Fruit of the Spirit – Joy

Today, we will be breaking down the fruit of the Spirit: JOY. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Joy

Joy is feeling of great happiness. Kay Warren defines joy as “the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of [our lives], the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Joy is not based on emotion. It is based on the fact that God is good, no matter what is happening in our lives. James 1:2 says “to count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Even in the midst of our life’s storms, we count it all joy. As you are reading this passage, you may be asking yourself, “how can we have joy in the midst of chaos?”. The answer to that question is if we believe that God can do the impossible and trust Him with our lives, we have no need to be worried or concerned about the outcome. God declares that we need to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Application

How do you find joy in your life?  Do circumstances get in the way of your joy?  Sometimes it is difficult to find joy in the midst of life’s storms.  It is only human to feel sadness and disappointment.  But we cannot remain in those emotions.  We must pick ourselves back up and start walking towards Jesus for comfort and guidance.  We find joy in Jesus!

Fruit of the Spirit – Love

Today, we will be breaking down the fruit of the Spirit: LOVE. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Scripture version are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.

Love

Love is a strong or constant affection for a person. God speaks about the importance of love. We are to show love to everyone, even to our enemies. Romans 13:10 says that “love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Matthew 5:44 says we must “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us].” Loving others can be difficult, at times. If someone has wronged us, our instinct is to hold a grudge against that individual. God is saying love everyone and pray for those who have hurt us. First Corinthians 13:13 says that we should live by “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Application

What does love mean to you?  Do you show love towards your family and friends?  Do you show love to those who make your life difficult?  If we want to be like Jesus, we must love everyone the same, no matter what they have done to us.  That is very difficult to do at times but with God’s help, nothing is impossible.

Fruit of the Spirit – Introduction

The more we grow in Christ, the more we get to know who He is and who we are through Him. One way to grow in our Christian walk is to allow the Bible to transform our lives. It is a Book full of redemption, love, grace, hope, and forgiveness. The Bible shows us how to live a Godly life. Galatians 5:22-23 is a life-changing Scripture that not only speaks truth over our lives but challenges us to live a righteous life.

First, God warns us what is not Christ-like. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Then, God explains what is expected of us as Christians. He tells us how we need to live by the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).

The words, “fruit of the Spirit” has great significance in the Scripture above. The word “Spirit” is referring to God Himself. The descriptive words, “love, joy, peace” etc. that follow are describing who God is: God is love, He is joy, and so forth. God is asking us to be just like Him. When we act more like Him, we are being fruitful. Metaphorically, we are much like a tree. God is the roots and the trunk. He is the Spirit that lives in us and helps us grow strong in our faith. We are the branches and the fruit. We determine how many branches we have on the tree, and how much fruit it produces by the way we live.

According to Galatians 5, there are nine fruits of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is a great way to evaluate our lives to see whether or not our actions and words reflect the way Jesus lived on earth. As Christians, the world needs to see us acting Christ-like and know that we are not hypocrites. Sometimes our actions do not reflect who Jesus is, and it distorts how the world sees Christians. That is why it is important to live our lives as it states in Galatians 5:22-23.

As we breakdown the fruits of the Spirit, I encourage you to not just to read the text but ask God for a deeper understanding of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Application:

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

LOVE

JOY

PEACE

PATIENCE

KINDNESS

GOODNESS

FAITHFULNESS

GENTLENESS

SELF-CONTROL

Before we break down the fruits of the Spirit, write down your weaknesses and strengths. I encourage you to be honest with yourself. This exercise is to guide you in prayer and to help you figure out which areas to focus on as you continue to grow in Christ.

In The Wilderness

So many times we think God is only in the light, but He is in the dark places that we least expect.  If you are going through the wilderness trying to find your way out of a bad situation, you are not alone.  God is with you every step of the way!

Sometimes He is before you making your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:6, Psalm 25:4-5, Psalm 5:8, Psalm 31:3)  

Sometimes He is carrying you when you are weak.
(Exodus 15:2, Joshua 1:9, 2 Samuel 22:33, 1 Chronicles 16:11)

Sometimes He is sitting with you in rest and giving you hope again.
(Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 55:6, Exodus 33:14)

In the wilderness, there are obstacles to walk through.   There are emotions that need to be addressed.  There are fears that need to be conquered.  There are barriers that need to be removed.  All these things have to be accomplished before ever reaching the top of the mountain and celebrating victories.  There is much terrain that needs to be walked and sorted through before we ever see the light.  John 8:12 says, “I, [Jesus], is the light of the world.”

God also says that He is in the darkness.  2 Corinthians 4:6-7 declares that God is light in the darkness:  “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

There is a song by Danny Gokey called, “More Than You Think I am.”  This song has a powerful message that God is in the darkness with us, and He restores us to make us whole again.

You always think I’m somewhere on a mountain top
But never think behind bars
You’d be amazed the places that I’d go to be with you
Where you are

So forget what you’ve heard
What you think that you know
There’s a lot about me
That’s never been told

I’m more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance
I catch all your tears
Burn your name on my heart
Be still and trust my plan
I’m more than you think I am
More than you think I am

Rumor has it there’s a gavel in my hand
I’m only here to condemn
But let me tell you secrets you would’ve never known
I think of you as my best friend

So much has been said
Even doubted my name
But I’m showing you now
Who I really am

I’m more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance
I catch all your tears
Burn your name on my heart
Be still and trust my plan
I’m more than you think I am
More than you think I am

Let me open your eyes to see the heart of me, differently
Come closer than you’ve ever been
Let me in like never before
Bring me every broken part
The wounds and scars of who you are
And hide in me and you will see

I’m more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance
I catch all your tears
Burn your name on my heart
Be still and trust my plan
I’m more than you think I am
I’m more than you think I am
More than you think I am
More than you think I am
I’m more than you think I am

If you are walking in the wilderness, you are not lost or alone.  God is guiding your steps and encouraging you to walk just another step closer to Him.  You may be weary today.  I encourage you to stop and rest in Jesus’ arms.  Let God restore your faith and hope in Him.  You are not alone in your journey, no matter where you are in life.  Find comfort today that God is not just in the light when life is going well, but He is in the darkness when life is overwhelming and unbearable.

God Is My Everything!

The Bible is a love letter from God to His children. The book of Song of Solomon is a perfect example of a love letter from God. It is known for being the most romantic book in the Bible. This book represents a love between a husband and his wife. Song of Solomon 8:6-7 beautifully portrays a love so deep that nothing can quench it. It says,

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.

Wow! Imagine these words spoken over you! These words would leave you awe-struck and speechless. The truth is, we hear these words from God every day of every moment of our lives. Do we hear God whispering in our ear that He loves us?

God gave up everything for us to have a relationship with Him. The greatest love story of all is Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. The story of the cross represents forgiveness, grace, mercy, and redemption. God proves His love for us by sacrificing His son.

Now, the question is, how do we express our love to God? Do we take Him for granted or do we thank Him for His unconditional love. A few years ago, I wrote a poem about what it means to me to have God in my life. In this poem, I declare who God is through His love and grace. I tell about how He has changed my life forever. It is a love letter to God from me. It is called, “God Is My Everything.”

WITHOUT GOD…
I would lose hope and live in defeat.
I would never see victories in my life, because I would not
have the strength to complete the journey.
My flesh would always get the best of me.
I would never know what true love felt like.
Life would be a wreck, and I would live of this world lost and alone.

WITH GOD…
I have hope and live in victory!
I see miracles every day!
I experience love that cannot be explained!
I enjoy life to the fullest
I see beauty in everything I touch!

GOD HELPS ME TO…
Listen more and talk less
Love more and judge less
Trust more and worry less

GOD…
Is like no other!
I am honored that He calls me His Child!

THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE…
Knows me by name!
Loves me unconditionally!
Cares about my every need!
Sees my dreams!

AND, NO MATTER WHAT, GOD IS ALWAYS THERE FOR ME!
I am nothing without Him!
He is my everything!
It is because of Him that I can get up every morning,
and live in hope that, with God, I can conquer
whatever comes my way!

NOW, THAT IS SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT!!!

Be the “Real” You!

The “Real” you…

Do you allow yourself to be “you” in a crowd?
Do you let people see the “real” YOU?
Do you push friends and family away when they get too close to knowing the “real” you?

It is so easy to be behind a computer writing blogs and sharing from the heart.  You do not have to see people’s reactions when they hear your story.  For me, writing blogs is my comfort zone.  I can be myself and be comfortable sharing my stories or thoughts with complete strangers.  The struggle occurs when my friends and family knows my past.  The “what-if’s” and the insecurities start nagging at me, and I pull away from people before I become uncomfortable.  I lose friendships, because I choose to walk away.

I am Christian, and I have to honestly say, I do not like to attend Bible studies.  Now, I do attend two Bible studies weekly, but I do it so I can get over my fears and insecurities.  I love the God part of the studies and learning more of who He is and how He works in our lives.  The only part I do not like is when the facilitator asks personal questions.  I remain quiet in those times.  I only answer a question when they are not personal.  Sometimes I get called out to speak, and I get embarrassed because all eyes are on me.  When I begin to answer the question, I have to step outside the boat trusting that God will comfort me even when I want to run away or disappear for a moment.  In these moments, God is growing my faith and showing me that not everyone will be judgmental or stop being my friend because I shared a part of my past.  God is helping me to trust others again and, right now, it is a real struggle.

Life a process.  It is much like being on a potter’s wheel.  God continues to mold us and reshape us as we trust Him more with our lives.  My prayer for myself is that I can rebuild healthy relationships again and know that the true friends in my life will stay even though they know the “real” me.  I pray that God will help me tear down the walls of insecurities and fears and show me how to be vulnerable again.  To be the “real” me!

God Writes Your Story

We try to write our own story and tell God what we want to happen in our lives. We want things done our way instead of God’s way. When we do life on our own, it does not give God the glory. Our lives will not show God’s power to those around us.

What we create out of our flesh will be flawed and mediocre. When we allow God to take control over our lives and work through us, the finished product will be flawless. We limit ourselves when we do not depend on Him. When we completely put our trust in God, we will flourish. We will see more victories when we allow God to lead us.

God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9, “’for My thoughts are not Your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” This Scripture confirms that we need to depend on Him in every decision we make in our lives. His ways are higher than our ways!

God wants us to surrender to Him so He can write our story. Are we prepared for what He has in store for us? God wants the best for us!  God’s love is unconditional. He knows everything about us. Psalm 139 goes into great detail of how God knows us from the inside out. Why wouldn’t we want to give God control over our lives? He already knows us on an intimate level. Luke 12:7 says, “indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

God’s Purpose for Our Lives

Picture yourself at a desk with a blank piece of paper and a pen. You are writing down your dreams, desires, and needs to God. You are praying for Him to fulfill these things in your life. Imagine God reading through the to-do list you presented to Him through prayer. He picks up a red marker and draws a line through each item on your list. Then, He begins to write down His dreams and desires for your life. As He continues, He writes down the Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11. Jesus says, “’for I know the plans I have for you,’ […] ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

He knows our past, present, and future! His purpose for our lives is greater than we could ever imagine. He writes down the impossible; when we write down the possible. His dreams are so big that we cannot accomplish them without depending on Him.

So here is the challenge that I am giving you that will transform your life forever. Put down the pen and look towards Jesus! I encourage you to seek God’s dreams and desires over your life. God wants you to release everything to Him. He is asking you to give your life to Him.

Here is a simple prayer that I would like for you to pray: “I surrender to Your ways, Oh God! Write my story, Lord! – the most beautiful story ever written. I completely and whole-heartedly trust in You!” 

Application:

Who is writing your life story? Is God writing your story or are you still struggling for control?

What are some insecurities and fears that you need to surrender to God and allow Him to fully work in your life? I encourage you to spend time in God’s presence and ask for His guidance.

My Testimony

My Story Full of Regret, Past Hurts, and Being Unlovable

After asking you to share your story with others, it is only fair that I tell you my story.

The story of my home life growing up was much like a fairy tale. I grew up in a loving and caring home, never lacking anything. I lived with a mother and a father who loved each other and made sure their children were provided for. I was a very happy child who enjoyed life. But, even though I had a fairy tale home life, it does not mean there were not challenges and struggles in my life. My family was in and out of church until I was seventeen years old. We believed in God but, at times, did not devote our lives to Christ. There were many insecurities and wrong mindsets that I was raised in that I had to break away from and learn how to conquer them.

As I continue to conquer my childhood fears, God is teaching me how to be a confident woman in Christ. Recently, I have conquered my ultimate fear. It is the fear of rejection and being imperfect. I grew up with an unhealthy and unrealistic belief that I needed to be flawless to be loved. I did not want to disappoint others so I created a false image of myself. I would try to impress others by becoming just like them to feel accepted. If people were disappointed in me or did not like me, I would be very upset and try to win them over by doing anything to get their approval, even if it meant going against my beliefs. I created an unhealthy approval addiction that lasted over thirty years. I cannot say I have fully overcome these insecurities, but I can say I have boundaries. I allow God to have the final say in my actions and words.

How I overcame these fears was not a simple task. I had to go back into my past hurts and failures to see the root of the problem. I had to relive moments that I was not proud of and work through the emotions. As I was trying to find peace from my past, it brought on more guilt and shame into my life.

Through trying to process these hurts and failures, I became depressed. I hurt my family with my harsh words, lost friendships due to isolation, and missed big events in my family’s life due to depression. I was haunted daily by the fear of rejection and loneliness. The fear became a reality, and I created a life filled with negative mindsets and false accusations. I thought everyone was against me, and I had to protect myself from being hurt again. I tried to look normal on the outside when everything within me was chaotic.

During this time, I broke off an engagement, stopped communicating with my family for almost a year, lost my best friend and roommate, almost lost my job, and left my church due to being judged. Life was falling apart, and I did not know where to go for help. In the midst of all this chaos, the doctor put me on antidepressants and a strong sleeping pill. The prescribed medicine put me into a deeper depression. I could think clearly but did not know what to do with my thoughts. I felt like a zombie with no control over my emotions. I became an angry person, not caring what others thought about me.

One night I was tired of hurting those around me by my actions and words and did not want to live another day. I was miserable and afraid. This was not the first time to think these thoughts, but it was the first time that I wanted to act on them. As I am writing this, tears are rolling down my face knowing that this was a very low moment in my life. I still struggle with the fact that I wanted to end my life. I picked up my prescription sleeping pills off the bedside table and thought about taking just enough so I would not wake up in the morning to another dreadful day. No one was in my home to stop me. Not many people knew I was depressed, because I kept my thoughts to myself. No one would have guessed that I had suicidal thoughts.

God saved me that night. Instead of taking the pills, I fell asleep with the pill bottle in my hand. I woke up the next morning with the bottle next to me on my bed, never opened. Since that day, I have fought for purpose over my life and asked God back into my heart. I am thankful for waking up every day and having the opportunity to share God’s love with others. This is not a moment I want to relive, but that night God brought me back to Him. I am reminded daily of the Scripture, Psalm 30:5, which says, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I am grateful for God’s unconditional love for me. Even when I turned away from Him, He was there to rescue me. This happened in spring of 2007, and it has taken me nearly seven years to heal the hurt and shame from these events.

I pray that my story touches someone’s life, maybe even yours. I hope you can see how God loves you no matter where you are in life. Our stories matter, and we need to share them with others. To be honest, it took me two weeks to finally write my story in this blog. I was fearful of being rejected or looked at differently because of my past. God empowered me to write my story for the very first time so I can turn my past hurts and failures into a testimony. Before now, my mother and head pastor were the only ones who knew my story. I have been too fearful to speak it out, but now I am learning what it means to be transparent. I am learning how to completely trust God with my story. It is now time for you to trust God with your story, and let Him turn it into a testimony.