Full Joy

Baby Smile“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

Life can certainly get overwhelming. Jesus certainly understands all of that. He was in fact the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3).

However, I’d like to gently remind some of you not to get stuck in your sadness.  Jesus wasn’t just a “man of sorrows”, He was also a man of joy.  He was the one anointed with the “oil of gladness” more than any other person (Ps. 45:7; He. 1:9).

God wants us to have joy in our lives. It’s a joy that doesn’t come from “things”, experiences, medication, or relationships.  It’s a joy that comes from God because it’s Jesus’ own joy.  Jesus doesn’t want us to just settle for a “taste” of joy either.  He wants our joy to be full.

How do we find this fullness of joy?  We experience joy through the things that Jesus has spoken to us. In the context of John 15, those things involve knowing God’s love for us.  Jesus also said that God’s love becomes more real in our lives when we learn to obey God by loving others like He loves us.  How does He love us? He loves and does good toward us without expecting anything in return.

When you take your eyes off yourself and love others, you might just be surprised by joy.  May your joy be full.

Secure Inheritance

InheritanceThus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance.” (Numbers 36:9)

Five sisters came to Moses with a problem (Num. 27).  Their father had died without any sons, and these sisters were afraid they would lose their share of the coming inheritance in the Promised Land.  In those days, women were not eligible to inherit.  So when these sisters pleaded with Moses, God smiled and replied that women were indeed qualified to receive an inheritance.  A little while later, the leaders from their tribe of Manasseh came with their own concern.  The sisters were ready to get married. The leaders were worried that if the gals married outside their tribe, their property would be transferred to their husband’s tribe. Moses prayed, and again God answered that the gals simply needed to marry within their own tribe.  The precious inheritance would not be lost.

As believers, you too my friends have an inheritance.  It’s bigger than your parent’s 401k.  Your inheritance is also in a Promised Land, heaven.  Peter wrote that it was “incorruptible, undefiled, and does not fade away” (1Pet.1:4).  The sisters Zelophehad learned that the best of inheritances can’t be given away.  You can’t be swindled out of it.  No one can take it away. This is the security of eternal life.

This is Jesus

This is JesusAnd the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

He has existed since eternity.  He has always been with the Father.  He Himself is God.  Everything that has ever been made was made through Him.  He is the source of real true life.  In a world of darkness, He is light. And then one day this Person laid aside His glory, emptied Himself, came into our world, and took on human flesh in the womb of a young virgin named Mary.

This is Jesus.  He is fully God.  He is also fully human.  As God, He can do anything.  As man, He understands you and me.  He understands the world we live in.

You might expect someone like this to be a horrible tyrant, able to rule over us weak humans.  Instead, He is full of grace and truth.  While Moses introduced mankind to the Law, Jesus is the embodiment of grace, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness.

Although this amazing Messiah was initially rejected by His own chosen people, to those who receive Him, He gives eternal life.  He gives a new chance at life.  He makes them His child.

If you’ve received Him, do you realize what you have?  Do you realize what is available to you as God’s child?  It’s because of Jesus.

You Count

Widow MitesOn the fifth day Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, leader of the children of Simeon, presented an offering. (Numbers 7:36)

It’s probably not the most inspiring passage in the Bible.  In fact, if you’ve ever spent time reading through Numbers 7, you may have been tempted to skip this particular verse.  Numbers 7 is like the charitable giving receipt you get at the end of the year listing all that you’ve given.  This chapter records all the gifts that the leaders of each tribe gave at the opening of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.  Each person’s set of gifts is exactly like the gifts of the others.  Each gift consisted of silver, gold, grain, incense, olive oil, and sacrificial animals.  After you’ve read through the first three or four sets of gifts, you begin to realize that each set of gifts is exactly like the previous set, just the names have changed. So when you get to the fifth day and your eyes begin to glaze over, you skip to the end of the chapter.

Yet God makes sure that Moses records in painstaking detail each item that each man has brought to give to God.  Why?  Because each person’s gift is important.  Even if it looks exactly like the last person’s gift.  Your gift is important as well. Whether it’s sharing your talents, your finances, or spending time with a hurting person, God sees, God cares, and God takes note.  You see, God is generous and His people should be too.  What you do counts.

New Sheriff

Sheriff BadgeOne of the things Jesus was known to do from time to time was to cast demons out of people.  I imagine it was an amazing thing to watch.  Jesus spoke a word and the demonic being that was troubling some poor individual was gone.  A person’s life was dramatically changed.  A life that was once horrible, dark, and despondent came into light, mercy, and hope.  Once, after having cast out a demon, Jesus gave this instruction: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24–26)

There are plenty of things in this world that can cause a person despair, and there are many ways a person can find help.  There are many ways to clean a house.  The important thing in life is not to stop with a clean house.  The goal is to fill that house with a new occupant, someone who can handle the “bad guys”.  That’s a job for a sheriff. Jesus can be so much more than a “friend” of yours.  He wants to be the new sheriff in town.  When Jesus is the sheriff in your life, you aren’t afraid of bad days ahead.  Jesus will help you face the challenges because He’s on your side.

Still Guilty

Speed Limit 30“If someone sins and without knowing it violates any of the Lord’s commands concerning anything prohibited, he bears the consequences of his guilt. (Leviticus 5:17 HCSB)

In the Law of Moses, there was a type of offering called the “sin offering” or “trespass offering”.  This offering was to be performed if you had done something wrong, even though at the time you didn’t realize you had done something wrong. If you are going 50 mph in a 30-mph zone and get pulled over by an officer, you just might get a ticket whether or not you knew what the speed limit was.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I often find that when I’m confronted with something I did that was wrong, one of my first responses is to make an excuse.  “I didn’t know you were there”, “I wasn’t feeling well”, or “I didn’t mean it” come spilling out of our mouths. When confronted with the world’s first sin, Adam responded to God with an excuse, blaming it on “that woman You gave me”.  The problem with the excuses I make is that whether I want to admit it or not, I still did a wrong thing and doing wrong things incurs guilt.

I am finding that I really don’t move forward in life until I learn to simply admit, “I was wrong”.  Admitting you were wrong is hard.  It’s humiliating.  It’s also freeing.  It allows for the possibility of forgiveness to be granted.  It allows relationships to mend.

The Blessing in Patience

calf or tabletsMoses and the Israelites had been in the very presence of God, and heard His voice proclaim the Ten Commandments. It was after this event that Moses went up to the mountain to receive more instructions from God.  A whole month passed and the people began to wonder what had happened to Moses.  They convinced Aaron to make a golden calf, and they celebrated with a big feast.  Aaron told Moses, “For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’” (Exodus 32:23)

Just what was Moses doing for those missing forty days? He was in the presence of God receiving instructions.  Moses acquired plans for building a portable sanctuary.  He wrote down instructions for constructing the Ark of the Covenant, the table of showbread, the altar of incense.  He was given the formulas for making anointing oil and incense.  He was given two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written by the very finger of God.

Sometimes, we make a mistake and sacrifice the bigger plans God has for our lives in exchange for a quick “fix” and a golden calf.  Instead of trusting in a God we can’t see, we opt for something flashy that entertains us, and life becomes much cheaper.  There is great blessing when we patiently wait on God and receive all He has for us.

Pesky Tusken Raiders

Tusken_RaidersThe Amalekites had attacked Israel. The Amalekites were the “Tusken Raiders” of the Old Testament (Tusken Raider:  Star Wars’ “sand people” who tortured Anakin Skywalker’s mom).  Moses would later record that the Amalekites had attacked the folks in the rear, the stragglers, the tired and weary (Deut. 25:18).  The Amalekites were not nice people.  Moses knew it was time to fight, so he asked Joshua to choose some warriors, and in the morning while Joshua was fighting, Moses would be on top of a nearby hill praying.  And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. (Exodus 17:11)

It’s a simple picture.  When Moses prays, Joshua does well.  The problem that day was that the battle wasn’t over in fifteen minutes.  The battle dragged on for the entire day.  At times Moses’ arms got tired, and as he dropped his arms, the enemy advanced.  Moses addressed his weary arms by asking two friends to prop up his arms until the battle was over.

You might be in a battle today.  It could be with your health, a relationship, finances, family, or things at work.  Do you realize what the key to victory is?  Victory is not about getting your way.  Victory is about what God does through prayer.  If you’ve grown weary in prayer, maybe it’s time to ask some friends to lift your hands.

Hosanna

jesus-cross-and-sunTalk about a change in the weather.  When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem on Sunday, the crowds were excited, waving palm branches, cheering “Hosanna”, and calling Him their king. Yet by the following Friday, Jesus had been arrested, severely beaten, and was hanging on a cross taking His last gasps of air.  The crowd had changed their tune.  Leading the new chorus were the religious leaders who said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. (Matthew 27:42)

That Sunday shout of “Hosanna” is often misunderstood.  It is not a cheer of praise, but a cry for help.  “Hosanna” means “save now”.  And though the mockers standing at the cross on Friday considered Jesus an utter failure, He was in fact answering the cries of the people on Sunday.  The cross wasn’t a failure.  It was salvation.  He died to save us from the worst part of the human condition…sin.

I wonder if sometimes I too don’t understand what it means when I ask God for help. Though He may at times deliver me from an immediate difficulty, there will be other times when He allows me to go through further difficulty to achieve a greater good. If you have cried “Hosanna” in your time of trouble, yet the trouble persists, don’t be discouraged.  Keep your eyes open.  There is a greater good.

Forgotten

In PrisonI would imagine that Joseph had plenty of reasons to think that life was unfair.  Joseph may have had dreams of great things ahead, but instead his brothers kidnapped him, threw him into a pit, and sold him to be a slave in Egypt.  While Joseph eventually prospered as the chief slave in Potiphar’s house, there came that day of temptation when Joseph said “no”, Potiphar’s wife said “go”, and Joseph wound up in prison accused of something he didn’t do.

While in prison, Joseph managed a level of prosperity as God was “with” him.  When the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker ended up in prison with Joseph, Joseph interpreted their dreams for them.  Things turned out exactly as Joseph predicted.  Things were looking up.  The cupbearer would be close to Pharaoh himself and could put in a good word for him.  Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:23)

It’s not hard to relate to Joseph’s life.  Things don’t always turn out the way we expect them to, or as soon as we hoped for.  Does God even care?  Does God even know?

Beloved, God does care, and when the time is right, it will happen.  Sometimes the other people involved in your future aren’t yet ready.  Sometimes you haven’t matured and learned what you need to learn.  The cupbearer may forget, but God does not.