Thursday, November 29, 2012


While I was driving to work, I began to consider my latest batch of Bible passages about joy. This batch is from a list of proverbs in the Bible. This thinking led to a chain of thoughts.

1. The proverbs associated with joy seem to be taken up with living out God’s design for man. In other words, joy comes when a person has thoughts, attitudes, words and actions that agree with the life God intended man to live. The basic name the Bible gives to this pattern of living is “holiness.” When people live in a holy manner, they have joy and people around them have joy. Family life works better. Cities work better. Individuals work better.

2. Of course, I am reminded about the current reality. One does not have to listen to the news too long to realize that people are not living in a holy pattern, in a way that God would prefer we do not live. And if people are not living in a holy way, they are not experiencing too much joy.

3. So, what can be done to turn the situation around? We are designed to live a life of joy. We are not living in joy because we do not live in agreement with our design. We could move toward holy living. But people cannot live in holiness. History teaches that time and again.

4. One way that holiness has been “imposed” on people is when they are overwhelmed with the presence of God. (Imposed is an incorrect word. Imposed denotes coercion. And people cannot be coerced to welcome the presence of God. Unless one says that they imposed God’s presence on themselves.) This type of implanting of holiness has been referred to in history as a “revival.” God makes himself know in a community, and people’s hearts, attitudes and life change. America has undergone several revivals. China has undergone some too. Individuals change; and good sweeps across society.

I guess the only sure way for good to sweep away evil is for the world to undergo revival.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Live in Joy - XV

Now that Thanksgiving is over, maybe we can get a little regular again ... until Christmas anyway.

I am still wandering around the songs and poems I mentioned in my last entry. Thus far, it is more of the same. Joy comes from being connected to God. Joy come from being in agreement with what God says.

There was one poem where the writer was remembering the bad things he had done in his life. According to the Bible, everyone does bad things, everyone is condemned for them, and everyone can be saved from condemnation through Jesus' work on the cross and their trust in that work.

The writer says at one point, "Give me back my joy." It is obvious from the rest of the poem that he is depressed and miserable from these reflections. So, what was it that disrupted his joy? It seems as though he knew his connection to God had gotten polluted.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Live in Joy - XIV

There is a part of the bible that is a collection of poems and songs. I have not gone through all of them, concerning the references to joy, but there are a couple of themes, so far.

Awareness of God's presence is a common theme. Realizing his nearness and how he is active on behalf of people bring joy. Seeing, hearing and walking with God are obviously different than relating with people. We connect with God by focusing our hearts.

Another means of knowing and understanding god comes from read and meditating on the Scripture. But knowing is not enough. People are designed to live in agreement with Scripture, Obedience brings joy. Joy because people are flowing with their design.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Live in Joy - XIII

I roofed my house over the weekend, so my focus has been elsewhere as a result. (For those of you in the know, we thought we were going to be able to roof over the old roof. But we discovered -- the morning of -- another layer hidden underneath. Which means we have to tear off all the old shingles. Which is a lot more work, a lot more mess and a lot more wear and tear on the body. And requires other materials to complete the project. Gives me field experience in learning how to live in joy.) 

But I did observe, in my short time thinking about joy, that when Israel returned from the foreign lands that there was a time where they rediscovered the things of God: the Scriptures, the celebrations, and the rhythm of meeting God and living with and for him. As they became reacquainted, they developed a renewed relationship with God. They began to see him differently. They began to live with him differently. This renewal of relationship also brought a renewal of joy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Live in Joy - XII

At this time, you will remember that Israel has developed a habit of associating God's presence with a particular building and location. The temple that Solomon built became that focal point. They could not really function in their relationship with God without it. I believe that it was God's intention to wean the people away from such a practice, but, as we also know, the kings and leaders were for the most part not following God. The temple was a tangible reminder of God's presence and desire to bless ... if they followed him.

The kings continued to disobey God and continued to encourage the people to disobey God. And when God led the people into this land, God promised that if they stopped obeying, one of the things he would do was allow a foreign army to conquer them. And one finally did. But God also promised that, after a while, he would redeem and restore Israel.

At this time, conquerors developed a method of assimilating subjugated peoples into their kingdoms. They forced people to move. They forced people to live hundreds of miles away from their homeland. Without cars, trains and planes, hundreds of miles was almost insurmountable. They mixed the conquered peoples together.

And that is what happened to Israel. The conquering army destroyed the temple, leveled Jerusalem and moved the people a long ways away. 

Sometimes, God tells one of his servants what he is going to do in the future. And he did tell one of them how he was going to redeem and restore his people ... using a different invading army to conquer those who conquered Israel. And that servant wrote what God showed him down. So, when a new king did conquer, Israel told him how God prepared the way and worked for him. And they showed him what god's servant had written. The king was impressed and he let the people return back to Jerusalem and their homes.

With different waves of migration, Israel rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple.

Remember, Israel had gotten used to associating meeting God with being at a specific place. So, when the temple was destroyed, the connection to God was disrupted. They were unable to connect to god with the same closeness and the same reality. So, when the temple was rebuilt, the connection was re-established in a vital way. Imagine how the burdens of hearts were relieved. There was a vivid sense of God's nearness and a rush of joy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Live in Joy - XI

Then, this king died and Israel again had a series of good and bad kings. The good kings tried to correct the  influence of the bad kings. But it seems like it is easier to move toward the bad.

Certain, important events happened in the history of Israel. These events, their results and God's part in them told the people much about God's nature, his relationship with people, and his plans. So, he instituted yearly celebrations to remind people consistently of the event, what God did and why their relationship with God and their lifestyle was important.

But, as the bad kings began to introduce things that were counter to knowing and following God, the people began to observe the celebrations less and less. They were not reminded of God's among them nor the relationship they should have with him. Which increased the downward spiral away from God.

When a new king, who tried to follow God, began to rule, he cleaned up a lot of areas that had gone bad. He tried to re-establish a lot of things that had been forgotten, like the celebrations. 

He sent messengers throughout Israel inviting people to come to one of the celebrations. Since, God's instruction was to gather together in Jerusalem and it was a pretty serious thing to travel in those days, many people chose not to go. But many did.

Because of logistical issues, they had to postpone the celebration one month. (Imagine celebrating Christmas at the end of January.) The celebration was supposed to last one week, but it made such an impression on people that they continued for another week.

And the people went home overjoyed!

Did the joy come from a two-week long party? Or from reconnecting with the god of the universe?

I would like to say that I have been to parties where everyone seemed to have a good time, but joy was not the overall mindset. Joy seems to come from somewhere else besides good times.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Live in Joy - X

After Solomon died, there were numerous kings. Some followed the Lord. Some turned away from him. Most turned away. And as God promised, turning meant misery for the people.

One day, one of the kings who did follow God was told that three nations were sending their armies against Israel. The king and the people went to the temple. The king prayed to the Lord on behalf of himself and the country. He asked for wisdom and direction, because they could not stand against the armies coming to attack them.

God spoke to one of the men there. And he told the king God's message. God said they would not have to fight. God would fight for them.

The king and the people believed what God told them. So, when they assembled the army, they put the choir and the band in front. They did not celebrate after the battle. They celebrated before the battle. When they began celebrating, the armies who were supposed to attack them began to attack one another. Israel was in time to see the results. And Israel rejoiced.

Yes, they rejoiced because of the results. They were saved from the overwhelming armies attacking them. They also rejoiced because they had walked with God through this experience.
  • They sought him, his presence and his help when it first began.
  • They acted according to what they told him.
  • They remembered him in worship on the battlefield.
  • And when they arrived home, they immediately went to the temple and worshiped there again.
God was at the fore-front of their heart-focus.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Comments on the American Election

The election has just completed. I don’t know who even won yet. I am purposely writing this in a manner that avoids opening an internet browser, so I won’t accidentally see. I have a few comments that I hope will put a little perspective on what just happened.

The last several years, when the election results are announced, the Christian community in America as a whole starts wailing “Oh, no! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” in anticipation of every possible thing that could go wrong will go wrong as a result of the new government. Well …

  • The Christian community should remember that it also is a member of the Kingdom of God. And that its first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. And their King was not surprised or dismayed by the results of this election. He was perfectly prepared and perfectly in control.
  • The Christian community should remember that its instructions in relation to the government are to pray for it. What should be inserted at this point is a long, eloquent discussion of prayer: its power, its effect and its desirability. I will not do so at this point, but I will remind the Christian community that as its first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, prayer should be aimed at God’s presence and kingdom being manifested in the country. That should be the aim of our prayer. That should be the aim of our actions and attitudes. And maybe your political vision does not put people in a position to bring that.
  • The Christian community should remember when God’s kingdom flourished. When did God’s kingdom grow the fastest, the most? Most people would say that first century after Christ. Who was in control at that point? The Roman empire. (WARNING! Sarcastic comment coming.) And of course, the Roman empire was first and foremost concerned about individual liberty and the rights of minorities. The Romans put thousands, if not millions, of Christians to death in cruel ways. The intention was the eradication of the Christian movement. But under this oppressive government the Kingdom of God boomed! At the time of the communist revolution in China, the Christian missionaries were thrown out, and the Chinese leaders were imprisoned and executed. The purpose was the eradication of Christian influence, as well as other religions. The result was the least educated, least gifted and the least anointed were left. The movement should have died. Instead, it hexi-deci-tuple-ized.
Instead of doom and gloom, any election, any change in the fortunes of a country should be looked on as an opportunity for the Kingdom of God to grow, the presence of God to be manifested and the glory of God to be revealed.

UPDATE: In 1949, it is estimated that there was 500,000 protestant Christians out of a population of 450 million. (One tenth of a percent.) Estimates are now 40 million to 130 million in a population of 1.35 billion. (3% to 9.6%, respectively.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Live in Joy - IX

But David was not able to build the new meeting place before he died. He worked hard to assemble material and make preparations. After he died, his son Solomon became king; and he erected the new meeting place.

Once it was built, Israel had a gigantic ceremony to celebrate its completion and dedicate it to the service of God and his relationship with his people, which the meeting place was to support.

(The people could meet with God. They could maintain their relationship in proper way. They could demonstrate to the world God's nature, his purpose and his relationship with people, using this meeting place as the focal point.)

After the dedication ceremony, they held a feast and Solomon gave gifts to the people. And the people were very joyous.

Again, Israel had a joint mission ... and it was complete. Unity pursuing and completing a beneficial mission, as a team, brings joy.

NOTE: Some would argue that pursuing God's mission with this building as the focal point actually disrupts and diminishes the ability to complete God's mission. I agree a building should not be the focal point -- Jesus should -- but I do think it can be a tool. It depends on the amount of time,energy and passion it consumes.

At this time, Israel had not thrown off the habits and trappings of Egypt ... as many current day people maintain the habits and trappings of previous times.

What is important is focusing on a person's heart and his attachment to Jesus. Attachments to tools is secondary.

(As we know, if the only tool a person has is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. But I sometimes think the people who speak loudest about this are people whose only tool is a screwdriver.)