#Rejoicing and #Thanksgiving

The Christian who walks with the Lord
and keeps constant communion with Him
will see many reasons for
rejoicing and thanksgiving
all day long.

—Warren W. Wiersbe

It is so wonderful to be able to be in communication with our Lord no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Another word for this is prayer. When we pray specifically for something, we can praise and thank God ahead of time for what we are praying for, in the full belief that He already has the answer to our prayers. The answer may not be what we expect or hope for, but we can know that if it is God’s plan for us it is for our good and His glory.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 instructs us to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Pray without ceasing? Is that really possible, and how do we do that?

The other day I came across this great video by Dr. Donald Whitney of Southern Seminary titled “How do you pray without ceasing?” This should help all of us understand how we can be in prayerful communication with God all day long.

Let the Heavens Rejoice!

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Let the Heavens Rejoice!

By Patricia Knight

It was near the first century A.D., in Bethlehem of Judea, when Jesus, the Son of God, was born on earth. An angel previously had assured His mother, Mary, that Jesus would be the long-awaited Messiah promised to the Israelite nation. Shepherds visited the infant; an angelic choir sang glorious refrains; Magi traveled from distant foreign countries to visit the newborn King.

The Jews were a conquered nation, ruled by Herod the Great of the Roman Empire. Herod was ruthless, a schemer who clawed his way to the top of the political scene, maintaining discipline with secret police. He couldn’t tolerate competition. Even an infant King was a political thread to him. Herod’s family members were victims of his violent tendencies. He killed two of his ten wives, two sons, and his in-laws, among others.

Magi from the east stopped at the palace in Jerusalem to inquire regarding the whereabouts of the newborn King of the Jews, whose supernatural star they had been following for months. King Herod instructed his chief priests and teachers of law to research the Old Testament. The Magi were then directed to Bethlehem with a secret command from King Herod to report back to him details about the newborn King.

While visiting Jesus, the Magi were warned by angels to return home via an alternative route, avoiding their planned stop at King Herod’s palace. When the Magi didn’t return to Jerusalem, Herod suspected he’d been tricked. He immediately gave an order that all boys age two and younger be slaughtered throughout Bethlehem and its vicinities, according to when the Magi indicated the first star appeared.

Imagine the horror and helplessness the families endured when their toddler sons were selectively slain for no reason other than the king decreed it. The soldiers stormed every house searching for victims, their orders non-negotiable. What an agonizing massacre, a mass killing simply to validate one man’s pride.

Were Herod’s oppressive, totalitarian tactics so unlike the style of anarchy we are witnessing in our modern world? In geographic pockets around the world, terrorism has become the rule of the land. Cities and entire countries have collapsed. Christians, particularly, are beheaded or tortured for their faith in God. Women and children are brutalized or annihilated. At the very least, families are separated or displaced.

We gasp in horror when atrocities are committed within our own borders. As in King Herod’s day, the heinous acts are rationalized to promote personal power and greed. There is little interest in discussing or compromising issues of mutual importance. Have our governments made progress in peace-keeping methods since ancient times?

The Israelites had grown weary of waiting for the promised Messiah over the previous centuries. As Roman tyranny grew more suffocating, the Jews were anticipating a political savior to release them from servitude to Rome.

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But, the angels announced a Savior who would accomplish so much more—deliver His people from sin and death, a miracle that compelled the angels to sing at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

We cannot ignore the nefarious worldwide brutality prevalent today. Neither can we allow a foreboding shadow of fear to invade our Christmas joy. However, we are capable of minimizing the negative effect on lives as we pray for peace and hope in an exploding world.

The cacophony of threatening chatter is heard from around the world, bombarding our minds with pessimistic messages. Discouragement develops easily if we allow our minds to get mired in the news of abominable current events. The good news is that God is the author and embodiment of all hope. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Hope is confident expectation, a reliance on God’s blessings and provisions, not equated with unfounded optimism. We enjoy blessed assurance of our future destiny based on God’s love and power. As humans, we are incapable of conjuring up hope with personal efforts. Hope is a gift from God. “May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Hope resides in God, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, and demonstrated in the death of Jesus on the cross, further reinforced by His resurrection from the dead.

Unlike world forces of evil, God is creative, powerful, and authoritative. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, able to calm our fearful spirits with His peaceful, trustworthy assurances. He encourages us to come to Him for soothing peace of mind and a joy-filled heart. Let us worship Him with enthusiasm and gratitude, as the shepherds and Magi did following Jesus’ birth over two thousand years ago.

“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). 

God created the earth and everything in it with an unfolding plan for the future that will lead to Jesus’ second coming to rule all nations in peace. God is in control. Let us praise our Lord for His magnificent plans that encourage hope. Vow to claim sovereign triumph in the midst of human chaos, as you give glory and gratitude to Jesus on His birthday this year.

Alive and Active

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Alive and Active

by Joni Eareckson Tada

 

“For the word of God is living and active…”  Hebrews 4:12

One minute the night skies over Bethlehem were cool and quiet; the next minute someone turned on the light switch.  Stars that were twinkling suddenly stepped aside as the veil of heaven parted for an instant.  An angel stepped through the curtain of night, threw out his (or her?) hands to let loose divine fireworks.  “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'” (Luke 2:13-14 KJV).

Not long ago, I decided to paint this scene.  But I wondered, How do you paint an angel… much less one rejoicing?  I knew that the moment was packed with powerful emotion.  After all, the Word of God is living and active.  Those angels must have been jumping up and down for excitement!  That’s all the inspiration I needed.

I also needed someone to model as an angel.  I called my secretary into the art studio and asked her to stand on a chair and drape a sheet around her.  “Now,” I said when she was ready, “throw up your arms and yell, ‘Surprise!'”  She gave me a funny look and so I added, “Think of your happiest memory!”  She rubbed her chin and then an idea donned.  Throwing back her head she hollered, “Whoopee!”  I quickly sketched the joy in her face.  In no time, I had my angel on the canvas.  It was the best painting of angels I had ever rendered.

This month you will see lots of Christmas cards and store windows displaying the word “Rejoice!”  You’ll sing about joy and carols and read about it in the pages of scripture.  Smile when you say it… see it… or sing it.  After all, the announcement of the angels was the Word of God, alive,  active, and full of joy!

You, Lord Jesus, are what the joy is all about.  This alone makes my smile effervescent.  I rejoice!


Taken from More Precious Than Silver.  Copyright © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada.  Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

I’m Joy-Happy

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I’m Joy-Happy

By Joni Eareckson Tada

“But may the righteous be glad and REJOICE before God;
may they be HAPPY and JOYFUL.”

—Psalm 68:3

We’re often taught to be careful of the difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness, it is said, is an emotion that depends upon what ‘happens.’  Joy by contrast, is supposed to be enduring, stemming deep from within our soul and which is not affected by the circumstances surrounding us.

It’s an appropriate linguistic distinction, I suppose.  But I don’t think God had any such hair-splitting in mind.  Scripture uses the terms interchangeably along with words like delight, gladness, blessed.  There is no scale of relative spiritual values applied to any of these.  Happiness is not relegated to fleshly-minded sinners nor joy to heaven-bound saints.

The terms are synonymous in their effect and too difficult to distinguish when we experience either one.  Would you, for example, respond to the wedding of your daughter with joy or with happiness?  Are you happy that your friend came to know Christ or are you joyful?  Is the moment of euphoric delight in worship of Him on Sunday morning just a happenstance or just as much a part of Jesus’ promise regarding our redeemed souls?

To rob joy of its elated twin, happiness, is to deprive our soul of God’s feast.  Seek both as part and parcel in all circumstances.  When your soul is stirred by a deep contentment, be happy.  When a delightful moment strikes that is quite outside yourself, be joyful.   Don’t think about which one you are supposed to feel.  Accept them both as a gift from a God who is rich in all such emotions.

Lord, I seek the blessing of a joyful heart, the gladness of a happy countenance, and the delight of Your eternal pleasure today.

Blessings,

Joni and Friends

(Emphasis mine)


Copyright © 1998. More Precious Than Silver, Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: How Great is Our God

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Today we are worshiping and praising God for His greatness. The song “How Great is Our God” sung by Chris Tomlin is a JOYFUL way for us to thank and praise God for his awesome majesty and power.

1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, in His holy mountain.

2 Beautiful in elevation, the JOY of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.

3 God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge.

4 For behold, the kings assembled,
They passed by together.

5 They saw it, and so they marveled;
They were troubled, they hastened away.

6 Fear took hold of them there,
And pain, as of a woman in birth pangs,

7 As when You break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.

8 As we have heard, so we have seen
In the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God:
God will establish it forever. Selah

9 We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness,
In the midst of Your temple.

10 According to Your name, O God,
So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;
Your right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let Mount Zion REJOICE,
Let the daughters of Judah be GLAD,
Because of Your judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, and go all around her.
Count her towers;

13 Mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces;
That you may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death.

—Psalm 48—

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The LORD is my #Strength and my #Shield

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Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly REJOICES,
And with my song I will praise Him.

The Lord is their strength,
And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.
Save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance;
Shepherd them also,
And bear them up forever.

—Psalm 28:6-9

The Path of Life

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Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

You will make known to me the path of life;
in your presence is fullness of joy;
in your right hand there are pleasures forever. 

—Psalm 16:9-11

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