A cause for feeling blessed

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.(…) Luke 6.22-23

Being a Christian is not always easy. Suffering is not the popular choice. Insult and rejection are things that we try to avoid as much as possible. For someone to call us evil is offensive. Yet, when these things happen because we are following Jesus, it is cause for feeling blessed and rejoicing.

The apostles, in Acts 5.12-42, were called before the Sanhedrin, the high council of the Israelites. The high priest and the Sadducees, because of jealousy, had put the apostles in a public jail after they had been teaching and healing people. An angel released them during the night. He told them to go teach in the temple courts. They obey. Once again they find themselves before the Sanhedrin. The apostles were told not to teach in the name of Jesus. After barely escaping execution and being beaten, they left the council. They did not leave the council with their heads hanging down and feeling beaten. They left rejoicing because they had been worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of Jesus. Every day they continued to teach and to proclaim the good news of Jesus!

When you are mocked for your faith, how do you react? Do you stand firm or do you begin to cower and wither? May we stand firm before persecution and continue to proclaim Jesus Christ!

#risingjoy #Luke #suffering

Verify the facts

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.(…) Luke 2.9-11

In the Bible, the reaction to the appearance of an angel was great fear. Here the reaction of the shepherds is no different. They were living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. Between the sudden appearance of the angel and the light from the glory of the Lord shining around, they were absolutely terrified.

The angel had a message to deliver to them. It was good news! It would bring great joy to everyone. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They later decide to go check it out for themselves. They head to Bethlehem and find Jesus in the manger.

After sharing what they had seen and heard, they returned to the field glorifying and praising God. Everything they had been told was true.

Today, Christians are God’s messengers. The subject has not changed. We still announce Jesus to the world. We find what we need to know written in the Bible. Do you encourage others to verify the facts for themselves? Everything written in the Bible is true; therefore, we also can glorify and praise God.

#risingjoy #Luke #facts

Let God use you

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

(…)And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1.43-45

This passage is about two women. Both find themselves in situations that defy the very nature of how things should be. God’s hand was in the picture.

Elizabeth was pregnant. She was old and considered to be barren. But, God had a different plan for her. He blessed her with a child, John. He was a relative of Jesus. He would become the fore runner of Jesus preparing the way for the one who would come after him.

Mary was pregnant. She was a virgin who was pregnant with the son of God. As soon as possible, she went to visit Elizabeth. The text does not say why explicitly. Perhaps due to Elizabeth’s situation, Mary felt that she would receive understanding and support. After all, both women were in situations that were out of the normal. They were miraculous!

The baby, John, leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary entered the house. She blessed Mary for her belief that what the angel had announced to her would actually happen.

Mary often pondered about the things that happened, perhaps not understanding completely who her son was and what his mission was. But she allowed God to use her for his glory. It is a valuable lesson that we all need to apply to ourselves: letting God use us for his glory!

#risingjoy #Luke #handofGod

Exactly what you wanted

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.(…) Matthew 13.44

Have you ever been shopping and come across an item that was exactly what you wanted, perhaps even needed? However, at the time, you did not have the money that you needed to buy it. So you stuck the item at the back of the shelf hoping that it would be there when you returned.

How exciting is it to come upon a treasure! You are working in the field and suddenly you discover something of great value. You look around and hide it once more. You are so glad to have found the treasure that you must purchase the field! What do you do? You sell all that you have to buy the field!

Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to such a treasure. The church is the kingdom here on earth. The church is a treasure that is worth all that we have to possess it. Do you consider the church to be a treasure? Do you have this treasure in your life?

#risingjoy #Matthew #treasure

They shouted joyfully

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. Matthew 2.9-10

The wise men from the East had traveled to see Jesus. They had followed a star and had arrived in Jerusalem asking where the one who was born king of the Jews could be found. It caused a stir. Herod, who was the actual king at the time was alarmed.

Herod sets about learning what he can about the Christ. He calls a meeting with all the chief priests and experts in the law. Where is the Christ to be born? It is of utmost concern to the actual king.

After finding the location through the prophecies, he calls for the wise men. Arranging to meet with them privately, he enlists their help to find the baby. His intentions are not honorable.

Upon leaving Jerusalem, the wise men once again are able to see the star and follow it to Bethlehem where they are directed by the star to the place where Jesus can be found. Their reaction is to shout joyfully.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about four different types of soil where the seed that are sewn may fall, Matthew 13.1-9. There is the person who hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it. The evil one comes and snatches it away. There is the one who hears the word, immediately receives it, but has no root within and does not endure. There is the one who hears the word, but allows worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth to choke the word so that it produces nothing. Finally, there is the good soil where the seed is planted. This is the person who hears, understands, and obeys, Matthew 13.18-23.

Have you found Jesus? What was your reaction? We choose the reaction that we will have. Will you be like the wise men and shout joyfully when you find him? Will you be good soil?

#risingjoy #Matthew #reactions

Because I belong to you, O Lord

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

As your words came to me I drank them in, and they filled my heart with joy and happiness because I belong to you, O Lord, the God who rules over all. Jeremiah 15.16

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He was sent to the children of Israel to preach repentance when the people followed after false prophets.

In Jeremiah 15, the prophet is complaining about how he is being treated by the people. He asks God to apply justice to his situation and to remember how he has served the Lord faithfully.

However, he also begins to question why he is having to endure what he is going through. The people insult him continually. He questions if God will be there for him when he needs him. At this point, God calls for his repentance to receive restoration.

The verse above paints a picture of thirst and satisfaction at being filled with joy and happiness at hearing the words from God. God rules over all and Jeremiah belongs to him.

We should have the same thirst for God’s words as Jeremiah. We should drink them in through reading the Bible. They still have the ability to fill our hearts with joy and happiness if we belong to him.

#risingjoy #Jeremiah #suffering

God’s instrument today

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Shout for joy, O sky! Rejoice, O earth! Let the mountains give a joyful shout! For the Lord consoles his people and shows compassion to the oppressed. Isaiah 49.13

Many books in the Bible talk about the oppression of God’s people. Many times their oppression occurred because of their disobedience to God. We read of the Israelites in Egypt and Moses who led them out in Exodus.

We read of the story of Gideon in Judges 6-8. The Israelites had once again disobeyed God. They were overthrown by the Midianites for seven years. God used Gideon to deliver the Israelites.

Revelation was written to encourage Christians who were being persecuted. It affirms the victory that Christ and his faithful disciples will enjoy at the end of time.

The Lord uses people to console and encourage those who are oppressed and discouraged. It is through his people that he shows compassion. The church is his instrument today to bring hope to those who are oppressed by sin that the gospel might set them free!

#risingjoy #Isaiah #compassion

Before finding their way back

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

A cheerful heart brings good healing, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17.22

In this verse, we see the contrast between someone who has a cheerful heart and someone who has a crushed spirit. One is optimistic and happy. The other is unhealthy and lifeless. Yet, it is indicated that both are suffering from an ailment, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Our attitudes are so important in this process called life. Positive attitudes seem to bring, if not healing, an extended life. Negative attitudes take us to a dark place that is full of despair and the road back is often long and painful to walk. Many give up before finding their way back.

One thing that helps is our relationship with God. If we have no relationship with him, when the bad times come, we have no strength outside of our own. Our own strength is not strong enough to get us through the bad times. However, for his children, he has stated that his grace is sufficient to get us through whatever circumstance in which we find ourselves, 2 Corinthians 12.9. Paul writes that he would gladly boast in his weakness so that Christ’s power might reside in him.

Let us all seek the power that comes from a correct relationship with God! A relationship that produces a cheerful heart that brings good healing.

#risingjoy #Proverbs #joy

An appropriate answer

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

A person has joy in giving an appropriate answer, and a word at the right time – how good it is! Proverbs 15.23

Being able to give an appropriate answer is wisdom in action. Courage is needed to give an appropriate answer that is not necessarily what someone wants to hear.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 4.29 that a person must not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. Then in 4.31 he wrote that we must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. Not only what we say but how we say it determines how we will be received.

Peter, the apostle who so often spoke first and then reaped the consequences of his words, also wrote in 1 Peter 3.15 that we need to always be prepared to answer anyone who asks about the hope that we possess. There is something that needs to take place first. We have to let Christ be the Lord of our heart.

The tongue is hard to tame and control. Perhaps that is why James 1.19 tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Make sure that your brain is paying attention before you speak.

It is true. A word spoken at the right time can bring healing. How good it is!

#risingjoy #Proverbs #words

Two types of people

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. Proverbs 12.20

Let’s think about the two types of people to which this verse is referring. There are those who plot evil and those who promote peace.

It is hard to believe that a person would actively mislead another. Yet, that is what the word “deceit” means. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid”. It is a deliberate act, usually with the intent of harming the person targeted in some way. The heart of those who plot evil contains deceit.

Then, there is the person who promotes peace. They do what they can to further the cause for peace. They want harmony to exist in relationships, in families, and in every area where possible. Peace creates bonds of unity and brings joy to the heart.

Nowhere is this more possible than in a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus. We should be announcing the good news of Jesus to bring others to a knowledge that peace can exist, that joy can abide in the heart.

#risingjoy #Proverbs #peace

Contrast in goals

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

The hope of the righteous is joy, but the expectation of the wicked will remain unfulfilled. Proverbs 10.28

There is such a contrast between righteousness and wickedness. Light and darkness. This contrast can also be seen in the goals that one may have.

Another meaning for the word hope is expectation. Solomon wrote that the hope or expectation of the righteous is joy. A righteous person is one who is obedient to the Lord. Galatians 5.22 lists joy as a part of the fruit of the Spirit. We know by faith, Hebrews 11.1, that what we await or hope for is an eternal home with God and that fills our hearts with joy.

However, the wicked are never satisfied. Proverbs 4.16 says that the wicked cannot sleep unless they cause harm; they are robbed of sleep until they make someone stumble. The wicked are never at peace nor do they know the true meaning of joy.

May we all learn what it means to be righteous and to live with the hope, the certainty, of our eternal destiny. May we have joy that overflows!

#risingjoy #Proverbs #righteousness

Tries God’s patience

Rising Joy, Vicki Matheny

Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving! Let’s shout out to him in celebration! Psalm 95.2

What a difference gratitude makes! It helps us to focus on the positive things in our lives. God blesses us each day with the things that we need if we will obey him.

We basically have two choices: obey, not obey. When we do not obey, we live in rebellion to God. What are the results of rebellion? Many times it brings anger, resentment, selfishness, and many other negative things to our lives. Rebellion challenges authority. It tries God’s patience and brings his disgust.

God is the creator of the universe in which we live. He holds the depths of the earth is his hand. The mountain peaks belong to him. He made the sea and formed the dry land. We should bow down in worship before him. He cares for us and loves us! That is cause for thanksgiving and celebration!

#risingjoy #Psalms #gratitude

The reason to go to worship

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I desperately want to be in the courts of the Lord’s temple. My heart and my entire being shout for joy to the living God. Psalm 84.2

The temple was the place where the Lord was present in the Old Testament. The Jews would travel from afar to offer sacrifices to God. It brought joy to the heart to be in the temple, God’s dwelling place.

The temple in Jerusalem no longer exists. However, there is a spiritual temple today. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 2.21 that in Christ they were growing into a holy temple in the Lord. That holy temple today is the body of Christ. Christians are members of Christ’s body, 1 Corinthians 12.27.

Do we have the same desire to be in the Lord’s temple, the church? The church is not a building but a group of people who gather to worship God. Does my heart shout for joy to be in the presence of God? So often I hear people complain that they did not get anything out of worship. They were not sure why they even went. Friends, the reason one should go to worship is not what is received, but what one gives. We are in the presence of the living God and should be giving praise and honor to him. That privilege is enough to bring one joy!

#risingjoy #Psalms #temple

Something wonderful happened

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Rejoice in the Lord and be happy, you who are godly! Shout for joy, all you who are morally upright! Psalm 32.11

There is something to be said for living correctly. You do not have to constantly look over your shoulder to see if you are about to get caught.

David writes in Psalm 32 about the negative effects of sin. When he refused to confess his sin, his body wasted away. He groaned in pain all day long.

However, once he confessed his sin and did not try to cover it up any longer, something wonderful happened. God forgave him. David encourages the faithful followers of God to pray while there is a window of opportunity. God will teach us how to live through his word and his faithfulness will overwhelm the one who trusts in him.

Those who are godly and morally upright can rejoice, be happy, and shout for joy!

#risingjoy #Psalms #sin

Upon our repentance

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For his anger lasts only a brief moment, and his good favor restores one’s life. One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning. Psalm 30.5

This is a psalm written by David. David had experienced the Lord’s anger first hand. In 2 Samuel 24, we read where the Lord’s anger raged against Israel. He incited David against them, telling him to count both Israel and Judah to know the size of their armies. Joab goes to do the bidding of the king much against his own better judgment.

After nine months, Joab returned from counting the armies. David felt guilty for having ordered the count. In 24.10, David confessed his sin to God asking him to remove his guilt. God sent Gad, the prophet, to present him with three options of punishment to remove his guilt. David chose to be attacked by the Lord through a plague rather than to be attacked by men, 24.14.

David felt the Lord’s anger in the plague that lasted for three days. It lasted for a brief moment. In 24.25, David built an altar for the Lord and offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings. The Lord accepted them and the plague was removed from the land.

Upon our repentance, God restores our lives. While we are reaping the consequences of our sins, we may experience sorrow, but joy arrives with the realization that our sins have been removed and forgiven.

#risingjoy #Psalms #repentance