Archive for February, 2011


abundant life

Jesus makes a very extravagant promise to us in John 15:10: “My purpose is to give them (us) a rich and satisfying life.” (NLT) The more traditional versions use the phrase “abundant life”. The word “abundant” is an adjective that is defined as “existing or available in large quantities or plentiful”. It comes from a Latin word which means “abounding”. The Greek word we find in the text literally means “excessive, extraordinary in amount, profuse or going beyond what is necessary”.

Although the idea of a benevolent God who was sympathetic to their needs and wanted to lavish unmerited blessing upon them was a foreign concept to the Gentile believers of the First Century Church, the concept was very familiar to Jewish listeners of the day. The Hebrew term used to express this idea was “shalom”. The word literally means “peace” and was used as a pronouncement of blessing as well as a greeting. The word is interpreted in such a way as to convey a sense of “intactness, well-being, completeness, soundness, peace and security”. This concept was based upon the promises of God in passages like Deuteronomy 28. However, as this passage reveals, there is a condition. We must walk in the precepts of the Word of God. Why? Simply to jump through some arbitrary set of hoops to appease a fickle deity? Absolutely not! We are called to be the image-bearers (Romans 8:29, 30) of a loving, kind and benevolent God to a world that needs to know him. And, as Deuteronomy 28 indicates, God clearly lays this choice out before us. As Henry Cloud points out, “God has promised you abundant life, but he has not promised you an abundant life with no effort.” We must develop a strategy based upon the Word of God that will bring about his blessing and favor and then pursue that strategy with all our abilities which will produce abundant living.


don’t worry, be happy

A recent newscast in our area aired a piece in which the reporter was talking about all the people who deal with the winter blues. There are lots of names for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder, Light Deprivation Syndrome or, my standby, cabin fever. The reporter pointed out that, regardless what you call it, the best cure is to stay active. She then began to make a list of all the ways one could engage their mind and keep themselves busy.

As I was listening to this report I remembered a statistic I had come across recently. According to University of Minnesota researcher David Lykken, happiness is 50% genetic. Some of us are just predisposed to be happy.

But what about the other 50%?

While circumstantial factors (income, education level, age, relationship status, etc.) do matter, the surprise is how small a contribution they make to our happiness; researchers estimate it at only 10%. As an example, it has been reported that once you reach a level of income that meets the needs of shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc. (in the US that’s about $40,000 annually), more money does not produce more happiness.

That leaves 40% and that’s where we find the really good news. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California at Riverside has discovered that happiness comes from things like: making lists of things for which you’re grateful in your life; practicing random acts of kindness; forgiving your enemies; noticing life’s small pleasures; taking care of your health; practicing positive thinking; and, investing time and energy into friendships and family.

That is reminiscent of what Jesus taught – Those who want to find life (happiness) must “lose” themselves by serving others (Matthew 16:25). Blessed (literally, “happy”) are those, Jesus said, who aren’t self-centered; who comfort others; who aren’t ego driven; who do right by others; who show mercy; who have a clear conscience; and, who seek healthy relationships through reconciliation (Matthew 5:3-9).

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” How happy are you? How happy do you want to be? The research seems to suggest it’s up to you.


feel the burn

I love to work out. I’m not bragging, it’s just a fact. I think my appreciation for exercise started with my Dad’s example. When I was young I would exercise with him. We’d do our push-ups, sit-ups and deep knee bends every morning. My Dad would also make a race out of every trip down the street. When I was young he let me keep up. When I became a teenager it was on! Bragging rights were at stake.

As a result, I look forward to my trips to the gym every week. I don’t always feel like going. Sometimes my schedule prevents me from getting there. However, when I get there I’m always glad I went.

I was doing my bench press sets the other day and I realized it had been a while since I had upped the weight I was working out with. I had become static. I knew to have increased benefit I would need to add some weight to the bar, but I knew something else as well. If I added weight it would create strain. That strain would create discomfort – the burn you feel when you push your muscles to their limit. I also knew there would be discomfort for a day or two afterward because of the soreness the increased weight would create in my muscles.

I had to make a decision. Was the “pain worth the gain”? I opted for the pain. I put extra discs on the bar, got a friend to spot me, and gave it my all.

We face the same situation spiritually. Do we stay where we are and remain comfortable, never growing in our faith, or do we rise to the challenge and allow our faith to be stretched? It’s not always enjoyable; in fact, most of the time, it’s downright painful in the present and produces “soreness” for awhile afterward. However, in the end, the results are appreciable.

There is, however, one more observation I need to make. We have a choice whether or not we are going to grow and stretch our muscles. That’s not really the case if we’re a child of God. Because God loves us so much he is going to allow circumstances into our lives that are designed to stretch and grow our faith whether we like it or not! The only choice we have is how we’re going to deal with those circumstances. Are we going to position ourselves to get the most out of the experience or are we going to just “get by” and not receive the full benefit of what God wants to do in our lives? That choice is ours.