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Jesus once said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. Matthew 7:13-14

I continue to be amazed at the dichotomies in the Christian life. We are told to follow this itinerant preacher who came on the scene from virtually nowhere, spent a few years here on earth and then was brutally murdered. His 12 closest followers all met the same fate, as did 1,000’s since then.

Who, in their right mind would agree to a proposal to follow a life in which you will have no pillow for your head, you’ll be ridiculed, and live in constant danger of death.

Yet, as the Psalmist writes, His will is where I want to be. If I follow his will completely I will stare adversity in the face. If I follow his teachings I will be labeled intolerant, out of touch with reality, and a whole lot of other social labels.

Still, regardless of all the external realities, He offers a peace and joy that nothing else can measure up to. His way will not be the easiest. His way will not be the most popular. But his way offers me something the world can never give me, nor take away. Peace. So, as Job said, ‘Even though he slay me, yet will I trust him’.

When I was in high school I worked at the local grocery store with a friend. We were typical high school kids that, from time to time, didn’t put our best efforts forward on the job. This was especially true when the boss was gone.

Now, of course, I’ve realized that in some ways it’s more important to work hard when the boss isn’t around than when he’s present.

Paul is encouraging his congregation in Philippi to continue the work he started with increased energy, not because they needed to do so for their salvation. That was sealed with the Holy Spirit. Rather, he was encouraging them to work hard to show those who had not believed that what they had in Jesus was the real thing.

If you truly believe in the benefits of knowing Jesus, live it fresh every day. We have a tendency to grow lukewarm in our faith over time. Perhaps you’ve seen it. A newborn believer is excited about Jesus and unafraid to tell the world. We ‘veterans’ tend to be more laid back.

Don’t let the fire die! Keep the flame of gratitude for all Jesus has done burning brightly in your daily life. It won’t make you a ‘better Christian’ but is will show others that Jesus is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to you…you do believe that, right?

Your passions drive your actions. When your actions revolve around yourself, (your own comfort; your own desires; your own strengths) your passions are focused inward and your joy is dependent on fulfilling those passions. When you are passionate about Jesus Christ your joy is not based on yourself but on the realization that Jesus is passionate about you. Your actions are based on Your mutual love for each other. Jesus is passionate about you and he wants you to be passionate about him. That’s why he said if you love me, if you’re passionate about me, If your desire is for me, then you will naturally to have the things that I have promised you.

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Psalm 33:21 (NIV)

Father, I rejoice in you today because I can trust you. In an era when trust is hard to find I know I can always come to you and find you.

I know that you will be the same every time I seek you. Your love for me doesn’t change when I rebel against you. Your forgiveness is free for the asking even when my attitude isn’t right.

There are many around me who make claims about the great things they will accomplish, but their words are hollow. When you say something will happen, I know it will be just as you say.

Times change. People change. Yet the principles you set at the foundation of the world remain solid and secure because you have spoken it.

I rejoice in the many blessings you have given us.

I rejoice in the gift of family, of the love between a man and a woman, of the miracle of new birth, of the proud smile of a grandparent as they hold the assurance of their posterity.

I rejoice in the gift of friendships that encourage us to move on, allow us to cry on their shoulders, support us even when they don’t agree with us, and comfort us when we mourn.

I rejoice in your Holy Word, the Bible, for in it we have simple truths that lead us to eternal life along with principles for living that will guide us through the most difficult of times.

I rejoice in your gift of diversity. Just as no snowflake is alike, my world is full of different colors, different people, different cultures and different traditions. All these join together to testify to your greatness.

Most of all, Holy Father, I rejoice in your name. A name tells us about character and integrity. Your name, Jehovah, never changes and has withstood the attacks of time.

And I rejoice in that name that is above all names. The name that brings hope, forgiveness, understanding and patience. The name of your son, Christ Jesus my Lord.


But you have made me very happy, happier than they are, even with all their grain and new wine. Psalm 4:7(NCV)

With 2012 now upon us many look back over the past year and reminisce about the highlights and the challenges; our victories and our failures; those things we can take pride in and those that bring shame and remorse; events and people that make us happy and those that still conjure up feelings of anger and hate.

Nearly all of us are looking to the horizon and wonder how the economic and political climate will affect our lives. Some are battling the pain of physical illness or relational distress.

So where is the ‘happy’ in ‘Happy New Year’? How much would you give today in order to assure yourself that 2012 will indeed be a ‘happy’ new year? No doubt you’d say, “Well, I’d give all I had for that assurance! But no one can promise that.”

To a certain point, of course, you would be correct. There are no guarantees in life. But because of the grace offered to us by Jesus Christ there are guarantees we can take to the bank, so to speak.

Psalm four is referred to as an evening song. It was a song that was often sung at the end of the day. A song that, in a sense would lead the singer to reflect back over the past day. He would reflect on the good and the bad events as well the joyful and the stressful ones.

Verse 7 is the climax of the song. The Psalmist comes to the conclusion that he is happier with what God has given him than anyone around him who is blessed with the most prosperous life.

How can he make such a statement? First of all he is reminded of the source of true joy and happiness. That source is God, through Jesus Christ. The prosperity of the world is empty and fleeting. But, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He isn’t changed by circumstances, political upheaval, natural disaster or physical adversity. He alone is the source of our happiness.

Secondly, the Psalmist reminds himself (and us) that the joy God gives is for today. He doesn’t say ‘You will’ or ‘You did in the past’. He states plainly, You ‘have’. Present tense. For today, not tomorrow or some point in the future.

Thirdly, and this may be the most important, the Psalmist reminds us of the location or the seat of our hope and joy. Again, contrary to human wisdom, we are reminded that true joy, happiness and hope comes from within. It’s in our hearts. You can take my home. You can take my health. You can take my career and my financial stability. But you can’t take what’s inside me.

Lastly, our hope and joy is superior to anything the world can offer either through ‘new religious experiences, political change or social action. Think of it! The best that the world can offer us is like scraps from the table of God. There is nothing on earth that compares to what God has given us through Jesus Christ.

The Grace, mercy and forgiveness we have through him is better than having all the latest toys, the biggest house on the block, the best grades or the corner office. All that is fleeting and temporal. But the hope we have will last for the new year and for all eternity.

The joy of the world can make us look happy, but the joy of the Lord affects the heart.

Thomas Watson once said, “There is as much difference between heavenly comforts and earthly, as between a banquet that is eaten, and one that is painted on the wall.”

PRAYER: Lord God, as we enter into this New Year there are rumblings on the political and economic fronts. We don’t know what natural disasters await us. Thank you for the hope we have in you through Jesus Christ. Empower me with your Spirit to live according that hope. Let me live in such a way that others will be encouraged along the way by the hope they see in me. Amen.

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