“Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy… Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.” – Isaiah 35: 2a, 10
Singing, joy, and gladness will one day be mine in abundance. Joy will be even more than abundant. It will be everlasting. While I can surround myself with music now, abundant singing from a joyful heart that never dissipates is a whole other level of singing. Joy that lasts forever will be a new experience. Joy is temporary now. It can change in a flash due to circumstances. But when Jesus comes, sorrow and mourning will disappear. Sorrow, mourning, sadness are unwanted regular companions that come and go at will in my life now. Some events leave a sadness that never quite goes away. But a day is coming when it will be gone forever. The presence of God, his glory, singing and joy will be so overwhelming I will one day forget what sorrow and mourning are like! Bring it.
Father, I look forward to Jesus coming again and filling my life with singing and joy on a whole new level. In the mean time, guide me to sing and rejoice now, in spite of my situation, as part of the preparation for what I will enjoy for eternity.
Readings: Isaiah 4, Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65, Zechariah 9
“Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” -Psalm 126:3-5
Hey, wait a minute! Are not these opposing concepts? How can God do amazing things and yet we need God to restore some things? How can God do amazing things and I have to work at things in tears? Doesn’t the idea of restoring run contrary to amazing? How can working at something with great struggle, pain and tears also be God doing amazing things?
Yet this is right where I am. I live in a world that is held together by tension. God is, has done, is doing and will do amazing things in and around my life. At the same time, I can need God to restore fortunes in an area of my life. My life has the tension of amazing and need. I live the tension of a great, amazing, good God and the tension of restoration in another area. I live with the tension of God doing amazing things, while at the same time life being hard and bringing tears to my eyes and soul. The good news is this amazing God promises such tension will lead to a harvest with joy – i.e. God does something amazing again.
Father, You are amazing, and I trust you will come through in amazing ways where I need You to restore my fortunes. I choose to look forward to the harvest.
Readings: Psalm 126, Psalm 92, Psalm 135, 2 Corinthians 12
“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.” -Psalm 9:1-2
Joy – we all want a life filled with joy. At times I tie my joy to circumstances. In more sane moments, I choose to place my joy in my relationship with Christ. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So, joy is an act of faith, a choice to believe in the goodness of God. This Psalm makes a connection with joy and specific actions we can take. If I want a life of joy I need to praise God. If all I do is bring my needs and problems to God; if my prayers are all about my current crisis; if my time in the Word is only about what I need, my self-centered approach will rob me of the full joy I desire. Joy is connected to praising God. Therefore, if I seek to praise God in prayer; if I look for reasons to praise God as I read the Word; if I seek to praise God in quiet personal moments and in public worship – that praise fuels joy.
The second thing I/we can do to find joy is to tell others what God has done for us. The recounting of how God has worked, provided, blessed, intervened for us results in joy. Telling God’s story in our story reminds us of the goodness of God. Telling how God has worked in us leads others to trust in or respond to God, and that blesses us with joy too.
Father, let your joy wash over me today like the tide coming in as I give praise to you and tell of the wonderful things you have done in and for me.
Readings: Psalm 62, Psalm 32, Psalm 125, Psalm 9
“Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.” – Psalm 112:1-2
What does it mean to “fear the Lord”? It has the meaning of respect, reverence. But these words also imply the person believes in God, and therefore, follows and loves Him. There are two promises for those who both fear and obey the Lord. First, their life is joyful. There is a joy that comes from following and loving the Lord. The more I love Him; the closer I am to him, the greater will be my joy. As I obey Him, I find joy. Obedience isn’t a task master seeking to restrict my life. It is a conduit to joy. It is joy because God’s commands are for our good – what is best for us. The second promise is the blessing and success of the next generation. The next generation is affected by my/our love for the Lord, our following the Lord, our obeying the Lord.
Watching the news this morning, I could not help thinking we are experiencing the truth of these words. The lack of civility, respect, basic kindness is a direct consequence of people who have not believed in or obeyed the Lord. The result is a generation (not all) now that is not blessed or successful (in their own eyes, and certainly in the eyes of God). I can also say that there are those in this generation that are experiencing success and blessing because of people in their lives who love and seek to obey the Lord. Their influence has blessed them. My/our spiritual lives can bless the next generation. God’s call on my life is to be that path of blessing to others.
Father, may my life this day lead to the blessing and success of others as I follow You.
Readings: Proverbs 15, 1 Kings 10, Micah 7, Psalm 112
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” -1 Timothy 6:17
A number of years ago a friend had a federal license to own a fully automatic Uzi. The gun was capable of firing 900 rounds a minute. He took me out to fire that gun loaded with 5 rounds… The image of the damage of a machine gun came to mind reading this verse. I picture those video clips with bullet ridden walls from machine gun fire. I’m the wall and the machine gun isn’t an Uzi, it is guilt…
Somewhere in the ethos of my/our Christianity we allow guilt to fire 900+ rounds a minute into us. We feel guilt for failing to do something while doing something else. We feel guilt over ought(s) and should(s) and must(s). We begin avoiding opportunities to serve Christ because of guilt over not doing enough or being ready enough or… fill in the blank. And in doing so, we miss the moment. Notice what the verse says, God richly provides. There is nothing wrong with experiencing His richly providing. In fact, the verse says this rich provision is FOR our enjoyment. Time at the lake is to be enjoyed. Going to the ball game is to be enjoyed. Time with family is to be enjoyed. Going fishing, taking a bike ride or walk is to be enjoyed. Work is to be enjoyed. Serving the Lord, reading His Word, worshipping with others is all to be enjoyed.
The bullet ridden wall of my heart is for the purpose of robbing me of joy. When that happens, God becomes a task master, a burden, a grumpy old man I can never please. The Christian life becomes work instead of enjoyment. I’m not saying there is no place for guilt in our lives. But guilt is not meant as a place for me to live. It is more like the ticket booth at the train station or online ticket purchases. Guilt is to be the work of the Spirit pointing out a needed change. We “purchase” the ticket through the work of Christ, claiming His forgiveness, and moving on to the train and the destination God has for us.
So, today, let’s enjoy every minute God gives, making the most of the time.
Lord, grant me the freedom to enjoy every moment, every interaction, everything I get done, and everything I do not get to.
“And now brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” -2 Corinthians 8:1-2
Some words and phrases just don’t belong in the same sentence… and yet… Nine days ago I cut my thumb on a table saw. I don’t want those two words in the same sentence, but… These two verses put mash up concepts most people don’t put together: “overflowing joy” and “extreme poverty”, or “severe trial” and “overflowing joy” – are you kidding me? No. How does one live a life of overflowing joy during not just a trial, but a severe one? How does one exude a life of overflowing joy that others notice and talk about when you are in extreme poverty? I want to know the secret, the key because severe and extreme things come into life from time to time.
The answer, the secret to overflowing joy is God gives grace. Grace, really? That’s it? Yes. God’s grace works in two ways. First, as a follower of Jesus, I realize His grace is what forgives my sin. Grace is what establishes and maintains my relationship with God. Grace is something I don’t deserve. It is freely given. Consequently, this unearned gift of grace that gives me a relationship with God and eternal life reminds me that no matter what comes my way in this life, including severe and extreme stuff, it is still less that I deserve. This perspective causes me to choose joy even in difficult circumstances.
Second, while the word is never used these verses convey the idea that God’s grace gives strength, courage, fortitude. Grace isn’t just about sin in my life. Grace is about God giving me His strength, outlook, and ultimate victory. The grace that forgives sin helps me to endure with joy. The grace that gives strength puts my life on overflow when the tank ought to be bone dry. Grace produces a strength that is overjoyed with the presence of God and serving Him. Grace gives me both endurance and a faith infused joy.
Father what I need most, is not for everything to go right in my life. What I need is You and Your grace to give me both endurance and strength to forge ahead with You.
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” -Psalm 118:22-24
My rejoicing in the Lord for this day has a context. That context is Jesus. He is the “capstone” or “cornerstone” in some translations. In referring to Jesus as the cornerstone of our lives, I am then invited to rejoice in the day. I can rejoice this day because Jesus is the cornerstone. I can rejoice in this day because Jesus has come as the stone that gives form to the rest of my life. I can rejoice because of Jesus enduring the cross and rising from the dead provides the capstone to give me new life. I can rejoice today, not because things have gone right, nor can I complain or be frustrated and angry because things have gone badly. The basis for rejoicing is not what happens during my day, but what happened in Jesus coming for me. All that makes Him the cornerstone of my life is reason in itself for me to rejoice. Why? Because I don’t deserve any of it. I can rejoice because Jesus is my capstone because He loves me.
Father, help me to rejoice not in my circumstances but in the presence of Jesus in my life.