Because it is Tuesday morning, it is my time to consider what God might have me share with my friends at the Lamb Center this afternoon. Because of a conversation that occurred when I was there last week, I felt led this morning to spend some time seeing what scripture has to say about "joy." If you had never been there, you might think that joy would be a strange topic to consider when spending time with people who have no place to live. Yet, I consistently find the opposite to be true.
What is joy? Is it the same as happiness? Does it depend on our circumstances? What does God say about joy and what did Jesus teach when He was walking amongst us? These are a few of the questions that I hope we will consider this afternoon. In the meantime, I have been so blessed by the process of the digging for answers and surprised by the places that God chose to reveal new treasures as a reward for my digging.
For instance, many of us are familiar with the phrase from Nehemiah 8:10 that says "the joy of the Lord is my strength (NIV.)" I wrote down that verse for us to read this afternoon...just a couple of the verses at first. In this instance, it would have been easy to just pull the "Hallmark card" approach to quoting scripture....find a verse that I like and separate it from it's context because it works for my purposes. While I don't generally have a problem with that :-), today I felt compelled to read all of Nehemiah 8 to see just what had happened before Nehemiah made this statement. I encourage you to read it yourself, but essentially the people's hearts had been split wide open because they had been read the scriptures and "they finally understood what they had been taught. (New Century Version)" They were so overwhelmed by the Truth of the word of God that they were weeping, although it is unclear whether they were weeping because they were so moved with emotion or because they were convicted of how far they had strayed. Either way, they are blown away because they finally get it! Nehemiah then reminds them that hearing the Lord speak through His word is a cause for celebration!
10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy good food and sweet drinks. Send some to people who have none, because today is a holy day to the Lord. Don't be sad, because the joy of the Lord will make you strong."
11 The Levites helped calm the people, saying, "Be quiet, because this is a holy day. Don't be sad."
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send some of their food to others, and to celebrate with great joy. They finally understood what they had been taught.
For some reason, reading the context in which these words were written changed the whole meaning for me...deepened it, personalized it. Those moments when God has chosen to reveal Himself to me in a way in which I hadn't understood Him before, those glimpses of Him that bring me to my knees with adoration for His complexity and depth, those realizations that do indeed bring tears to my eyes...those are moments that exemplify "the joy of the Lord" for me. And how beautiful, how very like Him, to show us in scripture just what it means to revel in that joy...throw a party AND share it with someone else. By all means, throw a party for yourselves, but go and share your good fortune...go and spread the good news. Seems like that is what church should be, but I wonder if we get stuck in the "throwing the party" for ourselves part sometimes. Hmmm...
Reminds me of lyrics to my new favorite song "live high, live mighty, live righteously." But that is for another day's blog entry...