Fill Your Cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

I don’t know where this quote came from but I love it. The way the world has become, we tend to go non-stop from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. It’s no wonder we are exhausted, drained, stressed or any other adjective you can fill in. Consider this quote when reading the following Bible Verse:

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As a Christian, the Great Commission is our purpose and life’s work. Bringing the good news of Jesus to all the world (to make a really bad Star Trek reference) is our Prime Directive. As with anything we do for God, we should do our best and BE our best. If we are running on empty how can we be our best? Imagine trying to leave for work with an empty tank of gas. You wouldn’t get very far would you? This is the idea behind filling our cup.

For myself, this is where I believe the church (building) has one of it’s greatest purposes. Many churches have become social clubs and the love of Christ never leaves the confines of those walls. Imagine driving to a gas station, filling your car up with gas, and then returning the gas to the pump or leaving your car at the station. It doesn’t make much sense does it? I believe more churches should be encouraging it’s members to be more active in sharing God’s love and to not hold on to what we are given.

The great thing about the church is that we CAN go to get filled. Life is rough, and it’s good to be reminded of God’s promises, how to deal with certain situations in our life. You should walk out of church feeling invigorated, ready to take on the world. If you don’t feel that way, it might be time to look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions. I believe one or two things would cause you to leave feeling the same way you did (or worse) as when you walked in.

  1. The church is the problem: It’s sad but true, in some cases, the church is just so disconnected from what’s going on in the world, disconnected from the struggles that people are facing, and have become more about a ritual than a relationship. Both large and small churches suffer from this, some even become more about the business and growing. Take a long hard look at your church and see whats going on. If the heart of the church is not centered on Christ (especially by it’s leaders but even the members too), it might be time to evaluate your reasons for staying.
  2. You are the problem: Ouch! Me wrong? Never! Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I would say we are all more at fault than the church. I know I’ve sometimes even caught myself just closing myself off to what God was saying through a message because I was in a bad mood or just wanted to say NO to God. Evaluate your attitude going into church. Are you coming with an expectant heart and excitement? Are you just making the trip because you should? Where is your heart at?
  3. A little bit of both: This is probably the most common scenario. Let’s be honest, no one is perfect. People have heart problems, the church is run by people, we should expect to deal with the enemy trying to tear us and our churches apart. The good news is we are aware of his schemes so we don’t have to fall for his lies and deception. The reality is there is fault on both ends, but as a Church (capital C) family we should be able to work through them.

I prefer the diversity of the church, God made us all different with different desires and passions, and I find beauty in the differences between how churches present the Gospel. Sometimes our tastes change over time, and that is OK. If you prayerfully determine that you are in a stale place, make a change and don’t be afraid to make a move be it through your church or yourself personally. Just make sure your heart and motives are in the right place. God loves you and he wants to invade your life, so let him. Find a place in your life where you can be fully open to him. We all start as baby Christians on milk (1 Corinthians 3:2) and I would hope we grow to solid food. Sometimes that growth requires a physical move and other times it requires a spiritual move, but the most important thing is to make sure your cup is being filled.

I also wanted to add, while filling your cup is of utmost importance, we should not do it at the expense of others. We are still to love others as Christ loves us. How you handle a situation should always be held up to a mirror of how Jesus would handle it. If you need to move on from a church or a relationship, do it dripping in Love. In the end you don’t have to answer to man, only to God, and if you do all things right by God, then you have fulfilled your obligation in a situation. Change is never easy, but God will always work it out for your God and his Glory.

I pray that all your cups would overflow and never empty and that you may be re-energized and revival fire would be sparked in your hearts.

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

When I hear this verse I immediately think of the song “Holy is the Lord” by Chris Tomlin. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a cliche’, but it does seem to be one of those verses we throw around because it’s catchy, easy to remember, and can be used for almost all occasions.

The problem I have personally is that these tend to become just tag lines and lose a lot of the meaning they truly hold. The really neat thing about the Bible is that, no matter how many times you read something, God can reveal something completely different to you on the second, third, or twenty third read through.

I was driving in my car to work the other day and I started thinking about this verse as it popped in to my head (which I often do because I have such a long drive). What IS the joy of the Lord? A quick google search shows so many different views on it. Most are the typical responses you would expect such as, “The joy of the Lord is the gladness of heart that comes from knowing God…”(www.GotQuestions.Org). While there is nothing wrong with that answer, I love it when God gives us an alternative view point of something.

What if the joy of the Lord was what God felt when he looks at us and thinks about how much he loves us? What strength would it give us if we could experience joy from HIS point of view? I think the disconnect we have is that we tend to confuse joy and pleasure.

Joy is defined as “a state of happiness” (www.dictionary.com), and happiness means contentment.

Pleasure is defined as “a feeling of being pleased” or “worldly enjoyment”.

There is quite a difference here. Pleasure is momentary, and a result of a feeling that comes from something we are doing or enjoying in a specific moment. This typically does not last very long afterwards. I think of things like a moment with partner, the thrill of victory in sports, or driving your new car off the lot. What are we left with after the moment passes? I can say we are not left with joy, but rather we begin looking towards the next thing to fulfill ourselves with. To me there is no strength in pleasure, but rather there is weakness, a deep need to continually be fulfilled in order to TRY to maintain a state of happiness.

So then where does that leave us with joy? Joy is state of being. It is not something that comes as a result of a single action, but rather a mindset that comes from being content in ALL things good or bad. I can be displeased or even upset that my team lost the big game, but I can still be content.

I hope you can see the difference. I believe THIS is where true strength comes from, and this is how we can endure the long race set before us. The reality is that life is hard, and A LOT of things will happen to steal our pleasure and even attempt to steal our Joy; however, if we can recognize these attempts as they happen, we can be better equipped to endure those trials. If I can look at a bad situation and see that while this momentary loss of pleasure may hurt, my Joy remains because God loves me and has blessed me in so many other ways. If every time something goes wrong we choose to focus on the lost pleasure, that pile grows and grows so large that we cannot see past it, and every time something bad happens we can only focus on that large pile of things that have gone wrong.

So this leaves me personally with a question, how do I experience the joy of the Lord? I know that I can’t obtain it by self serving and searching for pleasure through food, entertainment, and any other worldly means. I think the key is if I go back to the idea of the joy that God has when he looks at us and sees how much he loves us.

As a parent, I have no greater joy when I see the smile and happiness on my child’s face when I bless them in some way. I imagine God is the same way, when he blesses one of his children and sees the happiness on their face, it must bring him great joy. So it is along those lines that I believe true joy and happiness comes, from serving others. On the few rare occasions I’ve prayed for people in public, I can only describe the feeling of seeing their happiness when they were healed, or the fact that someone took time out of their day to love them, as pure joy. Seeing God’s love in action is a feeling unlike any other, and every other desire I have disappears when his joy is in the room.

All I wanted to do was keep walking around and praying for people, and so I believe if we choose to focus on loving others and seeing others as God sees us, then we can experience joy like he does, and truly knowing and experiencing that type of joy will help is when the momentary lapse of pleasure fails and disappoints us. As with anything it is always easier said than done, so I pray for you and for myself, that God would help us all to experience his joy in a way we never have before.