Let There Be Joy!

Zephaniah 3:17 –  The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Think about it!  God rejoices over us with joy. God sings with joy over us. Our joy in the Holy Spirit is simply a reflection of God’s divine joy.

Now how can we know this joy? The Holy Spirit ministers in us to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.

We share in Jesus’ love, His compassion, His redemption, and especially in His joy. There might be times of happiness without Jesus. But we can never have true joy without Him.

The gospel was announced by the angel to the shepherds as “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people“(Lk2:9).

Through the gospel, we know of God’s provision for our salvation. We trust Jesus to save us. We are cleansed from our sins. And we become the children of God.

The Holy Spirit then takes up permanent residence in us as a new believer to reveal Jesus to us and to conform us to the image of God’s Son. As we yield to His ministry, we know more and more the joy that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Christians are commanded to be filled with joy – “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice”(Ph4:4).

It seems strange, actually it is really amazing! that a man in prison would be telling a church to be joyful. But Paul’s attitude serves to teach us an important lesson.

Our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. Even in prison, Paul was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him, Jesus was with him.

As believers, our real joy is found in our unchanging, everlasting relationship with God that is ours through personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ. And when we know Jesus we can “Rejoice evermore”(1Th5:16).

Our joy does not fluctuate with our circumstances or with our feelings. Obeying God enables us to see people, problems, and everything else in our lives in a new perspective.  When we do God’s will, we will be joyful.

God intended for our worship to be joyful. The Psalmist said: “I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord“(Ps27:6).

We are called to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing…Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name”(Ps100:1-2,4).

Remember God’s goodness. And His faithfulness. And then worship Him with thanksgiving and joy!!



A Friend In Jesus

Proverbs 18:24A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Since the creation of man, God has sought to fellowship with man. Throughout the pages of the Old Testament we read about men who knew God and enjoyed fellowship with God.

Three times the Bible tells us that Abraham was a friend of God. They walked together. They talked together. And God could trust Abraham to the point that Abraham was called the friend of God.

During His early ministry, Jesus was called “a friend of publicans and sinners”(Mt11:19). Jesus told His disciples that He considered them His friends.

The apostle Paul shared more about God’s desire for friends when he explained that Jesus’ death at Calvary was that a world at enmity with God would respond to God’s love in salvation and become His friends.

1)         We become a friend of God by faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”(Hb11:6).

This kind of faith is more than just an intellectual acceptance of the existence of God. Even the demons believe that much about God.

God will not settle for our mere acknowledgement of His existence. He wants a personal, dynamic, life-transforming relationship with every one of us! This involves us trusting Jesus for our eternal salvation.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”(Ro5:8).

When Jesus died on the cross and then arose from the dead on the third day, He proved to all His power to save any person who would come to Him. When we personally trust Jesus Christ alone to save us, we become a friend of God.

2)         We strengthen our friendship with God by obedience.

Admitting our sin and believing in Jesus brings us salvation. Active obedience demonstrates that our belief is genuine – that it is real!

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you”(Jo15:14).

It is our responsibility as Christians to obey Jesus completely. Total obedience is our duty!

It is important for a Christian to be baptized and become a part of a Bible believing church. A Christian should be a faithful steward of all that God has given him. A Christian should do his best to win others to Christ.

All these things are a matter of obedience to the commands of Christ. They strengthen our friendship with God.

The greatest opportunity afforded to any man is to be a friend of God.

There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” And that friend is Jesus!!



Thanksgiving

Psalm 96:8-9Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

 The psalmist was overwhelmed with the goodness and the glory of the Lord.

Recognizing that his very life and breath, his health and wealth all were tied to the Lord and his blessings, the psalmist also recognized the need for worship.

He proclaimed, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods”(Ps96:2).

Always and in every way God is to be worshipped and praised by those who wear the name Christian. After all, as Paul stated “In him we live, and move, and have our being”(Ac17:28).

What a privilege and a pleasure it is to come to the house of God to join the people of God to worship Him in spirit and in truth.



Witnessing

Psalm 126:6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

This verse offers a simple, yet profound, tremendous outline for witnessing!

1)         “He that goeth forth.” There is no better plan for evangelism. We must be ever looking for those who we can witness too.

The command is never for the lost to go find a church and hear the gospel. The command is always for the saved to tell them the good news of salvation. Opportunities pass quickly. We must commit ourselves to go.

2)         “And weepeth.” How concerned are we for those who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior? We need to ask God to place a real burden in our hearts that will lead to compassion for the condition of those without Jesus living all around us!

3)         “Bearing precious seed.”  The “precious seed” is none other than the Word of God.

Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”(Ro10:17). “(We are) born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever”(1Pt1:23).

As we witness, the Word of God is the “precious seed” that we share.

4)         “Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Here is God’s promise of blessing for all who invest time in this business.

Who in our circle of family and friends is in need of the life changing salvation that comes through knowing Jesus Christ?! All of us know of someone! Probably several someones.

Think of what a blessing is in store for them, and for us! if we will witness to them and win them to Christ.

The clear truth of the Bible is that Jesus Christ will save completely, forever, any and all who will place their faith in Him.

The gospel of salvation has not reached its final destination if someone in our family, or at our workplace or school, or in our neighborhood has not been saved. Never forget that witnessing is not showing what we can do for God, but rather sharing and telling what God has done for us.

We have a story to tell!!



“His Story”

Zechariah 1:5-6Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? And they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.

 

History is “His story.” It is the record of how God has dealt with people of various nations and generations.

History is an excellent record of how God will also deal with us. It teaches us very clearly that God rewards right and punishes wrong in each nation and in each generation.

A thing is right because it agrees with the nature and purpose of God. And a thing is wrong because it disagrees with the person and nature of God. God does not change. So the standards of right and wrong do not change either!

Memorial Day is a time for remembering. We pause to remember those brave men and women who gave their lives that America might be free today.

As we remember, we should also recall both the positive and the negative things that the past generation lived. We must follow principles of holy living. There is no other way to receive God’s approval once we are trusting Jesus Christ.

The words God had spoken through His prophets a century earlier before the captivity, still applied to Zechariah’s generation. And they are still relevant for us today!

God’s Word endures. God is faithful to perform both His promises and His warnings.

In 1 Kings, we have recorded Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple.  “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant”(1Kg8:56). God is faithful!

The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure”(Ps111:7).

The word “verity” means true. Throughout Scripture, God certifies His faithfulness.

For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God”(Ez12:25).

We must trust the Word of God because we can trust the God of the Word! God has no reason to speak anything untrue. In fact, it would be a contradiction to His own nature of truth if God did.

The God who promised is faithful. We can count on His promises as if they were already done. God’s Word is true in each generation. The message is still and for ever the same!



Mom’s

Proverbs 31:26-28She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call he blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Have you ever wondered how Mother’s Day began? A day honoring mothers was observed in the early 1800’s in England. It was called Mothering Sunday and came in mid-lent. Julia Ward Howe made the first known suggestion for a Mother’s Day in the United States in 1862. Ann Jarvis of West Virginia began a campaign for nationwide observance of Mother’s Day. She chose the second Sunday in May and began the custom of wearing a carnation in 1907. In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day as an annual national observance.

What a precious treasure to God and to this troubled old world is a praying, Christian mother! What a consolation and a comfort to a family is a mother who prevails at the throne of grace in a time of trial or sorrow!

Consider these copied truths:

“When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator and I immediately wanted to paint another.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick and I learned what it means to serve one another in brotherly love.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you pray over me and kiss me goodnight and I felt loved and safe.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities even when you didn’t feel good and I learned what it means to glorify God in all things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of your time and money to the church and people in need and I learned that God loves a cheerful giver.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come to your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it is all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you praying and reading God’s Word and I learned to depend on and trust in Him too.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and I wanted to say, ‘Thanks for all the things I saw…when you thought I wasn’t looking.’”



Forgiveness

Hosea 3:4-5For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

 

After the birth of a third child, Gomer left Hosea to pursue other lovers, a vivid and painful object lesson of the way Israel had treated the Lord. Hosea bought Gomer back from the slave market for fifteen pieces of silver, a very low price because she had cheapened herself by her sins. May we never forget that God has purchased us at the tremendous cost of the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ!!

Israel today, though purchased by her Messiah, has not yet returned to the Lord.

Israel today is “without a king” because she rejected her King and therefore has no kingdom.

Israel is “without a prince” because there is no reigning dynasty in Israel. All the records were destroyed when the Romans captured Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Nobody can prove to which tribe he or she belongs!

Israel is “without a sacrifice” because they have no temple, or altar, or priesthood. They have no high priest. The only High Priest God will acknowledge is the interceding Son of God seated at His right hand in heaven!

But there is an “afterward!” Israel will not stay “without.” She will see her Messiah, repent of her sins, and say, “You are my God!” They will enter into that blessed relationship in which the Lord says, “You are My people!”

The key word is “return,” a word that is used twenty-two times in Hosea’s prophecy.

When Israel returns to the Lord, then the Lord will return to bless Israel.

This is Hosea’s message: “O Israel, return to the Lord thy God. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, ‘Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously’”(Ho14:1-2).

The people could return to God by asking Him to take away their sins. The same is true of us: We can pray Hosea’s prayer and know that our sins are forgiven because Jesus died for them on the cross.

Forgiveness begins when we see the destruction of sin and the futility of life without God. Then we must admit that we cannot save ourselves. Our only hope is in God.

God is love! He promises to forgive and restore all who repent and return to Him. He promises to bless all who trust Him.

This is truly the most beautiful and amazing love story ever told!!



Faith

Daniel 1:8But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

 

Daniel and thousands of his countrymen were deported to Babylon after Judah was conquered. Daniel found himself facing a ruling dictator and surrounded by idolatry.

But Daniel was not intimidated by powerful people or frightened by difficult circumstances. Daniel was determined to live for God.

When Daniel and his friends wanted to eat clean food, not food dedicated to idols, they did not stage a hunger strike or argue with those in charge. Daniel knew that any problems they created would reflect on the prince who was in charge of them and only get them all in trouble.

Daniel tactfully asked if they could be tested for ten days, knowing that the Lord would make the test successful. Daniel won the respect and confidence of the prince in charge.

Certainly Daniel did not agree with the theology or the lifestyle of the people in charge. But even if he could not respect the officers, Daniel respected their offices! He spoke respectfully to them and about them.

Too often believers take on a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. And we fail to show proper respect for those we disagree with. This attitude will always hurt the cause of Christ.

We would all do well to learn from Daniel’s example. We must know when to listen and how to speak with tact and courtesy. The best way to disarm an opponent is by treating him with dignity and respect.

Daniel maintained Godly character and conduct. And He became a respected leader. He kept himself pure. And he helped to transform both people and circumstances.

The principles that marked Daniel’s life become examples for us to follow. The same God who used Daniel is the same God who has called us. He is still on His throne! He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is able to make us ‘continue’ until we complete the tasks that He has assigned us to do.

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”(1Th5:24).



Our Lifestyle As A Christian

Zechariah 7:9-10Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

 

What practical expressions of holiness! These are God’s requirements to express our new life in Jesus Christ.

1)         Be honest. To “execute true judgment” is simply to deal honestly with all people. The New Testament statement is given in Romans 12:17: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

That is a practical requirement we can all live by! Be honest!!

2)         Be merciful. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man”(Pr3:3-4).

Mercy and compassion involve actions and attitudes. A merciful person not only feels love. He also acts responsibly and faithfully. A compassionate person not only cares for others in his heart. He also helps them.

Thoughts and words are not enough! Our lives reveal whether we are truly merciful and compassionate.

People have tried all kinds of ways to please God. But God has made His wishes clear: God wants His people to be merciful and compassionate.

3)         Be benevolent. God has a special sympathy toward those in need. He exercises a special watch-care over widows and children.

The good thing God commands us to do is stated in Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

Those who need help find special assistance in God. And they ought to also find it in the people of God!

4)         Be pure. Remember the words of James: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”(Jm1:27).

To be “unspotted from the world” means to be unstained, to be uncontaminated. Be pure!

It literally means to be free from the smut of the present evil world. This is the lifestyle expected of a Christian!

All of this is possible if we will faithfully obey the principles given in God’s Word.



A Holy Church

Leviticus 11:45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

 

God’s purpose for Israel was that the nation be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation”(Ex19:6).

Everything in the life of the Old Testament Israelite was either “holy” and thus set apart for God’s exclusive use, or “common.” And the “common” things were either “clean,” meaning that the people could use them, or they were “unclean” and forbidden to be used.

The Israelites had to be careful to avoid what was unclean. Otherwise, they would find themselves “cut off from the people” until they had gone through the proper ceremony to be made clean again. Because they were God’s chosen people, the Israelites had to learn to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean”(Lv10:10).

God’s true churches today are supposed to be “a holy nation” in their present world, to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”(1Pt2:9). To “shew forth” means ‘to tell out, to advertise.’

Israel revealed to the pagan nations around her the glories and excellencies of Jehovah, the true and living God. Churches today have the same privilege and responsibility. When Israel started to live like the pagans, they robbed God of His glory. And the Lord had to chasten them!

When churches get the false idea that we must become like the world around us to reach the world, we have missed our calling and command from God!

Paul severely rebuked the church at Corinth for this practice. And then he gave them God’s command:

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”(2Co6:17-18).

God desires absolute obedience in motives as well as in practice. Though we do not observe all of the worship practices of Israel, we are to have the same spirit of preparation and devotion.

On Sunday morning, January 24, 1861, Charles Hadden Spurgeon closed his sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle with these pointed words:

An unholy church! It is of no use to the world, and of no esteem among men. Oh, it is an abomination!…The worst evils which have ever come upon the world, have been brought upon her by an unholy church!”

Heed God’s call to purity!

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”(1Pt1:15-16).