My Source of Peace. My Source of Joy

Everyone wants joy and peace of mind, right? Sometimes we seek after material things or cling onto people hoping that they will provide these things.

I love reading books and listening to music. During Christmas, I received good books and music. Naturally, I was elated. These gifts gave me temporary happiness. I enjoy spending quality time with friends, and my family bring so much light into my life. However, they are human and need just as much joy and peace as I do.

John 15:5 (NIV)

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’

Deep down we long for infinite joy and boundless inner- calm. I could turn to many things to achieve this state of being. But none of these compare to knowing Jesus. He is the ‘vine’, an endless supply of joy, peace and strength. My branches would whiter without him. No doubt.

When we give our life to Jesus, salvation and freedom is ours. We can boldly approach his throne. We when communicate with him, he listens and guides ours step when we commit our ways to him.

As we enter his presence and seek him continuously, anxiety shrivels and hope rises. Despairs begins to fade and our hearts are fill with bliss. Terrible days or trial don’t stand a chance in God’s presence because he is the kind whisper that eases the mind and brings deep laughter.

God’s presence never runs out and we can enter it anytime.

God is a living God and in him there is love and hope. In him there is strength. Because God is all these, because these qualities are inherent, somewhere along your journey with Christ his joy and peace becomes your joy and peace. It’s an inner stillness that chooses faith over fear and trust over doubt. It keeps you going through the day and it’s the ultimate source, your life-machine and the sigh of relief that says, ‘I’m not okay but everything will be okay because of his everlasting pleasure and love.’

So maybe you feel spent and deflated. Go back to the source, which is Jesus.

I pray that God refreshes you, both emotionally and physically. I pray for joy in the good and bad times. Amen.

 

The Evidence for Jesus Christ

Some people become a christian through a spiritual feeling or an overwhelming sense of God’s love . Others are drawn to the faith by dramatic experiences or dreams. Many Christians read the Bible as children at home or in church. But there is usually a defining moment when a person chooses to follow Christianity for themselves. Although most Christians that I know have come to faith because of feelings and experiences, some found find faith because of studying the evidence.

Friends often say to me ‘people believed until science disproved it’ or ‘there’s no evidence for Christianity’. I will argue that Jesus’ death and resurrection cannot be disproved and that there is evidence. I know people who were curious and studied the evidence until they concluded that Jesus was real and did rise from the dead.

These are my main points:

  1. Jesus’ body was absent from the guarded tomb. The Jews would not remove it as they opposed Christianity, and this would make it look as if Jesus was really the son of God. The disciples would surely not remove it and engage in a lie.
  2. Hundreds of people saw Jesus die on a cross and 500 people saw him speak days later.
  3. Jesus was a real historical figure and therefore he was either the son of God, or he was delusional.

The historical information concerning Jesus always includes the fact that Jesus’ body was absent from the tomb that he was buried in following his resurrection. D.H. Van Daalen said, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions”. It has been recorded that the Jewish leaders admitted that the tomb was found empty, despite it being enclosed with a stone too heavy to move alone and accompanied by a guard. The Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death because he threatened their power and religious views. Therefore, it is unlikely that they would lie about this, as this fact is critical to proving that Jesus escaped death.

Furthermore, the only other motive to remove the body would be to make it look as if Jesus had escaped death. This points to the disciples. If they had to remove the body to make it look as if Jesus was the son of God because it was a lie, why would they allow themselves and their families to be beaten and murdered for something they knew was a lie?

Hundreds of people saw Jesus being crucified. Fact. Jesus was a real historical figure. There is as much evidence for the realness of Jesus as there is for the realness of Caesar. It is a historical account that Jesus was crucified until death. Again, it is a historical fact that he appeared days later alive to ‘more than five hundred brethren at one time’ (Perman, 2007).  In addition, Christianity blossomed into a dominant religion. Many people argue that others claimed to be the Messiah, the living son of God as prophesied in the Old Testament, and therefore the disciples could have re-enacted and copied those attempts. Perman (2007) answers this: ‘In reality, serious scholars have almost universally rejected this theory since WWII, for several reasons. First, it has been shown that these mystery religious had no major influence in Palestine in the 1st century’. Thus, Jesus must have been pretty convincing to have started such a popular religion, adding truthfulness and reliability to these documents.

Every writer of the four gospels is resolute that Jesus died and rose again. This belief was not a figment of their imagination. They either wrote from first-hand information or eyewitness accounts (see Luke 1:1-3, John 19:35). If you’ve ever played Chinese whispers, you’ll remember that the real word of the game is distorted as it moves from player to player. According to William Foxwell Albright, one of the world’s leading biblical archaeologists, ‘ there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today’. Scholarly research suggests that the New Testament was written within the lifetime of those who witnessed the life and death of Jesus.

Finally, I would like to be make the point that if Jesus was a real historical figure then he was either the son of God or he was delusional. If you knew that you were not really the son of God, surely you would give it up when you were threatened with crucifixion, whipping, public humiliation and the torture and killing of your friends? Most people would not lie for this. They would have had to be delusional to truly believe that they were the son of God and allow such things to happen to themselves and their loved ones. However, if Jesus was mad, it is very impressive and surprising that a lunatic could gather so many follows and influence so many people.

Jesus, thankyou for dying on the cross. I pray that people experience your life-changing love this Easter and beyond. Amen.

By Ella Johnson

Happy Mother’s Day

Thankyou to all the mothers and mother figures who have shown nothing but love and kindness; and shown us what strength, courage and loyalty looks like. Thankyou for your prayers, words of wisdom and correction. Thankyou for speaking words of truth and light into our lives. Thankyou for bringing out our beauty and handsomeness, and for teaching us right from wrong. Thankyou for being an anchor; and for the joy and laughter you bring. We love and appreciate you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Praise Through The Pain

Whenever I read the Psalms, I’m surprised at how often David praised God. As a great king and warrior, he had many reasons to feel joyful. However, through his own wrong-doings and outside threats, David had every reason to feel sorrowful and anxious.

Instead of turning away from God, David poured our his heart to Him in the Psalms. He is transparent and vulnerable before God; his status as a king doesn’t alter his perception of God. David’s attitude of praise, even though times of pain, is inspiring and enlightening. Even when he afraid, doubtful and depressed, David fixed his eyes on God. He conversed with God. God knows everything about David and us, so it seems pointless to open our heart to him. The thing is, a relationship works best when communication comes from both sides. He knew this and throughout the Psalms, he spoke words of truth into existence. David worshiped God as the true King over everything on this earth (Psalm 22:28). He rejoiced because of God’s faithful love (Psalm 13:5); and he found pleasure and joy in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11). David didn’t praise for the sake of praising or compose beautiful music for fun. By glorying God and proclaiming all that He is, He submitted his situation to God. He chose to focus on God’s unwavering nature, and he committed himself to a lifestyle of praise.  David’s act of worship and careful choice of words was medicine for the soul, and most fundamentally, an expression of his faith and trust in God.

I’ve realised that my choice of words, especially during a tough time, are crucial. Words have significant power, and I want the things I say to change the atmosphere around me. I’m learning that when I go through a challenging situation, sharing it with God is the second step. The first step is about praising and thanking Him. Sometimes, when things fall apart around us, it’s easy to believe we have nothing worth giving thanks or praise for. This isn’t true. I know when life is painful, I can still give thanks, and I can still give praise, because I have a creator who loves me deeply; I have a God who sacrificed His life for me, and I believe in a God who knows my future. Through seasons of pain and darkness, I know that God has me in the palms of His hands, and I’ll praise Him because I know He is with me.

As you praise God with a thankful heart, I pray that you overflow with so much joy. Amen.

A Guide To Attaining Christmas Joy

By the end of this article you will be rich, popular and perfect in every way just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, that was a very funny joke and not in fact true.  My point in this article is that there’s a peculiar contentment or joy that you can experience. It’s not to do with how you look or how much money you’ve earned but a fulfilling feeling of having a loving God to fall back on, a future of eternal paradise in heaven and a purpose on earth. I’m not saying Christians feel content all the time.  Like all people, followers of Christ have doubts, insecurities, crave unlimited money and fail to love. However, God tells us to have joy because of Jesus’ birth (Christmas). But why is this such joyful news and how can we experience this ‘joy’ that they talk of?

What is joy? If its happy and being content than what earthly thing can really make you feel content? You always want a bit more money and a bigger house. People get obsessed with how many likes they get on their Instagram photo. It’s additive and there’s never enough. Whether its material things or experiences like receiving 50 likes on a photo or sex it only satisfies you temporarily. Moreover, at your funeral what do you want people to say? ‘Oh Ella had a really nice kitchen and remember that time she got 60 likes on her holiday photo?’. No. you want people to remember your values, beliefs and how you changed people’s lives.  

Joy cannot be 100% attained but experienced. Not through temporary pleasure but through the thought that God, who is all-powerful, specifically knows you and cares for you. In Matthew 10:31 it says, ‘So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. And even the very hairs of your head are counted’.

Secondly, selflessness is strangely fulfilling, and it will be greatly rewarded by God. ‘Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked’ (Luke 6:35). He smiles on you for giving to the poor and being kind, and these actions give purpose and joy.

Finally, Jesus’ birth made it possible for everyone that asked for forgiveness from Jesus to enter heaven. The big deal about Jesus’ arrival is that instead of paying for your own sins Jesus pays it for you, so you’re sin free, guilt free and enter heaven – a place of love and paradise. This is the joy and good news of Jesus coming to earth. God: the creator of all came to earth, and he was born in a hay-covered stable to die for us. Christmas is ‘ news of great joy that will be for all the people’ Luke 2:10. That’s why God calls us to have a feast, invite people into our home and celebrate the good news that Jesus has been born. That’s joy! Having faith and joy in Jesus is fulfilling; it lasts for eternity and it changes people’s lives.

I pray that you have a wonderful Christmas.  I pray that you remember the reason for the season and invite the excluded into your home, and give to the needy.

By Ella Johnson

Existing in The Present

From emails and instant messaging to transport and social media, life has never moved so fast. The fact that I can order an eBook- and receive it within minutes- is brilliant. Uploading articles like this one doesn’t take long. Waiting, in whatever shape or form, is never easy. Sometimes, in the mist of our agitated patience, God feels far away. I certainly know what it feels like to assume that God has gone on vacation.

When we can’t wait anymore, and the season that we’re in seems unbearable, what happens?  Sometimes, we make our own plans without acknowledging God, and instead of allowing Him to lead us, we create our own path which seems to lead to happiness. In Genesis, God promised Abraham he would have a son called Isaac. But through the encourage of his wife Sarah, who couldn’t have children, Abraham had a son with their maid. Sarah, and I don’t blame her, couldn’t quite believe that she would have a child because of her old age. She believed that her problems were too big for God to solve; she could believe God’s promise. Maybe, like Sarah, you feel that you can’t trust God with your hopes and dreams. So, you want to follow your own way with the hope of entering a new, beautiful season. You focus on the future. Planning ahead isn’t a bad thing. But what if shifting our gaze to the future means that we miss the small and special moments of the present? When we fix our eyes on Jesus, He makes us strong and He gives us fresh sight to see the treasures of life.

We don’t have to worry about the future and we can have peace in the present because Jesus holds the blue-print. He has the power to reveal your future to you. Yet, He doesn’t because He wants you to trust in Him and enjoy your current walk of life. He wants to prepare you for the next step, and that’s why He’s in no hurry. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast our cares onto God, because he cares for us. Peace that transcends everything else (Proverbs 3:5-6) begins to iron-out all the creases of uncertainty once we choose to believe, and keep believing, that God holds the future in his hands.

God’s timing is absolutely perfect. He knows exactly what you need and when you need it. The season that you’re in right now-whether it’s a happy one or not- is vital. It is part of the bigger picture. As it says in the book of Job, there’s a season for everything, and so we can either enjoy where we are with an attitude of hope and expectancy. Or, we can worry our life away. I understand what it feels like to worry about things, and I know when I’m being impatient with God. However, life is a lot better when I choose to exist in the present and prayerfully trust that God has a greater plan for me. I believe that His plan is better than anything you and I can imagine.

Whatever season you’re in, I pray for joy and peace of mind. May God teach you new things, and may He give you strength for the next stage of your life. Amen.

Life-Long Friendships

Some of us relish the time we spend with our families, and there are others who live miles away from loved-ones. Some individuals have never been part of a family unit. Whatever the situation, having family members or people to share dreams with, make memories and go through life together, is a special blessing.

Within the last couple of months, many of us have moved to a new city or country for a number of reasons. It could be to start a new job or attend university. Whatever the reason, living away from home for a period of time can be a mixed experience of excitement, nerves, uncertainty and loneliness. When I started uni, the first few days were great, and I didn’t think much about home. As time went on I remember feeling so home-sick that I called home almost everyday.

This may not have been everyone’s experience. But if you feel out of your depth and afraid about your new environment, you don’t have to remain that way. Finding a church is a great way to meet new people, serve God and grow in your walk with Christ at the same time. Being part of a church definitely helped my faith and I’ve made some great friendships. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to feel comfortable talking to people at church. Ask for God’s boldness, and he’ll give it to you. Join a small group, because it’s in these intimate gatherings that you share life experiences and learn more about God. God created us for community, and when we fellowship with other believers the *Holy Spirit is present.

In the book of Acts the disciples worshiped and served together, and they even went their separate ways. But they had mutual support and friendships that went deeper than everyday conversations. Friendships come in many shapes and sizes, and each one has its own quality. Of course church isn’t the only place for building friendships . But, when you join a church, aside from the countless pros , your friends become family. These family members in Christ won’t be perfect and neither will you; you’ll share moments of laughter, encouragement and sometimes pain. Most importantly, the friends who know your vulnerabilities and still love you; the deep conversation friends and the wise friends; these are people who do and share life with you. They bear with you and forgive you (Colossians 3:13).These are the friends ‘who stick closer than a brother’ (Proverbs 18:24)

We’re influenced by who we spend time with, and I’m not saying that we should live in a Christian bubble- I have some very kind and good unbelieving friends, who offer sound advice when needed. I’ve made great memories with these people. However, there are moments when you can’t call home and you need some biblical advice. Jesus is the ultimate source of guidance and joy. But He does place certain friends in our lives who can give biblical counsel in times of need and add to our joy.

Some of us may have had a bad experience with church, and the last thing we want to do is step into one again. The pain is raw. It’s gone deep beyond the surface. But God is greater than your pain, and He can heal it if you give it to Him. Not some, but all of it. Life seems easier when we choose to keep to ourselves. However, when you willingly step out unashamed of your weaknesses, you begin to make life-long connections with people.
I pray that God surrounds you with wonderful friends from your church. I pray that He leads and directs you on your journey of finding a church. Amen.

*The Holy Spirit is God’s presence and it is part of the Trinity. People experience different reactions to the Holy Spirit (e.g. crying, shaking, feeling a warm sensation).

By Chermaine Sowah