Be Joyful

Hello Family!

It is with great joy that I see the expansion of this family, and increased activity in our established ministries and in new and exciting programs. How wonderful to have additional opportunities to meet together, encourage one another, and to reach out and spread the love of Christ.

When I was a small boy, I would talk to everyone in the congregation. (I know this shocks many of you!)  But one Sunday my Mom overheard me address some of the adults as “Brother Guinn” and “Sister Dobson.”  She gently took me aside when we got home and explained that Mr. Guinn and Mrs. Dobson were friends, but that the adults I heard addressing them as “Brother” and “Sister” were people who had committed their lives to Christ and been baptized; and were therefore brothers and sisters in Christ. She also let me know that when I became a Christian, they would be my family too!  I have long loved that understanding of family, and the continual discovery of new family members.

Not only do we have the great pleasure of family ties between ourselves, we also hold the only hope for humanity. Satan constantly tempts us to focus on the scary unknown “what ifs” of life (to not trust our heavenly Father) and to fear the future rather than rest in the knowledge that our Father is in control; and that His will for each of us individually and together will work toward good. Not comfort, but good. When we focus on God’s love for us and His power to bring about His will, being joyful and thankful becomes much easier. Which is good since we are commanded to be joyful (Phil. 4:4); and a happy consequence is that being joyful is good for us (Prov. 17:22.)

Part of being joyful is focusing on the things for which we are thankful. We can expand the number of things that grow gratitude in our hearts by following (Phil. 4:8.) As we “think on” things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, our hearts expand with the scope and breadth of God’s love. And we manifest that beautiful fruit of the spirit, joy.

In order to be a positive, upbeat and loving person we have to focus on something other than ourselves. There are a number of self-help books available for areas in which we desire to grow, but we must be careful to make sure those books do not point us away from the Lord. The best help, by far the best book ever written to guide us, is one you already own (the Bible.)

We are commanded to meditate on the word of the Lord, and to write it on our hearts (Deut. 6:4-9, 11:18.)  I notice that I never run out of topics for discussion when I am talking about scripture! When we used God’s word as the measuring stick for our thoughts or ideas, we are protected from being drawn off the Way, distracted by fads, or deceived by evil (Col. 2:8.)

When we are tempted to focus on our fears, troubling times, or pain, we can lose sight of our heavenly Father standing with us. We know that difficulties and pain will come; Jesus told us so (John 15:18-25.) Dying to sin is also a painful process, but necessary (Rom. 6:6, 11-12.)  If you catch yourself heading a direction without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or circling in a pit of doom, remember Yogi Berra's quote “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” Waste no time turning! (Ephesians 5:11, 15-17.)

Jesus wants His believers to find joy and to stay focused on positive thoughts, heavenly ones based on eternity (Colossians 3:2.) He wants His followers not to worry, but to instead stay focused on and seek the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:25, 33-34.) This does not mean that life as a follower of Jesus is easy, because it involves dying to self and can involve persecution (Matthew 8:34; Luke 9:23.) However, such a life lived for the Savior is the only way to true fulfillment and eternal joy (1 Peter 1:8-9.)

Continued Blessings and Peace,
Neal Hunter

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