Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Tyranny of the “Should” (Part 4)

My last post about Two “churchy” words presupposes one important point: do you want to turn to God?  What if you don’t?  What if you think He’s royally angry with you?  I was very thankful that Jesus had saved me, but I had this nagging feeling that he really didn’t want to.

“Look at all that Jesus has done for you.”  I could see God looking at me, slowly shaking His head back and forth, disappointed that I hadn’t done more to pay him back.

I sang the words to the hymn, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe,” and I believed it heart and soul.  I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.  If I could just be good enough, somehow achieve perfection on my own, maybe I could pay him back.  If I could just be a “good girl”, maybe I could earn God’s love on my own.

I was absolutely positive that I deserved death and hell, but that by some stroke of luck, I received God’s grace instead.  I had a “get out of hell free” card, I had good “fire insurance”, and the only reason God didn’t incinerate me was because Jesus took my place.

Switchfoot’s album Fading West includes a song called “The World You Want” that hits me on so many levels.  It starts out with these words:

I’m kickin up the pieces
I’m trying out adhesives
I’m trying to fix a place that feels broken

Over the last 20 years, I’ve done countless Bible studies, attended countless conferences and retreats, read countless books, trying to fix the place that feels broken.  It’s kept me going.  I get a little piece of the puzzle and I feel better for a little while.  Like being on a treasure hunt.  But it doesn’t last and I need to find another piece.

I found a BIG piece of the puzzle in 2013.  My next blog post, The Face of Grace, will be about that discovery.  But even that wasn’t enough to keep me above water.  I’ve spent so many years feeling that I owe everyone and that I can never adequately pay anyone back, it all feels hopeless.  It feels like nothing I do makes any difference at all.

The Switchfoot song goes on to say:

Is this the world you want?
You’re making it
Every day you’re alive

You change the world
Every day you’re alive

I don’t like how I’m changing the world.  It’s really icky.  And if I wanted to change it for the good, how can I if I owe everything to everyone and I don’t have the energy to keep it up anymore?  It’s too exhausting and I don’t have it in me to keep fighting the fight.

On September 12, 2014, just ONE day before the “redeemed” weekend, I wrote this in my journal (along with more words from “The World You Want”):

“The Tyranny of the “Should”

I waste so much energy trying to decide what I “should” do. I get all tied up in knots, wondering if I don’t do this, how will it affect that? If I don’t take the air compressor to the store right now and with a good attitude, what bad thing will happen to me today? Will John get stuck at work and not be able to go to the wedding with me? Will tomorrow get completely ruined and he won’t be able to go to the Third Day concert? I better be a good girl, put on a happy face and do what I “should” do.

You start to look like what you believe
What you say is your religion
How you say it’s your religion
Who you love is your religion
How you love is your religion
–Switchfoot’s “The World You Want”

What do I believe? I believe that I better be a good girl and make good decisions, or bad things are going to happen. That’s my religion. What I say and how I say it is my religion. Who I love and how I love is my religion….  If I feel like I owe you something, I don’t know how to function. I don’t know how much is enough. I feel like I owe God. And there is no way I can pay him back. Why would I want others to accept him as their Lord and Savior? Then they’ll owe him too. Why would I do that to other people?”

I finished writing this at 10:49am, just as an email came in from someone I had written to on August 31st, twelve days earlier.  She chose exactly that moment to write back to me.  Or did God choose that exact moment?  It was a beautiful, encouraging email and all I could think was, “How is it that the Lord loves me so that He sends people like this to me?  I don’t deserve that kind of love.”

Click here for Part 5

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Two “churchy” words (Part 3)

Before I go any further, I need to address two words that get a lot of bad press.  One is “sin” and the other is “repent”.  Wait!  Don’t stop reading.  Give me a minute.

“Sin” is simply an archery term that means “to miss the mark”.  Imagine aiming your bow and arrow at the target, shooting the arrow and missing the target.  Someone would yell “sin!”  That’s all.  You just missed the mark.  Thanks to Dave Wilson for that illustration.

“Repent” simply means “to change one’s mind” and “to turn around”.  Imagine heading one direction, realizing that you’re heading the wrong the direction, changing your mind and turning around.  That’s it.  Just turning around.  Thanks to Chris Zarbaugh for that illustration.

So, when John the Baptist and Jesus preached, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2 & 4:17 NLT), they were simply saying, “Turn around, you’re missing the mark.  Turn to God.  He’s right there waiting for you.”  This isn’t a “turn or burn” message.  This is a “turn because I love you and I have something beautiful for you” message.

And how beautifully the Apostle Paul puts it in Acts 3:19 (NLT): “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.”  Of course!  If we’re turning to God, we’re no longer missing the mark.  He is the target.  And when we turn to him, we are acknowledging what Jesus did on the cross.  He took on all of our sins, all of our “turning away”.  All of that was nailed to the cross.  Bought and paid for.  Redeemed!  Gone.  Wiped away.  The slate is clean.

I love these words from Matt Maher’s “Turn Around”:

“You don’t need to move, Love has come to you, all you gotta do is turn around”

Click here for Part 4

Redeemed – Part 2 – He’s Greater

Here’s Part 1, in case you’re just joining us.

That was Monday, September 15th. All day long, as thoughts came into my head, I kept saying out loud, or under my breath if need be, “Jesus redeemed that!”. I felt lighter and lighter each time I said it and I was struck by how often I was saying it. I had no idea I was carrying so much guilt and shame. It reared its ugly head, I spoke, and the Cross wiped it away. Over and over and over again, all day long.

The morning of Tuesday, September 16th was not what I had expected.  I had hoped to get a few things accomplished and checked off my list, but that was not to be.  Nothing bad, just constant, one thing after another, and I was getting frustrated.  I knew that “Jesus redeemed that” frustration, but it was getting a little nutty.

Facebook chimed that I had a message.  It wasn’t a good message.  My friend was very upset.  I tried to encourage her and let her know that Jesus had redeemed everything that she was dealing with and all of the emotions that were screaming at her.  I hoped that my words were encouraging, but I didn’t know if she believed me.  I had to move on to my next task.  I needed to make an on-line donation for Joshua’s homeroom classroom. If we donated by September 17th and included the word “Inspire” as a coupon code, a matching donor would double his donation. I put in the coupon code and this popped up:

“Redeemed! INSPIRE: $9.00 match activated.”

I screamed and almost jumped out of my chair!  I couldn’t believe it said “REDEEMED”!  Instead of jumping out of my chair, I jumped back onto Facebook to chime my friend’s iPad with a message, straight from Heaven, just for her.  It’s all going to be okay.  Jesus redeemed it all!

Then came Wednesday, September 17th. I had dropped off both kids at school that morning and was driving home listening to Smile FM. “God of Wonders” by Third Day was on and I sang along, remembering them singing it at the concert on Saturday. I pulled in the garage and was about to turn the car off when “Greater” by MercyMe came on next. I’d never heard this song on the radio before, but they played it at the concert Saturday night. I turned off the car, but left the radio on and listened to “Greater”.

From the first word to the last, I sobbed like I have never sobbed in my life.  But these weren’t tears of guilt, shame and self-pity.  These were tears of gratefulness with no strings attached.  And when the song was over, I didn’t feel that awful “I just cried and now I need to take a nap” feeling.  I felt clean.  Really clean.  All that “ick” was washed away.

I have so much more I could write here, but instead I will leave you with the words of “Greater”.

“Greater” by MercyMe

Bring your tired
Bring your shame
Bring your guilt
Bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not you’re name
You will always be much more to me

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world
In the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

Bring your doubts
Bring your fears
Bring your hurt
Bring your tears
There’ll be no condemnation here
You are holy, righteous and redeemed

Every time I fall
There’ll be those who will call me
A mistake
Well that’s ok

There’ll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn’t matter
‘Cause the cross already won the war
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

I am learning to run freely
Understanding just how He sees me
And it makes me love Him more and more
He’s Greater
He’s Greater

Crank up the volume and dance! 🙂

Click here for Part 3

 

Redeemed – Part 1

Something amazing happened on September 13 & 14. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years, but nothing like this has ever happened before. I’m trying to piece it all together so that I can write about it here, but there is so much that I really need to do it in pieces.

My friend and I live-streamed Beth Moore’s “Living Proof Live” simulcast on Saturday, September 13th at my house.  During the simulcast, there were a few times where the live stream “stuck” and I had to refresh the screen. Beth was teaching us her “Identity Declaration” (click or see below) and she got to “I am a woman of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ” and the screen stuck. By the time I got it refreshed, she was on to the next point. “Redeemed” struck me and I knew I wanted to go back and watch that part again.  However, we were all headed to the Third Day/ MercyMe concert at DTE Energy later that afternoon, so “redeemed” would have to wait.

Even though I bought the concert tickets for all of us to see Third Day, we were blown away by MercyMe. Bart Millard, their lead singer, has been on an amazing road to transformation over the last couple years and it was exciting to hear his story. He spoke and sang a LOT about redemption and the word “redeemed” kept sinking further and further into my bones. Their music was upbeat and invigorating, their harmonies were beautiful, we loved every minute. It was late when we got home and I was ushering at church the next morning, so we had to get to bed to get up early.

I normally sit with John when I usher, but on this particular morning, the two seats next to John were taken by two other ushers. I’m new to this particular usher team, so they didn’t know they were sitting next to my husband. It was the 10:30 service, so it was crowded and most seats were already filled. I was trying to figure out where I was going to sit and found myself on the verge of a pity-party crying mess. Tears were starting to fill my eyes, but I told myself, “No, you’re not going to do this today. What a silly reason to be crying anyway!” I walked up to where John was sitting and realized that there was ONE seat right behind him and the two usher ladies and I grabbed it. The tears never materialized. 🙂 I sat down in my seat to listen to Chris Zarbaugh’s message, but God had other plans. I started writing and the first thing I wrote was “Jesus redeemed that.”

The next day I received an email survey from LifeWay, looking for feedback from Saturday’s simulcast. Beth Moore told us at the simulcast that she was praying that God would give a specific word to each of the 190,000+ women who were watching. She said that if 190,000 women heard from God and RESPONDED, we could certainly have a huge impact on this hurting world. Here’s what I wrote to LifeWay:

“God spoke! Beth’s prayers were answered in my life. He gave me a word and that word is “redeemed”. I have struggled with so many things for so long: depression, hopelessness, wanting to give up, and I’ve “tried” to do better and be better and I want Jesus to help me, but all of my “tricks” aren’t working anymore. I think wrong thoughts and then I feel guilty for thinking wrong thoughts and it just spirals downward. This weekend God told me “Jesus redeemed that”.

Every thought – Jesus redeemed that.

The guilt about the thought – Jesus redeemed that.

Not wanting to get up and do anything – Jesus redeemed that.

Getting up and doing something, puffing up my ego and pride – Jesus redeemed that.

Doing things to get attention – Jesus redeemed that.

Getting mad at my kids – Jesus redeemed that.

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious – Jesus redeemed that.

Scared to open an email, wondering if I can handle what I’m being asked to do – Jesus redeemed that.

Everything I’ve ever done or said or thought or will ever do or say or think – Jesus redeemed that.

So, I can hold my head up high and thank my Savior. Thank you, Beth. Thank you, Jesus. Glory to God.”

To be continued…

Click here for Part 2.

Identity Declaration from Beth Moore's 9-13-14 Living Proof Live Simulcast
“Identity Declaration” from Beth Moore’s 9-13-14 Living Proof Live Simulcast

Urgent Questions / Deepest Needs

Oh, my goodness, I have so much to tell you.  But I have to start at the beginning.  Let’s start with an email that I sent to Danny Cox on May 12, 2014.  At the bottom of this email, I will include a link to the message that Danny gave at Kensington on Wednesday, May 14.  Ironically, I wasn’t at that service, because I was at Heritage Church that night hearing about plans to purchase land for Clinton Twp at M-59 and Gratiot.  But first, we’ll start with the email:

Hi Danny,

Thank you so much for asking Wednesday night for us to send you our urgent questions and deepest needs.  The Lord has brought John and I on a quite a journey over the last 24 years and the most recent leg of this journey started February 7th and lasted until Easter weekend.  I’d like to share that with you.

In Spring of 2013, I had watched this sermon from Woodland Hills Church (I choose one of the video links to the right under “sermon downloads”):  Two Kinds of Life

The sermon is about 45 minutes long.  I watched it a couple times.  And I thought about it all year.  John 12:25 (NIV) “Anyone who loves their life (psyche) will lose it, while anyone who hates (surrenders) their life (psyche) in this world will keep it for eternal life (aeon zoe).”

I had never understood that verse before I watched this sermon.  But all of a sudden, it all made sense.  I remember sharing part of the sermon with a couple of our team members in Costa Rica when Joshua and I went last summer.  It impacted me so deeply, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I was in a Celebrate Recovery step study for most of last year for codependency issues I’d struggled with since childhood.  I found great freedom there, but my focus was inward for most of the year.  This sermon speaks about Jesus’s plan for us to draw from what He’s doing inside of us and to reach out to a hurting world.

So, this February, I thought, “I need to share this with my husband”.  John and I watched it on Friday night, February 7th and I was not prepared for his response.  He also had never heard a message like that before, but he took it in a completely different way than I did.  To me, it felt like John was throwing away Jesus, but as I look back, that’s not what he was doing at all.  He was actually more angry at the church as an institution than anything else.  Angry that they hadn’t taught us this information yet.  That they were trying to get everyone to just say the right words, accept Jesus as their savior, and then go back to life as usual.  He wasn’t throwing away Jesus – he was longing for teaching that would put Jesus above religion, where He belongs.

And then Sunday came.  The “Kingdom Come” trailer was played for the first time.  I laughed and cried all at the same time.  I couldn’t believe the timing.  It was a “kairos moment” like Chris Zarbaugh spoke about the first week of the Kingdom Come series.  Only God could do that.  Aeon Zoe (eternal life), Heaven on Earth, Kingdom Come.  Ok, what do we do with that?  Do we lead a Kingdom Come group?  We have a tackle store in Harrison Twp.  We could have a group there.  John and I talked about it, but he was just too overwhelmed with his day job and running the tackle store and working too many hours.  How could he add a Bible study?  So, we let that go.

About a week later, John was chatting with Jim Hartwick and Jim was looking for a place to hold east side Field and Stream Team (FAST) meetings once per month.  John offered him our store and they’ve been meeting there ever since.  I know that the conversation we had about the Kingdom Come group was what needed to happen so that John would be open to having FAST meetings at the store.  It was beautiful.

But John and I continued to wrestle with our responsibility before God.  Danny, I kept thinking about the message you had done a while back on John 6:29 (NIV) “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  I loved that message, but I kept thinking, there must be more than just believing.  What is my responsibility?  Don’t I really need to be a “human doing” instead of just a “human being”?

Then Easter came.  Joshua was the paper boy for Clinton Twp’s Easter service, so I was at all 7 services that weekend.  During the last service on Saturday, Steve Andrews was speaking and quoting a verse that was used at a Lacey Holsworth’s funeral.  I don’t even remember what the verse was, but what I do remember very clearly was that God spoke to me while Steve was quoting the verse.  It was a moment of Aeon Zoe.  It was beautiful.  I came home and told John about it.

That night, before I went to bed, I read a page or two in a book about contemplative prayer, which “just happened” 🙂 to say that moments in God’s presence couldn’t be predicted and also were not a reward for good behavior.  That was it!  That was the final piece of the puzzle.  I couldn’t MAKE a moment of Aeon Zoe happen.  It was a gift from God.  All I could was to be available for Him.  I shared this with John Sunday morning and he completely agreed.  I felt like we had come full circle and so did he.  Ah, it was over.  Thank you, Jesus!

So, now we come to my urgent questions and deepest needs.  You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to write to you over the last couple months.  Every message you’ve given has stirred all of this in me as you’ve spoken about the Life that God wants for us, especially your message on Submission a month or so ago.  I’ve been on your Facebook wall about ready to send you a message or on email about ready to send a note.  But I didn’t.  I don’t know why.  But now that this is all over, now is when you put your email address up on the big screen on Wednesday night and ask us all to email you.  Crazy!  No, it’s not crazy, it’s just patience.  I needed God to speak to me and I needed to be patient.  And He did.

I guess my urgent question and deepest need has more to do with what I’ve read over these months.  I’ve read through most of the 4 gospels, really focusing on what Jesus said and in what context.  What stands out to me more than anything else is how Jesus reacts to religious piety.  He got in the face of the Pharisees, specifically healing people on the Sabbath (even people who weren’t asking to be healed!) in front of the Pharisees to make a point.  He used the ceremonial washing jars to make water into wine, not the empty wine jars.  He took the time to make a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple.  He told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  He spoke harshly to the Pharisees, calling them to love God out of thankfulness, not duty.

My deepest need is to know that I’m not one of these Pharisees, doing what I do because I should, not because I am thankful for the breath that God has given me and the Life that Jesus wants to live through me.  For the 20 years I’ve been at Kensington, I’ve been looking for whatever it is that I’m “supposed to do” to serve God, and I believe that He is speaking to me about my husband and my kids.  I believe that all that He requires of me is to allow Him to live through me to give His love to my husband my kids.  He wants me to take everything He has taught me and for me to teach that to my kids.  He has so much that He wants to do through my kids.  He wants them to grow up without the codependent chains that I had, free to impact the world for Him without agenda.

Oh, “without agenda”.  That’s a whole other question.  What would the world be like if we had no agenda?  If we could help one another not because we’re Christians or Jews or Muslims or Democrats or Republicans or Presbyterians or Baptists, male or female, slave or free, but just because we’re humans?  Gosh, I think that’s the beauty of Spring Serve at Kensington and of Lori Naseef’s non-profit.  ProvideInc gets groups of volunteers together with organizations who need volunteers, just long enough to accomplish their goals and move on to the next project.  I saw this in Costa Rica last summer.  We were getting ready to fly home and everyone was sad about leaving.  Even though there were 57 of us, we had bonded like a much smaller family.  We loved each other.  But I kept telling everyone, “It is good for us to go home while we still love each other.  If we stayed together too long, we would form into cliques and groups and we would cease to love one another.  We would gossip and back-bite and it would get ugly.  But right now, we love each other, and we’re going home.  And we need to take the love we have for each other and for the people we served in Costa Rica and spread that all around our homes and neighborhoods and workplaces back home.”

So, my urgent question is, how do we impact the world without breaking down into selfish ambition and vain conceit?  Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another.  Overall, we haven’t done a very good job of that.  We’ve done a much better job showing the world that we can act just like they act.  The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life has taken us down and it’s possible to see more Christ-like behavior coming from religions that don’t acknowledge Christ as the Son of God.  How do we turn it around?  How do we live with one another without eventually hating one another?  That’s my urgent question.  How do we live as Jesus lived, pointing to the Father, and not to ourselves and to our pious acts of religious observance?  We eat that apple every day that our focus is on the things that are pleasing to the eye, good for food and good for gaining wisdom.  I eat that apple every day.  I’m eating that apple right now as I write this.  Let’s see if I can show Danny Cox how smart I am.  🙂  It’s all pride.  Lord, show us Your ways and save us from ourselves.

Ok, that’s enough.  And if you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading.  God bless you!
-Beth

If you’ve gotten this far, THANK YOU!  Here’s the service that I referred to at the top of this post. The whole service is wonderful (especially the interview with Weston Bradshaw), but if you want to see the part where Danny talks about our email conversation, that starts about 50 minutes into it:

https://www.kensingtonchurch.org/default.aspx?page=3891&item=543

The Miracle Worker

I grew up in Clawson and John grew up in St Clair Shores.  We decided to settle in Clawson after we married, as John’s job at the time was in Clawson.  We bought a bungalow in 1994 and it worked very well for us and our German Shorthaired Pointer, Mandi.  Adding Joshua to the family in 2002 was a wonderful blessing and there was plenty of room for everyone.

When Joshua was about 18 months old, John found out about an opportunity at Lear Corporation in Roscommon, MI and we started looking at homes in the Houghton Lake and Higgins Lake area.  That job was put on hold for about 18 months, and then the home search started up again.

We were looking for a brick ranch with an attached garage and enough space to bring a trailer around to the back yard.  Many ranches with attached garages are smack-dab against the house next door and getting a trailer to the backyard can be a huge challenge.  We were also looking for a wood-burning fireplace, which you would think would be easy to find up north.  No such luck.  They either had no fireplace at all or they had been converted to natural gas.  In all of our searching, we never did find a home we could agree on.

Thankfully, that job never materialized.  We found out later that the plant closed up and, if we had sold our house and moved up there, John would have been out of a job.  I can’t tell you how thrilled we were that we never moved.

Along came Jordan Rose in 2006 and our bungalow in Clawson got a little tight.  Exer-saucer, play pen, high chair – it all takes room and in 2007 we decided to start looking at homes again.  In the 13 years that we owned the home, it had doubled in value and then started declining.  By 2007, it was still worth about 150% of what we had paid in 1994.  Good time to cash out.  John was then working at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, so we really could live in either Oakland or Macomb County and still be close to John’s job, but Macomb County had several advantages:  1) We had a 19 foot Starcraft, so living closer to the lake was a draw;  2) We could get more for our money in Macomb County; and 3) since John grew up on the east side, he was ready to get back to his stomping grounds.

Kimberly Tomko, real estate agent extraordinaire, worked her magic and found us lots of good prospects to look at.  And when we walked into the house on Remick Dr, we knew we had found home.  It was being sold by the original owners who had built it in 1951.  Actually, it was the children who were selling it, as their mother had recently passed away, having raised her whole family in that house.  Her kids now had their own grandchildren and it was time to say goodbye to Mom’s house.

The woodwork was all original and had never been painted.  The kitchen and bathrooms were original and we loved all of it.  The plaster coves and original tile work would cost a million dollars to replace at today’s wages.  You just can’t get craftsmanship like that any more without paying a pretty penny.  It was a brick ranch with an attached garage and the lot was double-wide, so you could get trailers around BOTH sides.  And, I think God was showing off, because this house didn’t have one wood-burning fireplace.  It had TWO.

We had to do a contingent offer on the house, as we needed our house in Clawson to sell before we could purchase the house in Clinton Twp.  Did I mention that Kimberly could work magic?  She brought the family a picture of our family, explaining who we were and how much we loved their mother’s house.  They not only accepted our contingent offer, but they accepted the price that we offered.  We were astounded.  It took about 2 months, but Kimberly also sold our house in Clawson and we were off to Clinton Twp.

When we came to do the inspection, we noticed a large painting in the basement.  I’ve attached a picture of it below.  It’s 5 feet wide and 3 1/2 feet tall.  I don’t know who created it, but I do know that it was done for the owner’s retirement.  He must have been a shipping manager, as it shows him juggling phones, shipping quotes, tracer paperwork, trailer numbers, and there are boats, planes, trains and semi’s drawn all around the edge of the painting.  The top has a scroll with the title “The Miracle Worker” written on it.  It’s quite a piece of work.

Before I continue, I must tell you that I LOVE my birthday.  I was born on October 19, 1971.  Whenever we see 10:19 on the clock, everyone in my family has been trained to say, “10:19, Praise the Lord!”  Just my little way of acknowledging God’s part in my birth.

I found another poster in the basement that said “Good Luck on Your Retirement John” with the dates 1929 – 1972.  Upon closer inspection of the large painting, I noticed a calendar page on the front of his desk with a palm tree and the date, October 19, 1972.  The owner of the house retired on October 19, 1972.  He retired on my first birthday!

That was exciting, but I was even more excited when I realized two more important details.  The mother who had passed away was named Suzanne.  Her husband was John.  My name is Beth Suzanne and my husband is John.  So, John and Beth Suzanne bought the house that John and Suzanne had raised their children in and lived in for the rest of their lives.  And who is “The Miracle Worker”?  I’ll let you decide.

John the "Miracle Worker"
John the “Miracle Worker”

 

His Love is Strong

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

I’ve always thought that meant that being joyful would give us strength.  If we have joy like God does (the joy of the Lord), then we’ll be strong.  So, crank up the joy and be strong!  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work for me.

When I heard that verse the other day, Hebrews 12:2 also came to mind:

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross.”

All of a sudden, for the first time, those two verses collided with each other in my mind.

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross.”

We are the reason Jesus endured the cross.

His love for us drove him to the cross.

That means that the joy of the Lord is God’s love for us.

And what does that do to “The joy of the Lord is your strength”?

Ah, yes.  God’s love for us is our strength!  Oh, that makes so much more sense.  Not that I have to crank out some artificial joy, hoping that I will feel strong.  But that his love is strong.  His love for us is our strength.

Switchfoot wrote a song called “Your Love is Strong” and I happened upon this sweet rendition of it from after a concert they played in Kingston, Ontario back in 2011.  As you listen, I hope you’ll imagine God’s love giving you the strength you need for whatever you face today.