Joy Builds Spiritual Strength

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” -Nehemiah 8:10

You can’t be strong spiritually without joy. It’s as simple as that. Look at that verse in Nehemiah closely: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” God himself connects these two things together: joy and strength.

Why?

Because when we have joy, it’s a sign that we’re trusting God. When we don’t have joy, it’s a sign that we’re not trusting God. And when we stop trusting God, joy exits our lives immediately.

Joy is actually one of the reasons we bring in comedians to our THRIVE Conferences every year. Some people ask why we do that at a Christian conference, why we set out to have fun like that. And the answer is because God’s people need to laugh.

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” -Psalm 118:24

Something’s missing if people aren’t enjoying God in life, if they aren’t rejoicing. There ought to be gladness, and there needs to be laughter. Did you know that adults laugh only 10% as much as kids? Somewhere between childhood and adulthood people start to lose their laughter; they start to lose their joy. Some of us in ministry especially tend to get so serious about our mission and plans, or so weighed down by all that’s on our plate, that we haven’t laughed in years.

Maybe that’s you, and you haven’t even realized it.

Take a minute to remember that laughter is not only therapeutic; it give us joy. And joy builds our spiritual strength.

So go laugh today. Tickle your kids. Tell funny stories with them or your spouse. Get together with friends and reminisce about fun times. Take time to let the joy grow in your heart today, and feel God’s strength lift you up.

Come back next week for more about joy, where I’ll be talking about why joy is important in developing healthy relationships! 

We Remember

On this 11th anniversary of the shock and horror of 9/11, I want to share a few observations and then ask for prayer.

Much has happened in the past 11 years, a lot of it good. Perhaps the best, for me, has been the renewed sense of respect that people show to policemen, firemen and, especially, our military. Those of us who came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, in particular, know that those who put themselves on the line to keep us safe haven’t always been held in the esteem they deserve. Now, however, I see people waving at a policeman on patrol or paying for the coffee for the fireman back in the line. Recently, an executive gave up his seat in first class and insisted on moving to the back of the plane so that a serviceman, returning from his final tour in Afghanistan, could move up front.

Even though 9/11 ushered in a dark period, I am now more optimistic than ever. I see people making sacrifices that build the kingdom of God on Earth and store up treasures in heaven. I see people pouring themselves into each other and their churches. I see people energized to do even more.

On this anniversary, please pray for peace for the families and other loved ones of those who perished. Please pray for our police, firemen and military, that they will stay safe while they continue to keep us safe. Please pray for Bayside, too, that we, as a church family, will continue to represent the grace and love of Jesus Christ to our community, our region and the world!

Blessings,

Pastor Ray

You can overcome the odds

Confidence can be a fragile thing. As portrayed in the film “Cinderella Man”, despite being a ten-to-one underdog, boxer James J. Braddock was the picture of confidence as he defeated Max Baer to become heavyweight champion of the world. But 5 years before that famous match, his confidence, as a boxer and as his familyʼs provider, was shattered in a loss to then reigning light heavyweight champ, Tommy Loughran. The next 5 years were filled with struggle, going broke, food lines, poor performances, and 20 more losses. Then a “right place at the right time” last minute substitution opportunity gave Braddock the chance to fight, and beat, “Corn” Griffin, the worldʼs number two contender. That improbable win led to his historic championship victory over Max Baer. After years of hard luck, he had his confidence back. As James Braddock demonstrated, there is no substitution for confidence.

The first words Jesus spoke to the disciples after his resurrection were these: “Peace be with you!” Because of Jesusʼ resurrection, we too can live with confidence. Nothing will raise your expectations, give hope, and restore relationships like having confident faith in Jesus Christ. Notice the impact of faith: Faith in Godʼs PRESENCE gives me PEACE! Faith in Godʼs CALL gives me PURPOSE! Faith in Godʼs WORD gives me DIRECTION! Faith in Godʼs POWER gives me CONFIDENCE!

A pastor friend of mine has made some revealing observations about the impact of confidence. He found that people with a high level of confidence are more satisfied, more willing to help others in need, physically healthier, more productive, and less affected by stress than are people with low confidence. Confident people are also more likely to see God as loving, caring, and forgiving. Living our lives through the filter of a confident faith can be a catalyst for reaching the world around us with Godʼs love.

Something to reflect on: Recall a time in your life when the odds were against you. How did God help you overcome those odds? And, how has Christʼs resurrection helped you live with confidence? In what area do you need to tap into that power more?

Remember the words of Jesus- “Peace be with you!”

Week of Video Devotions

Last week, Curt and I gave the church some things to further explore in the book of Acts via a daily devotional.  Watch them all here.

Ray Monday Devotional from Bayside Church on Vimeo.

Christmas at Bayside

I’m thankful for all the amazing people that come together to help us put on Christmas at Bayside each year.  It’s turning out to be a pretty historic one for us and we thank God for it. This year we are excited to have America’s Got Talent finalists The Silhouettes with us for all of our services!  Here is the Christmas trailer that is currently playing in the theaters.

 

God offers grace to us

Grace. God has offered grace to each one of us. But God offering us grace doesnʼt complete the salvation process. Itʼs completed in us when we actually receive the gift of grace, the promise of eternal life in heaven. Heaven is a gift that must be received. And this gift was offered to the world in the form of Jesus, who came not to condemn us- but to save us. Thatʼs the good news! Eternal life is a gift, but it must be received.

Perhaps this story will help. Two baseball teams were deadlocked in a championship game. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, two outs. The batter hit a shot that ricocheted off the center-field wall. He sped around first base, second, and third- then he raced for home plate. With the crowd screaming and the relay throw coming, he slid across home plate just before the catcher could make the tag. The crowd went nuts, and the batterʼs team sprinted onto the field to celebrate. But, to everyoneʼs shock, the umpire shouted, “Youʼre out!” Pandemonium ensued. The crowd began booing. The manager went berserk. When the umpire finally got a word in edgewise, he announced, “Heʼs not out because he got tagged at home. Heʼs out because he missed first base!”

I can attend church, serve on dozens of committees, own the biggest Bible on the block, and memorize the Ten Commandments- but establishing a relationship with God is like touching first base. Without a relationship with Christ, someday I will be called out at home. This isnʼt about religion, itʼs about relationship. God wants you to know his Son, Jesus Christ. Thatʼs first base. Receiving Godʼs grace. Why not accept his grace, receive his invitation into heaven right now? Just pray these words from your heart:

Dear God, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. Jesus, I believe that you are who you said you are and that you proved it by rising from the dead. I want to get to know you personally. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me and forgiving all my sins. Please forgive me for all my sins and come into my life. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Holy Spirit, change me into the new creation you want me to be. Thank you for your free gift of eternal life. Amen.

Developing a Confident Faith

In my book “This Changes Everything” I begin Chapter One with a story of the country minister and the hearse. Check it out in the book- it creates quite a funny word picture! The “punch line” is, when people see life where theyʼre expecting death, there is a reaction! Exhibit A: Thomas. Exhibit A-1: me. Exhibit A-2: perhaps you?

Thomas has gotten a bad rap in the church. We call him “Doubting Thomas” and mock his lack of faith. But I, having grown up in a “show-me- the-evidence” family, respect Thomas for his honesty. Letʼs give the guy a break… he wasnʼt with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them in Easter. So when he said “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands… I will not believe.”, he was really saying, “I saw Him die. And I WANT to believe Heʼs alive, but I canʼt settle for a secondhand faith. I need to see Jesus alive to confirm my faith!” Thomas was saying he would follow Jesus if, and only if, he was convinced Jesus was alive.

For Thomas, and those of us like him, proof of the resurrection is essential. After all, who needs a dead Savior? Of course, John 20:27 confirms that Thomas did in fact see the risen Jesus. Thomas then knew that his faith in Christ was not in vain. That “Proof Faith” is what motivated all the disciples to travel the world, testifying that Jesus had risen from the grave.

However, a “different route to the same destination” is the story of the famed playwright George Bernard Shaw. In his play “Too True To Be Good”, one characterʼs lines parroted what many believe to be Shawʼs own view: “The science I pinned my faith to is bankrupt… and I who believed in it as no religious fanatic has ever believed in his superstition! For its sake I helped to destroy the faith of millions of (God) worshippers… And now look at me and behold the supreme tragedy of the atheist who has lost his faith in atheism, for which more martyrs have perished than for all the creeds put together.”

Shaw came to the same conclusion that Thomas did- the proof of the resurrection was too consistent, to compelling, too complete, to doubt any more. Stop doubting and believe.

This Changes Everything

When I was 21 years old, a group of Christians challenged me to discredit the claims of Christianity. Having discounted them all my life, growing up in a family of skeptics, I figured this would be easy. I decided the fastest way to do away with the claims of the Christian faith would be to discount the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

However, the more I studied, the more I uncovered overwhelming historical evidence for the existence of Christ and for His resurrection. I found, much to my surprise, that the historical evidence of Jesusʼ resurrection was too consistent, too compelling for me to doubt. I completely lost my “lack of faith”. This historical evidence led me to make a decision to trust Jesus as my Savior. Even more to my surprise, I discovered that I wasnʼt just making an intellectual decision. I was also unleashing in my life the kind of transforming power weʼre all striving to find. Through reading these blogs (and my book), I hope that you too will find the evidence so compelling, that youʼll experience the same power Iʼve discovered.

In my book, “This Changes Everything”, I begin every chapter with the statement, “Because of Jesus and His resurrection, you can…”

This has been my spiritual and personal motivation for everything that defines who I am. If you know anything about my past, you know I wasnʼt always someone who said “I can”. But despite my upbringing, despite my effort to find inconsistencies, and despite my own inner self to tell me “Ray canʼt”, Iʼve discovered that because of Jesus and His resurrection, I can be the person God wants me to be, the husband God wants me to be, the father, the pastor, the friend…

As you read these blog posts, I pray that youʼll experience the same power Iʼve discovered, that because of Jesus and His resurrection, YOU CAN!