Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For You will judge the peoples with uprightness And guide the nations on the earth. Selah.
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
From: Streams in the Desert
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.
Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.
“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.”
“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs–the love song of the night–shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.”
Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.
“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.”
“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”
“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”
Should Sorrow lay her hand upon thy shoulder,
And walk with thee in silence on life’s way,
While Joy, thy bright companion once, grown colder,
Becomes to thee more distant day by day?
Shrink not from the companionship of Sorrow,
She is the messenger of God to thee;
And thou wilt thank Him in His great tomorrow
For what thou knowest not now, thou then shalt see;
She is God’s angel, clad in weeds of night,
With ‘whom we walk by faith and not by sight.’
|Who’s Setting Your Priorities?From: Encouragement for Today
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)
Could my cell phone affect my to-do list? Could this little bit of gadgetry redirect my day, causing me to miss God’s best for me? I think so, and here’s why.
Growing up, we had a house phone. Just one.There was no call-waiting beep or answering machine. And of course, no email or texting. So if you wanted to reach me, you had to keep calling until you got through. Or maybe head to my house and actually knock on my door. Quite frustrating when “someone” spent hours talking to a friend!
Basically, the burden to communicate was on the person with the message to share.
Today the responsibility to communicate has shifted. No longer is it your burden to reach me; all you do is type-type-type a message, hit send and all the responsibility floats through cyberspace and lands firmly on me.
Multiply this by every which way people can reach me, and before I even wake up, I’m behind.
This shift has silently affected all of us. A typical day starts with checking some sort of communication device to see who might have emailed, posted or texted. Then, before we begin to handle what’s most important to us, our day begins by responding to what’s most important to others.
Without a concerted effort to stop this pull, we are drawn into the day’s rushing current like a tiny raft on a whitewater river. And rather than being proactive, our days are spent in reactive mode.
Sound familiar? If so, you’ve probably also experienced the too-long to-do list that comes with it. After we’ve given the best of our time and energy to others, there’s little left to address God’s priorities for us. Consequently we put-off, delay and procrastinate our priorities.
After years of shortchanging myself and my family, and often dishonoring God with disobedience, I realized I had things upside down! Things that mattered least replaced things that mattered most in my schedule. And work that would make the greatest impact on my life often fell to the bottom of my lists, then transferred to the next list until I either completed it with a fraction of my ability or abandoned it entirely.
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to figure out our best work. It sounds so easy to say, “Identify your priorities, and do those first.” However, when we face multiple demands we can often feel helpless. And helplessness can lead us to escape, avoid or numb.
When those feelings start to overtake me and I don’t know what to do, rather than make a self-defeating choice, it’s time to press pause. Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing … except seek direction and wisdom from the One who knows what our best is.
Given the chance, others will set our priorities for us. Yet God specifically has a calling for each of us that will only come from Him. To discern this, we need wisdom. Without God’s wisdom, we make decisions on facts and feelings. And the fact that I have 100 emails to answer and feel overwhelmed does not mean it’s wise to do so now.
To find wisdom, I need to silence the demands of many, to hear the commands of One.
God is faithful, and His Word promises we can receive wisdom. In fact, it’s a gift from God. Here is what James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
As my life becomes more interconnected with others, my priorities are harder to identify. There will always be new demands rising to the tops of my to-do list, giving me reasons to delay tackling my own priorities.
There is hope. When we take our tiny raft out of the raging river, and sit on the banks with our Heavenly Father, He will give us wisdom for what to do next. Sometimes it’s answering an email, but it might be something else He has planned for today.
From: 40 Day Journey
Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.
Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost…
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.
Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. “Our action is in vain.” The world remains world and we remain sinners “even in the best of lives.” Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture…to live a different life under grace from that under sin…
Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.
Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18
Questions to Ponder
- Why is it that the church so often proclaims and dispenses “cheap grace”?
- What happens to the “saltiness” of disciples in a church that “conveys such [cheap] grace upon itself”?
- What does it mean to say that cheap grace is “grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ”?
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12
The Father’s Discipline (2 Chronicles 36:15–23)
The waitress refilled the coffee, and Josh took a sip from his cup. “So, Ian, how are the kids?” he asked after she had stepped away.
“They’re testing my patience,” Ian answered.
“I told them not to do it. Their mother warned them. And what did they do?”
“Let me guess.”
Ian shook his head. “I said, ‘You have a choice,’ and, well, they chose wrong.”
“So, what did you do?”
Ian sighed and sat back in the booth. “They’re grounded, just like we warned them. They’re spending the weekend helping Mrs. Chamberlain fix up her yard.”
“I’ll bet they don’t like that.”
“Well, neither do I. We had a surprise trip planned for them, but now that has to wait.” Ian paused a moment, lost in thought. His mouth tightened in a smile. “They’re basically good kids. I love them. They just have a lot to learn about how life works. We’ll see how they do after the weekend.”
If you have kids, this probably sounds familiar to you. And since you were a kid at one time, you also know what it means to disobey and then face the consequences. The Israelites messed up too. They repeatedly ignored God’s warnings and failed to follow the rules he set for them. Finally, God punished his people by sending them into exile in Babylon. Yet even in his discipline God provided a note of hope: Although the temple was destroyed, it would be rebuilt. Although they were in exile, God’s people would again live in the promised land. Despite their disobedience they would receive another chance to do things right.
God loves his people, and he “disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:12). But discipline isn’t the end of love! It’s just the beginning of a long story of grace and mercy, forgiveness and rebuilding on top of the ruins of past mistakes.
As God’s children, we all have much to learn. God loves us. He’s firm, but also patient and kind. He wants us to grow into spiritually mature men. And, like a good Father, he’ll see us through.
Taken from NIV Men’s Devotional Bible