Getting Back to Joy

hose

I am fascinated by the idea of joy. Actually, truth be known, I’m more chagrined by the lack of it. Joy, by definition, means “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation” (Dictionary.com). Jesus says that “these things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

What things did He speak to them and subsequently to us about? He spoke that He was the way to the Father and about the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He spoke about His peace being given to us and about abiding in the Father. Then after He speaks of us having joy He then calls us friends.

First John speaks to joy as well: “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 Jo. 1:4). This encouragement comes after he has reminded us that we have eternal life because of our faith in Jesus Christ. But notice that in both verses God desires our joy to be full; not half full, not a whiff of being full, but fully full!

Stepping on the Hose

It is also interesting to note that the word ‘joy’ occurs over 150 times in the Bible. God desires us to have joy; so much so that joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). ‘Joy’ sits between ‘love’ and ‘peace.’ God wants us to have joy. And since joy is part of the indwelling Holy Spirit, it can just flow through us if we leave the Holy Spirit unquenched. However, if we are always downcast or morose, then joy is obviously not being manifested in our lives. This should lead us to ask, why? Somewhere, somehow, we are quenching the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It is as if we are stepping on the garden hose supplying the refreshing water to the soil of our hearts; we are somehow resisting the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Are we harboring some secret sin, hatred, or fear? Are we overworked, overbooked or overwhelmed? Where are we stepping on the hose of God’s refreshing?

If we live joylessly, then is it any wonder we’re not winning others to Christ? Who wants to become part of a dark cloud society when Jesus Himself is light and life?  And how do we get back to joy?

Unquench

Prayer, that’s how. We need to honestly approach God in prayer and plead for him to search our anxious hearts to reveal all that is contrary to his light in our lives (see Psalms 51:7-12 and 139:23-24). If in raw sincerity of our will we approach God with this request he will honor it even if it hurts a little. But the end result is the restoration of the joy we have in our salvation that will seep out of our lives to draw others into the same joy of the same salvation (Psalm 51:12-13).

Advertisements

Proverbs 3 and Prayer, Scripture and Counsel

Bible stackProverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” This verses are also reiterated in Proverbs 16:3 and Psalms 37:3-4. Trusting in God is seeking his guidance via prayer, Scripture, and sound counsel from mature believers. This process (prayer, Scripture, counsel) is preferable over merely making key decisions in isolation. In other words, as Scripture says, pray about everything (cf. Ph. 4:6-7) then trust God to guide in the planning and responding to whatever is at hand. If we are still unsure then seek wise counsel from those that are biblically mature.

Prayer, Scripture, Counsel

This demonstrates humility and dependence on God and the cycle of prayer, Scripture, counsel is something we can incorporate into our lives and even teach to our children and grandchildren. However, not trusting in God is relying solely on the self which produces questionable, if not disastrous, results. Over the years I’ve seen this play out in poor relationship decisions that caused years of contentions, legal entanglements and damaged children. I’ve also seen this play out in poor purchasing decisions that resulted in years of debt; such as using credit cards to buy material things that wear out long before the bills are paid. These are two significant examples that result in great emotional and financial damage over long periods of time.

A Little Exercise

How much simpler and more fulfilling would our lives be if we reigned in our impatience, got quiet before the Lord and sought his counsel and then the counsel of other wise, mature Christ-followers? Maybe it would help to think of times when you made rash decisions without seeking counsel and then answer these three questions: How did it effective your life? What could you have done differently then? How are you doing things differently now?

Blood Moons, Division and Jesus

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

—Jesus, John 13:35

Blood_moon

There was a blood moon a couple of nights ago. It was quite a stunning sight as we were standing in our backyard at 3:27 AM. It is an event caused by the earth slipping between the sun and moon. Many considered it significant because it is the second of four consecutive blood moons occurring on Jewish feast days, what people are calling a tetrad. This particular day was the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot. Typically, though, blood moons unto themselves are fairly common occurrences.

This blood moon tetrad is generating a lot of discussion around various biblical prophesies and predictions of the end times. Opinions are all over the map for all sorts of different reasons. The problem, however, is how hostile so-called Christians are against other Christians that have differing views on what the tetrad means, if anything, and how it relates or doesn’t relate to the end times. All of this anger proves nothing except that no one has a definitive lock on what will happen when and that a bunch of so-called Christians look foolish and are making a mockery of the faith. Frankly, it’s pathetic and highly un-Christ-like. I again draw your attention to the verse at the top of this column; Jesus’ disciples are to love one another and when they don’t love one another, well…maybe people need to lay their cyber bombs to the side, look in the mirror and ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse them.

Perhaps what the blood moons ought to do is remind us that we are not sovereign; but are instead broken and fallible people desperately in need of a Savior. Maybe we should look at the ‘blood’ as a reminder of Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross. Maybe we also need a reminder that what will happen will happen regardless of your opinion or mine. The one thing we do know is that if we have faith in Jesus we will eventually be with him forevermore, amen!

So let the skies do what they will while we remain focused on Jesus and His call for us to love others.

Conditional Words and Proverbs 2

20130629_131827

The key phrase in Proverbs 2 are verses 10-12: “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things.”

Definitions and Application

Discretion and understanding mean that a person has “the ability to make responsible decisions” (from Logos Bible Software) coupled with intelligence and insight (from Strong’s Concordance). Thus, when led by the indwelling Holy Spirit we have the ability to make sound decisions while also being able to discern something to be of little to no value or even evil.

These are important traits for us regardless of what roles we have in life—employee, parent, spouse, single, etc. We often need to make decisions that can impact not just our lives but other people’s lives as well. Plus some decisions will have lasting impacts that can reverberate positively or negatively for days, weeks, or even years to come. Such decisions can become even more complex or impactful if you are the head of your family or are in ministry or in some other leadership role—or you aspire to be in one of these roles someday. With so many decision points in our lives it is blessing to be able to lean into God’s guidance and comfort through these decision making processes.

Conditional Response

However, an interesting statement about accessing this guidance from God comes in verse one by way of two little conditional words: “IF you receive my words, AND treasure my commands within you” (emphasis mine). These are conditional words that indicate we are to make an intentional decision to not just receive God’s Word, but to also treasure it. God is not going to force us to receive his Word and most certainly won’t force us to treasure it, we have to decide these things for ourselves whether we will or won’t receive and treasure the things God has freely given to us.

To treasure what we receive means, of course, that we treat the received object as an item of great value, something to be cherished and protected. We protect Scripture by hiding it in our hearts, committing it to memory and doing our best to live out its teachings.

So as we desire God’s wisdom, knowledge and discretion, may we first willingly receive and treasure what God has already given us in Scripture and in Jesus.