Tag Archives: joy

(Psalms 3-4) Prayers Morning and Evening

A morning prayer from Psalm 3:

I have challenges today, Lord. Some people say I can’t win, that there is no hope for me. “Loser!” they cry. But they don’t realize that You are a shield around me. If my enemy plans an attack on me today, he has to go through You first. I can be confident knowing that I am in Your care. So God, defeat my enemy Satan today. Punch him in the face. Knock his teeth out. I can face today because my salvation comes from You!

An evening prayer from Psalm 4:

You did it, Lord! You heard my prayers and were gracious to me today. People around me follow lies, they love what is worthless, and condemn me because I don’t go along with them. They don’t understand that what I have with You is worth more than anything they consider valuable. Let them see the beauty in knowing You. I can go to sleep tonight in peace, trusting You. You are my safety and my joy.

(Nehemiah 4-8) The Joy Of The Lord

As I read about the worship service in the square in front of one of the gates in the newly repaired wall around Jerusalem, a couple of things occurred to me.

One is that worship was expressed in two ways – with the raising of hands, as well as the kneeling of people with their faces to the ground. I believe there is a place for both in our worship of God still today.

The other thing that spoke to me is how the people reacted when Ezra read Scripture, and when God’s Word was explained. When they understood what was read, they grieved. Their reaction to the Truth was an honest look at their failure to obey it. And it broke them.

Ezra and Nehemiah encouraged the people with, “Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (8:10b)

It wasn’t that their grief was wrong. But there is a time to recognize sin and repent of it, and there is a time to get up off our knees and allow God to strengthen us to worship and serve Him with joy.

Just being sorry for our sins isn’t enough What you do with that grief is just as important.

When you are faced with your own sin, I pray it breaks your heart; that you realize what your sin does to our precious Father; that you fall on your knees and ask Him to forgive you. Just don’t stay there in your sorrow.

Accept what Jesus offers – complete forgiveness – then get up and allow His joy to fill and strengthen you. Worship Him with gladness. Serve Him, obey Him, submit to Him with joy.

Because the joy of the Lord is YOUR strength.

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.