No Bones About It (by Beth Smith)

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Have you heard these expressions?

  • “Man! I am bone tired today.”
  • “I can feel it in my bones.”
  • “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” (Uh, oh, that usually starts an argument.)

King David mentioned his bones in the Bible: “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony” (Psalm 6:2).

When confessing his sins to God, David referred to his bones again: “When I kept silent (before I confessed) my bones wasted away through my groanings all day long” (Psalm 32:3 AMP). When he was restored, he expressed his gratitude by saying, “With every bone in my body I will praise him: ‘Lord, who can compare with you?’”(Psalm 35:10 NLT).

Let’s think about how to have healthy bones in a scriptural sense. David has already given us one way: we confess our sins and then let God forgive and cleanse us.

Here’s another daily requirement for our bones. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3: 6-8).

A third necessity for healthy bones is found in Proverbs 17:22. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If we don’t want dry bones, we need a cheerful heart. How do we get one?

  • Rely on the Lord for help, and be confident in him.
  • Live by the wisdom found in God’s Word.
  • Be kind and merciful to the poor.
  • Reverently worship the Lord.
  • And follow these wise words of Paul, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

We want to keep our bones healthy, and we don’t want to be boneheads. So let’s get some back bone and bone up on God’s Word. Let’s confess our sins and let God cleanse us. Let’s trust God and keep our confidence in him alone. Let’s seek a happy heart. We can do it! The Bible tells us so!

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God’s World (by Beth Smith)

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We can get pretty depressed about our planet earth. Nearly every day something happens that causes me to shake my head and wonder, “How did the world get so crazy?” God didn’t create the mess it’s in now. Sin has done that, through man. We can dwell on the negative aspects of our world, or we can proclaim God’s ownership—of the world, of our lives, and of our circumstances. How do we begin?

  • A young boy once told his dad, “I know what the Bible stands for.”
  • The father answered, “Oh, really? Can you tell me?”
  • The boy replied, “BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Cute, but also true. We begin to place our world in God’s hands by relying on his Word. Here’s an example of what he tells us to do.

“Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations that the Lord is king. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!” (I Chronicles 16, abridged).

That’s our response to God.  And what’s God’s response to the world?

“For God so loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in, trusts in, clings to, and relies on Him shall not perish, come to destruction or be lost, but shall have everlasting life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge, reject, condemn or pass sentence on the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him” (John 3:16-17 AMP).

Let’s embrace his love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. If you’ve never done that, you can do it today. I did it one Monday morning many years ago after all my young children were off to school. Alone in the house at the foot of my bed, I became one of the “whosoever believes” people talked about in John 3:16. It has made all the difference. Let’s put him at the center of our worlds. Let God be in charge and in control. Try it. You’ll love it.

I love the old hymn “This Is My Father’s World,” written by Maltbie D. Babcock in 1901. The last verse reads:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad.

I pray that this truth will make us glad this week.

 

God’s Sweet Gift by Beth Smith

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Bees are remarkable creatures! It takes the nectar from about 2,000,000 flowers to make just one pound of honey. To produce that amount of honey, bees travel a distance equal to twice the circumference of the earth. It’s no wonder honey has been a treasured substance throughout history.

·       In the Old Testament, when Jacob wanted to send a valuable gift to Egypt, he included honey.

·       Manna, the food God supernaturally supplied to his people when they were wandering the wilderness, is described as tasting like wafers with honey.

·       In 1 Kings 14:3 a package assembled to bribe the prophet Ahijah contained bread, cakes and a jar of honey.

In many places in the Bible, the words of God are equated with honey.

·       “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19: 9b-10).

·       How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

·       Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).

In God’s Word we find wisdom and our eternal hope. We need to “eat” God’s Word—to read, devour, search, and study it. Long ago, honey was hard to come by. It was searched for and treasured. We no longer think of honey in that way. We can go buy a five pound jug of honey that required bees to travel the equivalent of ten times around the earth. We don’t give that a thought. We don’t really treasure honey any more.

We often take the Bible for granted as well. Maybe, because we can pick up a Bible any old time, we no longer think of it as precious. What if, suddenly, there were no Bibles? What if we had to depend upon each other for memorized verses and stories? What if it were against the law to have a Bible or to speak the scriptures out loud? Then would we realize how precious God’s words are?

I hope every time we eat honey, or anything sweet, our thought will be “Yum, that’s good! But the Word of God is even better.”

·       Get a Bible.

·       Read it.

·       Taste and see that the Lord is good!

And have a bit of sweetness in every day.

 

 

 

More Time to Be Happy

abraham-abe-lincoln-295315_1280 pixabay 12 14 17Time Magazine’s[1] list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” are right in line with many of the things I believe God would have us do. That list includes:

  • Sleep—an average of 8 hours. Consider this verse from Psalm 127, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.
  • Exercise—increasingly considered a standard part of treatment for depression. Remember, life in Bible times was, by its very nature, filled with exercise. Think no cars, plenty of farming and shepherding and chopping wood.
  • Sunshine—which boosts synthesis of mood regulating serotonin, and was certainly a natural part of life long ago.
  • Diet. (A few more ideas about that here.)
  • Standing up straight and smiling—yep, even on down days, smiling seems to help. Perhaps that’s a physical part of the choice to rejoice, as in “Let us rejoice today and be glad!”[2]

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” We can’t orchestrate our lives to be free of unhappy circumstances. The Apostle Paul said, though, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”[3] He also said, in that same letter, “Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”[4]

According to Dennis Charney, dean of the ICAHN School of Medicine, we can train our brains to think a particular way. (So we can teach ourselves to think like Paul!) If we worry all the time, for example, we create a sort of worry rut. The PhD term is a neuronal pathway. Worry, or fear, or plain old grumpiness can become our default. If we choose more positive modes of thinking, of responding to difficulty, we can create new and better brain ruts, so to speak. But we have to work at making those changes. Something called “mindfulness” is a good place to start, and that’s exactly where we’ll start next week.

 

 

 

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

[2] Psalm 118: 24b

[3] Philippians 4:12

[4] Philippians 4:4

Time to Be Happy

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When you say “Happy New Year!” do you mean it? I do. I believe in being happy.

  • My favorite book is “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.”
  • My favorite verse is “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).
  • And my favorite slogan? “Don’t worry. Be happy.” (More about that here.)

I’m not talking about “pie in the sky, life’s a bowl of cherries” happiness, of course. I love these lines from a hymn by John Sammis: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” If we could truly trust God and obey his instructions all the time, I think we would be happy.

Late last year Time Magazine published a special volume called “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life.”[1] As I read it, I was struck by how many times their reports on the science of happiness lined up with Biblical instruction. And so, over the next few weeks, pulling from Time and God’s Word, I hope to get us started on a happy year.

January is the time when many of us resolve to take better care of ourselves. We start diets, join gyms, and put Post-its on our mirrors to remind us of newly made promises. This verse has me convinced that self-care is ordained by God: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God…  So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).

Time suggests there’s a relationship between happiness and health, due most likely to the tendency of happier people to make healthier choices. This raises a “chicken or the egg” question. Does health lead to happiness, or does happiness promote health? Time asserts that, while our propensity for happiness is 50% inherited and 10% circumstantial, the other 40% is based on choices we make. Why not make the happiest choices whenever possible? Their list of “Healthy Habits for Happiness” include… Wait. Before I get into that, I’d like to ask you to tell me what tops your list of Healthy Habits for Happiness. I’ll tell you what the scientists had to say next week.

[1] The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries for a More Joyful Life, A Time Special Edition, September 9, 2017.

Forgiveness Follow-Up

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The very week I posted a blog on forgiveness, my pastor preached on the same topic. Many of his words were more eloquent than mine, so I’d like to share a few of them today.

What forgiveness doesn’t promise:

A free pass. Forgiveness doesn’t always bring release from consequences, no matter what our status in life may be. King Saul still lost the throne. King David still lost a child. And we still suffer the penalties of sin.

Restored relationships. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restored trust. We can forgive abusive behavior without allowing it to continue. However, if restoration is going to occur, it can’t happen without forgiveness.

Why we don’t forgive:

Conviction. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we are convinced that we are right. God needs to be the only judge of rightness. No one will ever be saved because of our judgement, but perhaps our forgiveness will draw someone closer to Christ.

Vengeance. When we seek vengeance, we are stepping in to do the will of God, and we are sinning.

Why we must forgive:

Obedience. We forgive because the Bible tells us to, and when we forgive, we are used by God.  (This could be a one-sentence blog, because that last line is all we really need to know!)

Our own sin. We forgive because we have been forgiven, and because we continue to need forgiveness.

How we ought to forgive:

Quickly. The sooner we forgive, the less likely we are to give our enemy a chance to create division in our hearts or our relationships. A brick or two can be removed easily. A brick wall? Not so simple.

Prayerfully. It’s hard to stay mad at our offenders while praying for them at the same time. Pray for those who have hurt you in big ways and in small.

Without forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is rarely possible. Furthermore, the miracle of real forgiveness comes in remembering the sin or brokenness of another and choosing to love and forgive nonetheless. If we forget sin, then what does it really cost us to love someone?

Thank you, Matt, for allowing me to share your words. What about the rest of you? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.