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Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

Some things may best be unsaid, and I certainly don’t say all that I think here, but I am also sine ceres, “without wax” (1). The cracks in my pot show, and I am content for them to show if it brings glory to my gracious God who always causes me to triumph in Christ Jesus so that the knowledge of Him may be in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14).

In years past I was chronically depressed. For many of those years I would not even have characterized my condition as such, not knowing what ailed me. I was a believer and follower of Jesus, but did not know joy or peace. My confidence in belonging to Him has grown over the years, but my sanctification has not kept pace. I can relate to Bono of U2 in this (2). Depression and anger no longer control me and are infrequent strangers who pass me by in my travels. One area of particular growth for me is the area of peace. Because of the blood of Christ, I have peace with God (Colossians 1:20, Hebrews 13:20), but I have not always felt that peace. Increasingly I do. A frequent reader of this blog could discern that an area that I long to see growth in is the area of joy. It is after all a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I get joy in little fits and starts, particularly when I am singing hymns about the grace and mercy of my Lord, but it is not the consistent nourishment of my soul.

So, a combination of conviction for sin and the sermon last Sunday precipitated the following verse (3):

Moments of sadness flood over me
Phosphenes of despair fleetingly see
From these vestiges may I be free
Satisfied and joyous in Christ be

I want to hasten to say how thankful that I am for God’s patience, provision, and presence. I am not who I should be, but I am not the man I once was. God is faithful (Philippians 1:6).

  1. https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2008/sine-ceres-without-wax/
  2. http://jonathandodson.org/2006/10/sanctification-bono-barth/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphene The remembrances of past failures probably are the external stimuli that bring about the sensations of despair.

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I Peter 1:3-9: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

The bold type I added to point out that the best reason to rejoice is contained in this passage. For those of you who believe in and follow Christ as your Savior and Lord, your faith brings with it an assurance of being one day in heaven in the presence of God. A joy inexpressible is one that wells up despite the circumstances and beyond ability to explain. It is full of the glory we see in Christ, both for who He is and what He has done.

Paul gets a bit redundant when he is talking about the security of our home in heaven. He says our inheritance is imperishable, will not fade away, reserved, protected by the power of God. “In this” refers to what? The “this” is the soon to be revealed inheritance of heaven, most notably the presence of God. For though we do not see Him now, we are among the “pure in heart”, who “shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) By no merit of my own, but only by His free, sovereign grace am I afforded in heaven a place.

Heaven is mine, I will rejoice
To thanksgiving and praise give voice

Believe the truth and love God’s Son
Salvation eternally done

Focus my mind on things above
Nurture, rekindle my first love

And when trials come, I will rejoice
For heaven is mine by His choice

Persevere will I by His strength
And rejoice in heaven at length

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Pastor continued his exposition of Philippians today. He explained with references that the dual themes of the book are joy and humility. Paul presents himself as a bondservant, equal to Timothy, and the Philippians as saints, that is, sanctified slaves. The scriptural bondservant or slave is not a compelled or degraded slave of our understanding, but a voluntary servant to a great and glorious master who makes us kings and priests.

I heard the whole sermon, but I had a moment of mental wondering when he said the following: “I am content to be a third-row galley slave pushing the kingdom of God forward. I am not the captain of the ship.”

My mind went immediately to the scene in the movie, “Ben Hur”, in which Judah Ben-Hur (Charleton Heston) is being punished unjustly by being a Roman galley slave. The general admires him and has his chains undone before the battle begins. Judah in his mid-ship starboard placement rows defiantly with anger. Later, when the ship is sunk by a portside ramming, he rescues the drowning but victorious general to be adopted as his son and victorious companion in the parade before the emperor in Rome.

All of this flashed through my mind but is not where my focus alighted. The pastor was talking about humility that is not recognized, not angry pride that is rewarded. I visualized a third-row port-side galley slave rowing for all he is worth going down with the ship. Am I willing to stay in my voluntary bonds to further the kingdom of God when this ship called America goes down? Oh, yes, I will receive reward in heaven, but I may never see any praise or reward or even the results of my efforts on this side of heaven. One day soon persecution is coming and the cause of Christ will be a punishable crime, even a capital offense. How many will stay at their post and keep rowing then? Who among us will continue “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”? (Hebrews 12:2) And who among us will “consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (v.3)? Will we be able to continue to the point of shedding blood though we “have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.”? (v.4) God is so very gracious to call his bondservants to do hard things but with abundant reward with joy now and into eternity. “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Let us focus on these things, brothers and sisters. Unbelievers seek this path of salvation, purpose, and reward “while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”” (Hebrews 3:15) Repent, believe, and serve our great and glorious Master, Jesus Christ.

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Some things that we say and believe are not what we presently experience in full,
but are what is true about us in our new nature, is becoming true about us through
sanctification, and will be totally true in heaven.

Never lonely when He is near
Never overcome by any fear
Always hopeful though life be drear
Always at peace even when not all is clear

Momentarily disturbed, oh sure
Momentarily give in, not pure
Eternally made right, the cure
Eternally held tight, secure

Daily the struggle goes on
Daily His Spirit I must don
Slowly sinful tendencies gone
Slowly His righteous ways in me dawn

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully work out my salvation I am bade
Joyfully go forth with His aid
Joyfully with His Spirit arrayed

Nevermore sorrow overcomes
Nevermore to sin succumbs
Forever peace until and when He comes
Forever glorious gracious outcomes

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Preaching from John 20:19-23, my preacher asked, “Do you feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and afraid like the disciples on the day of the resurrection? Jesus meets us with a message that overcomes.” He went on to explain that Jesus provided forgiveness, peace, joy, purpose, and help through the power of the resurrection. I had already been thinking about Resurrection Celebration, but this gave so much more fuel for musing and giving praise.

Risen, oh risen from the dead
Joy in our hearts is widely spread
Death now forever overcome
For those who trust Him, rescued from

Without death no resurrection
His sacrifice, our protection
From God’s retribution and wrath
Giving us new life, a new path

His rising shows His power to save
Power to quell fear of the grave
Securing true peace for His own
The Spirit now sent from the throne

And by this power we now live
Witnesses who the Gospel give
Others know this peace and power
Stand unscathed in the judgement hour

Christ the first fruits to rise anew
Harvest of saints will not be few
On final resurrection day
Peace, joy, and nothing to dismay

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Listen closely! The heavenly messengers melodically announcing ‘High praise for the weightiness of the freshly arrived sovereign.’

You know that as “Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the Newborn King!” My interpretation of the excellent poetry of Charles Wesley is pedantic but also calls attention to the meaning of the phrase. This hymn of the season is my favorite. I like it so much because of its dense theology. There is nothing trivial or lightly thought out about it and it demands thought to understand which raises high praise for God’s work in Christ on our behalf.

It had been my intention to discuss the “dense theology” of this beloved hymn, which I will do at another time. This morning as I contemplated its meaning other praise came to my mind. It is not so dense in content but it is of some value I hope:

Oh, that more praise were lifted up
That more souls of salvation’s cup
Would drink and raise their voice in song
Harmonize with heavenly throng

For God is worthy of all praise
Loud shouts and quiet voice we raise
That more may know His holiness
And live for Him in righteousness

A God transcendent above all
Yet stoops to save us from the Fall
His Son in flesh to recue man
Christ’s death brought life, a gracious plan

Creating all was just a start
Sustaining it in every part
Reversing corruption of sin
Those who trust Him, He now calls kin

We see His goodness in this life
Not despite but in midst of strife
We by His Spirit overcome
Submit to His rule and kingdom

All things His power and beauty show
The heavens and all things that grow
Design complex and delicate
Ever studied, how intricate

His Word reveals all we must know
To serve Him well and in Him grow
His peace and joy will through us flow
The world His praise and glory show

All our worship to God should be
From a heart that has been set free
In spirit and truth ever praise
His name and works forever raise

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It is time for a seasonal entry. I start off with a little “bah-humbug”, but hang with me, because is is short.

I have long been disturbed by the a phrase in the third verse of the Advent hymn, “Joy to the World”:

“No more let sins and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground.”

As if we could prevent these problems or as if they will be quelled this side of His second advent. And yet, by the power of the Spirit, we can and should reduce sins (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that will reduce sorrow (Proverbs 13:15). But deceivers will go from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13) and the world problems will increase (Matthew 24:7-8). The post-millennial view (1) that things will improve until Christ’s return just does not fit Scripture (Matthew 24-25 and many others). Thorns, both literal and spiritual, will increase. (Isaiah 51:6, Jude 1:14-15)

So how do I sing this verse? In times past I have hummed this line, but I realized last evening that the majority of this hymn is about the Second Advent. Consider Psalm 98 from which Isaac Watts is said the have been inspired to write the hymn. It concludes, “For He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.” (verse 9) Yes, we received our King with the Magi as vanguard, in our hearts individually as believers, and intermittently in various societies, but the level of fulfillment of His reign herein sung about occurs during the time of the Second Advent.

That being the case, I will sing this song with renewed and greater joy this season because celebration of the First Advent should always point to the Second.

“Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.” (2)

  1. 3 Views on the Millennial Kingdom | Christopher L. Scott3 Views on the Millennial Kingdom – Christopher L. Scott (christopherscottblog.com)
  2. Isaac Watts, 1739

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Happy is fun. Happy is cheery. Happy makes friends. Happy is temporary. Happy is situational. Happy is temporal. I want to pursue joy, the kind given by the Spirit of God. Joy draws from things unseen. Joy exists in times of stress. Joy exists in confidence and repose of spirit. Joy heals the spirit and encourages others. Joy gives testimony to the presence and work of God.

But I experience joy in fits and starts at best. How do I get from here to there?

Peace with God, no condemnation in Christ Jesus, and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise am I. If ever a person had reason for joy in the midst of the added relative safety and security, then it would be me. But the nagging struggles and regrets with strained relationships, slipping health, tenuous finances, and undesired direction draw my attention.

I must plead for the grace of discipline to focus on those truths of excellence and good repute (Philippians 4:8).

“The joy of the Lord is my strength” Nehemiah 8:10) is a command which begins “Do not be grieved,…”. I need to take up this weapon of strength. It seems to me that joy, a fruit of the Spirit, is an ancillary accessory to the girding belt of truth in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14). To state the case more plainly, focus on truth brings joy despite circumstances. And though commanded, joy cannot be manufactured as happiness may occasional be.

This command to be joyous must be placed in the context of the other commands like it. The command was given during a feast to God in which God commanded rejoicing (Deuteronomy 16:14-15). There were other required assemblies (e.g. Deuteronomy 16:8) in which God called the people to solemn assemblies and holy convocations in which they were commanded to humble themselves (Leviticus 23:26-32). Sorrow and grieving over sin are necessary emotions and attitudes as a part of repentance.

But joy springs up from doing what is right after repentance (e.g. Nehemiah 8:17-18) or in gratitude for blessings (Deuteronomy 16:15). Paul, in a passage about upholding his ministry, lists many hardships contrasted with blessings. Among them is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (II Corinthians 6:10). And in the next chapter he says that he is “overflowing with joy in all our affliction.” (7:4) And Paul commands, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) There is no contradiction in hardship and repentance for sin being mixed in with joy.

Why then do I still have fits and starts of joy? I think that a verse of the hymn, “Trust and Obey”, helps me here:

“But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor He shows
For the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey”*

When I seek my own way for whatever reason- fear, neglect, pride- I grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells me. He does not leave me, but He does allow me to feel the pain of distance from Him. And certainly His fruits are not being manifest in me going about my own way. I, we, are so self-oriented, that I fear we don’t even realize how much we proceed apart from Him.

So, joy is the fruit of the Spirit, a gift, a perspective on circumstances, a discipline, a strong weapon against temptation, a reaction to truth, and a strong testimony to God’s work in the midst of difficulty. May you and I pursue it by choosing God’s way over our own.**

*Written by John Henry Sammis, 1887.

**I have mulled over the subject of this blog entry for nearly a month. I feel that it is woefully incomplete and that I fall far short of what it says, but I feel a real need to encourage the pursuit of joy in God for the furtherance of my own spiritual life and yours, dear reader.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

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