Relief

Psalm 30: 11 -12

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

This is a picture of a saint who was in mourning until the Lord turned his sorrow into joy. Sackcloth is a symbol of mourning like wearing black. But God removes that deep hurt from us and replaces it with joy. He takes tears and creates from them a dance. There is no hurt so deep that He cannot soothe it; no sorrow so expansive that He cannot bridge it. He is healing and comfort to all who grieve. The wails of the night He turns into the praise of the morning. He causes our hearts to sing with joy. The joy of His presence is greater than the brokenness of our experience and we find healing in Him. Our mouths will open to sing praises to Him, and thanksgiving will be our constant refrain. Great is the Lord; great to behold and worthy of thanksgiving and praise.

Comfort and Joy

Jeremiah 31: 13

Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

I told you I spent Monday outside setting up Christmas decorations and singing Christmas music at the top of my voice (sorry neighbors). One song that made a big impression on me was God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. How many times have you heard that song and even sung it for yourself? I especially heard and appreciated the line which wishes us tidings of comfort and joy. This year, as a group, we need comfort and joy as perhaps we have not in recent years.

I told you in yesterday’s Word of the Day that as I sang it was if I was transported to that little town on Bethlehem all those many years ago. I thought about the situation into which the child savior was born. The people of that day were as desperate for God’s help as we are today. The lived in an occupied territory. Think of that in present day military terms. They were not under self-rule accept to the degree that the Romans did not wish to be bothered with what they considered mundane issues. The big questions of the day were decreed by the Roman rulers. The people cried out for the promised Messiah to come relieve them of the burden of Roman rule. They were oppressed. It is into this environment that the babe was born.

Mary should have been home preparing for the birth of her child. Instead, she was forced to journey to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Can you imagine having to travel with those primitive transportation means when you are near your due date. However, the Jews had no choice but to do everything the Romans demanded. Those were some people who needed comfort and joy.

God promised he would send a savior. He promised He would turn their sorrow to joy and their mourning to gladness. He pledged to give them comfort. And He did. He sent His own son so that generations of people could receive comfort and joy in the place of sorrow.

May you be comforted and may your heart receive joy. The Christmas miracle is reborn in you today!

The Test

Matthew 7: 16

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?

Jesus gave us the method by which we can know whom we can trust. We can know people by their fruit. We saw last week Paul’s elucidation of this principle. Colossians 3 shows the fruit of the chosen of God and also the habits and traits of those not reformed by Christ. Some of the traits Paul identified for Christians are: “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other,” (Colossians 3: 12 – 13). In this list he also included the pursuit of unity (See the Word of the Day for 11/13/20).

Jesus’ teachings give us the principles. Paul’s teachings explain Jesus’ principles. He expounded on them to give further understanding. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul further described what the life of a Christian looks like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” (Galatians 5: 22 – 24).

When I was practicing law I came to despise when a client offered that they were Christian. Why? Ask many business owners and you will get the same response. It is code language for, “I’m not going to pay you.” It is as though they offered that bit of information in order to cover a defect in their character. As I said last week, pretend I am from the Show Me state. Let your actions identify you as a Christian. As my friend, Robin, said yesterday, “Actions speak louder than words.” Anyone can say, “I am a Christian.” It is an entirely different matter to walk it out. Most people who wish to deceive and take advantage of others will not identify their motives. Instead, they will use some covering ploy and claiming to be a Christian is one of the best. So, how are we to know who is the real deal?

That is the purpose of this series of devotionals which began last week. I know who you are and how you strive to live in the light of Christ. I also know that you are the most vulnerable because you are attracted to people who self-identify as Christian. Now, you don’t have to take their word for it. Look at their lives. Are they givers? If no, then you needn’t ask any more questions. They are done because Yahweh and Jesus are mega-givers. You can’t be in them and be stingy. Beyond that run the test of Galatians 5 and Colossians 3. Here it is synthesized for you.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, a heart of compassion, humility, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.

You might want to cut and paste this bit into your own document or print it. We are not asking people to be perfect, but we are looking for a pattern of behavior. I hope you identify with people who are patient and kind, gentle of speech and generous. We can encourage and expect these traits of people. We should, in fact, expect these kinds of behaviors. More than ever, we need to be considerate. We need to concern ourselves with the best interests of all people. We need to think of others instead of ourselves. That is the Christian mandate. It’s the Word. Let the Word prevail over the lives of us all.

Fullness of Joy

Psalm 16:11

You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

There are easily several messages contained in this passage. The one that shouts most loudly to me today is there is fullness of joy in His presence. There is joy in Jesus, which means there is an answer to depression. I want to say it this way, there is no need to be depressed. Here me though, this isn’t to make light of depression and anxiety. Rather, the purpose of my comments is to extend hope and compassion. Jesus came that we might have life in its fullest expression, and one cannot enjoy abundant life while plagued with depression. Jesus also said that he came to proclaim liberty to the captives, and I would hope that my ministry might be known as setting people free. There are all kinds of bondages which weigh us down in life. Living with depression is certainly an unwelcomed burden. Jesus came to set us free from the oppression of depression.

Today’s verse does not say there is no such thing as depression for Christians. And, I do not wish for you to judge yourself or feel any sense of guilt because you sometimes suffer from depression. What this verse says that in the presence of our Lord, there is no depression because there is fullness of joy.

Understand that joy and happiness are not the same thing. I am not after happiness today as much as joy. Joy is a deep-seated belief that all is well. It has to do with Shalom, perfect peace, nothing missing, nothing broken. When we are conscious of being in the presence of Jesus or our beloved Father, then the worries, anxiety and fear of the troubles of this world fade away. The more we bask in the light of His presence, the more the worldly issues dissipate. Depression is dark and gloomy. Jesus’ presence is light. Remember that our God and Father is our sun. He is shining the glory of His presence and the warmth of His love upon us every time we move into His presence. Now, how do we partake of His presence.

When you are down or depressed, it is hard to reach out and touch the joy of the Lord. It is difficult to connect with His presence. Of course, deep meditation will take you right into the Lord’s presence but if you are in a state where that is a challenge, the best thing to do is to get out of your house and into a Spirit filled worship service. Sometimes even leaving the house is a challenge but getting out of the house is often a major help. Still, if that is impossible, there is so much online content these days that it is easy to reach out for music, praise, worship and teachings. You can become a member of church groups online. You can call prayer lines and talk with an actual human. There are resources which we can employ to help bring us into the Lord’s presence.

One of my favorite blue funk day tools is music. Please understand that I am not comparing a blue funk with clinical depression. None the less, the power of praise music should not be underestimated. I especially like songs about the blood but there is so much opportunity, musically, that everyone can find something that speaks to them.

As you praise, focus your attention on the presence of Jesus and the angelic host all around you. Let the light begin to penetrate your body and your consciousness. Release your tension to that flow of light and music. Relax all the stress from your body and then release it from your mind and spirit. Be at peace and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Don’t let the devil steal your joy. He sure wants to. Get into the presence of our beloved and allow Him to fill you to overflowing. Remember, Jesus came to bring abundance, not a little trickle.

Mostly, please don’t feel alone. There are people, including myself, who care about you. Reach out to others. Get together with a group of believers, go to a church service, or just call someone. Don’t isolate yourself. God has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is with you right now and in His presence is fullness of joy. Let this, and Him, minister to you.

Gladness

Psalm 70: 4

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad because of you. Let those who love your salvation continually say, “God is great!”

This is a good meditation. Can those who seek Yahweh really be glad? Is there really something in seeking Him which can bring us joy? Our theology says so but does our life, our attitude, our words? Do we go about proclaiming, “God is great!”

I think we believe it but in our busy days we are not always in touch with the deep thoughts of our own minds and hearts. David’s world was more focused and though tumultuous, at some level I think it was simpler. The variety of distractions in our lives pulls us away from our own deep thoughts and there is little time for quiet contemplation. Dr. Caroline Leaf says we rarely pause to think any more and if that is true, how do we know what we think?

How much time do any of us spend engaged with our heart and our emotions? Do we seek our inner self to find what beats in our hearts? How is it that we can seek God if we haven’t taken the time to know ourselves? And then, who are we in Him?

I think we will rejoice when we seek God and find that He is closer to us than we previously perceived. I believe we will be glad as our seeking draws us into a deeper relationship with Him. As He becomes more of our every day, we do find peace and joy. The greatest part of this is that there is no limit to the extent of closeness we can achieve with the Father. Our walk with Him today may be far superior to that of yesteryear and yet, a mere shadow of tomorrow’s intimacy.

If there is one thing our faith walk requires, it is seeking the Father’s face. When we seek Him, we find all because He is all. When we find Him in greater measure today than yesterday, we find more of His goodness and the joy is a mere by-product of being with the Father. Seek with all your heart and that heart will rejoice and be glad.

Let All Praise

Psalm 67: 1 – 5

God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us— Selah.
2 That Your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth. Selah.
5 Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

Indeed, let all the people of the world praise the Lord our God. He will judge righteously. Remember judgment isn’t just a negative. Someone wins a judgment in a lawsuit. Our God has already decided that we will win when He passes judgment because He has chosen to see us through the blood of righteous Jesus.

He will guide us all, all the peoples of all the nations. He will show himself to all the people of the earth and they will revel in His glory and majesty. All the nations will praise Him and sing of His glory. We will shout for joy at the revealing of His grace and beauty. The glory of His face will shine upon us all, for it is luminous, the light of the world. And we shall glory in His presence.

This is the description of the real end of days. When God shows Himself all the world will recognize Him as the one and only true God. They will see His beauty and majesty and will delight in His presence. There will be no unbelievers. There may be some people who choose not to follow Him but no one will be able to doubt His majesty.

He is gracious and kind and will lead all the nations in love. He will lead all people in delightful paths that will fill their hearts with joy and fulfillment. Then the people of all the earth will honor and praise Him. Selah.

Bless the Lord

2 Samuel 7: 1 – 2             NLT

When King David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, the king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!”

One of the most outstanding things about David is that God calls him a man after His own heart (Acts 13: 22). When I read passages like this, I understand why. David had God on his mind.

Picture, if you will, David sitting in his palace. He has the finest home in the entire land, not just in Jerusalem, not only in Israel, but as far as the eye can see there is no finer home. He is surrounded by every luxury, the finest clothes drape his body, priceless jewels are plentiful, goblets of gold and a servant for every need. What more could a person want? None the less, David had another want, another desire. While sitting on his throne, he was thinking of Yahweh, his friend and God. Clearly, though, Yahweh had become much more to David than a remote deity. David loved God and love makes you want to do things for the one you love.

God took a young shepherd boy and turned him into a king. God vanquished all his foes and gave him riches beyond measure. So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did David love and honor God because of all God did for him or did God prosper David because of the love and trust David walked in. I believe it was the latter.

David showed remarkable faith in God’s willingness to deliver him and indeed, all Israel from a young age. Remember how incensed David was that Goliath insulted the God of Israel? There is also a great story from 1 Chronicles. David was to build an altar and make an offering to the Lord. He offered the man that owned the land full price, but the man offered to give David the land and a bull and wheat for the offering. David refused, though, saying that he would not offer to the Lord that which cost him nothing (1 Chronicles 21: 24). Wow! David showed honor and respect for the Lord. And God was faithful to David. They had (and have) a wonderful relationship and when I say God prospered him beyond measure, it is a literal truth. David passed on so much wealth to Solomon that Solomon didn’t even count the silver. There was too much too count so he only concerned himself with the Gold.

So, let me ask you this? Do you ever have the feeling that you too would like to do something for God? What would you do? He doesn’t need a new temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. What is within your power to bless God? I think you might have fun thinking through this. I hope you find something to do for God because I know it will be fun and bring joy to your heart. Have a great day!