Do you ever ask yourself “how did my life turn out this way”?
When we graduate from high school or college we’re just fresh faced kids ready to conquer the world. We decide on the path we want our lives to take and start down it thinking only good things will come our way. Then, somewhere along that path, life takes an unexpected turn. The next thing we know, we’ve ended up in no man’s land and we’re left wondering what the heck happened. All of those plans we made for ourselves seem so far away and that fresh faced kid is just a distant memory. We’ve veered off the path.
David had one of these “how did my life turn out this way?” moments too.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
When this psalm was written, David found himself in a precarious situation. His life had taken an unexpected turn for the worst. The young kid who started out as a meek shepherd and then became a celebrated hero when he defeated Goliath was on the run. David was hiding out in the wilderness because King Saul and his army were looking to kill him. They had caught up with David and had encircled around him. Death seemed imminent.
Many of David’s psalms talk about the feeling of enemies surrounding him and he must have been scared knowing that they were surrounding him. But instead of sitting around being scared and wondering what happened, David trusted God to show him the path of life. He had experienced both the highs and lows of living a life for God. And he believed that God would take care of him at this critical time. Even at his lowest David could still praise God and experience the joy of being in His presence because he understood that joy, real joy comes from knowing God.
But David’s psalm is more than just a lament about his own circumstances, he was pointing the way for us to the coming Messiah, the true path of life.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
It doesn’t matter what our previous plans were, or the disappointment we felt when they didn’t work out. That path we chose for ourselves when we were young was about this life and what we would become in it. But God is more concerned with what will become of us in the next life. So He gave us a path of life. Jesus is that path, a path to eternal life. And this verse is our roadmap to Him.
You may have noticed that Jesus only gave us two choices on the path. We’ve reached that critical point in the journey where the road forks off and only goes in two directions. We must turn one way or the other to continue on and it’s an important decision worthy of serious consideration. We can either, turn left and enter through the wide and easy path. This is the worldly path that offers pleasure in this life but ultimately leads to hell and eternal destruction. Or, we can turn right and enter through the narrow and difficult path that leads to eternal life in heaven with Jesus.
Jesus said that most people will choose the wide and easy path. These people are just going through life and don’t give this decision much thought. Or they think that the choice can be put off for another time. But tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us and death may come when you least expect it. By then the choice has already been made and it’s too late.
That’s why Jesus urges us to choose the narrow gate. He loves every one of us and He died to save us. And He wants each one of us to be the few who find the narrow gate. Yes, the narrow gate is a harder, more difficult path to take and Jesus said that we will be persecuted for our faith. But our reward is in knowing our Savior and spending eternity with Him.
Most people don’t want to hear this hard truth. Because when they do, they are forced to choose which path they will take. And just to be clear, not choosing is a choice in itself, and not a pleasant one.
The decision to follow Jesus is life changing. And sometimes change is hard. So, if this life changing decision is hard to make, Jesus put it another way…
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
This is a bold and clear statement. Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only eternal life. If we want to see the Father and end up in heaven when we die, then Jesus is the one and only way to get there. And we don’t do ourselves or anyone else any favors by saying otherwise. This is our God given promise, if we believe in Jesus, that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, then we will have eternal life with Him.
For most of us, we made the choice a long time ago to follow Jesus and enter through the narrow gate. But sometimes it’s good to look back on where we’ve been and how we got here. The path behind us, reminds us of everything Jesus has done for us and how far we’ve come. And the path stretched out in front of us leading the way to the Savior gives us something to look forward to.
Like David, we can experience the joy of being in God’s presence. And we can see the joy waiting for us up ahead when we’ve reached the end. This is the joy we can only find in knowing Jesus. It is a joy that fills us completely and gives us confidence in our faith. The path of life may be long and winding but with Jesus we will get there.
Is there an event in your life that has brought you to where you are right now? Are you asking yourself “How did my life turn out this way”? If you’ve veered off the path a little bit, it’s okay. The roadmap hasn’t changed and you can still get back on the path. Jesus is waiting for you with open arms. Today, I pray that you will remember all of the reasons you gave your life to Christ and be strengthened by that decision. And I pray that you will stay firmly on the path of life and see the joy waiting for you up ahead.
If you have not made the decision to take the narrow path, then I pray that you will understand the love Jesus has for you and choose to follow Him. To find out more about making this crucial decision please read “Accepting Jesus” by clicking on the link or go to the tab at the top of the page.
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This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Do you ever feel like you don’t know what day it is? You think it’s Tuesday but it’s really Wednesday. That’s because we do the same things over and over again every day. So much so, that the days start to blend into each other. We may think that today won’t be any different, it will be the same old hum-drum day we always have. But God has a plan for today and He can take a seemingly ordinary day and turn it into a reason to rejoice. He can change the entire course of our lives or someone else’s with a chance meeting at the right time. God is a master at creating these “chance” encounters and they are never just a coincidence. Or God can use our ordinary day to show us His amazing grace and mercy by touching our hearts in a special and unexpected way. No matter what happens today, God is in control of our day and He has given us a reason to rejoice and be glad in it.
We’ve been talking a lot about context at church lately and looking at how it pertains to some of the most often quoted verses of the Bible. Our verse for today, Psalm 118:24 is one of these often quoted verses. It talks about the day the Lord has made and rejoicing in it. But to get the whole picture of what God is telling us, we should also read the verses just before and just after our verse. There are a couple of things to examine within the context of this passage of scripture.
The verses just before ours says…
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
You probably already know this verse by heart because it is also quoted often and is used as a popular memory verse. We know that Jesus is the chief cornerstone talked about here and He quoted this verse Himself in Matthew 21:42. Within the context of our verse, we can see exactly what the Lord has given us to rejoice about.
During the time of David, the people were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the promised Messiah and the sacrifice that He would provide for their sins. This day that they were looking forward to, would be a perfect day, a day of celebration and rejoicing. But when Jesus arrived the Jewish leaders rejected Him. But even though the chief cornerstone was rejected by these leaders it was God’s doing. We can look back now on this part of history and see how God’s truth and prophesy was fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah and His death on a cross. It was a day to rejoice in, then and now!
In the verses just after ours, we can see the promise of another day of great rejoicing.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
These are the words that the crowd shouted as Jesus entered Jerusalem in Matthew 21:9. They praised God and rejoiced in the fulfillment of His promise. When Jesus was rejected and crucified, the Old Testament prophesy was fulfilled. But Jesus said these same words again in Matthew 23:39 referring to ascension into heaven and giving us something else to look forward to, His second coming. This is the day that we are eagerly awaiting right now! Then it will be our turn to shout “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” What a glorious day it will be when Jesus takes His rightful place and rules over this earth! It will be a perfect day, a day to rejoice and praise our Savior.
Yes, we should rejoice today, because God has given us another day to sing His praises. But we can look back on that day when Jesus died on a cross and rejoice that our sins are forgiven. And we can look forward to the day when Jesus will come again, knowing that it will be a reason to rejoice!
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The joy of the Lord is your strength.
We all want to have joy in our lives. But it seems to be an unattainable thing in our modern world. We’ve all heard this verse from Nehemiah a thousand times. But it has always left me wondering… What is the joy of the Lord? And how can I have it?
There are some people that we meet and just click with. We are connected to them right away and feel like we’ve known them for years. Then, there are some people in our lives that we have known for years and we are connected to them by our shared past. Both of these people give us a feeling of joy just by being around them. The thought of being separated from them brings us pain and the idea of not having them in our lives is unimaginable.
This is how God feels about us. We are the joy of the Lord! He sees us as the person that He clicks with and has a shared past with. And He desires to have a lasting and loving relationship with us.
But sin has separated us from God. It has kept us from having the meaningful relationship with Him that we were created for. So, God sent His Son, Jesus, to fill that gap for us.
Looking unto, Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This verse from Hebrews is very clear. When Jesus died for our sins, He was focused on “the joy that was set before Him”. We are that joy! Jesus willingly faced the cross because of His joy in us. He came to fill the gap left by sin and to die in our place. He did it so that our relationship with God could be restored. Now, because of His sacrifice, sin no longer separates us from God. We are able to experience the joy of walking with God every day.
Joy, real joy, is an inner feeling of calm that is always there. We may not always see it in our everyday lives, but it is there underneath. Chaos and busyness take over sometimes. There are so many things to do, and so many people to talk to on a daily basis. The joy we once had from knowing God intimately becomes replaced by feelings of stress and not having enough time to get it all done. These are the moments when the joy of the Lord becomes our strength. We are able to seek refuge and draw strength from our relationship with God in the midst of our circumstances.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
When hard times hit, and they will, we can turn to God for the strength that we don’t have. He is always ready to give us protection from the world. He is always there to see us through it. And He is always there to restore the joy we are lacking.
We are the joy of the Lord! Once we learn this simple truth, our relationship with Him will flourish. We no longer have to face the hardships of life alone. We have a strong tower to turn to for our joy and strength.
I pray that you will understand how much God loves you. He can turn any circumstance around. He will give you the joy and strength that you are looking for.
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Last week I wrote about the struggles I’ve had in my relationship with my paternal grandmother and what it means to have a “Heart of Grace”. If you missed it, you can read it here:
A Heart of Grace
Today, I’d like to share with you a little bit about my other grandmother, or as I called her my Granny. God has put many wonderful women in my life. They have all inspired me to be better, taught me something that I needed to know or lifted me up when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But of all of these amazing women, two stand out in my mind and influenced me the most, my mom and my Granny.
Whether you were young or young at heart, a relative, friend or neighbor, Granny was known as Granny to everyone she met. She loved that title and everything it meant to be a “Granny”. Granny was so many things. She was tough, independent, smart, funny, loving and most of all joyful. No matter what life threw at her, Granny was a joyful person!
At first glance it doesn’t look like Granny had a lot to be joyful about. Her life was not an easy one. When she was just eleven years old, she began cleaning houses for her neighbors to earn money to pay the family’s rent. Her father was an elderly man by this point and could no longer work. Her mother had several younger children to look after, so it was up to Granny to pitch in and do what she could to provide for her family.
Granny married my Papa when she was sixteen. The war had ended and getting married was the thing to do. They had four kids right away. Papa got a job delivering the mail and Granny became a housewife. Their life together was shaping up. But then tragedy stuck their young family. Their daughter, Connie, who I’m named after, died suddenly when she was one month old. Granny and Papa were heartbroken. The same year, Granny lost her grandmother and then her mother. She was close to both of these women and the loss of her child, grandmother and mother in such a short time was devastating to her.
Some of my best childhood memories are of spending time at Granny and Papa’s house. Growing up my brother, cousin and I spent most Friday nights with them. We had great adventures in their backyard, made tent forts in the spare bedroom and I tap danced on their coffee table. I would sit on Papa’s lap and eat Corn Flakes with him and I confided all of my secrets to Granny. When I was with them, I was home. It was a great way to grow up.
But tragedy was about to strike our family again. When I was thirteen, my uncle was murdered. Granny and Papa lost their only son. Two of their four children were gone before their time. The heartbreak was almost unbearable. Granny once told me that losing her daughter, Connie, was horrible, but losing her son was so much worse because they had all of those years together. The grieving process was hard and long. There were many tears, but also many stories shared, and yes, laughter. Through all of this, Granny remained a joyful person within.
How is it possible to remain joyful in the face of such dire circumstances? Because, Joy is not about your current circumstances. It is not a fleeting feeling but rather a state of being. As Christians we receive our joy from the creator of joy.
In your presence is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
When David wrote these words he too was facing dire circumstances in his life. But he was able to look past those hard times and see the goodness of God. God promises us that in His presence we will find not only joy, but a complete joy, full of His unending love for us. At God’s right hand is our Savior Jesus. In Him we find salvation, acceptance and pleasure in spite of our current circumstances.
Granny laughed often, but wasn’t afraid to cry. She reminisced about the good times and talked about the bad without fear. She remembered her loved ones who were gone too soon. And she found joy in knowing her Savior. Granny showed me how to do so many things in life, but the one I think of most when I remember her is the way that she shared her joyful spirit with everyone around her.
We may not feel joyful at times. But we don’t have to look far to find it, because God has promised us that in His presence we will have fullness of joy.
If you are feeling that joy is something that is unattainable and you don’t know where to turn, seek God, pray and ask Him to help you. He will show you His joy.
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About the Artist
Connie Rowland is the Artist and Blogger behind Master's Hand Collection, a series of Christian artwork that depicts God's hand in our lives. Each picture features an inspirational word spelled out in American Sign Language with a corresponding Bible verse. Check out the About page for more info on Master's Hand Collection and Connie.
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