The Surest Way to Be Happy

There are times when you’re going to be happy, and there are times when you’re not. You can’t always be happy. We live a life of the flesh. We’re vulnerable to sin.

When sin entered the world, our feelings of happiness became inconsistent. Sometimes we know it and other times we crave it. We crave it from the moment we’re born! It’s okay to want happiness and it’s okay to pursue it. And you know what? We have help.

We can remember to take God with us. Everywhere we go!

Complete happiness is found in intimacy with the Father. You’ll feel complete happiness when you are sitting at His throne and He smiles on you. That’s completion. That’s perfect happiness. That’s the warmth and joy you crave.

You will feel great! You will have peace and joy! No more anger. No more inconsistency. You’ll be on an even keel and all the storms will be over. Nothing left but calm.

I am sure that people who walk through life without Jesus will find happiness, but I don’t think it’s as great as the happiness that comes from intimacy with God. Now that I know the happiness and joy that comes from our King, I have to have it!

But I lose Him. We all do. Just remember that as often as you lose Jesus, you will find Him again. This is not a bad thing. It’s actually awesome. There’s nothing like the joy you feel when you find Jesus in different places on your walk through life. You’re like a kid whose Dad or Mom has just come home.

When I come home, my sons see me and they run straight for me. “There you are, Daddy!” They run and jump in my arms because they’re so glad I’m home. Man, I love the smiles on their faces when they run and jump in my arms! They say, “I’m so glad to see you!” I truly think they are happy when they do that.

I think that’s the feeling we have each time we find God. We have that feeling of, “There you are, Daddy! I’m so happy to see you!” You know? We have that same feeling of joy.

I don’t stay home all the time. I come home and I leave again. And I come home again, and I leave, and then I come home. When you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re going to lose Him the same way during your journey in life.

My sons lose me because I go to work, but we lose Jesus because of our flesh. We just get distracted. He doesn’t necessarily want us to lose Him, but it’s going to happen. It’s always going to happen until He comes again.

Even if He doesn’t go anywhere we’re going to lose Him. Even if He’s always there we’re going to lose Him. The irony is that we lose our greatest source of happiness, God, because we’re trying to find happiness! We think, “Well, this car will make me happy.” Or this outfit, or this new athletic gear, or this new book. This will make me happy!

Jesus says, “No, stick with me! You’ll be happy!” “Yeah,” we say, “but there’s this thing that I need. It will make me even happier.” And Jesus says, “Well, it won’t. It will bring you temporary happiness. You’re right about that. And that’s why I want you to have it.

“But just remember, that’s not it. If you forget about me, if you forget about intimacy with me and devotional time with me, if you forget to bring me along with you, if you forget to understand that we still need to talk and dialogue, you’ll lose me.”

I really think that’s what He says!  So that means the surest way to be happy is this: don’t forget Jesus.

See you Monday.

Sing for Joy!

Families all over the world have Christmas traditions. For many Christians, it’s the only time they go to church, unless they also go on Easter.

We go to Christmas Eve services, light candles, and sing carols. We sing “Mary Did You Know” and “Joy to the World,” and we have manger scenes. It’s all good. It’s part of the spiritual message and part of church history. It’s real.

But I’m still moved to ask, why do we do all this? For example, why do we have manger scenes? Is a manger scene just something you put in your yard or on your stage when you do your Christmas Eve production? Or do you really think about what it means?

Do we really understand the message?

We’re singing “Joy to the World,” but why are we joyful? That Jesus came and died?

Well, that’s part of the gospel, but there’s more to it than that. Jesus wasn’t born just to die. He was born to bring us good news! The gospel started with His birth on December 25th — if that’s the actual date — and we’re still living it. Living in the gospel’s truth! That’s the joy that the world needs to know.

When I sit and carefully examine the Christian life of discipleship, I see the Christmas message in a whole new light. The birth of Christ was a significant moment in history. It was the day that God’s redemption began its transformation of everything in creation. Christmas day — the day the Good News was born into the world — is the day that God started discipling people. Christmas day is the day our new life began.

At last, we can fully understand the concept of life — in all its glory!

This understanding is pure joy! We proclaim “Joy to the World,” because now we understand why we have life. We don’t live to judge or be judged. We live to love and be loved!

Christmas is when it all started. Christmas is when it all happened. Two thousand years ago, or a little more than that, this good news came into the world. This man Jesus came down from heaven to walk this earth.

He walked with us. He answered all our questions and fulfilled all of our thoughts. Now we have a reason to live. Now we know why we live. Now we know how to bring joy. Now we know that we are are loved unconditionally. That frees us to do the same.

This is the joy we proclaim. So let’s sing “Joy to the World” this year, and let’s bring it! Let’s bring joy!

Merry Christmas!

Living It Out in Joy

The resurrection is power, man. Resurrection power says, “I have conquered death. I have given eternal life.”

When Jesus resurrected, He said, “We’re family. Now you live in a family in which your sins have been taken from you. Now you live in a family in which death has been conquered. I have died for your sins, and I have resurrected, giving you new life.”

I am in the family of God because I believe in who He is and what He’s done for me. I’ve been justified. I’ve been justified because of the blood of Jesus and the faith that I have in what He did.

But I believe the lifestyle of Jesus is really where it’s at. I believe in living it out. I love humanity. I love the concept of human life and why we were created. And I love God, the creator of life. So I worship that God and I serve that God. I do that by doing my best to live under the commandment that He gave us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

I worry about those who say, “I’ve accepted Christ and I’m justified, so now I’ll just sit here in my chair and I’ll wait for the Second Coming.” I worry because I believe they will fail. They won’t find happiness that way.

There are tons and tons of people that choose salvation. They do the message, and they admit they’re a sinner, and they believe in the justification, and yet they’re not happy.

They’re not happy because they’re not living the life of Jesus. The joy comes from living it. It’s about asking, how am I striving to live for Jesus? That’s it. That’s the way to happiness.

You’re starting to see more and more people on that course. Those that live the life of Jesus, man, they find joy. Think about it. Just handing some food to a homeless man or woman and walking away feels really good. It makes you happy.

Why does it feel so good? You didn’t make any money. You actually lost money doing it. You know? So that’s not why you feel good. You feel good because there’s something inside of you that says, “Man, that was awesome.” It just feels awesome to love your neighbor as yourself.

And whether you believe in Jesus or not, you just did what Jesus would do.

The sad thing is, I believe some people live their lives every day with that “love your neighbor as yourself mentality,” but they don’t believe in Jesus. I think it’s going to be a sad day when judgment comes. But even the non-believers who live out the “love your neighbor as yourself” concept find joy in this life. They find it. That lifestyle will always bring joy. It’s in everybody’s soul to be that way.

See you Saturday.

Replacing Suffering with Joy

I don’t know how to replicate what Jesus did for me.

I know it’s not by standing on a soap box. It’s not by holding up a sign, saying that without Christ you’re going to rot in hell for eternity. I don’t believe Jesus did it like that. Jesus did not walk through the villages and say, “You better accept me or else rot in hell.”

So how do I do it? I’ve spent years working on this question. I’ve read and prayed. I’ve asked God to show me how He wants me to reflect the love of Jesus. I’m not done yet. I think this is an ongoing part of the Christian life. But the effort so far has been worth it. I truly believe that God has given me an opportunity to reflect Jesus in an awesome way. God has shown me how to follow Jesus by becoming a servant leader.

As a servant leader, I get to help give suffering people every possible chance to experience joy. What a blessing! I want to do this! I want to ease their burdens. I want to help create new and sustainable ways of living through clean water, food, family, freedom, and fulfilling work. I want to help create joy in the very best way that I possibly, humanly, can. That’s the most that I can do, but it’s the least that Jesus does. He loves us so much!

Being a servant leader also means guiding and teaching. While I am doing my best to create joy in places where people suffer, I am also creating opportunities for young people to participate. I am nurturing them as servant leaders. To me, there’s no greater way to feel Jesus than that.

I love my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will do whatever He asks. I want to know that He looks down on me and smiles. I want to feel that so much, and I can feel His smile when I do something good for somebody. I can feel His love reflected back to me.

That’s why I feel good when I go to bed at night. I lay my head down on my pillow and I feel great. I’m enjoying life so much!

You can do the same. You can go to bed saying, “I just helped someone get rescued from slavery today.” Or you can say, “I just helped a village of 1500 people get good drinking water.” You can say, “I just helped build an orphanage that will put shelter over kids’ heads and give them positive opportunities to learn and to be leaders.” Or you can say, “I just sent 200,000 meals to hungry families and fed them for a year.” Whatever! There are so many opportunities!

There are so many opportunities for us to create joy. Not a day goes by that we don’t receive the opportunity to reflect the love of Jesus into the world. And when you know that you’ve done it, man, that’s just an awesome feeling. You have received the love that He gives and then you’ve shared it. You’ll feel it because you’ve replicated it.

That’s the joy of bringing the kingdom!

See you Friday.

Joy in Waiting, Being, Doing

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. 1 Samuel 16:11-13

As a young shepherd in Bethlehem, David got his call – to be King of Israel! And what happened next? Nothing! He just went back to his sheep.

Fifteen years passed before David took the throne. It was an eventful life. He became a celebrated hero when he killed Goliath. He wrote beautiful music. He joined the household of the existing king Saul, and he made lifelong friends.

At the same time, not all of David’s life was good. I mean, not good at all! When King Saul found out that David had been chosen by God to replace him, things got rough for David. He was persecuted by Saul. It was so bad that David actually had to run and hide. He kept on the move, hid out in caves, and survived by his wits.

This was the life of the man who was already anointed king! He had been called to the throne, and yet he wasn’t ruling. He was hiding in caves!

David waited 15 years to become king. I think we want our call in 15 minutes. So David’s story is instructive. He had to wait, man. He had to wait a long time to become king.

Waiting for a call can be tough (although hopefully not as tough as it was for David). It’s so hard to wait! But there is so much joy to be found in waiting. You can still be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, just as David was. Open your heart up to God your Father, and say, “Alright, what do you want me to do? Anything you want me to do, I’ll do it. I just want to serve you.”

Tell Him, “I am a child of yours, and I would love to go out and be a part of something that’s just awesome. If now is not the time, okay! But I’d really like to go, if it would be okay with you. I would love it.” And then just see what He says. If He says no, then that’s okay. Keep doing what you’re doing. If He says yes, He’ll make it happen.

I think sometimes God wants you to ask. If you never ask, you’ll never know. That’s what the Bible says. “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2) But don’t forget, if you’re going to ask, you’d better be ready for the answer! If His answer is no, then you need to be okay with that. You may be disappointed, and it’s okay to be disappointed. But you need to accept His answer.

And if the answer’s yes, then get ready! You might find that you need to be accepting of that too!

And you know what? Right now, while you are waiting, God is still calling you to joy. Joy is found in doing, yes. But it is also found in waiting. And sometimes joy is simply found in being, right where you’re at. I think that’s important to God. Sometimes He wants you to just be. Be content. Be content for now. When He feels like you’re ready for what He has in store for you, He’ll call you. He’ll send you out. Trust Him on this, and until then, just be content.

In the long run, you’re going to be happier because you waited. If you do something that you think is great, but you do it outside of God, then you’re going to be disappointed. And if He lets you go before you’re ready, then you’re going to be miserable. You’re not going to like what you’re doing.

God doesn’t want that for you! What would be the point? God wants joy for you!

So wait until He calls. Find joy in the waiting. Find joy in the being. And when the call comes, you can be sure that you’ll find joy in the doing. Kingdom work is joyful work! And that’s what God wants for you.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

The Joy That I Feel

I’ve spent years studying, asking God how to reflect the love of Jesus. I want to help create joy in the best way that I possibly, humanly, can. That’s the very most that I can do, but it’s the very least that Jesus does. He loves us so much.

If you read the Bible, it’s all about loving your neighbor. It’s all about helping those who do not have. People think the Bible’s a bunch of made-up stories that make this life sound great. But I think it’s Truth. I think it all points to Jesus. It all points to what he came for. Not only did he come to die on the cross for us and save us from our sin, but essentially, He came to fulfill us.

Part of our fulfillment in Jesus lies in helping the poor. Continue reading