Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Journey of Joy


An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:9–12).

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:13–14).

On Sunday, I spoke about three aspects of joy; the first one is one we don’t usually consider when we think about joy.

Joy and Pain are Strangely Connected

If you think about the Christmas story, there really was no reason for joy the night Jesus was born. The Israelites had waited hundreds of years for the Messiah. The Roman government occupied and ruled over Israel. Emperor Augustus declared a world tax (that is never good). Mary, a teenage girl was pregnant outside of wedlock. Joseph, pledged to be married to Mary, had very little control over his own life. He had to take his nine-month pregnant fiancée on a long trip to Jerusalem on foot (or donkey). There was no place for Mary and Joseph to stay (Stables were often caves with feeding troughs (mangers) carved into the rock walls.). Shepherds were out on a hillside working the nightshift. They were not singing “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

It was in this backdrop that we are introduced to message of angels. The angels intrude, breaking with the ordinary. They show up in unexpected places at unexpected times.
Jesus comes at just the right time in history.

The angels message: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy…”

The same message is for you and for me, “You are about to experience joy.”  

When we are going through pain or disappointment or discouragement, we have to wait things out because of the joy that will flood our hearts when God does his work. It is because of the joy before us that we endure what we are going through today.

Even in the midst of hardship there is a longer, broader view, a perspective that shows us that our trials can lead us to grow and become mature in our faith. As we walk in relationship with God, we can grow to experience a sense of joy that comes from understanding there is more than the pain we’re facing.

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Hebrews 12:2, which says, “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.” What kept Jesus from disserting his mission? The joy of having a relationship with us.

Read page 52 of The Star devotional.

Joy is Contagious

Have you seen pictures of when a village receives a working clean water source? If not, here is a good one for you: Water Aid Video

The exuberant smiles on the faces of the people say it all—pure joy! The joy was experienced in the whole community.

The angel said the good news of great joy is for all people. The good news isn’t just for all shepherds or all Americans or all Christians. The good news is for the world—everyone.

Psalm 96 puts it this way: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes” (Psalm 96:11–13).

Joy Leads to Worship

Worship and joy fit wonderfully together. When we worship, we experience joy. When we experience joy, we worship. This is one of the reasons we sing when we get together as a church. It reminds us of the joy set before us.

In the Christmas story, the angel announced the good news of great joy, and then the entire host praised God. The shepherds immediately went to see the baby Jesus, worshiped Him, and then left telling everyone they met about what they saw. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:10–11).

We can experience the same this Advent season as we journey toward the birth of Christ and live in the truth that the good news of His arrival is the salvation He brings.
Peter told us our walk of faith in Jesus brings us a sense of joy: “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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

Name the Sorrow. Name the Joy

Sunday I suggested that you name the struggle/season/pain/sorrow that you are going through. After naming it, cross it out and replace it with the joy you expect to have when God completes his work in you. For example:


Prayer

God, thank You for the good news of great joy that is for everyone—that Your Son, Jesus, has come to save us. Please help us to experience joy alongside the pain of life and to respond to joy in worship. Draw us to Yourself as we draw near to Christmas, and let us be a source of joy to others in this season and every season. Amen.


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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

A Journey of Love

Sunday, our Centerpointe kids reminded us that Christmas is about God demonstrating His love for us through His son Jesus. The key point was “God will never stop loving us.” I love the kid’s services, they are fun and full of life.
We often talk about Christmas as the time “when love came down.” We say God’s love entered the world as a baby. And that is all true. But we would be mistaken if we didn’t take a longer view, a view back in time to the beginning of the world. The history of our world, the story of the Bible, is a love story from the first day of creation. It is the story of God’s love for His people and His plan of redemption to bring us back into relationship with Him.
God is not some distant uncle who suddenly shows up with a gift nobody knows what to do with. Nor is He a cold and miserly distant figure grudgingly offering us an occasional token. Yes, love came crashing into that stable in Bethlehem. But Jesus’s birth was the culmination of a long history of love. And His love for us today, this Advent season, is not something new.
Psalm 139 tells all about how God knew us intimately before we were born. And the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians:  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4–6).
God’s love does not depend on us. It’s not something we have to earn or perform for to maintain. It starts with God, not us. God is love. It is His nature and character. His love for us was there from the beginning of time and will continue throughout eternity.

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It can be a mind-boggling concept to grasp. But as we pursue the journey of love, let me encourage you to simply accept that God’s love for us exists beyond the constraints of time, space, and our limited understanding. It’s a love worth focusing on, meditating on, and basking in during this season of preparation.