Joy

Joy is Better

four boy playing ball on green grass

When my kids were growing up, they enjoyed watching the Ren and Stimpy cartoon show. The show was incredibly dumb, incredibly annoying, and incredibly addicting. Countless times, the show sucked me into watching it with my kids. And I laughed – I’m kind of ashamed of being entertained by such inane dialog.

The “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song was first heard in the sixth episode of the first series of “Ren and Stimpy” and is the 78th greatest moment in Nicktoon’s history. I’m not sure what this implies about our great nation’s people, but it’s probably best not to research this.

Happy is Good, but joy is Better

Being happy is healthy. We all like to be around happy people, except in the morning. 😉 Happiness is a good characteristic for us to develop, but it is not an essential trait for Christians. So what is? For a believer in Jesus, a consistent element is joy. Christians are joyful people. We are full of joy. How can we not be when the Holy Spirit lives within us (John 14:26)? How can we not sing, “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy?” Well, maybe that’s not the best song for us to sing.

Happiness tends to be based on what happens. If good things happen, then we’re happy, but when the travails of life fall upon us, it is our joy that distinguishes us from the world. We read in James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” And Jesus said, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:23)

Crushed to a Single Ember

There are times in most of our lives when our joy may be crushed to a single ember. We may search within ourselves and not find the joy that God imparted to us. In those times, we should pray as the Psalmist wrote in Psalms 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Inexpressible Joy

God loves us (Romans 5:8). Let us be as the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Peter to write, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1 Peter 1:8

You may like: One is the number of joy!

Let Us Celebrate Christmas

Creche

The Word Christmas

The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerstmis, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceding sacred vigil.

Controversies

The celebration of the birth of Jesus has a long and messy past. The first evidence of the feast came from Egypt in 200 AD. But there has never been any agreement on the year or day of the birth of Jesus. 

Christmas has also long been a controversial celebration. In England, Christmas was banned by an Act of Parliament in 1644. People were forced to fast, and shops were ordered to be open. [1]

Let us Celebrate Christmas

Nevertheless, Christians, sans edicts, and theological proclamations, have felt in the souls that we should join together, independent of denominational differences. We, all of us, should thank God for begetting His One and Only Son; Jesus, having been prophesied since the fall of man and prepared since the Creation of the heavens and the earth qualifies as someone for which we should celebrate their birth.

So, let us do so. Let us set aside all malice or contempt, and corporately humble ourselves, worshiping God and celebrating Jesus for being the pilgrim that made the only way of salvation; sinners saved by grace.

Today is the day we jointly celebrate the birth of God’s Child born in a manger. Let us rejoice in God’s prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 (ESV): “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Chris Sowder on Unsplash

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[1] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm

Clothed in Joy

Father and son rejoicing

Growing up, my family was very staid. Rowdy, for us, was when I played Chinese Checkers with Mom. We never disputed a win. We never verbalized a loss. Our typical celebration was “Good game.”

Our sedate life was seasoned by stories from our parents of their lives without mothers; they both grew up during the Great Depression; Dad was in WWII. Their difficult lives strengthened them. They always saw that Jesus Christ provided when no way existed for their families. Any time I’d get a bit of extra money, Mom would say, “Just wait, you’ll need it soon.” And she was always right. My folks had grown up living by faith in God.

I believe that Mom and Dad both longed within their hearts for release and freedom to outwardly rejoice and, yes, even dance over the good things our loving God bestowed on us, but they could never allow themselves that freedom.

Clothed in Joy

I, too, am restrained, but my heart bursts forth when I read Psalms 30:11-12: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” 

Please indulge me as I write this brief prayer for you and me. 

Lord God, my heart runs over with the joy you have poured into my life. In good times and rough times, you have been my Rock in which I’ve been secure. You have never failed me. I pray this same joy for those who read this devotional. Lead them in paths of righteousness. Demonstrate Your power in their lives. Remind us all that the life of a Christian is built on nothing less than the power of Jesus to change times and circumstances and lives. Bless us all. I ask that You would give us the courage to dance for joy before you. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

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Guard Your Minds and be Joyful

Meerkat on guard

As believers, we trust that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe Isaiah 40:8 (ESV), “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Still, what we read in the media and what friends post on Facebook seems to expect our faith in Jesus to take a backseat to social norms.

I found an example of this “pressure” in an article in the Jerusalem Post titled, “Archaeologists Identify City Gate from the time of King David” by ZACHARY KEYSER included this statement: Even though the “House of David” inscription has confirmed the essential historicity of King David from the Bible, scholars have reached little consensus about the nature and extent of his rule.

Let us not hold back our beliefs for an implied agreement. Let us live our faith rather than allow it to be abstract. Let our “I’ll pray for you” be a true shouldering of a burden and not a social courtesy. Let us walk in the power of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

As we guard our minds (Philippians 4:7), let us stay engaged in the places where God has planted us. Proverbs 18:15 ESV reads, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

So guard your minds and be joyful. God, Himself, lives in us. As Psalm 16:11 (ESV) reads, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

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Good to me

When your favorite sports team wins you want to call a fellow fan and replay the great plays of the game. My son-in-law is this way. When you buy car and get a great deal you want to tell someone; talk about how the deal came down, how you got more for less and all the of the car’s cool features. When you plan your marriage anniversary and for the first time get it right you want to tells someone, everyone, post it on Facebook.

The sports fan will acknowledge their team’s mistakes but will gloss over them because, hey, their team won. This same process is true with the new car purchase and the anniversary celebration. Sure, it might have been tough but victory was won.

The fact is, we all need to celebrate the good things that happen to us. So, it shouldn’t be surprising when our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit and we see what God has done for us. God loves us and Jesus intervenes for us with our heavenly Father. We see this in Psalms 13:6 which proclaims, “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Without a relationship with Jesus we have little hope for answered prayer for we will have ignored God’s greatest gift to us, How sad my life would be without God’s goodness to me.

Photo by Tom Grimbert (@tomgrimbert) on Unsplash

Well worn paths

Growing up in Indiana, one of the fun things we used to do is go to Turkey Run State Park. The park is full of walking trails, some quite easy but others difficult with ladders to climb, steep hills, narrow valleys plus lots and lots of mud. For a young person, it just didn’t get any better for a Saturday in the summertime than to spend the day walking these trails.

On the tougher trails we always looked for the well-worn paths, handholds, and footholds since, before us, these had proven their value to many that had tackled those difficult trails. The same goes for our walk with Jesus. Sometimes, Christ, has us hiking over flat land or rolling hills, but other times Jesus will put us on paths that are demanding and exceed our physical abilities; ways that can only be completed by Jesus holding or carrying us.

When we’re walking a tough, slippery trail in life its good to remember Colossians 2:6-7 which reads, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

  • We must get our footing, so we don’t fall – rooted
  • We must have established the skills – built up in Him
  • We must have strengthened ourselves – strengthened in the faith
  • We must look for well worn paths – as you were taught

And, we must be as overflowing with thankfulness as kids on a summer day on their way to Turkey Run.

Healing of the thing within us that we have not perceived as ill.

A breeze is wafting through our home. A breeze! How wonderful to have the windows and doors open, the smell of the new air, the pregnancy of spring, the momentum of increasing activity as neighbors seemingly begin appearing as if awakened from their hibernation.

My granddaughter is discovering our front yard: grass, mud, squiggly things. Her big brother is playing ball while Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa stand and talk gibberish. That’s my granddaughter’s world; she lives in the “now.”

She has scattered memories of yesterday, and the day before and more, stretching back into the mist of her past. She has expectations for today, but none cause her to worry, for there’s an unspoken and inexpressible trust she has in her parents to meet her needs and even more than needs.

The sights and sounds of motorcycles, birds, children’s voices and family all melt together to create a song of joy that heals something within me that I had not perceived as ill.

Jesus …called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)

You see, Jesus’ teaching was in response to “…the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1) The disciples had an “ill” in them which they didn’t even know they had. They were seeking power and position; things we adults value.

God doesn’t want childishness, but unless we change, unless we become like my granddaughter, unless we are willing to let go of all those “grown-up” things we carry on our backs and cling to in our lives (Matthew 19:16-22), we cannot grasp what Jesus offers us. We have no possibility for the healing of the thing within us that we had not perceived as ill. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Casting Crowns – Who am I – https://youtu.be/mBcqria2wmg

How close?

We have two cats, one that continually wants attention; no, she demands it. The other, Max, is the quiet one. He rarely meows and is quite independent. Oh, he’s also OCD. Or, as I like to say, CDO, since the letters should be in order.

Anyway, Max still needs attention but in his OCD way. Every morning, when I’m at my computer, he jumps up on my desk and stretches out between my keyboard and monitor to be petted and scratched. This time seems to be very important to him — the whole time he has his motor rumbling.

That got me thinking about the disciple which Jesus loved. We find this recorded during our Lord’s Last Supper.

John 13:21-25, After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?

I’m sure we each have our favorite Apostle. Rabbit trail – my understanding is that the twelve disciples became apostles after they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts, chapter 2. They changed from students to graduates that were sent out.)

As I was saying, we each have our favorite Apostle; mine is John for myriad reasons. Perhaps the most significant reason is that John stayed as close to Jesus as he possibly could. No doubt, during the event recorded in John 13:21-25, John could feel the heartbeat of Jesus as he leaned back upon Him to ask the question.

That’s what I want. I want to be so close to Jesus that I feel His heartbeat. I’ve learned that if I wander too far away, Christ’s heartbeat is obfuscated by the noise and chaos of this world and I begin to be sucked into its mire.

No, for me, my safe place is where I can feel the heartbeat of Jesus. And, someday, when we embrace, face-to-face, that rhythm of His heart will not be a new or unknown experience but a remembrance of what We have shared for many years. 

God’s Crazy About You

A little boy is telling his Grandma how “everything” is going wrong.  School, family problems, bullies and so forth. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake.

She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of course he does. “Here, have some cooking oil.” “Yuck,” says the boy. “How about a couple raw eggs? “ “Gross, Grandma!” “Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?” “Grandma, those are all yucky!”

Grandma smiles and replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!

God works the same way.  Many times we wonder why he would let us go through such difficult times.  But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good!  We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!”

Just think:

  • God is Crazy About You.
  • If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
  • If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
  • He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
  • Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen.
  • He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.
  • What about the Christmas gift He sent you in Bethlehem, not to mention that Friday at Calvary?

Face it, God’s crazy about you!

Happy International Happiness Day!

Little girl that is happy

Per the UN, today is the International Day of Happiness because the United Nations said so.

“… The official International Day of Happiness invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities[…]”

http://www.un.org/en/events/happinessday/

Yippee!

My understanding is that external declarations (don’t worry; be happy) only affect us (okay today I’ll be happy) when we acknowledge the authority that makes the declaration (United Nations). So, what’s all this got to do with my Bible reading today?

I’m in 2nd Peter and here is some of what I read:
2 Peter 1:16-19, We were not following a cleverly written-up story when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ—we actually saw his majesty with our own eyes. He received honour and glory from God the Father himself when that voice said to him, out of the sublime glory of Heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’. We actually heard that voice speaking from Heaven while we were with him on the sacred mountain.

The word of prophecy was fulfilled in our hearing! You should give that word your closest attention, for it shines like a lamp amidst all the dirt and darkness of the world, until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in your hearts.

God spoke out loud, from Heaven. Then Peter tells us to pay attention to what God said. Now that external declaration should affect us if we’ve acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Hey, all of a sudden I am happy because that’s good news!

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