Monday, December 17, 2012

Joy and Happiness

Joy and Happiness
I sometimes will ask the people that I encounter what is the biggest goal in their life. After thinking through their responses they often settle on the following phrase. “I just want to be happy.” That’s the goal of most of the people in the world.

I just want to be happy….

While that’s a noble thought, it falls short what is best. It falls short of what God wants for us. The reason that this falls short is that happiness is an emotion. It rises and fades depending on your circumstance. When your kid hits a home run in little league you are happy. You jump up and down. You scream. You embarrass your kid. That’s happiness. But with every passing minute that feeling fades. The emotion goes away. That’s the problem with happiness – it comes and it goes. In the good times it’s your best friend. In the bad times it’s no where to be found.

I just want to be more than happy.

And then there is joy. Joy is not an emotion. It’s deeper than that. It’s a gift of God. Joy is what gives contentment when the happiness fades away. Joy gives peace when death rears its ugly head in our lives. When security is taken from us, joy is still there giving us hope in the security of our eternity. Happiness is fleeting. Joy is eternal.
The reason that we spend time talking about joy during advent is simple. Jesus is the source of our joy. It is only through Christ that we can experience true and everlasting joy.
The truth is that our joy is a result of knowing Christ. Our joy comes from knowing that the things that take away our happiness are not eternal. We know that even through hard times, financial struggles, families being separated, and even death; that even through these things, we will join Christ one day and glorify God forever. This is the source of our joy. And what a joy that is.
I hear a lot of people say that December is often the busiest time in their lives. It causes stress. There’s a lot of shopping to do. There are a lot of programs and parties to attend. There are so many things to do that the season begins to wear on them. This is always followed by the phrase, “but it’s ok, because Christmas is soon!” Christmas day is something that is looked forward to. It’s a goal. It’s what keeps them going.
My prayer for you today is that you would view heaven that way. We have eternal life through Christ. What a beautiful thing! I pray that as you think about this, you are filled with the joy of knowing Him. I pray that you can rejoice and scream and shout the goodness of our Lord. (Go ahead, no one’s looking!) I pray that it overwhelms you and your joy reflects the glory of God to the world around you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Hope of Following God - The Light

**you can read the first two posts in this series # 1 and# 2.**

So where were we....hmm...let me check. Oh yes, the burden of following God and how in the book of Ephesians Paul tells us that we "were darkness"  There's nothing quite as exciting as someone telling you that you have lived your life as darkness. That's pretty depressing.

But luckily this verse has two parts and the Hope of the following God shows up in the second part of that verse. Here's the verse as a whole:

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

You see the 'emo' first part about darkness. But then Paul contrasts that with the line "but now you are light in the Lord. "

What a transition! At first we are darkness. No matter where you go, darkness is always seen as bad. Horror movies are usually set at night. Little kids (and a lot of adults who don't admit it) are afraid of it.

But Paul says that NOW we are "light in the Lord" We are light. Light is always seen as good. Light takes away the scariness of darkness. Light is good.  We've gone from darkness to light. 

Why does this give us hope when we are burdened by following God?  I'll tell you.

1. It reminds us that we have been saved - whenever I see someone who doesn't know God, I'm burdened for them. When there is a whole lot of people who don't know God, it seems overwhelming. This verse is a constant source of hope because it reminds me that even I was darkness but thanks to God, I am now Light in Him. So often, Christians forget over time that we are a saved people. We forget that we were destined for a life of darkness but God saved us.  When we forget that we tend to stop caring about others who don't know God. Even worse, we begin to judge them. They are somehow worse than us. That's not the case. It's a good reminder of where we came from and how God has brought  BOUGHT us out of that. 

2. If God can save me, He can save them -  Because we are reminded how God has saved us, we can have a renewed hope about what God can do with the people around us. It's like when I watch "The Biggest Loser". They have these stories about people on the show and how they have to overcome these huge personal obstacles in order to lose their weight. But they work hard and lose hundreds of pounds. I watch that and think. Well crap, that guy just worked like crazy to lose 200 pounds, I can put the work in to lose 20. "  Ok so that's not the best analogy but the point is that when we.

3. We are light! -  my love language is Words of Affirmation. That means that the best way that I feel love is when people affirm me through the things that they say to me. So when Paul says that "we are light" I get a little happy inside. I find myself longing for the day that I get to stand before God and hear the phrase "well done my good and faithful servant" Can you imagine the King of all Kings giving you a good job? How amazing is that? Because we follow God we are saved, we are on the right side, and in the end we have a God who is please with us. 

That is the hope of following God.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Burden of Following God - The Lost

*Before you jump into this post like I know you will, you might want to take a look at the introduction here. This post is part of a series and should be read in order...*

It all started on a long drive. Somehow my deep thoughts always do.  I had been with a large group of people for a few hours one Saturday, (which for an introvert was exhausting enough) but as I settled into my drive I started to think back over the previous few hours.  When I thought about the time, I became sad. Really sad.

I had sat and observed everyone around me during that time and the realization hit me.

"These people don't know God.  I'm not ever sure they want to know God. Some of them proclaim to know God and follow Him, yet what I saw today makes me wonder.."

First off, I never ever want to pass judgement on who knows God and who doesn't. Only God can truly do that. However I can look at someone's life and make an educated guess. And when I look at the world around me I see a lot of people who don't know God...and that kills me.

It kills me that there are people out there who don't have the peace that I do. It kills me that they don't know TRUE hope. It kills me that instead they put their hope in things that ultimately will either leave them empty or lead them to more pain.

One of my favorite songs is by a band called Project 86. It's called "One Armed Man". The song is essentially about this point. There are people who seek to find happiness and fulfillment and end up searching forever because they never find what they are looking for. One line goes like this:

"zombies staring, looking my way, crying out for something they can fill their stomachs with enough to satisfy the hunger growing.....they need something REAL." (look it's very loud.)

It hasn't always been this way. In fact, I would hear people talk about how they were overwhelmed because they knew people who were looking to Alcohol, relationships, drugs, work, and other stuff to fill the void in their lives. I would hear people saying that and I would wonder what was wrong with me. I didn't really notice. I even prayed about it. "God help me see people who need to know you.

God likes prayers like that.  And boy did He respond.

So that brings me to my drive home. I had just been with a group of people who were seeking to find fulfillment in every single place that won't give it to them. I've seen it in so many teenagers over the years. Constantly searching for love and acceptance that they'd so anything to get it. I've seen it with adults who work non-stop just to feel like they've made a difference.   It may sound harsh to compare these people to zombies. But when you watch someone who is looking for comfort consistently turn to something that hurts them, it's like watching a zombie.  And besides that, I was once a zombie. We all live that life at some point.

In the Bible, the book of Ephesians says this:  "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."  Notice that it doesn't say we were "IN darkness" it says we "WERE darkness"

We were darkness.

I'm a zombie, you're a zombie, we're all zombies..hey...hey. ( i can sense a pop song here).

As I drove down the interstate I sat and thought about each person I had seen. I thought about how they were trying to find fulfillment, and I thought of how it would probably leave them empty. It was sad and overwhelming. As I drove, I felt burdened for those people. That's where I realized that following God can lead to being burdened.

But that's not the end. Fortunately, that verse from Ephesians has a second half. And that half leads us to the Hope of Following God. But that's another post altogether.

until next time,

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Burden of Following God - the explanation

The problem about writing for me is that I never know what I'm going to write next. I decided that for a season that I wouldn't have a real plan for this blog. I would simply write when I felt the need to write. I wasn't trying to grow my blog or increase my readers (you 7 readers are the best readers anyways).  I simply wanted an outlet for whatever God has put on my heart.

The problem comes when what God is putting on my heart is tough to say and tough to hear.

I've been sitting on this one for a while. It's been percolating up in my brain which can be dangerous. It's grown from a single thought to a multi-part series that is still growing. But it's tough to write something as you are still trying to figure out. So the next few posts are going to be part of my processing.

I'm calling this series. The Burden of Following God

Just the title is hard for me to write. I guess it's because for 10 years I've tried to tell people of all of the great things about following God. It seems weird to start a post talking about the burdens of following God. I mean why would you want to talk about the negative aspects of a potential decision?

"Hello sir. You should buy this car! It's got an amazing interior. It has awesome engine in it! And it gets 3 miles to the gallon which will cause you quickly to abandon your child's college fund and you'll have to mortgage your house in order to afford the gas for it!"

So that's a crappy analogy but you get the idea. It's weird to start off by talking about the burdens of something. So why do it?

1. I Hate Sugar Coating-  Unless it's on top of an otherwise bland bowl of cereal, I hate sugar coating. But in the church, we've done this for far too long. We've made it sound like following God is a walk in the park. Like all of a sudden when you follow God, everyone sings everywhere they go and there are always flowers and puppies. (this going on the assumption that flowers and puppies make people happy). The truth is that life is still hard after following God...and sometimes it's hard as a result of it. (sometimes the flowers give you allergies and the puppies pee on your new shoes). I feel like it's time to be honest with people. Following God is hard.

2. Jesus did it-  The thing I love about Jesus is that he doesn't do #1. As we'll cover throughout this series, Jesus is pretty blunt about the realities of following Him.  He was clear that there would be struggles to come. I figure if Jesus did it....I can do it too.

As I began to think through this series, I realized something though. That with every burden that I discovered, there was a glimpse of hope that accompanied it.  That's the beauty of God.  When there's something hard, God provides something to give hope. We'll cover that side of things as well.

So that's the explanation. My request of you is to open your mind and heart as I venture down this road for a little bit. If you read the burden, take a minute to read the hope that comes with it.

I think that's it for now. Talk to you soon. 


Friday, May 6, 2011

WholeSale Craziness

My wife doesn't let me go grocery shopping. I mean that when I say it. Apparently I get lost in grocery stores. What takes 15 minutes usually takes me 2  hours. I come home with stuff that wasn't on the list. It's sad really.

Which is why I was surprised when my wife asked me to go to a local wholesale club to pick up a few things. You know wholesale clubs, like Sam's or Costco. Mollie had 3 coupons that were going to expire so she sent me with them to go shopping. What followed was an hour long trek through one of the weirdest stores ever.

I've been to wholesale clubs before. But I think that this was the first time I've ever been to one where my main goal was not to hit every sample food table multiple time. (seriously, this is a lost art). So I got a chance to look around at my surroundings. I was overwhelmed! Here are a few of my thoughts about wholesale clubs as a whole....

1. Where is the peanut butter?- Seriously. Your store is roughly the size of 8 football fields and there aren't any signs point to anything. Where do you keep the peanut butter? I walked the perimeter of the store twice and still couldn't find it. I could have asked but I was convinced it was in some super easy location and I didn't want to look like an instead I walked around for 20 minutes with an empty cart and a look on my face that said, "I'm a man and therefore I'm lost."  I did find the peanut butter though. It was way in the back next to the Gatorade.  I guess that makes sense.  Then I realized I was buying 88 ounces of it. Who needs that much peanut butter? I feel like George Washington Carver used less than that in his entire career. But it's ok. I had a coupon after all.

2. Disturbing Products - On the quest to find the PB, I passed an item that greatly disturbed me. It was the generic brand of mayonnaise. Now I think that mayo, is from the devil anyway so what I saw on this label disturbed me even greater. "Real Mayonnaise" REAL MAYONNAISE?? Isn't all mayonnaise real? I mean what exactly is Fake Mayonnaise? Would anyone buy it? I mean what is the slogan for fake mayonnaise? "The best imitation crap on a spoon you can buy!" Just thinking about it makes me want to throw up. ugh. Luckily I still had my coupons to keep me motivated in my shopping

3. Would you like a surfboard with that? - on my PB quest there was one point in which I stopped to look around. Within 15 feet of me  were the following items:  Shrimp Cocktail, Hamburger Patties, Pizza, a shed, a surfboard, a ocean kayak, a gas grill, and a swing. I felt like I had died and gone to A.D.D heaven.  I mean you have to be A.D.D to shop in that order. "Hey honey can you pick up some hamburger patties...oh and while you are there, grab an ocean kayak if they have them. Just seeing all of those items in one place made me want to take a nap...which I could do on the mattress that someone was carting out the door. Still I plugged on for the rest of the items on my coupons. After all that's what I was there for.

4. Underwear- I'm sorry if you do this but do we really need to buy underwear from a wholesale club? I mean how bad off are you if you need 42 pairs of tightie whities. I understand if say a wolverine gets loose in your closet but seriously, how often does that happen? Like once every couple of years? Plus how do you know if you are getting quality undergarments?  That's just odd. Do they have coupons for underwear? I didn't, so I kept moving coupons in tow.

5. Register Extras -  So I track down all of my items on my coupons and head up to the register. I was lucky because I just had one guy in front of me and he was part of the way through his order. The cashier looked up at him and asked, "Sir, would you like to donate some money to the Children's Miracle Network?" I'm not sure why they ask. I've never seen someone actually say yes. In fact when I worked at a grocery store I got tired of asking because the answer was always no. So as I stood there and waited it caught me off guard when the man said "yes".  What?  He said yes. The cashier had an look of overwhelming joy. "THANK YOU SIR! THANK YOU!" I can't believe it. 

It might have been selfish of me but all I could think of was..."oh great, now if I say no I'm going to look like a jerk." I started to think through how I was going to tell this now radiant cashier that I wasn't going to be giving him any extra money.  Do I look sad that I'm not? Do I just shake my head no?  That stupid guy in front of me. I can't believe the position he has put me in. Now I look like I'm a children hater because he gives money and I don't. I can't stand him. Such a jerk.

While I'm getting rung up, the cashier asks me and I softly say no. I didn't look up but I'm pretty sure that he was giving me the glare of shame. I paid for my stuff and left. As I left I sat in my car and steamed (felt bad) for the kids. None of it would have happened if it weren't for captain generosity in front of me. That guy was terrible...I looked for a chance to pull out and head to the exit. There were tons of cars leaving. They all passed until one car stopped to let me out.  It was the guy who was in front of me in line......jerk. 

I started to drive home. At one of the stoplights on the way to my house I glanced down. Sitting right in my shirt pocket were three coupons....never used. My wife was going to kill me.

Portions of this tale are true, and portions are fiction. See if you can guess which is which.....comment your thoughts below.