Hope for the Hopeless [Joy]

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12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Romans 12:12

Three things are critical for the New Testament believer:

  1. To rejoice out of a real hope,
  2. a deliberate endurance,
  3. and a prayer life that is unceasing.

These three are vital for us if we want to be authentic saints. These three aspects must become foremost in our discipleship.

Of the three, the first is to rejoice out of a real hope is the most important. It seems like I take the most “hits” over this one. There is a constant erosion  over my joy and my hope. I encounter the false belief that I will be one of the damned. A variation is that I’m ‘cursed’ by God and my life from this point is always going to be hellish and miserable. Frozen like a mosquito in ancient amber.

For me, my mental illness is a sin– the sin of despair. I don’t insist on the right terminology or of definitions. Some believe these issues are demonic. Some wonder about the use of meds, or the value of seeing a psychiatrist or going into therapy. These are all valid, but it seems like polishing the brass rails as the Titanic is seeking.

I won’t try to give answers, because there isn’t a single one to be found. There’s a complexity about the human heart, and God’s sovereign plan that I can’t venture anything. I will only suggest we give room for our own misunderstandings. Perhaps it’s the presence of Jesus we can agree on.

Rejoice in hope,” goes a long ways to combat the enemy, our own fallenness and our own sin of despair. A ‘song to the Lord’ breaks our souls free and is the brokenbelievers true hope is the best antidepressant. But I vote we keep singing out of our cells (Acts 16:25).

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A Jubilate Discipleship: Psalm 95

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A Psalms Study

“Come, let’s sing for joy to the Lord.
    Let’s shout praises to the Rock who saves us.
Let’s come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let’s sing songs to him,
because the Lord is the great God,
    the great King over all gods.
The deepest places on earth are his,
    and the highest mountains belong to him.
The sea is his because he made it,
    and he created the land with his own hands.

Come, let’s worship him and bow down.
    Let’s kneel before the Lord who made us,
because he is our God
    and we are the people he takes care of,
    the sheep that he tends.

Today listen to what he says:

Psalm 95:1-7, NCV

Such joy: it just bubbles through the words. This is a psalm saturated with excitement. These first seven verses are ‘carbonated joy.’ They pronounce an excitement of a living God that excels in every way. These are simple words made to escort us into a true worship, unlike any other. We might use the word, “jubilant” when hearing this psalm. And we wouldn’t be far off.

“The Lord is the great God,” and He is the King of any ‘so-called’ gods. Everything concerning the earth is His doing– for He created it, with His own hands! And our creating God is also our Shepherd, tending and caring for us as His very own flock.

These verses extol our God, to the point of exuberance. It channels us to the point of worship upon our knees, with the realization of the greatness of God. But this Psalm continues for four more verses.

Today listen to what he says:
“Do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were at Meribah,
    as they were that day at Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me
    and tried me even though they saw what I did.
10 I was angry with those people for forty years.
    I said, ‘They are not loyal to me
    and have not understood my ways.’
11 I was angry and made a promise,
    ‘They will never enter my rest.’”

Psalm 95:7-11

There are two parts to Psalm 95. The first is of jubilant worship. But the second part emphasizes a solid obedience. The phrase, “Today listen to what he says:’ welds these two sections together.

Worship must always lead to obedience. You can do ‘cartwheels’ on Sunday morning, as long as you follow Him on Monday.

The issue is an history lesson that goes back to Israel’s days of Moses and the days following the Exodus. Because they were so hard and stubborn, they would wander for forty years in the desert. Their continued ‘stubbornness’ not only closed off the Promised Land, but also closed off their relationship with God— a relationship that would’ve been ‘jubilant’ and  profound (at the same time). They missed out on verses 1-6 and settled on verses 8-11. How tragically sad.

There is a thread that works through scripture called “the rest of God.” The book of Hebrews uses in 12x usually as a warning:“Now, since God has left us the promise that we may enter his rest, let us be very careful so none of you will fail to enter.” (Heb. 4:1).

 “Let us try as hard as we can to enter God’s rest so that no one will fail by following the example of those who refused to obey.”

Heb.4:11

To be in God’s rest is to be in harmony with Him. It is a mixture of confident faith mixed with a careful obedience. When you combine these two, you have the recipe for joy.

I believe this rest is the believer’s place of joy, peace and confident faith. It obeys because it really wants to. It is Psalm 95:1-7 in action. It is for the jubilant Christian.

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Star Witnesses

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“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Luke 2:8-11

These shepherds were watchful.  They are careful, and very much on guard, as they look over the flocks.  (Actually, this is quite marvelous in itself. There is a ‘brain-numbing’ issue that afflicts shepherds at 2 in the morning.)  They see everything this deep. dark night. They will make excellent ‘star’ witnesses.

The angels carefully watch as well.  I’m guessing the ‘appearance’  frightens in a very deep way.  The Bible uses this powerful word–terrified‘.  (Doesn’t that word just push through, and make it seem as though we no longer have control over reality?)

All of a sudden, an angel appears and things start getting strange.  The weirdness quickly grows, and fear begins to push through.  Fear is a very good way to a deep understanding of things that are pretty much out of our league. Reality is now going to be interpreted God’s way, under His terms. We fear first, and faith follows. That seems to be the pattern.

The angels are very quick to ‘defuse the fear.’ They need to do something to stem the urge to panic.  One of the things they do is to speak a deep and penetrating word of promise and hope.  And the shepherds are like dry sponges,  and they truly absorb all that happens. They are the ‘official’ witnesses to this night’s events.

The ‘angel’ has carried a very significant message to our souls. “‘Have absolutely no fear’!  I carry to you, an awesome word, that all of your nasty, evil sins, are quite forgiven.  There is someone special, a savior. This baby is the Messiah, Christ the Lord.'” Needless to say, the shepherds are pretty scrambled.

“A Saviour is born”.  He hasn’t ‘appeared,’ or even ‘arrived’ as full-bodied man, but He has been born.  This reliance on ‘old-fashioned’ approach, brings a much slower development to His message.  A birth slows everything down. It’s like ‘slow motion’ TV.  It forces things to develop in a slower, natural and a timely way. Everyone waits.

But He has been ‘born’.  But have no doubt, He is the ‘Messiah” and He is the King of Kings, He is the One who has been eternally chosen.  Just wait and see.

“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”   

J.I. Packer

***ybic, Bryan

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