Category: Salvation

What would you give for true joy?

cartoon of a traveling snowman

This week is the third in the season of Advent. My last two posts have looked at the hope and peace of Advent. This week, the theme is joy and I’m sharing another Christmas card from my archives. I did this one in 2006, before there was TSA Precheck. If you travel by air at all, it’s a safe bet you don’t associate airport security with joy. But at least you don’t have to remove your eyes and nose. Yet.

When we think of that original Christmas journey made by Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we might think more about the hardships they faced—a young, pregnant woman making the 70-to-80-mile journey with her husband, a journey that could have taken four or five days.

Someone once suggested that the account of Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem just goes to show that traveling during the holidays has always been difficult! I think they might be onto something.

What does true joy cost?

But as I’ve been thinking about joy this week, it struck me that as difficult as their journey may have been, and as many comforts as they may have left behind, Mary and Joseph suffered all of it for the joy of not only becoming parents, but becoming parents of the promised Messiah.
It seems to me, that in every case in Scripture, when people decided to pursue true joy, that is, the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, they had to leave something behind.

A pattern emerges

We see the same truth revealed in the life of the disciples, don’t we? The disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John exchanged a lifelong career of fishing for food for the joy of fishing for men on behalf of Christ. The apostle and gospel writer, Matthew, exchanged the lucrative job of collecting tax money for the joy of collecting souls for Christ.
And the pattern repeats throughout Scripture, but there’s no better example of this than Jesus Himself.

As a member of the Trinity, God the Son was and is always in perfect union with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. They’re always in perfect harmony and to be with them must be a deliriously wonderful place to be. Yet God the Son left it all. Why? For joy. Hebrews 12:1-2 says: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. There was joy in doing for His children what we could not do for ourselves.

Leaving heaven

Philippians 2:4-8 says it another way, “…Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Imagine leaving heaven, where you were constantly worshipped, to go to a place where you were constantly attacked, misunderstood, maligned, complained to, complained about, and ultimately tortured and executed in the most gruesome manner imaginable—all to rescue the very people who did all that to you.

And yet, that’s what our Savior did for us. He gave up all the majesty, glory, and comfort of heaven for the joy that was set before Him—the joy of rescuing us, His children from our slavery to sin and giving us a new, regenerated life in Himself.

What about us?

Today, He offers us that true joy of knowing Him and drawing true, everlasting life from Him. To accept that offer from Him, we’ll have to leave something behind. However, we don’t have to accept the offer. We can continue to cling to what we have, what we can do for ourselves—our own will and our own agenda. We can choose those things instead of joy if we want.

C.S. Lewis writes that there is always something some people insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy.

So we can cling to whatever we would rather have instead of joy. Or we can relax our grip, and follow Jesus’ example and experience the true joy of belonging to Christ.

Back to that snowman…

The poor snowman in my illustration had to part, if only briefly, with some rather personal and important things. But he did it for the joy of getting to wherever snowmen fly during the holidays.

Have you ever thought about letting go of whatever you’ve been clinging to and reaching out to grasp true joy—the waiting hand of Christ, who loves you more than anyone else ever could? There’s no better season to do it than this one.

Feel free to get in touch using the box below if you want to talk about it. It would be my joy!

sketch for snowman card
Snowman traveler sketch

Plastic peace?

Snowman family at dinner

Artificial, plastic trees. Artificial icicles and artificial snow. Maybe even artificial smiles amid the stress of the holiday season? And all of it with the goal of somehow generating genuine peace.

But all the plastic, and glitter, and presents in the world can’t conjure up peace at our dinner tables or in our own homes, much less for the whole earth. There is someone, though, who is able to bring real peace. Angles announced His birth more than 2,000 years ago with the proclamation, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).

This second week of Advent focuses on peace, but not the plastic, artificial peace we try to create for ourselves. The advent—the anticipated arrival—of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, changed everything and opened up the way for us to experience real, lasting peace.

Isaiah 9:6 from the King James Version says it the way most of us remember it: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

We can start the celebration of Christmas as early as we want to and drape our homes in enough lights to be visible to the crew in the space station, but until we know and trust in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the best we’ll have is plastic peace.

If plastic peace isn’t enough for you, hear the definitive words of Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That’s the real peace and praise of Christmas and the real reason we celebrate. With Christ’s arrival at Christmas and His death on the cross at Easter, which secured our forgiveness and tore down the wall between God and us, we have been offered a gift. Romans 6:23 describes it like this: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life—and peace—with God instead of eternal suffering separated from Him and His love and blessings—now that’s something to celebrate all year long.

If you’ve never trusted in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and you’re tired of artificial peace, drop me note using the contact below. I’d be happy to share with you how you can know genuine peace by knowing the Prince of Peace. What better Christmas gift to yourself?

A hippopotamus for Christmas?

Remember that song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”? It was a novelty song written by John Roxby. The version most of us know is the original recording by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, which climbed to number 24 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart in December of 1953. Through the years, the song has been covered by a wide range of entertainers, from The Three Stooges to Captain Kangaroo to the Jonas Brothers.

As I’ve been thinking about this first week of the season of Advent, a hippopotamus, of all things, has been on my mind. I’ve started sketching what I think she looks like. She’s not the one Gayla sang about, though. This hippo’s name is Hope. I’m calling her, “Hope, the Hopeful Hippo.” And she reminds me of the season of Advent because it’s a season of hope.
From children hoping for that special gift, to parents and grandparents hoping to gather far-flung family members home for a visit, hope is a central theme of Advent and the Christmas season.

But the deepest hope of Advent is not the common, sometimes vain, kind of hope that we experience every day, as in, “I hope it doesn’t rain before I get the grocery shopping done,” or “I hope this checkout line I’ve committed to will move quickly.”
No, it’s an expectant hope, anticipation rooted in trusting that something wonderful is about to happen. Do you know the kind of hope I mean?
The deepest hope of Advent is based on the promises of God. Bible scholars have identified more than 500 verses that refer directly to a promised personal Messiah. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains several references to Him. The promised arrival of a Savior, a Rescuer of God’s people is one of the primary themes of the Old Testament. The revelation of Jesus Christ as that Messiah—Emmanuel, God with us—and the invitation to trust Him for this life and life in eternity is the message of the New Testament.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Our Rescuer, in John 10:10

Through Jesus, God has rescued us from our rebellious natures. The guilt and shame of our past—every decision, action, and careless word that we regret—all those and more are no longer counted against us at the very moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our Rescuer. At that moment God declares us “not guilty!“ And at that moment, hope, the surest hope in the universe, comes rushing in.
Did you know that godly Hope also has a twin sister? Her name is Assurance. And they’re inseparable because wherever godly Hope is, you’ll find Assurance. So when Hope moves in at that moment of our renewal through Christ, Assurance is right there with her—Assurance of forgiveness; Assurance of eternal life; Assurance of God‘s power through the Holy Spirit to help us live the life He intends for us. Assurance that God loves us—so much.
And if you want proof of that love, look no further than a lowly manger where, more than 2,000 years ago, God sent his one and only gift of supreme love, special delivery, to light up a dark world. That’s the Hope—and Assurance—of Advent and the Christmas season.

Well, if you’ve got that hippopotamus song stuck in your head now, you might be interested to learn a little more about how it came to be, and what Gayla Peevey did after her big hit. You can do just that at her website (which may be in the running for the world’s longest URL): www.iwantahippopotamusforchristmas.net. You can also see 10-year-old (and the more current 73-year-old) Gayla performing the song in the video below.

Hope, the Hopeful Hippo just might break out of the sketchbook to become a carving in the same family as Percy the Perserving Rooster. Stay tuned!


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