Monday, December 12, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Rejoice

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick

Krista Hamrick's beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.

While pondering the word, “Rejoice,” I was inspired by listening to Paul Baloche’s  rendition of O Come Emmanuel…O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, O Son of God Most High, Deliver us from sinfulness and pride, Restore in us a childlike heart, to consecrate and set us apart. Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Amplified: Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always)

Milligan: At all times cherish a spirit of joyfulness

NLT: Always be joyful.

Phillips: Be happy in your faith at all times.

Wuest: Always be rejoicing.

Rejoice (chairo) means be glad, be joyful, be delighted. The present tense calls for the saint to continually be in a state of happiness and well being, something that is only possible as we surrender to the willing of the Holy Spirit, trusting in His supernatural enablement and not relying on our natural "strength."

Pastor Ray Stedman writes: “Rejoice (chairo) perhaps ought to be translated, "Be cheerful." Do not let things get you down. Society is filled with despair and gloom. I have had several phone calls this week from people who are at the end of themselves. The pressures under which we live today can do this. But a Christian has an inner resource. Therefore, we can obey the word of James, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials and temptations," {James 1:2}. Do not take it as an attack upon you. Do not moan and groan and say, "What have I done to deserve this sort of thing?" But rejoice, because it is good for you. Trials make you grow up, make you face yourself and learn things about yourself you did not know. That is what James goes on to say, "That you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing," {James 1:4) Believers can rejoice always because their joy isn’t based in circumstances, but on God. Circumstances change, but God never changes. The present imperative is a command (imperative mood) calling for all the saints at Thessalonica (rejoice is second person plural) to continually (present tense) make a personal choice (active voice) to rejoice. Yes, it is a choice we must make, but one that is only possible to make as we learn to lean on the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit, Who gives us the desire and the power. In sum, this command is an appeal to the will of the saints at Thessalonica. And it served as a reminder to them (and to all believers) that they had a part in maintaining this experience of joy—the choice to rejoice. Paul charged them not to allow adverse circumstances to rob them of their joy.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16 (“Rejoice always!”) is the shortened form of Philippians 4:4 (“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”) The Greek word (chairo) refers to the uplifting, ongoing, cheerfulness of the Christian. Joy is the helium of the heart that makes us airborne. It’s the corklike quality of our souls that keeps us buoyant. Sadness and sorrow befall us in life. Tears come. Disasters strike. But by and large, the default attitude of the believer is the joy of the Lord. That’s the natural “setting” of the Christ-like person. Uplifting, outgoing cheerfulness. Gladness.

Pastor Billy Sunday writes: “It has been said that there once was a man who smelled good wherever he was and whatever he was doing. His very skin seemed to exude a pleasant fragrance. He worked in a perfume factory, and he breathed the aromas every day. They filtered into his clothing, penetrated his skin, and even filled his lungs. He became a walking perfumery. That should be happening to us. As biblical joy pervades one’s personality, it puts a smile on the face, a sparkle in the eye, a bounce in the step, a warmth in the voice, a confidence in the heart, and a composure in the demeanor. It should exude from us like the essence of the Savior. The joy of the Lord is the strength of our lives. Rejoice sometimes? Rejoice always! There’s no excuse for not memorizing this verse. It’s the shortest in the Bible. As a child, I was told that John 11:35 (“Jesus wept”) was the Bible’s smallest verse. That is the shortest verse in the English Bible. But in the Greek New Testament, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 is even shorter. In a sense we have two shortest verses in the Bible. In the Greek, it is “Rejoice always,” and in our English Bibles, it’s “Jesus wept.” Quite a contrast, isn’t it—weeping and rejoicing? But how appropriate! Because Jesus wept, we can rejoice. Because He bears our sorrows, we experience His joy.”

Just like the angels who sang, “Rejoice” over baby Jesus in the manger, Paul proclaims in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. The words Paul gives us here confront us—always be joyful, always be thankful no matter what happens—our natural response is, “That’s impossible!” We tend to feel inadequate and unable to please God. How can we rejoice in tragedy, pray when we are otherwise occupied, or be thankful in times of adversity? The key is in Paul’s next words: “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” The purpose of our existence is not simply to be “good” people. God has laid hold of and redeemed us for the purpose of forming us into his likeness as we walk through the experiences of this life with Him. We are to become a dwelling place for His Spirit. Our challenge is learning to let him do the impossible through us! He is using everything in our lives to teach us that apart from Him, we can do nothing—but through his Spirit we can do all things, even rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything.

Heavenly Father, help me to understand that You are truly causing all things to work together for my good this very day. I want to be obedient to what your Word asks of me. I cannot do this on my own. But in your Spirit’s power, I can do what You tell me to do. May You be my joy, and enable me to be aware of Your presence with me continually in Christ Jesus, who dwells in the innermost part of me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

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