Happiness vs. Joy

Joy

Joy is the foundation for a positive life.  Our world lacks joy and has way too much fear, worry, discouragement, and depression these days.  We need to fully trust God and have joy even in the hard moments and seasons of life. It we are not fully trusting our Father, then we will never be able to experience pure joy.

Biblical joy, the true joy, comes from filling the spiritual void with good relationships, mostly the intimate relationship with the One who is pure joy.  Jesus put it this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). That fruit includes much joy!

The Bible speaks much more often of joy than of being happy. “Hap” means chance and is the root of several words— happen, happening, haphazard (dependent on mere chance), hapless, happenstance (a chance circumstance) and happy.

Happiness is a glad feeling that depends on something good happening. God wants you to experience happy times (as long as God approves of what is happening). But His greater desire is that you have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would “remain in you” and “your joy no one will take from you” (John 15:11; John 16:22).

Think of joy as a strong foundation that supports a variety of healthy emotions, including happiness. The long-range evidence of joy is general gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

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A Lesson from Pakistan: Preparation

pakistan inside group

Missions Spotlight: Pakistan

Did you know that less than 3% of people living in Pakistan are Christians?  Pakistan is mainly a Muslim country.  Because of religious persecution and the law, our Christian brethren meet in homes.  Currently, we support seven home-congregations that believe as we do.

 

Why do you believe in God?  Have you ever been asked this question?  After being asked this question, I would often flounder around saying things like “Ummm because I was raised in it” or “because the Bible says it’s true” or “God and Jesus changed my life” (meanwhile I didn’t really know how they changed it).  When it came right down to it, I didn’t really know why I believed in God.  If we take our faith seriously, we are not allowed to stay in ignorance; we have to be ready.  There has probably been a time and place when we all had to give an account for our faith to someone, or at least when we have questioned our own beliefs.  Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 3:13 – 18 to see what a very wise man had to say about this subject.

 

“13 Who is [c]there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [d]are blessed. And do not fear their [e]intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but [f]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a [g]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [h]reverence; 16 [i]and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if [j]God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [k]spirit”

 

Verse 15 blankly states to always be ready to share your defense, or your testimony of the hope that lives in you!  So let’s get practical and dive into the nitty gritty of what a “defense meant to convince” might look like.  Here are several starters to get you thinking about what elements of your personal faith story are powerful to your testimony.

 

  1. Align your actions with Christ’s.

It’s not enough to just be different from the world.  Buddhists, Muslims, even moral atheists live differently from the world.  If you aren’t living like Christ than anything you say after that can as easily be dismissed as saying the word ‘hypocrite’.

 

  1. Highlight your personal change

Show how you lived before and how your life is different now, only through the power of God’s grace and strength; you couldn’t do this alone!

 

  1. Highlight your hope for the future

The kingdom of God resides here on the Earth now and in the future!!! This belief has given you purpose.  HOPEfully your peers will be able to perceive this from the way you have been living.  Our actions and mindset produce joy!

 

  1. Highlight the coming judgement

There is a judgement day approaching; it is sooner now than it has ever been.  This aspect is meant to help others perceive the urgency of believing

 

  1. Historical/ontological/teleological arguments for trusting the Bible

If you feel like you can articulate these aspects well, go for it! These are very valuable reasons for believing.  However, you do run the risk of appearing uninformed if the person you are talking to is studied up on these subjects.  You wouldn’t want someone to tear apart your arguments and thus misinterpret your testimony.

 

  1. Highlight the changes in others

Express stories of growth and change that you have witnessed in others.  This is a great time to offer a friend the chance to believe!

 

I encourage you to take some time and write out your testimony on paper.  That way, when the time comes you will have a “defense meant to convince” ready to go.

 

In Pakistan, people are not Christians because it is casual, it is the exact opposite.  With only 3% of the country practicing Christianity, our brothers and sisters are not doing it because of the trendy churches, or latest fad.  These people believe in God and Jesus because they have experienced it; they have a powerful testimony to share.  They have done the preparation and know that this is the best way of life.  Although it is not the popular belief, they are prepared disciples.  I am inspired by our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to testify boldly, and to stand ready to share my defense.

 

If you would like to support our family in Pakistan with Bibles and money for meeting grounds, please follow this link. Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

GOOD!

Psalm 100

psalm 100 5 (1)

I chose to write about Psalm 100 because of how much we can learn from it despite its shortness. This is a great chapter to read, and it only takes a minute of your whole day. The first thing I would like to point out is that in verse four it says, “Bless his name.” This verse is talking about God and how we should give thanks to him and bless his name. Now if you’re like me you might be thinking, why should we bless God’s name? Well, God blessing us and us blessing God are not the same thing at all. God does not profit from us blessing him. It’s not like he gets stronger or better anytime someone blesses him. On the other hand, when God blesses us, we benefit from it. In this verse, it is talking more about how we should praise him.

 

Throughout the whole Psalm, it talks about how we should praise God. As a church, I believe we should be more joyful, and excited. This Psalm is a great example of how we should praise God. It tells us we should serve God with gladness, shout joyfully, enter his gates with thanksgiving, and give thanks to God.

 

Usually when we think of ‘good’ we use it to mean something between ok and great. But in this passage, it is saying that he is righteous and about how great God is. This reminds me of the popular song below:

 

God is good, all the time

And all the time, God is good.

 

This Psalm is a great one to meditate on. Here are some points from Psalm 100 that you can meditate on.

God made us

We are the sheep in his pasture

The Lord himself is God

His lovingkindness is everlasting

The Lord is good

His faithfulness continues to all generations

Throughout the whole book of Psalms, it says, “His lovingkindness is everlasting”. In fact, it says it 34 times. Of those 34 times, 26 of them are all in Psalm 136. It even says it in every single verse.

Even in this short Psalm we can take so much from it.

-Makayla Railton

Joy to the World – Up From the Grave He AROSE!

Luke 24

JOY to the WORLD!

In yesterday’s devotion, Jesus died.  And the world –  the centurion, the sky, the women, the crowd – took notice and responded.  Even the crowd that had not been Jesus’ followers, some of whom may have earlier shouted, “Crucify Him!”, now, “beat their breasts and went away” (Luke 23:48).  There was something very different about this man Jesus and the way he died.  Though they did not understand at the time that he had died for their sins – and not only theirs – but the sins of the world.

If Luke’s gospel story had ended there, we could still be forgiven people today – able to have a relationship with God because of the sacrifice of Jesus carrying our sins to his death because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  BUT – there is even MORE good news to come in Luke 24!  A great gift of God is set before us – eternal life in Christ Jesus our RISEN Lord.  Without a risen Lord there would be no future hope for a resurrection for his followers.

When the women brought news to the disciples that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.” (Luke 24:11,12).   He was going to search it out and find the truth.  Likewise, the two on the road to Emmaus had many questions and were confused about what they had seen and heard.  Jesus walked with them, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27).

Today, news of his resurrection and the resurrection to come still brings great joy to his followers.  There are those who say it sounds like nonsense.  There are those who are questioning.  Be like Peter and seek out answers.  Like Jesus, dig into the Scriptures and reveal them to others.  Declare the good news of Jesus’ birth – but then so much more – his death and resurrection.  Share the Joy!

-Marcia Railton

Rally Right – Proverbs 16

Part 1

Prov 16-3
I was watching the news this morning.  How depressing, so I switched to Facebook.  Not much better.  If you are like me you don’t need negativity in your life, you want something positive to cling to.  I choose to not find my joy in the news of today but in the wisdom of God.  Proverbs 16 really spoke to me today because of a few verses that really caught my eye.
Proverbs 16:1-4
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil.
 
What really spoke to me about these verses is
1.  In verse 1 it says “the plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD”  What this tells me is human responsibility is always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty
2.  Verse 2-While man can be self deceived God determines his true motives.
3.  Verse 3-In the sense of both total trust and submission to the will of God, He will fulfill a person’s righteous plans.
4.  Verse 4-The wicked will bring glory to God in the day of their judgment and punishment.
 
Do you see a pattern here?  The pattern is that you have a responsibility to find the right path and walk in it.  God will direct you to it.  If you choose to ignore it you will be corrected.
 
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.
 
Are you making a choice?  Don’t let someone make it for you.  Rally right! 
God bless!
I am praying for you.
Pastor Andy Cisneros

Suffering!

Romans 4-7

romans-5-3-5-1366x768

Wednesday, June 14

I really don’t like tribulations but I do like what they produce in my life.  When I think about the hard times that I have been through, I see how God proved himself to me over and over again.  It is those times that have built my faith in an invisible God.

 

Romans 5:1-4

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

 

Looking back, the trials and tribulations that I have suffered were well worth it.  Of course, at the time, in the midst of the storm, I was filled with angst and anxiety.  What often helped me was prayer.  I know my limitations and how powerless I am but God has no limits and He intervenes on our behalf.  Now when I look back at those hard times, I don’t feel the sting of stress but I see the power of perseverance!  I persevered with prayer and God answered me.  Whatever the situation was, God helped me and my faith grew stronger and stronger each time.  This helped me to mature as a believer and it changed my character for the better.

 

I also see, as I reflect back, the strength I have gained from seeing God prove himself time and again, and knowing and believing that the promises He has made will come to pass. This is hope.  This hope is what helps us to push through the trials and not give up.  We have hope that God will hear our cry, incline His ear to our prayers, and touch our lives.  I am reminded of the section in James where it talks about joy in tribulation…what??  That can’t be right, can it?

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

I will be completely honest.  I am not there yet.  I do not view trials with joy, not even in the slightest.  I wish I could encounter a trial with a smile and look forward to what it will produce in me.  I only smile when it is over and some time has passed and then the joy part sets in.  So, I have some work to do and I am sure that I will have plenty of opportunities to get better at this.

 

This whole section of scripture we read today is also about faith…each trial and tribulation has strengthened my faith.  Even when my faith was shaken, I came out the other side stronger.  My brother John and his wife Grace, almost 9 years ago, found out they were expecting a baby.  We were so excited!  Early on in the pregnancy, they found out there were some complications, all was not right.  We quickly went from excited to shaken and scared.  This doesn’t happen to us, this could not be.

 

My mom, myself, and Grace decided that we would pray together every day until the baby was born.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  I had never prayed so diligently before this.  We were certain God was going to perform a miracle.  Grace felt God was leading her to name the baby Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was born and we did not get the miracle we prayed for…in fact his condition was worse than we expected and he would continue to have more challenges as he grew.  This shook our faith and tore us up inside.  I won’t go through all the questions I hurled at God and the sorrow we felt but I will say, that through it all, God was with us.  Jeremiah may not be like everyone else, but he is a miracle and he has given our family such joy.  In the end, my faith is stronger because I know that we live in a broken world and that bad things happen…even to us.  But, then I think of this scripture:

 

Isaiah 35:6

Then the lame will leap like a deer,

And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.

For waters will break forth in the wilderness

And streams in the Arabah.

 

One day, all will be made right and we just need to have faith.  Faith to keep going, to tackle each trial with hope and perseverance and that will mold our character for the better.  Take some time to reflect on your life and your hard times.  What did they produce in you?  Do you have a stronger appreciation of the hope we have because of your trials?

This is Jeremiah.  He is full of joy, laughter, and kindness.  He is nonverbal, has low tone, and other issues but one day, when our Lord returns, he will run fast like the wind and talk up a storm.

jeremiah

– Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/hope/romans-5-3-5/)

JOY!

Acts 13-16

acts 16 joy

Friday, June 9

I love listening to missionary stories.  I love hearing how bold men and women have carried the good news of God’s love and plan of salvation to others, sometimes meeting with great success, eager ears, and saved lives, while other times being faced with disappointment, ridicule, shunning or great danger.  The book of Acts delivers all this and more as the great missionary Paul along with Silas, Barnabas, John Mark and others worked tirelessly to teach, preach, baptize and encourage churches and individuals through many towns and countries – growing the Kingdom of God.

One word that caught my attention in these chapters was JOY.  Acts 13:52 records, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Sounds great, doesn’t it!!   Things must have been going very well for our faithful missionaries to be experiencing such JOY.  But, wait, what were the verses just previous . . . “But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city.  They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.  So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.” (13:50-51).  Trials, persecutions, and hardships, being expelled, cast out – these can easily bring up lots of human emotions.  Anger, rage, depression, hopelessness, fatigue, giving up.  But instead it says the disciples were filled with JOY – and with the Holy Spirit.  That is the joy that I want to have.   A deep joy that comes not from everything going as planned, but from knowing you are doing the Father’s Will – even when it is hard, even when it hurts.  A joy that comes hand in hand with His Holy Spirit.

 

JOY is used again in Acts 16:34 – this time at a truly JOYOUS occasion.  “The jailer…was filled with JOY because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.”  Can you imagine the scene – middle of the night, jailer hears singing from the cell as Paul and Silas praise God and pray.  Then – EARTHQUAKE!!!!  Prison doors thrown open and the jailer prepares to kill himself, since he would be executed if any of his prisoners ever escaped, and what prisoners wouldn’t escape if the prison doors were thrown open.  But then a shout is heard, “Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”” (16:28).  The astounded jailer needs to know more about these men and the Jesus they profess.  Paul and Silas gladly teach – and baptize – the changed jailer and his family.  The jailer takes them into his home and gives the missionaries a meal.  And there is JOY.  The baptism of a new believer is certainly one of the most joyful events.  But, what events were necessary to proceed this baptism?  In this particular case, the jailer would not have heard the gospel message if it weren’t for several catastrophes and trials: an earthquake, a mob attacking Peter & Silas (because they had healed a slave girl) which led to them being stripped and severely beaten and thrown in jail.  And, even then, if Peter and Silas had reacted differently to these crisis situations (perhaps with anger and selfishness rather than with praise and joy), the jailer would most likely have committed suicide instead of asking how to be saved.

I don’t know what you are going through today.  But, how can you face it with praise and joy and the Holy Spirit?  It just might lead to the saving of a life – maybe your own, and maybe somebody else’s.

 

-Marcia Railton