As January draws to a close I look back and see the planning and goals I’ve set for 2021, the Word I’ve chosen as my focus, Joy, and the opposition we face in our troubled times. Living by faith takes courage and focus on Jesus, and it is what we are called do each day during 2021. I have written how we can have soulful joy, eternal joy and complete joy in Christ. Scripture speaks of another joy, which I’ve called God’s Joy. God has put things here on earth for our pleasure that speak of His joy. At creation God looked at what He had made and called it good,Genesis 1:10,12, 18, 21,25, and upon finishing the creation of man He said it was very good in verse 31. God created His creation for our good and His glory. In Acts14:17, Paul explains, “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” All creations speaks of God’s glory, majesty and provision for us. Here are a few verses that speak of God’s majesty and the joy of His creation:
1 Chronicles 16: 26-27 “For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
Consider Psalm 8 and David’s insights into Creator God, His majesty, power and the joy of His creation.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 5 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.9 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
As we look at creation we can be filled with God’s joy. He created all the heavens and the earth to reflect His glory. Today as you meditate on Psalm 8, lift your voice to God and give Him praise. He will turn you praises to joy within your heart and soul.
Joy is a byproduct of the indwelling Holy Spirit’s work within me. Scripturally I’ve see that this joy molds and shapes my soul bringing soulful joy. It is also eternal as it began its effects upon me when I accepted Jesus as Lord of my life and will continue to work within me for all eternity giving me a source of joy that is eternal. Today I want to focus on joy that comes from the Lord, knowing Jesus, walking with him daily and belonging to Him. This type of joy emanates from Christ alone. The effects of this joy is complete. It fills me and last when earthly joys fade.
Jesus spoke of knowing God the Father, abiding in His love and keeping His commandments. He promised that walking in His love and practicing His ways would provide me with this type of joy. John 15:9-11. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” The prescription for having complete joy is to be faithful and obedient to Jesus’ Word and to stay in His love.
The Apostle Paul experienced this type of joy when he and Barnabas were preaching the good news of Jesus to the crowd in Pisidan Antioch. They spoke the truth about God and His love for all of them in sending Jesus. The Jewish leaders were jealous of Paul and Barnabas’ popularity and heaped abuses upon them. They got others to join them in persecuting Paul and Barnabas and got them expelled from that region. Paul and Barnabas never stopped speaking boldly about Christ depending upon His love and truth to sustain them. Acts 13:49-52 “They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Even though things got very difficult and scary, the disciples sought to abide in Christ, trust in Him and left filled with His joy and completeness in doing God’s work.
How can you and I abide in His love and experience this fulfilling joy? Jesus’ prescription for this joy is to stay focused upon Him, engage in things that will bring glory to God, get to know Him better by studying scripture- staying in the Word, commune with Him in prayer, fellowship with other believers and worship Him in spirit and truth. Living and abiding in Him each day will bring complete joy. No matter what is happening in the world around you or even in your own life you can still experience this joy. Christ’s joy is compete and will fulfill you completely. Praise God for His provision of complete joy. Thank you Jesus!
Another aspect of Joy that scripture highlights is the eternal joy which we have through Christ for our future with Him. It is not a temporal joy only experienced in a day but one that transcends each day and year of our lives beginning when we accepted Christ and continuing on into eternity. The eternal joy we will totally experience in heaven will emanate from God and being in His presence. While here on earth, we can experience part of that eternal joy as we have His Holy Spirit indwelling us and drawing us unto Him. In heaven it will be magnified 100%. Here are a few glimpses I found in scripture to describe this joy:
Isaiah 51:11 describes what heavenly joy will be like when we are with him: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”.
Psalm 84:1-3 gives David’s anticipation of being in God’s presence and the joy he will find there: How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Revelation 21:3-4 gives us a glimpse of the joys we will experience in heaven: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.[c]4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
How can the anticipation or realization of the eternal joy awaiting us in heaven help us? Doesn’t the hope of a future vacation motivate you to save, get prepared with supplies, read some books or research where you are going, and talk about it with expectation with your friends? The same is true of our heavenly home where we will live in God’s presence and experience His eternal joy. As we look to that time in our life, we need to be prepared with salvation in our hearts, by studying about God and His character, fellowshipping with other believers and endeavoring to walk with Him daily. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20 our focus needs to be on Him and doing His work in preparation for our heavenly home. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also“. As we live each day, we can look to the eternal joy we will experience in heaven with hope bringing joy into our everyday life.
Thank you Jesus, for the hope and joy we have in You!
What is so special about the Joy we find in the Lord? First of all we know that joy is brought to us through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 gives a list of the ‘fruits’ of the Spirit, those things that come to us as a believer when we accept Jesus as Savior and His Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. As we grow as a believer, His Spirit manifests Himself within us in these ways. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” How do others or even you yourself know you are a believer? These fruits should be evident in your life along with growth in godly character which I like to call growing more and more like Jesus. Theologically it is a process known as sanctification. This is the Holy Spirit’s work within us, growing us in holiness to be like Jesus. A good question to ask yourself is, what ‘fruits’ am I seeing in my life? Is my character changing as I seek to walk closer to the Savior? Am I more kind, loving, understanding, or do I hunger after God’s Word, seek other believers in fellowship, spend time in prayer, enjoy Christian music, or seek to be a peacemaker? All of these would be signs of growth in the sanctification process and the work of the Holy Spirit within you.
But back to Joy, scripture describes several kinds of joy that I will delve into in coming blogs. The first kind I want to talk about I call soulful joy.Joy that emanates from within your soul because you are loved and cared for by God. Here are some passages that describe this kind of joy:
Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
Psalm 63:5-8 “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Isaiah 49:13 “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
Jude 1:24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
May you recognize soulful joy in your life and bask in the light of His love for you. May thoughts of God’s love, protection and comfort bring joy to your soul and peace from within from His Holy Spirit today.
When choosing a Word to guide or focus your year, you need to remember that the word is just a tool of remembrance. The real power is in the Word of God upon which your word is based. For example, I have chosen Joy as my focus word for the year. I will be looking for the joy of the Lord in all things- not just the fun, productive or happy times. How do I know this is true? It is because the Joy I am seeking is based on scripture. As I have looked at my verses more closely, I see different aspects of God’s joy that I can look forward to this year.
Joy in that is based on my salvation and will provide me with sustaining strength to lift me up, even when things don’t look so good! – Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
Joy that is based on the Sovereignty of God as He knows the pathways He has made for my life and I can find His joy as I walk trusting Him.Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Joy that will cause me to rejoice in both body and spirit. It will fill me up from the inside out and is based in the graciousness of God for those He has redeemed. Psalm 71:23 “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.”
Joy that provides me with eternal strength to face each day. Nehemiah 8:10b “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Joy that takes everything in stride and produces character within me.James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Take the word you have chosen for the year and search scripture for places it is used. Pray and seek God’s guidance in which verses really speak to you that He would have you apply to your life this year. It is not your word that guides you but the Word of God that uses, applies and motivates your year.
God’s Word has the power to lead, guide, uplift, motivate, give strength, and produce salvation within you as you believe in Him. God’s Word is eternal, sharp, penetrating, breathed by Him so it can produce within our character what God desires for our lives. Let His Word guide you this year as you seek Him.
Each year I pray and ask God for a word to guide me. Last year, as we began a new decade I was given the word Hope. I wrote these words on January 1,2020 which turned out to be very prophetic. “HOPE. That is my answer to, How will I survive in 2020? I will cling to Him in HOPE knowing with absolute faith that God is faithful, loving and merciful. He will be gracious to me as I place my HOPE in Him.” Wow! No truer words did I need and live through during 2020. It was a year that I needed extreme Hope to survive!
This year I have been asking God about a new word for 2021. The word that has come to me over and over is JOY. God knows there is a need within me after all that has happened in 2020 to focus on His joy in my life. His joy is not dependent upon the world events, personal relationships or my own drama of life but in Him alone. As I wrote in my new book, Strategic Living, His joy brings benefits to our souls, is eternal and complete. His joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit’s work within us, the fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
The verses I’ve chosen to claim this year are: Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Jesus is at God’s right hand in heaven and He will guide me and give me complete joy that is eternal. Psalm 71:23 “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.” I am confident God will give me opportunities to proclaim to others His goodness in my life. James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Learning to live in joy, praising God and thanking Him for the growth He is bringing to my character in and through the trials of life takes a new attitude and mindset that is filled with His Joy!
Prayerfully consider in this New Year what word God would give you to focus and guide your thoughts this year. As the year progresses, you can look for your word in the events of your life, in relationships and in your thoughts. It is amazing the ways God shows you your word throughout the year. I am so thankful for the word Hope and how it reminded and sustained me in 2020. I am looking forward to clinging to the Joy that is before me in Christ. Nehemiah summed it up in Nehemiah 8:10 “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Since I’ve chosen Joy as my word, I will be blogging in January on various verses that focus on the joy we have in Christ. God is leading me to be uplifted and to uplift others in His joy. I am looking forward to it!
As I have reached the end of the book of Philippians, I have been encouraged each time I have written by the JOY that Paul conveys in this short letter. Our last portion is Philippians 4:14-23. Paul applauds the Philippians for their unending support for him spiritually and financially. He praises their generosity towards him even when others have forgotten. It truly made him feel loved and cared for.
14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen. 21 Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. 22 And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
As I read this closing portion of Paul’s letter, I was reminded that this month, October, is Pastor Appreciation month. These words and their stated generosity that is over and above that which others had done spoke to me. I asked myself, what have I done, how have I shown my appreciation to God’s servants at my church? Would they consider my generosity and loving care a love that goes over and above?
For their generosity and loving care, Paul pronounced a blessing promise on these believers and all of us in verse 19. “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew the one who took care of him and was sovereign over all his needs. God had placed those believers there in Philippi to take care of His servant Paul. We can know that same assurance of His care and love though our faith in Jesus. Don’t we need to do our part in taking care of the servants He has placed in our midst?
Consider this and count it as JOY that God has blessed you by giving you faithful servants in your life that love Jesus and love and care about you. How will you express your generosity this month towards those who serve you faithfully in the name of Jesus?
The subject of today’s blog is one that is so relevant to 2020. How do you find contentment with all the upheaval of 2020- amidst Covid-19 raging throughout the world, devastating storms, hurricanes, flooding, fires and political turmoil reflecting hatred and animosity within our society? In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul says he has been in all types of situations and has found contentment only in Jesus. What about you? Paul begins this passage by consoling his Philippian friends who had been unable to send money to meet his needs. He says it is okay as God has this.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
What had Paul learned about contentment? CHRIST is the source of his contentment and strength. He had found that Christ was his all in all. He knew that Christ’s grace was sufficient in 2 Corinthians 12:9 ” “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He knew about abiding in Christ in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” He knew about the indwelling Holy Spirit in Ephesians 3:16-17 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,”.He knew about the glorious might of Jesus inColossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;” What about you? Do you know, like Paul, of Christ’s sustaining and fulfilling power? Take a step back today and look at your world, problems and circumstances. With the grace, abiding, indwelling power of the glorious might of Jesus, can’t you get through anything? He promises His power and grace are sufficient!
As Paul nears the end of his letter to the Philippians, he wants them to remember what they learned from him and his teachings, but he also desires them to refocus. He talked about rejoicing always, vs4, responding with gentleness, vs5, letting go their worries and stress, vs6, praying with a thankful heart, vs 6, and accept God’s peace that will guard their hearts, vs7. In today’s verses Philippians 4:8-9 Paul focuses on their need to conquer their minds. He knows Satan will try to use their minds to tempt them, to pervert their thinking and lead them away from God. Satan uses the same tricks and lies with us today. Here is God’s solution, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
So many books have been written about the mind and the battles we face therein, but I thought I’d look at each of the words Paul uses to see if we can glean additional insight into what he is suggesting to us. Paul lists things that are worthy of our thoughts and he first lists what ever is true. John 8:31-32, 36 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Thinking and mediating on the truth of Jesus and His saving work in the cross gives freedom to the mind and soul!
Whatever is honorable is found in Luke 6:45 “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If we store good things in our heart, then we will have a storehouse to rely upon when our minds seem to wander.
Whatever is just. There are many reference to just and justice in scripture. Deuteronomy 32:4 gives us something to think about in reference to just, “God alone is our focus. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Thinking about God and His work will help us to think about what is just.
Whatever is pure. Scripture has many references to pure in the context of pure gold, pure wool, etc. These describe things that are fully what they are suppose to be without impurities. The references that focused on pure thinking that resonated most with me were: Psalm 119:8 “the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of are Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;” God’s Word is pure and can be a focus to keep our minds on track. Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” I know God can and will renew me when I trust by faith in Jesus. He creates in me a pure heart. This gives me joy and assurance of His love for me.
Whatever is lovely. Read these words from Psalm 84– truly something lovely to think about. “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
Whatever is commendable. Peter speaks of commendable acts that would be worthy of thought. 1 Peter 2:19-20 “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. Those who suffer or endure injustice are worthy of our thoughts and prayers.
Whatever is excellent. Titus 3:4-8 speaks of the most excellent thing we can think about – Jesus and what He has done for us. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devotethemselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Whatever is worthy of praise– 1 Chronicles 16:25 sums this up perfectly. “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.”
I pray these verses have given you new, different and encouraging things to think about. Rejoice and may your joy be found in the Lord and may He direct your thoughts today.
P.S. This post was longer than I usually write but covering each word revealed a positive avenue for my thinking that I had not considered before. Thank you for indulging me by reading all the way to the end. Blessings to you.
The passage in Philippians for today is one of my very favorite. I get comfort, assurance and hope from these words given by Paul. However, he leads into this great passage with a problem. Several of the women in the church were causing problems because of their disagreements. Paul calls them to be unified and of one accord. He knows them, knows they are all believers and wants them to recognize the potential danger of their disagreements to the body of Christ. We all need to heed his words and examine our hearts lest we fall into the same trap that Satan uses to divide the body. Philippians 4:2-3 “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”
Paul exhorts them to put all disagreements aside and focus on what is important in their spiritual life. Philippians 4:4-6 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” What great advice Paul gives to those arguing women, to the whole church there in Phillipi and to us in the 2020! Focus on what matters in your spiritual life- have JOY! Be reasonable, gentle with everyone! Remember Jesus is going to return! Don’t be overcome with worry about things, people or places- tell God what you need with a thankful heart. Wow! What perfect advice for our day. So many times we get mired down in worry about ‘things’, people- relationships or events. Paul is saying that is worthless worry. Let God know what you need, pray with a thankful heart and claim His JOY in your life. God’s got this so pray and claim His joy!
Joy– Let your joy be real and contagious!
Joy– Be joyfully gentle with everyone in your life!
Joy– Being assured that Jesus will return = JOY!
Joy– pray with thankfulness knowing He cares for you, loves you and will attend to your needs.