“Behold I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you this day is born the savior of the world” I am currently reading Happiness is a Serious Problem by Dennis Praeger. The premise of the book is that happiness is a moral obligation we have to ourselves. Several times in the book, Praeger connects happiness with faith. Well actually he disconnects them because so many people of faith reveal how unhappy they are by their actions and words. I could not agree more. As Christians, we have a responsibility to our faith as a witness to the community to reveal through thought word and deed that our faith has transformed us FOR THE BETTER. We really should be happy. I believe at some point next year I will use this book as a basis for a sermon series or an evening study. You should read it. Chapter 6 is about human nature and it is spot on. He says, “we are completely satisfied with nothing.” Then he suggests a few businesses and some potential marketing tags: If you are not completely satisfied with your house, give us a call. If you are not completely satisfied with your spouse, give us a call. If you are not completely satisfied with your children, give us a call. If you are not completely satisfied with your job, give us a call. You get the idea. When we compare what we are or have with others, we do ourselves a disservice because we always compare to what seems better than what we are or have without knowing any of the story surrounding what we are seeing. Most of the time if we knew the story, we would not make the comparison. And we almost never compare ourselves to someone less fortunate except in pity. Christians have a moral and spiritual obligation to be satisfied and happy no matter our circumstances. I have to say, I agree with Praeger. So today, “don’t worry, be happy.”
RaindropsI think we got plenty of rain in June. Just think, in California, every spout is monitored. Water restrictions for all, including farmers. They would have loved a little bit of rain. What we bemoan, “enough is enough,” Californians pray for. I often have the chance to meet folks who bemoan circumstances. When they tell me their story, I often concur, “that is messed up.” Hardly a person alive doesn’t have the opportunity to tell a story that is messed up. When it rains it pours. And yes, life is unfair. As people of faith, we should be able to look at circumstances a little bit different. Paul says the trouble of this world cannot compare with the glory that is to be revealed. In this world we have trouble but Jesus has overcome the world. Be anxious about nothing. There are certainly a lot of place where the scriptures teach us to live above our circumstances. And most people ask me, “how can I do that?” Knowing we are called to live above our circumstances and actually doing it are two very different things. I mean when it rains for three days straight and the yard is saturated and ready to come in the front door, it is hard to see anything else. Yet we are supposed to see something else. Paul gives us they key. Find something good to think about. If there is anything lovely, anything valuable, anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Now he said this while he was in prison, about to be executed for being a believer. So the next time we find ourselves bemoaning our circumstances, consider Paul and find something good to consider.
Frogs One frog is cute. Croak…croak…croak. So adorable. Have a little rain and the frogs come out by the thousands: CROAK!!! CROAK!!! CROAK!!! A chorus of croaks, a veritable cacophony of unified croaking. All night long! It is impossible to think one frog could keep all of Tampa awake all night, but one million. We now know what THAT sounds like. Where did they come from? And now? Where did they go? Lurking, waiting, ready to plague us once again. I had no idea that the plague of frogs in Exodus included so much noise. The frogs pushed me to think about the power of “we.” One frog has a simple and cutesy impact on me. One million frogs making a unison chorus of croak really made me wonder, “what if they had an agenda?” I may be a bit paranoid. Noise, the unified noise of we, can have a profound impact. Fans at the Lightning playoff game all know this. If the team is on a losing streak during the regular season and one guy stands up and starts shouting, he simply draws attention to himself and everyone remarks, “whew” as the shake their heads. But put the team in the playoffs and the same guy just adds to the desired effect. The noise of we can indeed make a difference in the game. I went to a couple of graduation ceremonies in early June and must say they are a bit different from what I remember: lots of shouting for individuals, but no group shouting. I felt very out of place. So what sort of we noise can the church make. We are filled with churches that have look at me noise. In the end, they lack conviction and power. What about the we? Paul tells the Thessalonians that their faith “rang out.” Now that is a joyful we noise, faith sounding forth, ringing out. Faith should ring out, make a loud noise, so that all those in Town and Country know we are God's. God’s people at Wesley make a joyful noise.
Let all the world in every corner sing, “Our God is King!” Last night we had a tremendous rain storm, Colin by name. When I woke this morning I could hear the birds singing. The lake by my home sang forth, a veritable choir rejoicing to the Lord. Though Colin lasted a few days, it did pass. I heard no birds singing through the thunder and the pounding rain. But the storm passed and the birds are singing now. During the storm they hunkered down, waiting. Not all waiting is the same. My guess is that how we enter the storm determines the way we wait. If hope has not gotten ahold of us before the storm, we may dread the storm, or dramatize it, complain about it. But if hope has gotten us, when the storm comes we simply hunker down and wait for the morning when we know we will sing again as we have a hundred times before. When our hope is in God’s faithfulness rather than our own resources, hunkering down becomes simply a necessary step in Gods redemptive plan. We know we will sing again. Saints of old knew this truth: “when the storms of life are raging stand by me. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea. When the storms of life are raging stand by me.” If you do not know your hope, then I invite you to get to know Jesus. This summer, read the gospel of John with the intent of getting to know Jesus. Meet him, listen to his teaching, experience the warmth of his spirit. Read slowly. Read, then think. Then think some more and then read some more. I would encourage you to use your thinking to make a decision. Some people think they are thinking when all they are doing is avoiding a decision. Meeting Jesus, really meeting him, will push you to make a decision about him. Is he actually who he says he is in this gospel? Imagine you are there, one of the twelve listening to him for the first time. Feel his compassion for others. When you have finished John, read it again. Then make a decision about Jesus. You can find hope as you read the stories and hear the teaching. No storm in life is ever the same once you have met Jesus.