#tbt – Joy. It’s not just a dishwashing liquid!

(Originally written 7/20/06)

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit. Psa. 51:12

This was going to be a theoretical discussion about joy, but I’m beginning to see that God is going to use this study as a way to test me as well.  I’ve already been tested on love.  I’ve had to come face to face with what I consider to be love, what I do to show that love, and I come up woefully short of the mark.  As I mentioned before, I grew up disconnected from other people, so I didn’t really know what it was like to forge loving bonds until much later in life.  And even to this day, I still think that is one of the toughest things I deal with.  And, of course, since I really don’t understand love here on earth, it makes it that much harder to understand God’s love, an unconditional love that never asks for anything, and yet gives everything.  A love that will always be there, no matter what.  When the love I see and feel here on earth is so fleeting, it’s just hard to grasp the concept of self-sacrificing love, agape.  So, I’m working on it.
Which brings me to joy.  I’m always big on saying I may not always be happy, but I’m always joyful.  The joy is from knowing I’m saved, knowing that my future is secure.  But, just like David, I’ve let the worries of the world steal my joy.  I’ve let trivialities knock me down, forcing me to take my eyes off God.  And if I’m not focusing on God, I forget the reason why I do all that I do.  I’m reminded of Peter, when he walked on water.  As long as he focused on Jesus, he was safe from the storm, but as soon as he concentrated on the storm, he lost faith, was afraid, and fell into the water.  The cool thing about it is that Jesus was right there to pull him up, just like He’s there to pull us all up out of the crashing waves.
David wrote Psalm 51 after being confronted by Nathan for the sins he’d committed.  There was no question that, although David broke every commandment, he was still saved.  But, he was no longer joyful.  He’d let the world intrude into his relationship with God.  Instead of looking to the heavens toward his Creator, he chose to look down to earth where Bathsheba bathed.  I’ve been looking down at the earth for too long.  I’ve forgotten that nothing here on earth matters if I’m not focused on Jesus, on my Creator, my Savior, my King.
Joy is not happiness.  Happiness depends on current circumstances.  Something good happens, you’re happy.  Something bad happens, you’re not happy.  But being joyful is completely different.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Rejoice evermore.”  Always be joyful?  How’s that possible?  Things go wrong, life takes a nasty turn, how can you be joyful in times like that?  That’s where happiness and joy are different.  You can be joyful and not be happy.  Happiness is the temporary state, joy is the eternal state.  Can you be happy and not joyful?  Absolutely.  But it’s an empty happiness, almost an echo of happiness and not the real thing.
You can lose your joy.  David did.  Any time you take your eyes off the prize, you lose sight of your goal.  My goal is heaven, and eternal unity with the Lord Jesus.  I forget that goal in pursuit of earthly goals: a good job, a wife, the next good book or TV show or movie.  Those things can make you happy, but they cannot bring you eternal joy like God can.
I’ve been acting a lot like David lately and I realize this.  I know I have sinned and fallen far short of where I should be.  I’ve let my joy wither while I concentrated on the elusive pursuit of happiness which, while a constitutional right, is not as fulfilling or satisfying as the pursuit of joy.  Today, I pray like David did, Lord, restore unto me the joy of my salvation, remind me of the important things, help me to walk the path You have set for me, no matter the price, no matter the consequences.  I’m ready to go wherever You need me, whenever You need me there.  Restore my heart, and allow me to appreciate Your love for me, how deep and eternal and unchanging it is.  Holy Spirit, fill me with joy, fill me with wisdom, guide me today and every day.  Jesus, help me to be more like you, help me to keep the old man dead and buried.  Amen.

Gentle Pen

There’s nothing like taking a good long look in the mirror to really see the areas you might be lacking in. These last few weeks, I’ve been doing just that in revisiting Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” So far, I’ve examined how much love, joy, peace and long-suffering there is in my life and, I hate to admit it, but it’s not as much as I would have hoped. Of course, that should go without saying. Until the day I die, I will always be trying to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, faithful, meek and temperate. And I will succeed on some days better than others. I found, though, that gentleness may be one of the traits I most need to work on. I discovered that, when put to the test, my first response to most people is to be sarcastic and cutting – a far cry from gentleness. I know that I developed my sarcasm as a defense mechanism when I was younger, but the question put before me is, does sarcasm have any place in my life now that I’m an adult? I looked up the definition of sarcasm and found it is defined as “harsh or bitter derision or irony” and a “sneering or cutting remark.” It is derived from the Greek word “sarcasmos”, meaning “to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly.” Harsh, bitter, sneering? Tearing flesh? Those are not words that should be used to describe my Christian walk. And yet, I find myself constantly opening my mouth and “tearing flesh”. Some would say, me included before this past week, that sarcasm is harmless fun and a form of humor. In some cases, it can be. Saying “lovely weather” when it’s storming out is sarcasm, and it is harmless sarcasm. The sarcasm I’m referring to is the comment that comes at the expense of another person, even if the person being poked fun at is the speaker of the sarcastic comment. And that leads me to my second revelation this week.

I tend to use sarcasm to put myself down. That has also become a habit that grew out of self-defense in my younger years. I was made fun of, a lot, as a kid, so I learned that if I made fun of myself first, it could lessen the blow and, more importantly, take the fun away from those making fun of me by showing that I wasn’t bothered by the taunts, even if I really had been bothered by them. That has become the way I deal with a lot of things about myself, and I was reminded this week of a speech I heard from someone about the way we internally talk to ourselves. I wish I could remember where I heard the speech and who gave it, so I could give credit where credit is due, but all I can remember is what was said. We are kinder and gentler to strangers than we are to ourselves. We would be hard-pressed to go up to someone and call them fat, or ugly, or stupid. And yet, we would have no problem internally saying that about ourselves. I find that, even though I feel I’m not as gentle to others as I should be, I’m much less gentle to myself. The speaker asked his audience, “If you were standing before yourself as a child, would you say half the things to him or her that you say to yourself as an adult?” The answer for most people would be, of course not. Then he asked why should it be any different for us as adults?

Before people get the wrong idea and think I’m saying that we should ignore our faults, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that we need to deal with our shortcomings with the same gentleness we would – or should – use towards others. What would you say to a friend who’s struggling with weight issues? (Hopefully, something encouraging!) Then, if you’re struggling with weight issues, why would you be so much harder on yourself? What would you say to a child who’s having a hard time grasping concepts at school? Then, if you’re having trouble learning something, why would you think less of yourself than you would that child?

While they may seem unrelated, these two revelations are inextricably linked. Being gentle to others is easier when I’m gentle to myself, and vice versa. Will it be easy changing habits that have developed over many years? The cliché “old habits die hard” is a cliché for a reason. But is it possible? Of course it is, especially with God’s help, with whom all things are possible. (Mat. 19:26) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a nice, encouraging chat with my inner child…

Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!

As promised, here is my blog on joy.
But before I do that, just a little update for those who are interested. I have arrived safely in New York, and have already experienced memories of why I loved it here and also why I had to move. I’d forgotten how noisy is can be to be surrounded by people, but I’d also forgotten how beautiful the skyline is. I’d forgotten how many homeless people there are all over, but I’d also forgotten the palpable energy that pervades this city. I am so excited at the opportunity to spend this week rediscovering New York. That being said, let’s talk about joy.
This has been a very happy week for me, for obvious reasons. As i said, I am in New York, a couple of days away from playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I get to see my dad, albeit for only a day. I get to spend time back in my hometown. Everything seems perfect. Happiness is easy for me this week.
But we all know how quickly things can change from one day to the next, from one moment to the next. We all know that happiness is fleeting, and tomorrow could bring deep sorrow and pain. We’ve all faced those changes in circumstance at one time or another. And we’ve experienced the reverse as well. Sorrow today, and happiness tomorrow.
Joy, on the other hand, is present despite our circumstances. The Bible tells us to rejoice in all things. We all say, “How is that possible when (insert your trouble here) is going on in my life?” And the reason we ask that is because we confuse happiness with joy.
I’m going to use a story Ray Comfort tells when he talks about how to best approach people with the Gospel. I think it could also be used to distinguish between happiness and joy.
There is a man on an airplane that is told by the flight attendant to put on a parachute. When he asks why, the attendant says it will make the flight more enjoyable. He puts it on, and it’s uncomfortable. People laugh at him for wearing it. The more things go wrong on the flight, the more he blames the parachute until, finally, he takes it off.
Another man on another flight is told by the flight attendant to put on a parachute. When he asks why, the attendant says because, when the plane hits 30,000 feet, he’s going to have to jump out of the plane. He puts it on and it’s uncomfortable. People laugh at him for wearing it. But, here’s the difference. He knows that parachute is his salvation and nothing can convince him to remove it. As a matter of fact, the worse things get on the flight, the more he’ll look forward to jumping out.
As I mentioned, Ray Comfort uses that story to illustrate the difference between telling someone becoming a Christian will make them feel good or telling someone becoming a Christian will save them from hell. But I think it might be a decent contrast between joy and happiness. Happiness comes from events in our lives; births, graduations, weddings, etc. Sometimes a brief happiness can come from things we buy. Sometimes we look to others to make us happy. But events pass, things break and people disappoint. And we are left with unhappiness. Joy, true joy, can only come from knowing that, no matter what happens in our lives, we are wearing that parachute that will save us when the time comes for us to “jump out.” and we all eventually jump out of this “plane of existence” and into the next, where we will land before God’s judgment seat. If we have not accepted Jesus as our savior and Lord, our “parachute”, we will be judged on our own works. And none of us, myself included, has lived a perfect, sinless life. We will not be good enough for heaven.  But if we have accepted Jesus as our savior and Lord, Jesus will cover our sins and we will appear spotless and without sin before God. We will be made good enough for heaven.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the things of this world can only make you happy. Joy only comes in the safety of knowing your eternal soul is in the hands of Jesus.
My happiness may come and go, but my joy is a permanent resident in my life. Are you happy? Or joyful? There’s a world of difference between the two.

Happy happy joy joy!

Even with everything else that’s going on in my life right now, I’m going to try and continue my study on the fruits of the Spirit. I will be posting my thoughts on joy this Saturday, if I manage to find the time. It’s strange how, once again, something comes up every week which falls right in line with my study. This week, once again, I’m facing the differences between joy and happiness. I’ll go into more detail this weekend. In the meantime, here are my goals:

Goal Fruit – Joy

Goal Weight – 293 lbs.

And here is my blog on joy from five years ago:

Joy – it’s not just a dishwashing liquid!
7/20/06

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit. Psa 51:12

This was going to be a theoretical discussion about joy, but I’m beginning to see that God is going to use this study as a way to test me as well.  I’ve already been tested on love.  I’ve had to come face to face with what I consider to be love, what I do to show that love, and I come up woefully short of the mark.  As I mentioned before, I grew up disconnected from other people, so I didn’t really know what it was like to forge loving bonds until much later in life.  And even to this day, I still think that is one of the toughest things I deal with.  And, of course, since I really don’t understand love here on earth, it makes it that much harder to understand God’s love, an unconditional love that never asks for anything, and yet gives everything.  A love that will always be there, no matter what.  When the love I see and feel here on earth is so fleeting, it’s just hard to grasp the concept of self-sacrificing love, agape.  So, I’m working on it.
Which brings me to joy.  I’m always big on saying I may not always be happy, but I’m always joyful.  The joy is from knowing I’m saved, knowing that my future is secure.  But, just like David, I’ve let the worries of the world steal my joy.  I’ve let trivialities knock me down, forcing me to take my eyes off God.  And if I’m not focusing on God, I forget the reason why I do all that I do.  I’m reminded of Peter, when he walked on water.  As long as he focused on Jesus, he was safe from the storm, but as soon as he concentrated on the storm, he lost faith, was afraid, and fell into the water.  The cool thing about it is that Jesus was right there to pull him up, just like He’s there to pull us all up out of the crashing waves.
David wrote Psalm 51 after being confronted by Nathan for the sins he’d committed.  There was no question that, although David broke every commandment, he was still saved.  But, he was no longer joyful.  He’d let the world intrude into his relationship with God.  Instead of looking to the heavens toward his Creator, he chose to look down to earth where Bathsheba bathed.  I’ve been looking down at the earth for too long.  I’ve forgotten that nothing here on earth matters if I’m not focused on Jesus, on my Creator, my Savior, my King.
Joy is not happiness.  Happiness depends on current circumstances.  Something good happens, you’re happy.  Something bad happens, you’re not happy.  But being joyful is completely different.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Rejoice evermore.”  Always be joyful?  How’s that possible?  Things go wrong, life takes a nasty turn, how can you be joyful in times like that?  That’s where happiness and joy are different.  You can be joyful and not be happy.  Happiness is the temporary state, joy is the eternal state.  Can you be happy and not joyful?  Absolutely.  But it’s an empty happiness, almost an echo of happiness and not the real thing.
You can lose your joy.  David did.  Any time you take your eyes off the prize, you lose sight of your goal.  My goal is heaven, and eternal unity with the Lord Jesus.  I forget that goal in pursuit of earthly goals: a good job, a wife, the next good book or TV show or movie.  Those things can make you happy, but they cannot bring you eternal joy like God can.
I’ve been acting a lot like David lately and I realize this.  I know I have sinned and fallen far short of where I should be.  I’ve let my joy wither while I concentrated on the elusive pursuit of happiness which, while a constitutional right, is not as fulfilling or satisfying as the pursuit of joy.  Today, I pray like David did, Lord, restore unto me the joy of my salvation, remind me of the important things, help me to walk the path You have set for me, no matter the price, no matter the consequences.  I’m ready to go wherever You need me, whenever You need me there.  Restore my heart, and allow me to appreciate Your love for me, how deep and eternal and unchanging it is.  Holy Spirit, fill me with joy, fill me with wisdom, guide me today and every day.  Jesus, help me to be more like you, help me to keep the old man dead and buried.  Amen.

Nine in the Afternoon

Nine is an interesting number. We say we’re on cloud nine and we dress to the nines. A stitch in time saves nine. (Not sure what that one means.) A cat has nine lives. Our solar system has nine planets – I don’t care what the scientists say, I say Pluto still counts. There are nine Muses in mythology. And I just learned about the Nine Worthies, which is a subject I’ll be coming back to in my blogs at some point.

So, why is the number nine on my mind? It seems I’ve had a few events occurring at the same time revolving around nine. I have recently rediscovered my blog series on the fruits of the Spirit, of which nine are listed in Galatians 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Having done those blogs five years ago, I decided to revisit the series and see what has changed and what hasn’t. The last time I did this, I found I was challenged on every one of the fruits as I was studying it. I expect it will be no different this time. I will be posting the original blogs as well.

The other major nine that popped up recently was in an exercise regime which I just began. It is a nine week program, divided into three phases of three weeks each. It’s not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, I only made it halfway through the routine yesterday. But I know that, if I stick with it, it will help me lose weight. This morning, I weighed in at an even 300.

With both of these things coming in the form of nine, I figured, why not combine the two and work on my spiritual and physical health at the same time? To top it all off – all this just happens to fall during the ninth month of the year. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but I’m willing to go along with it. Join me, if you will, for what will hopefully be an enlightening, and lighten-ing, nine weeks.

Goal fruit for the week – Love

Goal weight for the week – 295

 

Picking Fruit (originally written 7/14/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.”(Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to do an in-depth study of the fruit of the Spirit. The proof of a Christian life is in the fruit, just like the proof of a good tree is the good fruit it bears. If the Christian life doesn’t show good fruit, then one would be left to wonder if it truly is a Christian life.
The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV) So that is the fruit by which the Christian life is measured. It’s my intention to talk about each of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, but before I do that, I want to spend some time on the verses right before those, which are not quoted as often. Galatians 5:19-21 tell the other side of the story – “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” That is a long list of bad fruit, fruit of the flesh versus fruit of the Spirit. And it covers a large range of issues, and most are covered by the Ten Commandments. Sex, both adulterous and premarital, Hatred, wrath and murder, which, according to Jesus, are the same. Bearing false witness, covered by sedition and heresy. Covetousness with the envying, and so on.
They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But, aren’t we all guilty of doing these things even after we give our lives to Christ? Does that mean none of us will inherit the kingdom of God? Are we all doomed to hell?
The answer is in the Greek. The word “do” could better be translated as practice, perpetrate, exercise. All words which show a long-term disobedience to God. And that is the difference. I’ve heard a metaphor which paints a good picture. Imagine a pig and a sheep falling into a puddle of mud. The pig continues to wallow in the mud, while the sheep gets up and tries to clean itself off. That’s the difference. Those who practice, commit, exercise the fruit of the flesh are content to wallow in the mud. Those who try to live by the fruit of the Spirit will try to clean themselves off. Sure, there are times we Christians stumble. We are by no means perfect. It’s because we realize this that we have come to the One who is perfect.
So…ask yourself this question today – do you lay with the pigs or hang with the sheep?