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God loves us and wants us to be happy. This verse from Romans emphasizes that truth. Notice it does not say, “May the God of misery fill you with all despair and anguish as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hopelessness by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No, it is all about being filled with all joy and peace and overflowing with hope. If there are three words in our vocabulary that are the essence of happiness, they must be joy, peace and hope. And Paul’s prayer is that his readers would not just possess a little bit of joy here, and a taste of peace there with a smidge of hope thrown in. No. He wants his readers to be filled with all joy and peace and overflow with hope.

How is that accomplished? Paul says it comes from trusting in God. Trusting in God like a little baby trusts in its parents. Trusting in God so deeply that, like a baby, you don’t even realize how much you are trusting him. Sometimes when I am praying, I will all of a sudden say “Goo, Goo – Ga Ga”, just to remind myself of how much I truly depend on him for every little thing I have, like bread, breath and water. It also reminds me of my insignificant knowledge in comparison to the infinite knowledge of our omniscient Father. There are so many things that I don’t understand about life and God, that I would like to understand, but I can’t. Then I get this image of Einstein trying to explain the theory of relativity to a toddler. There is no way the toddler can understand. Like me. There’s no way I can understand a lot of the things that I would like God to explain to me. So I say, “Goo, goo – ga ga”, and go on happily trusting God.

So let’s trust in Lord; taste and see that God is good, all the time, and celebrate the fact that our Father in heaven loves us and wants us to be happy.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mark 4:35-37

My mother-in-law is dying of stomach cancer. I call her Madre. She was diagnosed about three years ago, underwent almost a year of treatment, seemed to get better, but now it’s back with a vengeance and the doctors say there is not much they can do about it. She is ok with that. She is in the boat with Jesus.

She had a very difficult life when she was younger. She married when she was a teenager. Her and her husband lived with his mother. By all accounts his mother was very demanding and made life impossible for Madre. They were all poor. This was Mexico forty years ago.

My father-in-law and Madre moved to the outskirts of town and built a place to live, or at least to exist. Their walls were bamboo sticks and their floor dirt. She had six children. Three daughters died of various ailments before they were ten years old. The youngest son was born with down syndrome. They all had a hard life, especially her.

But then, she got in the boat with Jesus. She was working for some missionaries, who shared the Good News of God’s love with her, and she became a follower. Soon, the whole family was following Jesus. While outward circumstances didn’t change a whole lot, at first, their soul’s were now full of peace and joy.

After some time, the oldest son began working with the missionaries, recording indigenous people reading the Bible. Then he became pastor of a small church. After that he started a Christian radio station. Their daughter married a missionary, me, and she joined me in working at a home for needy children.

Madre always had a big smile and an encouraging word for everyone. She was always generous with her time, talents and treasure. Probably too generous. She never took a day off. Working Monday thru Saturday, and then busy with church commitments from dawn to dusk on Sunday. She never took time off for herself. Perhaps that contributed to her cancer. Who knows? I know that the only time she had significant time to rest was when she was going through her treatments and was living with us here at the children’s home. For the first time in her life she was being taken care of the way she was used to taking care of others. She was the focus of attention. She still is.

I like to think that God has considered all that Madre has gone through, and all that she has given to others and to the work of the Kingdom, He is saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into your rest.” And she sails across the lake, almost to the other side, with Jesus in the boat, enduring her last storm until she arrives safely Home.

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

The flower and the plant in the photo above is Cylindropuntia fulgida, also known as the jumping cholla or jumping cactus. Of course it doesn’t really jump, but one gets that impression when one wanders too close to it. Just barely touch it and you will have at least one, if not more, cactus burrs stuck to your jeans or flesh if you are wearing shorts. You could almost swear the burrs jumped off the plant and onto you. At least that has been my experience on many occasion as these cactus are common in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I live.

This plant is an apt metaphor for the quote above by Thomas a Kempis. Many times we complain or murmur about the burr stuck on our pants or embedded in our skin, and we miss the simple beauty of the flower. We are surrounded by simple beauty, gifts from God, no matter where we live, but with our bent nature, we are more likely to complain about inconveniences and disruptions than we are to be content with things simple.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God, without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Philippians 2:14

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Philippians 4:12

God, help us as your dearly loved children to learn, like Paul, the secret of being content, and to think, at least twice, before we open our mouths to murmur, grumble and complain.

This time of year commencement speakers and valedictorians from sea to shining sea are encouraging graduates to follow their hearts. That is just about the worst advice anyone could possibly give.  The best advice they could give would be to follow Jesus (and I don’t mean on Instagram) and to be led by the Spirit.

Jesus said in his sermon on the mount that there are two gates and two roads.  One is broad and there are many who take that route. Jesus said this way leads to destruction. The other one is narrow, and few travel that path. Jesus said this way leads to Life.

The broad road is the way most traveled these days; especially graduates who take the speakers advice, Following their hearts, believing their dreams can come true.  The narrow road is for those who choose to follow Jesus and be led by the Spirit.

I have been studying Romans 8 lately. The apostle Paul writes about the way of the Spirit and the way of the flesh (flesh being the natural desires of the heart). The life governed by the Spirit and the life governed by the flesh. Living in the realm of the Spirit and living in the realm of the flesh. The life led by the desires of the flesh and the life led by the Spirit.

His conclusion – Those who live their lives according to the flesh are under condemnation and spiritual death.  Those who are led by the Spirit are children of God.

The road in the photo above is of a typical road in the remote regions of Oaxaca, Mexico. This road links little pueblos or towns together. Often there is no public transportation and people must walk many miles on these roads if they wish to visit or do business with people in these communities.

I have walked many a weary mile on roads like this with Pastor Edgar.  Pastor Edgar started over a dozen churches in distant, isolated villages in the rugged mountains of Amoltepec, Oaxaca.

There was a time in his life when he had to make a decision of whether to follow his heart or be led by the Spirit. He was married with two young children, one who suffered with physical health issues. He was working in a church in a big city, doing alright for himself, following his dream of being a successful pastor with a big church.

But then the Holy Spirit intruded. He was made aware of a region of Oaxaca, out in the middle of nowhere, with no churches, with no gospel presence, where some had never heard of the love of God or the message of Christ. He had a big decision to make. Would he be led by the Spirit and uproot his family from the city and move to the wilderness of Amoltepec, or follow his heart and continue to live his dream in the comfort of the city.

He chose to be led by the Spirit. Was it easy? No! There were no doctors to treat his son when he suffered and he almost died. They called out to that same Spirit who had called him, and his son was healed!  Edgar himself almost died when he was hit by a car, and still suffers terrible leg pain to this day. He was almost murdered by a group of men who did not want any part of the gospel being preached in their community.

So was it worth it? He would definitely say yes, thinking of all the churches he started and all the souls that said Yes to Jesus and No to the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Brothers and sisters in Christ who now have a peace that surpasses all understanding, a glorious inheritance in God to look forward to, and are no longer slaves to fear. Something they would not have if it were not for Pastor Edgar being led by the Spirit.

So, to all those graduates being encouraged to follow their hearts, I say, “Be led by the Spirit. Become a child of God. Delight in God and he will give you the desires of your heart!”

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The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:9-11

Jesus created the sun and sunflowers and yes, the morning glories as well. Surely they bowed low to worship the Son of God and rose high to rejoice in him while he was in the world.

And humans, those whom He made in His image? Not so much. They were preoccupied with their own power and position; their own place and imagined purpose. They kinda missed the light of the Creator. They failed to notice the love that brought God incarnate among them.

Some felt threatened by Jesus. Their eyes were not opened. They did not have ears to hear. They preferred darkness to light. They preferred to extinguish the light. They are still doing it today. Thank God for sunflowers and morning glories.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

David, the man after God’s own heart, fell.

His life was never the same.

It was filled with turmoil until his dying day.

What happened? Why?

It behooves us to ask and answer the question,

“What became different about David?”

lest we become different too.

Perhaps Proverbs 3:5,6,7 is a good place to begin

looking for the answer.

When anyone stops trusting the Lord with all their heart,

and starts leaning on their own understanding,

It is the beginning of the end.

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