Saturday, July 16, 2011

Joy is Not Optional

As I was worshipping and reading the Word this morning, I was struck by "JOY". The joy of enjoying Jesus, acknowledging His greatness, His intimate knowledge of me, His sovereign power and majesty, His beauty that is displayed day after day in nature. The messianic Psalm 45 says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (v. 6-7) Oil was used for healing, for perfume to make a lovely scent, for anointing kings and declaring their calling. Jesus' kingdom reigns with the oil of joy. Doesn't that just lift your spirit? Doesn't your heart cry for more joy?

The accuser of our heart, Satan, tries to kill our passion, steal our joy and keep our eyes on ourselves by making the troubles of our present day seem bigger than they really are. By making them the focus, we are practicing the presence of the fall, which is nothing but darkness and there is not joy there! Contrast the eternal light of Christ, where our hope and joy comes from. To have this, we must intentionally keep our eyes on Jesus, to abide in Him to maintain an eternal perspective with a quieted heart and be filled with joy that the world may know there is more than they see...there is Jesus, the light of our salvation, the hope of the nations and the true source of JOY!

Jesus said, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11) To live for Christ in this world then, joy is not optional! Because it is a treasure and promise of His kingdom, it is a "must have" to make a difference in this cynical, self-centered dark world...LIGHT/JOY shines brightest where is it darkest! May your joy be complete in Jesus and overflow with passion to others!

God invites us to "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you. (Others) will come to your the brightness of your dawn." Isaiah 60:1-3.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Who Do You Want to Become?

For a several years I have been taking care of my elderly in laws, especially now that they are in an assisted living situation with no car. In visiting with them and the other residents, I've noticed two types of elderly---joyful, giving, friendly, thankful men and women with a gray crown of glory and crabby, wrinkled faced, complaining sorts that you try to stay away from. I don't know these people's stories and perhaps that would shed light on their current attitude. However, I do have a new fear which has given me a new goal as a result--my fear is that I will be the crabby one. My new goal is to age well that my spirit might be inviting, warm and encouraging even when my aches and pains increase.

I've observed the joyful folks at the elderly care places and they all have one thing in common--they care about others more than themselves. They are the ones welcoming visitors; expressing interest in others. They are the ones who wheel their way over to the door to press the button to open it for you before you get your key out; trying to serve instead of being served. They are the ones who live for a greater purpose than just their own comfort. Some examples of this are writing a resident newsletter, carrying around jokes printed on a piece of paper to share a laugh with others, going to the activities to be involved in others' lives, or escorting me, the visitor, who is lost to the place I'm trying to find. From experience, these are the rare ones. This is why the few I've had the privilege of being inspired by stick out in my mind so strongly.

In light of glory and giftings from God, it so refreshes me to know it can shine throughout EVERY stage of life if we choose to give. It all starts before our body to gives way to age; it is more mental than physical really. Its the choice to practice the presence of self or practice the presence of Christ. Jesus said to gain life we must lose it, must give it away. I truly see this at work in the those few who have chosen well. They probably didn't ask themselves 30 years ago who will I become?...they simply refused to only be concerned about themselves. They are the ones I look forward to seeing, even if from afar because I see joy and peace which invites others to be near instead of the misery of self centeredness which honestly makes you visit because you have to and not because you want to!

So ask yourself, who do I want to become? Then start living in light of that today!

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." Romans 8:6

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses is life for me will save it." Luke 9:24

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Declaration of Dependence

As the Fourth of July approaches I've been thinking a bit about our brave forefathers who risked all to take a stand for freedom that birthed our great nation. Personal freedom and independence are greatly valued in our culture--indeed many lives have been lost to gain and maintain it. For a nation, these are endearing and necessary values, however, when it comes to living in God's kingdom, they are actually dangerous and deadly.

I think our cultures' free and independent spirit is one of the hardest to shake when it comes to walking with God. This independent attitude breeds pride and even isolation at times as we all think we should be able to live life through our own effort and strength. Yes, Jesus Christ died for me to be free--free of sin and bondage, but He also calls me to lay down my own life--this is far from freedom for simply freedom sake! It must be for His glory! God desires deep surrender of our heart, mind, soul and love Him fully. This is far from independence!

To know God, we need quantity and quality time with Him--to commune with Him, to be restored in Him, to have our identity rooted in His still, small voice through solitude and silence away from the rush of life...this we must fight for. To have the joy of the Lord as our strength, we simply need more of Jesus. There is no shortcut to this one but simple surrender...surrender of time and talents; ambitions and let go of human understanding, plotting and planning to just be with Him, to ask and receive; to revive, reflect and die to self!

Scripture speaks of body life that is sacrificial, vulnerable, interdependent and rich in fellowship at the heart level. To bear one another's burdens, we need to be willing to make our needs known, to be REAL by letting into our private world and not just looking good to the outside observer; this is humbling. To offer our spiritual giftings, we need to know one another so our spirits might become one to sharpen and encourage each other in unity--we need to spend time together deeper than just a church pot luck; this is sacrificial. We need to know each other at the heart level to be able to speak deeply into a person's life or to receive from another because we trust them and their walk with God; this is time consuming, but time well spent. We must lay down the temptation to give up and go passive or just serve, serve, serve to look spiritually mature and pat ourselves on the back at a job well done while having a tired, burned out heart; this takes self control and discernment. To love others well, we must be filled by God first, to let Him love us and quiet us so that we are His ministers of hope, joy, peace and love led by Him and not just striving to fix others; this takes listening to Him and to each other which requires great patience and committment.

This is HARD because it is not just about me, hence not just about my freedom and independence! Thankfully, none of this is possible without the Holy Spirit which He freely gives and my surrender and complete dependence on Him, who is greater than any human king or government! So as you watch fireworks celebrating our nation's brave stand through the Declaration of Independence in 1776, may the sparks go off in your own heart to make this also a courageous Declaration of DEPENDENCE on Jesus in 2011.

"Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart...rend your heart and not your garments (what's inside and not just how it looks on the outside!). Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." Joel 2:12-13 emphasis added