Tag Archives: joy

Mountaintop Blessings

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Most Christians have had what they describe as a “mountaintop” experience… a time when they felt especially close to God and keenly aware of His presence and blessings.  Some people may associate that time with their conversion;  others with a special time away on a Via de Cristo or other sort of retreat.  At these times, we feel on fire for God.  We are energized and ready to do anything and everything required of us to lead an authentic Christian life.

My devotional reading this morning focused on how mountaintop times, wonderful and blessed as they are do not last.  We can’t recapture them, but we can continue to use them.

“We must learn to live in the ordinary ‘gray’ day according to what we saw on the mountain.”

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chamber

How were you blessed on the mountaintop?  Were things clearer, brighter?  Did you feel loved and called for a special purpose?  Did you experience the joy of Christian fellowship or the peace that passes understanding? Even Jesus and the disciples experienced this:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3 ESV)

Yet, they still had the valley of Calvary ahead of them.  I’ve found that continuing in the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study and fellowship (even when the day is gray and I don’t really want to) help keep the mountaintop feelings alive and fresh in my life.  These are the daily blessings that keep us growing in the valley.

 

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A Joyful Direction

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The quote below comes from a sermon preached by John Donne in the early 17th century, during a time of plague.  It reminds us that our ultimate, joyful destination is an expansion and continuation of the joy we experience in Christ right now.

“Howling is the noise of hell; singing the voice of heaven. Sadness the damp of hell; rejoicing the serenity of heaven. And he that hath not this joy here lacks one of the best pieces of his evidence for the joys of heaven, and hath neglected or refused that earnest by which God uses to bind his bargain, that true joy in this world shall flow into the joy of heaven as a river flows into the sea. This joy shall not be put out in death and a new joy kindled in me in heaven. But as my soul, as soon as it is out of my body, is in heaven, and does not stay for the possession of heaven nor for the fruition of the sight of God till it be ascended through air, and fire, and moon, and sun, and planets, and firmament to that place which we conceive to be heaven, but without the thousandth part of a minute’s stop, as soon as it issues, is in a glorious light, which is heaven…The true joy of a good soul in this world is the very joy of heaven. And we go thither, not that being without joy we might have joy infused into us, but that, as Christ says, ‘our joy might be full’ (John 16:24), perfected, sealed with an everlastingness. For as he promises that ‘no man shall take our joy from us’ (v. 22), so neither shall Death itself take it away, nor so much as interrupt it or discontinue it. But as in the face of Death, when he lays hold upon me, and in the face of the devil, when he attempts me, I shall see the face of God (for everything shall be a glass, to reflect God upon me), so in the agonies of death, in the anguish of that dissolution, in the sorrows of that valediction, in the irreversibleness of that transmigration, I shall have a joy which shall no more evaporate than my soul shall evaporate—a joy that shall pass up and put on a more glorious garment above and be joy super-invested in glory. Amen.”7

Learning to Count It All Joy

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Learning to Count It All Joy

One month after my husband graduated seminary, I got the worst phone call of my life… my brother, my only sibling, had committed suicide. I quickly hopped on a plane to Florida to be with my sister in law and the four young children he left behind.

So many questions ran through my mind…and I turned to God for strength. I knew I couldn’t change the situation but I asked God… what can I do to glorify you in this awful mess? God reminded me to be the light of Christ, and no matter what, He was there to be with our family. The last two years since that day, I have tried to show my family that no matter what we face in life, God wants us to always remember that all things work together for His good, to those that love Him, and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

As I have looked back on that part of my journey, I know why God had me rooted in the book of Philippians at the time… God wanted to remind me how to count all trials and tribulations in my life as pure joy. The book of Philippians helped me to understand that having the joy of the Lord is so important and vital to our faith walk because God’s Joy is our strength and power.

Both the Apostle Paul and James tell us when we are enduring trials count it all as joy… because when our faith is tested, our endurance grows, and when it fully develops we will be strong in the Lord and ready for the things life throws at us. The pursuit of deepening our relationship with God is continual because our world and our surroundings are constantly changing and little by little we increase the reflection of Christ in our lives.

Living a life of joy is a choice. You want to know the truth of how I got through… two important factors…

…with the help of some awesome ladies whose husbands were also in seminary with us… ladies who became my friends, ladies who are my sisters in Christ.

…and because deep down in my heart I have chosen to wholeheartedly trust that God’s promises are true…He loves me, He died for me, he doesn’t want me to be perfect but to be faithful and obedient, he wants me to share His love with the people I encounter, he wants the joy of the Lord to be my strength, and he wants me to always focus on Him. Sometimes it is hard to count your life as joy, I still struggle with it, and that is when I cling to God even more… so he can help me to find joy in the suffering.

I cling to Philippians 1: 9-11… “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation- the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ- for this will bring much glory and praise to God”.

God says that he has set before us both life and death. I say choose life. Live your life as God intended, counting it all as joy. Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

A Prayer in Remembrance of Baptism

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Lord God, I am your child.  I call you Father because you are my Father.  You named me with your own holy name even before I could speak.  You made me your own before I could move a hand to help or prevent you.  You insisted on having me even though you knew the end of my life as well as its beginning, its shame as well as its glory, its failures as well as its achievements, its bad as well as its good.

Why, Father, should I persist in resisting you?  Why should I insist on my own way instead of knowing your way of grace and love?  Why should I obey my own whims instead of letting your grace in baptism have its way with me?

Forgive me, Father, for so often wandering into a far country away from you, your forgiveness, your joy, your promises, your love in Jesus Christ.  Help me to live in the freedom of my baptism, by the faith you have given me, in the life which you daily renew by your gracious forgiveness.

I am baptized.  I belong to you, God.  Amen

Taken from the Lutheran Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide

Image result for martin luther on remember our baptism

Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

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Another story behind the story of a carol mentioning the fruit of faith and joy.

Jlue's Weblog

“O Come All Ye Faithful”was written by John Francis Wade. Wade was said to have written the song in 1743 and to have based the song on the Bible passage Luke 2:15-16. It was first known as “Adeste Fideles.”

Verses 1-3 and verse 6 were translated from Latin to English by Frederick Oakeley in 1841 while verses 4 and 5 were translated by William Thomas Brooke (1848-1917).

While there has been some controversy surrounding the authorship of the song, the beauty of the melody, along with the worshipful and meaningful words have blessed many over the years.

“O Come All Ye Faithful”

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

Refrain

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the…

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The Joy of Heaven – Martin Luther

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A Luther quote that seems appropriate to the season and our theme!

Christmas Quotes

Good news from heaven the angels
bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.
– Martin Luther

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Why Are You Joyful?

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“…there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” Luke 2:8-12

Our sermon at the Christmas service last night was called, “Something to Celebrate.”  When we’re filled with joy, we want to celebrate, but what inspires this joyful spirit?

Some are joyful in anticipation of giving or getting the perfect gift.  What is it your heart desire?  The latest electronic gadget?  Clothing with the most popular designer label? Or maybe that special gift is something very practical, something needed but out of reach financially.  I remember the year our younger daughter gave her sister her old car when she purchased a new one.  This was a generous gift of the heart, that helped the rest of the family out tremendously.

Some are joyful at the prospect of getting together with friends and family, maybe some folks they rarely see during the year.  Yesterday my daughter, granddaughter, two of my siblings and two nephews spent some time visiting with my mother, who has dementia and Parkensen’s.  The joy in her eyes was apparent as she smiled at us.

Others are filled with joy in following the many traditions of their family, church, or community.  Singing particular carols, attending the candlelight service, baking fruitcakes and cookies, decorating the tree:  all these things bring joyful memories to mind.

If we’re honest quite a few of us are joyful when the visiting is done, the decorations are put away, the presents unwrapped, the cookies baked and eaten, and we can go back to “normal” life and get some rest.

Amidst all the Christmas trappings, the glitter and the glitz, the generosity and the greed, the hospitality and the stress, we need to take time to remember the true source of our joy.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Now that’s cause for joy in every season!

 

 

Fruitful Gifts

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“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on it’s own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;   it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

You’ve probably heard these verses many times before.  1 Corinthians is known as the “love chapter” (my Bible titles it The Way of Love) and it is often read at weddings.  However, placed in its context, Paul is speaking these words to the Christian community and it follows a description of spiritual gifts.

It is certainly good advice about how to behave towards our spouse, but it is much more than that.  These verses tell us how we should behave as part of the church.  Love is the “greatest” gift and the one that will remain when all our works have ceased. Love is not just what we do, it is who we are.  Notice that love also encompasses the fruit of the spirit:  patience, kindness, self-control, joy.

Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians at the end of chapter 13 and in chapter 14 that love is an indication of spiritual maturity.  He advises us to put away childish things (13:11) and be mature in our thinking (14: 20).

So “pursue love” (14:1) and “strive to excel in building up the church.”(14:12).  The fruit of the spirit will follow and will be a blessing to you and to others.

God loves you and so do I!

A Poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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A Theologian Meditates on the Transfiguring Aspects of Joy & Sorrow

Sorrow and Joy

By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Sorrow and Joy:

startled senses striking suddenly on our

seem, at the first approach, all but impossible

of just distinction one from the other:

even as frost and heat at the first keen contact

burn us alike

Joy and Sorrow,

hurled from the height of heaven in meteor fashion,

flash in an arc of shining menace o’er us.

Those they touch are left

stricken amid the fragments

of their colourless, usual lives.

Imperturbable3 mighty,

ruinous and compelling,

Sorrow and Joy

–summoned or all unsought for–

processionally enter.

Those they encounter

they transfigure, investing them

with strange gravity

and a spirit of worship.

Joy is rich in fears:

Sorrow has its sweetness.

Undistinguishable from each other

they approach us from eternity,

equally potent in their power and terror.

From every quarter

mortals come hurrying:

part envious, part awe-struck,

swarming, and peering into the portent;

where the mystery sent from above us

is transmuting into the inevitable

order of earthly human drama.

What then is Joy? What then is Sorrow?

Time alone can decide between them,

when the immediate poignant happening

lengthens out to continuous wearisome suffering;

when the laboured creeping moments of daylight

slowly uncover the fullness of our disaster

Sorrow’s unmistakable features.

Then do most of our kind

sated, if only by the monotony

of unrelieved unhappiness,

turn away from the drama, disillusioned,

uncompassionate.

o ye mothers, and loved ones-then, ah, then

comes your hour, the hour for true devotion.

Then your hour comes, ye friends and brothers!

Loyal hearts can change the face of Sorrow,

softly encircle it with love’s most gentle unearthly radiance.