Tag Archives: Joy

Heart’s Desire

Ordinary Time
February 1, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:15-23

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. –1 Corinthians 9:16-18

Paul’s chosen profession, perhaps inherited from the family business, was tent making. He was apparently successful at it, able to support himself, and made friends through the enterprise. It afforded him the opportunity to pursue his avocation of proclaiming the gospel.

An avocation is a work done primarily for the pure joy of doing it. We sometimes interchange the meaning of the word joy with happiness. Joy may or may not evoke happiness, but it is the emotion one feels when one attains his or her greatest desire. In our scripture above Paul is describing his greatest desire as taking the good news of Jesus Christ to all people. His quest caused him many hardships and eventually resulted in his death, but for him, every disciple won was the source of great joy. The driving force behind his avocation was no doubt the tremendous joy he experienced in encountering Jesus Christ and the continuing relationship that resulted.

What source of joy has Christ written on your heart? In your service to God, what brings you the greatest sense of accomplishment? Identifying your faith heart’s desire and seeking ways to actualize it will bring you joy that will last for eternity.

Prayer: Open my being to know where the desires of my heart and your desires intersect, O Lord. Enable me to pursue those points with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

What Gives You Joy?

Living in the Spirit
August 7, 2017

Scripture Reading:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

 Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. – Genesis 37:1-4

The story of Joseph is the story of how not to parent an exceptional child. I do not know if I have any natural skills in math or not. I made good grades in arithmatic but invested minimum effort in doing so. As the youngest in my family with an older brother and an older sister who both excelled at math, I gravitated toward history and English to carve a unique path. Being the youngest of 12 did not leave much room for Joseph to find his niche. He did have time to spend with his dad who was probably turning more and more responsibilities over to his grown sons. Joseph by all accounts was exceptional and it took misfortune to help him channel his gifts appropriately.

What gives you joy? We will find what God is calling us to do or be when we identify what gives us joy. Joseph dreamed big dreams; was a visionary; saw the big picture. Later in the story we learn he had the administrative skills to implement his visions.

The newly installed General Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Theresa Hord Owens, worked for several years in business before she realized that ministry was what gave her joy and she changed careers. The background in business was not wasted as she assumes an administrative role.

A woman in my church loves to crochet. She spends the entire year making afghans, hats and mittens, bedspreads, and Christmas tree ornaments to either provide for the needy directly or increase our mission fund through sales of her work.

Joy is different from happy. Joy often comes at the expense of many long hours at hard work and the investment of resources, even danger. A local group is dedicated to provided self-sustaining water wells in countries desperately in need of not just water but safe water. Many of these countries are caught in strife making it difficult for this group to do their work.

What gives you joy?

Prayer: Lord, if we have discovered our source of joy, help us to hone it well and dedicate our work to your glory. If we are still searching for our source of joy, open doors for us to experiment, we might be totally surprised by what we find. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

The Joy of God

service-to-others-quotes-1Living in the Spirit
May 27, 2016

Scripture Reading: Galatians 1:1-12

Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
–Galatians 1:10-12

Tough talk here: what does Paul mean by pleasing people? The Greek word translated as “pleasing” means to satisfy an obligation with the idea of willing service rendered to others*. Is that what we think of when we are trying to please others or are we more likely trying to please others to raise their opinion of us?

The idea of faith is to filter everything we do and say through our desire to serve God, because we have acknowledged the truth that a relationship with God is fundamental to our wholeness. We get in trouble with achieving wholeness when we try to substitute less functional filters like money, power, acceptance to make ourselves complete. Dietrich Bonhoeffer described it as cheap grace.

The word often used in the Bible to denote our satisfaction in union with God is joy. What may please us is transitory. Joy is everlasting.

Prayer: Lord, guide me in choosing to serve you in every relationship I have with others. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/700.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Wellspring of Joy

fruitosp_joyLiving in the Spirit
November 18, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 132:1-12

Rise up, O Lord, and go to your resting-place,
   you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
   and let your faithful shout for joy.
For your servant David’s sake
   do not turn away the face of your anointed one. –Psalm 132:8-10

A nomadic people wandering for many years in the wilderness worshipped God in a portable building called the Tabernacle. They arrived in what they knew to be the promised land, settled it, built homes, became a people with a fixed residence. As they grew and their governance evolved they saw the need for more centralized leadership that could deal with their neighbors and so a kingship was established. It did not go well at first but the second king, David, lead the transition of the people of Israel to become the Kingdom of Israel. David wanted to build a permanent house where the people could worship God but it was not to be during his reign. His son Solomon built the first temple.

Our scripture today celebrates that edifice, a final resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. Of course, we today know that was not the end of the story. The ark was lost in battle and has never been recovered. The permanence of God’s promise lies in other words that we must carry in our hearts; we are to clothe ourselves in righteousness and rejoice in the joy of the Lord.

Our scripture today anticipates the coming of the Messiah, the Christ in Greek, the anointed one, the descendant of David. As we draw closer to the season of Advent, we once again turn our faces toward the coming of our Savior. Let us prepare our hearts and minds for the refreshing of our souls.

Prayer: Lord, the world is too much with us as we hear of death and destruction, anger and strife, fear and hopelessness every day. Be our wellspring of joy as we strive to be your Body in this very world today. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Happy/Blessed?

water-living_water-2-2-e1357698477184Living in the Spirit
September 16, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 1

Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper. –Psalm 1:1-3

The Hebrew word esher translated as “happy” in English can also be translated “blessed”. It is derived from the root word asher which means to go straight, go on, advance. What does the word “happy” really mean to us? The first meaning given by Merriam Webster for happy is favored by luck or fortune.* The fifth definition indicates the meaning “blessed” is obsolete. So how do we understand this scripture?

The word “blessed” in English means hallowed, consecrated, holy.** It strikes me that our society has rather reversed the transition of meaning. Instead of continuing thinking that happiness was related to our relationship with God, we have turned “blessed” into meaning being prosperous or having good luck.

If we go back to that root word meaning to go straight, we find our way to righteousness, to being aligned well with God’s ways. Perhaps that is best described in the English language as true joy and contentment. The real question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are settling for good luck or fortune as a substitute for right relationship with God.

Prayer: Lord, turn me around let your joy flood my soul and wash away the clutter of lesser gods that claim my life. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/happy

**http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/blessed

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Joy in God’s World

JoyEastertide
May 17, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 17:6-19

I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them…. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. –John 9-10, 13

Jesus speaks a special word about those who stayed with him in spite of their doubts and limited understanding about who he really was. I get the sense they knew he was exceptional. Some openly testified to his identity as Messiah, but I am not sure what that really meant was fully apprehended. I seriously doubt, if I could have grasp it fully had I been one of the first disciples.

This was a special moment because I also sense that Jesus’ deep concern was on behalf of the world. He was a person of broad vision. A seer who clearly took in reality but knew totally the possibilities of the world into which he was thrusting his disciples with the challenge of turning those possibilities into reality.

The world, the people in it, and their interactions functioning within the parameters of God’s kingdom of love was apparently Jesus’ greatest source of joy and he wanted that for all his disciples, too. Still does.

Prayer:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!* Amen.

*First verse of Joyful, Joyful, we adore Thee, words by Henry van Dyke see at http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/o/joyful.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Purpose

Eagle's WingsEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
February 3, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:21-31

He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint.  — Isaiah 40:29-31

God created each and every one of us with purpose. In many instances, I have not understood my purpose in life situations until I viewed them from the wisdom of hindsight. At some point, I let go and decided to live in faith that I did not necessarily have to understand what each of my purpose moments were. In all honesty, some of each of our most mundane actions may have been the most important thing we ever accomplished.

Several years ago I received a telephone call from a person I once supervised. I had lost track of her over time, and was pleased when I heard her voice on the phone. She was one of the best administrative assistant I had ever had. I could hear the anxiety in her voice as she began to speak when she explained that she had called to apologize to me for the way she had treated me when I had never been anything but good to her. I truly did not know what she was talking about. She was reserved, but she had never been anything but polite and respectful to me. I told her exactly that and I told her how much I appreciated her hard work and attention to detail. I could almost feel through the telephone line the weight lifted from her very being. I do not know what precipitated the call, I do know that she needed the affirmation I was able to provide. It was a purpose moment.

God is calling us to satisfy our purposes. They give meaning to our lives. When we are fulfilling our purposes, we experience great joy and fulfillment. It doesn’t matter how tired or frustrated we get, when fulfilling our purposes we are able to  mount up with wings like eagles, … run and not be weary, …walk and not faint, because God hardwired us to know God’s joy and because God is with us in every flap of our wings.

Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for purpose and for sustaining us through joy and love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Pressing on to Perfection

Rocking an infant Living in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 3, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
 — Philippians 3:12-14

Paul is admonishing us not to be frozen into inaction by fear of imperfection. No, we are not perfect. Yes, we do make mistakes. Most athletes, serious athletes, will tell you that if they make a mistake they learn from it and then let it go. On the football field or basketball court, there is not enough time to wallow in despair that one drops a pass or sends a dunk into the bleachers instead of through the hoop. The other team may be halfway down the field or court in that time of self-flagellation. The same is true of followers of Christ.

While we don’t necessarily watch film of our every play following a game, we do need to revisit, in as objective way as possible, the actions that we have deemed a failure. When we  carefully craft a program to get people involved in mission and the same stalwart souls are the only ones who show up that does not necessarily mean that we should discontinue trying to get everyone involved in some type of service to others. Perhaps we need to start at an earlier point, for example, in study to explain why we care. Perhaps we need to engage the non-participants in planning so that the service we provide is something about which they can feel some ownership. Perhaps we need to provide training because doing service does not come naturally to all. Perhaps we need to spend time in prayer together asking for God’s discerning guidance on how we can best be in mission.

I have seen the joy of making a difference in the life of a child spread across the face of many people who would tell you that they never imagined themselves as a tutor, a big brother or sister, a cuddlier of preemies in an infant ICU, or a little league coach. I think that same action brings joy to God’s face, also.

Oklahoma Fact: In 2012, 13% of all births in Oklahoma were premature.*

Prayer: Make us each a blessing to some child today and tomorrow and the next day. Amen.

*http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/18-preterm-births?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/38/false/868,867,133,38,35/any/279,280

 All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.