So You Want to Know Real Joy?

This was one of the ways I had known joy in my adult life.

The piece of paper comes out of the fax machine slowly. I look and I see it is a purchase order from the biggest client of my year-old chemicals company. I look at the quantity and the amount and I am astounded. Then I leap in joy and laugh and kick my legs in glee and laugh some more. The heavens have poured out a blessing in measure I can not contain.

That was joy after the relentless hoping and working hard and sweat and tears and never giving up.

Then joy became like this.

Pearls – white, pink and bluish grey set in gold, surrounded by perfect diamonds – adorn the neck, ears, wrists, and fingers. String of diamonds that go all around and look beautiful in the wrist, don’t they call it eternity? Wardrobe that is never satisfied. Climb up the ladder of success higher and higher still.

But joy can never walk hand in hand with covetousness. Never. For joy satisfies and fills. Joy is a product of not wanting more, but being content with and grateful for what is graciously given.

That is how I know joy now.

I sit in my high back swivel chair. No, this is not my office chair which I used as president of my company. This is a substitute for a wheelchair for it is more comfortable when I’m home. I listen to praise songs, and when the crescendo of the glorious chorus lifts up my spirit to great heights, I weep and beg God to heal me so I can sing like the singers in the CD do. Then a still small voice speaks in my heart and asks, “What would you choose, to be able to walk but not sing, or to be able to sing well with all your strength but not walk?” And without hesitation, I answer over and over, “I want to sing! I want to sing!” Tears stream freely from a heart that is hungry for the Lord.

I cannot walk for now. I can only do it for a few steps and with support, only as a daily exercise. I cannot travel because I have problems with breathing. But I plan my family’s trip while I stay at home and wait. My heart hungers to travel with my family – walk barefoot on  golden sand glinting in the summer’s sun, or gaze at the green fields and trees as we walk by in the countryside… There are so many desires of my heart – travel to different parts of the world to share the Gospel and my testimony to win souls – but I remain here in this place of hope and waiting and expecting.

You might want to know – how do I go through the day? How do I curb the hunger?

You may not believe it but I live in joy. In the mornings, I awake to joy and inspiration from the Lord to face another day. How do I find joy? It is given to me by the Lord. It is His wonderful, beautiful gift. It is His grace. It is a fruit of seeking Him, of wanting to know Him more, of relentlessly pursuing Him, of spending time in His sweet holy presence, of delighting in Him! It is something that I humbly and gladly receive from His hand as He lovingly offers it to me.

Depression is absolutely absent. For the joy that comes from the Lord is real and pure and durable!

I had known joy that was riddled with guilt. Later, I realized it was not joy at all but sin, SIN, masquerading as joy. So beware!

What, then, is the difference between the joy that I had known when I was well and strong – working, traveling, shopping and embracing the pleasures of the world – and the joy that I know now? It is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in my life. It is His Spirit that dwells in my heart who enables me to bear its fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

That and all the wonderful ways He brings joy to my life:

praising and worshiping

love of family and friends

writing: blogging and journaling

homemaking: decorating, cooking, baking, ice cream making, vegetable gardening

reading (I love the Holy Bible and books!)

studying (the Word and other pursuits)

listening to praise music

photography

drawing

lavender scent and green grass and trees and birds!

shampoo and bath assisted by my husband

and many other simple things that most people would take for granted.

Friend, are you searching for joy in your life? Joy that fills and satiates and sees one through even in the most difficult times? Joy that is not fleeting but remains? Jesus is the answer. Let Him into your life now. Know the keys of salvation here.

Additional readings, yes? :):

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From Fear to Love

(Meditating on Psalm 76)

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry? 
(Psalm 76:7)

The Bible teaches us to fear God. In fact, Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes summed it all up and concluded everything that have been written into one simple, yet very important verse:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12: 13, emphasis added)

A very simple and clearly-worded commandment, a reminder, and a nugget of wisdom which can change the course of our lives. Indeed, the pursuit of a righteous life starts in having the fear of God. In the absence of it, life leans on sinfulness. It opposes everything that God has commanded.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… (Prov. 9:10)

We begin to have a grasp of pure wisdom and to know God when we learn to fear Him. It is fear of Him that we begin to seek His truth and His righteousness. It is what urges us to find our way to Him. It is fear of Him that we want to seek and obtain His salvation. This fear of Him is what will drive us to pursue Him, know Him, believe in Him and in His Word.

Our fear of God is the beginning of our faith. When we fear Him whom we do not see, we believe in the existence of an Almighty God in whose hands our lives are held.

Ultimately, the faith that sprung up from our fear of this powerful God drives us to humbly surrender our lives to Him, repent, and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is then that we begin the journey of a changed life intimately guided by His Spirit.

It is good that the fear of God is completed in us, compelling us to obey all His commandments. But a Christian that has been born of the Spirit progresses to the higher ground, a place where love dwells. This new creation now bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit, topmost of which is love. He or she now walks in love, and whatever he or she does, he or she does it for the love of the Lord. This is the higher ground – the place where true freedom and joy are experienced.

We can easily see the difference between doing things for God in fear of Him, or in our fervent love for Him. Do we go to church because we fear the consequences if we don’t, or do we go because we hunger for His holy presence? Do we praise Him for hours because we know it is what He desires and if we don’t, we fear that He might be displeased of us, or do we praise Him because our hearts are burning in our love for Him and our spirits can’t get enough of Him, drinking of His holy fountain?

Do we suppress our resentments to other people, doing our very best to forgive those who have hurt us – although our hearts say otherwise, thinking ill thoughts of them – because we fear the Lord’s anger might be kindled against us? Or, do we love Him enough to show our gratitude to Him by loving even our enemies as He has commanded?

Love liberates! Because of our fervent love for the Lord, we can now willingly obey His commands (John 14:15), even the hard ones, like loving your enemies, praying for them, and blessing them. It is love that compels us to honor and obey Him. A love that has been born out of His tender mercies for us. We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He first showed us how to love, and now we can do it also by His Spirit who works in and through us.

…God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in Him. (1 John 4: 16)

When we have been perfected in love, there is no more fear for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18).

Related post: First Love

Endnotes:

  • This is an edited repost from the archives.

  • Photo of Umbrella Rocks Beach in my hometown of Agno, Pangasinan, Philippines, courtesy of Agno LGU.

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Becoming the Friend Like Christ

Something has been filling my heart with fresh dose of joy and inspiration lately. Something that is quite new to me and I’m revelling in its warmth. It seems like my heart has expanded and become full. Doesn’t love do all that?

I am only now rediscovering the joy real friendship brings. Before my life with the Lord Jesus Christ, I didn’t know how to keep a friend. I did all the wrong things, I guess, so that there were really just a few friendships that I was able to keep all these years. And I believe, that is because they insisted on sticking with me. I can’t begin to explain why I wasn’t the kind of person who saw friendship a necessity and something to cherish. But if I didn’t make my own family a priority before, I believe that would also explain why friendships didn’t top my list either. You could say that relationships in general didn’t top my priorities before. But my career did.

But that was all before I gave my life to Christ. Then everything changed. For love is what matters most to Him. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Gal. 5:14). For all the things we do on earth then, only those that have eternal weight and rewards are precious in His sight. For faith, hope and love shall remain; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 134:13).

The Lord has been so gracious to bring me to that place where I no longer think only of my own and family’s welfare, but also of others’, especially when it comes to their spiritual need. The love of Christ that is in us does that: expanding us and our territory so that His love, mercy and grace will spread to others, too. This expanding of one’s territory does not only mean geographically, but more 0f expanding one’s love. Now, ain’t that a great thing?

So, the Lord has expanded mine and I’ve been forging friendships lately – reviving the old ones and deepening the new. And I don’t even need to go out or travel. I’ve only discovered now that making friendships through the love of Christ that is in us brings us a fuller life. And by the word fuller I mean life is richer and happier, like there’s a spring in your steps, your heart sings of a sweet melody, and love is just more real and tangible.

The things that used to destroy friendships like a canker – pride, insecurities, self-sufficiency, self-centredness, fear, self-serving motives, fear, competition, envy, feelings of unworthiness, inadequacies, uncertainties – are gone in the presence of the Spirit of Christ who dwells in one’s heart. The love of Christ that is extended through friendships —

– makes one confident as well as humble

– honest, without hypocrisy, and brave enough to speak the truth in love

– truly caring and careful not to push oneself

– thinks not only of one’s own good but also of the other’s

– fervently sharing the truth of the Gospel of salvation, yet honoring the other’s pace

– earnest and unrelenting in prayer for the other; carrying the other’s burden by bringing it to God in prayer

– unafraid of failure or of being hurt for the Lord is the shield and guide

******

My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • finishing 8 days of half-day fasting
  • reconnecting with former classmates and sharing with them the true Gospel of salvation
  • the victorious 5th anniversary celebration of JMCIM-Dubai Outreach; the fervent love of the brethren there that blesses, though faced with many challenges in a Muslim land
  • my beloved mother sending me huge lobsters from the province; she doesn’t forget my all-time favourite foods
  • Hearing Tim say, “I’m so happy, Mom” as we made his favourite doughnuts; these crispy and creamy doughnuts – yum!
  • homemade ice cream using local and seasonal ingredients
  • His faithfulness and His sweet, holy presence that He never withholds in soul-deep worship

 

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He Goes Before Me {A Testimony}

(Meditating on Psalm 68)

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
For each day he carries us in his arms.
20 Our God is a God who saves!
The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death. 
(Psalm 68:19-20 NLT)

I read Psalm 68 and I remember a beautiful testimony the Lord had so graciously given me during a time in my life when joy, hope and relief couldn’t be seen in the horizon.

It was New Year’s Day 2005. I opened my eyes in the early morning (it felt like I hadn’t been sleeping at all) just as the soft rays of the sun bathed the trees with their golden glow. I found myself alone in the room where we were staying: a spacious room attached to the chapel of the Fasting House in Pampanga. I presumed my beloved husband was already in the chapel praising together with other brethren who were praying and fasting, and Hannah and Annabelle our maid were probably out playing.

I heard some workers pass outside my window. I just knew they were going for a short vacation, visiting loved ones and friends. It was New Year’s Day anyway. I lay in bed very still. I gazed at the golden canopy of the Damortis tree just outside my window reflecting the sun, but my heart was gloomy, inconsolable. How I would have loved to go visiting, too, but I was very sick in bed and so uncertain how long until healing would come, and if it would even come at all?

Before the New Year, I didn’t have plans of going back to our home in the city. I was thinking we would be staying in the Fasting House for an indefinite period of time. Felix my husband had been driving back-and-forth between Antipolo and Pampanga to visit our office. We had spent Christmas and New Year in the Fasting House, leaving our home beautifully adorned for the holidays. But celebrating Christmas then was the furthest thing from my mind. It felt like it was only a matter of days before I would go to be with the Lord. And I was so scared. We were only a year of knowing Christ.

I was engulfed by sadness as I talked to God:

Whether it’s a starry night or a beautiful morning such as this, O dear God, it is the same with me. For others, this is another day of living, of going about their craft or business, of chasing their dreams, of being with people, of walking, and traveling… When the night turns to day, it is the same suffering for me. How many more mornings such as this? How many more mornings to arrive that I cannot see the bright color of my surroundings, that my heart is filled with sorrow and my eyes have forgotten to light up? O, my dear God, I am inconsolable!*

After I’ve uttered these words in my heart, I heard a whisper just behind my ear. Go home, My child. Wherever you go, I’m always there with you.

It was just a gentle whisper but it was so clear and powerful that I felt a bright light had pierced through the darkness of my soul. Instantly, all the depression was lifted up. Joy filled my heart and I felt strength creeping to my flesh and bones as I sat up and immediately called for my husband. I excitedly told him what happened. We were going home! I was bathed in hope! My husband quickly packed our things and within an hour, we were leaving the Fasting House for home.

When my beloved husband laid me down on my bed, I felt warmth enveloping my tired, sick body. And as I succumbed to a much-needed rest, I knew that I came home straight to the Lord Jesus’ waiting arms. Before sweet slumber took over me, I heard that gentle whisper again. Now, I’m going to heal you.

He was there before me. He was, and still is, true to His promise. Halleluiah!

32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth.
    Sing praises to the Lord. 
33 Sing to the one who rides across the ancient heavens,
    his mighty voice thundering from the sky.
34 Tell everyone about God’s power.
    His majesty shines down on Israel;
    his strength is mighty in the heavens.
35 God is awesome in his sanctuary.
    The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God! (Psalm 68:32-35 NLT)

*Quoted from my book Walking Along the Narrow Path. 
(Beautiful photo courtesy of my friend Perla Notario Frisberg).
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Glimpses of Glory

(Meditating on Psalm 66)

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.

All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah (Psalm 1,2,4)

Psalm 66, as most psalms are, is a psalm of praise. These are stanzas upon stanzas of words of worship flowing freely from the psalmist’s heart to the Lord God Almighty.

Worship is a vital part of our life in the Lord. When we turned to God and received His salvation, our previously-dead spirits were quickened by His life-giving Spirit and we were regenerated. Born again. Born in the Spirit. Having a new life. Our spirits are now connected to the one true, living God, and we live to worship Him. We worship Him because it is what our quickened spirits long to do: to exalt Him with our songs and praises that come from hearts and souls overflowing with gratitude. We just can’t stop it. He is worthy of all our praise.

And we worship Him because our spirits need to drink from the wellspring of life. We need to be constantly filled by His life-giving Spirit. This is how we grow. This is where our real needs are met: peace and joy and healing! His Spirit is the oil that keeps our lights burning.

At the first line of the song, some of the kids in the Children’s Choir were at once filled by the Holy Spirit and they were caught up by its mighty power, shaking, crying, uttering words only the Spirit could know and understand. And they fell on their knees there on the riser, hands raised, tears streaming down their faces. At the chorus, most of them were caught up by the moving of the Spirit and the mighty sound it produced resounded throughout the stadium.

The chorus was sang over and over and over, yet, the powerful Presence lingered still. The kids were drenched with their tears and perspiration, but the Spirit of the Lord stayed for more minutes.

I have always thought that as much as God’s children are hungry for Him, God also longs for them. For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” (2 Cor. 6:16)

I have heard testimonies of worshipers how they had seen angels rejoicing and singing with the choirs as they lift up praise and worship. It is so faith-invigorating to hear and know that our dearest Father, our Savior and King, rejoices with us when we worship with all that is in us. For the joy of the LORD is our strength (Neh. 8:10).

Oh, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard. 
(Psalm 66:8)

(Photo no. 2, JMCIM worship service in Amoranto Stadium, courtesy of Bro. Ed Cortez)
Might be linking up with A Holy ExperienceBetter Mom MondaysDomestically DivineRaising HomemakersBrag on God FridayEncourage My HeartSpiritual SundaysState of the HeartTeach Me TuesdayTeaching What is GoodTitus 2sdaysWomen in the Word WednesdayWomen Living Well

A Love Unequalled

Did the heavens celebrate when you garnered that gold medal or when you passed that difficult board exams? Or did the angels of God sing and dance when you married the love of your life, or shout “Cheers!” when you snagged that much-coveted job? Or did they party on cloud 9 when you built your dream house, parked your shining brand-new car in your garage, toured around the world, and shopped at posh boutiques? You can never be certain. But there is one thing that we know is true: there was rejoicing with the angels of God in heaven when you returned to God and repented.

In this short verse, we get a glimpse of the heart of God through the words of the Lord Jesus:

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10 NIV)

This verse is packed with the goodness and promises of God:

You are so important to God so much so that there will be rejoicing in heaven, with all of His angels, when you repent and return to Him.

God is ever-ready to receive and forgive you: your returning is the one thing that He longs for, and the pouring out of His grace upon you is the very thing He looks forward to doing.

He readily forgets ALL your sins upon your earnest, godly repentance and humble obedience.

Soul-winning, beside our worshiping in spirit and in truth, matters most to Him.

Unlike us humans, God is gracious to forgive. And when He does forgive, it is complete. He doesn’t remember any more our sins which He has forgiven. Luke 15:10 gives us a glimpse of His merciful, gracious heart: He forgives fully and forgets instantly that all of heaven gets to celebrate! Here we see that He doesn’t delay His forgiveness (to those who humbly return to Him and truly repent) and doesn’t remind us of our past sins once He has taken them away.

For humans, there may be a struggle to forgive. AND, we don’t forget that easily! We may say, “I forgive you but I certainly don’t feel like celebrating!” But that is not the heart of our Father in heaven. We now know without a doubt the love of God for us and that His love is unequalled. 

So, if we know that He has forgotten our past foolishness and taken all our sins and shame upon Himself, there is no reason to revisit our dark past and feel its shame. We also need to forget. 

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:8-13)

In the entire chapter of Luke 15, the Lord Jesus tells three parables to illustrate how important to God a sinner’s repentance is and how He rejoices over him or her. This would remind us, therefore, (those of us who have received His amazing grace) to do that which brings Him so much joy: win souls.

Might be linking up with A Holy ExperienceBetter Mom MondaysDomestically DivineRaising HomemakersBrag on God FridayEncourage My HeartSpiritual SundaysState of the HeartTeach Me TuesdayTeaching What is GoodTitus 2sdaysWomen in the Word WednesdayWomen Living Well

Called to Worship and Soar

When the Jesus Finest Generation Choir begins to sing one of my most-loved worship songs, Agnus Dei, I raise my arms toward heaven, close my eyes and sing together with them. And when the piano, the violin, the guitars, and the other instruments rise to a crescendo to enwrap their music with the rising harmony of the song’s chorus, I feel my spirit lifted up. I am caught up to a higher realm once again and held there. My spirit soars with the Spirit of the Lord, and I defy gravity.

I try to utter words of praise and worship and maybe prayer, but the words will not form and arrange themselves into something intelligible, for the Spirit dances with my spirit and no words are needed as I yield to the Lord Jesus’ manifest presence and just feel His love and bask in His glory. My whole being becomes an oblation. What can one do but be lost in the glory of it all and offer these rivulets of tears – tears of joy, thanksgiving, praise, worship, awe!

  In Your presence is fullness of joy! (Psalm 16:1)

In the Lord’s presence —

my heart is opened and I am cleansed

my hunger for Him becomes more palpable (which IS a good thing!)

I am comforted, loved and cherished

my fears fly away and I’m strengthened

I receive wisdom

I am healed – in mind, heart, and body

Why does the spirit rejoice in worship and soar? Because we have the Spirit of Christ and so, we will always hunger to bow down before God and worship. We will always desire to run to the Father for the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

We have received the Spirit of truth and He guides us into all truth (1 John 4:6). That’s how we worship in spirit and in truth. We were created to worship, but if we have not the Spirit of Christ, how can we worship in spirit and in truth? And that is the sad state of still so many. The things that are seen – may they be graven images, material things, the sun, moon and stars, or people – are worshiped by them.

We share with others these holy experiences through worshiping in spirit and in truth and sometimes these are met by incredulity, scorn, or just plain indifference. But this should not come as a surprise for the Bible says:

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

But still there are others who don’t even know that there should be a Holy Spirit to receive (which also happened in the time of the early apostles. See Acts 19:1-8). A few years ago, I heard an American visitor testify in the pulpit how she continued to live in bondage to drugs even if she was already serving the Lord in a mega church in the USA. And then she heard teachings of an apostolic church, she was then baptized in water in Jesus’ name, she received the Holy Spirit and she was freed from her drug dependence. She said that she didn’t know and she wasn’t taught in her former church that one must be born of the Spirit.

I’m so excited to share with you this worship song with a beautiful video that I stumbled upon in YouTube. I loved it the first time I heard it, and watching the video again after a long time (scenes of The Passion of the Christ which we have a copy of), it kind of exposed the dross that had gathered in me that I wasn’t aware was there, and I sobbed in earnest repentance. And at the end of the music video, while the song climaxed into an almost reverent whisper, I saw that absolutely moving scene again. I know it so well for it is my story. And I cried and cried as this heart fell head-over-heels in love with her Savior once again.

There is no life, no life without its hunger
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly
But when You come and I am filled with wonder
Sometimes I think I glimpse eternity!
 

                                                                       ~ from You Raise Me Up

Friends, You Raise Me Up sung by Selah. Be blessed!

Related: The Blessing of Hunger

Linked to A Holy ExperienceBrag on God FridayEncourage My HeartPink SaturdaySpiritual SundaysState of the HeartTeach Me TuesdayTeaching What is GoodThe Beauty in His GripTitus 2sdaysWomen in the Word WednesdayWomen Living Well