Exploring a Potpourri of Biblical Ideas and Godly Living

Well, greetings once again friends. This is Episode 36 of the podcast.

As I announced in the last episode at the end of 2021, this year I’m following a monthly schedule instead of a weekly one. I’ll post each episode on the last Monday of each month. The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual fruit of “Joy.”

My prayer for you today is that God will bless you as we take a look into this important Christian character quality. I pray it may set the tone for your walk with Jesus today.

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Nehemiah’s Message

“Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” . . . This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected or sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

Nehemiah 8:9-10

You may have heard a funny little story that’s been circulating for a long time. In fact, I heard it when I was quite young—and that was a long time ago!

It seems—according to the story as I remember it—a child asked his grandfather if the grandfather’s donkey was a “Christian.”

“Well,” Grandfather replied, “I’m not sure about that, but what makes you think he might be one?”

The boy replied, “Because he has such a long face!”

Ha Ha! We chuckle at this supposed incident, but not just because it’s kinda cute. It also makes an important point. If we who claim to be Christians go around all the time with a sour look on our face, it doesn’t reveal the happiness or joy followers of Jesus are supposed to have in their hearts. And, it certainly doesn’t attract others to Him, either.

If we are to be ambassadors of the kingdom of love and grace—which we are—our faces—and our actions need to communicate that to everyone around us!

Here’s a story I love to tell about a lady whom I knew personally.

Clarissa Archer always had a beautiful smile on her face. She simply glowed with peace and happiness. Not that she had escaped the difficulties and trials coming from 80+ years of life. But despite all that, Clarissa was like a bright ray of sunshine everywhere she showed up.

That wasn’t always the case. At times in the past she grumbled and complained loudly about her old-age infirmities and inconveniences. She didn’t like being old, and she didn’t mind letting everyone around her know it. The “golden years” were not good, and she wasn’t shy about complaining about the way things were.

But then, one day all that changed.

Clarissa lived in a retirement home for elderly people. Her son often came to take his mother into town for shopping and a sit-down restaurant meal. After she was buckled in, Clarissa waited for her son to walk to the other side of the car and get into the driver’s seat.

In those few moments, she pulled the sun visor down to see the mirror on the backside. She sat gazing at her reflection as her son fastened his seatbelt and started the engine. A look of genuine concern crossed her face.

“I don’t look happy,” she said. “Christians are supposed to be happy. I’m going to practice being happy!”

It was more of a proclamation than a statement. Her voice carried the determination of a person making a much-needed and long-contemplated life adjustment. There was no mistaking her resolve. She was totally serious.

And she stuck to it!

That day marked the beginning of the last chapter in this precious lady’s earthly life. From that time on, Clarissa could not be seen without a smile on her face. Even now, many years after her death, the people who knew her still remember her as “the lady who was always smiling, always happy.”

What an incredible testimony!

What was Clarissa’s secret? She chose to be happy. That’s right. Clarissa discovered that happiness is a choice we make regardless of the circumstances in our life. Simply put, we can choose to be happy, even in the middle of a miserable mess.

Under normal circumstances—even unpleasant ones—we have freewill choice. We can choose to be happy. Or, we can choose to be upset, angry, resentful, bitter, or any other of similar negative emotions.

Many years ago, I came to realize that regardless of how many or how bad negative events might be which unfold around you, if you turn them over to God he can, and does, redeem them for good.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

So mark this down:

When we choose happiness, God gives us joy.

Joy is a gift from God. He sends it with the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the believer’s heart. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Holy Spirit’s presence is a gift directly from Jesus to believers everywhere. He promised, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Choosing happiness in the face of hardship, or misfortune, or grief is to follow the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in your mind.

I’m not saying we should pretend that bad things and bad experiences don’t exist. They do, and no one enjoys them, but we don’t need to be mentally and spiritually destroyed by evil events.

We can choose—by the enabling power of God’s grace—to overcome them. We can choose to survive. We can choose forgiveness and personal happiness. The choice is always ours, even though making that choice may be extremely difficult in the moment of anguish and stress.

Near the end of the 5th century B.C., many Jews were allowed to return from exile in Babylon. Jerusalem lay in ruins from the attacks of Nebuchadnezzar’s army 70 years earlier. The protective wall was destroyed. All that remained were heaps of rubble scattered chaotically around the once-thriving center of Israel’s glory days. The splendor of Solomon’s once-upon-a-time magnificent empire had been reduced to dust and ashes by Babylonian soldiers. Centuries of Israel’s and Judah’s feckless kings and faithless priests bore the fruit of neglected holiness. The scene of ruined walls and burned-out buildings was enough to make even the stoutest heart tremble.

Political winds had shifted dramatically in the seventy years of exile. The Babylonians had fallen to the power of the Medes and Persians. The Persian King Artaxerxes I now sat on the throne of the new empire. History indicates that Artaxerxes I ruled with a tolerant hand, allowing conquered peoples to retain and practice their traditional religions and customs. He was sympathetic to the needs of the Jews, permitting them to return to their homeland, and even authorizing the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its surrounding wall.

Artaxerxes appointed his personal cup bearer—a Jew named Nehemiah—as governor of Jerusalem. Nehemiah and a priest named Ezra let the overwhelming task of reestablishing the city and reconstructing the wall.

Beyond the physical structures, they also had to lay the philosophical and religious foundations for an entirely new populace. At least two, maybe three generations had come and gone during the seven decades of exile. The vast majority of the returned exiles had never seen their ancestral homeland. Living as “chosen people” representing the Living God was strangely unfamiliar to them. They knew little or nothing of the culture, rituals, or fundamentals of their religious heritage. Growing up under the influence of pagan Persian beliefs and practices, they needed a comprehensive crash course in how they were supposed to live, the temple services, and what it all meant for them as individuals and a distinct people.

A day was set for a great assembly. A speaking platform was built for the occasion. In the morning of the appointed day, Ezra the priest stood on the platform and read to the people all the words of the Law of Moses—what we now call the “Pentateuch,” the first five books of our Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It took a long time to read it all. And it was heavy stuff. When the people heard what Ezra was reading, they broke down and wept.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”

Nehemiah 8:9-10 NKJV.

Now, pay close attention to those last eight words!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Specifically, it is the joy in the Lord’s heart—because of His love for you—which becomes YOUR strength when His Spirit lives in you.

“The kingdom of God is . . . Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).

So, what are a few “take-aways” we can note from todays post?

  1. Practice (choose) an attitude of gratitude!
  2. Choose happiness. Choose to forgive anyone who has wronged you. Reject the temptation to indulge in a victimhood mentality.
  3. Look for things to celebrate, like beauty in nature, gracious acts of kindness by other people, Bible promises, or the gifts of life, health, and understanding.
  4. Focus on positive things of life. Set a time every day for personal Bible reading, memorization, reflection, and meditation. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.
  5. There is power in praise! Psalm 22:3 says, “[God is] enthroned in the praises of Israel” (NKJV). The KJV says that God dwells in our praise. What that teaches me is if we want to experience more of God’s power, we should express more praise to Him. If God is present in our praises, so is His power.
  6. Power for joy comes from living a life of praise.

Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.

I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the spiritual gift of “Peace.” Watch for it on March 28!

Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!

If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! And, my many thanks—in advance!

God bless.

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