I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart!

Have you ever read Isaiah chapter 35 in the Bible? I was recently reading through it and came across an incredible message in this chapter about rejuvenation, restoration, and reclamation. It speaks of the day when the Lord Jesus Christ will restore our land, perform mighty physical healings, and turn wasteland into lush farm land.  No more pain, problems, or even paper cuts.

When I think about His coming, I get the same feeling of anticipation as when I’m waiting on my favorite holiday.  I know there will be laughter and lots of good times to be had.  The only problem is, when the holiday finally comes I find that it never quite reaches my expectations.  But Jesus promises that with His holiday, we can’t even get close to imagining how perfect it will be. This means the feeling of disappointment will not only be far from us, but we’ll be in awe of how incredible it actually is. For the first time, I truly imagined what that day would look like and the best word I could use to describe my feelings of that day was . . . joy.

My joy came from the anticipation that God will wipe away every tear, forever!  And the thought that Jesus Christ gave this joy to me as a free gift got me very excited.  So excited that I even used a total of six exclamation points coupled with a few “Hallelujahs” and “Praise Hims” to try and capture my sentiments in my prayer journal! Think about it: we have done absolutely nothing to deserve any measure of happiness on our own. But through our gracious Lord Jesus Christ he created the way for us not only to be content for a little while, but to be jubilant for eternity. And He did this because He is a loving and merciful Father, who longs to spend time with us.  He chose us. Meditating on this truth is what gives me pure joy.

                  …They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.  Isaiah 35:10

Are you confident that you too will be able to experience this joy? There are only two options of where you’ll spend eternity. If you read chapter 24 of the same book of Isaiah you’ll find that the second option is not only worse, it’s downright scary. If you are unsure of your salvation from the second (horrifying) destination, please don’t delay a moment longer and assure your eternity through Christ Jesus our Lord.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has one on the way. She occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

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Joy in Jesus!

My sweet friends, today I want to talk with you about true joy . . . not “happiness”,  not “contentment,”  not some strange giddy “feeling” . . . but real, living, deep, and soul–penetrating JOY.

Today, many of us around the world are experiencing greater prosperity than has been witnessed in recent history.  Yet with all this, there seems to be little expression and little experience of true joy.  Why is it that we can’t find any real satisfaction?  How can it be that so many of us “still haven’t found what we’re looking for?”  I believe that the answer is shockingly simple and also quite difficult for most of us to accept.

You see, sweet friends, true joy is found only in and through a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.  YES, I said it!  If you want to know true joy, you must know and submit yourself to Christ as LORD:  LORD (Heb. YAHWEH/Gk. – ego eimi – the GREAT I AM) as in GOD Himself; Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master) and Master of your life and of your every moment!  YES friends, Jesus is Savior, Friend, Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counselor, Healer, Helper, and so much more.  But friends, the Incarnate Christ was first, and most importantly revealed to us by the angel Gabriel as JESUS, Savior (Matthew 1:21), Emanuel, GOD with us (Matthew 1:23), Eternal King (Luke 1:32-33), Son of God (Luke 1:32, 33, & 35), and Lord and Master (Luke 1:17).

In Luke 2:11, an angel of the Lord, possibly again the angel Gabriel, announced to the shepherds “there is born to you this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Gk. Kyrios – Master).  Many years later, after Christ had ascended to the Father, Peter preached the first Christian sermon in history and proclaimed to the people, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master) and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Finally, Paul the apostle, and the first Christian Missionary, explained the truth of the Gospel in this way: “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  All of this says that Christ is Lord!

My friends, if Christ is Lord and Master, if He is GOD, and GOD with us, if He is the GREAT I AM (John 8:58), how and why do we expect Him to be less to us, and in us, than He is?  We so long to receive His blessing, His peace, His gracious presence, and YES, His JOY; and yet we remain so empty and listless (disinterested, devoid of energy and spirit), because we refuse to get still and KNOW Him as our GOD (Psalm 46:10).  Because we do not wish to have Him meddle in our daily lives, we resist reading His Word daily and spending quality time with Him each day in prayer; and the pain and loneliness we feel grows stronger day by day.

What we fail to recognize is that the One Who created us, made us for fellowship with Him.  As Blaise Pascal (the famous French mathematician and philosopher) explained, “there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Today I have a dare for you!  I dare you to get still enough, for long enough, to hear His still small voice through daily time in His Word and in prayer.  And, I further dare you, to welcome His Word to you as it is, the sweet revelation of His perfect plan for your life, and to welcome Him, as Who He is, the God of the Universe, the Lord and Great Lover of your soul, and the true JOY GIVER!

In His presence there is fullness of JOY; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

May the Lord BLESS you and KEEP you!  May He make His face to shine upon you and give you His peace, and His JOY, until we meet again! (Numbers 6:24-25)  In JESUS’ precious, and HOLY NAME!  AMEN and AMEN!

About the Writer:
Tiffany is a cross-cultural missionary, Bible teacher, speaker, writer, and worship leader.  More than anything, she desires to be one ‘who like a tree planted by the rivers of water, brings forth its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and have whatever she does prosper’(Psalm 1:3). She is committed to abiding continually in Christ, the vine, so that she may bear much fruit in, and for Him (John 15:5).

Serving my way to Joy

Joy is not my natural state.  If I’m honest, I admit that worry comes much more naturally, especially since I became a mother.  I used to think joy was something that would come to me if only . . . if only someone would do what I want of them, if only I were promoted, or if only I had more of what I wanted.  But when I got to the other side of the “if only”, I may have been satisfied, but the feeling wasn’t one of joy.  I have always experienced joy as a gift.  It’s nothing I’ve been able to work for, but God has given me clues along the way as to how I might experience more of it.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 1:7 (NIV)

I’ve learned it’s not possible for me to experience true joy when I’m focused on me.  Joy is experienced only when I step outside myself and focus on the joy of others.

 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Finding joy takes discipline.  That might seem counterintuitive, and it certainly was for me.  But Jesus knew what joy was waiting for him, and that helped him endure the Cross.

We don’t have a cross to bear, but we do have plenty of opportunity to step outside ourselves and find joy.  The easiest way for me has been to serve others.  Any time I serve, even in the smallest way, I always benefit more than those I serve.  The joy I receive seeing others be blessed far outweighs the joy of receiving anything other than God’s grace.

I also find that keeping track of those moments and my blessings helps me when I’m not feeling the joy as much.  In those moments of joy, if I take a time to capture the feeling in writing, then I can go back to it on darker days  The way I’ve done this is to keep a gratitude page in my journal.

Counting my blessings and serving others are the two consistent ways I know will bring me joy.  What can you do today to experience joy in your heart?

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

 

Reality Check: It’s Not all about Me

As a new mother struggling to balance the demands that our world shouts so loudly, I often watch the composure of my grandmothers and think about the social changes that have taken place in just two generations. I watch them sit with a cup of coffee in hand and an easy rock in their chair. No TV in the background. No conversation necessary. They find comfort and satisfaction in the quietness.

With great admiration, I have periodically asked questions of my grandmothers about their early years of marriage and motherhood. My selfish desire is to glean nuggets of wisdom that I can apply in my own life, with hopes of achieving the sense of peace that I see in them.

So, in one of these conversations, I casually asked my 86 year old grandmother what comes to mind when she thinks of the word ‘Joy’. ‘Contentment,  satisfaction , and lasting’ was her response. Intrigued and hungry for a deeper answer, I went to the only source of truth on this matter, the Bible.

Passage after passage, I discovered the real truth at the core of this word: Joy is about GOD, not ME.

I had made joy something to be practiced and strived for, obtained, when all it really required was a closeness with the Holy Spirit that could be found through scripture. The faithful promises and unfailing truths of God’s word can shine new light on life’s circumstances.

I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111  

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12

Joy is a celebration of His sovereignty and His promises.  It is an eternal view that supersedes the world that surrounds you. Your demonstration (or lack of demonstration) of joy indicates what is important to you.  Are you distraught by temporary pains of this world, or are you looking expectantly towards the day of Christ’s return?

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

With this new understanding, I found great peace and a deep internal joy even on the hard days. The only maintenance that is required is simply to remain in closeness with the Lord and His word – to live and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.