Choosing to Be Happy

In 1997, Missy Jenkins was a 15-year-old student at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. On December 1 of that year, Missy was part of a group of students that had gathered in the lobby of the school building to pray before classes started.

As they prayed, 14-year-old Michael Carneal entered the lobby. He was well-armed and intent on doing evil. As the group finished their prayers, Carneal started shooting.

Three students died that day. Five teenagers, including Missy Jenkins, were wounded. Missy learned that day that she would be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. That’s difficult news for anyone to hear, especially a teenager with her whole life ahead of her.

Missy could have allowed this tragedy to make her bitter, but being a Christian, she chose to maintain a positive outlook. After all, the Bible does say, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3).

So Missy persevered in her joy. She visited Michael Carneal in prison and forgave him. She married Josh Smith and they had a son named Logan. Missy became a counselor at a school for troubled teenagers. She has had many opportunities to speak to groups about her story. Eleven years after the shooting, Missy Jenkins Smith released a book about her life titled “I Choose to Be Happy”.

Each one of us has our own unique set of trials to face in life. How much better off we are when we decide to face those trials with joy! In this way we honor God, bless those around us and set a wonderful example of Christian living for the world to see.

So, no matter what life brings your way, choose joy!

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Hatred of Evil

In May of 1994, the Associated Press carried a story about one person’s unusual war on sin. At the public library in Coquille, Oregon, library workers discovered at least a dozen books in which entire pages had been blanked out by a patron wielding white correction fluid. The unknown, self-appointed censor painted over naughty phrases and sexually explicit passages. “They’ve marked everything from love-swept romances to best sellers,” said librarian Molly DePlois.

While conducting a war with white-out is probably not what God had in mind, Scripture does call us to hate what is evil.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”—Romans 12:9.

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Deciding Not to Hate

Dickie Marcum

When he was nineteen years old, Dickie Marcum got a large tattoo of a swastika that covered part of his chest. As he recalls, “I had a lot of hate in my heart.”

Dickie matured into a different person over the years. The tattoo became a shameful reminder of the person he once was. Then he learned that Silkwood Tattoo in Hamilton, Ohio, was offering free cover ups for hateful or racist tattoos. Marcum decided that he would take them up on their offer. The tattoo had been on his chest for fifteen years. It was time for it to go. He decided to get it covered up on Juneteenth. He says, “The second I saw it, I felt free.”

Hatred confines people to a prison of their own making. The Bible constantly warns us against hatred and implores us to love. It is a constant battle to keep hatred out of our hearts so that love can dwell there. Let’s work hard to make sure that we don’t become imprisoned by hatred.

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”—1 Peter 1:22.

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From Obscurity to Greatness

Tom Brady is considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time. The numbers he has put up for passing yardage, touchdowns and Super Bowl victories make it just a matter of time before Brady is voted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Tom Brady

However, Tom Brady did not always seem to be destined for greatness. He was the backup quarterback on his high school freshman team that was winless that season. Brady was the number seven quarterback on the depth chart when he began his career at the University of Michigan. His first college pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He was not chosen until the sixth round of the NFL draft. When Brady arrived at New England to play for the Patriots, he was the fourth quarterback on the depth chart. Yet Tom Brady rose from obscurity to achieve greatness.

There are many people in the Bible who followed a similar path in life. They were neither well-known nor highly regarded, yet God enabled them to accomplish great things for his kingdom. A shepherd boy named David eventually became king. A young girl named Mary all of a sudden found herself chosen to give birth to the Messiah. Common folk like fishermen became the apostles of Jesus. Jesus himself came from obscurity, born in humble surroundings and placed in a manger.

The Bible is filled with examples of people who seemed to come out of nowhere, but were used by God to accomplish great things. Keep that in mind the next time you are feeling down on yourself!

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”—1 Corinthians 1:26-27.

 

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Sanity Walk

While we are sheltering at home in order to combat the coronavirus, we want to make sure we are doing everything possible to remain healthy. One of the things we are urged to do during this global pandemic is to go outside and get some exercise. Sunshine and fresh air are recommended at any time, especially when we are trying to remain healthy against such a formidable foe as COVID-19.

Exercising outside is not only beneficial for our physical health, it also helps us maintain our emotional and mental health.

With this in mind, my wife and I have started going for what we call “sanity walks” every day. She goes to the east and I go to the west!

Seriously, not only is exercise beneficial to our health, solitude can also be helpful to our mental well-being. Sometimes we need to get away from others and spend some quality time with God. Maybe you should make a sanity walk a part of your regular routine.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”—Mark 1:35.

 

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7 Keys to Life

I saw a version of this online recently and thought it was worth sharing. I’m sorry I don’t know where it came from or who deserves the credit. But it seems like some pretty good advice about how to succeed in life.

PUT GOD FIRST—The 10 commandments say that we are to have no other gods before Him. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and then everything else will fall into place.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER—Jesus says that the second greatest commandment is directly related to the first. If we really love God, then we will love our neighbor. Jesus says that the way people will know that we are his followers is by the way we love one another. Loving people is a principle that is often stressed in the Bible. You can’t really succeed in life if you haven’t figured out how to show love to others.

NEVER HATE—We live in a world where hatred abounds. Examples of this are making the news every day. We need to work hard to stem the flow of hatred. We need to take a good long look in the mirror and see if there is any hatred brewing within our soul. Keep your anger in check. Resolve any issues you have with another person before your emotions get out of hand. You can’t love God and love people if your heart is filled with hatred.

GIVE GENEROUSLY—This is a tough one for many people. I had an uncle who could squeeze a nickel so hard it would make the buffalo yell out in pain! Jesus teaches a lot about how we handle our finances. He says that where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be. Do you have a heart for those who are less fortunate? There are plenty of people and organizations who could use your donation. Try to develop a generous heart.

LIVE SIMPLY—Most of us have many more possessions than we will ever need. It’s not wrong to have things, but it is definitely wrong if your things possess you! We waste a lot of time trying to keep up with things that we don’t need, and might not even want! Maybe it’s time to go through your closet or attic or garage and get rid of some of the clutter in your life.

FORGIVE QUICKLY—One of the hardest things to do is to forgive someone who has wronged you. The hurt you felt was real, and it often lingers. The best way to make the pain go away is to forgive. Remember, Jesus says that God forgives us as we forgive others! That drives home the importance of being a person who forgives.

BE KIND ALWAYS—Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. We live in a harsh world, and a little kindness goes a long way. Our words should be bathed in kindness. Our actions, too, should be kind. Not just usually, but always.

This is a pretty good list of qualities we should strive for in order to live a successful life.

 

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Prompted to Be Thankful

In a recent cartoon of “The Family Circus”, Dolly was teaching her little brother the importance of being thankful. She said, “When somebody gives you something…you wait for them to say ‘And what do you say?’ Then you say, ‘Thank you.’”

Too often we need to be prompted to be thankful to God. We have so much for which to be thankful! Yet we often take these abundant blessings for granted. Thanksgiving should be a natural response to God’s goodness. His blessings, material and spiritual, should cause us to have an attitude of gratitude that pours out constant thanksgiving to God.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17.

 

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Listening to Jesus

In Matthew 17, we read the account of Jesus going up on a high mountain with three of his disciples. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Then Moses and Elijah appeared before them, talking with Jesus. The scene comes to a thrilling climax with the voice of God proclaiming, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Looking at the context, we see that God wants us to listen to Jesus above all else. Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets. Even above these great leaders from Old Testament times, we need to listen to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t contradict the Old Testament; he fulfills it and explains to us exactly what it means. The disciples who followed Jesus back then learned that they could trust him completely. We who follow Jesus today need to learn the same lesson. We need to take the words of Jesus very seriously.

We need to listen to Jesus when he tells us that he is the only way to God (John 14:6) and that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16).

When it comes to our finances, we need to listen to Jesus, who commends those who tithe (Matthew 23:23) and points out that we can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Concerning gender issues and marriage, we need to listen to Jesus—“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Will we listen to Jesus as he teaches us the importance of holy living? (Matthew 18:6-9). Will we take to heart his words about witnessing (Acts 1:8), forgiving those who sin against us (Matthew 18:21-35), practicing church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) and numerous other teachings that are essential to living a life that is truly Christian?

Scripture consistently reminds us that it is not enough to simply listen to Jesus—we must also obey him. The Sermon on the Mount closes out with these words—“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Let’s make sure we build our lives on a solid foundation! Let’s listen to the words of Jesus and do what he tells us to do!

 

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The Servant’s Failure

Dr. Joe Ellis wrote the following short essay about the lazy servant of Matthew 25:

“He was not a scoundrel or a thief. He didn’t steal the money. He didn’t misappropriate it. He didn’t waste it. He didn’t risk it. He didn’t lose it. He preserved it intact…According to Jesus’ standard, to fail we don’t have to run amuck and do something dreadful. We don’t have to deny the faith. We don’t have to adopt some doctrinal heresy. We don’t have to run off with somebody else’s wife. We don’t have to rob a bank. To fail as the Master’s servant we don’t have to do any of these things. To fail, all we have to do is nothing!”

Since failure should not be an option for us, let us make sure that we are doing something for the Master!

 

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The Holiness T-Shirt

Recently I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of Walmart when I noticed a lady wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with a red stop sign on the front. The shirt said, “Please stay back 6 feet”, a reference to the social distancing that has become a vital part of our response to the coronavirus. I thought that was a clever way of reminding people to practice safety measures to promote the health of others.

As the lady walked across the parking lot, she saw a couple that she recognized. Unbelievably, she walked up to each of them and shook their hand!

Obviously, she wasn’t all that concerned about containing the spread of the virus. She just wanted to wear a T-shirt that made people believe that she was.

When it comes to spiritual disease, many people would rather “wear the T-shirt” than actually avoid sin. The T-shirt looks cool. It makes people think you really care about holiness. But you can “wear the T-shirt” without really making a commitment to holy living.

Are you striving to live a holy life? Or are you merely “wearing the T-shirt”?

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”—1 Peter 1:15.

 

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