Archive for February, 2013

Fixed Joy

February 28, 2013

I want to revisit what was stated in Who for the Joy Set before Him Endured the Cross. So many of you tell me that God crafts a message for you out of what I write. Today, I really need the message in Hebrews 12:2 again.

To remind you, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That is really a mouthful, but it is all worth examining. Once more, I want to focus on our choice and what our choice produces or yields. The choice that the writer of Hebrews calls us to govern according is to fix our eyes on Jesus.

What does it mean to fix our eyes on Jesus? What does that have to do with joy? Obviously, the physical appearance of Jesus will not occur again until his second coming. The writer here is using the symbolism of our eyes to convey what our mental focus should center on as we live this life. Jesus is the model of our belief and behavior as Christian. When we fix our eyes on something, we maintain focus on that which we fix our eyes on. Our eyes don’t move up or down, left or right. They maintain the clear line of sight.

The line of sight on Jesus creates Fixed Joy. Jesus experienced joy because He focused on what would be produced from His suffering. He focused on what God has promised Him. He focused on being able to resume His place with the Father after completing the redemption mission. When we take our eyes off ourselves (selfishness/pride), we can see Christ. We then can seek to respond as He did. Christ was not about Himself. That is evident that He allowed Himself to be crucified for those who did not deserve to be redeemed.

As I shared, Fixed Joy stems from fixing our eyes on Jesus. A few days ago, I noticed that my brakes weren’t working well. I knew that I needed to get my brakes fixed, but I figured I had a little more time. As I drove yesterday, something felt different. I became alarmed because my car was not stopping like it had before. Eventually, I had to resort to dropping the car in the lowest gear to assist me in slowing down. I asked for God’s help. Immediately, He responded. I covered several miles on normally a very busy road by encountering on two cars for several miles. I can’t explain it, but it is true. As I neared home, there was a repair shop on the other side of the four lane road. I really couldn’t stop as I made that turn to go in the opposite direction, but God did. I made it safely to the shop. The master cylinder had gone bad. If you don’t know cars, it is the mechanism that creates pressure for your brakes to squeeze on your rotors which turn the wheels on your car. I am safe to the praise of His glory.

Whether with anger or with danger, Fixed Joy comes from fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Who for the Joy Set before Him Endured the Cross

February 27, 2013

As stated in Be Joyful Always, we have seen that joy arises from the Word, the Spirit and from service to Christ in building the kingdom of God. I must admit that I was truly tested before 5:00 this morning. As I sat to write at the computer, there it was; there were big red ink pen marks all over the screen. I had just picked the pen up off the floor as I sat down at the computer. Instantly, I got angry with one of my kids for writing on the screen. Later, as their mother, my wife, came down stairs to workout, I expressed my frustration to her. Her cavalier response only added fuel to the fire. Then, the moment of truth, the Spirit of God said to me, “Here is your choice to experience joy or to experience anger” Subtly, God was goading me toward that which I had been writing for nine weeks.

I just couldn’t get over the hurdle. I had to stop and pray and ask God to help me deal with my frustration and anger. After all, I told my kids to be careful with “my” computer. They had their own computer to write on, touch the screen making smudge marks, eat on to leave crumbs on, etc. I was still boiling. I said, “Lord, help me.” He said to read the Word. After looking through the remaining verses that contain the word joy, the verse slapped me in the face. It was Hebrews 12:2. It says,

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This verse is so deep, but I will just write about my opportunity to embrace and experience joy. I am called to fix my eyes on Jesus. Fix means not moveable. As consequence, God is telling me that my focus should be Jesus and not my measly thoughts, feelings or anything. If I proclaim to follow Jesus, I have no choice than to see Him as the object of my emulation. Would Jesus have been so upset? No! It says it right there in the verse – who for the joy set before him endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. It was the joy of being with the Father that provide joy for Jesus as saw the soon encroaching cross and while He was on the cross.

Again, I am not trying to provide a theological lesson other than that Jesus is our redeemer and model. On that cross, He knew that He would redeem me; therefore, He endured it with joy. In part, it was for the minutes of anger that He endured the cross. The fact that I am no longer angry after looking at Jesus attests to His redeeming power. Can you believe? I am redeemed from sin. I am free not to sin. I am free not to be bound in chains by the sin of my heart. Before Christ, I would have gone upstairs before 5:00 a.m. and woke them up with a belt as I responded out of anger. We know that is wrong. Sin begets sin. Spirit begets righteousness.

Who for the Joy Set before Him Endured the Cross is all I needed to redirect the error of my thinking this morning. Trust me, we all will face something today which angers us. We all will have the same choice to seek self (sin) or to seek God. If you are not strong in that moment, call upon the Lord. He promises to help, but you must make the right choice when He enables you to follow His will and His way. If I could do it, so can you. Consider Jesus died for us. We are really rotten to the core. We did not deserve Him to give His life for us, but He did – for the joy set before Him. Like with Jesus, the prize is always before us. We must move out of the difficult spot to accomplish the greater good. As we do, Jesus perfects our faith. This is the goal of God.

Joy in the Face of Suffering

February 26, 2013

In the post Be Joyful Always, the proposition that we can choose to be joyful or glad ALWAYS was presented and hopefully accepted. In today’s post, the writer of Hebrews 10 contextualizes the benefits of experiencing Joy in the Face of Suffering for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Below is an excerpt from Hebrews 10 that illustrates how believers demonstrated perspicacity of Joy in the Face of Suffering. 

Listen to what the writer conveys about his observance of their Joy in the Face of Suffering as he gives his call to persevere.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while,

“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
38     But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Living the Christian life is most challenging. As believers, we are called daily to deny ourselves, to take up His cross daily and to follow Him. Those expectations arise from Luke 9:23-27 when Jesus spoke to His disciples. If He told that to the “12”, then does He expect any less of us. It has been said that to take up one’s cross is to denounce selfish ambition as it is contrary to the life God calls us to live and counter to Christ’s example. It is selfish of us not to endure the hardships destined for us because of the gospel.

We know that we should Be Joyful Always, but how does one achieve that end? Let’s go back to Hebrews 10 to how the writer credits those believers. It is captured in verse 34 which says “34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” It is forward thinking. It is thinking that does not value the here and now over the later. It is an understanding that this life does not hold your greatest possessions and reward. It is a kingdom consciousness.

They were able to experience joy when their possessions were taken because of their belief in Christ. How? Because they knew that they “had better and lasting possessions.” What are those better and lasting possessions that they were thinking of at that time. Ligonier Ministries shared that they were the heavenly city and country of God (11:101612:22), that cannot be shaken by the cataclysm that will destroy the present created order (12:2728). In comparison to this eternal inheritance (9:15), property lost for Christ’s sake is of no value. In terms of comparing better and lasting possessions to earthly possessions, Matthew Henry states they saw it like this “It (the believers possessions) is a better substance than any thing they can have or lose here. It is an enduring substance, it will out-live time and run parallel with eternity; they can never spend it; their enemies can never take it from them, as they did their earthly goods. This will make a rich amends for all they can lose and suffer here. In heaven they shall have a better life, a better estate, better liberty, better society, better hearts, better work, every thing better. Christians should know this in themselves, they should get the assurance of it in themselves (the Spirit of God witnessing with their spirits), for the assured knowledge of this will help them to endure any fight of afflictions they may be encountered with in this world.”

Having in mind what God will give us later allows us to have Joy in the Face of SufferingWhen was the last time that you compared your earthly possessions to your heavenly possession? Have you ever considered that? Do you know what God offers the believer? If you don’t, it truly impairs your ability to have Joy in the Face of Suffering . 

Be Joyful Always

February 25, 2013

I have written about the today’s text on several other instances, but that does not mean I don’t need to reflect over it again. The post will be brief, however, it carries with it a momentary challenge for the believer who seeks to evidence the Fruit of the Spirit. During the excursions into joy, we have seen that joy arises from the Word, the Spirit and from service to Christ in building the kingdom of God. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul shares a number of exhortations with the Thessalonians, but I want to focus on what Paul says about joy.

First, we clearly understand what is meant by exhortations. The word exhort means to strongly encourage or urge (someone) to do something. Paul is urging the Thessalonians to do something in our text for today. Let’s see what it is.

15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 16 Be joyful always17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It is noteworthy to remember not to pay back wrong for wrong as well as to be kind to all. It is a blessing to give thanks in all circumstances. After all, it is God’s will.  Joy is not more important than any of those attributes, but joy is the focus of this post. Consequently, we will examine these three words that carry an awesome responsibility – one that is certainly a challenge with all that one faces in life.

We are told to Be joyful always. Remember there are two types of verbs in the English language – action verbs and state of being. The subject (you) in the verse is understood. The verb is “be” which is a state of being verb. It connotes ones existence or how to live. How are we told to live? Joyfully! When? Always! If it is a state of being, then the believer is assumed to have a choice in that state of being. God, through Paul, is telling us we can choose to be joyful or glad ALWAYS.

While I have not reached the always destination, I can tell you over this past nine weeks joy has been a focus for me. I have personally experienced moments when I did choose to experience joy rather than grief, doubt, fear, anxiety, worry, sorry, misery and the like. Don’t get me wrong, there are number of circumstances that occurred which were not pleasant; but that is the blessing about being joyful. Trust me, I am well acquainted with being controlled by my emotions. This is the reason God directed me to write about joy. In Christ, I have a choice to live above my circumstances and emotions, and so do you.

I am not sure what I will be confronted with in this day that will be unpleasant, but rest assured, I will strive to Be joyful always. Join me in that pursuit. Father, please help us have the strength through the Spirit to choose joy rather than some other negative emotion. Bless you Father for blessing us.

A Longing Fulfilled Brings Joy

February 24, 2013

I want to relate an experience yesterday with the text for today where the Apostle Paul shared another experience with joy. Yesterday, we had the first of several Saturday School sessions. There was mutual exchange that resulted in joy of the cause being served. One student, whom I have recently had to address about his behavior and effort, said to me “Mr. Franklin, I love Saturday School. I wish  I could just come to Saturday School and not regular school.” A number of teachers expressed how they were re-energized by the experience. Students were not resistant to instruction. The students were willingly engaged and responded freely with one another and teacher. One teacher said, “this is what school should be like; Oh, how I wish it could be like this every day.”

For the most part, a teacher is like a missionary. Most teachers are committed to a greater good for the masses. They give themselves sacrificially to those whom they serve with the hope that their efforts will make objects of their service better. They seek to share a good message and have those whom they share with to follow the message for their good. Teacher long to see students experience success in a variety of ways. Ultimately, like a missionary, his work is a work of faith where one does not always see the end product or fruit of his labor. Proverbs 13:12 captures this sentiment. It says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The Reformed Study Bible interpret this as frustration as common human experience; frustrated expectations cause a loss of morale and a sense of hopelessness. This does not imply that instant gratification is good, but rather that we should honestly strive for desirable goals in life.

In 1 Thessalonians 3:8-10, we see this principle expressed. Paul’s joy, like the teachers, is in that the Thessalonians, the students if you will, are living out what he taught them. The lesson was internalized and transferred to real life as the Thessalonians applied the content to their lives.

For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Years after Paul had shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Thessalonians, Timothy shares the news with him that the Thessalonians are still following Jesus. Timothy conveyed that they were steadfast in the faith; that they were not shaken in mind, nor had they turned aside form the profession of the gospel and pursuit of Jesus. The Thessalonians treasured not only the gospel, but him who shared it with them. We see that in their great desire to see Paul again and for Paul to share a spiritual gift with them. Paul, in verse 10, has that same longing.

Their adherence to the gospel is the source of Paul’s joy just as the student’s willingness to learn was the source of joy for the teachers yesterday. Listen to what Paul says: For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? It was their persistence in the faith that fueled Paul’s joy. We see in the Thessalonians that A Longing Fulfilled Brings Joy.

To whom are we giving ourselves to commit to the charge to make disciples? Those are the ones whom our greatest joy will arise. Pray for your Pastors as this is their primary work for the Father. Pray for missionaries as this is their primary service for the gospel. I hope you see yourself as a missionary as we have been called ministers of the gospel too. We all should desire to experience when A Longing Fulfilled Brings Joy. Pray for teachers, whom may not be sharing the gospel, because their work too is a work of faith.

 

Joy in Jesus’ Coming

February 23, 2013

Joy in Jesus’ Coming seems obvious. One would think he/she would be overjoyed about Jesus’ return for the rapture. The rapture is when Jesus returns to take those who trusted in Him as Savior and Lord to be with Him forever. Those words, to be with Him forever, should be encouraging enough, but there is more in our text, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20, today.

17 But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

The entire purpose of our ministry of reconciliation is to participate in God’s plan in not counting men’s sins against them. Beyond our character being conformed to the likeness of Christ, God will be evaluating and rewarding the believer for his/her involvement in people being reconciled to Him.

The soul of man is exceedingly important to God. He became incarnate to die to restore relationship between God and man. What is the question when we stand before God? I “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”

The Reformation Study Bible states “Christ’s coming is presented as the time when the outcome of our works of faith is disclosed. Paul’s joy and crown at that day will be his beloved spiritual children, those converted under his ministry (2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 2:16).” This is why we must take our ministry of reconciliation seriously. God wants to add more joy to our eternal lives by having souls in heaven associated with our work for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do you want to experience Joy in Jesus’ Coming? First, you must give your life to Jesus as Savior and Lord in order to be raptured. Next, you must be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Lastly, you must give yourself fully to the ministry of reconciliation as Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.

 

A Model of Joy from Faith for all Believers

February 22, 2013

As I am winding down my exploration of joy, it has been a wonderful journey. I can truly say that God has grown me in embracing and experiencing joy. I have a shared a few experiences from my life that has served as the impetus for me to experience joy all of which were immersed in some type of difficulty.

Difficulty, struggles, hardships are relative. There are so many others who are being truly persecuted for their faith in Christ that my claims pale in comparison. As a consequence, I will resort 1 Thessalonians 1 A Model of Joy from Faith for all Believers.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

The Thessalonian believers believed the message of the gospel and remained in pursuit of Christ despite severe suffering. In the midst of that suffering, the message of the gospel was welcomed with joy given by the Holy Spirit. This is the essence of experiencing godly joy. While we are enduring a difficult situation, God, through the Holy Spirit, gives us joy as we believe His Word.

Once more, joy is a by-product or function of faith in the triune God. The Thessalonians were commended for their joy. Paul stated that they “became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” They also became a model to all who read the Word of God because their example of embracing and experiencing joy was recorded in the Word of God.

God’s desire is for every follower of Christ to become A Model of Joy from Faith for all BelieversNotice the Thessalonians originally became a model for those in their immediate surroundings. All those who could hear about them during that time. We have that same opportunity but our reach is further. This blog is a testament to that assertion. For the past two days, two people have specifically told me that they were encouraged from the blog. Yesterday as I sat in a meeting, the Spirit of God told me to text a former co-worker. The message God gave me was rooted in faith in Him. That person responded by stating that message was encouraging as it addressed a specific hardship and disappointment being faced.

If we believe Christ’s message, we all can become A Model of Joy from Faith for all Believers. What will you believe and who will you become for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My Joy and Crown

February 21, 2013

In the posts Joy in and from Preaching Christ, Being Like-Minded Brings Joy, and The Joy of a Servant, I submitted that we can have joy from people when it is centered around their pursuits of Christ. Today is no different.

Again, Paul is writing to another group of believers whom He was given the privilege by God to used to bring them into the body of Christ. In Philippians 4, we see Paul addressing the Philippians after reminding them that our wait on is for God to transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. After he says that, chapter four begins with

“Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”

Paul is saying since we are waiting for that transformation, stand firm in the Lord. Truly, standing firm is the focus of that verse; however, we must explore why he calls the Philippians My Joy and Crown.

Whatever is an ornament, or dignity, to anyone, is figuratively designated a crown. Why are the Philippians considered a crown? God has credited Paul with establishing the body of believers in Philippi. Remember Matthew 3 where Matthew tells us that as true believers we must “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In John 15, Jesus says, “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” What is the fruit that will last? The reference to fruit refers to individual sanctification (Gal. 5:22, 23) and to effectiveness in evangelism (Matt. 13:3–8; Rom. 1:13). Paul’s goal, as should our, was he might have a harvest among those whom he served Christ in evangelism. This is what he reiterated in Philippians 1:22 when he said, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.”

The joy is seeing the Philippians follow and serve Jesus. Who is your joy and crown? We need to labor for Christ in order to be able to state you are My Joy and Crown.

 

The Joy of a Servant

February 20, 2013

For the third time, I submit that we can have joy from people when it is centered around their pursuits of Christ. Our joy will arise from some one whom God has used us to bring about His glory and plan. In the post Being Like-Minded Brings Joy, Paul expressed that his joy came from the Philippians who were pursuing Christ after he had shared the gospel with them. Today, we see that Paul’s joy and other’s joy spring from The Joy of a Servant.

Once more, today’s text is Philippians 2. We join Paul in hearing his thoughts about The Joy of a Servant.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

Who is the servant in The Joy of a Servant. Epaphroditus. We only see Epaphroditus mentioned three times in the Word of God – all in Philippians. This makes sense as the Philippians came to know Christ as Paul shared with them on one of his missionary journeys. Because of his investment in them, Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians to meet Paul’s need when he was in chains for Christ. He is celebrated because he almost died from an illness while serving Christ. Paul calls him his brother, fellow worker and soldier. Paul’s joy comes from being united with another who is a servant of Christ.

Paul states that the Philippians would be glad if Epaphroditus was sent back to them as they would see him and know that he is well after completing the mission to serve Paul. Epaphroditus’ joy would be realized in fulfilling his longing to see the Philippians. They are encouraged to welcome him in the Lord with great joy. Joy that God had spared his life. Joy from his willingness to serve God/Paul on their behalf and almost losing his life in the process. His service and his sacrifice are the result of God’s faithfulness. Ultimately, that is The Joy of a Servant. It was the source of joy for Paul, the Philippians and Epaphroditus.

Are you a part of a body of believers whom you have partnered in serving? If not, join a body of believers  – a church. Who are you giving yourself? God chose to highlight a servant who would have served in obscurity had not his name been revealed in scripture. From Jesus, Paul, the Philippians and Epaphroditus, all these experienced joy from serving God. To reiterate, that is The Joy of a Servant.

Being Like-Minded Brings Joy

February 19, 2013

Once more, I submit that we can have joy from people when it is centered around their pursuits of Christ. Our joy will arise from some one whom God has used us in their lives to bring about His inclusion of them in the family of God, those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Paul will serve as our model again today. Today’s text is Philippians 2

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (see verses 5-8)

The Reformation Study Bible tells us “The fourfold appeal of verse 1″ urges the reader, whether the Philippians or us, to be like-minded or to have unity of mind of Christ. It is the pursuit of Christ’s perspectives/motives that Paul cites as the source of his joy. Paul says the same love, being one in spirit and purpose is what completes his joy. Notice, his joy is centered on God, but the cherry on top is those whom he had shared the gospel following the gospel. This can extend to anyone following having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

As usual, let me provide an example from my life. Nothing is more demoralizing as being at odds with one whom you love. This could be a spouse, a child, a sibling or a friend. Have you ever had a disagreement with a loved one over a very simple matter? If not, I have. In fact, it was yesterday. Let me spare you the details, but let’s just say that we both were angry over a small matter. We really got angry because we were not unified in love; we certainly were not one in spirit nor was our purpose the same as Christ’s. We were interested in ourselves and there was no joy.

As Paul stated Being Like-Minded Brings JoyThe person who was at odds with me called me and left a message. The person told me that once Christ’s ways were considered the person realized the error of the actions. The person apologized. Immediately, all of the hurt, frustration and other negative emotions dissipated. I was glad. I felt joy. It is true that being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose brings joy. Do you remember a time when someone was not like-minded as Christ but then subdued their errant ways? If you do, I am sure that you can say that Being Like-Minded Brings Joy.

If so, let’s commit to do what Paul encouraged the Philippians. He said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”