December 12, 2012

Have joy instead of fear

By James Townsend, vice president for enrollment management and marketing
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 12:2-6 (NRSV)

I grew up in the South and attended a very conservative church that can only be described as preaching a “once saved, barely saved” message. There were so many lessons that made people afraid of hell and thus pushed them to get baptized only to have a better chance to get into heaven. Yet the people who had said they were saved and had been baptized didn’t seem to have more joy than those who didn’t know Christ.

A few years later when I was attending a different church in the same denomination, the teacher asked each of us to raise our hands if we knew, without any doubt, that we were saved and were going to be in heaven one day. At that moment I realized that I needed to know God as my Father and my Forgiver and start to live with a joy that came from within me so that others would want to know about it.

As today’s verses remind us, it’s time to stop being afraid of God’s wrath, as we would a random lightning strike, but instead to celebrate that God is the most powerful being in the universe and that God has chosen us to be his adopted and dearly beloved children. We are also reminded to never be ashamed to share the name of Jesus Christ. When we speak, we should speak from a position of love for one another. When we sing, we should sing songs to God and about God. When we work and serve one another, we should do so with genuine joy that comes from deep inside us. We should make sure Jesus’ name is remembered more than our own, for he is the Holy One of Israel, our Redeemer, and giver of living water!

I love to sing and to be part of a church family who loves to sing well. As a prayer for the day, I invite you to listen to this Fanny Crosby hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” and to reflect upon the words.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 12:2-6 (NRSV)
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.



Comments (13)

  1. Hello,
    I read the messages each day. Am having a rough road presently in my own life, so it is reassuring to know that God is in charge, that He sees my struggles and has a greater plan for me, Thank you.

    Mary Hughes December 12, 2012 |
  2. beautifully said and I love the song!

    Mandy December 12, 2012 |
  3. Thanks you James! Very inspiring to be reminded that God’s love and presence is with us always! I really enjoyed the music link as we begin many finals this a.m.!

    Vicky Kirkton December 12, 2012 |
  4. Beautiful! Thank you!

    Doreen December 12, 2012 |
  5. How proud our son has made us, in so many ways. God we thank you for being with us today. Through some tough times , we are going through , we know God is in charge.

    Nancy Townsend December 12, 2012 |
  6. Rough roads, crooked roads, made straight. a promise i hold on to. life can and does have it’s challenges, but our God is here!! thank you for the sharing.

    Randy Springer December 12, 2012 |
  7. James’ sharing provided a fitting balance between personal disclosure and scriptural connection. The music and especially the image provided a fitting metaphor characterizing the Lord’s relationship with each of us. Thank you.

    Peter Kufeke December 12, 2012 |
  8. Once again well done devotions as in previous years. However for me, Advent is the time to focus on the first coming of our Lord and the thoughts and thanks giving that it inspires so I’ve switched to another site for Advent. Thought you would want to know. Harold

    Harold Larsen December 12, 2012 |
  9. Bravo! You, James, do indeed embody the “joy of the journey,” a favorite GC expression. I will try my best to live out the prophet’s herald to: “Sing praises to the Lord, for the glorious things God has done!” Not always easy, but much better than focusing on fear as you so eloquently note. Thanks.

    Jim Brenneman, GC President December 12, 2012 |
  10. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts..I feel so toughed right now. This week I have been singing the song you mention Give Him the Glory great things he has done…Amen

    Judith December 12, 2012 |
  11. Amen, brother! Some of us get another repeated message, that we are not poor enough, serving enough, and humble enough in the church’s message. We too need to embrace our beloved state as God’s children. We ned to focus our attention more on the God in Christ who leads by the Holy Spirit and then we can serve, share God’s message of salvation and love one another.

    Gary Olsen-Hasek December 12, 2012 |
  12. Thank you, James, for your gracious reminder that all is for Him, our dear Lord God, and his Son, Jesus who himself said to the Father that all he had done was for the Father’s glory. What a sweet and humble and obedient Son. How fortunate we are to have Jesus as Lord and Teacher.

    Mervyn Carapiet December 13, 2012 |
  13. Thanks for including the hymn. Familiar though it was, yet it was good to just sit and listen to it’s message.

    Ora Troyer December 18, 2012 |