John Hagee Ministries

Devotionals

Be inspired and uplifted each day as you receive insight into God's Word

Colossians 2:13

He forgave us all our sins…

Satan was defeated at the cross!

Satan is determined to keep the world from grasping the fact he and his evil empire have been forever defeated at the Cross of Calvary.  Jesus went to the Cross and stripped Him of all his authority and gave it to the believers.

Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.”  Why does he accuse us?  What is his motive?  It can be stated in one phrase:  To make us feel guilty.  As long as Satan can make you feel guilty over the past, you can’t defeat him.  Guilt is the key to your defeat and the blood of the Cross is the key to our victory.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul wrote, “God made Him who had no sin Jesus to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That’s the exchange.  God took my sins and gave me the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  NEVER allow Satan to drag up your past sins.  They have been forgiven and forgotten.  They have been buried in the deepest sea never to be remembered any more.  When God sees you, all he can see is the righteousness of His perfect Son.  It’s not possible for Him to see your sin.  One thing God can’t do…He can’t remember your sin once it is forgiven by Jesus Christ.

 

Revelation 21:27

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

From time to time God, the master sculptor, places us in the heat of trial and adversity, where our contents can be tested.

We can understand purity of heart in two senses.  The first meaning is to be without hypocrisy, or to be sincere.  The word “sincere” comes from two Latin words.  Sin means “without” and cere means “wax.”

The term refers to stone statues.  The one thing that could make a statue worthless was a crack in the stone.  In an effort to deceive a prospective buyer, a seller might mix rock dust with wax and rub the mixture into a crack on a statue.  In dim inside light, the wax made the statue appear flawless.  But outside, the sun’s heat would melt the wax and expose the fraud.  Thus for a statue to be “without wax” meant that it was authentic, genuine, just as it appeared to be.

If we have become cosmetic Christians whose faults and defects are hidden by the wax of phony religiosity, we will be exposed as frauds.  We can’t pretend to be pure and get away with it.

Without Defilement

The second meaning of being pure in heart is to be cleansed, or without defilement.  Only the pure will be permitted to enter heaven.  Nothing unclean is going to enter heaven.  And God is the one who determines what it means to be clean.

But aren’t we Christians already pure by the blood of Jesus which was shed upon the cross?  Yes, but we must choose to remain pure.  The Bible says, “Everyone who has this hope in him to be made like Jesus, to spend eternity with Him in heaven purifies himself, just as He Jesus is pure” 1 John 3:3.

In another place it says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubleminded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom do you see the connections here between mourning over wrongdoing and purity of heart?.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” James 4:9-10.

Who takes the next step?  We do.  It’s not God’s job to chase us down.  It’s up to us to call upon Him.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

1 John 4:20

For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

Our relationship to other people is as vital to our happiness as is our relationship to man.

We all want what comes from having a pure heart: happiness. But how many of us are willing to go through the painful process of change that makes it possible to be happy in an unhappy world? We must marvel at the genius of Jesus’ principles of happiness. Here are precise steps with predictable results guaranteed by God to produce genuine, lasting happiness.

Being poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, and hunger for righteousness deal with man’s relationship with God; mercy, purity, peacemaking and persecution deal with man’s relationship to man.

The message? Happiness has a horizontal dimension as well as a vertical dimension. We can’t say, I love God, and not love other people. It doesn’t work.

This is quite a challenge. After all, God is easy to love; He’s perfect in every way. But the jerk next door, or the boss down the hall, or the secretary across the aisle they’re a different story!

In January we make a New Year’s resolution: “I will be more understanding of others.” In March we scratch that out and write, “I will try to be more patient when dealing with the incompetent people that surround me.” By June we scratch that out and settle for “I will not slap anyone in the face first thing in the morning.”

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Acts 5:3

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost…

Believers can be affected by evil spirits!

There is only one case of demon possession in the Bible, which was the demoniac of Gadera in Luke 8.  However, there are several illustrations where believers were affected, in some area of their lives, at some moment in time by an evil spirit:

1.      Ananias lied to his pastor, the Apostle Peter, about his contributions to the church.  Peter asked him “why Satan” was allowed to put that lie in his heart.  God killed Ananias on the spot for this and great fear came upon all them that heard these things.

2.      Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, “Get thou behind me Satan; thou art an offense to me…”  Why were these harsh words used?  Jesus was telling the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and be killed.  Peter openly rebuked Jesus saying it was not necessary for Him to die.  Jesus knew that “from the foundations of the world.”  He was to die for the sins of men.  Had Jesus taken Peter’s advice, the will of God would have been sabotaged and mankind would have been forever enslaved by Satan’s kingdom without any hope of deliverance.  Jesus knew the words coming out of Peter’s mouth were the absolute will of Satan…not God, the Father.  Therefore, Jesus addressed Peter as though he were Satan himself because he was allowing his mouth to carry the message of hell.

3.      Jesus addressed the woman who had lived for eighteen years with a bent back, “And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath.  Luke 13:16

 

Galatians 6:1

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.

Part One
Mercy searches for a way to restore a fallen friend.

The calloused heart will sneer, “He got what he deserved!”  The heart that has been crushed on the potter’s wheel asks, “What can I do to help?  One hug can make the difference between a heart that breaks, and a heart that heals.

When Paul first wrote to the believers at Corinth, he rebuked them for sexual misconduct, mismanagement of church funds and getting drunk at communion.  You don’t need a seminary degree to know those are some pretty serious sins.  But in his second letter, Paul writes, “I have great confidence in you" 2 Corinthians 7:40.  Think of it!  Paul puts his fatherly arms around those champion sinners, with an encouraging word for their reformation and restoration.

Mercy is Greater Than Sympathy

Sympathy is an emotion.  It’s often accompanied by tears.  There are those who weep so easily their tears are meaningless.  It’s all right to weep, of course, but genuine mercy requires a willingness to act.

Jesus wept.  But He did far more.  He acted.  He went to the cross and died to save those for whom He wept.

If your brother has genuine need of twenty dollars, and you have forty dollars in your pocket, don’t just “pray about it”—give him twenty bucks.  If you see a sister whose dress is threadbare, don’t just utter a sympathetic comment in her direction—give her one of your dresses.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

 

Psalm 82:3

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Meeting a need—Part Two
Mercy requires that we learn to love others, to value their welfare more than our own!

Mercy is Difficult

It’s difficult for us to show mercy because we are inherently lovers of self.  Selfishness short circuits prayer and tarnishes everything it touches.  A man wrapped in himself makes a mighty small package.  A man who is self-centered is off-centered.

Mercy Always Manifests Itself

A man can have money in his pocket and not show it.  He can have the musical skill of Beethoven and not reveal it.  He can have the knowledge of Einstein and not expose it.  But if a man has the loving mercy of the living God in his soul, he can’t help but manifest it.

He can’t hide it.  When he sees a brother in distress, he can no more turn his head and walk away than the sun can refuse to shine at noonday.  It’s impossible.

Giving to the Poor

Today’s scripture says, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.”

Why?  “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” Proverbs 21:13.

Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” Matthew 5:42.  And later He said, “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” Luke 6:38.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

Part Two—

Of all the principles of happiness that Jesus proclaims, this one is the most appealing, the most important and the most difficult.

It’s appealing because we all crave mercy. This is especially true, for instance, when we’re clocked by radar doing fifty miles per hour in a thirty five mile per hour zone. Before we have the window rolled all the way down we’re pleading for mercy. “Officer, something must be terribly wrong with my speedometer,” we say, “because this is the second one of these I’ve gotten today.”
“Here’s the third,” replies the officer in a monotone. “One more of these and you’ll be riding a bicycle.”
Mercy is very appealing. And the more we recognize how desperately we need it, the more appealing it is.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 107:9

He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things

“Filled” is a fantastic word.  It means: “absolutely satisfied.” 

It means overflowing with God’s good, old fashioned, heart warming happiness.

A twelve year old girl from the slums of Chicago was rushed to the hospital, diagnosed as having double pneumonia. Hospital administrators put her story together and discovered she was scrubbing floors twelve hours a day to support her mother and her four brothers and sisters. In the bitter cold of winter she had developed pneumonia and was terribly underweight from malnutrition.

One day a nurse brought her a glass of milk. The girl looked up and asked, “How much can I have?”
“What do you mean, honey?” asked the nurse.
“The milk. How much can I have?”
“Why, all of it, of course,” replied the nurse. “Why do you ask?”
“Because at my house we draw a line on the glass. You can only drink to the line, and then you have to pass the glass to someone else.”

“Your Soul Will Delight”

The Bible says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” Isaiah 55:1-2. God doesn’t draw a line on the glass.

Are you looking for real happiness? When you hunger and thirst after righteousness as desperately as a drowning man craves air, you’ll find it. It’s not just feeling; it’s living faith. It’s not sensation; it’s salvation. It’s not religion; it’s righteousness through responsibility. Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 22:26

The meek shall eat and be satisfied:  they shall praise the LORD that seek him:  your heart shall live forever.

We Are What We Eat!

Do you know the expressions, “You are what you eat”?  I don’t know if it’s true in the physical realm, but it’s certainly true in the spiritual realm.  If we eat the wrong spiritual foods, we’re not going to feel well or be happy.  If we take in negative, hateful and loveless thoughts, we’re guaranteed to be miserable.  If we watch television and take in several savage murders salted with hatred, revenge and rebellion, and peppered with greed and lust, we’re surely not going to feel too happy.

Then when we go to church on Sunday morning, we turn up our noses.  The hymns don’t appeal to us.  When we hear the pure Word of God, we’re not interested.  It’s milk for newborn Christians and meat for mature saints, but we push it away.

Why?  Simple!  We can’t eat slop all week and feel like a saint on Sunday morning.  It’s impossible.  God’s standard of righteousness won’t permit it.

Heaven or Hell on Earth?

I read of a man who went to a professional football game one Sunday afternoon.  To his dismay, he found himself on the bus sitting between two men who were on their way home from church.  They were talking about how God answers prayer and discussing the joy and happiness of knowing Christ and enjoying His presence in their homes and marriages.

When the man got off at the stadium, he told his friends, “I got stuck on the bus between two guys talking about God answering prayer and going to heaven and all that stuff.  I was sure in one hell of a fix!

There you have it!  What was heaven for two saints was hell on earth for him.  He had no appetite for it.  He was spiritually sick.

When we lack appetite for spiritual things, which is the basis of happiness, it’s not because we’re too sophisticated or too intellectual to accept God’s standard of righteousness.  It’s because we’re too spiritually anemic to know we’re dying.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 23:27

Saintly or Snaky—Part two

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Do you do what is right only because you know others are watching or do you long and thirst for righteousness?

There is the restraint of associations.  When we are hemmed in by a close circle of friends who live righteously, we can hardly do anything but go along with their behavior.  We’re like barrel staves held in place by hoops of steel.  But what are we like when we leave town for two weeks and go to a place where no one knows us?  Do we then start acting snaky?

There is the restraint of tasks.  I have known people to function in the church because they had a titled position.  When they leave the position, they collapse like a house of cards.  They quit the church and start acting snaky.

The true test of our righteousness comes when the restraints are lifted.  Do we act saintly or snaky?  Catalog your own actions and activities.  Would you like them to be published in your hometown newspaper?  What does that tell you about how much you really hunger and thirst after righteousness?

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Happiness is inward. It’s living life from the inside out!  Part Two

God’s Standards

The United States government has a National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.  It sets standards for weights and measures all over the country.  It guarantees that a pound of bologna weighs sixteen ounces whether you order it in Texas or Florida.  Distance, time and public opinion do not affect the National Bureau of Standards.

The Bible is the ultimate standard of righteousness for all people all over the world.  What is sin in Texas is sin in Florida, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia and everywhere else.  Distance, time and public opinion do not affect God’s standard of righteousness.  “In the gospel,” writes Paul, “ righteousness from God is revealed” Romans 1:17.

The Garments of Righteousness

What attitude should the church take toward a sin-saturated world that protests against God’s standard of righteousness as being “out of step with the times”?  Shall we lower the standard of righteousness so that immoral and godless rogues can sit with comfort in the house of God? 

The truth is, it’s not in our power to lower the standard of righteousness.  God has forever established that standard on earth through the life of Jesus Christ.  Those who profess to lower the standard to appease complacent congregations are hirelings, not shepherds.  They are preaching a false gospel.

Righteousness is not living “just a cut above” the pagan next door.  It’s right living according to the Word of God.  the garments of righteousness never go out of style.  God never alters the robe of righteousness to fit the man.  Rather He alters the man to fit the robe.  God doesn’t have “different strokes for different folks.”  Time, distance or changes in public attitudes do not alter God’s standard of righteousness one iota.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 37:11

The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth!

The violent take the earth by force.  But “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm 24:1.  As owner, He can will it to whomever He pleases.  And He has already made out the title deed to Planet Earth to the meek.

There are two meanings to this.  The first is a natural meaning.  Jesus is talking to Jews living under Roman occupation.  He is saying, “You will inherit the land of Israel as promised to Abraham.”  God’s covenant with Abraham was an unconditional and everlasting covenant, established solely on the faithfulness of God. 

Sand and Stars

Abraham is identified in Scripture as “the father of all who believe” Romans 4:11.  Scripture describes his descendants as the “sand on the seashore” and the stars in the sky” Genesis 22:17.  The sand represents Israel and the stars represent the church.

Stars are first mentioned in the very first chapter of Genesis, where they are described as having three functions.  They give light, they rule the night and they divide light from darkness.  So it is with the church.  The church gives light:  “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said Matthew 5:14.  The church rules:  We are given dominion over all things in the name of Jesus.  And the church is the dividing element between light and darkness; we are either for Christ or against Him, either saved or lost.

Sand is earthly; stars are heavenly.  There is an earthly Jerusalem, ruled by the Jewish people, and a New Jerusalem in the heavens, ruled by the church.  Both have their place and function, and neither replaces the other in the economy of God.

So in one sense Jesus was looking through the telescope of prophecy, telling his audience. “The day is coming when I will restore the land of Israel to the Jewish people.”

Jesus’ Return

But there is also a spiritual meaning of “they shall inherit the earth.”  For Jesus Christ is coming to earth again.  He will literally rule this earth for a thousand years.  When He returns, the meek will inherit the earth.

The first time He came, He was a babe in Bethlehem’s manger.  The next time He comes, He will be King of kings and Lord of lords.

The first time He came, He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass.  The next time He comes, He will split the heavens riding a white horse, as a mighty conqueror.

The first time He came, He was dragged before Pilate.  The next time He comes, Pilate will bow down before Him and confess that He is Lord.

The first time He came, He was crucified on the cross.  The next time He comes, He will sit on the throne of His father David and rule the earth with a rod of iron.

Only the meek can inherit the earth.  Our society has planted the seeds of violence and has reaped the whirlwind.  It’s time to plant seeds of meekness and reap a harvest of happiness.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Proverbs 16:32

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Meekness is mastery of self!

A college president made this statement to a class of graduating seniors:  “It gets easier for man to control his universe, and harder a and harder for him to control himself.”

Can you control yourself?  A woman once said to me, “Pastor, sometimes I lose my temper.  But it’s no big deal.  It’s over in three minutes.”

I said, “So is a tornado!  But it takes days to bury the dead, weeks to assess the damage and years to recover the loss.  Do your family a favor and learn to control yourself!”

Meekness in Marriage

Wife, are you meek toward your husband?  Or do you pride yourself on your ability to manipulate him?  Your husband is the God-ordained leader of your house.  If you cut him to shreds, your marriage will be destroyed and your children will rise up and curse you.  I know he may not be the most dynamic man in the world.  But he’s the one you chose, the one to whom you pledged your love and loyalty.

Husband, are you meek toward your wife?  The Bible doesn’t say, “Husband, change your wife.”  It says, “Husband, love your wife and honor her as the weaker vessel.”  Marriage will not work without meekness from both parties.  It began when Adam took a nap and woke up married.  God didn’t take a bone from Adam’s head, so that the woman might rule over him, nor did He take a bone from his foot, that he might tread on her.  God took a bone from Adam’s side so that the love of his life could walk next to him as an equal partner.

Meekness in the Family and the Church

Parents are you meek toward your children?  The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” Ephesians 6:4.  Do you make unreasonable demands of your children?  Do you try to relive your life through them?  Are your expectations of them within bounds?

Are you meek toward your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Or are you incessantly critical of others?  Do you know that Satan criticizes the saints of God before His throne day and night?  The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brothers” Revelation 12:10.  When you criticize another member of the body of Christ, you are doing the work of Satan himself.  Ask God to crucify your critical spirit and give you a spirit of meekness and quietness.

A missionary in Africa once came upon some boys playing a game of marbles—using real diamonds.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  There in the dust lay a fortune—priceless possessions considered to be of no value whatever; so it is with us and the priceless treasure of meekness.  God says, “It’s a pearl of great price.”  The world says, “Who needs it?”

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

1 Timothy 6:11

But you, O man of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

Paul: A model of Meekness

Paul instructed Timothy to pursue meekness 1 Timothy 6:11.  Timothy was to pursue meekness.  He was not to rest until he had enriched his character with this priceless virtue.

Paul was meek.  But was he weak?  When on the Isle of Malta, he shook a deadly viper from his wrist as men gasped in wonder.  When dragged into court, he glared at his persecutors and said, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” Acts 23:3.  When, in jail, the jailers discovered he was a Roman citizen and tried to release him secretly, Paul said, “Oh, no, you don’t!  You put me in here publicly and you’re going to let me out publicly.  Go get the mayor, the city council and Ted Koppel.  Then let me out!”  He was meek.  But he was anything but weak.

Jesus:  Meek, But Not Weak

Or consider Christ Jesus our Lord, who said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: Matthew 11:29.

See the Son of God as He invades the temple with a whip of cords, His eyes blazing with righteous indignation, crying, “It is written, ’…My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’” Matthew 21:13.

Hear Him rebuke the Pharisees:  “You snakes!  You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matthew 23:33

Watch as Roman guards slap His face and Mock Him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Matthew 27:29.  He does not revile them in return, but bears insult with dignity.

Listen to the cat o’ nine tails slash through the air, ripping His back to shreds.  Look to Calvary, where He willingly lets His hands and feet be nailed to the cursed cross.

See Him now, seated at the right hand of God the Father, the ultimate position of power in all the cosmos.  When He returns to the earth, He will rule the nations with a rod of iron.  He is meek.  But He is anything but weak.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Isaiah 47:13-14

You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, And the monthly prognosticators Stand up and save you from what shall come upon you.  Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; They shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; It shall not be a coal to be warmed by, Nor a fire to sit before!
  
Scripture mentions six forms of demonic practice!

1.      Horoscopes.  Seeking direction for your life from any other source than God is idolatry and behind every physical idol is a demon spirit.  Isaiah clearly stated God’s position on horoscopes Isaiah 47:13-14.
2.      Divination.  Briefly defined, divination is the employment of supernatural revelation to predict your future.  Any revelation of the future that does not glorify Christ and is not uplifting is the spirit of divination.
3.      Necromancy.  This term is from “nekros” meaning a dead body and “manteia” meaning divination.  Necromancy is the consulting of the dead for direction in life.  Saul did this in 1 Samuel 28:8 and God took the throne of Israel form him and he committed suicide the next day.  Some charismatic writers are openly talking about consulting the dead for inspiration to write books, etc.  It’s a dangerous thing and a heinous sin. 2 Chronicles 33:6.
4.      Magic.  The magicians of Egypt had supernatural powers through magic.  When Moses came before Pharaoh and threw his staff down and it become a snake, then the magicians of Pharaoh’s court, Jannes and Jambres, threw their staffs down and their staffs also became snakes.  The superior power of God’s Kingdom was evidenced by the fact that Moses’ snake consumed the snakes of the magicians.

The last hurdle the Children of Israel had to clear before they were delivered from Egypt’s bondage was the occult.  The last hurdle the church will have to clear is the battle with the occult.

It is to be understood that magic is far more than slight of hand.  Magic in the Biblical dimension involves the supernatural power of the occult.

5.      Witchcraft.  This is the use of supernatural power to place curses or spells on other people.  Any person who seeks to control another person beyond the dimension of spiritual authority God has permitted in Scripture is practicing witchcraft.

A mother or father trying to control their thirty year old married son or daughter is practicing witchcraft.  The spiritual leader who tries to manipulate people for his won purposes is practicing witchcraft.

6.      Sorcery.  This is the use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits.  Sorcery is distinguished from witchcraft in that it may be practiced by anyone with the appropriate knowledge, using charms, spells or potions.  Witchcraft is considered to result from an inherent mystical power and to be practiced by invisible means.

In Acts 19:19 Paul had the Jews and Greeks of Ephesus burn their books “which used curious arts sorcery formulas.” 

 

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart:  for they shall see God.

When we mourn over our sin, our hearts are purified!

Imagine that the beatitudes have been grouped in stacks of four. The first through the fourth on one side, the fifth through the eighth on the other. Notice how the first principle, “Happy are the poor in spirit,” relates to the fifth, “Happy are the merciful.” When our stubborn, rebellious spirits have been broken, we are then able to be merciful.
Also notice how the second principle, “Happy are those who mourn,” relates to the sixth, “Happy are the pure in heart.” Purity of heart comes from having faced up to the reality of who we really are inside. It comes from having looked into the mirror of our souls, seen the unspeakable and mourned over our moral and spiritual imperfection, permitting the master potter to create a new heart within us.

Living in the Now

Being a Christian doesn’t mean living an unnatural life. It doesn’t mean escaping from reality. Rather it means living in the now, knowing who we are and to whom we belong. It means living with a clear definition of our problems, knowing that with God’s help we can face the impossible and stand in the winner’s circle. It means sailing through the stormy seas of life smiling in triumph, transforming adversity into opportunity.

By the same token, having a pure heart doesn’t mean we’ll be free from conflict or live a life without controversy. It won’t spare us from the harsh realities of life.

Just think about Jesus. He had a pure heart, and He lived in a controversy every minute from Bethlehem’s manger to resurrection morning. He was born part of a despised minority. The legitimacy of His birth was questioned. He was called a drunkard, a heretic and a demonized madman by religious leaders. The state had Him put to death as an insurrectionist.
No, a pure heart won’t get us out of conflict and controversy. It may well be the very thing that gets us into it.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

 

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it.

The heart is the womb of deception!

Fear and courage, love and lust, joy and jealousy, hatred and happiness, all make their habitation in the heart.

“From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly,” says Jesus Mark 7:21-22.
Why we do the things we do is a mystery that the finest minds cannot explain. There are halos and horns in human nature. We have been created just “a little lower than the angels” Psalm 8:5, but at times our thoughts and conduct are downright devilish. Locked within the heart is the divine spark to achieve the sublime. But often we do the ridiculous.

A Divine Gift

If we are to be happy in an unhappy world, Jesus teaches, we must have a pure heart. This doesn’t mean we are to attain to sinless perfection, a spiritual state in which it would be impossible for us ever to sin again. Nor does it mean we must live in a monastery, looking pious and mouthing religious slogans.
A pure heart comes from God. “ I will give you a new heart,” the Lord says, “and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” Ezek. 36:26.
We can’t gain a pure heart by our own efforts. Our generation has been told to think positively. There is certainly much value in having a positive mental attitude. But there is also a great deception if we tell ourselves, My thoughts are positive therefore my heart is pure.
Our hearts can’t be made right with God through any mental process. A pure heart is the result of a divine miracle made possible by the will of God through the death of Christ on the cross. It happens when we are born “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1:13.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

The price of mercy is mercy!

The story is told of a boy raised in a privileged environment by loving parents.  He broke the law and was sent to the penitentiary for ten years.  During all that time he was too ashamed of what he had done and of the heartache he had brought to his parents even to write to them.  They wrote to him many times.  But each time he refused their letters.  He refused to believe they could ever forgive him, or ever want him to be their son again.

When his sentence was up, he finally sat down, worked up all his courage and wrote them a letter.  “I’ll be getting out next week,’ he wrote.  “I want to come home, but I don’t know if I’m forgiven.  If you want me back, tie a yellow ribbon in the oak tree beside the railroad tracks.  If I see a ribbon in the tree as the train passes our farm, I’ll know it’s OK to come home.  If not, I won’t even get off the train, and you’ll never hear from me again.”

“I’m Going Home!”

The day finally came.  All the way home he sat nervously on the train, his apprehension mounting by the mile.  Would he be welcomed back or turned away forever?

The train rounded the bend and started up the grade that led past the family farm.  The anxiety was unbearable. He asked the man sitting across from him, “Will you please look out the window and tell me if you see a ribbon in the oak tree beside the tracks?”

The man turned and looked out the window.  “Son,” he said, “there’s not one ribbon in that oak tree.  There are dozens of them!  Hanging from every branch and every limb!  There are ribbons on the barbed wire fence, on the rose bushes near the house—there are yellow ribbons from one side of that farm to the other!  What does it mean?”

“It means", the young man shouted as he jumped from the train, “that I’m forgiven!  And I’m going home!”

Happy are those who demonstrate kindness in action.  Happy are those whose self-centered lives have been crushed and reshaped by the Master’s hand to be full of mercy.  Happy are those who restore the fallen. Happy are those whose pity is greater than their prejudice.  Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.


Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Philippians 2:3

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

The measure of a men’s greatness is not the number of servants he has, but the number of people he serves!

George Mueller was walking past an orphanage in London when he saw, sticking through a picket fence, the dirty hand of a ragged little girl.  At that time orphans, lunatics and criminals were all thrown into one massive compound of human suffering.

That dirty little hand, pleading wordlessly through the fence, would not leave Mueller’s mind.  His heart was stirred to action as the Holy Spirit directed him to do all he could to show mercy toward the pitiful orphans of England.

A Divine Assignment

He discussed the matter with his wife, and they decided to open the doors of their home in a living demonstration of mercy.  Their faith pledge to each other was “the day the Lord stops providing the food and finances for these children, we stop.”

They promptly filled their home with orphans.  Without support from a single local church or government agency, they determined to give their all in this divine assignment.  They sold the beautiful silver service and heirloom china they had received as wedding gifts.  They stripped themselves of their wealth in absolute determination to provide for these unwanted children.

Daily Miracles

God supernaturally supplied the needs of the Muellers on a day to day basis with miracle after miracle.  When there was no food, Mueller would have the children fold their hands and give thanks for food that wasn’t there.  Before the prayer was ended, food would arrive from a merchant or businessman whom God had moved to provide for the children.

George Mueller filled his own house with orphans, then the house next door, and the next house, and the next, until the neighbors protested that the children were taking over the neighborhood.  Mueller asked God for an answer.  The next day he saw a beautiful piece of property.  “The orphanage will be built there,” he said.  He was told the property belonged to the government and was absolutely unavailable.  Six weeks later George Mueller owned the property and began building the most spectacular orphanage England had ever seen.

At age seventy-three, when most men are concerned with personal comfort and retirement, George Mueller was still housing, feeding, clothing and educating 2,500 orphans without one dime of support from church or state.

Mercy is Manifested in Serving

History proves that the only great men among us are those who serve.

The apostle Paul was a servant to God and man.  Nero was a rich, powerful, self-centered monarch who ruled Rome.  We name our sons Paul.  We name our dogs Nero!

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 82:3

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Meeting a need—Part One

Mercy requires that we learn to love others, to value their welfare more than our own!

One Christmas, a gracious lady at Cornerstone Church approached my wife, Diana, and told her she had a new ten speed bicycle she wasn’t using and she wanted to give it to someone who needed it.  Diana thanked her, shook her hand and started to walk away.  She hadn’t taken three steps when she was stopped by a physician who had brought a twelve year old boy to church for the very first time.

Diana didn’t know that the boy was the sole support of his mother and sisters.  He had come to church that day to ask God to help him better provide for them.  Specifically, he needed—you guessed it—a bicycle so he could get a paper route to help feed his family.

On Christmas Eve, our church’s custom is to take baskets filled with fruit, vegetables, turkeys and candies to families that otherwise wouldn’t have them.  That very day the little boy’s mother had been going from place to place looking for food to feed her children for Christmas.  When the baskets from the church arrived, she burst into tears.

Dancing For Joy

While the family danced for joy in the middle of the room, our church representative said, “We have something else for you, too.  They all ran outside to see the new ten speed bicycle tied to the roof of the car.  That little boy threw his arms around his mother, crying, “See, Mama?  I told you Jesus would answer my prayers!  And He did!”

Do you know what happiness is?  It’s watching a family dance for joy at having food to eat on Christmas Day.  It’s watching a twelve year old boy hug a bicycle with tears of thankfulness in his eyes.

Happy are the merciful.  Happy are those who dare to show kindness in a cold, jaded world.  Happy are those moved by compassion to action.  These are the people who shall obtain mercy from the God of all mercy.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Part One—

Being broken in spirit, we become mournful over the sinful conduct of our life, which leads to meekness, which then produces a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Mercy is the first external evidence the world can observe to verify that God is at work on the inside.

A Merciful Church

If Satan can remove mercy from the conduct of Christians, the church will die. If we become so busy with buildings, budgets and baptisms that we lose compassion for the suffering stream of humanity that flows through our doors, we may as well close our doors.
If there is no mercy in the house of God, then the glory of the Lord is departed…there is no peace, no joy, no love. Without mercy the church is a tree with no fruit. It’s a well without water. It’s a cloud without rain. Without mercy, the church becomes nothing more than a religious country club. The building should be burned to the ground before the congregation gets sued for false advertising!
The Greek word for merciful is eleémón, which means “to be beneficial.” It’s God’s will that every church be beneficial to those who walk through its doors. Those attending should go home in a better condition than the one in which they came, from having been in the presence of God’s mercy.
The church is a healing force in a hurting world. It’s a hospital for the battered and broken. It’s a fortress of faith in a world of doubt and skepticism. It’s a house of comfort where hope is reborn. It’s a place of worship where God is revered, where His Word is proclaimed and where His Son, Jesus, is Lord.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

John 5:30

I can of Myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

The secret of happiness lies not in doing what we want to do but in doing what we ought to do!

Happiness never comes to the person who dodges responsibility.  Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Happiness is the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”  There is nothing in the world that helps a man overcome his difficulties, survive his disasters, and stay healthy and happy like the joy of a life’s task worthy of his full dedication.

Righteous responsibility is a mark of spiritual maturity.  We don’t serve the Lord by feeling or emotion, but by duty and devotion.  There is no happiness without righteous responsibility.

Producing or Consuming?

Responsibility comes by degrees with advancing maturity.  In the natural realm, maturity can be measured by whether we are producing more than we consume.  When children are small, all they know how to do is consume.  As they mature they begin to become responsible and productive through simple tasks like carrying out the trash and cleaning up their rooms.

Then comes the day when you say something radical like, “It’s time for you to get a job!”  They look at you, pained and puzzled, and say something profound like, “Me?  Go to work?  Get serious!”

After they recover from the shock, they get a job that covers some of their consumption.  Eventually they will be able to pay their own way.  And by the grace of God, someday they’ll be able to support not only themselves but also a wife and children.

Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual maturity works much the same way.  We must grow to a point where we produce more than we consume.  The church is flooded with spiritually immature creatures who come to church, take in the delicious Word of God, absorb the beautiful music, enjoy the delightful fellowship—and then go swiftly out the door to do absolutely nothing.  They don’t witness to the lost.  They don’t pray.  They don’t give.  They could sing in the choir, but they won’t.  They could serve, but they won’t.

When we’re in this condition, we don’t rise to our righteous responsibility.  The time has come, after years of consuming, to start being productive for the kingdom.  It’s time to put our hands to the plow, to become fruitful servants in the Lord’s vineyard.  Life is God’s gift to us.  What we do with it is our gift to Him.  What are we doing with our lives?  Are we growing toward maturity by being productive?  Or are we stalled in a consumer mode?

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.

Only when we are consumed with desperate longing for righteousness will we be happy!

A young man asked his pastor how to be happy.  The pastor said, “Come with me.  I’ll show you how to find happiness.”  They walked to the river, where the young man assumed he would probably get baptized.

When they were chest deep in the river, the pastor suddenly grabbed the young man’s head and forced under the water.  The young man thrashed about violently, convinced he was going to drown.  At last he managed to get his head above water and gasp for air.

The pastor looked him in the eye and said, “Young man, when you hunger and thirst after righteousness as desperately as you craved air just now—then happiness will be yours.”

It is a biological fact that every living thing hungers and thirsts.  I have five healthy children who are the joy of my life.  When I brought them home from the hospital, they came through the door hungry and thirsty.  Any of them would—and at one time or another all of them did—wake me up without hesitation at all hours of the night to demand food.  They didn’t care that I’d just gone to bed after an emergency pastoral call.  They didn’t care that they’d singlehandedly destroyed my sleep five nights in a row.  They just knew they were hungry and they wanted food now.

To tell you the truth, those midnight cries were music to my ears.  It meant the kids were healthy and growing.  I knew as I stumbled down the dark hallway with another bottle that those cries were evidence of vibrant life.

Only the dead and the dying are without appetite.  They want no food.  They crave no water.  When we feel bad and go to the doctor, the first question he asks us is, “How’s your appetite?”  Loss of appetite is nature’s way of telling us we’re sick.

Jesus was asking His audience by the Sea of Galilee—And our hedonistic generation as well—“How’s your appetite for right living?” 
 
Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 23:27

Saintly or Snaky— Part One

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Do you do what is right only because you know others are watching or do you long and thirst for righteousness?

The Japanese have a saying that a snake lies straight as long as it’s kept inside a bamboo stick.  When released, it starts wiggling and acting “snaky” again.

Many people have what I call restrained righteousness.  As long as they are forced by external restraints to be, as they ought to be, they appear to be righteous.  But when the exterior restraints are removed, their genuine character is revealed.  They start acting snaky again.

Physical force is an obvious form of external restraint.  When I was a child, my conduct was kept “as it ought to be” by my father’s leather strap.  It didn’t make me hunger and thirst after righteousness, but it sure made me desire not to get caught.  When I was away from the house, I started acting snaky again.

Legalism is an external restraint.  Legalism is a manmade religious system structured around rules and regulations and enforced by peer pressure.  But following manmade rules and regulations doesn’t constitute the righteousness of God.  “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” Isaiah 64:6.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

 

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Happiness is inward. It’s living life from the inside out!  Part One

Happiness begins by allowing the Architect of the ages to place our life on His potter’s wheel to mold and make us according to His design. 

In the beginning, the hand of God scooped up a handful of clay, molded it, breathed life into it, and man became a living soul.  Today, when we come to Him battered, blemished and broken, He places our clay frame upon His wheel, breaks us, remakes us an releases us as a vessel of perfection, beauty and honor.  The next time you look in the mirror, tell yourself confidently, “God doesn’t manufacture junk, and He doesn’t sponsor flops.  I’m an original expression of God’s creative genius.”

We’ve already seen that happiness requires that we be broken in spirit, which leads to mourning for wrongdoing and then to the quality of meekness.  Now we are ready for the final inward condition for happiness:  what Jesus calls hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Right Living

In the sixteenth century, when the majestic King James version of the Bible was being put together, righteousness meant “right wise,” or “as it ought to be.”  We can think of it simply as “right living.”

Righteousness is right living according to God’s standard of holiness.  “Be holy,” says the Lord, “because I am holy” 1 Peter 1:6.  Our standards of right living are not to be chosen by the herd instinct of our humanistic society.  Humanism has defiled man and demoted God to a cosmic bellhop responding to our patronizing tips.  Humanistic society states, “I am the captain of my soul and the master of my fate.”  But God has published His standard of righteousness in the Word of God, the Bible. 
Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

James 3:2-3

For we all stumble in many things.  If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.

Meekness enables us to be led by the Spirit of God!

James writes of the alternative when he writes of the necessity of putting bits in the mouths of horses to force them to obey us.

I once owned a semi-broken quarter horse named Bucky.  I didn’t ride Bucky often, and when I did there was ongoing conflict as to who was really in charge. 

One fine spring day I saddled Bucky for one of our infrequent jaunts around the farm.  As soon as my backside touched the saddle, I had the violent sensation of being launched from Cape Canaveral—minus countdown and rocket!

I hit the ground like a sack of salt.  I could almost see that horse laugh at me.  I gave Bucky a good cuff behind the ears and delivered part one of my three-part series on submission to authority.

The Spanish Bit

An experienced cowboy who witnessed the scene told me, “Preacher, you’ve got the wrong kind of bit in that horse’s mouth.  You need a Spanish bit.”

“What good will that do?”  I asked, rubbing my sore hindquarters.

“If he doesn’t obey right away when you tug on the reins, it will cut his mouth to the quick.  It’s a bit harsh, but it won’t do any lasting damage.  And he’ll learn to obey right quick.”

Needless to say, I wasted little time getting one of those marvelous Spanish bits for my stubborn horse.  It worked like a charm.  Bucky instantly obeyed my every command.

As I dismounted I could almost hear the Lord say, “Many of My children are so stubborn they force me to put bits into their mouths that cut them to the quick.  If they would just be meek and let Me guide them by the voice of My Spirit, how happy they would be!”  But so often we refuse meekness, demand our won way and forfeit the happiness God has in mind for us.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

John 1:5

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Agnostics cannot understand Christ, for the same reason a thief find a policeman—they don’t want to.

There is a better translation of John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  The point is that all the darkness in hell cannot put out the light of Jesus Christ.

When He was born, the light of the star guided the wise men.  When He was dedicated, Simeon prophesied that He would be a light to the Gentiles.  

When He spoke, the light of His word terrified the religious world.   When you really turn on the light of God’s word, the people in your church who will run the quickest are the religious people, not the saved and sanctified.

When He prayed, the devil and his demons trembled in the glow of His presence.  When He rose from the grave there was an explosion of light that knocked the Roman guards to the ground.

When He returns to earth, the entire world shall see Him as lightning shining from east to west.  That’s a wonderful prophecy found in Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Do you know how weather forecasters can tell when a thunderstorm is going to end?  When the lightning flashes from the east to the west.  That’s how Jesus will return to the earth, like lightning bolts flashing to indicate the end of the storm.

When He sits on his throne in the New Jerusalem there will be no need for the sun or the moon, “for…the Lamb is the light thereof” Revelation 21:23.

He died in total darkness, but He will rule in the city where the Lamb is the light.  Hell cannot put out the light, and hell cannot put the church out of business.

A television commentator asked me, “Preacher, are you afraid that the church is going into a post-Christian era?”  I replied, “If it is, it’s the church’s fault, because the light of God has never diminished from the moment Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s manger.”

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.

Meek does not mean weak!

Consider Moses, the Old Testament’s champion of meekness. 

The Bible says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” Numbers 12:3.

He was meek.  But was he weak?  See him slay the Egyptian who is beating his Hebrew brother unjustly.  See him flee to the desert and amass a fortune over forty years.  See him face mighty Pharaoh and demand, “Let my people go!”  See him lead a horde of escaped slaves across a desert wasteland for forty years, to a land flowing with milk and honey.

When God becomes angry with Israel—so much so that He is ready to slay them to the last man—see Moses stand in intercession and say, “If you kill them, Lord, kill me too!”  God changes His mind because of Moses.  That’s meekness.  But it’s anything but weakness.

Moses certainly fulfilled what Paul would later write to the New Testament church regarding model meekness:

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” Ephesians 4:1-2.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Colossians 2:13

He forgave us all our sins…

Satan was defeated at the cross!

Satan is determined to keep the world from grasping the fact he and his evil empire have been forever defeated at the Cross of Calvary.  Jesus went to the Cross and stripped Him of all his authority and gave it to the believers.

Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.”  Why does he accuse us?  What is his motive?  It can be stated in one phrase:  To make us feel guilty.  As long as Satan can make you feel guilty over the past, you can’t defeat him.  Guilt is the key to your defeat and the blood of the Cross is the key to our victory.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul wrote, “God made Him who had no sin Jesus to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That’s the exchange.  God took my sins and gave me the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  NEVER allow Satan to drag up your past sins.  They have been forgiven and forgotten.  They have been buried in the deepest sea never to be remembered any more.  When God sees you, all he can see is the righteousness of His perfect Son.  It’s not possible for Him to see your sin.  One thing God can’t do…He can’t remember your sin once it is forgiven by Jesus Christ.

 

Isaiah 47:13-14

You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, And the monthly prognosticators Stand up and save you from what shall come upon you.  Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; They shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; It shall not be a coal to be warmed by, Nor a fire to sit before!
  
Scripture mentions six forms of demonic practice!

1.      Horoscopes.  Seeking direction for your life from any other source than God is idolatry and behind every physical idol is a demon spirit.  Isaiah clearly stated God’s position on horoscopes Isaiah 47:13-14.
2.      Divination.  Briefly defined, divination is the employment of supernatural revelation to predict your future.  Any revelation of the future that does not glorify Christ and is not uplifting is the spirit of divination.
3.      Necromancy.  This term is from “nekros” meaning a dead body and “manteia” meaning divination.  Necromancy is the consulting of the dead for direction in life.  Saul did this in 1 Samuel 28:8 and God took the throne of Israel form him and he committed suicide the next day.  Some charismatic writers are openly talking about consulting the dead for inspiration to write books, etc.  It’s a dangerous thing and a heinous sin. 2 Chronicles 33:6.
4.      Magic.  The magicians of Egypt had supernatural powers through magic.  When Moses came before Pharaoh and threw his staff down and it become a snake, then the magicians of Pharaoh’s court, Jannes and Jambres, threw their staffs down and their staffs also became snakes.  The superior power of God’s Kingdom was evidenced by the fact that Moses’ snake consumed the snakes of the magicians.

The last hurdle the Children of Israel had to clear before they were delivered from Egypt’s bondage was the occult.  The last hurdle the church will have to clear is the battle with the occult.

It is to be understood that magic is far more than slight of hand.  Magic in the Biblical dimension involves the supernatural power of the occult.

5.      Witchcraft.  This is the use of supernatural power to place curses or spells on other people.  Any person who seeks to control another person beyond the dimension of spiritual authority God has permitted in Scripture is practicing witchcraft.

A mother or father trying to control their thirty year old married son or daughter is practicing witchcraft.  The spiritual leader who tries to manipulate people for his won purposes is practicing witchcraft.

6.      Sorcery.  This is the use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits.  Sorcery is distinguished from witchcraft in that it may be practiced by anyone with the appropriate knowledge, using charms, spells or potions.  Witchcraft is considered to result from an inherent mystical power and to be practiced by invisible means.

In Acts 19:19 Paul had the Jews and Greeks of Ephesus burn their books “which used curious arts sorcery formulas.” 

 

Revelation 21:27

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

From time to time God, the master sculptor, places us in the heat of trial and adversity, where our contents can be tested.

We can understand purity of heart in two senses.  The first meaning is to be without hypocrisy, or to be sincere.  The word “sincere” comes from two Latin words.  Sin means “without” and cere means “wax.”

The term refers to stone statues.  The one thing that could make a statue worthless was a crack in the stone.  In an effort to deceive a prospective buyer, a seller might mix rock dust with wax and rub the mixture into a crack on a statue.  In dim inside light, the wax made the statue appear flawless.  But outside, the sun’s heat would melt the wax and expose the fraud.  Thus for a statue to be “without wax” meant that it was authentic, genuine, just as it appeared to be.

If we have become cosmetic Christians whose faults and defects are hidden by the wax of phony religiosity, we will be exposed as frauds.  We can’t pretend to be pure and get away with it.

Without Defilement

The second meaning of being pure in heart is to be cleansed, or without defilement.  Only the pure will be permitted to enter heaven.  Nothing unclean is going to enter heaven.  And God is the one who determines what it means to be clean.

But aren’t we Christians already pure by the blood of Jesus which was shed upon the cross?  Yes, but we must choose to remain pure.  The Bible says, “Everyone who has this hope in him to be made like Jesus, to spend eternity with Him in heaven purifies himself, just as He Jesus is pure” 1 John 3:3.

In another place it says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubleminded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom do you see the connections here between mourning over wrongdoing and purity of heart?.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” James 4:9-10.

Who takes the next step?  We do.  It’s not God’s job to chase us down.  It’s up to us to call upon Him.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart:  for they shall see God.

When we mourn over our sin, our hearts are purified!

Imagine that the beatitudes have been grouped in stacks of four. The first through the fourth on one side, the fifth through the eighth on the other. Notice how the first principle, “Happy are the poor in spirit,” relates to the fifth, “Happy are the merciful.” When our stubborn, rebellious spirits have been broken, we are then able to be merciful.
Also notice how the second principle, “Happy are those who mourn,” relates to the sixth, “Happy are the pure in heart.” Purity of heart comes from having faced up to the reality of who we really are inside. It comes from having looked into the mirror of our souls, seen the unspeakable and mourned over our moral and spiritual imperfection, permitting the master potter to create a new heart within us.

Living in the Now

Being a Christian doesn’t mean living an unnatural life. It doesn’t mean escaping from reality. Rather it means living in the now, knowing who we are and to whom we belong. It means living with a clear definition of our problems, knowing that with God’s help we can face the impossible and stand in the winner’s circle. It means sailing through the stormy seas of life smiling in triumph, transforming adversity into opportunity.

By the same token, having a pure heart doesn’t mean we’ll be free from conflict or live a life without controversy. It won’t spare us from the harsh realities of life.

Just think about Jesus. He had a pure heart, and He lived in a controversy every minute from Bethlehem’s manger to resurrection morning. He was born part of a despised minority. The legitimacy of His birth was questioned. He was called a drunkard, a heretic and a demonized madman by religious leaders. The state had Him put to death as an insurrectionist.
No, a pure heart won’t get us out of conflict and controversy. It may well be the very thing that gets us into it.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

 

1 John 4:20

For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

Our relationship to other people is as vital to our happiness as is our relationship to man.

We all want what comes from having a pure heart: happiness. But how many of us are willing to go through the painful process of change that makes it possible to be happy in an unhappy world? We must marvel at the genius of Jesus’ principles of happiness. Here are precise steps with predictable results guaranteed by God to produce genuine, lasting happiness.

Being poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, and hunger for righteousness deal with man’s relationship with God; mercy, purity, peacemaking and persecution deal with man’s relationship to man.

The message? Happiness has a horizontal dimension as well as a vertical dimension. We can’t say, I love God, and not love other people. It doesn’t work.

This is quite a challenge. After all, God is easy to love; He’s perfect in every way. But the jerk next door, or the boss down the hall, or the secretary across the aisle they’re a different story!

In January we make a New Year’s resolution: “I will be more understanding of others.” In March we scratch that out and write, “I will try to be more patient when dealing with the incompetent people that surround me.” By June we scratch that out and settle for “I will not slap anyone in the face first thing in the morning.”

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it.

The heart is the womb of deception!

Fear and courage, love and lust, joy and jealousy, hatred and happiness, all make their habitation in the heart.

“From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly,” says Jesus Mark 7:21-22.
Why we do the things we do is a mystery that the finest minds cannot explain. There are halos and horns in human nature. We have been created just “a little lower than the angels” Psalm 8:5, but at times our thoughts and conduct are downright devilish. Locked within the heart is the divine spark to achieve the sublime. But often we do the ridiculous.

A Divine Gift

If we are to be happy in an unhappy world, Jesus teaches, we must have a pure heart. This doesn’t mean we are to attain to sinless perfection, a spiritual state in which it would be impossible for us ever to sin again. Nor does it mean we must live in a monastery, looking pious and mouthing religious slogans.
A pure heart comes from God. “ I will give you a new heart,” the Lord says, “and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” Ezek. 36:26.
We can’t gain a pure heart by our own efforts. Our generation has been told to think positively. There is certainly much value in having a positive mental attitude. But there is also a great deception if we tell ourselves, My thoughts are positive therefore my heart is pure.
Our hearts can’t be made right with God through any mental process. A pure heart is the result of a divine miracle made possible by the will of God through the death of Christ on the cross. It happens when we are born “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1:13.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Acts 5:3

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost…

Believers can be affected by evil spirits!

There is only one case of demon possession in the Bible, which was the demoniac of Gadera in Luke 8.  However, there are several illustrations where believers were affected, in some area of their lives, at some moment in time by an evil spirit:

1.      Ananias lied to his pastor, the Apostle Peter, about his contributions to the church.  Peter asked him “why Satan” was allowed to put that lie in his heart.  God killed Ananias on the spot for this and great fear came upon all them that heard these things.

2.      Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, “Get thou behind me Satan; thou art an offense to me…”  Why were these harsh words used?  Jesus was telling the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and be killed.  Peter openly rebuked Jesus saying it was not necessary for Him to die.  Jesus knew that “from the foundations of the world.”  He was to die for the sins of men.  Had Jesus taken Peter’s advice, the will of God would have been sabotaged and mankind would have been forever enslaved by Satan’s kingdom without any hope of deliverance.  Jesus knew the words coming out of Peter’s mouth were the absolute will of Satan…not God, the Father.  Therefore, Jesus addressed Peter as though he were Satan himself because he was allowing his mouth to carry the message of hell.

3.      Jesus addressed the woman who had lived for eighteen years with a bent back, “And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath.  Luke 13:16

 

Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

The price of mercy is mercy!

The story is told of a boy raised in a privileged environment by loving parents.  He broke the law and was sent to the penitentiary for ten years.  During all that time he was too ashamed of what he had done and of the heartache he had brought to his parents even to write to them.  They wrote to him many times.  But each time he refused their letters.  He refused to believe they could ever forgive him, or ever want him to be their son again.

When his sentence was up, he finally sat down, worked up all his courage and wrote them a letter.  “I’ll be getting out next week,’ he wrote.  “I want to come home, but I don’t know if I’m forgiven.  If you want me back, tie a yellow ribbon in the oak tree beside the railroad tracks.  If I see a ribbon in the tree as the train passes our farm, I’ll know it’s OK to come home.  If not, I won’t even get off the train, and you’ll never hear from me again.”

“I’m Going Home!”

The day finally came.  All the way home he sat nervously on the train, his apprehension mounting by the mile.  Would he be welcomed back or turned away forever?

The train rounded the bend and started up the grade that led past the family farm.  The anxiety was unbearable. He asked the man sitting across from him, “Will you please look out the window and tell me if you see a ribbon in the oak tree beside the tracks?”

The man turned and looked out the window.  “Son,” he said, “there’s not one ribbon in that oak tree.  There are dozens of them!  Hanging from every branch and every limb!  There are ribbons on the barbed wire fence, on the rose bushes near the house—there are yellow ribbons from one side of that farm to the other!  What does it mean?”

“It means", the young man shouted as he jumped from the train, “that I’m forgiven!  And I’m going home!”

Happy are those who demonstrate kindness in action.  Happy are those whose self-centered lives have been crushed and reshaped by the Master’s hand to be full of mercy.  Happy are those who restore the fallen. Happy are those whose pity is greater than their prejudice.  Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.


Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Galatians 6:1

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.

Part One
Mercy searches for a way to restore a fallen friend.

The calloused heart will sneer, “He got what he deserved!”  The heart that has been crushed on the potter’s wheel asks, “What can I do to help?  One hug can make the difference between a heart that breaks, and a heart that heals.

When Paul first wrote to the believers at Corinth, he rebuked them for sexual misconduct, mismanagement of church funds and getting drunk at communion.  You don’t need a seminary degree to know those are some pretty serious sins.  But in his second letter, Paul writes, “I have great confidence in you" 2 Corinthians 7:40.  Think of it!  Paul puts his fatherly arms around those champion sinners, with an encouraging word for their reformation and restoration.

Mercy is Greater Than Sympathy

Sympathy is an emotion.  It’s often accompanied by tears.  There are those who weep so easily their tears are meaningless.  It’s all right to weep, of course, but genuine mercy requires a willingness to act.

Jesus wept.  But He did far more.  He acted.  He went to the cross and died to save those for whom He wept.

If your brother has genuine need of twenty dollars, and you have forty dollars in your pocket, don’t just “pray about it”—give him twenty bucks.  If you see a sister whose dress is threadbare, don’t just utter a sympathetic comment in her direction—give her one of your dresses.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

 

Philippians 2:3

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

The measure of a men’s greatness is not the number of servants he has, but the number of people he serves!

George Mueller was walking past an orphanage in London when he saw, sticking through a picket fence, the dirty hand of a ragged little girl.  At that time orphans, lunatics and criminals were all thrown into one massive compound of human suffering.

That dirty little hand, pleading wordlessly through the fence, would not leave Mueller’s mind.  His heart was stirred to action as the Holy Spirit directed him to do all he could to show mercy toward the pitiful orphans of England.

A Divine Assignment

He discussed the matter with his wife, and they decided to open the doors of their home in a living demonstration of mercy.  Their faith pledge to each other was “the day the Lord stops providing the food and finances for these children, we stop.”

They promptly filled their home with orphans.  Without support from a single local church or government agency, they determined to give their all in this divine assignment.  They sold the beautiful silver service and heirloom china they had received as wedding gifts.  They stripped themselves of their wealth in absolute determination to provide for these unwanted children.

Daily Miracles

God supernaturally supplied the needs of the Muellers on a day to day basis with miracle after miracle.  When there was no food, Mueller would have the children fold their hands and give thanks for food that wasn’t there.  Before the prayer was ended, food would arrive from a merchant or businessman whom God had moved to provide for the children.

George Mueller filled his own house with orphans, then the house next door, and the next house, and the next, until the neighbors protested that the children were taking over the neighborhood.  Mueller asked God for an answer.  The next day he saw a beautiful piece of property.  “The orphanage will be built there,” he said.  He was told the property belonged to the government and was absolutely unavailable.  Six weeks later George Mueller owned the property and began building the most spectacular orphanage England had ever seen.

At age seventy-three, when most men are concerned with personal comfort and retirement, George Mueller was still housing, feeding, clothing and educating 2,500 orphans without one dime of support from church or state.

Mercy is Manifested in Serving

History proves that the only great men among us are those who serve.

The apostle Paul was a servant to God and man.  Nero was a rich, powerful, self-centered monarch who ruled Rome.  We name our sons Paul.  We name our dogs Nero!

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 82:3

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Meeting a need—Part Two
Mercy requires that we learn to love others, to value their welfare more than our own!

Mercy is Difficult

It’s difficult for us to show mercy because we are inherently lovers of self.  Selfishness short circuits prayer and tarnishes everything it touches.  A man wrapped in himself makes a mighty small package.  A man who is self-centered is off-centered.

Mercy Always Manifests Itself

A man can have money in his pocket and not show it.  He can have the musical skill of Beethoven and not reveal it.  He can have the knowledge of Einstein and not expose it.  But if a man has the loving mercy of the living God in his soul, he can’t help but manifest it.

He can’t hide it.  When he sees a brother in distress, he can no more turn his head and walk away than the sun can refuse to shine at noonday.  It’s impossible.

Giving to the Poor

Today’s scripture says, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.”

Why?  “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” Proverbs 21:13.

Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” Matthew 5:42.  And later He said, “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” Luke 6:38.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 82:3

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Meeting a need—Part One

Mercy requires that we learn to love others, to value their welfare more than our own!

One Christmas, a gracious lady at Cornerstone Church approached my wife, Diana, and told her she had a new ten speed bicycle she wasn’t using and she wanted to give it to someone who needed it.  Diana thanked her, shook her hand and started to walk away.  She hadn’t taken three steps when she was stopped by a physician who had brought a twelve year old boy to church for the very first time.

Diana didn’t know that the boy was the sole support of his mother and sisters.  He had come to church that day to ask God to help him better provide for them.  Specifically, he needed—you guessed it—a bicycle so he could get a paper route to help feed his family.

On Christmas Eve, our church’s custom is to take baskets filled with fruit, vegetables, turkeys and candies to families that otherwise wouldn’t have them.  That very day the little boy’s mother had been going from place to place looking for food to feed her children for Christmas.  When the baskets from the church arrived, she burst into tears.

Dancing For Joy

While the family danced for joy in the middle of the room, our church representative said, “We have something else for you, too.  They all ran outside to see the new ten speed bicycle tied to the roof of the car.  That little boy threw his arms around his mother, crying, “See, Mama?  I told you Jesus would answer my prayers!  And He did!”

Do you know what happiness is?  It’s watching a family dance for joy at having food to eat on Christmas Day.  It’s watching a twelve year old boy hug a bicycle with tears of thankfulness in his eyes.

Happy are the merciful.  Happy are those who dare to show kindness in a cold, jaded world.  Happy are those moved by compassion to action.  These are the people who shall obtain mercy from the God of all mercy.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

Part Two—

Of all the principles of happiness that Jesus proclaims, this one is the most appealing, the most important and the most difficult.

It’s appealing because we all crave mercy. This is especially true, for instance, when we’re clocked by radar doing fifty miles per hour in a thirty five mile per hour zone. Before we have the window rolled all the way down we’re pleading for mercy. “Officer, something must be terribly wrong with my speedometer,” we say, “because this is the second one of these I’ve gotten today.”
“Here’s the third,” replies the officer in a monotone. “One more of these and you’ll be riding a bicycle.”
Mercy is very appealing. And the more we recognize how desperately we need it, the more appealing it is.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Part One—

Being broken in spirit, we become mournful over the sinful conduct of our life, which leads to meekness, which then produces a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Mercy is the first external evidence the world can observe to verify that God is at work on the inside.

A Merciful Church

If Satan can remove mercy from the conduct of Christians, the church will die. If we become so busy with buildings, budgets and baptisms that we lose compassion for the suffering stream of humanity that flows through our doors, we may as well close our doors.
If there is no mercy in the house of God, then the glory of the Lord is departed…there is no peace, no joy, no love. Without mercy the church is a tree with no fruit. It’s a well without water. It’s a cloud without rain. Without mercy, the church becomes nothing more than a religious country club. The building should be burned to the ground before the congregation gets sued for false advertising!
The Greek word for merciful is eleémón, which means “to be beneficial.” It’s God’s will that every church be beneficial to those who walk through its doors. Those attending should go home in a better condition than the one in which they came, from having been in the presence of God’s mercy.
The church is a healing force in a hurting world. It’s a hospital for the battered and broken. It’s a fortress of faith in a world of doubt and skepticism. It’s a house of comfort where hope is reborn. It’s a place of worship where God is revered, where His Word is proclaimed and where His Son, Jesus, is Lord.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 107:9

He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things

“Filled” is a fantastic word.  It means: “absolutely satisfied.” 

It means overflowing with God’s good, old fashioned, heart warming happiness.

A twelve year old girl from the slums of Chicago was rushed to the hospital, diagnosed as having double pneumonia. Hospital administrators put her story together and discovered she was scrubbing floors twelve hours a day to support her mother and her four brothers and sisters. In the bitter cold of winter she had developed pneumonia and was terribly underweight from malnutrition.

One day a nurse brought her a glass of milk. The girl looked up and asked, “How much can I have?”
“What do you mean, honey?” asked the nurse.
“The milk. How much can I have?”
“Why, all of it, of course,” replied the nurse. “Why do you ask?”
“Because at my house we draw a line on the glass. You can only drink to the line, and then you have to pass the glass to someone else.”

“Your Soul Will Delight”

The Bible says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” Isaiah 55:1-2. God doesn’t draw a line on the glass.

Are you looking for real happiness? When you hunger and thirst after righteousness as desperately as a drowning man craves air, you’ll find it. It’s not just feeling; it’s living faith. It’s not sensation; it’s salvation. It’s not religion; it’s righteousness through responsibility. Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

John 5:30

I can of Myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

The secret of happiness lies not in doing what we want to do but in doing what we ought to do!

Happiness never comes to the person who dodges responsibility.  Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Happiness is the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”  There is nothing in the world that helps a man overcome his difficulties, survive his disasters, and stay healthy and happy like the joy of a life’s task worthy of his full dedication.

Righteous responsibility is a mark of spiritual maturity.  We don’t serve the Lord by feeling or emotion, but by duty and devotion.  There is no happiness without righteous responsibility.

Producing or Consuming?

Responsibility comes by degrees with advancing maturity.  In the natural realm, maturity can be measured by whether we are producing more than we consume.  When children are small, all they know how to do is consume.  As they mature they begin to become responsible and productive through simple tasks like carrying out the trash and cleaning up their rooms.

Then comes the day when you say something radical like, “It’s time for you to get a job!”  They look at you, pained and puzzled, and say something profound like, “Me?  Go to work?  Get serious!”

After they recover from the shock, they get a job that covers some of their consumption.  Eventually they will be able to pay their own way.  And by the grace of God, someday they’ll be able to support not only themselves but also a wife and children.

Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual maturity works much the same way.  We must grow to a point where we produce more than we consume.  The church is flooded with spiritually immature creatures who come to church, take in the delicious Word of God, absorb the beautiful music, enjoy the delightful fellowship—and then go swiftly out the door to do absolutely nothing.  They don’t witness to the lost.  They don’t pray.  They don’t give.  They could sing in the choir, but they won’t.  They could serve, but they won’t.

When we’re in this condition, we don’t rise to our righteous responsibility.  The time has come, after years of consuming, to start being productive for the kingdom.  It’s time to put our hands to the plow, to become fruitful servants in the Lord’s vineyard.  Life is God’s gift to us.  What we do with it is our gift to Him.  What are we doing with our lives?  Are we growing toward maturity by being productive?  Or are we stalled in a consumer mode?

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 22:26

The meek shall eat and be satisfied:  they shall praise the LORD that seek him:  your heart shall live forever.

We Are What We Eat!

Do you know the expressions, “You are what you eat”?  I don’t know if it’s true in the physical realm, but it’s certainly true in the spiritual realm.  If we eat the wrong spiritual foods, we’re not going to feel well or be happy.  If we take in negative, hateful and loveless thoughts, we’re guaranteed to be miserable.  If we watch television and take in several savage murders salted with hatred, revenge and rebellion, and peppered with greed and lust, we’re surely not going to feel too happy.

Then when we go to church on Sunday morning, we turn up our noses.  The hymns don’t appeal to us.  When we hear the pure Word of God, we’re not interested.  It’s milk for newborn Christians and meat for mature saints, but we push it away.

Why?  Simple!  We can’t eat slop all week and feel like a saint on Sunday morning.  It’s impossible.  God’s standard of righteousness won’t permit it.

Heaven or Hell on Earth?

I read of a man who went to a professional football game one Sunday afternoon.  To his dismay, he found himself on the bus sitting between two men who were on their way home from church.  They were talking about how God answers prayer and discussing the joy and happiness of knowing Christ and enjoying His presence in their homes and marriages.

When the man got off at the stadium, he told his friends, “I got stuck on the bus between two guys talking about God answering prayer and going to heaven and all that stuff.  I was sure in one hell of a fix!

There you have it!  What was heaven for two saints was hell on earth for him.  He had no appetite for it.  He was spiritually sick.

When we lack appetite for spiritual things, which is the basis of happiness, it’s not because we’re too sophisticated or too intellectual to accept God’s standard of righteousness.  It’s because we’re too spiritually anemic to know we’re dying.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.

Only when we are consumed with desperate longing for righteousness will we be happy!

A young man asked his pastor how to be happy.  The pastor said, “Come with me.  I’ll show you how to find happiness.”  They walked to the river, where the young man assumed he would probably get baptized.

When they were chest deep in the river, the pastor suddenly grabbed the young man’s head and forced under the water.  The young man thrashed about violently, convinced he was going to drown.  At last he managed to get his head above water and gasp for air.

The pastor looked him in the eye and said, “Young man, when you hunger and thirst after righteousness as desperately as you craved air just now—then happiness will be yours.”

It is a biological fact that every living thing hungers and thirsts.  I have five healthy children who are the joy of my life.  When I brought them home from the hospital, they came through the door hungry and thirsty.  Any of them would—and at one time or another all of them did—wake me up without hesitation at all hours of the night to demand food.  They didn’t care that I’d just gone to bed after an emergency pastoral call.  They didn’t care that they’d singlehandedly destroyed my sleep five nights in a row.  They just knew they were hungry and they wanted food now.

To tell you the truth, those midnight cries were music to my ears.  It meant the kids were healthy and growing.  I knew as I stumbled down the dark hallway with another bottle that those cries were evidence of vibrant life.

Only the dead and the dying are without appetite.  They want no food.  They crave no water.  When we feel bad and go to the doctor, the first question he asks us is, “How’s your appetite?”  Loss of appetite is nature’s way of telling us we’re sick.

Jesus was asking His audience by the Sea of Galilee—And our hedonistic generation as well—“How’s your appetite for right living?” 
 
Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 23:27

Saintly or Snaky—Part two

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Do you do what is right only because you know others are watching or do you long and thirst for righteousness?

There is the restraint of associations.  When we are hemmed in by a close circle of friends who live righteously, we can hardly do anything but go along with their behavior.  We’re like barrel staves held in place by hoops of steel.  But what are we like when we leave town for two weeks and go to a place where no one knows us?  Do we then start acting snaky?

There is the restraint of tasks.  I have known people to function in the church because they had a titled position.  When they leave the position, they collapse like a house of cards.  They quit the church and start acting snaky.

The true test of our righteousness comes when the restraints are lifted.  Do we act saintly or snaky?  Catalog your own actions and activities.  Would you like them to be published in your hometown newspaper?  What does that tell you about how much you really hunger and thirst after righteousness?

Matthew 23:27

Saintly or Snaky— Part One

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Do you do what is right only because you know others are watching or do you long and thirst for righteousness?

The Japanese have a saying that a snake lies straight as long as it’s kept inside a bamboo stick.  When released, it starts wiggling and acting “snaky” again.

Many people have what I call restrained righteousness.  As long as they are forced by external restraints to be, as they ought to be, they appear to be righteous.  But when the exterior restraints are removed, their genuine character is revealed.  They start acting snaky again.

Physical force is an obvious form of external restraint.  When I was a child, my conduct was kept “as it ought to be” by my father’s leather strap.  It didn’t make me hunger and thirst after righteousness, but it sure made me desire not to get caught.  When I was away from the house, I started acting snaky again.

Legalism is an external restraint.  Legalism is a manmade religious system structured around rules and regulations and enforced by peer pressure.  But following manmade rules and regulations doesn’t constitute the righteousness of God.  “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” Isaiah 64:6.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

 

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Happiness is inward. It’s living life from the inside out!  Part Two

God’s Standards

The United States government has a National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.  It sets standards for weights and measures all over the country.  It guarantees that a pound of bologna weighs sixteen ounces whether you order it in Texas or Florida.  Distance, time and public opinion do not affect the National Bureau of Standards.

The Bible is the ultimate standard of righteousness for all people all over the world.  What is sin in Texas is sin in Florida, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia and everywhere else.  Distance, time and public opinion do not affect God’s standard of righteousness.  “In the gospel,” writes Paul, “ righteousness from God is revealed” Romans 1:17.

The Garments of Righteousness

What attitude should the church take toward a sin-saturated world that protests against God’s standard of righteousness as being “out of step with the times”?  Shall we lower the standard of righteousness so that immoral and godless rogues can sit with comfort in the house of God? 

The truth is, it’s not in our power to lower the standard of righteousness.  God has forever established that standard on earth through the life of Jesus Christ.  Those who profess to lower the standard to appease complacent congregations are hirelings, not shepherds.  They are preaching a false gospel.

Righteousness is not living “just a cut above” the pagan next door.  It’s right living according to the Word of God.  the garments of righteousness never go out of style.  God never alters the robe of righteousness to fit the man.  Rather He alters the man to fit the robe.  God doesn’t have “different strokes for different folks.”  Time, distance or changes in public attitudes do not alter God’s standard of righteousness one iota.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Happiness is inward. It’s living life from the inside out!  Part One

Happiness begins by allowing the Architect of the ages to place our life on His potter’s wheel to mold and make us according to His design. 

In the beginning, the hand of God scooped up a handful of clay, molded it, breathed life into it, and man became a living soul.  Today, when we come to Him battered, blemished and broken, He places our clay frame upon His wheel, breaks us, remakes us an releases us as a vessel of perfection, beauty and honor.  The next time you look in the mirror, tell yourself confidently, “God doesn’t manufacture junk, and He doesn’t sponsor flops.  I’m an original expression of God’s creative genius.”

We’ve already seen that happiness requires that we be broken in spirit, which leads to mourning for wrongdoing and then to the quality of meekness.  Now we are ready for the final inward condition for happiness:  what Jesus calls hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Right Living

In the sixteenth century, when the majestic King James version of the Bible was being put together, righteousness meant “right wise,” or “as it ought to be.”  We can think of it simply as “right living.”

Righteousness is right living according to God’s standard of holiness.  “Be holy,” says the Lord, “because I am holy” 1 Peter 1:6.  Our standards of right living are not to be chosen by the herd instinct of our humanistic society.  Humanism has defiled man and demoted God to a cosmic bellhop responding to our patronizing tips.  Humanistic society states, “I am the captain of my soul and the master of my fate.”  But God has published His standard of righteousness in the Word of God, the Bible. 
Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Psalm 37:11

The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth!

The violent take the earth by force.  But “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm 24:1.  As owner, He can will it to whomever He pleases.  And He has already made out the title deed to Planet Earth to the meek.

There are two meanings to this.  The first is a natural meaning.  Jesus is talking to Jews living under Roman occupation.  He is saying, “You will inherit the land of Israel as promised to Abraham.”  God’s covenant with Abraham was an unconditional and everlasting covenant, established solely on the faithfulness of God. 

Sand and Stars

Abraham is identified in Scripture as “the father of all who believe” Romans 4:11.  Scripture describes his descendants as the “sand on the seashore” and the stars in the sky” Genesis 22:17.  The sand represents Israel and the stars represent the church.

Stars are first mentioned in the very first chapter of Genesis, where they are described as having three functions.  They give light, they rule the night and they divide light from darkness.  So it is with the church.  The church gives light:  “You are the light of the world,” Jesus said Matthew 5:14.  The church rules:  We are given dominion over all things in the name of Jesus.  And the church is the dividing element between light and darkness; we are either for Christ or against Him, either saved or lost.

Sand is earthly; stars are heavenly.  There is an earthly Jerusalem, ruled by the Jewish people, and a New Jerusalem in the heavens, ruled by the church.  Both have their place and function, and neither replaces the other in the economy of God.

So in one sense Jesus was looking through the telescope of prophecy, telling his audience. “The day is coming when I will restore the land of Israel to the Jewish people.”

Jesus’ Return

But there is also a spiritual meaning of “they shall inherit the earth.”  For Jesus Christ is coming to earth again.  He will literally rule this earth for a thousand years.  When He returns, the meek will inherit the earth.

The first time He came, He was a babe in Bethlehem’s manger.  The next time He comes, He will be King of kings and Lord of lords.

The first time He came, He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass.  The next time He comes, He will split the heavens riding a white horse, as a mighty conqueror.

The first time He came, He was dragged before Pilate.  The next time He comes, Pilate will bow down before Him and confess that He is Lord.

The first time He came, He was crucified on the cross.  The next time He comes, He will sit on the throne of His father David and rule the earth with a rod of iron.

Only the meek can inherit the earth.  Our society has planted the seeds of violence and has reaped the whirlwind.  It’s time to plant seeds of meekness and reap a harvest of happiness.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

James 3:2-3

For we all stumble in many things.  If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.

Meekness enables us to be led by the Spirit of God!

James writes of the alternative when he writes of the necessity of putting bits in the mouths of horses to force them to obey us.

I once owned a semi-broken quarter horse named Bucky.  I didn’t ride Bucky often, and when I did there was ongoing conflict as to who was really in charge. 

One fine spring day I saddled Bucky for one of our infrequent jaunts around the farm.  As soon as my backside touched the saddle, I had the violent sensation of being launched from Cape Canaveral—minus countdown and rocket!

I hit the ground like a sack of salt.  I could almost see that horse laugh at me.  I gave Bucky a good cuff behind the ears and delivered part one of my three-part series on submission to authority.

The Spanish Bit

An experienced cowboy who witnessed the scene told me, “Preacher, you’ve got the wrong kind of bit in that horse’s mouth.  You need a Spanish bit.”

“What good will that do?”  I asked, rubbing my sore hindquarters.

“If he doesn’t obey right away when you tug on the reins, it will cut his mouth to the quick.  It’s a bit harsh, but it won’t do any lasting damage.  And he’ll learn to obey right quick.”

Needless to say, I wasted little time getting one of those marvelous Spanish bits for my stubborn horse.  It worked like a charm.  Bucky instantly obeyed my every command.

As I dismounted I could almost hear the Lord say, “Many of My children are so stubborn they force me to put bits into their mouths that cut them to the quick.  If they would just be meek and let Me guide them by the voice of My Spirit, how happy they would be!”  But so often we refuse meekness, demand our won way and forfeit the happiness God has in mind for us.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Proverbs 16:32

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Meekness is mastery of self!

A college president made this statement to a class of graduating seniors:  “It gets easier for man to control his universe, and harder a and harder for him to control himself.”

Can you control yourself?  A woman once said to me, “Pastor, sometimes I lose my temper.  But it’s no big deal.  It’s over in three minutes.”

I said, “So is a tornado!  But it takes days to bury the dead, weeks to assess the damage and years to recover the loss.  Do your family a favor and learn to control yourself!”

Meekness in Marriage

Wife, are you meek toward your husband?  Or do you pride yourself on your ability to manipulate him?  Your husband is the God-ordained leader of your house.  If you cut him to shreds, your marriage will be destroyed and your children will rise up and curse you.  I know he may not be the most dynamic man in the world.  But he’s the one you chose, the one to whom you pledged your love and loyalty.

Husband, are you meek toward your wife?  The Bible doesn’t say, “Husband, change your wife.”  It says, “Husband, love your wife and honor her as the weaker vessel.”  Marriage will not work without meekness from both parties.  It began when Adam took a nap and woke up married.  God didn’t take a bone from Adam’s head, so that the woman might rule over him, nor did He take a bone from his foot, that he might tread on her.  God took a bone from Adam’s side so that the love of his life could walk next to him as an equal partner.

Meekness in the Family and the Church

Parents are you meek toward your children?  The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” Ephesians 6:4.  Do you make unreasonable demands of your children?  Do you try to relive your life through them?  Are your expectations of them within bounds?

Are you meek toward your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Or are you incessantly critical of others?  Do you know that Satan criticizes the saints of God before His throne day and night?  The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brothers” Revelation 12:10.  When you criticize another member of the body of Christ, you are doing the work of Satan himself.  Ask God to crucify your critical spirit and give you a spirit of meekness and quietness.

A missionary in Africa once came upon some boys playing a game of marbles—using real diamonds.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  There in the dust lay a fortune—priceless possessions considered to be of no value whatever; so it is with us and the priceless treasure of meekness.  God says, “It’s a pearl of great price.”  The world says, “Who needs it?”

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

John 1:5

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Agnostics cannot understand Christ, for the same reason a thief find a policeman—they don’t want to.

There is a better translation of John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  The point is that all the darkness in hell cannot put out the light of Jesus Christ.

When He was born, the light of the star guided the wise men.  When He was dedicated, Simeon prophesied that He would be a light to the Gentiles.  

When He spoke, the light of His word terrified the religious world.   When you really turn on the light of God’s word, the people in your church who will run the quickest are the religious people, not the saved and sanctified.

When He prayed, the devil and his demons trembled in the glow of His presence.  When He rose from the grave there was an explosion of light that knocked the Roman guards to the ground.

When He returns to earth, the entire world shall see Him as lightning shining from east to west.  That’s a wonderful prophecy found in Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Do you know how weather forecasters can tell when a thunderstorm is going to end?  When the lightning flashes from the east to the west.  That’s how Jesus will return to the earth, like lightning bolts flashing to indicate the end of the storm.

When He sits on his throne in the New Jerusalem there will be no need for the sun or the moon, “for…the Lamb is the light thereof” Revelation 21:23.

He died in total darkness, but He will rule in the city where the Lamb is the light.  Hell cannot put out the light, and hell cannot put the church out of business.

A television commentator asked me, “Preacher, are you afraid that the church is going into a post-Christian era?”  I replied, “If it is, it’s the church’s fault, because the light of God has never diminished from the moment Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s manger.”

1 Timothy 6:11

But you, O man of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

Paul: A model of Meekness

Paul instructed Timothy to pursue meekness 1 Timothy 6:11.  Timothy was to pursue meekness.  He was not to rest until he had enriched his character with this priceless virtue.

Paul was meek.  But was he weak?  When on the Isle of Malta, he shook a deadly viper from his wrist as men gasped in wonder.  When dragged into court, he glared at his persecutors and said, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” Acts 23:3.  When, in jail, the jailers discovered he was a Roman citizen and tried to release him secretly, Paul said, “Oh, no, you don’t!  You put me in here publicly and you’re going to let me out publicly.  Go get the mayor, the city council and Ted Koppel.  Then let me out!”  He was meek.  But he was anything but weak.

Jesus:  Meek, But Not Weak

Or consider Christ Jesus our Lord, who said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: Matthew 11:29.

See the Son of God as He invades the temple with a whip of cords, His eyes blazing with righteous indignation, crying, “It is written, ’…My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’” Matthew 21:13.

Hear Him rebuke the Pharisees:  “You snakes!  You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matthew 23:33

Watch as Roman guards slap His face and Mock Him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Matthew 27:29.  He does not revile them in return, but bears insult with dignity.

Listen to the cat o’ nine tails slash through the air, ripping His back to shreds.  Look to Calvary, where He willingly lets His hands and feet be nailed to the cursed cross.

See Him now, seated at the right hand of God the Father, the ultimate position of power in all the cosmos.  When He returns to the earth, He will rule the nations with a rod of iron.  He is meek.  But He is anything but weak.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.

Meek does not mean weak!

Consider Moses, the Old Testament’s champion of meekness. 

The Bible says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” Numbers 12:3.

He was meek.  But was he weak?  See him slay the Egyptian who is beating his Hebrew brother unjustly.  See him flee to the desert and amass a fortune over forty years.  See him face mighty Pharaoh and demand, “Let my people go!”  See him lead a horde of escaped slaves across a desert wasteland for forty years, to a land flowing with milk and honey.

When God becomes angry with Israel—so much so that He is ready to slay them to the last man—see Moses stand in intercession and say, “If you kill them, Lord, kill me too!”  God changes His mind because of Moses.  That’s meekness.  But it’s anything but weakness.

Moses certainly fulfilled what Paul would later write to the New Testament church regarding model meekness:

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” Ephesians 4:1-2.

Source:  Being Happy in an Unhappy World