Article IV, part 1



I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. . . . Where!?” This is probably how most of us would respond to the concept of joy — with a question.

Imagine suffering through some great physical ailment, such as cancer, and being counseled with these words from James 1:2, “Count it pure joy, my brothers [or sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds.” You’d probably fight back the urge to slap someone by firing back with a great big “What!?” “Count this bone breaking, gut wrenching, painful curse as what!?” “Joy?” Or, imagine suffering through an unexpected divorce after twenty-plus years of what you thought was wedded bliss and hearing someone say these words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Be joyful always.” You’d probably exchange a cross-eyed glance for a moment, only to ask, “Be joyful when!? Now!?

We all realize that life is hard and that suffering is bound to catch up to each of us at some point. And some of us know that God wants us to experience joy in all aspects of our lives. So, why is it when suffering enters our lives do we not only question the suffering but also the idea of being joyful in the midst of it?

It has to do with our thoughts. We were incorrectly taught that bad things are meant for bad people and that good things happen to good people. And who can be more good than we Christians, right? After all, we are God’s adopted children (Ephesians 1:4-5), are we not? Well, let’s examine this ideal more closely.

What makes us believe or think that bad things happen to bad people? From an early age we were told stories and shown movies that depict the message that “crime doesn’t pay” or “good conquers evil.” In the Bible we read such verses as: “The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the people with justice” (Psalm 9:7-8). We also learn that our own laws here in America — based on the Ten Commandments, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights — will bring justice and will punish those who intend to do us harm. Yes, we learn these things, read such verses, and study such ideals, but who or what defines for us what is good and what is bad? The answer is: our Creator, the great “I Am” — God.

God defines evil and righteousness. To be evil is to take on the attributes and spirit of Satan (Galatians 5:19-21), but to be good is to take on the attributes and Spirit of Jesus Christ, God’s Son (Galatians 5:22-23). Is this not why we think of Christians as good people? Don’t we expect Christians to act as Christ would act? After all, doesn’t popular Christian culture teach us to always ask “WWJD” (what would Jesus do)? Why ask this question if we aren’t expected to act on it?

For American citizens, living within the boundaries of our laws determines if we are good citizens or bad citizens. And though it is true that we are counted as good citizens if we obey the law, and though it is true that we as Christians are expected to act as Christ did, there is another truth we must come to terms with, and that is, “There is no one righteous [good], not even one” (Romans 3:10). None of us are good. Obey the law perfectly; we can’t. Be as righteous as Jesus; a daily struggle all Christians should aspire to accomplish, though not likely to happen.

So, why bother? Why care enough to try? Because even though we can’t be righteous on our own, Christ’s Spirit living in us can.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law of the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:21-24)

Jesus’ Spirit in us gives us the strength to be good; to do good things (Philippians 4:13).

You have read that no one person is good; yet you see that we can be good with God’s help. You may even grasp the overall concept, but how does this truth answer our question from earlier regarding suffering and joy? In this way: we must stop thinking that “good” people won’t and shouldn’t suffer. None are good and life is hard. Just as Jesus suffered for living a righteous life, so too should we expect to suffer. Listen to the apostle Peter’s words: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Did you catch that? Suffering in this life is not strange or abnormal, but very much the norm. And even better, if we rejoice in our participation (as hard as it will be, have the right attitude of worship — your choice, remember) then we can be overjoyed, totally thrilled beyond our wildest imagination, when God’s glory is revealed to us in heaven! Joy within suffering is our choice and a marvelous avenue to experiencing true worship and God’s glory. So, how do we do it? How do we choose to be “joyful in all things”? We must first realize what this principle of worship really is and what joy really means.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “joy” as:

(noun) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness: ‘tears of joy’/‘the joy of being alive.’ Also as (verb) [heart.] poetic/literary — rejoice: ‘I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture or pain.’

And, The Life Application Study Bible (NIV) defines “joy” as, “(noun) emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune: gladness or delight.” I find both of these definitions to be inadequate; well short of accurate. Allow me to explain why.

The definitions we just read are lacking, because they ascribe to joy the same attributions of happiness. Though these definitions define joy as both a noun and a verb, which it is, they really are ascribing no more depth to the word than if it were simply the word “happy” (an adjective). But happiness is really nothing more than an emotion. Something we occasionally experience, because it is fleeting. Joy is not a temporal emotion, but an actual attribution of God’s character — a part of His being; a “fruit” of His Spirit, according to Galatians chapter 5 verse 22.

Nothing about God is temporary. “In the beginning God . . .” (Genesis 1:1a); “In the beginning . . . was God” (John 1:1); “I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). God and His characteristics always have been, are now, and always will be. Happiness is not one of the fruits of His Spirit, but joy — real joy — is! Real joy can never be temporal or fleeting because it is a source of power and strength (Nehemiah 8:10b). Joy, can only come from God’s love for us and our obedience to Him (John 15:9-11). And joy, everlasting joy, can only come from God’s forgiveness and our restoration to, and peace with, Him (Luke 15:8-32).

Best-selling author C.S. Lewis once said that “joy is never in our power and pleasure [or happiness] often is.” If it’s in our power, then it’s fallible, temporal, of us and not of God, and definitely not real joy. Only a facsimile befitting the simple definitions ascribed to it from any dictionary on any shelf. We must understand what joy really is. It is eternal, a source of power for us, an attribute direct from God our Creator, Himself. Let’s now look deeper into what joy means to us and how we can apply real joy to our everyday lives and our everyday worship.

In our next post, we will fully disclose what joy means, and will expose how to correctly apply it to our everyday life and worship. Article 4, part two, will take the word “joy” and dissect it; cutting into what we said it is and looking around inside it — finding what lies at its core. To do this we will literally examine the word letter by letter, and when we are done, the acrostic we end up with will be a simple and applicable tool with which you can allow God to bring real joy to you daily.

The Joshua Project by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Down In My Heart (I’ve Got the Joy)” by George Willis Cooke, pub.: Unknown, Copyright: Public Domain

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article II, part 2


In part one of Article 2, we defined worship and began to look closer at two of three key attributes of God (His faithfulness and His hope) that produce the actions that equal worship, if we will choose to acknowledge them in our lives.

In this article we’ll begin with the third attribute — God is love.

Love can be defined in many ways, as worship can be, but for the sake of this blog let’s keep it simple. Let’s focus on the core definition of love and also its attributes. Love can be simply defined as a strong affection, a strong desire, or a strong devotion. Its attributes, listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-10, are: patience, kindness, without envy, without pride, without rudeness, isn’t selfish, isn’t easily angered, forgets offenses, is righteous, truthful, protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres and is always faithful. These sound similar to the attributes ascribed to God in Galations 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control . . .” No wonder Paul revealed to us, in 1 Corinthians 13:13, that above all of God’s attributes the greatest is love. In fact, Scripture reveals that God, more than anything else ascribed to Him, is entirely, 100 percent love (1 John 4:16). So we could easily apply the definitions of love directly to God’s character and say God is a strong affection toward us, God is a strong desire toward us, God is a strong devotion to us, and this was revealed to mankind through the incarnate Lord, Jesus Christ. If we can truly grasp this truth and trust it (have faith in it), if we can truly have confidence in the fulfillment of God’s love through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection (have hope in it), if we can truly live a life of love (have a strong affection, strong desire, strong devotion to God) then we can truly worship God in our daily lives.

(God’s love + acknowledging and applying God’s love = worship)

Joshua understood God’s love for the people of Israel and also grasped the concept of living a life of love for God Himself. Joshua spoke in Joshua 22:5, “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” Christ also taught this very same principle of worship in Matthew 22:37-38 when He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Christ didn’t stop there either; Jesus followed up His statement on love by saying in verse 39, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” To truly live a life of worship, a life filled with God’s love, we must also love mankind as God loves mankind. Think on that. Caring for people is yet another act of worship, but we will look further into this attribute in Article 4.

So, how can we take these equations of worship and apply them to our lives? How can we grasp these truths and let them rule our hearts on a daily basis? Just as the Hebrews used special words to describe their heart for worship, we too can ascribe three key words or principles to help us focus on what is at the heart of being a true worshiper of God.

First, we must have a Christ-like attitude (Philippians 2:5-8), an overall attitude of worship. You see, an attitude of worship will both prepare us for worshiping God and set the stage for our response to God after we have begun worshiping Him. How can we have a right attitude? I’ll go into more detail in the third article, but basically we can create an attitude of worship in our daily lives by applying these five positive attitude principles:

– Rejoice in the Lord — always! (Psalm 118:24; Philippians 4:4)

– Have a gentle spirit (Proverbs 15:1, 25:15; Ephesians 4:2-3)

– Replace worry with prayer (Psalm 4:1; Philippians 4:6-7)

– Keep a proper perspective/outlook on life (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

– Apply what you have learned and live it (Ephesians 4:22-25; Philippians 4:8-9)

Second, we must have joy in our lives, and I mean real joy which must dominate our hearts (Psalm 51:10-12; Isaiah 12:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; James 1:2-4). Real joy can be defined as a celebration of faith (Psalm 16:11), a rejoicing in service, and being at peace. In the fourth article we will delve deeper into what joy really means to us and how we can achieve it in our lives, but we must now begin to understand the importance this principle will have in our daily worship experience (Psalm 19:8; Proverbs 10:28).

Our third principle: we must understand God’s purpose for our lives (Job 36:5; Psalm 138:8; Proverbs 19:21). Why are we here? Why did God create us? We were created to be covered by God’s glory (Psalm 8:4-5), to reflect His righteousness (Proverbs 4:18; Romans 1:14-17), and to be in fellowship with our Creator (1 John 1:3-4). In other words, God purposed us to be holy (set apart) and to worship Him. Article 5 will explore God’s purpose for us in more detail, but we must realize now that God has revealed in His word a very definite purpose for mankind; a purpose of consecration and worship.

In closing, let’s realize that worship is more than just a song sung on Sunday morning. Let’s choose today to recall the three key attributes of God:

Faith

Hope

Love

Let’s choose to also remember to acknowledge these attributes of God in our lives so that we can begin the process of becoming true worshipers in all things. Let’s choose today to recall the three words or principles that will bring into light for each of us what should be at the heart of our daily worship:

Attitude

Joy

Purpose

Pastor and teacher Graham Truscott was absolutely correct when he said, “When God’s people begin to praise and worship Him using the biblical methods He gives, the power of His presence comes among His people in an even greater measure.” The biblical methods discussed above are together the cornerstone now set upon the foundation we laid in Article 1. Let’s move forward then, as we continue with building the temple of worship God desires in us.

The Joshua Project by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article I, part 2


In part one of Article 1, I revealed that Joshua exhibited five key themes, called “megathemes,” throughout his life. These five megathemes, taken from The Life Application Study Bible (NIV), co-published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and Zondervan Publishing House, are what I chose to use to help us understand why Joshua is an excellent example of a true worshiper, and these same megathemes began laying the foundation for this study on worship as it relates to each one of us, who are children of the living God.

The first megatheme we looked at was Joshua’s success as the leader of his nation and his family. The second was Joshua’s faith in God. By Joshua choosing to trust in God; not once, but on a daily basis, he allowed God to move in his life which provided opportunities for God to save him and the nation of Israel from their enemies and also allowed God to guide Joshua in his leading of this fledgling nation.

The third megatheme we will examine is divine guidance. Joshua received instructions from God for every aspect of his life, and it was up to him to properly convey those instructions to the nation of Israel. And not just in word but also in his deeds; “talk the talk and walk the walk.” God’s law, the Ten Commandments, guided Israel’s daily living, and His specific instructions conveyed directly through Joshua provided them with the guidance they needed to enjoy all their successes.

Guidance from God for our daily living can be found throughout the Scriptures. We can find it in our prayer time, as well. By staying in touch with God and His principles for living, we will have the needed wisdom to meet the challenges and conflicts that life on earth brings (Psalms 25:4-5; 119:105). By allowing God’s guidance to prevail in his life and staying connected with God regarding all matters, Joshua was able to teach his people another important act of worship — obedience (Joshua 1:7-9).

Joshua is also one of the greatest examples of leadership, our fourth megatheme, in Scripture. Joshua’s confidence in God’s word, God’s plan, God’s strength, and God’s faith in him, a mere mortal man, became the very reason he was such a great leader and it’s a marvelous glimpse at Joshua’s character, courage, and spiritual maturity.

To be a strong leader like Joshua takes an uncanny ability to listen well. When God speaks, we have to have the type of relationship that makes God’s voice as familiar to us as our own family members’ voices are to one another (John 10:27).

We also must have the will to obey God and move when told to move by God. God will instruct us according to His plan, and we have to be diligent in carrying out His plan. Bottom line, strong leadership comes from being led by God Himself. Joshua revealed this act of worship to his elders and to his people by following God’s leading (Joshua 1:9-11; 23:1-3).

Last, we see Joshua as a conquerer. Now that can be seen as a negative characteristic in this post-sixties era where “make love, not war” still rings loud and clear in our politically correct American society, but the megatheme of conquest is not at all a negative trait. It is very much a part of our worship of the Almighty because it requires another act of worship, the will to serve. Remember we stated earlier, the will to serve allows God to do His most mighty of miracles through us all.

Understand that it was God who commanded Israel, through Joshua, to conquer the Canaanites and take all their land (Joshua 1:1-6). This was God’s plan. God was using the Israelites to fulfill His promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:18) and to bring judgment on the evil that was there in the land — the land God had promised Moses for Israel to inhabit (Exodus 3:17).

Joshua and the Israelites under him were faithful in accomplishing this mission of total conquest, for the most part. In Joshua chapter 9, we read the story of how the nation of Gibeon deceived the nation of Israel, thus preventing the annihilation of Gibeon. Gibeon became a slave nation under Israel, and thus became the first country to escape God’s judgment at Israel’s hand. This eventually became a trend in Israel’s behavior, and attention to God’s details wavered in the years after Joshua died. The Israelites’ commitment to God eventually faltered altogether.

To be faithful to God’s call and to love God as we should requires of us more than mere enthusiasm. It requires endurance in our commitment to Him (2 Timothy 4:7-8). There can be no room in our lives for complacency (Proverbs 1:32). God’s work in us, His plan for us must be completed (Acts 20:24). God’s instructions must be completely applied to every facet of our lives (Exodus 24:7; Psalm 119:1-8).

Joshua’s act of worship was to complete the task given him by God, and he did so, outside of Gibeon’s ruse. It was Israel’s failure in future generations that kept them from achieving their full spiritual potential as a people of God. The nation of Israel eventually removed their faith from God and placed their faith time and time again in man-made idols. The desecration of God’s chosen people came about when Babylon ransacked Israel in or around 586 BC, and for the next fifty or so years Israel lived in exile as a conquered people in a foreign land.

An odd way to end, commenting on failure rather than achievement. Just remember, Joshua didn’t fail in his faithfulness to God, though the fact is Joshua was fallible. The deception of Gibeon shows us this. It was the nation of Israel in its later years, though, that really failed. You and I must realize we can only become true worshipers of God if we remain faithful to the end (Matthew 24:5-13), serving God and each other with all our mind, body, and soul. The goal is achievable. Joshua was not a true worshiper because he was perfect, but because he wasn’t. Nothing noted above was a result of Joshua’s own ability, but a result of God doing a good and perfect work in and through Joshua’s life because Joshua was willing to serve God and the Israelites.

This is where conquest comes in as an act of worship. We have to allow God full control of our lives so that He will be able to mold us and make us into the perfect instruments of His glory that He desires us to be. It’s the Holy Spirit working in us and through us that conquers our daily evils, either in us or around us (Romans 8:9-13, 37-39). Realizing we are the temple for which God’s Spirit can reside (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) is one of the most marvelous aspects of worship we can hope to experience under the sun. Joshua, Israel’s elders, and the nation of Israel under them were all examples of what God can do through us when we are faithful to serve Him, wholly (Joshua 24:31). In later years, unfortunately, Israel was also an example of what happens when we don’t.

Let us now quickly recap what we just learned from the life of Joshua. First, we can only experience success if we are faithful in following God’s plan for our lives. Second, faith can’t begin in our lives until we truly believe God can be trusted. We must know that God wants what is best for us. Third, we must allow God’s guidance to prevail in our lives and stay connected with God regarding all matters. In short, we must be obedient to God in all things. Our fourth reminder is in the area of leadership. Strong leadership comes from being led by God. Then our fifth and final reminder concerns the idea of conquest, or being a conquerer. We really must allow God full control of our lives so that He will be able to mold us and make us into His likeness. Always be mindful that it’s the Holy Spirit working in us and through us that conquers all our earthly conflicts and dilemmas. As Paul told us in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 4, verse 13), “I can do everything through Him [Christ] who gives me strength” (NIV).

These five megathemes in Joshua’s life set up the principles we all will need to follow if we are to become the true worshipers that our heavenly Father desires for us to be. Our faithfulness to God allows Him to bless us with many successes. A wholehearted trust in God allows our faith in God to grow in all areas of our lives. Also, obedience to God’s Word allows His divine guidance to lead us in all things, thus making us into the leaders and conquerers He planned for us to be.

The foundation has been laid, so now let’s begin with building a temple of worship in our hearts, minds, and spiritual lives in which God desires to reside.

The Joshua Project by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.