12/22 Joy in Jesus

Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit. Like all others, that means its source is God not me. Mary experienced this truth in her life as she responded to the Angel’s message in Luke 1:46-48. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

The root her Mary’s Joy is God. She doesn’t find joy in herself. It’s not about looking deeper inside, or trying to find the silver lining in any situation. It’s about finding out where God is at work in her life, and rejoicing in Him.

I find it interesting that JOY is her response. She just found out that she’s going to be a single mother, unwed, ostracized, and even potentially punished for this. She’s going to have a baby and all that entails. She’s likely to respond in fear, or doubt, or anger, or anxiety, or concern, or any number of reactions. Mary sees God at work and rejoices. What an example of faith for us!

Are there things in life that you are facing that make you anxious, fearful, and doubting? What would change in your heart if you looked for God’s activity? Where might you be able to see Him at work in your life? Where might you be able to be moved to Joy because of God’s work?

If joy was based on your own attitude and ability it would be hard to create, but it’s not. It’s rooted in Jesus’ work for you. His love. His life. His death and resurrection. His birth for you. All of these move us to rejoice!

O Lord, you are at work in our lives today. Help me find Joy in you! Amen.

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12/21 Joy in Jesus!

Today homes are filled with excitement, beautifully wrapped presents, and freshly baked cookies. There is a sense of wonder in the air. There is a feeling of happiness. But, is there JOY?

The way to tell is to wait a week or two. Does the unwrapped present that just sort of matches what you were hoping for still give you that excitement? Do the stale cookie crumbs left in the bottom of the Tupperware give you the same satisfaction and want for more? Does being around the in-laws still carry the happiness it did when they first got out of the car? Does the scratched dvd, or the broken toy, or the stained sweater leave you frustrated?

Many of the things we invest in for Christmas are, unfortunately, things that bring very temporary pleasure, but not lasting JOY. If your Joy comes from anything besides Jesus it won’t last and you will be disappointed. Basements and closets are filled with broken artifacts of Christmas’s past, but Jesus can fill you with JOY forever!

This Christmas, keep JOY in perspective. JOY rooted in Jesus. Find it in Him!

Dear Jesus, I misplace the source of my Joy every year. Please help me find Joy wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in the manger. Amen.

 

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12/20 Joy is about being!

Joy isn’t about feeling, but about being. From the prison cell Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!” You might not feel great about where you are, or what you’re doing but you can still experience Joy.

Paul wrote from a prison cell to encourage us to be joyful. The author of the Book of Hebrews says that Jesus went to the cross in Joy. He went to his death with all that pain and suffering, but had a spirit of Joy. “Who for the JOY set before Him, endured the cross…”

Both of these tell me that Joy isn’t about feeling, but about being. Joy isn’t a passing emotion that comes and goes based on what might be happening around me. Joy is a part of who I am as a child of God. I am Joyful. It’s part of my character. It’s part of my identity. It’s who I am.

If it’s who I am then it cannot be taken away from me. Whether I am in prison or being persecuted or even killed for my faith I can rejoice because of God’s great love for me. Keep looking to Jesus to find that Joy, and remember that it cannot be taken away!

Dear Jesus, you went to the cross in JOY. Help me to live in JOY today no matter what I face. Amen.

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12/19 Finding Peace

The challenge with peace is that it replicas can be found in so many places. You can be going though a very chaotic time in your life and be looking for Peace, but only find peace. (Notice the capital and lower-case letters!) Real Peace comes from Jesus. Paul says it is a Peace that passes all understanding. It’s a Peace that doesn’t make sense. Life is so nuts all around, yet you are calm, focused, whole, at Peace.

The challenge for us is not allowing ourselves to fall for the lower case peace that only provide comfort and rest for a little while. You and I need Peace that lasts. You and I need Peace that can face a war and stand strong. We don’t need any counterfeit peaces.

You can find counterfeits all around. Some people find peace in getting away for a short vacation. Some find peace in a relaxing bath and a nice glass of wine. Some find peace in a long winter’s nap curled up on the couch by the fire. Some people find peace when the family goes out for a snowball fight and they stay inside all alone. Some people find peace in a good book, or a therapy session with their counselor, or a good cup of coffee at their favorite shop, or in online shopping, or a spa treatment and massage. There is peace to be found in many places, and it’s not all bad stuff either. These are not real Peace though. They only last a moment. Peace lasts for eternity.

The problem is when we substitute these little pieces of peace with the Peace of Jesus. Don’t miss PEACE because you’re busy with peace. Don’t miss Jesus because you’re asleep on the couch with a good book on your chest and a half drank mug of hot chocolate on the coffee table. Don’t fall for the counterfeit peaces that give temporary relief from your stressful life. Fall for Jesus! He brings Peace.

Dear Jesus, I need your Peace. Fill me today. Amen.

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12/18 Needed: People of Peace

Sony cancels movie due to terror threat. Heroin deaths are at epidemic rate in Massachusetts (in wealthy/Caucasian/suburbs). 65% of homes with children in US are on government aid programs. 148 killed in school attack by Taliban in Pakistan. Local teen commits suicide.

These are just a few of the headlines that we’re getting accustomed to. What do they all have in common? They point to a lack of PEACE. The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace, and our world needs it in abundance!

Peace isn’t something that can be forced upon someone. It can’t just be dumped into the world. It comes a little at a time. It comes person by person as it is shared. It comes by one person acting toward another in ways that promote calm, trust, love, and compassion instead of fear, anger, hate, and violence. Peace comes through people. One person at a time. People bring peace by living out the Spirit’s work inside them publicly. Peace is a gift that you can bring to others, by taking what’s inside you and LIVING it.

Maybe you’ve heard this phrase before? No Jesus No Peace. KNOW Jesus KNOW Peace. I’d like to add to it: KNOW Jesus LIVE Peace. To know Jesus is to be a person of peace. The world needs you to live OUT the peace that you have inside you. It may be your neighbor, or a coworker, or a relative, or friend that needs peace (in fact they ALL do). If you know Jesus and have that peace, then live it OUT so that others can find peace too. We all need it!

Dear Jesus, you alone put peace in our hearts. Help us to live as people of peace. Amen.

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12/17 Sleep in heavenly peace…

Some of the greatest Christmas Carols have much to teach us about the Fruit of the Spirit, Peace. Silent Night ends with a prayer to baby Jesus, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” And, Away in a Manger, pictures the baby Jesus asleep and not crying in the hay.

A sleeping baby is the perfect picture of Peace. No matter what is going on around them, babies can sleep. My parents love to tell the infamous story of how I slept through fireworks as a small kid. I even fell asleep in a bowl of ice cream once when I was very young. No matter what was going on around me, I was able to be sound asleep. That’s peace.

Peace is being in a place internally that allows one to block out everything going on externally. A person can be at peace in the middle of a battlefield. It’s what’s going on inside that determines peace. Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of something much more powerful: Jesus. When Jesus is in your heart you can be at peace even when life all around is chaos and noise. When Jesus is in your heart you can sleep soundly in the face of fireworks. When Jesus is in your heart you can know peace that passes all understanding. It’s one of God’s greatest Christmas gifts. Not only does Jesus sleep in heavenly peace, but you can too!

Dear Jesus, you slept soundly in the manger amidst animals and their noises. No matter what is going on around us fill us with your peace. Amen.

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12/16 Timing is everything!

“When the fullness of time came God sent his son, born of a woman…” Galatians 4:4

This incredible verse reminds us that God’s timing is ALWAYS right. He waited for the exact right time to send Jesus. It wasn’t a moment too early, or too late. It was exactly the right time. This is hard to imagine because it wasn’t according to OUR timing. We would have sent Jesus much earlier, wouldn’t we?

Patience is not just about waiting, but about waiting on God. Patience is about humbly admitting that God’s time is always right. Patience is about letting go of the ability and desire to move things along at MY speed, and wait for God to move at HIS speed. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

Christmas came at exactly the right time. It was the day of the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome that enabled the news of Jesus’ birth to spread quickly across the known world. A common language and monetary system matched up with a time of peace and an efficient system of roadways so that news could spread easily across the world. It was the PERFECT time for Jesus to come.   Jesus went viral before going viral was even a thing because God had it all planned out perfectly.

God has your life planned out perfectly too. Acts chapter 17 talks of the way that God has chosen the exact time and place that you are living so that you could grow to know His love. You are no accident and your presence here today is by design. You might be waiting for something significant to occur in your life today. Be assured that it will all happen according to HIS plan, and it will be perfectly times as usual!

Dear Lord, you control to hours and minutes of our lives. As we wait for your hand to act, give us patience and trust. Amen.

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