Archive for December, 2021

Happy Times

What do you do during your happy times? You know, those times when things are going good, and you just feel happy. Go on, admit there are such times. However, remember this simple truth: You can’t be happy all the time. You may be under the mistaken impression everybody is happy but you. Unc-uh. 

What do you do when something makes you happy? 

Mark Twain (and a number of others) is credited with this suggestion.

“Dance like nobody is watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.”

“Work like you don’t need the money.”

Baseball great Satchel Page is credited with adding the latter.

Regularly, our lives are filled with all sorts of emotions including sadness, anger, emptiness, stress, anxiety, or even depression. Ever wonder how to put more focus on joy rather than letting those other emotions take over. Putting your trust in God is the first step. It opens us up to a life full of joy.

Jesus isn’t interested in making people happy. Instead He focuses on joy. These two words are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. … 

We are happy because something made us happy, but  we are joyful because of something within us. 

There are those moments when happiness comes — enjoy them. They don’t last. When a happy time passes, don’t look for artificial or material things for happiness, they will always fall short. To find full and lasting happiness, look to the God that created you. Oftentimes the things we use to satisfy us are only temporary fixes.

Instead, the Bible focuses on joy. To have a richer fuller life work on that enter core. Make it control central where Jesus is in control.

In the development of that core consider these Bible verses. Don’t just read them. Read them one at the time and ask yourself how you are going to apply it. 

“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15)

“Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” (Romans 14:22)

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;” (Proverbs 3:13)

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.” (Proverbs 16:20)

“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. (Job 5:17)

Proper response can make you happy to the core. Thus you will be prepared for a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

A Moment of Spiritual Growth Assessment

Today, this very day, is an ideal day to willfully trust Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and in return receive His gift of eternal life. In the moment of doing so you can start a lifelong faith walk with Him. After doing so it is expedient to identify with the faith community for a spiritual support system. They have all done what you have done, asked for the forgiveness of their sins, so they can identify with you and will welcome you.

You who have embraced Jesus as Savior, this is a good time to take a spiritual inventory. Remember when the very citizenship of your soul changed kingdoms? Remember the pure, almost sacred, feeling you had when you embraced Jesus as Savior.  The paradise of your first love is a state that needs to be cultivated and allowed to grow. The emotion may fade, but the relationship can and must be allowed to grow in intimacy. As we grow spiritually and feelings change, facts don’t.

Sensation must be stabilized by study.

Ecstasy must be embraced by experience.

Passion must be predicated on principles.

Persons don’t take giant steps out of close fellowship with the Lord. Their steps out of fellowship are most often small, almost unnoticed. Devotion often fades like a flower so slowly it is imperceptible. 

Believers are exhorted in Revelation 2: 1 – 5 to remember their first love, their first and foremost love. This is an appeal to shake the ashes off your rusty altar and rekindle the fires of  devotion. The passage gives an appeal to “remember,” indicating something had been forgotten.

The drift out of fellowship usually begins with a few slight indulgences that formerly would not have been tolerated. A casual brief venture into enemy territory may result in alienation from your first love.

In the early hours of this new year plan and designate a day when you will engage in spiritual renewal. If not a day, at least a time. Turn off the phone, put aside your high tech devices, and spend time alone with the Lord when you read Scripture, pray, meditate, and in general renew your commitment to the Lord. If your interest wanes in doing one of those things, switch to another. Many have the good fortune of family responsibilities, keep your family involved to the minimum.

Now, considering that not all people can have a day for a personal renewal retreat, try this. Be an Adam. Scripture speaks of God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8) To walk with them, did not mean literally, it simply means He had fellowship with them daily at a designated time. You, too, can designate a time to fellowship with the Lord. Say you don’t have time? Well, make time by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal.

Regardless of the time you devote to this exercise, the purpose is renewal or enhancement of your spiritual life. Thereby you will be preparing for whatever is ahead.

The uncertainty of this hour looms like a storm cloud on our personal and national horizon. Now is the time to prepare yourself for this uncharted journey. Get a grip on your faith in case circumstances shake your foundation.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

Clean Your Spiritual House

“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…”  (Colossians 3: 8 – 10)

The approach of a new year motivates most to clean up and throw away things. My wife just told me she organized the food pantry. I have gone through my clothes closet and thrown away or given away a number of things that no longer fit or have served their day. Why not apply the same techniques to your moral and spiritual life? The text gives an inventory to work with, things to “put off.” 

Anger, org? is the emotion of instant displeasure on account of something.

Wrath, thymos, is anger on steroids, to be “snorting angry.”

Malice is a desire to destroy something or someone.

Blasphemy primarily means to defame someone, also it is impious, and irreverent speech against God.

Bitterness is the number one sin of Christians. There is the old axiom, “Bitterness does more harm to the vessel it is stored in than it does to the one on which it is poured.” Therefore, “Be kind, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ sake has forgiven you.”

Filthy language, enough said.

Equally clear is the meaning of a lie. It is meant to deceive. Now look at the New Living Translation of the text.

“But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” (Colossians 3: 8 – 10)

Now after this house cleaning you can begin to “put on the new nature,” the person God created you to be. It is expedient to clean house and build your spiritual resources. Not knowing what is ahead, we need all the strength possible to deal wit it. We have no assurance 2021 will be better than 2020, nor that it won’t be worse. For self-encouragement sing to yourself . . . . 

“… because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future, 
And life is worth the living just because He lives.”

For an encore sing, “You are Good Good Father.”

Your Emotional Equilibrium

Happiness is not something to be sought or bought. It is a beautiful by-product of a job well done, a secondary or indirect product. We get detracted from the objective of happiness when we think it is to be found in good things, places and people. That trio is important, but as objective in seeking happiness they do no not result in happiness. Car bumper stickers assure us, “I would rather be…” Fill in the blank.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience resulting from doing your best at everything, living every minute with love, grace, and devotion to God and those around you with gratitude.

Happiness is a beautiful by-product, the result of another action, often unforeseen or unintended.

Imagine you are a teenager in high school with a big test coming up. The night before you stay up until midnight studying for it. Your eyes are burning, your shoulders cramping, and your back aching.

The next day you take the test and ace it, a perfect score. You are overjoyed, happy, elated. The night before while studying you were not thinking about happiness, you were concerned about doing a good job. You did, and the beautiful by-product was rightfully happiness.

The same is true of every task you undertake throughout life. Do a good job and enjoy the benefit … happiness.

A theme text of mine has been Colossians 3: 23, “Whatsoever your do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto man.”

Pleasing the Lord in the way you do all you do can bring happiness.

If you do what you do in a way that pleases the Lord and people complain and criticize you, you don’t get depressed, you didn’t do it for them, you did it for Him.

If you do what you do in a way that pleases the Lord and people brag on you, and compliment you, you don’t have an ego fit, you didn’t do it for them, you did it for Him.

This can help maintain your emotional equilibrium, avoid faux highs and lows, that is.

Always be kind to your tomorrow-self by doing today what you do well and pleasing to the Lord. Your tomorrow-self must live with the memories being created by your today self.

Happiness looks good on you … wear it well.

So live and serve as to hear the Master say, “’Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

Peace On Earth

Twas the season to be jolly.  With Christmas in the rear view mirror, now what?

Jesus Christ, “the Prince of Peace,” knowing His followers would be aliens in an antagonistic society said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

At His birth an angelic messenger said, “Peace on earth, good will toward men…”  Cynics scoffed at such an idea. Mockery is still made of the idea. 

Misanthropists delight to say it has been nearly 2,000 years and this promise hasn’t been realized.

Henry W. Longfellow penned the words that sum up the concept held by many:

“I heard the bells on Christmas day 
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth good-will to men.

“And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

True, hate is strong. Read it in the headlines of international news. Observe the daily local news reports of lives taken. Observe it in our schools where students have so much going for them, yet, they show disregard for one another and inflict physical, emotional, and psychological pain on each other.

In despair we might agree, “There is no peace on earth!”

A Biblical perspective seems to have swept across Longfellow’s thoughts as he continued to write:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will toward men!”

It is to people in the antagonistic environment where hate is strong that Christ said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This angelic message is misunderstood to be a prophecy of peace. Instead it is a prescription for peace. Only when taken does it work.

There is an acid soil in which a sweet fruit grows. In Galatians 5:22 “the fruit of the Spirit” is noted. First, to be mentioned is “love,” followed by “joy,” and third is “peace.”

These virtuous fruit have their source in the Lord. They are sustained and maintained only by Him. These are not human achievements. They are the product of the work of the Holy Spirit in human lives.

Christ said, “My peace I give to you…” It is a gift that is ours because of Christ’s  atonement, not our attainment. 

Christ said it is “My peace” and I “give” it. It isn’t like that which the world offers. The world offers what it cannot give, the world cannot take away the peace Jesus offers.

Like any prescription, it has to be taken to be effective. Commit to the Lord and take His offer of peace.