Friday, January 25, 2013

Irrepressible Joy

Keeping the lid on something ready to explode isn’t easy. As kids, we’d get baking soda and put it in old medicine bottles, add water, shake and try to hold the lid on. You can’t. The pressure builds up to such an extend it outperforms the strength of your hands trying to hold it back. The mess inside is going everywhere.

Someone once told me if you held a firecracker real tight in your fingers and lit it, it couldn’t explode. They were wrong.

There is a point at which the force within exceeds the power without and an explosion is on its way.

Joy is irrepressible. It cannot be held back. If the abundance of the joy in your life overflows it will begin to show up in your life. Not as a grinning, mindless puddle of don’t worry, be happy—but a strength that shows up in your character, attitude and manners. It even has influence over my speech, whether I complain, grip, whine or seek pity.

Paul described the Fruit of the Spirit in terms of actions that would define your life if the Spirit of God is overflowing from your life. These were characteristics that, if we’re being honest, are not natural to most of us—they need supernatural influence.

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Joy is on the list. It is one of the evidences that the Spirit of God has a dominate place in our lives. Paul’s argument is: if we are filled to overflowing by the Spirit of God, joy becomes irrepressible. It shows up. We can’t hold it back.

It’s not something we have to work up, or fake, or force out of us. It is evidence we are walking with God.

Question: Have you found times you have been overwhelmed by the Joy of the Lord? Comments?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Indescribable Joy

Ever hit a moment in which you need to describe something but can’t find the right words? All that your senses have taken in mesh into a beautiful picture in your mind but it’s far too overwhelming to explain. I know what I’m trying to say but I just can’t say it. Joy fit into that category.

How can you tell someone you’re okay when, from the outward appearance, your life seems devastated? How can you, in the midst of trials and tests, say I’m doing well? How can you stand up when everyone else’s knees have buckled them to the ground and with confidence say that God’s got this under control?

Paul wrote: “Don’t let your anxieties control you, but instead reconnect to God in prayer, telling Him what’s gripping your life. When you do, you will experience the full measure of God’s peace which will be indescribable. That peace will become like a barrier separating you from your anxious thoughts.” (Phil 4:6-7 loosely paraphrased)

Sometimes words just can’t explain what God is doing in our lives. People only see the outside. They don’t know the source and activity of our Strength. But we know it’s there.

Fortunately, explaining joy isn’t necessary in order to experience joy. I need no formal training, no mentor, guide or teacher telling me what to do. All I need is a willingness to take the raw needs of my life before the God who has the power to exchange what I give Him for the joy of belonging to Him.

How might that interaction go:

US: Father, I’ve got this concern.

GOD: Got it.

US: It’s eating me alive.

GOD: Got it.

US: It’s draining away my joy.

GOD: Got it.

US: I don’t know what to do.

GOD: Got it.

US: Please help me.

GOD: Got it.

US: Will you take it from me?

GOD: I already have.

US: Oh, thanks.

GOD: Don’t mention it.

US: I’m not sure I could even if I wanted to.

And at that moment the peace that brings joy becomes suddenly indescribable.

Question: Have you had a moment when you’ve been so overwhelmed by God’s goodness that you just couldn’t say a word? Comments?

Monday, January 21, 2013

May Your Joy Overflow

The answer to the question—is the glass half full or half empty—depends on whether you are filling or emptying the glass. Just looking at a glass sitting on the counter and deciding which it is, is merely speculation. If you are filling the glass, the halfway point means the glass is half full. If you are emptying the glass, the halfway point means the glass is half empty.

Being half full or half empty is merely a measuring spot to tell me where I am in the process of filling or emptying the glass.

Jesus was full of joy. “So this joy of mine has been made full.” (John 3:29) He wanted His followers to have the same joy. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11) He told the Father, “I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” (John 17:13)

As with all He gives, His gifts amount to more than meets the need. Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7) Lavishing means He pours abundantly.

He said, “I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10) Not an adequate life, not enough life, not sufficient life, but abundant life.

His intentions are to make sure at any moment we have more than enough joy to compensate for what we’re going through.

Since the fullness of joy is already packaged within the gift of His grace, along with redemption and forgiveness, we possess the treasure at all times. We don’t have to ask for joy. We simply need to let it loose.

In the movie Seabiscuit, the racehorse had been poorly trained. He had been misused and abused by those who didn’t realize his potential. In one scene, the trainer tells the jockey to take him out into the countryside and just let him run. Reason: Seabiscuit had forgotten the joy of doing what he was designed to do.

For us, joy comes when we quit trying to be something we’re not and simply be the child God designed us to be. The starting point is forgetting much that we’ve been told and returning to the basics of loving God with all we are. Getting back to undistracted devotion releases the joy we already contain.

Question: How full is your joy glass today? Comments?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What’s Stealing Your Joy

It doesn’t matter what you have, somebody else would like to have it instead of you. That’s the mystery behind flea markets and garage sales. It’s also the driving force behind theft. Stealers don’t care what it means to you or what it would cost you to replace it, they just want what you have.

Joy Stealers come in various shapes and disguises. They can look just like your best friend, your spouse, your kids, your boss. They can expose themselves through words like: you have cancer, I want a divorce, there’s been an accident. They can linger after words are spoken, deeds are done and wounds are scarred over.

Joy Stealers catch us when we are the most vulnerable—in between a spiritual high and low, during a drought of prayer and Bible reading, when we’ve taken a vacation from seeking God. They sneak in when we are momentarily distracted. But they also show up in the middle of something good.

Most thieves do their work at night or whenever they think they are least likely to get detected. Joy Stealers gain entrance by a whisper, a look or a silent response. In some way a lie was introduced, some suggestion that degraded our sense of God at work in our lives, and we thought about it. As we thought, it began to consume more and more of our attention until it became more real than God is to us, bigger than He is, more powerful than His power.

Watch for these Joy Stealers:

  • Negative people
  • Misguided friends
  • Non-spiritually-minded advisors
  • Faithless observers
  • Downward thoughts
Jesus said, “A strong man, well armed can protect his household, but if he allows in a stronger influence, he can be ransacked.”

We may not be able to completely avoid the Joy Stealers, but we don’t have to give in to their tricks.

Question: What are some Joy Stealers you’ve run into in your life? Comments?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Joy Fibers of His Salvation

When it comes to being saved, salvation is God’s possession not ours. We do not own it, contribute toward it, add to it or take away from it. It is His gift, complete and lacking nothing. If I ever think of it as mine, I will minimize its significance in my life like I do with any possession over which I assume control. It will only have value as long as it is new, fresh and exciting—as long as I consider it a gift.

But as a gift, salvation isn’t a package I open once and enjoy forever, it is a progressive gift that is new every morning and continues its life-change throughout my life.

The Bible writers used specific tenses to make their point when describing salvation. From the tense they used they actually say: we were saved in the past, are being saved in the present and will be saved in the future. It is a complete work at any point but yet there is always more God’s salvation intends to accomplish in me.

A tree is a tree whether it is a sapling or a towering oak. The sapling is still by definition a tree but has far to go before its anticipated growth is reached. And, in fact, it never stops growing.

To keep our gift fresh, God continually weaves it into the tapestry of our lives. One thread He always includes is the Joy fiber. Tapestries are complex with thousands of threads working together to create the details of incredible beauty. So are our lives. They are a composite of moments through which He brings the color and details that best help Him express His goodness in that moment.

Those threads tell the story of everything that happens to us. The Joy fibers make sure our circumstances hold greater value than just the happenstance of life.

  • Fibers of joy that remind me I’m not alone in the darkness
  • Fibers of joy that provide hope when I feel helpless
  • Fibers of joy that comfort me when something precious is taken away
  • Fibers of joy that make me anticipate all God has a future God has planned for me
The salvation I received at eighteen isn’t adequate for what I’m dealing with at this point in my life. I need a freshness that’s like getting the gift all over again. That’s why God made sure to include Joy within the fibers he is weaving into each moment of our lives.

When David prayed God would return to him the joy of His salvation, he didn’t need to get saved again, only to be restored to the freshness of what the gift was there to do in his life in that moment.

Question: When have you found the freshness of God’s gift hidden within a moment of your life? Comment?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Defining Joy

There’s a lot of confusion between joy and happiness. We may use the terms interchangeably but they are not the same. At times they may look alike and may show up at the same time and at the same place, but there are times they simply don’t belong together. Joy can show up in places where happiness just seems inappropriate. James said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you experience the tough times in life required for you to grow as a believer and expand your understanding of how big God is.” (James 1:2 loosely paraphrased)

Tough times are not typically happy times. But since joy and happiness are not the same thing, you can still have joy when you can’t be happy. I may not like what I’m going through but I can embrace my circumstances as a opportunity to see the goodness of God in my behalf. How?

  • By finding my Joy Spot
  • By realizing God is accomplishing a work in my life
  • By anticipating the results
  • By expressing my thanks to God for taking the time to refine my life
  • By allowing this moment to bless me

The farmer is never closer to the land than when he is breaking it up for planting. Land that has lain dormant from past years is too hard for seeding. It’s a wasteland until the farmer gets out the disk and plows it back to usefulness.

That plowing is violent and brutal but essential for the next phase of planting and the ultimate reward of next season’s crops. The ground isn’t happy to be plowed but submits, anticipating the joy of harvest.

Joy is the warmth of an inner peace that comes when we realize God is accomplishing His purposes in our lives. It is a by-product of trust that we experience when we’re not being distracted by what’s actually going on at the moment.

Question: During what phase of the trial is it hardest to “consider it joy?” Comments?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Finding Your Joy Spot

Flying became possible in the movie Hook when Peter Pan found his happy thought. Life had changed him, disconnected him from who he was, and pressed him into a different mold. He no longer could function as the Pan and was now just a man.

At the insistence of the Lost Boys he forced his mind to reconnect with a thought that lifted him back into the air and empowered him to be who he had always been.

Paul said, “I urge you, fellow believers, based on the mercy God has given you, that you present yourselves to Him as an on-going, holy and acceptable gift, which is the natural expression of your life when you declare Him as that which is most valuable to you. And don’t allow the world to press you into its mold so that you reflect its values, but realize you will be changed when you remind yourself of what God’s intentions are for you—intentions that are good and perfect and acceptable.” (Romans 12:1-2 loosely paraphrased)

Just like Peter Pan, we have this spot inside us where we get redefined. It reminds us of who we are, who He is and what He has promised. It reconnects us with the fact that His intentions are always good. And when we get to that spot we can find the joy that lifts our lives back to where they should be. In fact we can “Extend our wings like an eagle does and soar to heights well beyond the restraint of the circumstances of our earthly existence. In that place we rise beyond the tiresome weariness of life.” (Isaiah 40:28 loosely paraphrased) And then we soar in those heavenlies where joy flows in abundance.

  • Have you lost the joy you discovered when you first gave your life to Jesus?
  • Where did it go?
  • Is it gone forever?
  • Can you ever get it back?
Reconnecting with the Joy of Jesus requires us to return to our Joy Spot. Go back to that moment when He became the most valuable person in your life. Stay there and soon you’ll feel the wind rushing past your wings and you’ll fly again.

Question: How do you find your Joy Spot? Comments?