Month: September 2014

True Joy

One day, a friend of mine asked, “Gina, why are you always smiling?”
I simply replied, “Jesus.”

All of my life, people have always asked me the same question. I never knew that there was a perpetual grin plastered on my face until I noticed the theme about my smile. Apparently, not many people are giving away smiles. It’s always been something that I naturally do. My countenance is not forced, contrived, or fake. Honestly, I’m not even aware of it until it’s mentioned. It has inspired nicknames such as Smiley & Sunshine, which the Holy Spirit has so sweetly spoken through others.

Then one day, the Lord took it a step further.

A dear friend declared something powerful over me. She said that she will call me Joy…unspeakable Joy. That same week, another close friend gave me two verses.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10 

“In your presence there is fullness of joy.” – Psalm 16:11

He didn’t just give me a nickname…He renamed me. That solidified my stance in this life. Sometimes people think that because you constantly smile that you haven’t experienced the trials of life. So not true.  I have walked through my share of deep valleys. But I choose joy. He calls us to choose joy…and it’s not hard to. Some call it having a glass half full mentality, but the way I view it, my cup overfloweth. He pours out, and it spills over the brim.

This doesn’t mean that I never have my days where I shed tears, feel pain or lament. Ask my husband or closest friends…I can whine with the best of them. I just don’t call attention to pain or trials that I may experience. Those closest to me are witnesses to those moments, but I refuse to give glory to anything other than God. When you make a spectacle of your suffering, it pulls the focus of God.

Please understand that God doesn’t want you to put up a front. He wants us to be honest with him. David was very forthright and honest in his sufferings through Psalms. But He always turned it into praise. Worshiping God in the midst of a trial is the most powerful thing you can do. Thank Him for the victory while you’re walking through it. Acknowledge Him by your side when you are in the fire. Refuse the temptation to complain, grumble or rebuke God for not stopping it.

True joy never fades or withers during trials. It raises its hands in the face of the battle and reminds itself that God reigns.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2

“Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.” – Psalm 21:6

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.” – Psalm 43:5

Joy

When I think of the meaning of joy,  there are many things that come to mind. A baby in a fit of giggles. Christmas morning. A proposal. A new puppy. A surprise party. A fun wedding dance. The expression on a person’s face experiencing it is telling of their blissful state. What I love about joy is that it’s contagious. Once someone gets the giggles, it’s not long before those near bust out themselves.

There’s a different kind of joy in Jesus. One that cannot compare to any other pleasure we feel this side of Heaven.

It’s the joy found in His presence. 

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” – Psalm 16:11

Not just a taste…not just a hint…but fullness of joy is ours when we are in His presence. He is a god of abundance…He lavishes His love upon us…how can that not bring joy? David spoke of this joy much throughout Psalms. The presence of God was so vital in his life that He begged God to never let it leave.

“Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:11

The presence of God, the Holy Spirit, is the most exquisite thing you will ever experience. There have been certain moments in my life where I have felt Him so strongly & so intensely that I truly thought I would melt into a gooey puddle. I didn’t want to leave because of the overwhelming love, peace & joy I felt. Jesus made a way for us to experience Him at anytime when He gave Himself up for our sins. When you sense Him near, you just can’t help yourself.

This is where the difference between religion & relationship become obvious. Religion is the furthest thing from joyful. There’s no passion, no spark. Relationship bears witness of His character. Relationship is a yearning to be with Him instead of it being a chore or task. Relationship knows their God as a close friend, a confidante.  It is in those moments when you have realized who He is and what you are to Him that the joy comes. Joy cannot be experienced in a rigid environment. It flourishes in an atmosphere of love.

When you are in His presence, His voice can be heard. To hear the Lover of our soul whisper to us & and that He wants to know us just as much…wow.

He is the root of all joy. Get in His presence frequently and I assure you, you will start to bear this fruit without much effort.

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” – John 3:29

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.” 1 Chronicles 16:27

“Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy.”  – Psalm 100:2

“For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6

Sibling Rivalry

“Deliver me from my hateful thoughts…I’m committing murder in the presence of God.” –  “Deliver Me” by Bethany Dillon 

When I first heard these lyrics, it caught me off guard. It’s not often you hear the word ‘murder’ in a worship song. As I replayed it, I understood the reason for this intense analogy.

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:11

From the beginning, we’ve been fighting with our siblings. When we try to justify our reasons for feeling this way towards another child of God, do you know what we sound like? A child trying to make excuses for their actions against their sibling. Can you just hear it now? “But Mom…they did it first!” 

There is no room for division in God’s family. He did not create us for broken homes. His intention in adopting us into the family of God is for us to never encounter dissension again and to live in complete harmony. He created us to fellowship with one another, not quarrel. When we allow hurt feelings, jealousy, or bitterness to take over, we leave a door wide open to the enemy to tear down our home.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” – Mark 3:24

A healthy, stable and loving family is God’s desire. One who strives for peace, for harmony. Let’s do all we can to please our Father.

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:14

Study Scriptures

1 John 3:11-24

1 John 4:7-21

Loving the Unlovables

Loving the unlovables. That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Loving those who are difficult to love. That can apply to many different types of people in each of our lives. May I list a few?

  • The arch enemies
  • The instigators
  • The opinionated
  • The drama queens
  • The judgmentals
  • The gossips

Those are the obvious ones, though. There are others that are closer to home. 

  • Our spouse…or ex-spouse
  • Our in-laws
  • Our siblings
  • Our parents

Maybe these bleed into one another, but we will eventually come across difficult people in our walk on earth. The question is how do we abide in love in these situations? 

Pray and Read God’s Word

This sounds simple, but it’s the most effective way to learn God’s ways. He will speak to you through the Word. Partner that with prayer (conversing with God), and He will speak to you, and teach you how to walk in the Spirit.

Realize that you yourself are unlovable at times

I think I just heard alot of gasps as I typed this. I know, it’s shocking! (haha) But we must hold ourselves accountable. Minimizing our own sins in comparison holds no ground and is not what God had in mind.  

“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” – Ecclesiastes 7:21

Look at them through God’s eyes

John 2:25 states that Jesus knew what was in man. He knew human nature. Noone’s actions surprised Him, not even when they betrayed Him. Even after Peter denied Him 3 times…He STILL was merciful. Even in our sinful state…God chose us. Knowing full well that we would deny & crucify Him, He came for us anyway. What did He see in us that moved Him to be so selfless and loving in the face of our sin? His nature is love. He can’t help BUT to love us. So we must use look others from the His point of view. James 3:9 states that we curse those made in God’s likeness. The unlovables are still creations of our God…and loved by Him just as much as we are. If He loves them, who are we not to?

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32

Yield to the Holy Spirit and surrender

As I was walking through my house yesterday, the Holy Spirit highlighted a phrase from a sign on my walls: 

 

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This sign has been up since the week we moved in, but it was so confirming for me, considering last week this was the focus (abiding in Love). Since God is love, I translate it to “Let God abide.” But what sticks out to me in this is the word ‘Let’. Loving the way God does not come easy, nor can we do it ourselves. It means making room for Him to love through us. It means surrendering & yielding to Him so that His love can flow. It means letting Him take over. 
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“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” – Luke 6:27

 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8