Tag Archives: joy

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes Are Not About Happiness

I have read these beatitudes more times than I can count. Even today, as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I blew past these verses without giving them much thought. “Yeah, yeah. People who are “poor in spirit” are happy. People who “mourn” are happy. People who are “meek” are happy. And so on, and so on…”

I pulled out my commentaries, fully intending to write a post about the whole sermon Jesus shared, when God threw a wrench into my plans through William Barclay. This is just too important not to slow down and feast on Jesus’ own words.

It was enlightening to read what Barclay revealed about the word Jesus used for “blessed.” It’s not about happiness at all! In a nutshell, the Greek and Hebrew translation boils down to this: “Oh the blessedness of…” (The Daily Study Bible Series; the Gospel of Matthew volume 1, Revised Edition; William Barclay; 1975; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA; page 88)

Jesus wasn’t saying that if you experience these things, He would give something to you. He was saying:

“O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Savior and Lord!” (Barclay, p. 89)

It’s not about what God gives as much as who I am in Him. So, using Barclay’s insight, here is what God spoke to me today through His Word:

  1. O the bliss of knowing I am lost without God, that I am utterly helpless in and of myself, that I am totally dependent on the One who is totally capable!
  2. O the bliss of being broken over sin, of realizing what my sin cost Jesus, of repenting, of laying my sins at His feet and being totally forgiven. O the blessedness of mourning the sins of the world, and wanting others to know His forgiveness, too.
  3. O the bliss of turning my emotions, my actions, my very being over to God and allowing Him to control those things in me. O the bliss of recognizing my ignorance and weakness, and allow Him to be my knowledge and strength.
  4. O the bliss of being totally, completely filled by God Himself, and understanding that every longing, every need, every hope and dream are perfectly satisfied in Him. O the bliss of being to the point of desperation, empty, barren, and then filled to overflowing by the Presence of my Savior and God.
  5. O the bliss of setting myself aside, and really seeing other people, really getting into their skin, really feeling their emotions, and really being what they need me to be – not what I need to be for them, or what I think they need. O the bliss of putting others above myself for Jesus’ sake.
  6. O the bliss of pure motives, the ability to see God in every situation, in every breath I take. O the bliss of not always seeing the seedy side of things, or getting a chuckle out of the filth that exists in the world, because my eyes are on a holy, pure, and perfect God alone. (Barclay says its the bliss of a clean heart, (p. 105) and reminds me we “see what we are able to see” (p. 107). I can see the filth of things if that is what I’m looking at. I don’t see the filth if I’m looking at God. O the bliss!)
  7. O the bliss of making peace, not by tolerating, condoning, or ignoring sin, but by facing it, calling sin sin, then leading sinners to repentance. O the bliss of making peace between myself and God, and by making peace between my lost friends and family with God through the blood of His Son.
  8. O the bliss of being singled out for being a follower of Jesus. O the bliss of losing a job, a relationship, worldly comforts or freedom for Jesus’ sake. O the bliss of sharing in His suffering if it will lead one soul to the Savior.

You’ve probably heard it said that this portion of Jesus’ important sermon are “attitudes” the we should “BE.” After spending a few hours thinking about these verses, I’m inclined to agree.

Reading these beatitudes challenges me to be the person Jesus died for me to be. And it helps me know that there is a joy that comes from being that person, a joy the world can’t understand or manufacture. O the bliss of knowing Jesus.

 

Ecclesiastes 6-9; Life Doesn’t Have To Be Lived “Under the Sun”

Wow. If you need some cheering up today I wouldn’t read these chapters in Ecclesiastes. Life, as Solomon describes it under the sun is bleak, depressing, futile. Solomon’s pessimistic, fatalistic view of life is certainly a downer.

I am reminded what he describes is life without God. A non-believer’s view of God contains no hope. But, dear one, there is life above the sun!

That life is full of hope, and joy, and purpose. That life stretches on into eternity where we who know God will live with Him forever. That life is worth living.

Do you know God through His Son Jesus, and by reading His Word? Have you experienced the joy that comes from knowing your sins are forgiven, never to be remembered ever again? Do you recognize God’s generous hand in your life apart from circumstance, as well as in the midst of them? Do you see Him in the warm summer sunshine, the refreshing spring rains, the sounds of birds, of children laughing, of the wind rustling in the trees?

You don’t have to live a life void of meaning. There is One who died so you could have life, and have it to the full!

Regardless of what Solomon expressed in his attempt to find meaning to life apart from God, there is joy in this life. There is purpose and value, hope and peace.

His name is Jesus!

Psalms 102-106; A Downcast Soul

The other day I wrote about unspeakable joy that is ours through our relationship with God. I thank God for that gift that is ours through the precious blood of Jesus.

But today, with some things heavy on my heart, my soul is struggling to grasp the joy. I’m sitting here thanking God for that, actually. Because sometimes I read old posts of mine and think, do my words make this Christian walk seem too care-free? Do I give the impression that I have it all together, and I never struggle? That’s not even close to the truth. I don’t want anyone to think it is.

Honestly, sometimes the cares of my world do get me down. Sometimes it’s really hard to feel the joy with a downcast soul.

So today, feeling the unrest in my soul, I read these psalms and came away with two thoughts:

  1. Is what I’m feeling God’s hand of conviction ? Is this unrest a result of sin in my life? Is it because I have taken a step out of God’s will and into my own? Is this God’s way of getting me out of Egypt? Then I need to confront that sin, repent, and obey God’s leading even if the Red Sea is up ahead. God’s been faithful in the past. I can trust Him with today. There is joy in knowing that.
  2. Have I told God my concerns and then left them in His capable hands, knowing He hears and answers prayer? There are hundreds of examples in Scripture where God answered prayer. Abraham for Lot, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Hezekiah, Hannah, Daniel, and on and on and on. There are examples in my own life of God’s faithfulness. Why should today be any different?

So I’m going to pray, repent, tell God what’s on my heart. Then I’m going to trust the God of the universe, the Great I Am, the One who loved me enough to die for me. I’m going to stop focusing on circumstances, and focus on my Heavenly Father. I’m going to praise Him, not because of what He can do for me, but because of who He is.

I am blessed. I have the Holy Spirit right here with me. I am forgiven. I am promised eternity with Jesus Himself. And He IS my joy.

Psalms 96-101; Joy Unspeakable

Have you ever experienced joy to the point you thought your heart would burst? The day you looked into the eyes of the love of your life and said, “I do”? Holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time? Taking that dandelion from chubby fingers, stretched out to present you with their treasure? Receiving an “all clear” from your doctor? Watching a sunset?

What do you do with that joy? These psalms tell me that praising God is the steam value on a pressure cooker. Praise is a natural expression of heart-filling joy. If you read these psalms you’ll see dozens of reasons to praise God.

96:4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…

97:1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.

97:9 For you, O Lord are the Most High over all the earth…

98:1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things…

But let’s be careful. The joy we receive is a result of God’s grace, His mercy and love. When we understand that, we can only respond like Ebenezer Scrooge did after spending the night hanging out with the spirits: “I don’t deserve to be so happy, I just can’t help it.”

Because true happiness, real joy comes from a right relationship through the precious blood of Jesus. Knowing your sins are forgiven, having fellowship with God can bring joy unspeakable. But let’s not make joy or happiness our goal. If we do, we are worshiping idols.

Praise God for who He is. Worship God because He deserves it. Recognize how blessed you are, and tell Him so. Let Him know how blown away you are at the thought of Him. Then experience that indescribable joy that does not come from things or circumstances. That indescribable, unspeakable joy is God Himself.

 

Psalms 40-44; Snap Out Of It

Have you ever felt blue (as my mom would say) or depressed, and then scolded yourself because you don’t have any reason to feel that way? You’re healthy, you have a job, a home, food on the table, your kids are ok, and the sun is shining? I have. David did.

In Psalm 42 David asks several times: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” In other words, “What’s wrong with you, David?”

Often, when my own soul is downcast, I begin to remind myself of all the ways I’m blessed, as though remembering those things should snap me out of it. Then I end up feeling worse when it doesn’t. I tell myself, “What’s wrong with you, Connie? Shame on you. You shouldn’t be down. Look at all the reasons you have to be happy.”

Yeah. That helps.

In fact, it often pulls me further down. Because now I’m not only downcast, I feel guilty about feeling downcast.

A couple of things came to mind as I read these psalms today. First, I need to search my heart to see if these feelings are coming from unconfessed sin. Is this God’s gentle hand of conviction on my life? Is my sorrow a result of my putting distance between my Savior and me? If that’s the case, what I need is repentance. I need to confess my sin and allow God to wash me clean.

Oh, what joy!

Secondly, constantly reminding myself of all the things in my life that should make me happy is destructive on a couple levels. It implies that people who struggle financially, or who are sick, or whose children are troubled don’t deserve to be happy. Do we really think we are only blessed if we have “things”?

I think the beginning of Psalm 42 contains the key for upcasting a downcast soul. It’s that thirst for God Himself, it’s that hope that we have in Him, it’s the trust we have in His unfailing love, the Presence of the Comforter. It’s not what makes me happy, but Who.

I really don’t even like to use the word “happy” because we aren’t promised happiness, are we? I have a friend who is dying of cancer. She’s not happy about it. But you can’t spend ten minutes in her presence without recognizing her joy. You would not describe her soul as downcast. Does she shed tears for her husband and kids? Yes. Does she pray for physical healing so that some day she can enjoy being a grandma? Yes. But those things, as precious as they are, are not her source of joy. Her relationship with Jesus is.

I hope you will read Psalm 40 today if you read nothing else. Listen to some of what David wrote:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God… Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust… may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

Are you living with a downcast spirit? I won’t tell you to snap out of it. But I will tell you to turn your focus, you thoughts, your energy toward God. Praise Him. Love Him. Let Him snap you out of it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his glorious face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(H. H. Lemmel)

 

Exodus 33-34; Looking The Part

Often when reading this portion of Scripture I am struck by the change in Moses’ appearance after spending time with God. I was today as well. But God has me thinking about another aspect of this truth.

When God introduced Himself to Moses He said He is, “The Lord.” Then He said it again, “The Lord.” I AM. I AM. He went on to tell Moses He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, loving, faithful, forgiving, and just. I’m thinking, who wouldn’t want to hang out with someone like this?

And why wouldn’t spending time with God cause us to shine, too? At least put a genuine smile on our faces.

Here is what spoke to me today. Moses continued to talk to the people, continued to share what God was saying to him, continued to lead them. Oh, he toned it down a little because the people were a bit uncomfortable in his presence. But there could be no denying that Moses had spent time with God Himself, and that spending time with God had changed him.

I think we can learn from Moses that we shouldn’t keep our encounter with God to ourselves. My prayer is that people may recognize I’ve been in His Presence by the words I say, the love I show, the joy in my heart, and the smile on my face.

I don’t want to be obnoxious about it, but may people see Jesus in me.

December 12 – A Clear Conscience

Acts 20:4-23:35

Paul said something to the Council in Jerusalem that got my attention. Paul, as Saul, had persecuted the church. He was responsible for the imprisonment of hundreds of men and women who were guilty of nothing more than believing in Jesus. He was present when Stephen was stoned to death, even approving of the murder.

But in 23:1 he said, “Brethern, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.

Seriously? Paul could say he wasn’t overcome with guilt about his past? Shouldn’t what he’d done give him sleepless nights over feelings of regret?

This week I have struggled with memories of how I treated my parents, both of whom now live with Jesus. Did mom know how much I appreciated the white suit she had made for me for homecoming? Did she forgive me for unkind words I’d said to her in my youth? Why did I choose to go to that jewelry party at my coworker’s house instead of welcoming Dad the night he drove 60 miles to surprise me? Mom had died. He was alone and lonely. And I didn’t stay. Why didn’t I hug my nephew the last time I saw him? Our eyes connected, but we didn’t hug. And he died a few days later. Did he know how much I loved him?

Friends, I have a guilty conscience. I see the faces of friends I betrayed, the looks of people who received the biting words I said, the hurt I caused. And I am sitting here weeping with regret.

I didn’t commit the sins Paul did. Yet he could say he had a perfectly good conscience before God. HOW?

I am reminded that I am forgiven. Jesus took the guilt upon Himself. I can stand before Him with a good conscience because when God looks at me He sees Jesus’ perfection. He’s forgiven me of all those things I did and didn’t do, and He’s forgotten them. I am guilt-free as far as He’s concerned.

So when I struggle with guilt, like I have these past days, I need to recognize that it’s not coming from my Savior. It’s Satan’s attempt to make me a slave to my past.

God, forgive me for falling for that. Thank you for forgiving me. I am a sinner. I am guilty of unspeakable sins. And I can feel pretty bad about them. Help me to remember that Jesus died so that those sins can be washed away, never to be remembered by You ever again. Help me to rejoice in my salvation, to never live another minute regretting what I can’t change. And give me the power to not repeat the sins I’ve committed. I don’t want to miss the joy of living with a perfectly good conscience before the God who gave it to me.