Rejoicing


To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2

 

What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with the apparent desire that it is truly so for the person that you are speaking to.

 

As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who shows them what they are missing.

 

It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. In order to do this I need to realize that I am blessed by God in this same manner so that I think and act as a person who is graced by the presence of Christ and filled with His Spirit of peace, joy, and love. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.

 

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Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

 

This is the sort of thing that we hear a lot in the world of Christian thought and direction for life. Yet, does this really make any sense? Is this a reasonable or even a reasonably human reaction to the sorts of things that happen to us? Even God tells us that He wants to hear our fears, doubts, concerns, pain, and grief. The Bible is laced through with examples of godly people who pour out their agony and dread to the Lord in the hope of relief or comfort or salvation. So, going about life with thanks to God on the tip of the tongue and praise for the Lord as the instant response to bone-crushing situations seems to me to be utterly crazy and not even close to reality. However, if Paul was anything at all, he was a realist. He knew his way through the harder sides of life, and he had experienced Christ’s redemption in a profoundly real and life-altering manner.

 

For Paul and for each of us, the difference maker in all of this is Christ Jesus. Paul knew of and about God. He was devoted as fully as any human had ever been to the pursuit of that knowledge and to the carrying out of God’s will as he perceived it. Yet, without Christ he did not truly and actually know God, and he was not capable of living out the will of this Father who he did not know. This is true for all people. Many of us think that we are following God, and we may consider that we possess all that we need in order to do so. However, God’s Word makes it very clear that there is one and only one way to enter into the sort of relationship that leads to the close, intimate, and life-giving connection that God desires to have with people and that is by and through Jesus the Christ.

 

So, in Christ everything is changed. Life is ours, and this new life is one that fills our days here and now, and it grants to us the fullness of eternity with God. Christ transforms the perspective that we have on the world where we live as He grants to us His vision of it all as the dwelling place of the Lord and of His heavenly host of angelic beings. As Christ is in me and His Spirit counsels, guides, and directs my reaction to the world and engagement in it, everything looks and feels different. Pain, hurt, disappointment, fear, and grief are not eliminated, but the Lord’s strength and comfort overcome their power over me, and my heart and mind are set free from the oppressive hold that the author of all loss is attempting to gain on me. Christ makes it reasonable and even rational to be thankful in the midst of great trials. As I surrender to God’s will in Christ Jesus, He brings every day of this life into conformity with His desire for me to live with the internal peace and calm reassurance of His presence filling me to overflowing with thanksgiving and with praise.

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2

 

What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with a desire that it is so.

 

As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who helps them to see what they are missing.

 

It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15: 13

 

Hope is an amazing thing. It can take a seemingly impossible situation and bring a person through it when all tangible evidence would suggest that surrender was the only rational option. Hope seems to generate a sort of power for life and living that comes about out of that proverbial resource known as “Thin Air.” It is such a glorious thing that it is often likened to the sun and attached to the sense of possibility that arrives with its radiant appearance at dawn. Hope breathes life into the weak, it grants reprieve to the condemned, fills empty hearts with love, and defies reason and logic in doing it all. Hope is a gift, and its greatest expression in all of history is found in the Risen Christ as He goes from death into life and in so doing grants to us that same prospect and potential.

 

It is this hope, which is fulfilled in knowing Christ, that brings true joy and real peace into our hearts and minds. Although many forms of what is called joy surround us and its sources are made out of a very wide array of causes, none of them truly transcends all that life may throw at us over the course of our days. Also, if joy in its truest form is found in and through Christ, even more so this is true for that form of peace that settles deep in the soul and passes the through the tests that come to us all so that it is found to be genuine, enduring, and sound. This is a peace that redefines reality in terms that are framed in eternity and that are thus taken out of the realm of our control and management and are placed into the far more capable and caring hands of God. The presence of Christ in me has become the reason that I even begin to know and to dwell in the safety and the freedom that come out of knowing these gifts from the Lord that are identified as joy and peace.

 

So, back to hope. This is something that God has granted to us out of His unceasing and infinite love for us. The Lord is fully aware of the great challenges that each of us faces in life, and He desires to provide us with something that both takes us through those times and that grants to us the ability to endure all that comes our way in a manner that is distinctly different from the rest of the world around us. Christ’s hope places His followers into a new and a redeemed reality that looks beyond today into a future that is reshaped into the perfection of God’s creation plan. The joy and the peace that Christ infuses us with are resources that invigorate and revitalize us as we reach those points of great stress and strain that are a guarantee that comes with living in our world. They become most tangible as we turn our focus and attention away from ourselves and look upon the face of Christ so that the reality of His great love for each of us becomes the source for that enduring hope that releases us from the situation and the circumstances that surround us.

 

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8: 1

 

Almost everyone has read poetry. Most of us have written some of it, too. You may read or write it because you were required to do this by a teacher or a parent, or you may do it out of interest and even with great enjoyment and pleasure. Regardless of the personal reason for the contact with poetry, its highly stylized and emotion-charged words can be very impactful. These words are often fanciful and chosen for the way that they sound over what they actually say, or, at least, so it seems. In the two simple lines above we are granted the opportunity to look into the mind and the heart of one of history’s great poets, who also happens to be a passionate follower of God and a keen observer of His hand at work in our world.

 

From his early days as the young son that was left out to care for the family’s sheep on through his years of serving God and Israel as king, David was very much aware of the presence of the Lord. He experienced God’s creative hand in the land where he walked each day, in the animals that he cared for and that he encountered, and in the manner by which his needs were met, whether that was accomplished in the mundane course of the day’s occupation or through means that were nothing if not miraculous. The eyes of David’s heart were open and attuned to the touch of the Creator in everything in his world. The sun and the moon, the sky and the earth, the mountains and the valleys were all formed and placed by David’s God. The animals that fed his family and the ones that sought to kill and devour them and him were also a part of that Divine tableau. Even the flea that would bite and suck blood and the Swallowtail butterfly with its tuxedo-like appearance told the story of a God who was intimately involved in the details.

 

Thus, David could shout and sing out about the nature and the character of the God who it seemed had fabricated and maintained the world for the sake of His beloved child. Every experience of life was one more episode in the story of dwelling in the glorious presence of the Lord. For David and for us, the exquisite and splendid beauty of this world speaks of the One who formed it and of the remarkable way that His creation is designed so that my ancestors, my descendants, and myself would be fed and cared for in both body and in spirit. David’s poetry may be fanciful, beautiful, and highly creative and mine is not, but that doesn’t really matter. We both travel the roads that God sets out for us, and I can do exactly what David did in his days. I can go about everything that I do with my eyes open and my heart surrendered to the presence of my Lord. Then, His name will be on my tongue as the song of my heart, and every step of the journey can be taken in worshipful response to His name.

Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright.

Psalm 33: 1

 

The sound that comes out when I open my mouth and start to sing may not please everyone, but that shouldn’t stop me from singing. The words to the song may become confused or a bit jumbled at times, but I should continue to hum along until they become clear again. Music has a way about it that makes everything seem better, and it also tends to penetrate deep into the center of things in a way that connects and that joins people together.

 

God is pleased to hear the music that we make; yet, we don’t even need to make a sound in order for Him to appreciate it, for the Lord hears the vibrations that come from our hearts, too. He knows when we are seeking to follow the truth of the word and when we are surrendering our will and our self-determined interests to the Lord’s greater purpose. The simple footsteps of people who are following the straight path of righteousness through the day set off vibrations that resonate throughout the world with the song of salvation.

 

As each of us chooses to sing the words of life that God gives to us, we become part of a great choir of voices that will be heard above all of the noise that our world sets off to oppress people and to confuse their thinking. When we open our hearts with expressions of thanks to God for all that He is and everything that He does, the beauty of His presence radiates out from us, and our heart’s song will cause others to desire to join the chorus.

 

Declare his (the LORD’s) glory among the nations,

his marvelous works among the peoples!

Psalm 96: 3

 

The writer of this psalm has stated that God’s people will declare their relationship with God by singing; in fact, they are commanded to do that. I understand that song is powerful and that singing touches us in ways that simply saying words does not. Singing reaches into our emotions and sets our hearts into motion, and it seems to reach deep inside both the singer and the hearer of the song to engage places and to bring about responses that are unique and profound. Yet, I doubt that the actual intent in these words was to turn life into a musical play style of existence where messages, at least the important ones, are delivered by choruses made up of ordinary people going about their daily lives. This sort of thing makes sense on the stage or in film, but causes genuine confusion and even chaos when it happens on city streets.

 

Yet, the ideas here are important ones, and they are the sorts of things that matter to God. He wants for us to be people who desire to sing out about our relationship with Him. He engages with us and with all the rest of creation in a manner that is more than worthy of the highest praise possible. The presence of Christ in me and His involvement with my life is such that He is the source of all joy, peace, and goodness; thus, my Lord is the reason that there are songs for me to sing. Still, I think that the songs here have a different form so that their nature is made up of an alternative type of melody and lyric to those of traditional music. The writer is telling us that our lives are songs and that the content of those lives, when lived in service to God’s will, is itself a poem that has been set to the eternal music of heaven.

 

When Christ brings about this sort of expression in us, we move beyond the boundaries of place, culture, and language and into humanity’s common ground of love, care, and relationship. The Lord is calling to His people to specifically and deliberately take the expression of our joy that comes out of our relationship with Him out into the world around us so that the hymn of praise that naturally comes forth from us will be on view for all around us to see and to hear. This should lead to questions about this unnatural response to a life that does not always go as we would desire or plan, and these questions provide the opportunity for us to tell about the love of Christ, the redemption that comes through knowing Him, and to invite others to join us in the chorus of praise that we have been declaring openly as we travel through the day.

 

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