Are You Happy or Glad?

smirkThat people expend a great deal of energy in the quest for happiness should come as no surprise.  After all, the Declaration of Independence states:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

I think it is important to note that while a person may pursue happiness, the founding fathers did not guarantee it; and, the right to pursue it has been endowed by our Creator.

Some people have wasted their life in pursuit of that which can be fleeting and once attained is found to be of little substance.  Harvey Weinstein is a case in point; his life has been an endless pursuit of sexual gratification at the expense of those he has abused.  Weinstein may have not realized it yet, but the flesh has an insatiable desire for more.

A person might find momentary happiness in the things of this world; however, gladness is the fruit of a fulfilling relationship.  In the Old Testament Nehemiah spoke of this when he said, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Gladness is not found in some sleazy get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it some cheap gimmick; it comes from a relationship of the heart.  The love of God for man and man’s love for the Christ who died for him. Jesus said He came so we could have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

 

Psalm 70:4

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified!”

Picker-Uppers and Put-er-Downers

judgment-1024x682-1-730x430Do you judge-mentally or are you judgmental? One is a well-reasoned response to a given situation, while the other is an irrational reaction. One investigates the specifics seeking the best outcome for everyone involved, while the other is condescending and self-serving in its handling of the facts.

A judgmental person thrives by focusing on your weaknesses and failures. As long as he can do that, he doesn’t have to think of his own puny performance and fatal flaws.

Paul challenged the church at Galatia to address this issue: “If a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load . . . whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 6).”

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • When someone stumbles and falls, do I reject him or restore him?
  • Am I reaching out with a “spirit of gentleness?”
  • Do I have a “holier-than-thou attitude?”
  • Have I examined my life to deal with my own shortcomings?
  • Do I look for the opportunity to help carry the burden of the heavy-hearted?
  • Am I like the Good Samaritan, and try to do good to all?

Your answers to these questions may help you determine if you are a picker-upper or a put-er-downer. Which of the two are you?

A Day For Weeping

vegasLike many of you, my attention today has been focused on the tragedy that has occurred in Las Vegas.  As I think of those whose lives have been taken by a suicidal and homicidal man, and the survivors who will struggle with their emotions for some time to come, I remember some timely words from the New Testament: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Today is a day when the collective heart of our nation aches, and it is a time to weep with those who weep. It is not a time to promote agendas or to draw unfounded conclusions; it is a day for compassion and prayer.

This is also a day when the God question will be asked: If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?

God has created only that which is good.  When God created man, God gave him free will.  God’s perfect creation can use his free will to choose to do evil. All people are free to choose to do good, but they are also free to do evil. The one who is free to love, is also free to hate.

I choose not to use the name of the shooter, but he chose evil; he chose to inflict harm on the innocent; and, he will answer to God for his actions.

Please join me in praying for the people of Las Vegas.

Buds and Blossoms

SONY DSCA first glance the white flowers in the picture to the left add beauty to the shrubbery; however, the white flowers are actually part of a nuisance vine that clings to the host plant and drains it of its strength.

A similar process can subtly take root in our lives.  Something that seems harmless will attach itself to our daily routine.  Eventually it will blossom into a habit that saps us of our strength and robs us of our vitality.

Because thoughts can become habits and habits can control our lives, we need to be aware of their presence.  A simple and effective way to do this is to follow the 4 Star Process:

1.  Self-awareness:  Become aware of what you are thinking by recording your thoughts.

2.  Think about the thought.  Is it catastrophic thinking?  This type of thinking is characterized by words such as:  always, never, should, and must.

3.  Action:  Many of our thoughts are part of an unconscious process in which we act without consciously thinking, we need to practice disciplined thinking: Eliminate thoughts of Grudges and Gossip, and embrace thoughts of Goodness and Grace.

4.  Rehearse:  Successful public events are often preceded by hours of private rehearsal.  Benjamin Franklin said that, By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Rehearse and prepare by examining your  brain drainers and brain boosters. These come in the form of the thoughts and habits that Paul speaks of in the verses that follow:

  • Brain Drainers:  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.   But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice,  slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:5-10).
  • Brain Boosters:  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,  whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever  things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8)

Here’s a question to keep you thinking:  What buds are about to blossom in your life?

Two Powerful Words

followTwo words changed the lives of two men, and they gave birth to a spiritual revolution that changed the world. The two words were spoken by Jesus when He called out to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).”

The best way to follow Jesus, is to walk in His footsteps.  To make sure you’re on the right path, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I walking in love?
  • Am I walking in the light?
  • Am I walking with wisdom?
  • Am walking or living my life in a way that is pleasing to God?

Before I was tall enough to see over the corn stalks and heads of milo that filled the fields where my dad would take me hunting, I never got lost; all I had to do was step where Dad stepped.  The same is true as you journey through life, simply walk like Jesus.

The apostle Peter said, Jesus suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21).

I encourage you to follow Jesus and to walk in His steps.  You can use the words of Psalm 119:133 as a prayer, and simply as God to, Direct my steps by your word!

 

Rise and Shine

sunflowerfeild.jpgOne of the many features that I love about Kansas is its population; it’s small in number compared to many states.  I also have a fond affection for the diverse landscapes of the Flint Hills and the bumper crops of sunflowers that adorn the roadsides that lace their way through the Kansas prairies.

If you’re one of the less than 3 million people who call Kansas home, you may know the sunflower was designated as the official state flower in 1903.  This long-stemmed flower with petals of golden yellow is classified as a turnsole plant, a word of French origin and one that means to “turn towards the sun.”

The sunflower, like all plants, is not self-sufficient—it depends upon the sun for essential nourishment. 

Health conscious individuals are learning what botanists have known for many years:  In proper amounts, there are some benefits associated with exposure to the sun.  There’s ample research that’s easily available, and it indicates the sun’s rays are beneficial to your health.

While the sun is important to you physically and mentally, it pales in comparison to the Son, who is vital to your spiritual well-being: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).”

Cultivate the habit of rising in the morning, facing the Son, and following Him throughout the day.  When you practice this routine you will develop a God-focused regimen of strength that recognizes that it’s, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).”

When you rise of a morning,  why not give the Son a chance to shine on you?

Mixed-up and Maxed-out

frazPeople come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them are disillusioned and distracted; others are inquisitive and interesting.  G.K. Chesterton was a wordsmith with a keen wit, and he said: There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject. The only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.

Some people are interested in everything life has to offer, but their interest span is about the length of a common housefly. Because they’re easily distracted by the saccharine promises of a Splenda world, they never find the time to consider the splendor of the Lord.

As a king, David could have asked for anything, but as a child he asked his Father for one: I have asked the Lord for one thing— this is what I desire! I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord and contemplate in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

When your focus is mixed-up and your emotions are maxed-out, pause to consider the splendor of the Lord.  When you emulate David, you cultivate your thoughts, prune the weeds of your mind, and fine-tune the melody of your heart.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.  We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. ~Galatians 5:22-26

More Than A Might Be Deity.

faithOne of the best-known and well-liked chapters in the Bible, is Psalm 23.  In times of heartache, people contemplate its principles and find solace in its truths.

This past week, I was offering comfort to a daughter as she said her final goodbye to her mother and father.  I called her attention to the word “is” in the first verse of the psalm:  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

God is an is God; He isn’t a has been or a might be Deity. This is the difference between the pain of the world and the promise of heaven. It’s more than a wish; it’s God’s centuries old pledge: The Lord is my shepherd.

The Lord is also:

The list above compliments the shepherd-sheep relationship woven within the verses of Psalm 23. I encourage you to refer to this list throughout the week so you can deepen your relationship with the good Shepherd.

Prayer and Faith

faithroad-660x330Like most of you, I have watched the news and thought often about the people who have felt the fury of hurricane Harvey. The needs of the people of Texas have been the focus of some of my prayers.

As I’ve thought about the devastating power of Harvey and the many homes, businesses, and lives that have been left in ruin, I’ve also thought of the strong faith of a little woman: Corrie ten Boom, who faced the wrath of the Nazi holocaust, once said: Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

Corrie’s life is an example of a person who lived by faith. The subject of faith is mentioned over 600 times in the bible, and Hebrews 11:6 speaks of its importance: Without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

The Bible refers to three degrees of faith: little, great and perfect:

  • Little faith (Matthew 8:26) says, “God can do this.”
  • Great faith (Luke 7:9) says, “God will do this.”
  • Dynamic faith (Acts 6:8) says, “It’s as good as done.”

Dynamic faith considers the character of God, and says: I will trust God to:

Dynamic faith will also declare the greatness of God.  Moses said: I will proclaim the Lord’s name. Declare the greatness of our God! The Rock—His work is perfect; all His ways are entirely just. He is a faithful God, without prejudice, and He is righteous and true. ~Deuteronomy 32:3-4

As you begin a new week, I encourage you to think about your faith and this quote: A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul. ~Spurgeon

Sweet Words or Bitter Breath?

bluebonnets-793x526Even though I’m Kansas born and Kansas bred, I was a resident of the bluebonnet state of Texas for about ten years. Texans are proud of their state’s scenic beauty, its abundant natural resources, and the tasty Tex-Mex cuisine.

Texas is also a state that is rich in history. Long before cowboys herded their cattle across the vast expanse of West Texas, and the ancient trails became the thoroughfares of highway 84 and Interstate 20, the Kiowa Indians cherished an enclave for its water. Because the water at this oasis was much more refreshing than the bitter-tasting gypsum streams that surrounded it, the natives christened it Moabeetie—their word for sweet water.

Whenever I drive through Sweetwater, the city’s name reminds me of the words of James: Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth . . . these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening?

While the answer to this question is obvious, people live as though it’s dubious. In a matter of seconds, some people proclaim the sweet water of God’s goodness with one breath and profane His name with salty language with their next breath.

I encourage you to think about the words of James, and this companion verse in the Psalms” Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14).

Are the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your heart acceptable or detestable in the eyes of the Lord?