I was a loner in my childhood years and the reality of living in a new jungle surrounded by "the locals", simply reinforced my emotional isolation. It was where I felt the safest. One day, as I was exploring this jungle on my bike, the doubts I had about this new dense, dark place, and the dangers that loomed hidden, were validated as truths.
I realized how much I love our parking lot. Weird, huh? I mean, I think it's kind of weird. It's not the nicest parking lot. It's not the prettiest parking lot. It's not the most well-kept parking lot either. So why do I love our parking lot?
Genesis 1:28-30 describes to us that intellect is meant to help us explore the unfathomable riches of God and to harness His wisdom through human expression for life-giving stewardship, leadership and governance.
The mind of Christ reflects faith; it does not create faith.
We are a beautiful, diverse family and when one of us are impacted, we are all impacted. Please know we stand with you and if we can do anything for you, please ask.
During our most recent time together I noticed a few reasons I love praying with Stanely, and more broadly, why I love praying with friends.
I heard Mike Bickle say one time, "It takes God to love God." I love that idea. Jesus captured it in these words, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" . Jesus also said, "No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws them..." . It seems clear to me that any passion in my heart for God, any desire to consider God, pray, worship, read the bible, serve others, desire justice, advocate for the oppressed, etc., is not the product of human will alone, but it is the human will under the influence of the Divine.
And even though we sin, violating the nature of God and His ways, we live under the influence of God's Spirit. To go even further, we are actually the house in which the Holy Spirit lives. What is sin you may ask? Sin is the result of idolatry. Scot McKnight quotes in a blog, NT Wright from his book The Day the Revolution Began, "Called to responsibility and authority within and over the creation, humans have turned their vocation upside down, giving worship and allegiance to forces and powers within creation itself. The name for this is idolatry" . Sin is the product of living in idolatry. We have worshiped other things, other ideas, other philosophies and other "isms" (humanism, materialism, socialism, etc.) and the net result of our behavior is sinful.
Sin is damaging. "Sin, when it's full grown, gives birth to death...", James 1:15 . King David, the greatest King in Israel's history experienced this. When we consider his life, we find that he is not on the front lines of battle during a war, as a King should be. But instead, he is at home idolizing and enjoying himself. As if this were not bad enough, he eyes a married woman named Bathsheba bathing, and lusts after her. He calls her to his room, has sex with her and she conceives. Once King David finds out, he plots a plan to get her to sleep with her husband Uriah (who is a noble solider on the front lines of the battle) and so when she does, everyone will believe it's Uriah's baby and not King David's. However, when Uriah comes home, the thought of sleeping with his wife seems offensive to him because his men are sacrificing their lives on the front line. David's plan fails and he resorts to the only thing he can - murder. King David then tells his servant to put Uriah on the front line of the most heated battle where he is certain to be killed. That's what takes place. Uriah dies. Bathsheba has a baby. The baby dies. King David is in trouble. To thicken the plot, Nathan the prophet approaches King David and tells him a parable about King David's own life (although King David does not know it at the time) and when King David interprets the parable, he finds out that it's a stinging rebuke from the prophet and exposure of David's sinful and vile plot. King David's great sin was not the lust, the adultery, the manipulation, the cover-up or the murder, it was idolatry. I once heard a man say, "Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to go and keep you there longer than you ever wanted to stay.". Idolatry was David's problem. This is paradoxical, because the bible described King David as a man after God's own heart. David was a worshiper and wrote many of the songs in the book of Psalms. And while I can agree with what God said about David, because God said it, this is not one of David's bright moments. This leads us to Psalm 51 and undeserved joy.
Psalm 51 is David's prayer to God after Nathan the prophet exposed him, rebuked him and corrected him. It is one of my favorite prayers by David and I draw your attention to Psalm 51 v12, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" . King David did not deserve joy. He deserved judgement. But David repented. He humbled himself. He fasted and prayed, asking for mercy. God responded. He forgave David and was merciful to him. But sin already had a big impact on King David. For example, we learn from this psalm that David wanted to be delivered (v.1), wanted to be clean (v.2), took responsibility (v.3-5), acknowledged the desires of God (v.6), wanted to be clean (v.7), wanted to hear the sounds of heaven (v.8), have his sins hidden from God (v.9), wanted a clean heart and a steadfast spirit (v.10), wanted a continual experience with God's presence (v.11) and then we come to the restoration of joy and a willing spirit (v.12).
Idolatry begets sin. Sin begets death. Sin steals our joy. Therefore idolatry leads to death and the loss of joy. So what do we do? We pray!
In humility, we bring our sins into the light through confession and ownership, and we ask God for a restoration of joy. Receive His forgiveness. Forgive ourselves. Honor God and His statues. Acknowledge our failure. Seek a pure heart. ASK FOR A RESTORATION OF JOY!! This is why I said at the beginning, "It takes God to love God". We can't create our own joy. We can't manufacture sustained joy. We can create happy moments, touching memories and good times, but we can not create sustained joy in the place of crushing loss and deep failure. Only God can do that and He wants to do it. Joy is an undeserved gift, given to us by God and as Paul says, "Always be joyful" .
Allow yourself to smile again. Allow yourself to feel good about what God is doing in you. Allow yourself to feel the joy of the Lord in your emotions. Allow joy to influence the way you think and the way you view the world. God will give you joy as you abide in Jesus, make Him your dwelling place. Joy makes us strong against the dark powers that seek to steal, kill and destroy your life. If you're a follower of Jesus, the Devil can't send you to hell, but he can make your life feel like it. Another reason joy is so powerful is because it kicks the devil in the teeth. I love to be joyful, even when I don't think I should be, because it's an advantageous move against the enemy. The bible tells us to believe God "and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..." . Glory is the radiant display of God's nature. We are to live our lives with a powerful faith in God, to be filled with inexpressible joy and display the radiant nature of God. WOW!! Does that describe how you live? Is sin stealing your joy? We don't deserve joy, but the Father gives it freely. The Kingdom of God is "righteousness, peace and joy, IN the Holy Spirit." The God of hope fills you with ALL JOY. So what do we do?
1. Stop sinning. Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to Christ Jesus.
2. Humbly ask for a restoration of joy and for a wiling spirit to sustain in this new lifestyle.
3. Demonstrate joy. Don't hold it in like it's a CIA secret. Live joyFULL!
 The Day the Revolution Began, p. 76-77