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Have you been looking for joy in all the wrong places?

If you believe that an impressive college education, a spotless home or well-behaved children are your password into the kingdom of joy, you have it all wrong. If you somehow think that losing 25 pounds, marrying the person of your dreams or being the owner of a passport filled with impressive stamps from exotic and far-away places will give you a money-back guarantee to perfect and perpetual joy, then once again, my friend, you have it all wrong.

Joy is found in one place and one place only — "In Your presence is fullness of joy!" (Ps. 16:11, MEV). If you desire a joy so pervasive that it will trump every other circumstance in life, then you must spend time in the presence of the Lord. Joy is a solid, identifying by-product that results from that intimate relationship with the King of all Kings.

When you make a willful determinate to receive Jesus into your heart and to submit to His lordship and authority, you are making a decision to receive eternal joy into your life. God is delighted to partner with you in this bountiful explosion of joy, which is a taste of heaven that is delivered to those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Joy is the ability to experience in our humanity the blessings that the Lord enjoys in His divinity.

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Now keep in mind that while the joy of the Lord really is your strength, the devil knows that if he can rob you of your strength, he will turn you into a weak, whining and ineffective Christian. Did you know that the devil is not after your health? Did you realize that Satan could care less about your marriage or your finances? And your children don't mean a thing to the devil!

What the devil is after is your joy and the way he tries to steal your joy is by going after your health, your marriage, your finances and your children. The devil knows that he cannot deny you of your salvation or of the forgiveness that Jesus has given to you. Instead, he tries to steal the most valuable commodity that he is able to get his greedy, little hands on. Satan is relentless and he will do everything that he can to lie to you and eventually deceive you out of your joy.

If you are desperate to retain this joy of the Lord that will literally defy all of your life's depressing, sad or disappointing situations, then you must choose to marinate in His presence. How do you do that? Well, it's really not that difficult. You make it a priority to spend time reading your Bible every day; you might also turn on a worship CD and even sing along with it! If you are very bold and extremely desperate, you will choose to lift your hands in the air as an act of surrender while you worship.

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Ps. 100:4, KJV).

Another important aspect of your time with God is being thankful. I encourage you to make a list of things for which you are thankful. Don't stop at five or 10 but be lavish in your thanksgiving and make a list of 20...or 50...or 100 things for which you are grateful. I believe that for a Christian, thanksgiving should never be reserved for merely one day of the year or only one season. Thanksgiving should be a genuine daily lifestyle.

Speaking of a daily lifestyle, prayer is yet another exciting recommendation. Prayer, at its core, is simply time that is set aside for just you and Jesus. Simply close the door to your bedroom and kneel beside your bed as you have a heart-to-heart conversation with the one who knows you the best and loves you the most.

When you get up off your knees and walk out of your bedroom to face the world, you will find that you are not alone. You have a new best friend to walk through the day with you. You can simply call this friend...Joy!

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Dr. Mark Rutland's

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