us and free us from the bondage that sin creates.  Praise His Holy Name!

It is for this reason that we can rejoice in Him.  The Psalmist understood rejoicing in the Lord.  See Psalm 118:24 where David exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord when he penned:

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24 

Today, see ways that you can rejoice and be glad in the day that the Lord has given to you.  We may have chores, we may have business to attend to, we may even have to pay bills with ever diminishing funds; we may have children to chase, sicknesses to endure, and all manner of difficulties … but we can still rejoice and be glad in the day that the Lord give to us, if for no other reason than our sin and guilt has been paid for and we are adopted into the family of God.  Each moment is a gift from God. 

Don’t waste the time we have by being frustrated, angry, and/or sinful!  Be glad that our God loves us and has given us this day to serve Him in whatever way He directs.  Because of Jesus, we can be free indeed, and we can be at peace and glad in whatever comes our way.  If you do not know Jesus as Lord of your life, receive Him into your heart today … and you will truly rejoice and be glad in this day of all days!

Father, I pray that I would not waste the day, that I would take that which You have given me and that I would glorify you through my actions, words and thoughts.  Thank  you for the blessing of this day. 

THE TEAR

The tear – it can be shed because we are sorrowful, in pain, frightened, or angry. Or, it can be shed because we are joyful, relieved, empathizing, or celebrating. (I will always cry when the Bridal March begins, whether or not the bride has even begun walking the aisle!) Crying is therapeutic – it gets pent up emotions out and relieves tension. You could say that tears are suitable for a host of purposes!

used A Tear
A child’s tear lingers on his cheek, even as a smile crosses his face!  For his grandmother, the tear tugs at her heart.  For him, the tear will be gone soon, but the grandmother’s heart will take a bit more time to heal!

 

What tugs at my heartstrings the most, though, is a tear from my grandchildren. Now, I know that children shed tears in the process of growing up, it just happens.   I also know tears can be shed when children encounter something that is unfamiliar to them even if there is no discomfort or danger. I know that tears come as a result of, often very well-needed, discipline. And, I know that children are not above shedding some tears in an effort to get what they want, even if it is abject posturing to get something from their Grandparents!

 

Crying
Sometimes the adult, believing she is giving the child an exciting day, results in frightening the young child so much that tears flow. The adult may explain that there is no danger, but still the tears flow.

 

As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy. Who has not looked at their sick child and at least thought, if not said aloud, “I wish it was me instead of my baby!” Sometimes we simply cannot kiss it and make it better, and our tears will flow out of frustration, concern, helplessness ‐‐ love.

 

Jesus knew our feelings because He experienced them. He wept when his close friend Lazarus died.  [John 11:35] He wept when he looked out over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41 ] knowing that, because they had rejected him, tribulation would come and the city would be devastated. Our Savior experienced physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual pain, during his time here with His creation.

 

And, deep down inside, I believe that His heart hurts when He hears our cry and sees our tears. However, unlike us, He was not “helpless” in the face of sorrow or disappointment. He was, at all time, the God‐man – fully God and fully man. Through His act of obedience to the Father’s plan, He went to the cross so that we would have an escape from the pain inflicted upon us by sin.

 

Further, because of His triumph over sin and death, He knows that our troubles will last only for a short while, that there is a lesson we need to learn from the events that sparked the tears, and that He is with us through the dark times. We simply need to trust Him and hold His Hand as He sees our path while we cannot.

 

I have not been immune from those dark times. I have experienced nights on end with tears as my only companion. I worked to keep the family on an even keel when its support suddenly disintegrated before my eyes. There were times that the tears flowed so hard that I could not breathe, and I relied on the Holy Spirit to pray for that which was best because I could not.

 

I also know that no one can take your tears away; no one stands in your shoes; no one understands the disappointment you have encountered; and no one has endured the dark night that you are in or that you have experienced. It is yours and yours alone. David was well acquainted with the loneliness and pain that difficulties, fearful events, strife, and sin can create.   He refers to it as the “valley of the shadow of death.”

 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4-6.

 

But notice the rest of this sentence, even though he was in the valley, he was not bound by fear. David knew that the Lord was with him and was providing comfort to him, even in the darkness of that valley.

 

I certainly am not David, but I can affirm that I have experienced release from the tears and dark times through the grace of God, the love of His Son Jesus, the solace of the Comforter, and the soothing hands of His Church.   Beloved, rest assured that you are not alone as you go through your difficult times.

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for you and He will guard and protect you as His own. [John 10:11]

 

Lift up your eyes and look for Jesus and He will give you strength. As incongruous as it sounds, while you are crying tears of grief, sorrow, fear or pain, you can experience peace and even joy because He has you in His arms and there really is nothing to fear.   Martin Luther says it well in the Hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

 

 

One day you will be able to look in the rear view mirror of your life and see the valley that you climbed out of, and you will be able to praise His Name as you thank Him for His kindness and grace, even in those dark times.

 

Joy is possible even as tears linger on your cheek!

 

Father, I thank You for being with me through your Son, my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit, my Comforter. Thank You for the truth that You are sovereign and that nothing will frustrate your plans for me or for your church. Thank You for bringing me through the valley and for holding me even when my tears flowed. Thank You for your love.

 

 

 

EXCITEMENT AND CELEBRATION!

What excites you?  What causes a sense of celebration and joy for you?

 

A child at a birthday party anxious to see what the package holds?

Excitement
Excitement at a birthday party!

 

Watching fireworks at the park?

Fireworks 2
Fireworks after baseball game!

Going on a vacation?

Cruise ship at distance
Cruise ship at a distance.

Going outside?

Okay, that question is really related to our MinPin daughter, Snickers, who cannot stand at the door to go outside.  In her exuberance for getting outside, she, in all her 8 inches of height, will jump higher than the doorknob while she waits for us to open it.

 

 

What makes you glad?  What excites you?

 

Scripture tells us of a time when David exhibited extreme excitement and joy in 2 Samuel 6.  The cause of his excitement was that the ark was being returned to the City of David, and it had just arrived from the house of Obed-edom.   Scripture says that David “danced before the Lord with all his might” [ESV] or “with great enthusiasm”. [Amplified Bible]   When his wife, Michal, saw him dancing, she became angry because she thought his actions were undignified.  She confronted him with his conduct and David responded, reading from the Amplified Bible:

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord that I did this, who chose me above your father and all his house, to appoint me as ruler over Israel, the people of the Lord.  Therefore I will celebrate in pure enjoyment before the Lord.”

2 Samuel 6:21.

 

In the New Testament, Jesus talked of His joy:

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

John 15:11.

 

And then also we read what Paul says gives him joy:

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

2 Corinthians 7:4.

This same verse is translated as follows in the Amplified Bible:

“Great is my confidence in you, great is my pride and boasting on your behalf.  I am filled to the brim with comfort; I am over flowing with joy in spite of all our trouble.”

Having joy in spite of the troubles that confronted him.  Wow!

 

The disciples, at the ascension of the Lord, watched Him go up into the clouds after He blessed them.  Then we read, in the Amplified Bible, at Luke 24:31-32:

And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy [fully understanding that He lives and that He is the Son of God], and they were continually in the temple blessing and praising God.

 

Worshipping with great joy.

  • That doesn’t sound like being the “Frozen Chosen” on Sunday Morning, sitting in the pew with dour faces, never smiling and singing through clenched jaws!

Rather that description sounds like:

  • people who are thankful to God, and to Him alone, for their salvation, who recognize how great the mercy was when the Holy Spirit touched their hearts through His grace alone!
  • people who put God at the center of worship and not their own feelings and opinions.
  • people who celebrate and praise God for His goodness through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
  • people who want to spend time with each other, who speak to and encourage one another!

 

So, I ask you, how do you worship the Lord and the Father Almighty?  With great joy or with a sense of obligation or dread?  Do you love meeting with other believers and fellowshipping with them because of your common bond in Christ, or do you spend the smallest amount of time possible at church because other “more pressing matters” are calling to you!

 

Worship is exciting because in it we are ushered into the throne room of God.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, and the work of the Holy Spirit in illuminating our hearts to the reality of our sin and to the blessing of His mercy.  While in our own strength and power we would be cast out from before His presence because of our abject sin and spiritual poverty, because we stand before God in the righteousness of Christ, we can call the Holy One, the Creator of all things and the Lover of our Soul, “Abba, Father”.

 

I pray that we would have a renewed appreciation of worship and fellowship in the life of the Christian Church.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35.

 

Worship and love – they go hand in hand.  Worship denotes the reverence of and for God, stressing the feeling of awe or devotion. And, our devotion to the Lord should be evidenced in the love that we have for one another and for the world around us.  Indeed, worship and love of one another are means of grace given to us through the Holy Spirit … let us not ignore them!

 

This week, may we remember that the worship of our God is exciting and is a joyful experience.  Then, when we leave the worship service, may we continue in an attitude of love toward both our fellow believers as well as each person that the Lord puts in our path.  Love one another — surprise them by your love and then point them to Jesus.

 

Father, forgive me when I have approached worship with a sense of obligation rather than with excitement about being in your presence.  May your Holy Spirit touch my heart and may I come with reverence and awe at your majesty, power, omniscience, glory, and love.  May I be accepted before You as I stand covered in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, my Savior.  May I love You with my whole heart and may I worship You daily.

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 9, JOY, Part Three

 JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

PART THREE

Last week we looked at Paul and Silas as they praised the Lord while they were in prison, locked down in stocks.  Then we considered the early Christian church as they experienced joy even in horrific persecution.  Now, let us think about joy, depression and what we have to be joyous about in 2016!

What does Scripture say?

Recall that the basis for our joy is the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33.

 

Because of His victory, the real basis for our inexpressible joy is that, as believers in Jesus Christ, our names are written in heaven!   For this reason the prophets, apostles and even Christ Himself command us to rejoice and be glad.  

 

We are not to rejoice in great acts that are accomplished here, even if they are done in the power of the Lord.  See Luke 10 where we read that the disciples returned after going out to minister to others in the power of the Lord, and they did marvelous things.  While they were telling Jesus of the results of their mission, I envision Jesus smiling, perhaps nodding His head, and then He issued this warning:

 

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 

Luke 10:20

 

We are told to be joyful in both the Old and New Testaments.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 29, that King Hezekiah took action and restored the service of the house of the Lord that had been neglected for many, many years.  In the next chapter, the King sent couriers to all the people inviting them to come to Jerusalem and keep the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in celebration of the worship of the Lord.  Scripture tells us:

And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. … So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.  

2 Chronicles 30:21, 26.

 

In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be “joyful in the Lord.”

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.

Psalm 35:9

 

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 97:12

 

Not just the Psalmist speaks of joy — Isaiah describes joy in Isaiah 61:10:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 

In the New Testament, in Philippians 4:4, Paul says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” 

 

Here, joy is so important that Paul repeats himself, in the same sentence!

 

God does not like doubt and dejection.  He hates dreary doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought.  God likes cheerful hearts; His very work in freeing us from the bondage of sin is evidence that joy is His desire.  Notwithstanding this truth, we need to pause and recognize the reality of depression.  Remember that despondency is not the fruit of the Spirit.  It can come from many things — satanic temptation, unbelief, some harbored sin, or perhaps indigestion or a medical condition.  The fruit of the Spirit is Joy not depression..

 

Beware!  Don’t set too much store by your own feelings as evidence of the grace given to youThe fruit of the Spirit is joy but you may not at this moment be conscious of joy.  We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ through the Word of God which is a sure testimony to the work of Christ for us.  That is what we should trust, not emotions or feelings.

God is sovereign, and He is in control.  He sends both prosperity and adversity, for His purposes which are often unknowable to us.  Don’t let the adversity take way your confidence in God.

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

 Ecclesiastes 7:14.

 

C. H. Spurgeon noted:

Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be.  Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.  “The fruit of the Spirit is … joy” and it is brought forth in believers not alike in all or at all times, but to all believers there is a measure of joy.

 

Spurgeon who himself struggled with depression, also said:

Constantly looking within you own self instead of looking alone to Christ is enough to breed misery in any heart.    Do not covet the counterfeit of earthly joy. … The Spirit of God is not barren … If he be in you, He must and will inevitably produce His own legitimate fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is … joy.   We experience Heaven’s joy even here, on occasion, … and we can say with David “happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”  (Psalm 144:15)

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

What prompts this joy in the Christian?

 

The ways that this Joy is touched in your heart are innumerable, but here are just a few suggestions that you might want to consider.  You likely will be able to come up with others and, when you do, praise the Lord for His grace and send a comment letting us know how He brings Joy to you.

 

  • The Christian is joyful because she is certain of her pardon for God has told her that she is not condemned as she is accepted by God for she is justified by faith.

 

  • Joy comes when we hear the Word in worship. See Isaiah 52:7.  Think about Israel and the celebration they had when their worship was restored!  Do you long to worship, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to study and hear the Word?   (Just a note:  the reason people grumble at long sermons is because they do not feed on them.  Very seldom do the hungry gripe at having too big a meal!)

 

  • Joy comes when we think of God Himself.

“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:11.

 

The Psalmist asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  God, Himself, answered that question 2000 years ago when He made it possible for us to spend eternity with Him through Christ our Savior.  That is way more than merely “mindful”!

 

God’s Joy is an abiding sense of happiness – an emotional pattern that enables Nehemiah to write “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

The musical offering below is from the Silver Anniversary Concert of The Centurymen, Buryl Red, conductor.  Listen to “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” and let the Lord’s joy envelop your heart and mind.  Then let the Holy Spirit fill you with joy as you go through your day.

 

 

Put Jesus first.  Follow His commands.  Rest in the joy of His Word.  Worship Him. Listen to the Helper, the Holy Spirit as you face difficulties, and have confidence in your salvation through Christ’s atoning work on the cross for your sins.  Remember your reconciliation with God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.  His Joy will come!

 

Next week we will begin our study of Peace.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 8 – JOY, Part Two

JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

PART TWO

In the last post we began thinking about Biblical Joy.  In so doing, we noted that Joy is the first fruit, not gift, of the Spirit.  This means that Joy is not bestowed on one person as a gift but someone else does not have that gift so they don’t have Joy.  Rather, the Christian has Joy in her heart because she has the Holy Spirit in her heart — it is there, whether or not she feels it at this moment!

 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

In the New Testament church, we can see evidence of the Joy in the Lord by the rapid expansion of the church.  [After all, who wants to join a bunch of sourpusses?]

 

These Christians had something that no one else had to offer … not just eternal life after death, but a way of living that gave them Joy even in the dreary, persecution filled existence that the people experienced in their day-to-day lives.

 

Picture Paul and Silas – they are in prison after freeing a slave girl from a demonic spirit.  In Acts 16 we have the full story.  The relevant part for this discussion comes after they have been severely beaten, put into the inner cell, and fastened by their feet in the stocks.

 

I don’t know about you, but I would be particularly happy in this situation.   But, listen to what Scripture says Paul and Silas were doing:

 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was such a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”

Acts 16:25-28.

 

The jailer brought them out of jail and that very night, the jailer and his whole family believed on the Lord Jesus and received eternal life.  Paul and Silas understood that their physical comfort was irrelevant — if they could win one person, whether prisoner or jailer, to Jesus, the pain of prison was worth it.  The joy they had was from a supernatural source – it certainly was not just positive thinking!

 

In 1 Peter 1:3-9, Peter tells the people that they can rejoice in salvation through Jesus Christ even though they are suffering now, knowing that their suffering is proving their faith which is more precious than gold and it would all be to the praise and glory of Christ.

 

Both secular and Biblical History tell us that the 1st century was no picnic for Christian believers.

 

Charles Spurgeon, a minister of the 19th century (1834 – 1892) became the pastor of the Park Street Church in London, England and, in 1855, began to publish his sermons weekly.  Today, they make up 57 volumes of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.  In a sermon on the fruit of the Spirit – joy, [contained in volume 27,] Spurgeon references the 1st century Christians and their experiences in the catacombs.

 

Turn now to the poor, hunted Christians and read the inscriptions left by them in the catacombs.  They are so calm and peaceful that you say instinctively – a joyous people were wont [inclined] to gather here.  Those who have been most eminent [prominent] in service and in suffering for Christ’s sake have been of a triumphant spirit, dauntless because supported by an inner joy.  Their calm courage made them the wonder of the age.

 

Spurgeon continues –

 

I do not know how much Tiberias and Nero used to sing – happy men they certainly were not.  I can hardly imagine them singing, except at their drunken orgies, and then in the same tone as tigers growl.  But, I do know that Paul and Silas sang praises unto God with their feet in the stocks and the prisoners heard them.  I also know that this was the mark of the Christians of the first age, that when they assembled on the Lord’s day it was not to groan but to sing praises to the name of one Christos, whom they worshiped as a God.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

How did those 1st century Christians have such joy even in horrific circumstances?  Jesus answered this question when He said:

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33.

 

The Christian’s Joy is not superficial or fake.  It is not a plastic smile.  This mandate is not superficial cheerfulness or irrational escapism but our joy is grounded in the cosmic reality that our Savior has overcome the world, sin and death.  His victory means that we too have overcome the world – not because of anything that we have done but because He is covering us with His blood stained arms.

 

Listen to the text of John 16:33 as found in the song entitled “I Have Overcome the World,” sung on Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album “Overcoming Guilt.

 

So, where do you find your Joy?

 

Look to Jesus Christ.  Only through His work alone can you received His Joy through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 7, JOY, Part One

 

JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

 PART ONE

This week we are considering Joy.  We know that everyone wants to be happy.  In our culture, happiness is talked about and searched for, but seldom is real joy experienced.

 

The internet dictionary.com defines joy as being “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”  A picture of joy, I believe, is this one of a young boy with his grilled cheese sandwich.   Eyes closed, bread in both hands, cherishing the taste in his mouth.  He seems to be in little boy bliss!

Joy of grilled cheese sandwich (C)

In an attempt to find happiness, people try all sorts of things, way beyond grilled cheese sandwiches.  For example, Indian philosophy has given a 7 prong approach to locating happiness.

 

  • Think less, feel more
  • Frown less, smile more
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Judge less, accept more
  • Watch less, do more
  • Complain less, appreciate more
  • Fear less, love more

 

These things are good and they may help you lead a more productive happy life.  Any time that you focus on others and have your eyes off of yourself your life is likely to be happier.  But, these actions are based on our own efforts, and any happiness that is achieved is fleeting because it is based on outward circumstances.

 

This is the fundamental difference between Christians and unregenerate persons around us.  Even though we use the same word Joy, the Joy given to the Christian is separate and apart from outward circumstances of this world … it is not the power of positive thinking nor is it based on the prosperity gospel’s promise of vast monetary wealth here and now.

ORANGE - JOY

What does Scripture say?

 

Using the orange analogy that we developed previously, Biblical Joy is a segment of the fruit of the Holy Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

 

The Greek word Chara Joy – refers to a delight in God and His salvation for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is.    The world’s counterfeit of this fruit is elation that comes with blessings rather than from thoughts of the One who blesses.  Further, because the world’s joy is based on external things, there will be mood swings based on circumstances.

 

The Holy Spirit’s Joy is not dependent on external circumstances but is deep seeded and is rooted in the heart filled with love for our Lord.

 

Martin Luther said:

Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodious hymns and psalms, praises and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct, inspire, and refresh themselves.

 

Matthew Henry understands Paul’s use of the term “Joy” as part of the fruit of the Spirit as being “a constant delight in God.”

 

Unlike the writings of other faith systems, Joy is well embedded in Holy Scripture of the Bible.  Scriptural Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God because it is based on the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we cannot have Biblical Joy!

 

Note:  The Bible distinguishes scriptural Joy from pleasure – the Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our English word hedonism, and it is the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking.  Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4)

 

The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment.

  • Ecclesiastes 2 records the sad story of one who tried to build his life on pleasure-seeking and was left empty and disillusioned.
  • 1 Timothy 5:6 says that the self-indulgent person is dead even while seeming to be alive.
  • Titus 3:3 notes that pleasure-seeking often enslaves the person in a vicious cycle of addiction.

 

In contrast, the God of Scripture knows Joy and He wants His people to know Joy.

  • Psalms 104:3 speaks of God rejoicing in His creative works.
  • Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.”
  • Luke 2:10, a focal verse at Christmastime, reminds us of the perfect example of bringing joy from the Lord in the Angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds at Bethlehem.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

 

How does this apply to my life?

 

In John 15:9-12, Jesus told us to keep His commands and to abide in His love, further stating that He told us this so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”   

 

The answer to the question “Can we have that same joy?” is a resounding YES.  We can, and do, have within us the same Joy that Jesus was speaking of.  We can confidently say this because we have His Spirit within us and He provides Joy as we listen to Him, as we read the Scripture and as we rely on Him for all things.

 

Is our joy different from the happiness that is sought so desperately by the world?  As you should be aware by now, the answer to this question is an unequivocal YES.  Our joy is different because of Who it is based on – our joy is not dependent on circumstances or things.   Our joy is based on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and we experience it through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

In speaking of Galatians 5:22, Author Keri Wyatt Kent says:

“This verse is not a to-do list for us to work through, but a description of the transformation that occurs when God’s Spirit begins to work in us.”

 

This week, pray that the Holy Spirit would continue this transformation by enlarging your love and joy in Christ.  Ruminate about keeping the commands of our Lord so that you can abide in His love.  Then, take action and do that which the Lord commands.  I believe that you will find that your joy will be abundant as you live and serve Him through the power of His Spirit.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

LAUGHTER, JOY AND LOVE.

We live very close to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

 

Smoky Mountains vista
Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Picture taken of vista that is seen from Cades Cove.

 

In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a town at the entrance to the Park, there are many things for tourists to do, and among them is having your picture taken while you are dressed up in old-time garb. The resulting picture in sepia tones appears to be very old, perhaps of people who bear a striking resemblance of you but who lived generations ago.

 

One of the requirements when the picture is taken is that you have to look serious. I am told that holding a smile for a period of time is more difficult than holding a frown. Before the days of fast shutter speeds or digital photography, it took time for the image to be exposed, for example, for a tin-type. In short, you had to be still. If you smiled, your mouth would be a blur – if you frowned, or at least were serious, your mouth would be in focus.

 

Here is one picture where the children had an incredible level of seriousness, while Mom, who probably glanced at them just before the camera snapped, seemed to be ready to laugh.

 

old time family picture
Tourist picture of family taken by photographer at an “Old Tyme” studio in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Laughter – Joy – Love. What blessings from the Lord!

Laughter

When I think of laughter in Scripture, the first thought is of Sarah laughing when the angel of the Lord told her husband that she would have a child in her old age. See Genesis 18.

 

Actually, the word for “laughter” is not often used in the Scripture, but the Bible is replete with times that people reveled in the joy that the Lord their God gave to them. I can’t help but think that, in the midst of the glorious joy that they had, the people in Scripture laughed – not in derision, but in sheer joy!

Joy

What can be more infectious than a child’s joy!

 

Happy baby girl (C)
Smiling baby girl showing her joy at her surroundings.

 

The Psalmist wrote numerous psalms about joy, of which this is an example:

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11 [ESV]

 

Paul wrote in Romans:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 [ESV]

 

Luke characterized the disciples as follows:

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 [ESV]

 

What can be more infectious than the joy of a small child? The Joy that the believer has in his/her Lord and Savior. It is a glorious gift from the Holy Spirit.

Love

The number of Scripture passages that deal with love are myriad – the love of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the love we should have for each other – love is written throughout the pages of Scripture. For example:

 

The Psalmist says:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6 [ESV]

 

When I think of God’s love, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the cross. But the image that speaks to me about Jesus’ love for His sheep is this one that is hanging in our study at home. The lamb is resting so comfortably on His shoulder and it is being held so tenderly by the nail scarred hands of the Lord.

 

Picture hanging in our office
Picture representing the Lord Jesus holding a lamb on His shoulder. His nail pierced hand is shown and the lamb is secure in His loving grip.

 

Paul, in Romans 5, provides this picture in words when he says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 [ESV]

 

Sometimes we want to laugh but the occasion does not warrant it – but even then, our eyes can shine with the joy that we are experiencing. God did not create us without feelings – He clearly wants us to experience laughter, joy and love.

 

While the world experiences a type of joy and love, the fruit of the Spirit encompasses joy and love on an entirely different level. It is joy that is not based on circumstances but on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Spirit that indwells the believer. We will consider the fruit of the Spirit next week when the new series begins on The Ruminant Scribe blog site.

 

Ask the Lord to give you glimpses of His joy and His love through His Spirit. You will be glad you did.

 

Father, thank You for granting to us the incredible blessing of emotions and feelings so that we can experience the summit of love and waves of joy. And, thank You for being with us when we experience difficulties and trials, too. Thank You, Sovereign Lord, for providing us with the Holy Spirit Who gives to us your joy and love now and for all eternity.  We praise your holy name.

OF TRUCKS, TRIALS AND TRIPS

We had occasion to be traveling on the highways of our country a lot recently.   If you spend any time at all on the roads, you will run into trucks. Well, hopefully not actually run into them, but you will come across them along the way. In fact, as we left a small town in Virginia, I counted over 60 trucks going in the opposite direction, on the other side of the interstate, in the span of about 20 minutes.

 

Trucks along interstate (C)
Trucks along Interstate 40.

 

The roads in East Tennessee are hilly, curvy and picturesque. Trucks that run the route often know when the road gets tricky to negotiate and, for the most part, they handle the hills and curves well, usually sharing the road with the smaller cars and vans without difficulty or incident.

Trucks going up and down hills on interstate outside Knoxville (C)
Trucks going up and down hills on the Interstate.

 

However, one thing that I noticed is that there are times when even strong, big, heavy trucks have difficulty climbing the hills, especially when the truck is heavily loaded and the weight is simply too much to travel at significant speed. When this scenario unfolds, the truck with the especially heavy load will move to the right lane, put its flashing lights on, and plod slowly up the incline, while the trucks coming upon them in traffic will line up behind them until there is an opening in which to pass the slower truck.

 

Trucks passing along interstate (C)
Trucks passing each other.

 

We were passing a truck loaded with heavy materials that required slow travel up the incline and I was reminded of how I can get bogged down in my Christian life when sin enters and I allow it to remain.

For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

Psalm 38:4 [ESV]

This huge truck that can easily travel at highway speed was limping up the mountain side, held back by the sheer weight of its load on the steep incline.

The writer of Hebrews warns us to be aware of sin that “clings” to us:

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us ….

Hebrews 12:1 [ESV]

When I am loaded down with sin, or with guilt because of past sins, I can no longer climb the hills placed before me. Instead, I am grounded and unable to accomplish the work that Christ has for me. I have effectively taken myself out of the game … sidelined and unable to properly function … I am like the weighed down truck trying to race uphill.

This thought then prompted me to recall a study that the women did at church last year, specifically, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of the Christian lifeThe pilgrim was originally named Graceless but he received a new name of Christian after coming to faith in Christ.  He was trying to walk in the Christian Way and was having great difficulty because he was carrying a heavy backpack that was loaded with his sin and guilt.   As Christian approached the cross, he received a fuller view of Christ and the work that was done on the cross for him. It was then that his heavy backpack fell off through no effort of his own; and, as it tumbled down into the tomb, Christian felt the comfort of being covered in his Savior’s care.

David describes this condition in Psalm 51:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:9-12 [ESV]

David had sinned … he knew that and he knew that God knew that! He prayed that God would clean his heart, wipe out the sin, be present with him once more, and restore the joy that came from the salvation granted by God.

This is the joy and comfort that Christian felt when his backpack loosened and fell into the tomb at Christ’s cross.

It is the same joy that I can have when I confess my sin and leave it at the foot of the cross.

It is the same joy and comfort that you can experience when you are released from carrying around sin and guilt that has accumulated for years (dare I say decades?)!

Praise the Lord that Christ’s work on the cross enables us to shed the weight of sin and guilt so that we can climb mountains at full speed while we do the work that He has ordained for us to do. We may be called carry heavy weights for Him, but the task will be eased when we remember that our sin is gone and that Christ and His Spirit are with us.

Jesus said:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:29-30 [ESV]

We will be yoked with Christ, each mile of the road on our trip with our Savior and Lord.   We will not limp along, unable to prevail in our work.  His power will strengthen and enable us to do the task.  Praise His holy Name.

 

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I complain about the weight of the task ahead. Help me to remember that You are with me, that your Son is yoked with me and that your Spirit will give me strength to carry on even in the face of difficulties. Help me to honor and glorify You in my life, words, deed, and worship.