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Doug Butler

We typically are looking for a maximal return with minimal investment.  It is in surrender to our current set of circumstances assuming that they will never change but determining to respond to them as best we can that we will begin to experience the ever-present presence and help of God.  There are many who are afraid to surrender things to God

n      Holding tightly to past hurts as if you were the only person in the world who were ever cheated or hurt or swindled . . .

n      Holding tightly to intellectual pride, convinced that the act of trusting regardless of the realities of life is merely frivolous or escapist

n      Holding tightly to the secrecy of concealed sin which causes you to assume that everyone else in the world is a criminal because you may know yourself to be one

Many of the virtues of the Christian life are qualities that may never be called forth except in times of testing.

What are some action principles that you can offer the people?

If you want to find the fruit you need to get out on the limb.

Joy is a totally unnatural response in this world.  Uninhibited joy is something that I look forward to expressing when I stand before Him and no longer have any reputation to protect or any dignity to preserve.

I want to know Him and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.

If I have to guarantee your comfort – don’t come.  If I have to guarantee your safety – don’t come.  If I have to guarantee that you will be better off by coming then stay at home.

Kaufmann Kohler states in the Jewish Encyclopedia that no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as does Hebrew. In the Old Testament thirteen Hebrew roots, found in twenty-seven different words, are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship. Hebrew religious ritual demonstrates God as the source of joy. In contrast to the rituals of other faiths of the East, Israelite worship was essentially a joyous proclamation and celebration. The good Israelite regarded the act of thanking God as the supreme joy of his life.  Pure joy is joy in God as both its source and object.  The psalmist says, "Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore". (Psalm 16:11)

The Lord desired that His people take Him seriously but that they not take themselves too seriously.  He wants them to wipe off their grim looks, put smiles on their faces, and let laughter flow from their lips.  In light of this counsel, many of us would do well to ponder these comments from the pen of Helmut Thielicke:

   Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as are the line of care and seriousness?  Is it only earnestness that is baptized?  Is laughter pagan?  We have already allowed too much that is good to be lost to the church and cast many pearls before swine.  A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toastmasters.

Christians, it is your duty not only to be good, but to shine; and, of all the lights which you kindle on the face, joy will reach farthest out to sea, where troubled mariners are seeking the shore. Even in your deepest grieves, rejoice in God. As waves phosphoresce, let joys flash from the swing of the sorrows of your souls.

n      Beecher

C.H. Spurgeon in his book Lectures to my Students has some wise, if caustic, advice.  "Sepulchral tones may fit a man to be an undertaker, but Lazarus is not called out of his grave by hollow moans."  "I know brethren who from head to foot, in garb, tone, manner, necktie and boots are so utterly parsonic that no particle of manhood is visible.... Some men appear to have a white cravat twisted round their souls, their manhood is throttled with that starched rag." "An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living."  "I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; not levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven in his face than by one who bears death in his looks."

See:  Prov 15:30

She was famous among her friends for her happy attitude toward life.  No one every heard her sitting back complaining over the darkness of her days.  A friend in England thought she knew the reason Miss Crosby could be so happy and brave and she wrote the following:

   Sweet blind singer across the sea,

   Tuneful and jubilant, how can it be?

   That the songs of gladness, which float so far,

   As if it fell from the evening star.

   Are the notes of one who never may see visible music of

   flowers and tree?

   How can she sing in the dark like this?

   What is her fountain of light and bliss?

   Her heart can see, her heart can see!

   May long she sing so joyously!

   For the Lord himself in his tender grace

   Hath shown her the brightness of his face.

Happiness is caused by things that happen around me, and circumstances will mar it; but joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition. It is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring the world can't see and doesn't know anything about. The Lord gives his people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to him.

   Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899)

I have met people so empty of joy that when I clasped their frosty fingertips it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only the clinging touch of a child's hand, but there is as much potential sunshine in it for me as there is in a loving glance for others.

   Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968)

Joy has something within itself that is beyond joy and sorrow. This something is called blessedness ... is asked for and promised in the Bible. It makes the joy of life possible in pleasure and pain, in happiness and unhappiness, in ecstasy and sorrow. Where there is joy, there is fulfillment. And where there is fulfillment, there is joy.

   Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886-1965)

Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing. It is the reverse of happiness. Happiness is the result of what happens of an agreeable sort. Joy has its springs deep down inside. And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens. Only Jesus gives that joy. He had joy, singing its music within, even under the shadow of the cross.

   Samuel Dickey Gordon (1859-1936)

True joy is not a thing of moods, not a capricious emotion, tied to fluctuating experiences. It is a state and condition of the soul. It survives through pain and sorrow and, like a subterranean spring, waters the whole life. It is intimately allied and bound up with love and goodness, and so is deeply rooted in the life of God.

   Rufus Matthew Jones (1863-1948)

Dr. Viktor Frankl, author of the book Man's Search for Meaning, was imprisoned by the Nazis in World War II because he was a Jew. His wife, his children, and his parents were all killed in the holocaust.

   The Gestapo made him strip. He stood there totally naked. As they cut away his wedding band, Viktor said to himself "You can take away my wife, you can take away my children, you can strip me of my clothes and my freedom, but there is one thing no person can ever take away from me--and that is my freedom to choose how I will react to what happens to me!" Even under the most difficult of circumstances, happiness is a choice which transforms our tragedies into triumph.

If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.

   W. Beran Wolfe

1. Make little things bother you: don't just let them, make them!

 2. Lose your perspective of things, and keep it lost. Don't put first things first.

 3. Get yourself a good worry--one about which you cannot do anything but worry.

 4. Be a perfectionist: condemn yourself and others for not achieving perfection.

 5. Be right, always right, perfectly right all the time. Be the only one who is right, and be rigid about your rightness.

 6. Don't trust or believe people, or accept them at anything but their worst and weakest. Be suspicious. Impute ulterior motives to them.

 7. Always compare yourself unfavorably to others, which is the guarantee of instant misery.

 8. Take personally, with a chip on your shoulder, everything that happens to you that you don't like.

 9. Don't give yourself wholeheartedly or enthusiastically to anyone or to anything.

 10. Make happiness the aim of your life instead of bracing for life's barbs through a "bitter with the sweet" philosophy.

   Use this prescription regularly for awhile and you will be guaranteed unhappiness.

   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 281.

Helen Keller was deaf and blind from an incurable childhood disease. Anne Sullivan taught her to read through her senses of touch, smell, and taste. At the end of her autobiography Helen Keller says:

   Fate--silent, pitiless--bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is undisciplined and passionate, but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness." So I try to make the light in other people's eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness.

   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 283-284.

This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

   George Bernard Shaw

   --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 284.

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What the real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven--a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.

n      Screwtape (C.S. Lewis), The Screwtape Letters. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 2.

I do not know why so much of mainline Protestantism has become a joyless religion. Perhaps we are more impressed by the problems of the world than by the power of God. Perhaps we have become so secular that we indeed think that now everything depends on us; that surely ought to make us depressed. Perhaps we have simply gotten bored with a boring God whom we substituted for the God of the Bible.

   We sometimes sing the Doxology as if it were a dirge. Even the Eucharist, despite the words of the Great Thanksgiving, is rarely the thankful, joyous foretaste of the Great Banquet with the One who triumphed over Death, but mostly a mournful occasion for introspection. A joyless Christianity is as clear a sign that something is amiss as a dirty church.

n      Leander Keck in The Church Confident. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 1.

I have a friend who radiates joy, not because his life is easy, but because he habitually recognizes God's presence in the midst of all human suffering, his own as well as others'. ... My friend's joy is contagious. The more I am with him, the more I catch glimpses of the sun shining through the clouds. Yes, I know there is a sun, even though the skies are covered with clouds. While my friend always spoke about the sun, I kept speaking about the clouds, until one day I realized that it was the sun that allowed me to see the clouds.

   Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.

   -- Henri J. Nouwen in Here and Now: Living in the Spirit. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 13.

The Choice by Max Lucado 1 of 3

{1 Thessalonians 5:16-18}

He placed one scoop of clay upon another until a form lay lifeless on the ground.  All of the garden's inhabitants paused to witness the event.  Hawks hovered.  Giraffes stretched.  Trees bowed.  Butterflies paused on petals and watched.

"You will love me, nature," God said.  "I made you that way.  You will obey me universe.  For you are destined to do so.  You will reflect my glory, skies, for that is how you were created.  But this one will be like me. This one will be able to choose."

All was silent as the Creator reached into Himself and removed something yet unseen.  A seed.  "It's called 'choice'.  The seed of choice."

Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless form.  An angel spoke, "But what if he...."

"What if he chooses not to love?" the Creator finished. "Come, I will show you."

Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the realm of tomorrow.  "There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and bitter."

The angel gasped at what he saw.  Spontaneous love.  Voluntary devotion. Chosen tenderness.  Never had he seen anything like these.  He felt the love of the Adams.  He heard the joy of Eve and her daughters.  He saw the food and marveled at the warmth.

"Heaven has never seen such beauty, my Lord.  Truly, this is your greatest creation."

"Ah, but you've only seen the sweet.  Now witness the bitter."

A stench enveloped the pair.  The angel turned in horror and proclaimed, "what is it?"  The Creator spoke only one word:

"Selfishness."  The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of repugnance.  Never had he seen such filth.  Rotten hearts.  Ruptured promises.  Forgotten loyalties.  Children of the creation wandering blindly in lonely labyrinths.

"This is the result of the choice?"  the angel asked.


"They will forget you?"

 "They will reject you?"


"They will never come back?"

"Some will.  Most won't."

"What will make them listen?"

The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future, until He stood by a tree.  A tree that would be fashioned into a cradle.  Even then, He could smell the hay that would surround Him.

With another step into the future, He paused before another tree.  It stood alone, a stubborn ruler of a bald hill.  The trunk was thick, the wood was strong.  Stony brow of another hill.  And soon He would be mounted on it. He felt the wood rub against a back he did not wear.

"Would you go down there?" the angel asked

"I will."

"Is there no other way?"

"There isn't"

"Wouldn't it be easier to not plant the seed?  Wouldn't it be easier to not give the choice?" "It would," the Creator spoke slowly. "But to remove the choice is to remove the love."

He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene.  Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread.  Heads fallen forward.  They moaned with the wind. Men clad in soldiers' garb sat on the ground near the trio.  They played games in the dirt and laughed.  Men clad in religion stood

off to one side. They smiled.  Arrogant, cocky.  They had protected God, they thought, by killing this false one.  Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill.. Speechless.  Faces tear-streaked.  Eyes downward.  One put her arm around another and tried to lead her away.  She wouldn't leave.  " I will stay," she said softly.  "I will stay."

All heaven stood to fight.  All nature rose to rescue.  All eternity poised to protect.  But the Creator gave no command. "It must be done..."  He said, and withdrew.  But as he stepped back in time, He heard the cry that He would someday scream:  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  He wrenched at tomorrow's agony.

The angel spoke again.  "It would be less painful..."

 The Creator interrupted softly.  "But it wouldn't be love."  They stepped into the Garden again.  The Maker looked earnestly at the clay creation.  A monsoon of love swelled up within Him.  God's form bent over the sculptured face and breathed.  Dust stirred on the lips of the new one The chest rose, cracking the red mud.  The cheeks freshened.  A finger moved and an eye opened.

But more incredible than the moving of flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the unseen gasped.  Perhaps it was the wind who said if first.  Perhaps what the stars saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since.  Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it:  "it looks like... it appears so much is Him!"

The angel wasn't speaking of the face, the features, or the body.  He was looking inside--at the soul. "It's eternal!" gasped another.  Within the man, God had placed a divine seed.  A seed of his self.  The God of might had created, not a creature, but another creator.  And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return.

Have there ever been times in your life when you doubted God's power?  Surely if he was the God who made the heavens and the earth, how could he allow my friend to die?  How could He allow millions to starve every night? Isn't God suppose to be almighty?

Let's stop blaming God and blame ourselves.  He spared not even Himself to bring about the salvation of man.  He knew that He could lose us and yet created us.  The most beautiful of all is that He gave us a choice to love Him because He first loved us.

The choice is ours.  We have to choose God first before we can fall under the protection of  His wings of love.  Is there an area in your life where you need to choose God over something or someone else?  He chose the painful path and has been patiently waiting for you to choose Him.  It's your turn now.

It’s your spiritual birthright relative to your relationship with God – it’s your choice!

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