For the Joy


Hebrews 12:2
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Every Easter, the world sees Christians celebrating a gruesome death. Some might see it that way, but that’s not all there is to it.

On Easter Sunday morning, many people enter a church with expectation and hope. They want to come together to celebrate life with joyful singing. But what happened to provide that scene?

Just as in fiction where the hero has to overcome terrible conflict in order to save the world from destruction and have a happy ending, Christians are aware that their blessings came from horrors endured by someone other than themselves.

When we have conflict in our lives, we have to separate what we want from what we have to do. We can take our example from Jesus. Before he was on the cross, he had time alone with God in prayer and asked if he could somehow not go through with it. Then he acknowledged his true goal: to do the will of his father.

He saw beyond the cross.

Jesus knew what was ahead of him and how it would feel. There would be painful, skin-ripping torture.  He would have nails driven into his skin. He also knew that pain would be temporary.

So he looked at the joy.

How does one find joy in an upcoming torture and crucifixion? The joy in Jesus was greater than the pain. The joy was not temporary, but eternal.

When he prayed about what he had to experience, he was battling through the temptations we all face as humans. He was not above temptation, but dealt with it daily. His flesh cried out in anticipation of the soon-coming pain. But Jesus knew his purpose.

He’s our Savior. He came to us to show us the great love of God. Without his sacrifice, we would all be dealing with our own sins. Instead, his sacrifice in our place paved the way for our return to God. Because of his persevering obedience, we can be gathered into the embrace of God for all eternity.

His pain paid for our freedom. And now, we can accept his invitation to live in his joy.

Jesus knew we would be together with him. He did whatever he had to do to make that happen.

He lived and died for the joy of eternity with us.

So anytime you think you’re not special to God, just look at a cross.


Make Your Community Better, part five


Psalm 25:9  
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Part Five: Be teachable

There are three truths (among a whole lot of others) that we sometimes forget when we’re trying to improve our lives and get frustrated with the process. 

Truth: You don’t know it all. 

Truth: You could improve in a few areas.

Truth: Some people want to help you identify those areas. Take the hint.

Many people have some expertise in the area of their gifting. But while doing quite well in that one area, we forget that others can help us learn in areas that are not our gifting. 

For instance, the painter is able to create beautiful art, but doesn’t like it when the tax accountant down the street wants to brag about the art she created. These two women could cooperate and help each other. The tax lady could help the painter become more organized, and the painter could give the tax lady a few tips about making her art more appealing. For this to work, both of them would have to be patient and humble.

Being teachable is humbling yourself and allowing another person to share their gifts with you. 
This is a great way to enhance your own self-improvement, but it also makes your neighborhood a better place to live.

Pick one of these five ways of making your community better to work on today. And pick another to work on tomorrow. Set up reminders in your phone’s calendar to do specific things this week. 

Your diligence to put these improvements into practice will pay off. You’ll eventually have all of these good habits and set a good example without even trying. Remember, it takes time to expand your gifts, good habits, and good attitudes. Give yourself a break and don’t expect perfection in the first week.

Each of these five things shows consideration for others while creating good habits for yourself. When others see you setting the example of kindness, they’re more likely to join you in helping out in your community.

Keep at it. Don’t give up. You can do this. You’re making your community better.

Thanks for seeking God with me.

Want to read this series from the beginning? Here's Part One.

Make Your Community Better, part four



2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


Part Four: Give with a passion

Show some passion for doing what you love. Many people get involved in a job they love, but allow the mundaneness of everyday life to drag all the joy out of it. After a while, they are burned out and uninterested in something that used to make them excited to go to work. 

If this is you, take a moment to reflect on the reasons you used to love what you do. Find out if there is anything still in you that thrills you about that job. You can make a list of ways you used to do things and revisit them one by one to see if you can revitalize your passion. 

Then jump in. Dive into your job with renewed vigor. Use your job as a ministry where you can serve your coworkers and customers with the renewed passion that is building up in you.

Serve with verve. Give to others with exuberance and put some pep in your step. 

Coming up: Part Five! 

Want to start at the beginning? Here's Part One.

Make Your Community Better, part three



Matthew 5:41  

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.

Part Three: Give your job the extra effort

Part Two was about having a work ethic. This is about putting in the extra effort.

There are many ways to go above and beyond. One is taking advantage of the opportunities that pop up without warning. This requires you to be observant, selfless, and generous.

You can turn “Must I” into “May I”. For instance, don’t say, “Must I pick up after someone else?” Instead, turn that into, “May I pick up that trash on the floor for you?” Offering to clear a table or put away items that were out for a project will set the example for others. You can do a quiet gift of service and see others learning in your wake. Start a tidal wave of good deeds in your community with small daily acts.

Attitude shows up in the body language. You’ll be impressive when people see the twinkle of joy in your eye as you serve others without whining. Just doing the job is one thing, but doing it with a smile is impressive. 

Coming up: Part Four! 

Want to start at the beginning? Here's Part One.

Make Your Community Better, part two



Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Part Two: Have a work ethic

A work ethic isn’t just about working at your career. You can give your effort to cleaning up after picnic in the park. You can put a little more care and concern for others in whatever you spend your time on. 

If you buy a hamburger at a fast food restaurant, you expect them to have a consistently good product and consistent service. If you expect that from others, you can give that. Shouldn’t we consider what we give to our community on a daily basis? 

Doing good works that God has prepared in advance is easier when you always give your best—just because you can. No one else can use your gifts the way you do. It’s your choice to bring you’re A-game wherever you go.

Be prepared. In your job, at home, or at play, you know what you will need to have with you. Try to have what you need in advance of needing it. This makes you look good to your friends, family, and employer. 

Keep reading! Here's Part Three

Want to see Part One? It's right here.

Make Your Community Better, part one



2 Thessalonians 1:3

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
I love to learn from those around me. If you’re like me, you’ve noticed some of your friends and neighbors are setting a good example of kindness and patience in your neighborhood.

Don’t you just love that?

When you give kindness and patience, you receive a benefit as well. So here are five things I’ve seen others do in my community that we can all benefit from.

Part One: Be on time

We all have different pressures put on us by our schedules. If you have an appointment with a lawyer, a doctor, your child’s teacher, or some other professional, recognize that they have other things to do and may not be able to fit you into their day if you’re 20 minutes late. The next person in line for an appointment won’t want to share their appointment time with you. If you’re considerate of the feelings of others, you’ll be considerate of their time too.

If you are usually on time, great! But you still have to be patient with those who are not yet able to be at their appointments on time. Be the one who is on time all of the time and avoid getting any attitude about it.

You don’t know what kind of secret appointments God may have made for you. Stay humble and be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. This is a good way to show God that you’re available to be used by him whenever he puts someone in your path who needs to hear his love from you. 


Keep reading! Here's Part Two.