Firm Foundation, Key to Happiness, Surviving the Greatest Depression

Prep

Weathering the storm is most important. Perhaps a number one priority, with preparing for the storm, number two. Life goes on all around the casualties and though a note is skipped, the music plays on. Renown pianist Vladimir Horowitz explains “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.” During crisis, as life begins to unravel, those unprepared are the first to recognize their lack of forethought and eventually, sooner than later, everyone else recognizes their lack too.
The only method of preparation is from start to finish. Half baked efforts fall short exposing any previous effort as futile.

Digging deep to discover the bedrock of need is prerequisite. From that moment, genuine preparation begins. The great God of eternity advises, “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.” Seems a bit of an understatement. Its not. This advice is the real deal. A genuine foundation stone from which to launch into the future whether that forecast be grim or glorious. There is no guessing, no gamble or uncertainty. Build on the Rock and plans will stand. Dont’… and experience an inevitable demise.

This isn’t an exercise in spirituality. Preceding from the firm foundation slices through every distraction du jour; me vs them, right vs left, straight vs gay, religiosity vs religiosity, rich vs poor and all the other contrasting contentions. Once the feet are positioned to go forward, legitimate injustices become apparent. Conscientious effort, resources directed and even solutions are streamlined while thrashing about in quicksand as invaluable time is spent helps no one. First and foremost, a uncertain foundation does not help you or your loved ones.

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
But you would have none of it” And, therein lies the rub.
Isaiah 30:15 reveals God’s counsel but also, His understanding of our so-called independence. Like a two year-old discovering a new ability, humans in our spiritual immaturity often say, “No… Me do it!” Yes, God wants us to do it! Survive the storms ahead and also, live an earthly life unregretted by getting right with God. The only way He has made available is via the Rock, Christ Jesus. And, therein lies the rub!

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5 Year Plan

Reaping

Find a field. Prepare it for harvest by pulling weeds and removing rocks (to build a restraining wall, if possible). Till. Plant. Water. Pray; guard against thorns & thistles, vermin and such. Reap.

Whether or not one does this literally or at another level the premise remains. Without planning and labor, there is no definitive harvest. Reaping will occur even if one does nothing but it is the fruits of foolishness, thoughtlessness and/or hopelessness. A simplistic example might be the dinner which takes planning and labor is left unmade, the  result is reaping an empty stomach.

Now, one cannot sow what one does not have. You want watermelons but you have a packet of tomato seeds. This is where planning is a must. What do I want? Targeted reaping is a result of sowing specifics.

The ultimate harvest is eternal and with that perspective in mind, all else concedes to the eternal goal. Gardens can be a menagerie of long-term planting such as a row of fig trees or an apple orchard on the back 40. Also, it usually includes short term sowing of lettuces, radishes and other almost immediate harvests; not to mention, the visual melody of flowers and greenery positioned to make the eyes dance with delight! Imagine your herb garden within the parameters of the larger general garden or orchard of God.
Contrary to popular urban legend, God is fair. More importantly, He is willing and able to assist mankind, individually and corporately toward eternal windfalls. The purposes of God are moving toward an end… His own garden and His own harvest. His workers willing forward His plans while others do so unwittingly: His plan of the ages unfolds. Because humans are freewill individuals, there are times when our plans are at cross purposes with His Plan. Concede! Sometimes making room for pumpkins is more important than cultivating lettuce, snow-peas or even zucchini. The harsh winter ahead proves the point when pumpkins continue edible but the more fragile foods have rotted or are long since consumed. God sees the big picture. God owns the farm. God’s harvest is foremost and all mankind’s sowing, laboring, reaping falls within His field.

Do not let the doom porn folks divert you from your sowing. It’s true that humanity is like a drunk who when you try to help to his feet, he takes another step and collapses again into the gutter… This paraphrase of Martin Luther clarifies the fact that even 500 years ago in Luther’s day, civilization was unraveling or so it seemed. The common man may have wondered, ‘What is the point of trying to do good’, plan for the future, marry and give in marriage if the figurative weeds and rats and crows devour one’s efforts?
Hindsight proves that those naysayers of Luther’s time and his own struggle with despair were overcome by the godly, sowing. To this day, we continue to reap both the hearty and the diseased from that time of reformation. Life continues until God’s harvest is finished.

Pick a field! Within God’s greater field diligent efforts flourish and voila! reap a harvest. If you’ve set your heart on growing allegorical radishes, give your efforts a month or two before you see the results of your labor. A literal or figurative vineyard is your task, you say? In that case, preparation, prayer and planning are all the more important; also, patience.

Practice the keyboard… Begin that watercolor… Teach the neighborhood children how to ___________… Cultivate as friends those elusive people from church… Start that business… Buy some seeds… Tell your dear one, I love you.

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Freedom from Torment, Overcoming the impossible

Freedom’s just another Word

God is taking us somewhere; He sees the end from the beginning. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ This statement from Isa 46:10 is not arrogantly spoken by a mortal, however powerful but as assurance by our Creator… When life takes a hairpin turn and all seems close to careening over the edge, God is at the wheel.

God’s purposes are the links which pull the plot forward to a conclusion. Truth is more than simply the substance of those links. It is the lifeline to the individual. Truth acts as carabiner and anchor, too.
A desire for truth is innate in humans. Jesus said, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Trusting that God is truth, firms up all the physical and non physical elements of life in the mind of the beholder. A child betrayed by an authority figure, may mature into an adult who struggles with the acceptance that eternal truth is absolute. When truth is distorted, the ground beneath one’s feet seems to shift; mental moorings go slack. Justice and accountability become suspect. We humans typically desire reconciliation to any given situation, bringing balance to life’s ledger… Often, we want to know the why of a thing. Certainly, a simplistic explanation of mankind’s sense of fairness and yet, once the why is discovered (the conflict reconciled, at least mentally), proper reaction results. 

Understanding from Jesus’ own statement recorded in John’s gospel chapter 8, truth frees, begs the question, then what binds? Truth is the key to freedom while the opposite of truth confines. Emotional, psychological or physical imprisonment may be undone by truth. In a sense, truth equals freedom. Freedom’s just another Word… for Truth.

Is it supernatural? Not necessarily but truth can be supernatural in that God, Himself is Truth and Jesus, truth in the flesh. Jesus’ life and death and resurrection transcends the natural and when applied as the key to any given “bondage,” freedom results. Freedom from spiritual and physical bondage reveals the cliff edge for what it is; a soon-to-be memory on our scenic route to paradise.

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Sign of Revival

Harriet on the 20

Harriet Tubman; Congress will memorialize her on the twenty dollar bill. Free people everywhere may see this act as a wise conspiratorial move to either calm the riffraff or insight them, or quite possibly, to divide. I choose to believe that this decision was ultimately from God in answer to prayer. There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea! From 1Kgs 18:44, we might suppose that huge results are often seen as small beginnings.

From our shoes, the historic Harriet Tubman is like the North Star she reckoned from during her extralegal journeys. She died a hundred years ago and still, the philosophical are awed by her faith and action.

This generation and more specifically, our nation is in need of an seemingly insignificant sign on the horizon. Harriet Tubman on the $20 is it.

Though they did not perceive it at the time, hindsight reveals that the fleeing slaves were safe with gun tottin’ Miss Harriet as they traversed the landscape. She would have shot any escaping slave who gave in to second thoughts, trying to return to their old ways of slavery. That was the only reason she carried the weapon. Her threat, never challenged kept all involved safe from betrayal. So too, escaping into the shadow of God’s protective wings can be both reassuring and intimidating.

Hindsight will prove how very safe it is.

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Key to Happiness

Hearing from God

I read about the Monarch butterfly today. Scientists saying that they have figured out the internal compass…
There is a movie (can’t remember the name but Anne Hathaway is in it), and the main character gets caught in a time warp or perhaps, another dimension. He tries to communicate with his 10 yr old daughter and she thinks this weird interaction is a poltergeist. This portion of the story-line made me rethink how God interacts with humans. Sometimes, it is loud and clear but so otherworldly that the recipient may or may not decipher the message correctly. A dream, a thought, a key situation, a Biblical highlight or sermon which unites one’s actions with godly conviction; any or all of these methods bringing forth God’s direction. The complete spiritual apparatus is present and God’s willingness is there so why do people, God’s people and others, complain about not hearing from God?
Take yourself as an example although not as the end-all to the discussion. Sometimes, you do not respond to a voice directed at you; the panhandler on the sidewalk, a telemarketer, your child asking for the umpteenth time, your conscience… See? Made in God’s image, we share similar attributes with Him. Monotone apathetic conversation is usually tuned right out, as is whining, accusation, conspiratorial groveling, haughty and grandiose petitioning. Like the question asked by a professional marketer, what gets the Target’s attention? Psalms 10 gives us an answer. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear.

The voice of God works silently at times. And like the Monarch, God has put the benchmark concept of eternity in our understanding, although dormant as the thought of a mountainous destination in Mexico is to the caterpillar before wings form. Our personality, character, environment and situation are incorporated into the discussion we are having with God… Our soul, with thoughts and responses pinging the mind of God and vice versa. This is why character matters. How do we live when no one is looking? Do we have a front stage-back stage lifestyle that dulls godly pings? God sounding you out and your ability to hear the clarity of His reverberation is fine-tuned by you.
Character is honed by exercise… Exercising righteousness. Do the right thing; choose the high road; be selfless when the situation calls for it. When you fall short, repent asking for forgiveness and asking for strength to overcome the temptation as it re-arises (because it will).

When I lived in a Third world country for a short time, initially I was an easy touch for beggars but then, I realized I did not have enough of anything – money, food, time to give to each and every petitioner. Some weeks in, my strategy of giving changed. When people crossed my path for a handout, their requests had to dent my discriminatory armor before I would give over. For example, a woman with three small children in tow had more hope than the cigarette smoking young buck. The man at the gate that was willing to pull weeds was sure to get money compared to the oily opportunist who changed pace toward me, crossing the street when he saw me emerge from my front door.
The Holy God’s criteria are not always my own but there is similarity in that He has criteria! Surely each of those Third World petitioners had genuine need; God says He knows our need before we ask. Unlike my finite compassion, wisdom and provision, our Creator has plenty and He is very generous.

The Jewish proverbs contain working advice for those wanting to hear God’s voice and looking for His guidance. Proverb 1:23 written to the person whom desires true direction: “Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. For all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Actually, these sentences from the New Living Translation are bookends to the confusion and disaster that springs from not taking a bead from eternity’s perspective, from the Great God in Heaven who sees and knows all. In truth, God wants you to call to Him so that He can answer you, giving great and otherwise, inaccessible direction. Do you want to understand the voice of God? Like the lowly caterpillar, one must be transformed into a new creature and that, in Christ. Once metamorphosed, the journey to those heavenly mountains begins. 

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Key to Happiness, Strategy

Balance

Finding the balance is important. No need to explain why balance is important to building, budgeting, planning of any sort and eating, for example because by the time you read this, surely you understand that without balance, life’s titter-totter plunges uncomfortably to one side.
Spiritually speaking (which should be addressed first because when the dust settles only the spiritual will remain), balance is obtained by pushing for the morally right side of the spectrum while resting in God’s promised grace. Easy sounding and in truth it is simple and once the threshold is crossed, spiritual equilibrium is doable. Because we remain in the physical until the trumpet sounds or we flat line, the physical/spiritual balance can be confusing if not approached correctly. Taking a bead from the Jewish Proverbs and then also, from the Gospels can lead one into a mental conundrum… if not for grace. Not your boss’s grace or your spouse’s or the guy’s you pass on the sidewalk but God’s supernatural grace given without merit, labor or even prayer on the recipient’s part. Even so, God’s grace can be petitioned for and I believe He is a Push-over when it comes to asking for His grace. Really. God loves to answer prayer and while grace applied is difficult to see in the moment, hindsight reveals its valued presence with clarity.
Having made that audacious declaration (God’s a Push-over), our subject is balance. God’s grace may become ineffectual if our meager efforts at morality are not a part of the equation. Our efforts to maintain a well-lived life are much like a drunk riding horse back; he sways this way and that until he topples from the saddle, (to adequately misquote Martin Luther). As we totter back and forth in our efforts, Grace sustains us and brings the buoyancy and balance.
When scripture counsels, take no thought of tomorrow while also encouraging, live in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit we see that “thought” is required. Also. we read, let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing but we must be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares… How to give and be hospitable with out preparation is muddling to rational thought.

In truth, balance becomes an issue of the heart. Nothing is hid from the great God of Heaven. Our motives are transparent. Furthermore, how do we view God? Is He loving and a wonderful counselor or is He an egotistic dictator in our minds? Our viewpoint and how we process His character changes nothing of Who He really is but it does effect how we interact with Him and more importantly, how He interacts with us. Work backwards as if you were planning your wedding day or your own funeral or most specifically, you are planning the day in which you stand before the Bema Seat of Jesus. The big picture like a map, is before you and the smaller although pointedly significant events that effect our lives are regulated to correct places on the planning schematic. There are non issues and nonsense that may be diverting in the short-term. Weighty matters such as a betrayal, offense or misunderstanding, or a question of God’s willingness and/or ability are highlighted on your big picture. All in all, with this planner in hand you can formulate how the “day” will turnout. Grace fills in the deficiencies. Motive and genuine love for God and respect for His purposes links grace to grace; deep calling to deep. Works are rewarded. Salvation is a gift of grace while our eternal reward is effort by circumambient  grace. A life well-lived not only incorporates a world-side legacy but also, most importantly a posthumous eternal inheritance. This is why an ongoing relationship with God through His Son is so important.

Scripture which so often seems contradictory, is like a math equation that is missing a factor or two. The balance in the equation is solved when the unknown factors are revealed. The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. With that in mind, the LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. Like the Gold Standard, God’s standards are key and His grace allows mere men to be weighed in the balance and to be found more than acceptable.

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Happiness, Joy, Key to Happiness, Love

Key to Happiness

The short answer:
Joy rather than mere happiness is the goal. Joy abides while happiness is mercurial allowing pleasure only at the mountain tops… Valleys, and the hike up and down should be enjoyed too.

Joy can be spiked with happy events and horrid encounters but the nature of joy moves one above the affairs of life. The atmosphere of joy is a rarefied air. Even happy moments are seen from above when joy rules. And moreso the challenges, set backs, failures, regrets, mistakes and even, sin are all quashed under the strength and abiding power of joy. Not the naive, impractical, unrealistic feeling that is similar to fool’s gold but I write of another emotion that one must cultivate.
Joy is birthed from love. Yep. Brotherly love generates joy. The reason being is that when we push to love others, even the unlovable, the portal opened by toxic emotions like hate, envy, bitterness begins to close. God’s eye turns towards love. All our previous and present screw-ups fade until the love that we are endeavoring to give, covers all.
God, Himself opens and shuts the valves that release the purified air we need to be happy or full of joy. Revelations 3:7 alludes to a prophesy given to a Jewish steward named Eliakim. The link between the two scriptures is the Key of David which shuts and opens and the clue to how God uses this key is found in the name of the congregation in Revelations 3; Philadelphia or literally, Brotherly love. In Isaiah 22, Eliakim is contrasted with his selfish, mean spirited predecessor. As a steward, Eliakim’s new position was one of responsibility toward those he would serve and as in Revelation 3, the key he wields enables an opening and closing.
Love does something! Reach out. Take time. Stop with the snarky thoughts and speech. Pray for those who spitefully use you. Be grateful. Quit trying to be the bride at every wedding and the cadaver at every funeral… Be humble. Do something. Philadelphia!

Toxicity levels will begin to drop. We are reassured that love covers all sins. God so loved the world removing the debt of sin if we choose to believe. Meanwhile, God counsels from Proverbs 10:12- “Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all sins.” Furthermore, Peter being moved by God’s Spirit advises, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1Pt4:8
It is not solely God doing something for us in that Jesus was given as vicarious atonement but He expects us to do something for others, by way of love.

So to conclude, the Key to Happiness is receiving God’s love by accepting His forgiveness by faith in Jesus; He died and rose from the grave. Joy tangibly fills the inner chambers of the soul as guilt of sin vacates. When Jesus opens, no one can shut and when He closes, no one can reopen. For happiness to remain, joy to be full, the forgiven must in turn forgive, let go, love. And, that is the long answer.

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