Love, Joy, Peace

Emotions bear fruit in our relationships. If our emotions are toxic, then we will grow toxic fruit with others. But if our emotions are healthy, then we will grow healthy fruit.

But how do we minimize the toxic and maximize the healthy emotions that we need? There are fantastic Christian counselors who provide wonderful insight and give us powerful tools to understand more fully the “how” and “why” of our emotions. I encourage everyone to spend some time talking to these Christian professionals so that we get a handle on our emotions (Call First Norfolk for recommendations).

We also have a constant Counselor with us who guides us through our emotional journey: the Holy Spirit. When followers of Jesus allow the Spirit to set the trajectory of their lives, their emotions will flow toward health.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16, NKJV)

The most powerful way to have victorious, satisfied relationships is to submit continuously to the Spirit. He leads and we follow. “Walk in the Spirit” is a continuous action by which we constantly, moment by moment, live intimately in-tune with God through the Spirit. We stop, take a breath, and pray. The Spirit listens, gives leadership, and loves us so that our emotions bear the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22, NKJV)

1. Love.

The fruit of the Spirit is love (agape). The source from which all the other ingredients of the fruit flow is the love of God poured into our hearts and expressed in our relationships with others by the Spirit who dwells within us. This love is the love of God unveiled in the giving of Jesus for sinners (1 John 4:9). As we persistently yield to the Spirit, the Spirit ignites God’s love in our heart. He warms our soul with a love that satisfies us completely so that we can.

2. Joy.

Joy (chara) flows from the love of God poured in our heart, and through this love we become ambassadors of this joy with others. This joy is not a mood, like being happy or “not sad.” It is the state of the soul satisfied in fellowship with God regardless the circumstances. Therefore, as we relate to others, we are ambassadors of joy because we are ambassadors of Christ, satisfied in fellowship with God by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

3. Peace.

Peace (eirēnē) in Scripture is the fullness of life. It is the knowledge that our future rests in the hands of a loving Father who loves us perfectly. It is the comfort that our troubles do not have the final say, but the Lord of Love is working today on our behalf. Peace is not a seasonal remedy for a perennial malady. This peace is forever through the gracious love of God to humanity through Jesus Christ the King!

When the Spirit transforms our emotions, the love of God warms our heart, produces joy that time and circumstances can’t touch, and gives us a satisfaction and fullness in our soul. Our emotions flourish in the soil of the Spirit’s presence and grow the fruit of love, joy, and peace. Because we know that we are loved, we can love others more fully. Because we have joy, we can lead others to joy. Because we have peace, we aren’t trying to control others in a selfish way.

So, today, do the hard work of submitting to the Spirit so that your emotions are transformed from toxic to healthy.

Stop. Take a breath. And pray:

“God, as I submit to Your Spirit, will You transform my emotions so that they produces the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace) in my relationships.”


Dismantling Fear

While walking down a mountain trail, I heard the sound that was out of tune with the birds singing and the leaves rustling in the breeze. It was a sound that brought fear to my heart and to my hiking buddies. It was a rattle snake, and it was mad. The tune of this snake’s rattler warned of the danger that its venom could create. Immediately, we wanted to distance ourselves from its dangerous song of fear.

Chaotic chords bring fear to rest in our heart, like the rattle of a venomous snake. Perhaps you are hearing the anxious tune of circumstances out of your control. Maybe you find yourself in the grip of fearful situations for which you have no answer. The chorus of chaos rings loudly in your heart, and it creates chaos in your relationships as well.

That’s what fear does to us and to our relationships. Because we live in a real world with real-life drama, the soul-shaking “what ifs” are natural. To experience fear is one thing. To be controlled by fear is quite another. Controlling fear can sweep us up into crazy behavior that invites a lack of health in our life and relationships. Fear can create chaos in our soul that can lead us to create chaos with others. But it doesn’t always have to be this way.

“You will not fear the terror of the night, the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in darkness, or the pestilence that ravages at noon.” (Psalm 91:5–6, HCSB)

How do we get to the place where fear doesn’t control us? How do we move beyond the “what ifs” that haunt us? What does God use to dismantle the fear that brings chaos to our soul and carnage in our relationships?

1. Stay close to Jesus.

Fear that controls us can make us say and do crazy things that derail healthy relationships. To dismantle the chaos of fear in our hearts, we need to settle securely in the grip of God.

“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1–2, HCSB)

The point that the psalmist is making is simple. When we walk intimately with Jesus, in the secret place of fellowship with Him, we make our home under the protective shade of His power and love. The idea of refuge is one of a secure, protective area which God guarantees as a safe place because He is there.[i] The idea of a fortress is the picture of an eagle’s nest, built in the heights so that no enemy can assault it.[ii] When we trust God and commit our way to Him and dwell in the hiding place of His love, we will find security in a world filled with uncertainty.

2. Rest in God’s rescue.

God will deliver His people! This is His promise to followers of Jesus. And we need to hear the beautiful sound of that promise drown out chaotic chords of our fear. Whether it’s the fear of a hunter’s snare or punishing pestilence, we can rest in God’s faithful love to rescue us.

“He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net, from the destructive plague.” (Psalm 91:3, HCSB)

When we rest in God’s rescue, our fears are muted. When our fears are muted, our relationships are strengthened.

3. Hide behind the Father’s protection.

“He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” (Psalm 91:4, HCSB)

God will protect us in the shadow of His grace. The Father’s wing hovers over us to guard us. The wing of the Lord is His truth, with which He surrounds and encircles His people in protection. The shield of God’s truth is the revelation found in His Word. The Father’s promises show us the path toward peace and protection in the safe harbor of His tender care.

The chaotic chords of fear run their icy fingers down the spine of our soul, freezing our courage and shrinking our hope. If this ferocious song of fear becomes the melody of our soul, then we will experience out-of-tune relationships. Yet, we can dismantle fear when we sing the song of faith in Jesus. So, let’s start singing!


Out of Sync

When a car’s wheels are not aligned, then the car will move forward but the going will be slower, use more energy, be more uncomfortable, and can damage other things on the car. In the same way, when our emotions are out of sync, then our relationships suffer.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31, ESV)

Paul helps us understand the way out of sync emotions work in our relationships. When we have “bitterness, wrath, and anger,” the progression of those emotions leads to shouting, slander, and malice. It’s like the wheels on our car. If they’re not aligned and we don’t correct the problem, then the whole car will be affected. If our emotions aren’t aligned to the Holy Spirit’s control, then all of our relationships will be affected.

1. Identify emotions out of sync.

“Bitterness” (pikria) is an emotion of resentment. It’s not a passive feeling but an active and aggressive emotion that searches for reasons to resent others. Rather than reconciliation, “bitterness” demands that one nurse the wrongs and wounds received from others.

“Wrath” (thumos) is a boiling heart toward another. This is the picture of a pot of water that has just come to the point of boiling. It bubbles and pops. The energy in that pot is easily seen. That’s what the term Paul uses here means. It is a passionate expression of negative emotion due to feelings of resentment.

“Anger” (orgē) is personal animosity toward another. It springs us into negative actions. To yield to anger is to give room for the devil to create sin-saturated carnage in our relationships.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26–27, ESV)

When the waves of emotions build up in our heart, don’t just run with those feelings. Stop, take a breath, and pray: “God, are the emotions I’m feeling in line with the Holy Spirit?”

2. Understand where out of sync emotions lead us.

When we don’t deal with bitterness, wrath, and anger, then our relationships will have to endure more soul-shattering struggles.

“Clamor” (kraugē) is the barrage of shouting erupting from emotions out of sync with the Spirit. When we are filled with anger, we clang and bang our emotions, attempting to shout down any opposition to our self-focused desires.

“Slander” (blasphēmia) is abusive speech. This is when we talk bad about another person with a desire to cast them in an untruthful and harmful light. It can begin with vitriolic whispers which build into a crescendo of hissing hate for another.

“Malice” (kakia) is the picture of bad intentions. Simply put, we just want to hurt the other person when our emotions are out of sync with the Holy Spirit.

The key for us when dealing with negative emotions is to look to the Holy Spirit to align our emotions to His Word. This isn’t easy. But it is what God wants to do in us to build healthy relationships. He is working in us to transform us, including our emotions, to be more like Jesus.

“Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23–24, ESV)

As we spend time with Jesus through the work of the Spirit in our lives, the Spirit will begin to align our emotions to Jesus.

So, today, let’s stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, is the emotion I’m feeling a reflection of Your heart?”

If not, then ask the Holy Spirit to help transform your emotions so that they are in sync with the character of Jesus.

Heavenly Words

In 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea, hurling hundreds of people into its icy waters. Each captain of the ships could’ve taken evasive action, but they refused to yield to the other ship. Their inflated view of their own agenda created a swirling vortex of suffering and death for the people on both ships.

“The authorities said 398 people, all Soviet citizens, appeared to have drowned; 116 bodies were recovered, and 282 passengers were listed as missing. The authorities also said that both vessels’ captains knew for 45 minutes that they were on a collision course but ignored warnings, and that the captain of the Admiral Nakhimov abandoned his bridge minutes before the crash.” [New York Times]

So often our relationships become captured in the vortex of suffering because we get stuck in the muck of pride. Our words become captured in the net of desires that feed our ego but damage the ones we love. We all experience it, but we can’t excuse it or ignore it. We need to change course.

God uses our words to build healthy relationships. Remember what the writer of Proverbs wrote:

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4 NKJV)

James helps us understand more about the nature of a “wholesome tongue.” Through the pen of James, God shows us the heavenly words that He uses to build satisfying, strong relationships.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17, ESV)

Followers of Jesus have been filled by the Spirit so that we can experience supernatural conversations inspired by heaven. But first, James talks about conversations that are not heavenly.

1. Words that are snared by the Net of Ego.

James teaches us that our drive for personal glory does not produce words that are wise. When we have a ferocious desire to set our opinion above all others, then we will use words that lack the blessing of God’s wisdom.  That’s what “bitter envy” is all about.  When we try to exalt ourselves above another, then we will use words that lack God’s blessing.  That’s what “selfish ambition” is all about.  We’re trying to get something for ourselves and for our own glory.

Words are not wise when tooled for personal glory. In fact, James cautions us in verse 15.  When arrogance and ambition infect our speech, we use words inspired by the devil himself.  The more we use the words snared by the net of our ego, the further we push ourselves away from God’s wisdom and healthy relationships.

2. Words that are sparked by Heaven.

In verse 17, James now shows us what heavenly communication looks like. When our words are sparked by heaven, then they are pure — without sin or evil intent. They are peaceable — seeking the best in life for others. They are gentle — not seeking to break the soul of someone and willing to bend to the needs of another. They are full of steadfast love and produce great things in a person’s life. They are truly a tree of life for those around us.

We want to please our King Jesus with our words. Heavenly words promote the righteousness and peace of God in our relationships. It doesn’t mean that what we say is always easy to hear, but it means that we are seeking God’s glory and agenda in our relationships and showing it with our words. When our words reflect the heart of Jesus like that, then we will set a course for our relationships to be wrapped in heavenly joy and contentment.

Before we use our words today, stop, take a breath, and pray:

“Lord, are my words sparked by heaven or captured in the net of my ego?”



Steering our Relationships

I don’t know much at all about aerodynamics. I don’t understand how a metal machine can fly through the air. But when I’m traveling by airplane, I understand enough to know that the metal strip on the wing that moves up and down while we’re in the air will set the direction of the plane in some way. Officially, I believe that little strip is called the aileron, and when it moves, the flight path will change.

Our words are like that. When we use our words in one way, our relationships will flourish. When we use our words in different way, then our relationships will crash. Our words set the direction of our relationships, a point that God makes to us through the pen of James.

“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:3–5, ESV)

1. Our words set the direction for our relationships.

What we say and how we say it has great power. The tongue is a small thing, but it has enormous influence. The question we need to answer is where are our words leading those relationships? If our tongue is a rudder to the ship of our relationships, what is the course we are plotting?

2. To set the right direction, say what Jesus would say.

God wants us to grow up each day, to become mature followers of Jesus. How we communicate with others shows how we are becoming more, or less, like Jesus. We become more mature when we harness our words to bless others and bring life into their world with the love and grace and truth of Jesus.

Let’s use our words, not to score points in an argument or defend our egos. Let’s use our words like Jesus did. Jesus spoke to influence others to know God more intimately, to find the power of God’s presence in their daily lives. Jesus described His words and work among His friends and followers in this prayer:

“For I have given them the words that You gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (John 17:8, ESV)

We must commit our words to Jesus, and let Him speak through us into our relationships today. Just as Jesus pointed His followers to God the Father, imagine how our relationships would be different, how healthy they would be, if we harnessed our words to point our friends and family to know God and experience His power!


Words that Give Life

Our words can give life or death in our relationships.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21, NKJV)

In our relationships, what we say and how we say it has the power of life or death. We cannot underestimate the power of our words. Before you say what’s in your head, think about what those words will do. Are they going to give life or give death?

1. Wise Words. (Proverbs 12:18)

Life-giving words are wise. Our words can be like a sword that pierces the soul with devastating results. There’s nothing righteous about words that destroy others. They are the fruit of spiritual immaturity. Those who are wise, who have a heart in tune with God, surrender each word to the Lord to promote health in relationship with their words.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, ESV)

Before we speak, let’s submit our words to the Spirit of God, asking Him to show us if our words are wise.

2. Truthful Words. (Proverbs 14:25)

Our words are life-giving when they are true. They are death-dealing when they are deceitful.

“A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.” (Proverbs 14:25, ESV)

Words that are saturated with honesty and integrity reflect the heart of God (Prov 12:17). Literally, we breathe stability, honesty, fidelity, and truth. When our heart is right with God, speaking His truth is as natural as breathing. We speak through lips and hearts surrendered completely to Christ.

Before we speak, let’s submit our words to the Spirit of God, asking Him to show us if our words are true.

3. Necessary Words.

This counsel from God about life-giving words is perhaps as difficult for you as it is for me. We don’t always have to say what we’re thinking. If words aren’t building up the other, then they’re not necessary.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28, NKJV)

Restraining the words that come into our head and remaining “cool” under personal challenge are a reflection of a heart controlled by God. Just because we have an opinion doesn’t mean that we should share it. When we submit our words to God, we can be confident and secure, even when we feel like we’re being attacked. We don’t need to defend our fragile egos because we have safe-guarded ourselves with the certainty of God’s presence in our lives, so we speak only what God says is necessary. Sometimes, being silent is what gives the greatest health to our relationships.

Before we speak today, let’s submit our words to the Spirit of God, asking Him to show us if our words are necessary.

4. Gracious Words.

For our words to be life-giving in our relationships, our words need to be gracious.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24, ESV)

One day sometime ago, I was on a plane traveling to speak at a conference. The flight was pretty bumpy and some people were obviously scared. Each time the plane shook and jumped, their fear was palpable. There was one attendant who spoke with caustic frustration. She didn’t help anyone. She just increased the tension on the flight. But there was another attendant who smiled and spoke gentle words of comfort and peace.

When our relationships are captured in the turmoil of uncertain circumstances, we need to speak pleasant words. These are words seasoned by the grace of Jesus Christ with the wisdom and direction that He alone can provide. Gracious words help calm those we love and evaluate the situation with clarity of faith in Jesus who loves us.

Before we speak, let’s submit our words to the Spirit of God, asking Him to show us if our words are gracious.

A true heart seeks God’s heart in what we say. Through prayer, we determine if our words reflect God’s character. Through Scripture, we align our words absolutely to God’s Word, which is the revelation of His heart. No syllable out of our mouth should stand in conflict to God’s Word. Through the Spirit, we surrender our speech to God.

When we seek the heart of the Father, consider the heart of Scripture, and surrender our words to the Spirit, we will be on safe ground in speaking, not in foolishness, but in righteousness. And we will give life, not death, to our relationships.