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Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Joy is not an emotional state that comes from my personal comfort.  Joy is a state of being that comes from being satisfied with God alone.  When my contentment is based solely on God’s presence in my life, circumstances cannot shake my joy.  I am able to sincerely give thanks in all circumstances because I know I am not alone, Christ is participating in those circumstances as He lives in me.  God is glorified in me when I am satisfied with Him.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

The glory of God is a hard concept to grasp.  I’m not sure who said it first, but several pastors have said that the glory of God is God’s Holiness (His “other-ness” His uniqueness) radiating from Him to the world. It’s a hard thing to define or even understand.  But it was made knowable to us in the person of Christ.  Christ was the embodiment of God’s glory.  He showed us His glory in Christ, so that we may reflect it to others.  One of my favorite Bible teachers says that we have “mirrored souls.”  We were made to reflect God’s glory to others.  But we only reflect that which we are facing.  If we are focused on something else, that’s what we will reflect to others.  That’s what we are glorifying.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

The basis of Christianity is not a list of things we should do and things we shouldn’t do.  God is not concerned with a list of rules.  Christ came as a fulfillment of the law… so we don’t have to live by the old law code anymore.  What God is concerned with is His glory.  The question is not, “Can I get away with it?”  The question is, “Will this bring honor to God?  Will this uphold His attributes, His character, His standards?”

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

I love the way the NLT phrases this verse:  “Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and effective you will have the right answer for everyone.”  So many times we worry about what to say to non-Christians.  It seems in this verse that the key ingredient to effective conversations with unbelievers is grace.  If you treat others with grace (just as God did with you), you will never have to worry about saying the wrong thing.  A person with a gracious attitude will never hurt anyone.

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

If you ever wanted a quick summery of how to live the Christian life, here it is: Be careful, be wise, grab opportunities as they come, it’s dangerous out there.  Of course to take advantage of every opportunity, we must be aware of every opportunity.  That means having a close relationship with the One who creates opportunity!  We always have to be listening and watching to see what God is doing around us, so we can get involved in whatever it is.  But just being aware is not enough.  We also need wisdom in order to determine the best course.  James 1 says that if anyone lacks wisdom, “he should ask God…and it will be given to him.”  God wants us to be fully equipped to follow Him.  He is willing and ready to give you whatever you need to complete the tasks He is calling you to.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

What was the joy that motivated Christ to endure the cross?  A lot of times we catch ourselves thinking that it was us.  But it wasn’t.  The joy that was set before Him was the vindication of God’s Holiness.  When God declared sinful human beings righteous, as He did Abraham, Noah, David, and others during the B.C. days, it was seemingly in disregard for His absolute Holiness and Justice.  Those men had trampled on God’s pure standard.  A truly Holy and Just God could not call them righteous.  But out of His immense love, He did.  He did it because He knew that Christ would vindicate Him.  When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled that which Abraham and the others could not.  And at that moment, God was proven Holy and Just.  I’m so glad that Christ died for GOD’S glory, not just for MY salvation.

Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.  Isaiah 26:8

David was called a man after God’s own heart.  What does that mean?  And how do I become a woman after God’s own heart?  Well, God’s first and greatest love is Himself.  If that weren’t true, God would be an idolater.  God loves God the most.  And God’s greatest desire is to be glorified.  He created the universe, the earth, and us in order that we would glorify Him.  A woman after God’s own heart should love what He loves – God.  And she should desire what He desires – His glory.  What do God’s laws have to do with this?  His laws are a reflection of His character.  Each law embodies a truth about who God is (“do not commit adultery” reflects God’s faithfulness).  When I break God’s laws, I disregard His character.  And because, as a Christian, I bear His name, when I break His law, I misrepresent His character to the world.  So, in upholding the law, I uphold the character of God.  I represent Him accurately – which brings Him glory.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

This is a beautiful, poetic prophesy about the harsh reality of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”   Isaiah 6:8

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   James 1:2-4