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One picture of sin we get from the New Testament is an archer shooting an arrow at at target and trying to hit the bullseye, but missing every time.  Sin is missing what we are aiming at; missing the goal; being short of the mark.  An important question comes to mind, what is the bullseye. What is the mark we are trying to hit?  Some theologians say say “Holiness”.  The Bible says that we are to be Holy as God is Holy.”  Like that is ever going to happen! We definitely come up short there.

Others quote the scriptures that say we are to “love God with all our being and love our neighbors as ourselves” .  Once again, not gonna happen. Our default mode is to hate God and despise our neighbor!

As I have been pondering the question, I have come to the conclusion that Happiness is the bullseye that every human is trying to hit. I believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy! He has hardwired our brain to desire happiness above all. That’s what humanity is aiming for, striving to achive, wanting to experience. But most people miss the mark, at least in the long run.  In essence, they sin. Why? Well that’s the ironic thing. It’s because they want to be happy.

Let me explain. Just like most things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way. There is a right way to be happy and and a wrong way.  There is immediate gratification happiness, which is many times the wrong way, and there is Bible Happiness which is the right way and leads to eternal happiness.

I like to think of happiness as a computer game. Back in the day, a long time ago in a land far away, I used to make computer games. All my games naturally came with instructions. If a player read the instructions and paid close attention to them, then he or she was more likely to slay the evil enemy, gather heaps of treasure, and be happy.  The opposite was true if the player didn’t read the instructions. He or she would be frustrated, defeated and die poor and needless to say, be unhappy.

I’ve begun to look at the human being, the human brain as a Happiness Game, that God created. Like I say, He loves us and wants us to be happy! We are a Happiness Game and God gave us instructions to win the Happiness Game. It’s called the Bible. Here are some principles from the Bible to win Happiness.

I think a key verse is Romans 3:22-24.  “Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and everyone is justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (  My loose paraphrase)

Righteousness is living in right relationship with God. True and abiding happiness is impossible without this. Everyone has attempted to be happy without righteousness and has failed and has fallen short of the glory of God. God is glorified when people are happy, living in right relationship with him. We are able to live in right relationship with God through justification, grace and redemption through Jesus Christ.

Here are a few other basic principles to “winning the Happiness Game –

1. We face three fearsome enemies in this game – The World, The Flesh, and The Devil. I mentioned earlier that many times we are not happy because we want to be happy. What I mean by that is that the three fearsome enemies sneak up on us and offer us a fake, short term happiness that in the long run makes us sad, miserable, suffering creatures. So, rule number one, avoid The World, The Flesh and The Devil.

2. Realize you are a Loser! (Many of the principles to winning the Happiness Game are antithetical to normal computer games) To be happy we must realize that we can never be truly happy on our own, using our own abilities, trusting our own smarts.  The Bible instructions say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways look to God for guidance” and you will be happy .

3. Love your human enemies. We should hate and fight against the World, the Flesh and the Devil, which are spiritual enemies, but love all humans, even those we consider enemies. As I mentioned above, this is one of those principles that goes against common thought. In most computer games you hate your enemies and try to spill their blood. In this game you must forgive your enemies; help your enemies; pray for your enemies, if you want to be deeply happy.

4. Be a Transformer. Romans 12 tells us not to be conformed to this World, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We renew our minds by meditating on the instructions, the Bible. Doing this we learn the significance of concepts like Grace, Justification, Redemption, World, Flesh and Loving our enemies. The more we understand these Biblical Truths, the happier we will be.

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Don’t live in the world and go to church,

but live in the church and go into the world.

Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

The Jews who lived at the time when Jesus was born were waiting for a savior. They had been oppressed and subject to foreign rule for over 400 years. The prophets who lived back in the day, back in the glory years, told of a time when the rebellious nation of Israel and the kingdom of Judah would fall to other rulers as punishment for their disobedience to God’s law. But they also told of a Savior who would come and rescue them one day.

So they waited and waited and endured the pagans who ruled over them, mistreated them, and taxed them heavily. But no true Savior appeared to deliver them. To save them. A few wannabe saviors rose up and led the people for short periods of time, but it always came to nothing. And while some of the Jews surely gave up on the idea of a Savior, others kept holding on to the dream; hoping and waiting.

One day an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. We all know the story. Joseph felt himself in need of a savior, because he was in a real pickle. His fiance, Mary, was pregnant, and the child inside her wasn’t from him.

“What to do? What to do?” Joseph must have been thinking and I imagine it took awhile until he fell into a fitful sleep that night.

The angle told him to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. He was told to give the baby boy the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means The Lord Saves.

Well, this isn’t exactly the kind of saving that Joseph was hoping for. As a matter of fact, this wasn’t the kind of saving that the Jews were looking for either. According to the angel, this “savior” would not liberate Israel from foreign oppression and restore it to its former glory, but would “save his people from their sins.”

What kind of savior is that? They already had forgiveness of sins through sacrifices of animals in the temple. Isn’t that enough?

Not really. While they had forgiveness of sins, they weren’t saved from their sins. A greater power was oppressing them than Caesar Augustus. An unrelenting tyrant called Sin had enslaved them; not since the days of the Babylonian Exile from Israel, but since the Exile from Eden.

Because of the Savior growing in Mary’s womb- the Savior that would be laid in a manger in Bethlehem- the Savior who would die on a cross- and the Savior that would rise from the dead and walk out of a tomb, all of God’s people would be saved from a fate worse than physical death – that would be spiritual death.

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

As for you, you were dead in in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (verses 1 and 2)

Sounds pretty grave and hopeless, but then the Savior came!

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 sins – it is by grace you have been saved. (verse 4)

This Christmas let us rejoice in the Savior who has saved us from Sin and raises up with Christ in the heavenly realms!

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I recently read the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’ve read it many times. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Every time I read it, something new stands out. This time I was struck by Paul’s use of the word Christ. He uses that title for Jesus over and over. 38 Times in this short, four chapter book. He uses the word Christ more than he uses the name Jesus.  When we study the Bible, one of the first questions we should ask ourselves is “What did these words mean to the person that wrote them?” So, what did Paul have in mind when he wrote the word Christ? What is his concept of Christ?

We have to remember that Paul was thoroughly Jewish. His concept of almost everything was informed and shaped by what we call the Old Testament or, more accurately, the First Testament. The word we read as Christ, comes from the Greek word Khristos, which comes from the Hebrew word khriein, which means to anoint, translating the Hebrew masiah or Messiah. Paul was totally steeped in the Hebrew language, and every time he wrote the word Christ, he was probably thinking of the Hebrew word khriein or masiah.

The picture of someone being anointed in the O.T. is someone having olive oil poured on their head. This was a sacred rite reserved for three types of people: prophets, priests and kings.

The prophet Elisha was anointed by Elijah (1Kings 19:16).

The first priest, Aaron, was anointed by Moses (Exodus 29:7).

King David was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1,13)

Most of the O.T. Prophets spoke and wrote about an anointed One that was to come. One that would restore peace, prosperity and wholeness to his people, his Chosen Ones. This person was commonly referred as the Messiah.  This Messiah was sometimes referred to as a great prophet, or a priest, or king, like King David.

Most of the post exilic Jews longingly looked for, prayed for, and hoped for this Messiah. Paul was no exception. He fervently and zealously awaited the Messiah and did everything in his power to bring about the soon return of this exalted Prophet, Priest and King.

There was always the questions among the Jews, “When would the Messiah come? ” “What was taking him so long?” What was the cause of his delay? “

 The more zealous of the Jews, like Paul, thought they had the answer.  It was the Jews own fault. The Jews that didn’t take the law of God, or the Torah, seriously enough. They failed in so many areas of keeping the Law.  They were lax in their commitment to and obedience of the Law.  If only these slackers could be convinced or coerced to do better, that would surely hasten the Messiahs  appearance and rule and liberate the people from the despised Roman oppression.

And then there was The Way.  The Way was a group of Jews who proclaimed that the Messiah had come in the person of a man named Jesus. Not only was he the Messiah, but they claimed he was the Son of God.  Blasphemy! Obvious blasphemy!  This Jesus was shown to be a fraud and a heretic and hung up on a cross to die.  The Law said, “Cursed is any man hung on a tree!” This man Jesus was not the blessed Messiah, but a man cursed by God to die a humiliating death. Perhaps if there was one main reason the true Messiah would not come soon, it was due to the rabble called the Way, and Paul set out to do something about it!

He set out toward Damascus to persecute, jail, and maybe kill some of The Way, as those zealous for the Torah did to Stephen, one of the Way’s leader’s.  On the road to Damascus, a strong light and a voice from heaven caused Paul to fall to the ground. The voice called out to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me!”

 Paul said, “Who are you?”

 The voice from heaven basically said, “I am Jesus, the Messiah.”

 After that, Paul’s world was never the same.  It was turned upside down and inside out. Indeed, the Messiah had come. Paul had to admit it. And he was glad. The long foretold  and divinely sent Prophet, Priest and King had truly come.  That fact totally transformed and revolutionized Paul’s outlook and worldview.

Paul’s new mission in life would be to proclaim the Good News that the Messiah, the Christ, had really come to earth to set up a new kind of kingdom, one that gave sight to the blind and set the captives free! Paul could now see the truth and live in true freedom! He was now living in right relationship with God and was filled with joy and peace.  And it was all due to the Messiah, Christ Jesus!

We are in the Advent season. Advent is a time of hopeful expectation. Paul spent the first part of his life in hopeful expectation, waiting for the Messiah to come. He spent the rest of his life rejoicing that the Messiah had come. In this period of Advent, we too can rejoice with Paul and be glad that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, has come, and because of that we are a new creation, living in His love and loving others.

Advent is also a time to remember that we are living in the Already, but Not Yet. We already are experiencing the blessings of being Kingdom dwellers, but the Kingdom is still growing and not yet complete. We already have that peace that surpasses all understanding, but we do not yet have world peace. We already have a new life within, but we are not yet free from pain and suffering; we have not yet had every tear wiped away by the gentle hand of Jesus.

We are still waiting for the Messiah. We are waiting for his return. When he comes he will not come as a baby in a manger, but as King of kings and Lord of lords, coming with the blast of a trumpet on clouds of glory. This time he will not be humiliated and crucified, but will rule with justice and righteousness and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

Maranatha – Come quickly!

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