Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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8 Journey of Joy Part 1

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”

In Galatians 4:15, Paul asks the church “What happened to your joy?” and I think today more than ever the church needs to consider the answer to this question. Many of us are living joyless lives and I don’t think it’s because we want. I think we are not on the journey to joy because we have forgotten the path to praise. In Psalm 16 David reveals the steps to a journey of joy:

  • Pick the path to life

David reminds us that Joy is found on the path to life not death and that only the author of life can reveal its path. The gift of God’s grace is that He has not hidden the road to rejoicing but has revealed and made it known. God gave His greatest gift, His Son Jesus Christ who come and died for our sins on the cross so that we could have life. It is here that we have a choice, continue in the chaos or come to the cross. God does not force us to follow His path He gives us a choice, He has provided the path to life but we have to pick it. What choice have you made, you may feel like you are saved because you grew up in a Christian family but remember we are born sinners not saved. We have a choice to make, will we confess and choose Christ and when we do will we choose to follow Him? In Deuteronomy 30:15-19 God told His people “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life.” Salvation starts us on the journey to joy but surrender to His ways are the steps of continued praise. So often we choose Christ and then fail to follow Him, instead of living in the Lord we linger in the lies. If you have chosen Christ then live for Christ, so that your walk reflects His word not your way and wants. Jesus said in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Joy comes when we choose to journey with Jesus, to live for the Lord in obedience to His Word. Jesus reminds us in John 10:10 that there is another path one of pain whose destination is destruction, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Satan’s plan is simple to deceive, derail and destroy. Today many believers have been side swiped by Satan, side tracked by the system of this world, and swamped by sin. What are you choosing? Jesus came to save Satan came to steal, Jesus came to bring life Satan came to kill, Jesus came to build Satan came to destroy.  Satan can’t steal your salvation so he tries to rob you of rejoicing by stealing your joy. One of the most effective ways he has in stealing our joy is through sin, willful disobedience to God’s way. In Psalm 32:3-4, David said, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long.” Because of the unconfessed sin in his life, David lost his joy and so do we, but when he came clean in verse 5, “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” his joy returned, verse 1-2 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty.” Are you living in the destruction of disobedience are you choosing His commands or catering to your cares? Do you need to come clean and confess, stop serving the sin and surrender to the Savior. Repentance restores but it also redirects our lives back to rejoicing in our Redeemer. Second Satan sneak attack involves stealing our joy through unresolved conflict. Hebrews 12:14-15 says “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” When we get hurt we often choose to hang onto the offence, unforgiveness steals our joy. Pursuing peace involves a focus on praise not the pain and that means fighting the urge to hold onto the hurt and instead choosing to forgive. If you have a relationship where there’s unresolved conflict, where you’ve been hanging onto the hurt then my question is this, is it worth losing your joy over? Are you putting your energy into feeding the fight or forgiving? Are you growing the grudge or giving grace? I’m not talking about minimizing the hurt I’m talking about choosing to not give it control. Pain wants to take the place of praise in your life and you can put your energy into petting the hurt or a heart of praise, it’s your choice. Conflict is going to happen, offences will occur, we can’t stop people from hurting us, but we can choose what we’re going to do with the hurt. Are you hung up on a hurt that’s hindering your joy? Will you forgive and choose the path to life or keep living in the lies?

  • Pursue His presence

If you want to pursue joy then you have to find and live in the place where it is found. Davis tells us that the place of joy is in the presence of God, so how do we get there? Psalm 22:3 says “You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” The path to God’s presence is found through praise, Psalm 100:4 says “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.” Worship walks us into God’s presence where we can live in the light of His joy. The journey of joy is one of worship not worry, today many are allowing some dark doorway to bar their way to worship. Today we pursue pleasure, possession and prestige we are more desperate for darkness than we are for God. We line up for the latest technology but not for truth, we are more  tempted by the temporary than we are enamored by the eternal. Instead of living like we believe the bible we live like we are bored by it. What are you pursuing? Romans 8:15 says “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” We are no longer slaves but sons forgiven by our Father, but how desperate are we for our Daddy? Today I fear I have been more desperate over my problems than His presence. We want to pop into His presence when the next problem arises, present our request and then leave. We are consumed with a desire for a change in circumstances not a desire to chase Christ. Are you picking the path to life, do you long to linger with the lord living in His presence?

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7 Joy in the Junk

Romans 5:3-5 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Here in Roman’s Paul doesn’t down play the probability of problems, or shy away from suffering. Unfortunately many people today are living in the lie that God won’t give them more than they can handle. This false idea seems to originate from 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God does promise that He will provide a way out when we’re tempted but He never says that He’ll shield us from struggles. This scripture is specifically dealing with God not allowing temptation to overwhelm without Him providing a way of escape so that we can endure the temptation and not fall into sin. He didn’t promise a problem free life but His presence forever in life. Paul often faced adversity 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Paul doesn’t preach the prosperity gospel, rather he seems to advocated an adversity gospel: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked; I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Paul understood that in this life he would have problems and pain and today that may be where you are, pounded by the problems. Some are dealing with a difficult diagnosis, or flooded with financial distress, struggling with singleness, or a messy marriage, overwhelmed by the addictions of alcohol or adultery, deep in drugs or depression, worn out by wayward kids. The list could go on but at some point in life we all discover the disillusionment that occurs when life doesn’t live up to our expectations. Some of us have graduated more than once from the University of Unmet Expectations. Paul doesn’t shy away from sharing the real message on suffering, it’s guaranteed for anyone who takes on the task of living. That’s the difficult part but here is the delight, God can use what isn’t good to graciously transforming us through our trials. We don’t like the thought of trials but there are some things we can’t learn in a lecture or a sermon but only through the school of suffering. One of the core classes for the Christian involves the challenging study of suffering. We will all go through seasons of suffering, we don’t have a choice in the curriculum but we do have a choice in our response to Christ. How we do in our course of study through suffering is largely determined by our response to His curriculum. Often we just want God to give us a pass so we can skip the pain, but problems are a prerequisite in this life and we can’t be excused from the syllabus of suffering. No matter what side of the pond you find yourself on you can find joy in the junk and rejoicing in the rubbish. Some of life’s greatest lessons are learned in the school of suffering, but it’s not just about the results but our response. Verse three reminds us of our response; rejoicing, it is the power of praise that allows us to triumph over our troubles. The English word tribulation comes from the Latin word tribulum, a heavy timber or board set with flint or metal teeth used for threshing grain. It was the teeth that separated the good grain from the chaff, just as suffering separates the superficial chaff from the seed. Today suffering often comes as a shock because we don’t expect to suffer, we are astonished at affliction but 1 Peter 4:12 reminds us: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Suffering is not strange but common place for the Christian. We may pray for a problem free life or even demand a pass on persecution but problems have a purpose. Philippians 1:29 says: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” Yet how many of us shy away from serving the Savior through suffering? Today I fear we are more interested in being rewarded as Christians than recognized as them. Am I rejoicing in the rubbish James 1:2 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.” Do I have jubilation in the tribulation? In Acts 5:41 we are told that “the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Instead of whining they worshipped, instead just surviving suffering they were singing through it.  Paul reminds us that we rejoice in our sufferings because we know, not we guess or feel, but we are sure in our suffering that He will sanctify. Pain has a purpose, trials teach, tough times work for us not against. Paul says suffering produces perseverance which means to bear up under, so when you pray for patience don’t be surprised if you end up enrolled in the school of suffering. Some of God’s greatest blessings are poured out in bitter cups. Ask Joseph and he’ll point to prison, John can point to Patmos, or Daniel who learned his lesson in lion’s den. But perseverance is not the end product for it enrolls us in the class of Christian character. God is more concerned with us being holy than He is with us being happy. He is more committed to our character development than our comfort. We may want to make it about comfort and convenience yet His primary concern is conforming us to the image of His Son. Character development occurs in the currents of challenging circumstances not the protective paddling pool of a problem free life. Character then serves to strengthen our confident hope; even in our hurt we are not without hope. This is a hope that does not disappoint, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Many today are disappointed and disillusioned because life has not lived up to their expectations, but Holy Spirit hope never disappoints. Our greatest longing is love and God has lavishly poured out His love into our lives. Biblical hope is built on the confident expectation that you will not be disappointed. Disappointment is often the result of a failure in focus, things may not have gone your way but they have gone His. Suffering is the secret reminder that God loves us. We may long to study the pages of pleasure but it’s in the school of suffering that causes us to shine. Today are you shunning the school of suffering or surrendering to what He wants to teach you?