The Candle of Joy/Saturday-December 23, 2017

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 (ESV)

Have you ever been totally overwhelmed by joy? You’re so blown away by who God is or by something He’s done that you can’t even speak or maybe all you can do is speak!

Peter’s commendation to the believers he referred to as “aliens scattered throughout” is a beautiful description of one who has embraced Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. The one who loves Jesus has been foreknown by God and is in the process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. He/she is also seeking to obey Jesus and is symbolically sprinkled by His blood.

This isn’t the first mention of being sprinkled by His blood. There is a sprinkling of blood on the altar and on the people when Moses presented the Israelites with God’s Law. The repeatedly exclaimed, “All that He has said, we will do;” however, they didn’t. They couldn’t. Apart from the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us by faith and our having the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, man has no hope of doing what God has said to do.

He has given us an inheritance that will not fade away but is reserved for us in heaven. It has your name on it! Even though various trials may be distressing and disturbing, our faith is demonstrated and proven when we hang in there and continue to believe God and obey His Word. In all of this we find our joy. `Apart from Jesus coming, living, dying and being resurrected exactly as He did, we would have no hope to be reconciled to God. So, precious one, even though we don’t see Jesus right now with our physical eyes, we can see Him with eyes of faith and know for absolute certainty that He will come again and receive us unto Himself. And that, dear one, is grounds for rejoicing greatly!

Living It Out -1 Peter 1:7 states that our faith is more precious than gold. Think through some things that your faith outweighs. Be honest and ask God to help you put every last thing in your life on the altar.

The Candle of Joy/Friday-December 22, 2017

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NASB95)

The context of this well-known phrase and children’s song, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” is not what you would expect.

Israel had forsaken God’s law over and over and had finally missed her last opportunity to repent without severe consequence. Even though they greatly lamented and grieved over losing their homeland, relatively few returned to the land of Israel when the seventy-year Babylonian captivity came to an end. After the Temple was rebuilt and the wall was restored, it was time for the Law of the Lord to be read. This practice had been neglected for many many years.

As Ezra the Scribe read and explained the Word of God, the people began to see their great sin of unbelief and disobedience. Their hearts were finally truly broken over their betrayal of the God who created them, loved them, chose them and disciplined them.

If you’ve ever experienced true conviction of sin, you just want to crawl in a hole and never come out. It seems like instant incineration would be better than the gravity of facing your sin. Oh, precious one, we have a compassionate Father who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness! Instead of justice, He extends grace; instead of ashes, He gives beauty! Instead of grief, He gives joy!

As a matter of fact, He gives so much joy that it becomes our strength, our ability to stand when everything around and inside us says to shrivel and shrink. His joy is the strength to cast off the comfortableness of sin and embrace His forgiveness. His joy takes our whine away! Listen to the voice of the One who forgives and restores: His joy is your strength! Celebrate that today!

Living It Out – Choose to live in light of the forgiveness and grace you were so gracious given at Calvary. A life of gratitude is a life of obedience. Dig into God’s Word and find out what living a life of obedience looks like . And celebrate the gospel, my friend!

The Candle of Joy/Thursday-December 21, 2017

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. Philippians 2:17–18 (NASB95)

My high school English teacher pounded into my head that you should not use the same word over and over. “It’s redundant,” she said, “Think of another word.” Where was this verse when I needed a great example of repeating a word for emphasis! She must not have heard that repetition is the key to learning! Paul uses the word joy or a form of joy four times in two sentences. I think he was trying to tell us something!

Paul’s audience would have clearly understood his analogy of a drink offering. They were more than familiar with this final act as water, honey or wine was poured out on a burning sacrifice. The resulting smoke symbolized the rising of a soothing aroma into the nostrils of God. In other words, the drink offering sealed the deal that God was satisfied with the sacrifice.

Whether by his life or death, Paul was faithful to pour himself out in sacrifice to Jesus by serving others with the gospel and the Philippians got it! They received the good news of Jesus and were actually living it out! He was pouring himself out on the sacrifice and service of THIER faith. What a beautiful picture! Rejoicing comes naturally and abundantly when others get it and pass it on.

This catalyst for joy is only possible because of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul urges us as believers to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God. In so doing, the candle of joy will not only demonstrate God’s perfect love and will to others but will also ignite unquenchable joy that will spread like wildfire!

Living It Out – Joy is to be shared, not hoarded or tucked away for a rainy day! Look around for someone who needs the encouraging truth of the gospel. Sow it into their life today. You may not see their joy grow immediately, but as you share your own story of how Jesus saved you, your own joy will blossom!

The Candle of Joy/Wednesday-December 20

“I am coming to You now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13 (NIV)

He didn’t ask for random happiness or sweet sensation for us but for His joy to be to the fullest in us. That leads me to this question …

What is Jesus connection with joy? Several portraits and passages come to mind. The first one is a lively and energetic scene with Jesus barely visible for the throng of children flocking around him. The disciples start to scold to children and brush them away but Jesus’ response is quite different: Allow the little children to come to me! In a culture and time in history where children were seen and not heard, Jesus again broke with tradition and welcomed those society brushed aside. Jesus’ joy must have been magnetic for the children to be so drawn to Him.

The author of Hebrews paints a different facet of joy. Jesus, our example and great high priest, endured the horrors of the cross despising the shame of it yet endured for the JOY set before Him. What was that joy? Our salvation! Our reconciliation to the Father was the focus of Jesus’ mind and heart while suffering the inconceivable torment we deserved. At any moment He could have called legions of angels to rescue Him but He didn’t because He knew the joy was worth it. My mind cannot wrap around that kind of joy but Jesus prayed that we would have it.

Regardless of the suffering you may be experiencing this Christmas, draw close to the One who prayed that His joy would be completed in you.

Living It Out – Embracing joy is a choice. We ask God for so many things and have no clue whether it’s His will for us or not. We can pray with confidence that His will is for us to have joy, to delight in Him. Make it a priority to include that as you pray today.

The Candle of Joy/Tuesday-December 19, 2017

I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
3 John 4 (NLT)

What do you want for Christmas? I don’t know, what do YOU want for Christmas?

How many times have you asked or been asked that question in the past month? Probably more than you can count! It’s because we long to see the look of joy on the face of those we love as the ribbons are ripped away and the wrappings are torn! But the very best gift can’t be ordered from Amazon, crafted off Pinterest or even served up at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The most joyous gift can’t be bought or sold, re-gifted or returned. It’s a condition of the heart.

A friend recently asked a group of parents what their most desired gift from their son or daughter would be and without hesitation the answer was that they would know the Lord and serve Him with all their heart. I can think of no greater joy than to know that my children, both natural and spiritual, are walking in truth.

The Apostle John was no doubt a spiritual father to many. You hear his heart at the end of his gospel – “The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”1 John was diligent to include everything possible to insure that those he had “fathered” had enough truth to walk in it. And they did.

What about you? Are you building a legacy of joy? What are you investing into the lives of those you love so you will one day see them walking in truth?

Living It Out – A legacy of joy. What would that look like? Extending grace when it would be easier to demand justice? Responding in kindness rather than harshness? Speaking the truth in love rather than looking the other way and calling it grace? Building a legacy of joy happens by laying one brick of truth at a time…day in, day out.

The Candle of Joy/Monday-December 18, 2017

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8–11 (NASB95)

Good ole shepherds. Minding their own business, tending their sheep. They probably hadn’t showered in a while and maybe didn’t even have all of their teeth! Certainly they were no match for the ruling religious leaders of the day. I wonder if as they lay out under the stars counting their sheep, they marveled at the creation staring back at them? Surely they noticed the constellations and movement of the sky above them. What shadows might the moon have cast on those Judean hillsides. They’d probably known fear under those stars a time or two but never had they experienced an angel of the Lord appearing in the night sky and the glory of the Lord shining all around them!

Isn’t it interesting that AN angel appeared before them and calmed them with the joyful news BEFORE the multitude of heavenly host appeared WITH the angel? Had everyone appeared at once, those shepherds might have died of fright that night and missed the good news that Jesus had been born!

What overwhelming circumstance are you facing today? Just as God brought the Good News to the shepherds in a manner they could receive, He will do the same for you. Though this Christmas season may be riddled with memories, questions, doubts, fears or heartache, He will meet you with good news of great joy. Listen for it!

Living It Out – Perspective is a funny thing. Our greatest need has been met. Our biggest fear has been eradicated. Our hopelessness has been banished, yet we allow The Good News of great joy to escape us in the everydayness of life. Notice that the angel did not appear to A shepherd but to shepherdS. Plural. Ask a friend to partner with you in memorizing a verse or more of Scripture that will help you maintain your perspective and quickly move from fear to faith when trouble strikes.