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A Deeply Satisfying Life

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life–this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past – Ecclesiastes 5:19-20

Wow. That’s a paradigm-shifting passage of scripture.

How often do we mourn over what we’ve lost so much that we miss all we still have?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite appropriate to mourn over painful things in our past–it’s healthy even.

But at what point do we brood over the past too long? And miss the joy of today?

The prophet Samuel found himself in a similar situation. He had anointed the first king of Israel, Saul, and it was a complete disaster.

King Saul was disobedient, so much so, that the scripture tells us “the Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Samuel 15:35).

Samuel was grieved also. In 1 Samuel 16:1, it says:

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

Samuel had grieved long enough. God was on the move, doing something new! Something exciting! It was time for Samuel to be on his way. It was time for him to quit brooding over Saul and start enjoying the new thing God was doing.

I’ve spent plenty of time brooding over the past. So much so that I’ve missed the exciting things God is doing right now.

And it’s not necessarily HUGE things. But small, wonderful gifts.

Work is a gift from God. So are relationships. A walk in the park or the anticipation of Fall. Sharing a laugh with a friend. Enjoying a nice warm cup of tea. Eating a home-cooked meal.

These are the things that make for a deeply satisfying life. Enjoying God in the little everyday gifts we’re given. Seeing them as gifts worth celebrating.

It’s when we allow our paradigm to shift that we become so busy enjoying life that we don’t have time to brood over the past.

God is on the move! God is doing something new!

Will you join me in learning to live a deeply satisfying life?

-Dustin

Lift Up Your Hands and Celebrate

Think about all of the sounds. All of the countless sounds our Earth makes: twigs cracking beneath your tennis shoes, waves rhythmically hitting the sand and receding again, wind rushing through a corridor, cicadas singing on a summer night. So many sounds that don’t include human voices or movements. Nature itself is enough to create a mighty chorus that reaches heaven.

Psalm 148 calls all of creation to praise God, from the heavens to us on earth. The psalm begins in the broad expanse we know very little about: the universe. “Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above” (Ps. 148:1). Then the angels are called on to worship, then the sun, moon, stars, earth, sea creatures, lightning, wind, mountains, animals and, finally, kings, princes, women, men and children. It takes 11 verses for us to be mentioned. Do you ever think about all of the beings and things besides us that are praising God? Could it be that all of those sounds—waves, whales, cracking twigs—combined create a giant chorus all for God’s glory?

It is all for his glory, after all. As verse 13 of the psalm says, “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted.” And the symphony is much more than our alto, tenor and soprano voices; it is all of creation, even the stars. Scientists have listened to the sounds giant stars make as they spin. Why else would these balls of light that are light years away make a sound if not for God to hear?

Considering our small voices in comparison with the sound of a super nova spinning in space, it makes you wonder why we are included in nature’s symphony at all. Surely God is receiving enough praise and not missing our squeaky songs. However, the Bible is very clear that we are set apart from the rest of creation. Genesis 5:1 explains, “When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God.”

We, unlike everything else, look like God. We are his children and our bodies are made for worshiping him (Rom. 12:1). That is enough reason to spend the rest of our lives in constant praise and gratitude for being included in the chorus. Yet, many of us turn our worship to other things. We so quickly forget the one who actually deserves it.

The prophet Isaiah warned that God’s people were becoming worshipers of false gods: “Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made” (Is. 2:8). So if we are not lifting our hands in worship to our savior, we are lifting them in worship to something else. Imagine a baseball game, a Coldplay concert, good news about a promotion. The natural reaction to these events is to raise your hands in celebration. How much more should we raise our hands to the one that created the entire universe? A universe too vast for comprehension in which stars succumb to his glory.

We raise our hands in celebration and in awe of God, but we also raise them when crying out in pain. Consider what David wrote in Psalm 63: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

Our body reaches for him in our pain, when we thirst for his goodness but do not see it in the world around us. Then we lift our hands in desperate hope. We lift them for help to get out of the pit in which we find ourselves.

No matter the motive for lifting our hands toward God, we are worshiping him. We worship through pain as we would through celebration. Psalm 77:6 says, “I remembered my songs in the night.” This is a critical perspective we as Christians are asked to have. Night is dark. You cannot see what’s ahead of you. Another mountain to climb? Deliverance? More stillness and quiet and waiting on the Lord? But think again about all of the sounds. The singing does not stop when the sun sets: crickets are just waking up, mist settles on the grass, rain falls on the pavement. There is just as much praise at night from creation as there is at dawn—it’s just a different type.

As nature does, we also can sing through the night. We can lift our hands through the darkness and above the pain. We join all of creation in singing no matter the hour or circumstance, and we let faith arise in our midst. For as we know from experience and as we’ve been promised in scripture, joy comes with the morning (Ps. 30:5).

Here is a favorite song of mine that deals with this. It is titled “I Lift My Hands,” by Chris Tomlin. I encourage you to listen to this song. Celebrate God. Worship Him. Sing this song at the top of your lungs. Pray these lyrics. Lift up your hands and celebrate Him. He is worthy!

Be still there is a healer

His love is deeper than the sea

His mercy is unfailing

His arms a fortress for the weak

Let faith arise

Let faith arise

I lift my hands to believe again

You are my refuge

You are my strength

As I pour out my heart

These things I remember

You are faithful God forever

Be still there is a river

That flows from Calvary’s tree

A fountain for the thirsty

Your grace that washes over me

Let faith arise

Let faith arise

I lift my hands to believe again

You are my refuge

You are my strength

As I pour out my heart

These things I remember

You are faithful God

You’re faithful God forever

For an amazing message on this topic to take you a little deeper, please check this link out.

It will take about an hour. Make some time, it is well worth it. For real!!! It is a message from Louie Giglio. Louie is one of the most gifted teachers on planet Earth, and one of my favorites.

Be blessed.

-Pastor Tim

Toys then Trinity

I find it interesting that there are no one-man birthday parties.

When I was a small chap, the highlight of my birthday was the presents. I could have cared less about the cake, the songs, the festive plates and cutlery…I wanted to tear into wrapping paper. I wanted the GI Joe Snake Eyes action figure with working retractable belt. I wanted the Lego Mack truck that Snake Eyes had to evade by help of his working retractable belt. I wanted the platoon of army men who would set up an impenetrable ambush…that Snake Eyes had to evade by help of his working retractable belt.

Candy?  OK, I’ll eat some while I peruse the front of this Ninja Turtle book. Cake? A few bites, but then I must retire to quieter, less-hectic GI Joe/Lego/Ninja Turtle battlegrounds, (i.e. my room). Family?  Friends? Thanks for coming but, as you can see, an EPIC war is about to catch fire and I kind of need to be there…Snake Eyes is out numbered and he’s gonna need backup.

My party was about me. First and foremost. My GI Joe. My fun. My enjoyment. And the party didn’t really start until people were gone and I was alone with my toys.

Years passed, and I found myself discontent with never-ending plastic skirmishes stuck on repeat. I discovered I had to talk for Snake Eyes. Snake Eyes wasn’t able to talk for himself. My community was me.

Scripture shows us a God who IS community. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit glorify each other. They CELEBRATE each other. They always have, always do, and always will. I’ve discussed this in a previous blog post, but it’s an imperative truth we need to pay attention to: the triune God created us in his own image TO BE IN COMMUNITY.

I recently celebrated my birthday by having dinner with a handful of close, dear friends.  And I was bummed when it had to end.

I didn’t receive any Legos, action figures, or little plastic army men…nothing to appease the desires of a selfish, bored hermit.

I spent several hours dining, breaking bread with people I loved, laughing with them, celebrating with them.

My delight wasn’t in myself.

After several years I’ve come to understand that self can’t fill a trinity-sized hole.

-Nate

Pause

I love that celebration is a discipline.

I think so often we get caught up in ‘going, going, going’, ‘working, working, working’ that we forget to pause and celebrate. Take joy in what the Lord has done and is doing.

This discipline forces you to stop and spend time with your community. With your family. With your friends.

I think that sometimes we convince ourselves that we are “just too busy.” And that we can’t participate. We can’t stop and celebrate.

And then we miss out.

But in reality, if we start to see celebration as a discipline, it makes us take time. It makes us stop and enjoy what’s happening in our lives.

Don’t skip over the little things. Don’t look past the opportunities to celebrate. Don’t hide away and think ‘someday’ you’ll have time.

Rejoice. Celebrate.

-Jen

Practice Celebration

The spiritual discipline of celebration leads us to joy. When we fail to celebrate regularly, there is a slow leak in our joy tank. We keep that tank full through practicing celebration.

My blog is going to be short and to the point. What can you do this week to practice celebration?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Take my challenge this week and find someone who is under-celebrated and bring them a cake or cupcake and celebrate them as a child of God, even if they aren’t a follower of Christ.

2. As a family, take a night this week and play Monopoly. Make sure you pray before you start and invite God into your time. Enjoy yourself and laugh out loud!

3. Invite a few people over for a nice meal. During the meal, spend time reflecting on how God has been faithful and good in your lives.

4. Unplugged from the TV for a week. This will allow more time for things like spending time with those you love: your kids, your wife or husband, a close friend, or simply resting and reflecting.

5. I have talked about this one before. Find a joy-mentor. I first heard this idea from John Ortberg in his book “The Life You Have Always Wanted.” He suggests finding someone who seems to have a ton of joy and meeting with them and asking them to teach you how to gain more joy.

6. Write someone a nice note celebrating their impact in your life.

7. Make a list of all the things/people in your life you are thankful for and take time to reflect on them in prayer. Thank God for all of this blessings. Start with a list of 10, then go to 25, then go to 50.  See how far you get, then keep this list close and when you feel the joy slipping, pull this list out and be reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I hope these help you in your journey.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

Practicing Joy

This past weekend at Elevation, I challenged everyone to begin practicing the discipline of celebration.

Most people don’t see celebration as a spiritual practice.

We tend to associate “disciplines” with things we don’t doing enjoy. It is usually something not fun and more than likely, laborious.

Here is the problem… the Bible instructs us, no, commands us, to have JOY.
C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

I love that statement.
Our God is a God of joy.
He celebrates over us.
He loves us.
We bring him great joy.
We are his kids.

So, we serve a God that is joyful and calls us to rejoice. In Philippians 4:4 we are told to “always rejoice.” In other words, always be full of joy; so much so, that you can’t help but rejoice.

Jesus tells us that he wants our joy to be “full” in John 15:11. Not half-full… but completely full, of joy.

Okay…so if we are told to have joy, but we don’t, then what’s the reason for our joylessness (oh yeah, that’s totally a word)?

Here is one really big possibility: Our joy is directly related to our proximity to Jesus. In other words, if our relationship isn’t strong then how do we ever expect to possess the joy that only comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives? It is a complete impossibility.

Read John 15. You will notice a couple of reoccurring terms: “remain” or “abide”. This passage of scripture is telling us that our ability to be obedient and grow fruit is directly related to this lifestyle of remaining. We must remain in order to maintain.

I realize that this can be very simple in theory, but extremely difficult to live out. This is why the spiritual practice or discipline of celebrating is so critical for the believer.

(If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, you can change that today and begin to experience the abundant life that Jesus tells us about. Simply acknowledge your sinfulness and your need for a Savior. Invite Jesus into your heart and ask him to come and be your Lord. Commit yourself to living for Him alone.)

In John Ortberg’s book, The Life You Have Always Wanted, he talks at length about this idea of practicing celebration. He gives several steps to take in order to begin practicing celebration.

(1) Start now
(2) take a day a week to celebrate
(3) find a joy mentor
(4) take a week to fast from TV
(5) remember the biblical story of Jesus’ return.

I shared these in my message this past weekend and it’s so encouraging to see people starting to implement some, if not all, of these steps into their lives.

I also added one. I asked people to write down, tweet, or put on Facebook three things that they are thankful for each day, as we lead up to Christmas. I am looking forward to hearing the stories that will come out of this challenge.

When we have an attitude of celebration and have cultivated joy into our lives we will begin to experience the abundant life that Jesus talked about. This will not only help us but it will make the gospel of Jesus Christ all the more attractive to the world around us. People will be drawn to Jesus through his people.

If you are reading this you should start today!!!

Begin practicing the discipline of celebration; It will change your life.

If you don’t have a church or a commitment on Christmas Eve we would love for you to come and be a part of our celebration. Our worship gathering will be at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve. Go to our website to find out more: www.elevationstl.com

-Daniel

Passover

John 12:1-11

It was the season of Passover.

It was a time of celebration for Israel; a time to remember God’s faithfulness.

In this passage we see that Jesus had arrived in Bethany in preparation for Passover.  At this dinner we get a glimpse of three major characters.

Lazarus: The Guy Who Was Dead

John tells us that Lazarus was, “…the man he [Jesus] had raised from the dead.”  This was the home of Lazarus and this dinner was to CELEBRATE Jesus.  Can you imagine sitting at the same table with the man who brought you back to life?!

Question:  How could you celebrate Jesus today for the gift of life; both, now and in eternity?

Mary: The Extravagant Giver

After dinner Mary grabs a jar of “expensive perfume” made from the nard plant (Lavender was one of the fragrances derived from the nard plant).  This oil had a strong and intense fragrance; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and began to wipe his feet with her hair.

Let me emphasize that a woman’s hair was considered to be her glory and this wasn’t common practice. This was a true act of humility, honor, and extravagant generosity.

Questions:  How could you honor Jesus today by giving until it cost you something?  It cost Mary something to celebrate Jesus in this way.  What ministry has God been telling you to give to lately?

Judas: The Betrayer

Judas didn’t get it because he was so consumed with his own agenda.

Lazarus and Mary were two extremely grateful people, willing to pull out all the stops to celebrate Jesus, because he had made such a difference in their lives.  They were joyful, passionate, thankful, and grateful givers.

Judas on the other hand was none of these things. He was greedy, selfish, faithless, and religious.  He wasn’t about the relationship; he was about the bottom-line. But PEOPLE are more important than the bottom-line. Jesus came into this world to save PEOPLE.

John tells us that Judas didn’t care about the poor. That he was a “thief” who had stolen from the disciples. Judas was about to betray Jesus; sending him into the hands of religious establishment for twenty-pieces of silver.

Questions:  How are you acting like Judas?  Are you tithing (10% of your income going to God)?  If not, you are robbing God.  How about your gratitude? It is easy to lose sight of the many blessings in our life and begin the slow drift into ungrateful living.  How is your JOY level right now?

 

If your life is more like Lazarus or Martha right now—praise God!  If your life is more like Judas right now, then it’s time for a change.

The Bible tells us to repent, for God is faithful to forgive us and empower us for transformation through the Holy Spirit.

Simply ask.

Ask the Lord for forgiveness, earnestly repent of your sin, and ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit so that YOU can live a victorious life.

-Daniel