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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

 

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The divisions of the gatekeepers. The lot for the East Gate fell to Shemaliah.jerusalem gate The lot for the East Gate fell to Obed-Edom. The lot for the South Gate fell to Shuppim.
1 Chronicles 26

This is what I read the other morning in my personal devotion time. After reading the Bible I try and meditate on what I have just read and try to find a spiritual application for my life. I must admit that while studying Chronicles I have often not found a spiritual application to help me through my day. This morning was no exception. CHRONICLES – So many lists, so many names, so little time.

I am the gardener at Foundation For His Ministry’s Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca Mexico. Mowing a large field full of weeds was on my To Do list. Mowing a large field with push mower gives me a lot of time to think. I began thinking of the Christian Doctrine class I started teaching to high school students in the city of Oaxaca. We are studying the inspiration of scripture. The Bible is inspired by God and every word is truth. We hear and read many words everyday. Probably thousands of words. The only words that we can be sure are true and directly from God are the words we find in Holy Scripture. It is a great practice to begin each day with the Word of God, and let that Word influence our day. This is what I wanted to say to my class.

But what about the parts of the Bible like Leviticus and Numbers and Chronicles, where we find lots of lists and numbers and geneologies? What about lists of gatekeepers? How can that possibly have any bearing on my life?

I asked God that same question and I believe he gave me an answer. I thought about the city of Jerusalem and its gates and the gatekeepers were in charge of. Anyone who wanted to harm the inhabitants of Jerusalem or do the city mischief would have to pass through those gates. So the gatekeepers had an important job keeping bad people out. I thought of the women’s prison across the street from the mission where I go every week to teach English. There are four gates or check points that I must pass through to get to my class. The first two are operated by the state police who are armed with large machine guns. They want to see my identification and want to know why I am going there. I gladly show and tell rather than face the business end of their  big guns.  When I finally get to the prison, I knock on the large metal door, and a guard opens a little peephole door to see who is there, and he also wants to see I.D. and know my purpose. When he lets me in I must hand over my I.D. and sign in. Then my bag is searched and I am given a pat down. I proceed to my final check point where another guard writes down my name and purpose for being there, and I am finally allowed in with the inmates. All of these checks make it safe for the inmates, the guards and for the visitors like me. The gatekeepers for Jerusalem and for the prison have a very important job.

So what about the spiritual application? Well, God seemed to be saying to me that there are areas of my spiritual life that need gatekeepers. My mind. My heart. My lips. The gatekeepers? The Bible. The Holy Spirit. Other Christians.

The Bible talks a lot about our minds and the way we think and what we think about. The Bible, in Paul’s letter to the Romans says we need to have our minds transformed; renewed. How is this accomplished? Philippians tells us to think on things that are true, honest, pure, noble and good. In a sense that is a family of gatekeepers, similar to a family of gatekeepers that were assigned as gatekeepers for one of the gates in Jerusalem. We need to seek and depend on the Holy Spirit to think on the good things and not allow bad, worldly, enemy  things to enter. The enemies that want to infiltrate our minds, hearts and lips are the World, the Flesh and the Devil. When I think of other Christians who are the gatekeepers of my mind, I think of writers like C.S. Lewis and R.C. Sproul, who speak to my intellect and help me think right thoughts.

We not only need gatekeepers for our mind, but also our hearts. By “heart”, the Bible normally means our desires and what motivates those desires. Everyone is motivated by the desire to be happy. How one seeks happiness is important to consider. Our enemies, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, give us a hundred ideas per day on how we can be happy. We need the gatekeeper of the Holy Spirit and the Bible to reveal to us the true path to happiness: The real things like forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others. A righteousness that is revealed from heaven through Christ that brings true joy as we live in right relationship with God. The Puritans address heart issues, and they have becomeone of the  gatekeepers of my heart through some of their prayers as recorded in the book The Valley of Vision.

The last part of our being that needs gatekeepers is our lips. Jesus said that out of the abundance of our heart the mouth speaks. There is a direct connection to what is in our minds, to what is in our hearts to what comes out of our lips. If we start the day filling our minds with scripture, that affects our desires and motivation for the day, which guards what comes out our mouths. Paul said in Ephesians 4:29 that we should not let any wholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only those words that are helpful in building up fellow Christians according to their needs.  Proverbs 10:19 says that he who controls his lips is wise, and 13:3 tells us that  he who  guards  his mouth keeps his life, he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

We must also lean heavily on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to control our lips and gaurd our mouths. Two Christian writers that have helped me to accomplish this are Dietrich Bonhoffer and Henri Nouwen.

So there it is. Who would have thought that an obscure passage from 1 Chronicles could have such an impact on our spiritual lives. I don’t have Shelemiah, Obed-Edom or Shuppim as the gatekeepers of my mind, heart and lips, but I do have the Bible, the Holy Spirit and other Christians to protect me from my enemies, and that makes me happy!

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gatekeeper quotw

This morning I was thinking about the history of mankind, from Adam and Eve, to the new heavens and earth, and new Jerusalem.  From Genesis to Revelation.   I was thinking about the high points and low points; the great positives and negatives.  The first great positive was the creation of Adam and Eve.  The first great negative was the fall of Adam and Eve, and thus, all mankind.

In my mind there was a timeline, with blips to indicate the highs and lows.  In the middle of this time line was a the highest positive blip, signifying the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The greatest negative down blip was the fall.  The next biggest negative blip was something I read in 1Samuel 7.  The Israelites come to Samuel and tell him they want a king, like all the other nations.  Samuel, who was the spiritual leader at that time felt rejected and went before God.  God tells him not to worry, that the people have not rejected Samuel, but have rejected God.

That is huge!  Almost as huge as Adam and Eve ‘s falling to the temptation of the serpent, with similarities.  Adam and Eve rejected God’s command because they wanted to rule themselves.  The Israelites rejected God because they wanted a human king to rule them, rather than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Both great sins came down to pride, arrogance and greed.  Both entities felt that God had given them the short end of the stick;  that God didn’t really love them and want them to be happy.  They believed that they could be happier doing things their way.

God has always wanted and chosen a people to be his own.  A people who would love him, follow him and do his will.  A people that he could bless, reveal himself to, and make happy and prosperous.  A people who would respond to his generosity by being generous themselves, both to God and their fellow man.  Thus, the second up blip on the historical timeline is God’s call of Abraham.  God did not call Abraham only for Abraham’s sake, but so that Abraham would be the father of a nation who God could call his own.  Through this man and this nation, God would bless all the people on earth.

This group of people would be initially called Hebrews.  The Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians.  God delivered these people from slavery in a miraculous way.  This is the third high point in the history of mankind and pointed to the ultimate high point in history when God would set people free from slavery to sin through Jesus death and resurrection.

The next high point after being set free from bondage in Egypt followed closely on the heels of this miraculous event.  This was the giving of the law on mount Sinai.  God was saying to his chosen people, “I love you and want you to be happy, so I am giving you these laws, precepts and commands.  If you continue to follow me by obeying these mandates, I will prosper you and you will be truly happy and will experience shalom. Slalom was a word the Jewish people used then to greet one another. It meant peace, prosperity, and joy.

Next followed a low point where the people showed they didn’t really believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy. When it came time to possess the land flowing with milk and honey, they balked. Ten bad spies gave the report of giants in the land that made the Hebrews look like grasshoppers in comparison. Two good spies said the enemy was indeed large, but our God, who delivered us from the Egyptians is the real giant that will go before us and conquer the enemy. The Jews didn’t trust God and thus had to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the unbelieving generation died out and a believing generation rose up.

The believers went in and took the promised land. A definite high point.

The next century was filled with high blips and low dips as God’s chosen people alternatively worshiped and obeyed God, and then fell away and were disobedient. This cycle continued through the period of the Judges and then the kings. Finally, an awful low point occurred when first the ten tribes of Israel were conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrians, and then Judah was humiliated by the Babylonians and taken into exile.

The prophets had warned the people of Israel and Judah that if they didn’t change their hearts and their ways that God would punish them and send them into exile. They didn’t and he did. The prophets also told of a time of restoration that would come. They told of a new covenant that would be written on hearts of flesh rather than tablets of stone. Daniel foretold of a Son of Man who would come into the world and inaugurate a new era; a new way to relate to God; a new way to experience peace and happiness.

The Son of Man was Jesus. He used the title Son of Man to refer to himself more than any other title. The incarnation of the Son of God, the Son of Man, was the high point on the time line of mankind. God with us, the beginning of the end. The end of the God’s presence in the holy temple in Jerusalem, along with the sacrificial system involving the blood of bulls and goats and lambs. The Lamb of God was the ultimate sacrifice that made a way for all mankind to receive forgiveness of sins, liberation from the bondage of Sin, and to enjoy God forever.

The ultimate high point will be the day when God creates the New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven.  God’s radiance will be our light, and his presence will be our joy.  We will enjoy Him, evermore free from tears, pain, loss, suffering and grief.  All will be glory and peace, and that is the point in mankind that I am looking forward to.  Come quickly!

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mankind

 

birth of JesusSunday, December 1st, started the Advent season on the church calendar. Foundation For His Ministry’s Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico is joining the world wide celebration this year.  Advent is the time of the year when many Christians look to the future.  We look forward to the second coming of Christ, the second advent, with hope.  Hope for the day when God’s perfect justice reigns supreme.  A time when God’s will is done and his kingdom is come on earth as it is in heaven.  We also look forward to celebrating the first advent, the incarnation, God with us.  It is appropriate to ask the question during this season, “Why was Jesus born on this planet?”  There are many good answers to this question.  One answer is that he was born to bleed.

Blood is God’s way.  Blood plays an important role in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  Here are just two verses that communicate to us the importance blood plays in God’s Word:

Lev. 17:11    For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

  Heb. 9:22   Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

The first notion we get of blood being spilt is in Genesis, chapter three.  Adam and Eve have sinned, rebelled against God and His one rule.  Now they find themselves naked and ashamed.  Their great cover-up is fig leaves.  God says “No good” and kills an animal, takes its blood stained hide, fashions garments from it for the sinners to wear.  Here we have a peak into the future when God will use blood to not only cover our sins, but to wash them away.

Ables blood sacrifice
Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Able.  They made offerings to God.  Cain was a farmer and offered produce from his field.  Able was a shepherd and offered a blood sacrifice  of one of his animals.  God was pleased with Able’s offering but not Cain’s.

Noahs sacrifice
God brought Noah and his family safely through the flood.  Noah killed some of the animals on the ark and offered them as a sacrifice to God.  God promised to never destroy the earth with flood waters again.

Circumcision
God called Abraham to be the father of a great nation, a chosen people.  To mark the men as a people chosen by God, they were to be circumcised.  Blood flowed from the males.  They were holy and set apart for God’s purposes.  Later on the Apostle Paul explains to the new chosen people of God, the Church, that bloody circumcision of the body is no longer necessary, but circumcision of the heart is.

Severed animals
God makes a covenant with Abraham, and it is sealed by blood. Abraham brings before God a  heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.  Abraham cuts the animals in half, their blood dripping into the earth, and God walks between the animals, as if to say, “May this be done to me if I don’t keep my end of the deal.”  Of course God is faithful and forever does his part.

Binding of Isaac
God told Abraham to take his son, his only son,whom he loved, and to kill him as a sacrifice to God.  Abraham took Isaac to a mountain, bound him, and as he was about to plunge a knife into his heart, the angel of the Lord intervened.  In stead of spilling his beloved sons blood, a ram that was caught in some bushes, became a substitute blood offering.  Centuries later, another beloved son was sacrificed and bled on the same mountain as a substitute for all mankind.

Passover and blood on the door posts                                                                                                         God’s chosen people, the Hebrews, have been enslaved by the Egyptians for many years.  God sends Moses and nine plaques to try and set His People free.  It hasn’t worked, but a tenth plaque is on the way.  God commands Moses and the Hebrew people to kill a spotless lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their houses.  When the destroying angel comes to kill the firstborn male of every house, it will passover all the houses with the blood.  The Egyptians sons die that night and Pharoah lets God’s People go.  One day all humanity will stand before God in judgment, and all those not marked by the blood of Christ will be destroyed.

Mt Sinai and the law of sacrifice                                                                                                                      On Mt Sinai, God stipulates, codifies and puts into law the practice of sacrificing animals for the forgiveness of sins.   Every spotless animal that has its throat cut and its blood spilt for the forgiveness of sin points humanity to the ultimate perfect sacrifice of Jesus blood being shed for the forgiveness of sin.

The last supper                                                                                                                                                     Mat. 26:27    And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Blood of Jesus                                                                                                                                                    And then Jesus bled.  He sweat drops of blood as he prayed “Not my will but thine be done.”  He bled when the blood of Christsoldiers hit him.  Blood flowed down his face when a cruel crown of thorns was jammed on his head.  Blood ran down his back as he was mercilessly  whipped.  Blood dripped from his hands and feet while he hung on the cross.  Blood poured out of his body when the sword pierced his side.  And God said, “There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood.”

Paul and the blood                                                                                                     Romans 3:25  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.                                                                                                          Romans 5:8-10  God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled  to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Hebrews and the blood                                                                                                                                           Hebrews 9:12-14   Jesus did not enter (the more perfect tabernacle) by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so  that we may serve the living God!

Revelation and the blood                                                                                                                                        Rev. 5:9,10   And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,           and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

As we celebrate the first advent of Jesus, with colorfully wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree covered with blinking lights and pretty bows, and as we gaze on the nativity scene with baby Jesus in a manger, surrounded by his parents, shepherds and sheep, it might be good to take a moment and meditate on the fact that the innocent baby laying in the manger, was born to bleed.  And because of His Blood, we are forgiven of our sins, and freed from  Sin.      

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I am grateful for Shinto, for Buddhism, and for Confucianism.  I owe much to these faiths.  The fact that I was born with a spirit of reverence, that I have an insatiable craving for values which transcend this earthly life, and that I strive to walk the way of the golden mean, I owe entirely to the influence of those ethnic faiths.  Yet these three faiths utterly failed to minister to my heart’s deepest need.  I was a pilgrim journeying upon a long, long road that had no turning.  I was weary.  I was footsore.  I wandered through a dark and dismal world where tragedies were thick.  Tears were my meat day and night.  Buddhism teaches great compassion, but since the beginning of time, who has declared, “this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many unto remission of sins”?      Toyohiko Kagawa, quoted by John Stott in The Incomparable Christ                                                                                                          

Recently I was thumbing through the Evangelical Theological Dictionary of Theology, and there it was! somewhere between Hallelujah and Homologoumena, I encountered  Happiness.  I was pleasantly surprised that a theology book considered happiness a worthy topic.  It not only explored the concept of happiness, but included a “to-do” list.  Things people need to do to be happy.  I have taken that list, modified it somewhat, and added a few things of my own, to come up with a Top Ten list of things  people need to do to be happy.

1.  Develop a close relationship with God.jesus

John 15:9  “Stay in my love.”  John 15:10  “If you obey my teachings you will live in my love.  John 15:11  “I have told you these things so My joy may be in you and your joy may be full.”  John 15:15  “I no longer call you servants.  Instead, I  have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have told you.”  New Life Study Testament

The most important thing to do to enjoy God and be happy is to have  a deep, trusting, and loving relationship with God.

2.  Have a strong moral base.

Mark 12:28-34  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is closely related to number one.  One way we love God with  all our being is  to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Loving doesn’t necessarily mean “liking”.  Having a strong moral  base essentially means that we do to others as we would like  them to do to us.  We don’t have to like other people in order to treat them right.  Jesus uses the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate this point (Luke 10:25-37).

3.  Show mercy and compassion to the poor.

Proverbs 14:21 “He who  despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is  kind to the needy.”                                                       Matthew 25:37-40  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when  did  we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give  you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you  in, or  needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick  or in prison  and  go to  visit you?’                                                                                                                          “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”    New International Version

When we reach out and help the poor, less fortunate, the “least of  these”, God fills us with joy, because these are the kinds of works we were created to do to be happy people  (Ephesians 2:10).

4.  See your work as a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13  “I know  that there  is nothing better for men than to be happy and do  good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God.” (also Eccl. 2:24,25; 3:22; 8:15)

The author of Ecclesiastes mentions often that enjoying and taking pleasure in  your job is one of the most important things we can do to be happy.  God gives all of us special gifts, talents, and abilities, that, when put to work, brings us joy. I  believe God has given me the  ability to garden and to teach.  I have been doing these two  things for over thirty years.  While I  never made a lot of money doing these things, they have brought a richness of joy into my life.

5.  Think of others as better than yourself.

{love and happiness}

{love and happiness} (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Philippians 2:3  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in  humility consider others  better than yourselves.”   1 Timothy 1:15  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”  NIV

Perhaps nothing can  take away my happiness quicker than when  I begin to think that I am better than  someone else.  That can be quite a temptation, especially when one lives  in a Christian community in a foreign county as I do.  Here at the home for  needy children in Mexico, there are staff members and volunteers from different countries, cultures, backgrounds, environments, and spiritual walks.  The Devil wants to bring divisiveness rather than unity, and he loves it when he can get us to think of ourselves better than those we are around everyday.  When we feel superior to  others, complain about others or look down on others, then the Devil has gained a foothold and we lose a precious bit of divine joy that  God has for us.  The great apostle Paul, writing to Timothy towards the end  of his life, comparing himself to others, states that he is  the worst of sinners.  If we can identify with Paul, then we can experience God’s love and enjoy Him in a unique way.

6.  Say “Thank you”.thank you

Colossians 3:15  “Let the peace of Christ have power over your hearts.  You were chosen as part of his body.  Always be thankful.”    1 Thessalonians 5:16  “In everything give thanks.  This is  what God wants you to do because of Jesus Christ.”     NLST

Say “Thank you” at least 50 times a day.  Say it to God, to friends and family, to co-workers and to complete strangers.  I f you have a thankful heart, you will have a happy heart.  Just ask Madame Blueberry from VeggieTales, she’ll tell you.

7.  Embrace silence and solitude.

“Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”  “Solitude … is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.”  Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, pg.s 16,22

“The day needs definite times of silence, silence under the Word and silence that comes out of the Word.”  “Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s word with a blessing.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pg. 79

Two  writers that I have a lot of respect for when it comes to enjoying God, are Henri Nouwen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  They both write about the importance of silence and solitude in the life of a happy, fulfilled Christian.  They both suggest that daily times of  silence and solitude, as well as extended get-a-ways where you can enjoy longer times of intimate silence and solitude with  God and His Word are extremely important.  It is especially in times of silence and solitude that we experience God, His  love and joy.

8.  Don’t talk so much.dont talk

James 3:6  “The tongue is a fire. a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is  itself set on fire by hell.”    James 3:8  “No man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Hmm. Our tongues – fire, world of evil, corrupting, restless evil, full of deadly poison.  Not happy things!  Haven’t we all been burned and been poisoned by other  peoples words?  More tragically, we have burned and poisoned others with our careless words, gossiping, backbiting, sarcastic and venomous words.  James says in the beginning of chapter three that if you control your tongue you will be perfect – perfectly happy?  I think so.  Fewer words, more happiness.

9.  Delight in God’s Word.bible pic

Psalm 119:16  “I delight in your decrees;  I will not neglect your word.”  vs. 24  “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”   vs.35  “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.”   vs. 47  “I delight in your commands because I love them.”   vs. 77  “Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.”  vs. 92  “If your law had not been my delight, I  would have perished in my affliction.”  vs. 111  “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”  vs. 143  “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.”  vs.174  “I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.”    NIV

Start your day by reading God’s Word, studying and meditating on the scriptures, praying through some verses, memorizing others, and you will have a delightfully happy day.

10.  Don’t live in the world and go to church, but live in the church and go into the  world.

I don’t know who  originally said that, but I love it.  God not only saved us to have a personal relationship with Him, but, more importantly, saved us to be a vital part of His  body, His kingdom, the community of faith, the Church.  The Church is  not a building that we go into once or twice a week to “worship God”.  The Church is the body of Christ, a spiritual building that God has chosen as a growth instrument to help His followers grow  in  the fruit of the Spirit, of which  one important fruit is joy.  As a community, a fruit basket, we go into  a hurting world and bring to it love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness and goodness.  Hence, we “live in the Church”, and go into the world.

Romans 12:4,5 ,6  “Just as ach  of us has one body with many members, and these members do  not  all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form  one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

So there it is, my top ten list of things to do  to  be happy.  When these things are prominent in my life, I discover I am happier, experience more joy and enjoy  God  more.  Most of these things don’t just happen overnight.  It has taken me almost 50 years to cultivate them to the  point that they are more or less natural to my life and faith walk, but I still  have a ways to go.

I have about ten different types of fruit trees that I  planted and care for here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico.  I imagine these ten things “to do” to be happy, as fruit trees in our lives.  When they are young they bear no  fruit, or immature fruit that is very small or not very edible, but they have the potential of producing much fruit.  In order to finally bear good fruit they constantly need looking after.  They need water, sun, good soil, fertilizer, insecticide, and pruning.  After four or five years they almost all bear fruit, some more than others.  One has died and a couple others are struggling mightily.

So it is in our “spiritual orchard”.  Some of the things on our “to do” list come naturally, are comfortable for us to practice and live.  Others we struggle with, and some we just feel like giving up on.  With patience, diligence, and the goal of Happiness in view, we can have a beautiful and abundant orchard that yields a life of happiness and enable us to enjoy God forever.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”    Jim Valvano, College Basketball Coach who died of cancer eight weeks after saying this in  a speech.

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Next post – The Lord’s Prayer, A  Happy Prayer