Joy to You

How's your joy?  Really.  Are you joyful?  I mean it.

Joy check.  Right now.  Yes, you.  Let's check. No matter your circumstances.  Things going great.  Or not so much. Thinking you are more blessed than you deserve.  Or wondering what curse you inherited.

Luke 2:10 records, "And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.'"  Do you have joy?  Great joy?  You make up one part of the phrase "all people", don't you?  The angel meant you.  Me.  Us.  We.  Joy.  Really.  Joy.  No kidding.  It's right there in the Bible. God said it.  He meant it.  For real.  Joy.

And then the carol.  Not Scripture, true.  But meaningful to many of us.  A connection through verse & song. Memories mixed with melodies.  Visions of Christmases past.  Anticipation of eternity future.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Amidst all you are doing these days.  Making your list.  Checking it twice.  Have you left room for Jesus? Maybe you need to make room for Jesus.  He came to save you.  He wants to guide you.  He has always loved you. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' & believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," says Romans 10:9.  Take a minute to ask: Have I opened my heart to Jesus?

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Oh, I hope you are singing.  This time of year.  Christmastime.  Celebrating the of the birth of our King, Jesus. Even you non-singers.  You shower only singers.  You stick in the mud afraid to sing a note folks.  I hope you are singing carols.  Smiling.  Thinking.  Joyful.  For all God is & has done for you.  If you are not singing right now will you ask, why am I not singing the praises of Jesus?

No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Did you know that when Adam & Eve sinned creation itself fell?  The perfection of creation was marred by sin. And the curse of sin came to earth.  Genesis 3:17-18 tells us so.  From that time until now, one sin has followed another. We can't help it.  It's our sin nature.  Yet, God brings us into personal realtionship with Himself - through his son, born to us on earth, Jesus Christ - to love us no matter our sinfulness.  We must ask in response: How do I spread the blessings of Jesus?

He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.

"The Word (note the capital "W", Friends) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One & Only (more capitals), who came from the Father, full of grace & truth," states John 1:14. Jesus is the Word of God to us.  God in flesh.  Living Grace.  Incarnate Truth.  He is full of both grace & truth.  I pray that you know both his grace & his truth in your life.  I pray that you can consider & live out this last question herein: How can I share the love of Jesus?

Open your heart.

Sing his praise.

Spread his message.

Share his love.

And about that joy check: How's your joy now?

Merry CHRISTmas, Friends!

Noel

Don't you just love Christmas carols?  Singing to celebrate our Lord's coming to save us from our sinful selves is such joy!

Let's continue our Christmas Carol lessons with The First Noel.  Noel comes from Latin, through French meaning "birth."  This rich carol tells of a one-of-a-kind, first & all time birth.  The coming of God to earth as a human.  This rich carol can teach us lessons today too.

The first Noel the angel did say, Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay; In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep, 
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.

You're a shepherd.  A societal outcast.  Cast out because you've got a menial job.  Cast out because you got a smelly job.  Cast out, well because your job keeps you out with the sheep & not in town.  But you are doing your job.  Watching your sheeps & hangin with your peeps when... An angel.  An angel appears & God's glory shines round your shepherd band.  Terrified.  Dumb struck.  Frozen.

"Don't be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." the angel says in Luke 2:10.  I'm not a shepherd, but I have a question: Do I fear God’s power?  Do I fear God's awesome power?  His righteousness & justice?  Or do I fear his mercy & grace?  Which do I deserve more?

For all to see there was a star, Shining in the east, beyond them far,
And to the earth it gave great light, And so it continued both day and night.

You're a smart person.  At the top of the societies pyramid.  At least close.  You've got lots of education & enough means to support yourself in pursuits of the mind.  You & your intelligentsia pals notice a new star. One of you connects that star with a new king.  It's a great star.  It must be a great king.  Let's roadtrip.

"We saw his star in the east & we have come to worship him," says one wise man in Matthew 2:2.  We get pretty busy in our hustle-bustle days.  So I gotta ask, do I see God’s signs?  When God shows up, am I paying attention?  When God lights the answer to my prayer up in neon do I notice?  When He points one of those big arrow signs toward his will for me do I see it?

And by the light of that same star The wise men came from country far;
To seek for a king was their intent, And to follow the star wherever it went.

And when I do see God pointing the way - when I am clear He has a plan for me to follow -  do I obey? Do I follow God’s lead?  Do I get up & get moving?  Do I change direction because God has changed my mind? What am I gonna do about it?

Then let us all with one accord Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of naught, And with his blood mankind hath bought.

If you were a shepherd outcast outside Bethlehem, then were one of the first to know the great news, of great joy for all people.  "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord," Luke 2:11 tells.  Wow!  Lowly me?  The King.  The Savior.  Came for me?!

How good is that news?  How many people would you be telling?  Facebook status.  Twitter tweets.  Texting homies.  Skypin far off friends.  Emailing your entire address list.  Or just plain talking & telling the news.  It hurts me to think, with how much - or how little - enthusiasm do I share God’s story?  A story of salvation for all people.  It's my news to tell!

Fear God's grace.

See God's signs.

Follow God's lead.

Share God's story.

It's CHRISTmastime.

Rejoice!

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.

How Firm

If you know me, you know that I talk about faith.  Preach about faith.  Want to live faith.

Yet.  I am human too.  Full of sin & self-interest.  I need faith.  I need to live out faith.

And. My faith must be challenged.  Like a muscle.  It must be exercised progressively in order to grow.  It must be used regularly to prevent atrophy.

I've had a faith challenge of late.  And God, in His exceeding grace, answered today.  He will provide.  He will carry.  Why would I doubt?  He always does.  As J. Hudson Taylor said, "God's work done in God's way will never lack for God's provision."

Reveling in the exceeding goodness of God, the wonderful, old hymn How Firm a Foundation fell upon my heart.

Published in 1787 within John Rippon's Selection of Hymns, the first verse lays God's Word as the foundation.  Faith strengthening Scriptures fill the verses that follow.  Verse two is Isaiah 41:10.  Three is Isaiah 43:2.  2 Corinthians 12:9 is within verse four.  The fifth verse leans on Hebrews 13:5.

Be encouraged.  Be strengthened.  Be challenged.  As you read or sing.

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He has said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Do you have a faith story you'd like to share?

Maybe a favorite Scripture or quote about faith?

Post a comment to encourage others.

Light a Fire

Poems. Lyrics. Books. They have origin stories.

I just learned the origin of my favorite hymn...

On the evening before Easter in 433AD on the Hill of Slane in County Meath, Ireland a former slave lit a fire. He lit a fire & sang a hymn. He defied a royal decree.

Lighting a fire any other day was, well, normal. Expected. Necessary. But this evening before Easter & the Spring Equinox was exceptional. High King Logaire of Tara had ordered that he alone was to light the first fire that night beginning the Druid spring festival. Lighting that fire before the King was equivalent to declaring war on the Druids & the rulers of Ireland.

The former slave was born Scottish. Captured by pirates at 14. Enslaved in Ireland. Escaped years later. Committed his life to Christ's service. Returned at 30 to lead the Irish people to the One who had captured his heart. Lit a fire & sang a hymn.

High King Logaire is said to have been so impressed with the former slave's arrogance that he let him continue his missionary work. By the end of his life, the former slave saw over 2000 churches started & more than 100,000 Irish people come to faith in Christ. The former slave changed Ireland forever.

The hymn he'd composed & sung, translated into English verse in 1905 by Eleanor H. Hull: Be Thou My Vision.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art:
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord:
Thou my great Father, I , Thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance now and always:
Thou and thou only first in my heart,
High King of heaven my treasure Thou are.

High King of heaven my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart whatever befall,
Still be my vision O Ruler of all.

Saint Patrick, the former slave of an Irish person became a slave to Christ for the Irish people. With a great vision set & a small fire lit, Saint Patrick changed history.

Though I am free & belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible... I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19, 22b-23.

How am I enslaved?

What is my vision?

What fire should I light?

(Hear Glad sing Be Thou My Vision here. Disc 2, Track 3.)

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