Don’t Be Afraid

An interesting connection seemed whispered to me in last night’s Christmas Eve service that I’ll take a few lines to unpack.

Many times in scripture someone was told not to be afraid. Sometimes it was from a leader to his people; sometimes it was from a writer to his reader. In the scenes of the Christmas story (Matthew 1, Luke 1-2), Joseph and Mary and the shepherds were are told this same message.

After Joseph was told not to be afraid in Matthew 1, Isaiah is quoted that “they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.'” Interesting. If God is with us, do we need to be afraid? Is it possible that we get afraid because we believe God isn’t with us? Or at least we get our eyes on something huge like the unexplainable pregnancy of a fiancé and forget that God is with us?

Some have endured the holidays being afraid. And humanly speaking, who can blame them? A recent widower, a confused parent, a lonely senior couple. Pray for them that they experience God is with them.

As you look into 2019, what might you be afraid of? Finances, health, relationships, job security, looming transition? How could you remind yourself that Jesus’ coming made it possible for God to always be with you? 

You don’t have to be afraid. Immanuel came. God is with you.

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Fruity Fridays: Possessing Joy

by Danny Bote 

As we are full-fledged into the Christmas season, I believe there is no other season that brings so much joy for some and so much emptiness and heartache for others. As a father of three younger children, we are still in the incredible excitement phase with Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas morning is truly great, and I love it as a father (I’m usually the first one up on Christmas morning). I truly am trying to soak up these moments and Christmas mornings as time speeds by and the kids grow up. Why? Because one day we will wake up Christmas morning to our kids being all grown and out of the house with them potentially having their own families and their own family Christmas traditions. That season will also bring me much joy, but there will also be an aspect of sadness and mourning as we no longer have a house of small children anticipating Christmas morning.

As I sit and think about joy and the Christmas season, I wonder, what does the culture define as joy? Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as “a state of happiness” or “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” If you dig a little deeper, Webster defines happiness as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” What do we learn from this definition of joy and happiness? That joy is based upon our feelings of pleasure, or our circumstances. If that is true, isn’t that worrisome to you? Because you and I both know how quickly those can and do change. 

As I read the Webster definition, the part that struck me the most was “the prospect of possessing what one desires.” This opens the door to answering how you and I can have true joy. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states: “He(God) has put eternity into man’s heart…” You see, God has placed the prospect of possessing eternity into our hearts. We desire to possess eternity and true joy, but we try to fill that desire with things that are only temporary. Every single one of us is taken by this desire. We believe that if we just possess that car, that person, that relationship, that job, that number in our bank account, that child, that spouse, that house… if we just get that(fill-in-the-blank), we will have joy forever! And let’s be honest, when we get that temporal thing it does bring us a momentary feeling of pleasure and enjoyment, but what happens when that feeling or circumstance is gone? Usually, we continue to try and fill that void with the next temporal thing, which leads to more fleeting moments of joy and pleasure. And over and over we go, trying to grasp something that we just can’t seem to get. What a desperate cycle, isn’t it? We have all experienced this personally and continue to see it in our culture today. So, what is the answer to this never-ending cycle? 

Galatians 5:22 states: “But the fruit of the Spirit is joy…” Stop, read that again. Did you catch it? Joy comes from having the Holy Spirit! Possessing God himself in our hearts! If we have the Spirit of God, then that means we have the righteousness of Christ! Joy is not based on an emotion, or success, or good fortune, but on the possession of the eternal! If you received the grace and mercy that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, then you have that which brings true joy, no matter the circumstance! Yes, it’s ok and even healthy to have feelings of joy and happiness or feelings of sadness and mourn, cry, and be upset by circumstances, but through the changing circumstances of life you can have true joy! Why? Because it’s based on filling that eternal void with a righteousness the eternal, unchanging God only provides through His Son Jesus Christ. That which truly satisfies the soul.

No matter how great or how hard the Christmas season may be for you, if you have the righteousness of Christ, you can truly say, or even sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” 

And if you have Christ, you have the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is joy.

Introducing Fruity Fridays

One of the best passages of the Gospels is John 14-17. Some of Jesus’ most memorable statements and promises are included in these chapters. 

Some of those statements probably didn’t register with his audience right away, but certainly within a few decades they did. One thing he wanted them to know was that he would soon be leaving but that they wouldn’t be alone. He promised to send them the Helper, the Spirit of Truth; he promised that the Helper would come from the Father just like he did. That truth alone would take on greater significance after he would show them his power over death and the grave.

One of the main reasons the Helper was coming was to continue and expand the work Jesus had begun. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” His followers were to be part of this work, bearing fruit in the physical absence of the Vine. That’s where the Helper comes in. And that’s why Paul writes about walking in the Spirit in Galatians 5. 

Without the Holy Spirit, we are on our own to fight off sinful temptations. Jesus said he would send the Holy Spirit to guide us. When we allow him to guide us, we can then live supernaturally because we have given him control of our minds and actions. That’s what Paul is describing in Galatians 5 – Christians who go beyond buying fire insurance. Fruit-producing Christians do things that make others stand in awe, not in awe of them but in the God they say they follow.

By choosing to follow the Holy Spirit rather than yourself, you can supernaturally…

  • …love that unneighborly neighbor
  • …exude joy during chemo treatments
  • …bring peace to the family Christmas table
  • …be longsuffering with your addicted child
  • …offer kindness to your overbearing boss
  • …model goodness to your child’s bully
  • …exhibit faithfulness as you move toward retirement
  • …gift gentleness to your aging parent
  • …control yourself selecting your items in Publix

Starting this Friday, you’ll see postings called Fruity Friday. I’ve invited some guest bloggers to join me in writing about all nine of the fruits of the Spirit Paul mentions in Galatians 5. We hope you are encouraged in your walk, in your fruit producing. Welcome to Fruity Fridays.