The pursuit of Joy. Day 6

The Psalms: the last installment

Distant songs of joy

  1. We can proclaim the satisfying pleasure we find in God through jubilant song and shouts of victory, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and horns, with dancing. Not only that, but the rivers will clap and the mountains will sing because God has done marvelous things like revealing and clothing us with his salvation. God’s right hand has done mighty things!  (Psalm 98, 107, 132, 118, 149)
  2. God’s law is our joy (119:111)

    “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

  3. To be liberated from slavery is joy and the cause of it, which God has given us and why we sing songs of joy to him. (105, 126:2)

    When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

  4. In times of sorrow, songs of joy are distant, but we yearn to sing them once again. (Psalm 137)

    “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

I wish I sang songs of joy more often for the salvation God has given me, for the freedom he has liberated me to in Christ. I wish I was so moved that I might praise God with dancing and instrument, with laughter and joy. There are times when I forget that I have tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord and that he is ever with me!

But I can imagine the sorrow the nation of Israel felt in exile, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land,” they said as they hung up their harps.

Unit next time…

The pursuit of Joy. Day 5

The Psalms

“Satisfy us with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy”

1. Mountains and trees sing and shout for joy (if you can believe it). They declare the pleasure and delight of God by displaying his splendor, his greatness, and his power. (89:12, 96:12)

2. When God helps us triumph over our enemies, we shout and sing for joy in the work he’s done on our behalf. Not only in war, but in his unfailing compassion and grace after we act unrighteously or rebelliously. It is by his deeds and nature we are made glad. (66:1, 67:4, 71:24, 81:1, 92:4)

3. Comfort and consolation during grief and anxiety from God brings us joy because of the truth of his sovereignty in trials. (94:19)

4. We can call each other to sing for joy over the wonderful things God has done. (95:1)

5. And yet again it is God who is our source of joy and we ask him to satisfy us in our time of need and plenty. That satisfaction in his unfailing love (who he is and what he’s given us) is what gives us that fulfilling and satisfactory joy for all of our days. (86:4, 90:14, 92:4)

Biblical Joy: to be satisfied and find pleasure in who God is and what He has given us- D.A. Carson.  This is why the pursuit of Joy is really the pursuit of God and glorifying Him for all that He is and does with all that we are and  do.  

Until next time :)

In the Pursuit of Joy. Day 3

The Psalms

“You have filled my heart with Joy”

1. The joy that God fills our heart with is greater than the joy that success brings to godless people living for the riches of this world. (Psalm 4:7)

2. When we follow God’s commands, it gives our hearts greater joy than when we sin, though it seems the opposite in the moment. If we hate wickedness and love righteousness, God will give us joy. (Psalm 19:8, 45:7)

3. There are times when we do not have joy and our soul is downcast. It takes questioning and searching and pleading to put our hope in God in those times, but he turns our wailing into dancing. (Psalm 42:4, 30:11)

4. When attacked by our enemies if we take refuge is God we will have joy, and of course in victory we will also have joy that leads to singing and praise to God who gives us these victories. He is our strength and shield. We trust him and he helps up and this makes our heart leap for joy. (Psalm 5:11, 21:1, 27:6, 28:7)

5. When those we love are vindicated, when they succeed against their enemies, we are filled with joy and give God the glory. (Psalm 35:27)

6. God fills our hearts with joy in his presence. He is our joy. (Psalm 4:7, 16:11, 21:6, 30:11, 43:4)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 2

Continuing my study of joy (including the book of Job):

1. We can encourage others to stop grieving and have joy when circumstances have changed. If I was grieving because I wanted to be married and then got married, it wouldn’t be necessary to still grieve. Or grieving that you don’t have access to God’s word in your language would be silly to do if someone gave you God’s word in your language. Rather, we rejoice over things once grieved for. (Nehemiah 8:10,12,17)

2. We can have joy when we have victory over our enemies, though it was a weighty trial before; joy that is so full, we celebrate year after year to remember and it even compels us to give gifts to our friends and the poor (sounds like Christmas, but actually refers to Purim). (Ester 8:15-17, 9:17-19, 9:22)

3. Pain longs to be validated and find company that affirms, not accuses. Validation and affirmation give us a glimmer of joy in unrelenting pain to know someone stays with us in our misery and even our doubt towards God himself. (Job 3:7, 6:10, 9:25, 10:20)

4. Seeing God’s face and his work causes us (and the angels) to shout for joy! (Job 33:26, 38:7)

5. God gives us great joy. Yet again, it is He who provides. (Nehemiah 12:43, Job 8:21)

“and the pursuit of happiness.”

Apparently pursuing happiness is a common phenomenon among people. You hear phrases often that say “do what makes you happy,” and the like. We pursue certain jobs, eat certain food, drink certain drinks, date certain people, and live certain lives that make us happy and the world tells us that is our purpose… to be happy.

This isn’t another one of those posts about the secret to a joyful life or defining happiness and joy differently and the dependence on emotion that the definition takes… no really, its just an honest consideration. In the Christian world, there’s a huge stigma against living for happiness, people often comment on how “the heart is deceitful above all else,” and we should seek joy and not happiness. God guarantees joy if we obey his commands (John 15:10-12), but not happy emotionalism. I went to a Christian concert the other day where someone defined joy and the abundant life as sadness too. Whether that’s accurate or not, the cry I hear of Christian souls is “This world is actually quite depressing and because I’m impacted by that I feel guilty that I’m not beaming with joy all the time.” But if you define joy, it really is just pleasure and happiness. Sounds like an emotional feeling to me. I don’t think we need to feel necessarily guilty that we experience joylessness, but I’ve realized I don’t particularly feel differently from that very often.

The truth of the matter is, whatever it means, I don’t “feel happy” or really that joyful. When I pet kittens I do, but I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe you can relate, but the world gets me down. There’s a lot of crap that happens here, relationships are always a struggle, there’s always a continual battle for loving my family and fighting bitterness, I’m fighting for courage to share the gospel with people, and fighting not to give into sin’s temptation. This is a weary land. The call I hear from Jesus is, “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

So how come I’m not living for happiness? As I think about that, I reflect on my experience being alive so far and consider all the facets of my decision making. I can honestly say that “my happiness” isn’t something I’ve really ever considered so I really don’t understand the mindset of people who live to do whatever makes them happy. Is it the way I grew up? I wonder. Living on farm you learned to do things whether you liked them or not, for survival, but life never felt good. I kind of accepted that and I think it’s colored my view on life. Life is hard, so don’t expect joy. And the call I hear from the bible is to “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) not happiness.

So I’m not pursuing happiness like the world suggests. Great! I’ve saved myself a lot of trouble, but yet, why this discontentment? Why this joylessness? Why do I so often feel like life on earth here is a means to an end?

I don’t have a lot of answers to those questions. Actually, I don’t really have any. I suppose the soul is a vast and deep water which only God can navigate, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts about having joy in a, what seems like most of the time, a joyless place. I have hope in the next life, I’m so excited for eternity with God, but sometimes it’s really just hard to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. Maybe you will read this and have some wisdom to share, or maybe God’s got some good things to teach me in the next year. Stay tuned for more conclusions.

Psalm 27:13-14 “I am confident of this, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait on the Lord, be strong, and wait on the Lord.” Is this a promise I can take to mean this life, or does it really just refer to heaven… I just don’t know, but people keep sharing it with me so it must mean something. It must mean something.

For Your Glory

I remember once I felt as though my life was a punching bag for Gods glory. That maybe he’d knew I could take the hits and glorify him, so he dished out the portion he did for me.

The greater truth is, regardless of whether or not that can be considered “fair” or right, Jesus was the ultimate punching bag for Gods glory in the cross… But not just his own sake but ours too as the letter to the church in Corinth says “Our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”!

So, in light of my last post, here is “For Your Glory”:

For your glory:
I will taste the greatest heartbreak and much of greatest pain.
I will have seen the darkest places and walk out to live and proclaim.

I will have known the great despair that captures wounded lonely souls.
Hoping for a future or hoping just for hope.

For your glory:
I will feel temptation thick as sin and wring my towel dry in persevering resistance.

I will love another expecting nothing in return, giving until I’m spent, refreshed only by your word.

I will serve the poor or enemy you bring me along the way, knowing its to you I give and vengeance was never mine to pay.

For your glory:
I will live as though this is not my home and thank you for my life, Jesus, both now and evermore.

And I will speak of all these things: the hunger, joy, and tears to my lonely empty neighbors-

Oh, Lord, but give them itching ears to hear!

Diary of the Abused

Between the ages of 10-12, I experienced a variety of sexual abuse. While I used to think this was a huge statement of who I am, a big secret to unveil, it’s no longer defining me and instead I’m finding peace. Washed clean by the purity of another child, I didn’t realize what bondage I was under until this last summer.


You might not take compassion on me if you saw me on the street. I walk up rightly and I can run with speed. There are no scars from what I’ve seen or what’s been done to me.

But if you might have examined what is in me – these are the things I’m convinced only Jesus can love me in spite of.

I used to think my innocence was stolen from me, but as I consider who I was becoming at that time, I can see that I was offering an invitation. While that’s not everyone’s story, its part of mine. And while that doesn’t make me responsible I know I cannot blame just one person. I would have liked to, however. I’m haunted often by guilty memories of my letters of vengeance and words of unforgiving hatred; once heavily burdened by the weight of responsibility for the discouraging direction their life went after. Those are things Jesus has helped me let go for many years now.

But, there were a lot of other consequences, a lot of other scars I wore and carried. A lot of distortions of who I saw myself as, my sexuality, my relationships with other people, and the intertwining of all of those things. I think as I started following Jesus in college, I tried covering up those distortions with my convictions I was building only as an effort to silence a few demon hounds. They sounded a lot like temptations I indulged in the past, but as soon as my convictions began to be challenged, those temptations met me right in the face by the small hands of purity and innocence.


After crossing the finish line of high school, possibly on my hands and knees, I was convinced of a few things: I decided I’d probably never get married, never have kids, and that I was asexual. It was very complicated. At the same time I also desired those things a lot, but convinced I was too dangerous to ever take part in them.

I’m not entirely sure how to communicate this next part except to just be blunt.

It was like every time I experienced pleasure from touch, I was convinced it was sexual. It had to be. That’s all I ever knew it as. Every pleasure was lust. Slowly I convinced myself I was a monster. A twisted sickness that I couldn’t escape. I was stuck with myself. Too afraid of what I might become, I put up walls; marinading in solitude. Stuck in a push and pull of curiosity and fear.

Coming to college, I was hit upside the head with a 2×4 to follow Jesus, to find healing and forgiveness. Not only that, but I found this place where brothers and sisters just hugged each other. People held hands and cried on each others’ lap.

But of course, those old temptations followed so I built convictions about not touching that protected me; probably hurting my brothers and sisters a long the way.

About a year ago, it became time to face it when I was babysitting. We were reading a book when the child began to pet my arm. It was so sweet and nice, but my blood pressure raised as I considered that I’d been enjoying this moment in all the wrong ways. I remember thinking, “Is this who I am?”.

A prison of shame.

I’d read verses that Paul wrote to Timothy like “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” and nod in empathy. I’d pray things like “create in me a pure heart and renew a right spirit within me,” utterly convinced nothing could ever make me pure in the inmost places of my heart and mind-too ashamed of these temptations.

At some point during the beginning of 2014 I had a revelation about temptation and sin. Romans 6 says specifically “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who was died has been freed from sin”.

Temptation became just that. Temptation. A mere, weasily word that can be resisted and is rewarded when done so (James 1:12). I suddenly squelched every opportunity for the tempter to have any power over me, and so put to death the power sin held in my life. The mortification of sin, as John Owen calls it. As I think of that time, I can see this was a good foundation God was laying for what lie ahead.


Fast forward to this past summer: same home, same child, same lap; a lonely heart and a courage to change. He laid there with his back up to me and I asked if could draw a picture with my finger for him to guess. This was exactly how it happened the first time for me, when I was abused all those years ago. But, I felt compelled to re-live this memory. He said yes, and so I began to draw letters; he giggled and guessed. As he laid there, this little boy of 4 years, in all enjoyment and peace, gave to me an example of pleasure in perfect purity.

The next morning as I was waking in my bed, he came in to lay down with me. I sat up and started humming and drumming on his back gently. As he lay there, eyes closed, it was the purity in his face came up and washed over me as I witnessed such pleasure of a touch. It was possible. It was pure, and it was good. Not all touch had to be sexualized. It was like opening a door from a world of brokenness to a world of hope.

After that I remember thinking… I’ve been missing this part of human connection my whole life???????? No wonder I was swallowed by doubt and loneliness; I’d been missing one of the main forms of human connection! And so, somehow, my heart is healed by Jesus working through a child. And so we are the hands and feet, eh?


As I reflect on 2014 and think about the things I’ve learned this year, that was by far the most impacting. And why share all these considerably intimate details in a public domain? Well, first to glorify God and to show his healing work, secondly to confess my own sin and prove God’s great grace in forgiveness, and thirdly that maybe someone out there might feel burdened by the same thing looking for compassion or empathy. Or maybe that you might have a friend or a sibling, a wife or a daughter or son who was or will be here. That maybe you are burdened by your guilt of sin and need a reminder that our Lord Jesus is mighty to save.

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who opressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.

At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,”  says the Lord.

A Famine of Truth

Oh, just reading through the prophets makes my heart ache! It makes my heart ache for God as his people fall away from him, reject, and refuse to glorify him. What a great God we have, and how sad it is that his people don’t praise him for the great awesome things he does for us, even just for giving us life, and eternal life.

From Ezekiel to Daniel, they make laws to worship kings who don’t even like their own rules, to people who prostitute themselves to idols and false gods; who were brought into the desert and walled in to hear the tender words of God in Hosea. Droughts and locusts in Joel calling the people to “Rend their hearts!” and now to Amos where even in utter desolation the people STILL will not return to the Lord.

What’s left to take away? How about the very words of true life?

Chapter 8 in Amos says from verse 11 on, “The days are coming” declares the Lord, “when I will send a famine through this land- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.”

I’m not entirely sure what to think about that idea. Just kind of scary to imagine. Sure you might be afraid to be without food, our entire economy and social structure was once built off striving to provide enough for your family so you never have to go hungry. But, imagine going without the word of the Lord. Imagine finely dressed beautiful young women and strong young men, with full stomachs fainting in the streets from thirst for the truth. And we are, internally, aren’t we?

Deuteronomy 8:3 from the Exodus says “He [God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

This which Jesus stated again in Matthew and Luke when being tempted in the desert to turn stones into bread. “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

And yet we choose that don’t we? We choose to deprive ourselves of the very words of life. The truth of the hope of salvation and the freedom of forgiveness of sins. The comfort that God will never leave us or forsakes us, or the truth that he keeps our tears in a bottle and perceives our very thoughts from afar. Who loves us despite our past selves and is willing to take on the sins of the world, is willing to come to earth as a baby, and is even willing to promise he will in the first place!

Oh I pray for a renewed hunger for myself, for Christians, and the world for the truth; to know it, understand it, speak it, and love it. That I would memorize it and meditate on it. That I would treasure it and share it! Teach us, oh God, what it means to have the very words of life before us, now that we have tasted and seen that you are good through our very own salvation. May Bibles be opened this Christmas and the Christmas story with our families read and hearts rendered to the Lord! In Jesus’ name- Amen.

Closed doors are open doors.

Being told “no” is tough. Being told “you’re just not cut out for it” stings. We’ve found someone else. You’re just not as qualified as we’d like. You just don’t have what it takes. Words of rejection. It just doesn’t match up to what it feels like when someone tells you yes.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been working two part-time jobs for the past 4 or 5 months… or however long its been. I didn’t even apply for the second one. My boss set me up at a lunch with a heavy-weighted-in and my resume was passed off and an email ended up in my inbox a few months later, followed by a phone call three days after I had lost my other job. Pay increase and a position in the direction I was headed career wise. It didn’t take long to say yes and I had a lot of faith and gratitude; God was with me.

Starting work, my coworker is a believer and is trying to reach out to our other coworkers. Day two and we’re already sharing our testimonies. Things are going well. I meet tons of people and learn a lot; I’m even envisioning my life working for this company. I meeting a lot of people and making a lot of connections. #blessed, right?

Time wars on. The 76 mile trek wears on me. My life starts to look a lot different and my priorities have changed. I have a meeting with a research scientist and on my drive I’m praying “God, if there’s a job with this scientist- I pray you’d let me know.” Before the words even leave my mouth completely, the guy assures me there’s no jobs in that field. “Ok, God. Guess that was pretty clear.” Maybe a week goes by, corn prices drop and people start getting fired (I work for a corn seed company). My supervisor stops in my cubical to check on my work and to give me a heads up on how things are going. She tells me I’m the best intern they’ve ever had, really quick and efficient, but there’s just not any room for full time. She discussed the end of my internship and suggested I start looking for other jobs. “Cool, thanks for letting me know,” I said.

Closed door. I remember driving home I didn’t really think much or pray much, not because I was entirely mad or angry. I don’t think I knew what to feel. I think I was just disappointed. Things are really exciting when God opens doors- its not quite the same when they close.

Pondering this weeks later, that’s where I stopped. Isn’t a closed door just as beneficial as an open one? Isn’t being told no just as helpful as being told yes? If direction is what we’re looking for from the Lord- isn’t either good?

I’d like to reason that it is. And while I can’t dispute or explain quite why being told no feels like rejection, I’d like to suggest an attitude adjustment. We get so disheartened when things don’t work out the way we’d like or initially hope. Sometimes people even doubt or question God because of it. Sure, it’s a little awkward- our pride gets hurt a bit in the process… but that’s all it is then… just pride. Maybe its good it gets a little hurt even once and a while- keeps us humble and weak.

While, I don’t have a lot of bible verses for this one this time- I have a suggestion:

Be encouraged by a “No” just as you would a yes. Be encouraged by a closed door just as you might an open one. 

Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Be encouraged that a sovereign Lord who loved us enough to die for us on a cross has a mighty loving hand in the direction our lives go.

And now, I suppose for me a prayer request or two. Looks like I’m starting to walk in a different direction by joining up by working with our college ministry, God provided health insurance for me with my first job and some extra income to get ahead on my loans so it’ll work out great to transition. The only thing it feels like its in the opposite direction so its kind of intimidating. While God is closing some doors, He’s opening some other neat ones. I might even be able to start reaching out to a group of kids I used to spend a deal of time with again. Lord willing! Thanks for laboring with me in this.

Carry on in faith and love whether the doors are opened or closed or even if it doesn’t feel like there’s a door at all!

-Teresa

Repent and Live!

I finished reading Ezekiel this week, and while most of it was obscure and almost incomprehensible for me, there is one theme I saw over and over which is God’s heart towards his people and sin. One question I think about that I’ve heard from people who doubt God and question him is the idea that God is not good because he sends people to hell or that maybe God even delights in sending people to hell, or at least doesn’t mind. Then those people stray away from God. I mean if God delighted in the death of the wicked, I think I would be hesitant too. Seems a little twisted.

However, that’s actually not how God feels at all.

Ezekiel 18:23-32. You can see that what God delights in, is not in the death of the wicked or unrighteous, but rather he delights in those wicked and unrighteous people repenting.

He asks (vs 23) “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? […] Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

Then he goes on to declare about how if righteous people pursue wickedness they will not live, but if the wicked turn from their evil deeds and pursue righteousness they will live... so may we always pursue righteousness! 

And then “Therefore, oh house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “Repent! Turn away from your offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone. Repent and live!”

God is not concerned with our list of acts of wickedness or righteous deeds. He concerned about our heart of repentance. That we would turn from our offenses and not allow sin to cause our downfall.

I don’t know how you come to the Lord today. Whether you are burdened with guilt from your sins or wallowing in self righteousness and pride, but what God wants for you is to continually come back and turn from your sin, to leave it behind, and to look towards Jesus to give you a new heart and a new spirit.

It’s interesting to think about how these verses apply today since most people think that accepting Christ once is all it takes, as if you don’t have to listen to God’s word any more now that you’re saved. We’re righteous now right, covered by the blood of the lamb? I might encourage you to stop and think about your salvation if you’re not living a life with a repentant attitude. Verse 24 says “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.” Are you a “righteous” man and doing wicked deeds and not looking to Christ and the Holy Spirit to help you overcome? You just may die. And I mean that to question how seriously you’ve taken your salvation and to encourage you to reconsider what you’re living your life for. There will be more hope for a wicked man who repents than that righteous man who continues in wickedness, trusting in his own righteousness (Ezekiel 33:13).

And God pleads with you “Why will you die?!”

So repent, repent and live! And trust in the righteousness of the Lord!