The Psalms Prayer Project Volume 3

  Do you ever feel like the earth is giving way beneath your feet and everything you thought to be true and right turns out to be sideways and upside down? I love these verses from Psalms 46:1-5   "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in...

The Psalms Prayer Series: Part 2

The Psalms Prayer Series   Many of the Psalms reference imagery that gives us an ability to express our hearts and to know comfort. Such as: The Lord is my rock and fortress who reaches down and draws me out of deep waters. Or: he makes my feet like the feet of a...

The Psalms Prayer Series

  The Psalms have long comforted me and continue to do so because they have taught me how to express honest emotion. The sludge that hides deep in my heart is given a voice. And they show me that even when I screw up, there's hope.   Further, the Psalms give...

The Joy Series: Jesus Completes Joy

    The lyric's significance rushed over me. The words reverberated in my head and grew wildly in my heart as I realized the power within them.   "If I have you, I have everything. But without you, I have nothing. If I have you, I have everything, but...

The Joy Series: Joy Is Our Strength

    How do we translate joy into strength when this life seems to drain us of our energy?   We live in the thin place where we function in this world but not of the world. Where we embrace grace so that we can live well with grace while resisting the...

The Joy Series: Joy Affects Others

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Joy seems elusive right now. I need the reminder that it’s not a feeling but a fruit, it’s part of God’s nature, and it’s tied into the gospel news.

 

My heart hurts and feels bruised by disappointments and relationships. I trudge through the same routine over and over again. I’m weary of white. Of the threat of water in my house if I wash a load of clothes or use the shower. The feeling of failure looms over my ability or inability to wife and mother well.

 

It’s in these moments when I need my relationship with my Father God, even if I’ve been distant with him. Friendships have felt dangerous due to recent relationship rejections. And I hold myself together by sheer will and search for joy.

 

You develop a friendship only to realize weeks or years later that it was false. And realize that it’s like a trick pack of gum kids use on one another and wonder if relationships are worth it. But as difficult as relationships are, we need them to develop joy in our lives.

 

Partly because we’re instructed to bear one another’s burdens, to share sorrows as well as joys. Our lives need relationships even when friends bruise our hearts. I’m drawn to people like a moth to a flame even while I toy with the idea of disavowing future relationships.

 

I love people. I want to know if you’re a morning or night person or if you like to shop or hate it or if you’re a hopeful pessimist or a realistic optimist. What sorrows and joys have you lived and what has scarred you and how have you healed. Do you like coffee or tea or neither?

 

You’re interesting before I even meet you, but I wrestle with fear of you too. Rejection is a possible outcome.

 

Fear and curiosity tussle within me. Sometimes fear wins and I sacrifice myself on the altar of your approval. And other times curiosity wins and the security of God’s love propels me forward. And sometimes I move forward with fear dogging every step.

Joy and Our Walk with Christ

 

Joy and our relationships relate to one another. We get to live this life as a believer and follower of Christ in community, not in isolation. And it’s in community that we learn to choose right actions, to temper our responses to reflect Christ, and to share the joy of the Lord.

 

We contribute joy to another’s life when we refresh others, and when we live our lives in ways that honor the teaching we received about the Lord.

 

Paul and John write about this throughout the New Testament. He references how his hearers bring him joy when they give themselves to the whole of Jesus’ teaching and their lives change.

 

   See 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Philemon 4-7, 2 John 4, and 3 John 4.

 

We bring joy to our mentors, friends, teachers, and spiritual directors when we choose God’s way over ours. His ways don’t always make sense, but when trusted and implemented, bring about joy and lasting change that we could never accomplish on our own.

 

Who’s teaching have you benefitted from? Do you have someone in your life from whom you receive spiritual direction and teaching? Bring joy to them by living your life according to God’s standards and righteous ways.

 

Joy spreads. As you learn from a sound biblical teacher, you teach others as you live your life. Whether you realize it or not, there is someone who learns from you. You need others who are a few steps ahead of you and a few steps behind you. And this joy that comes by living lives that reflect the love of Christ become like the spreading ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond.

 

Relationships: difficult and painful, but oh so necessary. Joy: complex and simple, but contagious.

 

And just as we affect joy in other people’s lives by how we live our lives, we also bring joy to others as we refresh each other.

Joy and Refreshment

 

Refresh indicates a restoration, a renewal, and a revival. Do you need your spirit revived? Is life dragging you along and you question whether or not there’s more than this, whatever this may be?

 

Extend joy by sitting with someone in their sorrow and rejoicing with them in their triumphs. Offer the refreshment joy brings by extending kindness and mercy, overlooking an offense, and extending forgiveness.

 

When we reach out to someone, our hearts receive refreshment, and the joy overflows and affects the lives around us. We sit with someone in sorrow and we rejoice with someone in their triumphs. Refreshing others brings joy to our hearts.

 

Let’s hold to the truth that joy comes from a relationship with its source: God. But as a byproduct of receiving that joy, we get to refresh others and be blessed ourselves.

The Takeaway

 

Consider how your life affects someone else’s and take a small step to bring them joy.

 

Pray: “Lord Jesus, you are my rock, my comfort, my everything, and my joy. Let me live a life worthy of your calling. Lord, I surrender my will and my ways and submit to your transforming power. Let your joy flow from you and to others as I live for you.” Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy Series: The Gospel as Joy News

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Have you ever noticed that not all good news floods your life with joy? Sometimes good news brings trepidation, anxiety, concern, or questions.

 

Sometimes good news brings change, and for some, change causes apprehension, which haunts the joy that the news intended to have. For example, the news of each of my pregnancies carried joy wrapped in anxiety whether or not I would meet my child.

 

And this is the thing about joy: joy and suffering do not preclude one another. In fact, it’s fully possible to experience joy while suffering, and it’s fully possible to experience suffering and know indescribable joy.

 

We shouldn’t live this life one where one or the other overshadow each other. They live side by side, at times simultaneously and at other times alternating. But when we try to keep suffering separate from joy, we lose authenticity within ourselves.

 

Suffering happens. It’s part of growing as a Christian. But we don’t have to be afraid of it.

 

Foundational knowledge of joy starts with understanding that God is joyous and that joy is fruit. Joy is not a feeling, although it brings emotions. To broaden our understanding of joy we need to expand our understanding of the gospel news.

 

Luke 2:10, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The Israelites were a chosen people, destined to show God’s rescue of the world, but they themselves needed rescuing.

 

 

It’s this type of good news that joy finds its ability to live side by side with sorrow. And because of the joy that the good news brings, we don’t have to live in acute suffering because Jesus himself takes it and carries it for us.

 

In Simply Good News by N. T. Wright, we read, “We can be, and we are called to be, good-news people–people who themselves are being renewed by the good news, people through whom the good news is bringing healing and hope to the world at whatever level.”

 

This is how joy and sorrow live side by side. It’s this understanding of the true meaning of the gospel, which isn’t just to save you from eternal damnation, but it’s also so that you live transformed lives choosing “right-living” so that you can put the world to rights, right where you live.

 

We get to become good news people, living transformed by belief in the gospel, recruited for God image-bearing work, justified or “put right” by Christ’s death and resurrection so that we can be “putting right” people for the world. We’re healed people whom God brings healing to the world.

 

This gospel, this understanding of the gospel, is joy unspeakable. It’s joy that sustains us through devastation, suffering, and disappointments because our foundation is God’s truth that he is full of immeasurable love for you and me.

 

This news should bring joy that swells in our hearts so that we shout it from the rooftops. It enables us to live 2 Corinthians 4:7-9: hard pressed, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not despairing. Persecuted, but not abandoned. Struck down, but not destroyed.

 

Let’s let the good news of the gospel do it’s work within us. It transforms us as we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit. And as we trust God’s heart for us we understand the power of his joy.

The Takeaway

 

Read Colossians for one or two or more weeks. Reading a book over and over reveals new truth each time you read through it. Ponder the truth found in it for living out the gospel.

 

Check out N.T. Wright’s book: Simply Good News

 

The Joy Series: Joy as Fruit

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I bought fresh blueberries the other day. They tasted a bit tart at first, but then gave way to sweetness. Living with joy in our lives is a little like eating blueberries. It can be a bit sour as we choose joy in the midst of harrowing circumstances. But as we obey, God’s joy overflows into our hearts and brings an indescribable sweetness.  
 
Galatians 5:22 gives us list of fruit of the Spirit and joy comes right after love. Love motivates and joy sustains. At the moment, I’m covered in snowdrifts and spring with its green growing plants seems so far away.   
 
It’s easy to judge our lives based on what our physical eyes see and then feel disappointed when we don’t see what we want to see. But much of the good that comes out of our lives happens below the surface of what our eyes see. That’s because it’s in ours hearts where change occurs as we yield to the Holy Spirit.  
 
In my flower bed, I have wild-growing yarrow. It’s no respecter of boundaries and creeps into my grass. Imagine if we allowed joy full range into all areas of our lives? The difficulties and the pleasures.
 
To rejoice when we’re overcome with sorrow tastes bitter, but the bitter turns sweet as we choose joy. But this is the trick–we grow frustrated when we attempt to conjure it up in our own strength. It doesn’t work because it feels fake. And then we develop a wrong belief about it because it’s tainted by our own effort and strength.
 
But God is full of joy and delights to share it with us. He is joyous and he provides all we need for this life in the thin place. But how do we grow joy in our lives? How do we stop relying on ourselves for it and letting our circumstances dictate it?
 
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’re grafted into God’s family. We become part of his family tree. And as we stay attached to the vine and trust God’s process of transformation, we will bear fruit. Even when it seems like no growth takes place. Even when life is bitter.
 
John 15:1-17 tells us how to have complete joy and that’s by abiding in Jesus. It’s absorbing all the nutrients and allowing him to prune us. It’s yielding to the growth process by remaining in him.
 
The key to growing this fruit in your life is remaining in Christ. Allow him to be the gardener of your heart and stay close to him as he grows you. We do not drift into maturity. We determine to cooperate with the power of God that is within us on our way to maturity.
 
It’s in this place of abiding, that we find the most complete joy we could ever know. Jesus asks us to obey, to remain in him, and to love. As we do these three things his joy becomes complete and we know complete joy.
 
Life is full of troubles, agonies, and sorrows. It’s also full of beauty, fun, and laughter. To live life with joy, we must cultivate its fruit in our lives. As we abide in Christ, we produce fruit. We will also experience pruning so that we produce even more.
 
I know what it’s like to feel lost amidst the gray dark days of life. We can practice joy by focusing on God’s heart for us. Then by walking with him in that thin place of abundance.
 
Choosing joy might taste bitter at first, but persist in it. You will see God turn the bitter into sweet and it will bolster your heart.
 
You can be the brightest gift to those around you because of the joy that’s within you. Cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit to grow you, to guide you, and to produce joy. Rejoice! And again I say Rejoice!
 
As you obey the Lord, you remain in his love, and as you remain in his love, your joy grows complete. Oh how he loves you! 

The Takeaway

 

Joy can be defined as the source of delight.

 

Read John 15:1-17 asking the Holy Spirit for fresh new insights.

 

Write Galatians 5:22 on a notecard and paste it somewhere to remind you to remain in the vine.

 

Choose joy. Delight in God’s goodness, kindness, love, joy, and peace.

 

 

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