The Joy Of The Lord

I think most of us have learned there are multiple words for love in the Greek language. With seven words devoted to this concept, we assume it must be important. But did you know something similar is going on with the word “joy”?

In the New Testament the primary Greek word for joy is chara or its root chario. The Greek parts of the Bible also use agalliao, euphrosure, and (more rarely) skirtao and apolausis. Hebrew has even more words for joy. The primary one is samach and its close relatives simcha and sameach. Other words for joy include chadah, sus, alats, giyl, and alaz. The words for “shout” like ranan and rua also carry a joyful meaning in certain contexts. That adds up to more than a dozen words in the Bible to describe joy!

Clearly, joy is an important concept for Biblical writers and for the cultures they lived in. This type of joy isn’t just a happy feeling, though. It’s a state of being that we can have as a result of being in relationship with God. As a fruit of the spirit, joy is present in all spirit-led Christians. This joy can be bubbly, enthusiastic, and happy (and often is), but it can also be a quiet, enduring outlook that flourishes inside us even when we don’t feel outwardly merry.

Joy Is More Than Happiness

To those in less than pleasant circumstances, commands to rejoice (like Deut. 26:11: 1 Thes 5:16) often feel insensitive. “If you knew what I was going through,” we might say, “you wouldn’t tell me to feel happy.” Nevertheless, joy is something God expects and commands from His people.

It’s a similar situation as what happens with love. God is love, and He commands us to love others even when it doesn’t make sense from a human perspective. Biblical love is also something more than our modern concept of warm feelings toward someone. It’s much deeper. In much the same way, joy goes deeper than feelings of happiness. Read more

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Letting Our Messiness Out So We Can Heal

They say confession is good for the soul. Usually when I think of confession, though, I picture a scene from a crime drama. I’ve never really studied the idea in its Christian context until writing this post.

Recently during a small group meeting, a friend made the statement that holding in our mess can prevent healing. I quickly scribbled it down in my notes since that’s an idea I’ve been championing since I started talking more openly about my anxiety. To give you some context for this comment, we’d just read this verse:

Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. (James 5:16, WEB)

Given James’ word choices here, we can say for certain that he’s telling us there’s a connection between healing and openly acknowledging the ways we slip into error. The Greek words are specifically about confessing faults, offences, and trespasses. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, though, to extend this principle to other struggles as well including those that are not, strictly speaking, sinful.

To share a personal example, trying to hide my mental health struggles only made them worse. I felt shame and guilt around my anxiety and depression. I worried that others would find out about them, which just increased my levels of anxiety. I didn’t start to find healing until I opened up about my struggles to friends, family, a counselor, and even publicly here on this blog.

Bringing Dark Things To Light

God has a habit of shining light into dark places. Jesus even went so far as to say “nothing is hidden that will not be revealed; nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17, WEB). While God works in ways that are mysterious and sometimes hidden from us, there is no darkness in Him. He is all light and those who love Him want to walk in that light. Read more

Watch

Several times when speaking of future events, Jesus told His disciples to “watch.” Most people I hear talk about this focus on us watching for His return. Typically, they try to match-up prophecy with events going on today and figure out how close we are to the end times. But that’s only one aspect of watching. There are three:

  1. Watching for Christ’s return
  2. Watching yourself
  3. Watching for wolves in the flock

Each aspect of watching is vital for us as followers of Jesus Christ. We need all three and we need to balance them. If we only focus on watching for Christ’s return, we can get so caught up in the future that we neglect what God wants us to do in the present. If we only watch ourselves, we can miss important things going in on the world and the church. And if we only watch for people who may cause problems, we can become suspicious, judgmental, and self-righteous.

Watch, Keep Alert, Pray

When Jesus’ disciples asked about the end times, the first thing He said was, “Be careful that no one leads you astray” (Mark 13:5, WEB). This is one of the main reasons we need to watch ourselves and the situation around us. The closer we get to Christ’s second coming, the harder it gets to stay on-track for His kingdom.

“Watch yourselves,” Christ says, and don’t be afraid of the challenges coming to try and shake your faith. Watch for the things He has warned us of before hand so you’re not deceived by “false Christs and false prophets.” Watch, because you are like servants waiting up for their master’s arrival (Mark 13:9-13, 21-23, 34-37).

But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is. (Mark. 13:32-33, WEB)

When we look at all the instructions to watch recorded in Mark 13, it reveals how all three watchings we talked about are tied together. You can’t do one without the others, at least not effectively. This passage also reinforces how vital watching is for followers of Christ as we draw ever closer to His return. Read more

What Does Your Soul Love? book review

Whenever I discover a new resource for helping us “find our true selves in the people God created us to be,” I like to make sure I share it with you. One of the most recent I’ve come across is What Does Your Soul Love? Eight Questions That Reveal God’s Work In You by Gem and Alan Fadling.

This is a book about discovering who you are by learning about how God is working inside you. I requested an ARC (advance review copy) through NetGalley because I thought it might be interesting. I wasn’t expecting it to make me think so much or encourage spiritual transformation and personal growth at such a deep level.

The authors ask readers a series of eight questions designed to cultivate “deeper awareness and soul focus.”

  1. What do you really want?
  2. What is getting in your way?
  3. Where are you hiding?
  4. What is most real to you?
  5. How are you suffering?
  6. What are you afraid of?
  7. What are you clinging to?
  8. What does your soul love?

With each chapter, they discuss a core aspect of who we are deep down inside. Desire, resistance, vulnerability, truth, pain, fear, control, joy – how we experience and relate to these things has a huge impact on who we are as people. As the chapters unfold, the Fadlings discuss each topic in depth and invite us to think about change in these areas as something that happens inwardly as a result of God’s work in us rather than as outward changes we need to try and make ourselves.

Reading this book has already inspired two posts on this blog: “Am I Living A Flesh Life Or A Spirit Life?” and “There’s Only One Sovereign, And It Isn’t Me.” I really like books that make me think about something so deeply that I’m inspired to write about it. I’ve already talked about some of my favorite quotes from this book in those posts, so I won’t go over them again. There are a few others I want to share with you, though:

“We don’t change so that we’ll be loved more by God. We are measurelessly loved by God, so we are free and enabled to change in all the ways we long for.”

“The first step toward peace is to accept what is. Notice I didn’t say condone what is; I said, accept what is. We must become people who acknowledge what is actually going on.”

“Obedience and confidence go together. When I go my own way, I go alone. When I walk with God, I go forward in good company.” — all quotes by Gem and Alan Fadling from What Does Your Soul Love?

That’s just a tiny sample of the nuggets of wisdom in this book. I really liked most of the content and it prompted me to think deeply about the personal growth work I’ve been doing lately. The book also includes exercises and reflection questions at the end of each chapter, which were hit-and-miss for me personally. Some were extremely helpful while others fell-flat.

I also didn’t resonate with many (though not all) of the authors’ personal examples and found myself skimming over them a few times. However, that was more of a personal preference than an issue with the book. Overall, I found the questions, content, and perspective on growth offered in What Does Your Soul Love? challenging in all the best ways. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in spiritual growth and development.


What Does Your Soul Love? comes out on September 17th. Click here to pre-order a copy of this book. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means that at no additional cost to you I’ll receive a small commission if you clock on the link and place an order.

My thanks to InterVarsity Press, Gem and Alan Fadling, and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

How To Find Peace With What God Expects: Learning From Moses’ Five Questions

Have you ever heard someone say that if you’re doing what God wants you to do you’ll know because you’ll have peace with it? This is one of those Christian-ish sayings that sounds good at first, but doesn’t always hold up to more rigorous scrutiny.

Take Moses for example. When God called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt Moses did not feel peace with this mission. In fact, he tried to talk God out of picking him five times in this conversation. I find it interesting that God wasn’t angry with the fact that Moses didn’t have a peace with his calling at first. The Lord only got angry when Moses begged Him to send someone else.

God doesn’t need us to feel like we can handle what He asks us to do (He’ll help us out with that). He just needs us to be willing to trust where He’s leading and walk forward with Him. That’s part of what His responses to Moses’ five questions can teach us.

First Question

Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11, WEB)

It’s a reasonable question, one we would expect from the man later described as “very humble, more than all the men who were on the surface of the earth” (Num. 12:3, WEB). In fact, if Moses was the sort of person who thought he was perfectly qualified and able to do this God probably wouldn’t have chosen Him. Our Lord has a practice of choosing “the lowly things of the world … that no flesh should glory before God” (1 Cor. 1:28, 29, WEB).

He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Ex. 3:12, WEB)

God’s answer to the human question, “Who am I?” is “I will be with you.” It’s not about who we are when we’re called to do something for God. It’s about who He is and His power to work in and through humble, teachable people. Read more

How Do I Convince People They’re Wrong and God Is Right?

The world seems like it’s going crazy. Looking around at what’s going on brings to mind Bible verses like “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” and “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Jud. 17:6; Ps. 36:1). Not only do people reject God, but they reject the entire idea of absolute morality as well, opting for a subjective, situational version that can change moment-to-moment and person-to-person.

In the midst of this, many Christians want to fight for and defend the truth of our faith. We want to show the world they’re wrong and prove that God is right. We think that to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered,” we need to offer logical, scientifically supported, convincing arguments to counter the lies running rampant in our culture.

But I don’t think we’re going to convince many people that God’s word is the truth (rather than just one of many truths) by arguing with them. There’s definitely a place for apologetics, and people with the knowledge and expertise to enter debates and stand up for truth are invaluable. In general, though, I question whether telling people how wrong they are and what they need to change is a good first step for introducing them to the faith.

If we start out by lecturing people about how much God hates their sin or how wrong they are about ideas they hold dear, why would they react any way other than defensively? And if they don’t acknowledge God as real yet, why would we expect them to care what we say He wants them to do?

Keeping Your Audience In Mind

God’s truth doesn’t change with the times. But those who are wise keep their audiences in mind when they speak the truth. When Paul spoke to Jews in Antioch, he knew his already religious audience could best be reached by using scriptures to prove Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah (Acts 13:14-41). When he preached to people in Athens without any Biblical background, however, he started by talking about who God is and why we should care. He even quoted one of their own philosophers as part of his argument (Acts 17:18-31). Tailoring the message to fit his audience was a deliberate, conscious choice that Paul made. Read more