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!