The greatest argument you must defeat is your indecision not to decide. Letting your mind win all the arguments against your heart is no way to live – that’s how a coward lives, and you are no coward. Are you?
A brave soul is one that follows their heart. You know, the place where God’s Spirit dwells.
Okay, I get it, it’s so much safer listening only to your mind. Logic and reason may be safe and comfy, but you weren’t made simply for a comfortable life. And I’m sure all your “what if this,” and “what if that,” are just normal…
…Are you just normal, or are you just afraid?
After all, your mind can conjure up excuse after excuse — heck, your mind is an excuse-factory. But you know you can’t build a life on excuses. You’re beating down your own heart with excuses! Stop bullying yourself and ignoring God’s call to action, obedience, and adventure.
Following after God requires more than your mind, he also requires your body and heart. It’s kind of a joint exercise, of body, soul, and heart. Living life that way will prepare you for life now and in the hereafter, later.
But, living a life stalled on “what ifs,” will keep you from a life of what could be. You’ll simply be a person without legend, without story, without belonging, and that would be a tremendous waste of a life.
The mind lives for knowledge, but the heart, well it soars on faith.
“There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so that you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. For this is your whole duty.” — Ecclesiastes 12:12-13
So, don’t! Don’t waste your life. Rather, lose your life with Jesus, and your heart will finally win the argument. Oh, and do what He says, with all your heart and gusto.
I’m writing this to you because you’re going to need a brave heart and stout mind for what’s coming in the weeks and months ahead. No, it’s not really going to be about you, so don’t worry. Nope, it’s going to be about what you have to offer to others who’ll be confused and afraid. They’ll need your brave heart and clear mind.
So, decide to be a brave person and lead with your heart and your mind filled with wisdom. Then, you’ll be the person who makes leaders and not followers. Leaders who’ll know how to win the argument.
It is undeniable that America is in a post-Christian Era. The culture of death and darkness is everywhere. I truly believe the lack of preaching on the single most important event in history has created a vacuum for evil to flourish and death to prevail.
When eternal life is unoffered, uncelebrated, and relatively unknown, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ diminished to a mere annual holiday, overtaken by pagan ritual, the power of the resurrection becomes unknown and untapped.
Target, Walmart, Macy’s, and Hallmark are not to blame for the commercialization of the most powerful event in all human history, this is Christianity’s doing. For they are the arbiters of this most important truth, not department stores!
The sad thing about what this Sunday has become in many churches across America is summed up in one word, “powerless.” Matter of fact, the title Resurrection Day has been replaced with the title ‘Easter Sunday.” The Gospel replaced with Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, colorful baskets, pastel dresses, and shiny shoes.
It’s not the world offering Easter egg hunts. No, it’s thousands and thousands of churches.
In their minds, it’s the ends justifying the means. A marketing strategy, if you will.
However, I see no such market strategies in the Bible, by either prophet or apostle, preacher or evangelist.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central theme of The Gospel!
For Christianity to impact the world and chase the demons and devils of death back onto the shadows, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ must once again become the central theme of The Gospel.
Immediately prior to Jesus’s crucifixion, he appeared as a failure; deserted by his closest followers, deceived by one of his disciples, and rejected by his own people that he came to save. Silent before his accusers, no one spoke on his behalf.
His Father let him suffer a naked and terrible death on a cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, which was carefully guarded by nearly a dozen Roman soldiers. He certainly was despised and rejected.
Yet, Christianity finds its roots in the single and most important act:
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“…and if Christ has not been raised from death, then we have nothing to preach and you have nothing to believe.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14
It is the power of Christ’s resurrection, which should both compel and propel churches and not budgets, charismatic preachers, or in-vogue programs, pageants, and parades.
“The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.” – Acts 4:33
The focus of a Church living from the roots and foundation of the resurrected Lord of Life is to seek and save the lost rather than a mausoleum of inactive Christians.
To the early Christians and First Century Church, the Resurrection was their main message. For us today its become an annual holiday.
“I want to know Him inside and out. I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death, so that I may arrive safely at the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:10-11
If you want a vibrant and alive Church, preach the Resurrection of Christ throughout the year.
If you want a dead church, stay with your religious tips and tricks, and keep following those mainstream, so-called Christian fads and fashions. You may get your numbers and budgets, but you’ll have no real spiritual power.
Without real spiritual power, you’ll have no real spiritual fruit.
The Church was founded and propelled by an Outlaw, and today, the Church is held back by its bylaws.
Get back to the message of Resurrection, and not just on once a year on “Easter” Morning.
Preach powerfully the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing will be upon you all.
The greatest critic and deniers of the resurrection of Christ are not disbelievers and atheists, but those who refuse to preach and live it.
True spiritual success still comes from the most powerful event in all human history…
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Do you believe this?”
If you did, you’d be full of life and full of power, and no worldly or spiritual force could stop your message.
Tap into it and live it and gain true spiritual power, power the Lost and the Broken are waiting for.
In the Fall of 1984, Toni and I joined Youth With A Mission in Canada. While there, a young Canadian woman handed me a folded white sheet of lined paper as though she was on a clandestine mission. I unfolded the paper and found the following poem written in pencil. I read it every now and then to remind me and ground myself in the significance of true living through the death of self.
I confess that this is a huge struggle in my life, saying yes to God and no to self. As a matter of fact, it is my biggest daily battle, and many times, the battle is lost. On those days that I lose the battle of wills, I realize that I am saying no to the abundant life that God offers me.
I realize that physical death is, and always will be, the final threshold we must cross over one day. For some, this crossing will take us into the very eternal presence of God, and for others, into eternal separation and darkness. I have witnessed both my parents crossing the threshold of death into the everlasting joy of God.
We can practice dying to ourselves and self-importance. We can choose those things which promote life in others and for others. If we begin living in eternity now, we can therefore experience the Father’s everlasting joy in our present life and even in our suffering.
In other words, by living as Jesus lived and being made conformable to his death, we can become living fountains of life. Through our daily dying, we are reborn into his daily living. It opens us up to hear the same words Jesus heard from his Father and inspires us to do the same things Jesus did in obeying his Father’s wishes.
“This is my beloved Son, said God, in him, I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
True Christianity is a daily battle of wills. We either obey the Father’s will and find life, or we obey our will and find death (separation). Dying to self is the proverbial “Fountain of Life” because it makes us into that fountain, a spring of Living Water, which is the Spirit and nature of Christ bubbling up from within us.
Okay, now that poem I had spoken about…
The poem – Dying To Self
“When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed. You refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patience with loving silence; that is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, irregularity, impunctuality, or annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility – and endure it as Jesus did – that is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any raiment, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, record your good works, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are more significant and in desperate circumstances, that is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one more petite stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising within your heart, that is dying to self.” – Author Unknown. . Are you dead yet?
In these last days, the Spirit would bring us to the cross. “That I may know Him…being made conformable unto His death. Phil 3:10
It is exchanging our will for God’s will, whereby we die to our will, which is no easy thing. But the rewards outweighs the difficulty.
If you let your own will and life go, you’ll become a fountain of life, and the Lord of Life will bubble up from within your heart and into the lost and lonely.
Let Jesus become that Fountain of Life within you by dying to self.
“A wound where there is no weeping, writes, John Eldreged, is a wound that cannot be healed.” Your wounded heart can be healed. But you must share your wounded heart with God.
Wounds and scars, whether physical or emotional are essential to being human. It happens to all of us. The following is written on the back of my business card:
“Living a scarless life is not living at all. Sometimes our greatest triumphs lie in our greatest defeats. In all things, I am a child of God and never a victim. I do not, therefore, interpret tragic circumstances as mishaps, but a divinely scheduled trip to God’s beauty salon.”
If we only see ourselves as a victim in every crisis, loss, or betrayal, we deny the very instrument and tool for which God is doing his best work in us. When you refuse to become the victim and instead respond in praise and thanksgiving to God, you, therefore, thwart darkness and defeat the devil.
The devil wants you to wallow in bitterness and anguish. He wants you paralyzed, frozen in time and eternity with a wounded and broken heart. He knows that a heart not healed will keep you from God, keep you from salvation.
The old saying, “time heals all wounds,” is not from the Bible, it’s from the devil!
This is why Jesus of Nazareth read from Isaiah 61: 1
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal and bind up the brokenhearted…”
Matter of fact, Jesus’ reading of the Isaiah passage was the official announcement of his earthly ministry.
The Psalmist, King David, penned:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” Psalms 147:3
“His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
God is in control – He’s not only our Creator, but He’s our Father also. He touches our lives with wisdom and cares for us greater than our earthly fathers. He’s preparing us for eternity with Him and His actions are always with this in mind.
The devil wants you, if possible, to never meet your Heavenly Father. If he can’t prevent that, he’ll at least pervert it, by causing your earthly father to wound your heart and soul. When our hearts bare the scars of father’s wounds, it is so hard, if not impossible to trust God as our Everlasting Father.
And this is the central theme of Jesus’ ministry; to rescue you from the penalty of sin and the grip of the devil, and to heal your broken heart so that salvation can come to you.
“No one can come to the Father, said Jesus, except through me.” John 14:6
Your heart must be healed because it is to become your Heavenly Father’s dwelling place.
He alone is the home for your wounded heart. Trust him, He’s making you beautiful inside and out.
A few years ago I met a homeless man, named Aaron. Aaron wouldn’t say he was homeless but instead, he’d say he’s houseless. He and his dog were used to living outside and on their own. In other words, Aaron had chosen poverty as his lifestyle. He didn’t yearn for more, but only just enough to get by each new day. He had little to no envy for guys like me or even a desire to acquire more than he could carry in his backpack or bedroll.
Maybe Aaron had chosen a better way. He chose poverty long ago.
As our economy is slipping away, banks failing, and baby formula scarcity, Aaron has learned to live without, while we cling to what we have. Now, he’s watching men like us lose everything. He’s witnessing our agony and hearing our complaining and woes.
For Aaron, he has known no difference and no loss, because he had little investment in the world, and therefore, the world has taken little from him. Amazing! Now, it is Aaron who speaks wisdom. Not necessarily with words, but with his life. He chooses a better way. He’s become, my counselor, cheerleader, and advocate.
Our pain and hardship are not the sharpening of steel or the clanging of iron; it’s not the heated furnace, the violent remaking, reshaping of our lives, but the hand of correction ripping the world out of us.
Why? It is because we are true sons. It is because God is our True Father, and he desires that we live no longer in the World. We stink of worldliness. Our attics, garages, storage rentals, living rooms, game, and family rooms are witnesses of this fact.
We are in it deep. Oh man, does it hurt to watch these things disappear; house-by-house, boat-by-boat, car-by-car, credit-card-by-credit-card; life!?
The World gives, and the World taketh away.
The truth: because we are true sons, and God our True Father, he is choosing for us. We stinketh of the world, we stinketh of “flesh,” and if we truly want the presence of our Father, we must be baptized in the Fire of His Holiness! We must be pure because he is pure.
We must repent of our worldliness, the sooner the better. To chose poverty is a better process than being overcome by poverty. You will like it better.
“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. Matthew 19:21-22 (The Message)
The virtue of poverty is more beautiful, more stunning to Poppa God than the finest fashions the world offers. For through a lesser garment, He can see the radiance of his Son, Jesus, and, therefore, so can the World.
Before, the World could only see the world in our lives. Heaven was at a loss because of the riches we adorned ourselves with, masked the greatest gift a father could bestow, the Glory of the Son. The radiances of Jesus are muted by our worldliness.
We shall soon be better dressed. Poverty is the latest fashion but seldom chosen. Not the poverty of what the world would think. But, the poverty of Christ. The setting aside of all his rights as God, to become a simple man, shows us that simple men can change the world. To confound the Wise. To sap the strength of the Strong. To confuse the Sophisticates. To baffle the Wealthy. To enrage the Religious. To magnify Christ. To point to Heaven. To reveal True Life, Real Living. To unveil True Freedom. To bring us to our True Father.
This world is not our home, never was, and never will be. We’re Evangelical Sojourners. The sooner we evangelize, the sooner we will journey home, our True Home.
“If the walls of your life have boxed you in, then kick the walls down, and make a dance floor!” – You Got To Keep Dancing – By Tim Hansel
Oh, how freeing it is to dance in open spaces. How much more we can see God when our lives are less cluttered with junk? Let’s get changed, let’s dance!
Don’t confuse worldly poverty with spiritual poverty. They are not the same. Those who choose spiritual poverty, are the wealthiest of all. Their investments are held in the security of heaven’s gates. Their wealth will never end and will never know depreciation or recession. It will not rust or wear out. No government shall confiscate it nor tax it.
Even if one were to choose physical poverty, blessed are we, for:
“Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!” Matthew 5:3 (Amplified Bible)
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 (The Message)
Being needy is the state of poverty, which profits us the most. It is more easily attained by choice, rather than theft, confiscation, or repossession. The former comes by release and opened hands, the latter by ripping, tearing, and white-knuckled gripping.
Why is it “…more blessed to give than receive?” Because in giving, we increase our capacity, we make more room for the kingdom of God within. In receiving, we crowd and burden ourselves with more earthly responsibility and possession. Soon our possessions possess us, and not the Spirit of Christ.
If it all must go, let it go, that we may gain Christ. Only let it be done for love, not for ambition, recognition, title, or position, but simply because of the love of God. Less of me, my wants, desires even hopes and dreams; more of Christ and what pleases him, so that in all of our potential emptiness, we fully contain all of Christ.
Christ was cursed on his own because he chose a better way. He chose not the kingdoms of the world as offered by Satan. Not the leap off the temple heights, to attain a spectacular ministry of men and angels, nor independence by commanding stones to become bread.
Rather Christ chose to live in simplicity, neither owning nor possessing. He chose silence before accusers, seclusion instead of acclaim, prayer instead of food, and sinners instead of the righteous. He accepted the ignominy of the cross, and the poverty of a borrowed tomb, and left justice to his God. In seclusion, angels ministered to him when he was starved, naked, and thirsty.
Brennan Manning, the celebrated lover of God and author, wrote:
“I think moments before Christ gave up his spirit into the embrace of his Father, his Father whispered the following words:
“Come away with me my love, my lovely one come. For you the winter is over and gone, the snow has melted. The cooing of the turtle doves can be heard on the land, the flowers are in bloom. Come away with me my love, my lovely one come. Your face is beautiful your voice is sweet. Come away with me my love, my lovely one come.”
At that exact moment the weary and impoverished son, bloodied and beaten, naked and pierced, inhaled his last and final breath and said; “It is finished!” He hung his head and died. His broken body swept up into the loveliness of his Father.”
Because he chose poverty, he has made us all rich. Because he chose death we now live.
Today the choice is yours. Go, sell all that you have, give to the poor and you will have riches in heaven.
Your retirement is in heaven not here on earth. You may have earned it and saved for it, but there is a higher call, a higher law, and a higher love. Only a few find it, and less than a few stay with it. Those who endure, understand that their reward is not here, but in an eternal kingdom that’s not of this world.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus of Nazareth.
The kind of poverty Jesus is speaking about is seldom understood and even less seldom lived.
According to Jesus, no poverty, no Kingdom. If you have a problem with this, take it up with the King of kings.
The poor in spirit are blessed because they chose wisely.
Full-Time Pastors are no justification for part-time Christianity. Neither is Christianity simply a vocation of the elite and educated clergy.
It is a radically new culture and community; a new way of life and living, it is not a compartmentalized life, whereby God is public on Sundays, but private on Mondays through Saturdays; not an alternate-parallel lifestyle – that is, one foot in Church and one foot in the world. It is an all-consuming, all-encompassing otherworldly life.
True Christianity is so radical, so alien that your only way to survive in it is to suit up in complete faith. Natural laws and physics are without limits and barriers; economy and dominion are infinite and ever-expanding. Sickness and disease are opportunities and victories for growth. For the believer, death is but a brief nap and an instant passageway from a lesser glory to full glory.
However, someone suggested that to reach the world, we must act like the world and, well, that’s backfired!
Somewhere along the way, we’ve become the world, and therefore the world has nothing to see; there’s no contrast. The world is left without a testimony. Jesus himself said before he ascended into heaven:
“When I return, will I find faith on earth?”
Let’s stop our part-time Christianity and make it our full-time life. Let’s not leave our Christian duties and responsibilities to our pastors, but all do the work of ministry.
Doing nothing to very little with our faith stunts our growth as a godly people. Serving others and doing the work of ministry causes us to flourish and reach maturity in the faith.
The world needs grown-up Christians and not another worldly-religious order.
There’s no doubt that tribulation can be a useful tool for the Refiner’s fire; purifying our body, soul, and mind. But, if we reject the Holy Spirit’s conviction of God’s Word, expect all pleasantries to disappear.
Worldly comforts are not a sign of godly favor. No sir — They are an indicator that you may not be a true son or daughter of God. True sons and daughters are purified by the things they suffer. They know it is the hour of chastisement, bringing about true repentance; so rather than pout and complain, they act with dispatch to be renewed and rejoined. They don’t get bogged down with shame, they get lifted with praise!
They become consumed in the life of Christ. He is the reason they triumph through tribulation and suffering. Their suffering is purpose-driven, that is to become closer to Jesus and the all-encompassing, all-consuming, otherworldly life He offers.
Remember, your pastor will not be standing in for you on your behalf at The Judgement Seat of Christ. Nope, it’ll be just you, and what you have, and have not done to the least of one of these.
You’re not saved by your works, but your works validate your faith. Faith without works is dead and works without faith and love is nothing at all.
I challenge you to show off your faith to the unseen world so that the world in which we live will see your faith and believe. Make your Heavenly Father proud, and give him many reasons to say: “Well done, my faithful son or daughter.”
When your faith lights up, it shows off the incomparable brightness and weightiness of God. Because God is all-encompassing and all-consuming, there is no room for worldly compromise.
You cannot climb to the heights of joy unless you first plumbed the depths of despair. Yes even your despair can be valuable. It is the pressures of despair in the depths of your soul where something precious is being formed.
This little article should be read as road map, a map showing you the way to find joy when joy is the furthest thing from your mind, will, and emotion.
I’m a pretty optimistic guy with a fairly even-keeled personality. I didn’t choose to be this way. I am fortunate to have been born with a sense of optimism. When I was younger, I used to have surges of optimism, but now in my sixties, not so much.
How about loved ones; family, friends, and acquaintances that have the opposite? Instead of optimism, they suffer from depression and anxiety, and because of this, they’ve become pessimistic. Trying to cope with periodic or ongoing bouts of depression and anxiety can be hell on earth. I have seen what it looks like in the faces of my loved ones.
So here is the thing, as fortunate as I am to be optimistic, upbeat, and positive, I must choose joy, just as much as one suffering from depression must choose joy. There is a problem with both polar opposites. Both depressive and optimistic personalities, in their extremes, are void of joy.
You see, being controlled, or mentally dominated by optimism or depression, leaves no room for joy. Joy, real joy, is a choice. The choice is not easy for the depressed and the optimist.
But far too many people bypass joy for a new lover, new home, or even a baby, hoping they’ll find happiness.
The scriptures, more or less, indicate that joy is a command from the heart and mind to the soul, or vice versa. Even a command to our bones! Yep, I can attest to that; being sixty-something, I have a lot of aches in my bones; my bones speak to me; no, they really do, they make all kinds of sounds when I walk!
“Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” – Psalm 51:8
“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, And a good report makes the bones healthy.” – Proverbs 15:30
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:24
Joy is medicine to our body, heart, mind, and even our bones!
Like all medicines, many of us must be reminded to take it, perhaps even forced. Ah, but when you do follow the doctor’s orders, or your wife’s, the medicine helps with whatever ails you. And so, you must also choose joy to receive all of its benefits.
I did a word study on Joy in the New King James Version of the Bible. Did you know that the word “joy” appears 192 times in both the Old and New Testaments? Just studying the word Joy, brings you joy!
But still, choosing joy in the midst of depression, worry, sickness, betrail, and even divorce seems almost impossible. Trying to reign in our emotions when our mind and body seem out of control is like trying to rope a bull elephant!
So many people suffering from depression, anxiety, and traumatic events, such as betrail, divorce, etc., show the signs of their condition in their bodies and even in their bones. Everything aches and most things lose their significance, such as food, relationships, and even life itself. But this is why joy is so important and why the Bible mentions it 192 times!
Sacrificial joy, that is, choosing to be joy-filled when things are not right, is real medicine. As I mentioned earlier, joy is a medicine that sometimes you must force yourself to take.
I had written an article a few weeks ago titled:
“My Allergic Reaction To Asking For Help.”
This is a story of my unintended flight down a set of stairs, whereby I had ruptured and shredded my quadriceps above my left knee. They snapped like a dried twig! Well, it wasn’t the painful surgery that gave me grief; it was nausea from the general aniestic!
I absolutely hate nausea. It began post-surgery and as soon as my wife took me home. The orthopedic surgeon hadn’t prescribed any anti-nausea meds. So there I am, writhing in nausea, dizziness, and fighting the urge to throw up. Toni saw how terrible I looked and felt. It was late, but I begged her to go to the pharmacy and bring home some anti-nausea meds.
While Toni was away, I was so desperate that I turned on a Christian Radio Station, K-LOVE, and listened to worship music while alone in my living room. I struggled initially, but I started to command my body, heart, and mind to be joyful. I began singing praises and thanksgiving to God, thanking him, even for the dreaded nausea. In a matter of few minutes, my nausea vanished, and my pain began to diminish.
Soon, Toni showed up with the anti-nausea meds, but when she handed me the bag, I said, “Oh, um, I’m feeling much better; the nausea is over.” She looked a little perturbed, only because I sent her on a wild goose chase for drugs that I didn’t need. I should’ve started with joy.
Early the following year, I contracted a form of the H1N1 virus. I had never been so sick. I reached a point where I got my inner house in order, so to speak, because I actually thought that I might die! While burning with fever, I again started to praise God and sing a joyful song to Him. It wasn’t at all easy or even natural to push through, but nonetheless, I did.
I lay there on my sickbed and began singing Psalms 100.
“(A Psalm of praise.) Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands…
…I will enter into His gates with thanksgiving in my heart, and into his courts with praise: I will say this is the day that the Lord hath made, I will rejoice in Him and be glad.”
Yeah, I actually thought I might be entering the Courts of Heaven that night, but God had other plans. Forcing myself to express joy helped me to triumph through that dreaded virus.
Actually, to “rejoice” is just that; it means giving joy to God until it is given back to you. To rejoice in the Lord is the worshipper becoming gladdened, exuberant, and jubilant by taking great delight in God. Heartfelt Joy is reciprocal. It is also contagious.
The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. – Zephaniah 3:17
For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12
God sometimes brings correction through the things we suffer because He knows that suffering can produce the precious commodity called joy. Just like an oyster and a grain of sand, which to the oyster is an irritant. From this irritant comes a pearl.
Probably one of the most impactful examples of this was on, of all places, America’s Got Talent TV show.
Jane Kristen Marczewski, known by many as Nightbird, (December 29, 1990 – February 19, 2022), on AGT, viewed by millions, and a recipient of the coveted “Golden Buzzer,” told the world the following after she sang her original song, “It’s OK”:
“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
The audience, and especially Simon Cowell, were stunned. I was too.
Really, Jane’s words were so powerful because they are true, not just her truth, but right from the Bible. They are God’s truth, and that night, they were spoken by a frail and tiny but courageous woman. I think the shock of it all was profound because it was spoken over the backdrop of her story; her battle with cancer.
Jane had learned the power of joy and happiness in spite of the cancer eating away at her future.
Happiness or joy is now, not later. It’s in the middle of your darkest nights, dreariest days, and deepest despairs. Joy and happiness are choices. Yes, hard choices. If they were easy, they’d have far less value with no real healing and no inner peace. That night, Jane Kristen Marczewski, became God’s pearl.
God allows irritants to enter our life too. He does this with intricate perfection and purpose.
“Thus says The Most High, The Exalted One who inhabits all eternity, and is holy, and holy is his dwelling with the humble, and with the weary of spirit to give life to the spirit of the humble, and to give life to the heart of the suffering ones.” Isaiah 57:15
When we are at our worst, choosing joy is most powerful. The Isaiah verse above tells us The Most High God, The Exalted One, who lives in all eternity while He dwells in a high and lofty place, He is near the humble, the sorrowful, and the sufferers.
When we command our body, heart, mind, and yes, even our bones to rejoice in God, He gives life. He refreshes. He restores, and He reciprocates our sacrificial joy. “He will quiet us with his love.” “He will rejoice over us with gladness” and even “rejoice over us with singing.” Because God is not a distant deity, He is your Heavenly Father, and he is much nearer than you can imagine.
Like the oyster, we can’t see the development of beauty inside our lives. Our struggles with depression, anxiety, worry, and overoptimism distract us from the work that God is doing. Instead, we feel abandoned by God, orphaned, and on our own. The truth is that God is there with us in the midst of our pain. It requires us to believe and to trust in God’s promises. The Bible says God would rather dwell with us than with kings and queens.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
He would have to be very close to you to heal your broken heart, bind up your wounds, and save your crushed spirit.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18
Then God sends us His Son, Jesus to rescue us…
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.” Luke 4:18-19
Don’t live life without joy.
“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Jane Kristen Marczewski, Nightbird
Choose joy, and in a very short while, you’ll understand. Maybe you’re becoming God’s Pearl, too.