Joy!

My Word of the Year is JOY!  I’ve been looking at this word several times in the past and now it is here.  Not that life is suddenly filled with great joy, as though everything has finally come together for me.  It hasn’t, and I don’t think it ever does in this life.  Sometimes I get discouraged, though, thinking that joy is unattainable and hopeless.  But that’s only when I’m confusing “joy” with “happiness.”  I heard long ago that “happiness depends on happenings,” and that’s why it comes and goes.  Frederick Buechner said:

Happiness comes when things are going our way, which makes it only a forerunner to the unhappiness that inevitably follows when things stop going our way…Joy, on the other hand, does not come because something is happening or not happening, but every once in a while rises up out of simply being alive, or being a part of the…fathomless richness of the world that God has made.  —Secrets in the Dark, pg. 241

For example, your team wins the championship one year and you’re ecstatic, but the next year you’re vowing never to watch them play again.  Some people base their happiness/depression on political parties or on the stock market.  Joy, on the other hand, is based on God’s presence and promises and doesn’t have to come and go; it’s always available, even beneath the momentary (or even long-lasting) sadness or disappointment.

I read something interesting last week:

The very word parable comes from two Greek words.  Para- is a prefix that refers to something alongside something else.  For instance, paralegals work alongside lawyers as helpers.  And ballo means “to throw or to hurt.”  So parable means something that is thrown alongside of something else.  In order to illustrate a truth He is teaching, Jesus throws a parable alongside of it.  — R. C. Sproul, What Do Jesus’ Parables Mean?, pg. 7

Last year’s Word, “Cast“, is being beautifully explained here (ballo:  to throw, hurl or cast).  Perhaps we should think of Joy has something the Lord casts alongside us in every situation–a reminder that He’s still on the throne, that no matter the pain or sadness, eternal truths and promises prevail.  You face death but He casts alongside you a reminder of eternal life.  You feel lonelier than ever before and He casts alongside the surety of His constant presence.  Your team loses and He casts alongside the evidence of what is really lasting, and matters more.  Joy!  This year I’m watching for the JOY that God casts alongside my path in all situations.  By the way, when He casts that Joy, it spills out ahead of us, revealing a sure and solid hope for the future.

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  –Hebrews 12:2

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Word Review

This year will be the tenth year I’ve chosen a “Word of the Year.”  This has meant so much to me; it’s been hugely impactful in my life every year.  I thought before announcing my new word I would give a review of all the previous ones.  It’s almost like God gave them to me in a sequential order, with each one building upon the previous one.  Often, I would see several of my words in a single passage (as you’ll see below).

2009 — Hold

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  –Hebrews 10:23

He is before all things; in Him all things hold together.  –Col. 1:17

2010 — Way

For the ways of the Lord are right.  –Hosea 14:9

You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of Your presence.  –Acts 2:28

2011 — Trust

Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  –John 14:1

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  –Hebrews 10:23-24

2012 – Refuge

In Thee O LORD, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame; in thy righteousness deliver me!  Incline thy ear to me, rescue me speedily!  Be thou a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!  –Psalm 31:1-2

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.  –Psalm 118:8-9

2013 – Journey

When our days there were ended, we departed and went on a journey.  –Acts Acts 21:4

The angel of the Lord came a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.  –1 Kings 19:7

2014 – Presence

But now, by giving Himself completely at the cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in His presence.  –Colossians 1:22

Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your hand will lay hold of me. –Psalm 119:7-9

2015 – Pain

I know all about their pain.  And now I have come down to help them.  –Exodus 3:7-8

He took our suffering on Him and felt our pain for us.  –Isaiah 53:4

2016 – Worship

I was caught up at once in deep worship.  –Revelation 4:2

The best preparation for worship is not rehearsal, but surrender.  –A. W. Tozer

2017 – Cast

Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.  –1 Peter 5:7

The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him, who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.  –Rev. 4:10-11

Truly these words have been a huge help to me in my life.  God speaks personally through words, images, messages, situations, difficulties.  It’s been really powerful to see each of these words work in my life.  The lessons from them have been progressive. I had to hold onto Him more deeply before I could understand His ways; then I was in a position to start trusting Him more once I understood Him better.  I found myself in a safe refuge of protection but the next thing you know, I was on a journey of more discovery.  I sought to be more aware of His presence, especially in times of emotional and physical pain.  The result was that I began to worship Him in all situations as I learned to cast all anxieties and concerns upon Him.  The next post will reveal my new word for 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God is Real–Part Five

How do I know God is real?  It simple: I’ve experienced Him in amazing ways.  Today’s example is pretty zany and funny.  I was in the Dominican Republic with my friend, Mindy, to introduce her to her sponsored child (I had already met him on a previous trip, and Mindy had become his sponsor).  We were headed to the Haitian border the next day but on this particular day we were returning from a trip by van into the country.  During a rest stop I went to get back on the bus, not knowing that they were hosing it down on the opposite side.  With a great whoosh! all the mud, grease and grime came flying up from under the van and splattered all over my khaki pants.  They were blackened from the grease and mud.

In the morning, after my shower, I said to Mindy, “I’m going to wear the same pants that got splattered yesterday, because I’ll just get them dirty again today,” and put them on.  She said, “Those aren’t the same pants; they’re perfectly clean.”  I looked down and she was right.  She didn’t believe they were the same pants, and we argued while I let her look through my luggage because I didn’t have any other khakis.  But they were now spotless.  She exclaimed, “Jesus did the laundry while we were sleeping!”  Now, I know that seems ridiculous, but think about it:  as we discussed, we were heading to child development centers to visit precious Compassion kids near the Haitian border.  Perhaps it was important that we appear clean and spotless, representing our Lord, and also give honor to the children, by giving them our best.  That was the only reason we could think of for the little “miracle” that day.  Our God is real!  But the next story is going to be amazing–watch for it on Friday!

For previous posts in my “God is Real” series, click below:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Four (pain)

God is Real–Part Four

How do I know God is real? I’ve experienced Him in extraordinary ways; it’s as simple as that. To read what I’ve written in previous posts of this series, click here:

God is Real–Part One (a baby that nearly didn’t make it to birth)

God is Real–Part Two (a specific healing, and one that was not a healing)

God is Real–Part Three (a hurtful e-mail)

God is Real–Part Five (a zany miracle)

Here is another example of my experience with God, proving Himself real to me.  Years ago I had a skiing accident and tore my ACL.  It was repaired and I recovered well, with the help of physical therapy.  Then, several years later (perhaps 20 years ago now) I went to a couple’s home for a farewell party and their dog came running out to greet us.  Since it was heading towards my bad knee I twisted to avoid it.  Just like that, my knee gave out, for the first (and only) time since surgery.  I couldn’t walk on it and was soon in surgery for an arthroscopic procedure to see what was injured.  The ACL was broken loose and balled up in the center, so the doctor removed it through the tiny incision.  I was supposed to undergo physical therapy for a few weeks, recover from the surgery, and then have the ACL repaired.  For a while I was getting better, and no longer needed to use crutches.  But after about six weeks I realized I was getting worse again and eventually had to use crutches again, due to the pain.  Surgery was not possible until we could discover what was going on with the knee.  After bone scans, a spinal tap and more physical therapy, it was decided that my knee had developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  As I understand it, it’s a nerve related disease with no apparent reason for the pain (it is now known as “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome).  It has to do with messages being relayed by the nerves back and forth from the brain.  We decided against knee surgery to repair the ACL and, in fact, my knee was very stable, surgery didn’t seem necessary, and it was not recommended with this new problem of pain.

Now fast forward a few years.  They had said that “RSD” could develop anywhere in my body, and when I needed surgery in both shoulders for bone spurs, they were reluctant to do the procedure, and put it off as long as possible, for fear that RSD would develop.  But the pain was getting worse and we eventually decided to do one shoulder; the result was great.  We waited six months; I healed up from the surgery and had no RSD causing further problems, so we decided to do the other shoulder.  However, as soon as I began to recover from the second surgery, I became aware of the fact that “RSD” was now in several areas–both knees, my neck, and both shoulders.  I couldn’t reach for items in the kitchen cabinets without deep pain; it hurt to open a door or even carry a purse.  I could hardly function in normal ways.  One night, I prayed to God, “I can’t handle this.  You’re the only One that can heal me, and I ask you to heal me.  I can’t function.”

Lo and behold, when I awoke in the morning the pain was gone, 100%, even in my knee.  I knew I didn’t need to take the Tylenol that I has been taking each morning.  There was NO pain.  I didn’t take anything for over a month.  And then the pain returned, but only in the knee.  Why?  I believe He allowed the pain to return in one area in order to remind me that everyone has some kind of pain.  Think about it:  you do somewhere–relational, financial, spiritual, or in some other area.  Somebody you love has died, or will die soon.  Some relationship is not quite what you’d hoped it would be.  Parenting is hard.  Jobs are difficult.  You’re frustrated with politics or the church or your community.  Everyone has pain.

I’ll never forget the fact that God healed me overnight, and that it lasted a full month.  I’ll never forget that others around me are hurting, too.  I’ll never go running to another doctor to see if he or she can heal my knee; I already know that God is the One who can heal it, and He will if He chooses.  Previous to this I had gone to many different doctors and was receiving suggestions coming from lots of people about how to find healing.  I no longer need to run around to every doctor and clinic.  I’m OK with the pain; I can live with it and be thankful every day that it isn’t my back, or a more serious condition.  I use a great knee brace when standing for any length of time.

Do I ever go to doctors any more?  Of course, but I’m no longer looking for answers to this knee problem.  Why doesn’t God heal every disease and pain for good?  I don’t know.  He will when we arrive in Heaven, assuming we have trusted Him with our lives and salvation.  But I do know, for certain, that He’s real.  I’ve experienced His instantaneous healing more than once.  A month without pain was heavenly, literally; how much better will the real place be!

Innocent

Here is the last set of quotes this week.  As promised, the first quote is a continuation of the previous quote I mentioned.  We don’t behave perfectly all the time, but nevertheless we can be certain we are innocent before our Heavenly Judge:

Justification declares the sinner righteous, but it is external to the man.  That is, the justified man may be no better off for his justification if that is all that happened to him.  Justification is a judicial thing.  Just as a man may stand before the court and be declared innocent of a crime — not guilty, and yet it does not change the man inside.  He weighs exactly the same as he weighed before; stands at the same height, with the same color of hair and eyes as before. He has the same relationships and in every way is the same man he was before.  The only difference, he is judicially free, declared not guilty before the law.  — A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 184

Of course he doesn’t leave us that way if we truly seek Him in repentance and offer Him our hearts:

In the history lesson of Psalm 78, we find the Israelites following the Lord “only with their words.”  They knew what to say, but they didn’t know how to live.  They would come to God’s Temple with sacrifices but they would not offer him their hearts.  “I want you to be merciful,” God said,  “I don’t want your sacrifices.”  The people were going through the motions, but not letting God’s emotions go through them.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/21

Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.  The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.”  — A. W. Tozer

The atonement (the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died a perfect judgment for us on the cross, and truly did rise again from the dead as proof) makes all the difference in the world and can even change the inside of a man, though we will never be perfect until Christ returns.  How do I know Jesus did rise from the dead?  See my previous “God is Real” posts — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!

Atonement is the basis upon which God acts toward humanity.  Atonement makes justification possible, and justification leads to regeneration.  This is the work of God outside of a man that has the potential to change the inside of a man.  Regeneration takes place at the same time justification takes place…A regenerated man is a man [or woman] who partakes of the divine nature, a man who has a new relation to God, which gives him eternal life.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 185

But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though simply testified by by both Law and prophets)–it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ.  (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan).  Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.  God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith.  God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. What happens now to human pride of achievement?  There is no more room for it.  Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it?  Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane–believing instead of achieving.  We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.  — Romans 3:21-28 (PHI)

From there, we can encourage one another in our relationship with Jesus, our Savior.  The apostle Paul spent much time in prison writing to believers in various places, encouraging them in their faith.  Here is just one example of many, beautifully expressed in the J.B. Phillips translation:

I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you…How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  How I love for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you are more and more full of God’s great secret, Christ himself.  For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him–in simple faith.  Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.  –Colossians 2:1-7 (PHI)

And now, if you haven’t already, go back and read my “God is Real” posts, to see why I’m so certain that all of this is true — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

Heart

Here is the “heart” of Andrew Murray’s thoughts that spoke so clearly to me last week in his book, Waiting On God.  This is really special; don’t miss what He has to say here:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all ye that wait for the Lord. –Psalm 31:24 (RV)

“Let your heart take courage.”  All our waiting depends on the state of the heart.  As a man’s heart is, so is he before God.  We can advance no further or deeper into the holy place of God’s presence to wait on Him there, than our heart is prepared for it by the Holy Spirit.  –pg. 35

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  (Prov. 3:5)  In all faith, we have to use these two powers.  The mind has to gather knowledge from God’s Word and prepare the food by which the heart with the inner life is to be nourished.  But here is the terrible danger of our leaning to our own understanding and trusting in our own comprehension of divine things.  People imagine that if they are occupied with the truth, the spiritual life will, as a matter of course, be strengthened.  And this is by no means the case.  The understanding deals with concepts and images of divine things, but it cannot reach the real life of the soul.  Hence the command:  “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding.”  Man believes with the heart and comes into touch with God.  God has given His Spirit in the heart to be the presence and the power of God working in us.  In all our faith, the heart must trust and love and worship and obey.  My mind is utterly unable to create or maintain the spiritual life within me.  The heart must wait on God for Him to work it in me.  –pg. 36-37

Murray likens this to physical nourishment:

My reason may tell me what to eat and drink, and how the food nourishes me.  But in the eating and feeding, my reasons can do nothing–the body has its organs for that special purpose.  Just so, reason may tell me what God’s Word says, but it can do nothing to the feeding of the soul on the bread of life–this the heart alone can do by its faith and trust in God. –pg. 37

Then he compares this spiritual process to physical sleep:

A man may be studying the nature and effects of food or sleep.  When he wants to eat or sleep, he sets aside his thoughts and study, and uses the power of eating or sleeping.  And so, the Christian always needs, when he has studied or heard God’s Word, to cease from his thoughts, to put no trust in them [his own thoughts], to awaken his heart to open itself before God, and seek the living fellowship with Him.  –pg. 37

Let the heart wait at times in perfect silence and quiet; in its hidden depths.  God will work.  Be sure of this, and just wait on Him.  Give your whole heart, with its secret workings, into God’s hands continually.  He wants the heart.  He takes it and, as God, dwells in it.  –pg. 38

I love these thoughts:  Let Your Heart take courage!  Sometimes we’re unwilling to rest or trust.  Sometimes we’d rather worry and fret about something.  Or we’d like to try something in our own strength. And yet, here in His Word, He encourages us:  “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all ye that wait for the LORD.”

Strength and Courage

Here are more quotes from Andrew Murray’s book, Waiting On God.

Wait on the LORD:  be strong, and let thine heart take courage; yea, wait thou on the LORD.  –Psalm 27:14 (RV)

One of the chief needs in our waiting upon God, one of the deepest secrets of its blessedness and blessing, is a quiet, confident persuasion that it is not in vain.  –pg. 31

“Be strong, and of good courage.”  These words are frequently found in connection with some great and difficult enterprise, in prospect of the combat with the power of strong enemies, and the utter insufficiency of all human strength.  Is waiting on God a work so difficult that such words are needed:  “Be strong, and let your heart take courage?”  Yes, indeed.  The deliverance for which we often have to wait is from enemies, in whose presence we are so weak.  The blessings for which we plead are spiritual and unseen–things impossible with men–heavenly, supernatural, divine realities.  Our heart may well faint and fail.  –pg. 32

You are going to wait on God, to know first what He is, and then after that, what He will do…Come, and however feeble you feel, just wait in His presence.  As a feeble, sickly invalid is brought out into the sunshine to let its warmth go through him, come with all that is dark and cold in you into the sunshine of God’s holy omnipotent love.  Sit and wait there, with the one thought:  Here I am, in the sunshine of His love.  As the sun does its work in the weak, one who seeks its rays, God will do His work in you.  Oh, do trust Him fully!  –pg. 33-34

It takes strength and  courage to wait for an answer from God, and He gives it to you (both strength and courage) as you determine to wait.  I can’t tell how often I have needed an answer to a problem or situation, and have gone somewhere to sit before Him and await His answer.  When I open His Word, or even the newspaper or some book in the morning, there is my answer — specific, personal, final.  It’s truly amazing how clearly He speaks to those who will sit quietly before Him and wait.

And yes–sometimes the wait is longer, but it will come, always, if you wait.