Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Exciting News!

Hi Everyone,

We have some exciting news!

The response so far to 'Zeal for Your House' has been wonderful and with inspiration continuing to flow for new posts and content, we have felt led to continue this writing adventure on a proper website...

So, without further ado we are excited to announce the commencement of our new site:

'Study Scripture Today'.  

To continue using our devotional/study posts simply click on the link above. You can still sign up to receive notifications when posts are published and they're still free as they've been here on Zeal. However while Zeal will remain active we won't be posting new content here, as we don't want Google algorithms to assume we're stealing content for the new website, as it would double up - As it's all our work!

So head on over to 'Study Scripture Today'!

We hope you love it just as much as we do...


God bless, Melanie and Richard.

 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Spiritual Fruit: Joy





Spiritual Fruit: Joy

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

Look up the word Joy in the dictionary and you will of course be provided a list of other words intended to describe it. e.g. Delight, happiness, elation, glee, exuberance etc.

None of these however can truly capture what the apostle Paul is referring to. The Greek word he uses is chara (khar-ah') and while joy is an accurate translation, we need to remember that he is talking about something that has a spiritual quality to it.


This kind of joy goes beyond the words given in our English dictionary. You see, this ‘chara’ joy and has a quality of not just in the here and now, but also extending into eternity.


Feelings of delight, happiness and elation often depend on the moment and current circumstances, but circumstances can change and therefore these feelings can also be lost. For those who are living in the wonderful intimate relationship with Jesus their Lord and Saviour, and who are convinced of their future being assured, they experience ‘chara’ joy which is much deeper, and not easily stolen away when life gets difficult. 

Spiritual joy is dependent on our relationship with God and in particular on our understanding of His love for us - This is why it is listed as a spiritual fruit. It’s important to remember that like other spiritual fruits, the fruit of joy requires the fruit of love. Perhaps this is why Paul put love first in the list?

The fact is, there can be no spiritual fruit of joy if the fruit of love is not established in your life. You need to understand God’s great love for you if you are to truly trust in His promises. When this is the case, the troubles of life lose a lot of their power to pull us down.


Joy provides protection against despair and there is so much in this world that can pull people down into that dark place where they see no hope. Our loving Father does not want us to live with despair but instead wants to lift us up. The joy He provides does not make us ignorant or insensitive to worldly troubles, and it does not mean that we will never grieve; rather it stops our life circumstances getting the better of us. His joy helps us to keep walking with Him with an internal, faithful determination of what is to come and this is a powerful witness to those around us.


Yes, even in our darkest hours, God can shine His light and remind us that He is always with us. The gift of His ‘chara’ joy provides us with great comfort and contentment. It is the water that truly quenches our thirst and emptiness. ‘Chara’ joy is an eternal spring for us to draw from that no-one, or any circumstance can take away. It is the source that stops Christians from experiencing despair even in their most troubling times. King David knew this when he wrote Psalm 23 and penned the words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

‘Chara’ joy is a fruit that nourishes our weary soul and also decorates our festive table in times of great celebration. This fruit sustains us on our pilgrimage during all times. This ‘chara’ joy was in Jesus and is available to His followers. This ‘chara’ joy was what kept Jesus’ eyes focused upon eternity and enabled Him to endure the cross and it will sustain us to endure our own. Read Hebrews 12:1-4 this joy in Jesus is ‘Chara’ joy and is available to us too…

Hebrews 12:1-4 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Spiritual joy does not depend on our own emotional response to God’s love but is kindled within us by the Holy Spirit. We cannot depend on our own strength but this does not mean that joy comes automatically. We need to be constantly feeding ourselves upon the source of this fruit which is God’s Word and our relationship with Him through reading it prayerfully. Remember, when difficult times come, as they do to us all, we need to intentionally gain clarity through focusing on God’s unchanging promises and that is why we are told to set our sights on what is above, just as Jesus did.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4.

It’s true we may not always understand God’s purposes in allowing hardships in life, but we can be absolutely certain that He is always with us and is willing to give us His strength, assurance and even fill our hearts with joy.

Study Time~

After reading take some time to consider the following questions:

Q1. What is the difference between the regular use of the English word ‘joy’ and the biblical use of ‘Chara’ joy?

Q2. Can you remember a time of hardship when you experienced God’s ‘Chara’ joy? If not, you may like to pray to receive this fruit. But if you have, spend some time reflecting upon what occurred during that time that helped you to experience it.


Q3. Do you desire to experience more ‘Chara’ joy? What things could you intentionally do to work towards this?

Have you enjoyed this study on the spiritual fruit of JOY?
You may like to go back and begin at the beginning of this whole series, to do so click here.

Remember, we do this blog for free because we really do love Jesus and other people. So if you have any queries please feel free to email Richard & Melanie via zealhouse@mail.com 

Let us leave you with 'The Joy of the Lord is my strength' By Rend Collective.

 
 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Spiritual Fruit - Love 2




Spiritual Fruit: Love (part 2)

In the previous session on Spiritual Fruit 'Love - 1' we discussed the importance of loving the way God does. Godly love is a big topic so we’re going to dig a little further in this part 2 post.

The love we’re talking about here is not the kind that depends on what we get out of a relationship with someone or from the way that person might make us feel. Consider how you might relate to a best friend. The time you first met them you may have considered them just an acquaintance but over time your friendship with them became stronger and deeper. You began to enjoy their company more and perhaps you started to share your hopes and dreams with them; things you would not share with a stranger. You started to love them for their friendship and genuinely care for their well-being.
 
Agapē love is different to this in that it focuses on the value of the person themselves for who they are in God’s eyes. It is often referred to as unconditional love because there is nothing done to earn it or exchange for it. God loves us unconditionally which means He loves us despite our sin. He does not simply overlook sin but instead wants to see us healed and set free from it. He wants to save us by dealing with sin properly and He sent Jesus for this purpose. 


God’s love is unconditional, but salvation is not. 


God provided one way to be saved and He has made it available to anyone who is willing to accept the offer because He loves us.

Agapē is also the kind of love God wants back from us. We should not feel love for God only when He provides for us. Our hearts should not grow cold towards Him when we don’t get what we want, or we think He hasn’t protected us when life gets hard. Our love for God should be much more resilient than this. Sadly it is sometimes the case that people do turn from God when faced with troubles, when they should instead run to Him for comfort and strength.

God pours love into the hearts of His people so that they can love others in the same way; even those who may hate them. This kind of love is meant to motivate us to share the Gospel message with those who do not know God, but our natural tendency is to look at people on the surface. We see their behaviour and can be very quick to judge them, if we consider their behaviour to be bad. 

Imagine if God treated us like that! No, we are called to love the way He does. It does not mean we excuse sin, rather we point people to Jesus by showing them a love more powerful than sin...The way to break the bondage of sin and a human fleshly-nature ruling over us, and that bondage-break is Jesus Christ.

The wonderful thing about Agapē love is that it adds depth to the other kinds of love we experience. Why? Because if someone we care about hurts us, whether intentionally or not, Agapē looks beyond the offense. Though the warm feelings towards that person may seem gone in the moment, Agapē remains. It helps us see the other person the way God sees them and motivates us to seek restoration. This does not guarantee all relationships can he repaired, but it enables us to let go of the offense into God’s hands, and to not be filled with hatred, anger or bitterness, all of which interfere with our growth as Christians.

Does this kind of love seem unlikely? Do you believe only God is capable of it, and that human beings never could be? Truly, only with God’s help is it possible to love in this way. Yet it is possible when we constantly turn to Him, seeking His strength and guidance. Where we are weak, His Holy Spirit builds us up. This kind of love has a supernatural quality to it that cannot be faked. It must come from God’s heart first and then into our own and only then can we demonstrate it to the world.


Acts 4:32-37: All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.  (33)  The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great blessing was upon them all.  (34)  There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them  (35)  and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.  (36)  For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means "Son of Encouragement"). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.  (37)  He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.


Here is a beautiful picture of the early Church. We see love at work in the willingness of believers to help and care for each other, sometimes at great expense to themselves. These are ordinary people who knew God’s love and wanted to pour it out on others. Some might say that anyone could be generous like this and that you don’t have to be a Christian. That’s certainly true to a point but the effect of God’s love at work in the early Church was far more impacting than simple generosity or care for a fellow human being. This was the Gospel message not just being preached but being demonstrated in the lives of believers and it attracted people and the Church grew fast! 

Outsiders saw the Agapē love believers had for each other and they wanted to be a part of it because they saw that the message being preached actually meant something. Lives were being transformed and a community of believers grew in which the values and attitudes were very different from that of society around it. Barriers of class and culture were broken down and people saw each other as equals. In the early Church we see people who would otherwise not have mixed with each other become a very closely knit loving community. This is the power of God’s love to transform lives.


Galatians 3:26-28  For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  (27)  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  (28)  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.


In this passage of Galatians 3 we are told that in Christ (accepted Him as Lord & Saviour) we are all the same. Man-made social and cultural barriers that have come about from racism, sexism, elitism and other ungodly attitudes are broken down. There is no favouritism with God. He sees us all on the same level and all in need of His love and healing. If we are going to call ourselves His children then we must adopt the same attitude.

Jesus gave a very good example of how we are to love others as God loves us. Check out the parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:30-37.

At this time in history the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Some Bible translations will actually indicate this but others don’t and so it’s easy to miss the significance of what Jesus was saying. Some of those in the crowd may have been shocked or even offended since the hero in Jesus’ story is a Samaritan who helps a Jewish man. Remember that the audience here were Jews. This is not simply a story about compassion. This is a story about mercy. 

Mercy is compassion shown despite an offense and this means compassion even to our enemies.


Matthew 5:44-48But I say, love your enemies! [Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you.] Pray for those who persecute you!  (45)  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  (46)  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  (47)  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.  (48)  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (NLT)


If we are to show this kind of love to enemies then how much more should we love our fellow believers!


Ephesians 4:1-4  Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.  (2)  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love.  (3)  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  (4)  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. (NLT)

 
Study Time~
After reading take some time to consider the following questions: 

Q1. Do you find it easy to love others? Even those who have done you wrong? 

Remember, we are not talking about warm fuzzy feelings but the Agapē love that looks beyond any offense to what God sees. The Bible doesn’t make any promises that this is always going to be easy, but it does promise that God’s Holy Spirit has been given to all who accept Jesus into their lives and it is from Him that the strength to love in this way is given. Our pray life should be more than just asking for God’s provision. It should also be for the strength to love as He loves. We should be praying to be more Christ-like.


Q2. Do you find it easy to forgive others or do you find it hard to let go of grudges, anger and bitterness?  

This is the real test of Agapē love. Some may find this a tough question because of past hurts but in no way is this study intended to ignore or trivialise what may have happened to you. God grieves over the suffering of his people but this is why forgiveness is so important. It is handing things over to God for Him to deal with and this sets us free from the burden and puts us in a place where healing can begin. Of course this is not a simple thing to do. You may not feel like forgiving but it rarely starts with feelings. Instead it usually has to start with a choice. With God’s healing the change in feelings will eventually follow but it takes time. Again this is something to pray about.

Recommended Further Reading – “Tortured for Christ” by Richard Wurmbrand.
Here's a YouTube preview:


Remember you can always start at the beginning of this series by clicking here.
And if you ever have a need you can always email Richard and Melanie at zealhouse@gmail.com