Monday, May 08, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Joy

Habits are about integrity: Integrity means doing the right thing even when the price is painful or your personal interest is at risk. It means doing the right thing even when you are certain that no one is looking and you couldn’t possibly get caught. It also means doing the right thing even when you are sure there won’t be a reward or you won’t receive any credit for your actions.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, and live ineffectively. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. Goethe

Jesus Habits are Habits of Relational Integrity

Living with integrity is hard. The world tries to coerce you to adopt its values. Don't forget your spiritual enemy loves to distract you from God's best.

Don’t be surprised that while you are working on forming & reforming Jesus Habits you get discouraged or are tempted to ask yourself, “What’s the point?” The enemy of your soul doesn’t want you to be more like Jesus.

Consider yourself as a ‘wounded person who wants to be well.’ The Jesus Habits are a part of the healing.

Life for most of us is built on a constellation of habits and the need for measurable results is one of the most deeply ingrained habits for successful people. Bob Buford

Measure the Jesus Habits with your joy factor.

Philippians 1
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.

God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Joy is the love of growing up!

"Medicine today focuses primarily on drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. Yet love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well. If a new medication had the same impact, failure to prescribe it would be malpractice. Connections with other people affect not only the quality of our lives but also our survival. Study after study finds that people who are lonely are many times more likely to get cardiovascular disease than those who have a strong sense of connection and community."

"I'm not aware of any other factor in medicine—not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery—that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death. In part, this is because people who are lonely are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Getting through the day becomes more important than living a long life when you have no one else to live for." Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California

The results of several studies indicate that people who reflect each day upon situations for which they were grateful, those times where they experienced joy, reported "more sleep, better quality of sleep, greater optimism about the future, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. There was also a reduction in negative affect."

One study concludes, "Gratitude and the joyous actions stimulated by it, build and strengthen social bonds and friendships. . . . It leads them to feel loved and cared for by others. . . . it is also likely to build and strengthen a sense of spirituality. . . . It broadens the scope of cognition and enables flexible and creative thinking; it also facilitates coping with stress and adversity. Gratitude (and joy) not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future."

Men lust, but they know not what for. They fight and compete, but they forget the prize; they spread seed, but spurn the seasons of growth; they chase power and glory, but miss the meaning of life. George Gilder

They miss the joy.

“…let them remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments. And above all, let them remember…to build a life as if it were a work of art. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy”. Rabbi Abraham Heschel, addressing youth shortly before his death

At a certain point in the spiritual journey God will draw a person from the beginning stage to a more advanced stage. At this stage the person will begin to engage in religious exercises and grow deeper in the spiritual life. Such souls will likely experience what is called “the dark night of the soul.” The “dark night” is when those persons lose all the pleasure that they once experienced in their devotional life. This happens because God wants to purify them and move them on to greater heights. . . Through the dark night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation, envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength. No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works passively in that soul by means of the dark night. St. John of the Cross

The Jesus Habits are all about a ‘downward ascent’; our character becomes more like that of Jesus; our desires become those of Jesus. We learn to commit to the unnoticed life.

An enemy of that downward ascent is pride. Now, having a degree of self-confidence and pride in one’s accomplishments and one’s identity is important. The idea here is that we are a conduit of God’s blessings, through our particular strengths and gifting. This gives us ‘joy’; we can sense God’s pleasure.

We can, though, exaggerate our own "joy." In sinful pride, or entitlement, our pleasure often comes from receiving recognition from others for our accomplishments or personal strengths.

In this sense, we seek self-improvement, perhaps even from being at church. But we miss the call to become more like Christ, and therefore miss fully discovering who we are.

I recall a pastor speaking with a woman after the service. She had come to speak with him and he asked her, “How was church today?”

She replied, “I just can’t come back.”

So he said, “Really? Help me to help others. Why can’t you come back?”

“I’m not looking for a church that gets this serious. I’m looking for a church that I can just go to.” Yikes!

Revelation 3:14-16
"Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's new creation: "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

This church was neither hot nor cold and that was a problem. It was a ‘kinda’ church, filled with ‘kinda’ people. I don’t see a whole lot of people attracted to kinda people. Some days they’re kinda with God, and some days they’re not. They kinda believe, and then they don’t.

It’s easy for a church to lose focus of Jesus. Do you remember the days when you were deeply intrigued by someone? Love does odd things to us. It makes us do unusual things. Is love for Jesus making us do some unusual things here at CoHo?

George Strait sings, “You look so good in love.”

We are all searching for the eternal joy that comes from knowing God.

Jesus says to us, “Come and discover. Come and be connected. Come and be renewed. Come and be changed. Come and be spiritually healed. Come and be remade. This is the language of love, of joy, of passion.”

In his book Yearning, Craig Barnes writes, “The deep yearnings of the spirit are part of what makes us human. The confession that we are unable to get the life of our dreams is the first step toward authentic spirituality. What distinguishes humanity in creation is not moral superiority but the mark of a need—a craving to have meaning that is eternal and thus able to sustain us through the shifting tides of our years…This godlike mark, then, serves two functions. The first is that it is the source of our hunger for life’s meaning, and the second is that it refuses to be satisfied with any meaning other than the eternal.”

Graham Andrews, reflecting on his struggles with mental illness writes, “During my best times I feel at one with the universe as a person who has a part to play that he doesn’t yet understand, but doesn’t need to.” Can you hear the joy?

He goes on to add, “when people ask me how I’m doing, I will say, ‘It’s a great day to be alive'.”

Graham was urged to try prayer and meditation by people in his support group, so he did. This comes from a young man who calls himself, “a lapsed and angry Catholic, I had preferred to send my fears and hopes not to any traditional concept of God, but towards coffee cups, hospital walls and the medications.”

He closes by saying; “Today I would almost sooner go without shelter than without my times of quiet reflection.” That’s a good habit. Recall what Dr. Ornish was quoted as saying earlier, “people who reflect each day upon situations for which they were grateful, those times where they experienced joy, reported "more sleep, better quality of sleep, greater optimism about the future, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. There was also a reduction in negative affect."”

Graham Andrews has discovered joy in his life. He is moving towards understanding his yearnings.

There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy. Joyce Grenfel

There are no secrets and there are no shortcuts that will lead us to wisdom and joy. They still have to be earned the hard way. That’s what makes them so rewarding. Erwin Hall

That quote reminds me of the metaphor Paul uses in Ephesians 5 about the relationship of the church & Jesus Christ: that of a marriage. Where is it more evident that there are no shortcuts to joy than in a marriage?

We see that in a marriage that is successful, the couple has learned the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness as a definition can be “good fortune”. Joy, on the other hand is “emotion evoked by well-being.” Regardless of the circumstances or good fortune.

Remember the first miracle of Jesus? He was at a wedding and they ran out of wine. His mom asks him to make some more wine. His mom obviously knew of his power and His mission. What kind of God turns water into wine at a wedding?! A God full of love and joy!

John 2:17
"Passion for God's house will consume me."

That is passion for his Habits!

Joy is like a muscle, and the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows.” Mike Mason Celebrating God’s Gift of Joy: Champagne for the Soul

In Galatians 4:15, Paul writes “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?” Christians should be living a life of joy, but obviously, that’s not always true. If we’re not joyful, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What happened? How has joy eluded you?’

Many of us today know our Bibles, but we don’t grasp the concept of joy. We can believe all the right things; yet walk around with long faces.

“Joy knows it’s on the winning side. That’s why it can rejoice even in the midst of suffering. If any of life’s horrors were permanent or unconquerable, joy would be impossible. Yet how easily we’re cowed into a defeatist attitude! It doesn’t take a major calamity to get us down; a petty annoyance will do nicely. A day, an entire week, indeed a lifetime, can be spoiled by a series of light and momentary troubles. While one believer praises God in the midst of terminal illness, another grumbles because of a runny nose. What’s the difference between these two lives? Attitude.” Mike Mason

How has your attitude been? Have you let God pour joy into your life despite the ups and downs of your week?

Have you noticed some personal enemies that keep you from joy? (Examples might be negative self talk, bad circumstances, ungrateful spirit, busyness, difficult relationship, doubt, etc.)

Can you say that knowing and loving God is the #1 priority of your life, and that all of your ministry flows from your relationship with Christ?

“What if I were free of the need to be liked or respected? Would that change your level of joy in your life?”


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