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Posted By Nan

Holding back the storm

Today I am breaking from the search through the Bible to share insights from a dream I had a few days ago. In my dream I was on a ferry with a small group of people in rough seas. Suddenly we were cast adrift in a wooden row boat that had capsized. The storm was wild and we are treading water close to perilous rocks at the base of a cliff. Someone in the group called out that there was a huge wave coming and I braced for what I thought may drag me under or dash me to pieces on the rocks. As I did this, I said a quick prayer to God asking Him to help me. I believed He would help me in some way, I didn’t know how. As I waited for the wave it did not come. Were the others exaggerating? I looked around and there was the immense wave suspended in mid air. God had helped me by holding the wave so I had time to find somewhere to clamber ashore.
As I reflected on this dream I understand that this is always God’s promise and action. I am safe in His Care. Sometimes He will give me the strength I need. Other times He holds the waves.
In this security and assurance of safety I can rejoice. God’s reliability is a great cause for Joy. When we submit to His plans we can be assured that He is not going to bring us to harm.
In God there is perfect Joy.

Posted By Nan

Judges 9:19

Not all references to Joy in the Bible are about joy in God. This is one particularly sad incident in Judges involving Abimelech, the son of Jerub-Baal (Gideon) and his maidservant.
After Gideon’s death, the people returned to Baal worship and forgot about God.
Abimelech had ideas of following in his father’s footsteps by becoming the leader of Israel. He had no faith in God, preferring instead to worship Baal. He went to his mother’s family and encouraged them to support his claim and help him bring it to fruition.
With the men in his mother’s family and all the people of their home town of Shechem, Abimelech went to Ophrah, where his father’s home had been, and killed the 70 other sons of Gideon. Only one, Jotham, escaped.
The citizens of Shechem crowned Abimelech king, but the ceremony was interrupted by Jotham. He told the people a fable of the three most prized trees in Israel being offered the role of King. These were the Olive, the fig and the vine. All refused, considering their tasks of producing fruit too important to set aside to rule. Finally the thornbush, a despised weed, was offered the role of ruler and accepted. The thornbush represented Abimelech, the servant girl’s son. The thornbush warned that if the other trees did not want him then fire would come out of him and destroy all the trees.
Jotham ended his story by reminding the people that if they considered they had acted with integrity and honoured Gideon by killing all his sons and crowning Abimelech King then they were to find joy in him and he in them. His warning was that they and Abimelech would be destroyed if they had not acted with integrity.
At the end of this story, the people rebel against Abimelech, he is killed and they too are destroyed.
So what does this passage say about joy? It says a lot. We often think we know what will bring us joy, but we insert our own desires into what we think we know and tell ourselves we are honouring God. Following what we think we know may bring us joy. It may also bring others joy. But in the long term we will destroy each other.
True Joy lies in serving God and submitting to His plan for our lives.
It is always important to put aside our own self interest and seek God’s interest.

Posted By Nan

Deuteronomy 16:13-15
The Feast of the Tabernacles was a feast God assigned the people to give after they had completed the harvest and processing of the food. This was a celebration at God’s blessing in the bounty of the harvest. They celebrated a year where they would have food for everyone. A successful harvest meant survival and in this they were to celebrate and thank God.
I grew up in a family where ritual was scorned. Very little that happened in my family was commemorated or celebrated. As an adult I discovered the power of acknowledging the things that happen in our lives. I discovered the power of ceremonies and of ritual. These things are essential. They give us time to stop and acknowledge what has happened around us. We have rituals for graduation from school and university. We have rituals for marriage, for death, for baptism. We have rituals to remember those who have died in war. We have rituals as national days. All those rituals are important for people to be able to stop and acknowledge. To stop and connect to their spirits and to God and to acknowledge His provision. His action. His constancy and faithfulness.
This is why God designated ritual times for feasts and festivals. He knew we need that reminder of His greatness. We need to acknowledge and commemorate the events in our lives. We need to remember. This is not to say we must observe the same rituals as others. We all have ways of finding and observing meaning in our lives. The important thing is we do acknowledge and remember.
All those rituals in our lives allow us to remember why there is joy in being a follower of Jesus. Why God is our source of eternal joy.
These rituals allow us to plant the seed of joy deep in our souls to sustain us in the dark times when joy seems so far away.

Posted By Nan

Genesis 31:27
To take this journey of Joy, I decided to look up my concordance and follow all the references to Joy in the NIV.
Today, I am starting at Genesis 31:27.
This reference is about secular joy. The supposed joy of one deceitful man about another. This is the story of Jacob fleeing his father in law’s household with his wives and concubines and livestock. I find it interesting that commentators comment on Jacob’s deceitfulness in acquiring large flocks of sheep but don’t mention Laban’s deceitfulness in giving Jacob the wrong wife after requiring him to work many years to earn the wife he wanted. Then he required Jacob to work many more years to get the wife he actually wanted. Then to continue to hold Jacob there so that Jacob and his wives had to sneak away. Added to curiosity of the reaction to Jacob is the fact that God instructed him to leave. That aside, there is Laban saying he wanted to send Jacob’s family away with joy and celebration.
Jacob’s family history of deceitfulness, on his part, his father in law and his wives, cast a long shadow over his descendants. But God was able to use that deceitfulness for good.
Many generations later we have the psalmists writing. In Psalm 106:5, the psalmist has confessed Israel’s long history of rebellion and acknowledged how great and good God is. His love endures forever and He forgives. The psalmist asks to be remembered by God that he may share in the joy of the nation.
This verse seemed to go well with Genesis 31:27. It speaks of the human sinfulness of all and God’s redemption of the sinners and His gracious gift to all the people of joy in being His people.
This contrasts with the joy Laban spoke of. But it is the joy Laban and Jacob should have been celebrating with. Our joy should always come from God rather than human things of this world. Human joy is fleeting, whereas the joy that comes from God is always there.

Posted By Nan

For some months I have been exploring the theme of dark times and how that fits in with our journey following Jesus. Now it is time to move on. There is an obsession in the world about happiness. But happiness is not always possible. Such is the discourse on happiness that people feel they are failures when the do not feel “happy” all the time. But we can’t feel happy all the time. Bad things happen and it is normal to feel sad and disoriented around those bad times. One thing that we can always have however, is joy. This is what I am going to be talking about for the next little while.
I want to start this blog journey with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” The Message.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” NIV
Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendour and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.” Amplified.
So how do we as followers of Jesus and children of God define Joy?
On a human level, it has been described as happiness over and unanticipated or present good. And the old testament uses joy to describe a range of human experiences. But we look to joy on a spiritual level. Joy is the extreme happiness every believer feels as they contemplate salvation and the life to come. If you read the psalms, there are numerous references to the joy experienced by encountering God. The knowledge that God surrounds us with His steadfast love and brings us salvation is also a great joy to believers. God’s word and the support he gives us, the empowering to perform His will, and the guidance needed during that time, are also great sources of joy for believers.
If you read the Old Testament you will see countless examples of God’s intervention over the history of the Israelites. This was a source of great joy for them. Add to that the example of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection and we have an added source of joy.
Joy is not dependent on what is happening around us. It is above our day to day experiences. It is the confidence Paul described in Ephesians 3:12. It is the treasure hidden, as all treasures in Biblical times were, in jars of clay, that Paul described in 2 Corinthians 4:7. The treasure of all God has done for us and the joy we feel around that is hidden in jars of clay.
The deep joy that comes from faith in God naturally is seen in the spiritual realm as well. There are constant references in the Bible to the angels rejoicing. God’s kingdom is even described in Romans 14:17 as "righteousness, peace and joy". In Luke 10:20 followers are commanded to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. That certainly of salvation is a source of much joy. Of course, being with Jesus, spending time with Him is a great source of joy (John 15-17).
The joy that comes from faith in God is permanent, not transient. It is a joy that God feels as well as we who follow Him.
I am looking forward to taking this journey of Joy. May we all learn much from it.




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