Made for Joy

God’s plan for your life is that you have joy. Does that mean things will always be great and comfortable and secure and physically prosperous? Absolutely not. The Bible is full of teaching and examples that declare otherwise. God does want you to have joy and contentment, though. I believe this is clear because we are commanded to rejoice.

What if things are not going well, though? How can we still have joy? How can God expect us to have joy? “Rejoice in what?”, you might wonder.

Well, our reason for joy – the joy that lasts and endures through the ups and downs of life – is Jesus. The Bible never calls us to rejoice in our circumstances or rejoice in our families or rejoice in our careers or rejoice in our sports teams (praise the Lord!). Rather, we are called to rejoice in the Lord. He alone is sufficient to sustain us and fulfill us, no matter our circumstances. Yes, we are still called to give thanks in all things, but there are certainly things we cannot (and should not) give thanks for, i.e. sin and evil. Yet, even in the midst of evil, chaos, destruction, and devastation, we can have joy if we find our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps as well as any person who ever lived, John the Baptist understood this. He found purpose and meaning in the Lord Jesus, and the result was the kind of joy and satisfaction that can only come from Him. On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from John 1:19-34, considering John the Baptist’s story and two keys to lasting joy and satisfaction.

To where, what, or whom are you looking for joy? We all long for joy, and we certainly never want our joy to fade away. Yet, when we look outside of God’s plan for our lives, joy will never last. Satisfaction will never grow. Contentment will never continue. Fulfillment will never be realized.

God created us to find our joy in Him. Yet, our sin makes it impossible for us to live in a right relationship with God and thus impossible to find lasting joy. Praise God, though, that He sent His One and Only Son to make a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and obtain a joy that endures.

Do you have that joy? If not, what are you willing to do to realize it and experience it? The good news is that you do not have to figure this out on your own. You were made for joy, so you simply have to look to the One who made you. Trust in Him to change your heart and change your life. Find your joy in Him, and you will not be disappointed. Life will likely get more difficult when you do, and yet, you will never regret surrendering your all to the Lord. In Him alone will you find the meaning and purpose that will satisfy your soul and give you the joy for which you were made.

If you have yet to turn to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation, please check out The Story today. Nothing is more important than being made right with Him.

Rejoice because…?

I am not sure about you, but I take a lot for granted when it comes to worship and my relationship with God. When I worship God with my great church family, I get to do so in a really nice building, in a country with religious freedom, without the threat of credible persecution, in the midst of relative financial stability, and with hardly any opposition. Very little sacrifice is required, at least in comparison to what many Christian brothers and sisters around the world are asked to sacrifice in order to worship the Lord in faithful obedience.

Do I rejoice in this reality? More importantly, though, do I rejoice in the Lord?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Ezra 3 on “Reclaimed Joy” when life lets us down. For the people of Israel in Ezra’s time, worshiping God was not nearly as “comfortable” as it is for people in our setting, particularly here in America. Does that mean they did not rejoice, though? Does that mean they had no reason to celebrate? No, of course they rejoiced and celebrated because their situation was not their reason for joy. God was. Yes, they wept over their sin and the devastating effects, as should we, but they rejoiced in their God, as should we.

What if things change in this country? What if we lose our religious freedom? What if our beautiful facilities are destroyed? What if opposition to the gospel continues to rise and persecution drastically increases? Will we no longer be able to rejoice? Should we no longer rejoice? No, just like the people of God in Ezra’s time and just like the people of God throughout history, we never stop having the reason to rejoice – God. For He is good; His faithful love endures forever (see, for example, Ezra 3:11; Psalm 100:5; 136:1).

Nothing and no one else – no person, no country, no culture, no building, no job, no treasure – is perfect with faithful love that endures forever. God alone is, and He alone is the One who enables us to reclaim the joy He created us to have. Rejoice because of Him, and in Him you can always rejoice.

When Paul wrote the following words, he was in prison for his faith:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:4-8).

He did not say (nor does the rest of Scripture teach), “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Rejoice only when you are comfortable, safe, and secure.” Rather, rejoice in the Lord always.

God is our reason for joy. He is the point. Is your life marked by joy? Why or why not? If your answer is not yes because of Jesus, then you will end up devastated, if you are not already. Turn to the Lord and rejoice in Him today.

If you have yet to experience the reason for enduring hope and joy, would you consider checking out The Story and crying out to the Lord?

Politics Are Not the Source

What happened at our country’s Capitol Wednesday was sad, embarrassing, and tragic. Frankly, I was not overly surprised, and that further illustrates the discouraging state of our nation right now. What is especially frustrating to me is that the name of Jesus continues to be used wrongly and immorally for political purposes and for purposes of blatant evil.

Christ-followers are called to honor, respect, and pray for our government leaders, whether we agree with them or not (see, for example, 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7). What happened Wednesday was a disgrace. This is particularly true for those who claim the name of Jesus while also supporting sinful rebellion.

Followers of Jesus, let us be better. Let us set an example. Let us live according to the Word of God.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Those who stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday are not a cloud of witnesses, nor are the vast majority of our political leaders. The godly faithful referred to in Hebrews 11 (and those like them) – people who endure in the faith, no matter the cost – are the cloud of witnesses.

Our country’s leaders, whether great or not, are not the source and perfecter of our faith. Politics are not the source. Our government is not the source. Our country is not the source. Jesus is “the source and perfecter of our faith” and He, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

That cannot be said about anyone else. Jesus alone could do that and Jesus alone did do that.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 12:1-13 on how “Jesus Is the Better Reason.” He is the better Reason – the superior Reason – we press on and endure in the faith. He is the Reason we have hope, joy, peace, and contentment. He alone is the Reason who lasts because He alone is the the source and perfecter of our faith.

Politics are not the source, so please do not worship our country or any political leaders. Do not give in to the cult of personality idolatry, for no one but Jesus rules a kingdom that is eternal.

If you are finding your hope in politics or anything/anyone else besides Jesus Christ our Lord, will you turn to Him today? Will you ask Him to take over your life and change your heart? Learn more HERE.

The Good Life

This past Saturday, Zoe and I had our monthly daddy-daughter date. Because it was Zoe’s turn to pick where we ate, of course, we went to McDonald’s. Oh, the simple things that are yet so satisfying! When we were sitting there enjoying our meal which cost well under $10 for both of us, we were happy. We were satisfied. Life was good.

Life is full of moments like that, as well as the opposite, is it not? When we are happy and content in our circumstances, we tend to be satisfied with life. When our circumstances are not so good, though, we might find ourselves dissatisfied with life.

CIRCUMSTANCES ARE INADEQUATE

Surely, there is more to “the good life” than circumstances, though, right? Circumstances can change in an instant, so if good circumstances are required for “the good life,” we are all doomed. Our circumstances will eventually let us down. They will eventually disappoint, no matter how much money we have, how healthy we are, how great our jobs are, etc. Circumstances are inadequate.

We can be healthy, wealthy, and well today and then lose everything tomorrow. If you settle for satisfaction in your circumstances, you will one day be disappointed, if not in this life, in the next. There is so much more to life than french fries, happy meals, and fountain soda – even as great as those gifts of God are!

JESUS IS THE ANSWER

If you somehow discovered a circumstance that could never change (i.e. wealth you could never lose, health that would never deteriorate, a job that never left you feeling disappointed, endless french fries that never got cold, etc.), you would certainly feel like you were living “the good life,” right? Of course, there is no such thing as such a perfect, lasting circumstance. Everything the world offers is temporary.

Jesus Christ, though, is so much better. He created us to find our satisfaction in Him because satisfaction in Him is the only satisfaction that will never disappoint. As long as we seek to know, follow, and honor Him, we can have incredible joy and contentment, regardless of our circumstances. More importantly, we can have a right relationship with God that will never end.

DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS

If you are letting your circumstances determine whether or not “life is good,” you are settling for far less than God has for you. Life is good because God is good. Life is good because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to defeat, once and for all, sin and death. Life is good when we know and follow Jesus and help others to know and follow Jesus. Period. Praise the Lord!

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will finish our Who’s Your One? sermon series, preaching from John 1:40-42 on when “Life Is Good.” Christian discipleship is essential, so I will share two keys to the good life – the life found only in and through Jesus.

Do not settle for less. Let Jesus be the source of your satisfaction by surrendering your all to Him and helping others surrender their all to Him. If you have not yet done so, click the picture below for more information.

If you want to have peace now and peace eternal, read and respond to The Story.

Suffering with Joy

Today is the first day of November, which is the month of “Thanksgiving” in our country. Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. In a couple weeks, Lord willing, I will be preaching a message from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. And, 1 Thessalonians has persecution as one of its major themes. Yet, 1 Thessalonians also has a strong message of hope and joy in the midst of that suffering and persecution.

All that to say – the next few weeks on DrakeCity are related to those three topics: suffering, gratitude, and 1 Thessalonians.

You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit, and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:5b-7).

THE MESSAGE

The message they welcome was the message of the gospel. If you have believed and embraced the gospel, you understand why such a message is welcomed with joy, no matter the cost. If you do not understand, I ask you to begin with the gospel. Cry out to Jesus today, and trust in Him to take away your sins and give you new life.

THE JOY

How in the world, despite the persecution the Thessalonians were facing, could they welcome the cause of that persecution with joy? How in the world can our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ today endure with such joy? Again, the answer to those questions can only be known, understood, and embraced when you know, understand, and embrace the gospel. When Jesus saves our souls, He changes our lives. He transforms us from the inside out, giving us the kind of joy, peace, and hope only He can give. They are the kind of joy, peace, and hope that endure the trials of this life because the treasure of what is to come is so sweet.

THE EXAMPLE

And so, when you welcome the gospel with joy, your life is changed. When your life is changed, you become an example to others. People will see a difference in you that can only be explained by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

Do you see that difference? Do those who know you best see that difference? Of what are you an example?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Will you frolic?

Indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:1-2).

When I think about what it means to “playfully jump,” I cannot help but think about our yellow labrador puppy, Lottie. She is really good at frolicking.

Will you frolic (“playfully jump“) like those described in Malachi 4:2, or will you face eternal judgment in horror like those described in verse 1?

The answer to that question is determined by your standing before our almighty God. The reality is that we all deserve eternal judgment because of our sin. If you have a right relationship with God, though, then you can frolic now and more importantly for eternity because of the hope, peace, and joy only He gives.

To understand how to have a right relationship with God, would you consider watching a video and/or reading more HERE?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Greatness of God sermon series through Malachi, preaching through the last six verses and discussing “Our Great God of Promise.” Do you believe God’s promises? What is your response?

Please remember that every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Jesus. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 1:20).