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Posts Tagged ‘Joy’

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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On this Labor Day, after chores were done and the moderate heat of afternoon had come, I decided to take a walk. Having focused too much on circumstances and societal ills recently, I was reminded by hymns and prayer and preaching of the Word and reading of the Scriptures and fellowship with brothers and sisters yesterday that I needed to once again renew my perspective in things that are “true, …honorable, …right, …pure, …lovely, …of good repute, …any excellence and …worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). As I began my walk, parts of my body aching, the sun heating*, and my thoughts melancholy, I told God that I wanted His peace and joy. In fact, I pleaded, “I need Your peace; I need Your joy.” As I thought about why, the following words began to come:

I need Your peace; I need Your joy
Though trials come and storms destroy
Forever on this hope depend
That I am Yours; You will defend**

This world with sorrows ever bent
To rob our joy to full extent
Broken relationships and plans
Beg for a healing from Your hand

Your purposes are hard to see
Sense of security can flee
I on this confidence rely
My soul will to You upward fly

My health and body will decay
Unless suddenly in a day
And some loved ones before me go
We saints ever with You, I know

So frequently with sin beset
With worries frequently I fret
Temptations against me array
Through Your Word and Spirit I pray

And by these means I overcome
And more like Jesus I become
More victory through You I win
And peace and joy in You begin

I am so apt to be drawn to the difficulties of any situation and must constantly place before my mind, my eyes, my ears, and my heart the eternal truths of God’s grace in salvation, past, present, and future. I am thankful that “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14) And even more so that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) My hope, our hope, is in Him.

A writing note about the order of the verses. If you number the verses as seen, 1 – 6, the original order as written was 1,2,,3,5,6,4. I cannot decide if the beginning of peace and joy should be the end or if the order would better be 1,2,4,5,3,6 so that heaven is last. If you care to think about it, I would appreciate some feedback.

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*for which I had come out for a “therapeutic sweat”

**”I am Yours whom You will defend” was how I originally wrote the line, and I think it may more clearly communicate the intent, but “That I am Yours; You will defend” seems to fit the meter and flow better.

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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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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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I hugely enjoy fellowshipping in other churches on the rare occasions that I travel. This Memorial Day weekend was just one of those times. I am encouraged by God’s universal church worshipping God and the teaching of God’s Word, interpreted by the same Holy Spirit, sounding forth. God is at work in many and various places to accomplish His work, and God’s people are seeking Him.

Visiting a small church called “Grace…” [only part of the name I could remember, or needed to know] in New Port Richey, Florida, the pastor’s son-in-law, who is a policeman, preached on trials from James 1:1-12. Following are a few paraphrases of his words on purpose and perspective in the midst of trials:

“We don’t have it in us to have joy” [deep, light-hearted confidence]; it comes from the Holy Spirit within us enabling us to “delight in the

       1) person of God,    

       2) the purpose of God, and

       3) the people of God.”

“Our life purpose is to portray the superiority of God in our lives”, giving glory to God.

The purpose of our trials is to glorify God by our winning when it looks like we are losing [because of trials].

Trials test our faith: pop quiz:

1) “Do you believe God is in control?”

2) “Do you believe God is good?”

3 “Are you willing to wait on God’s perfect timing in every area of your

    life?”

The endurance or steadfastness referred to in verse three means to ‘remain under’. Trials are a stress, a pressure, an uncomfortable force in our lives. ‘Everything God wants to do in our lives and use to bless us comes through us remaining under God’s control’ in the midst of trials.

This spattering of my sermon notes does not convey the full weight of the sermon, but it does give you pieces of wisdom that I think are worth reading over several times. Trials are for believers to test and strengthen their faith and give glory to God. We are not spared trials because they are what are best for us and give the most glory to God. May His name be praised in all that I do.

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Overflows from the Heart

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

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains