Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit-Joy

Quick question: Do you ever focus on the good things in life?

If you just asked me that question I would have been shocked and really had to think about it for a minute. After thinking about all the times I've complained about things, I would have had to be honest with you and say, "No, I don't."

Why is it that we overlook the good when it happens, but the minute something bad happens, that's all we can think about for a week?

The answer, we lack joy.

I know it may seem easy to say, "No I don't! I have so much joy in my life, and I know that I have joy in my life because I'm happy." But are we being honest? The definition of joy as a noun is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness, and joy as a verb means to rejoice. Are we rejoicing when we spill coffee on our favorite sweaters? Or when we get dumped? I know I never have!

After reading the beginning of this chapter, I asked myself, "If bad things happen, why should we be joyful anyway? Why do we need joy in our lives?" Like usual, God answered my questions in an awesome way. His son Jesus was sent to save us, that's why we should be joyful.

"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." (John 17:13)

After reading this, I was put to the test of finding joy within myself. I found myself constantly nagging about something that was happening. I had two research projects due, and it seemed not enough time to do them. So what did I do? I was constantly bickering with my siblings and parents because I seemed so stressed. That's when God pointed this out to me as I was reading the chapter. My siblings didn't want to be around me when I was constantly grouchy, and I needed to change that if I wanted to continue to have a relationship with them. 

"Happy doesn't just happen; Joy takes action." -Lynn Cowell in Magnetic

Let me ask you this, would you rather be around someone who always takes the positive out of a situation, or someone who sees the negative aspects of a situation? Someone who sees you crying over a boy and sits to talk with you, to reassure you that God has someone planned just for you? Or someone who sees you crying over a boy and starts going on and on about how they told you he was wrong for you, and that you never listen? That's right, I would want to be around the girl that built me up, not tore me down. In the simplest terms, someone who sees the cup as half full. 

Another term talked about in this chapter, was a joy maker. The girl we would rather be friends with above is an example of a joy maker. Someone who would rather make the world a happy place, then constant sorrow. Here's a question to ask yourself, are you a joy maker? If I had to answer that question, I would say, "Yeah, I try to be. I know that sometimes I make mistakes, but I try to bring joy to as many people as possible." Though I could consider myself a joy maker, I would definitely need some work in this department. 

"Finding joy means finding God."

One way that we can ensure we are joy makers is following God. In the book of Nehemiah, we see the affect joy drainers could have on you. Nehemiah was helping the Israelites rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonians destroyed much of it. Men came and mocked Nehemiah and the Israelites for what they were doing. But what did Nehemiah do? Kept doing the work God told him to do. This story is so inspirational to me, Nehemiah chose to keep his head high, and focus on God and His plan instead of what people were saying. 

The story of Nehemiah is truly inspirational because he continued to follow God's plan instead of letting the joy drainers get him down. 

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7)

In this verse, David finds his joy where? He finds it in the Father's love. He found his joy in God. 

Another great problem many girls have nowadays is finding their identity in a man. A quote from the book says, "Boyfriend-based identity crumbles with a break up." This is so true! I've found that so many girls my age are constantly with someone, because they feel like that's what makes them a person. I watch a very popular short called The Bachelor, and this past Monday night's show was the "Women Tell All" special. As someone who watched the season, and had many questions, I looked forward to what these girls had to say.

One thing though, was an accusation against one of the girls in the final six. The accusation was that she was lying to Chris's, the bachelor's, face. Saying one thing, then turning around and saying something totally different with the rest of the girls. But I caught one thing that she said that really spoke to me. Many of the girls felt that she wasn't being true because she said she loved the single life, and that she couldn't see herself getting married anytime soon. When confronted with that, she said, "I've learned that you have to love yourself when you are single, then to rely on someone else to full you with that same feeling." That's exactly what I had just learned about after reading my chapter.  We can't allow our joy to be sucked out because we don't have a man in our lives. We have to stand against what everyone is saying and say, "I'm single and I'm happy." Then, when that someone comes along, there will be so much joy because you don't rely on that person for happiness.

"Don't hang your joy on waiting for 'the one.' Seek Him-not him!"

I know that I get caught up in it too! Being single in high school, and wanting to protect my heart, causes me to tread lightly in the dating world. There was even a point when I asked myself why I had so many standards. Why couldn't I just test it out a little? Because God doesn't call us to test it out. He says to follow Him, and the rest will fall into place because we are following His plan for our lives. So instead of worrying about when you'll meet your future husband, or why you don't have a boyfriend when all your friends do, draw closer to the creator of joy. My favorite saying is, "Run as fast as you can towards God, and if someone can keep up, introduce yourself."

Find joy in Him, not the world.

I encourage you to draw closer to the Lord this month, and every month after. Let Him create His joy within you. I pray that we all find ways to be the joy makers of this generation, than to become the joy drainers of this generation.

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." ~C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit-Love

Do I choose to please me or please someone else?

This is one of the start up questions to this chapter, and one that I find myself asking myself constantly. The problem is, I answer without really thinking about it, and the answer is almost always about me. I like to think that I make choices that benefit someone else, and they might in some way, but the truth is that they benefit myself more than anyone else.

I've always seen love as a romance thing, or family thing, and never really a universal thing. I've never looked at someone and said, "They are my brother or sister in Christ, and I love them!" I've never seen strangers as anything but that, strangers.

In this chapter, it talks about the many types of love that we will encounter in our lives. The first being Eros love. Eros love is the one we see in movies, the one that friends tell us about when they have a new boyfriend that makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Eros, or erao, is the Greek word for intense or passionate love. This is the type of love that lasts for a little while, but doesn't really have any lasting substance in our lives. These feelings are powerful, and also a selfish love. This is a love that is me-centered, or when you ask yourself, "What can this person do for me? Or how does this person make me feel or look?" When you get over the "honeymoon" stage of this kind of relationship, the happiness and excitement dies out. Then the relationship follows close behind.

The second love it talks about is Storgeo love. Storgeo love is a love that comes naturally. It's the love that we have for our family.

The third love this chapter talks about is Phileo love. Phileo love is a friendship kind of love. The love that you know you have for your best friend because she's so cool, creative, funny, spontaneous, etc.

The fourth, and biggest, love that this chapter explains is Agape love. Agape love is the kind of love that we all are striving for. It's the love that we read about in the fruit-of-the-spirit list, and it truly stands apart from any other kinds of love. Agape is not shallow, or self-seeking,  it's not wrapped up in the physical or emotional feelings. It asks, "What can I do for the other person?"

"In agape, I deliberately make a decision to love another person, to value him not because of anything that person has done or can do for me but simply because that person is precious. I choose to prize him, to be devoted to, appreciate, and respect that human." From Lynn Cowell's "Magnetic"

Agape love is the love that the Father has shown us by sending His son to die for our sins. He could have said, "They're just going to sin anyway, this isn't worth it." He didn't though! He loves us so much, that He sent his perfect son in our place of punishment. Love can't get anymore unselfish then that!

Love doesn't just give up either. There are going to be many trials in life, there are going to be times where you ask God, "Why?" But the thing is, nothing can tear us away from our perfect Father. Take a look at Romans 8:37-39, it explains just that.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

As we being our walk of faith, it's not going to easy to love everyone we come into contact with. Nor is it going to be easy to take the high road when someone wrongs us. But it's what God calls us to do. He says to forgive as He has forgiven, and that's just one of the many ways to show agape love to someone.

I encourage you this month, to ask God how you can better show agape love in your life. Ask God for guidance as you go through the struggles of learning to love, and listen for His still small voice in your life. As you go through this journey this year, just know I'm going through it too! Here's a link to my Twitter, so if you ever need anything, just ask.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fruits of the Spirit-The Beginning

For Christmas, my dad got me a devotional that I was really excited about. It's called Magnetic and it's written by Lynn Cowell. If you want to check it out, here is a link. I've already read through the first chapter, and it's really opened my eyes to the way I should be living as a daughter of the King. I felt that I should share this with you, because what Lynn does, is she takes a life experience of her own, or one that most everyone has been through as teaches us how to act like a follower of Christ. She doesn't put anyone down, but uses everyday experiences to teach us to not be of this world.

In this devotional, she takes the fruit of the spirit, and breaks it down into our everyday lives. I cannot even begin to tell you how much the first chapter alone has changed my perspective on how to love. I've been praying the past few days on how I could bring this up, and I feel lead to take a chapter every month, for that fruit, and talk about it. I felt lead to bring this up, because I know that as I was growing up, I never felt like I was honoring God with everything I did. I didn't know what it was to completely surrender to God. I'm starting to understand it now.

I recently went on a youth retreat with youth groups locally, and had such an amazing experience. I saw so many people commit their lives to Christ, and I just was in awe at the Holy Spirit moving through those kids. It was very inspirational.

While on this retreat, I was able to read the first chapter of Magnetic. I began reading the second chapter, but stopped when I remembered something the speaker said that night. "To completely surrender, you have to give yourself completely, then take it one step at a time." I prayed that God would show me why He didn't want me to continue, when it was shone to me. I needed to take some time and reflect on what I was learning.

So, the reason why we are here, me writing this with a delicious cup of hot tea next to me, you reading this, is because I believe that this was meant to be shared. Starting next month, I will be writing a post for each of the fruits that I am reading about. I'm starting with the first fruit next month, so I can continue to pray about what I'm going to write about, and ask the Lord to use me for His work and not some blog post.

I just ask that you pray for me as I work through this time, and I encourage you, come along with me on this journey. It won't be easy, but I just have a feeling that it is SO worth it!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)