Category Archives: Life

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It is good to ask God, “Where are you?” Some of us are afraid to ask, thinking that our faith or our soul is in jeopardy. But in reality, it is quite the opposite. If we are asking God where He is, it means that we care and that we want to know where God is. In fact, we are better off when asking this question. As Scripture says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Living in New Testament times, we are apt to answer this question too quickly. We dismiss passages like Psalm 22, where David asks, “Why are you so far from me?” Often we flippantly respond that David didn’t know the whole picture. Now that we have the New Testament, we know that God’s Spirit lives inside of us (1 Corinthians 3:16, Romans 8:11), so we no longer need to ask God where He is.

But honestly, that is only part of the picture. In Psalm 22, David is not asking a question about spatial location. He was well aware that God is omnipresent; in other words, there is no place where God is not. (Psalm 139:7-12). Nor was David doubting that God was within earshot. Otherwise He wouldn’t have prayed when He felt distant from God. (Psalm 51:11, Ps. 44)

What did David mean, then, when he asked God, “Why have you forgotten me?” He felt distant from God in terms of God’s relational presence. We do not know whether God was actually distant (because of sin in David’s life) or if He only seemed to be distant (because of David’s feelings). In either case, though, it was good for David to ask.

In the first case, when we sin, we should always ask God where He is. We should reject our sin and turn back to Him. As 1 John 1:9 reminds us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Though we have gone astray (Is. 53:6), God is faithful. When we are willing, we will always be able to find Him.

In the second case, we should also seek God. Our feelings are easily swayed by our circumstances, trials, conflict, chemical imbalances, or even a lack of sleep. Because of this, when we feel distant from God, we should immediately seek God. Just as God can heal our physical body, He can also heal our emotions. (Exodus 15:26) It is so important that we trust God with our entire lives, not excluding our emotions.

This is wonderful news for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ! God provides a perfect balance for us. On one hand, we are not called to a fake happiness or to smile all of the time. As it says in Eccelesiates 8:6, “there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.” There is a time to face reality and mourn. (Ecc. 3:4)

At the same time, we do not need to needlessly struggle with depression or downheartedness. We can rejoice and experience inexpresible joy in our life — not because of who we are, but because of our hope in Jesus Christ. Our hope is a living and secure hope because it focuses on God who, unlike our circumstances, does not change. It does not spoil, fade, perish, or ruin. 1 Peter 1:3-9 helps us remember the hope that we have in Christ.

In closing, hear the word of the Spirit, who is able to encourage us whenever we feel like David:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:3-9)

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Nearly two years later, it is still difficult to write about our son, Jeremiah. For months, I could not write about his death. Then, after it became possible for me to write, I felt like anything that I wrote was far too trivial.

About a year ago, I wrote my first song about our experience and memories. Now, about two years later, I am writing my first poem. (I had tried to write one earlier, but again, it seemed too trivial.) I woke up today, a very snowy day, and was frightened by how easily I forget those lives that are so meaningful to me. I decided to write so that I could remember. I suppose it didn’t feel trivial because I was not writing for the purpose of writing a poem, but for the purpose of remembering.

This poem may evolve with time, or I may write another. In the meantime, you are welcome to read my first attempt: joeljupp.com/poetry.html

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For Christians, the “good life” is not something reserved for an exclusive few. It is not hidden, or kept for those who have an ecstatic vision or some kind of secret experience. It is not monopolized by a particular class of people. Christianity is unique in that life is accessible to everyone, regardless of who you are.

In 1 John, we are told that this life was “made manifest.” In other words, God fully disclosed His plan, so that all could see. It was a revelation that could be “heard,” “seen,” and “touched.” It is difficult to imagine what it would have been like to see Jesus, but the mere thought that God was visible is incredible. In terms that humans could understand, God’s love was fully disclosed.

Unfortunately, there are many religions and sects that keep secrets. Because deception needs to be hidden, they need to keep certain aspects of their religion from being known. But shouldn’t it seem suspicious if some things are reserved for a small few?

As a follower of Christ, there is always a deeper life (when a person can know God better), but this is not a hidden experience. Rather, all of the details are visible in Christ. No other revelation is needed. Jesus Christ, who performed miracles and rose from the dead, was seen by hundreds of people — not just one or two. The totality of the gospel is accessible to all.

Interestingly, the realization that “Christianity is public” leads us to evangelism. Because God made His incredible life manifest to all, we should echo that by sharing life with others. As John writes in his first letter, “that which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you.” (1:3) If the nature of the message is public, we distort it if we keep it to ourselves. We should be drawn towards fellowship with one another.

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Spiritual revival, or the renewal of our relationship with God, does not merely happen by chance, nor does it descend from heaven without our awareness. Both Scripture and history attest to the fact that certain conditions need to be met before we are spiritually resuscitated. We do not slip and “fall” into revival, but we prepare for it.

Thankfully, revival never feels very systematic, but if we were to analyze it, there are certain factors that are absolutely necessary for revival. By that I mean that true, long-lasting revival cannot occur without these factors being present. I have identified several of these, along with quotations from famous revivalists.

1. Passion for God’s Word. Our faith grows when we hear God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), and it is essential for spiritual renewal. George Whitefield, one of the great preachers during the Great Awakening, explained that “The reason why congregations have been so dead is because dead men preach to them.” Often this passion begins with the preacher’s heart, but it must eventually make its way to the listener. We cannot claim to seek after God if we do not listen to His voice. (Jn. 10:27)

2. Desperation for God. If we are content with life as usual, there is little reason to search for anything else. John Wesley observed this danger and said, “I fear that wherever riches have increased the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion… for religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality.” Often we need to lose our “riches” (or what we hold dear) before we recognize how desperately we need a Savior. In a sense, we need to be dissatisfied with our current spiritual condition.

3. Communication with God. As with any healthy relationship, there must be dialogue, an expectation to hear and be heard. Unless there is an effort to communicate with God, renewal is impossible. As Edwin Orr notes, “History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer.” In other words, we cannot change ourselves by merely talking to each other.

4. Rejection of Godlessness. It is impossible to seek God and not-God at the same time. Men and women who experience revival decide to give up their old life and follow after God with their entire self. “Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God,” observed Charles Finney. “It is giving up one’s will to God in deep humility.” Our lives either move toward God or away from Him.

These factors are usually interconnected, but it is helpful to distinguish them, so that we can see where we may be missing the mark. We can prepare ourselves for spiritual renewal when we desire God’s Word, seek God with desperation, dialogue with Him, and reject what is the opposing to Him.

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Colossians 3:23 was intended for all aspects of life. In that verse, Paul reminds us that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.” Our work should be defined by maximum effort and the right motives.

Unfortunately, most of miss the mark in one way or the other. Some people become accustomed to what is common and slow down in their efforts. They may have good reasons, such as fatigue or a low salary, but they forget the ultimate purpose of their work. Other people work hard, not wanting to fail, but they work for the wrong reasons. They work to please men instead of the Lord, and in so doing, get distracted from the ultimate goal.

A.W. Tozer’s insights in Of God and Men are helpful. Tozer rightly pointed out that people often act out of fear. We often choose the easy route (fearing hard labor) or the popular route (fearing human opposition). Of course, in reality, the best choices in life are usually difficult and unpopular.

Two stories are inspiring in this regard. First, think of Moses. When Moses was called to the incredible task of returning to Egypt, he was full of fear. He did not know what to do, what to say, or how to respond to criticism. (Does that ever sound like you?)

God’s response is wonderfully encouraging. In speaking to Moses, God asked, ““Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” God reminded Moses that fear is irrational. God is in control, and He is always present to help his servants.

Even more significant is Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Jesus, we have the perfect illustration of Colossians 3:23. He gave everything and never lost sight of His father. He is the perfect example of working for God with all effort.

The key to living a productive and courageous life is to remember Jesus. After all, if Jesus physically suffered, even unto to death on a cross, then we can certainly try harder in our daily efforts. In Jesus, we also find courage to face opposition. Fear has no power over us. Even death itself cannot conquer us.

Now my brothers and sisters, whatever you do, work with all your heart.

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It turns out that someone found JoelJupp.com after searching via Google for “American truck driving school.”

As absurd as it sounds, we actually have those things in common. First of all, I am American. Secondly, I have driven a truck. Thirdly, I like driving. Fourthly, I am in school for another master’s degree.

Whoever it was, you rock, and thanks for the laugh. Although I am not an American truck driving school, I hope you enjoyed the website. And keep searching!

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Psalm 16, a golden psalm of David, is quickly becoming one of my favorite psalms.

One of my favorite parts is verse 2, where David writes, “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, I have no good besides you.’ ” It is a simple reminder of how God should be exalted above all else in our lives — not out of legalistic obligation, but because He truly is the only good in our lives. Everything that is good comes from Him.

If we claim Christ as our Lord, we should regularly remind ourselves of that commitment. Matthew Henry had this to say about Psalm 16:2: “Have you said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord? Say it again then, stand to it, abide by it, and never unsay it. Hast thou said it? Take the comfort of it, and live up to it. He is thy Lord, and worship thou him, and let thy eye be ever towards him.’’

His suggestions could benefit us all. If we claim Christ as our Lord: say it again, stand to it, abide by it, never unsay it, take the comfort of it, and live up to it.

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Our daughter, Emberly Grace, was born on May 8th and what a miracle she is. I am overwhelmed with how surreal it is to be holding her. She is such a joy.

The next day, May 9th, I checked my voice mail and learned that I am receiving a scholarship to seminary. I had been accepted for 5 years, but because of finances, this is the first time that the door has opened for us. Needless to say, we are excited and humbled that God has made a way.

So, after an exciting year of teaching Bible in Texas, we are packing up to move back to Illinois. We do not have a job or a place to live yet. It is an act of faith that I would not have been capable of a year ago. But after going through unemployment, I am able to trust that God will provide a way.

Our prayer is that God will allow me to lead worship at a church in Illinois or southeast Wisconsin. God has sparked a flame within me, and I am hoping to share my passion for worship with others. If you hear of a church that needs help with worship leading, graphic/web design, small groups, young adults, youth, children, etc., please let me know.

Lastly, I must mention what a fun year it was in Texas. I would be crazy not to mention all of the highlights of the past 9 months. And yes, even though it is hard to believe, I enjoy these wild memories:

  1. * breaking down in Joplin, MO for 3 days
  2. * driving a 22-foot Penske moving truck
  3. * getting all of my hair cuts for a year while driving through Joplin, MO
  4. * living in a hotel room for 7 days
  5. * losing my shoelace on the first day of school
  6. * leading the school drumline for a few practices
  7. * leading worship for 400 high school students every week
  8. * going to the ER for a random case of pneumediastinum
  9. * enjoying a 2000-mile Christmas road trip to Chicago
  10. * watching a 1/4 inch of snowfall in a Texas McDonald’s (a beautiful night!)
  11. * my wife getting in a car accident while pregnant — totaling the car at 5 MPH
  12. * my wife breaking her foot while pregnant (do you sense a pattern here?)
  13. * discovering Caden’s incredible soccer talent
  14. * visiting 7 churches in the D/FW area
  15. * recording songs for a new worship EP
  16. * hanging out with Terri, my aunt from Dallas
  17. * tasting beef brisket (BBQ), Chicken Express, and falling in love with southern cooking
  18. * seeing Caden become a real cowboy
  19. * watching my first ever season of American Idol (Apparently, I am 6 years behind the rest of society)
  20. * watching Star Wars Episode 6 for the first time (Yes, again I am behind the times, but I’ve seen the other episodes many times!)
  21. * witnessing my daughter’s entrance into the world!

Texas was a great experience. To balance things out, though, here were the downsides:

  1. * Seeing my dad board a train to Chicago was tough. I had to do that twice, and I have never been so homesick. Thankfully, his train got delayed both times, which bought me some extra time.
  2. * Missing 3 weddings: my brother’s, Bruce’s, and Geoffrey’s. I planned to attend several of those, but various health conditions prevented me from doing so.
  3. * Not as much seasonal change. We missed seeing more of the Fall and Winter.
  4. * Wishing I had a greater impact on the lives of students. I know that God brought me here for a purpose, and I pray that some seeds will flourish when I’m gone.

In a few days, we start trip #1 to Chicago to catch a wedding. Hopefully we’ll make it in time. Not long after, I’ll come back to Texas and make another trip. It will be 3000+ miles, but I am looking forward to the adventure.

God isn’t safe, but He sure is good. [+]

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Yesterday, at about 2:30, a doctor told my wife, “Worst case scenario… you die.”  They were worried about a blood clot in her leg.  Needless to say, we were at the hospital for 8 hours, but the test results showed that nothing was wrong.  She went home without needing any treatment at all.

As some of you know, this scenario has happened before.  In late August / September, two doctors were worried that I could be dying, but it turned out to be a relatively minor condition.  Yet another time this year, God has changed our red flags to white.

Not only is God good, but He must also have a sense of humor.  We ended up leaving the hospital last night laughing quite a bit.  Even when our car didn’t start in the parking garage (not a pleasant surprise!), God helped us get home quickly.  Strange, but God has creative ways to get through to us. 

The moral of the story is:  Don’t let false starts get you worried.  Be confident that “He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 1:6)  And remember that no matter what, God will bring you home.

Please keep us in prayer tonight and tomorrow.  My wife will begin labor, and although it won’t be easy, please pray that the pain and discomfort is as minimal as possible.  For me, just pray that I can eat something and that I don’t faint!

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My wife and I are anticipating the birth of our first daughter, EGJ. (Her full name is top secret for now!) Her arrival could be anytime from now until May 11th, and I am thrilled to the point of tears. Our baby is just about to begin her journey, while I am continuing on mine. What a crazy, miraculous world we live in.

Significant events, such as a birth or a death, force us to revisit the topic of life. Most days we slide on by, carrying on our regular activities, but once in a while we have a chance to slow down and ask once again, “What is life really about?” Thankfully, from a Christian perspective, we can narrow it down quite succinctly:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We beg you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

With only a few words, Paul words summarizes the meaning of the cosmos: (1) God was, and is, reconciling the world to Himself; (2) God does not count our sins against us; (3) and we have been given the message of reconciliation. Everything else should be influenced by those truths.

On a given day, we tend to forget about one or more of those aspects. We forget about God’s global perspective and the breadth of His salvation. We forget about the problem of sin and how God extends His mercy to us. Or we forget to beg others to be reconciled. On some days, maybe we forget all three.

Life is a jumble of activities, but let us never lose sight of what life is about. Whether you are breathing your first breath, driving to work, kissing your spouse, or saying your farewells, it all begins and end with God. The joy of life is that we can all be reconciled.