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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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Life with Mikey

Life with Mikey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My ten year old daughter Tifani had broken the rules and needed to be punished.  I don’t remember what offense she had committed.  I just remember looking at her, shaking my head, letting her know that she had disappointed me by breaking the rules and that she was going to be punished.  She looked up at me with big, sad eyes and said, “I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy,  I need help.”

When I heard her utter those words I burst out laughing, all my anger gone, knowing that my budding little actress had obviously picked up this line from some movie she had watched.  All thoughts of punishment had disappeared and I asked her where she had heard those words, “I’m bad.  I know it.  I need help.”

She had recently watched a movie called LIFE WITH MIKEY, and in this movie, a young girl about Tifani’s age was a pickpocket on the streets of New York.  She gets caught and an angry man accuses her of stealing his wallet.  A small crowd gathers around her.  Michael Chapman (Michael J. Fox) shows up.  He had just had his wallet stolen by this same girl.  He is the head of a child talent agency, and is always looking for new talent.  He sees the way that this girls is playing the crowd, and realizes that she is a natural.  He intervenes, telling everyone that she is his daughter.   Crocodile tears pour down her pretty little face and she exclaims, “I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy, I need help.”

She made the confession, “I’m bad.  I know it.  I need help”, not out of any realization of her true nature, but in the hope that people would feel sorry for her, give her a break and let her go.

Her words, though, have great significance for those who want to enjoy God.  The life of enjoying God begins with the startling revelation that we are all bad.  That we really and truly Know that we are bad and that without help, we are doomed.

This thought, for many, is the hardest part of enjoying God.  In fact, it seems ridiculous!  When confronted with the possibility that we might be bad, we immediately present our first list of all the good things we do.  We give to charitable organizations and donate time to worthy causes and don’t beat our wives or children and work hard at the office and never cheat or steal.

Our second list is made up of truly bad people like murderers, rapists, thieves and those who cheat on their spouses and take advantage of the poor.  We can always point to those who are really bad and thus exonerate ourselves.

Everyone has their own categories of who is bad and what is bad and we certainly don’t fall into any  of those categories.  But, the category that matters most, is God’s category.  Since He is the one we want to enjoy, and it is He that gives the joy, it is His standard of Good and Bad that we need to take a look at.

In the Bible God reveals His character and ours.  He shows us His standard of goodness and also how far removed we are from that standard.  The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that because we do not live up to His standard of Goodness that we are His enemies (Rom. 5:10). Indeed, we are dead in our badness.  Dead in our sins as Paul puts it Ephesians 2.  Sin is just another word for bad, a type of bad that utterly offends  a perfect God, and totally blocks our any chance of enjoying God.  In Romans 3:12, Paul quotes Ecclesiastes 7:20 saying, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  Even the good deeds we do, the random acts of kindness we perform, the rewards we receive for helping others, are all a stench in the nostrils of God, if done apart from being in right relationship with him.

Help Is Available

This is where the Good News comes in.  We can’t enjoy the God the Good News if we don’t first understand the bad news.  The bad news is that we are bad.  The Good News is that help is available!

The last phrase the girl pickpocket declared when confronted by the angry victim was, “I need help.”  She was insincere in her claim of needing help.  If we truly believe from the bottom of our hearts, that we re bad and desperately need help, God is more than willing to come to our aid and rescue us.

I lived in Sonoma County, California, for a number of years.  There were a few years that we experienced terrible flooding.  I lived close to the RussianRiver and during a particularly bad flood many of the residents were surrounded by high water and had to be helicoptered to safety.  Those residents recognized they were in a bad way and were glad to be helped.

I remember one especially dramatic photograph that appeared in the local paper.  A man was being rescued from the raging river by a fireman who was in the river with him.  The fireman was roped to other firemen standing on the bank.  The drowning man was rescued and the photographer went on to win a Pulitzer prize for the photo.

When we come to a point where we realize that we are drowning spiritually, when we realize that joy, peace and contentment are not the hallmarks of our lives, and that the turbulent waters of depression, disappointment, frustration, anger and disillusion threaten to overwhelm us, and we call out to a merciful, compassionate and gracious God (Daddy), He will rescue us!

In a way, God is like the fireman who jumped into the river to save the drowning man.  God jumped into our hopeless, helpless situation, into our badness, in the person of Jesus Christ.  And all those who became aware of their badness, and followed this God/Man Jesus were rescued, and are still being rescued and given new lives.  Lives filled with joy in God and delight at being delivered from the turbulent flood called existence, and brought onto the safe shore called Life.  Life enjoying God.

Some, like many of the religious leaders of Jesus day, didn’t realize how dire their plight was, and chose to cling to the slippery and perilous branches called self-righteousness and good works. They perished without ever experiencing the joy of knowing God.

Bad Gunky

Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of doing bad things.  While we celebrate and rejoice that our Bad Existence was put to death by Jesus, we still struggle with doing bad things.  Martin Luther said we are at the same time righteous and sinners and that we continue to wrestle daily with the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.  I call these things Bad Gunky.  In Stephen King’s novel LISEYS STORY, one of the main characters explains to his wife, Lisey, all about bad gunky.  As a child he lived with his father and older brother.  At various times they were attacked by what his father called “bad gunky”.  This was an evil presence that would, without warning, fill either the father or one of his sons with a violent anger that would cause them to want to kill.  The only cure that normally worked to rid the family member of bad gunky, was the shedding of blood. One of the family members that was not being attacked by the bad gunky would have to inflict a large, deep cut on his own body, to set the other family member free of the evil known  as bad gunky.

This is a wonderful picture of what our Brother, Jesus, did for us, giving himself up freely to be crucified, to let his blood pour down the cross, so that we could be free from bad gunky, the power of sin, of badness, that caused our spiritual death.  Bad Gunky, with a capital B and a capital G is no longer a threat to our eternal relationship with God, to our eternal life.  However, bad gunky, small b, small g, still nips at our heels and barks in our ears on a daily basis.  This bad gunky tempts us to do bad things.  Tempts us to leave the Lord we love.  We fall victim daily to bad gunky.  Jesus tells us we are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. He tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We fail at this everyday.  In fact it is an impossible task.  So what sets followers of Christ apart from the rest of humanity that fails everyday?  It is the fact that as followers of Christ we have as our life goal to love God with all our being, and to love our  neighbor as we love ourselves.  We know this is the surest way to a life full of joy with God and with each other.  We begin the day in prayer, asking God’s Spirit to come along side us to help us love as He wants us to love.  And, if we are to be honest, end the day in prayer, noticing the ways we have failed to love, and confess to God that we have not loved Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.  That we have not loved our neighbor as our self.  And we rest assured, knowing that God is faithful to forgive us our sins, our bad actions, our lack of love.  We sleep peacefully, knowing that our merciful, compassionate, patient God has washed away the bad gunky of the day.  We look forward to the morning when God’s mercies are new and we can experience afresh the joy of God.

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The great power of God appears in bringing a sinner from his low state, from the depths of sin and misery, to an exalted state of holiness and happiness.  Jonathan Edwards  (1703-1758) from his sermon God Glorified in Man’s Dependence

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Next blog – God Didn’t Have To, But He Did

I am thinking of a father and his soon to be 10 year old daughter.  He loves her very much and wants to give her the best birthday balloonsbirthday party ever.  He has been planning  it for months, considering every detail so that it will be a beautiful affair, to be remembered always.  It is to be a surprise party, so when the  day arrives, mom takes the little princess out to have her hair done and nails painted and a special dress purchased.  Meanwhile, the doting father is hanging miles of party streamers, inflating dozens of balloons, and placing hundreds of flowers all over the living room and kitchen.  On the dining room table sits a beautifully decorated cake, filled with icing flowers of all colors and 10 candles.  Loading down the kitchen counters is an array of catered food, the likes of which few people have ever seen, along with plenty of chips, and five kinds of pizza.  The  fridge is filled with soda and the freezer with ice cream.  On a nearby shelf sits the gifts the father has chosen for his daughter’s special day.  An i-phone, a Kindle tablet, a Blu-Ray player, and a 32”  Sony LED TV, all wrapped up, waiting for his darling daughter to unwrap.  He can almost hear her cries of delight and joy.

Her classmates, friends and family members, all decked out in their party best, begin arriving for the celebration at 1:3happy-birthday-cake-wallpaper-225x300 p.m. for the 2 p.m. scheduled big surprise.  At eight minutes past 2:00, the birthday girl and her mom walk through the front door and a thunderous cry of “SURPRISE – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” erupts.  The young girl is blown away, overwhelmed by the decorations and love from family and friends.  Music starts up from the live band out on the back patio and the party goes into high gear

The birthday girl rushes to her room to  put on her new dress.  Coming out of her room she runs into a 12 year old boy that she has a crush on.  She is thrilled to see him at her party.  He is looking at a red button on the hallway wall.  He wishes her a happy birthday, and then asks her about the button.  She tells him her house has a fire sprinkler system, and if there is  ever a fire, all you have to do is to push the red button and the sprinkler system will go on.  He tells her that sounds cool.  He tells her that sounds like fun; just like playing in the sprinklers outside on a hot day.  He tells her that she should push it; that it would be a great big joke on everyone and that everybody would laugh and dance around in the shower.  She tells him that her dad said no one should ever push the red button unless there was a real fire emergency.  He bets her that her dad would think this was a special exception, and that he would laugh and laugh and pick her up and dance around the room in the falling water, just like in the movies.  She says that she will go and ask her dad first.  He tells her that that would ruin the surprise.  He gave you a big surprise party, and now it’s your turn to surprise him.

She thinks about it for a few seconds.  She looks at the older boy with a bit of doubt in her eyes.  He looks at her pleadingly.  She looks at the red button and imagines what fun everyone will have in the  water shower.  She also thinks about what her dad has told her.  She thinks and thinks.  The boy says he’s getting a bit bored, and just remembered there  was  something he needed to do  at home.  He turns to go, and she pushes the  red button.

Water gushes down on everyone and everything.  It is all ruined.  No one is dancing around in the water.  No one is laughing .  At first, all the guests look panicked – they look for a  fire.  They hurriedly make their way out to the front lawn or back patio.  The party streamers turn soggy and drop from the ceiling onto party clothes and new carpet, which become stained. Frosting and cake slowly disintegrate.  The pizza is inedible    Some balloons drop and pop, adding to the chaos.  Expensive electronic gadgets are flooded with water and become worthless.  Firetrucks arrive and fire fighters rush into the house.   All the  people hoping for a happy, beautiful party go home upset.  It was definitely one to  remember.

The father is beside himself.  He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry; yell or die.  The good, loving father truly wanted the best for his child.  The best decorations; best food; best presents.  Now it was all ruined.  Now it was all  ugly and bad; all because of a lie.  All because of disobedience and distrust.  All that’s left are regrets and remorse.

This story makes me think of our Heavenly Father.  One time He prepared a great party for His children.  It was a garden garden_of_eden_by_amosha-d3ijz4tparty.  The garden was filled with the most beautiful flowers and plants ever seen.  The variety of trees filled with good fruit was beyond description. All kinds of incredibly, beautiful animals roamed about freely. He  invited His children to go in, and then yelled “Surprise!”  His two children were overwhelmed with joy and the great. good, beautiful experience that they had.  In the midst of their happy celebration, the Father walked them over to a tree.  The name of  this  tree is “Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  There are hundreds of beautiful trees in this garden, loaded with juicy, tasty fruit that will dazzle your taste buds and energize your bodies.  I  want you to enjoy all of them.  But this tree, “Knowledge of Good and Evil” you must never eat of.  You should never even touch it.  In fact, just to be on the safe side, you should never even come to  this  part of the garden.  The reason is, is, that the day you eat from it you will die.

I looked up the Hebrew words and definitions for “good” and  “evil”.

Good is tobe:

good (as an adjective) in the widest sense; used likewise as a noun, both in the masculine and the feminine, the singular and the plural (good, a good or good thing, a good man or woman; the good, goods or good things, good men or women), also as an adverb (well): – beautiful, best, better, bountiful, cheerful, at ease, fair , fine, glad, good deed, graciously, joyful, kindly, kindness, like (best), loving, merry,  most pleasant,  pleasure, precious, prosperity,  sweet, wealth, welfare, (be) well ([-favoured]).

Evil is rah, raw-aw’

 bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: – adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil, + exceedingly,  great, grief , harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured),  mischief, (-vous), misery,  noisome,  sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. 

Without eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and  evil, they had all the good, beautiful, fair, bountiful, cheerful, joyful,loving, pleasurable, merry life that they could  ever want.  Unfortunately they disobeyed God.  They believed the lies of the Evil One.  They touched the tree and ate the fruit of the tree of  the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Banished from the Garden, their right relationship with God dead, thus their spirits dead, they suffer daily with the curse and punishment of God and experience the  bad, evil, adversity, affliction, calamity, displeasure, distress, misery, noisome, hurtful, sorrowful, trouble, and wretchedness that most people in this world experience on a daily basis.  They gave up all the good, and began to experience all the evil, the day they believed a lie.

Yet, some beauty, goodness and truth have survived.  G.K. Chesterton gives us the image of a shipwreck and survivors living on a deserted island, in his book Orthodoxy.  The survivors cherish the things that have washed up on shore from the lost ship.  In the same way, after Adam and Eve made a shipwreck of humanity, God has left us remnants of the beautiful, good party.  His love.  His true Word.  His grace and mercy.  Things to cherish.

So we cling to beauty, goodness and truth for the basis of our happiness and joy in God.  Daily, ugliness, evil and lies intrude into our lives, and often we have to battle to hang onto the good and beautiful and true.  We seek to share the truth, the beauty, the good with a hurting world.  We want to share our treasured remnants of the crash with those around us who have given up on having a good, beautiful life full of truth.

The Father has planned another party, bigger and better  and more beautiful than the first.  It’s called Heaven, or The New Jerusalem.  Our invitations are found in the Bible.  Have you RSVP’ed?

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Every component of our faith (worship, liturgy, creeds, theology, fellowship, spiritual formation, religious education, etc.), though in itself is valid and valuable, must lead to  good works, good lives, good creativity, and goodness to help our world get back on the road to being truly and wholly good again, the way God created it to be.  Brian McLaren in a Generous Othodoxy.

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Next blog – Purple Litter