Posts tagged ‘joy’

Blue Skies and Rainbows?

Back when I was in youth group (during the Carter administration), we would sing a song at devotionals and at Sierra Bible Camp called “Blue Skies and Rainbows”. It was and is a happy song about what the world around us is like when we have Jesus in our hearts. The verse and chorus went like this:

“Blue skies and rainbows
And sunbeams from heaven
Are what I can see
When my Lord is living in me

Jesus is well and alive today
He makes his home in my heart
Never more will I be all alone since he
Promised me that we never will part.”

The song was light hearted and fun, and we just assumed that with Jesus in our hearts life would be wonderful. But then life actually happened. There was loss, failed relationships, the death of a loved one, or even of a child. Life didn’t turn out to be full of blue skies and rainbows after all. For awhile, I resented this song because I saw it as one giving a false promise that Jesus was going to guarantee us a carefree life. But that has changed as time went on.

One thing I saw, after carefully reading the lyrics, was that there was no such false promise in this song. There would be trials and pain in this life, but what the words say is that even in the hardest and most trying of times, we will be able to see the blue skies and rainbows that are there above us. You see, you can’t look at blue skies and rainbows when you are looking down or at yourself. Want this song says is that, by virtue of the fact that Jesus lives in our heart, we will have the strength to look up and see the blessings that are still around us and persevere in hope. Yes, we would be able to “count it all joy when [we] go through various trials” (James 1) and endure to the end.

But what is the basis of that promise? How is the reality of that strength ensured for us? The chorus is the key. “Jesus is well and alive today”. Our guarantor of hope is that this same Jesus who died for our sins did not stay dead, but is alive and well today. This same Jesus ever lives and makes intercession for us at the throne of God!

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26, 27 NKJV)

And not only that, “He makes his home in my heart.” This is not a temporary residence, where he makes an occasional visit. As the lyric promises, “never more will I be all alone since He promised me that we never will part.” What a glorious promise, and yet it is just a reminder of what the Word has already spoken.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5 KJV)

So now I can sing this song, in spite of all I have been through, or will ever go through. I can look up to the One who loves me and will never forsake me. I can look to the one who makes His home in my heart, and see the witness of nature around me that He is indeed “well and alive today.”

(In case you don’t know the song or haven’t heard it in a long time: Blue Skies and Rainbows )

20130828-182859.jpg

Advertisements

Hope Fully Living

Hope is one of those words that can be difficult for someone to define. If you have hope, you know it. If you don’t, and are hopeless, you know that, too. But what is hope? How would you define it? More importantly, how does God define it in the Bible? Let’s take a look in Romans chapter 15.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NKJV)

The first thing we need to realize is that Jehovah is a God of hope. He has so much hope that it is a part of His very nature. That means He is the source of all hope for His children. Biblical hope can best be defined as “a confident expectation”. God does not wish for things. No, that implies that He is uncertain of the outcome and is just “hoping it all turns out right”. No, God knows the end from the beginning.

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ (Isaiah 46:10)

God is the God of hope precisely because He is certain of the outcome of things that have not yet happened from our perspective. So we can anchor our hope in the one who isn’t up in heaven crossing His fingers and hoping for the best.

But how does God give that hope to us as His children? By “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). You see, nice we come to a realization of the nature and character of the One in whom we have placed our trust, we can experience deep joy. Because of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, we now have access to God. In prayer and in reading, studying and meditating n His Word, we can daily come into his presence and have that faith built up and our hope reaffirmed. As The psalmist David wrote:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11)

We not only have joy, but with God, we have fullness of joy!

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8 KJV)

Another byproduct of the hope we have in God is peace. Even in the midst of life’s darkest hour, we can be at peace with God. We have a calm assurance that God is on our side because if He was willing to save us by His death, He will also see that work through to the end by His life, and constant intercession for us. God gave us grace to save us, but that same grace goes on to change us as well.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 KJV)

So as we increase in peace and joy, we increase in hope. They all go together and build upon each other. So no matter what you are going through (and some of us are really going through it), even if it is the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear, for God is with us (Psalm 23). We know that we receive our hope from Him who is the very “God of hope” and can rest in His love and will for us.

that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus,(Hebrews 6:18-20a NKJV)

20130422-232618.jpg

Jumping For Jesus

Have you ever read about the miracles in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and wondered what it would have been like to have witnessed them? The wonder and amazement you would have felt would have been life changing.
I want to take a look at the healing of the lame man at the temple by Peter and John in Acts 3 and draw some lessons from it.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10 NASB)

The story goes further to include the preaching that occurred after the miracle, but my intention is to focus on the first part. One of the first things mentioned is that the man was born lame. This was no temporary condition from an injury that would eventually be recovered from. He had been born that way. Ever wonder why you can’t find a so-called faith healer attempting to heal people with conditions they have had from birth? No headings of those with deformed limbs, or Down Syndrome or conjoined twins. This also meant that everyone would know who he was and would have to give God credit for the healing.

Another thing I see here is that this spot by the temple gate was where he was always taken. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, went to the temple numerous times. Surely he had seen this man there. And yet Jesus did not stop and heal him. By passing the man by, Jesus was demonstrating that it is not always God’s will to heal everyone right now. Jesus was directly led by the Spirit, and only did those things he was told to do. Was it because He had no compassion for this lame man? No, it was because, in this case, the healing was to take place later at a time that would bring glory to God and facilitate Peter and John preaching and souls being saved!

After the healing took place, the man gave thanks and praise to his healer – God! He was not ashamed to openly and boldly let everyone know who had made such a dramatic change in his life. Should we be any less enthused about what God has done for us in Christ? We were all under condemnation and sentenced to eternal destruction. But someone, somewhere, at some time told us about Jesus. We heard, believed, repented, confessed Jesus as Lord,and we’re baptized. We are now on the road to heaven because someone has paid our penalty for us. Shouldn’t we be every bit as excited as the lame man who could now leap?

Since the miracle had created an opportunity to preach, Peter and John seized the moment and proclaimed Christ to the crowd. They didn’t sign up those who heard as their partners and certainly did not take an offering to support the ministry. Jesus was the center of their ministry. Yet how many today claim power to heal, and will pray for you when you send in an offering?
Another point I would like to make here is that throughout the rest of the New Testament, the Apostles went around the world starting one thing, and one thing only – churches! The didn’t start ministries in every city, the planted congregations! They didn’t even start ministries of their own. No Peter and John Ministries, Inc. no, the Great Commission was to be accomplished by churches, period!

In the end, the lame man’s enthusiasm drew a crowd, and multitudes were saved. Let’s get fired up about what Jesus has done for us and see who asks us for an explanation for our joy! And may many souls be brought into the Kingdom!

20120821-234013.jpg

Our God Sings!

Throughout the Bible, those who serve God are encouraged to sing. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the psalmist wrote the following:

Praise the Lord!Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!
… Let the godly exult in glory;let them sing for joy on their beds. (Psalm 149:1, 5 ESV)

In Ephesians 5 believers are instructed this way:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; (Ephesians 5:18-20 NASB)

But what about Jehovah God? Does He sing, too? According to Scripture, the answer is “yes”!

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Let’s take a look at what else this verse says about our God.
1. He is in our midst. While God is high and exalted, far above the heavens, He is also close to each of us. For those who will turn to Him, He is always just a step away. As Paul put it on Mars Hill in Athens, “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ (Acts 17:27, 28 NASB)

2. Jehovah God is mighty, and He uses that might to save us. In the future, at the last day, God will mightily judge the world. But now, in this age, His efforts are directed toward salvation.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17 NASB)

3. Jehovah God rejoices over us, is glad, and exults over us. This is characterized by gladness, love and loud singing! God is celebrating over those who accept His offer of salvation! At the judgment, those who are saved will be invited to “enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23)
This is also why there is such rejoicing when a sinner repents. God and the angels literally have a celebration when someone is saved!

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7 NKJV)

It is important to have a balanced view of God. He is not looking for reasons to condemn, nor is He grudgingly granting salvation. Ours is a God of joy, who is ecstatic about His children, and is overjoyed at the spiritual birth of every one that comes to Him. Let’s make His day and seek out those in need of His salvation. And then we can rejoice along with Him!

20120729-005807.jpg

The Value Of Tears

There are a multitude of reasons to shed tears. I have wept hot tears of sorrow as I held my baby girl as her life slowly ebbed away in the newborn intensive care unit. I have seen many weep at the loss of a relationship or a treasured family pet. On the other hand, it is genuinely a pleasure to laugh so hard that you cry! And who would fault someone for getting misty-eyed at a tender and moving scene like a wedding or the birth of a baby?
It is normal for us to weep, and it is part of our human nature. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, even though He was about to raise him from the dead! (John 11:35) We are commanded to “weep with those who weep” and many times such weeping is more appreciated than words we could think to offer.
But tears are also a valuable addition to our individual ministry. As we pray for those with whom we share the Gospel, and weep over their lost condition, the Lord seems to use those tears to make the seeds of our prayers grow.
In Psalm 126 the psalmist wrote through inspiration, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5, 6 NIV)
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 NIV) Could it be that this comfort will be obtained as that for which we have wept before the Lord comes to fruition?

Elsewhere in Scripture, weeping is associated with repentance. David wrote this in Psalm 30:5,
“For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 ESV)
This weeping, which Paul refers to as “godly sorrow”, is essential to our spiritual growth and progress. Paul explained it to the Corinthian Christians this way:
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11 ESV)
Furthermore, this godly sorrow gets God’s attention. It is often referred to in the Bible as “a broken and contrite heart.” Let’s take a look at Isaiah 66. Jehovah is speaking and lets His people know that He is in need of nothing, and there is no building they could erect that He would find impressive. But look in verse 2 and see what DOES cause God to turn and look.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.'” (Isaiah 66:1, 2 ESV)
Wow! Do you want to get God’s attention and have Him look with favor on you? Be humble, contrite in heart, and be in awe of His Word such that you tremble at the thought of the value of it!

But tears and crying will not always be with us. There will surely come a day when death and tears and crying will be no more. I mentioned briefly the passing of my infant daughter. She was only with us for eight hours, but I know that she is not gone away, but rather she has gone ahead. When she was buried we put the reference to this verse on her gravestone.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
Speaking of eternity together with the Lord can be an abstract theological discussion. But all of that changes when you face reality and no safety net, and faith in the Everlasting arms is all you’ve got to stand on. But rest assured, the God who spoke the universe into existence and sent His only begotten Son to redeem us cannot lie, and what he has promised will surely come to pass.
Weeping may last the night, but there will most definitely be joy in that eternal morning!

20120718-005145.jpg

%d bloggers like this: