Joy Today

Where will I find my joy today? There are several choices I can make. There are different ways I can define “success”, and thus find joy in them.
I have a list of tasks before me. If I accomplish them all, I could find my joy in them. I could say that today was a good day, a meaningful day, a profitable day, because I achieved all the items on my to-do list.
I just spent some time reading God’s Word, reading a devotional, and reading a hymn story, too. My joy (my righteousness?) could come from that. My expectation for how the day will go could come from that. “Now see here, Lord, I’ve practiced my Christian disciplines for the morning, please make sure now that the day goes well, without conflict or strife. After all, I’ve held up my end of the bargain, now, please fulfill Your part.”
I have a music rehearsal tonight. If it goes well, particularly since it comes at the end of the day, I can use that as the definition of good day or bad day, and thus place my joy in its outcome.

What I want to learn, though, is that God Himself is my joy. Being with Him throughout the day is my life definition of “success”. I don’t have a more profound way of saying this. God, and all that He is for me in Jesus, is my portion. If I am not finding my ultimate joy in Him, if He is not my ultimate definition of a good day (and thus, all days are good, even if all days aren’t free from trials), then I am an idolator. I am worshiping something else, looking to it to fulfill not just my short-term needs for happiness, but perhaps even placing in it my eternal needs.
Which makes me realize that I can put God at a distance from me, because He is my eternal, heavenly joy. But what I see in front of me, what I can do today, what I can accomplish today (that will only be seen and recognized by me or a few in this moment) that is what I am placing my hope for present joy in.

Today, dear Lord, help me to place my hope for current and future joy in You. Help me to do the things that are before me, which are needful to do, but help me to do them for Your sake and in Your name. Help me think upon that which I have read in Your precious Word as a means to know You and love You more, just for Who You are. (Jer. 9:23-24)

Be Exalted, O Lord!

Ps. 21:13 Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.

I lift You up, O Lord, for You are worthy of praise. I exalt You in my thinking and in my heart’s estimation of You, for You are great and greatly to be paised.
I depend upon Your tireless strength, for even when I am exhausted, You are fresh and new. You do not slumber or sleep – You are ever vigilant, ever watchful. You are mighty to lift me up when I am down. You are strong to hold me when I am prone to wander.
There is no power like Yours, O God. Who has created from nothing? Only You! Who sends the wind and the rain? Only You! Who has power to destroy, yet withholds destruction so that many may be saved? Only You! Your power in retraint is greater than the nations’ power in destruction.
Let my mouth be full of Your praise, O Most High! Help me sing aloud of Your strength and Your power.

Hope in God

for those struggling with joy this morning, hear the words of one who has felt your pain…
Psalms 42:11
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
When all our longings for God seem to be unfulfilled, remember that you shall *again* praise Him.

Psalm 86:8-10, 15

There is none like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours.
All the nations You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.
For You are great and do wondrous things; You alone are God.
….
You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

A different Gospel

I’m reading through Tim Keller’s new devotional commentary, called “Galatians for You.” In today’s reading, he speaks of the struggle we have in keeping the Gospel message clear. He gives three examples of how contemporary evangelical churches can get it wrong (and thereby be “cursed” according to Paul’s strong language in Gal. 1:8-9.) The first example he gives is the one I most surely struggle with. I quote at length here:

In some churches, it is implicitly or explicitly taught that you are saved through your “surrender” to Christ, plus right beliefs and behavior. This is a fairly typical mistake in evangelical churches. People are challenged to “give your life to Jesus” and/or to “ask Him into your life.” This sounds very biblical, but it can still reject the grace-first principle very easily. People think that we are saved by a strong belief and trust in and love for God, along with a life committed to Him. Therefore, they feel they must begin by generating a high degree of spiritual sorrow, hunger and love in order to get Christ’s presence. Then they must somehow maintain this if they are going to “stay saved.” So functionally — that is, in actual reality — a church is teaching that we are saved because of the level of our faith. But the gospel says that we are saved through our faith. The first approach really makes our performance the savior, and the second makes Christ’s performance the Savior. It is not the level but the object of our faith that saves us.
—————————————
Timothy Keller, Galatians for You (The Good Book Company, 2013), p. 19.

Wings of the Gospel

I love this John Bunyan quote (seen at www.challies.com today):

“Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,

Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings”

Oh, let us fly to Jesus on wings of grace today!

(forgive me if you’re getting this twice. I posted from my iPad this morning, and it didn’t get to my Facebook or Twitter feeds)