Monday, August 17, 2009

His Glory & Our Joy

I know I have been starting off posts lately with the phrase “I’ve been thinking about this or that a lot lately”, and for those of you who might tease me, I’m not trying to be a heavy intellectual. Let’s just say it’s a fair assumption that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently. I’ve not watched TV in an equal amount of time, and I wonder what kind of direct correlation could be made there. And I’ve read about 5 books in the last two weeks, all of which have my head spinning. But lately, I have been thinking a lot about joy - that is, how full of it my life is sometimes, and what’s wrong with me when it isn’t. The past few weekends have been positively joy-packed, joy-energized even. Looking at common denominators, I’ve narrowed down the reasons to being around people I love, a lot, and in the opportunities to operate within the gifts and talents I have (specifically just serving), both of which fulfill me and brighten my outlook on a basic level, and therein bring me joy.

Moreover, yesterday as I was standing at Hope, reveling in their floor shaking worship service, singing about the redemption of all living things, I was impacted with the phrase “for His glory and our joy”. BTW – in case you’re wondering, no I’m not going back to Hope, it’s just that an old friend was in town playing on the worship team yesterday, and I knew it was one Sunday I would not want to miss. This worship, this rousing, bone chilling, pour-out-your-heart-soul-and guts worship was bringing such great glory to God, both in the story and meaning behind the song, and in the fact that music that powerful cannot help but testify to God’s powerful creative ability and how we can share in it, being made in His image. The glory He was receiving out of the worship was one factor. The joy I was receiving out of the worship was another. And the fact that I received great joy in seeing God so glorified was the golden, shimmering tie that bound them both together.

So, for His glory and and our joy, then. In all my reading, reflection on worship and time spent with people I love, this phrase has been popping up like mad worms after a hard storm. I’m literally stepping in it. I can’t escape it. For His glory and our joy - It’s why I do what I do. Why I want to do more. Nothing is more important than bringing God glory, and in return, as I worship and serve our wonderful, loving, fun God, I get great joy. My mind is officially blown.
But in this whole big thought process something else has also been brewing. It started with something I saw on my niece’s facebook a few weeks ago. Her status was asking the question why she just couldn’t get happy, despite all the good stuff in her life, like guys and parties she was attending, and shopping trips. Then the “something else” resurfaced after an article I read about Identifying Your Joy Cravings, and how people need to stop making “to-do” lists, and start making “to-enjoy” lists. Then that sparked a memory of a blog post I read last week about Having A List of 101 Goals To Accomplish (Thanks H!). And pretty soon the wheel started turning again. Smoke, there you have it.

You see, though my niece had posted this status implying that she was trying to choose to be happy, I could tell from our conversations afterwards that it just wasn’t happening and nothing she was doing was going to change that. She posed the question to me of why happiness isn’t something she always has, and why it’s so fleeting. My gut reaction was to remind her that happiness was never commanded or promised to us, it’s not something God asks us to do or ever guarantees we’ll have. Joy is. And as Pastor Steve once said “you can’t ask unregenearted people to act like regenerated ones”. So as poor niecey was asking this question in my heart I knew that until she found Christ, and ultimately her joy in Him, she wouldn’t have a satisfactory answer. Or the happiness she seeks. I got absolutely no joy from trying to explain this to her, when what she wanted to hear was that her upcoming trip to Melrose shopping was going to do it.

So, all of this processing led me to remember the fundamental fact, that again our joy comes from Christ. His glory brings our joy. But then what about the fact that I get immense joy out of other things – like spending time with E just sitting on my bed watching her show me all her baby pictures. Or camping out with friends, giving them Gatorade or Donuts or Starbucks or Chocolate Milk or whatever they want. Or volunteering to cook for people or watch their kids. Or just being around people that are also full of this wonderful joy? The question is not “Where is Christ in any of this?” but really “Where isn’t He?” He’s there, in the fellowship, in serving, in just being who He divinely, intelligently created me to be, and in the times of just getting joy out of life. Mother Teresa once said “Joy is love – a joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, for she gives most who gives with joy.” So, giving is part of this equation, obviously…. But what else leads to, creates, determines or helps bring about our joy, with the blatantly obvious exclusion (not sacrilegiously, of God Himself):

Well, Judges 9:19 shows that we receive joy in other people, and they in us, as we treat them with honor and good faith

Psalm 16:11 states that the Lord has made known to us the path of life and that He fills us with joy in His presence, and with eternal pleasures at His right hand. Ok, so yes, this is one of those God Alone verses, but really, it’s so beautiful, and majestic, that I had to include it. To exclude it would be missing the point entirely. Psalm 43:4 is another great example of this.

And then there’s the totallly gratuitious I-Love-Babies verse!! Luke 1:44 tells of John the Baptist, as a baby in the womb, leaping with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting. So maybe it’s not gas when all those babies smile!

John 15:11 is where Jesus says “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” God’s love and our place in the very heart of it are the vehicle wherein Christ’s joy pumps through our spiritual veins. In the Father’s love, Christ found His joy, in turn gave us that magnificent joy, and now in that knowledge and standing, our joy is ultimately complete.

John 16:20 reveals that we will not always have happiness, nor are we promised it. But Christ has promised us joy after our sorrows, when he says “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” I wish this was a truth that would plant itself in my niece’s heart and foster and grow there.

Romans 14:17-19 addresses that other subject on my heart and mind lately – the Kingdom of God. It says “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” As we seek to serve one another, putting their needs above and before our own, and leave behind a spirit of judgementalism, we demonstrate what God’s kingdom truly is, and part of that is joy found through the Holy Spirit. Joy in serving? Joy in giving? Yes, indeedey!!

2Corinthians 1:24 is where Paul tells the Corinthians that he is working with them towards spiritual goals, for their joy, proving that doing life together as spiritual brothers and sisters really does bring us joy through fellowship!

And then there’s Galatians 5:22, which is probably the most readily apparent example of joy in the bible. “Btu the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …..” You get it.

There are so many references to joy in the Bible, that as I was writing this post, and looking them up I was completely overwhelmed and had to take a step back from it, for a few days, to just process. But after I came back to it, I realized that for each of us, finding God’s joy in our life is going to look so different. What brings me joy is not necessarily the vehicle God uses to bring you joy, or him or her, or any of us. As we are each created uniquely, and wonderfully to reflect our God and Creator, so then the things in life that fulfill us in His glory will look different. This concept alone, in it’s awesomeness and magnitude brings me joy, as I see how wonderfully and perfectly, and intelligently our incomprehensible God made all of mankind, and trust me, this was no small feat.

Nothing God does is a small feat, really. Whether it’s the purple silhouettes of mountains on a sunsetting horizon, or the rush of cold water against my skin as I leap from rocks into a river, or walking through a Farmer’s Market just enjoying fellowship with new and good friends, or how the children I know all scramble to get into my lap and want to whisper silly things in my ear. There is nothing so small that it does not reflect the beautiful design of a loving creator, and cannot direct itself to bring Him glory. To discount the little things is to miss an opportunity for joy altogether, and more importantly to miss a chance to praise the God who even made the concept of joy even possible. And really, what fun is that?

So, as I get back into old schedules and routines this week, my hope is that my eyes will be open and my heart ready to embrace all that is around me, all that can possibly bring God glory. To walk in obedience, trust and courage to the call He has placed on my life. To serve the wonderful people He has put around me, and to impart love and care into their lives, to show them how appreciated and valued they are. And really, to just keep processing, keep thinking and keep learning. Because as I do keep probing, in awe, amazement (and yes, sometimes befuddlement), I can step back and say “Wow God, that’s awesome”, at all I learn and all He does. And that my friends, bring God great glory, and me a fair amount of joy.

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