Choosing Joy. Everyday.

I’ve had a hard time recently thinking of what my next blog post should be about. My last two were so open and vulnerable, so to follow I felt I had to have something drastic to say. I’ve come to the realization though, that everyday lessons are just as important as those drastic AH-HA type moments.

Each day we are faced with millions of choices.

Can I hit the snooze one more time?

What outfit should I wear? 

Starbucks for the flavor, or WaWa for the price….

These choices may seem simple or mundane; choices we make without giving more than a couple seconds thought to it. But what about our attitude choice, do we consciously choose our attitude day by day, moment by moment? It may sound weird to think about, but humor me. When was the last time you consciously chose to be happy, even if the situation didn’t necessarily warrant it? If it’s been a while, then today’s post might be just for you.

One of my favorite new found quotes is by Henri J.M. Nouwen,

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

 

Choosing Joy

 

Joy is a choice we make EVERY DAY. There is ALWAYS something to be joyful about.

If you’re a real debby downer or are going through a difficult time in life you may disagree with me, but bear with me for a couple more minutes and I’ll prove to you why I think this is true.

John 15:9-14 states “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Christ has filled us with His joy if we follow his command to love one another. Our choice is to love others and as we go about our day loving others, Christ’s joy will be full in us. It’s why at Christmas we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” Because Jesus is our joy.

Now let me make a quick disclaimer, joy and happiness are NOT the same thing. Happiness is a feeling, joy is a state of being. Happiness is dictated by what happens to you. Joy is dictated by how you view yourself.

If you view yourself as a beautiful creation, made in the image of God, loved by God, saved by God, and given the ability to spend eternity with God, you will no doubt have the joy of the Lord in you. When you come to a full understanding of how precious God views you and how valuable you are in His sight, then there is reason for joy day after day. The Creator of the universe loves you unconditionally, despite our failure, despite our attitudes, despite anything and everything we do, God love us. That in and of itself is reason to have joy. Every. Single. Day.

Now let me be clear, this doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles or that days are going to be easy. It just means that in the midst of hardship, confusion, or desperation, we have a joy to cling to. When everything seems to be going wrong, we have the joy of the Lord to remind us in the end, everything will be right. And when everything is going right and life seems to be all rainbows and butterflies, we don’t have to worry about the rollercoaster of potential happenings, we can be secure in God’s joy, knowing whatever may happen our joy is complete in Him.

Joy quote.jpg

So how do we go about achieving this joy — by making a conscious choice EVERYDAY. By reading the Word of God and meditating on it, by filling our minds with the truth God has promised us. By loving others. When we’re selflessly loving and generously giving a joyful heart becomes natural. Seriously, have you ever seen a truly generous person with a bitter heart? Or witnessed someone who continually loved others have an ungrateful mentality? I sure haven’t. Because when you continually love and continually are authentically generous, you start to see yourself in a different light and start to see the materials you own and the time you have as mere tools instead of possessions you can’t let go.

If you’re failing to find joy everyday, try for one week to consciously change your mindset. If it’s a rainy day, thank God for the invention of umbrellas or the rain for the crops. If you don’t like the meal your mom made, find joy in the fact you have food on your table and a mom who prepared it for you. If you hate your job, be joyful you have one, find joy in the education you’ve earned to be able to apply for one, or consider it joy that we live in a country where you have the freedom to change jobs. Whatever it is you let steal your joy, try counteracting it. Try opening your mind to find the joy every day. And if all else fails, use this as a motivation to start memorizing God’s word, because I promise you, that will not disappoint.

Joy is a choice. So make it yours today.

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Becoming Selfless

Each month I try and pick a phrase, quote, or verse in which I want to make my focus for the month. Some examples of these quotes are:

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in everyday.” – Alice Morse Earle

“But to those who are listening I say, ‘Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.'” Luke 6: 27-28

This months quote has been one I’ve thrown around a lot but have decided to focus on because it can truly make an impact not only on the lives of others but on my life as well.

“BE SOMEBODY WHO MAKES EVERYBODY FEEL LIKE A SOMEBODY” – unknown

The core of this phrase can be backed up by so many biblical verses —

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves, looking not only to your own interest but also to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others and give himself as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:28

“The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 (emphasis mine).

And so many more.

When I think about this months quote and how it can influence others I realize the core of myself and everyone is to be selfish. We are born with selfish ambitions, how many toddlers do we hear scream “MINE!” or get upset when they have to share?

But what if we changed that? What if we went about our day everyday striving to make the people around us feel as if they mattered and they were important, putting others first, no matter their social status, the benefits they can or cannot give us, but simply seeing them as a person created and loved by God, worthy of our attention. Would it make a difference in our lives? It should.

“But to mean it when I say that I want my life to count for His glory is to drive a stake through the heart of self – a painful and determined dying to me that must be a part of every day I live.”
Louie Giglio

If we are truly striving every day to make our lives count for the Kingdom of God, then why do we pick and choose who we are selfless too? Why do we create social statuses in our mind of who we can and cannot associate with? Why do we lose our temper with certain people instead of being patient and realizing they are made in the image of God?

Being selfless isn’t easy, it can be tiring and draining, but if everyone is being selfless, then in turn everyone is also encouraging and pouring into people. I pour into you, you pour into her, she pours into me, and in the end we’ve all given, but we’ve also all received. Christ did not give us our gifts and our blessings so that we could become proud and disregard other people. He gave us our gifts, talents, financial blessings, etc. so that we could pour into the people around us and in turn serve His Kingdom more fully.

So this week I challenge you to “be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” That man on the corner, the cashier at the store, the server at the restaurant, whoever it is, be the light of Christ to them. Show them God’s love and remind them they are important and they do have value, thank them for serving you and in turn go do the same for someone else. Nobody should ever feel they are disregarded, so be a voice of love, a smile as you pass by, or a listening ear when it’s needed. Because our greatest purpose is to serve Christ and how do we do that? By loving His people.

“He must become greater and I must become less.” John 3:30

Epaphras Ministry

Hello and welcome to my new blog Epaphras Ministry. You may be wondering why Epaphras, well I’m glad you asked.

I was listening to a sermon the other day in which my uncle spoke on Colossians 4:12-13, highlighting a man named Epaphras. He’s a bible character many of us have overlooked and know absolutely nothing about. But as I heard the sermon and learned more about Epaphras I realized he was just the kind of servant I hoped to one day be. Listen to the words spoken about him:

“12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Colossians 4:12-13

First off Epaphras is known as a servant of Christ Jesus. Paul doesn’t talk about his other occupations, or identities, but rather focuses on the most important and valuable part of who he is. He is a SERVANT of Christ.

Secondly, Epaphras sends greetings. This may sound a little strange to think of as a great feature, but it’s the encouragement behind the greeting that is important. How many times have we sent a random greeting to a friend only to find out they were having a rough day and needed a greeting at just that time? Maybe it hasn’t happened to you, but it’s happened to me quite a few times. It takes little effort to shoot a text or send a letter, but the impact it can have is infinite at times.

Next, Paul points out Epaphras’ heart for the Church. He is ALWAYS wrestling in prayer. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get lazy in my prayer life, having my meal prayers and my bedtime prayers and that’s about it. How awesome would it be if we were ALWAYS in a state of prayer, wrestling for those who need it most? Praying for the strength we all need to “stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” We could honestly change the world. One thing to note is, Epaphras prayed for the PERSON not the SITUATION. We can’t always control the situation around us but we can always control how we act in, and respond to, a certain situation.

Finally, Epaphras has Paul vouching for his work ethic. Paul, a huge biblical figure, is vouching for him, making us realize how hard of a worker he really is. That right there should make us want to know more about his work and the impact he is making for the Kingdom. But what I also think is important to note, Epaphras is listed in a group of people Paul is recognizing. The Christian community is a team and one of the best teams we will ever be a part of. But it’s just that, a team. No one man is greater than another in the Christian community, we are all loved by God, we are all servants of Christ, Paul just had the platform to recognize Epaphras for his work and he took the opportunity to do so.

At this point you might be thinking, this is a cool name, but what’s the point. The point is this, we all have the ability to be an Epaphras. We can all pray, we can all encourage, we can all serve Christ where he’s put us, we can all work hard, we just have to CHOOSE to do so. Epaphras chose each and every day he was going to serve Christ. It wasn’t always easy and it may not have always made sense, but he still chose everyday and in the end we see he made an impact for the Kingdom. He didn’t get the grand recognition Paul or Peter or some of the other biblical characters did, but that never stopped him from knowing who he was in Christ and serving God each and every day. Our reward is in Heaven (Matthew 5:12) so the recognition we do or don’t get in this life shouldn’t matter. Each of us have been placed in a unique position to do the work of God right where we’re at. Some of you may be called to go out, others may be called to stay in the same small town forever, both are perfectly fine, as long as you use whatever platform and position you have to share God’s love with the community you’re in.

Right now, my unique place is in Richmond, Virginia with a non-profit and a travel volleyball team. I have the opportunity every couple weeks to lead a devotional with the volleyball team and share the love of Christ with them. This blog will be filled with the lessons we learn this season as well as the personal lessons God shows me throughout the year. I will try and be as consistent as possible in posting a weekly blog, but no promises.

I’ve learned over the years encouragement can come in many different forms, so as I write each and every post I would love to hear feedback. Let me know your thoughts, other topics you feel are relevant, encouragement, or even disagreements. I want what is posted on this blog to be an encouragement to you and the community you serve. For now this is a blog and just a blog, but I hope to one day branch this out to be a mobile ministry to encourage the Christian community in whatever way God chooses to use it.

So with all that being said, I’ll leave you with one last quote from the sermon mentioned above, “Through SERVING and IMPACT we can outlive time and leave a legacy.” Go, leave your legacy, be an Epaphras.

 

**Bob King, “Making Your Mark: Week 6 Serving” (video of sermon, Ada Bible Church, Ada, Michigan, February 12, 2017), accessed March 9, 2017, https://www.adabible.org/watch/making-your-mark/week-6-serving/.