Your Grief turned to Joy

Daily Reading: (John 16:20):

“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

One of the things that are so important to ask is, “what will turn their grief to joy?” The context of John 16:20 is that Jesus had just told His disciples in verses 2-3:“They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” 

When we break this down, they would no longer be allowed to worship with their family and their community in the synagogue because of their faith in Jesus, and even more, many followers of Jesus will be put to death for their faith. But there’s more. “but now I am going to Him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things” (John 16:5-6).

So, Jesus is also going to be crucified, but in His Resurrection, the answer to their grief will be found.

Jesus says in John 16:12: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Whenever God gives us a Word that would contain fearful events, He cannot leave us in that place of fear because 2 Timothy 1:7 says “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” Jesus is not giving to give the disciples a spirit of fear, even with this fearful news. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Jesus, after sharing the troubling things to come says I have an answer for your troubles, I am sending you the Holy Spirit.Jesus will also conclude with another good Word for them too

“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:20-24).

Because we live in a fallen world, the promise is that you will have trouble, and you will have grief. It is unavoidable. Jesus said as much when you keep reading in John 16:33. “In this world you will have trouble.” But I am not going to leave you with fear. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” How did Jesus overcome the world? Through His death and Resurrection. The reason Jesus shared all of this trouble, is so that when trouble comes, we might not be caught off guard and become fearful and stay stuck in grief. Instead, when trouble comes, we might take heart, and receive His peace (John 16:33).

John 16:22-24 is the secret of having your grief turned to joy. “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” The Resurrection is coming and the Resurrection will cause us to rejoice, and turn our grief into joy.

People confuse joy with happiness all the time. Happiness is external, dependent upon factors outside of us, that happens to us. I could go and clean your entire garage for you and cause happiness for you. And then a storm could come and a tree falls on your garage and then your happiness is gone. Happiness comes quite often as a result of things outside of our control. Joy is different, joy is internal. Joy cannot be taken from you by what happens to you. We feel great joy whenever we worship God our Father, we feel great joy when we remember the Resurrection and all that Jesus has done for us. The Resurrection is what turned the disciple’s grief into joy. When a loved one dies, we grieve. But what can give us joy in such sorrow? The promise of the Resurrection. Death has been swallowed up by the Resurrection. We’ll be reunited with our loved ones again who know the Lord. “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all” (Acts 4:33).

Because of the Resurrection, things will change for the disciples and what is available for us as we pray.

“Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24).

Whenever you encountered something that has caused you to fear or grieve, think about the Resurrection and allow God to turn it for you where you have joy.

Time spent with God will put our minds on the victory we have in Jesus. The riches of His glory to meet every single one of our needs. Our inner man will be filled with joy and will be expressed through praise because our despair, and our grief has been turned as we turn our gaze onto the finished work of Jesus Christ. The new way to pray that Jesus says begins with addressing God as “Father”. Jesus came to reveal changes to the way that we relate to God and this was only possible through His sacrificial substitutionary death for us. God wants us to see Him as our Father, that we belong to Him, and we are His beloved child.


Turn Back

Turn Back

Daily Reading: (Exodus 14:2):

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.”

It would appear that they are hemmed in. They are turning back to camp. They are located opposite the center for worship of the lord of the north (Baal Zephon) who is the god of the sea and storm. What God will do by splitting the Red Sea right in front of the center of worship of the god of the sea and storm is to declare that Baal Zephon is no god at all. There is only one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

How did the Israelites camp? We learn in Numbers chapter 2 that God had a prescribed way in which the Israelites were to camp out? They would form a cross. The children of Israel all faced the tabernacle and trusted the Lord to defend them from their enemies. The message is that we are to look unto Jesus and trust Him to be our rear guard! We don’t have to look around us at what the enemy is doing, trust that the Lord will take care of us against the attacks that come from the enemy.

Why did God tell His people to turn back? 

“Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this” (Exodus 14:3-4). If God didn’t reveal why He was doing this, I’m not sure the people would have listened.

What was the Israelites’ part of the plan in order to experience the victory of the Lord over the Egyptians? Camp out, rest up, and trust in God. This hasn’t changed. Our job is to enter into the rest Jesus gives us. It is His finished work at the cross that gives us victory over what comes against us. 

Did you know that Exodus 14 is a picture of Psalm 23 and our Good Shepherd leading us? Listen to this.

They encamped Pi Hahiroth which means a place adorned with green grass. He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).

I use to think “why would God need to make me lie down in something so beautiful?” Wouldn’t I want to volunteer to lie down in green pastures? Exodus 14:2 shows us why we might need the Lord’s help to rest in such a beautiful place, perhaps we are hemmed in at this place by a powerful foe that is against us. We might not feel like lying down and taking up camp in the green pastures if it involves camping out near a powerful enemy. When we lie down in green pastures it says; God has got this, I trust Him. I will rest in Him and believe He is orchestrating something amazing because He led me here. God is preparing a victory feast for me. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5).

Green pastures in Psalm 23:2 is plural, there is more than one. God is leading you from one green pasture to another. That is why the end of Psalm 23 declares “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

What comes next in the 23rd Psalm? “He leads me beside quiet waters,” What do we read next in Exodus 14? “Encamp between Migdol and the sea” Exodus 14:2).

Psalm 23:3 “He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths”. How do we know that the Israelites were guided to the right path here? We learn from the previous chapter that God was the one who was leading them.

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” (Exodus 13:21).

Why would God do this? The Psalmist says, “He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake”. What are we told in Exodus 14 of why God is doing all of this. “But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4).

The parallelism continues as Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staffthey comfort me. It is obvious that God is with His people, but is there also a mention of a staff in Exodus chapter 14?

“Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:16).

“And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant” (Exodus 14:31).

The people (yare’) stood in awe, in reverence and put their trust in God.  The journey to the miracle led the people to a place where they put their trust in God (Exodus 14:31).

The victory in our lives is already ours, so don’t let fear fill your hearts. Walk in the victory of Jesus Christ by faith as you rest and receive His love for you. Know that God is with you as a Good Shepherd leading you from one green pasture to another. Sometimes the path goes through an unexpected desert path but the journey will strengthen our trust relationship with Him as He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. God’s actions will display His glory for His name’s sake and so others might receive the salvation of His Son.

Friend of God: Name Dropping

Friend of God

Daily Reading: (Romans 5:11):

“Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

We have the opportunity every day in our lives to boast about the victory Jesus has given us. We boast about different stuff all the time. Just look at bumper stickers, “my kids is an honor student”, “I ran 26.2 miles”, “I am an alumni of XYZ University”. Social media is full of places we have been, the food we ate, and things we have experienced that we are proud of and want to share with the world. There is something within us to want to share the wonderful things we have been a part of, and here Paul is saying we can and should boast in the greatest thing to ever happen to us, we are now reconciled to God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What is crazy is God didn’t give this great gift to His best friends, God gave the gift that was the life of His son, to His enemies. Enemies? That’s strong language but it is what we were apart from Jesus,“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life” (Romans 5:10)!

That is why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, because this is what I did for you. When someone is persecuting you, causing you trouble, we have the Holy Spirit who gives us love, joy, peace, etc… This person who is not acting like a friend, but more like an enemy, I can pray for them, they are the perfect candidate for someone who needs Jesus. This is where miracles take place. God loves them too and wishes for them to have their lives forever changed by the Gospel.

So, we use to be enemies with God (Romans 5:10) but being reconciled to Him through Jesus, we are now friends of God and part of His family. We are friends and even family of the One who made the Universe.

We have now received the reconciliation. The word “received” means that this reconciliation is a gift that we receive by grace through Christ. Reconciliation is special in that it is not like most other gifts. Let’s say it is your birthday and your significant other buys you a lantern. A lantern is a practical yet fairly lame gift. Most people don’t ask for a lantern for their birthday, you might even question how well they know you or have been paying attention to you over the year. But if your power goes out you might be thankful for the lantern. Then when the power is restored, you put the lantern away, and then forget about it entirely until the power goes out again. Then you feel thankful again for the gift again.

This is different from what Paul means by receiving the gift of reconciliation. He means receiving it in such a way that what is in the package makes you rejoice all the time. And what is in the gift, is God reconciled. The gift of reconciliation is God offering us Himself so that we might rejoice in Him.

James 2:23 says: And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. ‘And he was called the friend of God. In John 15:15 Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus made us righteous through His sacrifice on the cross and our faith in Him. We now are friends of God (John 15:15, James 2:23).

What we should be doing is name-dropping about who we are friends with. God is my friend. God is my Father. It changes our perspective on things. Paul is so confident in his relationship with God, that he says to other believers who gave to him to help him while in prison “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). I am friends with God, He has abundantly blessed and abundantly supplied me in Jesus.

Going Deep With Jonah

Going Deep with Jonah |Compassion of God|What Fish Ate Jonah |What Jonah Teaches Us | Words of Grace – YouTube

Going Deep with Jonah

Daily Reading: (Jonah 1:1-3):

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Let’s begin the epic true life story of the man named Jonah whose story has a message for you today. So, without further ado I present to you, Jonah like you’ve never heard it before.

Jonah was from a place called Gath Hepher (2 Kings 14:25) which is near Nazareth. You might remember someone else who is from Nazareth. Jesus Christ. We will see some interesting contrast between Jonah and Jesus. Jonah lived not too long after the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. Now that we know a little background here comes the mission.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

The heart of God will be revealed in a few minutes and it is not the destruction of a wicked group of people, but of repentance and salvation.

Jonah does not want to go and do this and the reason might be a little surprising. The answer comes in the last chapter of this book in Jonah’s response to God about why he doesn’t want to do what God is calling him to do.

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Whenever you don’t listen to God, the direction you’ll head is always down. Any path away from God’s leading is a destructive path down because sin is destructive. He went down to Joppa but he went down further still as he was swallowed by the big fish before he was willing to listen to God.

The story of Jonah teaches us that God’s calling on your life will take a surrendering of your will to His.

God knew the way to get Jonah on the right path is he had to be brought down further still (swallowed by a great fish), to reconsider his life’s mission (Jonah 1:4).

When the sailors found out Jonah was fleeing from God, they were dismayed. But Jonah said, “Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you” (1:12). Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.  They thought they were doing the right thing trying to row back to safety, but they were aiding another in running from their God given mission.

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah is one stubborn individual. How many days does it take him, to call out to God? 3 days! This was not a random number. The number of days will point us to Jesus.  Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40.

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

Paul Ellis compiled a list of 10 parallels between Jesus and Jonah

  • Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17); Jesus spent three days and nights in the belly of the earth
  • Jonah, as good as dead, rose from the depths (Jonah 2:10); Jesus rose from the dead
  • After he rose, Jonah preached for 40 days (Jonah 3:4); after he rose, Jesus preached for 40 days (Acts 1:3)
  • Jonah, understood something of the grace (hesed) of God (Jonah 2:8, 4:2); Jesus came from the Father full of grace (John 1:14)
  • Jonah was sent to a city known for its wickedness (Jonah 1:2); Jesus was sent to a city that killed the prophets (Matt. 23:37) and put Him to death
  • Jonah preached what God told him to (Jonah 3:2); same for Jesus (John 5:19)
  • Jonah suffered (mildly) after preaching his message (Jonah 4:8); Jesus suffered (mightily) after preaching His.
  • When the people of Nineveh heard the message, they were cut to the heart and repented (Jonah 3:5); when the people of Jerusalem heard the message, they were cut to the heart and repented (Acts 2:37)
  • God’s message was that Nineveh would be overturned in 40 days (Jonah 3:4), and it was – by grace; Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, and when he came, 40 days later, Jerusalem was overturned by grace (Act 2:14, 4:16, 6:7)
  • As a result of Jonah’s preaching, there was an outbreak of divine compassion or grace (Jonah 4:11); as a result of Jesus’ preaching, there was an outbreak of the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Spirit of Grace (Acts 2:2)[1]

Do you see the Sign of Jonah? Although Jonah was an Old Testament prophet famous for running away and being grumpy, he was also a sign pointing to Jesus.

The stories of Jonah and Jesus reveal what can happen when the grace of our compassionate God comes to a city full of sinners. Nineveh and Jerusalem deserved judgment, but both were overturned by the gospel of grace that comes through Jesus.

Let’s move ahead to Jonah chapter 3 “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:1-2). 

Jonah 3:3:Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.: This is one of the funniest verses to me. Yeah, he obeyed, because 3 days he was in a fish. Now he obeys, but he still has a serious heart issue. It is like when we tell our kids to do something, and we go through a huge battle with them. They might do the job, but their heart is not in it, and they probably have a bad attitude when they do it. The problem is although Jonah’s feet move forward into the mission, his spirit wasn’t in it and so he will encounter more problems along the way because God wants to heal Jonah’s heart.

So verse 10 of chapter 3 says, “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which He had said He would do to them; and He did not do it”. God didn’t “repent” because God never does anything wrong. Repent is a horrible translation of the Hebrew word that is used. The Hebrew word for “God repented” (am) can be translated as to have compassion.God had compassion and the calamity which He said He would do to them, He did not do it.

And then Jonah celebrated, people were saved. No, that’s not what happened. Jonah has hatred in his heart for these people. Now comes the key to the book and the reason why Jonah had headed for Tarshish instead of Nineveh. Chapter 4, verses 1-2.

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

I guess this story just turned on its head. God knew what was going on in Jonah’s heart the entire time and yet God didn’t leave in the fish this racist, hyper-nationalist who didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would have mercy on his enemies. He did not want their repentance; he wanted their doom. This is quite contrary to the spirit of Jesus, Jonah did not have good will toward his enemies.

Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew that God’s nature is gracious. He knew that God would spare the city. Jonah went out of the city and waited there, still hoping that God would judge and destroy Nineveh!

I think for me this is an incredible revelation even before Jesus came to reveal to us God as our loving Father. Jonah knew that God is gracious. God is compassionate, abounding in love (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah had not yet learned the lesson he needed to learn, so God who is gracious, compassionate, abounding in love continues with his education to Jonah in 4:6. God orchestrated events to guide Jonah out of his wrong believing. God will use trying times to help deliver us out of our wrong believing too (Jonah 4:6).

One thing we can learn from Jonah’s story is that no matter how much we stray from God’s will, He will never leave us. Even when Jonah was trapped in the belly of the great fish, God’s eyes were still firmly fixed on Jonah, and His ears were attentive to Jonah’s cries for help and mercy.

Your Abba Father wants to show you that His plans are for your good, and that He’s not angry with you. He wants the best for you, and He’s still full of grace, mercy and love for you. As Jonah brought the Word of the Lord to Nineveh, we bring the Gospel of Grace, the Word of God, Jesus Christ so the lost have an opportunity to respond as did the people of Nineveh that day.

[1] Paul Ellis.

Journey to the Danger Zone

Watch the message here

Daily Reading: Acts 14:1-7

At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.

“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue.”

It started off just like any other day. It was a usual day. Did you know that often extraordinary things happen in usual days (Acts 14:1)?

“There they spoke so effectively”

What does that mean that they spoke effectively

“Spoke” (laleō) – use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts

“So effectively” houtō(s) in this manner

The point of the sentence is where they used words to declare one’s mind in this manner- they did it “there”. They spoke effectively in the place that God ordained the audience to receive the Word. The point is not about Paul and Barnabas’ abilities, it teaches us that their availability to be used by God led them to an opportunity to have the Holy Spirit speak powerfully through them and because of that many people believed.

As you continue on in the text it says that the people were divided-some sided with the Jews and others with the apostles but there was a plot coming from both Jews and Gentiles to mistreat the apostles. The Greek paints a very clear picture of their plot, (hybrizō)- act outrageously (lithoboleō)- to kill by stoning, to stone

“But they found out about it (Acts 14:6)” No where in the Greek text does it say “found out” instead the Greek word synagōgē is there– this is where synagogue comes from – name transferred to an assembly of Christians formally gathered together for religious purposes.

God used Christian men and woman from the crowd who believed to deliver the message that would protect the apostles.

How do you see that someone had faith?

He was listening (Acts 14:9). Listening (akouō) to understand, perceive the sense of what is said.

So, then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Keep hearing the preached Word and begin to see God impart His wisdom to you, supply your needs, and work miracles in your life!