Tag Archives: joy

The Twenty-third Psalm and a Box of Chocolates

an uphill trail obstructed with roots and rocksI trust you’ve had a good week and are enjoying the ever changing spring weather! (Well, that’ what it’s been like here in the Silicon Valley.) It kind of reminds me of that famous quote from the movie Forrest Gump. “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” One day it might be hot, and the next quite cool. One day it might rain, and an other will be clear and breezy. All of this also reminds me of a very familiar chapter in the Bible, Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley, (Or, the dark valley of death)
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.
Psalm 23, NLT

Within this poem, David declares that throughout all life’s circumstances the Lord will be with him, meeting every need according to God’s will. There is so much to learn and wisdom to be  gained by sitting with this passage and letting the Holy Spirit show us what is best for the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. May we always remember that God is good, the Spirit’s words to us are true, and the Lord is forever faithful and always with us.

Grace and peace,
Brook

Smile

Lillian smiling while riding a bikeThe smile of a child and the laughter of children as they play make the world go around day after day.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
Matthew 21:16, NIV

Originally posted at vsco.co/brookfonceca

Joy

An Advent Reflection for December 13, 2015, the Third Sunday of Advent

I trust your Christmas plans are coming together nicely! I pray, as well, that you have been able to embrace the hope and peace of Jesus this season!

Sunrise Upstate New YorkAt our worship gathering two Sundays ago at Valley Life Church, we kicked off this season of Advent with the carol Joy To The World. Joy is clearly a strong theme of Christmas. The question, though, is “What brings us joy at Christmastime?” Is it gifts, seasonal events, the cheerful atmosphere, or could it be something deeper?

The LORD your God is in your midst…
He will create calm with his love;
he will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17, CEB)

The passage above is a segment of a larger foretelling of the coming of Jesus as Messiah. The passage below is an admonition of the apostle Paul, but they both contain key truths to joy.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
(Philippians 4:4-5, NIV)

Joy is an existential reality. It comes from a place of security, knowing that you are loved and a looked upon with joy from those who are close to you. God’s love for us is not just providential or sacrificial; it is also lavish and joyful! It’s upon this foundation of God’s love that Paul encourages us to rejoice in the Lord and be God’s expression of love in our world. Rejoice! The Lord, in and through us, is near!

My prayer is that we experience God’s love that overflows toward us in unrestrained joy, I pray, as well, that this joyful love empowers us to love one another deeply and joyfully!

Grace and peace,
Brook

Embracing Joy

This week has been very busy. I cannot say that I’ve been continually joyful. I have, though, been reflecting on joy a lot this week and realized that joy is not automatic, nor is it something we muster up from inside us. Joy is an outward expression, and we express it when the opportunity meets us, that is if our hearts are open to recognize and embrace it.

joy shining throughTake the story of the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20. They receive the message from a band of angels that Messiah has been born in Bethlehem. They hurry off to investigate and discover that it is true. It’s at that point that they are full of joy and proclaim Jesus’ birth to anyone who will listen to them.

The shepherds did not have to respond the way they did. They could have taken one look at Jesus lying in the manger and said that there is no way the promised king from David’s family would come into the world like that. But, in that moment they chose to believe that hope of Messiah would be fulfilled through the life of that baby.

Joy is the recognition, embrace, and reveling in the moment when faith, hope, and love converge and intersect our lives. It may not seem that grandiose, but even in the simple things we can receive a gift of love, the stirring of faith, and the realization of hope, which can only be expressed outwardly with joy.

May our hearts be open to the opportunities to find joy, especially in this most joyous of times, Christmas!

Grace and peace,
Brook

A Community of Joy: Week 3 of Christmas Advent 2012

For this year’s Advent series, we will look at the themes of Advent, hope, peace, joy, love, and Christ, through the lens of community. This week let’s see how we can be a community of joy.

 

In the Nativity stories (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2), joy is continually expressed upon the realization that Israel’s Messiah has finally arrived in the baby Jesus. The hope of deliverance has come. Israel’s king has come to set things aright. This elicited great joy in Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna.

 

I was pondering where we can find joy today in the Christmas season. It is true that there is joy in our salvation, the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. But, how about as a community? Consider this, Ephesians 5:18-21 says,

 

Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.

 

Often, when we think we are lacking joy, peace, hope, love, freedom, etc., we find ourselves going to old ways of coping with whatever difficulty we are experiencing. “Don’t get drunk on wine…” can stand for anything we would use or do to find relief. The passage instead encourages us to find fulfillment through the Holy Spirit within the people of God. Joy comes realizing your belong to the family of God. Joy comes through worshiping God in song and through giving thanks. Joy comes when we live openly with one another in Christ.

 

Let’s not do the same old thing this Christmas season. Let’s have an open heart to experience God in both familiar and unfamiliar ways. And, when you are with others, take joy in Emmanuel, “God with us!”

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

 

Participating in the Mission of God

With this Sunday being Guatemala Mission Sunday at Valley Life Center, I’ve been thinking about the mission of the church as being grounded in the mission of God. I even mentioned the mission of God as the framework for our Sunday conversations on joy over the last few weeks. I described it like this, the mission of God is a mission of love (John 3:16) and it’s out of God’s unconditional love for his creation that the Son was sent to redeem not only the people of God, but as well, all creation. My point about joy and the mission of God was that just as love and joy were integral to creation they are both integral in redemption, making all things new. 

 

The beautiful thing about the mission of God is that God invites us to participate in this mission in Christ. The goal of the mission of God is to establish the kingdom of God both in this age but also in the age to come. We participate in this mission when we orient ourselves to God’s mission, to others, and to the world – in the context of the local church. (Thanks, Scot McKnight.)

 

It sounds silly, but we first must become aware of God’s mission to be able to participate in it. I only mention this because Christianity has over the generations become more and more individualistic, focusing on the benefits to those who believe, instead of becoming part of something God wants to do in the world. If God is others oriented, then his church should be as well. The fun and challenging part is exploring how the mission of God can be expressed within the local church. 

 

Even though we do a lot of things at VLC that can be described as missional, I pray that we continue to ask God how we can connect to the mission of God both as individuals and the body of Christ.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

 

 

Many Strands Strong

“He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults-to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.” ( Ephesians 4:11-13)

 

This week I had the chance to talk with a brother in our church. He was expressing a desire to be a pastor, even though he is currently in the business world. Through our conversation I got to share that being a pastor is a gift from the Lord to his church, not just a position within the organization of the church. I was able to affirm his desire to be a pastor based on how I’ve seen him live out his faith, mainly caring for people. He is using God’s gift to him to the benefit of others and the glory of God.

 

Why am I sharing this story? It comes out of my preparation for this Sunday’s conversation – The Culture of Joy.

 

An aspect of the culture of joy is celebrating diversity. This is something I think we do well as a faith community. I’ve always appreciated that we strive for unity over uniformity, and the manifold way God uses us for the expansion of his kingdom.

 

If, as we discovered last Sunday, that joy is an expression of God’s character and we rejoice in God’s gift of ministers then we can find strength in the many strands of his people standing together in love for him and one another. Let’s continue to celebrate who God has made us to be in his family!

 

Grace and peace,

Brook