Fruit #2: Joy

by Carolyn Hope

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)

Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes during the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites. Some of the Jews had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, but the city was in disarray and broken down. The walls and gates were diminished to rubble. When Nehemiah received reports of the city’s deteriorated state, he wept at the news. He spent much time mourning and praying to God for Jerusalem. Then he developed a plan, and with the king’s permission and a determined heart, he set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In just 52 days, the walls and gates were restored.

Nehemiah shares the secret to his success when he told the Israelites in Jerusalem, “the joy of the Lord is your strength!” We frequently quote this phrase to loved ones who are down or weary. In order to truly understand this sentence, however, we must first realize the context of what Nehemiah went through. When he heard of Jerusalem’s condition, he was not ‘joyful’; rather, his heart was broken, and he cried for his city. Then, Nehemiah rose up, and throughout the rest of the story, he walked with confidence and encouragement. What caused the transformation? From his declaration mentioned above, it can only be one thing: a joy that comes from the Lord Himself.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Read the book of Nehemiah, and you’ll see that the journey to rebuilding Jerusalem wasn’t an easy or pleasant one. There were many opportunities for Nehemiah to experience all sorts of negative emotions; and most likely, he did. He never let his circumstances or feelings deter him from his work. That is what joy is. It’s the power to overcome the negative emotions you experience and to press forward to do what you know God has called you to do. It is the choice to keep going as if everything is as it should be, so that everything will be what it needs to be. It’s the refusal to be hindered by what other people say, what you think, or how you feel.

Whether or not you feel ‘happy’ is not what determines your joy. You must choose joy, regardless of how you feel. Your joy isn’t based in emotions or circumstances, but in the love of your Father, a love that is always steady. You can have joy in every season, test, or trial, because Jesus is with you, and He will give you His joy.

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Fruit #1: Love

by Carolyn Hope

We know what real love is because Jesus gave his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 4:16)

The Bible speaks a lot about love. There are numerous examples of God’s love and people’s love for one another. The New Testament gives us instruction to love each other, and some passages give us details on how to do that. 1 Corinthians 13 is the famous ‘love chapter,’ in which Paul beautifully describes the attributes of love. Here is an excerpt from that Scripture: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. … love will last forever!” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).

The most principle and extravagant example we are given of love is Jesus Himself. 1 John tells us that God is love. Therefore, everything that Jesus did was done from a place of love for us. His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension all speak of His love. Jesus gave up everything for us, sacrificing all for our sake. This is what the truest, deepest love looks like; it’s a radical, selfless surrender on behalf of someone else.

The Lord created you from love, for love, to love. In order to love others well, you must first understand you are loved by God. His love for you is deep, wide, long, and high; it’s immeasurable. You can love others by sacrificing yourself for others. Such sacrifices, whether small or large, are often difficult, but as your love grows for a person, choosing the best for them becomes easier. Learning to love is a journey. Whatever place you are right now, rest in the love of your good Father and as you do, He’ll teach you to love the people in your life.

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The Fruit of The Spirit

by Carolyn Hope

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23)

Galatians is an incredible book which speaks of our freedom in Christ. In chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul gives us a description of what a Spirit-filled believer will live like. Specifically, there are nine main types of ‘fruit’ that Holy Spirit brings. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Over the next two weeks, I’d like to take a look at each individual ‘fruit.’ As a son or daughter of the Most High King, you have the power within you to produce each of these. Holy Spirit inside of you will teach you how to walk in them. These are not unattainable attributes that you’ll never be able to live up to; rather, they are who God made you to be. When Jesus made you a new creation, He saw you as becoming these characteristics. He believed that you could be defined by these qualities; I believe you can too.

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Reasons to be Grateful: Security

by Carolyn Hope

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping him with holy fear and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)

Much in life is unstable and insecure. We live in a world that is ever-changing and fickle. Many countries have government leaders for a few years, and then a whole new set of leaders takes their places. It’s easy to be swayed in such societies.

We, however, are children of God and citizens of heaven. Hebrews 12 calls it, “a Kingdom that is unshakable.” We are people of a different nation, one that is eternally secure. There is stability, and peace, in Jesus. We don’t have to fear what will come because we know that our King is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When the world in front of you is shaken, remember where your true residency is. Thank God for bringing you into the Kingdom of Light that will never fade away. Every person has a need for security in his or her life; yours is found in Jesus, and that’s a suitable reason to be thankful.

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Reasons to be Grateful: People

by Carolyn Hope

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. (Philippians 1:3)

As Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he was overflowing with joy. He opens his letter by saying that he thanks the Lord every time he thinks of them. Throughout the whole book of Philippians, Paul writes with a tangible love and joy for this group of people.

There are some people who bring us great joy and pleasure. Whenever we think of them, we can’t keep from smiling. These people are very dear to our hearts, and we long to see them do well and receive all that God has for them.

Who are the people in your life that your heart swells for? Maybe you have many, or perhaps just a few. Whoever they are, thank God for them and pray for them to receive all His blessings, in this life and the next. If you already do that, tell them personally how you feel. Sharing the gratitude in your heart with them can be very powerful in their lives, and will certainly be encouraging. As we celebrate a Day of Thanksgiving today, remind yourself of the people who mean the most to you, and let them know how they’ve impacted you.

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Reasons to be Grateful: Restoration

by Carolyn Hope

The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air. (Isaiah 51:3)

Here in Isaiah 51, we see the future restoration of Israel. God will take the dry places and turn them into lush gardens. It will be a place of joy and gladness, and the sound of thanksgiving will permeate the skies.

There’s a depth of gratitude unlike any other found in restoration. I believe this is so because when you’ve seen how bad things can be, and God turns those circumstances around for good, you understand more fully the beauty of His work. Intrinsically, we are more grateful when we consider where we used to be and contrast it with our present blessings and transformation.

God is a good God. He redeems and restores. He takes orphans and makes them sons and daughters. He takes wretchedness and turns it into holiness. When He sees darkness, He speaks light. Contemplate your life, past and present, and you’ll see Jesus’ restoration as a pivotal part of your story. God will always restore; let’s thank Him for that.

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Reasons to be Grateful: Intimacy

by Carolyn Hope

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalm 100:4-5)

Imagine you stand before a magnificent city, majestic in splendor and rich in glory. Just before you, the city gates guard the entrance; they are tall and fortified in strength. They are shut at the moment, but as you approach them, you hear the click of a latch unlocking, and the gates swing open wide. Step by step, you enter this city, where you are amazed by its beauty and marvel at your chance to be there. Before you know it, you find yourself in the courtroom observing the King on His throne. You’re lost in the wonder of His perfect holiness.

The first step towards intimacy is gratitude. When you are thankful and you express your thanks, you draw closer to your King. Giving thanks to God is like crossing the threshold of His heavenly city. When you speak gratefulness to Jesus, something changes; it causes the atmosphere to shift. Your Father is greatly pleased when you thank Him. He loves it when you acknowledge who He is and what He’s done for you. As you say thank you, He pulls you closer in His loving arms.

Express your thanks today. Let it draw you into deeper places of intimacy with Jesus.

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Reasons to be Grateful: Help

by Carolyn Hope

The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7)

The author, David, of this Psalm knew God as his Helper very well. Time and time again, God came through for David, answering his prayers and giving him victory. David’s response was to praise him and sing songs of thanksgiving.

There’s nothing like that moment when God moves, and in an instant, everything is changed. The miracle you’ve been believing for becomes a reality or that breakthrough you’ve been praying for finally arrives. It’s in these moments that an unshakable joy rises in your heart, and you can’t help but give thanks to your God, who made a way for you when there was no way.

I want to encourage you to be thankful and rejoice in every victory Jesus brings, whether big or small. He is worthy of all praise. There are times when it’s easy to give thanks, and there are other times where you have to search harder within your heart to find what you’re grateful for. Even if you are still waiting for God’s help to show up in your situation, remember the other battles He has won for you. As you reflect on your life, you’ll see instance after instance where your King did something. Let these memories prompt you to sing “songs of thanksgiving.

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Reasons to be Grateful

by Carolyn Brucks

Thanksgiving week is an excellent time to remind ourselves what we are thankful for. In the busyness and hardships of life, it can often be a challenge to walk in gratefulness and joy. However, this week I’d like to give you five Biblical reasons to be grateful. There are many more reasons, as I’m sure you know, but it is my hope that you will remember these principles throughout every season of life.

Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, there is always something to be thankful for. The breath you breathe, the eyes with which you see, and your beating heart are some things often taken for granted. The ultimate reason to be grateful, however, is Jesus and His love for you. There is no amount of thanks that is too great for Him and all He’s done. Wherever you are and whatever you do, let your heart and mouth be full of thanksgiving to your King.

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Response

by Carolyn Hope

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

The disciples were already following Jesus, but when He revealed His glory, they believed in Him. They saw with their own eyes what He could do, and suddenly, everything changed.

Our response to revelation should be belief. When we stand before the King and watch Him move, our faith increases. We may not see Jesus face to face yet, as the disciples did, but we can certainly see His hand in our lives.

Jesus has revealed and will reveal His glory in your life. Let your response be that of belief and gratitude. If you find yourself in a place where it doesn’t seem clear how God is moving in your life, keep crying out for revelation, and remember the times you have seen Him move. There is beauty in remembrance. Remembering God’s faithfulness in your life is a great way to boost your faith and keep pressing forward. Look for Him; you will find Him, and when you see Jesus, everything will change.

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