From the Heart - Pastor John Mackett

Joy

JOY

 

“The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy  . . .” (Galatians 5:22)

 

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  (John 15:11)

 

            In Luke 10:1-24 we read that Jesus sent a large group of disciples out on a mission.  “Go!” he told them.  “I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves—but don’t worry about anything!  Don’t take a lot of stuff with you to make things easier for you.  Stay wherever they will let you; and be content with the provisions they give you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them that the Kingdom of God is near them.  If they don’t welcome you, just shrug it off.  (I’ll deal with those people later!)  Remember, whoever listens to you is listening to me.  If they reject you, they are not only rejecting me, but also the One who sent me.”

 

            There was a lot of joy at the debriefing following that first mission.  “Lord!  Even the demons submit to us in your name!”  Jesus replied, “Yes, Satan did fall from heaven; Moreover, I have given you authority over the evil that comes against you.  But remember, your joy does not come from success in spiritual battle; it should come from the fact that you are saved.” 

 

            When Jesus closed the meeting in prayer, the Word says that he was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.”  He thanked his Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, that even so-called “wise” men never learned the things that his disciples learned.  What his disciples did learn, however, brought pleasure to his Father.  Then Jesus praised his Father for entrusting him with all things––especially the privilege of revealing his Father to the chosen.  In the closing benediction, Jesus told his disciples that they were blessed to see what they did for they saw what prophets and kings had longed to, but never did.

 

            There is a joy lesson here that we all need to learn.  The 72 were excited because they saw that they had spiritual authority.  Seeing the demons flee––or any other “success” we might have––can be a pretty heady experience.  “But,” says Jesus, “that is not the basis for your joy.  Your joy is in your relationship with God.”

 

            Jesus demonstrated what real joy is in his prayer.  Joy is found when things are in line with God’s will.  It brought Jesus joy to see that he fulfilled the mission he received from his Father.  This shows us that joy is what happens when “what is” lines up with “what ought to be.” 

 

            Jesus had the deep-seated joy that comes from remaining in the Father’s love for him by obeying the commands the Father gave him.  Jesus wanted his disciples to have that same kind of joy––the joy of knowing his own love for them and the joy of remaining in his love by their obedience to his commands. 

 

            Obedience is the last place we’d expect to find joy!  We think joy depends on pleasure––on having what pleases us.   But real joy comes from experiencing what pleases God.  What pleases us varies from day to day and moment to moment.  It all depends on how much sleep we’ve gotten, how cooperative people are, whether or not things turn out the way we expected, etc.  In other words, our pleasure is a fleeting thing.  But God’s pleasure is eternal––just as his will is eternal.  To participate in his pleasure is true joy because it is joy that lasts.  Let’s discover the “joy” of obediently remaining in God’s will. 

 

 

Lord Jesus, I want to know your joy, for your joy lasts forever!  My joy is incomplete; I am always looking for something more.  Help me experience the joy of obeying you!  

Love for Others

LOVE FOR OTHERS

 

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”  (John 15:12-14)

 

            It was Christmas Eve and Della* had only $1.87 in her purse.   $1.87 does not buy much to­day––nor did it back at the turn of the century.  “How can I show Jim how much I love him if I only have $1.87 to spend on him?” she cried. 

 

            It was not as though she had been lazy or even foolish with her money.  No, for the last five months she scrimped and saved and worked extra to save even more.  $1.87 was the best she could do.  But it certainly wasn’t enough.

 

            “Whatever will I do?” Della wailed.  “I have so little money and soon the shops will be closed.”  And then, in a flash, Della had an idea.  Down the street was a wig store.  She knew that they would be only too happy to honor her request.  Though Della had nothing to boast of in this world’s goods, she had the most beautiful head of hair.  Thick, wavy, chestnut-colored hair that went to her waist.  It was Jim’s pride and the most striking sign of her beauty.  “I’ll give you $20.00 for your hair,” the old wig-dresser said.  “$20.00?  That will be adequate,” Della said.

 

            With the few moments remaining for shopping, Della hurried from store to store.  She knew exactly what she wanted to buy Jim.  Her dear, dear Jim had no possessions to take pride in but one––the beautiful gold watch his father had left him when he died.  That watch was the only evidence left of the wealth his family had once enjoyed, but lost when the depression hit.  Jim loved that watch!  But he had only a leather strap to fix it to.  At last Della found it.  It was a simple platinum watch chain.  It was the perfect complement to Jim’s watch.  Della paid $21.00 for it and hurried home to prepare dinner and fix what little remained of her beautiful hair.

 

            As Jim came up the stairs of their flat, Della prayed fervently:  “Please, God, help Jim not to hate me without my hair!”  When he opened the door and saw Della, Jim stopped dead in his tracks.  He wasn’t angry.  It was not even surprise that hit him so hard.  All he could do was stare at Della with a kind of idiocy that totally unnerved his excited wife.  “Jim, please don’t be angry about my hair.  It will grow back.  It grows quickly!  I had to . . .”  Without explaining any further, Della took a package off the table and handed it to Jim.  “Here.  This is your present.  I sold my hair to the wig shop so that I could buy it for you.  I hope you like it.” 

 

            Still in a daze, Jim unwrapped the package.  “Oh!” he said, “this is beautiful.” 

 

            “Jim, get your watch out!  Let’s see how it looks with the chain,” Della urged. 

 

            “We can do it later,” Jim said.  “Let’s have supper and enjoy each other’s company.”

 

            “But, Jim!” Della protested. 

 

            Without saying a word, Jim reached into his pocket and pulled out a package of his own.  “This is for you,” he said.  “I hope you like it.” 

 

            Della tore off the wrapping and opened a box.  She gasped when she saw the tortoise-shell combs.  It was the one thing she had wanted to buy for herself.  “Jim.  We can’t afford this!” Della cried. 

 

            “You’re right.  I couldn’t afford it until I sold my watch.”

 

 

 

Lord Jesus, thank you that your love for me was not sentimental.  You didn’t just tell me you loved me––you showed me.  In an act that was both unselfish and costly, you laid down your life for me.  Help me to let go––to lay down that which is precious to me so that I can love others and thus fulfill your law.  I want to be your friend.  Amen.

 



* This is my own retelling of O. Henry’s wonderful (and much better written!) story “The Gift of the Magi.”

 

Love - From God, For God

 Love - From God, For God

 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9)

 

            One can notice a big difference between children who feel loved by their parents and those who don’t.  You can see it in their eyes.  Children who are secure in their parents’ love have eyes that sparkle readily.  His or her eyes tell you that someone is home.  They open wide in curiosity or wonder.  But how different the eyes of a child who feels unloved!  Vacant, hateful, fearful eyes.  Eyes that look away in shame when they meet your own.

 

            Have you ever wondered about Jesus’ eyes?  The Gospels never say anything about what Jesus looked like––so we don’t have any description of his eyes (other than the description in Revelation of our glorified Lord’s “eyes blazing like fire”).  There is, however, a portrayal of Jesus that surely has it right.  It shows Jesus holding the face of a child and look­ing deeply into his eyes.  The eyes are what make the painting!  Jesus’ eyes communi­cate warmth, compassion, joy, life––and above all, love. 

 

            How was Jesus able to love as he did?  The theologically correct answer, “Because he was God,” doesn’t tell the whole story.   Jesus loved because he knew the Father loved him.  “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands” (John 3:35).  “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does” (John 5:20).  “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life” (John 10:17).   “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9).  In each of these instances Jesus ties his mission in with his sense of the Father’s love for him.  Jesus loved people because the Father loved him! 

 

And Jesus loves us!  He loves us as truly and as deeply as the Father loves him!  All true discipleship and authentic ministry flow out of receiving the love that Jesus has for us.  Have you received his love?  I hope so.

            One can notice a big difference between children who feel loved by their parents and those who don’t.  You can see it in their eyes.  Children who are secure in their parents’ love have eyes that sparkle readily.  His or her eyes tell you that someone is home.  They open wide in curiosity or wonder.  But how different the eyes of a child who feels unloved!  Vacant, hateful, fearful eyes.  Eyes that look away in shame when they meet your own.

 

            Have you ever wondered about Jesus’ eyes?  The Gospels never say anything about what Jesus looked like––so we don’t have any description of his eyes (other than the description in Revelation of our glorified Lord’s “eyes blazing like fire”).  There is, however, a portrayal of Jesus that surely has it right.  It shows Jesus holding the face of a child and look­ing deeply into his eyes.  The eyes are what make the painting!  Jesus’ eyes communi­cate warmth, compassion, joy, life––and above all, love. 

 

            How was Jesus able to love as he did?  The theologically correct answer, “Because he was God,” doesn’t tell the whole story.   Jesus loved because he knew the Father loved him.  “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands” (John 3:35).  “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does” (John 5:20).  “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life” (John 10:17).   “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9).  In each of these instances Jesus ties his mission in with his sense of the Father’s love for him.  Jesus loved people because the Father loved him! 

 

And Jesus loves us!  He loves us as truly and as deeply as the Father loves him!  All true discipleship and authentic ministry flow out of receiving the love that Jesus has for us.  Have you received his love?  I hope so.

FRUIT BY THE FOOT® - Sermons on the Fruit of the Spirit, Part Two - Galatians 5:22-23

FRUIT (Part Two)

 

It's quiet. It's early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black.

The world is still asleep. The day is coming. In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun.  The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of the solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day's demands.  It is now that I must make a choice because I'm free to choose. And so I choose.

 

I choose love . . .

No occasion justifies hatred;

no injustice warrants bitterness, I choose love. 

Today I will love God and what God loves.

 

I choose joy . .

I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. 

I will refuse the temptation to be cynical—the tool of the lazy thinker.  I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God.  I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

 

I choose peace . .

I will live forgiven. 

I will forgive so that I may live.

 

I choose patience . . .

I will overlook the inconveniences of the world.

Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so.  Rather than complaining that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

 

 I choose kindness . . .

 I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone.

 Kind to the rich, for they are afraid.

 And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

 

I choose goodness . . .

I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one.

I will be overlooked before I will boast.

I will confess before I will accuse.

I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness . . .

Today I will keep my promises.

My creditors will not regret their trust.

My associates will not question my word.

My family and friends will not question my love

and devotion to them.

 

I choose gentleness . . .

Nothing is won by force.

I choose to be gentle.

If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise.

If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer.

If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

 

I choose self-control . . .

I am a spiritual being.

After this body is dead, my spirit will soar.

I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal.

I choose self-control.

I will be drunk only by joy.

I will be impassioned only by my faith.

I will be influenced only by God.

I will be taught only by Christ.

I choose self-control.

 

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day.

If I succeed, I will give thanks.

If I fail, I will seek His grace.

And then when this day is done,

I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

(from Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name, copyright 1999)

 

The Bible tells us, “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).  This means that, if we want to develop the fruit of the Spirit, we will set our minds on those qualities. 

 

I hope this little meditation that Tom Ostrenga shared with me (author unknown) will help you to start your day with your mind and heart focused on the things of God.

 

 

FRUIT BY THE FOOT® - Sermons on the Fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23

FRUIT (Part One)

 

“By their fruit you will recognize them. . . . A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  (Matthew 7:16)

 

I know I should eat more fresh fruit.  But I’m not a very good judge of what will taste good.  I often pick out a piece of fruit, squeeze it a little to make sure it’s not too hard, and then anticipate the enjoyment it is going to bring me.  Alas, when I bite into it, I discover that below the surface it is hard, mealy, and tasteless.  What a disappointment!

 

Fruit is a biblical picture word for character.  Character is, as Bill Hybels aptly puts it, “who you are when no one is looking.”  Character is the “real” you.  Do you genuinely love?  Are you fundamentally truthful?  It may take time, but people will finally see what you’re really like.

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is some pretty “heady stuff.”  When God is powerfully present, people hear from him, confront the powers of darkness, and witness miracles (see Matthew 7:22).  The spiritual environment created when God is at work draws many people (including those who have never really entered into relationship with Christ) into its excitement.  That is why Jesus points to character as the “proof” of one’s citizenship.  You can pretend to be a Christian but you can’t forever “fake” Christian character.  Eventually it will become clear whether you are really full of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” (Galatians 5:22-23). 

 

Just like Jesus’ disciples were to discover later, the tests of life will reveal what you are really made of.

 

 

“Christians” are a lot like fruit; just “bite into them” and you’ll discover what they are really like!

 

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