Thanksgiving’s Golden Rule

macys-parade-tom-the-turkeyTraditions are a large part of many of our holiday celebrations.  An absolute essential for some homes is to halt all activity to watch the march of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The ritual in other homes will involve football and the riotous cheering or jeering as favorite teams either win or lose.

While the Macy’s Day Parade, the game of football, and other long-held traditions can be good, they are as listless as your turkey-stuffed grandpa when he crashes on the sofa, if they fail to observe the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving.

The rule is not a third piece of whip cream-covered pumpkin pie: it is the peace of God and letting it rule your heart.

In a world of trials and tragedies, it is the peace of God that will carry you through your personal times of heartache and turmoil.  A key principle of the Golden Rule is the jewel of thanksgiving.  Paul spoke of this in one of his letters (Colossians 3:14-17):

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful (3:15).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (3:16).
  • Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).

When the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, it becomes the umpire that manages the game of life. When this peace is joined with the giving of thanks, worry-filled thoughts are refocused on the blessings of God.

Many of the Psalms focus on the blessings of God, and they are full of expressions of thanksgiving:

  • Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (107:8-9).
  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (28:7).
  • Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (106:1).

Whatever your traditions may be, I encourage you to pause at some point in your celebration to focus your thoughts more on what God has given and less on what the world has taken, and give thanks to Him.

Happiness: A Key or a Principle

keyHe’s no locksmith, but Michael Porter thinks he has discovered an important key—the key to happiness. Porter, a Harvard economist, has been researching social process and how to measure it.

Through his research, Porter has found the key to a person’s happiness is the opportunity to change and better one’s life:  Porter’s research suggests this “is a crucial but elusive ingredient to a smoothly functioning society—or what, at the individual level, one might call happiness (Quartz).”

Another researcher, Dr. Stephen Post, has studied the different components of happiness for several years.  He believes the key to genuine happiness is found in living the Golden Rule.

When you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, there’s a good chance that you’re a person who volunteers to help those in need. The willingness to help others can enhance your sense of well-being.

A study found that 41% of people who volunteer an average of 100 hours a year report a greater sense of well-being, saying that volunteering

  • 68%: “has made me feel physically healthier
  • 92%: “enriches my sense of purpose in life
  • 73%: “lowers my stress levels,”
  • 96%: “makes people happier,”
  • 77%: “improves emotional health,”
  • 78% also reported that volunteering helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”

Typically, people who give of themselves to others have less trouble sleeping,  and they experience less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness.  They also report better friendships and social networks, and sense of control over chronic conditions than people who are more self-centered.

In his, It’s Good To Be Good, research, Post says:  ….as one achieves a certain shift from selfishness to concern for others, benefits accrue.   His research suggests that a person may feel good when he gives a financial gift to an individual or a cause; however, the benefits of helping others are most pronounced in direct person-to-person “hands on” activities.

The key research by Porter and Post simply validates the principle posited by Jesus over a thousand years ago:  Treat others the same way you want them to treat, and you both will be blessed.

When we embrace the words of Jesus and begin to live the Golden Rule, a satisfying life is within our reach.  According to Post, one way to elevate happiness is to reach out in helping behaviors and contribute to the lives of others. That happiness in turn elevates giving, which in turn elevates happiness. The two fuel each other in a circular fashion – a classic feedback loop.

The words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer leave us with a thought worth thinking: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve

The Pope, The Military, and Boy Play

pope-hugs-girlAfter he met with a sex abuse survivor group on Sunday morning, Pope Francis addressed a group of 300 bishops:  “It continues to be on my mind that the people who had the responsibility to take care of these tender ones, violated that trust and caused them great pain, and God weeps.”

Another report from last week focused on a culture of corruption that the U.S. Military is reluctant to confront.  According to an article in the New York Times, “Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally ‘boy play,’ and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases.”

When some of our military have intervened, their careers haven been jeopardized.  martlandCaptain Dan Quinn, a former member of the Army Special Forces, gave an American-backed militia commander a thrashing for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.

Quinn isn’t the only soldier to be punished.  Because Sgt. First Class Charles Martland helped Captain Quinn the Army is trying to forcibly retire him.

Even if “boy play” is culturally permitted and a sign of status in some parts of the Middle East, it doesn’t take much sense to know that it’s morally reprehensible.  Whether it’s in the USA, Afghanistan, Russia, or China, people would do well to recognize the love of Jesus for children:

Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.  ~Matthew 18

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

Simply and Complexly Marvelous

Beauty-of-NatureIf you want to spice up a conversation, bring either religion or politics into the discussion.  There are many diverse opinions on both subjects, and the topic of creation can stir the pot among both the believers and skeptics.

Some people believe in a random Big Bang form of creation, others espouse a view known as intelligent design, and then there are those who embrace the Genesis account of creation.

I find it hard to look at the intricate design of the world and believe it just happened by chance.  In Psalm 9, David writes:  “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When was the last time you paused and reflected on the “marvelous works” of God?  What would a flower be without its fragrance?  How dark would the night skies be without the light of the moon and stars?  How different would birds be if they were drab in color and whistled and sang out of tune?

The sunrise, the sunset, and the rainbow are the canvas on which the Master Artist paints in vivid colors, and the day would be much different if it began and ended in a colorless brown instead of  fire-red hues.  Speaking of fire, what would fire be without its warmth on a cold night or water without its refreshing coolness?

How about food?  What would chili be like if there was no spice or a breakfast roll without cinnamon?  And, it’s almost too painful to consider a world without ice cream!

How mundane would life be without this complicated, yet marvelous thing we call love?  Isn’t love the WOW factor in everything that God created?

When you read the book of Genesis, you see God at work.  After He had spoken the physical world into existence, God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  Next in line was the creation of the animal kingdom, but God wasn’t finished until He created woman.

Adam thought he had seen it all, but then he saw Eve.  To Adam she saw the marvelous WOW-inducing work of God

Take sometime this week, to marvel at the works of God, and the way He has blessed you.

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”

Is A Name Just A Name?

Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgLike many people, Psalm 23 is a favorite of mine.  As I was reading it earlier today, the last four words of  verse 3 caught my attention:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

When left to themselves, those last four words, “for His names sake” are just a vanilla phrase.  To really see the beauty of God, it helps to take a quick look at His name.  As written in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the names of God are colorful and explicit in their terminology, and they emphasize the way He interacts with His creation:

  • Jehovah-rophe (the Lord who heals you)
  • Jehovah-raah (the caring Shepherd)
  • Jehovah-jireh (the will provide)
  • Jehovah-shalom (the Lord is peace)

Take these four names of God and make a personal application to your life:

  • When you are struggling with emotional or physical issues, you can call out to Jevovah-rophe.
  • When you feel like you’re alone and no one cares, Jehovah-raah is present.
  • When you don’t know where to turn or what to do, Jehovah-jireh will provide.
  • When the world seems to be shattered and crumbling beneath your feet, Jehovah-shalom is the peace in the eye of the storm.

I hope a focus on “his name’s sake”  will be at the center of your thoughts today.

A Better Way

images (3)I recently made the comment that, “Sometimes we sacrifice the best because we are content with just the good.”  I think it was Saint Jerome who said:  “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

If my memory serves me well, it was Ernest Hemingway who said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The business of being better is discussed in several places in the Wisdom Books of the Bible.  My Top 10 list of verses follows below:

  1. Psalm 37:16: A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
  2. Psalm 118:8: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
  3. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
  4. Proverbs 15:17: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.
  5. Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.
  6. Proverbs 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  7. Proverbs 16:19: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
  8. Proverbs 16:32: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  9. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  10. Proverbs 19:1: Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

I hope these verses serve as a motivator to get you started in the pursuit of betterness.  Once you get started, you can develop the habits that will keep you going.

Indexing The Heart

images (2)Many years ago, I was told that good speakers have at least three characteristics in common:  They stand up, speak out, and sit down.

The book of Proverbs is full of good principles for you and the way you speak.  Proverbs 4:24 is a good example:  “Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips.”

When you consider the underlying principles of this verse, you see that:

  • Dishonesty needs to be removed: Whenever it moves in you need to move it out.
  • Dishonesty is a nasty dish of lies that should never be allowed to nest in your mouth.
  • You should never be receptive to deceptive speech: Put it far away from your lips.

In Proverbs 10, Solomon highlights the benefit of wholesome speech:

  • The mouth of a righteous person is a fountain of life (verse 11).
  • The tongue of a righteous person is pure silver (verse 20).
  • The lips of a righteous person feed many (verse 21).

If you’ll take the time to compare the words of Solomon to the teachings of James, you’ll see a well-defined contrast:

  • Solomon likened the tongue of the righteous to pure silver.
  • James said the unrighteous use of the tongue will “defile the whole body.”

Listen to the manner in which you speak and the tenor of your conversation.  When you become more aware of what you say and how you say it, you get a better idea of the real you.  This is because your speech or your tongue is the index of your heart.