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    A Conspiracy of Joy

    One of my favorite moments of the year is on Christmas Eve when, at the conclusion of our church’s candlelight service, we erupt with the powerful song “Joy to the World.” Because our church practices Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) as a season of preparing our hearts to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we wait to unleash this song until that holy moment—then our voices raise the rafters. The song is the perfect conclusion to Advent, since joy is at the heart of everything Jesus does for us.

    The Hope of Heaven

    I’ll never forget what one of my older friends said when her son died unexpectedly: “Heaven seems nearer.” Although she was a widow who had endured hardship and pain, she lived her life with verve and joy. In her sadness over losing her son, she sought God’s perspective and, in doing so, felt the distance lessen between God’s kingdom on earth and His kingdom in heaven.

    Warm Glow

    A study conducted by a group of neuroeconomists from the University of Zurich found that people who showed generosity were happier than people who acted in a selfish way. In fact, they found that if people were even a little bit generous, they still experienced a pleasant feeling. The researchers measured activity in areas of the brain linked to contentment and generosity. Interestingly, the feeling of happiness that one experiences when giving has been termed a “warm glow.”

    "My Joy . . . Your Joy"

    What was the joy that Jesus had? Joy should not be confused with happiness. In fact, it is an insult to Jesus Christ to use the word happiness in connection with Him. The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do— “. . . who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross . . .” (Hebrews 12:2). “I delight to do Your will, O my God . . .” (Psalm 40:8). Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?

    Pax Aquarius

    In the sixties, a mystical, upbeat pair of tunes lent voice to the better aspirations of a growing counterculture. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” anticipated an era governed by peace and love.

    Hope in Grief

    When I was nineteen, one of my close friends was killed in a car accident. In the following weeks and months, I walked each day in a tunnel of grief. The pain of losing someone so young and wonderful clouded my vision, and at times I even felt unaware of what was going on around me. I felt so blinded by pain and grief that I simply could not see God.

    In Luke 24, two disciples, confused and broken-hearted after Jesus’s death, didn’t realize they were walking with their resurrected teacher Himself, even as He explained from Scripture why the promised…

    Hope Anyway

    Among the hundreds of articles I’ve written for Our Daily Bread since 1988, a few stick in my mind. One such article is from the mid 1990s when I told of a time that our three girls were away at camp or on mission trips, so six-year-old Steve and I had some guy time.

    As we were enjoying an excursion to the airport, Steve turned to me and said, “It’s not as much fun without Melissa,” his eight-year-old sister and sidekick. Neither of us knew then how poignant those words would turn out to be. Life indeed has not been “as much…

    Hope Just Yet

    “I’m crazy about em-dashes,” says the author of my favorite editorial newsletter. (It’s Stephanie Smith’s Slant//Letter, in case you’re wondering.) Also in case you’re wondering, this is an em-dash: —.

    The King Forever

    On 30 April 2019, Japan’s Emperor Akihito will mark his 85th birthday with a historic act: he will abdicate the throne, something that hasn’t happened in the nation for more than two centuries. While the emperor’s plans are controversial, the larger concern is that the royal line has a diminishing number of heirs, a situation that may eventually develop into a constitutional crisis. These realities are all the more unnerving because the Japanese dynasty is the oldest monarchy in the world, tracing its lineage back to the year 660.

    Joyful Surrender

    Bible scholars have noted how dangerous and radical the early church’s confession—Jesus is Lord!—seemed to others. Since Israel lived under the oppressive regime of the Roman Empire, where Caesar was considered lord, insisting that Jesus was Lord was a direct affront to Caesar’s supposed power. And yet this confession stood at the very centre of the first Christians’ convictions—and it still stands at the centre of believers’ convictions today.

    A Present Preview

    I know of family members who open one small gift on the eve of their birthdays. This makes for a fun ‘preview’ of the excitement of opening the rest of the gifts the next day.

    Spontaneous Love

    Love is not premeditated—it is spontaneous; that is, it bursts forth in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of precise certainty in Paul’s description of love. We cannot predetermine our thoughts and actions by saying, “Now I will never think any evil thoughts, and I will believe everything that Jesus would have me to believe.” No, the characteristic of love is spontaneity. We don’t deliberately set the statements of Jesus before us as our standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without even realizing it.

    The Fruit of Joy

    I love how joy can bubble up, unbidden. It can surprise me when I walk next to a gurgling brook or when I catch a glimpse of the faces of family and friends. Even when I fret about the friend whose feelings I’ve hurt, I can seek God’s help and peace as I release to Him my anxiety and receive the gift of His joy.

    Shuddering and Wild

    After the cross finished its cruel work, Jesus’ bewildered friends laid His ravaged body in a cold tomb. Night fell, and an eerie silence descended. Jesus’ followers huddled in grief and confusion. What do you do when your entire world crumbles with violent implosion? What’s left when everything you thought you knew, everything you’d hoped in, lies smoldering in ashes? What do you do when God has died?

    Feasting after Fasting

    “How can they observe the season of Lent and then miss out on the feasting afterwards?” a friend asked, mulling over the seemingly lost practice of celebrating the season of Easter—the fifty days following Resurrection Sunday. Christians who follow a more liturgical tradition dedicate the forty days before Easter as a season of prayer and fasting (while celebrating the resurrection each Sunday), but they sometimes neglect to embrace the discipline of celebration during the Easter season. Fasting without the subsequent feasting loses the experience of joy that God longs for His people to know and embrace.

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