Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God has Joy

Joy

One of my favorite passages from my study on joy was Zephaniah 3.  I actually worked through the whole book, but the good stuff is in chapter 3.  This book is God’s promise that judgement is coming on Judah, as well as the nations.  “Zephaniah” means God hides.  Chapter 3 reminds us that there is always a remnant of God’s people.  The ones who have been faithful and have not compromised or drifted away from the Lord.  As I thought about the man God used to deliver this message, and the meaning of his name, I was reminded that there are always servants of God, though sometimes they seem hidden away.  And I thought about how God is able to hide us from the trouble and the judgement, if we have been faithful.

This book opens with a declaration of man’s apathy in chapter 1 verse 12.  Basically the people were saying “God is not involved in the affairs of men.”  Yet God says, “I am in your midst” in chapter 3, verses 5, 15, 17.  This is comforting to me when I go through difficult times – God is right there with me in the midst of it all. 

Chapter 3 is really full of amazing truths.  I know that it is written to Israel, but we can draw principles from the truth of this passage.  When God brings back the remnant (when He restores them – sometimes our sin drives us away from God but He can restore us again), they will sing & shout (3:14), they will be glad and rejoice (3:14), they will realize that the Lord is in the midst of them (3:15), they will not fear (3:16), and they will be diligent (3:16).

Here are some things I see about the Lord in this chapter:

  • He is in my midst v.17
  • He will rejoice over me v.17
  • He will save v.17
  • He will rest in His love v.17
  • He will joy over me with singing v.17
  • He will gather us together v.18
  • He will undo the affliction v.18
  • He will save v.19
  • He will get praise and fame for those who were afflicted and driven away v.19
  • He will bring us again (restore) v.20
  • He will make us a name (restore) v.20

These promises are so precious.  I can choose to live in disobedience and suffer judgment; or I can choose to be faithful and wait for the Lord to bring His plan to pass (3:8).  I can continue to trust in the Lord (3:12), I can leave my “enemies” to the Lord to deal with (3:15).  I can continue to work for the Lord even when the future seems unknown (3:16).  And then – the promises of verse 17!  He is with me, and He will save me, and when I am faithful even in these difficult or trying times, He will rejoice over me.  I can bring joy to my God.  His love for me will be seen and the fruit of it reaped whe  I return His love in faithful living.  Not only does He give me joy (3:14), but I can bring joy to Him through my life!

Monday, January 23, 2017

What Are Some Things that Bring Joy?

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I am on Day 23 of my personal study of joy through the Bible.  But it has taken me over a month to get that far.  There’s a lot that is just kind of “sitting” in my mind, rolling around, and trying to figure out the right way to express it.  But today as I am nearing the end of my study, I looked at several things that Scripture says can bring us joy.

  1. The Word of God.  Psalm 119 is all about the Word of God, but it is replete with statements of how the Psalmist delights in God’s Word, or rejoices in God’s Word.  I would suggest a read through this powerful Psalm, but the verses that speak of delight in God’s Word are 14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, and 174.  Verse 111 states that the Word of God rejoices the heart.  Verse 162 says that “I rejoice at Thy Word.”
  2. Proverbs 23:24 tells us that having righteous and wise children will bring joy to a mother and father.  I am trusting the Lord that we are raising our kids to be this kind of children – the ones that bring us joy and not shame or sorrow.
  3. Proverbs 15:23 states that we can have joy by the answer of our mouth.  Being able to say the right thing at the right time can bring joy to our own hearts…much less those around us!
  4. Luke 15 gives three parables of a lost thing – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (prodigal) son.  In all three instances, when the lost thing is restored, the owner has great joy and calls his friends and relatives to rejoice with him.  I know that I have lost important or valuable items before, and I feel sick inside until they are located.  These parables teach us the more important truth, that when a sinner repents, it brings joy to heaven.  It should bring joy to me, too, to be a part of God’s plan for redeeming men.  I can share the Gospel and rejoice when others choose to accept it.
  5. Romans 5:1-5 tells us a couple more things to rejoice in.  The prospect, or the expectation (hope) of the return of Christ and our final redemption for eternity should bring great cause for rejoicing.  I know I don’t always rejoice in, or look for, His coming as I ought to! 
  6. We can also rejoice in our tribulations, because we can look ahead and see that God’s purpose is to make us more like Christ.  This is the hardest area for me to find joy.  I usually start complaining when my circumstances don’t line up how I would choose.  James 1:2-3 also tells us to find joy in trials – because it produces patience in our lives.
  7. Romans 5:11 expresses the fact that we should have joy in our atonement.  How often do we take our salvation for granted instead of rejoicing daily that we are no longer hell-bound?
  8. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus was able to endure the cross because of the joy on the other side.  What is that joy?  Joy in knowing that He had finished His task and fulfilled the Will of God.  I too can find joy in doing God’s Will for my life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Joy of the LORD is Your Strength

Nehemiah 8:10 is probably one of the best known verses on joy.  This verse comes in the middle of a passage as the people were holding a solemn feast to the Lord.  Ezra read the entire book of the law, while the poeple stood to listen (try that in modern churches!).  The New Testament teaches us that the Law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ.  The Law had the same effect on this congregation, for they were so disturbed by their sin, after seeing how they had violated the Law, that they were mourning and weeping.  Ezra and Nehemiah had to instruct them to stop mourning so that they could worship the Lord properly on this holy day!  They were told to go and have their feast, and make mirth, and that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

Verse 12 concludes that the people responded this way because “they had understood the words that were declared unto them.”  As we read God’s Word we may be broken because of our sin, but we can also rejoice in the God of our salvation.  As we realize what He has saved us from, the joy we receive gives us strength to live for Him.

Some parallel thoughts include these verses:  (emphasis added)

Prov. 10:29 The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction [shall be] to the workers of iniquity.

Isa 25:1-4 O LORD, thou [art] my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. 2 For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. 3 Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee. 4 For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.

Psalm 28:7-8 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. 8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

Isaiah 12:1-3 And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. 3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

2 Cor. 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

2 Cor. 12:8-9 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Matthew Henry states, “Holy joy will be oil to the wheels of our obedience…The joy fo the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies.”

The Hebrew word translated strength in Nehemiah 8:10 also means a place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold, harbour.  As we make the choice to rejoice in the Lord – to be thankful for His salvation, to trust in His strength, to rely on Him in our trial – then He tucks us away in the safety and refuge of Himself.  I think that knowing this only intensifies the joy!

Isaiah 61 says that God wants “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”  We should mourn for our sin, as the Israelites did in Nehemiah 8, when we understand the depth of our sin from the Word of God.  But then we allow the Lord to take our mourning and exchange it for joy.  To take the heaviness and sorrow of our sin, and trade it for a garment of praise.  All of this brings glory to the Lord!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Joy in the Psalms

One of the things which I have done in my study on joy is walk through all the verses that mention joy in the Psalms and Proverbs.  I hand wrote all of those verses in my journal.  Here are some conclusions that I drew:

  1. Joy comes from trusting in the Lord (Ps 5:11)
  2. Joy  is in the presence of the Lord (Ps. 16:11)
  3. Joy comes from the Lord’s salvation (Ps. 21:1)
  4. Joy is worshipping God - we offer sacrifices of joy (Ps. 27:6)
  5. Joy comes at the end of trials (Ps. 30:5)
  6. Joy is in the Lord (Ps. 32:11)
  7. Joy is in doing right (Ps. 32:11)
  8. The Lord wants us to have joy and prosperity (Ps. 35:27)
  9. We worship through joy (Ps. 42:4)
  10. The presence of God and His city brings joy (Ps. 48:1)
  11. We can ask God for joy (Ps. 51:8)
  12. Initial joy is in salvation (Ps. 51:12)
  13. God restores lost joy (Ps. 51:12)
  14. Physical blessings can bring joy (Ps. 65:13)
  15. We can rejoice (or have joy) just knowing that God is righteous (Ps. 67:4)
  16. We reap joy after the trial (which is often sowing in tears) (Ps. 126:5)
  17. Wisdom and peace bring joy (Prov. 12:20)
  18. Joy is not dependent on others (they cannot take my joy away) (Prov. 14:10)
  19. Giving the right answer brings us joy (Prov. 15:23)
  20. Wise children bring joy (Prov. (17:21; 23:24)
  21. Joy comes from doing right (Prov. 21:15)

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Source of Joy

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I think we could probably all answer this question without studying, but I wanted to study it anyway.  Joy comes from God.  But how do we access that joy?

In John 16:17-24 and 33, Jesus is trying to tell His disciples that He is leaving (referring to His death).  But He promised them that their sorrow would be turned to joy, and fullness of joy.  They would see Him again after His resurrection, and then they would receive His indwelling Holy Spirit.

Joy is this passage is a comfort.  But because the disciples were trying to conform His words to their expectations of a physical kingdom set up on earth, their disappointment blinded them to truth.  Jesus told them that “in that day” (when they would see Him again) they would ask Him nothing.  Why?  Because they would understand what He had meant. 

But then He instructed them to ask of the Father in His name, and they would receive it.  Jesus even went on to explain that the asking and receiving through prayer would lead to fullness of joy.  We are directed to ask for all that we need and all that He has promised.  And we are assured to receive it.  The blessed effect of the prayer of faith is that it fills us with joy.

“Would we have our joy full, as full as it is capable of being in this world, we must be much in prayer.  When we are told to rejoice evermore, it follows immediately, pray without ceasing” – Matthew Henry (referencing 1 Thess. 5:16 ff)

God’s gifts, through Christ, fill the treasures of the soul, they fill its joy.  So what is the source of joy?  The presence of the Savior, and God’s spiritual blessings accessed in prayer.  Nothing physical, for the disciples were sorrowful and the world would be trying to steal joy away from them.  But Jesus promised that their joy would remain full as they remained connected to the Father in prayer.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What is Joy?

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it this way:

joy noun \ˈjȯi\ -

  1. a :  the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
    b
    :  the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

  2. a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

  3. a source or cause of delight

joy verb -

  1. :  to experience great pleasure or delight : rejoice

  2. archaic : gladden

  3. archaic : enjoy

The Bible speaks of both joy and happiness.  Many times we are told to rejoice, and Jesus teaches on having fullness of joy.  Yet Jesus also taught in the sermon on the mount many ways to be blessed, or happy.  Joy is usually described as something which cannot be taken away when circumstances change, while happiness is based on circumstances entirely.  One site describes it this way: 

Happiness is an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure. Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness{source – not necessarily recommended}

I think the difference between the two will be more clearly seen as we continue to study where joy comes from, and how and when God instructs us to have joy.

“Our joys on earth we are liable to be robbed of by a thousand accidents, but heavenly joys are everlasting.” 
--Matthew Henry

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Study on Joy

Recently the Lord has led me to do a topical study on joy in my quiet time. I want to document some of that journey here, as I have time to express in writing what God is teaching me.

It has been wonderful to be home from deputation and on a mostly “normal” wake-up schedule.  We implemented an “okay to get up” signal for the kids to ensure that we could get a measure of time with the Lord before the kids converge on the day.  This has been amazing to my devotions, which suffered greatly over the last couple of years while we traveled!

My study is utilizing an inductive Bible Study method which I am learning through the Busy Mama Bible Studies several times a year from Doorposts.  These have radically changed my quiet time, and allowed me to go deep even in just a few minutes while I walk through the Little Years with my kiddos.  I am enjoying using these Moleskine Cahier notebooks for each study, and my Prismacolor pencils are never far away.  (I even got Ben hooked on using them in his quiet time!)

The reason I began this study is because my pastor preached through several of the words we typically see around at Christmastime – words that the world uses, but doesn’t really understand (like love, joy, peace).  I realized that I have been struggling to have joy in my walk with God, because I have been disappointed at His choices for my path, and frustrated that His timing is not my timing.  I want to show joy and contentment to my kids and my husband, not selfishness and frustration.

To kick off my study, I created a pretty reminder to help me choose joy each day.

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You can download it here, in JPG or PDF format.