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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Unknown Endgame

Gen 12 1

“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1). This is what the LORD said to a man called Abram, later known as Abraham. He was promised to be the father of many nations, while also told to adventure out unto the great unknown to a land that God would show him. Not tell him. In this verse, the word used is raah which in Hebrew means “to show”. It’s important to note here that God would not tell Abram where to go, but show. This means that at the time Abram decided to leave, he didn’t have an endgame. Only God did, and God promised to reveal it to him at the correct time.

Abram was not the first and most certainly not the last to be called by God to travel to unknown territory. I can testify to this.

In January of this year, at a college gathering for a Christian group, I was extremely convicted by the speaker’s message to reexamine my life, specifically my future plans. At the time, I had narrowed down three graduate school fellowships I was going to apply. Eventually, the goal was to settle down somewhere as a college professor and teach Literature. This had been my plan for a couple of years now, though in the back of my mind, something always felt a bit unsettling. As important as I thought Shakespeare may be, I wanted to do more with my life then teach Hamlet. Deep down, ever since I was a young girl, I knew I would end up going to Atlanta Bible College. As I sat in that seat during the sermon, it became clear to me that the time was now. While he was still speaking, I pulled out my phone and applied right then and there. I knew that if I waited till I got back to my dorm, I would have chickened out. That night was the start of my unknown.

I did a lot of praying, a lot of back and forth with God, but all along, I knew the answer was to move to Georgia and attend ABC. I don’t have an endgame, only possibilities, but I’m trusting God that he will show me my path when I get there.

When I started to tell people about my decision, I got more support than I thought I would. I was worried about the stigma that came with going to a Bible College, but as it turned out, many of my peers and professors respected and were excited about my decision. Not all of them, though. I won’t ever forget the way one of my English professor’s face fell in disappointment when he asked about my future plans. It was right after I presented my honors project and he was encouraging me to pursue graduate school. He looked at me as if I was wasting my potential.

My mother and step-father were not supportive and are still getting used to the idea. I know that deep down, their concern is out of love, but it still hurts and strains our relationship. Their biggest issue is that I don’t have an end goal. They want to know why I’m going down to ABC, what it is exactly I hope to gain from another bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately for them, and for many others in the world, “God will show me when I get there” doesn’t work. But right here with Abram, we’ve got proof that it does. We know the end of his story. We know that God did follow through, that God did show him the way. As a result, when we are called out unto the great unknown, because we know Abram’s story, we know the end of our stories, too.

-Emilee Ross

Battle Cry

sunday dec. 31

We are in the midst of war. This war was waged about 6,000 years ago when Adam and Eve committed the very first sin. The fruit they ate was the gateway for sin to enter the world. God and sin do not peacefully coexist, because “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  This war, like any war, is made up of battles and tomorrow, the beginning of 2018, marks a new battle. Are you ready?

Every battle needs a battle cry— a word or phrase cried out by the soldiers going into combat for the purpose of uniting your regiment and intimidating the enemy. One of my favorite battles in the Bible happens in the book of Judges. The Israelites have lost their leader, Joshua, leaving them in a vulnerable place. Over and over in the book of judges the Israelites repeat the cycle of falling into sin, becoming oppressed by another group of people, calling out to God for help, being delivered by a judge (not the kind that carries a gavel, think more of like a temporary Superman), and finally enjoying a time of peace. Our story begins as the Israelites have been given into the hands of the Midianites, who are notorious for invading the Israelite’s land, destroying their crops, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. The Israelites are now so impoverished and helpless that their only option is to cry out for the God of their ancestors. Hearing their cries, God appoints a man named Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites, telling Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).

After a bit of hesitation, Gideon gathers an army of 32,000 men. As he prepares to bring them into battle, God nudges Gideon, telling him that he has too many men. If Israel were to win, they would think it was because of their own power and not because of God’s almighty power. Gideon tells his army that if anyone is scared they can turn back now. 22,000 soldiers left, while only 10,000 remained. With only a third of Gideon’s army remaining, God still says there are too many men, so Gideon takes his men down to the water. Every man who drank from cupped hands, lapping like a dog was allowed to fight, but every man who got down on their knees to drink were sent back home. Gideon’s army now consists of 300 men (who are probably at this time pooping their pants in fear). These men were not given traditional weapons; instead, they had trumpets and jars with torches inside.

In case you’re lost, here are the numbers: 135,000 well-equipped Midianite soldiers stacked up against 300 Israelite soldiers holding trumpets, jars, and torches. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the Midianites. Regardless, Gideon and his teeny-tiny army surround the Midianite camp just as the Midianites were changing guard. Suddenly, all 300 Israelites blow their trumpets, smash their jars, and yell their battle cry, “For the LORD and for Gideon!” Mass chaos ensues. The Midianites are now the ones pooping their pants, crying for their mommies, and turning on each other with their swords. That’s right, the Midianites defeat themselves while the Israelites stand back and watch.

The first step to being battle-ready is having a battle cry—a shout for solidarity and to frighten the enemy (bonus points if you make them poop their pants). Throughout the week, we will be covering words to adopt as our own battle cries in 2018. These words will strengthen us, unite us, give us courage, and intimidate the enemy. The enemy has waged war; our only option is to fight back, mighty warrior.

The whole story of Gideon defeating the Midianites is found in Judges chapters 6 and 7. Seriously, read it all. It’s full of so much juicy goodness.

 

~ Mackenzie McClain

The Way of Wisdom: Love and Trust – Prov. 3

Proverbs-33

Good Morning!

Yesterday I talked a little bit more about what wisdom is and what it can do for us. I also talked somewhat about how it is important for the Christian life.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 3, and this happens to have the memory verse in it this week. As a reminder the memory verse this week is Proverbs 3:5-6.

Chapter 3 has a lot of different little pieces of advice for us to keep, and to remember as we walk through our lives. I strongly encourage you to read through all of Proverbs 3 and to really take to heart all the things that it says.

Today, I just want to talk about a couple of my favorite ones from the chapter. Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” I love this because part of the Christian faith is that we are called to Love. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” This is our calling as Christians! Let love and faithfulness never leave you. That is just beautiful and very important to remember, especially when we live in a world that is full of injustice and turmoil.

Another that I think is very important for each of us to remember is this; verses 25-26, “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”  God is telling us not to fear, especially natural disasters or anything else that is truly outside of our control, because God will be with us, and take care of us. We may find hardship and difficulty, but God will protect us, and take care of us. This also may not be in the ways that we expect or desire, but it will be in the ways that God sees fit, or that is in God’s will.

Finally, verse 30,” Do not accuse anyone for no reason- when they have done you no harm.” This is something I need to work on too. I have three younger sisters, and sometimes I will automatically blame one of them if something of mine “goes missing”. Sometimes they really did use or take whatever it was, but sometimes, I just misplace them. Here’s the thing, when I accuse them of something they didn’t do, it hurts their feelings and it makes them more upset with me, and defensive. We need to be more careful with the words that we say, and the tones in which we say them because our words can cause a lot of harm.

Prov3.5-6

I want to close with three more verses. First I want you to read verses 5-6 again, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” & verse 35, “The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.” Again, wisdom takes care of us. We will inherit honor. Take this to heart, and pay attention to the rest of Proverbs 3.

Thank you for joining us today! Have a great day, and I hope you check in with us tomorrow!

God Bless,

– Jana Swanson

Your Sins Hurt Others

Jeremiah 15 – 17

jeremiah-17_7

Friday, March 3

Chapters 15-17 deal with the pain others feel for Judah’s continuous betrayal.  God feels sadness when we sin.  Jeremiah is frustrated and hurt (physically and emotionally) by this sin.  Our sins trap us (just like the enemies of Judah) and change us (16:10-13)
Sin has a deep hold on us.  But in chapter 17 Jeremiah reminds us that we can repent.
Repentance is explained in Jeremiah 17:5-8.  The difference in being blessed or being left with nothing is determined by our trust.
Do you trust God?
Do you believe that He will take care of you and that His way is better than your way?
Sometimes we feel like we can’t come back from our sin but God knows you can if you trust in Him.
Do you want barrenness (vs. 5,6) or blessing (vs.7,8)?
-Andy Cisneros
(Photo Credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/hope/jeremiah-17-7/)

The Sustainer

Psalms 55-60

psalm-55-22-large

January 3, 2017

Have you ever felt like everyone is against you? We have all had people we don’t know judge us by our clothes, hair, where we live and go to school, and even for being Christian. What about when it’s a friend or worse, a family member? That is how David was feeling. He was betrayed by a close friend and he wanted vengeance; not just from him, but from God. David wanted to run and hide, to find a place where he wasn’t being pursued. We have all felt like this at one time or another, so where can we go?

Ps 56:3-5 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? All day long they twist my words, they are always plotting to harm me.”

Psalm 56 talks about putting our trust in God when man is attacking us. For every time someone is talking you down, God is your refuge. When a friend may be talking behind your back; put your trust in God, and He will keep you safe. He won’t punish the ones speaking against you, He will comfort you.

PS 60:16 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”

No matter what you or I are going through, God is stronger. God is our refuge and will always protect us!

-Susan Johnson

(Photo credit: http://www.psalmsquotes.com/psalm-55-22.htm)

Though He Slay Me

Job 13 – 17

 job-13

Saturday, December 17

Today’s reading records my favorite verse of the book of Job:

 

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ”  (Job 13:15)

 

Job lived this song. The Psalms plead this song.  Because of God’s sovereign care for us, every pain in this life is producing a glory that will last forever.  A Christian’s suffering should never be meaningless. Not only is all our affliction momentary, not only is all our affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful. Every second of our pain, from the fallen nature or fallen man, every second of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory.

Job’s trust in God was not based upon emotion.  It was based upon a complete belief in God as the One who knew what was best for him in all situations.  It was based upon a complete belief that whatever God put into his life, God was still to be trusted.  Job uttered these classic words after he had gone through the worst testing that anyone has possibly gone through.  He didn’t look to what was seen, and neither should we.

Shane Barnard of the Christian contemporary music group, Shane & Shane, understands this truth too. After the untimely death of his father, he and his family desperately looked to God for comfort. They clung to God’s word, and in their deepest moments of grief, they were led to worship. The song below, “Though You Slay Me,” was born in that experience.

 

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still more than I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

 

Therefore, do not lose heart. Take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for. Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him!

-Julie Driskill