Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
I was 16 years old and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a new phone. I was 17 years old and I told myself, I’ll be happy when I get my own vehicle. I was 18 and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a newer phone. I was 19 and I thought, I’ll be happy when I get a newer truck.
At 16 I got a new phone and I was happy, until I dropped it in a hotel toilet a month later. I was 17 and I got my own truck and I was happy, until the transmission went out on the way to school. I was 18 and I got a newer phone, and I was happy until I left it on the roof of my dads car as we drove home from church. I was 19 and I got a truck that was nicer than anything I could ever want. I was happy, until it broke down on an Indian reservation in Arizona.
I thought I knew what would make me happy. I chased after the physical possessions that I thought would bring me joy. The problem that I failed to see was that phones break and trucks aren’t always reliable. My happiness would run out when my stuff would break.
People are constantly searching for happiness. Why? Because they don’t know what will make them truly happy. It’s a daily experiment that never gives them the result they are looking for. There are millions of books, movies, articles, and lessons geared toward helping us find true happiness.
“How to be happy” is one of the most searched phrases on Google, second only to “how to lose weight.” We ask this question because we can’t find the answer. Solomon asked this question in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity says the preacher.” The wisest man in the world wanted happiness and looked at every possible solution. He looked to money, drinking, and women. Every time Solomon placed his happiness in these things, he was left feeling empty. He finally found the secret to life: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13).
Every earthly option was tried, and none of them seemed to work. The bottom line is to fear God and keep His commandments. Why? Because God knows His creation. Do you struggle with finding happiness? Do you want nothing more than to be content? The answer isn’t found in the world. You won’t find true, lasting happiness in anything on this earth.
Happiness is found in our purpose as God’s chosen (1 Peter 2:9), in loving God (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37-39), and in showing gratitude (Psa. 118:1; 136:1; 147:7).
Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
In the waning days of the last millennium, I happened to catch a program on public television about a dance competition held by Native Americans in rural Connecticut. If you are wondering why I still remember that show some 20 years later, it was because of the responses given by some of those interviewed. The dancers participating expressed the idea that their dance was an outward expression of their inward spirituality. The master of ceremonies echoed their sentiments as he explained spirituality needs to find expression. Ponder that last part with me for a moment; spirituality needs to find expression. Indeed.
I’m not suggesting that we incorporate carnal expressions of our spirituality in our worship of God, like dancing to a beating drum. Yet, if we are spiritual, shouldn’t there be an outward expression of it? Christians have a magnificent treasure stored within themselves (cf. 2 Corinthians 4.7). Sometimes, though, observation of Christians suggests otherwise. We who are blessed still covet for more. We who are given joy from within have sour attitudes. We allow ourselves to become filled with anxiety. Our brethren anger us, rather than receiving our love. Those without the church may think we are sad rather than happy. We who serve the One owning all withhold the bounty of that Providence and Wisdom of His Revelation from those needing it. We fail to be lights shining in a dark world as we are commanded (Matthew 5.14-16).
Yes, spirituality needs to find its expression. Can you recall the depth of emotion you felt when you first realized you were in love? You wanted to proclaim your love in loud tones to any who would listen. Do you remember the joy and zeal that was yours when you put on Christ in baptism? You wanted to proclaim the praises of Him Who had brought change to your life. Why don’t we allow our faith to find its expression today through the sharing of the Gospel? Why not do good to all, especially to those of the household of faith, as we have the opportunity? (Galatians 6.10) Lastly, let us worship God in spirit and truth without being begged to do so by elders, preachers, and Bible class teachers. If we do these things, no one will doubt the spirituality we claim to possess.
Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
I was watching a program from Japan in which the protagonist sighed. We can relate to sighing. I know I may find myself sighing quite a bit. (One researcher noted we all sigh about every 5 minutes. 1) In this program, however, another person, walking by, cautioned the protagonist not to sigh since that allowed happiness to escape. Later, I observed another Japanese show where the same idea was expressed. I know the Japanese have proverbs and idioms, but I’ve yet to locate the source for that expression. I presume it’s a cultural thing since it’s the only context in which I’ve seen it expressed.
Why do we sigh? A sigh serves as a reset, both physically and mentally, for the body. 2 As such, it’s an important biological function. Yet, we likewise tend to sigh when we’re frustrated. In fact, that seems to be when we become aware of our sighs. For this reason, most people interpret sighing with negative emotions. 3 If I sighed while we’re having a “vigorous discussion,” you might conclude I’m angry with or didn’t like you. However, the heated exchange might have simply stressed me, triggering a sigh to release the pent-up anxiety.
Despite being commanded to be “anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4.6), we’ve already observed people do sigh. Obviously, if we sigh every 5 minutes, our sighs cannot always be about anxiety. Yet, it remains amazing God provided for a means of regulating excess anxiety through that rush of relaxation one receives by sighing. This, is of course, in addition to the inconceivable peace received from prayer (Philippians 4.6-7). It may be that with one’s sigh, he is refocused upon his task. Thus, a burden is momentarily laid aside so one can get a better grasp of it to carry it further to the goal.
Jesus told us not to worry, but He also said each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6.33-34). One should try to practice mindfulness in connection with his faith. Since we do notice our sighs of frustration and anxiety more often, we ought to allow our sigh to signal us concerning our stress and take the appropriate measures to resolve it. If a sigh is prompted by a person, either you forbear (tolerate—NASB) them in love (Ephesians 4.2), or you talk to them about the troubling matter privately (Matthew 18.15-17; Acts 18.24-28). If a sigh is because we feel we’re a failure, let us remember the sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12.9). By walking in the Light, we have the continuous cleansing of Jesus’ blood (1 John 1.7). And if someone we’ve tried to reach with the Gospel frustrates us, after we’ve delivered ourselves of bloodguilt (Ezekiel 3.17-19), let us recall the sad truth that only a few find the narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14). Our sigh may be a sign that it is time to knock the sand from our sandals and move on (Luke 9.5).
Yes, rather than serving to remind him of something negative, a Christian’s sigh might also serve as an opportunity, an opportunity to reset his faith.
1 Heid, Markham. “3 Reasons You Sigh So Much.” Prevention, Hearst Magazine Media, Inc, 11 June 2019, www.prevention.com/health/a20508517/why-you-sigh-so-much/.
2 Lewis, Jordan Gaines. “Why Do We Sigh?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC., 10 Apr. 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-babble/201304/why-do-we-sigh.
Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
Joy is something we’re supposed to have when we go through trials (Jas. 1.3). It’s χαρά, which means, “to experience gladness.” It describes a forward-thinking mentality that says, “Right now isn’t great, but I can learn from this and grow.” Our joy comes from anticipating the ultimate growth we experience from conquering trials! And if those trials take my life, that joy is in anticipation of heaven.
Joy is something experienced in heaven and in the presence of angels when someone repents (Luke 15.7, 10). It is compared to the excitement one feels when regaining something valuable that had been lost. Joy is more than just contentment; it contains also an element of excitement.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22). It is contrasted with outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, etc. A part of living the Christian life, denying our primal desires, and not being boastful is having joy. Sometimes we find ourselves focusing on what we give up to live faithful lives, but we forget that Christianity provides for, encourages, and promotes excitement and joy!
So what are we supposed to be excited for? Paul even had joy in the face of suffering (Phil. 2.17). Joy and happiness are not necessarily the same thing. We can have joy or gladness or excitement concerning the life that waits for a Christian while living in the sometimes harsh realities of a fallen world.
In this life, Christians can have joy because of a profound sense of purpose, having meaning in a confusing world, healing after tragedy, and something to always look forward to.
It may not be our first response to be excited about hard times, but if we develop a mindset that looks to the rewards and positives of difficulty (growth, endurance, empathy, perspective, heaven), we will have joy and excitement.
Today is Kathy’s and my Silver Anniversary. The day we got married, the president was the first George Bush. Johnny Carson was hosting the Tonight Show (his final show was on our wedding night). Gas was barely over a dollar per gallon. We lived in a sleepy, west Alabama town (the thought of living in either Virginia or Colorado and traveling overseas was nearly as unthinkable as the internet). In some ways, of course, it seems like longer ago than 25 years, but in others it seems like yesterday. But, you learn a lot along the way—some lessons coming easy but others more difficult. In 25 years of marriage, here are a few things you learn.
- You inevitably face some huge tests. There’s pain, tears, and fears, but, with God’s help, they are tests you can pass. While there can be abiding happiness, it does not come without adversity.
- The road takes unanticipated turns. You are glad you cannot see the future, but that it comes to you only one day at a time. Taken all in all, you would not change the journey.
- You must guard your heart and your life. The devil does not want couples to stay married, happily or otherwise. You can be drawn away (Jas. 1:13-15), and others can attempt to lure you away from your mate (Prov. 5:15-23). The hearts of married people can become polluted as easily as anyone else’s (Mark 7:21-23). You must guard your heart at all times (Prov. 4:23).
- Trust is sexy. Untrustworthy behavior, deception, lying, broken promises, etc., is so damaging to a relationship. However, a spouse with a trustworthy character helps create a climate of peace, security, and confidence. This translates to attractiveness. We want those we feel close to. Distrust prevents intimacy.
- The journey truly grows sweeter. With every change and new phase, there are challenges, losses, and adjustments. But the cumulative intimacy, the battle scars, the moments and memories, the happy days, the sweet surprises, and the rest combine to make an exciting, satisfying journey. Knowing a person better and deeper day after day makes life better, and brings poignancy to the heavenly insight, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18; cf. 1 Cor. 11:8-12).
- The little things are big things. Opening a door, an arm around the shoulder, unloading the dishwasher, love notes, flowers, putting lids up and down, noticing changes in hairstyles and nail polish, appreciating a meal, cleaning up after yourself, and similar “little things” can promote or undermine the overall quality of married life. Life is made up mostly of “little things.”
- Of all your common interests, nothing compares to serving Christ together. Actions and activities done in service to Him contain better super glue than any hobby, vacation, life event, or mutual interest. Whether hospitality, evangelism, mission work, devotions and worship, Bible study, and such, these shore up the marital foundation and form an incredible, common bond.
Every day requires more practice, persistence, and prayer. Both of us are constantly changing and, hopefully, growing. It’s vital to stay in tune and in touch. But, I count Kathy as the greatest blessing after my soul’s salvation. I shudder to think where I might be without her and thank God that she has been by my side for a quarter of a century. My fervent prayer is that God will continue to bless my days with her heart, mind, and the rest of her and continue to bless my life through her as He has since I met her in August of 1990. My desire is to do my best to reciprocate these very things for her. May He grant me the ability to do so. Happy Anniversary to my favorite writer, my Sweet Pea, my Kathy!
“Stop smiling!” DMV photographers in Virginia, Arkansas, Nevada, and Indiana are among the states requiring grin-free pictures on residents’ drivers licenses. Apparently, face-recognition software is thrown off by curled up kissers. The objective is to curtail fraudulent drivers licenses. So, by rule, there will be no smiling when the photographer says “cheese.”
Like you, I know a great many people who need no such rule–whether at a DMV or any one of a million other locations. They are perpetually miserable, and their faces show it. Incredibly, too many of those I know like this claim to be Christians. They sport their sour dispositions and spread thunder clouds and downpours wherever they go. To borrow Paul’s words on more than one occasion, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
“Happiness” is synonymous with “Christianity.” The Christian’s life is far from problem-, stress-, or trouble-free, but the greatest problem (sin) is solved, the greatest stress (earthly concerns) is benign, and the greatest trouble (death) is surmountable. People hurt us, betray us, offend us, and undermine us, but we are heaven bound! We can be happy because “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Isn’t it hard to obey commands like “be thankful” (Col. 3:15), “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4), “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” (Matt. 5:12; Luke’s account says, “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy”–6:23), or similar injunctions with a sour face and a permanent frown?
Matthew Hite was eight years old when he took his first missionary trip to Tanzania. While there, he made up a little game he called “Sweet And Sour.” He would smile at all the pedestrians walking down the road. If they smiled, he counted it as a “sweet.” If they scowled or simply failed to smile, he counted it as a “sour.” Almost everyone of the impoverished people of that nation were “sweets.” Are you a “sweet” or a “sour”? If you are a Christian, remember that God has not imposed a “no smile rule” on you. If anything, He’s done the opposite!
There are some things about social media that are extremely irritating—click baiting, pot-stirring, fight-picking, self-pitying, and the like. But there are a great many positives in that medium, too. Of all of them, I believe that posts of baptisms have to be my favorite. I do not appear to be alone in that estimation. Judging from post reactions and comments, a great many others do as well. We love it when there are pictures. We love the “back story.” We love knowing that our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members have good, honest hearts softened by the power of Divine Revelation. We love knowing they have a clean slate and a fresh start, and are poised to begin their walk on Narrow Road.
All of this leads me to several random observations:
- True good news needs no hype, trumping, manufacturing, or baiting.
- It is New Testament thinking to rejoice at such good news (Acts 8:39; 15:3).
- What a confirmation the obedience of others to the gospel is to our own decision to do so.
- It restores our faith in the potential of humanity and the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12).
- It builds our confidence in the Bible to see people imitate the examples of the New Testament, doing what they did the way they did it (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:13, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15; 31-33; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:26; Col. 2:12; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:18-21).
- The average Christian wants what is best for others, which is just one reason Christians are the best people on earth.
- We want good news to travel fast, far and wide.
- We know it pleases the Lord when a person comes to Him in obedient faith (see Luke 15).
There are doubtless many more observations we could make, but these are enough for me to thank God for His people and those who daily make the decision to become His people. It builds my faith and hope in my fellow human beings and my trust in heaven’s plan of salvation. Thank you for finding joy in the right and best things! And let’s keep striving to perpetuate that joy through leading souls to the Savior.
A customer who ate at Randy’s Southside Diner in Grand Junction unluckily left $3,000 in a bank envelope at his booth. Fortunately, his busboy was Johnny Duckworth. Johnny gave it to his boss, who through the ATM bank slip in the envelope was able to track down the rightful owner. That unnamed person gave Johnny a $300 tip, but strangers started a “gofundme” page for the struggling Duckworth and have raised nearly $4000 for the young man. In an interview, he said he did not for a moment consider keeping the money, adding, “I work for a living” (denverpost.com).
You’ve not likely had honesty pay so well for you. At least not financially. But, as the proverbial adage goes, “honesty does pay.” How?
- In reputation. Honestly builds businesses, friendships, leadership, and the like, when people have implicit confidence in your word (cf. Proverbs 14:25).
- In relationships. People trust you and are closer to you when you are honest with them. The opposite is true, too, that people keep their emotional distance from you if you are dishonest (Ephesians 4:25).
- In righteousness. Your character is built through dedication to unconditional truthfulness (Proverbs 12:17).
- In reliability. Who will people come to, lean on, and go to? The honest. They know where they stand with such a one (Proverbs 12:19).
- In respect. While you may fear hurting feelings and alienating others through courageous honesty, you gain the admiration of most through transparency and scrupulous speech and behavior (1 Kings 22:13-14).
Sadly, doing the right thing was once routine but now it merits newsworthiness. May the tribe of Johnny Duckworths increase. When we as Christians are renowned for our kind honesty, we will draw a world in search of goodness and trustworthiness to the One who “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2).