Joy

An apology is first and foremost necessary: I am deeply sorry for my lack of writing. Sheri and I had planned to do a post every week this summer to offer y’all encouragement, but that hasn’t happened, and it’s my fault. Moving, then not moving, then moving again, pregnancy (first trimester has been awful), and life has sidetracked the mission that God has given us. I ask for your forgiveness and pray that I may be more focused.

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Let me tell you what! 4 months ago I could have written a book on joy, but the last couple months with the way that my life has been going…well, joy has been lacking.

As some of you know, I struggle with depression. I’ve lived in it and with it for longer than I haven’t. But over the last few years I really went to war with the enemy. Claiming back the ground that my Savior died for. No longer would I be dictated by feelings. No longer would I stand for the lies that swirled in my head. No longer would I be a victim to the enemies schemes. I was in a battle for my life! It was a long hard year (or more) of constant inner work. But I can stand before you today and say, “I am free. Because my Jesus said I am free indeed!”

This process of trusting God in ways I had never before, having great faith when I wanted to give up, and choosing to believe what He says about me is true led me to discover, that just like love, joy is a choice.

Joy is completely determined by your proximity to God.

The sheer joy I feel pulsing through my body when I’m doing the Lord’s work is not only contagious to those around me, it’s confirmation that I’m doing what He has called me to. When I can find joy in God’s Word after an argument with someone close to me, I know that it’s because my heart was longing to be close to Him. When someone looks at a snippet of my life and wonders how I could possibly be standing under the weight of that which I carry (whatever that burden may be at the moment), I know it’s because my joy is not determined by my circumstances. My joy is my salvation (Psalm 51:12).

Joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

God’s character brings us joy (Psalm 63:7).

God created you and called you to His name with a shout of joy (Psalm 105:43).

Joy is healing (Proverbs 17:22).

When we abide in Him His joy is in us, and that joy will be whole and complete (John 15:1-11).

I have also discovered that joy is not happiness. They are not the same thing. Joy is a choice, happiness is a feeling and feelings are fleeting. Joy is not determined by your circumstances, whereas happiness is. Think about it. You’re happy when you get a compliment, but then you stub your toe and that happy feeling fades with the pain. Of course, we have experienced that happiness can last for more than a mere moment; I assume that when you buy your first house, along with anxiety, fear and dread there is some amount of happiness. Which I will also assume can last for days. (Obviously, we haven’t bought our first home yet…in the process of…).

As a believer in Jesus Christ, you already have joy abounding, because it’s a fruit of the Spirit. You may just need to make some changes in your life to experience it (more). What works for me is not going to work for you. But I do believe that for everyone-young, old, man, and woman-your proximity to God determines the amount of joy you will experience. I know this from personal experience, and as you can see from the Scripture passages above, the Bible says it too.

The takeaway:
1. You already possess joy as a believer
2. You’re proximity to God determines your amount of Joy
3. Joy is a choice
4. Joy is not dictated by your circumstances

My prayer is that the eyes of your heart would be opened to understanding what true joy is. That your relationship with Christ would flourish, and in that newness with Him you would experience and forever crave the joy that He gives.

What have you found to be the most joy inducing activity or action or thing in your life?

For me, it’s simply being in the presence of the One who loves me. Whether that’s through singing a song, writing, studying His Word, serving or something else entirely. Being with Him gives me the greatest joy I have ever experienced. A joy that cannot be taken away.


Does God Honor All Our Works?

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

During this writing there was a resurgence of needing to follow the law, specifically circumcision in order to be a “good” follower of Christ. We still struggle with this today: healthy and wealthy way of life, serve enough, give enough, go to church. We as humans twist what the Gospel truly is, and we always will-because we are flawed. We will focus on what we can see, which is works. And we forget that God doesn’t want our works or our goodness or our money or our presence in a building, He wants our heart and life. When we do this, there is always an outpouring of love and worship to Him which is often seen in our works, service and giving. But it’s the heart behind it that matters!

”For Christ [it] means nothing…”

Does God appreciate and honor our good works when our heart intentions are not focused solely on loving and worshipping Him?

“…but faith working through love.”

This word, “working”, means to energize.

Our heart filled faith energizes us to love.


Let’s Talk LOVE

LOVE.  It’s the first Fruit of the Spirit mentioned in scripture.

I’m not gonna get into what love is as that is a whole ‘nother Bible Study in itself.  And I’m not going to get into the different types of love.  What we will focus on here is the LOVE that is displayed when we let the Holy Spirit dwell in our hearts.

When we allow God to lead our lives, the first fruit we begin to bear is love.  Now I’m pretty sure this must come first as all the other fruit is created when love is at the center.  It’s like a tree, where all the new growth is budding.  Those buds represent love.  As love sprouts forth, all the other Fruit of the Spirit will burst from the fresh blooms of love.

So how do we let love pour from ourselves?  Willingness.

Personally, I created a morning habit.  I wake up and say, “Lord, who do I get to love on today?” 

Let us not miss opportunities to love on others because we are so caught up in our own lives. 

Love is beyond feelings and emotions; it is an act of giving of oneself.  Even on tough days and rough moments, carry on, and love anyways!

Is there a screaming kid out in public?  Give the mom an reassuring nod.
Is there an elderly person unloading groceries in their car?  Offer to help.
Do you know of someone facing a new medical diagnosis?  Be there to listen.
Is your spouse cranky today?  Offer grace.  (do it-it’s worth it!)
Has someone just had a baby?  Volunteer to do laundry or clean a bathroom.
Know anyone moving?  Get over there and help pack or help move big items.
Is your child melting down or having bursts of fits?  Hug them, then listen.
Has someone lost a loved one?  Just be there.  No expectations.  Your presence is enough.

The possibilities of sharing love is endless!  What are some ways you are going to live-out-loud love today?!


Spirit Filled Life

As a believer, the moment we ask Jesus to be a part of our life we receive the gift of Holy Spirit. The One whom Jesus called Helper. His best friend. The One who should be our best friend. After all, He is with us always. We are His home.

What does your home look like? Is it a place that you wold be proud to show your in-laws, are you comfortable with your friends just dropping by? If someone showed up to my house right now: there’s laundry piled in the laundry room, which is very visible, the kitchen has dirty dishes stacked up, the living room has blankets strewn across the couch, shoes laid out, a giant moose tied to the chair, and dust everywhere. I am blessed to say that our bathroom is clean, just don’t look in the shower…you’re bound to see ants…(Can’t seem to get rid of them).

That’s my physical home. My spiritual home? Without discrediting myself, or being overly critical while also keeping my pride in check: it’s about the same as my physical house. There is always room for improvement. I have had a much more beautiful spirit than I do now, but I have also had a spirit that didn’t seem to exist for anything but self.

So, then, this begs the question: how do we clean up our spiritual home? How do we live in such a way that we radiate Christ’s light within us? How do we become so full of Him that people can see a physical difference in us compared to one who is of the world?

We live a Spirit filled life. Galatians 5:22-23 lays out what the outpouring of a Spirit filled life is.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Over the next 10 weeks our prayer is to walk you through what a Spirit filled life looks like by examining the 9 different aspects of His fruit. Here are some important points to remember during the next two months:

1. This is a lifestyle;

2. It is a choice;

3. By His power you can change.

May our God, who is always faithful, loving and kind, provide you with all that is needed to live a Spirit filled life. In His Holy name, we pray…let it be so.