Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord (5)

finding-joy-not-happiness-in-the-lord-5So now we come to the practical application side of this series and why I titled it: Finding J0y NOT Happiness in the Lord.

Although there are many great books written on JOY, these two have been particularly impacting on me personally: 11 Keys that Unlock the Door to Joy and Keep It Open, by Ken L. and Gaylyn Williams Whalin (Broadman & Holman, Nash. Tenn., 1993). And The Key to Lasting Joy by: T.W. Wilson (Word Books, Waco, Texas, 1987).

Practical Ways to Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord:

Have a growing “heart knowledge” of God.

  • The more intimate we are with God, the greater our joy.  If you are not joyful at this time, try seeing if it’s because you have more of a head knowledge than heart knowledge of God.

How do we have a heart knowledge of God?

  1. Focus on what God has done in your life and thank Him.
  2. Read Psalms and praise Him for Who He is.
  3. Personalize scripture by inserting your name in places where pronouns or other nouns are used in the text.  Begin with Ephesians 1 & 2.
  4. Discover verses that describe God, and memorize them.
  5. Meditate on Scripture.
  6. Sing praise and worship songs from your heart.  (I especially like to do that in my car!  Sure, I get strange looks from other drivers, as I belt out “Shout to the Lord…” but that’s okay 🙂 )
  7. Share with others what God reveals to you about Himself.
  8. Claim God’s promises in tough times.
  9. Pray through Scripture.
  10. Keep a journal, or prayer journal so you can look back periodically and be reminded of God’s activity in your life.

We must keep growing in Him, it is an ongoing process.  (2 Peter 3:18).  We’re able to joyfully give thanks to God as we come to know Him and all He means to us. (Col. 1:10-12).

  • God’s Word Reveals Joy.
    • Spending time in His Word is important to finding JOY in Him.
    • It’s not merely reading the Word, but experiencing it (as my Pastor likes to say.)

How?

  1. Carve out time.  (I know we live busy lives, but even a few minutes a day will help you find Joy in the Lord through the reading of His Word.)
  2. Read the Bible, not just books ABOUT the Bible.  (I have dozens of great devotionals etc. I might use to “whet my palate” so to speak, but the “main course” has to come from the Bible reading itself.)
  3. Memorize God’s Word.  (I really struggle with this, I’ll be honest.  So here are a few practical suggestions on how to memorize scripture):

As you start to memorize a verse…

  • first choose which translation you wish to use to memorize a passage of scripture.  I prefer NIV but there are many great translations to choose from.
  • read in your Bible the context of each verse you memorize.
  • try to gain a clear understanding of what each verse actually means.
  • Read the verse through several times, thoughtfully, aloud, or in a whisper.  Each time you read it, say the topic, reference, verse, and then the reference again.
  • pray about what you have just read, and pray that God will give you success to commit the verse to memory.

As you begin to memorize the verse:

  • say the verse aloud as much as possible
  • learn the topic and reference first and repeat it after the scripture passage.  ie: Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 
  • for longer passages, learn the first phrase of the verse, and once you have mastered that, continue adding more phrases until you have learned the entire passage.
  • write the verse out, put it on “post it” notes and post in conspicuous places – like the bathroom mirror or your computer.
  • partner with someone to help you memorize the verse.
  • practice, practice, practice!

The idea is to:

  • Fill your mind with scripture.
  • Meditate on scripture.
  • Pray through scripture.
  • Get involved in a Bible Study (individual or group)
  • Dig deeper – do a word study or a book/chapter study on your own.

This will allow you to gain “heart knowledge” as well as “head knowledge” about the Lord.  You are actually building a trust relationship with God through these exercises.  Why?

  1. Because Trust Releases Joy.
    • “Joy is a deep settled confidence that a loving Heavenly Father is in control of the details of my life.”

We have a choice how we will respond to our trials.  We can worry, get uptight, complain or we can rejoice in Him knowing He is in control.  We can measure our trust in two ways:

  • Do we really say: God will use this for good in my life? (Romans 8:28)
  • We can measure our trust by the degree of contentment we feel as we choose to focus on Him in the midst of our trials.

2.  Obedience Restores Joy. – obey God and have joy; disobey Him and be miserable.  (Luke 11:28)

Sin is like spiritual leprosy – it robs you of joy, and deadens your spiritual senses.  If you are deliberately disobeying His Word, how can you expect God to give you His full measure of JOY?  The list of blessings for obedience is endless, but be careful that you are not being obedient just to obtain JOY – that should NOT be our motivation.  (John 14:23-24)  We obey because we desire an intimate relationship with God.

3.  Prayer Maintains Joy.

  • Your prayer life may be one of the best indicators how rich or how poor your JOY life is.

Look at the following prayers of Paul:  Col. 1:9-11, Phil. 1:9-11 and Eph. 3:16-19.  Each of these can be used as model prayers for yourself, for your family, children, friends and others.

Homework today:

  • 1.  What one thing are you doing now that is helping you to have a “heart knowledge” of God?
  • 2.  What thing or things would you like to do better?
  • 3.  Commit to doing one of those things you’ve listed in question 2 (ie: memorizing scripture, going to a Bible Study, praying, reading Scripture etc.) and make a point of sharing that commitment with a trusted other (spouse, relative, friend) so you will be held accountable.

(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)

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Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord (4)

finding-joy-not-happiness-in-the-lord-4Today we continue our series of Finding Joy Not Happiness in the Lord.  If you haven’t read the three previous posts of this series, I invite you to do so now so you will be caught up.  How many of you have been keeping up with the homework?  Has it been a helpful exercise for you?  I sincerely hope so.

As Ken L. Williams says in his book “11 Keys That Unlock the Door to Joy and Keep it Open”, “Sometimes joy flows from us like a gushing spring, but much of the time we must hold on for dear life.  Joy can be elusive.”

Joy is a way of living, it takes time to foster joy, it is the result of a hard won victory over entrenched attitudes of apathy, pessimism, doubt, unbelief and despair.  For true joy, Christ is the only source.  The Morales’ know this.  Rev. Lang knows this.  I know this.

In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was a two year battle with the disease, but it was also a two year endurance course of trying not to dwell on my circumstances but to focus entirely on God.  Some days I did a better job of it than other days, but that was when God would bring people into my life who would walk with me through the struggles and always, always, always point me towards God.  You may find it weird for me to say but I truly “rejoiced in the Lord” through my cancer journey.  Would I want to go through cancer again?… no way, but I understand better than ever before what it means to “rejoice in our suffering” as Paul states in Romans.  I learned more about God, about my family, about my friends, about my church family and about what was important in life, and what was not.  I am convinced that had I focused on my circumstances, I would not be the person I am today.  The scars of the experience would have overwhelmed me in more ways than one.

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself…”OH OH…looks like the only way I can experience true JOY in the Lord is to go through a really bad experience“…a valley experience I call it.  Rather than try to avoid the bad experiences to find JOY you’ve got to seek out those negative experiences to find joy…right?  Believe it or not, there are some radical world philosophies out there that demand just that.  Ever hear of spiritual self-abuse?  It’s actually a form of self-mutilation where you whip yourself or starve yourself etc. to somehow grow spiritually closer to God.  I guess followers of this philosophy feel they must somehow experience the same kind of pain that Christ did when He went to the cross.   That is, in my opinion, slightly insane.  However, the scriptures that state denying oneself and picking up your cross are extremely valid when we start talking about how to find JOY in the Lord.

The joy of God came to full fruition in human history in the Person of Jesus Christ.  Joy and exultation run through the entire biblical account of the coming of Christ. (Luke 1:14; Luke 1:44; Matt. 2:10).  The most familiar passage is the angel’s announcement of “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”. (Luke 2:10).  Jesus spoke of His own joy and the full joy He had come to bring to others (John 15:11; John 17:13).  He illustrated the kingdom of Heaven by telling of the joy of a man who found treasure (Matt. 13:44).  Zacchaeus was in a tree when Jesus called him, but he quickly climbed down and received Jesus joyfully (Luke 19:6).  He had found life’s ultimate treasure in Christ.

As Jesus’ death approached, He told His followers that soon they would be like a woman in labour, whose sorrow would be turned into joy (John 16:20-22).  Later they understood, when the dark sorrow of the cross gave way to the joy of the resurrection (Luke 24:41).  Viewed from this perspective, eventually they came to see that the cross itself was necessary for the joy to become real (Heb. 12:2).  Because of His victory and the promise of His abiding presence, the disciples could rejoice even after the Lord’s ascension (Luke 24:52).

The Book of Acts tells how joy continued to characterize those who followed Jesus.  After Philip preached in Samaria, the people believed and “there was great joy in that city”.  (Act. 8:8).  After the work of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, “the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:52).  After the conversion of the Philippian jailer, he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house”. (Acts 16:34).

Joy in the Christian life is in direct proportion to a believer’s walk with the Lord.  As believers we can rejoice because we are in the Lord (Phil. 4:4).  Joy is a fruit of a Spirit-led life (Gal. 5:22).  Sin in a believer’s life robs the person of joy (Ps. 51:12).

When a person walks with the Lord, the person can continue to rejoice even when troubles come.  Jesus spoke of those who could rejoice even when persecuted and killed (Matt. 5:12).   Peter and James, like Paul, echoed the Lord’s teachings about rejoicing in troubles (1 Peter 1:6-8; James 1:2).

Joy in the Lord enables people to enjoy all that God has given to them.  They rejoice in family (Prov. 5:18), food (1 Tim. 4:4-5), celebrations (Deut. 16:13-15), friends (Phil. 4:1).  They share with others the joys and sorrows of life: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, weep with them that weep.” (Rom. 12:15).

Let’s look at Phil. 4:4…”Rejoice in the Lord always.”  It does not say rejoice sometimes, or rejoice only when we feel like it, it says “rejoice in the Lord always.”  (In the Lord) means in His fellowship, in His love and grace and in the knowledge of His dominion over our lives and His rule over all our destiny.  In other words, the Lord has EVERYTHING under control.

Which leads us to our first MYTH about JOY:  The idea that if we’re NOT joyful every minute of every day, we’re terrible Christians.  That myth can rob us of the little joy already in our lives.  Every Christian struggles with a lack of joy at times, but God’s response is compassion, not accusation and anger.

We can choose JOY.  If God commands joy, then it must be possible to choose it.  During my cancer experience I had two choices as I saw it: I could choose to laugh or I could choose to cry.  That was my philosophy throughout the experience.  Laughter gave way to hope, hope to life,…the opposite was true when I cried; I felt defeated, and hopeless.  There are all kinds of studies about terminal illness about the effects of laughter and the longevity of life:  people who laugh and have a generally positive attitude during their illness, live longer and have a better survival rate than those who tend to be pessimistic and discouraged throughout their illness.   So, very soon after my initial surgery and during my recovery and especially during my chemo treatments, I made a point of trying to laugh every day.  That wasn’t always easy especially as the side effects of chemo kicked in, so I recruited people to send me emails to encourage me, especially when I was too weak and sick to leave the house.  I would get on the computer and people from around the world sent me wonderful, humourous anecdotes, silly jokes, pictures, videos and I would immediately feel better because they made me laugh.  When I was feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, my family, friends and church family supported me in hundreds of little acts of kindness and always they tried to bring a smile to my face.  When I couldn’t do it for myself, I found JOY through others!

Of course there is a down side if you choose NOT to have JOY.  Then we are vulnerable to a host of what has been called the Devil’s D’s: doubt, discouragement, disillusionment, dejection, depression, despair and disaster.

Homework today:

  • 1.  Do you think it is possible to choose “JOY”?  Why or why not?
  • 2.  Should Christians be “joyful” all the time?  Why or why not?
  • 3. Several scripture verses were mentioned today.  Read through them and choose two that speak to your life right now.  Memorize them, or write them in your prayer journal, or share them with a friend.  If you’re brave, share them in a comment here and tell me why they have impacted you today.

(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)

 

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Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord (3)

finding-joy-not-happiness-in-the-lord-3Perhaps last day’s homework assignment left you a bit wary, questioning why you do some of the things you do.  Sometimes it’s good to get a healthy perspective on things.  Some of you may have thought, “I have to work to support my family.  It’s not an activity that makes me happy but I have to do it anyway.”  It is absolutely true.  As I tried to tell my sixteen year old daughter when she balked at doing her homework by saying, “I will never, ever use this Math after high school so why bother doing it in the first place?”  I said, “You just gotta do what you gotta do”.  (I’m thinking of having a t-shirt made up with that saying!)

It proves my point.  If we base our happiness on doing activities, or getting “stuff”, we will be quickly disappointed.  Sometimes we just “gotta do what we gotta do” to survive.  It may not make us happy…and here it comes…it can be a JOYFUL experience.  How?

You do not need “stuff” to be joyful.  In fact the Bible points out that JOY can be achieved in good times AND bad times.  JOY is not dependant on the circumstances of life.  JOY is a constant.  Joy can be experienced in the middle of a very negative experience, but it can only occur if God is the focus and not on the circumstance itself.

Let’s read Romans 5:1-5.  Paul tells us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  “Therefore 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.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Someone asked me once how it is that some people can handle personal tragedies so well while other people seem to fall apart when hardships befall them.  Let me give a few examples:

In 1986, my husband, Charles worked for an oil company about the same time the federal government brought in some oil royalties that saw the bottom drop out of the oil industry in Calgary.  The result was massive layoffs and my husband found himself without a job as did a few men and women from our church family then.  We did all the practical things to get by: downsize, modify our budget etc. etc., but one thing we agreed upon was that we would not stop tithing to our church and we would focus on God as we remembered our life verse from Proverbs 16:9….”You may make your plans but the Lord determines your steps”.  We watched in awe as God opened doors and led Charles to new career ventures.  It was an awesome time in our lives because we knew that God was in control and we leaned on the promise that He would never leave us or forsake us.  Certainly there were times of worry and certainly we had to modify our lifestyle, but we grew closer to God through the experience as never before.  On the flip side of this: another man from our church who lost his job the same time Charles did crumbled.  He stopped attending church, he ended up losing his home; his wife ended up leaving him.  We completely lost touch with him and to this day I do not know what became of him.  I don’t know why we seemed to handle the upset better than he did but I think it is because we did not focus on our circumstance, we focused on God.  We found true joy in following God through this very trying circumstance.

I can’t help but think about some other families who seem to know what it means to rejoice in the Lord no matter the circumstances of life:

Rev. Dale Lang whose son was murdered in the hallway of his school years ago.  Rev. Lang was able to forgive the young man who shot his son and even ministered to him in jail.  You can’t have that kind of forgiveness if you are focused on the circumstance.  He focused on God and was able to forgive his son’s murderer.

Pastor Stauffer in Edson lost his 14 year old daughter, Emily.  She had been raped and murdered.  In the family’s statement to the press only hours after her body was discovered,  they made a point of saying that they “rejoiced” that Emily was with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I think of the Morales family.  Pastor Jesse (as he was lovingly called) was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2008.  Jesse struggled valiantly with the disease for nineteen months, even leading a few of his caregivers to follow Christ even though he had difficulty speaking towards the end of his life.  If you want to witness first hand what it means to be “rejoicing in suffering”…look at the Morales’ during that difficult time in their lives!  Jesse’s daughter Stephanie posted this blog:

“Posted by Jesse’s Girl at 3:09 PM 1 comments                        

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gotta Give Him Praise!

Upon returning from the Philippines, my dad decided not to go back to work due to his decrease in functional ability. This was a pretty devastating step but at the same time, we were thankful that he was able to know when it was time to stop. We had a bad “breathing” scare not too long after. The doctor assessed his breathing ability (which is the biggest indicator of lifespan) and it looked grim at first. He saw a Repirologist today who confirmed that he is at 73% of normal capacity and has not declined since August. Each new day is a gift, and every day that the symptoms don’t worsen, we celebrate!

Since then, 4 of his siblings have been up to visit. The gold girls, Cleo, Fely and Rose made the long drive up for only a 1 day turn around a couple of weeks ago. Among the many highlights was my Aunt Cleo stir-frying dad’s healthy breakfast cereal (concocted by Aunt Remie) thinking it was brown rice. She added the usual onions, soy sauce, etc. to OATMEAL and the best part was… she ate it! (Bless her heart for not wanting to waste food!) You have to find joy in the little things right?

Last week Uncle Lope and his family were up and thank you to Les especially who has the wonderful gift of humor. I know you made him laugh hysterically on more than one occasion. Uncontrollable laughter is a symptom of ALS but we’ve unanimously decided it’s our favorite symptom! Praise God for laughter.

This is a hard road that we’re on. But as I was told by a very godly woman, you have to revel in those little moments of happiness that God brings your way. Otherwise, we’re doomed to being a victim of circumstances.”

Jesse passed away on August 17, 2009.  We attended our friend’s memorial service along with hundreds more.  It was a celebration of a life well lived!  Canadian Country superstar, Paul Brandt even sang at the service, his life having been touched personally by Pastor Jesse.  Every year, his family, friends and church family participate in the ALS run held in Calgary to raise money for ALS awareness.  Jesse left a timeless legacy.  He never focused on his circumstances…his sole focus was on the Lord!

Homework for today:

  • 1.  What challenging circumstances are you facing right now?
  • 2.  Are you able to look beyond those challenges to find a sense of “joy” even in the midst of those circumstances?  Why or why not?
  • 3.  Pray to the Lord to help you find “joy” even in the midst of hardship and challenges.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do…

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1: 2-8,12)

(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)

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Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord (2)

finding-joy-not-happiness-in-the-lord-2Today I continue my series on Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord.

How many of you did your homework?  For those who did, I would be interested to hear what “happy” thing you did and why it made you happy.  You can leave me a comment if you’re brave enough to share.  To others, did you just avoid the whole activity because you thought it might stress you out more than make you happy?  Believe it or not some people even avoid “happy” activities because it can be an added stressor in their lives.  Don’t believe me?  I know people who find Christmas the most stressful time of year…

I love dinner parties but they stress me out planning them!  I’ve nearly had a nervous breakdown planning a child’s birthday party…(I told you yesterday I was an A-type personality!)

Sometimes it would be so easy to avoid those activities but let’s face it, avoiding stressful activities, whether they give us happiness or pain is pretty impractical.

Now I don’t know about you, but I would say that this would be a constant struggle for me to try to avoid anything in my life that would cause me pain, hurt, distress or upset.  In fact, I would think this is an impossible goal…and yet many men and women in this world have embraced this philosophy.

Ever heard the expression “If it feels good, do it.”?  We live in anything but an altruistic society, where the pursuit of happiness is entirely centered around one’s own wants, desires, and needs.  Just look at today’s advertising.  It is entirely centered on what we should buy so we will be happy in today’s world: the cosmetic industry alone is a 30 billion dollar industry with a 20% growth rate each year!  We need to ask ourselves: can happiness be found bottled in a L’oreal jar, or found under the hood of a sport’s car, or found at the bottom of a yoghurt cup?…and yet that is exactly what the world would have us believe.  If we buy this or that, if we change this or that about ourselves, if we only think positively and never negatively, we will be truly happy.  It is a deception, it is a falsehood and unfortunately we buy into it over and over and over again, and for a time we may be happy, but it is fleeting, then we need to buy something else or do something else, or try something else… and that’s why the commercials never stop and why we are never completely satisfied and why we are never completely happy.

JOY is different.  Whereas happiness is described as a buoyant emotion that results from momentary plateaus of well-being.  Joy is bedrock stuff.  Joy is the confidence that operates irrespective of our moods.  Joy is the certainty that all is well, however we feel.  Joy isn’t a feeling based on circumstances, Joy is an attitude based on our relationship with God.

Joy is the happy state that results from knowing and serving God.  A number of Greek and Hebrew words are used in the Bible to convey the ideas of joy and rejoicing.  We have the same situation in English with such nearly synonymous words as joy, happiness, pleasure, delight, gladness, merriment, felicity, and enjoyment.  The words JOY and REJOICE are the words most often used to translate the Hebrew and Greek words into English.  JOY is found over 150 times in the Bible.  If such words as “joyous” and “joyful” are included, the number comes to over 200.  The verb “rejoice” appears well over 200 times.

Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God.  It is not something people can create by their own efforts.  The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure.  The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word “hedonism”, the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking.  Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4)

The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment.  Let’s read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11.  This is the sad testimony of one (Solomon) who sought to build his life on pleasure-seeking.  The search left him empty and disillusioned.

Pleasures Are Meaningless 1 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;    I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor,    and this was the reward for all my toil. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done  and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Proverbs 14:13 offers further insight into this way of life, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.”  Cares, riches and pleasures rob people of the possibility of fruitful living (Luke 8:14).  Pleasure often enslaves people in a vicious cycle of addiction (Titus 3:3).  The self-indulgent person, according to 1 Tim. 5:6, is dead while seeming still to be alive.

Here is some more homework for you:

  • 1.  What are things that you strive for under the sun?
  • 2.  What pleasures (rewards) do you get from striving for them?
  • 3.  Are you happy in your pursuit of them?  Why or why not?

(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)

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Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord

finding-joy-not-happiness-in-the-lord-by-lynn-doveIf I were to take an informal survey, raise your hands and tell me if you are “Happy” today?  Now if I were to ask you again, how many of you are “Joyful”?

Did some of you raise your hands for HAPPY but not JOYFUL?  Why?

How many think Happiness and Joyfulness are one and the same thing?

How many just don’t feel like raising their hands?…..just kidding.

Well, over the next few weeks I plan on doing a series about Finding Joy NOT Happiness in the Lord.  I will attempt to show you the difference between Joy and Happiness.  That’s not to say that you can’t be happy and joyful at the same time, because obviously you can, but there are also times when you can experience joy without feeling happy.  How is that possible, you might ask?…well let’s start with some definitions:

Happiness: is a state of being that is generally short-lived.  In other words, happiness occurs over and over again for a variety of different reasons, generally caused by a pursuit or an activity that the individual has done or experienced resulting in this “happy” emotion to occur.  For example:

You can feel happy when you are:

Reading to your child, or walking your dog, or going on a holiday….I’m sure we could come up with countless things to list that make us happy….

Now some of you may say, “But Lynn, I experience “joy” doing those things as well…”  In other words the word “happy” is just not a strong enough emotional word to adequately express how you feel.   I totally understand that.  It’s like we equate the emotion JOY as a kind of step up from happiness.

Here’s the differentiation between Happiness and Joy and we’ll use our original examples:

You are happy reading to your child.  It’s bonding time.  It’s cuddling with your child and sharing a good book and getting some good quality time in with your child…you are happy until he suddenly looks up at you and you realize he has a kind of “green look” in his face.  In fact, as he leans against you, you feel that he’s a little warm and suddenly your “happy” emotion has dissolved into concern for your sick child….

Another example:  The prospects of going on a holiday makes you happy.  You have planned this tropical get-away, you have enjoyed a week soaking up the sun and the whole experience has left you happy and contented.  On the way home, you’re still happy reliving all the great memories of the past week, until you land and you discover that the airline has lost one of your bags.  Your happiness is replaced with frustration, possibly anger.  In fact, if you are an A-type personality like I am – this ONE negative experience may adversely affect how you felt about the entire holiday….

Let’s take another more extreme example:  You are a fit, active woman.  You eat healthy, you are happy with your good health.  Sure, you’re happy…until one day you become sick….

See where I’m going with this?…

Happiness is a state of being, an emotion that can be interrupted and therefore is temporary.  It can be experienced again and again but not necessarily with the same intensity as before…

-you can go back and read to your child and be happy but you might never recapture the same mood as before the child got sick.

-you can go on holidays and be happy but you might always be thinking about whether or not you’ll come home with the same amount of bags as what you left with.

– you can recapture your healthy state again and be happy, but you might have had to change your lifestyle to do so.  It just won’t be the same again.

I came across an interesting website that actually measures how Happy you are….I am not a social scientist so I don’t know whether the measurements are accurate etc. but I thought that their definition of “happiness” was interesting:

“Happiness is a belief that a hoped-for state of affairs is coming into existence.  Pleasure is limited to the feelings of the moment.  Contentment is the feeling that a hoped for state actually exists.  Unhappy reactions to being blocked from an activity are the best measure of a person’s true goals.  It matters little where you came from but greatly where you now choose to go and what you choose to do.”  (Charles Scamahorn’s Happiness Scale – HAPS – A scale for measuring human happiness, 2006).  http://www.probaway.com/MetaScales/Happiness/Happiness.htm

Based on that definition alone, we can see that it is entirely up to the individual whether or not he or she will be happy or not.  We can also add that if you set your goals too high for yourself and you fail in the attempt to achieve that goal, you won’t be happy.  Often happiness is in the pursuit of things entirely centered on the individual.   In other words, if you set out to be rich, or healthy, or powerful, or lose weight etc. etc. and you somehow are not successful in achieving that goal you will not be happy…ever.  Therefore you have two options:  try harder to achieve those goals (and we know what that means…stress, stress and more stress….) or try to avoid being blocked in achieving these goals.

What I read here is that the only way to achieve true happiness is to completely avoid anything that would cause you to be unhappy…..in fact as I researched a little more, many world philosophies today are based entirely upon that fact alone: avoidance of anything that will cause you pain, hurt, distress, or upset.  Happiness is only achieved if all negative experiences and feelings are removed.  So these philosophies advocate that people try to avoid or at least control negative influences that would undermine their state of happiness.

So here’s some homework for you today:

  • 1.  Make a list of things (people, events, activities etc.) that make you happy.
  • 2.  Briefly ask why those things make you happy?
  • 3.  Take time today to participate in one of those “happy” activities!

 

(*This blog series was first published by Lynn Dove in April/May 2012.)

Posted in Inspiration & Devotion, Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

25 Encouraging Bible Verses for the Loss of a Pet

dd59d3213afcf9b8e07d6d136d39b55bThere is great debate amongst Bible scholars whether or not animals will go to heaven.  Questions arise whether or not animals and pets have a “spirit”, and whether or not animals have a “soul”.  The main question I was recently asked is whether or not we will be reunited with our beloved pets in heaven.  To that last question I say, “YES!”

I have lost several of my fur- babies over my lifetime.  I miss each and every one of them.  They were part of my family and I mourned their loss when they died.  In Genesis 1:2 the Spirit of God is “hovering over the waters” (Ruach Elohim – Greek)  This Greek word: Ruach is translated “breath of life” and Genesis 8:1 uses ruach to describe the “wind” God sent over the earth to recede the flood waters.  Altogether the word ruach is used almost 400 times in the Old Testament.  All living creatures owe the “breath of life” to God.  (Job 27:3).

There is no doubt in my mind that God breathed life into my precious pets, as He has breathed life into me and into all living creatures.  There are also several scripture passages that make me believe that ALL creatures are loved by God and He has plans for His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom together.  Psalm 145: 9-10; 13; 15-21.

Still the question remains whether or not animals have souls.  In order to answer that question we must understand that animals were put under the dominion of man and did not have that free choice to repent of sin and be “saved” as we humans understand  salvation.  The Christian concept of heaven is inextricably linked with the concepts of salvation, redemption, and resurrection.  The Bible is clear that redemption is necessary for human beings because we are “fallen” beings.  Humans have free will and thus have the ability to sin or not to sin.  Humans may choose salvation (to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour) or reject Him.  Animals, however, have never “fallen”, therefore redemption is not necessary for animals.  Animals cannot choose between good and evil (to sin or not to sin).  When animals behave badly, it is generally because of a conflict between their God-given natures and our human requirements.  If there is no justification, sanctification or redemption for animals does that mean there is no glorification?  I believe there is if I read Romans 8:19 -21 correctly. “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.

I also believe because animals do not “choose” to sin that ALL animals will go to heaven, even the naughty ones who by their very nature may misbehave badly – at least according to our human standards of what constitutes poor pet behaviour.  Animals act instinctively and cannot be faulted if they bite, scratch or even kill because of their nature to survive.  As pet owners, we must be responsible to raise our pets “in the way they should go”, by providing for their needs and giving them the love and care, so they are never abused or neglected.  WE will be judged by our treatment of them, not vice versa!

So, I suppose the ultimate question is not whether or not your pet goes to heaven, but whether or not YOU DO!  This whole debate is moot otherwise.  If you are doubtful about YOUR eternal life read: The Gospel Message: Get it? Got it? Good!!

I am praying that I will be welcomed into the presence of my Saviour at the end of my lifetime, and that He will say, “Well done, good and faithful Servant…come into your reward…” (Matthew 25:23)  Then I hope to see running to greet me all my loved ones including my purring and barking fur-babies, all clambering to give me hugs and kisses…each in their own way!

Here are more encouraging scriptures for those who love, have loved and lost a precious pet:

Psalm 36:6  “Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.”

Genesis 1:30  “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

Genesis 6:19-22  “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept live. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”  Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

Revelation 4:11  “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Job 12:7-10  “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

Genesis 9:8-17  “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Revelation 5: 13  “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Matthew 10:29  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

Ecclesiastes 3:18-21  “I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

Psalms 50:10-11  “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.”

Hosea 2:18-20  “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground.  Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.  I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.”

Psalm 36:6  “Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.  You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.”

2 Samuel 12: 1-6  “The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.  “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”  David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Proverbs 12:10  “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

Proverbs 27:23  “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”

Isaiah 11:6-9  “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Revelation 21: 4-5   ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Isaiah 65:17  “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”      

Isaiah 65:25  “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.”

2 Peter 3:13  “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

Psalm 104:26-35  “There the ships go to and fro, and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.  All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.  When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.  When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.  May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.  I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.  But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.  Praise the Lord, my soul.  Praise the Lord.”

Psalm 148:5-14  “Let them praise the name of the Lordfor at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever—he issued a decree that will never pass away.  Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.  Let them praise the name of the Lordfor his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.  Praise the Lord.”

Romans 8:18-22  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

Philippians 3:20-21  “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Psalm 145:21  “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.  Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.”

Unless stated otherwise all scripture used on Journey Thoughts is from: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 25 Encouraging Bible Verses - Topical, Inspiration & Devotion, Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts, Scripture Study | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Do I Love Thee?

how-do-i-love-theeHow Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Perhaps one of the most “lovely” – pardon the pun, poems of all time.  Every Valentine’s Day, it seems to be the one that is quoted most by lovers all over the world, well, at least the first two lines:  “How Do I Love Thee?  Let Me Count the Ways…”

The beautiful sentiment and meaning of the sonnet all but lost in comedic sketches and cheesy Hallmark cards we laugh at while shopping at the dollar store.  You know what I’m talking about.  Often times the husband or wife depicted in the sketch or card will actually count the ways:

How do I love you, let me count the ways”:

ONE.  I love you when you take the garbage out… (open the card) and I’ll love you even more if I don’t have to nag you to do it every time!

TWO.  I love you when you cook me dinner…(open the card) and I’ll love you even if it results in a trip to the hospital for food poisoning.

THREE.  I love you when I ask if I look fat in that dress, when I know I do but you say that I don’t…

We have all but ruined Browning’s poem!

Like the sweet words of sentiment my son wrote to me one Valentine’s Day when he was five:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Sugar is sweet,

And I am too.

(He didn’t quite understand the concept…)

Or how about this one, written by a close friend of mine?:

Roses are red,

Violets are great,

Just remember girdles

Cost two-ninety-eight.

I know it’s often said, “It’s the thought that counts.”  Not in this case.

But let’s get back to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Born in 1806, in Durham, England, she was the oldest of twelve children.  For centuries, the Barrett family lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labour. Elizabeth’s father, Edward chose to raise his family in England, while his fortune grew in Jamaica.  Elizabeth was well-educated at home and by the time she was twelve was already writing poetry inspired by John Milton’s epic poem, “Paradise Lost” and her love of Shakespeare.  Elizabeth was always battling poor health but that did not detour her from teaching herself Hebrew in her teen years so she could read the Old Testament; and later her interests turned to Greek studies.  Along with her appetite for classic literature, was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith.  She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church.

A series of misfortunes hit the Barrett family in the 1830’s, where they all but lost their fortune due to the growing abolitionist movement which Elizabeth endorsed, much to her father’s dismay.  Her father sent his other children to work on the plantation but Elizabeth, due to poor health, stayed home with her father and continued to write a collection of poems which eventually garnered attention in 1844 from the poet, Robert Browning.  Elizabeth had praised him in one of her poems, and he in response wrote her a letter.  Elizabeth and Robert (6 years her junior) exchanged 574 letters over the next twenty months, but their romance was bitterly opposed by her father, who did not want any of his children to marry.  In 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy.  Her father never spoke to her again.  Elizabeth regained her health and had a son and she published a collection of sonnets in 1850 that she had written in secret before her marriage, including “How Do I Love Thee” that was dedicated to her husband.

Why am I sharing this?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning could not have penned a more perfect love letter to her husband.  It has been analyzed and re-analyzed by English Literature scholars who have tried, and in my opinion, failed to adequately define and interpret the amazing love she was purposefully trying to express to her husband through this one poem.

I think, and this is just my own opinion, of course, most of the scholars just don’t “get” the poem, because they do not fully grasp the Christian concept of love she has woven intricately throughout her poem.

Indulge me for a moment:

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”

There are actually 6 ways in the Bible to count the ways of love.  Being a Hebrew and Greek scholar, Barrett would have known that.

In the Old Testament there are two Hebrew words that are translated into English as “love”:

Ahab” – is human love for another, including family, friends, spouses and God.  Ahab – is the “love” expressed in the great commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

And in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

The second Hebrew word, “hesed” is the unbreakable bond that God initiates with Abraham and Sarah and their descendants:  “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you, I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

It is not conditional love, “If you do this, then I will do that.” There are no “ifs” in these promises of God. There are no time limits; no cancellation clauses. This is a covenant bond between God and Abraham and their descendants defined in the story of Moses, the escape from slavery in Egypt and the giving of the Ten Commandments. And so, while hesed has the feelings of love, kindness, mercy, and affection it is defined primarily by the unconditional, steadfast, loyal, faithfulness, and trustworthiness of God.  Hesed continues even when feelings change. God’s anger and punishment is ALWAYS expressed within the constraint of this unbreakable covenant bond, and is ALWAYS for the purpose of restoring the mutuality of that bond.

Further qualities that are also embedded in hesed are righteousness and justice; harmony and well-being. Notice that in the verse quoted, in Genesis 12, God says, “I will bless you so that you will be a blessing.” So, while God’s covenant bond is unbreakable and unconditional, it is not an “anything goes” relationship. It is a bond that has a purpose: so that you will be a blessing. And the nature of this blessing is justice: right relationships with family, foreigners, slaves, the land, animals, etc., etc.; and harmony and well-being for all.

In the New Testament there are four Greek words that are translated into English as “love”:

The word, charitas, is often translated as “charity,” and it connotes feelings of generosity, gratitude, favour, pleasing others, and finding beauty and delight in service to others. It is selfless love. 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 speaks about this kind of love. You may note too, it is the scripture most often quoted at weddings, when the Pastor is trying to tell young newlyweds, from this day forward, it’s NOT all about you as individuals anymore. It’s that balanced partnership of constantly striving to love your spouse more than yourself! (Am I right, or am I right? 🙂 )

The Greek word, eros, is named after the Greek god of love. His Roman counterpart was Cupid (meaning desire). This “love” is associated with sexual desire, romance and what we most often equate with Valentine’s Day. Solomon’s Song of Songs is a good example of this kind of love.

Phileo, is commonly associated with “brotherly love,” and is most often exhibited in a close friendship. Best friends will display this generous and affectionate love for each other as each seeks to make the other happy. Since phileo love involves feelings of warmth and affection toward another person, we do not have phileo love toward our enemies. However, God commands us to have love toward everyone. This includes those whose personalities clash with ours, those who hurt us and treat us badly, and even those who are hostile toward our faith.

Luke 6:28 “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That type of love is Agape love.  It is God’s unconditional, unbreakable bond of love; kindness, and mercy so that we might live together with righteousness, justice, harmony and well-being. When Jesus quotes the Great Commandment from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, it is Agape love He is referring to. It is the most powerful, noblest type of love.  It is sacrificial love.  Agape love is more than a feeling – it is an act of the will.  This is the love that God has for His people and prompted the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, for our sins.  Jesus was Agape love personified.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Agape is used to describe the love that is of and from God, Whose very Nature is love itself: “God is love” (1 John 4:8)  God does not merely love; HE IS LOVE itself.  Everything God does flows from His love.

Understanding that, let’s read Elizabeth Browning’s second line of her poem again:

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height”  – Stop there.

Have you heard of that kind of love?

Ephesians 3:14-19,  Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Immediately a Worship song comes to mind: “How deep the Father’s Love for us, How vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch his treasure.”

We cannot fathom that kind of love, can we?

That is Agape love and although we’re called as Christians to have that kind of love for our spouses, friends, family and enemies, Agape love does not come naturally to us.  Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love.  If we are to love as God loves – with agape love – we can only do so if we tap into its very Source.  This is the love that “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” when we became His children (Romans 5:5). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).  It is because of God’s love toward us, we are able to love one another.

In Elizabeth’s love poem to her husband, she endeavors to list the many ways in which she loves Robert.  She loves him to the length and breadth and height her soul can reach and also on the level of every day’s quiet need.  She loves him purely and passionately.  She loves him as she once did her saints, and with the smiles and tears of her whole life.  And if God lets her, she will love him more after death than she does while she is living.

“I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.”

God’s power over the body and soul in death seems to be the only thing that Browning acknowledges is stronger than the love she has for her husband.

Such beautiful sentiments to ponder upon for Valentine’s Day, but even Browning’s sonnets fall short of expressing the kind of love we can only experience by being in a personal, intimate relationship with God the Father.

There may be many ways of conveying Love, but Jesus, WHO is LOVE embodied, is the ONLY PERFECT, manifested expression of Love to us,…

And it is In His Word, He writes the perfect Love Letter to us:

 

http://www.fathersloveletter.com/

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From the Heart

259x400x3369782d_gif_pagespeed_ic_mr6gw0xg0dI have a little red autograph book that I have had since I was a kid.  Throughout school and into my college years I collected signatures and autographs from family, friends and sports heroes.  The first entry in my book are these words my mother wrote to me the Christmas of 1967:

“Dear Lynn!

When you were born, you cried, and people around you smiled.  May your life be such that when you leave you smile, and people around you are crying!”

Certainly when I read those words I thought that my little book would be filled with poignant blessings and sentimental poetry that would inspire and uplift me.  She adds this little ditty two pages later:

“Dear Lynn!

When you get tired of T.V. shows, climb up a tree and talk to the crows!”

That sort of set the tone for the rest of the book:

My brother Jack wrote:

“If I had a rifle, this is what I’d do, I’d tranquilize an old bear and take it to the zoo.”

Another “friend” wrote in June 1968:

“When you are tired and out of shape, remember girdles are $2.98.”

Dianne

Or how about this one my friend Tanya wrote to me in grade nine?  We were in the middle of watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and my favorite team at the time were the Montreal Canadiens:

“Just think, that if you were –

As good as Guy Lafleur

I’d never see you at all

‘Cause you’d be in Montreal!

….even the traditional “Roses are red” sentiment was distorted by another “friend”:

“Roses are red,

Violets are green,

You have a figure like a

Washing machine!”

*sigh*

You would think that based on those little rhymes I would have given up on finding that perfect heart-felt wording from someone that is usually found on the inside of a Hallmark card.  No such luck.  If I thought that I would have romantic poetry spewed in my direction I was sadly disappointed.  I had my eye on a certain handsome naval lieutenant in  the summer of 1977 and I thought surely this man might have some romantic poetic potential:

“To my dearest Lynn,”  (Certainly this started off as promising…)

When I return next year,  I hope you’re still free;

If not I’ll go as high as $1.49.”

Steve.

Word of advice guys…those words will NEVER win over a girl’s heart!

Flash forward to February 1978.  A new school term had just started at the University of Victoria where I was studying education.  I was busily scouring the book shelves at the bookstore, looking for the text books I needed for my courses.  Charles and I had only been dating for a very short time…enough time to know that there was a spark between us, but still not enough time to commit to saying we were in a “relationship”.  (This was waaaaaay before Facebook don’t you know.)  My “boyfriend” looked politely bored as he watched me go up and down the aisles.  He had a physics paper to write later for his class, and he seemed more interested in the Hot Rod magazines on the rack at the front desk than anything else.  I took idle note of the Valentine hearts dangling from strings around the store.  Valentine’s Day had never been one of my most favorite days of the year.  I had a small collection of silly cards that potential suitors thought would win my heart…they were wrong.  I hadn’t known Charles that long and so far, Charles’ only written communication to me was a hastily written note left on the windshield of my car.  “I’ll meet you later at the Student’s Union Building for coffee.  ‘C’ ”  Based on that I wasn’t holding out much hope that he would be that poetry-writing Romeo I was hoping for.  After all one of our first dates was me passing him wrenches while he put a new transmission into his hopped up muscle car.

I glared at him as he pulled a car magazine from the rack and I harumphed at him and batted a floating heart with irritation as I went in search of yet another textbook at the back of the store.

Five minutes later, I had my books in my hand and we walked towards the door.

“Here.” he said.

I thought he was offering to take my heavy bag of books but instead he handed me a little plastic pin.  It still had it’s tiny little price tag on it: 39 cents.Valentine's Pin

LOVE

That’s all.  He looked at me and smiled shyly.  His eyes spoke volumes.  LOVE.

For well over thirty-five years I have worn that little plastic LOVE pin.  All my life I had been looking for romantic poetry with  flowery sentiment but every Valentine’s Day since 1978 I’m reminded that only one word really matters when it comes from the heart: LOVE.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Complete-a-Series Disorder

complete-a-series-disorderI have been doing some early spring cleaning this past week…even though this past week we had yet another Alberta blizzard hit us, making it obvious that Winter is still upon us.

But I digress….

I decided to clean out my book shelves in the middle of this cleaning frenzy. With thousands of books downloaded on my Kindle, I realized that some of my books appear so redundant (and lonely) to be sitting on my bookshelves collecting dust, so I decided to sell some great book series I have accumulated, and donate the rest of my books to charity.

It is painful for me to let go of those dusty books because I still remember the pure joy and pleasure I had when I read each story. I remember times and places I read each book, some read while sitting on a beach, or house boating, or camping, or just curled up in my favorite chair on those long winter nights. Some were given to me as gifts when I was in the hospital battling breast cancer and I found reading to be a great distraction and comfort to me while awaiting and undergoing treatments.

I have an eclectic taste in books so I have Christian, Historical Romance, Science Fiction, Classics and some Young Adult series. I’ve got devotionals, biographies and autobiographies. Reading has always been my passion ever since I was a little girl. For one glorious summer in Grade Seven I read as many of the Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan books as I could get a hold of. Another summer it was Trixie Belden books, and of course the entire collection of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” series. Then I went through my “Bruno and Boots” (Gordon Korman) phase, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and when my kids wanted to read some of the popular series of the day, I decided to preview them first so I read the Harry Potter Books, the Twilight series and the Hunger Games.

The thing with any book series is that once I start reading one I need to read every book in the series. It’s a compulsion I have. Even if I don’t really care for some of the books in a series, if I know there’s a couple more to follow, I just have to read the next one. It must be a reading disorder I have…”Complete-a-Series Disorder” I call it.

Which led me to quite a dilemma a few years ago. I found seventeen of a nineteen book series in a used book store: Peter Danielson’s, The Children of the Lion series. Written in the early eighties by several authors, it is a series loosely based on Old Testament stories. I decided to buy the set and read a few of the books and I immediately got “hooked” on the series. Then came the disquieting realization that I was missing #15 and the last book of the series #19. I looked everywhere for the elusive books and finally in desperation emailed the author and he graciously sent me a link to where I could order the books! Yay! He did however, tell me that the series is not complete because the publisher refused to publish more of the series beyond the 19th book.

I have yet to actually sit down and read the last few books of the series fearing I will never get over this feeling of “incompleteness” and disappointment when a series ends without a good conclusion.  Like the way I felt at the end of the T.V. series “Lost”.

Anyway, it did get me thinking if there are other people with the “Complete-a-series Disorder” like me? Leave a comment and tell me what series you got “hooked” on and just had to finish.

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PTL (Praise the Lord)

I was listening to one of my compilation CD’s the other day and the classic country song, “Make the World Go Away” came on.  I am revealing a lot about myself here, but I do occasionally like to listen to a good country classic and this one is particularly poignant.  “Make the world go away, and get if off my shoulders, say the things you used to say, and make the world go away”…whoa!  Sorta gets ya…right here (pointing to my heart).  The rest of the song is cheesy, love- gone-wrong drivel, but it’s the opening lines that got to me and I couldn’t help but think that in essence those lyrics have been the gist of many of my prayers lately.

“Complain, complain, complain…why don’t You talk to me anymore, Lord?…complain, complain, complain.  Amen”.

I must sound just like the Psalmist, “But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.  Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”  (Psalm 88)

I can just hear the response from God: “Because you are constantly whining at Me!  How ’bout sending me up some praises, eh?  Tell me all the good stuff that’s been happening in your life once in a while!  You’re bumming Me out with all your complaining.  I’m sick and tired of listening to it all the time!”

Well, I know the theology is a bit out of whack, but you sort of get my meaning.  It’s important to praise God.  Of course we must bring all our cares and concerns to Him as well, but we must shout out our praises too!  Praise Him in every circumstance.  Praise Him in the morning, praise Him in the evening.  Psalm 113:3 declares, “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.”

Praising God acknowledges His excellent being.  It’s not necessarily a “thank You” because that describes our attitude thanking Him for what He has done for us, instead praise is offered for who God is.  “I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise…” (Psalm 18:3)

All believers are commanded to praise God! In fact, Isaiah 43:21 explains that praise is one reason we were created, “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.” Hebrews 13:15 confirms this: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Praise originates in a heart full of love toward God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Are you a Christian today? If so, you know that you love God because He first loved you! Without God’s love, any praise you can offer is hollow. Love, born from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, is an essential part of your praise.

So what does “praising God” mean?  Well, God looks at your heart…if your heart’s not in it, you’re not really praising Him.  “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart…” (Psalm 86:12)  Before you utter one word, sing one song, pray one prayer or read one Word of Scripture check your heart-health.  Are you ready to praise Him with your whole heart?  “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139: 1-4)  Make sure your heart is right with God first, as our Pastor likes to say: “Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self!”

It’s not the method of praise that pleases God but the willingness and want to praise Him.  “Praise the Lord.  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.  Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.  Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150)

“I will exalt you, my God and King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”    (Psalm 145: 1-3)

Can I get an “Amen”?

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