Tag Archives: joy

Twilight (Isaiah 21)

The world was out of control in Isaiah’s day. Nations rose to power only to be overthrown by nations that had previously been defeated by them. People worshiped idols, then they worshiped God, then they returned to idols, and sometimes tried to worship everything at the same time. Isaiah knew, because God had revealed it to him, that the world was on a downward spiral plunging toward destruction.

The prophet longed for peace. We who have lived on this earth for more decades than we sometimes care to admit, can relate. We worked our whole lives. We raised children through lean years, rebellious years, through the laughter and tears. We helped with homework, drove to games, sat through recitals, planned birthday parties, cooked and cleaned and bandaged boo-boos.

We served in our churches joyfully and tirelessly, teaching Sunday School, working in the nursery, serving on committees, visiting the sick, caring for widows. We sacrificed ourselves for the good of others. And we were glad to do it!

But now we are tired. We long for the peace and comfort of twilight, that time of day when things slow down, when the sun sinks in the west amid the purples and pinks and oranges of sunset, when the birds sing their final song of the day, and life slows down. But for some of us, like Isaiah, that twilight has become a horror. (verse 4)

I could sit here and list the many horrific things many of us are facing in the twilight of our years. We all know what’s going on. But I want to point you to the watchman in verses 11-12. The news isn’t all bad, or all good.

Yes, there are times of trouble. But there are also times of blessing. There is night. And there is day. Satan would love nothing more than to have us sit and fret about our current conditions, to worry about the “what ifs,” to be angry if people don’t see things the way we do. Our enemy wants us to live in turmoil.

God wants better for us. Let’s, like the watchman, be on the lookout. Morning is coming, but also the night. God is still in the business of blessing His obedient children. He is still the powerful, loving, just God who hasn’t forgotten us.

Keep your eyes on the sky, your heart in tune with your Creator.  There is joy today. There is peace today. There is hope today. Yes, there are challenges and heartaches and sickness and injustice. But never forget that time marches on. What we face today will be ancient history tomorrow. Morning is coming, but also the night.

I love twilight. Most of the pictures I choose to put as my heading on this blog are of sunsets. The one I’m using currently was taken a few weeks ago when my family and I went on a sunset dolphin cruise. After a hectic day of chasing the kids around, of going to the beach, of putting out little fires when someone had the iPad too long, this boat ride was a time to unwind and take in God’s amazing creation. It was peaceful and absolutely beautiful. A perfect end to a wonderfully chaotic day.

There is every reason to praise God today and every day. Watch for it!

What God Wants You To Know (Psalm 94)

God’s Word is alive. Whenever I prayerfully read it, God always – always – speaks to me about something that applies to my life at that very moment. It might be a verse I’ve read many times before, but when I am going through something and need a word from God, that same verse brings on new meaning at just the right time. Oh, what a treasure I forfeit when I don’t spend time reading God’s love letter to me every day.

I’d like to share something Mom had underlined in her Bible, a couple verses that spoke to me from this psalm this morning. I think it might be something God wants us all to hear Him say as our world slowly opens up after the forced separation surrounding the virus.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (verses 18-19)

My prayer is that all of us will rest in the supporting love of our Lord. I pray that any anxiety we might feel will be replaced with joy that only God can give as we allow Him to console us.

Dear one, I would ask all of us to stop listening to the media tell us how scared we should be. Stop allowing Satan to cause us anxiety and hopelessness.

Listen instead to God, read His Word instead of the newspaper, and hear Him say that He is able to keep us from falling (Jude 24); He wants us to cast our cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7).

Then, may we all go through this day, and tomorrow, and the next day with the confidence of God’s support, the joy that is ours through our relationship with the Creator. This is the day the Lord has made. We can rejoice and be glad in it, May 29, 2020, virus and all.

I think that’s what God wants us to know today.

July 20; Wake up! I Mean It!

Isaiah 51-55

I will confess I am not usually a morning person. I’m better now than I was as an adolescent, but I still stay in bed until the very last minute every chance I get. My parents had the challenge of getting five girls up and ready to catch the bus every morning during the school year. I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that was not fun.

Our dad finally had had enough. “Time to get up, girls.” “Get up, girls.” “You’ll be late for school, girls.” “Get out of that bed RIGHT NOW.” And we would turn over and go right back to sleep.

So one day we heard, “Either get out of that bed right now, or I am going to pour water on your head.” And I turned a deaf ear, rolled over and went back to sleep. I’m pretty sure I was in a deep sleep the first time I got drenched with cold water. Let’s just say I got out of bed.

And, after that when Dad told us it was time to get up, all he had to do was turn the faucet on in the kitchen, and our feet hit the floor! “I’m up!” We learned that when he said, “Wake up,” he meant it.

I remembered that today as I read God saying, “Awake! Awake!” in Isaiah 51:9, then again in verse 17, and a third time in 52:1. It sounded rather urgent, so I decided to look at what else God was demanding of His children (just in case He had a glass full of water at the ready).

The first thing was, “Listen to me,” (51:1 and 4). Like a mom who takes her child’s face in her hands and is face to face with that little one. “Listen to me,” God says. “What I have to say is important.”

Then He says in 51:7, “Hear me.” And both here and in the verses above God is telling us His righteousness is unchanging, His salvation is forever. Just listening to the words is not enough. God wants us to take it in, to understand it, to pay attention.

When He tells us to “Awake,” He also tells us to get dressed. Clothe ourselves with strength. And in verse 2 of chapter 52 He tells us to free ourselves from the chains on our necks. Wake up… and get moving.

52:7 says we are to “Depart, depart, go out from there!” There is an urgency here for us to leave sin behind, to come out from among it and be pure.

In 54:1 He says, “Sing.” Burst into song, shout for joy. And in verse 4 He tells us, “Do not be afraid.” God is true to His Word. That is reason to rejoice, and put aside any fear.

I love that, in 55:1 God bids us to “Come.” Think about it. The Creator God wants you and me with Him so that He can bless us.

And lastly, He invites us to “Seek the Lord” (verse 6). Call on Him. Turn to Him and He will have mercy on us.

Friend, that is the Gospel in a nutshell. God has given us His Word. He has repeated the Truth over and over, given example after example, and tells us to pay attention. Listen! Hear!

Wake up! It’s time. It’s time to repent, to depart from Satan, to come out from the presence of sin and be separate. Because when we do, He gives us reason to sing. Our sins are forgiven, our hearts are clean.

And we need not fear. God is greater, more powerful, more loving than we can imagine. And He WANTS us to come to Him. He gives food for the hungry and water for the thirsty. We have reason for joy.

Then, as a sinner saved by grace, we can continually seek Him, read His word, pray, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus, and be blessed.

In the middle of these chapters is the beautiful description of Jesus. (chapter 53) Jesus, the center of God’s plan to adopt each of us into His family. Jesus is the Gospel, the good news!

Listen. Hear. Awake. Depart. Sing. Fear not. Come. Seek.

I pray you are awake. God means it.

 

June 8; Is It God’s Fault?

Ecclesiastes 3-6

Solomon, in his sin-induced depression, says that God is evil. God gives a man wealth, possessions, and honor, but He doesn’t allow the man to enjoy them. “Not fair,” Solomon cries.

But, friend, if God created this world, if He blesses His children with Himself, why is it His fault if we don’t have fun, or if we don’t live on Easy Street? God gives. And gives. We make choices that come with consequences. Then we cry “foul” when we reap what we sow.

King Solomon was in a very dark place when he wrote this portion of Scripture. But I’m glad God included it in the final cut so we can read it today. I can’t  agree with his assessment of life. Because I know that life with God is glorious, worthwhile, joyful, and eternal.  In 5:20 Solomon does say that when a man enjoys this life it is a gift of God.

He seldom reflects on the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

If you are dissatisfied with life, let God occupy your heart with gladness and thankfulness. It really isn’t God’s fault if you don’t.

 

May 31; Joy and Health

Proverbs 14-15

My prayer for you today is Proverbs 15:30. May you have joy in your heart regardless of circumstances. May you be surrounded by people who love you and love the Lord. May their smiles put a smile on your face. And may you be encouraged and strengthened with the Good News that your sins are forgiven, that Jesus is your Savior, that God is your Father, and that His Spirit lives in you.

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes Are Not About Happiness

I have read these beatitudes more times than I can count. Even today, as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I blew past these verses without giving them much thought. “Yeah, yeah. People who are “poor in spirit” are happy. People who “mourn” are happy. People who are “meek” are happy. And so on, and so on…”

I pulled out my commentaries, fully intending to write a post about the whole sermon Jesus shared, when God threw a wrench into my plans through William Barclay. This is just too important not to slow down and feast on Jesus’ own words.

It was enlightening to read what Barclay revealed about the word Jesus used for “blessed.” It’s not about happiness at all! In a nutshell, the Greek and Hebrew translation boils down to this: “Oh the blessedness of…” (The Daily Study Bible Series; the Gospel of Matthew volume 1, Revised Edition; William Barclay; 1975; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA; page 88)

Jesus wasn’t saying that if you experience these things, He would give something to you. He was saying:

“O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Savior and Lord!” (Barclay, p. 89)

It’s not about what God gives as much as who I am in Him. So, using Barclay’s insight, here is what God spoke to me today through His Word:

  1. O the bliss of knowing I am lost without God, that I am utterly helpless in and of myself, that I am totally dependent on the One who is totally capable!
  2. O the bliss of being broken over sin, of realizing what my sin cost Jesus, of repenting, of laying my sins at His feet and being totally forgiven. O the blessedness of mourning the sins of the world, and wanting others to know His forgiveness, too.
  3. O the bliss of turning my emotions, my actions, my very being over to God and allowing Him to control those things in me. O the bliss of recognizing my ignorance and weakness, and allow Him to be my knowledge and strength.
  4. O the bliss of being totally, completely filled by God Himself, and understanding that every longing, every need, every hope and dream are perfectly satisfied in Him. O the bliss of being to the point of desperation, empty, barren, and then filled to overflowing by the Presence of my Savior and God.
  5. O the bliss of setting myself aside, and really seeing other people, really getting into their skin, really feeling their emotions, and really being what they need me to be – not what I need to be for them, or what I think they need. O the bliss of putting others above myself for Jesus’ sake.
  6. O the bliss of pure motives, the ability to see God in every situation, in every breath I take. O the bliss of not always seeing the seedy side of things, or getting a chuckle out of the filth that exists in the world, because my eyes are on a holy, pure, and perfect God alone. (Barclay says its the bliss of a clean heart, (p. 105) and reminds me we “see what we are able to see” (p. 107). I can see the filth of things if that is what I’m looking at. I don’t see the filth if I’m looking at God. O the bliss!)
  7. O the bliss of making peace, not by tolerating, condoning, or ignoring sin, but by facing it, calling sin sin, then leading sinners to repentance. O the bliss of making peace between myself and God, and by making peace between my lost friends and family with God through the blood of His Son.
  8. O the bliss of being singled out for being a follower of Jesus. O the bliss of losing a job, a relationship, worldly comforts or freedom for Jesus’ sake. O the bliss of sharing in His suffering if it will lead one soul to the Savior.

You’ve probably heard it said that this portion of Jesus’ important sermon are “attitudes” the we should “BE.” After spending a few hours thinking about these verses, I’m inclined to agree.

Reading these beatitudes challenges me to be the person Jesus died for me to be. And it helps me know that there is a joy that comes from being that person, a joy the world can’t understand or manufacture. O the bliss of knowing Jesus.

 

Ecclesiastes 6-9; Life Doesn’t Have To Be Lived “Under the Sun”

Wow. If you need some cheering up today I wouldn’t read these chapters in Ecclesiastes. Life, as Solomon describes it under the sun is bleak, depressing, futile. Solomon’s pessimistic, fatalistic view of life is certainly a downer.

I am reminded what he describes is life without God. A non-believer’s view of God contains no hope. But, dear one, there is life above the sun!

That life is full of hope, and joy, and purpose. That life stretches on into eternity where we who know God will live with Him forever. That life is worth living.

Do you know God through His Son Jesus, and by reading His Word? Have you experienced the joy that comes from knowing your sins are forgiven, never to be remembered ever again? Do you recognize God’s generous hand in your life apart from circumstance, as well as in the midst of them? Do you see Him in the warm summer sunshine, the refreshing spring rains, the sounds of birds, of children laughing, of the wind rustling in the trees?

You don’t have to live a life void of meaning. There is One who died so you could have life, and have it to the full!

Regardless of what Solomon expressed in his attempt to find meaning to life apart from God, there is joy in this life. There is purpose and value, hope and peace.

His name is Jesus!

Psalms 102-106; A Downcast Soul

The other day I wrote about unspeakable joy that is ours through our relationship with God. I thank God for that gift that is ours through the precious blood of Jesus.

But today, with some things heavy on my heart, my soul is struggling to grasp the joy. I’m sitting here thanking God for that, actually. Because sometimes I read old posts of mine and think, do my words make this Christian walk seem too care-free? Do I give the impression that I have it all together, and I never struggle? That’s not even close to the truth. I don’t want anyone to think it is.

Honestly, sometimes the cares of my world do get me down. Sometimes it’s really hard to feel the joy with a downcast soul.

So today, feeling the unrest in my soul, I read these psalms and came away with two thoughts:

  1. Is what I’m feeling God’s hand of conviction ? Is this unrest a result of sin in my life? Is it because I have taken a step out of God’s will and into my own? Is this God’s way of getting me out of Egypt? Then I need to confront that sin, repent, and obey God’s leading even if the Red Sea is up ahead. God’s been faithful in the past. I can trust Him with today. There is joy in knowing that.
  2. Have I told God my concerns and then left them in His capable hands, knowing He hears and answers prayer? There are hundreds of examples in Scripture where God answered prayer. Abraham for Lot, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Hezekiah, Hannah, Daniel, and on and on and on. There are examples in my own life of God’s faithfulness. Why should today be any different?

So I’m going to pray, repent, tell God what’s on my heart. Then I’m going to trust the God of the universe, the Great I Am, the One who loved me enough to die for me. I’m going to stop focusing on circumstances, and focus on my Heavenly Father. I’m going to praise Him, not because of what He can do for me, but because of who He is.

I am blessed. I have the Holy Spirit right here with me. I am forgiven. I am promised eternity with Jesus Himself. And He IS my joy.

Psalms 96-101; Joy Unspeakable

Have you ever experienced joy to the point you thought your heart would burst? The day you looked into the eyes of the love of your life and said, “I do”? Holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time? Taking that dandelion from chubby fingers, stretched out to present you with their treasure? Receiving an “all clear” from your doctor? Watching a sunset?

What do you do with that joy? These psalms tell me that praising God is the steam value on a pressure cooker. Praise is a natural expression of heart-filling joy. If you read these psalms you’ll see dozens of reasons to praise God.

96:4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…

97:1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.

97:9 For you, O Lord are the Most High over all the earth…

98:1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things…

But let’s be careful. The joy we receive is a result of God’s grace, His mercy and love. When we understand that, we can only respond like Ebenezer Scrooge did after spending the night hanging out with the spirits: “I don’t deserve to be so happy, I just can’t help it.”

Because true happiness, real joy comes from a right relationship through the precious blood of Jesus. Knowing your sins are forgiven, having fellowship with God can bring joy unspeakable. But let’s not make joy or happiness our goal. If we do, we are worshiping idols.

Praise God for who He is. Worship God because He deserves it. Recognize how blessed you are, and tell Him so. Let Him know how blown away you are at the thought of Him. Then experience that indescribable joy that does not come from things or circumstances. That indescribable, unspeakable joy is God Himself.

 

Psalms 40-44; Snap Out Of It

Have you ever felt blue (as my mom would say) or depressed, and then scolded yourself because you don’t have any reason to feel that way? You’re healthy, you have a job, a home, food on the table, your kids are ok, and the sun is shining? I have. David did.

In Psalm 42 David asks several times: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” In other words, “What’s wrong with you, David?”

Often, when my own soul is downcast, I begin to remind myself of all the ways I’m blessed, as though remembering those things should snap me out of it. Then I end up feeling worse when it doesn’t. I tell myself, “What’s wrong with you, Connie? Shame on you. You shouldn’t be down. Look at all the reasons you have to be happy.”

Yeah. That helps.

In fact, it often pulls me further down. Because now I’m not only downcast, I feel guilty about feeling downcast.

A couple of things came to mind as I read these psalms today. First, I need to search my heart to see if these feelings are coming from unconfessed sin. Is this God’s gentle hand of conviction on my life? Is my sorrow a result of my putting distance between my Savior and me? If that’s the case, what I need is repentance. I need to confess my sin and allow God to wash me clean.

Oh, what joy!

Secondly, constantly reminding myself of all the things in my life that should make me happy is destructive on a couple levels. It implies that people who struggle financially, or who are sick, or whose children are troubled don’t deserve to be happy. Do we really think we are only blessed if we have “things”?

I think the beginning of Psalm 42 contains the key for upcasting a downcast soul. It’s that thirst for God Himself, it’s that hope that we have in Him, it’s the trust we have in His unfailing love, the Presence of the Comforter. It’s not what makes me happy, but Who.

I really don’t even like to use the word “happy” because we aren’t promised happiness, are we? I have a friend who is dying of cancer. She’s not happy about it. But you can’t spend ten minutes in her presence without recognizing her joy. You would not describe her soul as downcast. Does she shed tears for her husband and kids? Yes. Does she pray for physical healing so that some day she can enjoy being a grandma? Yes. But those things, as precious as they are, are not her source of joy. Her relationship with Jesus is.

I hope you will read Psalm 40 today if you read nothing else. Listen to some of what David wrote:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God… Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust… may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

Are you living with a downcast spirit? I won’t tell you to snap out of it. But I will tell you to turn your focus, you thoughts, your energy toward God. Praise Him. Love Him. Let Him snap you out of it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his glorious face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(H. H. Lemmel)