Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Nativity

   With it being the Christmas season, people are bringing out their favorite Nativity Sets.  Every Nativity set I have seen have included Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Wise Men (and no the Bible doesn't say there were three of them, just the three gifts).  There are two major players missing from every Nativity Set I have seen.  The first one is the inn keeper, and its probably because he was to busy making money and he didn't have time for a crying baby who happen to be the promised Messiah.  The second person who is missing from the set is King Herod.  He had an influential role in the Christmas story and he was the reason that the first family fled to Egypt (and fleeing to Egypt fulfilled Old Testament prophecy which is more important) and Herod was the main reason why a bunch of toddler boys lost their lives because the Wise Men chose to listen to God instead of a crazy king.  I think there are several reasons why King Herod gets left out of the Nativity set and if you want to read the Christmas story with King Herod's exploits, it can be found in Matthew 2.   

    The first reason why I think King Herod gets pushed to the back of the Christmas story is because he reminds us to much of ourselves.  He was a king who was temperamental, two faced who was a narcissist.    Herod built buildings, temples and a fortress for himself to show off his greatness.  How often are we just as narcissistic as Herod was.  We may not be building structures or temples to show off our greatness, or killing babies, to protect our greatness in a culture that values self promotion, we have outlets to encourage our narcissim. YouTube and other social media outlets are the perfect way for us to fulfill all of our narcissistic desires.  We can tell people how great we are and we can put out a certain persona that may not be holy or even true.  One of the traits of being a human, especially a narcissist is that there needs to be a façade that needs to put out or betrayed.  It is a particular story we stick to that we get some sort of sick gratification from because this façade is often filled with half truths at best, or are just flat out lies.  Facebook is great for promoting this façade and it allows us to blow things out of proportion and it allows us to portray a certain narrative that is not always healthy or holy. 

   The second idea why Herod gets left out is that just as he didn't like his authority challenged, we don't like our authority challenged either.  How often do we get our undergarments in a bind when we are told that we are dead wrong and there is actual proof that our thoughts, actions and speech are not right.  When you were a Roman king, you were a deity and had god like status.  So when the promised Messiah decides to be born and there was the rumor that His throne and authority will last forever, that made Herod uncomfortable and he felt threatened.  When people feel threatened, they often take matters into their own hands and try to fix things so they can preserve themselves.  It is really a classic flight or fight response. First we asses if the threat is fake or real, and then we either run in hoping to preserve ourselves, or respond with some sort of action.   For Herod it was fighting the threat and he decided to have all the males below a certain aged killed in order to preserve what he thought was important.  How many times has our attempt to preserve our way of life or comfort lead to really bad decisions with even worse consequences. 

    I think that there are two things that we can learn from King Herod.  The first one is that we can not serve two masters.  We see throughout Scripture that when we try and serve our won self interest and when we try to keep ourselves on our throne, it never ends well.  When we try and serve two masters, not only do we end up loving one and hating the other, but to be practical about it, serving two masters is like texting and driving because you end up failing doing both.  We become distracted at doing both and send texts that are poorly worded and we are putting our own lives and the lives others in danger.  Serving ourselves may be fun and fulfilling for a time, but in the end, we alienate people and we keep on chasing the next big thing because we can not be satisfied.  Serving God is the only way we can be satisfied.

   The second point is that sometimes we often fight the hardest the very thing we need the most.  Herod fought so hard for self preservation that in all reality, if he was interested in it, he would of let it go.  What I mean by this is that Jesus not only came with authority and power that will last forever, but to give us life abundantly.  Thy only way we can have this abundant life is by losing our own authority and personal right to be right (I know this is so un-American it hurts, because being an American is all bout being right no matter how wrong we are).  It is submitting to Gods authority and allowing Him to change us from the inside out and have Him rule our lives.  In Phillipians 2, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we can submit to Gods authority now and all will be well, or be forced to when He returns as the King and that will not be a good thing

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Coventants Part II

   One of the things I realized lately is that the idea of covenants are not for the faint of heart because a covenant does not require just a piece of us, but it requires all of us.  A true covenant is between two people and God or between a group of people and with God.  A covenant always makes the distinction that God is always involved and if we were left to do things on our own, I am not sure how many things would actually be completed or even started if God was not involved providing a way, strength and direction.  One thing I realized yesterday is that a covenant requires , sacrifice, service and yes even death.  All three of these things can be found in the Gospel of John the 13 chapter

  The context to this section of Scripture is that it is known as the Upper Room discourse.  Jesus is meeting with His disciples during His final Passover meal right before His prediction of His death comes to fruition.  This chapter is famous because Jesus strips down to His undergarments and washes His disciples feet.  When you travel dirt roads by foot in sandals, your feet tend to get dirty, and the washing of feet was designated for the slave who was the lowest on the seniority list.  So when Jesus did this, it was speaking volumes to everyone in the room.  If you are going to be apart of Gods covenant, we are not to be worried about titles, position of power or consume ourselves with ego trips, but we are to serve.  Service is not about doing it when its convenient, or things that we like to do, but it often is doing things that are dirty, things that take us out of our comfort zone and even things that are counter cultural.  I think that true service isn't that sexy thing that screams look at me, but often it is where we do things and no one notices.  Service is not about using it as the next step up the ladder, but glorifying God and bringing other people along.  Service could mean spending time doing kids ministry at your local church, to building an authentic relationship with the socially awkward person you know.  True service is doing something without  seeking anything in return. 

    Another aspect of being covenantal is that it takes sacrifice.  Its not sacrifice if we give don't have to give up something that we do not value or that we have plenty of.  If we have an extra hundred dollars, sticking twenty dollars in the red kettle as you walk into Wal Mart is not sacrifice, but it could be an ego inflator and a look at me moment. Giving any amount of money to a good cause like the Salvation Army is always a good thing, but lets not call it sacrifice when it doesn't cost us something great and that we are not relying on God strength and mercy.  Sacrifice also calls us to interact with more than just the people we like or even tolerate.  True sacrifice often means that id does not matter if we are serving friend or foe.  When Jesus was washing His disciples feet, He could of skipped right over the feet of Judas, but He chose to wash his feet anyway.  I am all for healthy boundaries with those who have hurt us or the trust that has been betrayed by both parties.  Sometimes sacrifice means praying that God will bless them and not smite them or give them some horrible disease.  Sometimes its treating those who have hurt us with dignity and respect and not throwing them underneath the bus on a daily basis.  Sometimes sacrifice is granting and seeking forgiveness because God has forgiven much with us.  This does not erase the past nor does it justify it, but its owning to our part and we are no longer handicapped by the wrong.

     We can talk about sacrifice all day long, and how we can sacrifice our time, talents, and anything else that we may find important, but if it does not lead to self denial and death, our sacrifice is done in vain.  Where the rubber meets the road with covenants is that for covenants to work, there needs to be something that is binding and to make it so.  Throughout the Old Testament, when covenants were entered in to, the blood of a first born animal with no blemishes was the thing that sealed the covenant.  The animal was placed on an altar and was burned to commemorate the covenant.  There is also a reminder that if the covenant was broken, the same thing would be done to the person as what happened to the animal on the altar, which was death.  So covenants are a big deal and there is more to joining Gods covenant than saying a prayer and inviting Jesus into ones heart, but it is dying to ourselves on a daily basis so that God can have more and more of us. 

    In the Old Testament, the sacrificial system allowed people to interact with God, it was incomplete because it was done by humans, so it needed to be repeated.  For Gods covenant to be made complete, the book of Hebrews states over and over and what the whole Bible was pointing to was that there needed to be one sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  This sacrifice needed to be perfect and could not be done by human hands.  Jesus was that sacrifice to end all sacrifices, not only was He the Son of God, but He was also perfect.  In Matthew 27, the author shares the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and when Jesus died, the veil to the holy of holies in the Temple was torn in two.  The Holy of Holies was the place where Gods presence dwelt and only the priest could enter into the holy of holies on certain occasions, and if they were not right with God, they would die.  Church lore has it when a priest entered, the other priest would die a rope to his ankles with bells, so that if he did die in there, they were able to pull him out.  The significance of the temple veil being torn down the middle is that we all can have access to God and Jesus sacrifice provided a way for us to enter into that covenant with God.  So in response to Jesus ultimate sacrifice, lets make ourselves a living sacrifice, where we continually die to ourselves to that God can live in and through us.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Covenants vs Contracts

   Recently I finished up another book by NT Wright on the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.  Wright touches on Paul's life, his New Testament letters to the various churches and things that were culturally relevant to the first century church.  There are a few things that caught my eye in the book that has gotten me thinking and one of the concepts I have been wrestling with is how Paul presents what the church is to look like.

   Where we get our concept or the word church comes from the Greek work ecclesia, which has the meaning of assembly, congregation, or people who are called out.  Paul adds another concept and that God and His people actually partner together for the work of the kingdom.  If we are to look at this partnership, I think that there are several things that come into play and need to be looked at.  Such things are the relationship between contract and covenant, if we are the church, do we really need to meet together, and do we all need to look alike to be the church. 

  When I first think of partnership, I often think of that there is some sort of contract involved, wither it is written or unwritten.  Contracts are meant to lay out expectations, duties and it usually is for a particular period of time.  As I pay attention to the sports world, one could come to the conclusion that contracts are meant to be broken.  Whether it is a head coach being relieved of their duties during the middle of the season, to athletes holding out, in hoping to get a new and even better contract.  Maybe it is just a Western thing, but with contracts, we can write in outs of how one or both parties can nullify the contract and so it becomes void.  This allows both parties to either renegotiate a new contract or go their separate ways.  Marriage has become nothing more than a legal contract, where if one or both parties realize that it is not what they signed up for or the terms of their marriage (or contract) are either not being meet or are being broken, they rip up the contract and get a divorce. 

   Another idea of contracts is that we either agree to give up something or to provide some sort of service.  It seems to me that a contract or a contract mentality never really provides an all or nothing scenario.  We are willing to give up a portion of ourselves or let this thing run a part of our lives, but we save room for other things that are important to us.  This could lead to us not giving are all or trying to find ways around our obligations of the contract.  This could lead to insincerity, not giving our all, or our relationships becoming so awkward that we just avoid people at all cost.  Or to paraphrase a quote from the movie Top Gun, "Our ego is writing checks that we either can not or are unwilling to cash."

  The idea of covenant, has some similarities as a contract, but it is more binding.  Throughout the Bible there are several covenants or promises that God set up with His people and even creation.  Whether, it is the Noah Covenant (where God will never flood the earth again), Moses Covenant (the Ten Commandments), the Davidic Covenant, (where the promise Messiah will come through his family)to Jesus covenant where He will make all things new and our relationship with God will be restored.  My favorite covenant is the one with Abraham in where God made a promise to Abraham that His descendants will be as numerous as the stars.  One can read about the covenant between Abraham and God in Genesis 12-17.  There are several basic differences that come up in this section of Scripture that helps explain what a true covenant is.  The first one is that there is sacrifice involved to seal the covenant.  The sacrifice makes it real per se and it gives both parties a stake in what is being promised.  One thought is that if the covenant is broken, the offender will suffer the same consequences as the what was sacrifice did.  When we have skin in the game, it helps us to keep up our end of the covenant and to make it work.

   Another idea of a covenant is the idea of an outward sign signifying what has taken place.  It acts a reminder of what is promised and even who we belong to.  Just as a wedding ring shows our commitment and that we are spoken for, in the Old Testament, circumcision was that commitment and it was a reminder of who we belong to.  In essence, we are drawing a line in the sand and that from this day forward I choose to live my life differently and not as my own.  I think we need the daily reminders of who we belong to and the promises we made, or we tend to forget rather quickly.

   The last idea that I will mention here is that every time a covenant is formed, God is always involved.  It could be in our marriages, friendships, to those who keep us accountable, to even our work.  A true covenant is where God is involved and He is the one setting the standard.  A covenant without God is nothing more than a promise or contract that can be easily broken.

  So how do covenants work to those who are not only called out, but partnering with God.  The first one is that yes we are the church, but this does not give us an excuse to gather as Gods people.  I know being apart of the church is out being Gods hands and feet, which is an important aspect of partnering.  When we only focus on being the church, I have this feeling we are turning ourselves and the church into an inanimate object or some sort of machine.  When we are solely focused on being the church, I think it robs us and others of our personhood and it treats others as an end to a mean and not as people of God with feelings, emotions and a history. Truly partnering with God is of course going and doing, but we are also called to gather together on a regular basis.  How can we find time to worship, confess, grow, learn, and listen if we do not gather with people who are like minded and who are striving to become a people who are sanctified through Jesus Christ if we don't meet. 

    Any time we are in covenant with God and other people we have to have thick skin and a soft heart.  What I mean by this that we can not be easily offended by everything that comes our way.  Anytime when we deal with other people, there is a good chance of something stupid will be said and or done.  We have to know what is truly offensible and what we need to let roll off of our back, hence the think skin.  When we are in a covenant with God and others we can not be so hardened that we can not hear the truth and being to take it in and use it to change.  Having that sensitive heart allows us to be more open to Gods leading and knowing where to go, what to say along with when and how do these things.  When our heart is hard and we do these things, we can come across as a jerk and most of the time we are. 

  My last thoughts is that covenants are hard, because it requires sacrifice and a reminder that we do not have it all together, not matter how hard we try.  This is why contracts and more so covenants that God needs to be involved, because contracts have the here and now in mind, covenants may have the here and now aspect, but it also as the eternal perspective that is kept in focus.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Betrayal sucks

  With it being Holy Week last week, it got me thinking about the Easter story and the different people within the story.  The person that jumped off the page for me was Judas Iscariot, or the one who betrayed Jesus.  Judas gets the attention during the Easter story for his betrayal of Jesus, but we somehow forget his attempt at redemption and his eventual demise.  Here are some very random thought on Judas and the weeks leading up to his infamous act in history. 

   The first take away I can take away from the life of Judas is that even though he walked with Jesus for three years, he still didn't get it.  Yes, one can go down the rabbit trail on whether God predestined Judas to betray Jesus, but I think that Judas still had a choice.  I don't think he woke up one morning and decided to betray Jesus, because most often than not, it takes time and little life choices that make us calloused.  Those little choices will set us on a path for either great opportunities or destruction.  We can change mid stream and make better choices and change our direction, but we have to be self aware of our life situation and have enough vision to see where are actions and attitudes are leading us and be willing to change them.  It is the frog in the pot of water.  We have to know that the water is getting warmer and that we are going to be dinner instead of not recognizing the change in water temp.

   My second observation is similar to the first and that is being disgruntle or restless often leads to compromise.  In John 12, Jesus feet are anointed by Mary with a very expensive bottle of perfume.  Judas objected not only because it was a very expensive bottle, but also better things could of been done with that money like feeding the poor or going on some retreat to a plush resort on the Lake of Galilee.  Jesus rebuked Him and claim she was doing the right thing.  How often do we become restless and even disgruntled when we don't get our way or we feel that we are not being heard.  Being disgruntle or apathetic often is compounded on each other when we think our needs or wants are not being met or taken care or when we are not being heard.  If we do not handle these attitudes correctly, they will lead us to make questionable decisions and comments and then it becomes a vicious circle.

   The third observation is that betrayal sucks.  It doesn't matter if you are the victim or the perpetrator.  It often means the end of a relationship and that there are going to be trust issues.  I think one of the reasons why betrayal is to attractive is that it gives us an upper hand.  How often do we betray someone's trust to force their hand into getting the to do something we want them to do.  I think this is what compelled Judas to do it, it would be so that Jesus hand would be forced into setting up the Kingdom here on earth and driving the Romans out.  What Judas failed to recognized is that betrayal never gives us the results we want and it makes things messier than what they should be.

    The fourth observation is that there is this question that did Jesus really make Judas do this, or did the devil really take over Judas.  Here is my take, I think Jesus knew Judas was going to do it.  Judas was discontent enough to where the devil could use him to try and force Jesus hand.  It was a hail mary for the devil and it did not work
   The fifth observation is this idea of repentance and what do we do when we realized we messed up.  Judas realized that He screwed up and tried to return the money to the temple, but the High Priest could not accept it because it was considered blood money.  Judas response was that he betrayed innocent blood, which he did, but he still didn't get it.  He didn't claim to betray a prophet, Elijah reborn or even the Son of God, but to Judas, Jesus was still some guy who did some cool things, but He didn't deserve the death He got.  When Judas realized that his view of the kingdom and Gods view are two completely differently things and when things couldn't go back to the way they were, he was so overcome with guilt and shame that he went and hung himself.  Guilt and shame are two very powerful emotions that has two distinctive paths that are very different.  The choice is ours in the one we take. The first path is one of forgiveness and redemption, in which we do not let those actions handicap us for the rest of our life and we move on a path of restoration and work at building healthy relationships with God, others and ourselves  The second path is where we make more questionable decisions in which makes our guilt and shame worse and it destroys our relationships.  I often think that we do not completely understand the impact our sin has on ourselves or others.  I think if we did, we would live life differently. Here is a PSA, guilt and shame can do a number on someone.  The only way our guilt and shame can be absolved is through seeking forgiveness of God and changing our ways through the power of the cross and the Holy Spirit

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Being Present

  A few years back I did an internship at a hospital with the spiritual care team.  I was learning how to care for not only the patients of the hospital, but the staff also.  One of the themes of that summer for our group was the idea of being present.  How can we provide quality spiritual and emotional care if we are not fully present with the people we are with, but also with ourselves.   The themes of being present has come up for me in different podcast I have listened to and different conversations I have had.  Here are some things I am trying to put into practice. 

  The first thing about being present is not being so focused on what is next that we forget to be in the here and now.  I know growing up and working on homework, especially math, I get so focused on what the next problem was, that I forget to do the current step, or I would miss a few things because I was so focused on doing what was next.  Being fully present in the here and now means that we have the ability to look at and to know what is on the horizon, but it is getting things squared away in the here and now so that we can be fully prepared for what is next.  If one was called to be a doctor, they would not start their own practice until they have faithfully completed all of their training and passed all there test.  A lot of the time, being fully present in the hear and now will help us with future endeavors and relationships?  

  The second part of bout being fully present is that when we are not this, we are being disingenuous with the people we are with.  When we are in the same room with someone and we spend more time on our phone than building our relationship, it shows where our priorities are.  It could say that I really don't want to be here, or that Facebook drama/cat videos are way more interesting that you are.  It also means that we are a jerk when we do this because we find objects more gratifying than people.  I know there are times that we just need to check out and do something mindless, but if it is something we do constantly, there might be something wrong.  It also shows what we value.  Last night I got ice cream with a group of friends and it was so much fun that time flew by.  I made the conscience choice to not check my phone so I could be fully present with the group and we ended up sharing a lot of laughs and even a few shaking of the heads. 

  The third part about being fully present is this idea of communication.  How many times have you been accused of not listening, especially by your significant other.  Most of the time we can repeat what was said, but we are still missing the point.  Often times we are not listening because we are not getting the importance or the intensity of what is being said or not said.  I was with a patient one time and we were talking about how he was in the hospital and he couldn't make it to his sons funeral.  I could of told you the facts about our visit, but I wasn't hearing what he was truly saying.  He was truly sad that he couldn't be there even though there had been some family issues that hadn't been fully resolved. 

  The fourth part about being fully present is that our body language aides or hinders us in being fully present and engaged.  I know for me, how I am sitting and my posture plays apart of how engaged I am with the people I am with and how aware I am of my surroundings.  Body language also affects how other people see us and react to us and how they open up to us.  If you are much of a sports fan, there have been the athletes who have been tagged with not caring or not living up to their full potential because of posture, body language and facial expressions.  Two of the big names would be the quarterback Jay Cutler and current Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins.  With Cutler, he always looked to me that he was either having a bad day or that he would rather be elsewhere than where he was currently at.  The media likes to point out with Wiggins that he is extremely talented, but does he care enough to put in the work to use his talent to improve his game and to improve the Wolves.  How people perceive us may not always be accurate, but our bodily language and posture and how we present ourselves plays into how people perceive whether it is right, wrong or indifferent.

   The fifth part about being fully present is what we say non verbally.  I know this is very similar to the previous paragraph, but here me out.  We can say a lot by not saying anything.  Its really the idea of someone's silence being deafening.  We can say a lot by not saying anything at all.  Being fully present is not only knowing what to say/not say, how to say it, and when to say it/or just to keep our mouth shut.  We are always communicating through words, body language, actions and attitudes and this often affects how present we are with people.  I am sure I am not the only person to be in a room with someone and when someone else walks in, the conversation, tone and attitudes change on a dime for various reasons.  This change often forces us to make a choice on whether we want to stay engaged in the situation, check out or leave.  Just remember, being fully present and engaging the people we are with and situations we are in takes work commitment. 

   The last thing about being fully present is how much do we value other people and ourselves.  Do we really care what they are saying and going through, or are we just looking for the next big thing.  We can not worry about possibly missing out on something else that is more awesome that where we are at.  When we do this, we are missing out on the cool possibilities in the here and now.  When we are not full present, we are saying that the moment we are in, and the people we are with are not worth our times and that just makes a condescending jerk.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wishing you were here

One of my favorite songs by Pink Floyd is Wish You Were Here and every time I hear it, I think of friends who are scattered across the country. Its more of me wishing we all could be together to at least share a meal together. As I did a digging, I found out the song was for Syd Barrett, who was one of the original members of the band, but left the band because he developed schizophrenia. The song was written because the band was wishing he was still apart of them and enjoying the success they were experience. This song has gotten me thinking and here are some very random thoughts that have transpired from this song.

Over the last year, there have been a lot of news coverage people committing suicide. It seems like this has affected people in every walk of life, and it doesn't matter the amount of success, money, or friends the person has, they think that suicide is the best option at that moment. It is hard to find someone who has not been touched by suicide in some way. It seems like the last two suicides I either heard or read about, the people were well loved, outgoing personalities and they seemed to have everything together and yet they are no longer with us. Here are some take aways that came to my mind, and I maintain my right to be wrong and if I am, hopefully and can not be so stubborn and learn a few things.

The first one is, the human body is a complex place. For as much as we know about our body and our brain, there is just that much more we don't know or understand. What causes some people to struggle with mental illnesses, and other people to be free from it. In a culture that searches for the cause and effect with everything, we have a hard time sitting with not knowing or what causes something. There are things that can be explained through exploring family genes, hormone levels, or life choices, but what do we do with that ambiguity of not knowing what the cause of depression or any other disease that is out there. I think there are two options, and the first one is that we can sit down and throw our hands up in the air and not care. This tends to be very apathetic response and probably not the best response. The second one is sometimes its about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward and learning from our mistakes. It is dealing with things that come our way and finding a community of support to help us move forward.

The second thing is that there are times where we all feel down or alone. Whether its because one hasn't seen the sun in a week, or life circumstances. With living by myself in a one bedroom apartment, I can get this way. Its the I don't want to go home and be by myself, but its also a realization that I don't want to deal with people either because well people can be stupid (yes myself included). When this happens, I usually go to my favorite coffee shop to get my usual order and I plug in my ear phones and read or watch something online. The reality of this is that I don't like being along, and I don't want to deal with other people because than it can get messy and who really wants to get messy. This is why I think most of our conversations stay on the surface level. We are willing to talk about the weather or the local sports teams, but we tend to stay away from the things that divide such as politics, religion, or feelings because it just might take time, energy, and it will cost us something that we might not want to give up. Living this way will make us cynical, self reliant and a general pain in the butt.

   The third thing is that take time to carve out a community of people that you can do life with. When I am feeling down or self absorbed, I pick up the phone and call someone. There are those people we constantly think of and wonder how they are doing. Why not shoot them a text or phone call to see how they are doing. Also when you run into someone at church or at Wal Mart and there is the conversation that goes something the affect of we should get together for coffee sometime and then it never happens. When this conversation happens, pull out the day planner and offer up a concrete time to meet. The people who are serious about meeting will work with you to find a time that will work. Lets be intentional with our relationships, because if we aren't, more often than not, they will fade away. The second part of this is when people ask you how you are doing, dropping the non committed answers of "I'm here" or "just another day in paradise" often leads to a disconnect and maybe even apathy. I am guilty of using these phrases as much as the next person is, but lets be honest with our answers when we are asked how we are doing, and when we ask others how they are doing, lets mean it instead of asking that question as we are walking away from them.

   Here is a quick but important rabbit trail. I know in my life when I feel disconnected, it usually is a reflection of what is going on in my life with God or others. When I am feeling down, discouraged, or disconnected from God or others, is it because there are issues in our life that are not being taken care of. Is it a behavior that needs to start or to stop, a relationship that needs to be developed or terminated, a conversation that is needed or something we need to hear, or something that we need to grant grace to or seek forgiveness from. Feeling down or depressed could be from one of these things, or it could very well be something that is a medical issue and that it needs to be dealt with under the direction of your health care provider.

    Finally, find a group of people that you can do life with. Recently, I spent some time in the hospital with a nasty leg infection and I called a friend to talk, but it went to voicemail. I failed to mention that I was in the hospital, and when I got out and I told him what was going on, he chewed me out for not telling him what was going on. I went with the you never called me back, but that argument didn't hold much water. I encourage everyone to be vulnerable with at least one person in your life where you can challenge each other to grow, laugh and cry together, or just to call and to check in on each other. Its more than just sharing a meal together, but it is getting comfortable enough where you can share in life's joys, tears, anger, and general disconnect with life and God or each other.  This takes risk, and it is down right scary, because we are putting ourselves out there, but the reward is way better than the risk. If push comes to shove and you feel that you have no one to talk to or for support, reach out to me through my social media accounts or there is the national suicide hotline at 1.800.273.8255, or if you are social media person the #BellLetsTalk offers support. To finish up, you are created the Creator of the Universe and you were created in His image and that is pretty amazing in itself. Lets move from just wishing we were in peoples lives to making it actually happen, because going through life alone sucks and it would suck without you.

Friday, January 26, 2018

True Joy

  I recently read a collection of essays called Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life.  The book is put together by Miroslov Volf and Eric Crisp.  Different theologians took a crack at writing on the subject of joy and look at from several different angles.  I am still wrestling with some of the concepts that the book presents. 

     The first premise that the book makes is that there is a difference between happiness and joy.  The biggest difference is that happiness can be very subjective and even very hedonistic.  In other words, what may make me happy can make other people sad or distraught.  The birth of my niece made me happy, but maybe for the couple who have struggled to have children or for the person who never had that opportunity, could lead to sadness and sorrow.  Happiness is an emotional response to what is being done to or for us.  Joy is different because it is often a response in spite of our circumstances.  It is a choice to be joyful, and often it is a supernatural response.  Reading through the book of Psalms, the different authors often find joy in God in spite of their world crashing down on them.  Psalm 46 is realizing when the world comes crashing down, our joy comes in the form that God is our protector, and He is our helper in our time of need.  Are we taking time to be still and to trust God, or do we want to fight our own battles and end up getting beaten up.

  Joy is also a choice that we make on a daily basis, and sometimes even a moment by moment decision.  In essence, are we taking time to be joyful, or are we content with being the Negative Nancy and not only ruing our day, but often we are ruing other peoples days also.  I have noticed when I am around people who are joyful, I tend to be joyful, and the opposite is also true.

  One of the things I realized is that since joy is a choice, we need to make good decisions to help sustain it.  Being around joyful people is only apart of it.  Looking at Psalm 42 there are some things that we can put into practice.  The first one is that our joy, whether it is genuine or fake, comes out of what we worship and what we desire the most.  True joy comes from longing and seeking after God through prayer, worship, and confession.  The second idea is that true joy does not gloss over sorrow, pain and heartache.  True joy does not minimize or make the issues into mountains, but it takes a look at those things straight in the eye and deals with them in healthy ways.  Whether it is talking it out, making life style changes, or even letting go of some non healthy relationships, true joy is finding ways to live healthy.  True joy gives us hope for tomorrow while giving us a reason to live to the fullest today.

  True joy is only something that can be given by God and it can not be manufactured.  Fake joy is a lot like fake/click bait news.  It may get us excited and stirred up for awhile, but its because it sticks us on a sugar high and we end up crashing hard with no real substance and we end up with cavities.