Today is Tifani’s birthday. She is my oldest daughter and I dedicate this post to her. In Romans chapter 12 we find five ways to be, five ways to treat one another and five Do Not’s. Considering and living out these 15 admonitions from Paul we can all experience happier birthdays, merrier Christmas’s and happier lives.

The Five Be’s

Be devoted to one another in love.

Be spiritually passionate, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope.

Be patient in affliction.

Be faithful in prayer.

Five Ways to Treat One Another

Share with one another.

Rejoice with one another.

Mourn with one another.

Live in harmony with one another.

Live in peace with one another.

Five Do Nots.

Do not be proud.

Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Do not take revenge.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

God loves us and wants us to be happy. He inspired Paul to write these words so that we would take them to heart, put them into practice and live in right relationship with God and our fellow human beings. I think of them as 15 gifts  around the birthday cake or presents under the Christmas tree. Each one to be carefully unwrapped, treasured and used daily.

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The 2017 Advent season has begun!

Advent is a time of anticipation. A time of looking forward to something unbelievably good. Looking forward to Jesus’ birth. God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. God condescending to be with us. Emmanuel.

Honestly, all that doesn’t mean so much to people anymore. Advent in our day and age usually means anticipating buying gifts, going to parties and family get togethers. Things that a lot of people Don’t look forward to. For too many people, the Christ birth event is a minor part of the holiday season, if it exists at all.

Jesus in the manger has lost it’s luster for a lot of Christians for another reason. It happens every year. It’s not new. We Want New. New electronics, kitchen gadgets, clothes and toys. Christmas isn’t new. It’s the same old thing, year after year. I’m 54 years old. I was raised in a Christian family. I have 54 years of Luke 2 and Matthew 1-2 under my belt. What could possibly be new in 2017 Advent? What is there to anticipate?

With this in mind, I began to think about how Jews might have been thinking around the time of Jesus’ birth. The Chosen People of God. They hadn’t had a prophet speak the Word of the LORD to them since Malachi, 400 years earlier. They had been under the thumb of foreign rulers for about 600 years. So, People Of God, how’s that working out for you?

Some of them probably decided that it wasn’t working and gave up on God, but many were holding on to the promises proclaimed by the prophets that someday a Messiah would come and bring peace and freedom. Proclamations like:

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

 Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Some of us look forward to celebrating the birth of the Messiah every year. The Jews had been anticipating that day for over half a millenia!

When I think of looking forward to something good, I  think about our family vacation that we took in July. We drove from Oaxaca, Mexico to Brush, Colorado. In May we began planning for the trip, and the anticipation began. Anticipation of crossing the border into the U.S.A. Anticipation of seeing my parents and sister and oldest daughter. People I haven’t seen for over two years. Anticipation of Mom’s great cooking, as well as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew –  food and drink that are not available here in Oaxaca. Normally we would fly to Colorado, but this time we were going to drive, so we were looking forward to close family time (four days in the car) that would include museum visits, tourist attractions and motel swimming pools (Sally and Kelly, my youngest daughter’s favorite). Anticipation of camping in the mountains and seeing a Rocky’s baseball game.

The fulfillment of all of those things was great. A wonderful time was had by all. Heart’s longings were met and we were filled with joy. And that was after waiting a mere three months.

After waiting hundreds of years, the Messiah came to the Chosen People of God, and brought true spiritual freedom to all who would accept him and his message.  Some were disappointed that he didn’t overthrow Roman rule and bring national freedom.  But many more people through the ages have received something greater to celebrate, freedom from sin and adoption as Children of God.  The hungry eat the living Bread and the thirsty drink the living Water.

One of the Advent readings for the first Sunday in Advent is Isaiah 64:1-9.   Verse four says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

This Advent season I hope we can all find time to “wait for him”. Wait for Him to reveal himself in new and wonderous ways that can fill our journey on earth with happiness.

In waiting for Him, in meditating on Him, we find hope and joy. Strength and peace. Below is a web address for a video meditation on Advent that may encourage you on your journey.

https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/series/liturgical-meditations/

Last time I wrote about bread and happiness and the Lord’s Prayer.  This time I want tobreadbible continue thinking about the Bible, Bread and Happiness.  Bread is big in the Bible.  Many of our favorite Bible stories include bread.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).  That’s big.

Below I have listed some verses from the Bible about bread.  Do you remember the stories that go with them?

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18).

Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah.  “Quick,” he said, “get the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread” (Genesis 18:6).

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew.  He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 26:34)

Rebekah handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.  He went to his father and said, “My father.”                                                                                                          “Yes, my son,” he answered.  “Who is it?”                                                                                           Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. (Genesis 27:17-19)

When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.  In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharoah, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” (Genesis 40:17)

And this is what Joseph sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grains and bread and other provisions for the journey. (Genesis 45:23)

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. (Exodus 12:8)

“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt.  Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” (Exodus 12:17)

When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.” (Exodus 16:15)

Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. (Exodus 25:30)

Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast.  (Leviticus 7:13)

This bread is to be set out before the LORD regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. (Leviticus 24:8)

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:4, Matthew 4:4)

Then the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand.  Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread.  And the angel of the LORD disappeared.  (Judges 6:21)

Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp.”  (1 Samuel 17:17)

Elijah went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan and stayed there.  The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.  (1 Kings 17:5,6)

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid.  Go home and do as you have said.  But first make a small loaf of bread from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.”  (1 Kings 17:13)

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread.  (Psalm 37:25)

God makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.  (Psalm 104:14,15)

Give us today our daily bread.  (Matthew 6:11)

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  (Matthew 7:9)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  (Matthew 26:26)

“First let the children eat all they want,” Jesus told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  (Mark 7:27)

“It is one of the Twelve,” Jesus replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.”  (Mark 14:20)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:35)

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  (John 6:51)

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread  and to prayer.  (Acts 2:42)

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  (1 Corinthians 5:8)

Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  (2 Corinthians 9:10)

For me, those are some of the most memorable and significant verses using the word bread in the Bible. It kinda makes me hungry for a slice of the homemade bread that my wife just made.  Until next time …

bible bread2

 

I think people generally take bread for granted.  It’s a staple of many peoples diets.  It’s common.  It’s cheap.  It’s conveinent. I have taken it for granted for most of my life.  Growing up we had toast with breakfast, sandwich for lunch and a piece of bread with butter for dinner. Lots of bread – little thought about it.

I stopped taking it for granted a few years ago when I began taking the Lord’s Prayer seriously and started praying it everyday.  The Lord’s Prayer has big spiritual ideas like the holiness of God, the Kingdom, the will of God, forgiveness of sin, deliverance from the Evil One, power and glory.  And right smack in the middle of it is BREAD!

Give us today our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).  Imagine that.  Jesus wants us to ask the Father for bread everyday.  Not take it for granted.  Not assume that we will always have it.  Ask God today for our daily bread.  So what’s the big deal about bread?  I think God wants us to remember, to remind ourselves, everyday, that we depend on God for everything in our life, everyday.  From our  salvation and sanctification, to our daily bread and daily breath.  If God doesn’t give it, we don’t get it.

So the next time we spread jelly on our toast, or bite into a Big Mac, let’s take a moment to thank our gracious, generous heavenly Father for the bread.  God loves us and wants us to be happy, so He gave us bread!

Have you ever read a passage of scripture dozens of times and thought you reallyfive loaves understood it, and then upon reading it one more time, you get new revelation that you never had before?  This happened to me about a week ago.  I was reading John’s account of the multiplying the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-15).  The words of Jesus seemed to jump off the page. He asks Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”. The passage says Jesus was on a mountain with his disciples and Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd approaching when he asked the question.  A number of things grabbed my attention.  Jesus was having a private time with his disciples, trying to escape the crowds.  Perhaps he was teaching them about the love and power of the Father.  Now approaches the intrusive hordes.  Thousands of people are streaming toward him.  Instead of complaining about the interruption, Jesus sees opportunities.  A great object lesson for the disciples.  Also an opportunity to once again show people how God loves them and wants them to be happy.  He sees both the physical and spiritual hunger of the people.  So He asks the question, “Where shall WE buy bread…?  The passage indicates that He already knew what he was gonna do, but wanted to test the disciples.  He had no intention of Buying Bread!  But he knows what humans natural impulses are. Many times our first response to problems is to throw money at them and they will go away.  Philip thinks about the question and answers Jesus, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  Money was not the answer.

I love the question, “Where are WE…?”  Jesus didn’t ask “Where are You gonna buy bread?”, but “Where are we?”  Jesus didn’t ask, “What should I  to do about this need or problem?”  Jesus says WE.  When we face incredible situations, as Christians, we can be sure that Jesus is cooperating with us to solve the problem, if we resolve to cooperate with him.  Not only with me personally, but With the Community of Faith that I am a part of.  All of the disciples were included in Jesus’ question.  Andrew piped up saying, “Here is a boy with two Small fish and five Small loaves of bread.” Andrew, like many of us focuses on the smallness of the resources at hand, the small fish and bread, rather than the Greatness of God who created the fish and the bread. Just like us today – focusing on the big problems rather than our Big God.  God wants to step into our big situations and cooperate with us in meeting felt needs and spiritual needs.

Most people have forgotten about the two big earthquakes we had here in Mexico about a month ago, but a lot of people are still suffering from them.  A week ago the Children’s Home where I cooperate with God in Oaxaca, Mexico,  sent down a few adults and some of the children with a trailer full of food and water and other material to help those whose houses had been destroyed . This week an 80 year old brother and his wife, Enrique and Elvira, who lead the prison ministry, were given a large monetary donation to help a suffering church in Chiapas, and they are there now, delivering not only the money, but spiritual direction and comfort as well.  The brother, Pedro,  who took the load down last week, noticed the people had no place and no way to shower , so he worked all week rigging up a shower system with a huge water tank.  He left early yesterday morning to deliver it along with more supplies.

Thinking about Christians responding to needs, I read in the news about different churches in Santa Rosa, California, helping out people who had lost everything due to the fires. Same with churches, Christians, Communities of Faith, helping the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.  All over the world, Disciples hear Jesus asking them, “What are WE gonna do about this situation?”  And all over the world, disciples are joining hands and hearts with their brothers and sisters and with God, to meet felt needs, and in the process, they are meeting even greater Spiritual needs.

What a story, human need, the loaves and fishes and disciples and compassion and power and God!  A never ending story, at least on this side of eternity!

loaves2

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 letters that are in the Bible. In his introductorygrace peace remarks at the beginning of each letter he includes this salutation, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the concluding remarks of his epistles he writes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

Peter wrote two letters. He begins his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” He ends his first letter with these words, “Peace to all who are in Christ.” The second letter ends with “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I think grace and peace are the most important possessions we can have to be truly happy people. We need the grace and peace that comes from God to enjoy God in His happy kingdom.

Think of Paul before his close encounter with Christ. He claims that as for righteousness based on the law he was faultless, and as for zeal he persecuted the church (Philippians 3:6). He thought he could do it all spiritually speaking. He certainly tried, but apart from the grace of God he had no peace. Imagine the peace that flooded his soul when he encountered the grace that come from trusting Jesus and living in right relationship with God.

Think of Peter, living and learning from Jesus for three years. Boasting that he would never deny the Lord, willing to die for him if necessary. Hours later Peter claimed vehemently that he never knew Jesus. Jesus looked at Peter as Peter made his last denial while the rooster was crowing. He fled in tears. Not a lot of peace there. But later, he received abundant grace and forgiveness and was able to live and ultimately die, crucified upside down, in great peace.

It’s no wonder Paul and Peter begin and end their letters with reminders to their readers of grace and peace that are only found in Jesus Christ. It defined their lives. Those qualities of grace and peace were the foundation of everything they believed and did.

What did they have in mind when they used the words grace and peace.

With grace they meant the free gift of God that comes through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. This gift, totally undeserved by humans, transforms mere existence into Life, survival into thriving and flourishing.

Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a deep and abiding sense that in the turmoil, confusion, pain and loss that we experience living in this broken world, there is Someone who is ultimately in control; a Savior who not only keeps us from going crazy, but who imbues us with a feeling of contentment. A God who loves us and wants us to be happy.

I live in Mexico and cooperate with God at a home for needy children. In the last two weeks we have experienced two really big earthquakes – an 8.2 and a 7.1 that caused incredible damage and took the lives of almost 400 people. Fortunately, by the grace of God, there was no physical damage to any of the buildings here at the mission, but many of the children, including my own two daughters, are constantly aware of what could possible happen and are reminded almost daily with the aftershocks. We felt four yesterday. To some extent we all waver between nervousness about whether or not there will be another earthquake, to outright fear. My daughters talk about earthquakes many times a day and sleep with us at night for fear of more of them.

I don’t understand much about God and natural disasters and suffering and loss. I can’t figure out exactly why God does what he does. I am perplexed at many turns on lifes long road. But I am grateful to God for that Peace that brings wholeness and well-being. That peace of God that makes me secure on the inside, even though things appear miserable on the outside. That peace of mind that comes from the God of peace. The peace of God which transcends all understanding and guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. The peace I have when I trust in the LORD with all my heart, and lean not on my own reasoning.

Peter and Paul begin and end their letters with Grace and Peace. May we begin each day by meditating and contemplating the incredible grace we have through Christ, and end each day thanking God for peace in our lives.

grace peace 2

Thursday night, before midnight, my wife, two daughters and myself were rudelyMexico Earthquake awakened when our apartment complex started shaking.  I’m no stranger to earthquakes since I have lived many years in earthquake prone California and Southern Mexico.  I told my wife that we were having an earthquake.  We have small ones every month or two an it has never been a big deal.  This one was a big deal!  It kept getting stronger and rocking our house more and more.  My daughters, Sally and Kelly, were afraid, especially Sally who sleeps on the top bunk.  She made it out of her bed and we all huddled in what I thought was the safest part of the house while tea cups rattled and my wife’s art work tumbled from a shelf onto the floor.  Finally, after about a minute it was over.  The house stopped shaking, but we were all shaking from the shock of what turned out to be an 8.4 earthquake.

Our house is an apartment that is part of a complex  located in Oaxaca, Mexico, where Nutty Naturedozens of people died as a result of the earthquake.  After the temblor I walked around our building  to look for damage.  There was none.  We live at a mission that cares for needy children and are grateful to God that nobody was hurt and there was no damage to the buildings to speak of.  Unfortunately, other parts of Mexico suffered much damage as the photos show.

I am the gardener here at the FFHM mission.  It is a rather large property and I am constantly battling weeds.  I use two lawnmowers, a weed-whacker and a lawn tractor in my struggle against unwanted plants.  There are tons of thorns here that puncture tires, especially the lawn tractor tires.  Fortunately there is a product that I spray into the tires that seals the punctures.  The directions say that the can must be shaken thoroughly for the product to work properly.

Sometimes I think that I need to be shaken thoroughly for me to function properly.  TheMEXICO-QUAKE-OAXACA earthquake did a good job of that.  The Bible talks about the importance of being thankful:

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

 

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.                         1 Thessalonians 5:18

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6,7

In life we tend to get complacent, apathetic and take a lot of things for granted.  Sometimes God has to shake us up in one way or another to remind us of all the good things we have, and to express our thanks to Him and to others who bless our lives.  We can always find things to complain about or dream about how much better things could be.  God wants our vision focused on Him.  He wants us think about how much He loves us and wants us to be happy, and all the good things He has given us toward that end.

Instead of complaining about what I don’t have, I am full of gratitude for what I do have – citizenship in God’s Happy Kingdom, a loving wife and two super daughters, and fabulous parents who are always there for us.  I try to have an attitude of gratitude, but sometimes I need to get all shook up to really appreciate what I have.

Suzy loves chocolate chip cookies.  They make her happy.  She asks her mom for one. happy y evil Her mom tells her she may have one after dinner.  Suzy sneaks some before dinner and eats them.  They make her happy, but she has done an evil thing.  Romans 1:29-32 says she should die.

Adolf Hitler hated Jews.  It made him happy to have them killed.  He had millions of them put to death.  He was an evil man.

All people desire to be happy.  No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I have a terrible bad day and end up sad and miserable.”  No, people hope to have a good day where everything goes as planned, and perhaps some great unexpected things happen and they end the day with a big smile on their face.

There is some part of the brain that is constantly making decisions about what will make me the happiest or what will cause me the least amount of pain or discomfort, be it emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually.  Everything I plan, every decision I make is ultimately based on what I perceive will make me happiest.

God made us and knows what will make us ultimately happy.  That is why he gave us the Bible, to tell us what kind of choices we should make to be happy and avoid pain.  This life on earth is short compared to eternity.  Ultimate happiness is going to heaven and living in God’s immediate presence.  Ultimate pain is hell.  Got it?  Heaven good.  Hell bad.  Heaven joy.  Hell pain.

So it is in our best interest to make decisions that will make us happy both in this life and in the life to come.  Reading the Bible and listening to people who know the Bible will go a long way toward this end.  It will help us make decisions that lead to long term happiness and goodness, rather than short term happiness and long term evil and pain.

devil and wishes

C.S. Lewis quote

 

The most significant aspect of the Happy Kingdom of God is LOVE.  I read in my morninglove and hate devotions Psalm 147.  Verse 11 says, “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  It all starts with the Kings love for his subjects.  For his children.  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).  The King is a merciful Savior.  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4,5).

When our spiritual eyes and hears are opened to this marvelous love, our natural inclination is to attempt to love  God back with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  We know we will be happier if we do that.  We fail at that attempt everyday, but the fact that we desire to love God with all of our being is what sets Christians apart from non-Christians.  Jesus teaches us to pray to our loving Father everyday,  “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.  And in great love and mercy he does forgive us.

What about hate.  With our loving God is there room for hate?  Actually there is.  The Bible tells us that God hates!  What does he hate?  Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things that God hates, seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes

a lying tongue

hands that shed innocent blood

a heart that devises wicked schemes

feet that are quick to rush into evil

a false witness who pours out lies

and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Also Psalm 5:4-6

“For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;

with you, evil people are not welcome.

The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.

You hate all who do wrong;

you destroy those who tell lies.

The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest.” 

Some people say God loves the sinner but hates the sin.  According to these passages God hates some people – A false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.  I live in a Christian community and I can understand why God would hate these two types of people.

He also seems to hate all who do wrong, according to David in Psalm 5.  Then he must hate me, because sometimes I do wrong.  But David goes on to say in verse seven, “But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.”  He seems to be saying that what is your hearts desire is important.  In fact it makes all the difference.  If your heart desires to do wicked, evil, wrong things, then God hates you.  If your heart desires to fear and show reverence to God, then he loves you.

We should love the things God loves and hate the things God hates, if we want to be Godlike, if we want to honor and glorify Him and enjoy Life in the Happy Kingdom.

 

 

Please disregard Part One.  It was prematurely published by my misbehaving computer.1-Corinthians_15-55

My wife, Anita, and our daughters, Sally and Kelly, went on a road trip in July.  We live and work at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, which is about 300 miles south of Mexico City.  We drove to visit my parents who live in northeastern Colorado.  It was a long trip, but worth it, as Sally and Kelly, 7 and 8 years old, got to see a lot of the two countries of which they are citizens.

We stopped at a lot of museums along the way, both in the U.S. and in Mexico.  One thing they all seemed to have in common – DEATH!  We hit three museums our first day after crossing the border into Texas.  Judge Roy Bean museum featured the actual building where the famous judge lived and died.  We stood in the billiard room where he breathed his last breath.  Next stop was the Fort Stockton museum where we learned the Indians, or Native Americans, if you prefer, where killing a lot of people bound for the western U.S.  The government build Fort Stockton and started killing the Indians.  The final museum was in Pecos, Texas.  There an old hotel and saloon had been turned into a historical museum of sorts.  The saloon featured an animated bartender who told the story of the death of two cowboys at the hands of a third.  The places where they fell and died were indicated by a marker on the floor.  That was the loss of life we encountered on our way north.

On our way home we took a different route and ended up at Dodge City, Kansas.  The museum there was a recreation of the famous/infamous wild west town.  It was at the end of a long cattle drive, back in the day.  The cowboys, after being on the trail for weeks at a time, finished their trek in Dodge City, got paid.  Pockets full of cash, they headed to the saloons, and with heads full of booze and there was lots of gunfights, knife fights and death.  We visited the cemetery there called Boot Hill and then watched as this museum staged a gunfight between the sheriff with his deputies against a gang of desperadoes.

Back in Mexico we spent a day in Guanajuato.  The ultimate place of death. Four locations, four places of death.  The first was a torture chamber.  Here part of the Mexican Inquisition took place.  Heretics and infidels were tortured and killed.  The second museum was an old mine.  Dozens of miners died extracting gold and silver.  The third was the “Calle de beso” or “Kissing street” where two young lovers shared their last kiss before an enraged father killed his own daughter.  The fourth and final place was the worst.  The mummy museum.  A building with over a hundred dead bodies that had been exhumed from the local cemetery and put on display. This was by far the most popular museum in town.  Hundreds of people stand in line for over an hour everyday to buy a ticket and see the “mummies”.

Visiting all these museums made me think about death and what the Bible says about death.  More specifically, what attitude should those of us who live in the Happy Kingdom have about death?

For me, the first thing to remember is that everyone starts life dead.  We begin our existence existing, but not really living.  The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”  The way to move from death to Life, from merely existing to truly living is through Jesus.  Paul goes on to say in verses five and six, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”  In the words of Jesus in John 3:16, “… that whoever believes (in the Son) shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Once we believe we immediately become citizens of God’s Happy Kingdom.  We should no longer worry about physical death.  Physical death for the Christian is not the end, but the beginning.  The beginning of eternal joy and peace and perfect righteousness.  NO MORE SIN!  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?”  No longer does death have any victory or sting over the believer.

Paul also writes to the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (1:21-23).

On our vacation we were often reminded of death in various ways in a lot of different places.  I wonder about all those people who died.  Did they die with confidence, knowing they would soon be in the immediate presence of a loving and gracious Father?  Or did they die in fear, feeling the sting of death, not knowing what eternity would hold for them?

Thank God for Jesus, for forgiveness, for the washing away of guilt, the new life and sure hope for eternity.  We can no longer fear death, but embrace it, knowing our Lord and Savior waits for us behind deaths door.