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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Always....really?

Glad:  Feeling pleasure, delighted, and full of joy.  Most of us cannot say we go through the day with a sense of gladness 100% of the time.  In fact, if we were honest with ourselves and others, we'd admit to the fact there a whole lot of things and people in this world that don't delight us, don't produce much pleasure for us, and certainly don't leave us with much of a sense of joy.  When you factor in these things or people, it seems almost impossible to take it seriously when someone says we are to "always" be glad!  Always is a pretty long time, is it not?  Always is suggestive of some kind of permanent condition.  In a sense, it is more than a period in time - it is a consistent way of thinking which affects our "view" of all we face in life.  Ummmm....how's it going for you?  Have you arrived at the "always" point in your life yet?  If you are like the rest of us, you'd probably have to admit to some sense of disappointment, dissatisfaction, or "dis-pleasure" with life on occasion.  We just don't "remain" in a place of "gladness" all the time.  The issue is not that we don't have this 'pleasure' capability, but we don't recognize it is based on who resides within, not the things or people on the outside!

Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad. Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here. Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.  (Philippians 4:4-7 CEV)

Our gladness is simply because of the one who dwells within - Christ Jesus himself.  We are to be glad (find pleasure, be delighted in/with, and filled with joy) because of Christ Jesus - nothing else will ever measure up, so nothing else should be our "measure"!  When we find Jesus as the center of our enjoyment, we find the ability to "remain joyful" is easier than when we are counting on something or someone else.  Why?  It is simply because they cannot ever be "perfect" and anything less than perfection will somehow produce opportunity for displeasure.

See the progression Paul outlines for us in terms of our "always" versus "occasional" actions:

- Be glad because of the Lord.  It is almost impossible to think upon Jesus and all he has done on our behalf without also experiencing some of the joy and delight his intense love for us creates within.  We can consider a whole lot of things in life, but nothing quite fills our minds, hearts, and emotions quite the same way as it does when we are thinking about and communing with Jesus.  There is something akin to feeling a warm glow of a fire which happens within.  Our minds get settled, our emotions get brought back to balance, and our hearts begin to sense a little bit of peace.  

- Be gentle with others.  When Christ is first in our lives, the gentleness by which we treat others will be evident.  I think this directly related to the peace he brings into our lives, the sense of belonging he gives us, and the deep sense of value he demonstrates for us in having chosen us to be his family.  To consider his grace is to be filled with incredible joy - for all we deserved was judgment and condemnation - yet what we received was a clean slate and a new start.  If this doesn't produce joy within, I don't know what will.  In this same gentle way Christ has embraced us, we are to embrace others - with grace-filled hearts.

- Be prayerful and thankful as we wait for the Lord to act.  I think this is where most of us lose out on our "gladness".  We equate waiting with God somehow not caring or maybe us not being "good enough" to see him move on our behalf.  When gladness is based upon the circumstances we face rather than the one who is walking with us through those circumstances, we will always fall short of being truly joy-filled and glad within those circumstances.  Prayer connects us with God's heart.  Thanksgiving brings our heart and minds into agreement.  Our minds and hearts can be filled with many things, but nothing draws us closer to the heart of God than to be filled with gratefulness and pleasure about the many blessings he has already bestowed in our lives.  We may not see the immediate result of our prayers, but the thankfulness we exhibit reveals our willingness to trust God with not only our past, but with our present and future.

- Be blessed with peace nobody can completely understand.  The outcome of the other three "be's" is this idea of peace which nobody can really fully understand - it passes the comprehension of human thinking because it is divine in nature!  It is not our peace, but Christ's peace permeating the very fibers of our being.  We may never know this peace on our own - it is only as we are prepared to be drawn into his presence, finding pleasure in his love and grace, that we begin to experience this kind of overwhelming sense of peacefulness within.  For most of us, it isn't that we lack peace, it is that we never allow the peace to bring a peacefulness within.  We have the person of peace within (Christ Jesus), but we don't let his embrace bring us into fullness of joy and peace.

- Be willing to allow the peace you have within to begin to affect the way you think and feel. Most of us realize how we think affects the way we feel.  When we begin to think upon what is available to us in Christ Jesus, we begin to see the feelings align with what we are thinking upon.  In essence, joy or gladness is not so much an "emotion" as it is the recognition of the presence of the person of peace within us.  We are allowing the peacefulness of Christ to invade our ways of thinking which in turn invade our emotions (the response we have to our thoughts).

We don't control life - nor does life control us.  Life wants to invade our peace and steal our joy.  Christ wants to control our lives, so our peace and joy are full to the brim.  When this is the case, we can move from the "periodic" into the "always" phase of living life with gladness and joy - finding extreme pleasure in life simply because of who it is who walks with us through it!. Just sayin!