There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. —Jane Austen
Doesn’t Spring feel like it’s taking forever to get here? In some parts of the country, it must seem like it’s still winter because the snow is still melting. Here in northern Arizona, our daytime temps hover between 50-60 but the ever-present winds make it seem much colder. No matter where we live in the U.S., I think we could all use a bit of Spring hope!
The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. —Bernard Williams
Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.
A couple of months ago I decided to try posting more often than I had been doing. What I discovered is that I’ve been putting so much work into these almost-daily posts that I’ve been neglecting my other writing responsibilities. Since I believe that the Lord has provided these writing opportunities for me, I need to use my limited time and energy more wisely.
Starting this week, I’ll be posting three times per week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I’m very thankful for my contributing writers, which alleviates some of the time I dedicate to this blog. I come across many great blog posts from other sources and I’ll continue to share those with you too. God is doing some great things in my writing life this year and I’ll be doing my best to honor what He has given me to do for His glory.
Beloved, thank you all for sticking with me and being a part of my bloggy world! I appreciate each and every one of you!
A FEAST OF JOY
“The cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15). Joy is a perpetual, delicious smorgasbord of delight, an avalanche of dazzling power that encompasses the heart and soul. Joy is exhilarating, lavishing our lives with zeal. Joy captivates behavior, illuminating a smile or a deep sustained laugh. Body language conveys our emotions with a sparkle in our eyes, spontaneous hand-clapping, or a little jumping up-and-down.
The exchange of wedding vows amplifies hearts with love, flooding them with joy. In such instances, joy owns the gamut of our emotions, rendering us incapable of passively managing surges of jubilation. Because the occasion is so anticipated and celebrated, our hearts stagger under the load, making us feel as if our epicenter of joy will actually implode. The Psalmist expresses it well: “My heart leaps for joy” (Psalm 28:7).
God’s Word is replete with examples of people whose joy knew no bounds even under the most profoundly challenging circumstances. Miriam, sister of Moses, unabashedly rallied the Israeli women to sing, using tambourines and dance to exuberantly express joy and gratitude to the Lord following His miraculous delivery of the Israelites from generations of slavery in Egypt. The women converted their sorrow and mourning into enthusiastic singing to God for His spectacular victory over the pharaoh and the Egyptian army.
David, King of Israel, was ecstatic that the ark of the covenant, the representation of God’s throne on earth, was returned to Israeli’s possession after many decades of absence following its seizure by the Philistines, who considered it no more than a lucky talisman. Rallying the people in a Jerusalem street parade, “David danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sounds of trumpets” (2 Samuel 6:14-15). It was a time of tremendous rejoicing of national impact. David’s dance was one of true worship, explicitly demonstrating extraordinary love for his Lord.
Job, an Old Testament character, was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job’s dilemma still raises the quintessential question of why the righteous suffer. Job was steadfast regarding his innocence, though his friends accused him of liability for his suffering, determined that Job had caused his own demise by sinning. Job’s wife was so repulsed and discouraged with Job’s all-encompassing body sores, she advised Job to curse God and die. Having little hope for a cure and grieving the loss of his ten children and all of his possessions in one day, Job knew his joy could be deferred as he anticipated eternal life in heaven. Thus he admitted, “Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain” (Job 6:10). In light of heaven, Job could readily rejoice, knowing he had remained true to God throughout his long ordeal on earth.
Paul and Silas were captured by the Roman authorities, then stripped and beaten with a whip made of several strips of leather into which were embedded bone and lead at the end. Once severely flogged with the whip, they were thrown into an inner cell in the dark, dank, malodorous prison with their feet fastened in stocks. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison, opening the cell doors and loosening prisoners’ chains. The jailer, responsible for all prisoners, was startled from sleep and assumed the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas intervened before the jailer committed suicide with his sword, and presented the Gospel to the jailer and his family. The jailer was then “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). What unusual events were set in motion by a God who was honored and worshipped in spite of life-threatening conditions! When we trust in God, joy reigns supreme, regardless of adverse situations!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the epitome of joy. He who was sinless during his entire life on earth, acknowledged His ultimate goal was to glorify His Father by offering His life as a perfect sacrifice, to redeem sinners of this world. When the soldiers burst into Jesus’ reverie of quiet prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to take Him by force, Jesus succumbed to the Roman authorities, willingly complying with their orders. “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus obediently chose to die; otherwise no one would have had the power to kill Him.
The peace Jesus exhibited during his brutal trial and agonizing crucifixion ordeal is beyond our finite understanding. Though Jesus was exhausted and hurting on all levels, He rejoiced spiritually because He was accomplishing the goal for which He had given up His glory in heaven for a season to live on earth—that of becoming the perfect sacrificial Lamb to atone for sin. Jesus’ joy was powerful and zealous; the bounds of Christ’s joy were immeasurable.
If the man, Jesus, could prompt any amount of joy while confronting a terrifying, heinous crucifixion, it was only because He spent quality time with His heavenly Father in prayer, who strengthened Jesus’ commitment to His life’s goal. Utter joy is only possible for us because through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He guarantees our inheritance, providing hope for a life of joy on earth and a glorious eternity in heaven.
When Jesus appeared to His followers after his resurrection, He revealed to them the crucifixion wounds in His hands and His side. The disciples were so ecstatic to actually see Jesus alive, their joy was contagious, extending throughout the centuries to our current generation: “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” (1 Peter 1:8). Indeed, we are commanded to rejoice. The Apostle Paul, himself frequently plagued with hostility and extreme suffering, taught: “‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’” (Philippians 4:4). Christ was the source and secret of Paul’s joy.
One of our life’s objectives is irrefutable: we are to be defined by worshipful joy in which God’s entire creation participates. “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. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” (Psalm 96; 11-12). Since all of nature responds to His authority, God accepts joyful worship from everything He creates. On that premise, let us assess the amount of joyous adoration our Redeemer receives from us. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:1-2).
Joy is not passive, but animated, manifesting praise and thanksgiving. Miriam and David unapologetically sang and danced before God Almighty. Like them, we eagerly worship our Savior, passionately reflecting His character with effervescent expressions of joy. It is God’s desire that we live triumphant lives, for which joy is one of the important components. Jesus said, “‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’” (John 10-10, KJV). Let our words and actions be saturated with bountiful joy!
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. —Deuteronomy 6:4
The four letters of YHWH are often referred to as the Tetragrammaton, which literally means “four lettered name.” Vowels were later added to the Tetragrammaton to make the name YAHWEH, which is most commonly transliterated as JEHOVAH. When a Bible translation has LORD in all caps (actually capital L and small capital letters), it signifies JEHOVAH. 1
“One of the oddities of history is the loss of the proper pronunciation of the Hebrew word YHWH, the personal and covenant name of God in the Old Testament. ‘Jehovah’ is a spelling that developed from combining the consonants of the name with the vowels of a word for ‘Lord’ (Adonai). ‘Yahweh’ is probably the original pronunciation. The name eventually ceased to be pronounced because later Jews thought it too holy to be uttered and feared violating it. It is translated ‘LORD’ in this version.” 2
Recently I saw a video titled YHWH. It is a powerful presentation of what our YHWH should mean to us, especially during this time of year when we contemplate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This video was a project started by Dan Stevens in which many people worked to put together an awesome video. The final product—the video below—will cause you to praise God, our LORD, for His many attributes. He is indeed our great I AM.
2 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks,
He broke it and gave it to them, saying,
“This is My body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of Me.”
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying,
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
The Lord took two of the most frail elements in the world as symbols of His body and blood. Bread and wine—both will spoil in a few days. When He raised a monument, it was not made of brass or marble, but of two frail elements that perish.
He declared that the bread spoke of His body and the wine spoke of His blood. The bread speaks of His body broken—not a bone broken but a broken body because He was made sin for us (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).
I do not believe He even looked human when He was taken down from that cross. Isaiah had said of Him, “…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 523:14); and “…there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
For centuries the Passover feast had looked forward to the Lord’s coming and His death. Now He is in the shadow of the cross, and this is the last Passover. The Passover feast has now been fulfilled.
We gather about the Lord’s Table and search our hearts. What we do at this Table is in remembrance of Him. We look back to what He did for us on the cross, and we look forward to His coming again. “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Recently I came across this post that answered the question: “What were the seven last words of Jesus Christ on the cross and what do they mean?“
Answer: The seven statements that Jesus Christ made on the cross were (not in any particular order):
(1) Matthew 27:46 tells us that about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Here, Jesus was expressing His feelings of abandonment as God placed the sins of the world on Him – and because of that, God had to “turn away” from Jesus. As Jesus was feeling that weight of sin, He was experiencing a separation from God for the only time in all of eternity. This was also a fulfillment of the prophetic statement in Psalm 22:1.
Here is a great devotional that is a good addition to my JOY theme this year. I read this yesterday at Crossmap.com titled “Not Simply to Endure or to Choose God’s Will but to Rejoice in it.” The author of this devotional is none other than L. B. Cowman of Streams in the Desert.
I live with several chronic pain illnesses and have often pondered the subject of God’s will, especially during this particular season of my life. Is it really possible to truly rejoice in God’s will, no matter what our difficulties are? Yes it is, and Mr. Cowman’s devotional is a good reminder of this. I especially appreciate this part of the devotional: “the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.”
Not Simply to Endure
or to Choose God’s Will
but to Rejoice in it
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. (2 Corinthians 6:10)
A stoic person despises the shedding of tears, but a Christian is not forbidden to weep.Yet the soul may become silent from excessive grief, just as the quivering sheep may remain quiet beneath the scissors of the shearer. Or, when the heart is at the verge of breaking beneath the waves of a trial, the sufferer may seek relief by crying out with a loud voice. But there is something even better.
It is said that springs of sweet, fresh water pool up amid the saltiness of the oceans, that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes, and that the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.
May it continue to be! Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though “deep calls to deep”(Ps.42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it will be possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you learned this lesson yet?