Joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Approaching 2015 I felt all of this pressure to have a “word” for the year. I’m not sure where all of this started but for the past several years I have had a word or a phrase that has been a central focus. But this year it seemed like the message of “having a word for the year” was coming from many directions. I don’t recall there being so much focus on “having a word for the year” before. It came from a devotional, a friend, my pastor, and Margaret Feinberg to name a few sources.

I was leaning in a direction for this word or focus for the year. Then I began to think that I was being influenced by one of my favorite authors and I didn’t want that either. I wanted this to be real, fresh, and lead by what the Holy Spirit. I even changed my word on New Years Day just to avoid the word I thought I needed to focus on… just to change it back within a few days.

I landed with “Joy” as my word for 2015. Margaret Feinberg’s book Fight Back with Joy has some to do with where I was going for the year. And it was because of her book I wanted to fight off the thought of joy being my word for the year. I just wanted this to be something God wanted me to focus on.

Several years ago I had a pastor friend tell me his prayer for me has been that I would experience real joy in my life. His words have stuck with me now for about 6 years. I’ve wondered: What was it about me that would have him say that to me?   Was I depressed? Unhappy? Did I seem like I was missing something in my life? Is that why I have been feeling the way I have been feeling? Was it all because I lacked this three-letter word in my life? The answer is, Yes.

It’s time to stop asking questions and really pursue what God has in store. Taking the words of Margaret Feinberg and making them my own,

It’s time to pursue a joy-filled life. No need to wait for joy to arrive mysteriously in the mail one day. I need focused spiritual practices that might nurture joy. (Fight Back with Joy).

Well, whatever the reason, I’m on a journey to find and experience lasting joy… a joy-filled life.

Almost everyday this year “JOY” has come up… in conversations, messages on the radio, a charm on a necklace, Scripture, a song on the radio… it comes at me through so many ways.

Recently, while sitting in the living room, sipping on a cup a coffee, during my Quiet Time, I have the thought come to me, “Read 1 john 1:4.” So I read that verse in The Message Bible. If you are familiar with The Message you know sometimes you can’t just read one verse.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” (1 John 1:3-4, The Message).

I sat down to write this verse out on a break at work and as I finished “Joy to the world” by Three Dog Night comes on the radio that’s playing through our building. I understand what my pursuit is to be this year JOY.

I’m sure I’m no different from you as you live, breath, and walk this planet. There are problems. There are mistakes made due to unwise choices. There is sickness.  There are circumstances that may have caused you to label yourself as damaged goods – not to be used for the Kingdom of God. Maybe someone else has labeled you as such and you have believed the lie. It could be that you battle depression, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, lacking confidence or faith… whatever it is that may be holding you back today. Know that God wants to fill your cup. He doesn’t want to just fill it up He wants it to overflow from His heart to yours and from yours to those in your world.

Today is the day to surrender. Let Him fill you up! Ask Him to and He will.

Oh and one more thing… that same day I mentioned earlier, over dinner, my four-year-old says to me, “Dad you know what we are going to dance to? I got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”  I’m encouraged I’m moving in the right direction.

Fight Back with Joy – Margaret Feinberg

Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Fight Back with Joy is out and and it is another fantastic challenge brought to you in only the way Margaret can deliver.  Over the years there have been many authors who have challenged me into a deeper walk.  But none have connected FBWJ Bookwith me in such a real and personal way as she has in her latest book.  She has shown a great determination to fight for joy in the midst of her battle with breast cancer that is inspiring!

You have joy because you are drenched in the grace and mercies of God.  #fightbackwithjoy

Over the past several years, I have followed Margaret on her trek to discover God with sheep and through vineyards.  I have been Wonderstruck by God through His many divine moments in my life.  I have been reminded of the Spirit’s Sacred Echo of His call upon my life.  For me, Fight Back with Joy, has tapped into a real and personal look into her life.  Not in a way that says, “Hey look at me.” But rather, “Hey and look at how God has been working in and through my life.  Look and see the Joy of the Lord.”  As I have I read her story I have laughed, cried, and called my wife into the room and said, “Hey, you have got to hear this.”  

I believe you need to read this book.  I know you will not be let down.  You will be encouraged and you will have a spark set off in your heart with a search for joy that can only be found and lived out in Jesus.  Take a moment to walk with Margaret as she takes you on her journey to #fightbackwithjoy.  

The Secret To Living A Defiant Joy: An interview with Margaret Feinberg

One of my favorite authors, Margaret Feinberg, has been through a brutal fight with cancer and shares the unexpected lessons she discovered along the way in her new book and Bible study Fight Back With Joy.

It’s been inspiring to learn how Margaret has been practicing a defiant joy, and I thought you might like to get an insider’s look, a sneak peek of the video and read an interview with Margaret.

Preview the 6-Session DVD Bible Study, here.GREAT-JOY

Your newest book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy, was born out of your
fight with a life-threatening illness. What was your difficult diagnosis, and what has your journey to health entailed?

For the last 18 months, I’ve been battling breast cancer. Breast cancer isn’t just one
disease it represents thousands of different diseases with their varying components and factors. Being diagnosed under the age of 40 is significant. I’ve been through a brutal year of chemotherapy, radiation, and more surgeries than I can count or want to remember.

Why did you write Fight Back With Joy?

I studied joy for a year and was putting the finishing touches on my book on joy—just two weeks from turning it into the publisher, when I received the diagnosis. I had been pursuing and activating joy in my life in the relatively good times, now I had to do it in the midst of darkness, depression, and torturous pain. Through the process, I’ve discovered the breadth, depth, and power of joy—that despite hundreds of sermons and many decades in the church—no one had told me of before.

FBWJ BookIn Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study, you really push the reader to reevaluate their definition of joy. Why do you think this is so important?

Much of the teaching I’ve heard on joy over the years is oversimplified. I remember those days in Sunday school learning that JOY is spelled Jesus, Others, Yourself. While that made perfect sense at 9 years old, I’ve seen how distorted that can become as an adult.

I see friends who love Jesus but spend so much time pouring into their kids, grandkids and others that their joy looks something like this: jOy.

Technically, it still spells joy, but more than anything, these men and women who are so exhausted, so empty, so running on fumes from pouring into others need to pause and take time to focus on themselves. Laying hold of joy right now will require them to reevaluate for a season and discover the joy that comes with JYo.

I also noticed how most of the definitions of joy define it more by what it isn’t than by what it is. I constantly heard that happiness is based on circumstance but joy is not dependent on circumstance.

Biblical expressions of joy turn out to be far different than what I had been taught. I am now convinced the writers of the Bible would say that, the reason we have joy is because we have great circumstances. If you are a child of God, you are drenched in the grace and mercy of God.

No matter what you’re facing: Your circumstances are better than you think.

If you’re not experiencing joy, perhaps it’s because your definition of joy is too narrow.

On a scale of 1-10, how hard was it for you to write this book and Bible study?

An eleven! This journey has been the most painful experience of my life. And, to share about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard. But I feel like I’m finally ready to share what God has stirred in my heart along the way because although cancer has been the most painful journey—it has also been the most joyful. And no one is more surprised than I am.

Pick up a copy of Fight Back With Joy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble today.

 

 

“Daddy, I want to pray for you.”

When I was a student at Lee College, I took a class that had as one of it’s books, “Will Our Children Have Faith?”  I don’t recall anything about the book today beyond the title.  The title has stuck with me through the years.  At various moments, it would come to mind and help me as thought through situations with my children as well as the children in churches where I served.

As a Dad, one thing I have always enjoyed is praying with my children at bed time.  My oldest daughter is now 19, I am confident I have taken steps that have led her in the right direction.  Just as I have done with each of my children.  I trust I have been faithful to walk with Jesus in a way that honors him and leads my children to him.

My youngest daughter will be 4 years old soon.  During the Summer, at bedtime we talked through one of our own made up stories. (Just as I have done for almost 19 years with each child along the way.)  Now, just as then, they typically include my child as the central figure in the story along with a couple of her toys that come to life that she plays with.  After the story time I pray.  Recently after I prayed she said, “Daddy, I want to pray for you… ‘Heavenly Father, bless my Daddy – In Jesus Name.'” Then she said, “I didn’t do that right, I want to pray again… ‘Father, forgive my Daddy.'”  I had quite the laugh, smile, and thought-filled contemplation over her prayer.

She prayed for blessing and forgiveness.  I believe with all my heart her prayers were heard.  I don’t know specifically what she thought I needed forgiveness for.  But that’s alright.  It has led me to think through a lot of areas of my life, as I have thought through I have sought to leave each area at the foot of the Cross.  More than anything her praying that night… her desire to pray for me – has heightened my sensitivity to pray for others.

At times, I wonder why I have had on my life a desire to pray for others.  This discipline began while at Lee College.  I kept a notebook of people I prayed for.  Today, I don’t recall all of the names but I remember many of those faces.  There have been so many that I have prayed for in which I have not seen results (at least through my eyes).  There are several people today I pray for regularly and those folks will never know this side of heaven about those moments in prayer.

This past Christmas Eve, my wife and I went to the mall to do some last minute shopping.  I wasn’t feeling well, so I sat in the middle of the mall and watched people.  It became apparent within my heart I was to pray for those that walked by.  I’m not much on shopping but those moments made the trip more than worth it.  Even now I don’t recall those things that were purchased, but I recall the people and the moment.  I recall the urgency we all have to live our lives in a manner honoring Jesus.

Just as my daughter may not have fully comprehended her prayer for me.  But the Holy Spirit did.  Her prayer has led me to search my heart and invite God to search my heart and reveal to me anything that is separating me from Him.  More than anything I want to live a manner worthy of the grace that has been so wonderfully given to me.

Walking into the presence of God

Walking in the presence of God
Walking in the presence of God

Walking with God is not always as clear as we would like for it to be.  But then, maybe we shouldn’t desire for it to be clear.  Walking with God is about trusting Him… trusting his Son, Jesus, to be who he has destined to be in our lives. And allowing the Holy Spirit to have total freedom to lead and empower as He desires.

Today, I went for a hike on a rainy day up Pine Mountain.  As I walked up the mountain, I thought of Moses and wondered what it was like for him to walk up to spend time with God in such an intimate way.  I’m no Moses but as I approached the clouds I asked God to surround me and let me walk with Him up there.  I didn’t descend the mountain with stone tablets or a specific word to share with His people, but rather an assurance He is with me.

GOD said to Moses, “Get ready. I’m about to come to you in a thick cloud so that the people can listen in and trust you completely when I speak to you.”  (Exodus 19:9, The Message).

Even though our lives don’t seem to make sense at times – or the outcomes aren’t as we planned – or the answer to prayer didn’t come in a way we wanted it to – He is with us.  I captured the moment in this picture.  I thought about how much this path represents life… my life.  As I reflect upon this afternoon,

Walking into the future is much like this path. I’m asking God to fall on me and my path as the clouds did today on the mountain. Totally enveloped by His presence.

Living with Real Joy

In Luke 10:17-20, Jesus cautions his disciples not to get caught up in what great service they have done, “The seventy-two returned with joy,”  Jesus knew how easy it is for us to get caught up in what we accomplish and for our personal accomplishments to sway our feelings of “joy.”  Jesus received what they had to report and quickly turned their attention away from what they accomplished to himself saying, “Do not rejoice that the evil spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20, NIV).

Real joy does not come from what we do but rather in the One in whom we seek, find, and live.  Our real joy comes from knowing Jesus and walking faithfully in his leading.  The point of our following Jesus is wrapped up in him more so than in what we do… there is where joy is truly found.

Paul lived with great joy.  He was full of the Holy Spirit and was confident in Jesus.  He was introduced to Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  But he came to know Jesus as he walked with him the rest of his life.

I’ve got a friend who played professional baseball.  He played for many years at the top of the Triple A League.  He would get called up to the Big Leagues from time-to-time when someone was hurt then go back down.  His desire was to play in the Major Leagues full-time but that opportunity always seemed to escape his grasp.

In my opinion, he was living his dream.  He lived with joy.  He knew his “call” was the minor leagues.  He is a guy with great character, integrity, and faith.  Much like the Apostle Paul.  Paul found great joy in his sufferings for the sake of Christ.  My friend knew his greater impact in the lives of others was the Minor Leagues.

I read an article recently that spoke of Paul’s desire to serve in Spain.  Bet he never got there.  I thought of my desires in serving the Lord…. There is a deep growing in the process.  The ultimate goal of the Lord’s is not that I obtain that goal but rather a deeper relationship with him.

The missionary’s great essential is remaining true to the call of God, and realizing that his one and only purpose is to disciple men and women to Jesus (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 27).

  • Do I know the Lord?
  • Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?
  • Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus has said?
  • Am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call for a missionary?

I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 10).

It all boils down to one thing…

We are entering a season where people are more apt to care more about germs, colds, and the flu than at any other time of the year.  Anyone of us has the potential to carry any one of these and spread it to someone else.  In a sense, we are, potentially, couriers picking up sickness and delivering it to others.

If you think about it, we all have the potential to be “couriers” of so much more than the common cold and flu.  Individually, we all have ideas, thoughts, goals, dream, and aspirations that we carry with us each day.  Some of these will be accomplished and lived out because of the internal drive that exists that will push it into being.

I keep thinking about all the ways God can or could use me for His purposes.  Some of the ways that come to the surface the most are in the realm of writing and pastoring.  I meditate on His Word and think on those things.  I know he has gifted me.  No matter the vehicle He uses through me – it all boils down to one thing…. love.  We are all to be couriers of His love to the world we live in.  No matter the arena – love is the central theme He wants to share with those in which we come in contact.

I’m reminded of a time when I was a courier for FedEx.  It was Christmas Eve and there had been a lot of snow in key locations around the country.  This meant late deliveries and in many cases no deliveries.  It was late in the afternoon.  I was sick and it was very cold that day.  We were all messaged that there was a late plane landing in Atlanta and packages would be shuttled out to us for afternoon delivery.  Despite how I felt I was excited to be able to help spread a little Christmas cheer with a few more deliveries.  I just had no idea how one delivery was going to impact my life.

It was literally the last delivery of the day.  I pulled up to the front of the house and I could see two children peering through the curtain in the window.  As I put my truck in park, I could see them begin to jump and down with excitement.  I retrieved the package from the back of the truck as I wiped a little moisture from my eye – I was moved by the excitement I could see.  The children, along with their dad, greeted me halfway in between their house and my FedEx truck.  I handed the dad my clip board for him to sign for the package.  He told me that it was a package from their grandparents and they had been waiting all day for this box.

Some 10 years later, I still recall that moment as a courier for FedEx.  Why?  Why recall a delivery to a family whose name I can’t recall?  Why, get a little misty-eyed over this delivery?  I believe we are all couriers with the potential to impact the lives of others for the glory of God.  What I delivered was a box that contained items that have probably long been forgotten.  More than the contents of that package I couldn’t see – I realized I was really a courier delivering love from grandparents to their grandchildren for Christmas.  I am glad to have had the pleasure of being the one to have that experience that day.  For a moment, I had the opportunity to forget about “the job” or the fact that I was cold and sick.  In that moment, being a courier had great meaning and purpose.

How much more the joy we are to share the love of our heavenly Father with those He loves so much.  “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal live.”  (John 3:16, NIV).

How is it God has gifted you to carry His Message of love? Who is it that needs to hear this Message of love from you today?  Go and deliver it in a manner He has gifted you!