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God And Happiness

Does God want us to be happy?

I am watching a video that my mom sent me of my son when he was a baby. She is hitting the ground, and he is just laughing up a storm. He is giggling and smiling, and it just filled my heart with Joy. This got me thinking about how our heavenly Father delights in our joy. He wants us to see us smiling and laughing.

However, there is a difference between us being filled with joy and us being filled with happiness. We live in a culture that screams, “do what makes you happy”. We are told by movies, and the radio that if you think that something will make you happy, you cannot let anything stand in your way. The problem is happiness is momentary, it is fleeting. My son laughs uncontrollably when my mom is hitting the floor. In my experience, when my mom stopped hitting the floor he usually stopped laughing. This is how happiness seems to work. There are a lot of “things” that can make you happy, but how do you feel when that thing is taken? The world would say you just need to find a bigger and better thing.   

The Bible tells a different tale. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”. Perhaps when we ask, ‘Does God want us to be happy?’ we are focusing on the wrong thing. God wants us to be filled with joy. Joy is something that is eternal, because it is not brought about by something, but someone. We find joy in our relationship with God. The verse above says that we find our peace in our belief in Christ. This world is falling apart, but so many are looking to things to make themselves happy, rather than growing closer to God. When we are close to God we think less in temporal happiness, and more in eternal joy.

So now what? I hope this week you can spend more time focused on the things of God, and the joy he provides. I hope you can spend less time chasing the things the world says will make you happy. When we chase happiness, we are like the dog chasing a car. What do you do when you catch it?

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Time of Thankfulness

It is very easy to turn on the news or social media and find terror and fear. I feel like negative emotions are so easy to gravitate towards that they can sometimes become our default. When I wake up, I must remind self to be patient, or caring, but I never have to remind myself to get angry or stressed. Honoring the Lord with our thoughts and emotions takes effort.

Easy to Find

My mom always had a saying, “If you can’t find anything nice to say. Then don’t say anything at all”. I think this is a policy I must adapt into the way I feel about things. When something happens there are many ways we can respond, but what do we choose? Do we choose the response that is uplifting and pleasing to the Lord? Or, do we choose the easy option of becoming angry or upset.

What We Need to Look For

In the book of Colossians Paul is telling the people what the life of a Christian looks like. He is telling them to put on righteousness and put to death the negative thoughts and emotions of this world. Colossians 3:15-16 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”.  There is a word said twice in this passage that I want to highlight, “thankful”. Paul is telling the church at Colossae what it means to live like Christ, and part of this is a spirit of thankfulness. This does not mean we are only thankful in the good times, but thankful in all circumstances.

Even Now

The World is in a time of panic and confusion. The easy thing to do is find things that are wrong, or ways your life has been negatively affected by Covid 19. However, Paul would have something else to say. He is writing Colossians from a prison cell telling the people to be thankful. In the worst situations Paul was still thankful for all the Lord had given him. In the same way I challenge you this week to look around you and instead of seeing the negative, thank God for all that you have.

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Praying And Preparing

We as a country we have been in a state of flux for almost two months. Things have changed quickly and drastically before our very eyes. When we think of what life was like at the beginning of March, to now as we enter the beginning of May, things are different on almost every level. However, as time goes on over the next couple months things will start to slowly go back to whatever post Corona normal looks like. I have no idea when that day will come, but what I do know is that I must prepare myself ahead of time for when that day comes.

Why Do We Need To Be Prepared?

As leaders people rely on us. You might be a leader in you church, or a leader in your job, or maybe you are the leader of your family. No matter where you are leading there is probably someone in this world who is looking up to you for guidance and direction. Whenever things do start to head towards normalcy, people will have questions. These people will want guidance and direction, and as a leader you will need to be prepared.

The Best Leaders Are Prepared?

We have all probably had at least one great teacher who has taught us in school or in church. The good teachers are the ones who walk in, and from the start of class they are ready to go. Things on the board, papers printed out, and fun and engaging things so we don’t fall asleep. However, at the same time we all have probably had at least one terrible teacher. The one that walked in to class late, and when they got there realized they forgot all their papers at home. The teacher that kind of rolled their eyes when they finally stepped up to the front of class and just read the text book. In both of these examples one thing that separated these two leaders was the level of preparedness.

How Do You Prepare?

PRAY, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.

What About After That?

You have to keep praying. Once again, I have no idea how long the world will look like it looks now. However, I do know I worship a sovereign God. The same God who was on his throne before this, and the same God who will be on his throne long after. We have to spend more and more time in prayer during this time. The transition of things going back to any kind of normal will be a process. That process will take time and patience. In that transition we will need to be prepared to lean on the Lord (It is a good idea to always lean on the Lord just an FYI). This is the time to pray as we ready our hearts and minds to lead others in this confusing time.

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Do You Know Who You Are?

There was a game I played growing that I loved. It was called the “Guess Who Game”. This game had two boards with a bunch of cartoon people. You had one and the person you were playing against had one. The point of the game was to take turns trying to figure out who the other person had selected as their person. You asked questions like, “Is this person wearing a hat,” or “Do they have blonde hair?” With this game you were trying to guess who someone was based on physical characteristics. This game is a lot of fun, but as mothers all over the world have said for generations, “what matters is on the inside”.

Personality Tests

A couple years ago the Enneagram Test came on the scene, and it seemed like the whole world picked it up like it was on sale. At first it was just the test, and you could compare with your friends which Enneagram number they were and which one you were. It led to fun sayings like, “Oh yeah that is true, you do think like that. You are such a 7.” As time has gone on, this test has picked up steam with graphics and social media pages dedicated to what number you are. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the test. When I took the test I got Enneagram 2. However, the funny thing about the test is it is a boiled down version of personality tests that have been around for decades.

The Root of the Tests

So why do we love them so much? We as a society, and as people in general have a desire to know about ourselves. These tests are merely a quick assessment of how we approach situations, people, and the world. Taking the test is a good starting point if you are taking a deep self-assessment. As ministers and leaders knowing about ourselves is vital. However, it is not always easy. There are many people that I have met that enjoy being wrong, and sometimes, when trying to find out who you truly are, you realize you were wrong about yourself.

Why is it important?

So why is knowing about ourselves important?  This is a topic that could have many blogs written about, (and many have been). The truth is we are all made differently, we have different strengths and weaknesses. When you are younger this is something that doesn’t really register. I kind of always thought everyone was like me. I thought they loved what I loved, and wanted to do all the things I wanted to do. However, the older I get the more I began to see that there is no one just like me (honestly this is probably a good thing). This is why knowing who we are is so important, because knowing where you thrive, and seeing where you can improve does not only help you as a leader, or a minister, it also helps you as a Christian. We are called as Christians to minister to our community, and to the people around us, and this can be done so much more effectively when you know who you are.

What This Is Not

However, when learning about who you are, I have personally seen people make two big mistakes in this process. The first is, when they start to see things that they don’t like about themselves they stop the process. If we are going to look in a mirror to see who we truly are, we are going to see some warts. Part of being a mature Christian is recognizing areas where you need to improve, then handing those areas over to the Lord. The second big mistake I have seen is using your traits as an excuse. I have heard things like, “Oh I don’t need to do that, that is just not me”. Just because there are things that might be outside of our comfort zone does not mean that you shouldn’t do them. When someone is working out, some pressure is put on the muscle, but this is how they build up their strength. In the same way, if we are growing in who we are in Christ, there will be some hard things we have to do. I am reminded of Moses: he tried to get out of leading by saying he couldn’t speak to people. So God told him to grab his brother Aaron. This is why knowing who you are is so valuable; it not only shows you where you can grow, but it shows you that you can surround yourself with people who have strengths where you have weaknesses.

The Bible’s View

The Bible discusses this idea that we are all different when it talks about Spiritual Gifts (This is not a long list or discussion about spiritual gifts.). The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 14-20, “14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts,yet one body”. The Bible shows us that in order for Christians to be the Body of Christ, then we need to embrace our differences. This starts with knowing what makes you you, and how you can best serve the Lord.

Well, What Now?

There may be some of you reading this who have spent years in staff development meetings where you have done everything I have talked about. If this is the case, how can you encourage others around you to start this process for themselves. If this is all new to you there are a three places where you can start. First, take a spiritual gifts test. These are not always perfect, but they are a start to show you how the Spirit has gifted you to grow and help the church. Second, find some personality test and spend some time honestly filling them out. I have already mentioned this is not where you stop when you are trying to find out who you are, this is where you start. Lastly, spend some time in prayer with the Lord. Start to really pray about who you are, and what you can do to live for him.

If you are interested in any resources that might help, drop a comment.

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Connecting During Covid-19

The world has been thrown into a confusing and chaotic time with the spread of Corona Virus. Our daily lives have changed dramatically, and our perspective has shifted. I watch television shows from two years ago and see two characters hug. I then think, “Wow. How irresponsible of them.” But then I remember, we are in a much different place today than we were two years ago.

Ministry is About People

 This pandemic has drastically changed how Ministry is done. I spoke to a check out woman at Walmart last week, and we started discussing that I was a Youth Pastor, and she asked how that was going. I told her, “It has been a transition. I became a student pastor to help people and we are in a situation where we are not allowed to see people”. With all this said, we have all adjusted the way we minister to our students. Your days are probably filled with zoom meetings, and Facebook live sermons. The problem is that we might be putting a lot of content out, but we have to also make sure that we are still connecting to the hearts of our students, and that comes with us getting information from them.

Whatever Way You Can Connect

I continue to remind myself throughout these weeks that the heart of what I do in ministry is connecting with students and their families. These are some things to think about while we are connecting with our students. These ideas are not exhaustive, they are not ground breaking, and I tried to stay away from discussing the specific technology we are using. There are articles and videos all over the place talking about what technology you can use, and I encourage to look at those if you need inspiration. However, when thinking about ways to connect with your students, don’t reinvent your ministry. You should connect with students in platforms you were connecting before, and in ways you know your students will be able to see your attempts to connect. Whatever works for your ministry is the correct approach, and every student might not be able to connect the same way. I have students that would die if they had to talk on the phone, so those I text. I also have students who need to have face to face or voice interaction. You know your students and their families. Figure out what is the best way to get in touch with them. Once you are connected, what should you talk about? Here are some ideas you can keep in mind when you are connecting.

Find Out How They Are

 First, ask your students how they are doing. This process of staying home has had a completely different effect on every person. I have talked to students who are thriving in isolation. There are also students who are going out of their minds. There are some that are scared or angry at the things that they are missing. The first place to start when connecting is to get a picture of where they are at, and figuring out how you can best pray for them.

Have Some Fun

Something that I have tried to do in my connecting is to talk about more that just being at home or the corona virus. The best way I have found is every week I come up with a fun question that any one can have an answer to. For example, one week our question was, “What are your top 3 favorite Disney Movies?” Whatever you talk about, make sure that it is fun and encouraging.

Talk About The Bible

I do not know to what extent you are still teaching. I am still teaching live stream lessons on Sundays. Then throughout the week I try to ask my students questions about the lesson. I try to give them bite size chunks of verses they can read. I want to stay connected, but I also want to help them to continue to spiritually grow in their relationship with the Lord.

Don’t Do It All By Yourself

If you have volunteers get them involved. You can ask them to make calls or have them be on Zoom Small group meetings. Whatever kind of team you had before this pandemic, you should still use them to help minister to your students. Whenever they connect to a student, remind them to keep you informed with what they talked about so it can lead you when you talk to that student. You are a team, and even in this situation you can work together to help the students the Lord has placed in front of you. It can also be important to make sure you are also connecting with your volunteers. We have to ask them how they are doing and help them where we can

Make Sure Parents Are Involved

When you are connecting with students through any form, it is always best to make sure parents are fully aware of the ways you are communicating to them. One thing that could be helpful is to ask the parents for students contact information, and ask the parent when is the best time and way to get in touch with their student. An effective minister is always connecting and communicating with both the parents and the students.

Be Consistent

Whatever ways you have found that work keep them up. We have to make sure that our students can rely on us, this can be hard and time consuming, but connecting is such a huge part of ministry. Find what works for you (Add period and start new sentence with “it”) it might be contacting a couple students a day. It also might be setting aside a whole day every week to contact as many students as you can. You know your ministry. Whatever works for you is what is best. Just be consistent.

Show The Love of Jesus Even Over the Phone

The thing that should define our Christian life is the way we love others. 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” The thing we must remember when we are connecting with others in these confusing times is that we must always be showing the love of Jesus Christ. This may look different over the phone, or on a zoom call, but whatever you can do to show your students love, do it. We love others, because Christ loved us first, and that love should drive the way we connect with our ministry.