Jesus, Trials, and Joy

There are days when our joy skirmishes into the shadow of trials and hardships. Trials can steal our joy and cause doubts or questions as to the possibility of joy.

Trials come to all of us, even Christians. They don’t come when it is convenient. They can come without warning. They don’t necessarily come one at a time but can come as a barrage. They can repeat over and over again. They can even range in severity and duration from momentary annoyance to lifelong anguish.

Feeling encourage yet?

Peter says joy is possible even in our darkest situations. Joy is possible because Jesus. Peter share at least three ways how Jesus completes our joy under trials.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:2-9, ESV

Jesus is the source of joy, even under trials.

Jesus endured the greatest trials known to man. He endured the cross for a greater joy—our joy. Jesus is our joy because he alone saves and raised from the grave (v.3). The resurrection of Jesus secures our hope and joy. He has reserved for us joy, guards it, and will complete it (vs.4-5). Despite our circumstances, we can have confidence that Jesus is for our joy.

Jesus is a light that eclipses the temporal trials of life.

A glorious day is dawning when our trials will be no more and we will be free from the pain and brokenness in this world (v.6). This is really good news.

Trials have their good purpose. Under trials we learn about Jesus and grow to be more like him. How we respond to trials shows our closeness to Jesus. If we embrace trials as an opportunity from God, they will sift our faith and the result is the glory of Jesus because faith that shines more stunningly than gold (v.7).

Jesus knows our trials very well.

Jesus walked into our shoes. He lived in this broken world. He knows what it is like to be rejected, falsely accused, abused, abandoned and persecuted. And even though we have not seen him we are drawn to him, we love him, we trust him more and more, and he fills us today with an inexpressible joy and hope of the complete salvation of our soul (vs.8-9).

Jesus is our joy today and forevermore.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • How has Jesus been your joy?
  • What is the “living hope”? How does this hope transform the way you live?
  • Why is the resurrection so important? To Christianity? To our own hope? To understanding Jesus as God?
  • Did people know Jesus was going to die and resurrect?
  • How does the Jesus resurrection change people? Compare John 20:19 to Acts 4.
  • What is an inheritance? What is the inheritance that Peter talks about?
  • What is the significance of the words “imperishable,” “undefiled,” and “unfading”?
  • What is unique about Peter’s use of the word “salvation” in this passage? Do you see past, present and future aspects of salvation in this passage?
  • What is the purpose of trials in our life? Do you think about this in the midst of trials?
  • What is the connection between faith, joy, and salvation?
  • How do you express your love for Jesus?
  • What things in your life subdue in expressible joy?
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how the nearness of God matters

The last part of Philippians 4:5 says, “The Lord is at hand.”  Some take this to mean, Jesus is coming back soon.  While that is true, it also means God is present.  He is near.  It’s when our life is chaotic, when we don’t feel so happy about our circumstances, or when we are tempted to worry it is the nearness of God that matters most.   We know God is near.  Theology tells us God is omnipresent, but how does that matter when I need it most?

Philippians 4:1-9 is like the junk drawer of the letter (before you get in a huff let me explain), yet unlike most junk drawers this text is jam packed with treasures.  It’s junk that is valuable gems for your faith (e.g. 7 rapid-fire commands).  There is too much here to talk about today, so I will limit my focus to two commands and the intersection that brings them together which is the nearness of God.  Today we will explore how the nearness of God matters.

SINCE GOD IS NEAR I CAN HAVE REASONABLE JOY (4:1-5)

Paul has deep joy for Philippi.  He planted the church 10 years prior with a slave girl, a jailer and fam, and a business woman named Lydia.  Now there are others.  Paul addresses them all as “brothers” (v.1), not because he couldn’t remember their names, but because they were that close to his heart.  He proves it by using other terms of endearment like: “whom I long for”, (cf. 1:8) “my joy and crown”, (cf. 1:4; 2:16) “my beloved.”   Aren’t those encouraging words to hear?  Don’t you need to hear those words spoken over you?  Or words you should share over one another?  Look around.  Do you think of one another this way?  Is this the kind of affection you desire to have for one another?

Paul then changes his tone in the next two verses because there are two ladies in the church who aren’t being so affectionate with one another and Paul urges them to reconcile and encourages the church to get involved (vs.2-3).  Why would Paul care if everyone is getting along?  The first reason is that a divided church is a terrible witness Christ.  When people see Christians bicker, bark, and backbite, they certainly don’t see the beauty of Jesus’s Body or Jesus as their Head; they see the ugly reality of someone unchanged by the gospel, which is something they see everyday.

The second reason is that togetherness in Christ—a church fixed on Jesus—results in joy.  Paul says, “Rejoice,” and in case you didn’t hear it, “again I say rejoice.” (v. 4).  Joy here is not optional, it’s essential.  I like how Eugene Peterson in The Message puts it, “Celebrate God all day, everyday. I mean revel in him!  Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”  Isn’t it interesting that this familiar command reserved for coffee cups and kids club songs follows a plea for conflict resolution?  Holding grudges, giving people what they deserve, gossiping about your brothers and sisters, gives a smug sense of satisfaction, but it more so produces relational emptiness, not deep joy.

If you are around Christians you are also around conflict.  Each of us are so different.  We have different personalities, different interests, different spiritual gift, but there are two things we have in common: 1) we are all sinners and, 2) we are all sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus.   Jesus died so that our greatest conflict (between He and us) would be resolved and it makes resolution between our brothers and sisters possible.  Joy is at stake (cf. 2:2).

It sounds so unreasonable, doesn’t it?  To rejoice always doesn’t seem practical or attainable.  How do you rejoice when your child is hurting?  When your marriage is rocky?  When things aren’t going well at all?  You got to remember Paul isn’t commanding the church to just be happy when everything is going well, but to rejoice in the midst of chaos, in those emergency moments, when you get that phone call, when it is most difficult to have joy.  You and I need help with this command, don’t we?

How is joy possible in those moments?  Thank God He tells you and doesn’t leave you hanging.  He says, “Let your reasonableness be known to all.” (v.5a)  Again, joy doesn’t seem so reasonable here, until you know the soil that joy is rooted in.  This joy is not predicated by your circumstances.  It never is.  The ability to have reasonable joy in whatever situation is because “the Lord is at hand.” (v.5b)

Resting in the promise that the “Lord is near.”  gives a future hope.  He is coming.  It’s a sure thing.  As sure as the dawn.  When he comes he will make all that’s wrong in the world right.  No more sorrow.  No suffering.  No conflict.  He will wipe every tear.  He will reconcile creation.  Yet there is also a present hope.  What is more encouraging than knowing the Lord is near to you, even right now? He is with you, always.  That is reasonable.  God is sovereign over your yesterday, today, and tomorrow..  He is loving.  He is good.  When everything in life is hard, nothing is hard for him (Jer. 32:17, 27).  In the moment of chaos, the God of the universe, the God who rescued and saved you, is not Himself powerless at all in that moment, is not at all surprised or shocked by that moment, is not reeling one bit or trying to figure out what to do in that moment.  That’s not what He does.  He’s there.  He knows.  He is with you.  He is in control within the chaos.  That is reason to rejoice.  That’s where reasonable joy is rooted.

May my prayer be like Job, “Though [You] slay me, I will hope in [You].” (13:15) or like Jehoshaphat, “[I] do not know what to do, but [my] eyes are on you.” (2 Chron. 20:12)  Or may my prayer be, “Lord, help me to rejoice in You in this moment.  Help me to be reasonable.  I am not happy with this horrific situation.  However, You are in control.  I trust You.  You love me.  You understand what You’re doing.  I have You.  I am Yours.”

What if you just can’t get along with your brother or sister?  What is the one thing you can get along with together?  The gospel—Jesus!  Learn to love Jesus more than your opinions.  Remember WHO you have in common.  The gospel makes what is irreconcilable reconcilable.  The gospel makes resolving conflict possible.   It makes Jesus and the Body shine.  And creates fertile soil for the roots of deep joy.

Few things are more fatal to your faith than the poisonous idea that joy in Jesus is optional, not essential.  Rejoicing always doesn’t mean there isn’t sorrow.  In fact, Paul says that sorrow and rejoicing can exist simultaneously: “… as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Corinthians 6:10). What Paul means is that sorrowful circumstances will come, and may cut deep, but the undercurrent of joy runs deeper still because he is the source of it and he is a river that never runs dry.

SINCE GOD IS NEAR I HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT (4:6-9)

Paul finishes his thought with something a bit extreme.  He says, “do not be anxious about anything.”  Anything?  Really?  Literally he means no-thing.  Not one thing is to be the cause of your worry.

Worry is the enemy of joy.  If you are filled with joy you are not filled with worry, but if you are filled with worry you are not filled with joy.  It’s that simple.

The questions is, “What do you have to worry about?”  One might say, “A lot.  Let me give you a list: my health and future, my spouse or lack thereof, my kids health and future, my responsibilities, that project due soon, travels, the holidays.”  And the list could go on and on, right?

But let me ask that question again, “What do you have to worry about?”  The answer: nothing.  Why?  There is not one square millimeter of creation or one millisecond of time that God is not present or sovereign.  God is near.  God knows not time.  If we worry about the future, may we not forget that the future is a place where God already is.

Paul says that worrying is worthless.  It doesn’t help the problem.  In fact, it adds to it.  Jesus says, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Mt. 6:27).

God has never failed you.  He has never let you down.  He may not have given you everything you wanted or run your life the way you desired.  He may have never taken your advice or considered your wishlist.  He may have felt distant, but he has never abandoned you.  He has never left you.  You have never been without his love and sovereign care.

Worry is what happens when I believe God is not in control and I can’t be.  But it’s so hard not to worry. I know I shouldn’t worry, but I feel anxious plenty of times about plenty of things. Like those moments when I’m traveling by plane and I suddenly realize that there’s nothing beneath me.  I’m thinking, “Whoa, we’re in the sky.” It’s hard not to be anxious.  Or that time you realize.  I am in Chad.  I am really far from “decent” medical help.  That’ll freak you out.  Also, I have three daughters.  Enough said.  Can I just be honest?  It’s hard not to worry about certain things?

Is there a remedy to eradicating worry?  Paul’s answer is also a bit extreme, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (v.6)  Everything?  Really?  Yes.  Everything.  Literally he means, all things.  God wants you to bring all your hurts, pains, worries, fears, and doubts to him.  As we have learned, the Lord is at hand.  He is right there with you in it all.

There are two components to prayer that we learn from Paul that are important for eradicating worry.  The first is supplication.  Supplication is a “Help Me!” prayer.  It fits well with the encouragements Paul has already been teaching on lowliness, humility, and awe of God.  Prayer and worry are sort of the same.  They both rehearse the circumstances and chew it over.  In worry there is no traction.  It spins its wheels.  But praying is worrying at God and handing them over to God.  The second is thanksgiving is to be connected to the first.  Thanksgiving is a “Thank You” to God for his listening ear and loving hand.  Thankfulness is the worry’s kryptonite.  Thanksgiving and worry can’t occupy the same space.  When we come to God with a thankful heart even in the middle of chaos, hurt, or doubts, our worries flee like roaches to light.

And the result is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (v.7)  This means through prayer the worry I once entertained is now eradicated and replaced by a right understanding and peace that is produced by God and rooted in Christ.

Have you been there?  Yeah, me too.  In the past few weeks, these verses have taken on a freshness I haven’t known since I memorized them as a teenager in Youth Group.   Just last week I had witnessed a horrific situation that revealed worry and fear that had been incubated for years if not generations in my family.  As I prayed about it with some dear friends God not only spoke peace over my life, but he gave me a peace which surpassed all understanding.  Isn’t that often what happens in the hard times?  God is a God of peace.  He has no place with worry, but he loves it when we bring our worries to him with thankful hearts allowing him to Father us.  He knows we are like weak little children, but he is a good strong Father.  He is our peace.

When we live with a lack of worry about the future, even in those tightrope kind of times, we communicate the truth that our God is indeed worthy of our trust—our life.  Worrisome Christians are bad advertisements for the God of all comfort.  But if you have to worry, Paul says worry (or think) on these things, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (v.8)  Aren’t these each powerful combatants to worry?   Where does this kind of thinking lead us?  It leads us to Jesus!  Ultimately, we see these mindsets in Christ.  In other words this text is the action of taking, “every thought (worry) captive to obey Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) And the result again is that “the God of peace will be with you.” (v.9b)

It is interesting that Paul concludes this section by saying “practice these things.” (v.9a)  This tells me that not worrying or having reasonable joy in all things doesn’t come naturally to us, but only happens by the power of the Spirit, by the the sweat of faith, by prayer, by doing life in community with other believers.  We have to practice this stuff.  This is the stuff of maturing in Christ.  It’s part of growing up in our faith. Reasonable joy in all things and eradicating worry by prayer is a mark of maturity.  That is the kind of man I want to be and I am certain the kid of man, woman or child you want to be too.  And it’s possible because the Lord is near.

 
Reflection: Can you identify what robs you of joy or worries you today? Is there someone you need to get right with? Will you bring “everything”, right now, to God in prayer with thanksgiving?Spend some time alone or with someone praying together.

joy full

A lot about life in North Africa, if you’re not careful, can rob your joy.  The heat.  Heat rash.  Tiredness.  Travels.  Knocks at the gate at 5:00am.  Feeling used for services (ice, car rides, cell phone charging).  Reverse proselytizing.  Language barrier.  Bluntness.  Daily chores.  Sickness.  Lack of communication from the outside world.  Feeling fellowship starved.  Faith parched.

Have you been there?  Maybe you don’t live in Africa, but some joy robbers are universal.  Maybe you could add more to that list.  Maybe your list is more serious.  Stress of parenting.  Strain on marriage.  Conflict with co-workers.  Serious health concerns.  Failure to overcome a sinful habit.  What is your joy robber?  You know what it is?  We often look for joy in all the wrong places.

C.S. Lewis said,

“All that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”  (Mere Christianity)

Just look around.  We are joy junkies.  Lewis continues,

“we know happiness is out there, but like a drunk man, we stumble in the street, knowing we have a home, but we can’t seem to find it.” (Surprised by Joy)

If there is one truth you need to grasp it is this, joy—true joy—is not conditional on circumstance, but centered and anchored in Christ.  Jesus didn’t just come into the world to bring the good news. He is the good news.  He’s good news for your joy.  Joy is not a circumstance it is a Person.  And your joy is at home in Jesus.

In a timely moment, just after teaching on the promise of sending the Holy Spirit, Jesus says to his disciples “you will see me no longer” and “I am going to the Father.” (16:16-18)  It might seem like Jesus threw them a curve ball, if you did not know the context.  Jesus was leaving and didn’t say when he was coming back.  He wasn’t going to the Seven-Eleven to pick up a Slurpee and coming back in a jiffy.  He was going and no man knew the hour he’d return.  Nonetheless, it was a puzzling and polarizing moment.  These guys left their jobs to follow Jesus.  Talk about a joy robbing moment.  Knowing they had questions (seeing it on their faces), Jesus cuts straight to the heart (vs.19-20).

Promise: Jesus turns sorrow to joy (v.20-21)

Jesus was moments away from the cross (v.20).  While the cross could be viewed as the world’s greatest joy crushing moment it was indeed the world’s greatest joy crowning moment.  The disciples would weep but the world would throw a party.  Every play on the field makes someone happy, whether the home team or the enemy.  Yet the cross is where Jesus fought for your joy.  The cross is where the Man of Sorrows purchased your joy.  You don’t find true joy at the cross, it finds you.  So rich and powerful is the joy of Christ that it cuts through any sorrow and pain.

Survey 100 people on what thing in life causes the most pain and the number one answer on the board (particularly for the ladies) will be childbirth.  Men would might add kidney stones for consolation.  I wouldn’t know how either feels.  However, survey the Scriptures and I see that the world’s greatest pain or sorrow is walking through pain and sorrow without Christ.  That hurts.  That kills.  Yet on the flip side walking through sorrow, pain, heartache, disappointment, failed expectations with Christ—though it doesn’t erase the feeling of sorrow—can cause one to forget it.

Jesus agrees with the ladies.  He illustrates (v.21).  A woman in labor has excruciating pain for “a little while”, but the moment she hears her baby cry and that warm life is brought to her side, she quickly forgets her labor pain.  That is one of the world’s greatest paradoxes.  Likewise, it is the a spiritual paradox that sorrow can turn to joy no matter the circumstance.

What pain or sorrow are you walking through right now?  The promise: it will only be for “a little while.”  It will pass.  It will change.  There will be a day when we have no more questions about how much longer you will have to endure.  Sorrow will turn to joy.

Promise: No one can rob joy from you (v.22)

There are a myriad of things that can rob your joy.  Yet the truth is that joy—centered and anchored in Christ—no man, no power, no circumstance can rob from you.

No man can’t rob what he can’t touch.  The joy of Jesus untouchable.  No man can take what is given to you by God.  His joy is forever.  No string attached.  No circumstance thwarting.  Your joy is safest and most secure in Christ.  Promise.

Even in the darkest night, when the thief comes to steal your last ounce of joy, the anchor seems to be losing it’s grip, and your center is tempted to drift.  Jesus say, “My child, I have already fought for your joy.  I have won.  The thief albeit strong is no match for me.  Come rest in me.  Come draw near.  You are safe with me.  I haven’t left you alone.  I am always with you.  My Spirit is with you.”

Principle to Apply: Ask Jesus to make your joy full (vs.23-24)

When Jesus died fellowship with him was removed, but “a little while” later he resurrected and fellowship with him was restored.  Jesus’ greatest desire for you is that you would enjoy him forever.  That you would draw near to Christ now.  That you would call upon his name so that your “joy may be full.”  Get this, you have full license to come before Jesus anytime with your request and the result will be joy overflowing the riverbanks.  Prayer is our pathway to joy in Jesus.  Prayerlessness leads to joylessness.

When you come to Jesus he promises full joy.  Even in Chad, he can fill your joy.  There is a lot about Chad that can renew or refresh your joy:  You see front line answers to prayer.  You experience astounding provisions.  You experience unknown protection.  You have the privilege of telling lost people (swimming in pain and sorrow) about the good news.  And all the while, Jesus is with you, always.

The great Christian paradox is that joy is possible in the midst of un-joyful circumstance because joy is not conditional on circumstance, but centered and anchored in Christ.  Your joy is most at home in Jesus.  Come home, today.  To the place of inescapable and inexpressible joy.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25)

What about Christ brings you joy?  
How does Jesus make your joy full?  What do you need to ask in Jesus name today?

no “easy” path

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There is no “easy” path to fellowship with Jesus.  Today I need him.  Again.  I don’t want to lay down my desire for relaxation and pleasure in order to gain fellowship.  I’d rather have my cake and eat it too.  But, it just doesn’t work.  It takes faith to get back down on my knees and believe that my Father gave me limitations in love.  He gave me weakness and tiredness – not as punishment, but as reminder.  “There is only so much I have planned for you in each day.”  Why don’t you seek my face for wisdom so that you can rejoice and not feel guilty at the end of the day?

Sometimes it doesn’t feel exciting to seek God’s face.  It feels tedious.  That is a lack of faith in my heart.  I don’t believe what he has “planned for today”  can be all that much more exciting and meaningful than the laundry and diaper changing he had “planned” for yesterday.  That is a lack of humility in my heart.  And, after awhile my pride doesn’t like feeling bombarded by these flashing neon signs that come on when I get on my knees: “You’re a doubter!  You aren’t humble! How do expect to get anywhere in your relationship with God, I mean really!”  And I can cling to my flesh or crucify it.

I crucify it by using the word of truth which is a sword.  “My God says that a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without His noticing, so he notices that I feel tired. My God says that ‘Blessed are those who are broken and contrite in heart for He will not despise them. Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Show me, God, how to come to you.  I believe that Your joy – even the joy you have over my life – gives me strength.  You rejoice over me with songs.  You might even dance.  One day soon I will be with you and you will wipe away every tear.  Hallelujah.

You have come to overcome the world.  You have poured out your blood to make an end to death.  You have risen and erased the accusation of the accuser.  You are God and you are good.  Hallelujah.

Come, and be my shepherd.  Here, I give you my frail heart.  Oh, be careful with it, won’t you? Give me strength to seek your face.  I can’t do it enough.  I can’t offer the quality you deserve.  I can only ask you to make me into something that will please you.  And you have.  How I long for that first look and touch of yours.  And then – forever.  All will be done except for goodness.  It will go on and on and on.  Hallelujah.

thankfulness

dsc02957I have a lot to be thankful for. Yet sometimes it is difficult to have an attitude of gratitude. Thankfulness is the attitude that displaces my sinful tendency to complain and thereby release joy and blessing into my life.

The Bible has much to say about the attitude of thankfulness: “Oh, that men would give thanks…” (Psalm 107:8)

In 2003, I had the opportunity to visit the Ukraine in the middle of a cold winter. While I was there I had the opportunity to meet the Sekret Family. Pastor Sekret is a minister that pastors a few small churches outside of Kiev. He had to work a job outside the church to support his family. During my visit they made me feel so welcome. Little did I know until I left that they feed me the best they had day for dinner. It wasnt much, a loaf of bread, spicy mustard, and a ring of sausage. Their kitchen table was partially a bed that overflowed into their kitchen. What I remember the most was the prayer Mr. Sekret gave before we ate. The family stood, and gathered behind their chairs and held hands with one another. The prayer was simple, but heart felt: “Slava Bog, doosha smachna,” which means ‘praise God for this great food.’ These were truly thankful people.

Why are we not thankful people? We are told that the great danger lies precisely in our constant contact with “stuff”. To many our things may seem too common, and become customary. B.B. Warfield once said to his students, “As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a thought that it is God in His goodness who makes the sun to rise on him…It is your great danger. But it is your great danger, only because it is your great privilege. Think of what privilege it is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you!” Emerson said, “If the stars would come out only once a year, everyone would stay up all night to behold them (we see the stars so often we don’t bother looking at them anymore).”

Thankfulness is a decision no matter how common or crazy the circumstances are around you. A thankful person decides that there is no better option than to be thankful. Thankfulness comes ONLY when we decide to have faith in God as our PROVIDER. The PROVIDER is always at work in our lives and for this be thankful!

Think about how crazy it would be to be stuck on an island alone your entire life. As hard as it may be there are many things to be thankful for. In Daniel Defoe’s depiction of Robinson Crusoe he shares these examples. “I have been on this deserted island for 27 years, but it is beautiful! I am sick of these coconuts, but it is food! I am all alone, but at least I don’t have to worry about others in my business.”

I might not be on a deserted island, but daily I have a decision to have the attitude of thankfulness. I certainly have a lot to be thankful for: I have a home, a loving family, enough food, clothes for my back, a pluthera of possession, and I have a God who is utterly amazing.

taco bell theology

Earlier today I was craving a chili cheese burrito. So I decided to head over to Taco Bell for lunch. Why does TB always sound so good, but you hate yourself for days afterwards?

It got me thinking. Taco Bell is a lot like sin. Okay, weird, I know. Just trust me on this.

Sin is fun. In the moment, sin sounds like a good idea. Just like my idea of Taco Bell: I could not resist the hankering for an ooey-gooey chili cheesy burrito (by the way, is that real meat in there?). It tasted so good going down. Mmm, yummy. However, it wasnt but a few minutes later that I already started feeling yucky and questioning why I had made such an idiotic decision. So it is with sin. The after taste of sin is disgusting, unsatisfying and leaving you with an empty gut of guilt. You see, sin is worse than silly Taco Bell. The Bible says, sin separates us from God and that sin is a slap in His face to the satisfying joy He desires us to have (Rom.3:23; 6:23).

I might be thinking outside the bun on this, but God is so more satisfying than Taco Bell. There is no comparison. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” When we do not satisfy our hungers with God it is like eating 10 bean burritos at one sitting and expecting to run a marathon immediately afterwards. It ain’t happening.

I am incredibly thankful that God forgives us of our sin, cleans us from all unrighteousness and is more satisfying to the soul than anything on this planet. I am also thankful for the guy at the bank who gave me a breath mint!?

eulogy: dead by sled

I almost died yesterday. Okay, not really. I went sledding with some friends from church at Slatter Hill. The conditions were supreme. The snow was packed, the air was cold, and the orange-deer sleds were dominating the competition on the hill. For real, no sleds could challenge our speed.

Risking my life for the glory of the day I borrow a little kids can of Pam cooking spray. I lathered my sled up in buttery goodness and dared to conquer the slope. A few butterflies entered my stomach. My pride was at stake. I got into my sled and took the street-luge position. Pete gave a quick push and I was off.

My eyes were watering because of the speed. My bowls were about to explode in my snowpants. I was rocketing towards the road. I couldnt bail. Only chickens bail. I reached the bottom of the hill, but I had such great speed that I launched over the road rear the Purdue soccer field fence. The sled stopped. For a moment I basked in the glory!

can you enjoy God?

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I don’t know where I learned it, but early in my faith I believed that having a relationship with God was a lot of hardwork and little play. Or better said, the Christian life was about duty, not delight. I am sure I was not taught this but it was something that I believed over time. My idea of God was that He was to be served, feared and revered. The view of God made Him seem so distant and impersonal. Christianity quickly became exhausting, boring and unattractive to me.
 
Yes, God should be worshipped, feared, and revered. But can He be enjoyed? Why does the idea of enjoying God seem strange or sacreligious?
 
A few hundred years ago men who loved God wrote down in the historical document entitled the Westminster Confession, The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”
 
John Piper echoed this by stating, “God is most glorified (worshiped, praised, etc.) when we are satisfied in Him.”
 
These quotes were revolutionary to me. They relieved me of years of living for God out of duty rather than delight. I was a slave to living for Him because “I had to” rather than “I love to.” 
 
I believe we can enjoy God and here are some reasons why… 

5 Reasons why we should enjoy God
 
1. God COMMANDS us to pursue joy in Him.
Psalm 100:1-2
According to these verses, would it be disobedient to serve God without joy?
Philippians 4:4
Is this a command? Yes.
Are you obeying it?
 
2. The nature of FAITH teaches us to pursue joy in God.
Hebrews 11:6
How does this verse describe faith? “believing in things that are impossible”
Is God pleased when we seek a reward I Him? Yes.
 
3. The nature of EVIL teaches us to pursue joy in God.
Jeremiah 2:9-13
Based on these verses how would you define evil? 1. Forsaking God. 2. Pursuing joy by living for myself.
 
4. The nature of my SALVATION teaches us to pursue joy in God.
Matthew 13:44
Why would the man in this parable sell all that he has in order to buy the field? He knows it is a worthy investment.
How could be joyful if he sells all that He has? He is gaining more by buying the field.
Why would Jesus tell this story? Treasure = Jesus Christ / selling = surrender
 
5. The nature of HUMILITY teaches us to pursue joy in God.
Mk.8:34 & John 8:24
 
In conclusion, I want to share a story that I heard recently about a small boy who when walking down the street one day found a bright copper penny. He was so excited he found money and it didn’t cost him anything. This experience led him to spend the rest of his days walking with his head down, eyes wide ope, looking for wealth.
 
During his life time he found 1,296,000,000 pennies, 480 nickels, 1,900 dimes, 16,000 quarters, 200 half dollars and thousands of crinkled dollar bills [Estimate: $13million]. He accumulated quite a bank account in his lifetime. He prided himself in the fact that he spent his life getting his fortune from nothing.
 
Yes, the boy, now an old man, spent his life collecting money for nothing. Except that in his lifetime he missed the breathless beauty of 31,369 sunsets, the colorful spleandor of 157 rainbows, the fiery beauty of hundreds of maples nipped by the autumn frost. He never saw the thousands of white clouds drifting across the blue skies, shifting into various wonderous formations. Birds flying, the sun shining, and the smiles of hundred of thousands of people that passed him through his life. All of this is not a part of his memory. Nor did the man-bo have any time to build a successful family or a circle of true friends. No one cried for him when he passed on; in fact, many were glad to see the hunchback with a hunk of cash leave this world.
 
Enjoying God is what a life of worship and walk with god is all about. Stop settling for the unsatisfying duty of finding pennies, but reach out for the wad of joy that comes from enjoying God.