Joy, Part Two

Joy = Happiness + Perspective

I know it is possible to be happy and not have joy. I don’t think it is possible to be joyful and not happy. If someone wants to argue the point, I’ll let them, but I can’t envision someone who is overflowing with joy and grumpy at the same time.

Perspective is what sets joy apart. Anyone can be happy when things are working in our favor. But joy is what allows us to sparkle in the dark.

Perspective changes everything. Having an eternal perspective stemming from the truths of Scripture allows us to rejoice in the worst of circumstances. Realizing that we are, right now, seated in Heavenly places is a profound perspective shift that radically changes how we pray. Perspective is what allows us to set facts aside and focus on Reality.

Joy is the canary for my soul. When joy drops dead I know I need to resurface and find the Light. Joy isn’t a fragile thing by any means, but it is always the first to leave when we stop walking in step with the Spirit. Joy and the Kingdom of God go hand in hand.

I used to think that depression and melancholy were the hallmarks of the Christian life. As an intercessor, mystic and someone desirous of a deep relationship with God I assumed melancholy was par for the course. I was under the false impression that depression led to spiritual maturity. There can be profound spirituality that arises in the midst of suffering, I don’t want to discount that. I simply want to say that there is an equally deep, possibly more profound spirituality to be found in joy.

Joy requires us to put to death the part of us that wants to be repectable. Joy requires us to embrace child-likeness. Joy encourages us to play again. Dr. Seuss sums it up well when he says, “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them!” Obsolete children… no longer good for laughing or playing or getting caught in the rain.

Do you ever wonder what Jesus meant when he said, “Unless you become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of God”? I do. And my son Emory is helping me learn what it is to be a child.

Emory is totally dependant. He relies on Mom and Dad to get him where he wants to go, change his dirty dipers, decide when its time to rest, and feed him. Emory can do very little for himself – but he is totally happy. He has absolute trust that his parents will provide him with what he needs. Dani and I think about him all the time, we are attuned to his schedule and needs and will only do what we believe to be the best and most beneficial things for him. Emory doesn’t always like what we believe is best, but he accepts it the best he can and very quickly returns to the place of joy. I’m learning a lot from watching him.

Thanks again for reading friends,

Ben

Advertisements

Joy, Part One

Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve looked. For the record, neither is respectability. But what I am finding over and over again as I search out the Kingdom is joy.

“It is for the joy set before him (Jesus) that he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of God…” Hebrews 12:2

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self control…” Galatians 5:22

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” Romans 14:17

Rejoice in The Lord always, again I will say – rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

And there are literally hundreds of verses more.

The point of listing out these Scriptures is not to brow beat you into behavior management. The point is to hopefully point out how integral joy is to the lives of those who follow Jesus. Joy in every circumstance. Joy in trouble and tribulation. Joy in restoration and reconciliation. Joy in mourning and joy in rejoicing.

And joy is so much more than happiness. Joy is happiness plus perspective. ( Joy = Happiness + Perspective for you mathematical types. :D)

Some folks try to tell me that happiness is based on circumstances. I don’t believe them. I have joy and joy is eternal – it trumps circumstance every time.

I can honestly say I couldn’t find anything to be sad about Easter morning. It was cold and rainy, I’d just lost a friend not 12 hours before, I knew of three families struggling with the recent loss of loved ones, I had a sore big toe. But there was nothing that was going to stop me from celebrating, shouting, dancing, or laughing because I had something to rejoice in.

I have a Daddy who loves me unconditionally. I have a King who is pure and righteous and Good. I have a personal Counselor who is an expert Comforter. I have friends who have entered into Glory and no longer walk by faith. I have friends and family who are relentlessly hopeful lovers of God. I have the sure knowledge that we will make it through, that the Light will overcome the dark no matter what storm rages on.

Joy. Joy is what makes us steadier than our circumstances. Joy is what empowers us to live differently than the people around us. Joy is what sets us apart.

Joy is what cost David his wife’s respect. Joy is what shook the foundation of the prison where Paul and Silas were singing, setting the prisoners free. Joy is what allowed Peter and John to preach even after being beaten by the Sanhedrin. Joy is the reward that steadied Jesus through the most painful hour of darkness imaginable.

I don’t think we’ve begun to comprehend how valuable joy is in God’s economy. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of how powerfully joy can impact a culture. In rejecting demonstrative joy we’ve cut ourselves off from a vital source of strength and contented ourselves with the broken cisterns of respectable religion. We’ve drunk of those defiled long enough in my opinion. It is time for Living Water.

A Sacrifice of Praise

Losing someone you love and admire 12 hours before you preach an Easter sermon isn’t an experience I’d wish on anyone, but it has produced some profound revelations for me.

The main revelation is that in the midst of grief and suffering and pain, God is still worthy to be praised. No circumstance, no matter how devastating, changes the Good News of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension. Death died on Friday – Jesus lives on.

“Precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of his saints… I will offer a sacrifice of praise,” says David in Psalm 116. A sacrifice is a sacrifice because it costs you something. Choosing joyful worship in the midst of grief is a costly sacrifice. Confessing God’s Goodness when everything in life seems contrary to that requires faith. The enemy wants to crush our spirits – he can’t stand the Light of Life and Hope in the human soul; so we weather his storm and shine all the brighter for the darkness.

I’m reminded that we live in the unshakable Kingdom of God. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken in our lives, so that everything that is not of God will fall away. What remains standing when the dust settles is a priceless treasure – a Kingdom, full of faith, hope and love, inhabited by saints who love their Lover more than life itself. The world isn’t worthy of such beauty.

I’m so proud of how we’ve handled Beverly’s sickness and death. I’m glad we fasted, prayed and believed for her healing. I’m glad we arranged meals and help for the family. And I’m amazed that we were able to worship together this morning with arms lifted high. Well done church.

My Take on “Digging Wells: A Parable”

I love parables. Especially ones that stick with you and/or require independent thought. As much as I love stories, they can sometimes lead to shallow thinking – as in, I tell you a story in such a way that you see what I want you to see, how I want you to see it so that, in the end, you agree with me. Stories certainly have their place, but it is no accident that Jesus taught in parables and rarely explained them. Some of His parables still leave people wondering what He was talking about.

I love that parables make you think and reflect. Unreflective Christianity has a tendency to go lock-step with the culture and that scares me. So the counter-cultural and subversive parables of Jesus are a true Godsend. My parable isn’t quite that good, but I hope it caused you to think. In case you missed the parable, scroll down, read it and leave a comment before you continue… Thanks!

My thoughts
To me, this is a parable about perseverance and going deep in the most important things, which are, by necessity, quite few.

It is a parable about human nature and our tendency to wander even though we’re told exactly what to do.

The people of the village were dying of thirst, but in order to find the thing that would give them life, they had to go low – much lower than they had anticipated, much lower than they were willing to go. They had to dig and dig, deeper and deeper in the same place. Instead, they got distracted. They dug down a little and didn’t find what they wanted, so they tried somewhere else. They put in all the work they needed to in order to find life, but it was a dispersed effort which resulted in failure – if only they had kept digging down and down in the same hole!

The holes, for me, are different aspects of Christianity. They can represent the love of God, prayer, service, miracles, worship. Digging deep in any of those wells will result in an encounter with Jesus, the Water of Life, which is the whole point. But a dispersed, half-hearted and distracted effort in five or six holes will kill you, unless you can drink from someone else’s well.

Remember John 4 and the Samaritan woman at the well? Jacob the Patriarch had dug a well people were still drinking from hundreds of years later, yet it was unable to satisfy. But when Jesus came, he offered an endless supply of living water to whoever would dig a well through relationship with him.

I think there are very few topics that are “well worthy,” things you can give your life to for years and never regret. I think growing in understanding of God’s love for you and your love for God is pretty much it. The way you grow in that understanding might look a lot of different ways – service to the poor, prayer, worship or bible study, maybe even a combination of all of those – but the goal remains connection with the heart of God.

There are definitely more things to dig out of this particular parable, but those are the insights I thought I would share.

Thanks for reading friends!