What is the connection between joy and strength?

You hear it among Christians: “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” But what on earth does that mean?

In the darkness of trouble, when life seems devoid of answers; the better we engage with God’s Word, the more we attempt to understand it, the more comfort from God we will find. God’s word to us is not just reading but understanding. Read with prayer. It will at times rebuke us. It will at times encourage us. But in the end, it will always bring us joy because the source of joy and the secret for obtaining strength is from Jesus.

The expression “joy of the LORD” is a joy that can only be experienced through fellowship with God. And that fellowship brings about a God-induced gladness as we communicate with our Creator. God is a Person of incredible love, beauty and gladness. He is not a morose God. The Father’s heart is one of restoration from darkness and joy when we return to Him.

So what is the connection between joy and strength? In our everyday life, when we experience something that brings us joy it is exhilarating. It is just the opposite when experiencing pain. It is depressing. I am not talking about self-indulgent pleasure. Solomon clearly advises us that self-indulgent pleasure is nothing more that “chasing after the wind,” or as the KJV states: “vanities of vanities.” The Divine joy that gives strength is that joy that is found side by side with chronic pain or even at the point of a martyr’s death. The joy is not the end to itself but the way to being strong in the face of intense adversity. Divine joy is not self-indulgent but is looking to “send some [needed provisions] to those who have nothing.” Divine joy finds expression in giving to the widows, fatherless and the strangers. Joy is God’s strength in action.

The joy of the Lord is our strength when following after holiness. It is the want of this which makes many of us so slow in our progress in spiritual things. Let us ask God for more joy—joy to give us strength to do and to suffer for Him, strength to follow after and be made like Him, strength to trust Him at all times and look to Him in all circumstances, as Nehemiah did.” [Bishop Maclagan, Penny Pulpit, No. 597]

Not True

We are forgetful critters. We are eager to make our case with God but often forget to acknowledge Him with thankfulness. We cannot give Him anything but our hearts. We can only give Him what we acknowledge in our hearts to be rightfully His. And this can only be done in submission. We can perform the greatest acts of solemn worship but if we are doing it our way and not under God’s guidance then it is performance and not true worship.

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” [Proverbs 3:6] There are two great dangers in life: One is our utter dependence upon human counselors who are fallible and two, the deceitfulness of our own hearts. “The beginning of all wisdom is in the recognition of God, in personal submission to Him, in diligent obedience to all His directions.” [The Bible Illustrator] God wants us to be on the right path. He wants us to understand that we need to begin, continue and end everything we do in plans and work, with Him. When we take our own path, we are choosing self sufficiency and self dependence. From Adam until today, the grand plan of all men everywhere is to endeavor to live independently of God. Case in point right here on our doorstep: we are doing our best as a society to divorce God from our country.

Wisdom teaches that we can only find peace inside His standard of living. His standard for living is learned only by learning the practical surrender to His ways. The laws that govern our known universe are the laws of set in motion by the Creator. Everything inorganic known to man moves according to a law set in motion for that inorganic object at its creation. Wisdom of this world may bring us gold and precious stones. They can be put into the grave with us but they are not allowed beyond the grave. They cannot follow our eternal destiny. Human derived wisdom laughs at God-things and believes that if he does the right thing he will probably get to the “light.” And even if you do wrong and it causes yours or someone else’s death, a popular show on TV will convince you that there will be a second chance to make things right and eventually someone earthly who can hear and speak with you will sort it all out and you will be able to go into the ‘light.’

When God encourages us “in all our ways acknowledge Him” He is not talking about some flimsy theoretical acknowledgement. He is talking about engaging our whole being and all of our energies. When we are about to take on something, do we stop and ascertain whether it is in accordance with his Word? That is the first step. That takes an act of will on our part. When God promises that if we consider by reflecting on Him and what He has told us first [Matthew 6:33] then He will level out our path, in all things earthly and spiritual.   The prophet Jeremiah said that “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” [Jeremiah 10:23]

“In all your ways acknowledge Him” … comprehend every action we do with our mind, body, soul and spirit from the perspective of when we are face to face with the eternal God.

Another Wisdom

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [ESV]

There is wisdom that a man needs in order to just get along in this world. It that same wisdom as the book title claims: All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, published twenty-five years ago by Robert Fulghum. It has become a simple credo known around the world. It is the wisdom of the world that says that the only real confidence is self-confidence. It claims that we are the creators of our own futures and therefore we must lean on our own understanding. Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating that we not use the grey matter that God has given us. He expects us to plan with discretion. He expects us to use our heads in our living out life. We mistakenly prop up ourselves with our own wisdom. What God expects is for us to use a companion wisdom that we learn to depend on as an overriding protection. Left to our own wisdom, we do an incredibly poor job of practicing unconditional love, unbiased justice and non-situational righteousness. [Jer 9:24]

The real issue is that we fail to comprehend on our own the limits of our wisdom. History and science teach us over and over again the foolishness of leaning only on our own understanding. We also fail, without input from our Creator, to understand how brief our live is with its corresponding experience. It is impossible to drawn right conclusions that go beyond our experience and life-span.

There is another wisdom that has eternal value, which puts us in right relationship with our creator. It realizes that self-confidence goes only so far. This is the wisdom that only can come from listening to God and not our own understanding. If we say that we ‘trust God’ then He understands it to mean that we depend on Him for everything that we need and preserving us from evil. The judgment calls that we exercise in our hearts are the result of our being persuaded that God is the only object of confidence. We learn to become more and more satisfied with His power and faithfulness. Everything in our minds that contradicts God promise, that needs to be condemned.

“Not in a creature, the best, the holiest, and the highest;

Not in any creature enjoyment, as riches, strength, and wisdom;

Nor in any outward privilege, arising from natural descent and education;

Not in a man’s self, in his own heart, which is deceitful;

Nor in any works of righteousness done by him;

Not in a profession of religion, or the duties of it, ever so well performed;

Not in frames, nor in graces, and the exercise of them;

No, not in faith or trust itself: but in the Lord, the object of all grace, and in him only;

In Jehovah the Father, as the God of nature and providence, for all temporal blessings;

And as the God of all grace, for all spiritual blessings, and all the needful supplies of grace;

And for eternal happiness, which he has provided, promised, and freely gives.

Trust in him at all times…” John Gill, Exposition of the Bible

Why are so many Christians Depressed?

Suicidal depression … the invisible killer.

Unshakable Hope

Depression, even among Christians, seems to be rampant today; it’s as if some kind of emotional black plague has crept into the Church.

I read several blog posts and articles every day, but last week was strange; virtually every day I found myself reading posts and articles written by or about Christians battling depression. But by far the most heart-wrenching news of last week (regarding the impact of depression on Christians) wasn’t found on a blog or in a news article; it was a phone call from a close friend telling us about a friend that had committed suicide.

The young man that committed suicide was named Jordan and he was a very talented artist and musician and, more importantly, he was a Christian. (You can see one of his music videos hereand his testimony video here). From what he says in the testimony video, Jordan had battled…

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Lets talk about fear

Fear and love are mutual enemies. We cannot love God with all of our heart when we live in fear.

Can I talk about fear? You know, the kind of fear that surrounds us when we are up against the unknown. When I hear folks say they live in fear I just want to get out my magic wand and make it all better. Ahhhh. If only life were so simple!

As you and I read the Scriptures, we hear God pleading, we hear God admonishing, we hear God commanding us and hear God calling us to trust Him. I have noticed that if I am not too willing to trust God for the circumstance then I feel as if God is nagging me. God is really good at getting our attention. If we engage in His Word every day, we are sure to hear every single day in some form, to not be afraid. God’s deepest desire is for us to simply trust Him in everything. He stands at the door of our heart gently knocking and whispering: “It is I! Be not afraid!” [John 6:20]

You and I both know from experience that the Christian life is a constant battle between fear and trust. And God is not shy about telling us that we are going to experience two extremes fighting a war for dominance: anxiety vs. trust, and doubt vs. confidence.

Here is the challenge for you and I. We must learn [and continue to learn our whole lives] to not be shaken with fear. We must learn to not allow fear to seize our hearts and minds. If we do, it causes us to not believe God, or His Word. Luke 1:74 says that God wants us “to serve Him without fear all of our days.” Fear and love are mutual enemies. We cannot love God with all of our heart when we live in fear. God talks much about fear. He knows that it is an issue in our hearts. The word “fear” is used 385 times in the Bible [depending on the translation]. God expects us to understand the ramifications of fear left unchecked in our lives.

When you and I allow fear to be dominate in our lives, we cannot have faith. Faith will never grow in our lives. But what will grow in our lives is a trend downward. It begins with doubt, progresses to worry and then develops into fear. Think of it this way: Fear is faith in reverse. It is believing the words of Satan over the Word of God. That is the definition of spiritual fear: Believing Satan over God. Fear destroys the promises of God in our lives. Matthew 13: 58 (ESV): “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” There are no mighty works of great deliverance when unbelief dominates our thoughts and attitudes. Satan gets the de facto glory and the Lord Jesus Christ is relegated to the side lines of our life.

You and I can pray and search for discernment but until we are willing to relinquish our fear, we in effect binding God in chains. Fear always leads us to the altar of unbelief. Fear always builds unbelief. Unbelief is the root and essence of all sin. Unbelief always causes the heart to fall away from the living God.

For a more in-depth discussion of fear and its effect on you and I, check out this excellent article by Timothy A. Rowe titled:

Conquering Fear, Worry and Anxiety With Unshakeable Faith found at his blog site:


Life’s Key

Someone asked me recently a good question: How is a person’s righteous life is portrayed and or protected with the Word of God?” 

For me, there are two cap-stone statements in the Word of God that encapsulate what God sets as the standard of righteousness. Psalm 1 and Mark 12: 29-32 seems to be two of most concise statements in the Bible for understanding for what God sees as being righteous. What men make up as being righteous is just that … what men make up. It has no bearing on the real eternal standard that can only be set by our Creator. Jesus said at one point in His ministry to some religious leaders “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” [Mark 7:8] How much time we spend reading and studying the Bible, how much we volunteer in the church, whether we lead a home group or not, how much we pray or how much we give; these are all gauges set by people to judge other people and make ourselves feel better or more important or more righteous.

To me the question is never “how much” religious works am I doing but rather “how engaged” am I with Jesus. Is my focus on the expectations of Jesus or religious people?

According to Psalm 1 there are only two ways of living: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. God makes it clear throughout the Scriptures that it is the distinctness of God’s Word is to bring to life in the believer righteous as God expects. Two great principles are revealed: (1) the importance and absolute focus on the Scripture, and (2) the necessity for our character to be changed, our stability to be founded on God’s Word; it is all about who makes the Scriptures the core of our lives.

Our lives reflect either negatively or positively how we respond to God, our spouses, our children, our co-workers and our neighbors. Check out the use of stark contrasts. The writer of this Psalm emphasizes by contrast, what we ought not to be doing to what the godly [righteous] do. There are only two ways of living. We can live stable lives and bless others or we can live unstably and face judgment for our choice. The choices we make each and every day reflect either negatively or positively our character and destiny.

There is lots of wisdom to be gained in listening to what God tells us. Psalm 1 declares in just a few words some of the most basic but profound truths about the standard of righteous as set by God. How do you measure up?


…we’ve been given the privilege to suffer and to learn through theses same trials so that we can become Christ’s ambassadors. What an awesome calling!

I have thought about our legacy that we all leave. Too many men in the church are not considering the influence that their lives have on their wives, children, extended family, co-workers and fellow believers. How often do we consider our words and actions and their effect now and in the future. It’s the endgame of our lives that speaks so much into our legacy. That’s why I named this blog The End Game. Remember the Super Bowl last year? It was a well fought game but  it is the endgame that most of us will always remember.
This morning God got me to thinking about my end game again and took me to a verse I would’ve never gone to on my own, thinking about legacy. There are two types of legacy. The first legacy is the one we default to in our thinking when the word comes up in conversation. This legacy leaves some sort of valued material defined in a will. It can only be accessed here on earth. The second legacy is one that is only available in God’s eternal kingdom. It is a legacy consisting in people. It is a legacy defined in how lives change.
The only true, ‘lasting forever’ type of legacy that I can leave to my family and my friends and those that God put in my path, is what I share of Jesus with them. As I allow God to mature me through different trials of faith, I become better and better equipped to share the reality of Jesus with others. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me [Jesus] and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart [the core of his inner being] will flow rivers of living water.’”” ‭‭ ‭
Proverbs tell us that “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” So as I share with people I need to go to the well of living water to be refreshed myself. When I do, I can refresh others. The mechanics of legacy is found in the very first part of Paul second letter to the church at Corinth. They were under much persecution.  Paul starts his letter off by speaking about the God of comfort, “…who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” ‭‭ I can only find one way that God expands and establishes his kingdom on earth and that is through the church which is you and I. So we’ve been given the privilege to suffer and to learn through theses same trials so that we can become Christ’s ambassadors. What an awesome calling!
We are not perfect but we have the opportunity to be faithful. That is why I am greatly encouraged to meet with fellow believers over coffee. As Jesus teaches me and matures me I am given the opportunity to commit to faithful men “who will be able to teach others also.” The kingdom of God is all about a great legacy-building journey.
What is your legacy?