Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

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A Revival of Joy

Revival means “to live again” or “to give life again.”

Apply that to joy—“to live in joy again” or “to give joy to life again.”

Sounds pretty good, huh?

If you agree, consider this tidbit from Nehemiah . . .

“… the joy of the Lord is your strength … And all the people went … to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (Nehemiah 8:10b, 12)

See the double reference to joy and rejoicing?

The “joy of the Lord” could mean either: a) the joy the Lord possesses (it is the Lord’s own joy) or b) the joy the Lord gives (the joy the Lord distributes). I suggest Nehemiah has the latter in mind.

So how does the Lord intend to give or distribute this joy that only He can give?

Look at this in context. We have set before us in the middle of Nehemiah the pattern for revival among God’s people:

  1. God’s Word proclaimed to and understood by the people. (Neh. 8)
  2. Confession and repentance of the sin exposed by God’s Word. (Neh. 9)
  3. A new commitment to obedience. (Neh. 10)

Chapter 8, then, concludes by reminding us that all of this flows from joy—freshly out-poured joy! Such joy arises from experiencing God’s voice from His written Word with clarity and understanding.

Two principles emerge …

  • Strength is in direct proportion to joy.
  • Joy is in direct proportion to hearing God’s voice with understanding.

So what would be the pathway to joy?

The pathway to a revival of joy might look like this:

God’s Word heard with understanding → produces joy → providing strength to change and live differently

If I am weary and powerless, I need joy.

If I need joy, I need to hear God with understanding.

When you need joy, the world says, “Indulge yourself!” God says, “Listen to me.”

When joy recedes the world says, “Be yourself!” God says, “Draw near to me.”

The world diagnoses joylessness and prescribes listening to your desires. God spots your joylessness and moves toward you, inviting you to listen to Him.

So you want more joy? What does God’s Word suggest you do to revive joy in your life? How will you take that step toward joy?

Maintenance Men

“Without a vision for how to challenge the status quo as the pioneers in church history did, ministers become mere maintenance men, and a clergyman can’t be a maintenance man.” — J.I. Packer (J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life, Leland Ryken, p.361)

Calibrating Your Life to God

New Testament scholar J.B. Phillips once wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small.  The indication is that there is a direct link between our view of God and the way we think about and conduct ourselves in life. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He went on to say that the most foreboding and prophetic “fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.

tree sky night star milky way atmosphere galaxy night sky astronomy midnight astronomical object

How big is your God? The writer of Psalm 113 revealed something of his perception of God when he queried, “Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?” (vv.5-6).

We are told that light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Were we to discover and board a vehicle that could travel at that rate of speed, after lifting off the face of the earth we would pass our moon in approximately one minute. Were we able to continue at such a rate of speed we would blow by our sun in approximately 8.3 minutes. If we wanted to continue on our joy ride it would take us approximately another 80,000 years to reach the far side of our galaxy!

With those phenomenal dimensions fixed in our minds, do with me as someone once invited me … in your mind travel to a far off place. Imagine yourself walking barefoot along miles of sandy beach. After a long walk you take your seat in the warm sand and with your hand reach down and draw up a handful of the grainy substance. You allow the sand to trickle out from between your fingers. They you blow, ever so gently, upon the surface of your palm until one tiny grain of sand is left in your palm. That solitary grain of sand would represent our earth and the grains of sand stretching out for miles on either side of you would represent the number of other planetary bodies in our Milky Way!

Now put your hands together and dust away that grain of sand. Start over. With a new handful of sand, again allow it to run through your fingers. Blow once again until you have one lone grain of sand left in your palm. Now consider that grain to be our Milky Way and all the grains of sand stretching out in the distance in either direction around you to be the approximately one trillion other such galaxies now estimated to exist by our scientists. It is believed that every one of those one trillion galaxies probably averages some one billion stars within it.

How far could you go into God’s creation if you traveled the rest of your days at the speed of light upon your marvelous vehicle? God tells us, through His psalmist, that He is so vast, infinite and beyond our measure that He must stoop to even behold the galaxies He has made. “Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?”

The prophet Daniel lived in difficult days. He prophesied about even more difficult days yet to come. But in the midst of his troubles and with the revelation from God that even more difficult days were on the way he said that “Those who know their God will display strength and take action” (Daniel 11:32). Far from being overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, those who know their God will display strength and take action! What we think of when we think of God is the most important thing about us.

I hope that this summer you get the chance to be outdoors in God’s vast creation, to look up into a cloudless night sky, to gaze over some scene of natural beauty, to be still, observe, and be amazed. Not primarily at the creation—marvelous as it is—but at the One who created it all, providentially rules over and directs it, and who gave it as a hint at the vast greatness of His infinite being.

Take the moment to sing out from your heart: “O Lord, my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee.  How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

Prayer and Faith

“The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” (John 4:50b)

We are all in the school of prayer. Anyone who prays is still enrolled and Jesus intends to keep us growing. We have in John 4:46-54 an account that helps me understand one way Jesus continues to school me in prayer. Perhaps you’ll see a reflection of the lessons He is teaching you as well.

Jesus was petitioned by a man to “come down and heal his son” (v.47). The matter was urgent because the son was near death (v.49b). We can plainly see that the man wanted Jesus not merely to heal his son, but to be present physically with the son when He did so (vv.47, 49).

Jesus told the man, “Go; your son will live” (v.50a).

In so responding to the desperate father’s request, Jesus refused part of the man’s request (to come down with him to visit his son) and granted the other part of his request (to heal his son). The one was unnecessary (though the man may not have perceived it as such that at the time); the other was essential. Jesus gave the man that which was essential. But He did so in a way that tested the man’s faith by telling him the essential would be granted (the healing) while the unnecessary (the going) would not.

How did the desperate father respond?

“The man believed the word that Jesus spoke” and proved it when he “went on his way” without Jesus in tow (v.50b).

When I pray and ask Jesus to act, it is likely that my requests, like the father’s, are a mingling of the essential and non-essential. It all likely feels essential to me, but my faith needs refining—as did the father’s. Jesus may separate the wheat from the chaff in my praying by granting me one thing, while denying me another that I have also asked for.

What do I do after Jesus responds to my prayers, granting some and denying others? Do I ask Him to reveal His heart to me in these things? To teach me wisdom? Do I draw nearer to Him in prayer, asking for more understanding? Or do I back away, confused and upset? Or do I, like the father, believe the word of Jesus and prove it by my faith-filled actions?

Our prayers are the footprints that tell the tale of our discipleship, our journey after Jesus as our Master and Teacher. What tale is being told by my praying?

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