Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

Instructions for your new life? (Ephesians 4)

February 7, 2018

 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:24

Question: “How long have you been a Christ-follower?”  I believe each of us, who follow Christ, have our own answer to this question.

To those who were the original recipients of Paul’s letter in Ephesus, their answer would vary as well.  Many of them had come to know Christ through the preaching of Paul.  The mystery of the gospel came through His ministry (3:7).  Years have passed since that day.  Paul is now in prison in Rome (Acts 28).  His heart is for the church in Ephesus is to both share grace and to stand in grace.

If this was to happen the church would have to be united in intentionality in putting off the old way of life and intentionally putting on the virtues that characterized the new way of life.

I shared with our staff this truth yesterday: “You cannot assume this work will happen on its own.”

Big deal: Each of us have our own inner battles with the old nature.  We are called to fight through those battles for the glory of God.

What are your battles as a Christ follower?

The Ephesians faced 5 battles in chapter 4:

  • They battled lying.  God’s answer for them was to speak truth in grace.
  • They battled anger.  God’s answer for them was to be righteous in their anger seeking reconciliation in all things by grace.
  • They battled laziness.  God’s answer was for the church to work for the glory of God.
  • They battled slander.  God’s answer was grace that leads to lifting up those around us.
  • They battled grieving the Holy Spirit.  God’s answer was to put off the old man and walk in the Holy Spirit which is the maker of the new man.

So, I ask, “How long have you been a Christ follower?”  Be careful that you strive as hard today to follow Christ as you did the first day grace was applied to your life!!!

This beloved old Hymn helps me to strive more in grace:

  1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
    Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
    Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
    There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

    • Refrain:
      Grace, grace, God’s grace,
      Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
      Grace, grace, God’s grace,
      Grace that is greater than all our sin!
  2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
    Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
    Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
    Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
  3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
    What can we do to wash it away?
    Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
    Brighter than snow you may be today.
  4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
    Freely bestowed on all who believe!
    You that are longing to see His face,
    Will you this moment His grace receive?
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What’s In The Cup? (Psalm 75-76; Ezekiel 27)

September 23, 2014

“For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with a foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.”  Psalm 75:8

For the sake of illustration I placed some dirty water in a cup and I offered the cup to John as we began our devotions last Wednesday morning.  He took the cup and asked, “What is in the cup?”  I responded, “Don’t you trust me to just drink without checking out what is in the cup?”  His response, “No Sir!”

John was right in his response.  Anyone with a clear mind will not drink without checking out the contents first.

However, this is exactly what the world is figuratively doing every day when they live without regard to God.

Think it through:

In both Psalm 75 and Psalm 76 the topic is the wrath of God.  In both Psalm’s the author is praising God for His glorious wrath that is carried out against humanity.  We see this pictured in Psalm 75:7-8 as a cup in which is contained God’s judgment.  We see God pouring out this cup on all of the rebellious world.

Two things stand out to me:

1.  The drink will be served at the appropriate point, 75:2

There is coming a day when all who have rejected God will realize what they have been drinking.

2.  The drink will be served to the appropriate people, 76:6

All who have rejected God:  Good, bad, and the ugly will all stand before the Lord to be judged.  Revelation 19:11-21 gives us this scene in clarity.

However there is another way we can live.  We can drink from another cup, John 4:11-12; 7:36-38.  This cup is the cup of blessing in Jesus Christ.  This cup is offered by the one who drank the bitter cup for up.  Jesus took the cup with my name on it and drank it on the cross, John 18-20. This day I am drinking from the fountain of life.

Our response:

For those who know Christ, we can drink from the cup of blessing fully trusting in the one who offers the cup.  We can give praise to Jesus for the cup.  We can tell others of the cup they are drinking from and how they may drink from a different cup.

“Thank you Jesus for drinking the cup that was appointed for me.”

Seeing The Light (Psalm 36, Lamentations 5)

August 28, 2014

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light,” Psalm 36:9

Often we take the simplest of things for granted.  For example, “those who have electricity, take it for granted, until they don’t have it.” I can remember our scrambling to find flash lights and candles during a storm years ago.”  It had been so long since our last power outage that we did not even consider the possibility of not have electricity.

Consider this fact:  “It could be possible that you and I could overlook the light we have in our lives.”  The light I am referring to is the light of the gospel.

Think it through:

In Psalm 36, David shows us a great contrast between those who see the light (Vs: 7-12) and the who do not see the light (Vs: 1-6).

I. Look closely at those who do not see the light:

Here are people who sin without fear of judgment.  Here are people who do not realize sin is dictating their every moment.  Because of an absence of light, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

II.  Look closely at those who see the light:

They turn from their sin and take refuge in Jesus.  God grants them the right to drink from the fountain of life.  Such people are granted eternal life through Jesus (John 11:24-25).

Question:  “What is the difference between these people?”  Did one group do more than the other group?

There is only one difference, “The steadfast love of God.”

We serve a God who has chosen to bring us to the light, John 1:9-12.  There is nothing in us that is better than the people who do not see the light.  Only the grace of God in showing love to us has given us this right to see the light.

Our response:

“Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me…”

You and I should be thankful for God’s light changing our lives.  You and I should not be judgmental of those who have not the light.  We should reach out in the same way Jesus had reached out to us!!  Praise God that we have been blessed to see the light!!!

Your Included (Isaiah 56; Matthew 4)

June 24, 2014

“The Lord Hod, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered,” Isaiah 56:8

I had not thought of it is 35 years, but it came back to my mind in a fresh way.  There I was, an 8 year-old-boy standing on a dirt field with 30 or 40 other kids my age.  Our teacher chose two team captains and said, “pick your teams for the kick-ball game.”  My heart sunk because I knew what was about to happen.  I just knew I would either not be chosen or I would be at the end of the line.  There I stood in shame as player after player was selected.  Finally, it got down to me and one other kid. To my shock, my name was called.  Well at least I thought, I was not the last to be chosen.

Question:  “Do you sometimes find yourself, feeling as if you have no worth?”  Consider this fact, “You are loved by the Creator of the Universe.”  You are loved so much that this Creator sent His Only Son to purchase your freedom from sin and to purchase you a place on God’s team!!!

Think it through:

In Isaiah 56 the prophet is predicting the return of his people into the land of promise (Picturing for us the day when the Lord will call His people to their eternal home).  Here is how he described the moment, “For soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.”

In Israel’s mind she believed she would be the only one who would be saved.  But for those who were not Jews, there was good news, “By the blood of Christ you will be included.”  “But now in Christ you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” Ephesians 2:12

When a person is joined to the Lord he or she is redeemed and made righteous before God.  In this moment we realize, “No matter how small or great we are, God includes us in the family of God.”

Our response:

This day I am reminded that I have been loved by the King.  This day I am resting in the love of God.  This day I am resolved to tell others that God wants them to be included in His family!!!

Finally, some good news (Revelation 1, Isaiah 31)

May 30, 2014

“Behold a King will reign in righteousness…” Isaiah 32:1

This morning I found the greatest of encouragement as I turned my Bible to both my Old and New Testament readings.  In both passages I was turned away from the bad news of this world to the good news that comes from the world above, “Mainly the throne where God is firmly seated!!!”

Question:  “How much bad news have you taken in this week?”  For me, it has been a lot.  Here is my assessment of what I have taken in, “We live in a broken world with broken people who have broken ways of living life.”  

In this moment we know that such thinking often will pull us down from the correct perspective of life.

This is why you and I must daily fill our minds with the Word of God.  God’s Word is life to us and in the context of Revelation one, “A blessing to all who read and obey what is in the word.”

Think it through:

In Revelation one we are reminded of three abiding truths:

1.  We are blessed to know that Jesus will soon redeem all the broken things in our world.

2.  We are blessed to know that Jesus has already redeemed us (Those who have responded correctly to the gospel).

3.  We are blessed to know that Jesus will soon return for us (Those who are His).

Because of this we can have a great response to all that is wrong in the world, “We can fear not…”

Our response:

We see the one who is firmly planted on the throne and we know that He is sovereignly in charge of the events of this life.  We can trust Him and we can truly give our world the good news they so desperately need.

So on this Friday, you have good news.  Believe it and share it with all you meet today!!!

Life Beyond This Moment (Isaiah 29, III John)

May 28, 2014

“Therefore, behold; I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder….” Isaiah 29:15

If I could just get beyond this moment!  The grief of this moment was consuming the survivors of a recent tornado.  These survivors had much to thank God for, but in the moment, all they could see was what they had lost.

Question, “Are you struggling with life beyond this moment?”  Or maybe you are trying to help someone get beyond this moment in their lives?

Consider the people of Israel in the time of Isaiah.  Two things stand out in this moment in time:

1.  Their devastation stemmed from their polluted heart, Vs: 13

“Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?'”

Here were a people who thought they had both covered their tracts (Vs:15) and had offered acceptable sacrifice (Vs:13).  But they were discovering that nothing is hidden from God.

2.  Their destruction stemmed from the throne room of heaven, Vs: 1-9

The sovereign Lord has seen enough rebellion and now it was payday.  “You turn things upside down!  Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me.” Vs: 16

Think it through:

The disasters in our world comes not as God’s problems but as ours.  We are living in an evil world with evil people who are doing evil things.  The disasters come as a result of a fallen world.

The truth is, “If this is all there is, we have no hope.”  But there is hope beyond this moment!!!

Isaiah looks ahead in time to the moment when hope would arise.  “The Holy one of Israel will come.”  This hope is Jesus Christ, Isaiah 61:1.  In His coming there would be hope, “In that day the deaf will hear the words of a book, and out of the gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exalt the Holy One of Israel.

Good news brothers and sisters, “The Holy One has come and He is coming again!!!”

Our response:

The one who came is calling all people to come to Him.  This is our first step beyond this moment.  When sin is removed, one can see clearly to the future.

The one who came is calling all people to serve Him.  This is our second step beyond this moment.  People who turn must in turn live for Him.

The one who came will someday come again.  This is our third step beyond this moment.  We must live with joyous anticipation looking for His return!!!

Enjoying Life (Ecclesiastes 9; Titus 1)

April 22, 2014

“Go, eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”  Ecc. 9:7

I am a people watcher!  Just last week I was sitting in a motel breakfast room watching people.  I noticed the different sizes and shapes of people.  I noticed how diverse these people were.  But one thing stood out above all other things was this, “Many of these people were clearly unhappy.”  Now some people might be saying, “Well, it was morning time.”  This could be true, but looking deeper it is clear that many people are miserable because of what is in their hearts.

Consider Solomon’s quest for happiness in the book of Ecclesiastes.  For 12 chapters we find Solomon attempting to have joy in the things of this world.  But in the end Solomon knew there was zero joy in this life alone.

But Solomon knew there was another option.  This option brings true joy to our lives.  This joy is the joy of a life lived for Jesus.  We see this clearly in Vs: 7-10

Think it through:

1.  Solomon lived to praise God:  “There was a merry heart because he knew all he had was a gift from God.”

2.  Solomon challenges us to be pure before God: “Let your garments be always be white.”  As we live with a pure life we are right with God and we reside in relationship with God.

3.  Solomon experiences the power of God:  “Let oil always be on your head.”  This speaks about the power of the Holy Spirit.

4.  Solomon teaches us to serve God with the partner of marriage.

5.  Solomon summons us to purpose before God, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your heart.”  

Our response:

Any one of these things could take a lot of time.  But separately they leave us still short of enjoying life.  We must follow each of these things every day because they will bring joy to our lives.  I am reminded of Paul’s direction to pastors in Titus 1: “Be disciplined in your walk with Christ.”

There can truly be joy in our lives when we live this way!!!