Are you just not the exuberant type of Christian?

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Get ready for the ‘M’ word!

Yes, I’m talking about mathematics.  I hope you don’t still suffer from nightmares about how dumb you might have felt in high school math class. I’m not sure which causes more shuddering among adults I meet, memories of foreign language classes or all those required math courses.

But seriously, there exists a God-given math principle which helps us understand his word.  Do you recall something called ‘the transitive property of equality’?  (I had to look up its name, but my husband and I apply it often when reading our Bibles).

I used it the other day when I came upon a favorite promise in Isaiah.  It goes like this: 

If A=B and C = B, then A= C

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling. Isaiah 30:15 ESV

Immediately, the Lord brought to mind Nehemiah’s encouragement to the people of God who had been standing all morning listening to the Levites explain the scriptures being read out loud. They began to weep when they understood their sin.  At that point, with all the people feeling genuine sorrow for breaking God’s law, Nehemiah stops the mourning to give them a message of peace:

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

As I read Nehemiah’s description of divine strength, the Holy Spirit connected that to the Isaiah verse, stirring up that long ago math lesson.

-If repentance/turning back to God and trusting the Almighty produce strength.

-And if believing and rejoicing in the word of God gives strength.

Then, it follows that trusting God and rejoicing in/being glad about the written Word  are two ways of saying the same thing.

Why am I drawing out this principle?

Because for some of us, our personality type keeps us from connecting with that term ‘joy’.  So, I get stuck on the word ‘rejoice’.  In my mind, I picture fans of a winning football or baseball team’s exuberant excitement. And that’s not me.

So, when I see the phrase – rejoice in the Lord, I simply use one of Strong’s synonyms for the Hebrew term rejoicebe glad.

Now THAT I can do with authenticity. Hands down, I am VERY glad to belong to God’s family and to have Jesus as my master, friend and older brother.  Nothing settles me more; nothing produces more contentment than knowing God. 

So, dear friends, if a certain verse or word doesn’t fit or connect with you, pull out that transitive property of equality and search out something that will help you understand scripture in a more meaningful way.

What God does by setting our boundaries

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The boundary/inheritance lines have fallen for me in pleasures….Psalm 16:6  (literal meaning from Blue Letter Bible)

Fences

We normally recite Psalm 16:6 with the phrase ‘pleasant places’ as describing the boundary lines.  So ‘pleasures’ should have jarred the ear a bit.  But that phrase happens to refer just as often to ‘pleasures’ and to ‘sweet things’ as it does to ‘pleasant places’.

If you’ve journeyed long enough in your life to reach your 30s, then surely you’ve accumulated your personal list of disappointments and closed doors.  Whether prom date rejections, cuts from the cast or team, wait listing at your first choice college or job terminations, sorrow is part of life.

For a while I have recognized that dead ends and startling abrupt turns are God’s intentional means to direct His children along the paths He has chosen. We, of course, don’t see all of his reasons and certainly God has many purposes. But one goal of God’s that I now understand more clearly is that, as my good Father, He is determined to maximize my enjoyment of Him.  He arranges my circumstances and structures my days to include ‘lessons’ (trials and suffering) that will increase my holiness.  I’m learning that as my holiness expands, so does my pleasure and joy in God.

This day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength – Nehemiah 8:9

Nehemiah exhorted the people to put an end to their sincere sorrow over past sins and move on to holy happiness in God.  He knew that their repentance was real  – a prerequisite to being cleansed or made holy. Now it was time to enjoy God and experience genuine joy and receive divine strength.

What is NOT explicit, but is built into the text is the understanding that AS we are increasingly sanctified or made more holy (more like God), THEN we enjoy Him more and more.

  • Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

A recent revelation has startled me:  All those disappointments, which I might lament, MAYBE they have been expressly for my joy.  Maybe had God allowed me to fulfill my dreams, I would have been ‘ruined’ for the real kind of joy.  It’s like a child who first eats sugar is ‘ruined’ for the taste and delight of fresh fruit and vegetables.

So maybe all the closed doors and thwarted plans, which have set my boundaries, (THIS far and no further!) have been sovereignly arranged with the EXPRESS purpose of maximizing my joy in God.  Could it be? Well, I wouldn’t put it past Him!

A further insight settled on me last week as I was listening to a secular colleague share his story of desires and closed doors.  His dreams of being a film producer had led nowhere and with mounting debt and a family to support, he finally came to grips with putting that career goal to bed and applied for a teaching job out of state.  He now teaches in the classroom next to me.  We’ve talked about God before and he’s easy to talk with but doesn’t seem to have any divine stirrings…yet!

But if God shuts doors and redirects my plans to maximize my enjoyment of Him, might this gentleman’s blocked efforts to move into another career along with desperation over increasing debt have God’s fingerprints all over?  Would it be unlike God to place him at this school in MY sphere to hear life-saving news?

I’m now praying for a soft heart on his part and alertness to know when to speak up.

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