I’ve Got That Joy

January 14, 2023 by  
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By Elaine James –

Merrily I sang, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart…”

“Why didn’t I sing this song sooner?” I wondered. Earlier that day I was plowing through a big writing assignment. My back, neckand arms all were aching, not to mention my brain was fried. I was about to give up. “Dear God, I’m not a writer. What am I trying to do here? I can’t do this. God I like to speak and act but this writing thing is hard. Help me.”

The Bible teaches us that Nehemiah went through the ups and downs of life just like us. He loved God and noticed the destruction of the wall in Jerusalem. God’s gracious hand was on Nehemiah as he went through a process to complete the reconstruction of the wall. After the Israelites had completed the wall, Nehemiah gathered the people to hear Ezra, the teacher of Law, read the book of the Law of Moses.

The Israelites heard the Word, lifted their hands and responded with weeping and mourning. “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV).

Are you wondering how that song came to me? It popped in my head after I finally prayed. A still voice in my mind responded “Dear Elaine, I see your struggle. Thanks for coming to me; I know the way to help you. Here is a song that has been deep in your heart.”

Occasionally we have struggles in our daily lives. When we slow down and take the time to read God’s word and listen to His counsel then we are quiet enough so He can renew us with His strength and joy. When I did that I got back on track.

I learned I need to ask myself an important question: Why do I speak, act and write? You can ask yourself the same question “Why do I …….?”

My answer was found by praying, reading the word, worshipping and giving thanks.

The result was a song from my heart…I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart.

PRAYER: Help me to remember that my joy and strength come from you. Amen.

Dazzled

December 11, 2022 by  
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By Elaine James –

Take a moment and remember a time when you were outside in the pitch black of the night and saw the amazing sky in all of its vastness. Did you lie down and look up and really take in the vastness of the sky? You couldn’t help but say “God you did all this.”

A friend asked a friend to lie down on the ground in Wyoming so they could stargaze. One spoke up with amazement in his voice and asked, “Why did God create so many stars and make the universe so vast?!”

The other replied, “Because God wants to dazzle you.”

Long ago, God, who is the intelligent designer, created the heavens and the earth. He is an amazing artist who has a ginormous love for us. He created the world with such intricacy. Awesome! I am challenged to be still and know that God is God. I use the word challenged because there is such urgency in my mind to be task-orientated that I struggle with time management. I can only imagine that you might struggle with this as well.

In this New Year I want to start out remembering the times where I was overcome viewing His starry sky. After all I just heard the Christmas story and was dazzled by the star that rose after Jesus was born (Matthew 2).

Imagine if everyone decided to start out their New Year with the starry Christmas night still in their heart and images of their last starry gaze in that special place. Slowly take a deep breath in and let it out with a prayer “God, take hold of my hand, here we go into the New Year, I don’t want to do this year without you.”

“And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:14-18 NIV).

The Bible & Reincarnation

November 26, 2022 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Warren M Mueller  –

Is there any evidence in the Bible that supports reincarnation? I recently met a person who claims that Matthew 11:14 supports the idea that at least some people are reincarnated. In this verse, Jesus says that John the Baptist is Elijah or Elias and therefore, John is either the resurrected or reincarnated prophet. Since Elijah was taken bodily up to heaven, he presumably never died and so John could not be the resurrected prophet (2 Ki 2:11). His mother was Elizabeth, a relative of Mary (Lk 1: 36, 57-60) and he was special even from birth being filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:15). Jesus said that there was nobody greater than John the Baptist ever born which certainly would put him in an exceptional class with Elijah the prophet (Mt 11:11). Mark and Luke both attribute prophetic verses from the old testament prophets Malachi and Isaiah to John the Baptist as the messenger who prepares the way for the return of the Lord Almighty (Mal 3:1; Is 40:3). So is the literal sense of Mt 11:14 what Jesus meant?

Some of the Jewish priests wondered who John the Baptist was and asked him if he was Elijah. John said he was not Elijah (Jn 1:21) which clearly conflicts with the literal sense of Mt 11:14. During the transfiguration of Jesus, Elijah and Moses appear and talk to Jesus who is changed such that “his clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” (Mk 9:3, NIV) Peter is present and offers to set up three shelters for each of them Jesus, Moses and Elijah.(Mk 9:5) This event happened after the death of John the Baptist so if he was Elijah reincarnated, why didn’t Peter and the others recognize him as John? Also, after the transfiguration, the three disciples ask Jesus why the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come before the Lord. In Mk 9:12, Jesus responds to their question and affirms that Elijah does come before the restoration of God’s kingdom. This is fulfilled in the appearance of Elijah before the death and resurrection of Jesus which establishes the kingdom of God on earth inside of believers (Jn 3:3; 1 Cor 6:19). The appearance of Elijah at the transfiguration of Jesus could also fulfill Mal 4:5 which predicted that Elijah would return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Jesus continues in Mk 9:13 to explain that John the Baptist is the Elijah that has come and suffered. John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets who were rejected and suffered at the hands of the kings and priests of Israel. Therefore, these verses describe both the return of the Old Testament prophet Elijah (at the time of the transfiguration) and John the Baptist as the last forerunner of the kingdom of God and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reincarnation is not supported by the Bible which teaches that each person lives once and then is judged by God to determine eternal life in heaven or hell (Heb 9:27; 2Co 5:8; Rev 20:11-21:4). Jesus and Paul taught that every legal matter should be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Mt 18:16; 2Co 13:1). The diety of Jesus was witnessed by both Elijahs at the baptism of Jesus and his transformation. Jesus taught that faith in him leads to perfection and unity with God, not multiple human life experiences (Mt 14:6).

Ave Maria

November 12, 2022 by  
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By Cheri Cowell –

The Ave Maria is one of the oldest and most popular Catholic prayers, and is perhaps one of the most beautiful of Christmas hymns. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) is of unknown origin; it was not officially incorporated into the liturgy (as part of the Rosary) until the 15th Century. It is composed of two distinct parts, a Scriptural part and an intercessory prayer.

The first part, the Scriptural part, is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke and joins together the words of the Angel Gabriel with Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. The joining of these two passages can be found as early as the fifth and perhaps even the fourth century in the eastern liturgies. The opening word of the greetings translated “Hail,” literally has the meaning “rejoice” or “be glad.” The second half of the prayer (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.) can be traced back to the 15th century where it first appeared in print after the Council of Trent.

Ave Maria has been set to music many times but its most famous version is that of Franz Schubert, who wrote it at age 27 for Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake. According to Schubert, his friends were surprised at the deeply devotional character of the Ave Maria. Explained Schubert, “I think the reason for this is that I never force myself into devotion or compose hymns of prayers unless I am truly overpowered by the feeling; that alone is true devotion.”

PRAYER: Dear God, as Schubert, Elizabeth, and Mary did, I fall in adoration and am overcome by devotion at the gift You’ve given us in Christ. Today I stand amazed in how You used a frightened little girl to deliver the Christ child, and today You continue to use anyone who, like Mary, will humble themselves to be a vessel of the Most High God. May I be such a person.

“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” “In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”” (Luke 1:28, 42 NIV).

Joy to the World

November 5, 2022 by  
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By Cheri Cowell –

Descriptives such as “Genius” and “father of English hymnody” have been showered upon Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the author of “Joy to the World!” Only one other English-language hymn writer, Charles Wesley, is seriously compared to Watts. A nonconformist pastor and author of about 60 books and 700 hymns, Watts is most remembered for the extraordinary hymns, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Our God Our Help in Ages Past,” and the Christmas favorite “Joy to the World!”

First published in Watts’ 1719 work, The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, “Joy” was a paraphrase of the second part of Psalm 98. Originally the opening line read, “Joy to the earth,” but eventually the better term “world” entirely supplanted “earth.” Both words and music joyfully proclaim the birth of Jesus. Of all the sacred carols, “Joy” is perhaps the most positive and uplifting declaration of the message of Christmas. The exclamation point almost universally inserted by carol editors after the initial line, “Joy to the world!” powerfully punctuates the exhilarating effect this carol has had for the past century and a half. As you read the Scripture today that his carol is based upon, may your heart sing with Joy!

PRAYER: Lord, I make room today in my heart to receive The King. Help me remove the busyness and the worry I often focus on this time of year, and instead focus on the wonders of His love.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:4-9 NIV).

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