Doubt

“Occupy your mind with My love, leaving no room for worry and doubt.”

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Doubt is like a bad penny.  It always keeps turning up.  It seems that no matter how many times we see the hand of God working in our lives, there is always room for doubt.  Even when we have a close relationship with Him, there are times when we still have doubts.  The disciples, who spent so much time with Jesus, still had doubts.  When Jesus told them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” they thought He was referring to food.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said, “You have so little faith!  Why are you worried about having no food?  Won’t you ever understand?  Don’t you remember the five thousand I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of food that were left over?  Don’t you remember the four thousand I fed with seven loaves, with baskets of food left over?  How could you even think I was talking about food? So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6-13) He was reminding them that each time they needed food, He was able to provide.  Then it dawned on them that He wasn’t speaking about yeast or bread but the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The disciples had seen Him perform miracles before and they had forgotten how He had fed thousands of people with what seemed like very little food.  He had made a little go a long way.  Like the disciples, we too doubt the power of God and He has to remind us.

The disciples doubted the resurrection.  The Bible says, it was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.  She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping.  But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.  Jesus also appeared to two other people.

At first they didn’t recognize Him because He had changed His appearance but once they realized that it was Him, they rushed back to tell the others but they didn’t believe them.   When Jesus appeared to the eleven, He rebuked them for their unbelief” (Mark 16:9-14).  In the Gospel of Matthew, it says, that when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted (Matthew 28:17).

Mary had taken good news to the disciples but they allowed doubts to spoil what should have been a joyful moment.  Sometimes we allow doubts to get the better of us and we miss out.  Doubts could prevent us from seeing God’s blessings.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ time had the Light but their doubts kept them in darkness.  Doubts can hinder us from doing the Lord’s work.  Doubts can rob us of great opportunities.

Jesus does not want us to worry or have doubts.  He wants us to focus instead of Him and what He can do for us.  The next time you start to doubt Him, remember these words, “Only believe, only believe; All things are possible, only believe”.

Never doubt, only trust and believe.  Remember all the times Jesus came through for you.   Fill your mind with His love and promises.  Don’t clutter your mind with doubts.  As Paul advised us, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).  Searching the scriptures will also help.  Diffuse the doubts with God’s Word.  Whenever you have a task to do and you start to have doubts about it, say to yourself “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Stop Making Excuses

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When God calls us to serve Him do we make excuses?  Moses did.  When God asked him to go and tell the Pharaoh to let the Jews go, Moses protested, “O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me. I’m clumsy with words.”  So God asked him, (Exodus 4:10-12) “Who makes mouths?” the Lord asked him. “Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and do as I have told you.  I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say.”

Moses protested but in the end, he led the people out of Egypt.  He became a great leader.  After his death, it was written that, “There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent Moses to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and his entire land.  And it was through Moses that the Lord demonstrated his mighty power and terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

We have to trust God and believe that He will equip us for the work He calls us to do.  He used the staff Moses carried to perform great things and He equipped Moses to become a leader.  When it became too much for Moses to handle the many responsibilities, God impressed Jethro, Moses’ father in law to give him this very good advice, “You’re going to wear yourself out-and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing him their questions to be decided.

You should tell them God’s decisions, teach them God’s laws and instructions, and show them how to conduct their lives.  But find some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes.

“Appoint them as judges over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.  These men can serve the people, resolving all the ordinary cases. Anything that is too important or too complicated can be brought to you. But they can take care of the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God directs you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” (Exodus 18:18-23)

Moses learned how to delegate and that too makes for good leadership.  God does not expect one person to do everything and that is why leaders in the church and in the world have people working with them.  Jesus taught this when He called twelve men into His ministry.  He could have done it all by Himself but He chose not.

Jeremiah was a youth when God called Him to service.  He shares the experience which must have been overwhelming.  “The Lord gave me a message. He said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

“Don’t say that,” the Lord replied, “for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

When God calls us, He doesn’t send out to do the work and leaves us on our own.  He is with us every step of the way—instructing, guiding and helping us.  I used to be shy and didn’t socialize easily.  Since I allowed God to use me, I am not shy anymore.  He helped me to gradually get over my shyness.  I started with small things like scripture reading, poetry reading and then I graduated to telling the mission story, sharing my testimony in front of a large audience and making announcements.  He called me to be the leader of Singles Ministry.  I didn’t know anything about being a leader but I trusted that He would help me to do my best and He did.  He accomplished a lot through me.  Now, I am comfortable being a leader and I delegate like Moses was encouraged to.

Is God calling you to serve Him?  Don’t use your age or gender as an excuse not to answer His call.  David was a boy when he was anointed king of Israel and Josiah Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.  He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn aside from doing what was right. (2 Kings 22:2)  God accomplished great things through women.  Deborah was a judge, Miriam was a prophetess and Dorcas was a disciple and community worker.  God can use you.  Stop making excuses and allow Him to do marvelous work through you.

Toshiro Returns to Tokyo

Z8VeQHoI_oToshiro was back in Tokyo.  He returned two weeks ago.  It was hard being away from Kampala.  All he could think about was Ife and how much he missed being with her.  All along he knew that what he had been doing was wrong but he couldn’t help himself.  He wanted Ife so much.  She filled him with a desire that was so potent and raw that it scared him.

He could tell from the way she responded when they made love that she wanted him too.  And that realization was what he used to rationalize his actions.  But his conscience continued to trouble him.

And he felt badly about Asuka.  They had been going steady for some time now and still he hadn’t broached the subject of marriage with her.  His family expected him to pop the question soon and he imagined that her family might expect the same thing.  He knew that Asuka was in love with him but he realized that he didn’t feel the same way and that was before he met Ife.

Speaking of Asuka, he was supposed to meet her for a coffee at the cafe where they usually went.  It was within walking distance from his apartment.  No doubt she was already there waiting for him.  She was always very punctual.

They hadn’t seen each other for months and when he was in Tokyo, he made sure that they spent time together.  This year, however, it was different for him.  He didn’t look forward to coming home anymore.  For him, Kampala was home.  It was where Ife was.  He closed his eyes briefly.  Oh, Ife, I wish I could be with you right now.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she miss him?  She’s probably glad to be rid of you for a while because of what you’re doing to her, an accusing voice retorted and he flinched.

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As soon as he walked into the cafe, he spotted Asuka.  He went over to her and she stood up, her expression one of delight.  She was obviously very happy to see him.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.  Then, she sat down.  “I ordered you Hot Tea.”  She put it in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” she said.  “You must be happy to be able to speak Japanese again.  How are things in Kampala?”He attempted a smile.  “Thank you.”

“The usual,” he said.  “Well, while I was there, journalists were protesting alleged abuse by the police.  They saw what was happening as an attack on press freedom in Uganda.   Then, there’s growing concern among some Ugandans about Chinese funding because of the debts they see other countries struggling with.  And then there’s the charcoal trade which is decimating forests.”

“Last week Tuesday was World Toilet Day so I was reading up about it online and came across an article which said that there’s a toilet crisis in Kampala.  It said that there aren’t public toilets for about 1,200 people, I think and that mud tinged with feces washes into homes during heavy rains.  How disgusting!”  She made a face and shuddered.  “How could people live like that and why isn’t the government doing something about it?”

“Yes, the sanitation crisis is growing worse.  It’s not only happening in Kampala but in South Africa, India and other places.”

“We’re so lucky, Toshiro.  We have access to clean toilets at home and in public.  I think that sometimes we take these things for granted.  I wanted to help so I sent a donation to one of the charities which is helping to provide clean toilets for the people in Africa.  Using public toilets isn’t safe for the women.  They could catch diseases or even get raped.  Can you imagine that?  And children aren’t safe either.  I read about four children who drown in pit toilets.  I still get choked up just thinking about them, especially, the three year old. ”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore because it’s upsetting you.”  He couldn’t bear to hear it anymore.  It made him think of Ife and how she could have lost her job if it had been discovered that she had used the toilet in his suite that day when he caught her.  He wondered if she was one of those people who didn’t have toilets in their homes.

“You’re right.  Let’s talk about something else.  The hotel where you stay, is it nice?”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a 5 star hotel.”

“What do you do when you’re not on business?”

“I go sightseeing or I stay in my room and catch up on the News.”  That wasn’t true.  He hardly went sightseeing and in the evenings, he was in his suite with Ife.

“Maybe one of these days, I will visit you there.   I read that it’s a relatively safe place for tourists.  Besides, I won’t be alone.  You will be there to protect me.”  She reached over and squeezed his hand.  “It’s so good to see you.  I always miss you so much every time you go away and I count the days when you’ll be back.  When do you go again?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe next month.”

“But not during Christmas and New Year’s I hope.”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you go there so often?”

“Business.”  That wasn’t true anymore.  Ife was his reason for going to Kampala now.

“Well, I hope you plan to spend Christmas here.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he sipped his tea.  I wonder what Christmas is like in Kampala. 

“My parents are wondering what your intentions are.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What do you mean?”

“Well…we’ve been dating for five years now and they are wondering if we are going to settle down anytime soon.  We’re both in our thirties now.”

Toshiro sighed.  “Asuka, I have something to tell you.”

She looked wary now.  And she set the cup of coffee down on the table.  “What is it?” she asked.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you.  You asked why I go to Kampala so often and I told that it had to do with business.  Well, it doesn’t–not entirely.  This year I have been involved with a woman I met there.”

Asuka stared at him.  “What do you mean by involved?”

Toshiro could feel his face getting warm.  “I’m in a relationship with her.”

“But you’re in a relationship with me.”

“I know–”

“Does she know about me?”

“No.”

“Are you sleeping with her?”

“Yes.”

Asuka’s face was pale now.  Hurt and pain etched her features.  “Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  I have kept myself pure for you because I believed that we were going to get married.”

“You told me that you couldn’t sleep with me because you’re a Christian.”

“Is that why you’re sleeping with her?”

No.”

“Well, I guess this is it for us.”  She got up and pulled on her coat and scarf.   Grabbing her handbag, she muttered, “Goodbye, Toshiro” before she turned and walked away.

He sat there for a long time, feeling terrible.  The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Asuka.  If he hadn’t met and fallen in love with Ife, he would have married her.  In time, he would have grown to love her the way she loved him.

He finished his tea which had gotten lukewarm and then got up and left the cafe.  He didn’t go straight home.  Instead, he walked for a while, thinking.  He had to sort out what he was going to do about Ife.  He hadn’t banked on falling in love with her.  Initially, it had been an extremely strong sexual attraction which he thought that he would get over after a while.

He knew what he ought to do but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  This whole thing had turned into a great mess.  He needed to talk to someone.  Miko.  He called her immediately on his cell.  Her voice mail came on.  He left a message asking her to call him.

She returned his call a couple of hours later.  He asked her if he could stop by her place the following day because he really needed to talk to her.

Next up is Toshiro’s Exploitation.

Source:  AP News

Mary Said Yes!

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” – Luke 1:38

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When the angel, Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named, Mary, in the town of Nazareth and told her that she would have a Son, she found the news astonishing seeing that she had never been with a man.  Yet, after he explained how this miraculous conception would happen, she believed him and her response was Yes.  She called herself the maidservant of the Lord.  In other words, she was going to do what the Lord asked of her.

She even sang a song, glorifying God, her Savior, rejoicing that He regarded her, his humble servant.  For saying yes to His plan, she would be called blessed by all generations.  She declared that, “…He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-49, NKJV).

Saying yes to God isn’t always easy.  It could cause problems.  For Mary a lot was at stake.  After she was betrothed to Joseph and just before they got married, she was found with Child by the Holy Spirit.   Joseph had no way of knowing how she got pregnant.  All he knew was that she was and that was a huge problem.  He loved Mary but he couldn’t go through with the wedding.  He had to divorce her quietly and he had to do it quietly because according to Jewish law, a betrothal was the same as a valid marriage.  So, although they weren’t formally married, Joseph was still considered Mary’s husband by betrothal.  A public divorce would have alerted the community to the fact that Joseph wasn’t the father of Mary’s child and she would have been stoned to death for adultery (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23).  

Poor Joseph.  His reaction to Mary’s pregnancy was understandable.  As far as he was concerned she had been unfaithful to him.  Mary must have tried really hard to explain how she got pregnant but it must have sounded too fantastic to Joseph.  While he was agonizing over what he had to do, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20, 21, NKJV). 

Joseph woke up from the dream.  What a relief.  All his troubles were gone.  He joyfully did what the angel commanded him.   He married Mary but didn’t consummate their marriage until after she had given birth to her firstborn Son Whom he named, Jesus.

Sometimes saying yes to God’s plan for your life might bring trouble, opposition or conflict into your life but God is in control.  He knows exactly what He is doing.  All you have to do is to trust and obey Him as Mary did.  She put God first and He blessed her and us with the Savior of the world.  Sometimes a situation may turn out to be completely different from how it appears.  Initially, Joseph saw Mary’s pregnancy as a betrayal but once it was explained to him, it became a blessing.  In his charge was the Christ Child.

This Christmas, be thankful that Mary said yes to God’s plan despite the risks.  She trusted in the God for Whom nothing was impossible.  Celebrate Joseph’s obedience too because once he learned the truth about Mary’s pregnancy, he didn’t hesitate do what the Lord commanded him through His angel and as a result he was there to witness God’s greatest miracle–the birth of His Son, Jesus.     

For This Reason…

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work – 1 John 3:8, NIV

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When it comes to the meaning of Christmas, we always think of the nativity scene with Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the manger with the cattle lowing.  We think of the  angels who  appeared to the shepherds keeping their flocks to announce the good news of the Savior’s birth in the City of David.  We think of the shepherds rushing to Bethlehem to see the Child and then spreading the word concerning what had been told them about Him.  We think of the wise men who traveled far to see the King of Israel to bring Him gifts and to fall down in worship.

Yes, Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins but there was another very important reason for His coming and it too is good news.  The apostle John tells us that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work.  How does He do that?  Jesus Himself tells us as He quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19).  When Jesus was finished reading, He told those gathered in the synagogue that He had fulfilled that scripture that very day in their hearing.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught the people the Word of God which was the Good News of God’s love and His salvation.  He healed diseases and sicknesses, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and drove out unclean spirits.  He freed a woman who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years.  Eyes that were blinded were opened and sinners were drawn to the love of God which was manifested in Christ.  The Light had come into the world and many were brought out of the darkness.  Jesus came to reveal the true nature of the devil whom He said was a murderer and the father of lies.

Jesus accomplished not only salvation for us when He came but something else that is very important.  What was that?  Hebrews 2:14 tells us, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14, ESV).   The Good News is that Jesus has given us victory over death which will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Death will no longer have any power over us.  Those of us who die in Jesus will be resurrected.  Death will lose its sting.  

Jesus came to take away our sins.  Sin is of the devil.  He uses deception to cause us to sin.  1 John 3:7 says that, “whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning”.  Jesus came to help us to stop making it a practice of sinning.  He Himself was as we were but He didn’t sin.  He makes it possible for us to follow His example through the help of the Holy Spirit who not only convicts us of sin but enables us to practice that which is good and right in the sight of God.  Being born of the Spirit means that we no longer practice sinning.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t ever sin again but we have the assurance that when we do, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2, ESV).  

Thank You, Lord Jesus for coming into the world to destroy the power of sin in our lives through the Holy Spirit and for destroying the works of the devil.  As we celebrate this Christmas season, help us to enjoy the freedom we can enjoy only by living in obedience to You.

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14, NIV

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God, the Son and the Word who was with the Father in the beginning became flesh.  He came into the world as a newborn Babe to live among men.  He was raised in a Jewish home to Jewish parents in the town of Nazareth.  He became a carpenter like Joseph before going into ministry.  As Man, Jesus experienced the things we experience such as hunger and thirst, tiredness and grief.  He was tempted like us but He didn’t sin.  He prayed daily to the Father.  He had friends and He socialized with different sorts of people, some of whom were treated as outcasts.

The glory John saw was the transfiguration of Jesus when He took Peter, James and him up to the high mountain where He communed with Moses and Elijah.  They were not to mention anything to anyone until He was raised from the dead (Matthew 17:1-3, 9).   Peter later wrote, “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17, 18).

Jesus came from the Father to bring grace and truth into the world which was steeped in sin and darkness.  His grace was shown in his healing of diseases, the casting out of unclean spirits and in his interaction with tax collectors, sinners, the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman.  He shared moral and religious truth through parables and the Sermon on the Mount.  He taught people how to live in relation to God and to people.  Jesus placed God’s truth which was found in His Word above the traditions of men and the lies of Satan.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, reflect on the amazing reality that Jesus, by Whom all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, set aside His majesty and glory and came in the form of man to tabernacle among the people (Colossians 1:16; Philippians 2:7).

Thank You, Lord Jesus for becoming like us, so that in the flesh You could save us.

Dance in Worship

Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp – Psalm 149:3

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Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it.

Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:16-23).

Some time ago, I read this message, “Be more concerned with what God thinks about you, than what people think about you.” David didn’t care how he looked when he was bringing the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. He was experiencing such joy that he couldn’t contain himself. He was leaping and dancing. Michal saw him and was critical.

This reminds me of some churchgoers who look down on others because they are more liberal in their worship—they shake their heads and murmur because people get up and praise God with their arms wide open and their faces uplifted. They feel that the conservative way is the only way to worship God. Michal looked down on David because he was not acting like a king. She likened his behavior to a base person. Her tone when she spoke to him implies sarcasm and contempt. David explained to her that he was dancing before the same God who chose him over her father to rule over the people of Israel, therefore he was going to play music and be even more undignified than that. And for the record, the people whom she claimed he had degraded himself in front of, they were the same people who would respect him.

David was willing to look foolish in the eyes of some people in order to express his thankfulness to God fully and honestly.  In contrast Michal was so disgusted by his “undignified” actions that she could not rejoice in the ark’s return to Jerusalem.  Worship had become so deteriorated under her father Saul’s reign that it had become stilted and ritualistic.  Michal could accept David as a military conqueror and as a king, but she could not accept his free and spontaneous expression of praise to God.  Some devoted people may look to us in their heartfelt expressions of worship, but we must accept them.  In the same way, we should not be afraid to worship God with whatever expressions seem appropriate (NIV Life Application Study Bible, page 627).

Michal cared too much about what other people would think and this led her to worry about how David’s behaviour would reflect on her and as a result she ended up without any children. People lose out on so much when they nitpick and criticize others. David was making a joyful noise and he was dancing and twirling because he was praising God. His heart was in the right place. There are times when we should be on our feet, praising God. God accepts that kind of worship too.  As long as we worship from our hearts, that is all that matters.  Worship is an expression of our love and thankfulness toward God.  It should not be suppressed but expressed in a way that will glorify and delight God.

Worship should be a joyful experience.  We are encouraged to praise the LORD with the timbrel and dance, with stringed instruments and flutes and to come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psalms 150:4; 95:2).