We’re concluding a series this morning called ‘You Can’t Have My Joy’
And the birth of this series came from my observation that it seems like the average level of joy seems to be on the decline.
Russia Trip I remember years ago I went on a mission trip to Russia, and I remember our interpreter said ‘Now you have to understand this is a different place than the US. People are much more subdued and quiet here.’ And they said that you could easily spot Americans because they were the loud ones, making eye contact with everybody. This has nothing to do with ethnicity, this is a culture thing. And man, it was so true, we stuck out like sore thumbs. We were talking, and laughing, and smiling at people, and waving at people. And we were just freaks over there.
And I just feel like I’m going to there grocery store these days, I feel like I’m observing our culture starting to head in that direction. I’m trying to wave at people, I’m trying to say hi to people and it just feels different now.
And I’m not saying “We’re America! We can’t turn into Russia” - That’s not my point. I’m saying We’re the church, we can’t turn into the world.
That we have to guard ourselves. We have to guard ourselves from the indoctrination of the world polluting our God given nature.
1st Week And the first week we talked about joy in not something the christian needs to achieve. It’s something that is inherent in our DNA. So if you’re a follower of Jesus, spiritual joy is something you have.
So you don’t have to GET it, but you do have to DEFEND it.
My Title: Maintenance Plan
Let’s imagine that your Dad has a this huge beautiful mansion. And it’s so beautiful, the exterior paint of the house is immaculate, the yard is perfectly maintained. Beautiful grass, beautiful flowers, beautiful landscaping.
Now let’s say your dad gives you this mansion.
While it was his, he maintained it, but now that he’s given it to you, you have to maintain it.
You weren’t responsible to OBTAINING the mansion, but now that it’s yours, it’s your responsibility to MAINTAIN it.
Joy’s the same way.
You don’t have the responsibility of OBTAINING joy. It’s a gift from your father, but now that he’s given it to you, you have the responsibility of MAINTAINING it.
Especially considering that there’s an enemy who’s trying to sneak onto your property and to destroy it.
Whatever is obtained must be maintained.
Whatever you possess, you must protect.
Because it's one thing to get it. It's another thing to keep it.
Something that I say constantly is this: God is a Protector.
And he is. I do not know where I’d be if it weren’t for the protection of God. Many of you in here would say ‘When I look back on my life, the fact that I’m here at all is a miracle. God has protected me.’ God is a protector.
And it’s important to understand HOW God protects us.
It’s happens primarily in two ways:
The first is that God protects us through intervention. “What’s that Pastor?” Intervention is when God comes and does things FOR us.
Parting Red Sea An example of this is in the book of Exodus when God is in the process of being delivered from Egyptian captivity and they come across a body of water that they can’t cross. Moses asks God what to do and God says “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
So all they had to do was get out of the way. Because God was going to intervene in their situation.
So that’s one of the ways that God protects. But there’s another way:
The other way that God protects is through INSTRUCTION.
That’s where God protects us by telling us what to do.
With Intervention, God says “I’m gonna do this FOR you.” With instruction, God says “I’m gonna do this THROUGH you.”
Sometimes people will say to God “I can’t believe you’d let that happen.” And he’s saying “Well it wouldn’t have happened if you would have done what I told you to do. I was trying to protect you through instruction. I told you not to date her. I told you not to waste your money like that. I told you not to get into business with him.”
Sometimes God protects us through instruction.
Now the reason that I tell you that is because I don’t want you to think that your joy is totally up to you. But I also don’t want you to think that your joy is totally up to God.
God gives you the gift of joy. And he also gives you a maintenance plan describing how you are to maintain your joy.
And just like a house that falls into ruins, your joy will die off if you don’t maintain it.
To keep your joy in tip-top shape.
And if you’re thinking ‘Pastor, I already let my joy get destroyed.” No, it’s still there, but you need to do some work to get it back to the condition it was when it was given to you.
Here’s 5 things God teaches us to do.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ (Exodus 33:1)
Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” (Exodus 33:3)
Please tell me you find this funny too. God is telling them where to go and says “I can’t go with you because you guys are so annoying I might kill you on the way.”
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” (Exodus 33:13)
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. (Exodus 33:15)
Wow. So here you can see that Moses prioritized God’s presence to the point where he said that if God’s presence doesn’t go with them, he’s not going.
This is what makes worship so powerful. Worship is a Spiritual Discipline. What’s a spiritual discipline? It’s a spiritual exercise you do to get spiritually strong. I can’t just wish strength upon myself.
If I want to be spiritually strong, I have to spiritually exercise. And that’s what worship is.
To Express Worth NOT Feel Gratitude The word worship means to “Express worth.” Express worth. Notice it doesn't mean to “feel gratitude.” Because it’s possible to feel something you don’t express. And it’s possible to express something you don’t feel.
And that’s one thing you’re doing on Sunday morning. It’s you coming into God’s house, the designated meeting place, to express worth to God.
“Pastor I thought I can worship anywhere.” You can and you should. But God has always had a designated meeting place for corporate gathering of his people.
It’s like when mom says “Everybody’s coming to my house for Christmas.”
God says “On Sunday mornings, I want everybody to come to my house so you can worship me together.”
Not Same Way Now something important to note is that not everybody expresses worth the same way. So if you do this, I have to do that too. That’s not relationship, that’s religion. So you have to be careful not to just pick up the mannerisms of worship but not developing the heart of a worshipper.
So you might see these people up here worshipping and jumping around, and you think “I could never do that, I have a bad back.” - It’s not about the mannerisms. The Bible says that Jacob became an old man and he leaned on his staff and he worshiped.
No it’s not about the mannerisms, it’s about “Expressing Worth to God”
God Responds to Worship
Worship invites God’s presence. “Pastor, isn’t God present everywhere.” Yes. God is Omnipresent. That means he’s always everywhere. You go to the mall, he’s there. You go to the store, he’s there. You go to a strip club, he’s there. David said “If I make my bed in hell, you are there." Which is comforting because sometime life takes you to bad places.
So God is everywhere. But God’s Omnipresence, is different than his manifest presence.
House Illustration Someone can come into your house, but that doesn’t mean they’re in your presence. Because you can be in one room and they can be in another. My wife and I work together all day. Which is a huge blessing. And then we get home, and SOMETIMES we need some space. So she’ll go to one area and I’ll go to another. So we’re in the same house, but we’re not in each others presence. And if you want to receive the benefit of someone else’s presence, it’s not enough to be in the same house as them, you have to be in their presence.
So if you’re an encourager, being in the same house as you won’t necessarily bring me encouragement, no I would need to be in your presence to benefit from that. If you bring humor, I won’t benefit from your humor just by being in the same house as you, I would need to be in your presence.
So if I wanted to benefit from your presence, I would need to be in the same place as you, and then I would CALL YOUR NAME, and you would come into my presence. So just because we walk into God’s house doesn’t mean we’re in his manifest presence.
All week long, there’s people coming in here. People delivering packages, fixing air conditioners, and so they’re in God’s house, but God’s manifest presence is not necessarily there. So every Sunday morning, I come into God’s house, and I worship, not because I like to sing, but because worship is how I call his name.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
It says in the King James “In Your presence is fullness of joy;” Your joy gets ‘filled up’ in God’s presence.
Gas Gauge I’m sure many of you know the feeling of driving when your gas gauge is on empty. In bible college, I lived in Colorado and I used to fill up my car $5 at a time. Which was, a lot of times, not even enough gas to get the warning light to shut off. And so I always hag this nagging stress in the back of my mind that I was running on empty.
BUT. Every payday, I would treat myself to a FULL tank of gas. And it was just so sweet knowing that I had fuel to spare. Scripture teaches us that that’s how God’s presence is. That we come into his presence, and our joy gets filled back up.
The thing that takes your joy will not be the thing that gives it back to you. You can only get it back from God. If you want your joy back, you need to go to the one who gave it to you, not the one who took it from you.
So let’s imagine you hop in your car and drive to Santa Fe on i-25. You’re using up gas on the road, The road can not give you back your gas, you need to go back to the filling station.
So we go out into the world, and the world depletes our joy. I don’t need to convince you of that. But then we come back into God’s presence, and in God’s presence our gets filled back up.
Invites God to speak
Getting Your Kids Attention
I’m sure some of you parents have had the experience of trying to talk to your kid when they’re playing video games. So inattentive. Eventually the parent says “Johhny, pause the game!!!” Johnny pauses the game. The parent says “Did you hear what I said?” “Yeah I heard you mom.” “What did I say?” “I don’t remember."
Eventually the parent will have to say “Johnny, LOOK AT ME” And once Johnny pauses the game, and looks at the parent, Johnny will finally be able to hear the parent.
It’s a good illustration for how we are. That God is trying to communicate to us, but we’re so preoccupied with the things of this world, we don’t even hear him.
God will not force himself on you.
In Exodus, Moses is wandering around in dessert.
Well one day, he notices a fire. “Wow there’s a fire out here”
So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” (Exodus 3:3)
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)
Here’s what I want you to notice: God waited to speak until he had Moses’s attention. Think about that. Worship is turning our attention to God and inviting his presence and inviting him to speak.
“What in the world?” Your Inputs are your senses. What you see, taste, hear, smell, and feel. They’re all inputs.
Every second you’re awake, you’re getting new input. It’s bright in here, that’s loud, that tastes good, this seat is soft. And then your mind attaches meaning to them. And I am telling you, many Christians will let their joy fall into ruin, because they’re not filtering their inputs.
Social Media So this is me warning you, I’m about to talk about social media. I’m concerned for some of you. That THIS (scrolling on phone) is gonna be the death of you joy.
You have to learn to pay attention to what impact certain things have on you. Now not everybody responds to things the same way. So this may not be the case for you. Maybe for you social media fills you with faith and joy. And if you say that, I’ll believe you. You clearly have much better friends than the rest of us. But give me a minute to talk to the rest of us.
I cannot tell you how many people tell me “When I just start scrolling on social media, I just get frustrated and angry and sad.” And I’m there thinking “Ok, well then …. ???”
Look, social media is not inherently good or bad. It’s neutral. It’s like a TV, or like a computer. But if what you’re doing on those is stealing your joy, you need to stop. Because you’re trading your joy for 12 seconds on entertainment on the toilet. Read a book!
Changes from season to season Now let me say this, it changes from season to season. What may be fine for you in one season, may be very wrong for you in another.
True Crime Podcasts I like listening to True Crime Podcasts. Where there’s a crime that happened, and it’s still unsolved so they go around and interview the victims and the witnesses and try to solve the case. It’s entertaining to me.
Now let me show you some spiritual maturity. Depending on what battles I’m fighting, that may or may not be appropriate for me in that season.
Years ago, we were in California as part of our adoption of Grace. And there were some significant challenges that we faced, and spiritual warfare was happening. And we were having to stand in faith and believe God.
And so when I had my headphones in and I was listening to something, I wasn’t listening to true crime. That’s not what I needed. You know what I was listening to? (And you guys are gonna laugh). I was listening to Joel Osteen sermons. Just binging em. Sermon after sermon. Now, I’m not some Joel Osteen guy, and please don’t email me about Joel Osteen, that is not my point. See, Joel Osteen is just faith, and victory, and overcoming. 24/7. And that’s what I needed. So I was filtering my inputs.
The tongue has the power of life and death, (Proverbs 18:21a)
Piece of Paper So if I was to give you a piece of paper, and I had you draw a line down the middle and one side you had life and the other side you had death. And then we were to go through all the different things you say during the course of a day, and categorize them as life-giving words or death-bringing words. And if when we were done, the death column was bigger the the life column. I wouldn’t even need to ask you, I could already tell that you don’t have joy.
You’re speaking death and it’s killing your joy. And I guess the question I would ask you is ‘Why?' Is being negative all the time just so gosh darn fun that you’re willing to sacrifice your joy just so that you can complain about traffic? It’s insanity.
You’re making the world that you have to live in. So don’t be surprised when you wake up tomorrow in the world you created.
Molecules Your body is comprised of molecules that were here before you were. Those molecules that comprise your right eye, they were here before your right eye was. They might have been a piece of a cheeseburger, or a fat cell in your mom. Maybe the molecules that comprise your left elbow used to be a part of the Apostle Paul’s left ankle.
So when God creates, when God says “Let there be…” - the molecules adjust to follow his word.
The molecules adjust to follow his word.
God has given us that same power. We have the power to create and the power to destroy with our words. So all day every day you’re creating.
The question is not “Are you creating?”, the question is “WHAT are you creating?”
So Talk joy.
Tell your mind to be joyful.
Tell your heart to be joyful.
Tell your body to act joyful. Have a pep a step in your step. If you walk around with your head down, shoulders forward, complaining about this and that.
I know your problem, IT’S YOU!
When you walk into a room, you’re bringing God into that room. Don’t bring God into the room looking like that!!!! If God is inside you act like it, if he’s not let us know and we can help you with that.
Maybe you’re thinking “But I don’t feel joyful. I’d be lying.”
Paul tells us to “Call things that be not as though they were.”
You’re not lying, you’re speaking in faith. When somebody asks you how you’re doing, you don’t have to lie, I mean, be honest of course, but also use that as an opportunity to speak things into existence. Instead of saying “Nothing ever works out for me.” Say “I’m going through a hard time, but God is watching out for me, he’s going ahead of me, and I’m gonna make it.” - You’re speaking joy into existence.
In the new year I’m planning on doing a series called “Put People in Their Place” Because God has been showing me that it’s not just surrounding yourself with the right people, it’s about having the right people in the right places in my life.
So I’m not putting people in one of two categories: “Nothing to do with You” and “You have access to every part of me.” No I need to have the right people in the right places.
And there are some people in your life, that if you’re going to protect your joy, you’re going to have to add some distance. People think adding distance is a lack of grace. It’s not.
We’re supposed to love people unconditionally. But loving people unconditionally is not a statement about position.
“I’m not judging you, I’m protecting me."
Let me show you how this plays out in my life.
Every single member of this church is my spiritual family. And in a very real sense, you are all my friends. We’re all friends here. But within that large category of friends, I have lots of subcategories. And I wouldn’t tell you what category you’re in. Some people I call friends are really an assignment. And I love having people in my life that are assignments. That’s not an insult. But assignments don’t have access to certain parts of me the way trusted confidants do.
And I believe that that’s one of the most loving things I can do for myself, but it’s also the most loving thing I can do for you.
Because I’m not asking you to be something you’re not ready to be.
So if you’re an assignment to me, I’m not mad expecting you to be as good to me as I am to you. I’m not mad that you’re a not a secret keeper, I just don’t tell you my secrets.
You don’t have to broadcast it. I’m not gonna tell you “You’re an assignment.” Because that would be insulting.
It’s something between you and God.
Where God will tell you “You’re gonna need to pull back on that relationship.” It’s in excess.
God will give you the ability perceive. He’s protecting what he put it you. He will protect you from individuals that will attack the deposit he’s put in you.
Sometimes God’s grace comes in the form of the end of a relationship.
Sometimes you break up with someone and you’re so devastated and then 10 years pass and you’re like “Thank You Jesus!!!”
You have got to understand and make space for what replenishes you.
We’re talking about “Planned / Purposeful Enjoyment”
For Pastor Shirley, it’s driving in her car, getting out on the open road and see the beauty that God has made.
God Rests of 7th Day If you know the creation narrative in the book of Genesis, you know that God spent 6 days creating the universe, and 1 day resting. Now I do not believe that God got tired. He’s omnipotent. He has infinite power. But I do believe that he is modeling for us a healthy way of living that will maximize your joy.
Balance Now there’s a balance to be struck here. Because some people are doing way too much resting. I don’t have time to get into the excessive self-care movement. But let’s just say there’s a ditch on both sides. You can rest too little and you can rest too much. If you’re not working at anything, don’t take a break! You don’t have anything to take a break from. If you’re sitting around all day playing video games, more rest is the last thing you need. You need to get off your butt and do something.
Who I’m talking to is the people that are always working and never making space for replenishment.
It’s about learning to, and making space for resting. In restful time, everything relaxes. And as you relax, joy can surface. Get into a stressful situation, and watch how your joy hides. But when you relax, it gives your joy an opportunity to resurface. Stress if a joy robber.
But when you have healthy rest, you give your joy the opportunity to rise back to the surface.
Which leads us directly to Jesus. Jesus says "Come to me and I will give you rest.”
As we close, I’d like to end with the Scripture that we started with:
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
And as we close, we’re going to put this into practice.
We’re going to sing a song together that has this line “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” And as we sing that song, we’re speaking that truth into existence, and we’re inviting God’s presence into the room where our joy is refilled. So let’s sing this song with all our heart.