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One podcast I regularly listen to is The White Horse Inn. This Sunday it began a series on the topic of The Good Life, and what we can learn about the good life from scriptures. In the introduction, the show host talked about a conversation he recently had with a man who was concerned about his lack of ambition. His brothers were all very ambitious to advance in their careers and put in a lot of time at work. This man said he just wants to put in his eight hours on the job and then get home to enjoy his family and friends. He wondered if something was wrong with himself because he wasn’t more ambitious. The host quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Paul writes, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”

I love that verse! It has been instrumental in helping me to think about my priorities and living the good life. People are ambitious about so many different things that in the long run don’t lead to the good life, but to the tired, anxious, stressful life.

I have been thinking a lot about the good life since I listened to that White Horse Inn episode. I have been considering what the Bible has inspired me to believe about what the good life is and how to live the good life.

First of all, what is the good life? The Bible has a ton of verses that relate to what the good life is, but for me, in a nutshell, the good life is contentment (1 Timothy 6:6), peace (Philippians 4:6), and joy (1 Peter 1:8). These aspects of the good life, an abundant life (John 10:10), come from Jesus. Those who put their hope and trust in Jesus should find these elements rich in their lives.

Putting our hope and trust in Jesus means studying His Word, and applying it to our lives. Here are a handful of verses that have helped me to live the good life:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Seek first the kingdom of the Father, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4:29)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24)

These are the main verses that help me to enjoy the good life in God. When I start feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, bitter, resentful, anxious or worried, I turn my thoughts, my focus, from me and my problems, to God and his Word, and soon enough I am back on the sunny side of life. These verses work for me. They may not bring the good life to everyone, but I’m pretty sure that the Word of God has truths in it for everyone, that will enable everyone to live the good life, full of contentment, peace and joy.

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Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it one thousand times.

This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Martin Luther

Have you ever thought about King Solomon’s heart? I hadn’t until recently when I was asked to give a talk about Solomon’s errors in life, and what we can learn from them. Ever since then I have been thinking about Solomon’s life, and it is a complicated one.

Growing up I would attend Sunday School, and it seems, at least once a year I would hear the story of Solomon asking God for wisdom, and the teachers would tell us students that it was a wonderful thing that Solomon asked for and that we should be like Solomon and ask God to make us wise.

Considering Solomon’s foolish ways toward the end of his life, one naturally is prone to ask, “Hey Solomon, what happened? You started out wise and ended up a dummy.”

My initial answer to that question, is that when God asked Solomon what he wanted, he should have said he wanted a heart that would be dedicated to God and follow him all the days of his life. While wisdom is important, whole hearted devotion to God is sublime.

The story of Solomon asking God for wisdom is found in two places in the Bible, in 1 Kings 3, and 2 Chronicles 1. I think the Sunday School version is from 2 Chronicles because in verse 10 Solomon specifically says, “Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead your people.”

In the 1 Kings account, Solomon doesn’t specifically ask for wisdom. Instead he talks to God about his father David, who had a righteous and upright heart, and then Solomon asks God in verse 9 to “give your servant a discerning heart”. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and responded to him in verse 12 saying, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart.”

Following this encounter with God we see examples of Solomon’s wisdom:

Two women have a dispute over a baby and Solomon says, “Cut the child in two and give half to each women (1 Kings 3:16-27)

He spoke 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32)

From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 4:34)

He builds the temple (1 Kings 6)

He dedicates the temple saying, “You keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue whole heartedly in your way.”

Martin Luther said that if someone came knocking on his heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Martin Luther, but the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think that at this point in Solomon’s life, that if we went knock – knocking on the door of Solomon’s heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Solomon, but the Lord God Almighty.”

Let’s fast forward to 1 Kings chapter 11, toward the end of Solomon’s life. Verse 4 tells us that as Solomon grew old, his (700) wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomom to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. (9,10)

If someone were to knock on Solomon’s heart at this stage of his life, and asked him who lived there, I wonder what the wisest mortal who ever lived would have said. Maybe, “Solomon the mighty lives here.” Or “Solomon the wise” or “Solomon the great”. Whatever it would have been, it would not have been “the Lord God Almighty.”

How tragic. How depressing. How did it happen? It makes me think that if this happened to the wisest person who ever lived, a man that God appeared to twice, what hope is there for me? What hope is there for any of us?

It helps me to consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I find it hard to see Solomon taking the lowly position of a child. I find it hard to imagine him humbling himself to serve like Jesus served, or to wash feet like Jesus did. I see his great “wisdom” leading him to be arrogant, haughty and proud, and in the end his Godly wisdom became the wisdom of the world, which as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 is foolishness. In the end, his heart became hard toward the things of God.

So what about us. What do we say when someone comes knocking on our heart, asking “Who lives here?”

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9,10

What is it about planting a tree that makes the world a little more beautiful, and the person who plants it a little more hopeful about the future?

Maybe it’s the idea that, given the right conditions, the tree will grow. The tree will grow bigger than the person who plants it. Usually much bigger. Planting a tree reminds us that there are things bigger than ourselves. And the tree will live a long time, probably longer than the person who put it in the ground. Planting trees reminds us that we have good things to look forward to.

And the tree will occupy a space that otherwise might have been bare, or ugly or choked with weeds, and will bring a type of beauty to that space that will be hard to match as the years go by. Planting trees also makes our inner space more beautiful.

And the person who plants the tree, the planter, will look at the tree, gaze at the tree, and will have a sense of the past, present and future, all at once. The planter will remember when his or her hands dug out some dirt from the earth to make a little hole, placed a sapling in the hole, and tucked the little tree into its place, tamping the dirt gently around its tender roots. The planter will also see how beautiful the tree is at the present. “My how it has grown” and imagine what it will look like as it continues to mature – five, ten or fifteen years down the line. And the planter will smile.

Perhaps some of these thoughts were running through Martin Luther’s head when he wrote about planting his apple tree in an uncertain time. Maybe he was thinking of his God who gives strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Maybe he was thinking that he might not be around for too many more tomorrows, but his apple tree would.

Last Sunday, a group of Venezuelans, who live in Oaxaca, Mexico, came to the home for needy children to plant some trees. One hundred and three to be exact. They invited the children to help them and the kids responded with great enthusiasm. It was a blessed, happy thing to see adults and kids, Mexicans, Americans and Venezuelans, males and females, all working together to not only make this children’s home a more beautiful place, but the world a better place.

And to make their hearts a better space.

Venezuelans, living in Oaxaca, Mexico, come to FFHM’s children’s home with 103 trees and we all work together to get them in the ground.

He that plants trees, loves others besides himself. Thomas Fuller

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