Rejoicing


The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19: 1

 

This is such a great reminder of what it means to know God that I want to reflect upon this verse again this morning. It is still dark outside as I sit here at the keyboard and put a few thoughts down; yet the glory of God is present. It is tangible and real in the night sky, and it seems to saturate the air that surrounds me. My Lord is with me in every aspect of the world that surrounds me. He is even made known to my heart and my mind in the pre-dawn silence of the city streets. The presence of the Lord is real on days when things are going very well in my universe and it is just as solid on ones that I do not look forward to experiencing. God is consistent, and His consistency is spoken in love, care, mercy, grace, healing, and redemption. God touches the places in my spirit that need attention, and He sends me out into the day with the confidence that I require for the tasks at hand.

 

This is all made more noticeable as I take time and look around to see the wonder and the mystery of the expression of His hand in the world. God has written his story of life into His Creation, and He has scribed it onto the hearts of people as the centerpieces of that Creation. In fact, the presence of the Lord in the world is called out most noticeably by the people that dwell here and in the ways that they live out Christ in their day to day lives. The Lord takes each of us who will yield ourselves to His will, and He gives us a place in this world and a purpose to fulfill in His Kingdom. We are significant even when we are compared to the great expanse of the heavens. Each of us has meaning in God’s design for this world, and we have value to the Lord in the way that He desires to bring about restoration and redemption in the world.

 

It is important for us to not lose sight of this reality. Each person on the earth is important to God, and each of our lives matters to Him. Christ is here to save anyone who will turn to Him, and He desires to enter into the lives of all people regardless of what we may have done or how we might have lived in the past. Every person on this earth is a part of that great expanse that declares the work of God’s hands, for we are all the result of His divine creation and the product of the Lord’s hands. So, as I look around, even in the early morning stillness, I am surrounded by images, by faces, of the people that are the most significant and important aspects of the expanse that is the created universe, and Christ speaks love, grace, and understanding to me as His desired blessing to be conferred onto each and every one of these precious souls. So, blessing others with Christ’s presence is my calling for today as I go out into the world.

 

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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 interesting idea. It seeks the future and anticipates a positive or a good outcome for that dream or desire. Hope has its feet planted confidently on a basis of truth and experience that leads to consideration of that future outcome without giving today’s situation or circumstances much consideration or weight. So, hope may seem to defy logic, and it might appear foolish or unproductive to people who do not share in faith in the same foundation and source. Hope takes us from the cares and trials of today and grants to us a vision of the potential for redemption in the future. When hope is founded in Christ, it leads us out of the slavery to fear, doubt, and guilt that attempt to stifle our ability to love and that attempt to defeat our capability to serve the Lord with our gifts and talents.

 

Christ brings healing for all that is broken in us. He pours out grace upon our battered hearts, minds, and souls, and He guides us out of the darkened places where we have been dwelling so that the light of truth can cover us and show us the path into service to God in our world. Christ’s healing touch is applied to each and every area of our lives that has been damaged by sin and by its effects and consequences. This includes things that we have done and the many other things that come our way because we live here in a world where Satan and his agents are actively seeking to deceive, damage, and tear down all that is good, just, righteous, and holy. Christ guards us and guides us through this earthly and spiritual battleground so that we can know true peace and dwell in the deep-seated joy of the Lord’s presence.

 

Although hope might seem insubstantial and even dream-like in its lack of firm definition and tangible substance, it, in fact, brings with it great power. For hope that is grounded in a relationship with Christ is established upon the singular truth of eternity, a truth that overcomes all of the deception and lies that press down upon us. Hope frees us up to receive love, and grants to us the gift of love to give away to others. Hope steps through and beyond difficulty and even past pain in order to allow us to see God’s plan for us with a clarity that propels us forward. There are hard days, and there will always be challenges to face, but hope in Christ and a view of tomorrow that is set upon His promises and guided by His love and grace will move us forward into His joy and peace.

 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 24, 25

 

We have all seen what it is like in a courtroom. This may be true from real life experience or these impressions might have come to us through television or film. There is one word that generally does not describe the scene in that place, and that word is joy. The exception to this is probably when the verdict is pronounced, and then. sometimes joy or joyous describes the prevailing party. This verse depicts a different sort of courtroom where the outcome, the verdict, carries a much more significant weight than does the one that can be handed out in any human court of law. In God’s court, each of us is held accountable for the life that we lived, for the righteous conduct of our days, and to the decisions that we made in regards to our relationship with the judge, God Himself.

 

Frankly, no one passes the test of the high standard of righteousness that God sets for us. Every one of us fails as no one is worthy of being in the presence of the pure and holy being that is the Lord. However, this same pure, holy and righteous God does not want to be separated from us. He designed and created each person on this earth with the desire and intent of enjoying a relationship with us that would continue into the infinite. So, God came into our world in the person of Jesus. He brought to us an answer to our guilt as Jesus took upon His absolutely blameless and innocent self the punishment that we deserve. With our guilty verdict proclaimed upon Christ, God allowed our death sentence to be carried out upon Himself so that when we appear before the seat of judgement after our days in this world are completed, the verdict that we will hear is innocent, and we are set free to enjoy the eternal presence of the Lord as we dwell in His glorious realm.

 

Although living for eternity in God’s presence is an extraordinary outcome to the highly flawed and blameworthy lives that we all live, it is not all that Christ grants to us through His sacrificial acceptance of our verdict of shameful guilt. In Christ, we are set free from a form of slavery that oppresses the soul and so subjects the heart and mind to its bondage. Christ redeems us from that life-long captivity, from that pre-sentence incarceration, so that we can live out our days breathing the free air of God’s Kingdom on earth where our lives are given great purpose and meaning as we are called by Christ to serve His redemptive mission. It is Christ’s grace that makes us, sinful and disobedient as we may be, suitable for this service. He pours out His righteousness upon us, and so, we are found to be blameless, and God joyously pronounces us to be fit for service to Him.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53: 11

 

Isaiah wrote these words about 700 years before Jesus was born; yet, He describes exactly what Jesus would accomplish in His short time with us on earth. He truly suffered in many ways. Jesus felt what the Father also feels, for the weight of people’s sin was heavy upon Christ throughout the days of His life. He walked in the paths of our pain, and He responded to the needs of our souls for reconciliation with God and for the deep healing that would bring about a return to dwelling in the presence of our Lord. Then, after living among us and entering into our lives for a period of time, Jesus took all that we had done to separate ourselves from holiness and He also grasped to Himself every aspect of sin that would come in the future so that anyone who would choose to be reconciled to God could be so saved. This great sacrificial act was needed so that you and I could know the fullness of life and enter into the reality of being alive for eternity.

 

So, Jesus brought many people out of death and into life. His offer of grace and peace with our Creator is extended to everyone; yet, some say yes to it and others continue to reject this free gift that Christ holds out to us. Because of the fact that many do not choose to hear and to accept the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God calls all of us who do know Him to speak out about this faith that has saved us and to live openly in the freedom that Christ has given to us in order for the world to see how and why submission to Christ brings about the sort of joy and peace that it does. Christ desires that each of His people would live so that our lives would be an on-going testimony to His great love and to the way that we have been released from captivity to sin. In Christ, we have a purpose in life that is noble and that conforms to God’s desire to redeem the world and that joins in His plan to accomplish this goal.

 

On that day over two thousand years ago Jesus carried away my sin, and He did the same for everyone else, too. Now we each are granted that opportunity to embrace God’s gift of redemption. If we have already done so and entered into the new life that Christ’s presence grants to us, then we are traveling along a road that leads ever farther into God’s will. This is a journey of faith that asks us to continually submit to the Lord and to yield ourselves to His transformative work within us. It is also a life of entering into the deep joy that comes from dwelling in Christ’s presence. For people who have not accepted the gift that Christ’s death and resurrection provide, this day grants to them an ideal time to turn life around by surrendering to the only one who can save the soul and to the singular source of that new life, Jesus Christ.

You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 2: 1, 2

 

Have you ever followed the wrong directions and gone somewhere that you shouldn’t have? Maybe you were putting something together and decided to skip all of those directions at the beginning of the page that were obviously intended for people who possessed lesser mechanical skills than you. Or there was just going to be that one time that you would do that thing, eat that item, or indulge that thought; however, this was the certain thing, that especially addictive item or the thought that keeps leading you into a downward spiral of sinful and unproductive thinking. Life is filled with choices, and one of the most important ones determines who we listen to and where we go to access wisdom and truth that will frame the way we live.

 

Paul is helping us recognize the fact that once we know Christ we need to make the decision to allow Him to truly and completely be Lord of our lives. For, as people, we have spent our entire lives learning how to live in a world that is filled with images, thoughts, and direction that seems to work but that often tends to lead us continually away from the true righteousness of God. Christ wants to take us in a new direction; yet, I find that new directions can be uncomfortable, and it requires discipline and hard work on my part to stick with following them. Still, the rewards for those efforts are so great that there is nothing in this life to compare with them.

 

Christ has given us a new map, a complete set of directions, and a way to overcome the destructive habits that have caused us and others harm. His Spirit wants take the lead as we navigate through this day, and His Word has real answers to all of the questions that will arise during our travels. Even knowing all of this does not guarantee that the journey will be smooth and without side trips and interruptions. So, when the old maps and worldly influences start to take charge of my thinking, I need to stop and reflect on the peace, joy, and clarity of thought that Christ has given to me; then, from the perspective of truth and with the clarity of thought that Christ provides, I can thank God for the way that He totally loves me and allow His Spirit to lead me on from there.

 

 

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

Psalm 47: 1

 

Unfortunately, there is plenty of shouting going on in our world today. We can all attest to being exposed to hearing people literally yelling at each other when quiet discourse would be far more effective in accomplishing what needs to be done. Even when the volume of the voices is held in check, the nature of the words and the intensity of their delivery can still equate to a shouting match. We do it in print, and we do it by using our electronic communication devices. There are days when it seems as if our whole planet has decided to join in a dysfunctional and discordant chorus of worldly hymns in celebration of disagreement and entrenched position holding. Unfortunately, at least for me, none of this is very pleasant, and it does not get much that is good and worthwhile accomplished either.

 

God did not design His creation to be dysfunctional, and He does not desire for us to be contentious with each other. This fact leads me to consider if there might be a better way to engage with each other in the process of operating this planet. Perhaps if we stopped focusing so intently upon what it is that we want and desire and started to turn our eyes toward the Lord with the same concentrated gaze, we would see the world and each other differently. It might just be worth it for people to stop working so hard to establish their own points of view and start to meditate upon what it is that God would have us think, say, and do. In this process, we could relieve the silence and celebrate God’s revealed truth by joining together with others in singing songs of praise to God and by joyously clapping our hands and dancing.

 

My point is that worshiping the One who has answers and focusing upon His truth is far more likely to solve the issues that we are facing than is any of the loud and self-serving discourse that is so common these days. May I be so bold as to suggest that we could enter into a period of fasting, as it were, from all public position stating expressions, from calling out the failings of those who hold opposing views about issues, and even from the processes of gathering in the halls of governance to debate and to contest laws and such so that we can turn all of our attention toward the Lord and listen together for His will to be expressed in all matters. Then, as God, who is King and Sovereign Lord over all of Creation, speaks and provides us with His perfect will, we can break out in songs of praise and join hands in a celebratory dance as an expression of delight at the harmony and peace that our God brings to all people.

Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 21: 45

 

This is a bold statement; in fact, it is a very strong expression of the way that God had entered in to a complex series of events. Yet, it captures and encapsulates the experience that the Israelites had lived out under Moses and Joshua’s leadership as they left a state of slavery, journeyed across a hostile land, and fought to take possession of their given homeland. God had taken them out of their captive state, He had gone before them and provided provisions for their survival through those hard days in the harsh wilderness, and then the Lord had engaged in battle with their enemies and had provided the Israelites with guidance for their fights as well. Nothing that was good, needful, or redemptive came from a source outside of God’s hand. This was their reality; yet, unfortunately, it was a fragile one.

 

The Israelites, like many people across the course of history, lost sight of the character and the nature of God and of His wise counsel. They headed off in their own directions and sought after other, worldly forms of counsel and guidance. They entered into the worship of illicit gods and even began to offer up sacrifices of all types to these demanding concepts of what the divine should be; so, in the end, most of what God had granted to the Israelites was lost. Yet, God never turned away from them. He has continued to work out His redemption in and for them just as He has done the same for all people on this earth without regard to race, tribe, or other human attachment or affiliation. Jesus is the final and the ultimate answer to the good promise that God made to the Israelites and that He also made to all of creation. Jesus the Christ responds to each and every need that our bodies and our souls have in this life, and He comes into our lives with the full implementation of God’s love, grace, and redemption from sin and its death.

 

In Christ, we can all enter into the fulfillment of God’s promises of peace, joy, and meaning in this life. We also are granted His promise of eternity in full relationship with our Creator. This is a form of hope that is greater than all of the trials, struggles, and hardship that can come our way in life. The presence of Christ overcomes the oppressive powers of this world and all of their ill intent for us. Although we will encounter difficult times and even brutally harsh periods over the course of life, our feet are granted the solid foundation of God’s Word to stand firmly upon, and our hearts are surrounded by the presence of the Holy Spirit to shield and to guide us through these days of turmoil. The land that God has given to us as our place of dwelling may not have defined boundaries and borders as did the one that the Lord granted to the Israelites, but it is still very real and our possession of it is in every sense God’s love gift to us. As this new day dawns upon each of us, there is hope to be found in God’s promises of His goodness, there is peace and joy to be gained by and through the presence of Christ, and meaning and purpose are ours in following God’s will as our path of travel.

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