Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-10

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

MANY PEOPLE IMAGINE God as a cosmic cop standing in the center of the galaxies like a police officer directing traffic.

“Hey, you! Yeah, you. You look like you’re having fun over there. Well, cut it out!”

“And you, with the videotape. What’s it rated? R? PG-13? Hand it over, slow and easy like!”

“And who’s that couple lip-locked in the corner? That you, Cindy? And Robert-I shoulda known! We’ll have no more of that! Not while I’m patrolling this beat!”

God. The Cosmic Killjoy. All we want to do is have a little fun. God just wants to spoil it for us.

But that’s not true at all. God is not out to spoil your fun. In fact, he wants you to enjoy life. He wants you to have a blast! He wants you to experience a full and joyful life. He thinks it’s cool when you laugh. He enjoys it when you’re having fun. He wants your life to be full of joy-complete, full, incredible.

That kind of joy is what the Bible calls “the joy of the Lord,” because true joy-like all good things-comes from God. The way puppies bounce around comically, tongues lolling out of their mouths-that was his idea. The way someone laughing really hard makes you want to laugh also, even if you don’t know why he or she is laughing-that was his idea, too. The way you feel when you first experience the forgiveness of sin and the gift of salvation in Christ, as if you could jump high enough to slam dunk the moon through the rings of Saturn-his idea again!

Only a God who is joyful himself could come up with such terrific ideas. That’s the kind of God our God is! And he wants you to experience that kind of joy, too. That’s why he gave his commandments. That’s why he sent his Son. That’s why he spoke his Word-so that you could get downright giddy with joy as a result of knowing him, following him, and having his Spirit living inside you. Joy from God’s Spirit dwells so deep within you that it doesn’t depend on circumstances. Loving and serving God doesn’t spoil your fun; it opens the door to “an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8, niv).

Oh, and one more thing-the face babies make when they taste something sour or bitter? That was God’s idea, too.

REFLECT: Are you more joyful when you’ve done something wrong or when you’ve done something really good? How can you experience more of “the joy of the Lord”?

ACT: Sing the chorus “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength” as loudly as you can. Try singing it while jumping up and down or while patting your head and rubbing your belly. Or sing it while tickling a friend (or being tickled).

PRAY: “God, you’re not a killjoy. You’re the one who brings joy to my life!”