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That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 NKJV
Are you feeling fatigued and burned out, restless and dissatisfied; are you disillusioned with your life or health, marriage or family, church or ministry, job, business or career? If so, then you may be ready for something new!
Please understand that everything in the economy of life and nature has cycles, seasons and revolutions. For example, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night (Gen.8:22), old year and New Year, births and deaths. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s only new to you, so how can you experience your something new in 2022? When the Scriptures use the word “new”, both Old and New Testaments, the word is defined as “a fresh new thing.” Thus, this begs the question: what must you do to experience something new?
First you must understand “that which has been is what will be, and that which is done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun” (Text). What we call new is old to God. E.g., birds flew before airplanes; Enoch and Elijah were engaged in space travel before NASA; horses and chariots transported man before cars and trucks; and, plagues and pandemics predate Covid-19 (ala, the 1918 Flu pandemic).
When God called Israel to repent, He also impressed upon His people the need for taking individual responsibility to change in order to receive a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31). If you desire something new, is God asking you to rethink your direction in life? Is God asking you to change if you want to see and experience something new? I can remember a time when I was praying to God for something new to happen in my marriage, and God showed me that I needed to change in the then emotional and mental space that I existed, rather than assessing blame in the relationship. Once I decided to change, I saw and experienced something new in the relationship.
Jesus taught His disciples this principle of intrinsic change by saying that, “No one sews a patch of [new] cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17). Without you changing first, looking for something new is a waste of time and resources.
Religious beliefs, prayer, bible reading, fasting, etc. alone don’t birth something new. Whether you consider yourself to be part of the “circumcision or the uncircumcision”, without an inward change, you’re just too shallow to experience something new. What God demands is a new creation (a new you, see Galatians 6:15). Remember, Paul told the Corinthian Christians that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). A new creation is a changed creature, and a changed creature sees something new!
If you’re looking for something new in the New Year 2022, just know that nothing is new to God. You must first experience change inside of you and then you will personally experience something new; but you must change first!
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37: 4 NKJV
To delight in the Lord is to enjoy the Lord, to feel the joy of the Lord. This joy involves trusting, enjoying, committing, and resting in a consciousness of His presence, thus acknowledging Him as the real source of your joy. Joy is a feeling that accompanies the expectation, acquisition, and possession of the things you desire. God promised to give you the desires of your heart—not what you want, but you need (Phil. 4:19).
Is there a difference between a need and a want? God promised to supply all your need, not all your wants. There has to be a significant difference. Obviously, a need is something necessary, essential, something required for survival. But on the hand, seems to me that, a want is something you wish for or desire to possess. For example, food is a need, but you may want to eat steak and lobster, when rice and beans will satisfy your hunger. And, once that need is met, you will be sustained; but your want for steak and lobster would entertain the lust of your flesh and eyes (1 John 2:16).
God promised to give you the desires of your heart, but how do you get the desires of your heart? Jesus taught that you ask, seek, and knock and it shall be given (Matt. 7:7). But are the desires of your heart needs or wants? Remember, he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). To be “joined” is to be cleaved to and glued to the Lord. Since God chose you before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), He also foresaw and made provisions for your needs to be supplied. Therefore, accordingly, the righteous desires of your heart, in your oneness with the Lord, are needs, not wants. God knows the things that you have need of before you ask (Matt. 6:8, 32).
If the desires of your heart—things that are needful and necessary—aren’t being supplied, is it because you’re not delighting yourself in the Lord, or is it because you have not because you ask not (Jas. 4:2-3). Notwithstanding, don’t confuse wants with needs, to do so is deferring your hope and expectation (Prov. 13:12). When your hope is deferred, it causes disappointment; and, disappointment leads to discouragement; and discouragement leads to disillusionment; and disillusionment leads to distress; and distress leads to stress; and stress leads to sickness. What you want, you may not need!
“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” . . . Exodus 20:3-5 NKJV
In the Ten Commandments, God warned His people against the sin of idolatry, i.e., serving or worshipping anything or anyone other than Almighty God Himself (Text). Many Christians—although sincerely ignorant—have made the U.S. national anthem a god or sacred symbol. They seem to conflate the U.S. flag and national anthem with their Christian faith. To do so is idolatry—plain and simple! Not to mention, they are oblivious of the U.S. Constitution and the freedoms it affords all citizens to revere or desecrate the flag and the anthem.
Most American citizens, regardless of race, color or ethnicity, will warm-heartedly pledge an allegiance to the flag for which all it stands before and after Slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement; notwithstanding the historical imperfections of America and the ongoing struggle to find a more perfect Union. Citizens with a true and honest heart should find the third verse of the national anthem historically problematic and offensive with its painful reminder of America’s dark past—ungodly racist attitudes and discriminatory acts—which are often repeated in this day and time—especially racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Bigots and racists should no longer try to cover-up their “white privilege” and animus against people different from them—in an effort it seems—to assuage their historical guilt and fear of change. Anthem protestors are people simply exercising their First Amendment rights (freedom of speech and expression). Those “so-called” Christians with bigoted and racistic tendencies need to repent and commit themselves to the truth of the Scriptures in the Holy Bible, and juxtapose the third verse of the national anthem against biblical truth and values. Perhaps, then they could have more compassion and understanding for anyone of color who chooses to protest for their just cause during the playing of the historical unjust national anthem.
Pray for those who choose to protest injustices in our country during the playing of the national Anthem. Respect those who peacefully make a stand for what they believe is right. There is so much propaganda and politicization surrounding the national anthem. Many are not aware that when Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the “song” that was eventually adopted as the U.S. national anthem, the song contained four verses. It is the third verse that brings insult, disrespect, and hurt feelings to the descendants of African slaves. The third verse is as follows:
“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
You might say: ”I never knew that there was a third verse”, or you may rationalize the problem away by saying, “only the first verse is ever sang anymore.” But it is still the same old racist song written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner, whose lyrics penned in this “song” enshrines the legacy of slavery. It is not hard to see that the third verse of the U.S. national anthem literally celebrates the deaths of slaves. And, descendants of slaves are still being killed, often times unjustly in America. Where is the outcry of the “so called” Christian Church?
As a Christian, i.e., a follower of Jesus Christ, I am not ignorant of the enemy’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). I refuse to be sincerely ignorant or conscientiously stupid. Let’s not conflate Christian faith with patriotism. To do so is idolatry. Neither should we fail to do what God requires of us all: to seek justice, love mercy, and live in humility (Micah 6:8), and refuse to make unrighteous judgments against oppressed people (Isaiah 11:3).
Everyone under God living in a free country should be at liberty to decide to kneel, sit, or stand during the playing of a national anthem. In light of the third verse in the U.S. national anthem, “[y]our glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7). “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Even though only the first verse is sang nowadays, the third verse is still embedded in the song, lurking behind the scenes. One bad verse of a song can make the whole song unacceptable. So make your decisions about the national anthem and let others make theirs. “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matt. 7:1). Pray rather than judge!
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full . . . Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. John 15:11; 16:20 NKJV
With every occasion of sadness and sorrow, you must locate your faith and refuse to allow sorrow or trouble to steal your joy. When circumstances steal your joy, metaphorically, it’s like you’re “running on empty in an automobile.” And, when you’re running on empty, without refueling, you’ll eventually run out and become sad or depressed. But if you do, don’t pretend to be happy in the face of your pain and sorrow; with the joy of the Lord, you can turn your sorrow into joy that no man or nothing can ever take from you.
Jesus said some things to His disciples so that His joy would remain in them, and in turn, their joy would be full. But what had Jesus spoke? He outlined least two powerful principles: (1) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); and then, (2) “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:7-8).
Fruit is the product of plant growth, and joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). To abide in Him is to dwell in Him; grow in Him; and, to stay present in Him regardless circumstances that may bring sadness and sorrow. The joy that Jesus gives through His abiding Word becomes full—complete—when it remains; thus , becoming your joy—joy that it isn’t diverted, distracted, or interrupted by test and trials (John 16:24).
Unlike happiness, which can be faked or be a pretense, joy is a fruit of the Spirit and a spiritual force. It is birthed inside the human heart, manifested in cheerfulness, delight and gladness that remains unchanged regardless of circumstances. So, how do you turn your sorrow into joy? First you must be committed to rejoicing everyday (Psalm 118:24); then, when sorrow and trouble comes to steal your joy, you’ll need a consciousness of joy, and as an act of your will, you must mentally shift from sorrow to consider the joy that Jesus had when He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2); thus, you’ll be shifting from your sorrow to the feel the joy of the Lord (See John 16:20-22 and Nehemiah 8:10). Turn your sorrow into joy!
[I]n everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
Never allow a circumstance or situation stop you from being grateful. No, you shouldn’t thank God for everything bad that happens, but rather, thank God in everything. Why? Remember God’s promise to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience . . . let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4). When you’re “perfect and entire”, you have ascended higher in the things of God. It’s your attitude of gratitude that determines your altitude, spiritually speaking.
Evil things like viral pandemics, sickness, and suffering are allowed by God, but they don’t come directly from God; neither do feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. So why would you thank God for any of it? When evil circumstances rare their ugly heads, you can still be thankful in it for two reasons: (1) you can be grateful for God’s presence (Ps. 16:11); (2) and, be grateful knowing that God will accomplish His good, notwithstanding the circumstance (Rom. 8:28). Bottom line: it is the will of God, according to His pleasure and purpose that you have an attitude of gratitude, so stay submitted and humble to His Word and He will lift you up, higher and higher! (Jas. 4:7, 10).
Gratitude is a force that works much like the Law of Lift. In Physics, the science of matter, motion, energy and force, Lift is the Third Law of Physics that explains how birds and airplanes achieve lift in order to fly. For example, “the wing of the airplane must change something of the air to get lift. To generate lift, the wing must divert lots of air down, then the lift of the wing becomes equal to the change in the momentum of the air it diverts (Newton). You can change the “air of your circumstances” with gratitude, which will divert the “bad air” of your circumstance down; rather than allowing the circumstance to get you down, with gratitude and thanksgiving, the Lord will lift you up!
Social scientists and mental health therapists are now saying that one of the best ways to overcome feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression is to feel gratitude (Psychology Today). Circumstances and stuff happens in life; they really come with living your life (Phil. 4:11-13). But be grateful. To be grateful is to count your blessings, not your problems; give thanks for the abundance of all of the good things that God has ready blessed you with (Deut. 28:47).
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
There’s a song that we sang in the “old church”—the church of my upbringing, entitled: “I Woke Up this Morning with My Mind, Stayed on Jesus.” What was the import of that song? Well, a stayed mind is a mind at perfect peace; a single mind; a sound mind; and, a strong mind—a mind that leans and depends upon the Lord and takes hold of the unchanging truth of His Word (Ps. 119:160; Matt. 24:35).
A stayed mind will love God above all else at all times (Matt. 22:37). Nothing is more important even in the face of a crisis, test or trial. You love God with your entire mind, i.e., intellect and deep thoughts (Phil. 2:5), with your imagination (Eph. 3:20), and with understanding (2 Tim. 1:7). On the other hand, an unstayed mind is a double mind (Jas. 1:8). A double mind is a two spirited mind, vacillating in opinion and purpose; a mind that is unstable mentally and spiritually. In the field of mental health, double-mindedness can be a symptom of Schizophrenia, which is a mental disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and to relate properly to others. Let us not be a “spiritual Schizophrenic.” God is good all the time!
Any serious challenge, crisis, or temptation that you face will reveal your state of mind. If you mind is stayed on the Lord, you will show perfect peace. If not, you’ll display your hidden hurts, or some unresolved issue in your life. But regardless of the challenge keep you mind stayed on the Lord, because a stayed-mind never gives in to circumstances (Phil. 4:6, 7). Keep your mind stayed on God’s goodness. Don’t give in to sickness and disease, financial problems and uncertainty, isolation and loneliness, depression and despair, and relationship problems. Why? Because the “Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace” (Ps. 29:11). Be encouraged and keep you mind stayed on the Lord!
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV
Beginning at salvation, we are all set on a journey called life in Christ, but life can sometimes throw a lot of contradictory and puzzling circumstances in your path. Yet as Believers, we are commanded to rejoice—not in the circumstances but in the Lord (Phil. 3:1; 4:4). But how can you rejoice if you’re hurting and in pain, sad and depressed, or suffering disappointment or lost, etc.? If this sounds like a puzzle; or if life were a puzzle, then the missing piece of the puzzle is joy. To choose life is to choose joy.
A puzzle is when you’re presented with a problem or situation that is difficult to understand or solve. It baffles and confuses your mind. For example, when God led Israel out of Egypt’s bondage with the promise of going to a promised land of milk and honey—Canaan land. But Israel encountered a number of contradictions on their journey in the wilderness, i.e., thirst, hunger, the fear of giants, infighting, and feelings of unbelief, etc. These real life experiences were very puzzling; but the missing piece of their puzzle was joy of the Lord on their journey.
Joy is choosing life and blessing over cursing and death. Jesus taught that He was life, and He came to give us life; and, His life would produce His joy in us (John 14:6; 10:10; 15:11). Israel found out in their wilderness experience that stuff happens in life that can baffle us and confuse us; thus making life feel like a puzzle. If we don’t find the missing piece to the puzzle, then we become vulnerable to feelings of sadness and depression.
Sadness, depression, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts are the path to spiritual and physical death. but remember, the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). Choosing joy is a life-death decision. Spiritually speaking, another definition of suicide is choosing not to live with the joy of the Lord; choosing to be safe—seeking security rather than the will of God; and, choosing the familiar and the predictable—this is what Israel did during their temptation in the wilderness of problems, adverse and fearful circumstances. They thought the puzzle would be solved just by returning back to the bondage of Egypt, where they remember the delicious foods they ate notwithstanding their slavery (Numbers 11:1-6). Israel’s missing piece of their puzzle was the joy of the Lord. They didn’t really have a problem; all they needed was the joy of the Lord!
God has revealed that joy is the path from death to life. Through forgiveness and reconciliation to the Father, we have been set on the path of joy (Luke 15:10). Joy is the path “of life” (not to life) from spiritual death to life (Psalm 16:11; Eph. 2:5). Joy is the missing piece of life’s puzzles. So, rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer. Rejoice in the Lord always (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:16).
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:22-24 NKJV
Even when Paul was in jail, jail wasn’t in Paul (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 2 Tim. 4:6-7). His resolve was: “none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy” (Text). His attitude teaches us two powerful lessons: (1) our inner attitudes don’t have to reflect our outward circumstance, (2) what we put into life is far more important than what we get out of it. The good news is that life circumstances can change but the Lord doesn’t change. So, never stop rejoicing in the Lord, because we are apart from where we are, what we do, and what we have. Whatever God’s purpose, plan, and will is for our lives, we must finish our course with joy.
Joy is the path from life to death (Psalm 16:11). How? Forgiveness and reconciliation to the Father sets us a on a path of joy (Luke 15:10). And, why do we rejoice in the Lord? At least two reasons: (1) To celebrate the fact that we are in God’s presence (2) to maintain the conscious of the presence of God. Not to realize this is to be rendered spiritually unconscious because we never leave the presence of God (Jonah 1:1-3; Psalm 139:7-8). Furthermore, God has promised everlasting joy to the redeemed of the Lord (Isaiah 35:10). Because of forgiveness and reconciliation for our past, present, and future sins, we are placed permanently at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11; John 15:11).
During our journey in life, there will be many occasions to feel something other than joy due to adverse circumstances, painful injustices, and other tests and trials, but we are called to finish our course with joy—never allowing anyone or anything break our hearts of joy (See Acts 21:10-13). On this journey, we’ll need a good start and even a stronger finish with the joy of the Lord; therefore, let us “Rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer . . . Rejoice always in Lord! (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:16).
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
So, what is God saying in current crisis (COVID-19 pandemic), which is causing people to suffer sickness, financial problems and uncertainty, unemployment, mental and emotional breakdowns, loneliness and isolation, depression and marital problems, spousal abuse and child abuse, and even substance abuse? God is saying, “[I] will keep [you] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [God].”
We can’t avoid conflict and problems in this uncertain world, but with God, we can be at peace even in the midst of this pandemic, affliction and persecution, chaos and confusion. When we are faithful in our relationship with God, our whole attitude can be healthy, stable and steady, supported by God’s unchanging hand of love and His mighty power. And, if we keep our thoughts on God and trust in Him, we can have, not just peace but perfect peace!
Perfect Peace is double peace (Shalom Shalom, Hebrew Text). It’s peace upon peace; it is to feel wholly peaceful and safe, happy and healthy, well and prosperous; and to feel all is well. The Bible speaks of two kinds of peace: peace of God (Text) and peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The peace of God is your mind-set and peace with God is your heart-set and righteous standing before God. The key to perfect peace is a stayed mind, i.e., your mind leaning upon the Lord and taking hold of God by standing on His Word. A stayed mind is having a sober and healthy attitude, not disturbed by sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical or emotional problems.
Satan uses adverse circumstances to rob you of your peace— things like affliction, fear, trouble, disturbances, distractions, and inconveniences. If your mind isn’t stayed on God, these circumstance will certainly reveal hidden and unhealed hurts and other unresolved issues in your life (See Mark 4:35-41). Every crisis you face is also is an opportunity to refocus your faith and reset your relationship with God. At the core of all these problems are fear and anxiety (Phil. 4:6), but God promised perfect peace, and He “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Rom. 16:20).
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe . . . Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 3:1; 4; 4 NKJV
Doesn’t it seem strange that a man unjustly in prison would be telling the church to rejoice? This is exactly what the Apostle Paul did. Paul’s attitude teaches us a powerful lesson: our inner attitudes don’t have to reflect our outward circumstance. It’s so easy to get discouraged about life’s circumstances and lose our joy—all because we’re not looking at life from the right perspective. The Word of God teaches us that God Himself is the source of our joy, and that joy is the natural state of the believer (John 15:11). Rejoicing in the Lord is imperative in believing, in living, in giving, in serving, and in suffering. Joy is our guard rail!
A guard rail is the edge of something that prevents people from falling off. For example, falling off the edge of the road while driving a car; falling off a deck or porch; falling out of a bunk bed, etc. Rejoicing in the Lord is our guard rail when faced with the adverse circumstance of life. Joy prevents us from derailing into anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. Joy is the cheerfulness, delight, gladness we have in the Lord; it is an inward force of the Spirit of God within us; it is a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and God is: love, joy, and peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).
Love is the grace that helps us fulfils the whole law; joy and peace is the normal state of the believer; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness is the grace to help us relate to others; and, temperance is self-control—controlling our appetites, desires, and passions. Joy is not happiness, which is a state of mind based on circumstances or happenings. Joy is the guard rail that remains unchanged regardless of the circumstances; our ground for rejoicing is in the Lord not circumstances.
Paul could write to the church about rejoicing in the Lord always because that’s exactly what he did, even while imprisoned in chains (Acts 26:2, 28-29). Joy was his guard rail that prevented him from anger, depression, and hopelessness. Notwithstanding, his unjust arrest and imprisonment, joy validated Paul’s witness before, during, and after his arrest (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Because joy is also our guard rail let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and continue instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12). Rejoice always (Thess. 5:16). Joy is our guard rail!