“Be Happy!”

“Rejoice evermore,” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

“. . . Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15

 Happiness.  Some say it’s overrated.  I tend to disagree.  The Bible speaks over and over again about being blessed, happy, joyful, glad and rejoicing.  With so many different ways of saying it, I believe the Lord has made His point.  He wants His people to be absolutely elated in who they are –  His child!

Too often, we as Christians are waiting for conditions to be right before we choose to be happy about it.  That’s contrary to the Word of God.  Many times when we see words synonymous with being happy in the Bible, there is usually a counterweight of circumstances which doesn’t seem favorable or applicable to happiness.  Take the Beatitudes for instance:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is reward in heaven . . .”

                                                                        (Matthew 5:3-12).

What the Lord Jesus Christ did was point out numerous circumstances of life that would normally account for not being happy.  But, by putting a statement of happiness in the front of it, He was relating that one doesn’t have to wait for the tides to turn in your favor to declare that blessedness.  The Beatitudes are about going through the storms of life even when the waves seem adverse and still seeing the promise of heaven at work.  Even when it feels overwhelming, to the point of feeling totally surrounded by trouble.  Jesus said happiness can still be found during those times.

How?  “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven.”  I WILL NOT trivialize anyone’s hardships in life.  There are some unimaginable things that people have to face every day that hurt; that disappoint.  Situations that seem to do all they can to strip away one’s faith.  Our Lord is not denying the hurt, but what He is saying is there is still a reason to be joyful.

It would be totally unrealistic for one to tell another not to be upset over a wrong committed.  Yet, we have a deeper revelation that beyond this mess there is a reward.  Oh yeah, this stuff here stinks.  But, over there – AWESOME!

We may go through trials and tribulations like anybody else, but one thing we have as opposed to them is the comforting presence of our Heavenly Father.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” (Ps. 23:4).  How can one not feel a measure of joy and comfort at words spoken such as these?

It just makes me feel that no matter what I am going through, I can “Rejoice evermore,” because, He is there.  He knows.  He comforts me.   He’s thinking about me.  He hears my prayers.  He sees the tears I shed.  I can feel His presence bottling every one of those tears up, working to wipe them away.  I may cry, but I can also rejoice because I have a true, living God who loves me and cares for me.

Not just words of rhetoric but words of substance.  Words that make me happy in spite of it all!  Today, I choose to be happy because I am in Him, and He is in me.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” (Ps. 30:5).  The tears may cloud over my eyes and fall down my cheeks, but eventually, it has to move and make room for the happiness I have in Him.  I am blessed.

Photo: Pixabay/Free-Photos

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“Grateful to be Undeserving!”

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Mark 2:17

Have you ever been looked down on? Felt as if you didn’t measure up to the standards of another? Do you have short-comings staring you in the face?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are not alone. Our society has a way of stoking the fires of perfectionism; of making one feel that if they are not in the status quo then they are defected. Predominance is the attitude here in the west where the drive for success will cause one to feel as if they have been run over because they are not moving as fast as everyone else.

At the same time, our society has produced a group of over-inflated egos that really believe they have it all together. This group is dependent on no one because their fascination with themselves has misled them to believe they are complete; they are at the peak of perfection and everyone else should strive to be like them. These groups define their success by some outward measuring post, but on the inside are lacking more than they will ever know.

In Mark 2, Jesus found Himself wedged between these two groups of people. On the one hand, He was in the house of Levi, the tax collector (whom we know as Matthew), there He was eating dinner with “publicans and sinners,” (vs. 15). On the other side of the spectrum comes the self-righteous “scribes and Pharisees,” (vs. 16) to challenge His choice of company.

The sinners knew who they were. They were the rejected. They were the ones people laughed at and talked about. They knew what a mess they were and yet, they were grateful. How could this man Jesus want to be seen talking with them, let alone eating with them? He was holy, and still, He saw beyond all their imperfections to care enough to spend time with them; to draw them nearer to Him through His love, care and genuine concern.

The scribes and the Pharisees saw no such need for a man like Him. As far as they were concerned everybody should be striving to be like them; the holy elite, the cream of the crop. Others should gaze upon their own “righteousness” and desire to mimic it. No wonder the Lord often called them hypocrites and some other stuff, (Mt. 23:13-15). Their own self-righteous attitude about the realness of their lost state kept them from receiving what this Physician had to offer – Salvation!

But, to him who recognizes that “without Me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5), Jesus says I can do something with him. To him who knows the reality of his undeserving state, Jesus looks on that humility of heart with compassion and seeks to bring healing to that soul. There is something most precious in the moment when one can look up from all their failures and disappointments to see a Savior standing there, arms opened wide, ready to take it all away. That undeserving soul becomes eternally grateful because they know who they are, and they know who He is, and they also know that He didn’t have to do it; He didn’t have to save them.

Just as with the “publicans and sinners” we know that we don’t deserve to be in the company of Jesus. But, He chose to be there with you and me. He took Himself away from the elite to spend time with those who needed Him the most. It was His choice to love us, to draw near to us, and to eventually die for us so that He could free us. He left His home in heaven to become “God with us,” (Mt. 1:23); with the undeserving. Unlike the “scribes and Pharisees,” I recognize my need for Him and I am ever so grateful.  I can truly sing:

“I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
I come to Thee.”

(I Need Thee Every Hour/Annie Sherwood Hawks – Hymnal.net)

Photo: Pixabay/josealbafotos

“What God starts in you, He’s going to finish it!” Philippians 1:6

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DON’T GET DISCOURAGED BY WHAT YOU SEE BEFORE YOU NOW. Setbacks occur in life, but they do not define you if you don’t let them. You are not a finished product yet. God is still molding you and shaping you. You are currently under Holy construction and “What God starts in you, He’s going to finish it” if you don’t give up and continue to walk with Him every step of the way.

 

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6

Simple words of encouragement… “God is for YOU!”

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Has discouragement tried to enter where God has placed you today? Has confusion tried to make you feel less than; as if God is not for you today?  Has your day already started off on the wrong foot?

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation. . .,” John 16:33a. He knew that there would some days where we face trouble and discouragement; there would be times when we feel like we are in this alone. In those times, He wants to reassure us that He is for us. He has never left us. He has never forsaken us. His plans for us have a glorious end so don’t let any circumstance make you believe that God doesn’t have your back because He does. He’s here and He is for you!

Jesus went on to say, ” …but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33b; and if you are in Him and stay with Him and believe in Him, you will too. Because God is for you!

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Sometimes we just need to hold on to His grace and trust Him to bring us through the other side of our situation.

Words To Live By: “Jesus Christ is the greatest gift I have ever received!”

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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“In Him We Live!”

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Hold on to God’s unchanging hand. Your identity is not found in the world. Your identity is not found in the labels people place on you. Your identity is not found in the circumstances that surround you. Your identity is found in God alone.

“God has planted greatness in everybody: LET IT GROW!”

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There is a special seed inside of you. In it holds potential, talent, and a beautiful gift that is ready to sprout and bring forth fruit in its season. Don’t stop the process. Don’t get in the way of the gift God wants to work through you. Let it grow!

“Encourage Yourself!”

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There are going to be times when people won’t have your back.  There will be moments when you feel like you are going alone.  Rest assured, God knows where you are in life.  Encourage yourself in the Lord even if no one else is supporting you! “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David ENCOURAGED HIMSELF IN THE LORD HIS GOD.” 1 Samuel 30:6

“Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone”

One thing I have reluctantly had to admit is that I don’t always have Abraham faith.  When one really delves into his story, his story was laden with change.  Change, often times, is something I have been pretty resistant to.

Let’s face it, leaving your own home is no small feat (Genesis 12:1), especially during the Bible era.  In our day we have options to hop back on a plane and usually, there are provisions and backup plans that are available if that adventurous leap of faith didn’t work out.  And, this could all be done in a matter of hours.

I imagine it wasn’t quite that easy back then.  But, then again, maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe not having easy access to falling back into one’s comfort zone is a blessing in disguise for it forces that venture forward.  It forces us to take on new terrain and enter new callings as we try to acclimate and navigate our new surroundings and circumstances.

Often I feel the ease of looking back hinders our progress.  Unchartered territories can be scary, uncomfortable, and demanding of our time, talent, and emotions.  But what if it leads to something greater?  What if that step of faith allows you to do something miraculous that you could never see yourself doing?  What if it opened new doors of opportunity that you never could have imagined being able to walk through?

I guess that’s why it’s called faith.  Almost blindly, without full perception and without knowing where every piece of the puzzle already fits, we are asked to play along anyway.  Engage in the unknown no matter what the current reality says.  After all, according to the Bible, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1).

Comfort zones, though they appear safe, are in fact very dangerous.  Walking in the land of familiarity may seem like a sure bet but in them lays unexpected traps.  Traps where dreams lose their freshness.  Traps where ideas lose their strength to be propelled forward.  Traps where talents get wasted in this pit of unseen snares.

God has always wanted the best for all His people.  But, when He calls, it is up to them to make the move.  He may not be asking you to leave your homeland, but where or what do you feel Him pulling you toward?  What area of your comfort zone has become so stale that now it too is very uncomfortable, yet, you’re still too afraid to make a move?

If Abraham had not put action behind his calling, he would have never been dubbed the father of faith, and so many things in our biblical history would not be traced back to his stepping out moment.

I wonder if we boldly step out today, what miraculous future events will point back to our time when we chose to leave the safety of our comfort zones?

One thing is for sure if we stay where we are, and if we keeping doing the same thing over and over again, nothing will ever change.  Don’t substitute comfort and reluctance to change for what can be.  Who knows what God wants to write in your future story?  Step out of your comfort zone and let Him write something amazing!