“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” -John 15:11
I live in an imperfect world. Things do not always go as planned or hoped for. There is sorrow, pain and heartache; some expected, some a complete surprise. It is therefore logical to think that complete or full joy can only be known when Jesus returns and removes every vestige of sin and evil. But Jesus promises complete, or fullness, of joy in this life! How is this possible?
We have to go back through the first ten verses of the chapter. The things he has already said here is “so that” His joy may be in us and be full. So, what did Jesus point to as necessary for complete joy in an incomplete world? First, he mentions “remaining” or “abiding” in Him and His love. As I stay close and dependent on Jesus complete joy is possible. And, it is impossible to have His joy without being close to Him! Furthermore, this abiding is the foundation to the other two things he speaks about. Second, he mentions living a life that bears fruit. He doesn’t really give a full explanation of what this fruit is (for our own good), but it is clear that remaining close to Jesus produces things in us that would not be there without him. Third, he speaks of obedience. Love for Jesus means we obey him. It makes sense to me that joy, fullness of joy, is a by-product of relationship (abiding), transformation (fruit), and obedience (love).
These are the things I need to cultivate to grow my joy – relationship, transformation, love for God in action.
Papa, Guide me to press on in abiding closer and closer to you, that my joy might be full and overflow to others.
Day 84 – CATCH UP DAY
Day 85 – Psalm 62, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Philippians 4:10-20, Matthew 28:1-20, 2 Samuel 22-24
“A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man WHO WAS POWERFUL IN THE USE OF THE SCRIPTURES, arrived in Ephesus.” -Acts 18:24
Notice what Apollus is known for… What do I want to be known for? What would I like my reputation to be? There are many things that come to mind. Most of us want to be known as loving, a good friend, husband, father, son… We want to be known for loving Jesus and living for him. The list could go on…
And yet, one thing needs to be added to the list. This one thing will need to be high on the list. In fact, this one thing will improve anything else I might list. Like Apollus, I want to be “powerful in the use of the Scriptures.” Such power comes from study, time with the Lord, and the leading of the Spirit. It comes from confidence in the Bible as God’s Word, and that God keeps His Word. It comes from a life of prayer seeking such power. Yes, being powerful in the use of the Scriptures needs to be added to my prayer list…
Father, may Your Spirit so work in and through me that I become a person who is powerful in the use of the Scriptures as I share them with others.
Readings for Day 83 – Psalm 138, Luke 13:6-9, John 15:1-16, Colossians 1:1-6, 2 Samuel 19-21
“Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people.” -1 Corinthians 9:19
Sometimes we need harsher words to face reality. Admitting I was wrong is different than admitting I have sinned. Telling someone I am sorry is different from asking for forgiveness. In this verse the HCSB Translation uses the word “slave” instead of “servant”. While both words are accurate, the term “slave” implies more.
In my seeking to reach others to faith in Christ I am to be a servant. To be a “slave” to those around me is more self-sacrificing, more humbling, more others focused. I can serve others but look after my interests. As a slave, my interests come second. As a servant I can try to find time in my schedule, when it is convenient, for others. As a slave, my time is not my own. The translation of that one word exposes my self-centeredness and how it can get in the way of winning “more people.”
Papa, guide me in living more humbly, more like a slave in order to win more people.
Readings for Day 82 – Acts 18:24-28, Romans 10:14-17, Acts 26:1-11, Acts 3:1-17, 2 Samuel 16-18
“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.” -2 Corinthians 4:7
I don’t know about you, but I see myself as quite ordinary – skip the “extra” prefix thank you. But ordinary is precisely the description of a clay jar. I’m just a clay jar – ordinary, fragile, subject to chips and cracks – quite easily. However, it is this ordinary fragile state God wants so His extraordinary power is visible to to others as I live out my life.
This raises a question. What do people see in me? The ordinary? The clay jar only? Focusing on my limitations or living life in my own efforts highlights the jar rather than the contents – Jesus. As I live depending on Him – He shines through. As I admit my weaknesses and look to His strength, extraordinary power shines through.
I have more questions. Does His extraordinary power shine through my words? Is His extraordinary power evident in how I handle situations everyday? When was the last time His extraordinary power was clearly evident in relating to others?
Father, let this clay jar draw more attention to the contents – You and Your extraordinary power – than to the imperfections of the jar…
Readings for Day 81 – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Acts 16:11-15, Psalm 116, Acts 14:8-20, 2 Samuel 13-15
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:26
A heart of stone; a hard heart is (sadly) something I have experienced – more than once. Each time things changed; every time the softening came it was a work of God’s love, grace and presence, not me. I cannot fully express my gratitude for God’s work in my heart…
And yet, when I see or sense the stone in others, I hope for a change. I hope they will see, wake up. However, if only God can turn a stone heart to flesh; if only God can transform a hardened heart to a pliable one to His Spirit, then my only course of action for such people is pleading for them in prayer. My charge is to plead until God answers. Spiritually hardened hearts take God, not their suddenly “getting it.” So, I have some pleading to do. What about you?
Father, You know those on my mind who need the heart transplant only You can provide. Please take from them the stone and give the heart of flesh for Your sake, and theirs.
Readings for Day 80 – Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, Acts 16:10-15, 2 Samuel 10-12
“As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” – Acts 13:2
How trusting are we, of the leading of the Holy Spirit? A group of men are gathered to worship and fast and pray. These men are all “prophets and teachers.” In the course of their time together these spiritual leaders are told by the Spirit to set apart Paul and Barnabas. Who did the Spirit speak to? All of them at once? One person speaks up and the Spirit confirms it in the others? We really do not know. My best guess is God spoke to these men about Paul and Barnabas. Certainly the lives of these two men were already headed in this direction. But other men became the affirmation of the Spirit.
Which leaves me thinking, How comfortable am I with the Spirit speaking through others about the direction and course of my life? Am I willing to trust the Spirit to speak through others? Like Paul and Barnabas, when the Spirit speaks through others on the course of my life, it is most often an affirmation of what the Spirit is already doing and speaking into my life.
On the flip side, I must also be willing for the Spirit to speak to and through me to others about what He wants to do in and through their lives. My words can be God’s means of affirming the direction of the life of another.
Papa, keep me open to receive from Your Spirit through others, and to be Your voice into the lives of others for Your glory.
Readings for Day 79 – Joel 2:18-32, Ezekiel 36:22-30, John 16:5-15, Psalm 131, 2 Samuel 7-9
“Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted.” -Galatians 6:1
When someone is caught in any wrongdoing our reaction is often quite different than what is said here. If the wrongdoing is “serious” enough the typical response is anger, in word and/or action. At the height of spiritual pride we may even assume our “righteous anger” is what God would do. Or we might just cut them off. When we do so we forget the goal is restoration, not punishment. The goal is restoration not the waging of a purity war. After all, is not the cross gentleness on full display? Jesus remained on the cross by choice to save us from our sins. Yes, that is grace and mercy. It is also being gentle. Jesus was gentle with the woman caught in adultery. He was gentle with Peter’s denial of Him.
Being gentle does not allow me to excuse or overlook sin in our lives, or the lives of fellow believers. It means our goal is to restore them to a deeper relationship with Christ. God’s call on me is not to be angry with the sinful choices of others, but to be loving and gentle in helping them to see their wrongdoing, to give room for the Spirit to convict them and lead them to repentance (Notice I said it is the Spirit’s role to convict), and a renewed relationship with Christ. After all, the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness…
Papa, please use me as a gentle persuader in the hands of Your Spirit.
Readings for Day 77 – CATCH UP DAY
Readings for Day 78 – Acts 13, Psalm 130, Acts 15, 2 Samuel 4-6