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Who doesn’t want to be be peacefully happy? All the time. In every type of circumstance and situation. I think we all know at least one person who is always serene and smiling, no matter what they are going through. And we want to know, “What’s their secret?”

The Apostle Paul was that kind of guy. Always full of joy. Always rejoicing. He wrote the book of Philippians. In this book he tells his readers to rejoice always. He tells them this because he knows it’s possible. He is living proof. He writes this letter that is so full of joy and hope, from a prison, while in chains (1:14), and he is rejoicing. (1:18)

So Paul, what is your secret? What is the secret to living a life of peaceful happiness.

Paul writes in chapter four, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

The definition of “content” is “the state of peaceful happiness”. And there is a secret to attaining that state of mind – that state of being. It is not something that just happens to a person one day. It is something we need to learn. Something Paul needed to learn.

Paul wasn’t always peacefully happy. At one time in his life he was a religious zealot, full of anger and condemnation at all those around him who were not living up to the high standards of the Torah, the law. It was bad enough all those Jews who were lax in their obedience to God’s Holy Word, but then come the Followers of the Way, who were proclaiming the Messiah had come, and his name is Jesus.

Paul set out to destroy them and their belief in this false Messiah. Paul writes to the Philippian Christians that he had learned to be content; he had learned to be peacefully happy, and that education began on the road to Damascus, where he had a life changing encounter with Jesus, the Messiah.

The first key to unlocking the secret of a life of peaceful happiness is having a life changing encounter with Jesus. It’s usually not as dramatic as a bright, shining light and an audible voice from heaven, as Paul experienced, but it is a deep and meaningful revelation of the truth that God loves you and wants you to be happy. It’s an understanding that Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself by coming to earth as a human baby, served humanity, died on a cross to forgive our sins, and rose to life so that we could live in right relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.

The second key to living in a state of peaceful happiness is found in Philippians chapter 2. Paul says that we should be like Jesus in his humility, in his servant attitude. He says we should do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but, in humility, should value others above ourselves. (2:3-8)

That can be mighty difficult in the competitive world that we live in. We are taught from a young age to win, to be the best, to get ahead. Our pride tells us to look down on others, climb over others, bury others. Indulging in all that” getting ahead” stuff usually leads to sad, angry lives, rather than happy, peaceful lives. Jesus says that we should “love one another as we love ourselves.” That includes valuing others above ourselves. Doing that is freeing, invigorating and enlightening.

The third key that opens the door to a lifestyle of peaceful happiness is thinking. Think, think, think. Paul admonishes the Philippians, and all believers, in chapter four to Think about whatever is true. Think about whatever is noble. Think about whatever is right. Think about whatever is pure. Think about what is lovely. Think about whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. When we think about these things, the God of peace and the peace of God will be with us (4:7-9)

This is an important key. If we primarily think good, happy, peaceful thoughts, we will live good, happy peaceful lives.

This is also a difficult key, because in our world we are conciously and unconciously thinking negative thoughts, or unproductive thoughts. We think alot about family, our job, our financial situation. Sometimes we think about politics and the news. With social media we think more and more about what other people think about us. We are bombarded by advertisements that try to get us to think that we will really be happy if we buy what they are selling.

Paul tells us that thinking good thoughts is the secret to peaceful happiness. That can be hard work, and not necessarily fun or exciting. It’s a learning process. Paul says twice that he had to learn it.

If someone wants to be a doctor, they have to spend a lot of time learning medicine. If someone wants to be a lawyer, they need years of studying law. To be a great chef, you go to a culinary academy and recieve instruction in cooking and baking. It takes a lot of time to be good at anything. Same with living a life of peaceful happiness. We need time, alone time in silence, normally, to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

So, as I read Paul and his letter to the Philippians, I see three main keys to enjoying a lasting state of peaceful happiness:

  1. Encountering Jesus and establishing an intimate relationship with him and our heavenly Father.
  2. Having a humble attitude like Christ had when he came to earth and lived and died among us. In humility, valuing others above ourselves. As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” Think about God and others more.
  3. Take time to think about the good things of God, His Word, His creation and His love. Those things that are right, true, pure, noble and excellent.

When we consider the situations, circumstances, and difficulties of our lives, we can ask ourselves, “Am I truly peacefully happy, deep down inside?” If the answer is no, then perhaps we should look at the three keys above and make some changes in our lives, knowing that God will help us because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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My Mom died Thursday, October 17, 2019. Just a couple weeks ago. My family and I flew out to Colorado from Mexico for the funeral service. Below is a tribute I wrote in memory of Mom for the service.

Mom, Wonderful Mom

My Mom was a lot of wonderful things.

She was a rescuer.

One of the earliest memories I have is when I was about four or five years old and I was climbing a tree in our backyard, back when we lived in Denver. I fell out of the tree, but didn’t fall all the way to the ground because my foot got in a crook of the tree and I ended up hanging helplessly upside down. I yelled, “Mom, help me!” She came right away and rescued me from my unfortunate predicament.

Another time, when I was about the same age, I went downstairs to our freezer for something. It was full of frost, which to a five year old kid looked a lot like a giant Popsicle, so I licked it. Much to my surprise, my tongue stuck to it. It’s kinda hard to yell, “Mom, help me!” when your tongue is frozen to a hunk of frost. Whatever noise I managed to make, mom heard it and came to my rescue. That’s the thing about wonderful moms – they have a habit of coming to the rescue of their kids.

Mom was also a gardener. She always loved growing flowers and vegetables. We came out to visit in July of 2016, and I remember Mom out every morning watering and weeding her little flower garden in front of the house, or tending to her vegetable garden off to the side. Sometimes the jack rabbits would come into her garden and eat her plants, which drove her crazy. She kept telling Dad to get his gun and kill them, and she declared that if he didn’t, she would. I have to chuckle a little, thinking of Mom out with the .22 taking pot shots at rabbits. In one of the last emails I received from Mom, she attached some photos of the flowers she enjoyed so much. I love gardening at least as much as Mom did, and I am growing some zinnias and sunflowers at the Home for Needy Children in Mexico where I serve. I took a few pictures of my flowers and meant to send them to Mom, but got too busy and never sent them. A word of advice – never get so busy that you don’t send flower pictures to your Mom.

Mom was a Bronco fan. Every Sunday after church and after eating a delicious meal, we would gather around the TV to root, root, root for the Broncos. More often than not the Broncos would disappoint us with a losing effort. They weren’t so good back in those days. Nevertheless, we would tune in the following Sunday hoping for a big win. The last email I received from Mom, she told me that she was able to go to sleep happy, because the Bronco’s FINALLY won a game. I can’t help but think that it was one of God’s small graces that Mom died Thursday morning and didn’t have to endure that terribly poor performance by the Bronco’s that night.

Most importantly, Mom was a woman of God. I don’t know what day I was born on, but I bet if I was born on a Saturday, she would have had me at church the next day. She had that kind of commitment to the things of God. Growing up we were in church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Every morning when Mel and I were growing up, Mom would read a devotional to us while we ate our Cheerios and Captain Crunch. Every night when we were young she would read us a Bible story from a childrens Bible Story book she bought. Sometimes she would let us choose a story. I always chose the Samson story. I loved that story.

We all came to faith in Jesus Christ because of Mom. Because of her diligence, perseverance, and faithful prayers for us, Dad, Mel and me are serving the Lord. There’s nothing more powerful than the prayers of a devoted mother for her family. My past – growing up in the Faith, and my present – serving God at a Home For Needy Children in Mexico, and my future – one day being in the immediate presence of God in glory, and being reunited with Mom, are all because of my wonderful Mom.

Some people take their Mother’s kindness, goodness and love for granted. That’s not good. Many of the children at the Home for Needy Children are there because their mother’s have abandoned, neglected or abused them. I thank God everyday for my Mom, I think of Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us. It reminds me of my Mom who loved me and gave herself for me, and for her family and many others along the way.

One of my favorite Christian songs has a line that says, “I am blessed beyond all measure.” Thanks to Mom, I can look back on my life and I can say with confidence that I, too, am blessed beyond all measure.

Thanks Mom.

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“Mejor de lo que merezco.” That was the answer Enrique gave me when I asked him, “How are you?”

“Better than I deserve.”

Enrique was the leader of prison ministry here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where we minister to a lot more than needy children. He was in his late sixties and in good health. In his seventies his health began to deteriorate and he started to have a lot of physical problems. They got so bad that he had to dramatically cut back his visits to the prison.

My wife and I went to visit him a few weeks ago. Now, in his early eighties, he talked about blood in his urine, prostrate cancer, recent surgeries and showed us a swollen leg. Yet, when we arrived and I asked him “Como esta?” (How are you?), he gave me the same answer he always gives anyone who asks him that question, “Mejor de lo que merezco.” (Better than I deserve.)

I love that answer and use it myself on occasion. It is a very biblical answer. No matter how good or bad we feel, behave, or think, we are always treated by God way better than we deserve.

We deserve punishment. We deserve condemnation. We deserve eternal fire and the worm that does not die. We deserve a crown of thorns on our head and nails piercing our hands.

At least that’s what the Word of God says. God commands us to “be holy as I am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) God commands us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourself. (Matthew 22:37-39).

We dreadfully fail to obey these commands and thus deserve to suffer the wrath of God. Paul, in Romans three pours gas on the fire by exclaiming:

There is no one righteous, not even one.

There is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless.

There is no one who does good.

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Most people look at themselves and think that they are pretty good. They compare themselves with others and declare, “I’m not that bad!” I do a lot of good things to help people so I deserve a reward from God and man.

But when we compare ourselves with the Judge, God Almighty, we fall dismally short of what he wants from us and deserve to be punished.

Lamentations 3:22-23 happily tells us that “Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Mercy means not getting what we deserve. Mercy means not being punished. Mercy means not suffering the wrath of God. Mercy means not being condemned. Mercy means not being consumed. Jeremiah comforts God’s people by letting them know that God’s mercies are new every morning, which is great news because we sin and disappoint God every morning, every minute, every moment, and we desperately need his mercy!

So, “How are you?” I bet you are better than you deserve. I certainly am.

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I recently wrote about worship after reading a couple of articles concerning this topic in Christianity Today. I continue to think about this subject as I believe that worship should be at the center of every Christians life. I have read three accounts in Scripture that have informed my worship and hope that they will do the same for you.

The first example is in the last book of the Bible – Revelation 19:4,5.
Here we see the heavenly beings bowing down and praising God. Here are two things Christians should do in their life of worship.  The first is bowing down. When a person bows before another, he or she is showing respect, acknowledging supremacy, exhibiting humility and submission. We should worship God, not only with our minds and spirits, but also with our bodies. Physically bowing down before the Sovereign Lord helps to transform our hearts and minds to Christ and his will. Sadly, most Christians rarely if ever now down in worship before almighty God. That described me as well, until I began studying the Bible and what it says about worship. Now I regularly bow down when I pray.

The heavenly beings  not only bowed down, but they also praised God.  Many people think worship and praise are the same. They are closely linked, but are not the same. Praise for God is the result that flows from a life of worship; a life of submission to God lived in genuine trust that He loves us and wants us to be happy. Our hearts are full of joy living in right relationship with God and man, and our lips can’t help but praise the Lord!

The second example is found in the first book of the Bible – Genesis 24:26,27.
 Here, Abraham’s servant has had his petition to the Lord answered favorably. He was on a mission to find a wife for Isaac, and he found one. Interesting enough, his reaction is exactly the same as the heavenly beings: he bows down and praises the Lord. He is not in the immediate presence of God, yet he has humbled himself before the Almighty, has trusted that the God of Abraham loves even Abraham’s servant and will be good to him and thus his prayer is answered. God showed up for him in his time of need and he bows down and praises God.

My last example of worship is the first time that the word worship is used in the Bible – Genesis 22

It is in a story that is important to all three major religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We can all learn a great deal about what It means to truly means to worship God from this story.

Abraham is told by God to take his son, his only son, the son that he loves, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice to the Lord. This is the son of promise that Abraham waited 25 years to be born to him and Sarah. Finally Isaac was born and the elderly couple laughed like crazy to see the incredible gift God gave them in their old age.  Surely they doted on him, and spoiled him and loved him a lot. Maybe too much, which is why God asked this unimaginable thing from Abraham.

Abraham gets up early the next morning and heads off with Isaac (who was in his late teens or early twenties) and two servants. He is heading out to a place that God would show him. It took them three days to finally get to the mountain on which he was to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. One can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s head as they took the long journey.

Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”(Genesis 22:5)

WE WILL WORSHIP. That’s what Abraham said. That’s what Abraham had on his mind. Not music. Not a joyful celebration. But obedience to a God who had shown Himself faithful time after time in Abraham’s life. Worship, for Abraham was trusting in a good God, who always kept his promises, even when, by all outward appearances, it seemed that God was not going to show up. God always showed up. Now Abraham was climbing a mountain, carrying fire, and beside him, Isaac, carrying the wood that was intended to burn him up as a sacrifice. Abraham was planning on worshiping God. He was planning on God showing up, somehow, some way, even if it meant bringing Isaac back to life, as the author of the book of Hebrews writes. Worshiping God is living a life of faith, pleasing God because we believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Sometimes that is not easy, as I am sure Abraham was thinking as he put the wood on the rock, and then placed Isaac on the wood and bound him. Just as he was about to plunge a knife into Isaac’s heart, God showed up. The LORD spoke to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)

I think this story shows us the heart of true worship. Obeying God. Trusting God. Believing that God loves us and wants us to be happy, even in the midst of great trials and testing; in external difficulties and internal anguish, we can worship God with all our being, knowing that God will show up. Just like he showed up for Abraham’s servant who found a wife for Isaac. Just like he showed up for Abraham on the mountain. And one day, all those who worship God in spirit and in truth, will join the heavenly beings and bow down and praise God, forever and ever, amen.

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I read about the possibility of global destruction the other day. What I was reading said the earth will be laid waste. It mentioned the world withering and languishing. It’s like there is a curse that is consuming the earth and it’s inhabitants are burning up.

Was I reading the Washington Post’s recent articles about record braking temperatures in Europe and the New England states? No. Perhaps it was a story in Scientific American about global warming. No. It must have been CNN’s special on the melting glaciers of Greenland. Wrong again. I was reading the book of Isaiah, chapter 24.

Isaiah writes, “The LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it.” (vs1)

“The earth will be completely laid waste and plundered.” (vs 3)

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers.” (vs 4)

“A curse consumes the earth. The earths inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” (vs 6)

Wow. Sounds pretty severe! What would cause God to do such a thing? Verse 5 gives us the answer, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.”

Many people claim that climate change and ultimate global destruction is caused by man. It might be. But maybe it’s not because of greenhouse gases, auto emissions and coal burning factories. God may be using climate change to punish mankind because they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. By God’s standard, global warming is the least of our problems. Humans greatest problem is disobedience, violating God’s statutes and braking the everlasting covenant.

It’s clear from Isaiah 24 and many other scripture references that these things make God angry and he plans to “lay waste the earth and devastate it.”

Is there any hope for mankind and the planet? Maybe. Maybe not.

That question makes me think of three stories from the Old Testament that may give us some insight into what future planet earth and its inhabitants can expect.

God, Noah and the Worlds Population

Genesis 6 says that “the LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…So the LORD said ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.” (vs 5,7)

God told righteous Noah to build an ark which he did, and he and his family and the animals on board were spared the global destruction by flood waters. No hope for the rest of mankind at that time. Why? They were wicked. They were disobedient, ignored the statutes and broke the everlasting covenant.

God, Moses and the Israelites

In chapter 32 of Exodus, God is angry with the Israelites for making a golden calf and worshiping it. God tells Moses in verses 9 and 10, “I have seen these people and they are a stiff necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Moses had a little talk with God and talked him out of destroying all of the Israelites. In the end, there was still a large group dedicated to the LORD, and they took their swords and killed about three thousand people who were disobedient, ignored God’s statutes and broke the everlasting covenant. Verse 14 tells us, “the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Maybe there is hope for us.

God, Jonah and the Ninevites

In the book of Jonah we read that the word of the LORD came to Jonah saying, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (1:1,2) After a brief detour, Jonah gets to Nineveh and begins preaching, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (3:4) No, ifs, ands or buts. Nineveh will be overthrown!

But, guess what? The King of Ninevah heard Jonah’s proclamation and ordered the people to “call urgently on God. Give up your evil ways and your violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (3:8,9)

Verse 10 of chapter 4 gives us the good news that “when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”

Hope for Us?

So maybe there is hope for the world and humankind. All humanity has to do is to repent, which means drastically change the way they think about God and themselves, and change their behavior. If we all earnestly obey God’s laws, follow his statutes, and keep the everlasting covenant, God may relent, “and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

It’s just that easy. Hmmm. I see more withering, languishing and global destruction in our future.

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At the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I live and serve, we have church services every Wednesday and Sunday.  We frequently sing a song in Spanish that says, “No hay lugar mas alto, mas grande, que estar en los pies de Cristo.”  Translated to say, “There is no place higher or greater than at the feet of Jesus.”

 Every time we sing that song I think of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She always seems to be at the feet of Jesus.  The first time we meet her she is at the Masters feet listening to him teach.  The second time we encounter her she is prostrate at his feet telling him that if he had been there, her brother Lazarus would not have died. Shortly after that she is on bended knee before the Lord,  pouring expensive perfume on his feet.

I think that these three instances of Mary at the feet of Jesus can teach us something important about our relationship with Jesus.

First, we need to spend time at Jesus feet listening and learning from him.  I love the whole Bible, but when I read the words of Jesus, it’s something special.  It’s no mere human being talking, but it’s the Christ, the Son of the living God, who is talking.  Jesus, fully God and fully man, who came down from the realms of Glory to be among us and teach all humanity the Truth.  When Jesus speaks, I listen! 

To sit at Jesus feet and listen, spiritually and symbolically means that I humble myself.  I realize that I don’t have all the answers and HE does.  I do not stand before him, and look him in the eye as an equal, but I place myself at his feet, acknowledging that I, like Mary, am simply searching for the truth about God, about the world, about my life and living in right relationship with God and others.

Second, we spend time at the feet of Jesus when we are despairing, depressed, confused, frustrated; at wits end and at the end of our rope. That’s the condition Mary was in the second time we find her at the feet of Jesus. Her brother, Lazarus, was dead.

She had sent word to Jesus four days before, telling Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was deathly sick. Jesus waited two days before leaving for Bethany. By this time Mary’s brother was dead. Mary falls at Jesus feet (when he finally arrives) and certainly, with confusion and heartache in her voice she exclaims (accuses?), “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)

We, like Mary, can safely fall at Jesus feet when we are disappointed in him, when we are confused about his will, his plan, his purpose for our lives. When we feel he has let us down. When we thought we had the God Thing all figured out, and then life throws us for a loop. Those are times that Jesus welcomes us to bow humbly at his feet so that he can lift us up and make everything better. Like he did for Mary by raising Lazarus from the dead. He may not raise our loved ones from the dead, but he will resurrect our hopes and faith and love.

Third, we go to Jesus feet when we we are full of joy and to happily, extravagantly, worship him. The next time we see Mary at the feet of Jesus, she is adoring Jesus and giving him her best. In the chapter after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, we encounter a joyous Mary, with awe in her eyes at the Lord, and a jar of expensive perfume in her hands. John 12:3 says that “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.”

It’s natural and fitting that we too should worship at Jesus feet, pouring out to him our best gifts, our time and talents and treasures. We do this because all that we have he has given to us. Every pleasure, good feeling and wonderful event we experience in life is from our good, good God; our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. Because of him we have the best; forgiveness, salvation, redemption, and freedom. Why wouldn’t we pour out the best of our lives in glorious worship at the feet of Jesus?

There is place in most of our hearts that wants to experience the best, go to the highest place and attain the greatest of what life has to offer. Let us learn from Mary, that the best place we can be in life, the highest place we can ascend to, the greatest joy we can acquire, is found at the feet of Jesus.

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Have you experienced complete joy lately? Full joy? Today is Memorial Day. Maybe you are hoping for a day full of happiness with a big barbecue with friends and family or a day at the lake relaxing and playing with the kids.

Jesus tells us how to get and keep complete joy in John 15. It is simple. “Keep my commands” he says. Ok, maybe not so simple, especially when Jesus elaborates and declares in verse 17, “This is my command: Love one each other.”

Well, that explains why there is so little joy in the world. There is an extreme lack of loving one another. We are so busy loving ourselves that we don’t do a lot of loving one another and so we don’t experience a whole lot of joy, not to mention complete joy.

Complete joy. We all like the sound of that. Not partial joy. Not a little taste of happiness and pleasure (which is one definition of joy), but an unending feast of complete joy. We all have different ideas about how that might be attained and how we might possibly keep it. Most of our ideas are wrong.

Jesus describes what love looks like in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Love is sometimes extreme inconvenience and interruption. Sometimes it’s costly and dirty. It is always helping someone in need. Sometimes it’s someone we don’t agree with and don’t really like. Love isn’t liking someone. Love is helping someone who really needs help.

That kinda love sounds kinda crazy. Sounds a bit difficult, or a lot difficult. It is, but it is well worth the complete joy that comes with it, or after it. What Jesus endured on the cross while suffering shame, pain and rejection, didn’t give him a lot of joy. But Hebrews tells us that he endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. Sometimes we have to endure a lot in loving others so that we can experience the complete joy that Jesus is talking about it John 15.

I came to Mexico 14 years ago to help needy children. Children that have been abused, abandoned, neglected, rejected and left to die on the roadside of life. I work with a group of like minded Christians who are cooperating with God and Foundation For His Ministry in making this world a better place by helping the poorest of the poor in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s not always easy. We don’t always get along or agree on the best way to help the least of these in this part of the world. We fail in some way everyday, but because of the grace and mercy of God we can experience complete joy. I have never been happier in my life.

Jesus promises complete joy, full happiness, when we love each other as Jesus loves us. Sometimes it hurts. Many times it can be unpleasant, but in the end it is worth it. Take a chance on that kind of love, and see what happens.

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In the 12th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

He said that to keep our lives for eternal life we must hate our lives in this world. That’s important. I don’t know about you, but I kinda like the idea of eternal life. So, if you are like me, we better figure out what it means to hate our life in this world if we want to enjoy eternal life in heaven.

One thing we can figure out it is that hating our lives in this world is at odds with loving our lives. Jesus said that those who love their lives will lose them.  So they are opposite. It is some kind of paradox. If I love my life I will lose it, but if I hate my life in this world then I will keep it for eternal life.

I think the key is the phrase “in this wold”. John uses the word “world” a lot, more than the other gospel writers. We all know John 3:16, “For God so loved the world….” In the context of that verse, the world seems to be something good, something worth dying for. Something worth God dying for. Let’s keep investigating.

John 1:9 says, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” That’s good. Verse 10 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” That’s not so good.

It gets worse. I mentioned John 3:16, which most people know, but how ’bout John 3:19, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” So now we have gone from the world not recognizing the Light, to the world hating the Light because its deeds were evil. I think maybe we are beginning to figure out why we should hate our lives in this world.

In John eight, Jesus is talking to a crowd of Jews and he says, “You are from below; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

Here Jesus is saying that he is not of this world – this world that does not recognize him and this world whose deeds are evil.  Jesus is saying that he is out of this world, and in a sense he is inviting the crowd, and us, to leave this world with its evil and sins, and to join him in some other world.

John wrote in his first letter in chapter one, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Here John is echoing what he wrote in his Gospel in chapter 12.  Hating our life in the world means hating the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  If we love our lives, Jesus is saying we love lust and pride.  If we hate our lives in this world, then we are loving another world that God is inviting us into, otherwise know as the Kingdom of God.

Jesus talks a lot about this Kingdom.  His first sermon in Matthew is in chapter five, the Sermon on the Mount, and is all about this Kingdom, and how it contrasts to the world.  Jesus says that in this world, people have hate in their hearts which many times leads to murder.  In this world people have lust in their hearts, which many times leads to adultery.  In this world people have egoistic pride in their hearts and they hate their enemies. They hate people who are different from them.

Jesus invites those who hear his words to leave this world and join his Kingdom.  He tells them rather than the world’s way of hate and kill, go the Kingdom way of reconciliation.  Rather than the world’s way of sexual lust which leads to sexual immorality and sexual manipulation, go the Kingdom route and think graciously and considerately of all humans.  Rather than the world’s way of hating your enemies, consider the Kingdom way of  praying  for them and loving them.

I read about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life everyday in the news.  Awhile back a man who hated Muslims went into a Mosque in New Zealand and killed many worshipers inside.  As retaliation, some Muslims recently went into Christian churches in Sri Lanka killing hundreds of believers. This is the worlds way, not the Kingdoms way.  I hate the worlds way.

Here are some stories in the news today:

A white supremacist who chained a black man to the back of his pickup and dragged him around for three miles until he died was executed.

A postal carrier tried to stop a fight between a mother and teenage son.  The teenager shot him.

An abusive ex husband secretly lived in a woman’s attic for weeks. 

13 year old Houston girl dies after middle school fight.

Charity workers accused of stealing money meant for homeless.

Nursing home employee recorded sex tape with 78 year old man she scammed.

This is just some of the news FOR TODAY!!!  It’s like this everyday in our world.  I hate my life in this world!  How about you?  It’s no wonder Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew chapter 6, “YOUR KINGDOM come, YOUR WILL be done, on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN.”  The more people hate their lives in this world, and love the Kingdom life of God, the more heaven on earth we will have, and the happier everyone will be.

 

 

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“Eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

“My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

“Eat my flesh and drink my blood. “

Who would say this kind of thing?  Who would say it over and over again?  We find it repulsive and react to the statement with revulsion.  Some mad man or raving lunatic must be be spouting off.  Best just to ignore him and get far, far away.

Until we realize Jesus said these strange words.  Wow. Now we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What on earth is he talking about?”

Jesus said these words to a bunch of Jews who were chasing him all over Galilee.  He had miraculously multiplied a few fish and some bread into enough food to feed a small army, and now the crowd who had stuffed themselves were after more food. They wanted another free lunch. Jesus wanted to give them much more. Food to nourish their souls and renew their spirits.

Jesus wanted change their perspective, to shake up their understanding of him, to rock their world, so he says to them in John chapter 6, ” Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life….My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink….Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. “(verses 54-56)

If that sounds bizarre to us it would have sounded absolutely scandalous to the Jewish crowd who heard him utter those words.  Their law strictly prohibited any such thing as eating human flesh and drinking any type of blood.  It’s no wonder then that John tells us later on in the chapter that many of his disciples turned back and followed him no more. Jesus asked his 12 closest disciples if they wanted to leave him as well. Peter answers for the group saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We are fast approaching Good Friday.  The evening before the crucifixion Jesus gathered with his dozen disciples to eat the Passover meal. It is at this dinner that we can better understand what Jesus was talking about – all that eating flesh and drinking blood stuff.

Jesus takes some bread and breaks it and tells the twelve that the bread represents his body, his flesh, and they are to take and eat.  He lifts a cup of wine and instructs his followers that the wine is his blood, the blood of a New Covenant, and they are all to drink it.

Two thousand years later we are still eating his flesh and drinking his blood, remembering his crucifixion and celebrating his resurrection. Living abundant, joyful, happy lives as a result.  I guess his words weren’t so crazy after all.

My mother-in-law, Josefina (Madre) with her husband and my daughters
celebrating Mexican Independence Day last year.


A month ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Her name is Josefina. I call her Madre. She hadn’t been able to keep any food down for awhile and went to a few doctors seeking help, both traditional and non traditional. She lives in Mitla, Mexico, which has a largely
indigenous Zapoteco population. Many of the people in this town first
seek traditional remedies to cure their ailments, and when that does not
take care of the problem, they go to see what we would call a regular
medical doctor. Madre tried both to no avail for a couple weeks. Finally she went to a doctor who told her she needed an endoscopy. This
procedure revealed a large tumor in her stomach.

Naturally this was bad news for her and for the entire family, especially
her mom, her husband, two sons, her daughter ( my wife), and me. A
variety of tests followed to diagnose the severity of the cancer. Initially it seemed the cancer was confined to the tumor and surgery was scheduled on a Sunday. She was admitted to the hospital the day before.

Medicine and doctors and hospitals are an interesting thing in Mexico. At least interesting to me, having spent most of my life in the United States. I haven’t got it all figured out, but it seems to me that there are three levels of health care in this country; one level for people who have some money and can afford private care. Another level for people who have money taken out of their wages to pay for health insurance and are treated by public doctors and nurses in public hospitals which is free. The last level is for poor people who don’t pay for health insurance. If they have a medical need they go to the local public health clinic and are usually treated for free for basic simple health problems, but if it is serious they have to go to a public hospital and pay cash or they don’t receive treatment. Public medical services are not terrible. I have two daughters who were born in a public hospital with public doctors and nurses, with no ill effects, and it was all free, because my Mexican wife has money taken out of her wages to pay for health insurance.
A couple of problems with public health care here are long waits to see a health care professional and most of the doctors and nurses are fresh out of medical school and don’t have a lot of hands on experience. Also, in public hospitals you have to share a room with two or three other patients, and family members can’t stay with the patient for the whole time, which is important in Mexico. Family comes first in Mexico, and if one family member has to go to the hospital, at least one other member of the family moves in with them, at private hospitals that is. If it is public hospital, family members stay and sleep in the waiting room or outside the hospital.

Madre stayed at a private hospital, even though the family is poor. We thank God for GoFundMe and all the people who generously donated money and allowed Madre to receive wonderful care at a beautiful little hospital in Oaxaca. All the rooms had a large couch for family members to sit on during the day and sleep on at night. My wife slept on one during her mom’s hospital stay which was six days. Sometimes Madre’s mother, husband, son and family friends were all there at once! It wasn’t as bad as it may seem because this was the most unique hospital I have ever seen. It only had eight rooms and used to be like a convent or little monestary operated by a Catholic organizations about a 100 years ago. Then it went into the hands of St. Vincent DePaul Society run by a guy named Vasconcelos, and now it is Vasconcelos hospital. It has a chapel called Sacred Heart which is open to the public on special occasions. In the middle of this hospital is a courtyard with potted bougainvilleas and patio furniture all around for family and friends to take advantage of.

The first couple weeks after the surgery was difficult, because of physical and emotional reasons. Physically she vomited what little food she was able to swallow and became dehydrated and had to go to the emergency room. Emotionally it was a difficult time because the tumor and samples of her stomach tissue that was taken out of her went to a lab and it was discovered that the cancer had spread. She found out she has stage three cancer and the prognosis isn’t that great. Chemotherapy is in her near future.
Now she is doing much better, both physically and emotionally and spiritually. She is eating a lot more and keeps it all down. Emotionally she is happier. Spiritually she has always been strong. She doesn’t understand why she has had to go through all this, none of us do. But she fully trusts in the Lord who has given her the peace that surpasses all understanding that Paul writes about in Philippians 4:7.
I have been thinking about Psalm 23 a lot lately, especially the “valley of the shadow of death” part. I think we all love the opening verses that speak of green pastures, quiet waters and refreshing souls. The “shadow of death”, not so much. But I have come to realize that for the sheep to enjoy those rich, green pastures and cool, quiet waters, they sometimes have to travel through the valley of the shadow of death. The Good Shepherd knows best. He knows where the nutritious food and refreshing drink is, and his sheep know his voice and confidently follow him into and through the scary, dark valley, to green pastures and still waters. They trust him because he is wise and strong. They have no fear because He is with them, and he wields a stout rod and sturdy staff.
That’s the faith of Madre. As she journeys through the dark valley, she fears no evil but trusts in her good, good Shepherd; her good, good Father. No one knows what she will encounter on the other side of the valley. Maybe many happy, healthy years on planet earth, or maybe eternity in heaven with the Lord. Whatever happens it’s all good. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows WHO holds the future.


Why Am I Here?

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