How to rejoice when it seems unreasonable

jumping for joyChristians know that the Bible says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

In fact, those are the texts of two popular rounds that are probably going through your head right now.

We know what the Word says. That doesn’t make it easy for us to wrap our minds around what it really means or how to do it. Sometimes, life is so miserable that there doesn’t seem to be anything to rejoice about at all.

And yet Paul, the man who wrote those words, didn’t exactly have an easy life.… Read the rest

Hard times, a song of joy, and the meaning of Christmas

Today’s news seems bad all around. Pollsters find an unprecedented level of pessimism and anger at the ineptitude of our national government. Besides the sour economy and a bipartisan failure of leadership, we are beset with a number of foreign challenges. Do we have to shut out current events in order to find anything to be glad about this Christmas? Probably so for people who only celebrate the season. Not at all for people who understand the meaning of Christmas and celebrate the birth of the Savior.

The prophet Isaiah lived in bleak times. Early in his ministry an ungodly king, Ahaz, made a cowardly alliance with the Assyrian empire, which reduced the once proud kingdom of Judah to vassal status.… Read the rest

Rejoice? Always!

A popular praise chorus goes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s Scripture, actually: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Is it really practical in this day and age? Or is it the case, as Jean Kerr observed, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.”

 

The troubles we’ve seen

For the last couple of years, our economy has been rocked by very tough conditions: high unemployment, long term unemployment, lots of foreclosures on peoples’  houses.… Read the rest

Rejoice? Always?

“Rejoice always; pray constantly; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (RSV)

Does it sometimes look like the writers of the Bible just didn’t get it? Perhaps people living when it was written just didn’t face the troubles we do. After all, who can rejoice always with all we have to live through?

For the last couple of years, our economy has been rocked by very tough conditions: high unemployment, long term unemployment, lots of foreclosures on peoples’ houses.

We just had a particularly nasty election, with no limits on how much anonymous corporate entities could spend on vicious attack ads.… Read the rest

Supernatural boldness from our supernatural Savior

The book of Luke ends with these verses:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. — Luke 24:50-53 (NIV)

Over the past several months, Jesus had tried more than once to explain his coming death and resurrection. His disciples could not hear that message. When the time came, they basically fell apart. They ran away.… Read the rest

Eat your food with gladness

Of all the heros of the Old Testament, I have the most trouble really appreciating Solomon. It’s hard to relate to anyone so rich and powerful–and who had all those women. They were his downfall, really. A man known for his wisdom foolishly turned away from following God. He also wrote the gloomiest book in the Bible, but if we dig beneath an almost cynical surface, Solomon has a lot to say about living in an imperfect world.

It’s almost as if God let Solomon discover that the human condition is hopeless without a savior, but then neglected to let him in on the fact that he intended to provide a savior.… Read the rest

Finding blessing in dangerous situations

“Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” — Judges 14:14 (NASB)

One day, when Samson was on his way to marry a Philistine woman, a lion attacked him. By the Spirit of God, Samson killed the lion. On the way back  home, he noticed that some bees had made honey in the carcass. He stopped to enjoy it. At the beginning of the wedding feast, he proposed a riddle based on the incident.

Let’s leave aside the fact that, as one living under the covenant of Moses, Samson had no business marrying a pagan.… Read the rest

The joy of forgiveness

I found a very interesting post that lists 35 reasons not to sin. One person commented that knowing reasons is not enough to keep him from wanting to sin. That, in a nutshell, expresses the entire human condition. But sinning brings only momentary pleasure. Then it causes all the pain that the list enumerates. God hates sin, but longs to forgive the sinner. Forgiveness received brings  joy.

David described the process in Psalm 32. Where Psalm 51 describes his repentance for his sin with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, Psalm 32 describes his process of receiving forgiveness and the joy it brought.… Read the rest

Scorning shame for joy

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” — Hebrews 12:2

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed nor be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth and will remember the reproach of your widowhood no more.” — Isaiah 54:4

It may seem we’ve landed in a world without shame. Couples are no longer ashamed to live together without being married; women are no longer ashamed to bear children out of wedlock, and so on.… Read the rest

Where is joy?

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” — Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

As I write this, the New Orleans Saints just won the Super Bowl. That fills their fans with joy. We all know what it means to realize a hoped-for outcome, especially if for any reason success was ever in doubt.

Everyone but team members, though, only observed the Super Bowl win and the season leading up to it. We did not experience it. The rest of us must now return to our own realities, which may seem grim and threatening.… Read the rest