Today’s quote of the day fits perfectly with the new Learning Joy series.
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” We always struggle to know the will of God – we look anywhere, ask anyone, and interpret anything as a sign to know His will.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 could not spell it out more clearly for us. He wants us to:
1. Rejoice evermore.
2. Pray without ceasing.
3. Give thanks in every situation.
By learning to choose joy, to pray continuously, and to praise God in the midst of everything (both good and bad) we will experience a life of heaven on earth like Makrina said in her post for Learning Joy. These three things are definitely easier said than done, but I believe that it is about developing daily habits that help us practice each one regularly. More on this to come in the series.
1. Make a list of people you are grateful for,
2. Pray for those people,
3. Think of a battle you have overcome, or made baby steps in, and thank God,
4. And pray to the Holy Spirit to teach you how to choose joy, to give you a heart of prayer, and to fill you with thanksgiving.
Glory be to our Father forever and ever.
Just starting a new series called Learning Joy, see here for Part 1 and more information on this mission! This is a guest post from my sister Makrina on joy. From the first day I met her, Makrina has been an inspiration and role model to me on living a joy-filled life. You can find more of her writing on the blog (one of my personal favourites) lmbawoman.blogspot.co.uk.
“Seriousness is not a fruit of the spirit but joy is!”
Gareth Gilkeson, Rend Collective
Joy. I think we miss it. I cannot recall preachers teaching kids that joy is the heart of God. I cannot recall a sermon that tells of the joy of worship.
I watch the kids as they endure long hours of church services. I watch how their experiences of boredom translate in their minds to God-is-boring. How praising Jesus becomes a monotonous chore.
Where are the kids who love to sing the praises of our wondrous Lord?
This query beckons another: where are the people of God who teach these kids that joy is the heart of Jesus? Where are the joyous ones who will not only teach but also live a life of praise?
Where are those who will heed to this simple command?
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”
We justify our lives, we claim that the world is home to many thieves of joy. We live as if misery is our default, and praise becomes mere words, often a drag. But that is never the heart of God.
Let me tell you this one truth, one truth that you ought to never forget:
This joy, it’s a choice.
No person or circumstance can rob you of joy, for joy is a choice. To choose to rejoice despite the waves, despite the storm, despite the fierce stones.
Joy is a choice.
To come before Him in prayer and worship is to come before the Holy heart of God. To come before the Holy heart of God is to see the truth of Who He is and to leave with it imparted onto our souls. To come before the Holy heart of God is to sing with the Psalmist “in your Presence is fullness of joy.”
I observe a stern, seriousness in worship. The uptight, tight-fisted, legalistic worship.
Where is the joy that caused ancient heroes to dance and sing and shout for His wondrous Name?
Life should be a celebration of the goodness of God.
Heaven is celebration, where all tribes and all nations and all His loved ones celebrate before His holy throne in joy and adoration. That is the life we should be living now, heaven starts right here.
Ancient heroes played the Lyre, sang songs, wrote poems and danced before the God of joy. There’s an art in celebration, where every soul brings before Him praise in various forms.
Who will teach our kids to be creative and find their spark? Who will tell the kids that we all find our own moments of pure, intimate joy with the Lord in diverse ways?
We will. We will be the people who know joy in His presence. We will be the painters, the writers, the singers, the dancers, the dreamers, the preachers, the poets, the cooks, the athletes and the producers who display the art of celebration.
For, eternity starts right here.
Heaven’s song is here.
Joy is here.
“The Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven”
C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
“Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”
I am on a mission.
I am on a mission to live a more abundant and joyful life as Christ designed it. Too many of us are living tired lives, burdened by the weight of the world, barely able to smile on a normal day let alone praise God in the midst of our most troubling times. This cannot be the way God intended us to worship Him.
When I began the mission to “find” joy, however, I realized that I hadn’t the faintest clue what it is or the means by which I could attain it. All I knew was:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:3
It is a part of God’s promise to us and (should be) a result of our relationship with Him. Yet, I am definitely not living a life full of inexpressible and glorious joy.
I would not naturally describe myself as a joyful person. I wouldn’t even say that I am an optimist. I frequently fear and expect the worst from people and life (and sadly, at times, from God too). But I have had enough. I refuse to deny my inheritance for a moment longer. God has promised me joy and I am going to start claiming it.
I had no idea the kind of digging in the past, rooting out wrong beliefs, and learning new habits this journey would entail. I am only now starting to see the bigger picture.
The journey to “find” joy is dependent on the belief that joy is actually a choice. Often, our definition of something affects how we experience it. Many of us have been walking around with an incorrect concept of joy. Joy does not mean smiling all the time and suppressing our more painful or sorrowful emotions.
I finally found what I believe is an accurate definition of joy from Kay Warren. Let us memorize this together and constantly come back to it as our foundation for the journey.
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”
Furthermore, let us remain confident that God wants us to be joyful!! This is the second most important part of our foundation.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
This is our memory verse for this series.
If you want to go more in depth, here are some of the resources I’m using:
- The Bible
- Choose Joy, Kay Warren
- Habits of Happiness, Rick Warren (rickwarren.org)
- Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen
- Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero
- Emotionally Healthy Woman, Geri Scazzero
Without further ado, let us begin!!
I read a passage this morning that spoke to me personally and will I’m sure to many others. Often, we get too caught up in theology while ignoring practical application. God is not to be worshipped by mind alone but with all our soul, heart, and body as well. Let us always remember to balance the two. Our reading and theological education is a guide and means – not the absolute source of our communion with or knowledge of God.
“He who seeks the inner kingdom of God and a living communion with Him, will naturally seek to remain continually in the thought of God. Turning his mind towards Him with all his might, his one desire will be to read only of Him, to speak only of Him. But these occupations alone will not lead to what is sought, unless accompanied by other, more practical activities. A certain type of mystic talks only of these occupations: the reason is that such teachers are people of theory and not of practice.
This practice of reading and speaking of God will, used on its own, create a facile habit for such things: it is easier to philosophize than to pray or pay attention to oneself. But since it is a work of the mind, which falls so easily into pride, it predisposes a man to self-esteem. It may altogether cool the desire for practical effort, and consequently hinder sound progress by a flattering successfulness in this mental activity.
For this reason sound-minded teachers warn their pupils of the danger, and advise them not to concern themselves too much with such reading and talk to the detriment of other things.”
Theophan the Recluse
“The story of your life is the story of a long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”
“The love which grace has begotten in the heart of the bride is itself divine and persistent; many waters cannot quench it, nor the floods drown it. Suffering and pain, bereavement and loss may test its constancy, but they will not quench it. Its source is not human or natural; like the life, it is hidden with Christ in God.
Our love to God is secured by God’s love to us. To the soul really rescued by grace, no bribe to forsake God’s love will be finally successful. ‘If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned (Song of Solomon).'”
From Union and Communion by J. Hudson Taylor
This week I attended a leadership conference run by the authors of Emotionally, Healthy Spirituality, Peter and Geri Scazzero. It was an eye-opening experience on many levels, but there is one thing in particular that left an impact on me. Geri and her husband talked about how most of us live reactively – we get annoyed, we react; we are tempted, we react; we are tired, we react.
Scripture, however, highlights many admirable people who lived with intention. Joseph and Daniel are two such examples from the Old Testament. Regardless of his present situation, Joseph decided to live inside the knowledge that God was sovereign over his life. This is why he was able to say sincerely to his brothers (who sold him into slavery and pretended he was dead), “but as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Daniel and his three friends are further Old Testament examples, who refused to conform to the rules and cultural practices of their new surroundings in Babylonian captivity, but chose to honour God above all (Dan. 1:8; 3).
After Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit) in the New Testament, we can also see such a transformation in the apostles. Saint Peter and Saint Thomas are two apostles known for their doubt and denial pre-Holy Spirit, who then become the leader of the early church and an extraordinary missionary respectively. Another example is Saint Paul, once the most violent persecutor of the church, who became its greatest advocate. We see in these disciples a transformation from living reactively to living intentionally and with purpose.
To Live intentionally, We Must Know Our Purpose
The key to living intentionally is then to know our purpose, what we are living for and how we are to live. As Christians, the Holy Spirit works in us to transform us into the likeness of Christ. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Further, we know that our lives are to be characterized by love, for God is love and we are to become like God (1 John 4:8).
What is love? “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Thus, we know our purpose here is to become like Christ and live out of and inside His love.
Practical Application: Living Intentionally from Principles
I know some of you are thinking that this all sounds great in theory but not in practice. One activity that I did after this conference was to create a list of 10 values. These values are based on our purpose as Christians, mentioned above. I will be praying for God to grant me the grace to live inside these principles and they will also serve as a reminder of how I want to be living, instead of living reactively.
Here are a few examples from mine, in no particular order:
1. Sincerity. To me, this means to be free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. It is like honesty, but kinder because honesty without love can be cruel, insensitive, and damaging.
2. Meekness. To be meek is to be content in both times of honour and dishonour. It is characterized by patient endurance and a lack of resentment or bitterness.
3. Joy. I’ve always struggled a lot with joy until I found this definition from Kay Warren, “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
I encourage you to make your own list!! These principles are obviously beyond our human capabilities, but with Christ all things are possible. We are already conquerors in Him.
There is one thing that is important to note. In order to live intentionally, there are many things we will have to let go of and change. For instance, it is necessary to draw boundaries, spend regular times of rest and solitude with God, pray diligently for strength and self-awareness, learn when and how to say no, express our feelings and tensions with kindness and integrity, repent regularly, and constantly reflect on our weaknesses. Living intentionally is a gradual process. I am definitely not expecting to change overnight, though I may desire to. I hope by making these things clear that there is no pressure to be perfect. This is a journey. There is death and struggle involved in every new birth: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).
God is with us on our journey. He will give us all the grace and strength we need!!