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Archive for the category “Joy”

Easter Message: Love Requires Sacrifice

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According to John 3:16, God loved/loves the world.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16 (NKJV)

From these words, we learn that Christian love requires sacrifice. God gave up His son in order to reestablish a relationship with us. Fellowship with God required atonement, and Jesus was the only acceptable blood sacrifice that could bring forth restoration. Jesus was without sin, a spotless lamb. He obediently accepted His Father’s will and took on the sins of the world and nailed them to a cross.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.Romans 4:25 (NIV)

Father God knew His only begotten son would have to endure great suffering, but He also wanted to provide us with koinonia. So, because of His incredible love for mankind, He willed Jesus to step out of eternity and down to earth, and a brutal death. Father God knows all about sacrifice, grief, pain, and love.

Jesus Christ is the very definition of love. He always put others first. He freely gave His time, energy, food, friendship, love, and grace. And at the end of the day, He offered His love, obedience, fellowship, praise, and will to His heavenly Father. He lived to serve others. His eyes were never on Himself. He looked for ways to satisfy a need, quench a thirst, teach a lesson, or please His Father. There is JOY in service. There is JOY in giving.

We are called to live a life of love.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

By looking into the Word of God and contemplating the life of Christ, we see that the power of love is remarkable but costly. Individual acts of sacrificial love have a transforming power. Consider the story of the widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16. In an act of faith, a widow sacrifices the very last of her food (a little oil and flour) and makes the prophet Elijah a cake. She was surely hungry. In fact, scripture states she was collecting wood to make a last meal before death.

And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”  1 Kings 17:12 (NKJV)

Her faith and sacrificial love was rewarded with a jar of flour and a jug of oil that would miraculously refill itself. God provided in her time of need and her life was surely never the same.

There were lepers, cripples, and blind men transformed by the healing hand of Jesus. Christ’s love transformed prostitutes, tax collectors, and fishermen. The sacrifice Christ made on the cross has transformed you and me! We were damned in our sin but His sacrifice has provided hope. We can rest in the promise of eternal life.

This Easter, reflect on the command to love one another. For if we hate our brother we do not have Christ in us. Do not love in word alone but love in deed and action. Be His hands! It will require sacrifice. This is known as Christian love.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. “ 1 John 3:15-16 (NKJV)

Meditate on the following verses and consider how you might love another with sacrificial deeds of love.

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?1 John 3:17 (NKJV)

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Our Longing For God

_Long for God

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

“At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9 (NASB)

Our longing for God should be greater than any craving that consumes us. We need to be passionate, to the point of being overwhelmed, in our desire to sit in His holy presence. The scriptures compare our yearning for God to that of a deer panting for streams of water. To yearn for God means we long for His fellowship.

God is our friend. However, it is up to us to cultivate this precious relationship. He already knows us inside and out. He is waiting for us to get to know Him. If we don’t spend time with God, we cannot expect to know Him intimately.

Some of us are satisfied with friends who are simply acquaintances, surface friends who don’t require much time or effort. Acquaintances are great for small talk and chit chat, a friendly hello over the backyard fence, but these friends are superficial.

Then there are friends who take. They take our time, our energy, and a lot of our patience. They take and we give, and give, and give. The relationship is not balanced and we see them more of a ministry than an equitable friendship. I wonder if God looks down on us and see us in this same light. We take and He gives and gives… and gives.

True friendship is an investment of time and energy. It requires an open heart. God created us as relational beings, with a need for love and a desire to be understood. Since we were made in the image of God, it makes sense to conclude, although He does not NEED our love and understanding, He DESIRES our love and fellowship. He wants to be with us, and share His wisdom, love, power, and beauty. He wants US to know HIM intimately.

Are we so in love with God that we desire nothing else? Do we eat, breathe, and dream of Him? Are we so passionately desperate for His presence that we cry out for Him like a parched desert crying out for rain? Do the things of this world hold little worth when compared to KNOWING God? What are the secret desires in our heart? Are our hidden desires for heavenly treasure, or are they tied to earthly passions and belongings?

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.” Psalm 73:25 (NIV)

 I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah” Psalm 143:6 (NKJV)

When we are in love, it is hard to be parted from the one we adore. In fact, many have suffered a broken heart from loosing the love of their life. Should we not have the same yearning love for our blessed Savior?

My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times.” Psalm 11:20 (NKJV)

“With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9 (NKJV)

God wants us to seek Him and He wants to be found! He does not want to play HIDE AND SEEK and remain hidden behind the sofa. Never far away or out of our reach, He rewards the seeker.

How does He reward the seeker? What is the reward? Dear Friend, it is with treasure. Our treasure is God, yes, God alone. What more do we need?

“So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him though He is not far from each one of us” Acts 17:27 (NKJV)

“I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently will find Me.” Proverbs 8:17 (NKJV)

“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the SOURCE of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may love he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.”

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, The Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing. I thirst to be made more thirsty still.” (P.14 The Pursuit Of God by A.W. Tozer)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVQmZCK4Fiw

During your quiet time pray about your relationship with God. Do you long for His presence? Do you yearn for a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him?

My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your word.” Psalm 119:81 (NIV)

“I long for Him more than sentinels long for the dawn.” Psalm 130:6 (TLB)

Our Love For Father God

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You might doubt the Father’s love for you, but John 3:16 should clear away all your worries. And IF the love of God is hard for you to accept, meditate on what He has already done. Then you will see how great the Father’s love for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16 (NKJV)

Ask yourself this question. Why did the Creator of all things step out of His spiritual realm and live with mankind if He had no care for us? Would He have willingly faced crucifixion (in order to be that living blood sacrifice) to cancel out our transgressions once and for all, had He not love? Victorious over sin through His death and resurrection, He restored our fellowship and position with God. He lives as our constant friend and mediator before God. Why would He intercede both day and night on our behalf if He did not truly love and care for us? We are the now adopted children of a King, His treasure!

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son and make a wretch His treasure

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aAjLBh_1Og&sns=fb

His wounds paid for our ransom and by them we have been healed and restored to righteousness. Our righteousness comes only through Jesus who now lives within us. We are a new creation if we are born again. The old man is a thing of the past.

But what of YOUR love for God? How do YOU express it? Is it a daily expression or an after thought at the end of a weary day? Do you make time for Him, He who is jealous for you? He longs for your fellowship and waits for your attention. Are you seeking Him out or do you just expect Him to find you?

Believe it or not, He IS speaking to you all day long. Unfortunately, if you have not learned to ABIDE in Christ you are missing much of His love conversation. We must be seekers and draw near to God if we expect to grow in our spiritual intimacy with Him.

Synonyms for ABIDE (Google) include: obey, observe, follow, keep to, hold to, conform to, adhere to, stick to, stand by, act in accordance with, heed, accept, respect

Thus, we show our love for God by seeking Him out and abiding in Him.                 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”  John 15:10 (NKJV)                           We show our love for Him by keeping His commandments.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.1 John 5:3 (NKJV)

Additionally, 1 John 2:6 explains we are to walk as Jesus walked. He is our role model and we should follow His lead. But how can we walk as Jesus walked if we do not know what is in the Word? Me must seek it out and learn how our Savior loved sinful man? He tells us to love as He has loved.

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”                       1 John 2:6 (NKJV)

And because His dying breath brought me new life…

I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward, I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom”

Rather than boasting in the gifts you were given by the Father, use your gifts to glorify HIM. Surrender all your plans and your self-will. Permit God to make you a “holy experiment” for His purposes. Oh, the joy of becoming a living vessel that honors God! Live today and every day, with the purpose of blessing His holy name with your love and gratitude!

MEDITATE ON THE FOLLOWING WORDS/SCRIPTURES BELOW AND CONSIDER WAYS YOU CAN BETTER DEMONSTRATE YOUR LOVE FOR GOD.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”                     John 15:12 (NKJV)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15 (NKJV)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”             Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

“The only thing I can give to God is ‘My right to myself.’ If I will give God that, He will make a holy experiment out of me, and God’s experiments always succeed.”                       ~ Oswald Chambers.

“Give yourself to God. Give Him everything you are, everything you hope to be, all your dreams, visions, hopes and desires. Make everything His, and He will demonstrate His power through your life.”  ~ UNKNOWN

A Bondservant of Christ Jesus Is Never Complacent

*bondservant

We should all strive to be satisfied and content with the provisions provided by God, but not at the risk of spiritual degeneration. When one becomes too comfortable in life, there is a serious danger of growing complacent. With complacency, self-satisfaction rules the heart. And because of this smug attitude of being pleased with ourselves, we loose interest in growing more like Christ. Thus, we hinder any further transformation God has designed for us.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”                      1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NKJV)

 

Any time “self” enters into an equation, we must pause and consider whether it should be present at all or completely stricken. A bondservant’s focus should always be on his master and his desires. What pleases the master will in turn satisfy and please the bondservant.

Therefore since we are called to be the *bondservants of Christ” (1 Co 7:22), we need not worry about finding our personal joy through selfish acts of pleasure. For if we set our focus on pleasing God, we will experience the inexpressible joy that only comes from serving the One who loves us beyond all comprehension.

To say God will never bless His children with wealth or gifts is wrong. However, we must always remember that nothing we possess is actually ours. EVERYTHING we have…. Finances, family, education, talents, beauty, intelligence…. Comes from God and belongs to God. We do not possess these things because of our own doing for God has given us the ability and grace to obtain them. To say otherwise is to loose sight of God’s dominion and His loving desire to provide and bless.

Furthermore, we ARE TO USE our God given gifts to glorify His name and bless others. We should not hide or bury our talents and then expect interest or growth. If a bondservant had a special musical ability, it would please his master to hear this gift. How would it please the master if his bondservant only sang or played his instrument in solitude and out of earshot?

Woe to the servant who is aware of a gift or talent but refuses to use it, for it was given for a reason and a harvest is expected. We must cultivate that seed God has provided. He expects interest. There is a purpose for the gift(s) you have received.

With a contented heart praise God for the many blessings in your life. Do not compare your riches to that of your neighbor. God has a reason for blessing some with financial wealth and others with less. We may not know the reason but it has nothing to do with God having favorites. He is impartial and loves all His children equally. Be sure to use your gifts and remember, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:8 (NIV)

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REFLECT ON THESE SCRIPTURES AND ASK GOD TO STIR THE GIFTS WITHIN YOU. CONSIDER WHETHER YOU ARE LIVING YOUR LIFE AS A BONDSERVANT FOR CHRIST.

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:26-30 (NKJV)

*A synonym for bondservant is slave.

“The description of a Biblical bondservant of is one who chooses to serve his Master till death. He will forever wear the mark of this Master. He accomplishes all the Master’s will for his life because of a love called “agape”. Exodus 21: 1-6 http://www.christsbondservants.org/Home_Files/Bondservant.html

For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.” 1 Corinthians 7:22 (NKJV)

A Cup Full Of Hope

*Cup of Hope

How do you see your cup, half empty or half full? Do you predict the worst will happen in any given situation or are you well practiced at finding the Silver Lining? Is your hope resting on Jesus and His love for you? Hope should never be swept under a rug. It is what moves us through our day.

“Look at your problems in the LIGHT of God’s power instead of looking at God in the SHADOW of your problems.” ~ Anonymous

God knows His children well and understands our need for encouragement so He wrote a book full of inspiration, promises, and fortification. According to (bibleinfo.com) there are 3573 promises in scripture. If we claim one promise every day, it would take almost ten years to read them but once.

“Let us read the Bible reverently and diligently, with an honest determination to believe and practice all we find in it.” ~ J.C. Ryle

A visual reminder of God’s promised faithfulness can be seen after a storm. It comes in the form of a rainbow. After the great flood, God created this colorful symbol to encourage Noah and his family. It is a continual sign commemorating God’s covenant with mankind and His promise to never again cause a flood that destroys all life. The next time you see a rainbow remember God is in control.

“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” Genesis 9:13 (NKJV)

Jeremiah 29:11 speaks about God’s plan for us and it is not one of disaster and hopelessness. He promises us a hope and a future. However, His plan will include adversity. Such times serve as our training ground in spiritual matters while good times provide us with rest. Both seasons are opportunities to reflect on the faithfulness of God.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Our perspective regarding storms should be that they are necessary and beneficial gifts. They are private refinement sessions with God. Although the discomfort experienced during our sanctification process is often great, His grace is even greater. Learning to rest during our seasons of testing will produce an inner calm of patience and peace. Others will notice the growth in our character and God will be praised.

Why do we doubt God and His GOOD plans for our future? Why do we forget the incredible love He has for us? Why do we question His plan? Like the ungrateful children of Israel wandering in the desert, we become unsatisfied with the manna He provides and cry out for meat. We forget His provisions are what we NEED. Discontent never improves life, instead it consumes our thoughts and leads to bitterness.

The next time you find yourself tempted to complain about a matter, pause and ask yourself, ‘What will my grumbling accomplish? Will my words inspire and uplift others, or will they cause discouragement?’ Will any good come from your state of mind? If not, make a decision to change your perspective.

Find something (there is always something) to praise within the circumstances you perceive as unfair or offensive. It will be a challenge at first but with a little practice, it will get easier to identify the good all around you. After adopting this new practice you will discover you have a happier state of mind.

Seeing your glass as half full will provide you with enough hope to advance through the darkest of storms. That is the power of a grateful heart. That is the power of a thankful heart. That is the power of a positive perspective. That is the power of God.

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:       I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 12:9-15 (NKJV)

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9 (NKJV)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

“We ought not to limit God where He has not limited Himself.”  ~ Jonathan Edwards

“The outlook is gloomy, but the uplook is glorious!” ~ Unknown

Merry Christmas!

*Xmas

May the gift of God, sent from heaven above, be in your hearts this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Blessings upon your heads! Cheryl

Are You Wearing A Face of Joy?

*Snowman Face

Are you wearing a face of JOY today??

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” Psalm 47:1 (NIV)

” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Giving Thanks…. ALL THE TIME!

*Thanks

To have a heart of thanks is to have a heart of praise. It is easy to thank God for times of health and prosperity but it is not so easy to thank God for our times of trials, storms, and adversity. However, we are called to give thanks in All circumstances.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

God designs, plans, orchestrate, permits, and even sends difficult challenges our way. After all, we have to build up our spiritual muscles some how. A challenge from God often comes in the form of a test of faith.

Needless to say the Devil, who is always lurking about, will stick his nose in any situation hoping to implant discouragement. So, put in your earplugs and put on your spiritual armor. The Helmet of Salvation will keep your mind clear of confusion. By cinching up your belt of truth, you will expose all of his miserable lies.

Fruit produced from such tests of faith are well worth the temporary discomfort you may endure. Perseverance is needed to finish the race set before you, and spiritual tests will train you to endure. Nobody likes to eat unripe fruit and with every struggle you face, with God by your side, the fruit of the Spirit becomes riper and sweeter to the taste.

While bravely setting out on the journey He planned for you, the goodness and kindness of Christ will grown within your heart. You will notice gentleness and compassion have extended their boundaries, empowering your love for Christ and others to mature through sanctification. The Holy Spirit working within you is the only explanation for your budding capacity to love. Oh, what joy there is when we realize spiritual growth!

It takes patience and self-control to trudge through difficult times, but the peace of Christ will always greet us if we lift up our needs in prayer. A peace that transcends all understanding is available for every child of God. It is never withheld or out of reach. This peace comes when we surrender our challenges and submit to God’s plan, trusting Him to equip us for every obstacle.

I encourage you to train your eyes to see the goodness of God, trusting that everything you face has God’s stamp of approval. Just as Satan had to get permission in the throne room to test Job, the Devil must also get permission to buffet you. God did not look to destroy Job and He does not intend to test you beyond your ability to weather a storm.

Have faith in God’s intentions and purpose. Decide now to praise Him in the midst of your pain. This sacrifice of praise will give your heavenly Father much joy and cause the enemy much discomfort. It will also serve as a quiet witness to those all around you. Be brave and courageous. Be of a stout heart. Praise the name of Jesus in ALL circumstances because He is worthy of ALL our praise.

DURING YOUR QUIET TIME ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE. THANK GOD FOR ALL OF YOUR BLESSINGS.

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1 (NIV)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 118:1 (NKJV)

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” ~C.S. Lewis                         

This devotion is from FACING ADVERSITY: THOUGHTS OF WISDOM, PRAISE, AND PROMISE… available the first week of December on Amazon. Check out my other books

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=cheryl%20zelenka&sprefix=chery%2Caps

Pure Joy or Mere Happiness?

*Joy

To pursue joy is to lose it. The only way to get it is to follow steadily the path of duty, without thinking of joy, and then, like sheep, it comes most surely unsought, and we “being in the way,” the angel of God, bright-haired joy, is sure to meet us.” ~Alexander MacLaren  

“The Lord has done great things for us,and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3 (NIV)

Look carefully into the Word of God and you will notice that scripture teachings on the topic of HAPPINESS point to our trust and relationship with God.

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he” Proverbs 16:20 (NKJV)

A dictionary definition of happiness is “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”

The definition of the word “rejoice,” from which our word “joy” comes, is “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.”

Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times.
http://www.gotquestions.org/joy-happiness.html#ixzz3CgX0g78m

Happiness is short-lived because it depends on things outside of ourselves. Joy comes from within and is based on our relationship to Christ. The Bible does not command us to pursue happiness or even seek it out. Happiness is an emotional response to and the result of God’s goodness and blessings. However, JOY is very apparent in the Bible and this joy comes through God and God alone.

Yes, there are good times and bad times in life. During bad times we experience emotions of fear, sorrow, and depression. In good times we experience emotional happiness and pleasure, but this is not the supernatural joy God speaks of in James 1:2-3. The difference between happiness and joy rests in our focus. We can be joyful in the midst of great adversity because our focus is on God and in the blessing of sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. Feelings of happiness are absent when we are experiencing pain, sorrow, and tribulations.

Happiness is a self-centered emotion. We experience happiness when we receive a gift or experience something apart from acknowledging God for the blessing. We can even be pleased for somebody else yet remain self-centered in our happiness: “I am happy because you are happy.”

When we receive a blessing that produces a happy feeling AND we turn our focus to God, acknowledging and thanking Him for the favor and benefit, joy is experienced. Pure joy comes by giving God His due. His desire to fellowship with us…. His creation, and build an intimate relationship full of intimacy should leave us awestruck.

Presently, there are some popular church leaders who teach that worship should be for our own happiness and benefit, that when we are happy God is happy. We may experience spiritual joy while praising His name but our motive behind worship should never be self-centered. We ought not think of how our time of praise will benefit us, it should be for God’s pleasure alone. Thinking about our time of worship as a means to profit is hedonistic.

http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/blog/?p=24785

“This is a hedonistic view-a doctrine that teaches that the chief end of life is one’s personal pleasure-to worship God or attend church for what man can obtain in return.”

“If we participate for a pragmatic benefit—to say, ‘Just worship because look how much better you’re going to feel’—that is minimizing the worth of a holy God and making self the benefactor of worship, when worship is simply the glorifying of God entirely,” he outlined.

http://christiannews.net/2014/09/06/i-stand-by-my-point-joel-osteens-wife-unrepentant-over-remarks-of-worshiping-god-for-self/

Complete joy comes from God. In times of selfless worship we will receive joy because our focus is entirely on God, but never when our focus is on ourselves. And yes, there are benefits that come as a result of our worship, for the Word says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and that if we draw close to Him… He will draw near to us(James 4:8). Time spent with God will always bring forth a deeper and more intimate relationship with the Creator.

“Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.’ Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.”   Psalm 96:8-12 (NKJV)

When we enter into the awesome throne room of God and witness His power and might, we should be filled with reverent fear. This holy and righteous fear should purge us of all self-focus. Why? Because the Creator of the universe is omnipotent and fearsome in His might yet still, He appreciates the songs of praise offered by that which He created.

Our God seeks a pure heart. A pure heart is not a selfish or self-centered one, nor do the pure of heart look for gain and prosperity while worshipping their Savior. Because God has done great things we are filled with joy and that joy is indeed our strength.

Let us then decide to magnify God with the sole purpose of glorifying His precious name. Let us lay aside all self-interest whenever we enter into His courts of praise. May our heart and mind be completely focused on giving Him pleasure, without a thought to our own happiness. Shall we simply adore Him and the glory of His splendor? It is here where joy is found, and joy trumps worldly happiness every time.

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods.  In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land.  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” Psalm 97:1-7 (NKJV)

“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 29:2 (NKJV)

But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3 (NKJV)

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.My heart leaps for joy,and with my song I praise Him.” Psalm 28:7(NIV)

 

Wailing Into Dancing

Ps 30 Wailing 2 Dancing TL

A devotion from Cheryl Zelenka’s soon to be released book of devotions FACING STORMS. Available on Amazon this October.

“No one will calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross except those who have learned to seek their happiness beyond this world.” John Calvin

“For His anger is but for a moment, 
His favor is for life; 
Weeping may endure for a night, 
but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5 (NKJV)

“You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; 
are they not in Your book?”  Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

“Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing Your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You forever.”  Psalm 30:10-13 (NIV)

Have you ever heard somebody say, “You’ve got to praise Him in the storm?”  This concept might seem insensitive or even ridiculous to you, especially if eating, speaking, and even waking up requires a monumental effort. The idea of lifting your voice in praise during your dark moment may even be offensive, especially if you can barely manage to get out of bed or utter a few words over your morning coffee. But let me ask you this one question: Does God deserve our accolades and appreciation in good times AND bad?

After my brother died(Over 25 years ago), I had many disturbing dreams.  None of them were comforting. I longed to hug him one last time and hear an assurance that he was okay. I desperately wanted to say goodbye and enjoy one last conversation, even if it were only in a dream. This never happened. My grief was devastating and at the age of twenty-five my grief left me shattered and broken.

My sorrow drove me out into a black and very deep sea of depression. One moment I was drowning in despair and the next moment I was tossed to the beach. On dry land I had but a few seconds to catch my breath before high tide pulled me back into my living grave. Hopeless and exhausted, my tears would then mix with the seawater. It seemed as though this endless cycle would never end. 

How then do we recover from depression and despair? It is only by crying out to God and accepting His helping hand that we are able to overcome our greatest sorrows. When we finally choose to lay down our wills and surrender our complaints, trusting in His goodness, we permit Him to mold and work us into the image of His son. Through yielding to His sovereignty and by declaring His right to work within us, without the slightest need for understanding, we enter into an even deeper and more intimate walk. 

As we forgo our urge to wrestle with past events and their painful effects, we experience the rolling back of suffering. In its stead, we find ourselves within the supernatural peace that transcends all understanding. Through our submission to His will, and by acknowledging His ways to be so much higher than our own, our tragedy becomes bearable. He had a plan, and it included the circumstances of our heartache even before He knit us together.  At all times, our need for understanding must side step when faith wants to take the lead. 

Turning our wailing and sorrows into joy and dancing will happen with the passing of seasons. By allowing some time to pass, we will eventually look behind us and thank God for the precious moments, days, and years we had with the special someone we so dearly loved, or the life we were so content to play out. Faith helps us to accept and find comfort in knowing that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  (Ro. 8:28). 

Loss, be it the death of a loved one, deteriorating health, lost dreams, or some kind of divine interruption ….. Will usually include a measure of pain.  Your positive attitude, perspective change, and faith are what will turn your wailing into praise and joyful dancing. The Lord equips you to sing songs of joy in good times and bad times. On some days you may have to look a little harder for the blessings in your life but they are always present.

God rescues His children from pits filled with vipers, caves, cisterns, and sinking ships rocked by hurricanes. Sorrow is only for a moment and joy WILL come! Since we are called to praise Him at ALL times, even when our hearts are breaking, a hushed and barely audible “thank you” is considered a glorious sacrifice of praise….  A very pleasing one indeed.

May the grace of our God be with you always. As He has turned my wailings into dancing, I humbly ask that you too find yourself in the same place I am now resting….in joyful wonder and awe of His miraculous healing power and love. 

TAKE SOME TIME TO CONTEMPLATE THE FOLLOWING WORDS 

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.”  John 16:20 (NKJV)

“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old, together; for I will turn their mourning to joy, 
will comfort them, 
and make them rejoice rather than sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13 (NKJV) 

“We can experience joy in adverse circumstances by holding God’s benefits in such esteem that the recognition of them and meditation upon them shall overcome all sorrow.”  ~John Calvin

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