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Live Fully

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I remember that as a new Christian, about 20 years ago, there seemed to be a lot of rules for me to learn. I had to learn how to talk, dress and act as a Christian woman, but it never really felt right. My pastor helped me to realize that those “rules” were simply guidelines to help me until the change that God was working inside me starting to show on the outside. As I continued to pray and read the Scriptures, it started to happen. For example, I didn’t need to worry about cleaning up my language because I didn’t want to curse anymore. Old habits are hard to break and I still slip up, but now it actually hurts my ears to hear such words. Strange, I’d always thought those goody two-shoes types were following rules but I came to find that the rules only exist within the limits of the judgmental and not in God.

 I still remember the day I found this verse:

“I tell you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete”  John 15:11

The idea of a  joyful life in Christ had not occurred to me. In fact, I had the impression that the only joy in Christianity was found in glory after this earthly trial was over. I have since come to realize that joy is a natural state for a Christian. Maybe not sunshine and roses, maybe not even happiness, but joy coming from the love of God that will trump superficial “happiness” every time.

As I was mulling over the way my views on so many things have changed over the years, I decided to revisit Scripture on some words starting with “joy”.

In the Old Testament, joy was inextricably linked to obedience. God’s instructions to his people included a promise that in celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacle, God would “bless you in all your harvest, in all the works of your hands and your joy will be complete.” (Duet.16:15). When Jesus repeated these words in John 15 during his final instructions to his disciples, he was reminding them of that promise.

The Psalmists had a handle on the joyful life. Here are just some verses to consider:

“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.” Psalm 43:4

“Restore to my the joy of your salvation…” Psalm 51:12

“Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.” Psalm 119:111

“Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.” Psalm 107:22

It’s even more incredible to think that all of creation feels this joyfulness.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; and the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you.” Isaiah 55:12

“All the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” Psalm 96:12

We know that this earthly life will be difficult because we have separated ourselves from God due to our sinfulness. Yet in things like God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness there is great joy. That, I believe, is the state that God wants us to live in – a state of joyfulness. Not simply denying the gruffness of our world but the gift of being able to rise above it. On the other hand, you can wallow in self-pity (which is so easy and feels frighteningly natural) or strive for that fullness of life that can only by reached through Christ. And in that, is a life of great joy wrapped up in grace.

Jesus said “I have come that you may have life and live it to the full.” John 10:10

So live fully, live joyfully, live to spread joyfulness.

“Live a life of love” (Eph. 5:1) and “live it to the full” (John 10:10) and you will find that in celebrating and serving God “your joy will be complete” (Duet. 16:15, John 15:11).

In the Old Testament we find joy entwined with obeying God. Jesus preached about joy springing from an acceptance of God’s love and a life thereby given over to God’s service. So joy is found in an obedient life and obedience is a natural response to a loving God.

I’ll say it again, life fully, live joyfully, live to spread joyfulness.

 

 

 

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REmember When…

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I know that Jesus loves me

though I’ve no idea why

I know that my Savior loves me

it’s a fact I can’t deny.

These words came to me as I was drifting off to sleep. I started to think about how , as a child, I had no problems living within the reality of that love. Yet now, as an adult, I wrestled with my worthiness of it.

Remember when we were young and we sang songs like…

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

…and those word made sense to us? Yet at the same time we couldn’t get a handle on how making two loops with our shoe laces and twisting them together kept our shoes on. Today we tie those laces over and over but the act has long lost it’s magic. And the love of Christ has lost some of it’s sparkle.

Remember when we were young and rainbows meant that God loved us? We smiled and ran down the street thinking we could find the end of that bow. It didn’t seem strange at all  that we should think in such ways. Yet today the idea of being loved by the maker of rainbows seems doubtful. Sometimes we even deny it. “No” we say, “not me, maybe that guy over there who is so much more spiritual than I, but not me.”

Remember when we were young and we prayed that Jesus would be our friend and how happy and safe that made us feel. But, today the news programs talk of death and destruction on such a massive scale that we feel overwhelmed and powerless. The idea of a loving God seems quaint rather than safe. We live now with fears that we couldn’t even imagine back then. Yet we survive, just barely.

Shredding our fears and doubts like so many cobwebs, God reaches across the great divide that we have opened between ourselves and Heaven. Jesus weeps for us, as He wept for Jerusalem, when our foolish minds wander farther and farther away from Him. As the desperation of our situation deepened, Christ did the unthinkable and stretched Himself out against that cross. The distance is bridged and we can come Home. His love is the ropes and planks and the sheer steel of that bridge and He beckons us towards Himself.

If there is one thing that I have learned as I try to live as a Christ follower, it’s that love is messy and will cost us everything. Jesus held nothing back. He gave of Himself completely even knowing that we cannot reciprocate. But we can emulate. As you start to love, you start to stand again, trembling with that childlike anticipation as you grasp the hand of Eternity. You held that hand so trustingly when you were just a child and weren’t fazed by His glory. I’m relearning things like trust and love and hope. I’m catching little glimpses of that glory as I reach for His hands.

Remember when…..