Category: Food for Thought

We Pray When…

Posted by on 05/05/2016 in:

Woman with Bible

If you want to know about the current state of your faith, start with your prayer life.

If I only pray at meal times and before my kids go to sleep at night what does that say about my faith or my relationship with God? It may just mean that all I care to trust him with is food and a good night’s sleep.

As silly as that sounds, our prayers reflect our dependence. That’s why some of the most powerful prayer times in my life have come when I was literally powerless to change my situation. It’s in these moments of desperation and dependence that I cried out to God with more than a pat request for a blessed meal or a good night’s sleep.

The Psalmist talks about these kind of prayers when he says this in Psalm 18:6

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.

So what types of things do we bring to God in prayer?

In scripture we see prayers for:

  • Forgiveness like David
  • Wisdom like Solomon
  • Healing like Hezekiah
  • A child like Hannah
  • Deliverance like Jonah
  • Mercy like the 10 lepers
  • Salvation like the thief on the cross

These types of prayers aren’t religious rituals but heartfelt, passionate requests brought to the King of all creation. These types of prayers are brought in faith by people of faith.

So what is the state of your faith?

Ask yourself these questions:

When do you pray to God?
A growing relationship involves regular, ongoing, communication.

What do you ask God for?
Our dependence on God reflects the place he has in our life. If he’s our King then we’ll certainly ask him for more than a good night’s sleep.

What do you trust God with?
We often classify and segment things in our lives into spiritual and not spiritual but a life sold out to Jesus is one that trusts him with everything that we have and are.

On this National Day of Prayer may our prayers truly reflect our faith and dependence in a mighty and loving God!

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It Is Finished

Posted by on 03/25/2016 in:

By Olive Tree Staff: David T.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:27–30 (NIV)

I struggle to begin, here, at the end of Jesus last breath. I struggle because there is a depth of richness in these few verses. There is so much that I want to share, but if I shared it all, then I would lack a necessary focus for a meaningful a message. I also fear that I could easily over simplify what I want to say to make it more meaningful to us finite beings, and in that simplification misrepresent our Lord and his finished work on the cross.

I would like to go back to the Sunday just prior to this day where Jesus makes his triumphal entry on a donkey and then proceed forward and take a quick snapshot of the days leading up to this moment.

Sunday
Jesus very deliberately rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to proclaim himself as the King of Israel (Matt 21:1-9). Earlier in Jesus ministry the people tried to force Jesus to become their king but he wouldn’t allow it (John 6:15). I think we can safely say that this would have been an amazing moment for any one of us to experience. The disciples must have been elated at that moment, and were probably thinking ‘this is it, our King is taking his throne’. For Jesus however, we see that instead of rejoicing, he wept over Jerusalem for the people were ultimately still blind (Luke 19:31).

It is easy for us to read these few verses and to miss the point, which is: Jesus wept, an emotion we all have had, but this is the God of the universe weeping as a man. Let that sink in for a moment.

Monday
The next day we read that Jesus clears the temple saying that they had turned his Father’s house into a den of robbers (Luke 19:46). Jesus is obviously very angry but his anger is not like our anger, his anger is rooted in righteousness and driven by his love for his people. Despite the fact that his anger was fully justified, consider how emotionally draining that day must have been for Jesus the man.

Tuesday
On Tuesday we read that Jesus was back in the temple but this time he is teaching. As he is teaching he is confronted by the chief priests and elders asking him by what authority he was doing these things. This led to a long dialogue between Jesus and these religious leaders who are trying to trap Jesus with his own words.

Consider how arguments take energy out of us and if you love those you are trying to persuade otherwise those arguments are that much more taxing. Now, try to imagine with me how Jesus must have felt that night after dinner as he sat with his disciples and pondered the conflicts of the day behind him and of the days still ahead of him.

Wednesday
We have no written record of what Jesus was doing on this day. It has become known as the silent Wednesday. Perhaps Jesus and his disciples took the time for some much needed rest.

Thursday
On Thursday we know that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Jesus knew what was to come in just a few hours and that this would be the longest and most agonizing night of his life. Yet he used the time to teach them about communion and to wash their feet. We also read that they sang a hymn after their meal (Matt 26:30). In the midst of all this Jesus leads his disciples in a hymn? This simply amazes me!

Later that night we find Jesus agonizing in prayer and sweating drops of blood while his closest friends were asleep. Then, as though that wasn’t enough, we find Judas leading a band of soldiers to come and arrest Jesus. Consider what a toll that must have taken on the human side of Jesus.

The night is just beginning.
Jesus is betrayed with a kiss, he is abandoned by his disciples, he is mocked by the soldiers, he is denied, he is flogged, he has the hair of his beard plucked out. Isaiah says that he is marred beyond human recognition (Isa 52:14).

That night he is tried several times. By Annas the high priest, before the Sanhedrin, before the Romans, before Pilate, before Herod, and one last time again before Pilate where he is finally turned over to be crucified.

Friday
Jesus is finally nearing the end of his passion. He is tired, he is in pain, In the last few weeks he has experienced the full gamut of human emotion. Each day as the cross grew closer and more into focus, the intensity and frequency of those emotions increased.

So imagine with me for a moment what it must have been like for Jesus to realize that everything he was sent to accomplish had been accomplished. Imagine how he felt as he was just moments away from entering into the joy that had been before him all along. This joy is what the author of Hebrews tells us enabled Jesus to endure the cross and allowed him to despise its shame (Heb 12:2).

What was that joy that was set before Jesus? Could it actually be us, the mockers, the floggers, the ones yelling crucify him? Amazingly, yes!

Consider now the weight and the ultimate outcome that Jesus’ final words represent.

‘It is finished’

τετέλεσται

Jesus Christ on the cross

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The New, Holy Standard of Love

Posted by on 03/23/2016 in:

John 13:33-35
Little children, yet a little while I am with you.
You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you,
‘Where I am going you cannot come.’
A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another:
just as I have loved you,
you also are to love one another.

By this all people will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.

Detail closeup of New Testament Scripture quote Love One Another

Supper had been eaten. The cup had been blessed. Fellowship had been shared. Betrayal had been foretold.

After Judas left Jesus and the other disciples at the table in the upper room, some of my favorite parts of the Holy Week narrative take place. They are common, familiar, lowly, home-centered—perhaps that is why they prick me especially poignantly, as I am a full time homemaker and homeschooling mama of four small children. I am daily surrounded by the common and the lowly. Morsels of bread, washing off dirt, and commands to love one another are tools of my own trade.

What Jesus says to His disciples grabs my attention: not just love one another, but prefaced. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Was this shockingly new to the disciples? Had they not known that Jesus was preaching a gospel of love during His ministry? Did they not see Him loving others already? How was this new? And why does He take the time to say this now, when chaos is about to ensue? When squabbles arise or tempers begin to bubble, this is actually a phrase I speak over my children—love one another. I whisper it in little ears at the table, I call it out loudly from the kitchen window to kids running on the grass, I repeat it to each one of these little people around me who are image-bearers and baptized members of Christ. They too are little disciples of this Lord. How quickly they lose sight of what it means to love one another… how quickly I lose sight of it… how quickly even the inner circle of Jesus lost sight of it.

Had the disciples ever not seen Jesus act in love? Had they not been taught the Golden Rule? Of course the disciples knew that Jesus had love for others, and that they were to have acts of love as they followed Him. Even in the law of Moses, they were told to love their neighbor. But the standard seems to be clarified, if not changed, here in the book of John. Rather than loving their neighbor as themselves, according to Leviticus 19:18, the standard for sacrificial love is now no longer the standard of self—rather, it has become the standard of Christ. He said in John 13:34, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Is this what makes the commandment new?
No longer love others as you love yourself.
Now, love others as Christ loved you.
Post-crucifixion and post-resurrection, we can see plainly how tall an order that is.

How will you embrace this commandment today?
How will you raise the standard of loving your neighbors, so that it isn’t about you, but rather about Christ?
Where is God asking you to give of yourself?
What cross is Jesus asking you to pick up, as you follow Him?
And what is the foot-washing that you will do, in His image and for His glory, during this Holy Week?

Melissa Joy seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband Steven (Olive Tree’s VP of Operations), while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home and family. The joy she finds in her family, homemaking, music, writing, ministering to those in grief, and seeking to be a pillar of loving strength in her home can be seen unveiled at Joyful Domesticity.

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Palm Sunday

Posted by on 03/18/2016 in:

palm sunday

Today we remember Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and – depending on your tradition – it is usually called Palm or Passion Sunday. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King, which the Jews had been longing for, but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied over 500 years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.

The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.

Hosanna
The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? Hosanna was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’.  Jesus would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.

Where’s the Victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!

One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.

But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating on March 27.

I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ” Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

That’s my King!

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Justice is a part of discipleship & ultimately our worship of God

Posted by on 03/03/2016 in:

Worship and Justice

Guest Blog by Eugene Cho

Over the years, I’ve been given by some the mini-reputation as a leader in the field of justice. At first, I took it as a compliment and  of course, I still do because I care a lot about justice. I know that people mean well. But I care about justice not  just for the sake of justice. I care about justice…because I care much about the Gospel.

And sometimes, when I hear folks talk about justice in the church, I cringe…

I cringe because if we’re not careful, we’re again compartmentalizing justice rather than seeing it as part of the whole Gospel; We need to see justice as a critical part of God’s character and thus, our discipleship and worship.

Just like we shouldn’t extract the character of “love” or “grace” or “holiness” from God’s character, such must be the case with justice.

People often ask me, “What’s the most critical part about seeking justice.”

My answer:

We must not just seek justice but live justly. Justice work and just living are part of our discipleship. Justice contributes to our worship of God.
Justice is worship.

You will know a tree from its fruit. 
In other words, you will show evidence of where you are rooted if you produce fruit that is close to the heart of God. To that end, I believe you cannot credibly follow Christ unless you pursue justice.

I know that a lot of people will push back on that statement. Some say that salvation hinges on whether or not you believe in Jesus, and that is true. But do you really believe in Jesus when there is no evidence that you are doing what He compels us to do?

Early in Jesus’s ministry, He boldly proclaimed His revolutionary vision for the kingdom of God in a synagogue on the Sabbath, and the religious authorities surrounding Him stood amazed at His teaching. He stood up to read, and someone handed Him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He found these defining words and read them:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18–19)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

This was a proclamation of justice for the poor, the blind, and the prisoner, fulfilling a kingdom vision that included “the least of these.” A kingdom vision that even His closest disciples did not fully understand at the time. Shortly after this time, Jesus was rejected.

There was confusion. There was anger. The religious leaders listening to Jesus got angry, and their curiosity and amazement turned to apprehension, even fear. They believed that this humble arrival of the King was not how it was supposed to be. So an angry mob chased Him out of town and tried to run Him off a cliff (see Luke 4:29).

Biblical justice often does not make sense from our human perspective: The last shall become first. The weak will become strong. The poor will become rich.

What paradoxes!

How can you read the Scriptures or examine the life and ministry of Christ and not sense that mercy, justice, and compassion—particularly for those who have been marginalized—aren’t dear to the heart of God?

When we read through the Bible, it is clear to me that God cares about justice. The Word of God is God’s revelation for the world, showing how the world can be set right. We see that Jesus is not some mere historical figure—Jesus is the Son of God; He is God incarnate. His words and actions testify to the kingdom of God, where things will be restored, where there is justice, mercy, and compassion.

All of this matters because we are not just talking about ideas. We are not just hypothesizing about a “what if” scenario. This matters because justice involves people and their lives and their value before God. When justice happens to the least of these, God celebrates.

As Christians, we know and understand justice beyond secular definitions. It is not peripheral. It is not external. It is not secondary. It is critical. It is part of our identities. It is part of our discipleship. It is an important part of our witness to the world.

Eugene Cho is the founder and Lead Pastor of Quest Church – an urban, multi-cultural and multi-generational church in Seattle, Washington – as well as the founder and Executive Director of the Q Café, an innovative non-profit community café and music venue.

The Above Excerpt is from Eugene Cho’s Book Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than actually Changing the World?
For today and tomorrow only you can get this book for free! Get it HERE.

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A season of Lent

Posted by on 02/16/2015 in:

By Olive Tree Staff: Molly Van Ryn

I still remember the first Lent that I was really considered old enough to give something up on my own.  It was jr high, and like just about everything at that age it quickly turned into a contest.  For weeks lunchtime conversations revolved around Lent: who was giving up the hardest thing, who had been successful the longest, who had fallen off the wagon and whether they were going to try again.  Most people gave up some sort of food, like candy or soda.  Some brave souls even went so far as to give up television, to exclamations of “No way!  That’s so hard!  You’ll never make it!”

I don’t remember what I gave up that year, or whether I carried it through until Easter.  But I vividly recall the jockeying for position.  The people who were giving up something that was perceived as more difficult exuded a sense of smug superiority, only to be replaced by people who had picked something easier and stuck with it.  I learned a lot of lessons from that about setting realistic goals, but hardly any about being in relationship with God, or what the season of Lent is actually about.

Since then, my relationship with Lent has evolved.  There was the year that I realized that not all Christians participate in Lent in the way that I always had.  I was just beginning the long journey of understanding how many ways there are to be Christian and starting to take ownership of the path I had chosen.  This was the year that I first did Lent as a conscious choice, instead of just as something that everyone did.  Then there was the year I came to the conclusion that I could add a spiritual discipline to my life, such as a more dedicated time of prayer in my day, instead of picking something to give up.  It was immensely freeing to have this whole other set of options I hadn’t considered before.  It really helped me to focus on the idea that Lent isn’t about getting rid of bad habits, a sort of 40 days of self-help, but an opportunity to grow closer to God and focus on preparing myself for the celebration of His passion.

I look forward to Lent these days.  It’s no longer about picking the most difficult thing I can think of.  I don’t feel particularly comfortable anymore telling people what I’ve chosen to do for a given year, unless I want them to help keep me accountable.  But there is something very meaningful to me in having those 40 days of discipline set aside each year.  It is an annual reminder to evaluate my relationship with God, to dust the cobwebs out of the corners of my prayer life and be mindful of ways in which I am not prepared to receive the gift that was offered on the cross.  It gives me a reason to set aside resources that I might otherwise consider indispensable to the other areas of my life, a boost to drop the excuses I surround myself with.  And I know that there is a community around me, waiting and anticipating as Easter approaches.

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Technology and the Gospel

Posted by on 04/23/2014 in:

At the end of 1998 I traveled with a small group of people into a country closed to the Gospel. We each brought a few paperback Bibles and we also brought the Bible on audio cassette. We knew that in one area we would traveling to that bringing a printed Bible wouldn’t be enough because many couldn’t read.  Not only that but they didn’t have access to current technology (at the time CD’s were current technology!) which is why we brought audio cassettes.

15 years later and it’s now estimated that more people have access to a smartphone than decent sanitation. What does this mean for missionaries and the advancement of the Gospel? It means that we live in a time where the Gospel can be transmitted like never before!

As the picture above demonstrates, we can now store over 1,600 Bibles on a Micro SD card that is smaller than a penny. If you’ve ever picked up a box of books, you know how significant the idea of being able to store an entire library’s worth of books on a memory card is. That one cassette box I hid in the bottom of my bag years ago could hold enough Micro SD cards to resource thousands of pastors.

We live in a unique time and it will be exciting to see how technology continues to be utilized in the spread of the Gospel!

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

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What does Hosanna mean?

Posted by on 04/19/2014 in:

Cross Cropped

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he fulfilled prophecies that had been made hundreds of years before. His entrance was greeted with the laying down of palms and shouts of ‘Hosanna’.

Hosanna was a cry of hope from an oppressed people living under Roman rule and it means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’. They had been waiting generations for the Messiah and he was finally here! Just a week later Jesus would save them, but not in the way they ever would have imagined.

He wasn’t a King like David whose rule and reign was only for a limited time. He is a King forever, and his life, death, and resurrection are just as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago.

Hosanna!
In an age where we have continual access to the news from around the world, it only takes a moment to see that the shout of hosanna is still needed.  At this moment there are people living in poverty, oppression, and hopelessness. While they may not say the word hosanna, they are certainly in need of saving and many do cry out on a daily basis for some glimmer of hope.

What do you need to be saved from?
You may or may not live in a country where you are oppressed by a ruling party like the Jews were.  You probably aren’t waiting for a king or savior to come and make things right for you and your family. You may actually have all the food, shelter, and security you need. But this cry of hosanna may still be one that you can relate with. When were separate from God – our creator – we can have all the things of the world and still be as lost and hopeless as ever.

Jesus was the only one who could fulfill the cry of hosanna. His saving supersedes circumstances and physical needs and reunites us with our creator. It’s this kind of saving grace he displayed on the cross. We didn’t deserve it or earn it but he so desperately loves us that he died to save us. His was and is the only answer to the cry of hosanna.

As you remember Jesus resurrection this weekend be reminded that the saving grace of Jesus has the power to change everything!

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
– Jesus in Luke 19:10

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Palm Sunday

Posted by on 04/12/2014 in: ,

This Sunday commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and is called Palm or Passion Sunday, depending on your tradition. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy.
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King that the Jews had been longing for but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied over 500 years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
I can imagine that Jewish theologians had been trying to reconcile their picture of a King (think David or Solomon) with the idea that he would ride in on a little colt, his feet barely off the ground. Yet here he was, having given his disciples an awkward command on how to get the colt, fulfilling prophecy that had been written centuries earlier. This was a plot twist that I don’t think even Hollywood could dream up.

What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings  chapter 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.

The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see here Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.

Hosanna
The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely some worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? It was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’.  He would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.

Where’s the Victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!

One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.

But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating this coming week. I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ” Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

That’s my King!

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Where is Joy?

Posted by on 04/05/2014 in:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
– The Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23

The very nature of joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.
– C.S. Lewis in Surprised By Joy

Are you in a spot in your life where joy seems to be missing? Maybe it’s been so long you’re not sure if you’ve actually ever experienced joy?

Where do we find joy?
The message that popular culture communicates through music, movies, television, and the internet is a message of selfishness, yet this is where so many people turn to get answers for the deep questions of longing and belonging that they have. Popular culture answers our questions with another question: What do you need, want, or desire?
So for the person asking where to find hope, the culture answers, “The hope you need is found in you.” or “Just do what makes you feel good.” If the answer to our need for hope is ourselves, is it any wonder why suicide is at an all-time high in the U.S.?

Last week we heard the story of Nick Vujicic who responded to Jesus and found the hope he so desperately needed. The type of hope Nick found isn’t in anything our culture creates because it’s only found in Jesus. If you’re looking for joy in your life, the answer is the same. It’s only found in Jesus and it only remains when our perspective in this life is firmly rooted in him.

The Apostle Paul –in Galatians 5- talks about what happens when our relationship with Jesus takes over our life and the Holy Spirit becomes the source of life we draw from. This type of life source is evident by the fruit it produces in our lives. So how do we experience joy? Where do we find it? We find and experience it when we place our faith in Jesus and make him the foundation and source for our life. And this joy is different than what the world has to offer. We don’t have joy because of our circumstances, we have joy despite them.

One of my favorite examples of this is found in Acts 16:16. Paul and Silas had just been stripped naked, beaten by a mob and put in prison – all for helping a slave girl. How did they respond? Instead of having a ‘woe is me’ attitude we see them praying and worshiping God in their prison cell in the middle of the night! How many of us have a hard time singing on Sunday because of a rough week and here are Paul and Silas – having endured incredible physical pain – keeping their perspective not on their circumstance but on their Savior.

So what about me?
The challenge is the same for us today. Despite our circumstance, if we keep our focus on Jesus, our perspective will be long-term and we can see past the pains of today to the hope of tomorrow. This is where we find joy – in the assurance that our God reigns, he’s alive with us, and we will be with him forever! So despite what you’re going through take joy and no matter what, always keep your perspective on your Savior and not your circumstance. When believers do this the world takes notice and the real answer to the question is revealed: Jesus!

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