The Strength of Joy – Nehemiah 8:10

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Nehemiah 8:10 – “Don’t be dejected and sad for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The Joy of the Lord

We all know how energizing it is to be happy, excited, and full of joy. When we feel up we are full of life – positive, up beat, patient, and kind. But when we are down we feel drained and exhausted – dark clouds surround us and everything looks gray. There’s a reason that the main symptoms of depression are excessive sleeping, lack of interest in usually enjoyable pursuits, and self-isolation. Of course most of what the world calls joy is merely temporary happiness based on favorable circumstances. Real joy (like real peace and love) will transcend our circumstances and carry us through every part of life.

That joy is “the joy of the Lord”. So what is “the joy of the Lord”? It is the kind of joy that can only be found in God, and like everything it starts in Him. All good things not only come from God (James 1:17), but are also rooted in Him. In Himself God has joy and peace and is in fact love itself. So true joy is in God, of God, and from God – the source of all joy. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (God made flesh) we can be made right with God, reconciled (2 Cor. 5:19, Ephesians 2:16) and at peace with Him (Romans 5:1). Through faith in Him we enter into a relationship with God – this is what is meant by “eternal life” (John 17:3).

Once we have entered this relationship with God through Christ (John 14:6), we are able to experience His love (which is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit; see Romans 5:5) His peace, and His joy. As Scripture says, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)”.
Strength for What?
Such glorious joy is strength indeed:

  • To persevere through trials
  • To love others with God’s own love
  • To do the work God calls us to
  • To resist temptation
  • To pursue God

It was joy that strengthened Christ to face the cross. Scripture says, “… for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God… (Hebrews 12:2)”. We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). He is our example and hope. Therefore we must be “joyful in hope, (which helps us to be) patient in affliction, (and keeps us) faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12)”. For this reason we are commanded to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).
Joy Stealers
So why don’t we better experience this joy? Though there may be plenty of other reasons these are the big three:

1. Complaining – this is always in the end complaining against God since He is sovereignly in control at all times. A complainer is never a joyful or faith-filled person. Complaining is almost always the whining voice of doubt against God’s character and His Word. God never takes well to complainers. Scripture says, “Now the people (of Israel, after leaving Egypt) complained about their hardships (in the wilderness) in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them His anger was aroused (Numbers 11:1)”. Thus Scripture says, “do everything without grumbling or complaining (Philippians 2:14)”

2. Apathy – whether it is in our jobs, our families, or our personal and spiritual growth; apathy always smothers our joy. We are meant to be passionate and active as God Himself is (see Exodus 34:14 and John 9:4) we are to do our work (whatever it may be) “as working for the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7) and to “not grow weary in doing good… (Galatians 6:9)”.

3. Disobedience – this is the root of it all, even the first two. When we live in knowing and willful disobedience we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) who lives in us and we distance ourselves from God’s loving presence. Disobedience also gives ground to the enemy (Ephesians 4:27) whose only purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) and that includes our peace, purpose, passion, and joy.
How to Regain and Maintain Your Joy

  • Follow Jesus through the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, …. (Galatians 5:22)”.
  • Know, believe, receive, and remember God’s promises. Trust in God for Scripture says, “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength (from the joy of the Lord?)…” (Isaiah 40:31) and that God will “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Romans 15:13).
  • Spend time cultivating your relationship with God then you can say with David, “You have filled me with joy in Your presence… (Psalm 16:11)”.
  • Use your gifts and talents to serve and help others that you may say as Paul did, “we are workers with you for your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24) and that God may say to you (now as well as later) “well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord (Matt. 25:21)”.
  • Cultivate a thankful attitude. Scripture tells us to, “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18)
  • Celebrate God’s faithfulness. This was the main reason why God established the various celebrations for the Israelites “celebrate…rejoice…celebrate…be joyful (Duet. 16:10-15)”.

As Christians, we should be the most joyful people around because of the hope we have in Christ and because of the empowering and loving presence of God in us by His Holy Spirit.
Point to Ponder:
Have you discovered the joy that comes from a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ? That must be your first stop in pursuit of true and lasting joy. If you once had that joy but find yourself without it most days, then take a close and honest look at the three joy stealers outlined above. Ask God to show you if you have fallen prey to any of them and repent. Now trust God, pursue God, and let joy in Him strengthen you for life’s journey.
Let’s pray, “Our Father in heaven, thank You for making a way for us to be restored into a right relationship with You through the sacrifice of Your Son. We believe on Him as the only way to You – to joy and life – and by faith we receive forgiveness of sins through His blood. We confess that we have not lived as we should. We have been disobedient, complaining, and lukewarm. Forgive us, Lord, and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Help us to pursue You by spending time in prayer and Your Word. You have given us all the strength and power we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3) and to be pleasing to You in everything – may we walk in the power of Your Holy Spirit every day. May we remember and celebrate Your faithfulness and so be thankful to You in all circumstances remembering that You are always in control and are working everything out for our good (Romans 8:28). In the name of Jesus and for the sake of Your glory we pray. Amen”
And now, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)”.

I’ll Carry You

Lyrics from God's heart

I will be with you forever
In your fear, in your pain
You will never be forsaken
My grace is here to sustain you
Be still and wait, you’re safe here in My hands

I’ll carry you
To a firm place to stand
I’ll walk with you
And hold you by the hand
So though you stumble
I will never let you fall
Rest in My arms of love
They will carry you
Through it all

When you can’t find the strength
That you need to go on
When all the hope you used to have
Seems to be long gone
Just trust in Me and believe I’m here by your side

I’ll carry you
To a firm place to stand
I’ll walk with you
And hold you by the hand
So though you stumble
I will never let you fall
Rest in My arms of love
They will carry you
Through it all

I will take care of you
I will be all you ever need
My love is here to hold you
So every day won’t you turn to Me

I’ll carry you
To a firm place to stand
I’ll walk with you
And hold you by the hand
So though you stumble
I will never let you fall
Rest in My arms of love
They will carry you
Through it all

Psalm 37:23-24 – The Lord directs the steps of the godly, He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall for the Lord holds them by the hand.”

A Prayer from a Lonely Heart

Prayers

“Lord, I’m so tired of letting circumstances dictate my emotions. If I don’t get the attention I want or the affection I think I need or a hundred other little things then loneliness sets in like a dark cloud that follows me wherever I go. It’s like a gaping hole eating away at my heart. And yet, my heart is not empty because You reside there and the dark clouds that surround me are blown away by the breath of Your Spirit so that I can see the sunshine of Your grace and favor falling on me and feel the warmth of Your love and approval embrace me. God, help me to hold that truth in the depths of my soul. Do I lose sight of it because I spend too little time with You? Could it be that what I think of as a hunger for affection and attention is actually a thirst for Your presence? Lord, help me to seek You first and above all else. For it is You whom I want and need over anything else for You are life and love and light itself. Help me to seek You that I may find You as You have promised. As I wait on You fill me up with Your presence till I am a cup overflowing. And though the loneliness returns like all the sorrows of this world must while we are here, yet may it all only ever draw me closer to You – You who is close to the brokenhearted. So are You near to me always and forever, my God. Thank You for loving me like no one else and for Your promise to never leave me. Amen.”

Why Hearts were Made to be Broken

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Loving someone is like removing your heart from your chest and placing it that person’s hands. It’s bound to get bruised even in the best of hands. Most likely it’ll end up breaking multiple times along the way. Because we know this by experience we are often tempted to take our heart and lock it in an air tight vault and then throw away the key. The problem with that though is that our hearts need to breathe. Our hearts need sunlight and air and the warmth of another’s touch. Sure in another’s hands our hearts are bruised, torn, broken, and even sometimes crushed – but as fragile as they are they are also resilient.

The broken heart heals, the crushed heart rises again from the dust like a phoenix rises from the ashes. But the heart that’s locked away dies. It shrinks in on itself becoming harder and colder until it’s no longer flesh but a solid piece of lead. It becomes a bullet in the gun we use to hurt others. This is why you must never lock your heart away. Keep it in your own hands for a little while if you must but then you need to be brave and give it away once again. For our hearts can only grow when they’ve been broken because that is when we are nearest to the heart of God. He is, “close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)” perhaps because He Himself has had His own heart broken millions of times since the creation of the world. For to love is to break – to be strong and weak at the same time.

Love and Sorrow and the Heart of God

Thought for the Day

God, it hurts so much that I just want to run away, to turn my back and say, “I’m done”. But if I do that now, how will I ever find the courage to stay? This was such a little thing. It hurts because I care. Is this what You had in mind when You told me to love? Is this not when I need to love most? When another’s self-focused actions wound me? When the pain makes me want to put up walls and cast the offender from my heart? Is this when I must love? When I must choose to love when the pain urges me to hate. God, is this what love is for You too?

The two statements that “God is love” (1st John 4:8) and that You are “a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). I see now are one and the same thing. Love is exhilarating and giddy, making one long-suffering and brave. But love is also sorrow and grief and pain.

Love is patient when others are trying that patience. Love is kind when others have been unkind. Love doesn’t envy when someone else gets what it’s been believing for. Love doesn’t boast even though it often feels overlooked. It keeps no records of the many, many, many wrongs done to it. It always protects its beloved, always trusts in God’s sovereign plan, always hopes in His goodness, and always perseveres no matter the pain, the ache, the abandonment, the betrayal, the grief. Love never fails (1st Corinthians 13:4-8).

Perhaps that is what I have learned in this – what it means to love… truly. And also what it really means that You are love. Love that is not all joy and delight but also pain and grief. And perhaps I’ve understood (by experience) something of Your heart.

Because You’re Mine

God Letters

Because You’re Mine…

You are treasured

You are loved

You are honored

You are flawless in My eyes

You are My delight

You are rescued and secure

You are adored

You are always on My mind

You are wanted and desired

You are tried and purified

You are embraced

You are blessed beyond measure

I smile and sing

I have given you My name

Because you are Mine

I Tremble at Your Voice

My Song Lyrics

Mighty God, You spoke
And thus the world began
All You have purposed
Forever it will stand
By Your Word
You made all that I see
Through Your Word
You have called and saved me

I hear Your voice
Calling my name
And I know
I can’t stay the same
You speak in me
Lord, every time I pray
You’re changing me
With every word You say
And so I tremble at Your voice

Oh my God, You speak
And thus does life begin
With the Word of grace
You take away my sin
By Your Word
You give me light to see
Through Your Word
Your Spirit lives in me

I hear Your voice
Calling my name
And I know
I can’t stay the same
You speak in me
Lord, every time I pray
You’re changing me
With every word You say
And so I tremble at Your voice

God, I know how fearfully
And wonderfully I’m made
My God, I know Your love
By the price that You paid
And the Words You spoke
Echo across time
Your forgiving love
You have said is mine

I hear Your voice, calling my name
And I know…I can’t stay the same
You speak in me
Lord, every time I pray
You’re changing me
With every word You say
And so I tremble at Your voice

Shout for Joy

My Song Lyrics

Our King has broken the chains
That kept us bound to sin
Our Savior has died for us
To give us life again
He saved us with the power of His name
Now and forever let His saints proclaim

Our Lord lives
Our God reigns
He rules with justice
Mercy and grace
So lift Your voice
All people rejoice
Make a joyful noise
And shout for joy

Our God calls for the harvest
Fields of mercy He’s sown
Our redeemer ransomed us
He has made us His own
He saved us with the power of His word
Now and forever let our voices be heard

Our Lord lives
Our God reigns
He rules with justice
Mercy and grace
So lift Your voice
All people rejoice
Make a joyful noise
And shout for joy

Let all who take refuge
In the Lord sing His praises
For He’s mighty to save
He is the rock of ages

Our Lord lives
Our God reigns
He rules with justice
Mercy and grace
So lift Your voice
All people rejoice
Make a joyful noise
And shout for joy

Psalm 5:11 – “Let all who take refuge in You (the Lord) rejoice – let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your name may be filled with joy.”

Never Meant to be Alone

My Song Lyrics

Loneliness is the last great enemy
And might be our only friend
We all know when we close our eyes
That being lonely doesn’t end
It doesn’t matter who’s around
We’re still in our own skin
But a voice calls
“Let me in.”
It’s calling…

“You were never meant to be alone like this
I’m what your heart’s been missing
You don’t have to be alone anymore
I’m what you’ve been looking for
If you want me, I’ll be yours forever and a day
If you ask me, I promise that I’ll always stay
And you can know that you’ll never be alone”

I don’t know how this love can be
Why You chose to be my friend
But somehow You opened my eyes
And I can see all the pain end
It doesn’t matter that I fall down
‘cause You’ve washed away my sin
When I heard You calling
And I let You in
Can they hear You calling…

“You were never meant to be alone like this
I’m what your heart’s been missing
You don’t have to be alone anymore
I’m what you’ve been looking for
If you want me, I’ll be yours forever and a day
If you ask me, I promise that I’ll always stay
And you can know that you’ll never be alone”

Oh, God, open their ears
My God, open their eyes
Lord, open their hearts
To receive Your sacrifice
Jesus, my voice is Yours
If they’ll heed the cry
So take all I am
May they hear You through my life

“You were never meant to be alone like this
I’m what your heart’s been missing
You don’t have to be alone anymore
I’m what you’ve been looking for
If you want me, I’ll be yours forever and a day
If you ask me, I promise that I’ll always stay
And you can know that you’ll never be alone”

Desperate for You

My Song Lyrics

God, I’ve found You’re the only One
Who can satisfy my heart and my soul
God, I’ve seen You’re the only One
Who can take these pieces and make me whole
Now and forever You are all I need
Here and now light this fire in me

Make me desperate for You
And I will cry out for You
Lord, let nothing but Your presence satisfy me
Make me thirsty for You
And I will draw close to You
Lord, help me know You more for all eternity
Help me love You unreservedly

God, I know I was made for You
Just to love You and be loved by You
God, I know I was made by You
Just to know You, to be always with You
Now and forever Your love sets me free
Here and now, Lord, I give You all of me

Make me desperate for You
And I will cry out for You
Lord, let nothing but Your presence satisfy me
Make me thirsty for You
And I will draw close to You
Lord, help me know You more for all eternity
Help me love You unreservedly

May my heart burn for You
May my soul yearn for You
God, You are every breath I breathe
May You always be everything to me

Make me desperate for You
And I will cry out for You
Lord, let nothing but Your presence satisfy me
Make me thirsty for You
And I will draw close to You
Lord, help me know You more for all eternity
Help me love You unreservedly