Are You Happy?

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Abraham Lincoln

One of the strangest things to me is the high percentage of unhappy people who identify themselves as Christians. Common sense dictates that Christians should be the happiest people in the world. If we truly believe that God really did create the universe, that Jesus really is His son, and that He really died for our sins so that we might have a hope of being in Heaven forever, then why aren't we happier?

I heard of a mother of six who would send her children back to their rooms if they came to breakfast in a bad mood. This may seem mean but, as she reasoned, in a family of eight there are not enough days in the week for each member to spread their gloom for just one day. It wasn't that she was unsympathetic to true sorrow or real problems, but she refused to put up with whiny behavior simply because things were not going someone's way.

Zig Ziglar tells of a boss who got a speeding ticket coming back from lunch. He took it out on his sales supervisr who then snapped at his secretary. The secretary chewed out the receptionist who later that evening jumped all over her twelve year old son. The son, being at the bottom of the power chain, went and kicked their cat. After relating this story, Mr. Ziglar asked the pertinent question: 'Wouldn't it have been simpler if the boss had just kicked the receptionist's cat in the first place?"

Clearly, we all are affected by the bad moods of others - they are highly contagious. Perhaps the next time we are a bit grumpy and are tempted to share our bad mood with an innocent bystander, we should instead pause for a moment of prayer and remember this inspired encouragement given by the Apostle Paul:

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5 (NIV)

 

Are We Content?

In our macho, hyper culture, we've mistaken contentment for weakness, rather   than seeing it for what it really is: born of strength. Dave Ramsey

His name was Fluffy. He was half Pekinese and half Pomeranian, but he thought he was a 12-pound lion.  When the big dogs came near his yard, he would grab the chain link fence in his teeth and growl with a ferocity usually reserved for dogs that could take care of themselves. He had his meals brought to him when hungry and condescended to a bath when dirty. He wasn't much of a dog, but he was our dog.

One day Fluffy became discontent. Despite living like a king, he decided that the grass truly was greener on the other side of the fence - so he began to dig. Some time later, no one in the family really knows exactly when, on a lonely county road, Fluffy was turned into Flat Stanley.

Whenever I become discontent with my circumstances, it is good to remember Fluffy. There are times when we finally "get ahead" only to have a new crisis come upon us - usually one with a big price tag. We see people who are younger or richer or just luckier than us and we think that the grass is much greener on their side. It seems, however, that every time we try to "dig out" we are flattened by a danger that we did not realize was lurking on the other side. Too late, we discover the fence that seemed to separate us from true contentment was actually a wall of protection set in place by our Master.

So, what is it that you are discontented with? If it is a sin that you need to extract yourself from or a situation that you truly have the right and means to make better, then, by all means, do something about it. However, if you are just discontent because you fail to realize what you have been given, then it just might be time to open your eyes and begin again to appreciate the pleasant life that God has provided.

...be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  

Heb 13:5, NIV

 

Assigning Blame

To find fault is easy; to do better may be difficult.

Plutarch

 

The year was 1971, and I was about eleven. The ramp had been set about five feet from the curb and all of the neighborhood's engineers, stunt men and advisers to the engineers and stuntmen were present. I sat astride my green stingray bike with the banana seat and cheater bar and prepared for the jump . I can remember to this day the thoughts that raced through my head as I sped towards that ramp: "Do I need more speed so that I can make a grass landing or less speed so I can land in front of the curb?"

 

This is the type of technical analysis that really should be completed before one gets on the bike.

 

I hit the curb with the front wheel of my bike and then I hit the sidewalk... with my head. Some time later my Mom found me wandering through the house hollering, "It's hatching, it's hatching!" She rushed me to the doctor's office where The results of the CAT scan confirmed Dad's long-held suspicion: Nothing there. Now all that was left was to assign blame.

 

Today it would much more complicated. The proper authorities would have to determine if I was wearing the proper safety equipment. Other government agencies would be called in to determine if Mom and Dad were providing adequate parental supervision. The lawyers would want to know where we got the wood for the ramp, who manufactured the bicycle, and who poured the concrete for the curb. All would have to be brought to justice.

 

But in 1971 it was clear to me what the problem was: I should have built up more speed - any child of eleven could see that.  I would not make that same mistake again. The blame was mine!

 

We live in a world where it is important to assign blame, for it is always someone else's fault. So we train more lawyers and build more prisons and  open more courthouses and pass more regulations. Then we are surprised to discover that bad things still happen. We need to learn what Plutarch discovered 1900 years ago (and what I discovered 40 years ago): The secret to life is not in finding out what is wrong with others - it's in taking responsibility for our own shortcomings. Jesus knew that even before me and Plutarch came along.

 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?... You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 

Matthew 7:3&5, NIV

 

Today is day 6 of the 30 day challenge, with the reading for today being the 8th through the 14th chapters of the Book of Mark. I pray that God will richly bless your efforts as you seek His will through His word!

 

Are You Narrow Minded?

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it." Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

Are you narrow minded? Most of us would be quick to claim the exact opposite. Why, we would never be narrow minded - we are broad minded. Our minds are open, open, open! So open, at times, that we are in danger of having all of those fantastic brains just slipping clean out of our heads.

There are some areas that we need to be narrow minded. We need to be narrow minded when it comes to sin. God defines sin and He does so very explicitly, so why do we sometimes act as if sin is open for debate? And why, when it comes to the path that God has laid out, do we act as if the wide path is better?

You have heard all of the popular arguments: "We are all going to the same place, just by different paths" or, "I'm OK, you're OK" or "It's just an alternate lifestyle". These are all fine and good in our broad-minded, politically correct religious world... but it was Jesus who said to take the narrow way, not some narrow minded, bigoted preacher.

There's one more thing to consider when it comes to that narrow path that Jesus said few would find: He also said that those who looked for it would find it! Maybe Jesus isn't so narrow minded after all. Maybe He just wants to spare us from the pain and eternal loss that has always been found on that broad path. The "many paths to the same place" arguments sound so enticingly open-minded. But Jesus recommends the narrow path. Which will you choose?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find... for everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds... I am the Way...,  Matthew 7:7-8, John 14:6, NIV

 

A Record in Honesty

The great hope of society is individual character. Channing

Have you ever noticed that they don't pass out trophies for the truly important? Oh, sure, they give them to sports champions, spelling bee winners and best of show pigs, but not for character - maybe that's why there are so few people who are truly accomplished in this area. And then there are people like Bobby Palacio.

Bobby was a Jr. High student whose #1 goal was to set the school record for the rope climb. It seemed that he had worked forever towards this goal when finally the day arrived. He stood beneath the rope and awaited the coach's signal. The whistle blew, Bobby scrambled up the rope and reached for the top. The stopwatch revealed what Bobby had dreamed about and worked toward for so long: A new school record.

The coach had only one question - he was not sure that Bobby's hand had actually touched the top beam. It was very close and only Bobby knew for sure. Still, the question had to be asked: "Bobby, did you touch?" Bobby, still a boy but with the integrity that many grown men never achieve, simply shook his head no. "Bobby", his coach said, "you still have one more attempt. This time I want you to jump just a bit higher and give it all you have." The whistle blew, Bobby jumped and scrambled up that rope and hit the top with his hand. The result? A new school record! A new city record - perhaps even a new state record!

But, the coach was later to comment that he had been in the presence of greatness - not because of the record set for speed, but for the record and example that a Jr. High boy had set for honesty. The really fine thing about such character is that you don't need a trophy to prove that you have it. And, no amount of awards or trophies can ever compensate for the lack of it.

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. Proverbs 12:19, NIV