Where Is The Joy?

If you were to tell me a year ago that I didn’t have joy in my life, I would have protested.  However, what is evident to others is often disguised to the actual person.  

So it was in this particular area of my life.  At the end of 2018, the Lord impressed profoundly on my heart the words Radiant Joy based on the scripture passage Psalm 34:4-5.  The Lord then gently but firmly began the process of revealing the deficit of joy in my Christian walk.  

God helped me see that the real joy of Christ was not penetrating and seeping out of my life onto others.  In fact, people were being turned away from the lack of joy they saw in my life.  

If no one wanted the Christ they were seeing in me, then something was wrong, and something needed to change!!

Thus began the process of dedicating the entire 2019 year towards being intentional in seeing, believing, and being joyful in all circumstances.

Needless to say, as I have become more conscious of joy this year, I get excited when I see the word joy, experience joy, or see others experience the joy of Christ.  

Are you happy?

Last week my children and husband served at Camp Blessing, a special needs camp here in Texas, where they were paired with a special needs child for the week.  Our daughter, Hannah, was paired with a nonverbal young lady whose only words were: 

“I’m happy. Are you happy?”  

Hannah says she spent the entire week telling her camper as well as herself that she was happy.  Before long, Hannah realized that she was not only happy but that she genuinely had joy.

What changed? 

Say It

My daughter discovered that repeatedly saying she was happy allowed her heart to catch up with her mind.  She knew that she has joy in the Lord, but to believe it deep down in your heart and to allow it to spill over onto others was a different story.

By speaking the truth of what she knew in God’s Word, allowed the Lord to let His truth to be heard not only through her ears but also in her heart.  

There is power in the spoken truth of God’s Word.  As we speak the truth, actions soon follow. 

Do It

Hannah discovered as she spoke the truth that she was happy, her actions became an extension of that truth.  She found herself joyful even if they were late to an event or if something didn’t go just right.  The schedule did not have to be kept for them to be happy.

She and her camper could be happy just because they were happy.

Isn’t this the truth of the Christian life?  We are joyful because the joy of the Lord lives inside us.  

Conclusion

I had the opportunity to visit the camp towards the end of the week.  Hannah’s camper was all smiles, and you could tell she was happy.  It was a great reminder to myself that if we are happy and we know it, then our face should surely show it.  

We have all sung the song.  

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. 

Where?  

Down in my heart to stay.

The words reveal great truth about the joy of the Lord and how deep it penetrates the believer’s heart.  

However, if the joy of the Lord only stays deep in our hearts and never shows up on our face, in our speech, or our actions, then how will anyone ever come to know real joy or have a desire to experience joy themselves?

As I celebrate 44 years of life today, I am thankful for a God who continues to reveal areas of weakness in my life that do not look like Him.  I am grateful that He is gentle and kind and good in how He loves His children enough not to leave them where they are at but draws them towards Christ-likeness.

I am still on this joy journey and in the process of learning how to express outwardly the joy that is down in my heart.  Will you join me?  

Leave a comment or join me on Instagram and share how joy manifests itself in your life.

Hands In The Storm

It caught me off guard.  

I was on my way into work, listening to my usual radio program.  When the program ended and before the next one could start, the station played a song I had never heard, and it caught my attention.

As I listened, I approached my destination, and while the song was still playing, I had to get out of the car.  Frantically, I tried to catch some of the lyrics and commit them to memory so I could google it when I got inside. 

After getting to a place where I could sit and search for which song was playing, my feeble attempts failed.  No matter what form of the lyrics I typed in, nothing was producing the actual song I was searching.

So I became that person who calls radio stations.

I looked up the contact number and called KHCB.  A kind gentleman answered the phone and graciously told me the name of the song I was seeking as well as the artist.  

With fingers quickly typing in the radio man’s words, the song was in Google and it came up immediately. The Christian life is hard at times, especially when it seems like the enemy is winning.

But God is still God, and Psalm 37 is jam-packed with encouragement for the believer in hard times.

God Gives And Acts

The beginning of the Psalm reminds us to trust and commit our ways to God, and He will give and act on our behalf.

Trust in the LORD and do what is good;

Dwell in the land and live securely.

Take delight in the LORD,

And He will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit your way to the LORD;

Trust in Him, and He will act,

Making your righteousness shine like the dawn,

Your justice like the noonday.  Psalm 37:3-6

God Holds Your Hand

Later in the Psalm, we are reminded that as we walk with Him, He holds our hands.  A reminder that the enemy does not win.  God is always near and does not let us fall.

A man’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.

Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD holds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

God Does Not Leave

And when it all seems hopeless, and the enemy appears to be winning, God reminds us that He will not let the enemy prevail.  God is more powerful and will rescue His children.  

Though the enemy tries to kill, steal, and destroy, God is bigger and never leaves us in the enemy’s hand.

The wicked one lies in wait for the righteous and seeks to kill him;

but the LORD will not leave him in the power of the wicked one or let him be condemned when he is judged. Psalm 37:32-33

Conclusion

As I sat and listened to the words of the song and let the Lord minister to my heart through music, I was reminded once again that God is in control of the small and big storms in life.  

He, after all, is the one who allows the storms to come and holds them in His hand.  

May you be encouraged today that no matter what you are going through, The Hand That Holds The Storm, holds you as well!!

 

 

 

Song:  The Hand That Holds The Storm

How To Deal With Shame

Christian: Met you with nothing else in that valley?

Faithful: Yes, I met with Shame.

Christian: Why, what did he say to you?

Faithful: What! Why, he objected against religion itself; he said it was a pitiful, low, sneaking business for a man to mind religion; he said that a tender conscience was an unmanly thing; and that for a man to watch over his words and ways, so as to tie up himself from that hectoring liberty that the brave spirits of the times accustom themselves unto, would make him the ridicule of the times. 

Yea, he did hold me to it at that rate also, about a great many more things than here I relate; as, that it was a shame to sit whining and mourning under a sermon, and a shame to come sighing and groaning home: that it was a shame to ask my neighbor forgiveness for petty faults, or to make restitution where I have taken from any. 

He said, also, that religion made a man grow strange to the great, because of a few vices, which he called by finer names; and made him own and respect the base, because of the same religious fraternity. 

And is not this, said he, a shame?

The above scene from Pilgrim’s Progress gives a glimpse into the unrelenting pursuit Satan has towards the believer.  When Satan knows he can no longer keep us out of eternity with the one and only true God, his mission shifts.  

True to his name, he persistently presents us before the Lord with accusation after accusation hoping to paralyze us with guilt and shame.  If he can keep us from walking in the freedom bought by Christ’s blood on the cross, then he can prevent others from the freedom as well.  What better way to do this than to accuse us of our sins.

Accused But Rescued

As a follower of Christ, our sin has been forgiven, and we have been justified before God.  However, we still live in a fallen world and battle against the flesh inside of us that still needs to die.  The enemy knows this and continually brings our sin before us and God with the hope that we will succumb under the weight of our guilt and shame.

Zechariah the prophet records in the book of Zechariah the visions he receives from the Lord to His people after they return from being exiled in Babylon.  God Himself rescues them; yet, Satan still desires for the people to remain guilty before the Lord.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 

The Lord said to Satan: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! May the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Zechariah 3:1-2

God is a redeeming God and one that continually saves and rescues us from daily trials and temptations.  

Nothing can thwart God’s plans for His people and His creation.  Even when His people have walked in sin and turned their back on Him, God is still faithful to protect and save His people.  The Holman Christian Study Bible for Women states:

Though still “burning”—influenced and afflicted by the dominant pagan culture from which the Lord was removing them—God’s people were not subject to Satan’s efforts to thwart God’s purpose for them.  

Whether we have been in exile as the Israelites in the book of Zechariah or whether we have walked in a pattern of sin that needs rescuing, God snatches us out of the fire and rebukes the enemy on our behalf and for His Name’s sake.

Guilty But Righteous

Not only does God rebuke the enemy, but He goes even a step further and dresses us with Christ’s righteousness.

God could have forgiven us of our sins and left us on this earth in the state we were in until His return.  Instead, He chose to elegantly dress us in clothing that befits a king.  Zechariah’s vision continues:

Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel. 

So He spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” 

Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.” 

Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” 

So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the Angel of the Lord was standing nearby.  Zechariah 3:3-5 

We no longer wear the garment of shame and guilt but the garment of righteousness.

Our guilt is removed!  

We are free!

Paul excellently proclaims this truth in Romans 8:1-2 :

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Yes, we have been in bondage.  Yes, we have been in exile.  But God says we are free and we do not have to walk around with shoulders slumped over wearing our old clothing of guilt and shame.

Grace and mercy have been bestowed upon us, and our shoulders can be held back with full assurance of the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Repeatedly Paul tells us in the New Testament to put off the old and to put on the new.  Why?  Because as believers who have been dressed in the righteousness of Christ, we no longer have to wear our old clothing.  

With brand new clothes to wear, why would we continue to dress in our filthy rags when there are splendid robes to be worn!?!

But with this new clothing also comes the responsibility of a new purpose.  

Used But Repurposed

With new clothing, one is now dressed for success.  However, the garment does not make the person.  God clothes us in splendid robes because He has a purpose and a plan.  

Zechariah’s vision concludes with a call of God to His people as well as an affirmation of their guilt being removed.  

Then the Angel of the Lord charged Joshua: 

“This is what the Lord of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here. 

“Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch. 

Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”-the declaration of the Lord of Hosts-“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day. 

On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.  Zechariah 3:6-10 

After dressing His people, God beckons them to walk in His ways and keep His instruction.  He desires to let them manage and care for His house.  To do this, one must be willing to obey.

Paul reminds us in Romans 8:13 that we are no longer obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh.  We do not have to walk around in our old filthy rags and ways.  Through the Holy Spirit inside of us, we can carry out God’s call to obedience, and He will fulfill all His promises, including the removal of guilt.

This relationship with Christ enables us to come boldly before the throne day in and day out for the continual receiving of grace and mercy in our lives.  

While our obedience does not earn us anything, our obedience is one way to express our love and gratitude for the work Christ has done for us on the cross.  

Conclusion

From Genesis to Revelation, the great accuser has been seeking to paralyze the believer from experiencing the abundant life God has for them here on earth.  Satan actively seeks to prevent believers from sharing the glorious freedom with others.  

Should we be fearful and give in to the enemy?  

Faithful and Christian give us a right view towards our response to the enemy of our salvation.

Christian: And what did you say to him?

Faithful: Say! I could not tell what to say at the first. Yea, he put me so to it, that my blood came up in my face; even this Shame fetched it up, and had almost beat me quite off. But at last I began to consider, that “that which is highly esteemed among men, is had in abomination with God.” 

And I thought again, this Shame tells me what men are; but it tells me nothing what God or the Word of God is. And I thought, moreover, that at the day of doom, we shall not be doomed to death or life according to the hectoring spirits of the world, but according to the wisdom and law of the Highest. 

Therefore, thought I, what God says is best, indeed is best, though all the men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him; 

Shame, depart, you are an enemy to my salvation! 

Shall I entertain you against my sovereign Lord? How then shall I look Him in the face at His coming? Should I now be ashamed of His ways and servants, how can I expect the blessing? 

But, indeed, this Shame was a bold villain; I could scarce shake him out of my company; yea, he would be haunting of me, and continually whispering me in the ear, with some one or other of the infirmities that attend religion; but at last I told him it was but in vain to attempt further in this business; for those things that he disdained, in those did I see most glory; and so at last I got past this importunate one. 

And when I had shaken him off, then I began to sing—

     The trials that those men do meet withal,

     That are obedient to the heavenly call,

     Are manifold, and suited to the flesh,

     And come, and come, and come again afresh;

     That now, or sometime else, we by them may

     Be taken, overcome, and cast away.

     Oh, let the pilgrims, let the pilgrims, then

     Be vigilant, and quit themselves like men.

Christian: I am glad, my brother, that you withstood this villain so bravely. For of all, as you say, I think he has the wrong name. For he is so bold as to follow us in the streets, and to attempt to put us to shame before all men, that is, to make us ashamed of that which is good. But if he was not himself audacious, he would never attempt to do as he does. But let us still resist him, for notwithstanding all his bravadoes, he promotes the fool and none else. “The wise shall inherit glory,” said Solomon, “but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

Faithful: I think we must cry to Him for help against Shame, who would have us to be valiant for the truth upon the earth.

Christian: You say true.

The next time the enemy stands with you before God, do not allow his accusations to hit your heart.  

Instead, humbly come before God with your sin, let His grace and mercy clothe you with Christ’s righteousness and walk away with great purpose in spreading the Good News with others.

Additional Resources

Movie: Pilgrim’s Progress

Song: Greater by Mercy Me

Notes and Commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress by Ken Puls