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January 12, 2020, 8:56 PM

Winning for God in 2020


Your family gets a new game for Christmas. You sit down with it and open the box. What is the first thing you see? Instructions. From those you want to know two things: how to play and…how to win.

 

Truly some of you may not be all that concerned with winning. Many of you, and you know who you are, admit to skipping reading the instructions right to the end. You want to know how to win.

 

The study of Acts, that I start today and will be working through this year, will be your guide as you seek to understand both of those objectives. Through God’s Word we will see how we are to “play the game,” that is how we are to do this business of serving God and reaching our world. We will also learn how to “win,” that is how to complete the “game” we are playing successfully.


Acts 1:8-11

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

 

Our Audacious Mission

What are we to do? We are to be witnesses. Witnessing sounds like a scary word but it is not as difficult as we make it. We witness to that which we know, telling what we have experienced. Jesus commanded them and us to share what we know from our own experience. Jesus said be witnesses, “unto me.” That’s it, really. Just tell what you know about Jesus.

 

How are we to do it? We have a promise that if we do what we are supposed to do we will have power. How do you know if an outlet has power? Plug into it. You will never know how much power you have available until you plug into it. The Holy Spirit is the sources of our spiritual power. Do what you are commanded, and you will know that power flowing through you. He will be like dynamite empowering us

 

Where are we to do it? For those early disciples the place was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the uttermost parts of the earth. Our modern parallel is our city, then the region around us, those places around us where the people are like us.

 

The mission then reaches out to Samaria. For them it was an area where the people are different, they are unlike us. To be honest we may not even like them very much. But they need Jesus and we must take the message to them.

 

The message then goes to the “others.” These are the people outside of our natural realm. Tell them. They need to hear. How will they hear if we don’t tell them? Again, it is not about preaching a message or giving a long theological treatise. It is simply telling them what we know, sharing what we have experienced.

 

The Necessary Ascension

As Jesus spoke these last words to the disciples He was taken up through the clouds. Lifted right before their eyes. This event is called the ascension and it is a hugely important part of our story for two reasons.

 

The ascension is important because of where Jesus went. He went into heaven. He is there right now. While He is spiritually present everywhere, His physical presence is right in heaven. He is seated beside the Father, where He has been every day since that day.


The ascension is also vital because of what He does. He currently sitting beside the Father acting as our Great High Priest. While the subject is broader than this space will allow, we know that one of His ministries is praying for us. He is right now seated there praying for you. He always lives there to bring your needs to the Father.

 

The Understandable Reaction

Like a calf looking at a new gate, the disciples stood gazing at the sky. Their reaction is not difficult to understand. They were grasping at one last glimpse of their Savior. Long after He is gone, they stare for one last look.

 

The Gentle Challenge and Rebuke

As they stood there gazing at the sky, two messengers come to them. There is much debate about who they are. Are they angels? Are they men who serve as messengers? The language is ambiguous. Either way the message is the same.

 

They issue a gentle rebuke. “Why are you staring up at the sky?” It is a waste of time to spend all our days looking up. The messengers tell them it is time to stop looking up and start looking out. There are too many people living in yesterday and waiting for tomorrow. Today people around us are dying without a knowledge of Jesus. Today we must tell them that Jesus is able to save them.

 

They issue a promise. This same Jesus is coming back. This same Jesus! He is coming back. He will come back through the clouds. He will come again to earth to receive all of us to ourselves. He is coming back for us.

 

Finally, they issue a challenge. Time to stop gazing and start going. We can trust His presence as we go. We can rely on His promise as we go. Most significant to us is that we must go.




January 5, 2020, 7:46 PM

Will You Accept the Mission? Challenges for 2020


State Farm company has a slogan on their advertisements today. In different settings a person is confronted with someone doing just enough to get by. In one it is a surgeon who will do a surgery, “ok.” In another a tax preparer promises to do an “OK” job on a person’s taxes after dealing with his audit.


The slogan in all these commercials is the same. “Just OK is not OK” What a great expression. Doing something merely ok is not enough. We must strive for excellence.

 

In our world some are quite satisfied with doing something in way far from excellent. Charles Swindoll writes:

    • Excellence is reduced to acceptable.
    • Acceptable doesn’t seem worth the sweat if you can get by with adequate.
    • Once we accept adequate mediocrity is only a breath away!
    • It’s human nature to just get by.
    • Either the standard is maintained at top quality or you can forget it!

 

Today I addressed our church family in what has become an annual traditional message called, “The State of the Church Address.” It is a chance to look back at the year just completed and to embrace the challenge to move forward into the next year. Even if you are not part of the church family at Calvary feel free to read along as the spiritual challenge confronting each of you who would read this is the same as that faced by the church family.

 

Celebrating God’s blessings in 2019

Calvary celebrated three works of God this morning.

  • Sustained Growth. We praise the Lord for a period of prolonged, sustained growth. This growth has been evident in our worship services and our mid-week children/youth ministry. We don’t focus on numbers but do recognize God’s blessings in our place. More significant for us is the evidence of continued spiritual growth. We participated in our first mission projects in 2019 and stepped forward to do ministry in our community.
  • Strong Fellowship. Calvary is enjoying a tremendous sense of genuine fellowship in the body. There is a sense every week of God’s presence in the assembled family. Every single Sunday God does something in our midst to show us He is at work, drawing us closer to Him and to each other.
  • Standing Committed to Moving Forward. Our church family has made a very prayerful decision to invest time and resources in our future. Several of our projects are completed while others are in process.

SPIRITUAL CHALLENGES FOR 2020

With these successes in the past year in mind I challenge you to look forward to the next year. Specifically, I issue two challenges from Scripture.

 

First, I challenge you to fulfill Hebrews 10:23-24.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

God’s word commands us to look around and find someone around you who may be struggling and consider a way to spur them on. This year I issue you a challenge to take a careful look around you. Prayerfully look beyond the surface. Find that person who is struggling and do something to encourage them.

Spur them on. It may be a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke!), a dinner, a phone call, or a simple note. But do something. Don’t just say, “It seems like they are struggling.” Don’t just utter a pray. Encourage them. Help them move forward.

 

Preview of Our Study of Acts

The second challenges I will address come from our first study in the book of Acts. This will be our text throughout much of 2020. Allow me to give an abbreviated introduction to the book and the first eight verses.

Consider the passage:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [1]

 

  • The Book (Verses 1-2) These are the questions we always ask when we start studying a new book in the Bible.
    • Who? Luke is the author of this book. While he doesn’t identify himself by name his introduction mirrors that of the Gospel of Luke in which he does identify himself. He makes it clear that he is writing this second book.
    • What? What is he doing? Luke tells us in verses 1-2 that he is writing what Jesus begins to do. A very curious and telling choice of words. Luke begins and ends his second writing by talking about what Jesus starts to do. STARTS to do meaning the work is not yet finished. We continue to complete the works of Jesus in our generation and beyond.
    • When? While scholars disagree about the dating of the verse, most assume a date in the mid 60’s. If that is the case it is truly astounding. From the mid 30’s when Jesus ascended the gospel spread over much of the known world. It begs the question, what could God do through our church, and that of those who read this blog, if we surrendered ourselves to Him and followed His lead?
    • Where? This book is written not to a destination but to Theophilus. Two options exist when we seek to understand who this is. On the one hand it could very well be written to a specific person. On the other hand, the words making up this name are formed from the name of God: Theos and the word for friend. He could have written this book to all those who call themselves friends of God.
    • Why? He identifies his why in this passage. He tells the story of Jesus. His secondary purposes doubtless include revealing a: History, Gospel, Defense, and Theology.
    • How? Luke is the consummate historian. He tells the story accurately and carefully. At times he is even walking with Paul along the journey.
  • The Background (Verse 3) Jesus spends time with them making sure to reveal Himself in such a way that there can be no doubt about His resurrection. He proves Himself to them.
  • The Promise Confirmed (Verses 4-7) Jesus reminds them of the promise that He would baptize them with the Spirit. In this intimate setting they ask Him the wrong question about restoring the kingdom of Israel. They reveal that they still have the wrong focus. The power of the Spirit’s coming is evident in this book. Jesus fulfilled His word.
  • The Mission (Verse 8) We have the mission of taking the message of Jesus to the world. The mission includes the four challenges I’d like to issue to all who read this based on the book of Acts.

 

Our second 2020 challenge it to fulfill our mission. Acts 1:8 gives us the challenge. Four parts of our mission arise from this book. Adopt the challenge to:

  • Grow. God challenges you to grow. This is only possible as you make a commitment to personal discipleship. He wants you to grow as a follower.

 

If you are in the Perryville area you would be welcome to share with us in an upcoming study “Feasting on the Word: Learning to Study the Bible for Yourself” on Sunday mornings at 9. We also have a community Bible Study on Tuesday nights starting January 14th called, “The Guide: How to know the Will and Purpose of God for Our Lives.” Details can be found on our web site.

 

Whether these studies are interesting or accessible to you or not it is imperative that you find a way to grow. You won’t grow if you don’t make a specific plan to do so. How will you grow?

 

  • Build. Building on the foundation of those who went before us. We are challenged to build the kingdom. This is NOT a focus on building Calvary in our church or any other individual church. It IS a call to invest our lives, our time, our resources, and our hearts to build the kingdom of God. How will you build the Kingdom of God in 2020?

 

  • Reach (Proclaim). People must know Jesus. They simply need to have a personal relationship with Him. We must tell them the story. It is an eternal question and an enduring need. Who will you share Jesus with in 2020?

 

  • Protect (Maintain). It is our mission to guard the fellowship of the church. There is a constant threat to the harmony and unity of the church. Wherever people come together we have the tendency to go apart. We must fight against that tendency. If there is a problem Jesus Himself told us to go to them. If they have a problem with us the command is the same. Talk to them alone. Doing so will guard the fellowship at Calvary and will guard the unity of each church represented by you, my readers. Will you commit to maintaining unity in 2020?

 

May you embrace both charges. Encourage those around you and together reach out to complete the mission Jesus started. Push forward to excellence in our efforts. May God bless each one of you who have read this blog. Make 2020 a year in which the Kingdom is advanced through your life.

 

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Ac 1:1–8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.




December 29, 2019, 9:48 PM

Remember and Run: 2019 Service of Remembrance


A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come. (Hebrew Proverb)

 

When you were born,
you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die,
the world cries and you rejoice. (Cherokee Saying)

Today our church family, like every individual and family who lost someone in 2019, stopped and remembered those who left this year. We paused and remembered those folks to honor their lives. The service allows us to look back and remember as well as challenged us to run the race set before us.

 

There is a simple truth: you are not done yet. How do you know? Simple. Are you alive? If you are then you are not done yet. Those folks we remember today are done but we are not. We have a challenge from God’s word in Hebrews 12:1-3.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What should we be doing?

We should run. This is a word that demands intense effort. The word is agon. It speaks of running the race is an effort that involves peril and strain.


The passage is more specific. We should run the race set out for us. That is. It is a race specific to us. You have a course laid out for you by God. You have a challenge. Run that race. You don’t have to run the race someone else runs. Run your race. Run hard.

This cannot be a casual jog or a leisurely walk. It is an agonizing, grueling race. It is demanding, requiring discipline, determination and perseverance. Run this marathon of a race. It’s your race.

Why should we run?

Why should you run? Because of the encouragement that comes from looking at the cloud of witnesses. This chapter begins with the word, therefore. As has often been mentioned, “When you see the word therefore, you need to find out what the “Therefore” is there for.

The author references back to chapter 11 which is a great hall of faith. Those individuals who walked before us, who built on the foundation of Jesus, our Great Cornerstone. It is upon there work that we continue to build in the kingdom.

This passage challenges us to understand that they are a cloud of witnesses. There is some debate about the meaning of these witnesses. Many believe that those who have gone before us are somehow looking down on us, cheering us on. While that is a comforting thought the Bible does not say that is the case.

Such a thought while at times consoling to us in our grief is inconsistent with what we know of heaven and would result in a great burden on us. It is inconsistent with heaven in that those who go before us would be burdened with the pain inevitable when we hurt. Would our loved ones not ache with us when we grieve? How would that fit with our view of home?

Not only would the heavenly crowd watching us not fit the vision of heaven, it would also place such a burden on us as we walk. Can you imagine preaching if Paul were listening in as you tried to unpack Romans? No thank you.

So, what does this passage say about the witnesses. Rather than they are looking down on us we are challenged to look up at them. See their lives as reflected in Hebrews. Hear their stories. Copy their examples of living for God.

These witnesses are the winners. They show us how to do it. Imperfect as they are, they show us how to stand. Are you not glad that Scripture paints them flaws and all? We don’t have to have it all together just keep running.

 

How Should We Run?

Several pieces of advice are contained in this passage.

First, we run by throwing off everything that hinders us. Runners may enter the stadium with their sweat suits on. They may carry their bags with them. But when it is time to run, they must take all that off. They run with only the necessities.

While I am not advocating doing so, the ancient Olympians would often run without clothing at all. They simply didn’t want anything to slow them down. This passage challenges us to run with that much determination.

May I ask you the hard question? What is slowing you down in your race this year? Pride? Laziness? Anger? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? Is there some attitude or practice weighing you down? It’s time to put those things down. They won’t allow you to run your race.

Run light this year. But run!

Second, we are to throw off the sin. The first category may not be something that we have done sinfully. They may be even done to us. This category, however, is not morally neutral. These are things we have done wrong of our own will.

The warning is that these sins entangle us. They trip us up. They will wrap you up and keep you from following God. They are debilitating for an effective run.

Third we run with endurance. Our challenge is to run with diligence and perseverance. It is agonizingly hard to run this race. You cannot grow weary and faint. You cannot relax and collapse.

At times we get tired and feel that we cannot run one more lap. In that moment our Savior encourages us. He will give you the strength to continue. Run one more lap. Take a few more steps. Keep going. You can’t quit.

Finally, we are encouraged to keep our eyes on Jesus. The call is to fix our eyes. Dead set focus. Solely on Jesus. Consider all that He did. Of course, the race analogy is an easy one here.

In the short sprints in the Olympics the runners dare not take a moment to even look around to see how their competitors are running. They set their eyes on the tape and run with everything they have. Looking only ahead they run forward.

Our vision should be set only on Jesus. He is our focus. The author says to consider him. That is an analytical look. Examine carefully who He is and what He has done for us.

Why should we look at Jesus?

The author gives us several statements that encourage us to look at Jesus. This is part of His command to consider Jesus. When we look at these statements how do we not keep our eyes on Jesus.

First, we look at Jesus because He is the author of our faith. He started your faith, founding it. The moment you became a believer it was the completion of a plan in place since before you were in your mother’s womb. He knew you all the time. He planned for you to come to faith in Him. Oh, you still had to choose, but He knew you.

Jesus wrote your story. Allow that to sink in for a moment. He authored the details necessary for you to come to faith. Why would you look anywhere else?

Second, our gaze should be fixed on Jesus because He is the perfecter of our faith. He is the one who completes it. He brings you to the finish line.

The events of your life may seem out of control, but they are far from it. He not only started your story but completes it. He finishes what He started.

Third, because He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Jesus finished His race and sat down. He is there beside the Father working as our intercessor, praying on our behalf. He ran the race set out before Him and prays for us to be able to complete our race.


Finally, we focus our eyes on Jesus because of the great sacrifice He made for us. He endured the shame of the cross. Here the author uses the same language speaking about our endurance He sustained the load He was to carry and asks only that we endure our race.

Of course, Jesus’ load was so much heavier. He sustained all our adversities, persecutions, and sinfulness. His suffering was intense, aggravated, agonizing.

So, as we move to a new year, I challenge you to run. Take the baton of faith from those we remember. It is your turn to run. How many laps you have left no one knows, but run just one more, and then one more, and one more after that. Run. Endure. Consider Jesus. Keep your eyes firmly on Him. But Run, friends, run.

When the day comes, and your race is done. When you hand the baton to those who follow you know that you ran until the end of your race. You finished what God called you to. Run!




December 22, 2019, 11:03 PM

The Message of Christmas: Love


What if Beauty had never come?

 

Go ahead, let your mind remember the story. He was cursed because of his bad choices. Doomed to a lifestyle of darkness and loneliness. No hope of fixing his problem himself. Secluded in his castle, he was left alone. Hairy and defiant.

 

But it all changed when she came.

 

What if she did not? What if she didn’t come? What if she didn’t care? She, so beautiful and stunning. He, so disgusting and angry. Yet she came and it changed everything.

 

Hers is the story of our redemption. Doomed to a life of sin and pain we had no hope of our own. But then our beautiful Savior came. He stepped into the brokenness. He walked into the darkness and changed everything.


He chose to come among us. He determined to walk in the filthy, sin sick world and it changed everything. He who had lived on a throne came to rest on a manger. He who had a royal court surrounded by angels, was serenaded by cattle and sheep.

 

Jesus. He came to be Jesus. A common name in a common world. And it changed everything.

 

He was the ultimate bridge builder. Society has tried to build bridges to God. We attempted to fix the human problem. But, we cannot. Our efforts merely filthy rags. We simply cannot build a bridge to reach God.


But Jesus came to build a bridge to God. He reached across time by coming into our world. He lived among us so He could save us. Beauty came into our world and it changed everything.

 

He did it for a simple reason. He loved us.

 

What does this word “love” mean? A short answer is also incredibly deep. God! God is love. It is who He is and what He does. The words used in Greek are incredibly rich in meaning. The verb agapao includes multiple meaning. One of them is a love that does not demand a response. He doesn’t love us with a love that expects anything in exchange.

 

The Noun Agape speaks of affection, benevolent, unselfish, and sacrificial love. Benevolent love is a love that acts on behalf of someone else. Sacrificial love gives itself for another. This is the love God gives us through the birth of His Son, our Savior.

 

God’s word is replete with verses powerfully proclaiming the love God has for us. Several deserve our attention. Consider these promises:

 

  • He promises to love with an EVERLASTING love. (Jer 31:3)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love”

 

God has ALWAYS loved you. ALWAYS. He planned for your salvation by sending His Son. Every detail of the plan was laid out in advance including where He would be born was known in advance. Beauty has loved every beast forever and always will.

 

  • Nothing can SEPARATE us from His love (Rom. 8:37-39)

“But in all these things we have full victory through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. NOTHING. Not anything in this life. No power. There is absolutely nothing that could cause God to stop loving you. You did not cause God to start loving you and you cannot do anything that would make Him stop. That love is secure.

 

  • You can RELAX in His love (Zephaniah 3:17)

The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you. (Zeph. 3:17)

 

Would you read that verse over again? How does He respond to you? He sings over you in joy. God Himself sings over you. He is filled with joy and surrounds you with love.

 

How do you respond to that love of God? You rest. You will be able to relax knowing that His love is all around you. No straining to be good enough. No trying to measure up. He loves you because He chose you. He chooses you now. He chooses you tomorrow. He will NEVER stop. Trust Him in that. Breathe.

 

  • How can you know His love is secure? See it demonstrated primarily in JESUS. (1 John 4:9-10)
  1. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

 

Jesus redefined love. Love is defined by Jesus giving Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The basic facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are either the most awesome truths ever revealed or else they are the most outrageous pack of lies ever uttered.

 

Nothing prompted His love. He chose you. The coming of Jesus celebrated this season proves the love of Jesus. It is impossible to conceive of any greater gift. It is unspeakable. Our Emmanuel is Beauty and He chose to love you.

 

All of this was no accident. God sent Jesus on our behalf. “Sent” is a perfect tense word. That means that the world is continuous. He was sent. He is still sent. The coming of Jesus into broken humanity is still truth. Beauty came to humanity then. He comes today.

 

One last thought from this passage. At the center of the story of Jesus coming, even in the manger scene we should put the cross. It is the forefront of our faith.

 

Observe the story of the birth from God’s perspective and you see the cross in the middle of the plan. I propose we start a movement. Amid every manager scent put a cross.

 

Jesus paid the price to provide forgiveness and eternal life for lost sinners, even though they don’t deserve it. God’s love was sent to make eternal life possible. Beauty took the initiative and came to you.

 

  • Christ’s love is shown for us in CHRIST’S DEATH (Romans 5:6, 8).

“When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God.… God shows
his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”

 

At the critical moment of human history God determined that the only way to reach us was to sacrifice His son. Love demanded that sacrifice and God gave it. God said, “look at this, I love you. See! I will show you what love is. I am giving you my Son.”

 

Respond to the message of love today. It is simple really. You either accept that love or you reject it. There is no middle ground. How do you respond to it? Say a prayer like this:

 

Dear Jesus. I see today that you loved me with a love beyond my understanding. You have always loved me. I know that I could not build a bridge to you, but I believe you came to me. I have sinned and I cannot fix it. I believe that you died for me and rose from the dead. I accept your love and ask you to come into my life now.

 

If you have prayed that prayer today, please reach out to me and let me know of your decision. I would treasure the opportunity to celebrate with you.

 

If you previously have a relationship with Jesus, you can rest in His love. Let God love all over you today. Extend His love to others. Love them so they can see His love in you. Beauty came to you. If you know Him help introduce Him to others.




December 15, 2019, 9:38 PM

The Message of Christmas: Joy


Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

 

The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “sssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.

 

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive but stunned.

 

Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water.

 

Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do … she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

 

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

 

A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.”

It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over … that’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

 

We can all relate to Chippie. We are cruising along and then sssoooppp. We are sucked in, washed up and blown over.

 

This season of joy is one of the most difficult for some people. Seasonal depression is a real thing. Pain is amplified by the happiness demanded by the season. The loss of our loved ones is especially painful.

 

The good news is that God is speaking today extending to you a message of joy. It is a message that resonates throughout the Scripture, containing both a command and a promise.

 

The word for joy in the New Testament is “chara.” It speaks of a positive attitude or pleasant emotion. It is distinguished from happiness. Happiness is related to the feelings driven by an experience in our lives. Joy is a state of being. Joy calms our heart. It arises from our response no matter the circumstances.

 

Joy is a common theme throughout the Bible. I’ve picked out only two references from the Old Testament and three from the birth narrative in Luke’s gospel. There are many, many more I could mention.

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 4 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. 6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

 

Notice first thing the Psalm outlines. Verses 1-3 tell us what joy does. It causes us to be unafraid. God’s presence allows us to stand victoriously over the forces standing against us.

 

How do we stand victorious? Verse four give us three clues.

  • Dwell. We are blessed to know that we don’t have to ask God to allow us to dwell in His presence. Because of the work of Jesus’ whose birth we celebrate, we are assured that we will always be in God’s presence. Wherever we are, whatever is happening around us we are assured that we are in God’s presence.
  • Gaze. Embrace the beauty of the Lord. Stare at the love he bestows. Understand and keep your eyes on the wonderful plan he unfolds for us. He planned for you, longing for the day that you would become one of His precious children. Gaze at Him. It dims the struggles of this world.
  • Seek. Seek Him. Look for Him in everything. He is there lifting you out of your Chippie days.

 

What are the results of being filled with joy? Verses 5 and 6 give us three results:

  • God Keeps Us Safely
  • God Lifts Us
  • God Fills Us with Worship

 

David writes often of joy. Psalm 30:5 holds out a great promise.

His anger lasts only a moment, but his kindness lasts for a lifetime. Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

 

What a promise. Notice that the verse does not discount pain we feel. We cry and the psalm says it lasts for a night. BUT JOY COMES in the morning. Joy does come! That is the promise of God.

 

Of all the New Testament verses on joy I call your attention to three from the birth narrative.

 

Luke 1:14 “He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth.”

Before he was born the angel predicted that Jesus birth would bring joy to people.

 

Luke 1:44 “When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy.”

As we know Mary accepted the divine assignment and began the arduous process of carrying the baby to be named Jesus. Shortly after that she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with Jesus’ cousin John who is called, “The Baptist.”

 

Elizabeth records that when the preborn John heard the voice of Mary he jumped for joy. What a scene. A quiet, subtle statement about when life begins. John leaped for joy. This reaction will characterize life in the kingdom the one inside of Mary would bring.

 

Luke 2:10 “And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

 

Fear not. Of course. This is the common greeting when confronted with the spiritual world. People were always terrified for obvious reasons. The first message God always gives is, “Fear not.” This is Scripture’s most common command.

 

The angels also declare good news. world then and the world now needs some great news. This is news available to everyone.

 

He came to give us great joy. Not a small helping of joy. He wants to pour out great joy into your world. Allow Him to bring us that joy.

 

How do we respond to that joy? Allow me to make give statements:

 

  • Joy is COMMANDED (Psalm 47:1, Phil 4:4) It is a DECISION
    • Psalm 47:1 “For the director of music. A psalm of the sons of Korah. Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with joy.”
    • Philippians 4:4 “Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy.”
  • Jesus wants to give you His joy (John 15:11)

John 15:11 “I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy.”

 

We need to watch out for joy stealers. Because Jesus came to bring us His joy, He wants us to walk in it. If any of these joy stealers are present in your life you can be sure that God does not intend for you to walk in them.

    • Guilt. When our sin is confessed it is gone! He does not remember it anymore. Romans 8:1 says that there is NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
    • Fear. Fear robs us of joy. We do not need to live in fear because we have our eyes on Him.
    • Anger. We cannot live in anger and have joy at the same time. Anger clouds our eyes and keeps us from seeing God.
    • Discontent. Lift your eyes to the Lord and he give you joy. We realize that the things in our lives are from here.
    • Despair. We give up because we have taken our eyes of the all-sufficient God.
    • Suffering. Suffering robs us of joy when we take our eyes off Him. Be reminded that you are His and He sees you seated with Him in heaven.
  • Joy comes in the EVERYDAY. Catch a glimpse of Him. See every detail as full of God’s goodness. He will fill you with joy.
  • Joy comes in the great times but also in the DIFFICULT SEASONS. He gives you one last promise that He will get you through the difficult season and take you into His kingdom. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).
  • Joy modeled in HEAVEN. (Luke 15:10) Look at ETERNITY

Scripture tells us only one thing that causes heaven to rejoice. That is when a sinner finds their way to God. Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner changes his heart and life.”

 

Put your eyes on the heavenly realm and you will have joy. If Heaven rejoices over a lost soul being saved so should we. If wayward believers returning to Him causes a heavenly party, it should cause us to rejoice to. Considering the spiritual world will fill us with joy. Put your eyes there.


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