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There was a big crowd gathered around Joshua, waiting anxiously.  They had been waiting for this moment for a long, long, time.  The lots were cast, and the tribe of Judah was first.  Shouts went up from those tribe members, and then Joshua and the high priest, Eleazar, told them what their territory would be.  The land you will call home will extend down south to Edom, to the desert of Zin, to the bay of the Dead sea.  Your southern boundary will start from the bay at the southern end of the Dead Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass, past Hezron and curve around to Karka, ending at the Mediterranean Sea.  The northern boundary will start at the mouth of the Jordan where it enters the Dead Sea, go up to Beth Hoglah and then to Beth Arabah ….  When the boundary lines were finished being given, the people of Judah were well pleased, especially Caleb, who was singled out to receive the town and hill country of Hebron.

Caleb remembered back to the first time he had ventured into that territory, as a spy, over forty years ago.  He

Caleb and Joshua with grapes from the promised land

Caleb and Joshua with grapes from the promised land

thought about the vineyard covered hills that produced incredibly huge clusters of the sweetest grapes that he had ever tasted.  He remembered the olive groves with branches bowing almost to the ground, heavy laden with large, ripe olives.  He thought of the lush, green pastures full of fat sheep and goats.  Those same pastures would surely  fatten up his large flocks with plenty of space left over for his children’s livestock and their children’s animals as well.  It was a dream come true.  Caleb would finally be happy in Hebron.

Caleb was 85 years old.  Joshua was about the same age.  They were the only two people of their generation that escaped the slavery and oppression of Pharaoh in Egypt and crossed the Jordan river into the Promised Land.  God had heard the cries of the Hebrews who were suffering in that land along the Nile, had compassion on them and chose Moses to be his instrument of delivering the chosen people from bondage.  At first the people rejoiced when they heard the message that God loved them and wanted them to be happy and was going to deliver them from the harsh Egyptian taskmasters.    But then they complained, because things got worse before they got better.

Caleb and Joshua were puzzled by the sad state of affairs and wondered how the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would save them.  They were suffering under the slave drivers and also felt the ill effects of some of the plagues that God was sending on the Egyptians.  They suffered and wondered what was going on.  They also must have thought of the stories of Joseph, who also suffered unjustly at the hand of Egyptians almost 400 years earlier.  They took comfort in the fact that God was with him, and ultimately exalted him to enjoy freedom, privilege and power, second only to the great Pharaoh himself.

Our day will come, they thought, if we believe and don’t give up hope.

They continued to believe. Hope ran strong in their hearts. The day came when they found themselves spreading lambs blood on their door posts.  Later that night the killing angel paid every family in the land a visit.  Those homes covered by the blood were spared death.  Those without suffered the death of their firstborn sons.  Egyptian families wailed in grief, begging the Hebrews to leave, and loaded them down with silver, gold and jewelry.  The first fruits of anticipated good things that were to come.

Pharaoh, too, had experienced loss, and knew when he was licked.  Finally, he let God’s people go.

The chosen people of God left at once, heading toward their new home.  Caleb rejoiced, but within two short years his joy was replaced by great disappointment.  Even though the Israelites had experienced a miraculous delivery from slavery by the mighty hand and outstretched arm of their loving God, they quickly turned their backs on Him by worshiping a golden calf, complaining about God’s plan, and then disbelieving that God would go before them and give them  a land flowing with milk and honey.

After spying out the Canaanite country of promise, Caleb and Joshua were fired up and excited to march in behind the great I AM and posses the fruitful land.  A land not just promised to Moses but also to the patriarch Abraham centuries before.  God had told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach.  And now was the time for the stars to shine and take the land.  But they failed to believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy.  They chose to focus on “the giants in the land” rather then their Giant God.

God was furious with them and condemned them to wander in the wilderness until they were dead and there was a new generation that would trust him.  Caleb and Joshua were fiercely  disappointed, but were promised that one day they would take up residence in the territory beyond the Jordan.   Caleb remembered the words spoken to him by Moses, “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.”

A new day finally dawned forty years later.  Forty years of waiting, of watching parents and siblings die in the desert.  Forty years of watching the people rebel and complain and succumb to the punishment of God.  The day finally came when a new set of spies were sent across the Jordan.  These spies came back with a report that the heathen people’s hearts were melting in fear of what would happen to them when the Mighty YHWH would lead His people in battle against them.  The day came when the “giants” of Canaan were routed by the Hebrews Giant God  and their land was free for the taking by the people of Israel.  The beautiful day came at last, when Caleb received his promised piece of the Promised Land and was happy in Hebron.

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Just as Noah had to tolerate the minority opinion of his day, so did Caleb and Joshua.  The respective faith of each in the integrity of the promise of God gives Noah victory over sarcasm and Caleb and Joshua victory over hostility.  The taunters and the incredulous, on the other hand, are denied the ark and the land.     Victor P. Hamilton in Handbook on the Pentateuch

What image comes to mind when you think of God?  Some people think of a loving, compassionate father.  Other people can’t relate to God as father because they had a terrible father.  Some people think of God as a priest absolving them of their sins.  Other people can’t relate to God as a priest for a variety of reasons.  Some people think of God as a shepherd or king.  Other people can’t relate to God as either of those for cultural reasons.

I mentioned in my last post that sometimes people get the God that they want, that they can imagine and relate to.  In the parable of the talents or bags of gold, the first two servants saw their master as a kind man who saw their abilities and trusted them with his wealth.  The master rewarded their perception of him by inviting them to share his happiness.  The third servant saw his master as a hard, greedy, stingy man, and the master fulfilled his perception by throwing him out into darkness to grind his teeth.

Allen Coppedge, in his book Portraits of God, searched the Bible for the primary ways that God has chosen to reveal himself to us.  He found eight different images that God uses to help us relate to him, all based on God as a holy God.  Those images are God as Transcendent Creator, Sovereign King, Personal Revealer, Priest, Righteous Judge, Loving Father, Powerful Redeemer, and Good Shepherd.

Why does God use so many different pictures to reveal himself to us?  Because no one portrait of God is fully adequate to describe him.  Coppedge says that “multiple images are necessary for a holistic picture of God.”  Individual Christians, churches and periods in the history of the church, sometimes have had major problems because they emphasize one or two roles at the expense of others.  This gives an unbalanced picture of God and results in an unbalanced relationship with God.  If we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we need to realize, appreciate and take hold of all the various ways God presents himself to us in  scripture.

I especially relate to God as Father and as Shepherd.  It makes me happy to think of God as a compassionate, loving Father who cares for me and supplies my needs.  Likewise the shepherd, the Good Shepherd who leads me to green pastures, cool waters and makes sure that I want for nothing.  But if that is my entire concept of God, and I don’t also consider God as King, Creator, Redeemer and Priest, then my relationship with God will be skewed and I will not be as happy and fulfilled as I otherwise would.

God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Seeing God in all his roles should make us happy, for in all His roles, he gives us good and happy gifts.  As Creator, he gives us life and a beautiful creation to enjoy.  As King, he gives us protection and boundaries to keep us safe.  As Personal Revealer, he  gives us insight into his nature.  As Priest he forgives our sins.  As Judge,  he shows us our great need for him and his help.  As Father he nurtures us.  As Redeemer he rescues us from slavery.  As Shepherd he leads us and guides us along the path of abundant life.  Our lives our less complete if we neglect to relate to God in any one of these roles.

As we read the Bible, meditate on the nature of God and appropriate the various roles of God into our hearts and minds, we will be truly happy people.

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The concept of God is the most determinative factor for all Christian theology and spiritual life.  A right understanding of the nature of God sets a proper pattern for systematic theology as well as for personal knowledge of God.  The most crucial question for any individual or church is, “What is God like?”  The answer to this question will determine both their doctrine and experience.  Allan Coppedge in Portraits of God

I made up a new song a couple days ago. It’s called I’m So Glad I’m Not a Worm.  It’s sung to the tune of Everybody Ought to Know. earthworm It goes like this:

I’m So glad I’m not a Worm

I’m So glad I’m not a Worm

I’m So glad I’m not a Worm

Eating dirt all day.

It was originally called I’m So Glad I’m not a Dog.  It came to me as I was taking a pail of table scraps out to the compost pit at the back of the mission.  As I approached, three mongrel dogs crawled out of the pit and scampered away.  I thought how glad I was that I wasn’t a dog like that, and began singing, “I’m so glad I’m not a dog.” As I thought about those words, I realized that there are probably some people in the world that would like to be dogs, especially a pet dog in the United states.  Most pet dogs in the U.S. have it made.  They have all the comforts of home.  They live better than most people in the world. I read recently that in 2012, Americans spent over 53 billion dollars on their pets, a large majority of those pets being dogs.  I read a mission web site that said that Americans spent as much  money on their pets Halloween costumes as they did on helping to send the gospel message to the unreached people groups of the world (310 million dollars).  It’s a dog’s life, and it’s a pretty good one.    So I changed the words to I’m So Glad I’m not a Worm.  Although I expect to receive a scathing email any day now from the NAAW (National Association for the Advancement of Worms).

What I am really saying when I sing “I’m so glad I’m not a  worm” is that I am glad that I  am a chosen, elected, predestined from the foundations of the earth, child of God,  who daily experiences the riches of God’s love, mercy, grace, kindness, gentleness, goodness and provision of all my daily needs and most of my wants because He Loves Me and wants me to be happy.  Much better than being a worm.  Although, maybe I am a worm at heart, or used to be.

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Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

At The Cross by Isaac Watts

One day God said, “You know, I think I’ll make a billion stars today.”  He didn’t have to, but he did,

billion stars 2billion stars 3

billion stars

.

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

.

God didn’t have to give us sunrises and sunsets, but He did,

sunrise sunset

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make oceans and beaches, but He did,

ocean    beach

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make the Rocky Mountains,

   rocky mountainsrocky mountains2

The Grand Tetons,

grand tetons grand tetons2

Or the Sierras, but he did,

sierra sierra2

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to make pink roses,

DSC08836

Purple bougainvilleas,

DSC08838

Or birds of paradise, but he did,

DSC08843

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us good scents, like star jasmine, citrus blossoms, and lavender, but he did,

star jasmine citrus blossum DSC08906

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us pineapples, mangoes, and grapes, but he did,

pineapples mangoes grapes

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to give us puppies, and kittens, and goldfish, but he did,

puppies kittens goldfish

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to be born in a stable

jesus birth

And be crucified,

jesus death

And rise from the dead, but he did,

jesus resurrection

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy!

God gives us all good things,

So that we will glorify him by enjoying him forever.

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“Only wonder understands.”  Gregory of Nyssa

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Next blog – Waves and Lights

My wife Anita, our two daughters and myself were in Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico a couple weeks ago, helping with the

Anita serving up atole

Anita serving up atole

preparation and joining in the celebration of Radio Zapoteca’s second anniversary.  Wood fires were burning in cinderblock rings.  Smoke  filled the cooking area and escaped through slits in the rusted tin walls.    Milk, ground up oats and sugar were mixed together in a big pot  over one fire to make a traditional Oaxacan drink called atole.  Chickens, throats freshly cut, were briefly plunged into boiling water of another pot and then plucked naked.  Nine butchered chickens contributed to some delicious chicken soup and tasty tamales.

Women from a half dozen local church congregation gathered in Anita’s parent’s yard to help.  Some churches donated food, others tables and chairs.  The Home for Needy Children, where Anita and I are staff members, donated cases of milk.  I wrote in an earlier blog that the social service arm of of the government had given the ministry a bunch of milk.  Out of our abundant supply we were able to share.  Blessed to be a blessing, as the saying goes.

Anita’s older brother, Arturo, started Radio Zapoteca two years ago, because of his vision of proclaiming  the Good News that God loves us and wants us to be happy, to the entire Mitla valley.  This wonderful DSC00310Christian radio station plays inspiring Christian music, and proclaims the messaged of God’s love in Spanish and the local Zapoteco dialect.  This station also broadcasts via the  internet at RadioZapoteca.com if you want to give it a listen.

Arturo is an inspiration himself.  Fifteen years ago, Arturo was living for himself.  He graduated from the local university with an accounting degree and immediately got a good job making good money.  God spoke into his life through local missionaries, who convinced him, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that there was more to life than money and mezcal.  He turned his life over to the Good Shepherd and Savior of his soul.  He was filled with a joy that he had never experienced

Cooking tubs of tamales

Cooking tubs of tamales

before.  He gave up his job and went to work for the missionaries, helping them make recordings of the Bible in the dialects of illiterate village people living in isolated areas of Oaxaca (RadioZapoteca.com includes Bible recordings of over 400 dialects).

He worked faithfully in that ministry for a few years, while being heavily involved in a local church.  The little church, Dios Es Amor (God is Love), was the result of a church planting of a larger church in Oaxaca city.  The idea was that after a few years, it would become self sufficient with its own pastor.  Arturo had been in charge of the youth group and would preach occasionally.  The pastor of the parent church in Oaxaca city saw the hand of God on Arturo’s life and Arturo felt the call of God to pastor the little flock.  After receiving pastoral training, and much prayer, Arturo was ordained as pastor of  Dios Es Amor.

Over two years ago, Arturo began dreaming of a way to communicate Christ, not just to his small band of brothers and

Sisters in Christ helping to prepare a feast for the fiesta

Sisters in Christ helping to prepare a feast for the fiesta

sisters in the Lord; not just to his neighbors and those he would casually meet, but to all of the Mitla region.  He envisioned a Christian radio station that would proudly proclaim the gracious goodness of a living Redeemer, not just to the Spanish speakers, but to those indigenous people in the area called Zapotecos and spoke that dialect.  Arturo could reach out to them in their “heart” language, since he was half Zapoteco and  could speak the language.

He  shared his vision with other Christians and they began to dream the same dream, and supported Arturo with

prayers, funds, time and talents.  Two weeks ago, these Christians, along with  hundreds of others who regularly tune in to Radio Zapoteca, came  together in the town square to celebrate the radio station’s second year of existence. Pastors of different denominations spoke about the importance and blessing that Radio Zapoteca was for them personally and for their congregations.  People spoke about how much more they enjoyed God when they could turn on the radio and listen to inspiring Christian music, teaching and preaching.  Bands came from all around to play their different styles of music, glorifying the King  of kings and Lord of lords.

Standing in the smokey, makeshift kitchen of my in-laws, surrounded by sisters in Christ cooking chickens and making

Arturo broadcasting the Good News on Radio Zapoteca

Arturo broadcasting the Good News on Radio Zapoteca

tamales, I rejoiced in God’s work and goodness.  I thought of all the Christians in the community that were encouraged daily by Arturo and Radio Zapoteca.  There were so many who had come to know our Great, Good God, and were themselves helping to grow the Kingdom of God in their own special ways.  And on that Saturday in February, we were all together, pitching in, to make the  second anniversary fiesta such a success – glorifying God and enjoying Him and His presence among us.

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Guiraa redee badeedni te guluiireni rexpejn Jesucrist, te gunreni dzuun te gustajlreni rebejn ni gac xquidoo Jesucrist.   Zapoteco de Mitla translation of Ephesians 4:12 –               to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

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Next blog – Beauty, Truth and Goodness

A long time ago,  in  a  land far  away, lived a king, a big king, a big king named King Og.  King Og reigned in Bashan, a land fair and bright; a land full of prospects, but not really all right.  King Og was sure prideful and full of himself; calling  his kingdom, the Kingdom of Og.  He was a giant, so some people say. In a bed 13 feet long, 13 feet long did he lay.  He thought he was great, was sure he was strong; of greater and greater conquests he longed.

One day a messenger came into his kingdom; carried he a message; some people wanted to come.  ‘Twas a message from Moses that was read by the King.  The message requested permission to pass, to pass  through the Kingdom of Og really fast.  “We don’t want to fight,  we don’t want to meddle, we’re on our way, the Promised  Land to settle.”

King Og read the note with a snort and a smirk, “What’s Moses think?  I’m some kind of jerk?”  He rallied his forces, he rallied his men, he gathered his army and it was to war that he went.

Now God was with Moses, He led him along.  For forty long years did God lead him along.   Led him through desert,  led him through plain, with great strength, to the Promised Land they came.  Meeting the vast army of prideful King Og, God comforted Moses, saying we’ll chase him home like a dog.

The Hebrews rose up and went out to King Og.  With God by their side they did  battle and slay.  They fought and they routed old king Og that  day.  They smote all  his soldiers and took all their loot.  They took all their land and houses to boot. Fleeing in terror, the Ogites did run.  Close on their heals, with hearts full of joy, the Israelite soldiers chased them into the sun. God loved his dear people and helped them to win.  He fought right beside them again  and  again.  They won  a great victory, and happy were they.   They won  a big battle and rejoiced big that day.

So what is the point of this short moral tale?  When your walking with God, you’re going to sail.   And what can you learn while you’re reading this blog?  When you see God is coming, don’t be like  King  Og.

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I was reading Deuteronomy, chapter three the other day, in the old King James version.  I read the story of the demise of King Og.  The story stuck in my mind all day and I was working with it to make a kind of Dr. Seuss type story.  It’s not that great, but was kinda fun to write.  I must admit, I took some “artistic license” liberties, but in general it is fairly accurate to the real account.  The Bible says he was a “giant” about 13 feet tall.  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  King Og is also mentioned in Numbers and Psalms, among other places.  God is always telling his people “to remember” or “do not forget”.  Remember what?  Don’t forget what?  That God loves his chosen people and wants them to be happy, triumphant, and obedient.  That He will be beside us, over us, behind us, in front of us, and, if need be, carry us, when we face the enemy.  Our enemies are the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, according to Martin Luther, and we do battle with them every day.   Depending on God for our strength assures us of the victory.  Whether that victory is sooner or later, only God knows (and He ain’t tellin’), but the important thing is that He is with us in the battle.

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As you go on your way, may God go with you.
May God go before you to show you the way.
May God go behind you to encourage you,
beside you to befriend you,
above you to watch over you,
and within you to give you peace,

In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

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Next blog – Finding Happiness in the Mess

English: Lord's Prayer A tablet behind the alt...

English: Lord’s Prayer A tablet behind the altar in St Mary the Virgin showing the Lord’s Prayer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lord’s prayer is a happy prayer.  When I pray it and meditate on it I am filled with joy because it is filled with good things. God wants us to ask him for good things. Most of the Lord’s prayer is about asking God for stuff.  There was a time in my life where I stopped asking God for stuff.  I stopped praying for people.  I figured that God is sovereign and all powerful and all knowing  and full of love a and that he would handle all situations and circumstances perfectly.  I thought it ridiculous to think that God was up there on his celestial throne waiting for me to send up a prayer before he would act.  “You know, I was planning on healing George of his cancer, but Santiago never prayed for him, so poor old George died.”  I didn’t think God needed my prayer before he did the right thing.

And I was right.  He doesn’t need my prayer.  I need my prayer.  I finally realized that by taking a good look at the Lord’s prayer. Most of the Lord’s prayer is petition.  Not adoration or thanksgiving, but petitions, requests.  I need to ask God for stuff, for things, for help, to remind myself daily that I am totally dependent on God for everything!  For all my physical needs and spiritual needs.  In the Lord’s prayer I am reminded over and over that God is good and loving and wants me to be happy.

The Lord’s prayer starts off with “Our Father” and a bit later “thy kingdom come”.  The first piece of happiness we find is that our Father is the king.  As a youth I went to Bible camp every year in the mountains of Colorado.  One year the guest speaker was from Tennessee.  He had never seen the Rocky mountains.  One day, on a hike he stopped and exclaimed, “My daddy made those mountains!”  Sometimes I want to stop and exclaim with joy, “My daddy is the king!”  The Lord’s prayer is part of the sermon on the mount where Jesus has been mentioning the kingdom.  He began His ministry proclaiming the kingdom of the heavens or the kingdom of God.  In the Lord’s prayer we happily discover that our daddy is the king.

In context of  “thy kingdom come”  Jesus gives us the first thing that we should ask for.  The most important happy thing that we should ask for.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  When you think of heaven, do you think of sadness, misery, and pain?  Of course not.  We all think of a joyous existence where we delight in the presence of God and his will being done perfectly.  God’s plan from the garden of Eden in Genesis to New Jerusalem in Revelation, is for people to experience unbelievable happiness because they are are doing his will.  In this petition God not only invites us to enter into his joy, but as individuals and as the body of Christ, to bring this joy to a hurting world and thus grow the kingdom of the heavens.

As Jesus further instructs about things to ask for, he seemingly moves from the most important thing to the most mundane.  “Give us today our daily bread.”  I would 4126611734_993d897939venture to guess that most of us rarely if ever ask God to supply our bread for the day.  One reason we don’t ask for that is because in our innermost being we think we are self sufficient.  We think we can handle that one on our own.  The reality is that we can’t.  I was reading Moses’ speech to the Israelites this morning in Deuteronomy chapter eight.  Moses told the people that it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.  Who gave you the ability to earn that paycheck that enabled you to buy your bread  (which is symbolic of our daily needs)?  Where did you get the physical and mental ability to work, make money and buy food?  God gave it you and me and all of us.  So when we pray for daily bread, we are praying for God to maintain and grow our physical and mental abilities.

Here at the home for needy children in Mexico, that petition takes on a different flavor.  We depend on the generous gifts of faithful supporters and friends for our daily bread, or daily tortillas, as the case may be.  While we always give thanks before each meal, we rarely ask God corporately  to supply our food.  It is a different story in the accounting office.  Those who look at our daily financial records,  daily ask God to supply our needs.  God answered those prayers in a special way a couple of weeks ago.  We went to a store where we regularly buy food, and they donated a lot of  juice and crackers to us.  After that we went to the fruit and vegetable market and a complete stranger saw our van saying that we were from Christ For The World, Home For Needy Children.  He came over and gave us four boxes of fruit.  The next day a big truck from a governmental social service agency showed up unexpectedly and unloaded the largest food donation we have ever received.  Huge bags of rice, beans and lentils. Cases and cases of milk and tuna. Our pantry, which had looked like old, Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, was now stocked with enough food to last us six months.  Everyone rejoiced and was glad for God’s incredible provision.  Indeed, everyone who has food to eat and water to drink should happily rejoice in God’s faithful and miraculous provisions.

Now Jesus moves from our most basic physical needs, to our most basic spiritual need.  Forgiveness of sin.  “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that sin against us.”  The angel told Joseph to name Mary’s baby “Jesus” because he would save his people from their sins.  Peter told Cornelius in Acts 10 that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.   Paul told the Romans in chapter four that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to  life for our justification.  In Galatians one, Paul told his readers that Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.  The author of Hebrews says that Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.  John proclaims to his  audience that Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins (1 John 3:5).  The one teaching on the mountain about forgiveness, was the one who died on a cross so that such forgiveness of sin could be possible.

So what’s the big  deal with  sin?  Nothing much, except that it causes a lot of pain, suffering, separation from a right relationship with God, turmoil in relationships with others, anxiety, guilt, depression and dysfunction, just to name a few things.  We are saved from all that when we do two things.  One ask God to forgive us of our sins, and two, we need to forgive others who  sin  against us – people who have hurt us, physically, mentally or emotionally.  1 John 1:9, and Jesus’ parable of  the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21, shed a lot of light on the concept and reality of forgiveness.  With our sins forgiven, our relationship with the Giver of Joy is made whole, and our souls are filled with a whole lot of happiness.

The final two things Jesus tells us to  ask for, is that God, our Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  When I think of God  leading  us into temptation, I  am reminded of the movie DodgeBall, where Dwight Goodman, the muscle bound owner of GloboGym, was waving a chocolate donut in front of his face, saying to himself, “Go ahead.  Eat it.  You know you want it.”  He goes to take a bite of the donut, and about the time the  chocolate delight touches his lips, he presses a button that sends an electric jolt into his body.  God is not in heaven, dangling an enticing temptation before us, waiting for us to succumb, and then gleefully sending a lightning bolt our way as punishment.  It is more accurate for us to pray that God would save us from the time of trial, because in times of trial we are tempted to sin by getting angry, or frustrated or worried or worse.  Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy that “this request is not just for evasion of pain and of things we don’t like, though it frankly is that.  It expresses the understanding that we can’t stand up under very much pressure, and that it is not a  good thing for us to suffer.  It is a vote of ‘no confidence’ in our own abilities.  As the (Lord’s Prayer) begins with with the glorification of God, it ends with acknowledgement of the feebleness of human beings.”  I will be the first to admit I am feeble and I will be the first to thank God and rejoice and be happy that He regularly saves me from the time of trial.

“Deliver us from the Evil One.”  The Evil One is Satan.  The Bible says Satan is like adevil roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Scriptures say that the Devil comes around with one purpose in mind – to kill, steal and destroy.  Basically, he doesn’t like  Christians very much.  To him, the only good Christian is a dead, dying or suffering Christian.  Happy Christians really tick him off.  Jesus knows this, so he tells us to pray for protection from the Evil One;  to recognize the reality of Satan and his hate for us; to recognize our weakness, that we are like dust compared to the Devil; and to recognize that the Devil is dust, compared to God.  When we pray to God to deliver us from the Evil One, we are acknowledging that “greater is He that is in us, then  he that is  in the world (1 John 4:4).  That, for me, is a happy thought!  Amen!

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” ‘Just the way we want it’ is not a bad paraphrase for ‘amen.’  What is needed at the end of this great prayer (Lord’s Prayer) is a ringing affirmation of the goodness of God and God’s world.  If your nerves can take it, you might (occasionally?) try “Whoopee!”  I imagine God himself will not mind.”  Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy.  This book has helped me more with having a happy, healthy prayer life than any other I have ever read.

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Next blog – Joy and Terror in the Kingdom of Og

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

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