3 Ways To Find Real Joy

Joy…it can be an attitude, a destination, a journey, or an emotion.  Do we find joy, or do only some of us get to experience it when joy finds us?

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Some of YOUR most joyful moments might include:

  • Your first kiss
  • Catching a big fish
  • Your wedding day
  • The birth of a child
  • Winning the lottery
  • A memorable family vacation

These are all great things.  But they are merely experiences.  What you and I need is a constant state of being that is saturated and energized by JOY.

“…the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”   – Matthew 2:9-10

So, what was the star to these wise men?  It was simply evidence of Jesus.  And that led them to experiencing ‘great joy’ when they saw it.  You and I can learn something from the wise men in this passage.  Real joy is attainable if we just look and notice Jesus in our lives.  I’m not talking about on Sundays and in the 10 minutes of our devotional time each morning.  But really making an effort to notice his presence in every moment of every day.

Here are 3 ways to find JOY in your day:

  1.  Ask for it | Yep…pray!  Be on it like a dog on his bone.  Plead with God every day to let you experience joy to the fullest.  Believe it or not, God really does want you to have joy in this life.
  2. Expose yourself to it | Get creative here.  Read books on joy and happiness.  Listen to podcasts that are encouraging.  Follow people on Twitter and Instagram who constantly exhibit a joyful attitude and faith walk.  And hey…hang out with happy people, and limit your exposure to those who are always negative.
  3. Plan for it | Journal.  Write a letter to yourself describing the joy you long for in your life.  Talk to a friend or get a mentor/life coach.  Ask them to guide you and offer constructive accountability.

Take a moment to watch this music video by Rend Collective.  Let the lyrics marinade with your thoughts about true JOY.  And may you truly have joy in your life this week.

An [infographic] on New Approaches to Your Spiritual Growth

Do the words ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ make you cringe?

Well, you’re not alone.  Many followers of Jesus in America wrestle with what they are and are intimidated when encouraged to practice them.

I really like this infographic  (by Tehanna.com)

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 12.19.48 PM

I’m speaking from personal experience here.  Most people over-complicate their spiritual maturity journey.  Mainly due to naivety.    The biggest key, I believe, is to put perfection out of your thinking and simply start somewhere…don’t quit…and focus on practicing one or two of the disciplines.

(I’d encourage you to click on the infographic and read the rest of their article)

Where have you struggled or flourished in some of the spiritual disciplines?  I’d love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below.

 

5 Things To Consider When Asking Jesus To Work

I’m sure we’ve all been there.  Circumstances which are out of our control often lead us to saying things like, “Lord, I need a miracle” or “God, why is this happening to me” or “I’m not sure if I can make it another day.”

Can you relate?  (I thought so)

Take a quick look at this passage from Matthew 20:29-34.

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him.  And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”  The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”  And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”  They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”  And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

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So try to keep these things in mind when asking Jesus to move in your circumstances:

1)  When asking Jesus for his mercy, make an emotional investment (Lord, have mercy on us).  These guys asked more than once.  They put their heart into the request.  If it’s not meaningful enough to us, it probably won’t be meaningful to Jesus.

2)  Ignore the naysayers (The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent).  There will always be those around us who doubt God, his ability to do anything, or that he even cares.  When this happens, surround yourself with believers who are mature in their faith who will partner with you in prayer.

3)  Be specific with your request (What do you want me to do for you?).  Jesus already knows, but it’s that relationship thing again.  He wants you be make it personal with him.  Notice, however, that he doesn’t ask the men ‘How.’  This is super important.  Simply answer the ‘What’ and trust him with ALL the details.

4)  Trust that he does care about you and why you are making your request (Jesus in pity touched their eyes).  When translated, the word ‘Pity’ literally means to have compassion.  Jesus was moved by their situation…and he’s moved in yours as well!  Remember this the next time you ask for something.  And imagine Christ looking intently into your eyes with compassion, caring, and genuine concern.

5)  Follow him, even more than before, once he answers your prayers (and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him).  Never take his touch on your life for granted.  There’s always a reason, and it will almost always bless someone else who is not even involved in your specific situation.

 Today, may you cry out to Jesus with all your heart and clear expectations.  And may you find peace as he turns and looks into your eyes.

Comments are always welcome!

4 Healthy Steps For Your Current Season

I have found that we are constantly in one of four very distinct seasons of life.  And these four seasons tend to cycle.  I’m sure you can relate.

4 seasons

Mountain top | This seems to be the shortest season.  But it also tends to be the time in life when we don’t seek after God as aggressively.  This makes sense, right?  When everything is going great, marriage is solid, and the car is running well…we often find ourselves not NEEDING GOD as much.

Heading into a valley | You know this season.  It is inevitable and you can virtually sense things rolling down hill with increasing momentum.  It’s Monday morning.  You receive a disturbing phone call on your way to work.  The car breaks down on the highway.  Maybe uncomfortable changes are on the horizon at work or in your church.  This season is not horrible, but it’s an indication of things getting harder.  And they’re usually just around the corner.

In the Valley | This one…..well, it’s just terrible.  It’s the polar opposite of the Mountain Top season and lasts quite a while (or at least appears to).  Crying ourselves to sleep at night and waking up with a sarcastic outlook on each new day is pretty common.  This season is so bad and so difficult to maneuver through, believers can actually experience a deeper and richer intimacy with Jesus.  We tend to search harder, pray more often,  and look for evidence of His activity in our lives with more detail than every before.

Heading to the mountain top | Relief!!!  It’s here.  Can’t you feel it?  Subtle signs of hope begin popping up in areas where pain and discouragement were just the other day.  This fuels us with new energy for life and a positive look forward into tomorrow.

So, what can we do when we’re in the two most challenging seasons of life?  Here are four practices I have personally learned to be life-saving for me over the years.

1. Stay in God’s Word |Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)  The Bible is packed full of encouraging, insightful, and knowledgable passages like this.  More than this, though, it is God’s Word.  He uses the Holy Spirit to speak and reveal things from His heart to ours through reading the Bible.  In the dark seasons it’s less about how much we read, and more about reading anything in God’s Word every day.    

2. Get out of the house | Surround yourself with others.  People who genuinely love you and have your best interests in mind are going to be encouragers to you.  They can also be a powerful sounding board in you situation.  God chooses to speak to us through other healthy believers quite regularly.  Seek them out.  Take a risk and let others into your life.  This rarely ends badly.

3. Read | Find a book or blog that deals with your season of life.  Something that you find helpful and encouraging or challenging.  Ask a friend or pastor for names of good Christian authors they read.  Reading helps redirect our attention away from our own stress and worry.  It provides positive food for our mental energies.  Find something today and dig in!

4. Pray for the difficult things | It’s one thing to pray for help, strength, or simply the need for the next ‘feel good’ season to come quickly.  To accept the season we are in, however, and ask the Lord to teach us something new is a whole new approach.  It’s hard, but take intentional moments to set aside your pain and dismay in order to ask God to grow your understanding of Him and His will.

What season are you in today?  What did you learn, or how did you grow, from your previous season?

Leave a comment below.  Let’s grow in this life together.

 

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.ryankapp.com

Sabbatical | Day 1

A Sabbath, in it’s simplest terms, is a time of rest.  I am fortunate to be on staff at a church that puts a high value on personal health.  We are encouraged to take an additional day each month (or 3 days per quarter) for personal Spiritual rest and rejuvenation.  This is the first church in 23 years of ministry where I’ve experienced anything like this.

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Every time I am on a Sabbatical experience I like to journal my thoughts.  It keeps me focused.  It’s a form of meditation for me.

So, I’m out of town for 3 days.  Mostly, I try to catch up on sleep and enjoy some much needed solitude.  But I do have a few areas of focus for those 3 days.

Reading | A significant part of my reading plan does include the Bible and a couple different devotional resources.  Additionally, I am reading ‘No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols‘ by Kelly Minter.

Prayer | I am very intentional to pray over my family.  This is always first.  I am also praying for the next 6 months of our new multisite church campus.  Prayer for specific families, continued healthy growth, and renewed vision are key focal points this week.

Entertainment | I like to eat at places I usually don’t get a chance to eat at where I live.  I will also try to watch 1 or 2 movies on Netflix, since I don’t normally have time to watch many movies during a regular work week.  And adult coloring (a form of art therapy) is something new I’m trying this week in an effort to clear my thoughts.  Looking forward to this.

Planning | This will include looking ahead at the next few months.  Strategically making initial plans and doing a little self-evaluation as well.  I will normally try to schedule my next 3-day Sabbatical during this time.  If I don’t it will likely not happen when it should.

Have you had any kind of a Sabbatical experience before?  What did you do?  And if not, what part of this post sounds intriguing to you personally?

Join the discussion, leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  pixshark.com 

“Taking the Church’s Biblical Pulse”

(This is a continuation of an  article I wrote for Light and Life Magazine’s January issue)

photo by: urbanchristiannews.com
photo by: urbanchristiannews.com

Most Churches have a degree of illness in them.  It’s to be expected…Church is comprised of flawed people.  Now, we really can’t talk about Church health without utilizing the Bible.  I know we ‘say’ that, but do we regularly compare our Church health to Biblical principles?  Let’s take a look at what I believe to be 5 key issues that make up the foundation of a healthy Church.

1) People Before Task Lists –  Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), not to put our ‘To-Do’ lists before people.  Life gets busy for all of us.  Tasks and errands affect everyone.  If we are not careful, however, we will get all of our boxes checked off but miss the hungry soul that crosses our path and not even know it.  This is what I normally refer to as Spirit Awareness.  I am constantly finding myself praying daily for the Holy Spirit to grab my attention when I am about to have an opportunity to plant a seed for the Kingdom.  If I do not ask for this I am typically not going to look for it.

2) Scripture Before Comfort –  This one is so uncomfortable, yet singlehandedly kills Churches.  When a fellow believer needs to have an unhealthy aspect of their life addressed, Ephesians 4:15 encourages the Church family to speak the truth in love, not ignore it in hopes that the issue will magically disappear (because it never does).  And if there is an offense or sin between believers, Matthew 18:15-17 clearly tells us how to go to the individual and take care of it.  Note, texting or sending them a direct message on Facebook does not count.  Trust me, even if Jesus had an iphone in his day I am pretty sure he would say what he had to say to your face and not drop subtle hints on your Instagram account.

3) Lord Before Pastor –  I realize this one might be a bit sensitive for some folks,  but it is right there in the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:3).  We are to have no other gods before Him.  Did you know that the use of ‘gods’ here could translate “person of greatness or power?”  Lead Pastors are in this category.  This does not make them bad people, but Churches often place their Pastor on a pedestal so high (unintentionally) that they become the focal point of who is leading the Church instead of God.   Here is a tough question.  If your Pastor left your Church (circumstances aside) would it continue making an impact for Heaven without skipping a beat, or would it completely implode?

4) Sabbath and Prayer – There are seasons when we simply must rest.  Jesus modeled this with his disciples saying, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)  This applies to us as individuals as well as to the Church.  Might I suggest that it is O.K. occasionally for the Church to shut down ministry for a week of prayer?  Our church does this three times a year.  During a week of prayer we strongly encourage (all but mandate) all Bible studies, groups, student ministries, and outreach events to cease.  We then ask the congregation to join us in prayer and worship each night at the Church.  

5) Keep everything in the light – In other words, do not lead the Church via top secret Board meetings and ‘off record’ one-on-one talks with people who have personal agendas.  Likewise, avoid ignoring problems of gossip, infidelity, and other compromises of the faith within the Church.  Address these issues head on and with everyone involved once you become aware.  When evil is brought into light it cannot thrive away from darkness (Eph. 5:13-14).

Healthy Churches make greater impact for the Kingdom of God.

Is there anything you would add to this list?  What are some examples of solid Church health that you have seen?

Comments are welcome below, or you can leave me a voice message HERE.  God bless.

* Credit:  The majority of these principles come directly from our Operational Values at Christ Community Church, compiled by Rev. Keith Cowart.