2021’s theme word, joyful, Part 2

In my last post, I began to look into Bible verses that contain my 2021 theme word: JOYFUL.

Some of the verses that we will read today are surprising.

Why should we—or things—be joyful? Let’s see what the Bible says.

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance (Psalm 89:15). This is an interesting voice. Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). Is Jesus’ voice the joyful sound? I’m not sure, but I love the next part of the verse: walking in the light of God’s face. We know that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5b). He promises to light our path with His Word, step by step. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). Then, our way will shine as light—a reflection of Christ. But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). Are we living, illumined with the light of God’s face? Do we follow His Word? Is our life a shining reflection of the Lord?

Come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psalm 95:1-2). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together (Psalm 98:4, 6, 8). Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands (Psalm 100:1). These all go together because they are about showing praise directly to the Lord by singing and making a joyful noise. (Scroll down to the last post for more on this subject.)

Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice (Psalm 96:12). Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted (Isaiah 49:13). I often try to imagine what the field, trees, heavens, earth, and mountains do to sing and show joy. Astronomers testify to the tones they hear in the sky. Are these sounds stars singing? How do mountains sing? What does a joyful field look like? Rejoicing woods? My imagination goes wild.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD (Psalm 113:9). God blesses His people in many ways. I have known of several women who were told by doctors they would never have children—and later, God blessed them with babies. This verse means that sometimes, the Lord acts in this way. It is not a blanket statement meaning that God wants everyone to marry—He doesn’t—or that every married couple will have children. That’s just not true. (God is fine with both married and single people. See 1 Corinthians 7:32-34.)

Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds (Psalm 149:2, 5). This is interesting. It reiterates the concept of people being joyful in the Lord, calling Him King. Obviously, this is a prophecy about Jesus. Then, it says to let real believers be joyful in glory. I had to look this up. Glory refers to recognizing God’s glory. The next idea—singing in bed—brings up a host of hilarious scenarios, but Matthew Henry seems to think it means that people should praise the Lord in private as well as in public (Matthew Henry Commentary on Psalm 149). If you really want to take this literally, go ahead and sing hymns in bed. It’s biblical!

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him (Ecclesiastes 7:14). As always, the Word of God is full of practical, balanced advice. Yes, be happy when things go well, but also understand that God is there in adverse circumstances.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10). This is perhaps my favorite verse of all. If a Christian can’t be joyful in his soul because of salvation, he needs to go back and recapture the joy. What has God done for us? Provided us with His own robe of righteousness. It is beautiful. We could never have paid for it. It is a gift. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). If this isn’t a motive for joyfulness, I don’t know what is.

It’s interesting that the last Bible reference to joyful is in the context of persecution. Even though the early church was going through opposition on many fronts, Paul was encouraged by the believers and joyful along with them. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation (2 Corinthians 7:4).

Whatever happens in 2021—and I sincerely hope it is better than 2020 for all of us—we can be joyful in Jesus, joyful in spite of tribulation, joyful in our beds, and joyful in our families. We can even draw inspiration from happy hills and trees. How cool is that?

Exploring my 2021 theme word: joyful

When I picked a theme word for the year—only a few days ago—I had no idea how difficult it would be nor how helpful.

My word? JOYFUL

My purpose? I want to ensure that I am focused on the Lord, with a joyful attitude. Joyful has many facets of meaning, of course. This post explores what the Bible says about the word joyful and makes practical applications.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Make Him the source, the center, and the circumference of all thy soul’s range of delight.” This is my 2021 goal.

Joyful appears 25 times in the Scriptures. Most of these are about gladness—both from bad guys and good guys. I want to explore those passages that refer to joyfulness in the Lord or because of His blessings. You’ll notice that the majority of references to joyful fall into these two catagories.

  1. On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people (1 Kings 8:66). After King Solomon dedicated the beautiful new Temple, including a prayer and generous ceremonial sacrifices, the people rejoiced in God’s goodness to them. Why? The new, beautiful Temple represented God’s presence and was their permanent place for worship and sacrifices. Up until this time, the people had used the portable Tabernacle, but now they had a luxurious place for worship. Today, in many places in the world, we can freely worship God. We have church buildings. But, best of all, the promised Messiah has already come, and because of His death and resurrection power, He indwells our hearts. Even if we weren’t able to meet freely in public, no one can take away the communion we have in our hearts with the Lord. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:11-12). So, our responsibility is not to forget the great privilege we have. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19) Let us praise God for His gift of the Holy Spirit, living in joyful thankfulness for all His goodness.
  2. And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel (Ezra 6:22). I don’t do as much reminiscing as I should, but looking back on 2020 gave me the opportunity to review His miracles and blessings. The Bible says, The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1). The Israelites had proven this true. It is also true today. In our case, it wasn’t the king’s heart, but other authorities changed their minds in our favor as a direct answer to prayer. We watched the hand of the Lord turning our “rivers.” Evidence of God’s working in the past is a motive for great rejoicing. How has the Lord worked on your behalf this past year? Be joyful.
  3. But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee (Psalm 5:11). Trusting in God is a great reason to rejoice because we are yielding to His leadership and power. Here, it mentions that God actually defends us. What a blessing! The next part speaks of our love for God’s name. In Old Testament times, people were afraid even to voice the name of God because it was so sacred. Do we love God’s name? Are we guilty of using it in vain? One of the Ten Commandments says, Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Exodus 20:7). Using God’s name lightly, cursing, and talking crudely about God are all ways people vainly use His name. Also, “praying” without being conscious that one is actually talking to the God of the universe might be included. Some use His name repetitiously in prayer, almost like a mantra. For example: “Lord, we ask you, Lord, to, Lord, help Lord….” Now, that prayer might be sincere, but it also might be using the name of God like punctuation. That would be vanity. Let us all guard against treating the name of God lightly. We should love it, revere it, and be joyful in the Lord. (Read more about that last phrase in this next verse.)
  4. And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation (Psalm 35:9). The Source of our joy is Jesus. We are joyful in Him and in His salvation. The way to be “in Christ” is to consciously put one’s faith in Jesus’ payment on the cross for his sins. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Are you in Christ? You’ll know if you are a new creature or not. Your soul will be joyful in the Lord.
  5. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips (Psalm 63:5). This passage is not talking about a succulent plateful of barbequed ribs; it’s about soul food and satisfaction. The parts of meat that make it tasty are the bone and fat. God satisfies Christians with the best spiritual food. This is why we should audibly praise Him.
  6. Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands (Psalm 66:1). Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob (Psalm 81:1). These two verses express the same concept: audibly praising God. Notice the songs are directed to Him. They are joyful praise prayers. Believers through the centuries have poked fun at the phrase: a joyful noise, saying it doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune or not. Corporate singing from God’s people doesn’t need to be perfect. It only needs to be joyful and heartfelt communication with God.

I want to commit to joyfulness in 2021.

For more verses on this subject, you can sign up to receive my blog regularly. My next post will continue this theme.

According to plan

When life goes according to plan, we feel happy and secure. But, when it doesn’t? We might become angry, frustrated, confused, lost, or any combination of these.

Why is this?

Because we like to sense we’re in control. It’s a human thing.

Life often doesn’t go according to plan. There are all kinds of reasons: sickness, financial issues, work problems, personality clashes, scheduling, and probably a thousand other causes common to man. We’re supposed to be flexible and go with the flow, but that is easier said than done.

What can a Christian do when his plans don’t work out?

Here’s a little bit of biblical advice.

Trust in the Lord, not our own understanding. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Read the Bible and know how it applies to your circumstance. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

Jesus told His disciples Follow me. When we pause and ask the Lord what He wants us to do, He will guide us.

Seek wise counsel. Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

Honest prayer, asking, and thanksgiving bring about peace. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Recognize that God has a purpose in everything that happens to us, when we are living in His will. It will end up for our good. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

The truth is that every person’s life is uncertain. No one’s goes according to plan.

It is important to put our trust in the One who knows exactly what will happen and who promises to guide us through each day. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalm 48:14).

This year 2020 has not gone according to plan. Who would ever have thought that small boutiques would only admit six customers or that we would be wearing masks at fairs and stores? No one would have anticipated the changes in schooling, businesses, and even curfews in some places. Would we have thought that other catastrophes would have happened, as well? No.

Since we never know what a day, month, or year may hold, we need a guide. We need someone we can trust. That Someone is the Lord. He knows everything. We can follow Him.

May the Lord bless you today and guide you through this Christmas season and in the New Year.

Expect God to show up

Have you ever heard the phrase, “God showed up”? I personally have a bit of a problem with the phrase, since God literally fills the universe and inhabits every space. How could He not show up when the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him (from 2 Chronicles 2:6)? God is everywhere.

On the other hand, we perfectly understand what people mean when they say, “then God showed up.” Usually, the situation involves prayer and evidence of Divine intervention.

We tend to limit God, even while reading Bible stories.

We know He parted the Red Sea, drowned the Egyptian army, and freed probably a million Israelites. David defeated Goliath in a miraculous way. Angels shut Daniel’s lions’ mouths. Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego walked around with Jesus in the oven that killed those who threw them in. Not even their hair or clothes were singed or smelled of smoke. We can cite miracle after miracle in the Old Testament.

Then, Jesus came, and He healed, raised the dead, showed compassion, taught, and ministered. God in the flesh showed the people who God is. He told Philip, he that hath seen me hath seen the Father (from John 14:9).

When Jesus rose from the dead, He evidenced resurrecting power.

And, here we are, more than 2,000 years later. We wrongly think He does less today than He did over the previous 4,000 years. He just “shows up” from time to time.

There’s good news: God is the same. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8). Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17). He never changes. God is the only real constant in this world.

We might limit Him when we pray, forgetting that the One who caused David’s smooth stone to find its mark is the same Person who cares about what we’re doing.

The One who raised the dead and healed the sick can still heal.

Our God is great. He is perfectly wise and just. The Lord cares for His children and loves those who don’t yet know Him. He is almighty.

If He could pile up the Red Sea and Jordan River and cause the people to walk through on dry—not muddy—ground, He can act for you. He hasn’t changed and never will.

How do we pray?

I believe in the power of several people praying together. Recently, a friend’s baby was very ill. She asked a group of Christian ladies to intercede for him. We did. The Lord let her baby get better. I believe a group of people praying to the Lord was effective prayer, and the baby’s getting better was the Lord’s will.

God still works miracles. My husband and I have a whole list of recent situations that we prayed about and God answered. Some looked impossible, but God moved.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

Pray big. Expect God to show up.

In fact, you can expect the Lord to already be there. For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (Matthew 6:8b).

 

When I follow my emotions

When I follow my emotions, my head doesn’t work.

Every time.

Clear thinking takes wing, and I am left with feelings and nothing more.

I can think of several examples:

  • In my relationship with my husband, when the emotion of the moment leads (delight, frustration, anger, impatience, silliness), I am not keeping my thoughts—and my biblical right responses—at the fore. Going with the flow doesn’t help our relationship. Commitment to doing right does. How should I biblically treat my husband? With love, respect, a happy spirit, and an upbeat tone of voice. Relationships with our children and others, of course, should be much the same: with godly self-control.
  • Business relationships can be crazy. In the last few months, our family has gone through the ups and downs of all kinds of business and legal operations. It seems like, with every step, we were told no, then yes. Emotionally, these experiences made for a roller coaster ride. But, they also moved us to pray that God would do what we couldn’t and to place our faith in Him to work as He wanted. Every single low was smoothed out in the end, and all we can do is praise the Lord.
  • The art of living is full of humdrum tasks. We wash dishes, feed the dog, put a load of clothes in, switch them to the dryer, iron, go to work, make supper, and the next day, we do it again. Buying groceries, putting gas in the car, cutting the lawn, sweeping and mopping floors, dusting…. The list of repeated actions goes on and on and on. Our emotions about these necessary but not very exciting details can make us bitter. “Again! Why do clothes have to get dirty? Mumble mumble grumble.” Or, we can tune our thoughts to the Bible. I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only (Psalm 71:16). When our focus is on the Lord, our emotions will fall into line, and we will rejoice, even while doing the mundane actions of everyday living.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I love this next passage. Notice what it says about one’s attitude and focus. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Now, some practical advice about prayer: Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Where’s our mind supposed to be? The Bible tells us. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:4-8).

When emotions rule, our heads don’t work. But, when our thoughts are lined up with God’s, we are in a good place.

Let’s bring our thoughts into line this week, rejoicing in the Lord, and serving Him.

A mental reset will change your life.