Where’s the Contradiction?

  Last Sunday, Tom got up early and checked his phone; a few of the memes on Facebook were seriously funny, but his news app was filled with nothing but old news.  He smiled grimly as he read an editorial piece that encouraged voters to elect honest politicians to every government organization.

  All he’d had for breakfast that morning was the larger half of a grapefruit.  So, after his mid-morning cup of coffee, Tom decided to go out for a bite to eat.  He went for brunch to a local chain restaurant and ordered the jumbo shrimp.  Despite the poor service, he left a tip that was almost exactly fifteen percent.

  As he was getting in his car to leave, he sat on his plastic glasses and broke them.  Luckily, he had a tube of instant rubber cement in his glove box.  He was able to get his glasses glued back together, but “they look pretty ugly,” he thought.

  After leaving the diner, he went to play golf at the city Country Club.  He had a bad round of golf — he hit his graphite irons really well, but since he hadn’t played in awhile, he was very rusty with his metal woods.

  By the way, although Tom would tell you that he is a Christian, he cursed when he broke his glasses, and when he hit a bad golf shot; he sped while he was driving his car. He never reads his Bible, talks about Jesus, or spends alone time in prayer. Oh, and he didn’t go to church last Sunday.  He feels the preacher just doesn’t’ preach entertaining sermons.  Besides, he thinks he has better and more important things to do with his time than go to church.

  Now, although Tom is a fictitious character, his life is virtual reality for many people.  There is really only one main contradiction in Tom’s life.  What is it?  Can you tell?  Is it in your life too?  Friends, if we claim to be Christians, let us live lives that are consistent with that claim. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” (1 Peter 1:15).

Don’t Let the Beast Overcome You!

In Revelation 13, the apostle John observes a beast rising out of the sea. The terrible monster is described in graphic and alarming terms: “Having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” The dragon (Satan), whom John had described in Revelation 12, empowers the sea beast, giving him “his throne, and great authority” with the intent of doing great harm to the people of God. In fact, “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:2, 7).

As if the imagery were not disturbing enough, John sees a second beast arise out of the land. “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast” (Rev. 13:11-12).

The sea beast is generally acknowledged to represent the Roman Empire, and the land beast is the false religion that compelled citizens and subjects of Rome to worship the Caesars. Heaven only knows how many Christians who were not assimilated by the influences of that pagan culture were eventually overcome by Roman coercion, oppression, and outright persecution. Some were. But not all.

Succeeding chapters in Revelation announce the doom of the beasts and all who are aligned with them. “If anyone worships the beast…he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (Rev. 14:10-11; cf. 19:20).

Faithful saints need only wait. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Christians in ancient Rome who were “faithful until death” were NOT defeated by the beast. The were not overcome. They are the victors. And they will receive life’s victory crown (Rev. 2:10).

The message John received was intended to give Christians the courage to stand when the forces of evil seemed overpowering and martyrdom inescapable. “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Rev. 14:13).

The devil isn’t done. Not yet. In Revelation, long after the beasts are destroyed, Satan and his forces marched “upon the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints” (Rev. 20:9). Imagine evil forces again running amuck over the world and surrounding God’s people! Encompassed by a hedonistic pagan culture, and then coerced, oppressed, and persecuted, what will Christians do? Will they willingly capitulate? Will they fret and cower in fear? Will they lash out against their oppressors with the same weapons of hate, hubris, and ill will that their enemies use? Or will they stand fast in the faith, overcome evil with good, love their neighbors as themselves, and tell the world about Jesus till their last dying breath?

The final outcome of the conflict between good and evil is not in doubt. Good wins. God wins. “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Rev. 20:9). The question is, what role will you and I play in the battle? Let us “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). Let us speak words of encouragement that keep fellow soldiers on their feet (cf. Job 4:4). Let us overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of His grace; and let us lose our lives in heaven’s great cause so that we might save them in the end.

An Angry Dragon

In Revelation 12:1-2, a woman, who appears to represent the people of God, stands ready to give birth to the Christ child. Satan is depicted as a monstrous, fiery red, seven-headed dragon, prepared to devour the child as soon as He is born. The scene is set so that the reader can barely stand to watch the gruesome event that will, it seems, inevitably come next.
But when the Christ comes into the world, the dragon fails. Ultimately, Christ is caught up to the throne of God. War breaks out in heaven, and Satan loses the battle; vanquished in the heavenly realm, he is thrown down to earth.
Satan is now a very angry dragon. Let the world be warned! “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12).
The dragon attempts to sweep away the people of God in a flood of persecution, but he fails (Rev. 12:15-16). Undaunted and enraged all the more, the dragon prepares to make war with those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).
This same dragon is still the malevolent foe of the people of God. He won’t be tamed, and he can’t be trusted. He attacks on every front. Relentlessly. If we do not stand and fight, we will be swept away.
Steel yourself and stand! Take the armor of God: Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, and unceasing prayer. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10-13).

The Covid Vaccine: “What hath God wrought?”

Nothing could stand in the way of the little nation of Israel taking the Promised Land because God was with them. In Numbers 23:23, the message of God to the enemies of Israel was that He had made Israel invincible, and they could do nothing but declare in amazement, “What hath God wrought?”

In 1844, when the first Telegraph message was sent from Washington to Baltimore, the text was “What hath God wrought?” Thoughtful people understood that the marvel of the new telegraph technology amounted to humans using their God-given intellect to harness forces that God had imbedded in creation at the beginning.

The human body is also a marvel of God’s creation. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” says the Psalmist. Indeed! Whether we look at ourselves from a Biblical point of view or a biological point of view, we human beings are truly amazing creatures. The Bible declares that it was God who formed our inward parts. God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” — Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)

Some look at these verses to boost self esteem, concluding that each of us is now to declare, “Look how great I am.” But the passage is actually intended to boost our esteem for God! It’s not a testament to our greatness but to His.

God created us for HIS glory. In Isaiah 43 7 He says, “Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” Around the throne of God He is praised with these words: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

God gave the human body tremendous healing powers. God is our healer because, among other things, His design of the human body includes several amazing systems and processes that cause healing to occur. In this sense, all healing belongs to God! No wonder He declares, “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). And the Psalmist says, “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3).

For the most part, physicians do not really heal sickness; they merely improve the conditions for the body to heal itself. I’ve had good doctors tell me as much more than once over the years — perhaps you have too. Most operations and treatments are designed to help the body by removing an invader (cancer, germ, malfunctioning part), thus enabling the body to heal itself . The credit for this must go to our Designer!
The human mind (which God also designed) has developed or discovered procedures and medicines using substances and forces which were created by Almighty God. The same is true in other areas of “human” achievement, whether you’re talking about the telegraph, the internal combustion engine, the microwave oven, the personal computer, or your smart phone.

Vaccines trigger the body’s own immune system. The noted scientists behind the Pfizer vaccine for Covid-19 are Doctors Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci, a husband and wife team who have spent years “researching new treatments based on programming the body’s own immune system.“1

There are obviously medicines and treatments that don’t work. A few do more harm than good. The reasons for this can usually be traced to carelessness, greed, or pride on the part of humans. But the medicines that do work, work because of the Divine Design of the human body. IF the vaccines currently being rolled out for Covid-19 are indeed found to be safe and effective, every God-fearing human on earth should exclaim, “What hath God wrought?!!!”

— Steve Klein

1 The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 2, 2020.

“And Justice for All”

Justice for AllbWe live in a nation in which “justice for all” is an ideal shared by nearly everyone, but it scarcely means the same to anyone.  The phrase itself has been engraved into our collective consciousness in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pledge was authored in August 1892 by a former Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy.  In its original form it read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added.  And then, in 1954, as America pushed back against the threat of Communism, the words “under God” were added.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The original intention of The Pledge was not so much to express loyalty to the flag or the republic but to encourage “justice for all,” particularly for immigrants who were flooding into America at the time.  Francis Bellamy was a strident social justice advocate who “championed the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.”[i]  Those beliefs have recently had a resurgence in popularity in some quarters.

In an odd twist of history, Bellamy also lent his voice to help “convince President Benjamin Harrison to issue a proclamation declaring a Columbus Day holiday,”[ii] believing that it would encourage the acceptance of immigrants from Europe.  Columbus Day has fallen out of favor with many social justice advocates recently.  The meaning of justice shifts from one generation to the next in our culture.

Justice and the Golden Rule

And that brings me back to why the phrase “justice for all” scarcely means the same to anyone.  The concept of justice has a much different meaning to a socialist than it does to a capitalist.  Immigrants seeking access to America have one view of justice, while citizens seeking to secure America’s borders have another.  Justice typically has a different meaning to a citizen who is being detained by police than to the police officer who is trying to detain him.  It may mean something different depending on whether you sit at the prosecution’s table or the defense table.  It may mean something different to a black person who has personally experienced racial injustice than it does to a white person who has never consciously committed an injustice against a black person.  And it meant something different to those who lived a century ago than it will to those who might live a century from now. Why?  Because each person sees justice as that which is fair and right for himself or herself. How often do we actually put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and consider what is fair and right for the person who is on the opposite side of the issue?

Justice will elude us until we learn to put ourselves in the other person’s place.  Jesus said, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).  Note that “the Law” – the standard of Justice – is fulfilled in doing to others as you would want done to you.

The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is repeated over and over again in the New Testament.   There’s a reason for that.  Repetition conveys emphasis.  The Lord is calling His people to greater depths of love and higher heights of justice than humans have ever achieved.  “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

God’s Justice Isn’t Blind

Justice is often depicted as a blindfolded woman holding a pair of scales.  The scales represent weighing evidence; the blindfold suggests that Justice is oblivious to the status of the person who is being judged – it doesn’t matter if the person is rich or poor, black, white or brown, politically connected or not, famous or unknown.

But even if Justice truly possessed these qualities, she would still be far from just because she could not see what’s in a person’s heart.  She does not and cannot know all the extenuating circumstances.  It is rare that she can even establish important facts with absolute certainty.  Statues representing Justice can be found in front of court houses around the globe, but is there any man-made judicial system in any country that truly provides equal justice for all? 

In contrast, God shows no partiality, but He sees everything. His justice isn’t blind; it’s omniscient.  “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12-13).

And make no mistake, every human being will give an account to an all-seeing God for everything – their thoughts, their words, and their actions (Eccl. 12:14; Matt. 12:36).  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).  History will not be our judge; God will.

God’s standard of judgment is perfect – not filled with loopholes and inequities.  The words of God, revealed by Jesus and recorded in the writings of His apostles and prophets, will be the standard by which we will all be judged.  Paul wrote that there will be “day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel (Rom. 2:16  cf. Acts 17:31).  Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

God’s justice will settle EVERY issue.

It has been said that “If life is to be meaningful there must be a God who ensures justice.” And indeed, there is a God who ensures it in the end. “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless” (Isa. 40:23).

Unless there is Justice for all, there is no justice at all.  Ultimately, justice for anyone demands justice for everyone.  And God is THE ONE – the only One – who can provide that.

If we are God’s children, justice should characterize our personal interactions.  We are to execute true justice and stand up for the oppressed, the underprivileged, the poor, and the needy (Zech. 7:9-10; Prov. 31:9; Ps. 37:30).  But our duty to stand for justice also means that we must guard against being pressured to approve of injustice that has dressed itself up in the guise of a just cause. “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice” (Exo. 23:2).  Satan loves to turn crowds of well-intentioned people into his servants; the Crusades serve as a powerful illustration of that.

So, let us stand for justice for all, and not just for ourselves.  Let us rely on God’s word as the definitive standard of true justice.  Let us advocate for justice for the oppressed, no matter what their race, level of affluence, or whether or not they’ve been born yet.  But know this: Justice for all will ultimately come from the throne of God.  Trust Him.  He will make it right.

“The LORD sits enthroned forever; He has established his throne for justice, and He judges the world with righteousness; He judges the peoples with uprightness.  The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:7-10, ESV). 


[i]  Jones, Jeffrey Owen; Meyer, Peter (2010). The Pledge: A History of the Pledge of Allegiance. Thomas Dunne Books
[ii]  Jones, Jeffrey Owen, “The Man Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.Smithsonian Magazine (Nov. 2003).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.

Law Enforcement: God’s Design and my Duty

squad carThroughout the Bible narrative, the role of civil authorities is often on display. Misuse of power is commonly seen, exposed, and condemned from Genesis to Revelation. Principles of justice and equity laid down in Scripture form the foundation of the better parts of our legal system even today. God’s purpose for civil law, and His expectation that His people submit to it, is also often expressed in Scripture. No passage is clearer on that subject than Romans 13:1-7. Please read the text carefully, noting the words I’ve highlighted in bold, and then consider a few thoughts with me:

(1) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
(2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
(3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
(4) For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
(5) Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
(6) For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.
(7) Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

All of us are to submit to the governing authorities because they are appointed by God. To disobey them is to disobey God — unless their law would compel one to disobey God’s law (Acts 5:29).

God’s intention is that rulers make people afraid to do bad things. They are to be “a terror” to evil-doing. They carry lethal weapons for a reason. They are there to protect good people from bad people.

Do they always do that? No. Law enforcement is sometimes corrupt and oppressive. Paul was well aware of that as he writes the epistle to the Romans. Had he not been beaten and thrown in jail by civil authorities in Philippi (Acts 16:22-23)? Had he not witnessed the Roman proconsul Gallio fail to lift a finger against blatant violence and injustice in Corinth (Acts 18:11-17)? Wasn’t Nero, one of the most inhumane rulers in human history, sitting on the throne of Rome at this time? Yet, by inspiration of God, he says “you must be subject” to the governing authorities. And the apostle Peter, writing in this same time period, tells Christians to “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

But not only are we to be subject to and honor civil law enforcement, we are to pay our taxes to support it! “Because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.” THE REASON given in God’s word for paying taxes is to support civil law enforcement.

God’s word is a sharp two-edged sword that cuts deeply and equally into any person who is not aligned with its truth (cf. Hebrews 4:12-13).

Injustice by law enforcement can and should be reformed by law. Let every Christian get behind that! Failing to fund law enforcement, failing to respect it, taking away its’ ability to use lethal force, or doing away with it altogether must not be supported by any God-fearing person.


The Ignored Pandemic

drinkingWhile the world is focused on combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the plague of alcohol spreads nearly unchecked. In fact, it’s getting worse. A recent Associated Press article revealed that Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board made “over $6 million more in sales in March 2020, compared to last March.” Ironically, “The sales boost is being attributed to the new corona virus, which has led to social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders” (AP, April 17, 2020).

In Virginia, alcohol sales are up $19 million from this time last year. Reporter Joanne Kimberlin describes the situation: “Keep liquor stores open. Cancel the usual support group meetings. Isolate people at home with their addictions. Add in the pressure cooker of a pandemic. This viral crisis seems custom made to kill sobriety.” In an article headlined “Open liquor stores. Skyrocketing sales,”  Kimberlin reports that activity on an online sobriety support platform has leaped nearly 2,000%. M.J. Gottlieb, who is founder of the 60,000-member Loosid online community, said, “People are relapsing after as much as 20 years of sobriety; the amount of people who are drinking in excess is astounding” (The Virginian-Pilot, April 25, 2020).

Some might say that writing an article about the dangers of alcohol during a global health crisis is like worrying that you left the water running in the bathtub of your stateroom on a ship that is sinking. I believe the opposite is true. COVID-19 is a passing catastrophe.  Alcohol is sinking the ship of humanity.  According to the World Health Organization, “Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.” In contrast, at the moment, COVID-19 is being blamed for less than 220,000 deaths worldwide.

On the bright side, in these troubled times there are some who have awakened to the dangers of alcohol and sought to limit its pernicious effects on health and home life. In Greenland, “The sale of alcohol has been banned in the Greenland capital, Nuuk, in an attempt to reduce violence against children during the period of confinement caused by the corona virus outbreak.” The Prime Minister of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, explained, “In such a situation, we have to take numerous measures to avoid infection, but at the heart of my decision is the protection of children; they have to have a safe home.” Nearly one in three people living in Greenland suffered sexual abuse during childhood. Alcohol is regarded as a major contributing factor (The Guardian, March 29, 2020).

In South Africa, alcohol has been banned until April 30th to free up hospital beds that may be needed for corona virus patients. The BBC reports that “Police, medics and analysts estimate – conservatively – that alcohol is involved in, or responsible for, at least 40% of all emergency hospital admissions. In normal times some 34,000 trauma cases arrive at emergency departments in South Africa every week. But since the nationwide lock down came into force last month to prevent the spread of corona virus, that figure has plummeted, dramatically, by roughly two thirds, to about 12,000 admissions.” Estimates are that 5,000 of 22,000 hospital beds that have been freed up were a result of the alcohol ban (BBC, April 22, 2020).

The Christian’s Response:
The world is filled with dangers to our physical and spiritual health. Alcohol is one of the chief among them. As Christians, let’s be honest and admit it. Filling oneself with alcohol is exactly the opposite of what any child of God is supposed to be doing, now or anytime. “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

The Christian who believes he is at liberty to drink socially should seriously consider whether flaunting his presumed freedom is showing love to his neighbors in a nation where 14 percent of adults are current or recent problem drinkers (that’s 33 million people), and 30 percent (almost 69 million people) have been problem drinkers at some point in their lives” (The Washington Post & AP, June 8, 2015).

If, out of love for our neighbors, we are willing stay at home, practice social distancing, and wash our hands till they’re chapped in order slow down the spread of a disease that has killed hundreds of thousands, what are we willing to do to discourage the use of a substance that is killing millions and ruining the lives of millions more every year?


Self-sacrifice or Self-absorption?

spoonsWe’ve all heard the stories by now.  The guy who took a 1,300 mile road trip to purchase over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for the express purpose of selling it all online at price-gouging prices.  The couple who bought out all the meat at a supermarket, running in front of other customers, to hoard it for themselves.  Empty shelves in grocery stores where the toilet paper and cleaning supplies used to be.  People going crazy to ensure that they have “bread enough and to spare” with no thought for the well-being of others who must now do without. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).

It’s a sad commentary on the human condition.  Selfishness and self-absorption reign in many hearts — not all, but many.  It is the very thing that Jesus came to save us from.

His thinly veiled warning is uncomprehended: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  What kind of doubletalk is that?  But then He explains it with a question: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:25-26).

Understand it now? Every human has a soul.  It is eternal.  Eternal life will be given to every soul “who by patient continuance in doing good seeks for glory, honor, and immortality;  but to those who are self-seeking…indignation and wrath” (Rom. 2:7-8).

Still don’t get it?  Consider this old folk story known as “The Parable of the Spoon.”

One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”

God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

God said, “You have seen Hell.”

Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The man said, “I don’t understand.”

God smiled. “It is simple,” He said, “Love only requires one skill. These people learned early to feed one another. Those who are hungry are greedy people, and they think only of themselves.”

The coronavirus will not destroy a single soul for eternity, but self-absorption will.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14).



Make it a Happy New Year

newyear 2020How many times have you been wished a “Happy New Year” over the past week?  If you’re like me, you’ve heard those words a few times at least.  It is a nice sentiment.  But wishing for it won’t make it happen.  Have we ever stopped to consider what it would take for us to actually have a happy new year?  Do we realize that, apart from God Himself, the one person who has the most control over how happy the coming year will be for us is the person we see when we look in the mirror?  What can you and I do to make a happy new year.  The Scriptures point the way:

  • Serve God and others. Jesus taught that happiness is found in serving.  After He had washed the disciples feet he said, “I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you. . . If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:15, 17).  The wise man said, “He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21).
  • Control Your Thoughts. We can change our lives by changing our attitudes.  We are what we think (cf. Proverbs 23:7).  If we think happy and wholesome thoughts, we will be happy.  This is the secret to happiness that Paul shared with the Philippians in Philippians 4:8-9 when he said, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
  • Avoid sin and guilt. Sin promises pleasure but brings misery.  When David was entangled in sin he described it this way: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin. My iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psalms 38:4).  If we fail to avoid sin, all is not lost; we can still find happiness by finding forgiveness.  This is exactly what David did.  In Psalm 51:7-8 he prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.”
  • Learn to be content. Those who trust God learn to be content with their current physical circumstances.  They do not desire more than or other than what they have.  The Scriptures teach, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
  • Keep focus on spiritual things. Earthly things will always fade away and disappoint.  Our earthly achievements and possessions cannot provide lasting happiness.  Faith, hope and love are three things that bring abiding joy.  So, “Do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are heavenly, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).


Your Best Moment

What has been the best moment of your life? Understand me. I’m not asking “what is the greatest thing you have ever done?” or “what is the best thing that ever happened to you?” The question is this: When were YOU at YOUR BEST?

The Bible teaches that we are at our best when we realize our littleness before God. It is often only at that point that we self-absorbed humans are willing to give our lives over in submission to God’s grand design.

Meditate on these words of David found in Psalm 39:4-5: “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You. Certainly every man at his best state is vapor.”

At our best, we are as the morning mist that melts away with the rising sun. Knowing our frailty and insignificance makes us realize our complete dependence on the God of heaven.

Walk outside some clear evening. Look up at the stars. Maybe you can spot the constellation Orion–the Hunter. Three stars lined up in a row form his belt. The distance from us to those stars is almost unimaginable. We can scarcely fathom the power of the One who placed those stars in the heavens and has held them there through the ages. We are SO SMALL. God, His power, His plans and His designs are SO BIG! It causes us to wonder how God could even care about something so small as a single mortal man. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4a).

Long ago the Lord asked Job if Job was able to “loose the belt of Orion” (Job 38:31). After being asked many such unanswerable questions from the mouth of the Lord, Job had perhaps his very best moment when he said to God, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2,6).

When we fully realize the greatness of God and the smallness of man, there is nothing left to do but turn and render ourselves to Him in complete obedience. When we see ourselves as we are, there will be nothing left in us that could be called pride. There will be no aspirations for fame and acclaim. There will be no desire to claim superiority over other humans. We will surely see such activities for what they are — comparable to one speck of house dust making itself out to be more important than all the other specks of house dust. May God help us be at our smallest, for then we are at our best.