Joy to the World

Joy to the World is one of the most beloved Christmas hymns worldwide and is one of my personal favorites.

I took a few moments the other day to do a Google search regarding the origin of this song and was not only amazed at what I found, but what I learned about myself.

I learned that despite thinking of myself as someone who pays attention to the lyrics of songs as I sing them, that I’m not always that type of person. Joy to the World is one example of this.

Because we sing this song at Christmastime I automatically assumed that the song lyrics bring in elements of the Christmas story as well as paint a picture of the joy of Christmas. I couldn’t be further from the truth. Go ahead and read through the song lyrics below and then I’ll give you a link to follow that leads to a page that gives some background to the song that will most likely communicate truths that you haven’t thought of before.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love;
And wonders of His love;
And wonders, wonders of His love.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Now that you have the song lyrics fresh in your mind, go ahead and click here to learn more about this great song. The great thing about what you’ll learn, at least from my perspective, is that the song is a perfect advent song that goes well with the theme of waiting for the return of Christ. Enjoy!

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Advent Art

Today I wanted to encourage you to consider God’s love by the use of a piece of artwork. To be honest, I struggled to find something meaningful, and then I stumbled upon a blog post that I thought was well worth the read. So below is the painting and if you click here you can go to the blog post specific to that piece of art and be encouraged by how God’s love is a never-ending kind of love.

jn796_milagrotrinityheart_web

 

No More Drifting

img_4766The picture to the left is of something that my wife has draped over a chair in our bedroom. It was a gift to her from a good friend.

This caught my attention a couple of days ago as I’ve been focused on the theme of hope in our first week of advent this year.

So I took some time to look at the verse in a variety of versions and then realized that I wanted/needed to read the whole chapter and even more to gain a better understanding of what the author was trying to communicate.

Below is a look at four verses that include verse 19. I encourage you to read at least all of Hebrews 6 to get an idea of the bigger picture. Go ahead and read these verses below and then I’ll share a few brief thoughts.

Among men it is customary to swear by something greater than themselves. And if a statement is confirmed by an oath, that is the end of all quibbling. So in this matter, God, wishing to show beyond doubt that his plan was unchangeable, confirmed it with an oath. So that by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world might have a source of strength, and might grasp the hope that he holds out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself in Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf, having become, as we have seen, “High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”. ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭6:16-19‬ ‭(Phillips)

I love how in the first couple of verses the author is reminding us that we can trust God, who has proven himself faithful and trustworthy. And because of this, when God offers us hope in His Messiah, Jesus, we can find strength in that.

Verse 19, the part that is in bold above, pumps me up each time I read it. When I think of an anchor in use I see a boat that is unable to drift about in the sea. The anchor gives the boat security regardless of what’s going on around it.

That’s the kind of hope we have for our lives. We don’t have to wonder if God will keep His promises. There’s no need to fear. Our hope is secure. He’s given us His word. You see, God promises to make all things new, even us. And He’s proven it by raising Jesus from the dead. We too can be fully hopeful that God will resurrect us when Jesus returns in the same way so that we can enjoy how God has made all things new.

Remember, this is hardly scratching the surface of what is available to us in these verses, but it’s a start. So glad that God continues to communicate his purpose and plan to us so clearly through the Scriptures.

What captures your attention in these verses?

Advent Hymn

I have recently come across this great new song by artist Christy Nockels called Advent Hymn. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and hope that you do too.

The first two lines of the chorus go well with the theme of hope that we’ve been looking at together this week.

So here I wait in hope of you
All my soul’s longing through and through

These simple phrases do a great job of capturing my heart these days as I enjoy this journey of advent this year. Now, more than ever, I’m eagerly waiting in hope for Christ to return.

The third verse captures my attention each time I hear it. Take a look and then I’ll share some simple thoughts:

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Until your love in me is born
And joyless is the evening song
Until Emmanuel has come

I realize that this song could be sung from both advent perspectives…awaiting the celebration of the birth of Jesus or awaiting his return. For me, I’ve noticed lately the darkness that comes when I go my own way as opposed to leaning into God’s way of doing things. So this idea that darkness rises with the sun in the mornings until we choose to embrace and live out the love of God is absolutely true.

And so I found myself today realizing that each morning and moment by moment throughout the day I want God’s love to be born in me.

A Living Hope: It’s All Because of Jesus

plus-a-living-hope

Yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, I wrote a very brief introduction to the season of Advent and the journey that I am on. The passage of Scripture I focused on in that post, 1 Peter 1:3-5, is below. I simply highlighted and talked about the two words, Living Hope.

Today, I’d like to take a closer look at the first part of this passage that is bold and italicized below to see what we can discover about the importance of this living hope and how it can help us to focus on and anticipate Jesus’ second advent.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

The Apostle Peter, who was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, begins by making a simple statement of praise and blessing to God. As simple as this may be, it’s a great reminder to us today that from Peter’s perspective the one true God was both God and Father of Jesus.

Peter goes on to talk about God’s great mercy, his kindness, love, and father’s heart all wrapped together,  leading God to give us something that no one else could ever give…new birth into a living hope. At first glance this sounds a bit like something that is too good to be true, even if a complete understanding of its meaning is just out of our reach. It certainly doesn’t sound like anything that I can do on my own, or that I can earn or deserve in any way. And so, in many ways, that’s why it’s such an incredible gift from God.

What helps me to understand this idea of being given new birth into a living hope is understanding that God did this through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This phrase reminds me of the title of a Fee song called, It’s All Because of Jesus I’m Alive. That song title speaks such truth, especially in light of this verse. Jesus’ death was the pinnacle of his faithfulness to God. Therefore, God required nothing more from him and so he was given all authority and is now king, the head of the new humanity, and those who walk in faithfulness to him get to be a part of this new humanity.

The Apostle Paul writes about this incredible faithfulness of Jesus in Ephesians 3:12 (NET)…we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness. Our hope is that a faithful Creator will bring us back to life, just like Jesus. Consider these few verses below:

20b But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. 21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. – 1 Peter 2:20b-23 (NET)

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good. – 1 Peter 4:19 (NET)

So here’s to entrusting our souls, our very lives, to a faithful Creator who offers us not only new birth into a living hope that has implications right now, but, as we will see in the next day or so, is directly related to the promise of immortality and a place in the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns.

The “YES” Challenge

 My wife and I have been enjoying the opportunity to attend a parenting seminar this weekend focused on the topic of connecting with our children. It’s been an amazing time to reflect, learn and resolve to change. 

One of the speakers was sharing their story with us and casually put a challenge out to all of us to go an entire day responding with a “yes” when our kids ask us if they can do or have something, as much as it’s possible. It’s a challenge to refrain from saying “no.”

I’m game for a challenge. So I can’t wait to give it a try when I’m with my children tomorrow. I’m not expecting it to be easy, however I can see how there could be some great benefits to turning my answers and responses to a “yes” for both my kids as well as myself. 

Now, the reason why I say this isn’t easy for me is because I have allowed myself to get in the habit of saying “no” to my kids for my own benefit and because of my own selfishness. I feel like I’m starting each day by telling my kids “no” before they even ask me a question. Quite honestly I’m surprised they even direct their questions to me because of how often I say “no.”

The more I think about it, the more I’m saddened for my kiddos. I desperately want them to hear me say “yes” more often and I never want them to get tired of asking me questions because they know that 9 times out of 10 my answer will be “no.”

So I am devoted to giving this one day challenge a try with the hopes that it will spill over into the next day, and the next, and the next until it becomes a new habit. 

How about you? Is this challenge something that would be helpful for your parenting journey?

Current Question

  A week or so ago I had the incredible opportunity to enjoy a retreat for an entire day at Kavanna House. During the first part of the day I was given a couple of hours to be present with God focused around the idea that God loves me. Sounds simple, right? True, but those two hours went by so fast and in the midst of it all Gof surprised me.

As I spent time considering all the ways that God loved me, I began to think about how Jesus was God’s perfect picture of love. His life demonstrated how to genuinely love people. He made it look so easy, but that has not been the case for me. Which led me to the question: 

Why is it so stinkin’ hard to love?

Today, and probably for the next few days, if not longer, I’m going to sit with this question and invite God  to help me answer it honestly. I want to dig deep so that I’m able to uncover the reasons why this is so hard. I’m convinced that this will be an opportunity to allow God to bring healing to areas of my life that I may not have considered previously. 

What about you? Is this a question that you need to consider today?