I was sitting in church, several years ago and our now retired pastor, Jack Hayford spoke to the audience, "shout out to me anyone...what do you love about Jesus?" Someone shouted, "He never fails," another yelled, "He answers prayer," and yet another bellowed "He brings peace." I sat there thinking and a bit intimidated but wanted to scream out, "He makes me laugh out loud!" Because... God does. He makes me laugh all the time. God laughs at us too. Psalms 2:4 says, "But the one who rules in Heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them" (NLT).
We often take being a Christian so seriously.
Every Christmas we sing the carol, "Joy to the World." When are we going to let it sink into our heads and hearts and let God's joy make us giggle? Four years ago I co-founded the women's ASCEND Conference (ascendconference.org) in Los Angeles. We focused that first year on "Fearless Joy." We wanted women to learn how to be joyous even when life brings devastation. We wanted to encourage them to take the power of God's promises in His Word and shatter any fear that might bring further suffering. We wanted to teach women how to be fearless in the face of fear, which is different from how our culture tells us we're suppose to react. An example is at funerals. If the deceased was a believer of Jesus, there's sweet Jesus joy in the midst of the sorrow. We all can rejoice knowing that because of the redemption of Jesus, we're out of this damaged fallen world and with our Father in Heaven. As the great hymn, "Christ The Lord Has Risen Today" says, "Where, O death, is now thy sting?" Alleluia!
Jesus was joyous and continually urged his followers to be happy.
In fact, scholars many times substitute the word "blessed" at the beginning of the Beatitudes, Matthew 5: 3-12, with the world "happy." LynnMarie Rink, a 5 time Grammy nominated musical artist, actress, and mother to a 7-year-old Downs Syndrome child says, " Peace and laughter in life enters through vulnerability and honesty. Hiding behind a façade of what we women try to be - "altogether" and "strong all the time" doesn't really give you the freedom that I believe God wants us to have to live joyously every day."
God likes a party too.
Jesus liked a good party too. His 1st miracle was at a wedding, the prodigal son parable ended with a feast, and in Mark 14:25, Jesus says "Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." NIV. That tells me I think we'll get to have some pretty great celebrations in heaven.
God wants us to laugh when we pray.
What if we started calling prayer meetings, "prayer parties?" Perhaps more people might actually show up if they knew it was going to be joyous. Have we forgotten what a joy it is to actually be able to take our requests directly to God because of Jesus? Karen Covell, founder of the Hollywood Prayer Network, says, "I LOVE to laugh and have a great time with my faith. Jim, (her husband) and I laugh all the time, we get very silly in prayer and always have - especially with our boys, and we made prayer time a really fun and creative time. Our house is full of bad jokes, laughter, teasing, and fun. In fact, it's an important aspect of my faith. The world gets too intense if we don't laugh, play and have fun!"
Finally, read the scriptures and see how Jesus had fun with His followers leaving them "belly" laughing.
In the Beatitudes - Matthew 5: 3-12, Jesus talked about how it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then get into heaven, and that you should take the plank out of your eye before you criticize and judge your neighbor for his sins. I think He said this "kiddingly" not judgmentally. Jesus knew that some things sink into our thick heads better when we make a joke about them.
Several year's ago, my daughter Kelsey and I worked on the Visual Bible's film of The Gospel of Matthew starring Bruce Marchiano as Jesus. The film was scripted so that all dialogue spoken on camera by the actors would only be Biblical text from the Gospel of Matthew. It was also acted in and narrated by the award-winning actor, Richard Kiley, who played the role of Matthew (I was cast as his daughter and Kelsey his granddaughter). It was a thrill to be able to share several scenes in the film with him. But,
I also got to know Bruce on the film set. The joy of Jesus was evident in his life. His depiction of Jesus is one of my favorite portrayals I've ever seen. When the film was released audiences began to call Bruce the "laughing Jesus" because He brought fresh insight into the joy and laughter of Jesus's personality to the screen. His portrayal of Jesus revealed what most people miss when reading the Bible - the joy of Jesus. Instead of Jesus being "a man of sorrows" as we often see him portrayed, Bruce showed us that Jesus was a man of great joy, charisma, and even belly laughter.
Jesus says it best in John 15:11, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (NIV).
Kathleen Cooke, co-founder of Cooke Pictures (cookepictures.com) and The Influence Lab where she publishes a monthly newsletter (influencelab.com/women). Find out more at kathleencooke.com, or reach her on Twitter @kathycooke.