The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

Mulling It Over - Part 10: Ephesians 6:18

Last month we learned about the sword of the spirit, which is the first of our offensive weapons in this passage on the armor of God. In this final post in my series on the armor of God I want to focus in on verse 18 and our second offensive weapon in our fight against the enemy.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
— Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Besides our sword, which we now know is God's word, we have the offensive weapon of prayer. Let me take a few sentences to clarify the difference between defensive versus offensive. Defensive pieces are those which protect us from the onslaught of the enemy. Our armor, including the helmet and the shield are all pieces that we use to protect ourselves. Offensive pieces are those with which we can actually do damage to the enemy, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

I think it is important to note that most of this passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 is spent describing the defensive pieces or the armor, which we are to put on. This suggests that our part as followers of Christ is to make sure we are battle ready and able to stand firm when the arrows fly. There are times when life is too overwhelming to actually fight back. Those are the times we have to let God, the almighty One, have His way and let Him fight for us. I firmly believe there are myriads of skirmishes going on all around us in the heavenly realms that we do not participate in. However, I also believe there are times that God calls us to pick up that sword and go to war. This leads us back to verse 18 and the offensive weapon of prayer. 

Let's look at what prayer does as an offensive weapon.

1. Puts us in contact with the commander. In what army are the soldiers not aware of who their commander is? From the generals at the top, to the sergeants in the enlisted ranks, soldiers are aware that there is a chain of command. They know who they report to and who reports to them. As Christians prayer puts us in direct contact with the highest head of all the armies at His command. Isn't that awesome? How much more time should we be spending in prayer, knowing that this is the way to get right to the top?

2. Places us under the headship of the Holy Spirit. When we really are seeking God and are trying to pray as He would want us to pray, we are placing ourselves under the movement and persuasion of the Holy Spirit. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
— John 14:26 (NASB)

Jesus tells us that the Helper will teach you all things. I think that includes teaching us how to pray. You might think that's a bit silly, but I'm not talking about saying a prayer before dinner or even reciting the Lord's prayer. I am referring to intense, battle worthy praying that gets us prostrate on the floor or pacing around the house with tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised in the air. This is Holy Spirit lead warring prayer. 

Please do not jump to the conclusion that I think this is the only time the Holy Spirit directs our prayer, because it is not. He leads us in prayers of worship, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession and prayers of humble petition as well. But there is something about warring prayer that makes praying in the Spirit seem even more real. 

3. Perseveres for the saints. Battle prayers are most often connected to others who need our added strength to help them get through a particularly difficult situation. Verse 18 encourages us to: "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view (the idea that we are to be praying all prayers at all times in the Spirit) be on the alert (for the enemy, as well as for peeps who need our prayers) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Did you notice how many alls are in that verse. I bolded them so you could see them more clearly. Whoa! This idea of prayer is pretty important. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray without ceasing." There isn't a command that is much more straight forward than that. Don't stop praying. 

Praying does not mean that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and flowers. In fact, often times when we begin the intense prayer of warring praying, we may find the enemy's assaults also intensify. Don't give up. It is even more important when the battle is continuous and overwhelming. Someone needs you to pray, maybe even your own self. Remember you are fighting because the Commander has called you to. He knows who needs those prayers. 

Many of you, like me are older. Your children are grown and you may no longer be as involved as you once were in their lives. Don't stop praying for them. Now, more than ever, they need your prayers, because one thing is sure, our enemy is a roaring lion seeking to devour. He wants our sons and daughters, our spouses, our grandchildren, our friends, our churches and our nation. If you can't sleep at night, God wants you to pray. If you have a few moments alone, God wants you to pray. If you are sick, you can still pray. Driving in the car, pray. Taking a shower, pray.

When you have gotten to the end of yourself and think you can no longer pray, then let go and He will pray for you. Now how cool is that? He will pray for you, until you are able to stand, put on the armor and go to battle again. 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
— Romans 8:27 (NASB)
who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
— Romans 8:34 (NASB)

You can see the rest of this series by clicking on the links below. 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

Mulling It over - Part 5

If you follow my faith page on the blog, you know that I have been doing a series on Ephesians 6:10-18. I have been going very slowly as we look at the armor of God, endeavoring to savor and fully understand each verse and even words within each verse. (To see the original posts click on the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) Let's review. 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesians 6:10-13 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

A quick review of the first four verse reveals Paul's encouragement to be strong in the Lord. We are told to put on the full armor of God, so we might be able to stand against the schemes of our enemy, the devil. Paul reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood armies, but against rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. If we just stopped there we could get pretty discouraged. Life is hard enough without throwing in all those forces and battles we can't even see. Again, we are encouraged to take up the full armor of God so that we can stand firm.

Last month, I looked at the first part of verse 14.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

In last month's post I talked specifically about having our loins girded with truth. Truth is the foundation for our ability to protect what God has established in our lives, through His word and His Spirit. If we are not listening to truth and seeking truth, we will be weak and defenseless when it comes to the assaults of the enemy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

This week I want to look at the second piece of armor that we are to put on.

Piece #2 - Righteousness

What is righteousness? Webster's defines it as "acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin." Okay, so those of us who are Christ followers, know, without a doubt that we are not righteous. Doesn't God's word say:  

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
— Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)

It also states:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Where does that leave us? How do we put on righteousness if we are, indeed, unrighteous? If you have been a Christian for a while, or you have had some Bible training, you may have heard of the term, imputed righteousness. Simply put, Christ, who is the Righteous one, gives us His righteousness when we believe in Him by faith. If we believe that, then how is it that we have to put on, righteousness, as part of our armor?

Just as with so many things in our Christian walk, we have to make a choice. Putting on truth, is choosing to seek truth, adhere to the truth and love truth. Putting on righteousness is a choice to do the following three things.

1. Admit - Admit that Christ is your righteousness. Being a good person, does not, in fact, a Christian make. Christ and belief in Him, is what makes a Christian. Following Him and believing all that He did in His life, death and resurrection are what make us righteous. 

he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
— Titus 3:5 (New English Translation)
Pixabay - cross

2. Allow - Allow Christ to be your righteousness. Too often we are trying to play this spiritual game on our own and we have no business doing that. Sure you might be a very strong person, but strength in our own might is a hindrance, not a help. God has been working in my life on this very point. It is His goal to make us Christ like, not more human like. I don't know about you, but I have always liked to think of myself as a strong person, able to get through difficulties and still appear to have it all together, at least on the outside. Let me tell you, in the long run, that will do nothing, but produce sleepless nights and plenty of anxiety! 

I am beginning to embrace this idea that when I am weak He is strong....oh what a glorious and wonderful thing to know. 

3. Abide - Andrew Murray is a preacher/teacher of yesteryear and has many good things to say in his writing. Right now I am trying to get through his book called, Abide in Christ, and have learned so much. In fact, I had gotten away from it, because it is not a book I can just breeze through. I have to take notes and ruminate on it. I recently thought, I need to get back to it, because I need to abide in Christ. 

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
— John 15:4 (NASB)

This is one of the red letter sections of scripture. I have always thought, it is particularly important to pay attention when the letters are red, because that is when Jesus is talking. He says we cannot bear fruit apart from Him. If I am going to put on righteousness, I need to be abiding in Him. 

Pixabay - grapes

Abiding is simply doing all those things we know we need to do anyway. Read the Bible, go to church, fellowship with other believers, be thankful, pray without ceasing, rejoice always, spend time with God speaking to Him and listening for Him. 

I hope you will think about putting on righteousness today. Just like truth, we need to put it on, even before we get out of bed every day.