God Time for October 17-21
(Spend 5 minutes before you read thinking about one or two things you appreciate in your life)
Monday October 17
Don’t be afraid. Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people…
Joy is gladness. When you share joy with God, you are glad to be with him. And God is always glad to be with you. When you share joy with others, you are glad to be together.
Happiness is not the same as joy. Happiness depends on circumstances. With joy you can be glad to be with God and others even in the midst of great suffering. In fact, our greatest joy may be just at those very times in our lives that are the hardest.
We continue to connect biblical principles with the latest brain research. Much of what I have been experiencing along these lines is informed by Dr. Jim Wilder and his team at Life Model Works. It centers on joy.
Last week, we noted the reason God has come to us in Jesus is to let us know how glad he is to be with us. How glad he is to be our God. Our adoring Father in heaven. The Christmas angel announced it:
Don’t be afraid. Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people…
So, you see, the good news, the gospel of Jesus, centers on joy. Forgiveness of sin through Jesus restores our relationship with God, but the joy of forgiveness is only part of the great joy God has in mind. When Jesus is explaining why he teaches what he teaches he explains this clearly:
I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy.
As Christians, we speak a lot about grace. We explain our trust in Jesus, our faith, as being “saved by grace.” But, then we do something that isn’t helpful. It has to do with forgiveness of sin. We connect being saved solely with forgiveness. But, to be saved is so much more than simply forgiveness. We are saved from sin. But we are also saved for something. We are saved for Joy.
If forgiveness on the cross is all there is, then what are we suppose to do for the rest of our lives?
Tuesday, October 18
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
To live our lives bringing the gladness we share with God into the lives of other people is how God chooses to use us. This is a key to loving our neighbor. To live our lives starting joy wherever we go. God makes this possible by giving us his grace. But, not only in a forgiving way. The Bible word for “grace” is actually the same root as the word for “joy”- charis.
Saved by grace also means saved for joy. Grace has been defined as “unmerited favor.” A clearer word for favor in modern English is “special.” Very,very special. So a good definition for “grace” is “Very special and you don’t have to do anything.” Or “Very special and you don’t have to work at it.” Saved because we are very special to God and we don’t have to do anything to be special. Just exist. What does this look like? Just like last week, we are back to babies again.
There is no one who gets unmerited favor, someone who is very special and they don’t have to earn it or do a thing about it- than a baby. When a good mom and dad see their baby for the first time, they aren’t going to love that baby more or any less than they do at that moment. All the baby has to do is be. The baby doesn’t have to do anything.
That’s our identity with our loving father. It isn’t what we do that makes us special. It is who we are.
This is my primary identity. This is who I am. Son of the God of everything. Son of an amazing loving Father. How do I respond to him?
Joy. Joy is our response to God’s grace. The joy we see in a smiling baby is our model. And that’s high energy joy! That’s joy that wants to make mommy and daddy glad to be with us. Babies learn to imitate good parents right away. They will do anything to get that smile out of mom and dad. A baby follows their parent’s lead because they want to please their mommy. Their daddy. There is nothing like being glad together. But, joy can be a bit overwhelming.
So, in comes something Jim Wilder calls, “Joy’s sister.”
Shalom is quiet and low energy. God wires us for shalom just as he wires us for joy. You see, we are all rather weak and can’t sustain a high-energy state for long. God wires our brains so that every experience of high energy joy calls for a time of rest to follow. This is the endless rhythm God wires into us. High-energy joy followed by low-energy shalom. One can’t live without the other.Back to kids again.
When we wind kids up, we need to bring them down. We help them quiet and rest.
God designs this to be the rhythm of our lives. Shalom is that powerful rest that comes when you know everything is right. There is nothing to worry about.
What is a great worry you have today? Where is God in that worry? What might he say to you about it?
Wednesday October 19
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
If you want to see shalom in action, think of this most loved passage in the whole Bible.
“The Lotd is my shepherd…”
Or, God is my shepherd, I have everything I need. He gives me rest, surrounded by his blessing.”
Who would not be filled with gladness knowing God takes care of everything?
This is why we find joy and shalom in the Bible together as much as joy and shalom are connected in the brain. They work together, but they are not the same.
When we translate the word for shalom into English, we use the word “peace.” It is a good word, but the trouble today is peace has lost this “everything is going to be fine” meaning and has come to mean, “absence of violence.” But, shalom is so much more than that. As we know all too well, you can be in a truce without sharing joy with others.
The word “Harmony” works better for us today. “Harmony” is what our brains prefer. A sense that everything is going to be alright. With harmony in our lives, this is shalom. Our relationships are right. Who we are makes sense. Our reactions to the world please us and please God. A modern technology term also gives us a deeper sense of what it means to experience shalom. Synchronization.
When we have harmony we are In synch with God. We are in synch with the world around us. When we have harmony we can experience the presence of God.
Without harmony, our world is chaotic and moving too fast. We find it hard to be in synch with God, and we so don’t experience God. Not that he is not there or he doesn’t want us to know he is there, it’s just that we can’t experience this when we are overwhelmed by our problems.
When have you had problems synching something with your computer or smartphone? What were you feeling? Think about that experience in terms of life in general.
Thursday, October 20
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
When we don’t have harmony we don’t have joy. We aren’t in synch. When you tweak Romans 8:28, you get this definition of shalom.
“All things work together for good with all those who are synchronized with God.”
That’s God’s purpose for us. To be synchronized with him. Joy and shalom. And God even models this for us.
Think of creation. God enjoys creating the universe and all that exists, you can call this the high-joy of creation. Then what happens? Shalom. Remember? What does God do on the seventh day? He moves to shalom. God rests. God himself experiences the quiet and contentment that shalom brings.
So, it is no shock, because joy brings with it high amounts of energy, we will eventually crash with too much joy. God designed us to rest.
Just like God at creation, we need a break where we quiet ourselves, too. This is why it is a measure of growth in maturity when we are capable of self-quieting. Quieting after high-joy and quieting after upset. The more quickly we return to joy, the more we exhibit we are in synch. In a few weeks we will look at this in greater detail, but for now let’s focus generally on this fundamental truth.
The peace of God, the shalom Jesus brings into the world, is not simply about no more wars or no more conflict. It is this, but it is so much more. You will think of this now, the next time you hear the phrase, “Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Shalom, but this is way more than just about violence and war. Jesus is the Prince of Peace because no matter what is happening around us, eventually, everything is going to be alright.
And because we experience true shalom through our identity as God’s children, shalom means everything is going to be alright, even if I don’t know why. God is our shepherd.
You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I,
the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
When troubles come and worry follows, God speaks to us. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
When do you get he most upset? Why do you think that is?
Friday October 21
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Did you get that? Don’t let your heart be troubled? Don’t be afraid? Do you hear his words? Do not be afraid? I hope so. Our society needs us to understand Jesus. So that whatever is going on around us, the way we respond is the same way Jesus would respond if he were us.
Think about it. When you live Jesus’s rhythm. When you live his joy and shalom, you change the atmosphere around you. You bring clarity. This is much needed today.
We live in a society where everything that happens becomes this huge overblown crisis. We are a low-joy nation that has no shalom. America needs Christians who live like Jesus. Why? Because Jesus only focuses on the truth.
This is such a helpful teaching in our present circumstances in America. We are a low-joy nation. And low-joy places breed problems. This low-joy has reached the highest levels. Our national leaders have finally succumbed to being almost pure predators. The opposite of Jesus. This is a huge blow to any decency we can expect.
You see, without following God’s ways, we become predators. Then it is all about our own perceived survival.
Today’s political and social agendas have been overtaken by low-joy predatory leaders. Jim Wilder explains what a predator is. He uses the metaphor of a herd of animals. Think of where we are at right now as a nation and listen:
“Predators discover the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of others and exploit them. Predators use weaknesses to obtain or retain dominance in the food chain. Predators fiercely guard their positions and will hurt others in the herd if threatened. Predators also do their best to hide their weaknesses and appear strong to assure their positions. Predators are the most common product of low-joy herds.”
As a nation, we are a low-joy herd. We have national leaders who are predators. The whole political system we have developed feeds predators like raw meat to alligators.
Now, this doesn’t mean we are doomed, but it does provide a wake up call for everyone of us. We are the best true hope for America ourselves. If you truly follow Jesus, you really are America’s best hope.
This is what God calls us to do.
God is calling us to start global warming. Healthy global warming where each of us starts joy, again and again, warming the atmosphere and warming the hearts of those around us. When we spread the joy of the Lord to those around us, when we are able to quickly return from upset and be people of maturity and strength, we influence life in a tremendous way. And, because God is in charge, shalom is what we have to look forward to. It’s going to work out in the end. God always wins.
What kind of character traits would Jesus exhibit if he were running for president?