Joy Full or Joy Less?

Pastor Joy Full walked through her living room thinking about the paradox of her name.  She had married John Full just before he left to go to Iraq.  He was only there for two months when she got the official visit.  He had been killed by a sniper in the line of duty.  The ‘line of duty’ made it sound okay, but it wasn’t okay.  In point of fact, nothing was okay.

She fell on the big leather chair that John had picked out before he deployed.  She shook her head.  Jesus was supposed to be enough, but right now, today, He was as distant as John’s memory. Once again, she spoke her name.  Joy Full.   Her name did not suggest who she had become.  She should have been married John Less or John Empty, then things would have lined up with who she is today.

Her husband had been so full of life; so like his name.  He loved the Lord with all His heart and he loved her passionately.  It was some comfort to know that He was enjoying life with the Heavenly Father.  It should have pulled her toward Father, but she hadn’t wanted to visit Him in the Throne Room lately.  She held him responsible.  How could He let this happen?

Joy knew that Father God didn’t cause John to die, but the Truth was not setting her free tonight.  She was due at the church in an hour for the Tuesday night prayer meeting.  The group spent more time talking about people than praying.  She chided herself for not being a better leader.  She knew the faithful would show up but she just could not face it.  Sue Ellen had a key.  She wouldn’t be missed.

She rubbed the arm of the brown leather chair.  “I miss you, John.”  She burst into tears!  She picked up her jacket, threw a few things in a suitcase, stopped by the bank and took out $1000 leaving a small balance.  After she had filled the car with gas she started driving.  She didn’t know where she was going, but she was fleeing her home, the church, and the pain.  She turned on the CD  player.  An old friend of the family, a pastor from her hometown, was teaching.  She had always found his voice soothing.  His Scripture was Proverbs 3:5, 6.  It was her life verse.

5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

As she drove, tears rolled down her cheeks.  The ache in her heart, that she had ignored for these last two years, spread until she was sobbing uncontrollably.  She pulled off at a rest area and parked a good distance from the other cars.  She put the seat back and gave in.  She screamed at God.  “How could you?  I have lived my life for you!  How could you let this happen?”  Joy gasped for air, “John loved you and he loved me.  We served you!”  The rant went on for some time.  When she stopped, she listened but Father God was silent.

From complete exhaustion laid her head back and slept fitfully for thirty minutes.  She resumed driving.  Once she crossed the state line, she began to look for a place to spend the night and checked into a small roadside inn, paid in cash, and went straight to bed.

In the quiet of the morning, she saw the Gideon Bible on the night stand and she opened it.  It fell to Proverbs 3.  She smiled and breathed a sigh.  Her heavenly Father was letting her know that He hadn’t forgotten her.   “I know you heard me, Father,” she said.

She knelt on the floor by the bed and asked for permission to enter His Presence in the name of her big Brother, Jesus.  She crawled upon her Heavenly Father’s lap and poured out her heart.  She surrendered it all.  She gave Him the pain, the rejection, the loneliness, the emptiness, and her broken heart.  She told Him that she was sorry and that she knew that she would not heal until she gave up her right to this pain and the feeling that she was justified in holding on to it.

As she waited in His Presence, a sense of relief and joy began to fill her heart.  She recognized the grace and mercy of the Father’s love flooding her very being.  How foolish it had been to resist Him.  She knew that she would always miss John but the miracle of God’s love and mercy had pulled the stinger out of the pain.  She could release her hold on John and give him to the One who loves Him even more than she.

Pastor Joy Full felt God’s joy and for the first time in a long time, she was glad that John had blessed her with such a wonderful name.

Today’s Lesson:  In real life, the issues sometimes take longer to resolve, but when we fully release that which holds us to our Abba Father, (Daddy), then He takes the pieces and puts them together and we find ourselves even more complete and whole.  Joy is not the absence of suffering but the Presence of the Lord.

What holds you today?  What is it that you feel justified in nursing and rehearsing over and over again.  What is your private obsession?

Confirming Scriptures:

 

Psalm 77:1 – 6

1I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

3I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

4Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.

6I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

 

 

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Minister of Death

The Pastor stood up in the pulpit.  He was a strikingly good looking man his hair graying a bit and a wonderful resonating voice.  He looked out over his congregation still reeling from the last counseling session is his office the day before.  How could anyone be so involved in so many sinful things?  He just didn’t understand.  Images had penetrated his mind that he just couldn’t shake.  He took a deep breath and began.

After an hour of coming against sin and admonishing everyone, by reminding them that every sin led to death, he begged them to give up anything in their lives that would cause them to come to judgment.  His own heart ached at the things he sometimes thought about.  He told them that “lust led to more lust, anger to more anger, dishonesty to more dishonesty, envy and strife to confusion and every evil work.”  He diagnosed their condition, but gave them no remedy.

He was quite worked up and the people sat in shock!  Their pastor had never before been so forceful.  Everyone sat in the pew, condemned and without hope.

This well intentioned pastor was a “minister of death.”

Today’s lesson:  When we try to be good enough, there is always someone to point out that our efforts are futile.  It is a misery that shows us exactly why God gave us the Law.   It is a bit like the diet started on Monday morning.  After you eat something that is not in the plan you just think, “Well, I blew it, I may as well finish that cake I made for the family.”

The purpose of the rules of the Law was to teach us that we can’t do it on our own.  All of our attempts, at keeping the whole Law,  end in frustration and disappointment.    Lifting up sin never leads us to freedom.  The Bible tells us that when we lift up Jesus, He will draw all of us to Him.

The pastor drew no one to the Lord that day.  He showed them their utter hopelessness without the Lord of Love.  His own sin loomed bigger and bigger as he spoke the words of judgment and condemnation over his listeners.

Jesus offers us grace which produces life.  Our job – our work is to believe on Jesus that God sent.  (John 6:29)  Our work is believing.  His work is doing in us what needs to be done.  Believing and trusting in Him sets us free.

So, do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death?  Telling people all that they have done wrong never changes them.  We are told in Scripture that “the goodness of God leads people to repentance.”  Rom 2:4.  Repentance is a Bible word that means change.  It is turning away and turning around.  We look to Jesus instead of our sin.  We look to the Father instead of our own personal strength and ability.  We trust it all to Him.

As we turn to Him, His life – the ‘zoe’ life of God – grows bigger in us and we become freer and freer.

Why does the church minister death?  The Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”  (Galatians 1:6, 7)  This precious pastor never meant to lead people to a different gospel and a different Christ, but ‘there are some who want to trouble us and pervert the gospel.’  There is a demonic realm that interferes with us and we must be ever vigilant.  He wants to steal our freedom and put us back under condemnation.

There is only one Gospel.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Grace and  Love.  It is not about our sin.  It is about how He purchased us out of sin with His own blood and lavished His grace upon us.  Now we share with Him all of theblessings that Father God has provided for us.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live!’  Duet 30:19  It is a generational promise!