Joy takes center stage at Christmas. We sing Joy to the World, we call it a season of joy and we celebrate the night when an angel of the Lord brought shepherds “good news of great joy.” What is joy? John Piper rightly says, “According to the Bible joy is a good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ through his word and his world.” On this 4th Sunday of Advent we consider 3 reasons, revealed in Psalm 98 and verse 4 of Joy to the World, why beholding Christ awakens joy in us. If there is room for more joy in your soul today, these Jesus-exalting realities may be just what you need.
The 3rd verse of Joy to the World is probably the least known verse. Often when we sing the song, it’s left out altogether. Verse 3 is distinct from the other verses because it doesn’t take its inspiration from Psalm 98, but rather Genesis 3 – the curse. But it does take the form of a Psalm: the first 2 lines are a plea to God Himself, and the second 2 lines are a promise from God to His people. What is your plea to God today? And what is His promise, into that plea? In this world we will have troubles, but take heart! Jesus has overcome the world. And that is cause for true joy.
Our present technology and culture allow for efficient multitasking. We successfully implement it almost everywhere but worship. Isaac Watts saw long ago what we still see today: a struggle to maintain focus in our designated times for praise. He, like the Psalmist in Psalm 98, calls for more than singing; he calls for internalization of songs. As the world around us sings for joy, we are to do the same, knowing that the One who reigns is sovereign, but also benevolent; a Savior who gave Himself so that we can lose an eternity of separation and gain an eternity of relationship.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s arrive with many reminders that things are not as they should be. Relational tension, loss of a loved one, loneliness, inner struggles and conflict in the world around us are all causes for grief. The title and focus of this message comes from the truth declared in verse 1 of Joy to the World by Isaac Watts, who knew his share of pain. 300 years ago, Watts discovered the truths in Psalm 98 and wrote Joy to the World intending to direct his generation to the glorious and triumphant coming of our Lord. This message will encourage you to prepare Him room and avail yourself to His joy this Advent season and beyond.
There are two ways to live life. We can live with God, love one another, love our neighbors and serve according to our divine purpose with joy and peace even in the midst of opposition. Or, we can live with jealousy, fear and anger while still considering ourselves religious. In our message today these two ways are contrasted in the lives of the apostle Peter and the high priest Caiaphas. Why was Peter able to serve with love and joy even when thrown in prison and beaten? The answer to this question is revealed in Peter’s words to Caiaphas. It is also the secret for living the life God created for us today.
All of us, no matter our status of faith, encounter times when it seems Jesus is far away. In this post-resurrection account, we find two travelers literally experiencing just that. Suddenly Jesus himself appears and as he walks with them, unbeknownst to them, Jesus listens to their hopes and dreams and disappointment, revealing a pattern […]
Our cultural default and the tradition of America is to be completely in control and to live out our dreams. The culture in Jesus’ day was to live “in-control” in a religious sense – full of prim-and-proper religiosity. When Jesus is asked a question about fasting, He replies with a veiled correction followed by 2 mini-parables that almost seem out of place, but after examination, highlight how humanity’s need for control and the familiar has to be given up if one is to have real, deep, intimate relationship with God. Jesus Himself perfectly demonstrated this, maybe no more tangibly and beautifully than in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Did you know that you are uniquely made to bless others in the family of God? Are you clear on how God has created you to serve the body of Christ? This week we explore this reality so that we can all pursue serving in the right roles for the right reasons. Once we discover […]
Do you ever wonder how some people are able to gladly sacrifice so much to honor God and love others? If we could discover their fuel for joyful obedience maybe we could do the same. In these twin parables Jesus reveals that there is a treasure available to all of us that is so wonderful […]
The Prodigal Son just may be the best short story ever told. It’s incredibly concise, yet has both deep sorrow and joy in the midst of scandal and strained relationships. As we look at each of the story’s three characters in succession, it’s obvious that the one thing even more extravagant than the younger son’s self-indulgence, is the Father’s self-sacrificing love. Yet it’s all lost on the older son at the end […]