I’ve Got Good News and I’ve Got Bad News

Today’s post on JOY covers the story of a man in the Bible that I can relate to more than I want to. But I have also learned more about myself through his life. It lays out a perfect prescription for depression. I’m talking about Elijah. If ever there was a person who shouted victory from the mountaintop one minute and fell at warp speed into the valley the next it was Elijah. I’m going to try to stay on task though This part of  his life is a How-To story on overcoming depression. but that’s another post entirely.

Elijah’s ministry is found over 3 chapters in I Kings. Just to refresh your memory Elijah is the prophet of God that battled it out on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal (chapter 18). He is also the prophet who raised the widow woman’s son from the dead and whose jar of oil stayed full (chapter 17). After these great mountaintop experiences he caught the rage of Jezebel who sought him out to kill him (chapter 19). Elijah allowed fear to overtake him so much that he ended up in the wilderness having lost his JOY.

Have you ever felt so defeated that you feel like you have lost your joy? I know I have. Unfortunately I’ve been there more than one, more than twice, more than three times…you get the idea. How does that even happen? So there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is you can lose your joy. The good news is you can find it again.

There are five ways we can lose our JOY. I’m going to use Beth’s words for each one because nobody can put things quite like she can. We can lose our joy:

1. When our outpour exceeds our intake. I think all of us moms are familiar with this concept. It doesn’t take long till a person can crash after giving and giving and giving some more. The same goes for one’s spiritual life. Spiritual burnout leads to a depleted supply of JOY.

2. When our talk exceeds our walk. This is closely related to the first one. And I dare say this is recognizable by the individual before it is anyone else. It usually manifests itself by the lack of passion in our voice when we are trying to minister to someone else.

3. When we become “wonder junkies”. It’s easy to be joyful when good things are happening all around us and TO us. But what happens when life returns to the mundane? One example is how we feel after attending a Christian conference of some kind. We get our cups filled and return home to normal life again. We continue riding the high for a little while. But have you noticed after the spiritual high we suddenly start experiencing temptations, spiritual attacks or other life challenges? What happened? Satan is what happened. We know how to ride the high but when Satan sneaks in we notice our joy meter is dropping. John 10:10 tells us that Satan’s job is to steal, kill and destroy. We need to hang on to the JOY high. We need to understand that the mundane moments of life are normal. Not every day can be an exciting mountaintop day. Stay aware. Guard your heart. Guard your JOY.

4. When we are exhausted. When we are physically weak depression is not far behind. This was part of Elijah’s problem in I Kings 19. We can’t neglect ourselves long before it takes a toll on all areas of life. Those of us w/chronic pain understand that all too well.

5. When we feel alone. I understand this all too well. When we start believing Satan’s lies that we are alone in what we are dealing with we turn inward. Before long we have convinced ourselves we are alone and our JOY is gone.

Now for that good news! Our JOY is right where we left it – in his presence. Return to the cross. God is the source of JOY and he’s been there all along.

Next week’s fruit of the Spirit we are discussing is Peace. Who needs some peace in their life? What happens when there is a lack of peace in the life of a person? Here’s a hint: it’s not pretty.

Joy in Trials? Seriously?

In my last post we discussed our salvation as the source of our JOY. Today’s source is gonna seem like an unlikely source of JOY. Let’s let God tell us directly from his word. James 1:2,3 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” It seems like an oxymoron to say JOY comes from trials. But that’s what it says right there in black and white – straight from God’s mouth to James’ pen.

I don’t know about you but I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m kind of torn actually. If I’m a Christian then why must I suffer with trials? If a person lives ever in the presence of Christ (via the Holy Spirit) then why is suffering necessary? I think that question can be answered in II Corinthians 1:3-6 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” This passage brings me great comfort actually. It goes hand in hand with the age old question (which is another blog post entirely) “why do bad things happen to good people”. I’ve used this passage as an explanation for why God gave me the burden of Fibromyalgia and depression to bear. Who better to help another than someone who has walked the same exact path they are.

Now how does all of that lead to JOY? Good question. I’m glad you asked. The answer is found in I Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”. Restoration, strength, standing firm and steadfast. God wants to restore us and strengthen us right through to the other side of our trials. You know that feeling you get when you have arrived safely to the other side of something hard? The sense of accomplishment you feel deep inside? That’s it! I feel that when someone crosses my path who is dealing with pain or depression. I can help them because I’ve been there. I consider that very thing to be my calling. And when I can utilize the lessons God has taught me through the trials he has placed on me. That sense of satisfaction I feel in my Spirit is joy.

One more point to go along with the source of discovering the power of God and the purpose for our tribulations as a key to joy is the times when we have brought trouble into our life ourselves. Those times require repentance, forgiveness, discipline and restoration. There are those times when we must be disciplined by God. Chances are you know exactly what I’m referring to. We are his children and children need to be disciplined from time to time – some more than others. God tells us in Hebrews 12:6-10 “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]  7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. ” So if you’ve been disciplined by God before than you know he loves you. You know that warm feeling you get after a rough patch in a relationship? Well that’s the same way with God.

Jeremiah 31 lists at least ten promises regarding the JOY of restoration, I won’t take the time to list them here because this entry is considerably longer than what I usually post. But before you lay your head on your pillow tonight read that chapter and see if you can spot those promises.

Thanks for letting me share what I’m learning in this study. It’s good stuff! Tomorrow, though, I have some bad news to share. Better brace yourself.

Need Some JOY in Your Life?

I didn’t make it to church yesterday. But I did do my Beth Moore Living Beyond Yourself homework this week. Remember last week we talked about Love? This week the fruit of the Spirit we are gonna talk about it JOY! What more perfect fruit to follow love. When one has Agape Love (the love of Christ) in their heart what more incredible fruit is there than JOY to touch the deepest part of that heart. This week’s lesson covered the five key sources of joy. I’m not sure if I will cover all five of them in depth. I guess we’ll find out when I get finished. (Remember I write off the top of my head. If I tried to write an outline I’d just abandon it anyway.)

Notice I said we are talking about Joy and not happiness. They are NOT the same thing. One is dependent on one’s circumstances (happiness) and one is dependent on the condition of one’s soul. Happiness can run hot and cold. I can be experiencing pure happiness this minute and depression the next. However, no matter whether one is happy or depressed they can still have JOY.

The Greek word (original language of the New Testament) for Joy in Galatians 5:22 is “chara” which means a whole lot of incredible words that boil down pretty much to the term “to celebrate”. As a matter of fact, the word JOY is used 244 times in New International Version of the Bible. That’s a lot of JOY. Based on just the number of times the word is used in the Bible what would you think is the source of JOY. Psalm 51:12 says “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” and David writes in Psalm 43:4 “I will go to the altar of God, my joy and my delight”. Joy reaches to the deepest part of the soul. Our soul is made to be the home of the Holy Spirit. Wouldn’t you think when we invite the Holy Spirit to come and live in the soul that was created for him that he would bring JOY right along with him? For that reason the source of JOY is what brings the Holy Spirit into our soul and that would be our salvation.

Think about it! Think of what God has given for us. Think of what he has saved us FROM. Do you feel that twinge inside of you when you think of just those two things? That’s JOY!

There is so much else to say. I can’t believe I’ve only covered the first of five sources of JOY and it has taken me 537 words to do so. I can see I have some more writing to do this week. We still need to cover the other 4 sources, what we can do if we are a Christian but can’t quite feel that twinge I was talking about and then how to rediscover the JOY of our salvation. I hope you’ll come back as I keep sharing what blessed me this week.

If you have not asked Christ to come into your soul and fill that spot reserved just for him please let me know. I want to tell you how you can experience the JOY of salvation.

The Right to Choose

 

The Right to Choose

by: Mike Stokes

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Of course these are  the words in the first sentence of the famous preamble to, The Declaration of Independence. It is our “unalienable right,” to pursue happiness. One might ask, why, after 235 years of progress, we have made so little headway in capturing this elusive prize? Perhaps the answer lies in the one word “Pursue.” To pursue something suggest it is outside of us, somewhere out-there, needing to be discovered or caught. Many of us were raised to believe joy and happiness means the same thing. Actually, they are not synonymous terms, they are two different words with different meanings. One is a choice the other a pursuit.

 

Happiness depends on the circumstances you are experiencing. The word itself comes from the same root word as “happening.” It means that something good has happened to me, therefore, I am happy. So, happiness is always based on the circumstances, or happenings. Circumstances allow happiness, and it can also make it dissolve into thin air.

 

On the other hand, joy, is not affected by, nor does it depend on circumstances, joy in reality can defy circumstances. It does not depend on ones social standing, mental capacity, economic situation, educational background, race or sex. Joy is really a gift that is optional, not mandatory nor impossible for one who has little reason for joy. Even many Christians are caught on the American dream treadmill of pursuing happiness. If only I had this or that, which means our eyes are on the horizon still searching, waiting for our ship to come in so we can be happy.

 

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way.” If we persue happiness instead of choosing joy, we will become as Frankl put it, “Playthings of circumstances.” On the other hand, if we exercise our right to choose our attitude, we can choose joy in the midst of the cruelest circumstances.

 

However, it is not enough to simply say, “I choose joy.” To choose joy means we set our minds on the kind of things specifically listed in (Philippians 4: 8): “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” To use a metaphor, think of the mind as a bank account, that regularity receives deposits. By depositing the kind of thoughts in verse eight, we build up and draw on a rich account that yields a high dividend called, joy.

The Best Kind Of Worn Out A Girl Can Get

I was looking through my posts recently and noticed 90% of them was about my ailments.  What’s up with that?  Well, honestly it is what has been foremost on my mind the last few months.  So for this entry I’ve decided to write about something that has nothing to do with how bad I feel or any research I’ve done on any of my various “issues”, if I can.  If something pops out I’m sorry – please overlook it.

This morning I woke up actually feeling pretty good.  Of course, I hadn’t lifted my head off the pillow yet.  But that was still a good feeling.  I decided maybe I could make it to church today.  I can’t even remember the last time I was up to going.  So, I took a good little while to get ready so I didn’t have to feel rushed.  I made it all the way through getting my shoes on and realized “by george, I’m actually gonna make it – it is a miracle”.  HAHA

It felt so good to just walk into the building.  I could feel a burden lift.  When I went in the sanctuary and got to my regular seat and began to sing I thought my Spirit would jump right out of my chest.  I’m sure I had a huge smile plastered on my face.  I just wanted to look around and see if everyone else looked as excited and happy to be there as I was.  I think we take these things for granted.  We take for granted the fact that we go to church at all – even that we have a church to go to.  I felt absolute joy opening my mouth and singing praise to my God, who had not forgotten about me.  I was wondering if anyone would remember who I was actually.  Honestly, I was wondering if God even remembered who I was.  But I didn’t need to worry about that after all.  He was still there right where He had always been – right in my heart.  And while I could worship Him from anywhere there isn’t a feeling quite like worshiping Him in HIS house.

I’m not sure there was another person there who was happier to be there than I was.  While I have gone to church my entire life today felt different.  You know that feeling you get when you’ve been on a long vacation and you finally pull into your own driveway and walk in the door of your own house?  That’s the feeling I had.  I hope that everyone could see the joy on my face.  Because I felt it radiating from the inside out.

Now I am back home and in the bed – worn out from the morning at church and afternoon out to lunch with my family (and Hannah, Michael’s girlfriend).  But this is a kind of happy worn out feeling.  I wore myself out being normal worshiping in church and enjoying my family.  That’s the best kind of worn out a girl can get.