The Key To Happiness.

What is the key to Happiness? This is an age-old question that many of us in some way will ask ourselves at least once in our lives. It may come in several forms, such as Why am I so miserable? Why can’t I be happy? What makes me happy? It even could lead into, what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

In my journey through the Bible, I passed a chapter in Psalm today that described happy people, Psalm 84 which begins with the phrase, “How Lovely is your dwelling place”. I knew this one from the late 90s praise and worship song “Better is One Day” By Charlie Hall, which starts out the same, but over and over again it says in the chorus, “Better is One Day in Your Courts, better is one day in Your house, better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere. ”

In this chapter, verse 4 says “How happy are those who reside in Your house, who praise You continually.” and again in verse 5, ‘Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.’

We can shake out a few points on where we can find happiness from these two verses. The first is that happiness comes from those who dwell with the Lord. The Second is that happiness comes when we praise Him continually. We find happiness thirdly, when we rely on God for our strength and, the fourth one is that happiness is found in those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage; I might need another post to tackle the last one because even I got a bit confused when I got there. Research was required.

Okay, great discovery, what does this mean for me? How is this supposed to make me happy? From evidence of my personal journey, I can agree that these four points below are true and I implore you to test my results for yourself.

Dwell with the Lord. This doesn’t mean that you need to go setup a hammock at church or sleep in the pews. To dwell with the Lord would mean that God becomes the center of my life, that my heart becomes a place that God resides, that my mind is always conscious of His presence. Since He is with us always, the only thing that really keeps us from “dwelling” with the Lord, is our desire to do so. For so many reasons we try to do things away from God, we try to do things on our own, maybe out of pride or ignorance. When we acknowledge His presence and His authority over our lives, submitting to His rule, we dwell with Him and throughout the Bible it says that this will bring us happiness.

Praise continually. I’ve attached a sermon by Pastor Cedric Beckles from the Bahamas below who does an excellent job at digging into this topic deeper. In this sermon Pastor Beckles tells us that the same part of our brain that worries, is the same part that also worships. He says that you cannot worry and worship at the same time. Try it, it doesn’t work. When we chose worship over worry, we give our fears over to God and we choose to praise Him for who He is and let Him take care of the rest. In fact, in Luke 12:22-34 Jesus tells His followers not to worry. Easily enough, when we are not worrying, we are able to worship, and in worship we will be happy.

Rely on God for your strength. Most days when I am serving I get to the end of my energy but still have daylight requiring its expense and responsibility begging for my attention when I have nothing left to give. A lot of times I don’t want to go on, I’m tired, exhausted, burnt out, weary is also a good word. There is no argument that serving others brings me joy, but there is an energy that seems to surge from nowhere when mine has run out. Isaiah 40:29-31 is where I go in my head when I realize that I am spent, but there is still work to be done. It says that “those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint”. Instead of “I think I can, I think I can” when I feel weak like the Little Engine That Could, I go to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength”.

Set your heart on a pilgrimage. Don’t go building a set of boats to sail to the promised land wearing funny hats, to go have turkey dinner at Plimoth Rock. I have to admit that this is where my mind went, but it’s not far off from the journey that christians travel. Once we are in Christ, we become pilgrims moving to a new world, heaven, we are strangers, travellers on a journey to sainthood, sanctification through Christ. We become ambassadors from that world to the one we live in now. Our old lives become something new and as pilgrims on a journey we know that this is all temporary: pain, suffering, illness, sadness, depression…etc we can be happy knowing that it too, like a season, will pass and what waits for us on the other side is God’s perfect glory. The journey gets easier when you know what awaits you at the end and that brings happiness in the present.

Happiness does not mean that we will be millionaires. Happiness doesn’t mean that we will have a life without pain. Happiness is simply defined as contentment. The key to happiness isn’t having and chasing more, more, more, it is, by its own definition, less. We can be content, because we know that the Lord has our needs covered, and we can be happy because we dwell with the Lord. We are then able to praise without worry; we have abounding strength and our paths are set to Heaven.

An introduction to the Eleven Blog

Welcome to the Eleven blog; this is an outlet for the more spiritual side of my writings, thoughts, and feelings to be expressed. So often I would wrap up a devotional in the morning and have something revealed to me through that time spent in the Word and with God but I had no platform, no outlet for many of those thoughts to go, save Twitter or Instagram that in many ways were limiting on exactly what, moreso how much I could publish. 140 characters, or fumbling around in creative mode didn’t really allow much room for thought or feeling, and in all reality it was simply blasting out the highlights without much regard for the real meat of the idea.

I also feel that the churches need to be written letters again. The Apostle Paul was onto something in his writings. Thoughts on paper are better worded, better put together and better saved than words shared verabally, in my feeling writing is the superior form of communication. Even Paul mentions how he is untrained in public speaking, (2 Corinthians 11:6) but without him, we would also not have a majority of the New Testament, especially if he had chosen to speak his messages instead of write them. The letters he wrote were most likely read aloud to the early church as they were forming, and are still incredibly relevant today. I seriously doubt this blog will carry that kind of weight, but if it helps one person, it’s all worth it.

So, why Eleven? The significance of Eleven is that I lead high school student small groups at my church during the 11am hour at New Vision Baptist in Murfreesboro, TN. While we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted a way to teach and share what is on my heart, while I cannot be with them in person, I am hoping to use this outlet as a way to ultimately share God’s love with them, and what He is teaching me weekly. Granted there is a low probability that any of them will read it, but I am generating content just in case. Who knows what boredom will lead them to. Often I end up sharing messages that God is teaching me anyway, so in the end, I’m simply writing to myself.

I will also share what we are doing in the student ministry through sermon notes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, or as I like to refer to it, the coronapocolypse, I have a lot of time on my hands, so I’m using that to build sermon notes which I would normally do for the 11am hour, just in a slightly different capacity.

I hope you enjoy the blog, for as long as it lasts. Everyday God is teaching me something new, I hope that maybe through my writings, something might be revealed to you too.

Thanks for reading,

The New Normal

You are not normal. You feel trapped. You feel sad, confused, anxious, worried, distraught, depressed. You feel like the walls are closing in, you feel powerless to stop something so small, yet that miniscule thing has just disrupted your entire existence, maybe even your livelihood. Instead of going to visit people as an act of love, we are asked to stay away, to isolate, to quarantine, to purposely distance ourselves from each other.

You are completely out of control. You realize that your life is speeding down the road in a direction you haven’t chosen, at a speed way beyond safe limits, and if you’re like me it feels like you’re not even going forward. It’s not that you were unprepared or inept at managing this crisis: you’re just not driving anymore. COVID-19 has wiped out anything and everything that we remember as “normal”.

You’re not alone.

I think that is the inherent point I am trying to make. You may not feel normal right now, but none of us feel normal. We’re all in this together. Which makes what you are feeling, exactly, precisely, and beautifully normal. I must admit that there was at least one instance over the past few weeks in which I spontaneously burst into tears and you know what? That’s okay.

Our culture painted a picture that we all believed: that we were human, top of the food chain, we bent the Earth to our will, the universe was at our command and we were to conquer it and anything that opposed us. But those lies were all just smoke and mirrors. When the smoke vanished and the mirrors broke, the illusion was that we had any control at all. Recently in Nashville, we were confronted with the most terrifying of natural phenomena, the tornado, I remember feeling hopeless, fearful, truly terrified – how does someone protect themselves against something so destructive, so powerful or at least prepare for it?

The short answer was simple: you cannot.

If I cannot control something, if it is beyond my capacity as a human being, why should I even give it more than a passing thought? I think that is why Jesus told us so often not to be afraid and not to worry. There’s a passage in Luke 12 that comes to mind: Jesus is speaking and says, ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?

He tells us not to worry about what we will eat or drink, what we will wear, He said that the pagans run after such things. God the Father knows that you need them but we are to seek His kingdom and all that will be added unto us. (Luke 12:29-31) God’s got this. He WANTS us to rely on Him for our needs. God’s got this. Say it again. It is this confidence that we have, this hope in Him and the eternal life beyond this word that really reminds us that no thing really matters in this world. What matters is His kingdom, and the people around us and connected to us.

So, Chris, what then do you suggest we do when we are told to stay home and do nothing? What do we do with all this free time now that we are no longer obsessively worrying about this virus?

It’s a good time to read. It’s a great time to pray. It’s a good time to connect with people. This is an unprecedented time yes, but even more an unprecedented opportunity to connect with God, to read your Bible and to spread the love of Christ simply by picking up the phone, sending a text, hosting a zoom bible study or hey-o, writing a blog. All your excuses have been thrown out the window, and it is obvious to me that God wants to spend time with you. I can say that with the utmost confidence simply because He has gone through extraordinary measures to do so in the past, what makes today any different?

The God of the universe has been waiting for you, to spend time with you. I think now is a good time to make that a habit and our new normal.