CALL TO WORSHIP: Glorious God, we come together as Your people. We come as a praising people, singing Your goodness. We come as a hungry people, longing to be fed. We come as a praying people, bringing our needs and our joys. We come as a journeying people, looking for direction. In this sacred place of worship, empower us to be faithful. Let us worship the God of Life!
SPECIAL MUSIC: “Sing, Sing, Sing” Norm Rennie & Rob Ireland
WE LOVE TO SING:
CRIPTURE READINGS: Psalm 149:1-6a Ephesians 5:15-20
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH:
Together let us confess our faith. Do you believe in God, our Creator? I believe in God, creator of all things, whose heavenly song sent the planets into motion. Even when we go astray, God calls us back, showing us the fullness of life and giving us new songs of praise for each new day. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? I believe in Jesus Christ who lives for us and among us, healing the sick, easing the burdens of all people, and teaching us the new song of God’s kingdom. He showed His love for all God’s children in His death and the hope for eternal life in His resurrection. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? I believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of life who sings God’s grace through all time and space. I believe that God has a song for my life as well. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: “Joy is Like The Rain” Gordon Furey
WHAT ARE YOU SINGING ABOUT?
SPECIAL MUSIC: “I’ll Walk With God” Howard Welburn
THANK YOU GOD FOR THE SOUND OF MUSIC:
HYMN: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Vs. 1, 2 & 4 This hymn was written by Martin Luther
SOLI DEO GLORIA:
I’ve Got The Joy
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,
Down in my heart, down in my heart, I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.
And I’m so happy, so very happy,
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart,
And I’m so happy, so very happy,
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.
I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus down in my heart...
I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart..
I’ve got the wonderful love of the Blessed Redeemer
Deep down in the depths of my heart....
CLOSING HYMN: Shine, Jesus, Shine
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them…..
God says, “I know my plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord and will bring you back from captivity..
Karma will get you
After the Ormstown Fair, it was reported that someone had stolen several hanging baskets of flowers from one of the barns. Apparently the baskets were loaned to the exhibitor to decorate their stall area, by a local business. In BC we had a farm shop, every year we hung up baskets of red and white flowers, which grew to be very beautiful, and featured in lots of photos from visitors from around the world. Every year at least 2 or 3 baskets out of about 20 that we had specially done for us at a local nursery, were stolen. The thieves even broke the light in the ceiling of the porch where the baskets were hanging, to do their work under cover of darkness. One year we used zip ties to fasten them, the next year we wired them to the hooks. You really have to wonder what is in a person’s mind when they make the decision to steal flowers. I have a hard time imagining the thieves enjoying the baskets without even a twinge of guilt.
Do they hang them on their porch, then look at them and say “Oh look at my stolen flowers, aren’t I clever?”
One of our neighbours said “Ah well. Karma will get them”
Now Karma is part of the Hindu and Buddhist belief system about cause and effect. That your actions directly cause whatever happens to you thereafter, including the theory that there are many lives that we live, in reincarnation, and that what we have done in one life will affect our next life. So according to this belief system, the flower thieves will have something happen to them as a direct result of their theft, plus endanger the peace and success of their next life.
Christianity of course does not hold this world view, but rather teaches of one earthly life and after that, eternal life with God. Christians are taught that actions have consequences, but not quite in the same context as Hinduism. God has given mankind a Saviour, who knowing our fallibility as humans, stepped in on our account and paid that ultimate price. We are not required to keep returning to this life in order to continue learning lessons that will one day bring us to the ultimate state of peace, or oblivion, becoming one with the universe. In other religions, the onus is on the human to reach a standard or goal in order to be good enough. The problem with that belief is setting the standard. Who sets the standard? Which human gets to be the one who says their standard is the one? The one we are to emulate? The unfortunate truth is, there is no such thing as a human who is infallible. It has to be set by someone who is truly infallible, who is truly without any blemish. Christianity acknowledges that we will never be good enough so God needed to intervene on our behalf, and sent Jesus, who as God is infallible, and as man, can be sacrificed as the pure lamb without sin, for the world.
Even though Jesus taught that God is Love, there is a tendency in the broader Christian world to believe that God is a God of retribution who will “get you” in the end, and mete out His punishment. Or at the very least, allow things to happen in order to “teach us a lesson”.
The pastor of our church in BC became afflicted with prostate cancer, and later also suffered a small stroke. So many people asked him “What do you think God is trying to teach you? Why did He do this to you?”. His response was always NOTHING! We live in a fallen world where sickness and disease happens, so it happened to me”.
God did not tell us we are immune to all the ‘stuff” the world throws at us, but He did promise to always be at our side. The message about the Judgement Seat of God seems to be a powerful one that sticks in the mind. Once I was talking to a couple of friends in Switzerland about Christ-and in Switzerland there is no separation of church and state, so all young people attend Catechism and are confirmed in the church, either protestant or catholic- and at one point one said something to the effect that if a person didn’t meet the standard, “God would punish them”.
It is too bad though if our only perception of God is one of a fierce and remote God who is just waiting to punish us for our sins, and that Christian life is nothing more than just a long list of “Thou Shalt Nots”
Is that it? Is Christianity just a list of rules, and the breaking of them leading to punishment? is the “stuff” that happens in our lives really sent to punish us for sins, or to teach us lessons? I just heard yesterday that a colleague from the cheese-making community in BC died in a hiking accident last week. A lovey Christian guy, with a wife of 30 years, 3 great sons. Is God trying to teach someone a lesson? Of course we have the opportunity to learn from our experiences but do these things happen for that reason only?
God tells us in His word that He is a God of love, and it is because of this great love that He sent His son Jesus to actually die for us, so that, covered by His blood we will not be judged for those sins. Jesus took them all upon Himself in our stead. So how do we bring these two pictures together? The powerful Judgement Seat of a God of retribution that we so often hear about and see in the great works of art etc, and that of a loving Father who gave his all to save us?
God tells us over and over again that He is our Father. Think about what that means. How many Fathers do you know who make rules for their children, for the sole purpose of punishing the children when they break those rules. Rules created just so the father can punish them? Meaning basically the father is just a mean tyrant looking for excuses to punish his children. I think as parents we can agree that is not the way it is, though we cannot deny there are certainly bad fathers.
Why do we give our children rules? We as fathers and mothers, and God as our Heavenly Father, have certainly established “rules”. The rules are there, not to find excuses for punishments, but to keep our children safe, because there is so much they do not yet know, so much their experience and maturity is not able to process. Rules are there to protect them from dangers they are not aware of, to allow them to grow and develop in safety, to enjoy balance and freedom and blessing as adults, rather than suffer from the consequences that certain behaviours can deliver.
Proverbs 4:1-4 “ Listen my sons to a fathers instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my fathers house, still tender and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said,”Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live”. These words were written by Solomon, King of Israel, whose father was David. The famous David who killed Goliath; shepherd, poet, musician, singer, warrior, leader, and King of Israel.. and one who was not perfect either. But he learned his lessons, and passed them on to his son, for his son’s sake, not his own.
The book of Proverbs is a great place to look for truths about life. It includes a lot of warnings about the consequences of behaviours, and rather than listing the various punishments God is just waiting to lay on us, it instead lists the many promises that come our way. In fact the book of Proverbs is the source of so many of our good rules for society, government and relationships.
In the book of Proverbs there is also a huge list of things that will bring a person into danger. God says He “hates” these things. We should look at the list from the perspective of a warning, that He cannot protect us if we engage in these behaviours. We remove ourselves out from under the umbrella of His protection. It must break His heart, to have his beloved children purposely remove themselves from His protection, with no concern for the very real consequences. God hates these behaviours because they bring harm to His children. Just like any parent hates the street drugs that can destroy a beloved child, God hates behaviours that destroy His children. In fact in Proverbs 9:35-36 he says: “Whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the Lord. Whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death”
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. That means God will protect and deliver us if we throw ourselves into His arms.
Matt 6:33-34 says: But seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Isn’t that the truth! I don’t think Jesus is saying here to live in an irresponsible manner, but to trust in God for those things we absolutely have not control over. Like what might happen tomorrow.
That kind of worrying is essentially saying “God I do not believe you. Instead I believe you want to hurt me, and leave me vulnerable and unprotected…”
2 Corinthians 9:8 God is able to make a grace abound toward you, that you may have an abundance, and having all that you need, will abound in every good work. Notice he offers us His grace, out of His love for us, but also that out of that position of grace, we can reach out to others.
Some of the many promises of God are:
- long life if we respect the Lord, our parents and elders.
If we doubt this, God has also reminded us of the fact that it is actually He who is in charge:
Isaiah 55: 9-13..As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts……
God does have a plan for us. and He also adds that it is His will that none should perish. He is interested in Eternal Life for us human beings.
Another famous Bible passage, Psalm 23, promises the following:
That God will supply our needs
He gives us refreshing and peace
He is our guide
He removes fear
He comforts us
In spite of negative circumstances, he looks after us
He shows us how much we are loved and cherished
He promises us a life of goodness and a future
So it appears that though some may fear the Karma will “get” them, the Lord tells us otherwise. It appears that he allows certain things to happen, with the goal of always leading us to Himself, to be there for eternity.
Clearly this is not a God who is just waiting to “get us” for being bad, but a God of Love who never tires of telling us what we are worth to Him, and the lengths He will go to bring us to Himself and keep us there.
ALL TO WORSHIP (congregation reads words in bold)
Come and worship!
Be still and aware of God’s presence
within and around you.
Come and worship!
Be still and aware of Jesus’ presence
within and around you.
Come and worship!
Be still and aware of the Spirit’s presence
within and around you.
Be still and know the presence of the Triune God,
the Father to whom we come,
the Son through whom we come,
the Spirit by whom we come.
Hear his word:
Be STILL and know that I am God.
Message: Let it Be Colossians chapter 3
This morning I would like to see ourselves as “God seekers“ I am going on the assumption that we are here this morning wanting to know more of the God we serve. Wanting to know more of who he is and what he wants from us.
Question one. Where do you see yourselves and you’re seeking?
In other words, how’s your life going how was your Christian journey?
Perhaps it would help if we could Magine the Lord Jesus himself asking you. How are things?
Going further on this premise of us being “seekers/followers of Christ, who want and desire to live victorious and have success.
If heaven is ultimately what we seek. How are we achieving it? Do we have a plan?
It’s a fair question. Most people plan for their future. Job, housing, family, where to go to school, where to live etc. And we should. But what about our eternal state?
Some feel it’s out of their control the eternal question. Oh well do your best. When asked the deep questions if anybody should have the answers it should be us! We have the word of God with all his promises.
All too often we hear expressions like “just do your best“ God knows my heart. These are all truths, but incomplete truths that can lead us down the wrong path.
How many times have we heard people say “I’m a good person“ what they really mean is I’m better than so-and-so.
Remember we’re talking about eternity. Let’s not take it lightly!
Then again some field as long as we are religious or we are well disciplined. That’s the key...
On and on I can go with countless ideas, religions, philosophies that propose to be the method, the way. So I’m going even further and teach well, all roads lead to heaven or to God.
But that’s not what the Scriptures teach.
My point today is not to judge but to see what the Scriptures say what they declare. What Jesus taught. In this case what the apostle Paul taught by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and his letter to the Colossian church and to us this morning.
The epistle of Colossians can be outlined this way. Who Christ is. What he is done for us. How we ought to be.
Chapter 1 verse 9 ff The preeminence of Christ
Verse 13. Delivered, conveyed redeemed
Verse 15. He is the image of the invisible God. 16 creator of all things. 17 sustainer. 20 reconciler
Chapter 2 vs 1ff not philosophy but Christ.
Verse 11 and following. Not legalism but Christ
Chapter 3 verse 1. not carnality but Christ
So what then?
The answer to the problems in our life and our Christian walk is that we have to put on the new man. We have to let it be.
When you can see Christ for who he is. When you realize deep in your soul what he is done. When you know what he can do. Then you will have victory
Here is the key verse. Set your mind
Chapter 3 verse 12 to 17
Then it’s the picture of something we do every day. Dressing and undressing. Putting off the old man. Putting on the new Man.
Let it be, let it be. Let the love of Christ. Notice how love is the glue that holds all these things together.
"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad."
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Loving God, we come together on this Father's Day, reminded not just of our earthly fathers, but of You. You tell us that all who believe in You shall be called Your children, and You invite us to address You simply as "Our Father." For the wonder of Your love, we praise You. Prepare our hearts to receive Your Word and our spirits to respond in eagerness to serve You, as together we pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: Each of us is a fragile miracle, evidence of God's creative hands and amazing grace. We are each unique, unrepeatable gifts to the world. We are proof of God's love. And so we who are the gifts of creation now give gifts to our Creator. Gifts brought in love. Amen.
TRIBUTE TO FATHERS: STRENGTH OF A MOUNTAIN:
God took the strength of a mountain, the majesty of a tree, the warmth of the summer sun, the calm of a quiet sea, the generous soul of nature, the comforting arm of might, the wisdom of the ages, the power of the eagle's flight, the joy of a morning in spring, the faith of a mustard seed, the patience of eternity, and the depth of a family. Then God combined these qualities. When there was nothing more to add, He knew His masterpiece was complete. And so, He called it................................ Dad!
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Proverbs 2:1-5
Luke 18: 18-30
Father's Day Litany
Blessed are You Lord, our God, Creator and Redeemer of all. You father
us from all eternity, giving life to creation and pouring Your love into all You have made.
From the beginning we have known You as "Father" and all our families have their origin in You. Through the love of earthly fathers You give us a glimpse of Your everlasting love.
We give thanks for those fathers who strive to balance the demands of work, marriage and children with an honest awareness of both joy and sacrifice. And we pray for those fathers who, lacking a good model for a father, have worked to become good fathers themselves.
We thank You for those fathers who by their own account were not
always there for their children, but who continue to offer those children, now grown, their love and support.
We also give thanks for those fathers who, despite divorce, have
remained in their children's lives and for those fathers whose children are adopted, and whose love and support has offered healing. We thank You for those fathers who, as stepfathers, freely choose the obligation of fatherhood and earn their step-children's love and respect.
And we ask Your special blessing on those fathers who have lost a child to death, and who continue to hold those children in their hearts.
We also give thanks for those men who have no children, but cherish the next generation as if they were their own. We pray for those men who have "fathered" us in their role as mentors and guides. We ask Your blessings on those men who are about to become fathers; may they openly delight in their children.
And we continue to pray for those fathers who have died, but live on in
our memories and whose love continues to nurture us.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. One day a man found the treasure, and he hid it again in the field. The man was very happy to find the treasure. He went and sold everything that he owned to buy that field.
Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a man looking for fine pearls. One day he found a very valuable pearl. The man went and sold everything he had to buy that pearl. (Matthew 13:44-46)
Jesus taught many parables about the kingdom of heaven. He taught that the kingdom of God is a treasure more precious than anything in this world. Our little church is precious and valuable because Jesus paid for the Christian church with His life.
Children, and even adults, like to hear stories about treasure, and I'm sure Jesus caught the attention of His audience when He began talking about a man finding buried treasure. The man in the parable somehow stumbled upon a treasure. He didn't own the field where he found it, so it's possible to assume that he was working in the field for someone. He might have been planting or building something. Whatever he was doing, it must have been a huge surprise to find a buried treasure.
We don't know what the treasure was, but it might have been a pottery jar full of money or jewels. The people of the time often did this to keep their valuables safe from thieves. Perhaps the person who hid it had died without telling anyone where the money was buried.
We know that the man who found the treasure thought it was worth
everything he possessed, and, as the scripture tells us, he joyfully sold everything he owned in order to buy the field.
When we truly realize the worth of our salvation, we will joyfully give up everything to serve God. Anything that we give up will be nothing in comparison to the treasure of God. The kingdom of God is the reign of God. The parable teaches us that the kingdom of God is so valuable that losing everything we possess on earth in exchange for getting into the kingdom of heaven, is nothing less than a joyful sacrifice.
Anyone who receives the kingdom of God treasures it more than anything else. You don't have to buy it. You get it freely. Earlier in the book of Matthew he says: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." It's not easy to think of doing this sort of thing in our society today. We can be tempted to ignore the parable and treat it as just a story, but as Christians we can't.
Let's recap this mini parable. A man finds a jar or box in a field filled with coins, jewels, gold silver — we can only speculate. He covers it up again and he joyfully goes out and sells everything he owns in order to buy the field where the treasure is hidden. Why does he do this? Because the treasure is worth 10, 20 or maybe 100 times more than what he possesses. He sold, or exchanged what he had for something that was so much more valuable.
We're going to pause for a moment and present this parable in a modern day format. This little skit is called Present Day Parables: Hidden Treasure and was written by Rob Courtney and Ryan Shirck.
Just like the man in the parable, Ron stumbled upon a treasure of some
kind. And when you stop to think about it, there are some people who stumble upon God. Perhaps they accept a friend's invitation to come to church. Or maybe there's an illness, or even the death of a loved one that might suddenly lead them to God.
There are other people who search for God, knowing that there's something missing in their life but not knowing how to fill the void. Some might try reading the Bible. Others may go to different churches, trying to find the right fit. Hopefully, these people will finally find the truth a find the love of God. And it's this kind of searching that happened to the merchant in the second mini parable.
A merchant is someone who is experienced. He's always looking for things to buy and sell. The merchant in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Value probably already had great wealth, and when he found the precious pearl he immediately recognized it's value. He was ready to sell everything he owned to buy it.
Jesus told His disciples that the kingdom of heaven was like the merchant, and he was trying to find pearls of good quality. Finally, he found a beautiful pearl, a perfect pearl, but it was very expensive. So he went and sold everything he had and then went and bought the pearl.
That precious pearl is like the kingdom of God. The merchant gave up
everything he had to own it. The kingdom of God is so valuable that we'll want to give up everything to be in it.
How many of you like to go shopping? Sometimes, when shopping for
necessities like groceries, it can be a bit of a chore. But shopping for something special, a new outfit, a baby shower gift, new furniture, or maybe a new pair of shoes can be fun and exciting. However, there's a down side to shopping — you need money. You can buy just about anything if you're willing to spend enough money. Suppose you're not willing to spend your money. Or maybe you don't have the money to spend. What then? Well, you'll just have to do without. You know, I heard the other day of some gold nuggets which anyone can have if they want to pick them up. May be you won't have all you want of them, but you'll have some, and then you can spend them just as you do money.
They'll buy about almost everything money can buy. Doesn't it sound interesting? Would you like some of these gold nuggets?
I can tell you where the map is that will help you find them. All you need to do is look at your watch or clock. Don't tell me you're disappointed. But let's see if seconds and minutes and hours aren't really gold nuggets.
People talk about spending time. If they spend it, then they must get something — that's common sense. When we spend money we get something for it too. Well, when you spend time we get something for it too. The value of the thing we get, either for money or for our time, shows how much of a businessman we are.
I can think of a lot of things we can get if we are willing to spend the time. We can get health, we can get knowledge, we can get music, we can get friends, we can get happiness, just to name a few. Unfortunately, some people spend time for other things, like lying, stealing, cheating and being selfish or a bully, or things too awful to think about. These people are poor businessmen because they let themselves be cheated.
Would you throw away sixty dollars a day, just throw it away like you often throw away sixty seconds? I certainly hope not. God's minute is worth as much as 3600 dollars and more, much more. We think that because we have "X" number of years to live, it doesn't matter if we waste a few. Well friends — it does matter. Hours are God's gold nuggets and they buy our way into the kingdom of heaven if we spend them wisely.
There are many wonderful things we buy and treasure here on earth, but the greatest treasure that we could ever obtain is the kingdom of God. As Christians, we should be content to give up our earthly treasures so that we can store up our treasures in God's kingdom.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, You challenge us to set ourselves high goals. We are seeking Your salvation, living in obedience to You and sharing the Good News of the Kingdom with others. God, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: The amazing grace of Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
ALL TO WORSHIP (congregation reads words printed in bold)
Welcome, friends, to this holy day.
We come to offer thanks; we come to sing and pray.
Welcome, friends, to this time set apart,
A time to remember those we love, and time to remember the holy promises of God.
Welcome, friends, to this table of remembrance and joy,
The table where we are fed, the feast we share with many.
Welcome, friends, and let us worship God.
WORDS OF WELCOME
OPENING HYMN: “We Are One In The Spirit”
Scripture: Exodus 16: 1-5
SERMON: “Leaving Hungry”
WE PREPARE FOR HOLY COMMUNION
Today I want to talk about JOY. Not happiness, which is a different thing. Happiness is hearing how well the garage sale did. Happiness is waking to a beautiful sunny morning. Or to a 3’ snowfall and knowing you don’t have to go anywhere for at least 3 days. Or when your teenager comes home within the curfew. Or having your children who live far away come to visit. Driving by a beautiful garden. All these things can elicit happiness. We often hear of ways to find happiness. We wish it for ourselves and for others. But happiness seems to b dependant upon circumstances. Joy is a something different altogether. I think what we all really are seeking is joy.
What is it?
Who has it?
Do I have it?
How important is it?
How do I get it?
I was listening to a radio interview the other day, with a book author who had written about how to have hope in these times when things can look very bleak. The international political situation is complicated, the worries over climate change and the future economy looming…He listed many ways to manage our life in order to keep finding glimmers of hope to be able to find some joy and light, enough to keep on living and not give up.
Earlier this year, the big hit was a book and a Netflix show by a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo- it is to do with organizing and decluttering your home basically by getting rid of stuff.
In order to decide what to keep and what to discard, the method is, you hold an item up and ask yourself if that item brings you joy. If it doesn’t, you get rid of it.
What strikes me about this is not that everyone is so incredibly excited about decluttering. After all most of us do it regularly. Or fairly regularly. Or we know we should!
I think what made this book and show so popular is that it promised an experience. It promised to bring meaning to our lives. It promised JOY.
Humans desire joy. We want to experience it. We seek it.
The Bible tells us that the source of true everlasting joy is being in a right relationship with God. That was one thing that the author of the book I mentioned, certainly didn’t talk about.
But before we can experience the true joy of the Lord, we need to know who we really are.
If we do not have the deep joy of God then we need to ask ourselves “who am I” ,for true joy comes from knowing WHO YOU ARE.
George and I are relative newcomers to this community, and of course we don’t know everyone yet. We are still finding out that someone is someone’s cousin, or sister etc etc. Look around at each other. What we see is what we know. We are familiar with the faces and the outer appearance of those in our community and families, and we say, we know each other.
We define ourselves by our family name and our chosen career. We define ourselves by our appearance and skills, (such as Sue, the one with the beautiful red hair, or Linda the gardener who brings fresh flowers every Sunday, or Norm, the one with the long hair and the great rhythm who plays the djembe) or we are defined by who we married, or who our mother or father is, who our ancestors were, or where we live, or what our profession or education is. Think about it. How do you define yourself?
Another recent phenomenon is having one’s DNA tested for ancestry. We want to find out who we are, who we belong to. I have heard of people giving siblings an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas…like, you are our brother, but maybe you’re not?? I think that’s pretty funny actually.
I have a very dear friend who was adopted at birth. Still throughout her adult life, she felt something was missing, she didn’t really know who she was, until she located her birth mother and siblings. Only then did she feel she really knew who she was.
When I first moved to Switzerland and started to get acquainted with that community, one of the very first questions was always “What did you learn”? At first I was baffled by this question, because I had actually learned a lot in my life so far, at least I thought I had!
But, I realized, In a society of achievers, you are defined by what you can do, what you can accomplish. I learned that the education system in Switzerland moves students after grade 6 into either an academic or a technical stream, and almost everyone enters an apprenticeship leading to a diploma in a skilled trade or profession. So to get to know who you are they want to know what you have learned.
Who are you? How do you define yourself? How does the Bible define me? What does God say, if anything, about who I am?
I want to read an interesting account In the book of Nehemiah, where we read of the time after the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon and are establishing themselves again in the promised land.
Nehemiah 8:1-12 New International Version (NIV)8 1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
So here we read how the people are called together to hear God’s words for them. How they upon hearing God’s law read out, began to bow down and worship, and how they experienced joy. How they were told to express this joy by feasting and sharing with others who had less, to be calm and not be sad, to understand that the “Joy of the Lord is your strength”. After hearing the words that the priest and scribe Ezra read to them, they realized WHO THEY WERE in God, and the immediate response was to worship and feel joy.
So who are we? Who am I? The Bible tells us that if we believe in Jesus, then we ARE the children of God.
In 1 John 3:1 we read “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us ,that we should be called children of God! And this is what we are!”
So we are defined, not by our size, gender, clothing, family, job, what we have learned, our DNA etc, but by our Heavenly Father.
Like the Israelites who returned from Babylon, true joy comes from knowing who you are, and that you are in the will of God, fulfilling that which he has created you to be and do. When Ezra read out the “rules” they knew who was in charge and what they had to do. They knew who they were. It was cause for celebration, an outburst of joy.
A young neighbour in our village in Switzerland had been going to youth group for a while, and had wanted to give herself to Christ, but as she told me, she was afraid of taking that final step for fear of losing herself, of becoming someone she didn’t know, of changing into someone she maybe wouldn’t even like. What she hadn’t yet realized was that by totally surrendering herself to God, she would be allowing Him to make her into who she truly was meant to be, and therein experience the true deep joy that complete surrender to Him brings.
Joy comes from knowing the real purpose of your life. By surrendering to the One in charge and allowing Him to define you. This joy is a gift from God. When that relationship is in place, he fills you with joy.
The joy that is the gift of God is not dependent on circumstances, good health, wealth or success, but this true joy comes from understanding what God has done for you, and surrendering to Him. Surrender is actually something that really needs be done constantly, because if you think about it, we constantly take back the directorship of our lives. Constantly surrendering to God will keep our relationship with God in the right place, and give us a constant source of joy.
And that’s where the “rivers of living water” come from, from that source of joy always springing up in you. Like the Israelites, who returning from exile, heard from Ezra where they stood with God, heard that He was their ruler and guide, and then experienced in their surrender the joy and peace of knowing who they were in God.
True joy comes from complete surrender to God.
When Ezra had finished reading the law to the Israelites, Nehemiah the governor said “do not grieve, for the Joy of the Lord is your strength..”
Another question: how does this kind of joy, the “joy of the Lord” make you strong?
Abundant joy comes from knowing that you are loved by God and that nothing can change that.
Like the words of the hymn, great is His faithfulness, He will never change.
Here’s what that looks like:
You have been purchased by Christ’s blood and will never be abandoned. This is a love that we DID NOT EARN, so we cannot undo or “un-earn” it. This puts you in a position of great strength, knowing who you are because of what Jesus has done. All the things we experience in life, whether good or challenging or downright awful, cannot change the fact of who we are in Christ. Knowing that gives us a strength to carry us through all circumstances.
Why in fact does the Bible tell us that we should count it all joy to go through suffering, and pain, even persecution? One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Ps 50:15 “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honour me”.
Because going through difficult things that we cannot change FORCES us to cast ourselves on the loving mercy of God. Our relationship with Him is deepened. We come to a new realization of how much God loves us and how He will never abandon us, and knowing THAT brings a freedom that cannot be bought. Through these trials our decision to follow Christ is reinforced, our relationship with Him is deepened, and a wonderful joy is the result.
So the secret of true joy is right relationship with Jesus. In that relationship you know who you are. You know the value of God’s love for you.
True lasting JOY is not sparked by organizing your storage shelves, or micro-managing stress.
True STRENGTH comes from knowing that nothing on this earth can actually touch you. In time of trouble, wait and listen for the voice of God, the voice of the one who loves you most.
1 Peter 5:6-10 New International Version (NIV)6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you… so allow God to be in charge. What a relief! The joy!
1 Cor 1:30 says “It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption”
Joy comes not from decluttering your home, or from developing strategies to cope with modern life, but from the realization of who you are in Christ, the realization that Christ has BECOME our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption, and from knowing that you have nothing to lose, and will never be cast off.
The joy of the Lord is indeed an incredible strength.
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