Posted in Advent/Christmas, Personal Development, Uncategorized

Reflections on Joy

advent-series-title-joy

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).

Jesus’ statement struck a chord with the crowd. They knew he had read a portion of what today we call Isaiah 61, a passage that foretold the role of the coming Messiah. They were also familiar with what the passage continued to say after Jesus stopped reading.

[T]o comfort all who mourn,
 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
   instead of mourning,and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

Three decades earlier, the angels had proclaimed Good News to the shepherds. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

Joy! There was a common theme. The arrival of the Savior was accompanied by joy. Implicit in Jesus’ announcement of His mission was the presence of joy. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians are established in joy.

And yet, why does joy seem so elusive, even for Christians? Perhaps the answer stems from the misunderstanding of what joy really is.

Happiness and joy are not synonymous. The outward expressions may be similar, but their origins are different.

Happiness is a state of well being in response to satisfying or pleasurable experiences. It is based on circumstances outside of our control. When situations change for the worse, we are no longer happy.

Joy is an inward contentment that is not dependent on situations or people. It originates from our faith in Christ, who is our everlasting source. Joy is constant throughout the extreme ups and downs of life. No matter what happens, we have joy in our eternal inheritance through Jesus.

Joy is a choice.

It was a choice during the birth of Christ. God’s kingdom had come to earth. The shepherds responded, while the rest of Bethlehem remained unaware, cramped in the miserable conditions of an overcrowded city.

It was a choice during the ministry of Christ. Some people opened their hearts to the healing, deliverance, and teachings of the Messiah. Others spurned the gifts of God.

It is a choice for us today. Will we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His eternal kingdom? Or will we remain stuck in the circumstances of the here and now? We thrive when we choose joy.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5).

PRAYER:
Heavenly Father, with the angels we rejoice in the birth of your Son. In this great mystery, we find the only joy that never fades – it is an eternal joy! Bring us under Your lordship. Teach us to walk in Your joy. May the world see Your glory through us, and worship Christ as their King. In His name. Amen.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith, Servant Leadership

The God of Peace

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The miracle of Christmas is that God came down to earth, a place designed for perfection, but, because of the fall, suffered under the weight of brokenness, sin, and death. The holy Child was born to walk among humanity, proclaiming the message of peace. Jesus Christ healed the sick, fed the hungry, eased suffering, delivered the oppressed, and calmed the storms. Ultimately the manger led to the cross and then His resurrection. The enemy of our souls was conquered by the Prince of Peace.

During this Week of Peace during Advent, let us reflect on God’s peace. It transcends every circumstance and permeates every relationship. The God of Peace gives us peace. As a result, we can enjoy…

Peace with God

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Romans 5:1-2).

Our relationship with God is secure. Through faith in Jesus, we fear no judgment. There are no obstacles or barriers. We are loved and protected by our heavenly Father, facing each day with assurance.

Peace with others

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace (Colossians 3:15).

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

Because we have peace with God, we become ambassadors of peace. We follow the example of the Prince of Peace among fellow believers and non-believers alike. It is our calling to forgive as we have been forgiven, to help the needy even if they oppose us, and to overcome evil with good.

Peace with self

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

I know too many people who are kind to others, but are cruel to themselves. They are burdened by self-condemnation or tormented by anxiety. We need to declare, “God’s grace extends to me just as much as to everyone else. I am NOT an exception to His promises of peace.” As we trust Jesus, He surrounds our hearts and minds with peace.

Peace be with you.

PRAYER:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.” –St. Francis of Assisi

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith, Servant Leadership

Questions to Ask Yourself About Hope

advent-series-title-hope

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, and Christmas preparations are well underway. The Christmas tree is up and decorated. Most of the gifts on the gift list have been purchased, and the calendar is filled with festive activities. It’s a great feeling to make so much progress. But as I step back and admire my accomplishments, I am reminded of a more important element to consider. How is my heart? In particular, how well do I hold on to hope and pass it on the others?

For those of you celebrating Advent, this is the Week of Hope. It’s a time to reflect on the promise of the Savior, the Light of the World. Jesus Christ is the One who gives us hope. As servant leaders we are to be examples of hope to those around us, both on and off the clock. So then, how are we doing?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

How do you rate when circumstances are bad as well as good?

  • How optimistic are you about the future?
  • How focused are you on people?
  • How content are you?
  • How often do you encourage others?
  • How determine are you to move forward?
  • How well do you accept change?
  • How strong is your sense of purpose?

Hope is vital to vision. You cannot have one without the other. God is the author of hope. He came to this earth as the Redeemer to give us hope and to grow hope in us. This Advent Season, trust Him to grow hope in you.

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).

PRAYER:

Jesus Christ, Light of the World, I hope in You. Thank you for coming to this world to save me from my sins and to give me new life. Help me to keep Your kingdom in focus. Give me your hope and renew my vision. Empower me to make hope strong in my heart, as I remember that I stand by your grace and have your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.