24-7 Joyful?

This morning, I read a tweet that said the following. “What is God’s will for my life? Surprising answer: 1. 24-7 joy. 2. 24-7 prayer. 3. 24-7 gratitude.”

I can see where this comes from. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we’re told: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus”, but what about Jesus? What about when He said: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38), or when we read that while Jesus lived on earth, He prayed tearfully and was heard because of His reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7)? Was the Son of God a rebel because He wasn’t 24-7 joyful?

I have a deep love for Jesus. I believe He was faultless and not rebellious at all, so maybe 24-7 joy is more about attitude than a show of emotion. While Jesus was in Gethsemane – his soul so overwhelmed with sorrow, being all-knowing, I imagine He was grateful when He thought of the people His sleeping friends would later become. We’re told Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that awaited Him (Hebrews 12:1-2); that is, the joy of completing His saving work for us – of being with the Father, and seeing countless people come into a relationship with God because He died in our place.

Jesus endured the cross by focusing on what awaited Him. In other words, He was centred on joy even when His soul was sorrowful.

When you read about 24-7 joy and 24-7 gratitude, don’t take it as an indictment because you feel sadness. Take it as a reminder that even in your grief, you can find the joy in life and things to be grateful for.

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There in a Crisis

The other week, I was having lunch with friends. We were talking about Brexit, which is pretty big on the news these days. Will Boris Johnson get us out of the EU on October 31st, or will his opponents thwart him so they can keep extending the deadline? Whichever outcome you favour, you’d have to say there’s a lot of uncertainty here at the moment. To some it feels like a bit of a crisis.

Well, our friend told us over lunch that a Christian leader had said: “What crisis? There isn’t one, because God’s in control.” I get where the man’s coming from, but it sounds quite dispassionate. Is that something Jesus would say?

Read the rest at my friend Alex’s website, Worship Unlimited Ministries, and please keep Alex and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Sanctuary

I’ve come across a lovely verse in Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest – a man who descended from Abraham’s great grandson, Levi. Ezekiel started hearing from God when His people had been exiled from their land because of their disobedience. A few of the poorest people remained in Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14).

The people left in Jerusalem make an assumption. They claim the exiles are far away from God; therefore God has given the land to them, but they’ve misread the situation, and God wants to reassure the exiles.

Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries.

A Great Example

Reading 2 Samuel 5, I’m impressed by how humble David is as opposed to his enemies. He becomes king over Israel. Samuel said he would be years before, pouring oil on his head to prepare him, but while Saul was alive, David couldn’t succeed him. Finally, the moment comes.

Read the rest over at Worship Unlimited Ministries. Alex does a great job of maintaining the website. She puts a devotional, book-review and recipe up there every week, so it’s well worth a look.

Remember the Difference

Reading the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians today, I noticed this verse: “You suffered much, but still you accepted the teaching with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). I suppose it jumped out at me because for a while lately, I’ve realised I haven’t felt as close to God. It’s not that I’ve stopped believing in Him or been particularly venomously angry with Him. It’s been more a sadness really. When you see friends or family going through trials, sometimes you feel disillusioned and you can think so much about the problems, but not enough about the difference God makes.

This post I wrote for Alex is one example of the difference God’s made in my life, just this year. When I went up Table Mountain in Cape Town, I prayed the night before about which guide I’d have on the day. It’s really important to pray in faith about the little things, as well as the big things. I really believe God will help you if you involve Him in your life and your plans, but conversely, if you don’t involve Him so much, it can have a negative effect. When I’m not as zealous in my heart about the difference God can make, I don’t cope as well with situations. Like Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing”.

I went out last night to hear some Christian songwriters share their stories and perform some of their music. One thing somebody said was: “We can change, but God never changes” – so true. We might feel great; and six months later we might not feel so good, but God stays the same. We were encouraged to remember what we’d already come through, and that’s what I want to do.

I want to be like those Thessalonians. When suffering comes my way, or my friends’ or family’s way, I still want the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. I want to remember the difference God’s made to me and keep close to Him. That’s my prayer. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

My Response to ‘Prosperity Preacher’ Interview

A friend on Facebook pointed me to this video. I had too much to say to just write a comment, so thought I’d blog about it instead. It’s an interview with 82-year-old Kenneth Copeland. I knew of him because he got involved with a project I used to support. He’s what Christians call a ‘Prosperity preacher’. I’ve come across so much criticism of the prosperity gospel and because I’m far from a millionaire myself, I also couldn’t see how it fitted in with Christianity.

One of the journalist’s main points seemed to be the question of why Kenneth Copeland’s ministry had private jets and he wouldn’t fly commercially. He spoke about the atmosphere on commercial flights and about alcohol. Was that the best place to be, he said, when you were about to preach to thousands? I certainly don’t believe the majority of people on a plane are drunk, but I do agree that alcohol can have a stronghold in people’s lives which is demonic. I’ve seen how it’s negatively affected people I know, and I’m sure they would live happier lives without it. If you want peace and quiet on a flight, you could put a pair of earplugs in and close your eyes; but if you can afford a private plane, and it leaves you feeling more comfortable and refreshed when you get to your destination, what’s wrong with that? He said in the interview that other ministries use the planes, not just his own, and that’s what God asks of people who are rich in this world – to be generous and willing to share. As far as I can see, he isn’t doing anything unbiblical. In fact, when he quoted the Bible, I thought he got his points across fairly well. I had never thought of Galatians 3:29 as a verse that connected Abraham’s wealth with us as Christians.

I don’t like the way he treated the journalist though. I found it annoying and quite sleazy. ‘Sweetheart’? ‘Babe’? ‘I love your eyes’? Straight onto first-name terms, and launching into prayer without asking whether she was comfortable with that? She came over as by far the most respectful of the two of them, which is very sad. I hope his wife’s had words with him about it, but are any of us flawless? Perhaps the interview helped her, as it helped me, come to a better understanding of the Biblical basis for the prosperity gospel. As I said, I’m far from a millionaire; but then, as far as I know, I haven’t been instrumental in one hundred million people coming to faith in Jesus. Maybe this is his reward for devoting his life to the cause of Christ. Jesus does talk about rewards now and in the age to come.

I may not be in a hurry to donate to Kenneth Copeland’s ministry, but shouldn’t respect and tolerance be within the church, as well as for those who aren’t church-members?

May Memories: “Spirit and the Bride”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Maybe you’re an Overcomer who’s seen it on Facebook, or maybe you’ve never heard of Overcomers and are now wishing you’d been one of us! Hopefully this has given you a taste of what it was like, and I’ve saved my favourite song for last.

When Jesus met with His followers after He had risen from the dead, He breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Now we can be filled with His Spirit until He comes again or we go to be with Him in heaven:
We long for the day
When we will see Your face;
We long to be with You – come quickly,
And breathe on us until You come
.

If we ever had any kind of Overcomers reunion (which I would love, by the way), you can be sure I’d be singing this song with all my heart.

May Memories: “I Will Worship You”

This is another where I was fooled by the title. I always called it “My God is Faithful”, but it’s “I Will Worship You”. The line I’ve found most practical would be:
My God is Ruler over all that is. I remember thinking of that line when I trod on some litter and a couple of angry insects flew up out of it. They wouldn’t have the power to sting me unless God allowed it.

This really is a beautiful song, and I’d like it at my funeral. You know when people come in and there’s music playing? I want it to be this:
And when my life’s complete, I’ll place my crown at Your feet,
And I will worship You on bended knee
.

May Memories: “Salvation Belongs to our God”

This is another song we sing in church, but it’s funny because at my current church, we only sing the chorus! The chorus starts:
Be to our God, for ever and ever.

What? What do we want to be to our God forever and ever? It flows on from the end of the verse:
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks,
Honour and power and strength
Be to our God, for ever and ever
.

So it makes no sense to just sing the chorus; we should really sing all of it.