Celebrating the Lord

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

First Chronicles 29 records some of the concluding events of King David’s life and reign, before Solomon became fully established as his successor. David had wanted to build a temple within the midst of Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant and honor God. God spoke to David through the prophet Nathan, however, that he was not to be the one to build a house for God but he would have a son to carry out this feat.

Understanding this to be Solomon, David decided to prepare what he could. Chapter 29 opens with a list of contributions, including what David himself gave. Then, with the people assembled together, David prayed to God to dedicate the contributions and for the sake of Solomon.

After the prayer, we are told that the people “ate and drank with great joy in the Lord’s presence that day” (29:22).

The people celebrated the Lord, an act that should be a part of our spiritual habits as well. Yes, there are appropriate times of fasting and sorrow before God. The Bible even contains a book called Lamentations. Difficult situations arise that call for crying out to the Lord in pain and sorrow. And we should be saddened by our sin. Yes, there are appropriate times for contemplation. In an increasingly busy world, we need those quiet moments spent before the Lord without noise and distraction. Yes, the Bible even speaks of the Christian’s call to self-denial.

But that does not mean that our lives are more holy when defined by asceticism and spiritual austerity.

Throughout the Old Testament, while there were fasts, there were also feasts. The New Testament is no stranger to this, either. In Acts 2, the church is described as gathering daily to share meals together. Then in Revelation 19, eternity kicks off with a feast given by God, a celebratory marriage supper.

God created laughter and he intends that we find happiness in him. Our lives, therefore, should have regular moments of celebration. After all, we are loved by an infinitely good God as a Father loves and cherishes his children. Through Jesus, we have been rescued from the despair of sin and the sorrow of death, to be brought into an eternal joy. So, while we might have moments of sorrow until we fully realize the newness of eternity, let us not neglect to have plenty of moments where we eat and drink with great joy in the Lord’s presence.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Rejoice!

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! – Philippians 4:4

To say that Philippians is a letter about joy might be an understatement. From start to finish, the pages drip with Paul’s joy and his call for others to rejoice along with him.

We must be careful not to think that Paul was blind to the hard and difficult things in the world that seek to rob joy. As you read through the letter, he speaks of being in prison on account of the Gospel. He details the internal war he waged between wanting to die and be with Jesus and wanting to stay alive to help others know and follow Jesus. He speaks of people preaching the Gospel in a rivalry against him. He talks of sick friends and bickering co-laborers. He describes facing times of hunger in addition to times of plenty.

Paul knew the hard life. Paul knew suffering.

Yet, he also knew joy through it all.

This happiness that Paul experienced, you see, was not based on the happenstances of the moment. Good times come and go and so do the bad. Life happens and sometimes that is painful. If that’s where the foundation of his joy rested, then he would be up and down, all over the place, his emotions like a rollercoaster.

But his joy found a sure foundation. “Rejoice in the Lord,” Paul wrote. Elsewhere, Paul spoke about how the sufferings of today aren’t even worth comparing to the eternal wealth of glory.

When you believe that Jesus is the one true source of eternal joy and satisfaction, of an abundant life beyond the 70 or 80 years or so we get in this world, then it changes how you live and see your circumstances. You are able to hold onto joy no matter what the winds of life bring because the best is coming. The momentary winter of suffering will give way to an unending spring of delight.

That is joy’s hope, no matter what may come.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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From Bitterness to Hope

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

The Book of Ruth tells a story of hope during a dark period in Israel’s history. We know Ruth took place “during the time of the judges” (1:1), which in itself had plenty of ups and downs. Specifically, Ruth occurred when a famine struck Israel. A man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons sought refuge in Moab. They migrated for a season to a foreign land seeking to survive.

While there, the two sons found wives; but then tragedy struck. All three men died.

When the famine ended, Naomi planned to return to Israel, and attempted to convince her daughters-in-law to remain behind, thinking it would be better for their future. Orpah stayed but Ruth refused.

“Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth told Naomi.

So, the two ladies went to Israel. But when they arrived, Naomi made a request of those who knew her, “Don’t call me Naomi,” which means pleasant. “Call me Mara,” which means bitter. In the society of that day, land and resources passed from one generation to the next through father and son. With them dead, Naomi felt she had no hope. This hopelessness came across in her self-given nickname.

That was just the beginning of the story, however. Turns out there was a man named Boaz, a close relative who could marry Ruth and redeem the land that belonged to Elimelech. The women concocted a plan that was guided by God’s providence. Long story, short, Boaz and Ruth married, Boaz redeemed the land, and the two had a child.

Bitterness turned to joy and hope. Even more, this child, Obed, became the father of Jesse who was the father of David, the great king of Israel whom God chose and to whom God gave promises that led ultimately to Jesus being the great Son of David.

There is a line in the book The Return of the King that states, “Everything sad will come untrue.” In the book, it actually is in the form of a question–will this be? The answer for Naomi was Yes!

But the move from bitterness to joy and hope that Naomi felt was only a small taste of what we experience through Jesus. He is the greatest Redeemer. He does not simply ensure the future of our land and family but of our lives in eternity. He gives a joy that never ceases. And when he returns, all bitterness will be no more. King Jesus forever makes the sad untrue.

All scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Joy – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 3)

The second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is joy.

God wants his people to be happy. The difference between joy and happiness in the world is that joy is happiness rooted in God. There’s nothing wrong with being happy because of the good things in life, but if they are our supreme foundation for our happiness, then we’ll end up disappointed.

Even the best relationships in life have strained moments. Spouses, children, and friends cannot sustain our full happiness. Our possessions only last so long before the get old, rust, or break. And once we die, we can’t take anything with us. Houses, cars, electronics, and bank accounts won’t sustain our happiness.

But God is eternal. And God is eternally joyful. He gives us good gifts to enjoy in life (James 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:17), but the Giver is better than the gift, and in the case of God infinitely so.

Jesus prayed on our behalf in John 17:13, “Now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy completed in them.” Jesus wants us to have full joy, his joy.

This sense of God-centered happiness doesn’t neglect the reality that life is hard and that many things seek to rob our joy. In fact, Jesus continued to pray in John 17:14-18 about how the world will hate his followers because it hates him, and how his intent is not to remove us from the world but to send us into the world just as he was sent to bring hope. And Paul in Romans 12 tells us that just as we are to rejoice with those who rejoice we are to weep with those who weep.

Life has many hard moments. Life has many circumstances that seek to rob our joy.

Yet, as Hebrews 12:1-2 explains, even Jesus could take joy as he looked toward his death on the cross for what it was accomplishing–our salvation. So, we can face trials with joy, not because the hardship itself is a happy occasion, but because God is going to bring good out of everything that happens (James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29).

And God provides for us that we can find joy in the good times and the bad, that we can find happiness in him even in the midst of sorrow and tears. He does it as his Spirit works in our hearts. The Spirit reminds us of the eternal joys that are coming that will drown out even the darkest moments of this day (Romans 8:18).

So, let us seek to be as joyful as possible and let us pray that God would increase his joy in our hearts.

Next time, we’ll consider the spiritual fruit of peace.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

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Good Reads 02.08.18 (on: joy, midlife crisis, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On praying and pastoring: How to Pray for Your Pastor by Todd Benkert

As a pastor, one of the greatest encouragements is to hear the words “I’m praying for you.” Truly, one of the great blessings of being a pastor is knowing that prayers are being lifted up on your behalf. Often, people ask how they can be praying for me. While there are particular needs that I have from time to time, here are some prayers for pastors that are always in season… (click here to read more)

On joy: I Am Eeyore by Adam Kareus

My mom nicknamed me Eeyore. She thought it truly expressed my soul. By nature, I have always been melancholy. Where others might reside on a baseline of 5 on the joy scale I was always resting at 2. My life has been good. It is not circumstances that have me down. Rather it is part of my personality. I experience joy and happiness, it just seems to be smaller peaks of happiness than others. Something pretty extraordinary has to happen for me to experience true joy. And because of that, I have looked upon others who seem to be happy in small stuff and it is hard not to wish to be more like them.

But that might explain my fanatical feeling toward God. For it was from Him and Him alone that I have found true lasting joy. This is joy uplifts all that I do so that I can now find joy in the most mundane task or everyday circumstance. In fact, this joy transforms my world in that circumstances aren’t the main thing that determines what I feel, rather what determines it is who I am in God’s eyes. (click here to read more)

On guilt: Christ Turns the Tide of Guilt by Amy Mantravadi

For the redeemed, the arms of the Lord are wings of protection in which they feel utterly at peace. For the sinner, there is only the arm of judgment spoke of by the prophets. They are not children wrapped in a familial embrace, but “sinners in the hands of an angry God”, to quote Jonathan Edwards. Overwhelming guilt and absence of trust: this is why the prisoner of the sinful nature takes no comfort in the phrase, “I am not my own”. (click here to read more)

On growing older: Why I Thank God for My Painful Midlife Crisis by Akos Balogh

If the root of midlife struggles is a wrong interpretation of life, then we are faced with a choice: will we let the theology of Scripture exegete and interpret our life, or let life reinterpret our theology?

In other words, will I let my midlife pain overtly shape my view of Godleading to doubt and uncertainty in Him? Or will I let Scripture interpret my painleading me to my suffering Saviour, who knows my distress?

The choice is clear.

Looking back, I had let a secularised view of reality frame my experience of midlifewhich is why I felt so fearful and starved for meaning.

But a biblical view of reality provides a different interpretation, a different narrative: one that gives meaning, hope, and joy. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.24.17 (on: parenting, prayer, Bible reading, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On parenting and discipleship: 8 Tips to Help You Disciple Your Kids by Dembowczyk

One of the main problems we have as parents is that we expect way too much of ourselves when it comes to discipling our kids, and when we can’t live up to them, we feel like failures and often quit. Family worship doesn’t have to look like worship with your church family with singing, prayer, and lengthy and in-depth Bible teaching. Gospel conversations don’t always have to end with some profound theological gem from you. We need to be realistic of what our family discipleship will look like. Perhaps that means talking about a Bible story for 15 minutes one night a week at dinner and trying to find one or two times each week to move conversations toward the gospel. Wherever you are, start there and develop rhythms and habits that work and then build on them to get to where you want to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: 4 Bible Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters by Scott Slayton

When you read large portions of Scripture, you will consistently see passages where you want to slow down and read more carefully. Keep a list of these passages and when reading large sections starts to feel tedious, spend some time reading only one chapter or less each day for a while.

When you do this, make sure that you read with a pencil and a notebook. Write out what you are reading on your notebook. Skip a line so that you leave yourself room to write notes. Then, go through the passage slowly. Mark significant words. Look for words that the writer uses more than once. Take note of the connecting words like “for,” “therefore,” “but,” “so that,” or “in order that” and pay attention to how they connect one clause in the passage to another. (click here to read more)

On joy and prayer: Ask Him for Joy by Mike Phay

Jesus references a radical change in relationship between his followers and his Father that will happen through his mediating work; specifically, through his redemptive death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Jesus is assuring his gathered disciples that “that day” will come when direct access to the Father will take place. In that day, Jesus says that we will be able to ask directly, that is, we will be able to pray. We will be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name and through his mediating work—and we will be the ones asking (“I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf”). In turn, the Father himself will be the one hearing, listening, and responding, “for the Father himself loves you.” (click here to read more)

On Bible interpretation: Are You REALLY Interpreting the Bible Literally by Stephen Altrogge

Understanding the original intent of the passage guards us from reading a modern meaning back into scripture. Does it take work and study and thinking to wrestle the original meaning from the text? You bet. But it’s valuable, necessary work.

Why do so many people end up twisting scripture? Because they infuse their modern, “enlightened” sensibilities into the text, taking it far away from what the author originally meant. (click here to read more)

 

Sunday 05.07.17 (looking for joy)

This Sunday, we’ll continue our journey through Ecclesiastes and consider the right and wrong places to look for joy in life, as Solomon tested pleasure, wisdom, and work and found them each meaningless without God. Then on Sunday night, we’ll make up last week’s Attributes of God lesson with a look at God’s omnipotence. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study

Sermon Notes
Looking for Joy in All the Wrong Places ~ Ecclesiastes 2:1-26

Solomon tested the limits of pleasure, wisdom, and work to see if they would bring him joy and meaning in life, yet found each lacking. Instead, to find joy, we should:

  • Delight in God more than you delight in the pleasures of the world (2:1-11)
  • Seek to be wise in eternal ways and not merely temporary ways (2:12-17)
  • Work for the glory of God more than for personal gain (2:18-26)