Tag Archives: Happiness

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Joy

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise You with my harp, O God, my God!” (Psalms 43:4 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_JoyFRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Joy. We all want to be happy, right? I cannot think of a single person who would claim that they don’t desire happiness. We all have different ideas of happiness. I have the idea of a world where people lived together in harmony, where no one through judgment around and thought they were better than anyone else. I have the idea of such a world where no one thought that they were right and everyone else was wrong, where religion was taken seriously, where all religions were respected, and where religious fanatics didn’t ostracize, imprison or kill others. I have the same idea of a world where politicians follow suit and don’t try and ostracize, imprison or kill others for their own political gains. I could go on with this ideal world and I am certain that such a world would make me truly happy.

Since that reality is surely never coming, or at least not anytime soon, perhaps I will just settle for a permanent vacation (great Aerosmith album, btw) on an island somewhere in the Caribbean where I am slurping piña coladas in young coconut shells all day long, while sitting on a beach listening to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Sounds great right?!?! Our world loves happiness, it longs for it, it tells us all that we should be pursuing it to the ends of the earth. The problem, as many of us in life have already discovered, is that happiness is fleeting at best and the pursuit of it often leads us toward a giant cliff that over looks an endless abyss of disappointment and despair.

That is absolutely why you will not find happiness being called a Fruit of the Spirit. It just simply is not. I am sure that Paul was NOT happy getting rejected by the church in Jerusalem for wanting to be open-minded and open hearted to the Gentiles. I am sure that he wasn’t happy getting stoned (by rocks…to clarify) and imprisoned. I am sure that he wasn’t happy having his authority and his apostleship questioned, being considered an outsider by both his fellow Jews and his fellow Apostles. I am sure that Paul did not live a life of happiness, and I am equally sure he didn’t spend is life pursuing it. Rather, Paul’s life was one of joy, not happiness!

Joy, in essence is that inner thankfulness that causes one to experience bliss, peace and contentment in all circumstances. It is the calm assurance that God is with you in those circumstances and, even if your life is forfeit as a result of living out your faith, you are thankful for all that God has given to you and for all that God has called you to. One can try to pursue it; however, it is not bought, or earned, or easily attained; rather it is produced by the Holy Spirit, by the divine presence of God dwelling within us. It is in the context of a relationship with God and the transformative reception of the Holy Spirit that one begins to have a joy that cannot be contained or snuffed out. Do you want to experience it? Open your heart to God and allow the Holy Spirit to enter you and transform you into God’s agent of hope, healing, and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” – Mother Teresa

PRAYER
Lord, turn my heart into an eternal well-spring of your joy! Amen.

Don’t Feed the Trolls, Part Deux

Read John 1:1-5; 3:16-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

wbjyqd3k-1393300595Last week I wrote a devotion about trolls and trolling. If you recall, or perhaps you haven’t read that one yet (if not you should read it now), trolls are not just some fanciful creature found in fairy tales, but are human “creatures” we find lurking in the shadows of the Internet. They can usually be found on social media web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other such sites. They are found in the comment sections of blogs, news sites, and other places that are open to people’s comments and opinions.

These trolls are, by definition, people who “deliberately post provocative messages with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” They are the kind of people who are just looking to get under someone else’s skin, putting out bait (such as a provocative message) for people to snap at. When someone does take the bait, they are in for a world of hurt. Trolls can be ruthless and when they get going, there is little one can do to stop them…short of leaving the conversation of course.

Of course, when you think about it, trolling isn’t just unique to the Internet. Trolls can be found throughout life in general. There are just some people out there who love to get an edge on someone else, who love to rile people up, to see people get flustered. There are also the trolls who aren’t purposefully trolling, but are just miserable people who are are angry at the world, who always have a negative spin on everything and are the types of people who tend to bring others down with them.

This latter type of troll is more of an accidental troll. Most people don’t start off life looking to be miserable or down all the time. Most people WANT to be happy and to make others happy. Call me an optimist, though if I am I find myself to be a rather realistic optimist, but I believe that the majority of people are good people. Yet, good and “perfect” are not the same thing. Good people can fall into the trap of seeing life through dark and dreary lenses, especially if they have been hurt or burned one too many times.

What’s more, anyone of us can become this kind of troll. If I am to be completely honest, I have been this kind of troll before. Perhaps you have too. Perhaps, in honesty, you can admit that you have been an accidental troll and have allowed anger, bitterness, negativity, sadness, and other things to bring yourself and others down. If this is the case, I am not writing this to shame you or to make you feel guilty, but I do believe it is important for us to recognize those tendencies and to address them before they completely take us over.

We don’t have to be trolls, we don’t have to be constantly down about everything, we don’t have to bring others down with us. There is a way out of the negativity; there is a light shining in the darkness for all to see. Christ is that light and Christ points us away from feeding the inner troll. Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God but through me.”

Christ is calling us to stop focusing on ourselves. Christ is calling us to stop feeding our inner trolls. If we focus on Christ and on living as he did, then we will find that Christ’s WAY leads to the truth that life is full of HOPE and can be beautiful for everyone if we only work toward that. If we seek Christ’s way we will discover the truth that GOD is planning HOPE, HEALING and WHOLENESS for the entire world. And if join God in that quest, we will certainly experience what it means to truly live.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Quit thinking that you must halt before the barrier of inner negativity. You need not. You can crash through… whatever we see a negative state, that is where we can destroy it.” – Vernon Howard

PRAYER

Lord, shine your light in me so that I may see who I am and whose I am. Call me to your purpose and keep me from feeding into negativity. Amen.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Disney-World-in-Orlando-FloridaI just returned from my family vacation in Walt Disney World down in sunny Orlando, Florida. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a Florida vacation when you are in the middle of a record-cold and snowy winter. The skies were blue and clear, the humidity was non-existent, the temperature was 75-80 degrees, and the people were as friendly as can be. Quite frankly, with temperatures like that, it’s hard not to be friendly.

Speaking of friendly, have you ever been to Walt Disney World? The people working there are always the nicest, most friendly people you’ll ever meet. They all have big, bright smiles on their faces. They all look genuinely happy to be at work. They all treat the park goers (aka the customers) as if they can do no wrong. Walt Disney World is certainly the HAPPIEST place on earth. If any of the “cast” members are having a bad day at work, no one would ever be able to tell.

While reflecting theologically on Walt Disney World, one can’t help but notice that the place is almost too happy. It’s almost too clean. I mean, one never finds a shred of paper, bubble gum, straw or trace of any kind of litter around the park at all. That is because they employ a whole host of “happy” helpers to sweep it up. When one enters Walt Disney World, it is as if they are leaving the real world and entering the greatest utopia ever (that is unless you hate to wait on lines…then you might not find it a utopia at all).

I have heard people muse that it would be awesome if the church took a clue from Walt Disney World. In other words, some people think that the church would be a whole lot more successful in its outreach and its growth if it would just put a smile on its face and show the world that the church is a happy, happy place. If churches would just be happy and distance themselves from fighting, bickering, power playing, and judging then it would only make sense that more people would want to go to church, right?

Yet, is that the answer for the church? To put on an act of happiness? Should the church turn itself into a clean, wholesome, happy-go-lucky, unlittered, perfect-in-every-way stage. Should church members become cast members who only show their good sides and are given no place to show any other side but their good sides? Would this church even be called “real”, should such a church exist?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus never called for a clean church; rather, Jesus calls us, the church, to get our hands dirty. We are called to be present in the lives of others. We are called to express ourselves honestly, we are called to present others with the opportunity to express themselves honestly. We are not called to be perfect, but are being called toward perfection.

The truth is that it would not be healthy for the church to model itself after Walt Disney World, as that is not true to what the church really is. The church is a mess that God continues to work in and through. It is because we are a mess that we are kept humble and that we are continually reminded of our need for God to guide us through! While it certainly wouldn’t hurt for our church to be cheerful and joyful, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt for church members to be as hospitable as the Disney Cast Members are taught to be, we are not called to be an escape from the real world, but the hope of God brought into the midst of a real and messy world. It’s time to get our hands dirty!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

PRAYER

Lord, rather than seeking to be perfect, I seek to be perfected by you. Show me where I err, and change me to what you will. Amen.