God’s sense of humor – my lunch hours

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For 3 years I resisted.  Finally, BEGRUDGINGLY, I gave Him one lunchtime per week. After all, that Holy Spirit can be a pretty persistent Friend and Counselor.

As a busy teacher, I cherish my lunchtime to catch up on personal email when neither duties nor meetings take precedent.

Most of my fellow teachers share lunch and conversation in the foyer, eating and socializing at an oblong table.  I have KNOWN I should join in, especially if I want to develop relationships and be available for Gospel opportunities.  But I have selfishly hoarded lunchtime, justifying my choice by reasoning that I use those minutes to encourage friends via emails and catching up on reading some quality posts.  All true, but……as God teaches in Ecclesiastes 3:1 There’s a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun.

So under the gentle but persistent pressure of the Holy Spirit I yielded and agreed to dine with my fellow teachers once per week.  I even taped an index card on my desk to keep myself accountable, jotting down the date of my ‘ weekly sacrifice’.

To my surprise, I have found that I truly enjoy this social time with colleagues, even to the point of choosing more than once a week to join in the group.  God does have a sense of humor and doesn’t give up on stubborn daughters who think they know what is best for them.

Two benefits:

  • A tangible reminder that God changes our desires so we can find delight in obeying Him

Luke 11:28 – ……how blessed are those who hear God’s word and obey it!

  • I actually was given an opening to share why I am happy as a Christian and to explain the Gospel briefly at one of those lunchtime table talks.

May this experience make me more willing NEXT time to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit!

 

The danger of freedom

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I’m learning to think through what I hear in sermons and what I read.  When God wants to impress a truth on me, He tends to funnel the same message through multiple media.  The lesson last week that perked down into my resistant sinful pattern of thinking was: It’s not about me!

Before you scoff at how obvious that message is, let me assure you that it is VERY counter-cultural.  As pastor John Piper teaches, our society has been saturated with the mantra of the importance of Self-Esteem.  And you know as well as I, that a lie repeated oft enough takes on the weightiness and respectability of Truth.

self esteem

We slavishly work to think well of ourselves or gather praise from others.  That need becomes more than something nice to have.  It becomes our master, our God, and we its slave.

The other day, though, I was given a new thought.  I was feeling ‘sick of myself’ – just tired of thinking about me, what I eat, what my body feels like, how I’m doing with that perpetual thorn, how it’s the lens through which I view the world, the regulator that governs how much positive energy and interest I give to others.  Gradually, a life-altering truth took on substance:

  • It’s not about me.
  • It doesn’t have to be about me.
  • I don’t HAVE to even think about me.
  • Thinking about me doesn’t bring me any joy or energy.
  • I can actually be freed from thinking about me.
  • In point of fact, it’s about Him.  I exist, the birds sing, the trees sway, the oceans roar, the stars glisten, all of us alive to make much of God!

I had gone to bed the previous night with such new inklings swirling about in my head.  And when I awoke and greeted the gravel road for my morning walk and conversation with God, I started to think about me, as ‘per usual’.  But suddenly, the fragrance of freedom tickled my nose and I looked up at the stars and said:  I don’t HAVE to think about me today.  I’m FREE!!!

Well, if I’m not pondering me or my problems, then what am I thinking about when not occupied with teaching or conversing with someone or reading?  In all those interior, unencumbered moments, I get to mull over what makes our God so great.  And in fact, the Bible promises that far MORE joy, TRUE joy comes from those God-truths than any introspection.

  • Psalm 1:2  (How happy is the one who….) delights in the teachings of the LORD and reflects on his teachings day and night.
  • Psalm 119:97  Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long

There’s also that statement of fact in verse 11 of  Psalm 16In your presence is fullness of joy….. I don’t think the psalmist is referring just to when we are in heaven with Jesus.  We are present with Him in a conscious way when we are thinking of Him. Therefore, joy comes from shifting the focus of my waking mind off of ME and onto God.

All day long, I felt like a little child, giddy with delight over a secret treasure.  I would stop and reflect, “Why do I feel so happy?” and then all of a sudden, the truth would flood back. “That’s it!  I don’t have to think about me!  I’m free!!

ball and chain

Do you want to know what happened that night?  I risked sharing this oh-so-tenuous feeling of potential permanent freedom with Mike.  He got it, what I was feeling.  All was well. We were enjoying some close moments of joy that come from sharing truth about God.

We sat down to our treat of dinner on trays and another episode of Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. At the conclusion of both, a tiff flared up ‘out of nowhere’ that isolated us one from the other. Mike headed down to the smoking cave in withdrawn silence and I mulled over delaying a grace-filled loving response to his probable text apologizing for his anger. “I want him to know how it feels to be the recipient of his chill!” I selfishly thought.

I sat down to read the paper and sure enough within 10 minutes, ‘ping!’, the apology popped up.  But his words changed my feelings.  He wrote: “I don’t know what came over me!  These feelings came out of nowhere!  I’m confused and hurt!’

Suddenly, I knew.  It was spiritual attack.  I immediately closed ranks with my husband.  Fingers flew furiously as I consoled him that none of this was about us, but about a new God-truth, that promise of freedom he and I had rejoiced over.  Satan does NOT want us to trust God.  He works to thwart that glorious Freedom from Self.  This enemy of God also wants to disrupt and destroy married couples.

With that life-restoring revelation from God, our conversation whipped back and forth as we discussed this dark assault.  We moved closer together but weren’t quite restored.  More conversation by email brought light and by our evening reunion, we were back on the same side, glad to be reunited.  But we were more aware of the need to remain one with each other, with God at our back, our side and in front.  He is our sure refuge in times of trouble AND in times of blessing.  Blessings can be dangerous, too, if we are not aware of our vulnerability.

PS:  It’s been 4 days and that freedom from self IS authentic and available anytime I want to let go of the boring!

The delight-filled duty of joy

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Do you realize that the God who created the entire universe, the one and only God,

  • is a happy God?  

 

If we are Christians, then we serve the Lord of Joy as His happy and glad ambassadors.

Dangerous Duty of Delight

 

John Piper’s book on joy

 

 

 

 

Once you SEE with open eyes that joy is both the fuel and result of biblical Christianity, then you can’t escape this doctrine.  The Bible is peppered with references to our joy, delight, pleasure and happiness in God.  Hebrew has several words like  ashar and simcha and sasson and the significant Greek word for this state of well-being is chara  (as in Acts 8:8 – there was ‘megas chara’ when Philip shared the good news of God who came to Earth as a man, aka the Christ)

Oil of joy

Here is how my morning thoughts have gone this week:

 

 

 

 

  • Focusing on what is permanent is healthier than meditating on circumstances, which in THIS world are always going to be temporary.
  • All the permanent facts of my life are AMAZINGLY and DELIGHTFULLY GOOD and HOPE-FILLED.  Nothing in my permanent future bodes ill!  It’s all going to be blessing.
  • My thoughts about permanent matters affect not only my moods, but how I relate to others.
  • If I am a Christian, then when I was regenerated, the Holy Spirit came into me and permanently, eternally altered my spiritual DNA.  The Holy Spirit is the archetypal agent of Joy.  I have Divine Joy, the 3rd member of the Holy Happy Trinity living with me, in me.  That gives NEW meaning to the assertion that the Joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • Joy of the Lord - butterfly

 

 

  • Part of my new makeup is gift – already imparted to me forever.  The Holy Spirit – God’s agent of Joy and Holy Happiness,  is both INSIDE me and around me.  Do you remember reading this fact? –  He has girded me with gladness (Psalm 30:11)

With all that God has done FOR us, He also trusts us and is training us to use some resources and tools that He now provides via His immaterial but living Word.  Daily we are to:

  •  prepare our minds for action. (1 Peter 1:13)
  •  PUT ON new clothes (Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Col 3:12)
  • Strap on our defensive gear, especially the Belt of Truth –  the outer part of that permanent Holy Belt of Gladness – (Eph 6:14) 

These are some of my prayer-filled thoughts that I engage in each early morning before I face the world.   They sort me out. They encourage me. They help me remember that I am NOT my own but His.  I have a duty each day to be ready to exude, offer, shed, share, sprinkle and spill out that counter-cultural vibe of true joy that comes from the God who is IN me, AROUND me, THROUGH me and definitely FOR me.

Everyone is saddened and heavy-ladened with something.  Everyone needs a lift.  We believers are permanently connected to a universe of grace.  We have NOTHING to lose! So be gratuitous with your grace. Your Father in Heaven will beam.  He will not chide you for wanton waste of living water.  The world is thirsty!

Addiction and joy

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