Three Little Commands - Rejoice Always

I just got back from visiting my mom for the weekend, so this post is going to be a bit late. On my drive home, I spent a little time praying, listening to music and thinking about this idea of rejoicing always. Like I have mentioned before, it seems to be much easier to rejoice when things are going smoothly.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Before I got on the road this morning my daughter texted me to let me know my grandson had been up most of the night vomiting. I was trying to get on the road early so I would be there to pick him up from school, now I didn't have to since she would be staying home from work to take care of him.

It is hard for my girl. She is a single mom and she relies heavily on me to help with childcare and other things that some times overwhelm her. As I drove through the  beautiful fall landscape I found myself praising God for that moment. The colors were absolutely stunning. Dark reds, bright reds, golden yellows, burnt orange and pale salmon, all praising their Creator for just being. Even though I felt worried about my grandson and my daughter (fear that now she'll get sick and miss another day or two of work), I found myself in awe of this God who formed our world with nothing but a word. 

fall leaves

The idea of rejoicing seems, almost, old fashioned. How often do you hear someone say, "I am rejoicing that I saved money at the grocery store today." Or how about, "I am so full of joy that I get to go to the dentist today." Webster defines rejoice as, "to give joy" (transitive verb) or "to feel joy or great delight" (intransitive verb). Joy seems to be most often associated with a special celebration like a wedding, winning the football game or having a baby. All of these things are momentary and when the celebration is over, we might be left feeling a little let down.

Pixabay

Pixabay

So what did Paul mean when he said, "Rejoice always...." (1 Thessalonians 5:16)? We can't be having constant parties and celebrations to keep our joy intact. That would get expensive and tiring. Our joy is to come from Christ Himself. 

celebration

If you look at the Old Testament you will find a pattern in which the people of God, the nation of Israel were on again, off again in their relationship with God. When they were off they usually ended up in captivity. God would always come back around, sending some warrior, or prophet to bring them back into a right relationship with him and lead them out of captivity. It was during these times of reconciliation that they rejoiced.

...and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.
— Nehemiah 12:43 (NASB)

Ezra and Nehemiah are both good books to read in the Old Testament to see examples of God's mercy towards his people. Note in the above verse it was God that gave the people great joy. It wasn't their goodness, nor their sin that gave them great joy, it was God.

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
— Psalm 13:5 (NASB)
I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul,
— Psalm 31:7 (NASB)
For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.
— Psalm 33:21 (NASB)
Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.”
— Psalm 70:4

Those verses are just a few of the songs of King David that point to God as the source of our rejoicing. Rejoice in Him, let all who seek Him rejoice. This would imply that in order to rejoice always I need to be in His presence. I know, sounds crazy, right! How can we be in His presence always? We are busy people; working, taking care of kids, spending time with friends and family. Doesn't spending time in God's presence mean I have to be away from it all? Don't I need to go into a quiet room, after all it used to be called a "quiet time."

While it is beneficial to get away and spend time alone with God, we must also realize that is not the only time we have to spend with Him. God is omnipresent. That means He is everywhere, so He is with us all the time. All I have to do is talk to Him. Lest you think I walk around talking out loud all the time, the truth is I am very much an introvert. I get tired when there is too much talking and noise, or if I am around too many people for too long. 

Remember last week when I talked about taking every thought captive? Well, that applies to rejoicing always. I can be in God's presence in my head. I don't have to speak out loud. In that case, my thoughts can be Godward focused as often as I direct them there. That's where the difficulty lies. Taking every thought, the good and the bad, captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. 

Only God can give us true joy. Only in Him can we truly rejoice. Yes, there are beautiful things in life that bring us joy, but they are temporary. The only way to rejoice always is to practice being in God's presence always. It is only in His presence that we fill all our springs of joy (Psalm 87:7).

Three Little Commands - Laying the Foundation

Last week I began a series of posts on this verse:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5: 17-19 (NASB)

I have felt in recent years that God has wanted me to pay special attention to these three little commands, not that God doesn't want me to follow all the other specifics He has outlined in scripture, but these three have stood out to me as being ones I need to work on. As I was contemplating how I wanted to write about these three commands, I realized I needed to spend one post just laying a ground work for the rest of the posts. 

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Whenever we are commanded to do something in His word we can be sure that struggle will follow. Obviously, if I choose to not do what is commanded, I will not struggle with bringing my flesh under God's authority. However, when I make a decision of the will to do what God has said, my flesh and my sin nature will rear its not so pretty head!

Pixabay

Pixabay

Think for a moment of a young child out in a public situation, say a store or a restaurant. Their parent(s) have, most likely, given them the line, "You need to behave while we are at the store. If you are really good, I will let you get a gum ball after we check out." Or something similar. The child is very happy, at least initially, thinking about that wonderful treat he would get at the end if he just behaved. Eventually, he sees something else that looks more appealing. When he is told he cannot have that more interesting treat (or toy, etc.) he starts to whine. When that doesn't work he starts to cry. When he still doesn't get what he wants, he behaves in a most unbecoming manner and said parent either gives in or leaves the store feeling humiliated and frustrated. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

While a young child doesn't understand the complex layers of inner struggle and saying no to his flesh, we can see a simple progression that most of us are guilty of when God tells us to behave. See if you see any similarities in your own life.

1. A simple command is given and a subsequent reward offered. In the case of the child the command is to behave. We can assume that means to listen, don't stand up in the cart, don't run away, watch where you are going and so on. The reward is a treat such as a candy, a small toy or renting a movie at the video store. If you are a Christ follower and you are somewhat familiar with the scriptures, you have probably come to realize that following Him and obeying Him come with rewards. These are not petty treats that a fickle god throws at us when we perform well, these are bricks of truth upon which we can build the foundations of our lives. A foundation that cannot be shaken.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty....
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways...
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.
— Psalms 91:1, 11, 15 &16 (NASB)

2. The child is delighted to obey, knowing he will be rewarded. You might be thinking, "Does that woman have a clue? My children were born naughty." I completely agree, we were all born naughty, but children do delight in doing what is good and right, because typically doing what is good and right results in praise, approval and sometimes even in rewards. The Psalmist knew that doing what was good and right resulted in happiness. 

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart.
— Psalm 119:1 & 2 (NASB)

3. The child becomes distracted by all the other pretty treats. Let's face it, stores are full of pretty things. Candy, toys, cereal in all manner of fun packaging, so many colorful and tempting choices. Suddenly the child forgets about the treat that was promised him at the end of the line, dependent on his good behavior. All of a sudden he is consumed with the here and now and all the other treats available. 

Let's take a moment to think about this. God has promise us good things, delightful things, if we just follow Him and walk in a way that is pleasing to Him. That is not Him being egotistical. That is Him being merciful and loving. He knows what is best for us. Just as most parents recognize their child will be happier within the parameters they set for him, our Creator knows what is best for us. But how often do we become distracted by all the pretty treats; the food, the clothes, the music, the movies, the good feelings.....all of a sudden I have forgotten about Him being my shelter or Him being my happiness. I forget all that His word says will be if I follow Him. I become consumed with getting the next pretty treat.

Pixabay

Pixabay

4. The child throws a tantrum. Have you ever seen a child having a tantrum? Perhaps one of your own children just had one this morning before he or she had to get on the school bus. Maybe it was your teenager when you said she couldn't go out with that boy. Wait a minute! What about us? What about you? What about me? Have you had any tantrums lately? I just had a mini one the other day. My husband thought I was mad at him, but I had spent the day running after pretty treats and by 10:00 PM I just needed to send myself to bed, so I did. 

You see we aren't exempt as adults from tantrums. Oh, we may be very controlled and never let anyone know, but inside we are laying on the ground screaming, "I want what I want and I want it now!!!" Not a pretty picture, I know, but does it ring a bell? Ha, ha. Yeah, me too! 

Ok, so all of that said, let's look again at the verses in 2 Corinthians. Bear with me. 

Verse 3: "For though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh." 

The flesh is where we live. This skin we are in desires, craves, wants, feels, longs, for something to give it meaning and satisfaction. But we are not battling these desires, longings and feelings in our own strength. We can't. The flesh will give in. Whether you give in to lust and watch porn, or give in to lust and eat that second bag of chips or give in to lust and buy that new sweater when you already have 20 sweaters (not funny....I am a fashion blogger too) the flesh is powerful. Our desires are powerful. Just like that little child couldn't think of anything else once he saw that thing he wanted.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Verse 4: "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."

You see we must war against the flesh, against our desires other wise all chaos would break loose. The world would be a brothel born of madness unfit for anyone to live in. So God Himself is there to help us bring things under control. Think of a society where everyone acted on their passions and not one person could say no to fulfilling their appetites. 

Verse 5: "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

Unlike a young child, as an adult I am responsible for the choices I make. A child is just learning how to maneuver the world, but as adults we have been given tools to make choices either good ones or bad ones. As a Christ follower, my desire is to honor and glorify God. I do not believe in living life as a free for all to meet my own needs and desires. That doesn't mean I don't have needs and desires, but I have to bring those to God and His word and see how they line up. 

There are many thoughts and ideas in the world that do not line up with belief in God. My goal is not to go into a long discussion of those ideas, but to bring this full circle to the three little commands. It is only by "bringing every thought captive." that I will have the capacity to do the things that God asks of me. I hope to expand on this idea next week when we look more closely at the first command, "Rejoice always."

Tell me your thoughts! You can post a comment below in the comments section or leave me a message on Facebook. If you follow my fashion blog be sure to check back tomorrow when we look at Aurora Red.

Three Little Commands

As a Christian I am often about, what to do. How do I serve? How do I minister? I often become fixated on one or two commands in the Bible and forget about all of the other ones. In recent years my life has gone down a path I never thought it would take and suddenly everything looks so different. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

You know how it is. You decide to take a drive in the country. It's a beautiful fall day, the colors are at peak and you are enjoying the scenery. After a while you decide you need to head home. You have things to do. Instead of turning around and going back exactly the same way you came, you decide to take a different route. All of a sudden, you have no idea where you are. Everything looks the same, and nothing looks familiar. 

That is how life can be. You are traveling along and all of a sudden you don't know where you are, nor how you got there. At those times the things we know can be helpful, but they can also be to our detriment. Knowing directions such as North, South, East and West are helpful, but if you insist you are going North, when you are actually going South, well that could be a problem.

For many years as a college student at a Bible school and into adult life, my focus was on how do I spread the Good News; how do I tell others about Jesus? When I became a wife and mother my focus became how do I serve God in my family and train up girls who would want to follow Him? I have never lost my direction as far as wanting to do what God would want me to do. I have however, gone down a path of suffering that I was unprepared for and would often find myself looking up at Heaven and asking, "Are you sure I can do this?" 

His answer was always the same, "With me, you can!"

While my direction was still the same, the tasks that I once thought were all important took second place to the all encompassing work of knowing Him better. Believe me, when you walk a trail that goes through some deep valley's the only way to get through them is to keep coming back to the purpose of life: to glorify Him. It was along this path that He lead me to these three little commands.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:16 - 18 (NASB)

I often find myself back at God's feet asking Him, "What do you want me to do?" 

In recent years His answer is always the same, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things."

"But Lord, is that really enough? Shouldn't I be doing more? Leading a Bible study? Helping at the soup kitchen? Going back to school?"

I always picture HIm smiling at me and saying, "Are you doing those three things yet?"

If you are like me, you know that rejoicing always is like backing your car all the way from Cleveland to Buffalo. It isn't something that comes naturally for most of us. Remember my post from a few weeks ago, Giving Up Grumbling? Yeah, well rejoicing always is a similar dilemma.

Let's talk about praying without ceasing? Does that just happen? Probably not. Prayer is work, just like exercise. It really must be intentional. There is a time and place for going into our prayer closets and having earnest prayer before the Lord, but how does that fit into our busy, chaotic lives? How do we actually pray without stopping?

Finally, in everything give thanks. It's easy to be thankful when things are going well, but when the poop hits the fan, being thankful sometimes goes right out the same window. 

We are all at different points in life. You may be a young Christian who is very zealous about telling others about Jesus. You might be a new wife, determined to love your spouse with the earnestness of the Song of Solomon lover. You might be a mother trying to fulfill the reality of a Proverbs 31 woman. There are so many ideals in the Bible, many of which we cannot fulfill, at least not without Him. None of these are bad. And God has each of us right where He wants us. 

path in the woods

So, for a little while this is the path I am walking. A path of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks, even when life is difficult. Maybe you are on this same path. Maybe life doesn't look exactly like you thought it would at this point and you are feeling a little lost. Don't worry. You are in good company. 

Over the next three weeks I want to look at each of those little commands in a much bigger way. I hope you'll walk with me.