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The Joy Series: The Gospel as Joy News

joy

 

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 Lament Series: The Cry

lament

 

“The cry of pain is our deepest acknowledgement we are not home. We are divided from our own body, our own deepest desires, our dearest relationships. We are separated and long for restoration. It is the cry of pain that initiates the search to ask God “What are you doing?” It is this element of a lament that has the potential to change the heart.” Dan Allendar

 

It seems as though my heart’s been doing much crying these last couple of weeks. Crying for lost relationships, lost dreams, and lost hopes. This world lies broken in pieces and it reminds me, once again, that this is not home. 

 

As wonderful as life on earth can be, as amazing as Jesus’ good news is, and as constant as God’s presence carries me, this present life is not my final destination. I’m a wayfaring sojourner and every once in a while the pain of this life becomes my stark reminder that my life here is a temporary, albeit, preparatory journey for the life to come. 

 

Living this life in the here and now, with an eye fixed on eternity, requires us to enter into this life fully, including all the joy and pain. The abundant life Jesus was referring to doesn’t mean a pain-free life, but a life lived with abundant faith, hope, and love.  

 

Our life: faith-filled, grace-directed, and always-transforming, grows more and more three-dimensional when we run towards God . . . even if it means running through pain and sorrow to get to him. 

 

God gives us lament as a means to communicate the depths of pain in our hearts. The cry is an integral part of lament that propels us towards hope.

 

Lament’s Cry.

 

It’s a cry of pain, anger or confusion. It’s a cry that empties all the hurt in our heart at the feet of Jesus and a cry that points us back to faith in him. 

 

Psalm 31 is a great example of Lament. This chapter contains all the elements of lament and gives us a model to follow. 

 

In the first two verses, we read David’s cry. But we don’t picture him stomping his foot like a toddler demanding attention, screaming at the top of his lungs. Instead we see David’s heart’s cry with pain and longing while he declares attributes of God. 

 

David cried for deliverance, rescue, and saving. 

 

What do you need deliverance from? What storm is bearing down on you with no relief in site?

 

I’ve seen storm clouds brew on the horizon and watched wild winds whip the grass into swirls and then dashed for shelter as lightning blazed and thunder reverberated in my ears. 

 

There are times when God prepares our hearts for the storm that’s heading our way and other times it takes us completely by surprise. But no matter whether you knew ahead of time about the upcoming maelstrom or were completely taken by surprise, the emotional response is still the same. Shock. Hurt. Pain. Questions. Anger.

 

We can stand defiantly or cower fearfully, but what we must do is cry:

 

“God, I take refuge in you. Deliver me. You are righteous, don’t let me be put to shame. Lean towards my cry and come to me quickly. I need you, God. Be my rock and my refuge. Save me.” 

 

The lament opens with a cry that states what we need and declares God’s character. It’s in declaring who God is that gives us hope and reassures our heart and puts our faith into practice. 

 

The enemy wants nothing more than to isolate you so that you feel as though you’re alone, that God doesn’t care, and that he doesn’t listen. 

 

By wrapping your cry in the truth of God’s character you insulate your pain-ridden heart against the deceptive wiles of the enemy. 

 

So cry out your hurt to God. Cry out your fears and questions and doubts. But remind yourself that God is righteous, that he is your shelter, and strength. That he is with you, he is constant, that he hears you and longs to rescue you.

The Takeaway

     Look up Psalm 31
     Paraphrase versus 1-2 into a prayer appropriate for your situation. 
     Be sure and include attributes of God’s character. 

(you can use a thesaurus to find other words for refuge, righteousness, rock, and fortress)

Let the cry that’s hidden deep within you gain full expression in your voice as you explore the language of lament. 

Capture Those Thoughts to Break Negative Cycles

thoughts

Do you remember those old Western movies with John Wayne? He rides easy in the saddle, holster slung low, and has an iconic drawl. But what I remember are the scenes of runaway horses and stage coaches. The horses move as one, faster and faster, dust billowing, the coach lurching, and the passengers tossed about like rag dolls.

 

The hero gallops close, at one with his horse as he leans toward rescue, and he grabs the team of horses and starts to pull back. Slowly, the horses come to a stop and we discover the passengers bruised and broken and the stagecoach off course.

 

So it is with our thoughts. We can take a feeling or sense about something and turn it into an assumption that leads to hasty decisions and divisive plans that leave those around us bruised and broken. Our thoughts run wild and steal our peace and good sense.

 

Last week I talked about developing an awareness of the thoughts. This week, we’re going to address what to do with them. Remember, if you don’t know what you’re thinking, you can’t address the negatives and keep the positives.

 

And that’s the key: we’re transformed by the renewing of our mind. And this transformation is evidenced on the outside of ourselves in how we live our lives and interact with people. Is it true transformation if you spend time praying for your loved one and then turn around and treat them with disdain?

 

Breaking cycles is not just thinking good thoughts, but it’s allowing action to flow from those good thoughts. We must remember that we don’t live this Christian life as islands or solo artists, but we are part of an intricate tapestry, a complete body that makes up the church. Each of us has a purpose in that body, and we find that as we walk and talk and grow in Christ. And our talk flows from our thoughts.

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines thought as an idea in the mind. The Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 10:5 is noema which means something that is thought out, planned, and devised. How many times have you planned out a conversation that puts someone in his or her place? Or orchestrated an elaborate series of actions to enact revenge on someone? Our thoughts can be as dangerous as a runaway stagecoach.

 

This same Greek word {noema} references the mind itself. It’s the word used for minds that are blinded to the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4) as well as the warning in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to be on guard for the adversary’s cunning ways to lead our minds away from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

 

So when Paul is instructing us to take every thought captive, he’s commanding us to apprehend those thoughts that set themselves up against God. In order to do this effectively and strategically, we must be aware of our thoughts.

 

As we are aware of our thoughts, we can then begin to capture them. But let me warn you, capturing them might be kind of like trying to capture a fish with your bare hands. Or trying to hang on tight to a wriggling baby covered in baby shampoo during bath time.

 

To capture means to catch and forcefully hold. Kids who grew up playing king of the mountain or capture the flag know exactly what capture means. It means to gain something and then not let it go. No. Matter. What. (We can use this capture for good things too: like hope and peace and trust and love)

 

Can you arrest that thought that tears down your neighbor, acquaintance, grocery store clerk, or loved one?

 

Will you gain control of the run-away thoughts of revenge?

 

Would you apprehend those thoughts of despair?

 

Can you conquer those thoughts that tell you you’re worth nothing to nobody?

 

And will you secure the thoughts that strip you of your security in Christ?

 

It seems impossible, I know. Certain thoughts become patterns that feel like ruts we can never escape and we follow them to the destination we don’t want to experience. Again. And again.

 

We’ll get to that. It’s in the second part of 2 Corinthians 10:5, but first, I want us to grow aware of our thoughts and practice capturing them. Pick one area of your life, whether it’s a spiritual or relational to work on this week. Next week, we’ll address flipping the script and how to make our thoughts obedient to Christ.

 

The Takeaway

 

Maybe you struggle with hopelessness. Monitor your thoughts. See how many thoughts are feeding you despair. Then capture them. Don’t let them go any further than a thought. Don’t plan out the next five events that may or may not happen based on the depths of hopelessness you feel.

 

Or maybe there’s a relationship that pokes and prods. Evaluate your thoughts towards the situation. See if you’re planning conversations and encounters and then capture them. Take note and capture.

 

Scripture to Ponder

 

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

 

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

 

“But I am afraid as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

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