JOY!

JOY: The gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration or spirits.

I believe that there are some, or even a lot, of Christians who are under the impression that joy is not something we should feel or express on a consistent basis. Maybe someone who is struggling will be offended by our joyful mood. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable by being happy all the time. It’s weird to always be in a good mood.

This is another occasion where I have not been able to find scripture to back up a pervasive idea that has invaded so many churches and Christians. There is nothing in God’s Word that would suggest that Christians must be a somber folk, not given to smiles our bouts of laughter. Everything I’ve discovered would indicate the exact opposite.

What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What joy awaits us
inside your holy temple.

Psalm 65:4 (NLT)

We should be joyful because God has brought us near and that joy doesn’t even have to wait because we are His holy temple. Joy should be an overwhelming experience that saturates every day of our lives.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)

Joy isn’t just an experience or an emotion.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit being active in our lives. According to Proverbs 17:22, a cheerful heart is good medicine. Nehemiah 8:10 tells you not to be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Our joy should be contagious, infectious, making us stronger.

By allowing ourselves to experience a gift that God has given us, we not only strengthen ourselves, but we then have the opportunity to pass on that joy and strength to others. Google a video of a baby laughing and see how long you can keep a straight face. Joy is meant to be shared.

When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:10-11 (NLT)

Joy is simply the overflow of the love of God in our lives. Try spreading a little joy today. Smile at a few strangers. Laugh with a friend. Take note of how you are affected. See if you can improve someone else’s day.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 65-67, Romans 2

His purpose

I am surrounded by fierce lions
who greedily devour human prey—
whose teeth piece like spears and arrows,
and whose tongues cut like swords.

Psalm 57:4 (NLT)

What would your response be in this situation? Sounds like a great time to break out into praise and worship, doesn’t it? Hardly, but that’s what David does.

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!
May your glory shine over all the earth.

Psalm 57:5 (NLT)

If not everything is going perfectly, if there is a hint of trouble, most of us would tend to believe that we are not within God’s purpose. Surely something has gone wrong, we’ve fallen out of grace and are bound for destruction. But think about this, if we were never in a position to get into trouble, would grace still exist? If everything were always perfect all the time, could God deliver us?

David is crying out to God for protection and, in the middle of it all, bursts out in worship. Even when his enemies have set a trap for him, he praises God with confidence.

My heart is confident in you, O God;
no wonder I can sing your praises!

Psalm 57:7 (NLT)

When we are confident in our God—the God we have a personal relationship with—we can, like David, worship even in the difficult times.

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.

Psalm 57:2 (NLT)

David had such a close relationship with God that, centuries before Jesus had a chance to speak the words, David had a great revelation of them.

The thief’s purpose is to steam and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

David knew that, while the enemy was not of God, God would fulfill His purpose. And that purpose included good things, not bad.

He will send help from heaven to save me,
rescuing me from those who are out to get me.
My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

Psalm 57:3 (NLT)

If you’re in the middle of a violent storm like David was, hold on to your confidence. Trust in your God and His plans and purposes for you. Work up the courage to worship when you’re surrounded by trouble. Remind yourself of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 56-58, Acts 28:1-15

Badge of burden

As human beings, most of us are pretty good at amassing cares and burdens. We gather them like a scout collects badges and wear them proudly as though carrying such a heavy load makes us more godly. It doesn’t.

Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

Psalm 55:22 (NLT)

This verse reminds me of a song from my childhood. If you grew up in church in North America, you may have had the opportunity to get to know Psalty the Singing Songbook. He was pretty cool back in the day. Now he’s moderately terrifying. But in one episode of Kid’s Praise, there are a couple of campers who have become lost in the woods at night (45:45 in the video). Instead of panicking, they break out into song. Who wouldn’t? The amazing thing is, a lot of those little songs I learned as a kid still stick with me as an adult. This one still goes through my head when I find myself under the weight of cares of collected.

I cast all my cares upon You
I lay all of my burdens
Down at Your feet
And any time
I don’t know
What to do
I will cast all my cares upon You

We weren’t created to be beasts of burden. We were created to a have a dependence on God. He is more than willing to carry those things that are too heavy for us. He wants to. But we have to let Him.

Again, it comes down to humility. We need to admit that what we carry is to much for us. There is no shame in that.

My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

In the same chapter, Paul goes on to say, for when I am weak, then I am strong. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Even though popular culture would spurn the idea of admitting weakness, that is exactly where we are at our strongest.

But God is my helper.
The Lord is the one who keeps me alive!

Psalm 54:4 (NLT)

When we, like the lost campers, cast our cares on God and lay our burdens at His feet, we make room for His strength to shine through. The load is lifted and we can live life the way we were meant to live it—with a complete dependence on our Creator, free from heavy burdens.

So take off your badge of burden. Give it to the Lord. He is your helper. He will take care of you.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 53-55, Acts 27:16-44

Honestly

Honesty is becoming a rare commodity. The places where you were once assured of finding truth are fast becoming dens of falsehood. Everyone is declaring their own personal truth and spurning the existence absolute truth. As Christians, it is just as easy for us to get caught up in partial truths and complete lies. Yet all God wants from us is honesty.

But you desire honesty from the heart,
so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.

Psalm 51:6 (NLT)

In order to be honest, though, we need to know what it is exactly.

HONESTY: In fact, upright conduct; an actual conformity to justice and moral rectitude; fairness; candor; truth.

Honesty is the first step toward gaining wisdom. Wisdom is not something that can be obtained through deceit. Whether you are being untruthful with others or yourself, where lies lie, honesty cannot exist. And where honesty isn’t, wisdom cannot be, either.

Sounds hard. But it’s not.

If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

Imagine that, God wants His people to be wise! In having a wise people, it means He will also have honest people. And if He has honest people, He will have humble people. All of these attributes go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. A humble person is wise and a wise person is honest, and so on. All it takes is a little humility to be completely, absolutely, thoroughly honest. When we bare ourselves to God, that is when He is best able to work in us. A little effort on our part produces great results.

…but those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing.

Psalm 34:10b (NLT)

God will gladly give us wisdom. He wants to. Wisdom is a good thing. When we can put our trust in God, we won’t be lacking those good things. God is just looking for honesty from the heart. He is looking for us to put ourselves in a place where we are teachable, moldable, useable.

It’s a good thing. Honestly.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 50-52, Acts 27:1-15

Unfailing love

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love
as we worship in your Temple.

Psalm 48:9 (NLT)

Just as this verse says, today let’s meditate on God’s unfailing love. First, let’s take a look at what it means to meditate.

MEDITATE: To dwell on any thing in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject in the mind.

We talk about God’s love a lot, but how often do we really take the time to think about what that means? What is love?

LOVE: An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual.

God sees beauty and worth in us—even when we don’t. We bring Him pleasure. We are beautiful. We are worthy. Those are phrases we hear all the time in church, and again, do we really think about what that means? Or have those terms become a part of our Christian rhetoric? God’s love for us isn’t determined by how others perceive us or how we feel when we get up on a particular morning. His love is unfailing.

UNFAILING: Not liable to fail; not capable of being exhausted.

God’s love for us will never stop. It will never run out. It will never reach it’s limit.

With these things in mind, take some time to reflect on some other verses about God’s love.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (NLT)

He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

Psalm 33:5 (NLT)

It’s easy to toss around a word like love and simply forget the true depths of its meaning. We know in our minds that God loves us, but often have a more difficult time transferring that knowledge from our intellect to our hearts, our spirits. God loves us simply because we are His creation, made in His own image and likeness.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

This is the God we serve. The God we love. The God who loves us with unfailing love all because it gives Him joy and pleasure to do so.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 47-49, Acts 26

The sound of silence

Silence can be one of the most difficult things to endure. For many, a great deal of discomfort is found when all noise ceases. Most of us will feel a need to fill the void of sound with babble, the radio, a YouTube video, or just about anything that will permeate the air with something other than silence.

There are times, though, when God desires our silence. Remember on the mountain, Elijah did not hear God in the wind, the quake, or the fire, but in the whispering, small voice in the stillness that followed the cacophony. With his ears ringing from the violence that had just passed, Elijah would have had to be still and listen closely to hear anything at all let alone a quiet whisper.

Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honoured throughout the world.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

It is in the silence that God speaks to us. If we constantly fill our days with noise, how will we ever learn to hear His voice? If we never hear His voice, we will be more easily swayed by all of the other voices around us.

The Lord Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
                                                      Interlude

Psalm 46:11 (NLT)

God is always around us. How often do we take notice of that fact? How often do we acknowledge Him? The Psalms are filled with interludes. In many translations, you’ll find selah following a phrase. It is an intentional pause, a time for purposeful reflection. The Lord Almighty is here among us. Here. Among us. Those are certainly words that could use some additional thought.

We should take time every day not to merely endure silence, but to actively seek it out. If it requires removing yourself to a quiet place, so be it. Leave behind the noise and distractions. See what you can learn. Often the sound of silence is far more revealing than the noise.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 44-46, Acts 25

Why so sad?

These days, if you watch or read the news, it can be pretty difficult to keep yourself happy and encouraged. Most news stations report mostly bad news. We’re gluttons for the horrific stories and are drawn to the most sinister of reports. Good news gets buried in the heaps of the atrocities surrounding us.

It begs the question, how then do we remain happy, joyful, and encouraged when all we hear are awful reports?

Why am I so discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5 (NLT)

Three times in two chapters we see this refrain. It must have been important to the descendants of Korah for it to have been repeated so many times.

How often have you asked yourself those questions? Why am I so discouraged? Why am I so sad? And how often are we unable to come up with a reasonable response?

The writer of these Psalms had a solution—put your hope in God and praise Him. Is it really that easy? Yes, I believe it is. James 4:8 tells us to come close to God, and God will come close to you. And Psalm 22:3 says that He inhabits the praises of Israel. Our praise brings us closer to God. God inhabits, dwells, lives in our praises. How can we be anything but joyful and encouraged when God is right there, near to us and living in our praise?

Hope in the temporary will only lead to disappointment and discouragement. This will all pass away. But hope in the everlasting, the eternal leads to joy and encouragement.

Through each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.

Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 41-43, Acts 24