Monday, February 11, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 6

I don't know about you but since I have started this study I have been trying to start my day with the choice to have joy.  As I get out of bed, I remind myself "choose joy."

The other day as I got out of bed, my mind set on a day filled with joyous thinking....I made it only fifteen minutes before someone stole it from me.   Someone that will remain nameless (I'm married to him), started in on a conversation that I really wasn't prepared to have so early in the morning.  I am not a morning person....give me at least an hour before you bounce around and shoot questions at me please. 

As this person spoke, I recognized my mood changing and my joy slipping away.  My brow began to furrow and my eyes became small slits with laser focus.  All the time my brain was saying "wwwwhhhhaaatttt?"  

Point is, in just a few moments my mind had changed from uplifted pleasant thoughts to frustration and irritation.  My joy that I had started with was stolen within one short conversation.  We can start out with such great intention and enthusiasm but be derailed in an instant. 

Life is full of these type of joy stealing moments.  If we could just get rid of the people and circumstances that steal joy our life would be so great, right!?!  I can imagine it now..... Sitting alone in my office, no people, no work, nothing to do that would steal my joy.  Doing nothing, going nowhere, speaking to no one.  Alone.  All the time.   

Maybe it would seem good for a little while but after about an hour of NOTHING I would go completely crazy.  Although people can rub you the wrong way, what would life be like without contact, conversations and love?   And wouldn't it get really boring without different circumstances in life?

There are so many people and circumstances that attempt to steal our joy that we have to determine ahead of time to have joy.  We have to determine not to let those things steal the joy we have chosen.  We have to decide.... NO ONE IS GOING TO STEAL MY JOY TODAY!  Then when that moment comes where you feel your joy slipping away you can say to yourself...."no, no, no, you aren't going to steal my joy! Not today.  Today, I will have joy!"

This my friend is doing what the scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  When we stop our thinking process mid thought and say "No, I'm going there!", we are taking our thoughts captive and determining how we will proceed within that moment.  Our feelings and thoughts are not to control us....we should control them!

So today.... no....every day....choose joy and determine not to let it be stolen by the people or circumstances around you.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 5

Joy is a choice.... So are you choosing joy in your circumstances?  Are you shifting the way you think?
I hope so but I have to admit that there are some circumstances that can make it extremely difficult to choose joy.

Like a parent of a small child that has a chronic illness.  That's makes it hard to choose joy.  Or when you yourself have suffered most of your life at the hands of another.  What about when you are going along nicely and are stricken with a chronic illness.  Maybe your spouse or child gets in a car accident and now needs constant care from you.  What about watching your aging parent lose their ability to care for themselves.  Maybe it's your marriage that is difficult and leaves you with deep depression. 

Is it possible to still find joy in the midst of the difficult?  Can we find a place of joy even when suffering is consuming our life?   It's a tall order to seek joy when you are suffering.  Most of us would rather curl up in a ball somewhere and stay miserable.    But then there are some that learn to overcome and live in a place of contentment and joy in spite of the suffering.  If you will allow me.... today I would like to share with you some of the secrets they have found.

First I would like to tell you about a fellow blogger named Lori Laws.  Lori has Muscular Dystrophy and has written a book titled "A Blessing in the Storm....Muscular Dystrophy messed up my life and made me whole."   In her memoir she shares her story of how her life was great.  Life was going along fine when along came Muscular Dystrophy and messed up her whole world.  But in her suffering circumstances she found what really lacked in her life.  She found Jesus Christ and he made her whole on the inside.  She still struggles with her illness everyday but she uses her circumstance to encourage others.  She carries in her a great contentment and joy that comes only from Christ.  In the storm of her suffering she has found great blessing.  She finds her blessing by keeping her eyes on the one who can give joy even when life gets hard.

This scripture fits her circumstance.

Colossians 1: 10-11 - That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy.

The writer of Colossians is trying to tell us....To have patience, suffer long and still have joy, you need to do these things......   

1.  Walk worthy of the Lord.... Be pleasing to Him - How do we walk worthy of the Lord?  We obey Him.  If we love Him, we will obey His commands. 

2.  Be fruitful in every good work. -  Do good with what you have been given.  Even in your suffering you can find good to do. 

3.  Increase in the knowledge of God. - The Word of God is living and healing for the soul.  God tells us to increase in knowledge of God because that is what will continue our relationship with Him to grow.  His joy is often found in the Word.  In Jeremiah 15:16 he said Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.

4. Be strengthened by His might and glorious power.  - Lean in!  Supernatural power comes only from a supernatural source.  God is the only supernatural source that can supply joy in the midst of suffering.  Nehemiah  8:10b says "Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  Let Him be your joy and your strength.

One last story for you before I go...  

In the book "The Life You've Always Wanted" by John Ortberg, he shares a story about a woman named Mabel.  A pastor friend of his visited a state-run convalescent hospital and met Mabel.  When he met her she was strapped in a wheel chair sitting at the end of a long hallway.  The sight of her was absolute horror.  Such so that new nurses were sent to feed her as their first duty to test them.  If they could stand the sight of her, they could stand most anything. 

Mabel sat in her wheelchair with an empty stare because she was blind.  In her ear was a large hearing aid because she was nearly deaf.  One side of her face was eaten by cancer and there were discolored and running sores covering part of one check.  The cancer had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth She drooled constantly.  And now at the age of eighty-nine years old, she had been here, bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone for twenty-five years. 

The pastor goes on to tell about his encounter that day with Mabel.  He ends up continuing to visit her each week.  First the visits were for her...but eventually the visits became for Himself.  You see, Mabel had something that most of us don't have, she had joy and contentment even in her suffering. 

The young pastor began asking himself, " What does Mabel have to think about - hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it's day or night?"   The next visit he asks her "Mabel what do you think about when you lie here?" 

This was her reply..... "I think about Jesus.  I think about how good He's been to me.  He's been awfully good to me in my life, you know....I'm one of those kind who's mostly satisfied... Lot's of folks wouldn't care much for what I think.  Lot's of folks would think I'm kinda of old-fashioned.  But I don't care.  I'd rather have Jesus.  He's all the world to me." 

You see.... Mabel had the joy of the Lord.... She had all she needed.  And you can too.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 4

Here's a little diddy for you....

                  I've got joy, joy, joy, joy,
                  down in my heart,
                  down in my heart,
                  down in my heart,
                  I've got joy, joy, joy, joy,
                  down in my heart,
                  down in my heart to stay.

If you have spent any time in church you will probably recognize this catchy tune from children's church.  Right about now you probably have the tune running through your mind.  It's one of those kind of songs that get stuck in your head and play all day long.  So as your day progresses today, its likely that you will have this tune on continual replay.  In response, you have a one of two choices....

1. You can get aggravated with me because I stuck a tune in your head and now you can't get it out. 
2.  You can make the choice to use it to remind yourself to live in joy.

So here's my point,  we have choice.  What we feel does not have to dictate where we allow ourselves to go emotionally.  In any given situation we get to choose how we respond.

I spent allot of time early on in life looking for when I would be happy.  I remember thinking, "When I get a better job....then I'll be happy,  When I get my son potty trained.... then I'll be happy, When I find a good relationship....then I'll be happy."  I could go on and on with examples.  I did that continually.  When this happens...then I'll be happy.  I was wishing my life away.  Living in what might be in the future instead of having joy in my present.   I was stuck in the belief that my circumstances would change my happiness.  I got so tired of never finding the happiness when circumstances changed. 

One day I spied a book titled "I Choose Joy!"  It really resonated with me and I decided that I wanted to do that.  So I prayed and asked God to help me choose joy everyday and in all circumstances.  I had no idea what a dramatic change it would make in my life. 

Psalm 30:5 - Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.

Here is the thing.... just as this scripture says... God is my exceeding joy.  No matter what irritation I have in front of me or suffering I must endure, I can turn my face to the one that enjoys pouring out himself.  I can look to the one who is called joy and ask Him to pour a little out on me.  I can decide to let things go when I'm angered and choose joy.  It's a choice I make with every situation that presents itself.

You have a choice today.... I hope you choose joy!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Time For Joy - Part 3

I don't know about you but I love a great fairytale!  I love the ones where the princes comes riding in on his horse and sweeps away all the bad stuff.   I guess I love those fairy tales the most because it reminds me of my prince who came galloping into my life and swept away all the bad stuff.  Then I think of Him riding in one great day on His white stallion to take me to my eternal home..... I look for Jesus and His return for me with great joy.

Back to fairy tales....

Once upon a time.   A great start for a fairytale, right? 

It's where the author usually begins a story and then spins a tale of horrible circumstances.  Those horrible circumstances then provide opportunity for a hero to eventually emerge and save the day.

Interesting that most fairy tales start with people under duress, with obstacles that seem overwhelming.  I guess there must be something horrible to overcome for there to be a need for a hero.

So I thought today I would start with a tale... not a fairytale but a real tale. 

Once upon a time there was an angel.  He was the most gloriously beautiful angel ever created.  One day he decided he was way to beautiful to take orders from anyone.  He set upon himself that instead of serving God, he would be not an angel but be himself a God.  Because of his pride and conceit he decided that he would not serve but be served.  Angered by his pride, God stripped him from his position and cast him out of heaven.  He would now be stuck and roam the earth until the time of his destruction would be fulfilled.  This once beautiful angel took on a hideous form.  His heart boiled with anger, bitterness and wrath for the God that had cast him out of heaven and cursed his beauty.  Because of his bitterness, he swore vengeance on anyone and anything that bore the mark of God.  The earth and all its creations bore the mark of its creator, so he caused destruction by making man fall into sin. 

Enters us, human beings created in the image of God.  The bane of this hideous creatures existence.  We make his blood boil with venom.  So he picks at us, pokes us, pushes us and sometimes flat out harms us.  He harmed the earth with the fall of man causing it to be in the process of decay.  Because of that process of decay we see natural disasters that fall on the head of man and bring him great suffering. Because every part of life is now in the process of destruction, even our bodies fail us.  Our outer bodies are on the path to death and they are riddled with things that cause us hardship and suffering.   Because of this tale of destruction of an angel, we people on this earth deal with great spiritual warfare and wrath.  So because of this real tale, joy in our circumstances is fleeting.  It comes and goes with the ebbs and tides of a dying world around us.  This is why we can not count on our joy being only in our circumstances.

Psalm 16:11 says this...You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your righthand are pleasures forevermore.

Here on earth our joys are transient and only momentary.  This is fitting for an earth such as ours that is in the process of decay.  Its the nature of things to come and go.  It's not the nature of circumstances while here on earth to be long lasting.  Our troubles come and go.... they stay for a while and then the tide changes.  With a new tide comes a new circumstance. 

Our true fullness of joy can only be manifested in the presence of God.  When we join Him at His righthand, meaning heaven, we will enjoy the lasting pleasures of joyful circumstances forevermore.  It is then that our circumstances will not change our joy. 

So for now.... while on this earth, we must understand that joy can be fleeting if we look for it only in the circumstances of life.   We must place out joy on something that cannot change.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 2

I'd like to continue to expand on what I talked about yesterday.  Deuteronomy talked about serving with a heart of joy and gladness.  Not just in some things we do but for the abundance of everything. That's what it said...for the abundance of everything.  We are to live in the place of a joyful heart in everything, doing all that is required of us.

Our abundance should be what pushes us toward obeying God.   Maybe your saying..."I don't have abundance! I barely survive."  I get your perspective.  I really do.  Sometimes I feel like I will never get "ahead" in life.  I feel like I am getting further behind instead of moving forward.   

Do you ever feel that way?  It can drive you to feeling hopeless.  In that moment joy gets sucked right out the window.  Bye Bye joy....

But what if we started to look at our life with new eyes?  What if we gained a new perspective on abundance?  And what if your supposed to be right where you are right now?  What if this place in your life creates things in you that you would never learn without what your going through? 

If you live here in America, if you own a house, car, or even a book, you are considered rich to 95% of the world.  Your ability to live in a permanent dwelling, wear shoes, and get a public education is a blessing that many don't have.  If your dry, sleep in a warm bed and have more than one outfit to wear you are ahead of more people than you can count. 

So you have to turn your minds to what abundance you truly have and live with a new perspective so you can begin to live in gratefulness.  Today, take some time to count your blessings not what you are lacking.

Here's another scripture for you from the Old Testament....

I Chronicles 15:25- So David, the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom with joy.

In the next verses, 26-28,  we see David and his crew dancing and singing.  The return of the ark was met with great rejoicing!  It was a party!  It says David himself was whirling and playing music.  Picture it...the king is whirling round and round caught up in the moment.  So crazy of a scene that his wife was upset with him for making a spectacle of himself.  It says she despised him in her heart.  "A king should act kingly..... Stop acting like a fool!" was her feeling.

Why all the whirling and rejoicing over an ark?  We can look at this scene and ask that very question. Why would someone get so excited over a religious relic used in their old rituals?  It's because the ark of the covenant was the place where they met with God.  The ark was stolen during a previous battle and with the return of it, they could once again be in relationship with God.  They could return it to the temple where it belonged and resume their long standing relationship with the living God. 

The ark represented their relationship with God.  Just as they were filled with joy to be back in close relationship with God, we should be filled with great joy to have the opportunity to be close to God. 

I know that instead of seeing the opportunity for being in relationship with God as a joy filled experience, many see it as being restrictive.  Some might think.... "If I serve God I won't have fun anymore."

I get that.... I love to have fun!  But I haven't given up anything that I wanted to hold onto.  What I have found is that God's way is more than fun... it's deep in your heart, overwhelming peace and joy.  I haven't given up the fun in life, I've gained it, plus some. 

Finding joy takes a shift in your perspective... it takes a change in your thinking... and it takes accepting that God knows a better way.   If you want my suggestion.... you should start shifting so you can get yourself some joy!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Time for Joy - Part 1

Recently I have been thinking allot about joy.  Seems to me that the understanding of joy has escaped us.  The world around us has so many things that weigh us down that we have forgotten what it means to be joyful.

I think it's not just time to find a little bit of joy....... NO, it's time that we found a whole lotta joy!  A whole lotta joy that we can hold onto for a whole lotta time.  The kind of joy that stays even when circumstances are hard.  The kind of joy that puts a heart at peace even when the ground is shaking and the walls are falling in.

There is that kind of joy out there and I plan to find it! I plan to not just find it but to begin to live in it! So join me if you need a whole lotta joy too.

I thought....where do I begin.  And my spirit inside cried out "scripture" "Look in the scripture!" 

YES! YES! Look in scripture.  I've learned if you want go to the Word.  Seems the same should apply.  If it's joy that I want....I should look to the Word. 

So to the book of wisdom we will go.  It's full of life changing information. Alive and always speaking truth.

But first I thought I would look up the meaning of joy. It would be good to know what good old Webster's says about the topic.   
JOY - to rejoice, 1)a very glad feeling; happiness; great pleasure; delight; 2)anything causing such feeling 3)the expression or showing of such feelings - to be full of joy; rejoice. SYN - Pleasure.  

Curious that Webster's Dictionary would think of joy as mostly a feeling when I have always been taught that happiness and joy are separate and different from one another.    Okay, so it can be a emotional feeling.  What else can we find out?  

Time to whisk you off into a time long ago....not sure exactly how many years ago, but to the Old Testament.  What did God show those people so long ago about joy?   

Deuteronomy 28:47-48  Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything.......  

Ewww....this looks bad..... Moses is telling the Israelites they will receive blessing if they are obedient to the laws of God and curses will come if they are disobedient.  If they don't serve God with JOY in their heart......  what?...what?  

therefore you will serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.  
WHOA! Because they didn't choose to joyfully serve, having a heart that was glad to be doing it, they would find themselves enslaved by their enemies with a yoke of iron.  They would be serving their enemies in greater hardship than they could ever have with God.  

The prediction came true....Rome under Titus, which was known as the iron kingdom, did enslave them and was a brutal master.  Their disobedience and ungratefulness of heart caused there own freedom to be taken.  

Matthew Henry's Commentary says this...  

The more God gives us the more cheerfully we should serve Him, our abundance should be oil to the wheels of our obedience.  God is a Master that will be served with gladness, and delights to hear us sing at our work.   

In other words...when we complain without real cause, we deserve to have a cause to complain about.  

As my mother said.... "Stop complaining or I'll really give you something to cry about!"  

What this led me to think on today was GRATEFULNESS.   I believe it may be a key point to having a joyful heart.  When we are grateful we have nowhere else to go but feeling joyful.