242 times the Bible talks about joy. In 1 Thesallonians 5:16, we are commanded to ‘be joyful always!’ But is this realistic? This question is one of the things I was thinking about deeply at the InterVarsity camp that I went to last week in Michigan. Can you be joyful when your spouse wounds you with hurtful words? When you lose the big game? When you don’t get the promotion? When your heart is broken by a boyfriend/girlfriend?
The Bible is clear that there is a time for the full range of emotions. Life is full of the good and the bad and the full human experience embraces the each emotion as it comes. But there can be a river of joy that underlies it all.
The speaker last week challenged us with a quote from George Meuller – a British follower of Jesus who ran orphanages, never asking for money but trusting for God to provide for daily needs. He said:
“My first order of the day – every day – it to make my soul happy in the Lord. Without the spirit of joy, my ministry is worthless.” For Meuller, joy was a choice – of the magnitude that his day was not worth starting unless his soul was filled with joy.
He discovered that joy is not based on circumstances, but on foundations that you build your life on. You can have joy even when life is crummy – if it is built on a joy-giving foundation. It reminds me of a verse in 1 Peter 1 that many of us memorized earlier this year.
“8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
As one of my coworkers noted “God is you the throne, your eternity is secure, you are loved beyond imagination. It just doesn’t matter that your golf swing stinks.”
Joy transcends it all.
Recently, an email came from one of our volunteers that warmed my soul. May it bless you as well:
Last evening, in broken English, with tears in their eyes, three Chinese friends living in my home expressed the joy of their “pardon” through faith in Jesus Christ! Their faith journey came to a point of decision during the Luis Palau Festival last week in Omaha. As we visited, they were especially jubilant to learn the truth that they could “forget what lies behind and press forward to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The pain and troubles of their past made the pardon all the more magnificent!
The experience last evening was especially profound for me as I was reminded again of the crippled state from which I was rescued and pardoned. My lasting pardon, that cannot be revoked.
Celebrating our pardon together!
Blogging on a church website… Welcome to the new millennium. In our era of high-communications and technological advances we connect in all kinds of crazy ways unheard of even ten years ago. Teenagers text-message with flying thumb dexterity. Facebook pages reveal more than many of us want to know. And pastors blog.
What will I do with this blog? I don’t know yet. My plan is to be unplanned. All of our current communications are planned weeks, even months in advance. We are thoughtful, disciplined and intentional about everything…but the blog…it can be spontaneous, fun-loving, desperate and free. Maybe there will be bad grammar or run-on sentences. It’s all OK because it is just a blog.
Maybe I’ll do a series of deep spiritual thoughts…or maybe shallow thoughts. Maybe I’ll throw in a good quote or a story of God at work. Maybe a personal note or a prayer request for things God is doing. Perhaps I’ll answer a question that people are asking about faith or God. Who knows?
I hope you enjoy this small window the the inner workings of my soul and what God is doing in this church. Come back and visit as often as you like to laugh, be challenged, inspired or filled with joy. Let the blogging begin!