Tuesday, February 12, 2008


"The joy of the Lord is my strength."

Popular song. But read that line. It doesn't say "The strength of the Lord is my joy." It says "The joy of the Lord is my strength."

But shouldn't it be the other way around? I mean, having strength in the Lord is pretty awesome, and I'm happy about it, but that's not the whole picture, is it? Lately it seems God has been pressing upon me the importance of joy in Him. And when God tries really hard to tell you something, you listen. No questions asked. Well I've been listening, or at least trying. when I first noticed God trying to put this lesson into my head and my heart, I thought it was just about joy among hardship, and I think that is a definate part of it. I have learned more and more that it is possible to have joy in EVERY situation, as long as that joy is in the Lord, which is something I struggled with. I was always the one to say, "Yes God's here to help me when I'm down, but I'm not joyful." Now I search for the joy even in a terrible situation. I won't say I'm great at it yet, but I'm trying, and that's what God asks for right? For us to try and do what He says as hard as we can, even if we screw it up once in awhile.

However, joy in tragedy is not the only time you're meant to find joy in the Lord. Now you may look at this and say, "But isn't that when you're not happy? Why does joy have to be sought after when you're already having a great day/week/month/life?" Because happiness in a situation and joy in the Lord are not the same thing. You can be happy about something that happens, but if you take that happiness and turn it into glorious praise to God, you experience a happiness much greater than before. Even if your praise is for something as simple as the weather. You learn to appreciate things much more if you realize that every, single, solitary second is a gift from Someone who loves you more than anyone else ever has or ever will. We've all heard this before. "Smile, Jesus loves you!" But seriously, SMILE!!!! JESUS LOVES YOU!!! This point cannot be impressed or repeated too often. You are loved by the most powerful being ever!

But there's more to the line in the song right? "The joy of the Lord is my strength." If your joy comes from God, nothing can keep you down. Now I say "keep you down" for a reason. Yes you'll have times where you're upset, sad, angry, and any other humanoid emotion that we can feel. But if you are always trying to find joy in the Lord, you can't be kept down, because the Lord is unchanging. In your sadness, look to the Lord. Really. I know you've heard it before, but do it. God is holding His hand out to you, but if your eyes are always downcast in sadness, how will you ever see it? Turn your eyes to Him so you can see His hand and grab it. He will always pick you up if you just ask Him to. Joy in God helps you make it through anything, and gives you the strength to help others make it through a hard time. I never thought I'd be able to comfort someone who'd lost a family member that was extremely close to them, but because of the strength given to me through God, I was able to stay strong while someone stronger became weak. There truely is strength in joy, when it is in the Lord.

Joy in tragedy is very hard. Like I said, I still struggle with it. But I say that joy in happiness is as hard, or dare I say, harder. Pause every day to think about the good things God gave you. From that beautiful snow flurry you saw today, or the soft, warm bed that you snuggle under to stay away from the cold.

Monday, February 11, 2008


So I was sitting in church while I was at home, singing loud and trying my hardest to make the words in the hymnal(yes, my church uses hymnals) become a harmonious praise to God, when I realized that it didn't feel like praise. It sort of felt, well, routine. It seemed like everyone was singing, not because they wanted God to hear them, but because it was the way we did things.

Now I don't want to start a big "Instruments in the church" debate. That's not what this is about. I'm saying that music, whether a cappella or otherwise, in worship has become a routine entertainment. Pretty sad isn't it? The words printed in hymnals and recorded by major Christian artists are being used in churches everywhere, but do we really get the message of those words?

There is a song that I'm rather fond of called "Heart of Worship." I won't quote the whole song to you, but the idea of it is this: I'm going to the base of worship. I'm making all of it about You God, not about my entertainment. The "pre-chorus" to this song goes like this:
"I'll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within. Through the way things appear. You're looking into my heart."

Think about those words for a second. God isn't looking for how well you can bust out some notes and follow words on a page. He wants to see that the words are printed on your heart, and that you're singing to praise Him, not because it's what your church does on Sunday or because you want to attract more people to the congregation with a big, fancy band. And again, I'm not starting an instrumental debate, but when you use that band, or choir, or piano, or organ, or even none of the above like me, do you really feel the meaning behind the songs, or do they just entertain you and wake you up enough to listen to the preacher's sermon?

Next time you're at church, or even just singing a few lines of your favorite Christian band's latest hit, think about why and what you're singing. Music can become great praise, whether there are instrument or not, and if we let it just dwindle into and entertaining routine the impact it can have will disappear. Music in worship is pointless if you don't do it with a purpose. You may as well remove it altogether, and what fun would that be?