Joy or Happiness?

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Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT), “And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”
“You deserve to be happy.”
“I just want you to be happy.”
“Why can’t I just be happy?”
“I am so happy right now.”
“I was just trying to make him happy.”
“Why can’t you just be happy for me?”
“When I get the promotion, then I’ll be happy.”
“Won’t you be happy when you get your new home?”
Happiness- a state of well-being and contentment
How many times have we heard these statements, or maybe even said them? Part of our Declaration of Independence reads, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” as one of our rights as a citizen of the United States. I love being happy, don’t get me wrong, but just as much as I love happiness, I hate being un-happy! That’s the problem with happiness. It depends on what is taking place in our lives and most of the time there is a lot of stuff that is out of our control. When we are banking on something or someone to make us happy we are going to be disappointed at some point and maybe even quite frequently.
On the other hand, when we are surrendered to God, when we allow Jesus to come into our hearts, we have something much better available to us. It is called joy.
Joy-delight, great pleasure, joyfulness, jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture
Because joy is not based on circumstances it is not something that comes and goes. If we are confident in the Lord, in His plans and purposes for us, when we know Who He is and who He says we are, we can be in a state of constant joy. The only time we lose it is if we allow the enemy to steal it, or we just forget Who He is or who we are. Simple.
I know it can be a little easier said than done, however the fact, the Truth that it is always available to us doesn’t change just because we forget. God the Father and His Joy is always only one step back. We live in a fallen world and we all go through hard times, difficult stuff. The difference is that when we go through it with Jesus we don’t lose our joy!  In fact when we hold on to that joy the world will notice and we will be a witness for Him.
Happiness is fleeting, changeable, never constant, and always conditional. His joy is endless, wonderful, persistent, always available, never conditional and always trustworthy.
So do I want to be happy? Sure. But, I would rather have unspeakable joy!
I Peter 1:3-9 (KJB), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”

Changin the Way We Think

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There are two kinds of thoughts. Godly and ungodly. We, as Christians need to make sure that our thought patterns are Godly. Proverbs 23:7a says, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

We can’t trust our senses. They lie, and mislead. They may at times give us “facts” but they don’t always give us “TRUTH.”

We can’t trust what we see. For example, Elijah’s servant saw a great army surrounding them. God and Elijah saw the army of the Lord there to defend them. The disciples saw 5 loaves and 2 little fish. Jesus saw a feast, enough to feed 5,000 men plus women and children.

We can’t trust what we can hear. The woman with the issue of blood had heard nothing but bad news from the doctors and had spent every penny she had to hear it. But the TRUTH was that Jesus came to bring healing to her. The Israelites believed the bad report of the 10 spies. Only Joshua and Caleb believed the Lord’s report and were able to pass into the promised land.

Facts-versus-TRUTH. There is a huge difference between facts and TRUTH. Don’t ever get the two confused. The fact was that Elijah was surrounded by an army. But he TRUTH was that there were more warrior for them than were against them.

Satan used ‘facts’ against Jesus. He could have given everything over to Jesus, as he promised on the temple mount, legally Satan owned it all. But the TRUTH was that by doing it God’s way, Jesus not only got it all for Himself, but for us as well. God’s plan is always better than Satan’s schemes.

We can’t let what others say, good or bad, carry more weight than what God says. There are millions of people who have bought into the lies that we all go to heaven, that there is no hell, that there are many roads to heaven, and even that we evolved out of some primordial slime and when we die we become fertilizer for the next evolutionary change. That this life is all there is.

In John 8:44, Jesus tells the religious leaders that Satan is “The father of lies.” In Verse 47 He goes on to say to those stiff-necked, hard-hearted people, “Whoever is of God, listens to God-those who belong to God hear the words of God. This is the reason you do not listen [to them, to me] because you do not belong to and are not of God or in harmony with God.” (AMP)

Jesus spent countless hours trying to dispel the lies that had come into the minds of God’s people. They believed that sickness, accidents and death at the hands of Rome were all due to sin. That they were all some type of divine punishment. They believed that they were the only one’s God loved, that they were better than any other nation because they “have Abraham as our Father.” Their mindset was to love their brother but hate their enemy. That their works earned them God’s favor and kept them righteous. All lies.

We need to line up our thinking with God’s word. Not out of context, not adding to or taking away from. Simple truth. God isn’t trying to trick us. He isn’t hiding from us, or trying to mislead us. Ask Him to show you His TRUTH and the Holy Spirit will lead and guide you there.

John 10:1-5 The Message Bible
“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through he gate, you know he’s up to no good-a sheep rustler! The shepherd walked right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

Know His voice!

Philippians 2:5-8 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Have the mind of Christ.

The Joy Set Before Us

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For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and JOY in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17) As Christians our joy should be “full.” We should have “joy unspeakable”. So why are so many Christians living short of that promise? Many of us look for that joy sometime in the distant future when we leave this earth by either rapture or death. We think our lot in life is to suffer and live in misery waiting on the promise. Some believers substitute the true joy of the Lord with self-righteousness or false humility, getting a fake joy out of their performances. Even this doesn’t last; they soon can’t keep the performance up and fall into shame and guilt. Others give up completely and turn to the world and fulfill lusts that bring only temporary happiness and never joy. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus found joy in what was “set before him”, joy that allowed him to suffer on the cross. What was that joy? I believe it was the salvation of the world- saving of lost souls, the reconciling of all back to the Father. Only one thing could have kept him from receiving that joy, and that would have been giving in to his flesh. Satan tempted Jesus to do just that, a way contrary to God’s plan, but Jesus refused. We too have to crucify our flesh. We talk about how the Jews, the Centurions, Rome and even ourselves, killed Jesus. All are true. However, Jesus performed the TRUE Crucifixion (of his flesh) in the Garden… before a soldier ever touched a spike. He cried out to the Father in his hour of flesh sweating blood in his battle! In the end, HE crucified his flesh by saying, “not my will, Father, but yours.” Jesus received his joy! He chose to receive it! We do the crucifying, with God’s strength and help, and God gives us the joy! That joy is in conquering sin in our lives and leading others to Jesus. If Jesus’ joy was in the saving of souls, shouldn’t ours be too? Time is winding down. Can’t you feel how it is flying by! Are you crucifying your flesh, ridding your life of sin? Are you feeding your spirit with The Word? Are you building yourself up with your heavenly language? When the “shaking” begins, will you be able to stand? Are you “planting, watering and harvesting” souls? True revival is a heart hot on fire, in love, with God. But it is also the burning desire to see others come to the Father. Revival won’t happen without both. Where is your heart today?
Heb 12:1-27 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 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 our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”

Worldly Love

Worldly love is backwards. Yep, backwards. When we love someone in the natural the more we get to know them, the more intimate we become, the more comfortable we get. The good side is that we can be ourselves. The bad side is that familiarity breeds disrespect. We love our parents, spouses, sibling, children and friends. Most of those we spend at least 18 years living in the same home! We have seen “the good, the bad and the ugly!” Because of that we begin to take them for granted, maybe loose respect and lots of times judge them on their faults, frailties and failures. Hopefully we continue to love (after all love is a CHOICE). God spoke to me this week and said, “Don’t love Me like you love them.” I got the reason why, because worldly love is very shallow and I know He wants more. But I was stumped. Finally I asked Him, how do I love You different than I love my family. (This is where the backwards part comes in), He said, “get more intimate with me”…after that I had the whole “WHAT???” going thru my mind. In His vast patience, He explained. In drawing closer to God, thru prayer, praise, His word, fellowshipping, etc. we get to know Him better. This however can never breed disrespect! There is no “bad and ugly” with Him only the “GOOD!” The more we know Him, the more we respect Him, stand in awe of Him, and the more we want to discover and know about Him. The great part is no matter how long we know Him, we never really know Him. There is more to find out, and we can still be ourselves! In the world, we begin to finish each other’s sentences; can pretty much predict the next word and behavior. Not with God. When you think you have Him figured out, He’ll do something AMAZING! I have decided to do what He has asked, to get to know Him better, but also to try and love “them” the way I love God.

Today’s Joy

I had to ask myself today, “Do I have joy in my life?” Not happiness, which is a fickle friend, but that inner joy in my spirit. You know the joy that has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. My honest answer is “not as often as I should”, and some days, (especially lately, as our family is going through a trail), I have to admit, “not very often.” It is so easy to allow the mundane experiences of our lives, or the frustrating circumstances chase away our joy. But, if joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, then how does that happen? I believe it is when we lose our gratitude. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our problems, especially if those around us are hurting. Or to simply lose patience with our dreams because they seem so slow in coming.

Even in the midst of hard situations, we can maintain a thankful heart. Sometimes we get stuck in the ‘thank-you-for” rut where we rattle off our tiny list, you know the same one every time. Mine includes, hubby, kids, grandkids, food I eat, house, cars and Church, or pretty close. That just shows we are either in a hurry, or can’t see past our nose. When we slow down and make the effort to be thankful, we can see so many things, people, places that touch our lives. A few examples: a babies smile, doesn’t even have to by your baby, any baby smiling, the smell of lilacs on a damp spring morning. Then there are those things that we really aren’t too thankful for. This category is hard for me, shoveling snow, giving the dog a bath, dealing with that one person who rubs me the wrong way. Yes, we need to be thankful for those things. God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, and part of that plan is for us to work hard, love people, be a witness at our jobs.

It seems like the last few months, my family has been under it. Most due to some poor choices of one family member and the rest either come along with the territory, or just because we have a real enemy. So though it’s been tough, I have still been able to find joy in the middle of it all. If I was a spiritual superhero, I could say I held onto my joy the whole time, but sadly I am not. I can say that I know right were to find it. Because in all truthfulness, despite what I said earlier, nothing can chase or steal our joy away. We lay it down, sometimes absentmindedly, like a spare pair of reading glasses. Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand there are pleasured for evermore.” We find our joy in the presence of God. Simple really. Sometimes we willingly lay down our joy to trade it for fleeting happiness or satisfaction. Usually that comes out of willful sin, which includes harboring bitterness, and nursing un-forgiveness. We lay down our joy when we disobey God.

How do we hold on to our joy? By being thankful, a heart full of gratitude. When we keep our minds fixed on Jesus, His promises, His goodness, and remember those who have gone before us, we can keep that unspeakable joy in our lives. Hebrews 12:1-3 “therefor, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrances and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of he throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and love heart.”

Letting Go of Worry

Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you. I Peter 5:7
I used to worry too much! Sometimes I would worry that I worry too much! It’ll make you sick if you let it go on. I have proved that in my own life over and over. Worrying had messed up my stomach, God healed it, I get in the nasty habit of worrying again, and then my stomach gets messed up again. We can’t put everything on God. Sure He will continue to heal, but it would be no different than placing your hand on the wood stove, asking God to heal it, then turning right around and placing your hand back on the stove. We would call that insane behavior! Worrying shows a lack of faith. It’s real simple either God can handle it or he can’t. I often think to myself, “sure He can handle it, I’m the one who can’t”, but the Holy Spirit is faithful to remind me that I never have to face anything in my own strength. I have to choose to use His strength. If I find myself saying or thinking “I just can’t handle it” that is a red flag that I have stopped looking to God! If we are worrying, that means we are trusting in ourselves, or others, our jobs, government, the economy, or even chance, instead of trusting in God. I have to choose to trust Him. Worry is not beneficial. Worry cannot change your circumstances. Worry robs you of sleep, peace and very precious time. God has been trying to get this deep in my heart, year after year; we chip away at this area in my life. I am so much better than I was, and sometimes am amazed at my lack of concern over some things that have happened. Sometimes things happen that just pull the rug out from under you. Then we get “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and forget to trust, forget our Word, forget the promises, and we worry! But if we continually rehearse God’s goodness, practice giving it all to him in prayer, it gets easier! Trust Him. Max Lucado wrote a book years ago on the subject; here is a short passage from his book “Traveling Light”.
“God has a great race for you to run. Under His care you will go where you’ve never been and serve in ways you’ve never dreamed. But you have to drop some stuff. How can you share grace if you are full of guilt? How can you offer comfort if you are disheartened? How can you lift someone else’s load if your arms are full with your own? For the sake of those you love, travel light. For the sake of the God you serve, travel light. For the sake of your own joy, travel light. There are certain weights in life you simply cannot carry. Your Lord is asking you to set them down and trust Him”