Joy in the Journey

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So two days ago I was making my morning commute to work.  I glanced at the fuel gauge as I pulled out of the driveway and knew that it was pretty low.  I don’t have a fancy fuel light that comes on when I need to get gasoline, I just have to estimate how far I can make it on what I have left.  Usually if the needle moves a bit, I can go for another ten or fifteen miles.  An imperfect system, I know.  It jiggled as I backed out of the driveway, so I figured that I could make it to the gas station near my work where the gas was about 12 cents cheaper than by my house.  With an eighteen gallon tank, that’s a savings of $2.16!

Down the road I went, sliding around the slower drivers, making it through the school zones and talking to God.  Usually in the mornings I pray as I drive.  It is a quiet place and I have about a 40 minute commute so I like to start my day laying out my requests before God.

This particular morning I was praying about having joy and contentment in all circumstances. Some of my favorite verses on joy and contentment were running through my mind:

  • James 1:2-3Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…
  • Philippians 4: 4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Philippians 4:12:  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Just about the time that I thought about being content in every situation, my engine started to sputter.  There is always a moment of panic when your vehicle stops doing what it is supposed to do.  Of course I knew that I was running out of gas, but part of me rebelled at that idea.  Hadn’t I just seen the needle jiggle as I backed out of my driveway?  I knew there was a gas station just up the road on the left hand side, but I didn’t know if I could make it.  I put my truck in neutral and coasted some of the way in the hopes that I could coax a few extra seconds out of the fumes still in the tank.  I came around the corner and there stood the gas station, shining like a beacon on hill.  Unfortunately, there also stood a line of cars; traffic was backed up at the red light so there was no way I was going to make it.

As my truck gasped its final last breath,  I pulled over into the turn lane in the break in the median (the road I was on has two lanes on each side with a median in between.)  I jumped out of the truck, locked the doors, looked both ways and crossed the street, heading for the gas station.

It struck me as funny.  Here I was praying for joy and contentment in all circumstances when my truck ran out of gas.  As I walked up the hill to the gas station, i began thanking God for the opportunity to take a walk on such a sunny and beautiful morning.  I thanked him that I had a little cash in my pocket to go buy a gas can and a gallon of gas.  I thanked him that I broke down within walking distance of a gas station.  I thanked him that I had left a little early that morning and would still make it to work on time.  I thanked him for the blog material and story to tell my class that morning.  I thanked him for his perfect timing and his sense of humor.

Basically, I kept on praying just as I had before my trials and troubles started.

To make a long story short, my savings of $2.18 that I anticipated turned into about $11.70 spent.  I walked to the gas station, bought an $8 gas can because the clerk didn’t have one to loan me, filled it up with a gallon of even more expensive gas than the gas by my house and began the walk of shame back down the hill to my truck.  I threw the now empty gas can back in the truck and started it up.  I pulled back into traffic and went on my merry way to work.  My misadventure really only took about 15 minutes of my time.

So what is the point?

Just this, continue to praise God in all of life’s crazy circumstances.  This time it was my fault, next time it may be someone else’s fault.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we serve a God that loves us and we should rejoice in good times and bad.  If we allow our circumstances to dictate our moods it makes for some tough sledding.  If we let the joy of the Lord be our strength and trust his guiding hand we will find that his joy is enough to carry us through this crazy thing called life.

 

 

Do You Have The “Jesus Spirit?”

So the other day I was riding with my daughter and son in my truck.  I have a little truck so we were all riding together with my daughter in the middle and my son beside her.  We pulled into a fast food restaurant to grab some breakfast on the way to where we were going.  After I ordered I pulled around to the second window as instructed.  When the window opened and the total was announced, I handed my cash to the lady inside.  There she promptly handed me my change and then I heard my daughters voice in my right ear.  “She doesn’t have the Jesus Spirit, Dad.”  I turned to look at her and said, “What?”  My daughter says, “That lady in there doesn’t have the Jesus Spirit.”  Insightful, clever guy that I am, I had an idea of what she was referring to, but I asked, “How can you tell?”

Gracie replied, “You can just see by the look on her face, she doesn’t have Jesus in her life.”

Wow.  Out of the mouths of babes.

We pulled away with a fresh order of French toast sticks, sticky syrup and chocolate milk in hand, and my mind started working. 

You see sometimes it takes the untainted and unjaded vision of a child to notice the obvious.  Now I’ve never worked at a fast food drive through window, so I have no idea what this ladies story was.  But I do know that she looked like she wasn’t particularly excited with her station in life.  

We all know people that walk around with an expression that is a cross between sucking on a lemon and smelling a really foul odor.  You know the ones I am talking about.  People they write country songs about.  If you asked they would tell you everything that is wrong with their life, their truck, their dog, their job, etc.  (No offense country musicians and listeners, I like country music, really, I do.)  Maybe they are like Eeyore, the sad donkey from Winnie the Pooh.  His catch phrase is “Oh bother.”  He shuffles about with his head down, moving as if carrying a tremendous burden and with a general acceptance that nothing good will ever come his way and that’s just the way it is.  I believe you could say that people like this just don’t have the Jesus Spirit. 

So my question to you is this:  “Do you have the Jesus Spirit?” I ask that question of myself too, although I ask myself do I show Jesus to others with my spirit?

I will be the first to admit that this world is a tough place.  This past year in particular has been tremendously trying for a lot of people.  The economy is down; unemployment is up, a new type of potentially deadly flu epidemic lurks, sweeping changes in government, just to name a few.  However, should any of that cause us to not radiate Christ from within? 

No matter what happens on the outside of me,

I still have Jesus living inside of me. 

No matter what this world throws at me,

I still have a future that is secure. 

No matter what gets taken away from me,

I know that I am storing up treasures in heaven

that cannot be wrestled from the grasp

of the One who holds them there for me.

So why should my face show anything else?  If I am called to be different, to be salt and light to this world, then my face and demeanor better show it.  Like I said before, your life should demand an explanation.  Your face tells a story for all to read.  It is an open book every single day.  Whether you mean to or not you reflect what is inside of you by the way you look and carry yourself. 

So I ask you again, “Do you have the Jesus Spirit written on your face?

If not, think about what you have been given by Him and put it there!

To Rejoice is a Command!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

Don’t let the word “rejoice” which is a happy sounding word, or the exclamation point fool you.  This verse is a command.  It is an order.  It is not a suggestion or a guideline.  It was meant to be followed.  Just as God doesn’t suggest that we don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, he doesn’t suggest that we rejoice. It is so important, Paul writes it twice.

So why is it that most of the Christians that you and I are around are beaten down, harried, frustrated, grumpy people?  In fact they rarely look any different from anyone else we meet.  How would you characterize yourself?  Does the light of Jesus shine from within you and resonate out to others?  Or do you wear a scowl and a frown and carry the burdens of life firmly attached to your back? 

One of my favorite features on my wife is her radiant face.  She has a beautiful smile that can light up a room.  Have you ever seen someone whose smile transforms his or her whole countenance?  That is my wife.  When she smiles you can see it from ear to ear and forehead to chin.  She positively lights up.  This is also her default mode.  More times than not this is how she looks.  She radiates Christ’s love for her from the inside out.  As believers, that is what we are all called to do. 

A good definition for rejoice, is to feel or show great joy or delight.  Let me ask you this, dear child of God, has He given you anything to be joyful about or delight in?  

If so then to rejoice is to think on those things!

Why does God command us to rejoice?  I believe the answer can be found in the name we go by.  Christians.  What is a Christian?  It is one who follows Christ.  To take it one step further, it is someone who has traded in his or her old self for a new self that resembles Christ.  When Jesus redeems us, we begin a transformation process.  This process starts to change us so that we become like Him.  I had a textbook called Conformed to His Image.  That is what we should strive for.  We should try to do everything we can to become more and more like Jesus.  You are what the world sees when they see Jesus.  This is your witness. 

So think about this for a minute.  Right now in heaven, what do you think Jesus is doing?  Is He weighed down because of everything going wrong here on earth?  Is He worried because He has that big showdown coming up with Satan and wishes He could just get it over with?  Maybe He is anxious because only the Father knows when Jesus is returning and Jesus just doesn’t like that, He wants to be able to plan for that day.  Do any of these scenarios seem “Christlike” to you?  They don’t to me.  I picture Jesus as radiant, full of joy, rejoicing in the Father’s presence.  I think He is the embodiment of rejoicing.  So if I am to be like Jesus, then why don’t I rejoice? 

I think like so much of the Christian walk, the command to rejoice comes down to us making a choice.  Either we will obey Him and rejoice, or we will not.  Those are the options.  Now I realize that life is hard.  There are things going on in your life that I don’t even know about.  Guess what, I have those things too.  I struggle with things that could overwhelm me if I let them.  But I also have been bought and paid for by a great big God.  In fact, the things He has done for me and the promise of the future that I have in Him makes my little problems now pale in comparison.

So getting back to the original question of why worry is so much a part of our makeup, the answer is because we haven’t let go of who we were and embraced who we are meant to be.  We are not called to be consumed with worry and anxiousness over this world.  We are called to show this world who we are now and what we have become.  We are called to show others why we are able to handle this world and that is because we are merely getting ready for the one to come.  Everything we do here has a lasting eternal impact, both for ourselves and for those around us. We are called to be an impact to the world as imitators of Christ.  We are called to be different, changed and to point others to what we have found.