Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fruit of the Spirit: Longsuffering

The next fruit of the Spirit we are going to cover is longsuffering. And, let me say something calmly and rationally before we begin:

I HATE longsuffering. You know what 'longsuffering' means? You got it - to suffer loooong. The The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines longsuffering as 'Patiently enduring wrongs or difficulties.' Okay, so not only do you have to endure WRONGS and DIFFICULTIES (in case you missed it), but you have to ENDURE them PATIENTLY. Yeah, right.

And, Wordnet defines longsuffering as 'patient endurance of pain or unhappiness'. So not only do you have to endure wrongs or difficulties, but you also have to endure PAIN and UNHAPPINESS. Did you get that - PAIN and UNHAPPINESS. Patiently. Alrighty, then.

And this is why I didn't want to write this post. I'm no good at stuff like this. I mean, I can suffer as well as the next person - FOR A LITTLE WHILE. And maybe even with a little patience thrown in (if I'm having a really good day) But to PATIENTLY endure PAIN, UNHAPPINESS, WRONGS and DIFFICULTIES for a LONG, LONG TIME??!! No way.

Not that this argument cuts me any slack with God. As I come to Him in the midst of my pain (unhappiness, experiencing wrongs and difficulties), He admonishes me to be patient. He talks to me, He comforts me. But you know what He doesn't do? He doesn't make my pain, unhappiness, wrong or difficulty go away. He gives me just enough to make it for another period of time until I have to come crawling back to Him to be restored, renewed and refreshed enough to go on....until the next time. Eventually, my difficulty (pain, wrong or unhappiness) goes away and I rejoice. And I try to forget that those bad seasons come (because I HATE longsuffering - did I mention that?). But, much like you, I'm always like, what gives? Why do we have to painfully SUFFER for a long time and ENDURE it with such PATIENCE? Why, Lord, why? (Or am I the only one who thinks this way?)

So today we will journey together as we try to answer those questions. And the most important one: Why does God want us to be longsuffering?

First of all, I'm thinking this whole longsuffering thing is pretty serious, since it comes right after love, joy and peace (the happy fruits). And, since, longsuffering has everything to do with endurance, I am going to try and find out why it is so important that we learn to endure. Which will answer my other questions. Namely, how do we benefit from learning to endure? And why does God require us to endure?

To endure means to carry on, no matter what is going on around us. One reason I discovered that we should endure is because God does. Psalm 9:7 says 'But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment.' This verse speaks to the everlasting nature of God and how, at the end of our time here on earth, God will sit forever on His throne (after Satan has been dealt with). So His endurance is for a purpose - to last until our time here ends and our time with Him begins. So, out of this we can get two things: 1) We should endure because it is a Godly atrribute (and we are always want to be more like Him) and 2)We should endure because we also wait until the Lord Jesus returns and our earthly time here is at an end.

Endurance is actually mentioned in specific connection to the end times. In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks about end-time signs. He says
Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. Mat 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Mat 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Mat 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
Jesus then goes on to talk about other things that will happen and then mentions the importance of endurance. He says 'But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' So endurance appears to play a key part in our ability to surmount the challenges that will face us during the end times.

By enduring, we also show ourselves to be good soldiers in Christ, as stated in 2 Timothy 2:3, 'Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.' Endurance also helps us to participate in God's work of salvation: by enduring affliction of any kind, we can more readily preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, as Paul makes clear in 2 Timothy 2:10 'Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.' So it is part of our service to other people.

However, the most important part of suffering seems to be the eventual effect it will have on us: suffering will repair us, strengthen us and make us more grounded. 1 Peter says its it so clearly here:
1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 1Pe 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 1Pe 5:9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 1Pe 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (emphasis mine)

So longsuffering is so very important because it determines our character. It helps us to be more like God. It prepares us for the challenges of the end time. It helps us as ministers of the gospel to be able to spread the Good News. And, finally, it makes us stronger. It helps us to mature in the faith and to be able to face whatever difficulties we are sure to face.

In that light, I'm thinking this longsuffering thing isn't as bad as I've always thought it was (and I'm starting to feel badly that I've always thought so poorly of it). Turns out it wasn't the torture chamber I always envisioned it to be, but God's way of making me over exactly the way I had always asked Him to. To grow me up, to mature me, to make be better able to withstand life's difficulties. Not just to let me suffer needlessly, but to make me a better person and a (much) better Christian.

I think I can live with that.

How about you?

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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Other Woman

I just heard the story today of an older woman whose husband left her for 'the other woman'. Apparently, her husband had been involved in an affair with this woman for 10-15 years. To add insult to injury, after he left her, she discovered he had been moving money out of their joint accounts (and out of his retirement account) to accounts she couldn't touch - in preparation for being with his 'other woman'. This woman is now facing a lengthy court battle, as she tries to regain the money he has, in effect, stolen from her.

There are so many things wrong with this story, it's hard to know where to begin. But I'd actually like to focus on the 'other woman'. (I am in no way implying that her husband was not at fault, but I believe this woman was just as guilty.) The reason this 'other woman' interests me so much is that I'd dearly love to know what's been going on in her mind for these last 10 years or so of her life.

Okay, I'm thinking, she meets this man, they become involved and then they apparently decide they are 'in love' with each other (and, believe me, that's a whole different post). She continues to spend time with him, sleep with him and be in a relationship with this man as he goes home every night to his wife. He probably tells her that he will leave his wife for her (one day) and then she probably aids and abets this man's efforts to re-appropriate money from his and his wife's account and most of his retirement account. He (finally) leaves his wife and they then live happily ever after? I don't think so.

Why not? Because I believe, as the Bible says, that you reap what you sow (or, as the world calls it, 'karma'). Why does this woman think that she is entitled to any happiness with a man who committed adultery (with her) on his wife, stole money from his wife, and spent the last 10+ years lying and being deceptive with this same wife? And, even worse than that - she knew what was going on! She was an integral part of it all - and allowed it to happen. Year after year, month after month, dollar by dollar that was stolen.

I guess my real question is this - Why do women allow themselves to become the 'other woman'? Somebody please explain this to me.

Yes, I know that some people believe you can't help who you fall in love with, but I have a big problem with that line of thinking. You may not be able to help who you fall in love with, but you can certainly help who you think about, who you spend time with and who you sleep with. And I know all about low self-esteem, so that's not a good excuse for me, either. And I know that some women believe there is a shortage of good men, but does that justify stealing someone else's?

I may be a romantic at heart, but I am a realist by nature. And, as a realist, I can realistically say that a marriage or relationship that is founded on lying and deceit has very little chance of lasting. And why (as a woman) would you even want to be with a man who has already proven himself to be a liar? I just don't get it.

Hopefuly, someone will enlighten me, soon!

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

You Are Exactly Where You're Supposed to Be

Do you ever feel like life has just passed you by?

Or, even worse - that you are further behind (in life, in your finances, in your marriage prospects) than you ought to be?

Oh, the world of regrets. Sometimes this world can be more fruitful than our real, everyday lives!

I’ve often been guilty of this phenomenon myself. People will say something to me like, you’re so lucky to have advanced in your career as far as you have. And I will (predictably) say something like, yes, I’m happy about where I am, but I wish I had started trying to advance my career much earlier in life. Think of how much further along I’d be! (And this line of thinking carries over into how much money I’ve managed to save, how close I am to God or how much travel I’ve done in my life.) It’s a common pitfall for us all.

You can see this way of thinking clearly when it comes to people investing their money. Many people will buy a stock and avidly watch its upward (and downward) progression on the stock exchange. Any upswings are greeted with joy and exhilaration. Any downswings with pessimism and dismay. And you know what people seem to remember the most? How much they would have had if a) some economic crisis hadn't occurred; b) if they had sold their stock and re-bought it when the price had dropped; or c) how much money they would have had the stock not lost some (or all) of its value. In other words, they don’t see their increased portfolio balance so much as a gain, but as a loss of where they could have been had things been different. Does this sound like you?

What a waste of time! Even if you've never done it with money, I bet you've done it with some other area of your life. Instead of seeing your life in terms of what you have gained - the goodness and mercy of God, better health or wealth, or a well-functioning, blended family - you see it in terms of where you think you should be - a minister instead of a deacon, a 3K instead of a 5K runner or a possessor of a long-term marriage instead of a divorcee with a great second spouse. Why, oh why do we do this to ourselves?

Someone once said that happiness is wanting what you have. Do you want what you have? Would you be happier if you knew that where you are is exactly where you are supposed to be? And, as a consequence - that what you have is exactly what you are supposed to have?

I know it would go a long way with me.

If the idea that you are exactly where you are supposed to be would make you happy, I've got good news for you! Here it is - you are exactly where you are supposed to be!

How do I know?

Well, first of all, you have the benefit of all my frustrated prayers to God - where I would question His wisdom in telling me I was to accomplish certain things, but would make me wait so long for those things to happen. Or where I would question Him about different situations that had come up in my life (parental neglect, bad relationships) and ask Him why those things had to happen. Wouldn't I have been much better off, I often ended, if my life had just gone more smoothly? If I had started publicly writing in my 20's instead of in my 30's? Wouldn't things be much better for me, I would ask, if I just could have gotten an earlier start in life?

And He always reminds me of why the answer is always the same - No.

He's nice about it and all, don't get me wrong. As He gently brings to my remembrance my immaturity in my 20s (when I wasn't fit to write advice for myself, much less for anyone else), and the important lessons I learned about self-esteem and self-love from having been emotionally neglected as a child, He's patient, kind and loving. As He reminds me how I've grown in compassion and patience through failed relationship after failed relationship and learning from my mistakes, I slowly start nodding my head in agreement. And, finally, He reviews with me how I've spent more time with Him as a result of being single all this time, and how my singleness has contributed to my being in tune with Him. And how all these things have allowed Him to shape me in His own way, in His own way and in His own timing. To (finally) be ready to be in ministry under His terms and not my own.

And I have to agree that He is right.

But, way more important than my own personal experiences are clues that the Bible gives about our destiny in Christ. After God reminds me of the importance of waiting for His timing, I am often drawn to this scripture in Isiah:
Isa 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isa 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Which reminds me that I don't know as much as God does (no matter how logical or inspired my thinking may be) and that I cannot always understand why He does what He does because I'm not God. And never will be. But, it also reassures me that His word has had the desired effect in my life - to make me into the woman of God He would have me to be. And that there is a purpose in it all.

And then I consider this scripture in Jeremiah:
Jer 1:4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jer 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Which always blows my mind - to think that God knew me even before I was born! And shaped and created me to be exactly the way He wanted me to be. And that, before I were even born, He had a plan for me. That is Awesome!

King David trusted in God implicitly and made many declarations of dependence and reliance upon God. Psalms 16:11, he said 'Thou wilt shew me the path of life:' Because David knew that God would guide Him in all the important areas of life. If he relied upon Him. So it makes me more inclined to follow God myself - knowing that He will lead and guide me as well.

King Solomon reinforced the image of God's guidance and leading in Proverbs 3:5-6, where he says: 'Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.' And the 'path' in this scripture means "a well trodden road (literally or figuratively); also a caravan: - manner, path, race, rank, traveller, troop, [by-, high-] way". So, from this, I can know that God will direct me in this race of life as I travel along life's road.

So, with all this leading and guiding that God does, doesn't it make sense to assume that He is leading us all with a purpose? To a destiny that He has already planned out for us?

Romans 8:28-30 puts the icing on the cake for me when it says:
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.Rom 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
We always remember the part of this scripture about all things working together for good for those of us who are called, but we often fail to add the part about God's foreknowledge of us and his predestination for us. This is not to imply that we have no choice in how our lives are lived - we do - but it does suggest that as we submit to God's leading, we will fall in line with His glorious plan for each of our lives. Which will put us - you guessed it - exactly where we are supposed to be!

It always gives me great joy to remember all these scriptures and to contemplate the fact that God thought about me even before I was born and planned a unique and special life for me. He knew me, He knows me and He will always be available to lead and guide me along life's roads - even when I feel like I'm in a rut, at a standstill or wandering in the wilderness. And that is the same for you as well - He knows you, He knows where you are and He knows where He intends for you to be. The path you are on may not look exactly like the road you thought you were going to take, but rest assured it is the path that you were destined to be on.

And, finally, in Jeremiah 29:11, God clearly tells us that He has good plans for our lives. It says ' For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV)' Now in the King James Version, this verse ends with the words 'expected end'. And the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary tells us that this 'expected end' "literally means, 'end and expectation,' that is, an end, and that such an end as you wish for".

So if you had no reason to rejoice before, this verse alone should give you reason! Not only does God lead and guide you and have a Master Plan for your life, He is telling you that His plans for hyou are good and that He wants to give you the end that you desire. And wouldn't that be great!

So, I don't know about you, but I am guessing that I will learn to be content right where I am - especially since this is exactly where God wants me to be! I hope you feel the same way :)

Be Blessed.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

Peace? Yeah, I remember peace. It's that feeling I get when I wake up in the morning. It's when the day seems all new and fresh - filled with possibilities. It's what arrives in large measure as I pray to God. He renews me. He touches my life. He reassures me. And, many times, He chastises me as He sets me (yet again) on the right path.

It's that feeling that hits its pinnacle as I cast my cares on God - tell Him all about my problems, ask Him what He's going to do about them, and then listen as He (yet again) reassures me that everything is going to be alright. And then tells me what I need to do.

And everything is just fine.

But then I get out of bed.

And get on that daily treadmill called life as I begin my daily hurried, rush-rush type behavior that sends me zooming through the house to iron my clothes, shower and run, run, run to my car to get to my bus stop on time.

And that feeling of peace slowly dissipates as I avoid crazy drivers who I am convinced are trying to kill me (okay, I may be one of those drivers on some days). And then I run to the bus stop so that I can hurry up and wait for my frequently (very) late bus. And my foot taps. And I rock from side to side. And once again fantasize about the joys of driving to work before high gas prices and high parking put those dreams (temporarily) on hold. But it's all good, right? (At least that's what I try to convince myself)

And that peace thing? I may regain it a bit later as I read my morning Word and listen to my 'Morning Joy' mix on my Ipod (cuz, no matter how late it is, the bus eventually shows up), but it quietly begins to fade into the background as I reach my stop, face my office building and start that long walk that takes me through security, up the elevators and to my anonymous 'pod'. My place in the world for the next eight hours (excluding lunch).

And that feeling of peace? It flickers out of existence as I go through eight hours of conflict, strife, tedium, trivial matters, frustration, faked bonhomie and relief as my day finally ENDS!


Yeah, I'd like to have a little more of that. Wouldn't you?

I'd like to take a look at what the Bible says about peace, but not in anything approaching a typical manner. If I hear one more cliche about 'eace like a river' or 'peace in the midst of adversity', I think I will SCREAM. This is real life we are talking about, and it's rare that I feel anything initially other than anger in the midst of my own personal adversity. Sure, God, eventually gets through to me and I calm down, but if left up to my own instincts, I would be one sad and frustrated sister.

So I will be looking at a hands-on, clear-cut, practical application of this whole peace phenomenon. For my sake and for yours (so that you can hear me stop complaining about it). Okay - here we go.

Romans 14:17 has an intriguing take on peace to me. It says that "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. " (I talked about the 'joy' aspect in Fruit of the Spirit: Joy)
It seems to imply that not only is peace essential to the Christian walk, but it is actually part of the 'kingdom of God'. And what is the kingdom of God? Is it a place? Surprisingly, no. The first mention of this kingdom is in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus advises us to seek it first (before all other things). So, from this we can gather it's something we can find. Then Jesus talks about it in Matthew 12:28, where he says if he casts out devil, the kingdom of God is come upon us. So it seems to have a lot to do with the power of God. In Matthew 21:43, Jesus says that this kingdom can be taken away from us. So obviously it is not a tangible place or thing.

This 'kingdom of God' best corresponds to the 'power' of God. When we think of the God's power, we tend to think of all the miracles He performed, the plagues against the Egyptian Pharaoh, the parting of the Red Sea or Jesus healing lepers and the blind. But much of the 'power' of God is also contained in the power of salvation, the work and existence of the Holy Spirit, our righteousness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the grace and mercy that He has given to us (time and again).

Jesus says in Mark 4:11 "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:" So, as Christians, we are able to discern these mysteries, but to non-believers,it will always remain a mystery.

So how does peace play a role in all this? Paul said (in the above-quoted Romans 14:17), that the kingdom of God was, in part, made of peace (along with righteousness and joy). So, if the kingdom of God is the power of God and peace is one of its building blocks, then our having peace in our lives allows us to access the powerenables Wow! It endables us to be the conduit through which the Holy Spirit can work. To operate in our uniquely given spiritual gifts. To heal and to teach; prophesy and preach. Peace is an integral part of the working of the power of God in our lives.

I believe this to be true simply because when I don't have peace (defined by Strong's Concordance as quietness and rest), I don't hear from God. I don't clearly feel the touch of God and cannot clearly identify the leading of His Holy Spirit. So, peace is much more than having a 'restful' state of mind - it is the very gateway of our access to the power of God. Without peace, we cannot truly operate in our spiritual gifts or carry out the work of God.

That's deep.

I've always thought of peace simply as a state of mind, but from the above research, I see now that it is 1)a spiritual gift; 2)part of the kingdom of God and 3)the way we gain access the power of God. Definitely something I want to have.

So how do we get this 'peace'?

In John 14:26-27, Jesus first tells his apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit and how He would comfort them. Then he tells them "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." So peace originates from God.

Romans 8:6 says that to be spiritually minded is life and peace. So, to have peace, we must be followers of the Holy Spirit (allowing Him to lead and guide us).

2 Corinthians 13:11 admonishes us to "Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you." 'Perfect' means "seek after perfection in knowledge, grace, and holiness, and in the performance of good works (John Gills Exposition of the Bible)", 'of good comfort' means to exhort (cheer up) and pray for others and live in peace means just that. So in order to obtain peace, we have to seek after God and maturity in our faith, do for others and live in peace with others.

And, finally, Philippians 4:6-7 says: "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. (ASV)" So we have to stop worrying, let God know all that is in our hearts (and turn them over to Him), and peace will be ours.

I like that. I like not having to carry around my own concerns (driving myself and poor friends and family crazy). I like that God cares enough to listen to my supplications (which, for me, includes complaining, whining and the like). And I like the fact that in exchange for all my bad behavior, He gives me peace. I am definitely on the winning end of this bargain.

I know now that I am going to try harder to attain and maintain my own personal peace. How about you?

What have your experiences been with peace?

How do you think your daily 'peace' walk is faring?

Any other tips you can share with me and other readers about peace?

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Joy, oh joy, where art thou?

I don't know about you, but as I go through my day-to-day life, I find this idea of 'joy' to be pretty darned elusive. Most days I feel somewhere between okay and good. And on more rare occasions I feel sad or depressed. I have even experienced times of great happiness or great despair. But joy? Not too sure about that one.

So let's find out what this whole 'joy' thing is supposed to be about. Joy is the second fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. According to Strong's Concordance, this 'joy' means
"cheerfulness, that is, calm delight: - gladness, X greatly, (X be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous)."
So our joy is to be a combination of being delighted (but calm), glad and exceedingly joyful. Calm, delighted and excedingly joyful. Definitely not feeling much of that lately.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines joy as
1. a. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness. b.
The expression or manifestation of such feeling.
Okay, so we're supposed to feel intensely ecstatic or exultant and express those feelings as well. Okay - I don't know about you - but I haven't been feeling much of that lately either.

Interestingly enough, this same type of 'joy' can be found in the Bible to describe how a person would feel who receives the word of God (Matthew 13:20), to describe the joy that a person would enter into once he or she has successfully served the Lord (presumably at the end of one's life) (Matthew 25:21), the joy that Zecharias the priest would have once his wife Elizabeth gave birth to the future John the Baptist (Luke 1:14), and the joy that is felt in heaven when one sinner repents as opposed to ninety-nine 'righteous' persons who have no need of repentance(Luke 15:7). Sounds good, doesn't it?

So how do we get this type of joy? I'm glad you asked, because I'd like to know too!

The first hint we get of an answer is when Jesus speaks about how we should abide in him in John 15. Jesus says:
John 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
So it seems that joy is found through our relationship with Jesus Christ and his relationship with The Father. Jesus even specifically mentions our spiritual 'fruit' in the above passage - making it clear that we only bring forth this fruit as we abide in him - without him we can't do anything.

Jesus also talks about this type of 'joy' when he talks about his upcoming crucifixion in John 16:22. He tells the disciples that in a little while they would not see him again and they would be filled with sorrow. But they would eventually see him (when he arose) and their hearts would "rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." That sounds great to me - having a joy that no man can take away!

In John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, he says that this joy is durable because the "risen Lord would never die more; the blessings of grace, such as redemption, pardon, righteousness, and atonement, would, and do ever remain as the foundation of solid joy: nor could a stranger intermeddle with it". So because our joy would now be based on these things, it could never be taken away by another person. No man can interfere with what Jesus did for us - dying on the cross, redeeming us from sin, making us righteous through his actions. And these things are the very foundation upon which our joy is based. (I think I'm starting to feel a little joy now :)

But, it seems the most important thing to remember about this particular fruit of 'joy' is that it is the fruit of the Spirit - the Holy Spirit that is. Romans 14:17 says
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (emphasis mine).
So our joy is to be found in the Holy Spirit.

So, apparently, our joy is not be based on our circumstances, our outlook, our paycheck or our mindset. But on our relationship with Jesus Christ - and our abiding in him. And it can never be taken away or meddled with by man - it is durable, permanent - built rock-solid on Jesus's gift of atonement to us. And, finally, that joy is found within the Holy Spirit - it shows up and is manifested as a result of His presence within us.

I like that. I hope you like it, too!

So pray with me that we increase the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives. All of our lives. Pray for God's people. Pray that we experience God's new mercies every morning and that we are refreshed daily by God's Spirit. And let's see if we can get a little more joy in all of our lives!

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