Monthly Archives

December 2017

LIVE IN THE JOY OF JESUS!

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“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:8-11)

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”(Philippians 4:4)

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” We have been singing this Christmas carol for three hundred years because of what the angel said to the shepherds on that first Christmas day. The shepherds rejoiced. The magi also rejoiced with great joy as the star led them to the long-awaited King of the Jews foretold by Daniel. (Matthew 2:10; Daniel 7:13-14) Seventy-two disciples would later rejoice as Jesus empowered them to minister healing and deliverance to people. (Luke 10:17) The women who followed Jesus reacted with great joy to the angelic news of His resurrection. (Matthew 28:10)

The apostles were filled with great joy at the ascension of Jesus and their commission to be His Holy Spirit-empowered witnesses in the world. (Luke 24:45-53) Great joy later broke out as that witness of Jewish Christians began bringing Gentiles into God’s Kingdom. (Acts 13:38, 15:3)

Forms of the words, “joy” and “rejoice”, appear over 440 times in the Bible. Long before Jesus arrived, God’s people were being told to be glad in the Lord, rejoice, and shout for joy. (Psalm 32:10-11) The apostle Paul says followers of Jesus are to “rejoice always”. Yet for far too many Christians in our nation today, joy, and most particularly abiding joy, is elusive. Why?
The most obvious answer to explain our lack of joy is the condition of the world around us. On the international front, we have radical Islamic terrorism, the nuclear saber-rattling of North Korea, and Russian cyberwarfare. On the national front, we have political and media-driven divisiveness, the brokenness of a hyper-sexualized culture, and a surge in public acts of violence that look markedly like violent computer games made real. Locally, almost every family has been wounded by addiction, abuse, pornography and/or divorce. There is no joy in any of that.
However, as is often the case, the most obvious answer is not the correct answer. Scripture makes it abundantly clear Christians are to have joy even in times of persecution and tribulation. (Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:23; 2 Corinthians 7:4, 8:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:6) Scripture also tells us how to achieve this joy.

First, we must understand what joy is. Dictionary.com defines “joy” as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying”. Merriam-Webster.com defines it as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires”.

Do Christians have the prospect of possessing something exceptionally desirable? We have salvation – the forgiveness of our sins and the divine promise of everlasting life! All of us should live every day in the joy of our salvation. (Psalm 20:5, 51:12; 1 Peter 1:8) Our names are recorded in heaven! (Luke 10:20)

Likewise, Christians have the right to feel they are achieving well-being and success. The Lord desires our salvation on earth, not just in heaven. (Jeremiah 29:11) He uses even our trials and suffering to produce the fruit of good character. (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2) We can rejoice that all things work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Just beyond the joy of our salvation is our joy in the God of our salvation: joy in the Lord. (Habakkuk 3:17-18; Philippians 3:1, 4:4) Our all-good, all-powerful triune God has drawn us into an eternal intimate relationship of love. (1 John 4:7-19; John 17:20-23) And this loving God now lives inside us! (John 15:3-11; Colossians 1:27) What an incredible reason for rejoicing!
Finally, just beyond our joy in the Lord is the greatest joy of all – the joy of the Lord. Jesus promises that if we love Him by obeying His commandments, He will manifest Himself to us and pour His divine joy into us. (John 14:21, 15:11) The Lord wants to give us His love, His peace and His joy. (Romans 5:5; John 14:27; Galatians 5:22-23) Wow!

A life filled with joy does not eliminate our compassion or our calling. We will continue to stand against evil and weep with those wounded by evil even as we pray for and encourage them. (Ephesians 6:10-20; Romans 12:15) In doing so, the joy of the Lord will provide strength for both us and the ones we care for. (Nehemiah 8:10)

The joy of salvation, joy in the Lord and joy of the Lord – this is the abiding joy of Jesus where we are invited to live. When we start living there, we will become the agents of joy to the world.

Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

ONLY GOD CAN UNITE WHAT GOD DIVIDED

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And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth…. (Genesis 11:6-9)

According to a recent Gallop poll, almost 80% of today’s Americans see the United States as more divided than united. Every day we are inundated with media reports of political, racial, socio-economic, religious, sexual and environmental strife. Every person is pressed to decide on all these issues whether they will be “us” or “them”.

Divisiveness is also the norm beyond our nation’s boundaries. The European Union is unraveling. Rival Muslim sects war more against each other than they do people of other faiths. Each year brings another people group seeking to secede from its nation and form its own nation.

In the midst of all this dissension, there are voices that cry out for working together, but nothing seems to change. One reason for this may be that these cries for unity often really mean, “Come unite with what I believe and I want”. But there is another more fundamental reason.

Only God can unite what God divided.

We forget sometimes how effectively the Bible, including the Book of Genesis, reveals the truth about mankind.

In Genesis 1, mankind (both male and female) received our assignment from God to fill the earth and have dominion over it (but not each other). In Genesis 3-4, we sought independence from God, fell into sin, and entered the time when man would seek dominion over, first, woman, and then our brother. In Genesis 6, sin had matured into such total wickedness that God had to “reboot” mankind with the flood.

In Genesis 9, God gave Noah and his family the same assignment to fill the earth that had been given earlier to Adam and Eve. But in Genesis 10, Nimrod was born and became the first “mighty warrior”. He established dominion over other men with a kingdom in the land of Shinar. And in Genesis 11, with all people sharing one language and culture, Nimrod’s kingdom decided they should build a great tower to heaven, make “a name for ourselves”, and not be dispersed over the earth as God had commanded.

God knew a united mankind could accomplish anything on earth they purposed to do. He also knew that as long as mankind remained disobedient and independent from Him, their united achievements would be a disaster for all of creation. (Jeremiah 17:5-9; Romans 8:18-23) So God divided mankind through the confusion of their language, causing them to disperse across the earth into what became different tribes, nations, races and cultures.

Scripture does not explicitly say so, but the God who divided mankind also clearly knew that in their continued state of sin, these different cultures would still seek dominion over each other. But empires of a divided humanity would always be short-lived. (Matthew 12:25) And God had a plan of restoration that would begin in Genesis 12.
God covenanted to bless all of the nations of the earth through Abraham. (Genesis 12:3, 22:15-18) This covenant pointed forward through Isaac, Jacob and the Hebrew people to Jesus Christ. (Daniel 7:13-14; Galatians 3:8-9) It is only through Jesus that God could solve mankind’s two great problems.

First, as Lamb of God, Jesus enables mankind to be reconciled to God as new creations, no longer independent of God and bound in sin, and no longer living for themselves. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

Second, as Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus reunites mankind with each other in the one Kingdom that will stand forever – the Kingdom of God that is being restored on the earth. (Matthew 6:10; Revelation 1:6)

All disciples of Jesus are called to be one Body, with one Lord, one Father and one faith. (Ephesians 4:1-6) We are the chosen race and holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. (1 Peter 2:9) We are united by the one Holy Spirit, who dwells in each of us and speaks all of the languages of earth and heaven. (Acts 2:4-11)

As a people called to be united in Christ, it is imperative we do two things we are not presently doing well.

First, never let any other form of identity divide us, be it political affiliation, race, or nationality, because all of those things are rubbish compared to our united relationship in Christ. (Philippians 3:4-16) And if we look, the Bible contains a “platform” that can effectively address all our nation’s problems.

Second, remember that our attitude toward non-Christians is never to be a condemning “them” and “us”. We are to love and value them like God does, praying for and blessing them, and witnessing the truth and love of Jesus so that they too may be reunited with God and with us. (Matthew 5:44-48; Romans 12:14-21; Matthew 28:18-20)

It bears repeating. Only God can unite what God divided. He needs our cooperation.

God bless you, and God bless our community.