Whatever, Be Happy

A few months ago, I left my house to do my usual Target run. However, this time was a little bit different because I was driving in my newly purchased car. As I took it all in – the new car smell, Bluetooth connection, the sunroof – I couldn’t have been happier. In that moment, I started to reminisce about all the wonderful things I had in my life, and then I heard it-that ever so familiar voice-so quiet, yet so loud at the same time. As I raised the volume of the music in hopes to drown it out, I heard it again. “If you didn’t have all of these things (the car, the house, your marriage), would I still be God?”

Yikes!

What about you? If the thing you are waiting for never comes, if what you are praying for never happens, would God still be God? Will you still be able to rejoice in Him if you never get that job or that home? What if you never take that trip or your healing never comes?

Whatever happens, will you still be happy?

Happiness isn’t found in things that are temporary. Sometimes, we get what we want and we’re still not happy; we want more. And suddenly our rich and satisfying life, the life promised to us, isn’t so satisfying. We attach riches to possessions, and happiness to things that are fleeting.

Paul tells us, “whatever happens… rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1). True happiness and satisfaction comes from a genuine relationship with the Lord. In order to walk in this freedom, we need to have a higher perspective. Think BIGGER! Lift up your FAITH! There is more to life than just a good reputation and material possessions. In fact, these things make us lose focus.

So, let’s refocus!

Have new values. Stop holding onto things that you could lose. Learn to be content, and don’t forget about what really matters. “Everything is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Have new vigor. Press on and forcefully advance. Keep your eyes on your race, and don’t let yourself become complacent. Happiness and laziness are not the same thing. Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).

Have new vision. We are citizens of heaven. Don’t live for this world; fix your eyes on the next one, and do everything you can to redeem things here because it will echo in eternity. Wait eagerly for His return (Philippians 3:20).

I know sometimes life can be unpredictable, but what a perfect opportunity for faith. Stop letting fear rob you of eternal joy. Whatever happens, rejoice in the Lord!

Happiness is a Group Project

It all started with a bottle of bubbles.
They were being blown into the air swirling all around a two-year-old who had never before experienced the very simple wonder of soap and water. Whooooooooa! she slowly yelled jumping to try to catch them. She was soon laughing hysterically every time they were blown in her face, and her joy contagiously spread to the adults around her. She laughed, they laughed, and the joy continued to grow, bouncing back and forth between them.

Happiness starts in the mind, but continues as a group project. We have the power to affect one another deeply. We feel each other’s burdens and empathize with wounds and scars; we’re able to come together to share in a person’s joy. Paul’s letter to the Philippians speaks about our collective joy and making it complete by continuing in the vein of community and the spirit of God.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. -Philippians 2: 1-5

Being in relationship and community with others will really shine a light on what it is in our own lives that would keep us from truly being one with each other: our selfishness, our pride, our consistent need to look out for ourselves. But Paul lays it out plainly-we have to have the same attitude as Christ if we are really going to be in community and live out this great happiness group project together.

Jesus never thought of Himself as too great for anyone; he made Himself a servant to everyone. But, He certainly was no doormat either; He knew full well who He was and rested confidently in that. We are to do and believe the same things. His humility was a rebuke to pride; our humility will usher in happiness.

Our Group Project:

1.      We are to prefer one another (Romans 12:10).

2.     We are to edify (or build!) one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

3.     We are to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

4.     We do not judge one another (Romans 14: 13).

5.     We are to admonish (or encourage) each other (Romans 15:14).

If we are to take this project seriously, and believe we are better together then Sundays together are priorities! Serving with one another on ministry teams is a privilege, serving our community together brings us closer to the heart of Jesus.
Are you in?

Be Happy

Happiness.

It’s a universal longing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting happiness because, despite what some may think, God wants it for us too. Happiness is in God’s nature and He has a strong desire to see us happy. In fact, He wants us to be happier than we can possibly imagine. He wants us to have the kind of unshakeable happiness the Bible calls joy. But sometimes this doesn’t come packaged the way we imagined.

The Apostle Paul’s life was colored by horrific experiences. He willingly and even gladly suffered many hardships: he was beaten, shipwrecked, tortured and even jailed for sharing the Gospel. Yet what was Paul’s response to this while in jail? Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice(Phil.4:4).

Now let’s take off our Christian masks for a second and be real here. Rejoice? In prison? No, I’ll rejoice when I’m lying on a beach somewhere. But not Paul. How does he do it? After everything this man endured, he still prayed and sang praises to God. We find him bragging about being in prison for Jesus! How many times have I acted like my entire world was falling apart because I didn’t get my way, and yet here’s Paul preaching happiness in prison. How does he rejoice and stay encouraged while facing some of the worst circumstances?

Paul knew a secret that few people know. He knew the secret to happiness. Except it wasn’t a secret; it’s written in plain sight in his letter to the people in Philippi. This letter was written by Paul while he was imprisoned, awaiting possible execution, and yet the book of Philippians mentions the words joy and rejoice more than all of the letters Paul wrote.

The world needs to hear this! 
People are doing everything they can to be happy and it’s still elusive to most because they’re looking for it in all the wrong places. We have more suicides and drug usage than ever before because people aren’t happy.

Paul’s heart and passion come through loud and clear in this letter. It’s about perspective and Paul wants us to have an eternal perspective. He teaches us that happiness isn’t dependent upon our circumstances. True joy and happiness come from a solid and unchanging source – Jesus.

Paul’s prayer and secret to happiness:

Grow in love and knowledge of Jesus. If you understand who Jesus is, you’ll understand what happiness is. When Jesus is the focus, happiness is inevitable.

Grow in understanding (moral discernment). Discern between what’s vital and what’s trivial. When you take your focus off of Jesus, everything is trivial. The things that try to rob us of our happiness don’t matter in light of eternity.

Be filled with the fruit of salvation which produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Bring much glory and praise to God. When we live in this way, we’re pointing people to Jesus and the glory of God is made fully alive.

You have two choices in life: you can be tossed around by your circumstances and let them dictate your level of joy, or your joy can be found in Christ who is both sure and steadfast - an anchor for our souls. Let’s challenge ourselves daily to tap into this joy in all circumstances.
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Landscaping Jesus

Recently, I decided I was going to be a gardener.
I have absolutely no previous experience, only this image of picking fresh produce, and pruning and drying herbs with incredible smells that would fill up a kitchen. But before any of that could happen I knew there was at least some sort of ground work I would need to do. I raked grass from a small plot of land, pulled up small surface roots, and cleared out rocks and debris hidden in the dirt. Maybe I could have my soil ready to plant in one day?! I thought.

Then I found a root deep in the ground traveling through the land I was clearing. It branched off into other roots that went even further. I found myself with a hacksaw and large shears trying to cut through and tear it out of the ground so it wouldn’t creep back later.

And with the hope of producing at the right time, I stuck with the process of digging up and tearing out.

Our God is One who also sticks with the process of digging up and tearing out: things in our own lives that are not to our benefit, things that will never produce fruit, things that will not lead us towards abundant life.

He is the Great Gardener whose patience with our debris filled plots of land never wears thin, and we are His landscape projects. What better hands to be in?

The digging, the uprooting, the pruning of our lives is not easy, but it’s needed if we’re to grow into all our God has for us.

So, we let Him take us through the hard and wonderful process of pruning anything in life keeping our growth stunted, or less than what we could be. If pruning begins in our minds, then what are we feeding our brains? If our attitude is a byproduct of our thoughts, what takes up our thought lives? The Bible tells us to put to death, to prune out, all of the earthly mess lurking inside of us. Prune out impurity, lust, greed, anger, slander, ugly language, lies…and to renew your mind (Colossians 3:5-10). Some plants are naturally full of vines, and you just can’t plant them together. The roots will become too tangled and nothing will be produced from what you’ve planted.

You also cannot keep lust and greed in your life while trying to plant love and generosity.

But God, in all of His wonder, clears out more than what we need to plant and produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

So, what needs to go? What needs to be pruned and cleared out of your life? Pray for God to search your heart and thoughts; to shine a light on anything that won’t work for the plan and purpose He has for you (Psalm 139: 23-24).

And then watch what grows.
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For All the Lovers in the House

If you’ve ever been caught outside in the midst of an unexpected storm, then I’m sure you know there is nothing fun about it. As the rain falls, and the wind blows, you are bound to get drenched. In that moment, nothing matters more than shelter, dry clothes, and (if you’re like me) maybe some hot chocolate. We instantly want to flee from what’s making us uncomfortable in order to find a place of comfort.

I must say, I would much rather be sitting inside on my comfy couch watching the rain fall outside my window (sipping my hot chocolate) instead of being stuck outside without an umbrella. But life isn’t always about sitting comfortably on your couch waiting for the storm to pass. Sometimes, you feel like the person caught in the rain. And sometimes that rain is on the wrong side of the window.

In marriage, the weather isn’t always sunny. Maybe you’re in a stormy season, or maybe you’ve yet to experience one. But, whether you’ve gone through one in the past, are in one now, or the forecast is currently sunny in your house, my prayer is that you begin to realize when you position your marriage under the umbrella of Jesus you then open up the door to healing, restoration, and joy.

In Matthew 14, Jesus calls Peter out onto the water. As Peter stepped over the side of the boat, he began walking on the water towards Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. He cried out, “save me, Lord!” And Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. As he was pulled to safety, Jesus said, “you have so little faith, why did you doubt me?”

Oftentimes, marriage starts out perfect. God calls us, and together we step out effortlessly crossing uncharted waters to get to Jesus. And then an unexpected storm comes, panic takes over, and our focus shifts from Jesus to our circumstances. What was once effortless is now causing us to drown. If you currently find yourself sinking, be reminded of Peter’s story, and remember you were created to boldly cross over waters, not sink.

How to weather the storm:

Shift your focus

Peter started sinking when he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the wind and the waves. Although your storm may feel unbearable, don’t take your eyes off of the One who can calm the storm.  Remember we live by principles and not our feelings. Learn to release your difficulties to God in prayer together.

Don’t Compare

There are many other marriages out there, marriages that may look perfect as you scroll through social media. But we all know perfection is an illusion, and social media is just a small window of someone’s actual life. In stormy seasons, comparing your marriage to your friends will only cause you more grief. Remember that God created your marriage to be unique and not a copy.

Communicate

Communication in marriage is key. Without it, problems have the ability to pile up and become a weight too heavy to carry. Time spent talking to one another, and voicing how you feel is crucial. Cultivate a judgment-free zone, giving each other the space to communicate openly and honestly. Remember, you are a team. Seek to affirm and forgive instead of criticizing.

Don’t Speak Divorce

Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Words build up or they can tear down. It’s no coincidence this verse comes directly before “he who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22). Remember your marriage is a good thing; choose not to curse it by what you speak.

Seek Counsel

Sometimes you need to seek outside help together, and that’s okay. Keep in mind that this should be from a trusted married couple or individual, someone who is a Christian and who can give you biblical truths for the season you’re in.

Have Faith

Your marriage is meant to thrive. Do you believe that? Your faith has the power to move the mountains that currently stand in your way. Commit yourselves to the Lord, and trust that the victory is already won. Remember, when you go through deep waters, He will be with you (Isaiah 43:2).

Don’t believe the lies: this will never get better, you have failed at marriage, you married the wrong person. Conflict in marriage is completely normal. It is possible to fight fair, and to come out of storms stronger and better than before. Storms have the power to bring you closer to God and closer to each other. Remember why you fell in love in the first place; let that anchor you when the boat gets rocky.
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For more articles visit: www.NewLifeSouthCoast.com/blogs

Home Sick

Home, a noun, is defined as, “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” It is a simple definition that we all can recite. But can it truly be kept in such a small box? Is it really that simple of an idea and so easily defined? There must be more to it, because it is something that we are all searching and longing for. It is more than a dwelling or structure, more than a small family unit.

 

We are all exiles who are searching for home. We long for that security, that hope and peace that home can bring us. We tend to set out on a journey on our own merits, to establish a home. We seek a better life, and strive for more. More money, more power, more influence, more facebook followers, more _____ (insert your more here). We look past what is right in front of us-that Jesus came to bring us home. We search to feel peace, but it is not a place or a thing; it is not tangible. Rather, it is about the condition of our hearts. It is a spiritual and emotional hunger that can only be satiated by Jesus. This is how we can feel whole and complete.

 

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father went out to meet the son as he approached. He did not run out there to scold him, to question him or to say, “I told you so.” The father ran to him to welcome him home again! For the father knew the son was lost, and now was found.  He was able to let go of the past, and was able to speak life into his son. That is what God wants for all of us. He wants us to be happy! We need to feel free and be who we were meant to be by the grace of God.

 

In this world, we let sin make a mess of our lives. Sin will mess up our mind, heart, soul, thinking and words. Sin makes us all broken people, and if we are unable to fix it, then we will continue to go on and break more things. Human nature says we need to fix things in our own way, and that is what makes us strong and capable. Jesus says to lean on Him.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus is enough. The work has already been done, for sin and death have been defeated.  His promise still stands, and great is His faithfulness, for He never fails. Jesus came to bring us home and to embrace what it was to be fully human. He made it a point to be homeless so we knew home wasn’t here, but that only Jesus could take us home.

 

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

 

There is a better place waiting for all of us in Heaven. That is where home will be found. A home where we belong, where were can lay down all of our burdens, sin, past, and be free at last. This life is about redemption and not a standpoint of sin. Allow God to reveal, shape and mold you, and don’t settle for the ways of this world. Run, don’t walk, toward Jesus, for He is waiting with open arms. Here on Earth we will only see pockets of Heaven, where God is reminding us of what is to come, and not to settle on what is here and now. The best is yet to come!

Older & Colder

Do you ever ask yourself why?
Why do you serve? Why do you give? Your why is the driving force of your life. When you lose track of your why, what you do and how you do it will be done with the wrong motives.

 

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the older brother lost his why. Overtime, he lost who he was in what he did, and self-righteousness took over. He became me focused, and when his “doing” didn’t have the outcome he thought it would, he developed hate towards God, his younger brother, and even himself.

 

He couldn’t freely celebrate his younger brother’s return because he was angry and bitter. He believed he deserved certain things from God, and felt the need to remind his father of all the things he had done for him. When we lose our why we operate on the defense; we constantly defend who we are, and measure it by what we do. He felt superior and entitled, and believed he should be getting the praise and celebration that his brother was getting. He reminded the father of all the mistakes his younger brother made and compared it to his obedience. However, he was only obedient out of duty instead of being motivated by love. And because he was a slave to his works, he remained joyless. He didn’t know the father's love, so he tried to earn his way to it. He had no assurance in God and in God’s love for him.

 

Falling victim to the older brother mindset will take us off mission. Church, our why, is the younger brother. It’s going for the one just as our loving Father came for us. It’s never giving up on someone no matter how far gone they seem. And it’s celebrating them when they turn around and come home.

 

Gospel Goals:

-       Remove unnecessary fears from church

-       Take away guilt trips

-       Simplify Jesus

-       Dispel misconceptions about Jesus and the church

-       Bring hope, not doom and gloom

 

The Bible says that the father came to talk to the older brother (Luke 15:28). So, even in our stubbornness our reckless Father still pursues us reminding us that all He has is ours – life, salvation, health, material possessions, family, spiritual disciplines, money, and work ethic. The point of the Gospel isn't so that we can say we’ve arrived. No. The point of the Gospel - why Jesus came, died, and rose again - was to rescue the lost.

 

You can be in church and still be far from God. I believe he's reminding you today that you are His, and in Him you have EVERYTHING.
You don't have to earn it, and you surely don't deserve it, it's a gift - the reckless love of God.

Reckless Father

Have you ever thought to describe God’s love as reckless? The Parable of the Prodigal Son tells a story of a father’s reckless love for his lost son. The father appears reckless when his younger son returns home after demanding his inheritance while his father is still alive, and blowing it on “wild living”. The son eventually comes to his senses and returns home in hopes of becoming merely a servant to his father. Instead of demanding repayment from his son, the father sees him coming in the distance, runs to him, embraces him, and throws a party in his honor (Luke 15:11-32).

 

This is a picture of God’s reckless love for us, and it takes us to the heart of the gospel. Just like the father in this story, God relentlessly pursues the lost, embraces us with His grace and then brings us back in His fold without us having to earn our way back. I’ve experienced this grace in my own life; the grace that asks nothing of me but a repentant heart.

 

In the parable, we also read about the older brother, who’s offended by his father’s response towards his younger brother. He is so angry that he refuses to go inside and celebrate his brother. His offense showcases his self-righteousness. He believes he’s entitled to something because, while the younger brother was away squandering his inheritance, the older brother was at home faithfully serving his father. He failed to recognize that he too was an heir only by grace.

 

Two brothers; two different approaches to life: self-discovery and moral conformity (self-righteousness). Which one are you? We’ve all been one or the other at some point, maybe even both. The most amazing part is that God has grace for both types of people. There’s room for everyone and we’re all invited to the table. We don’t earn God’s grace and we certainly don’t deserve it; it’s a gift.

 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one part of a trio of parables in Luke 15 of which the Prodigal Son is the third. The first two parables highlight something that is lost and the people who took action to find that which was lost: the shepherd goes after the lost sheep and the woman sweeps the house looking for the lost coin. In the third parable, however, no one went after the lost son. As the older brother, it was his responsibility to look after his younger brother, but instead he was drowning in his self-righteousness. The good news is that Jesus, in His grace and mercy, stepped in as the older brother on behalf of all mankind by giving up His life on a mission of mercy to rescue us and bring us home.

 

So let’s remember that grace is free but it was not cheap. Jesus had to suffer and give His life for it, for us.  He understood how serious sin is, and sacrificed His blood as the only currency that could pay for it. Let us follow the teachings of the gospel, shift our hearts and embrace the grace of God and His reckless love for us. Younger brothers, come home! Older brothers, remember why you are home!

Go For The One

Imagine a mom with three young children in the middle of a busy store. She’s going through the aisles, picking out what her family needs when all of a sudden, she no longer has three children in tow. She only has two.

What does she do next?

Start calling out her lost child’s name hoping the sound of her voice gives the child a trail to follow? Retrace her steps? Think of where her child would most likely wander to and start the search there?

Or…

does she stay in one place, look to the left and the right, shrug her shoulders, and continue on with her shopping trip minus one child? She does still have two other children. Would it really be a big deal to go home without all of them?

Why is it so easy to be assured of a mother searching for her lost child until he’s found, but we cannot rest as confidently in our God relentlessly searching for us until we too are safe at home?

God doesn’t put restrictions on who He searches for, recklessly loves, and brings home to Him. He came for whosoever. The scum of the earth, the undesirables, the people you try to stay as far away from as possible, the rigidly religious.

It’s not difficult to get caught up in the roles and rules of religion. The Pharisees knew all of the rules, but religion is different from relationship and they totally missed the heart of God. They knew religion, but not Jesus. How amazing! He was right there! But how many times have we too dropped the mission because we were so focused on religion?

Experiencing God, and being impacted by His very reckless love compels us to action and to go for the one with the heart of Jesus in mind. The people put in our paths are not projects, but instead are people we get to build relationships with, letting the crazy love of God in our lives blindingly shine through.

God is for people. Are we for people just as much?

Experiencing God | Lose To Win

The cross was meant to look like the greatest defeat. It was used to crucify Jesus; a way for the Romans to say, “you lose.”  His suffering and trials were an attempt by the enemy to push people away from God and His will to redeem us through His Son. The cross, however, became the greatest victory: the triumph of our Lord, and the antidote to the sting of death.

 

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9: 23-24 NLT).

Society will tell you that you need to “go find yourself” or “be you.” God is calling you to lose yourself and instead to put your trust in Him. We need less of us and more of Him. God calls to all of us, and in order to heed that call, we must go. It is an active process where walking with and experiencing God requires us to get out of the way and let God lead. We need to walk away from things in this world that are dead if we are to expect life. Major adjustments need to be made in our thinking, relationships, commitments, circumstances, actions and beliefs if we are to let go of the things that are not God. We can’t just put them away in a closet or on the shelf, because we will be tempted to return to them for comfort. Rather, we need to permanently destroy them, let them burn, and continue forward, so we are unable to go back.

 

Jesus will place a calling on you to follow Him, and then He will walk away. He wants you to make that decision to follow. It must be a willing surrender and obedience to His ways. He will not force you. He is looking for you to give up “self” and the ways of this fallen world, replacing them with Him, as a full time Christian. He wants what you do, not only what you say you believe, for the action will reveal what you really believe about God. “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26 NLT). God calls you to join Him in His work; He will empower you to get the task completed. He wants you to know that it was done through His strength, and not your own. That is why it will look impossible if God is not in it. Let how you live your daily life be a testimony of what you believe about God.

 

Christianity in a nutshell:

  1. Deny yourself and your old life

  2. Take up your cross and own your purpose

  3. Follow Jesus to live out the new normal

 

Lose To Win:

Lose Selfishness; Win Purpose                                             

Lose Pride; Win Humility

Lose Entitlement: Win Gratitude                                     

Lose Comfort: Win Experience

Lose Friends; Win Family                                            

Lose Religion; Win Relationship