Featured

Money Can Buy Happiness

There’s a famous saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.”  There are many studies that show that having and spending lots of money does not increase happiness.  Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, disagrees with that statement, with a caveat.  He says that money can buy happiness IF you spend it right.

How do you spend it right?  By spending it on others.  He did experiments a few years back in which he gave small amounts of money to different groups of people.  Some were instructed to spend it on themselves and the rest were told they had to spend the money on someone else.  Regardless of whom they spent the money on or the amount of money they spent, all who used the money for someone else reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the experiment.

Embed from Getty Images

 

I love it when scientists, or social scientists in this case, prove the Word of God.  In Acts 20:35, Paul told the Ephesians, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” is really another way of saying that you can achieve happiness by sharing your money with others.  And, of course, giving doesn’t only involve money.  You can be blessed by sharing your time, talents, and attention with others.  Not all of us have the financial resources to give away large amounts of money. But we all have something we can give.  And, as this study affirmed, even giving small amounts of money can bless someone and increase your level of happiness.

Further more, generosity brings blessings.  Proverbs 22:9 tells us “Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed,” and Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack.”

I would encourage you to look for opportunities each day to bless someone else with your money, time, or talent.  In this way, you will ensure that your days are blessed and filled with happiness.

 

Creativity in Quarantine

I received an email this week that contained a tweet by @martinkl.  The tweet read, “In 1665, the University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the bubonic plague.  Isaac Newton had to work from home, and he used this time to develop calculus and the theory of gravity.”  Wow!  That is a truly productive use of a quarantine.

There is little in the news this weekend other than the coronavirus threat.  Like many others, I have sought to protect myself by avoiding crowds and spent most of the weekend in self-imposed quarantine.  I do not have any reason to believe that I have been exposed to the virus, nor do I have any of the serious underlying health conditions that would make me an ideal candidate for catching the disease.  But I am in my 60’s and I feel no reason to take unnecessary risks.

The quiet weekend left me with time to reflect and time to write.  I have been ‘stuck’ in writing a novel for several years, so much so that I laid it aside.  Last week I picked it back up and continued to struggle with how to move the story forward.  Tonight I had a break through.  Some people would call this a burst of creativity.  I believe that I heard from God.  After I prayed for guidance, I quietly waited and the Lord revealed His plan for this particularly novel.  In just a few moments, the story line became clear.  Don’t misunderstand me. It won’t be easy.  I have lots of work to do, which will involve a major editing and rewriting of the work I had done.  But, I can see where this story will go now, and it is much better than the story I had intended to write.

Embed from Getty Images

 

 

I read a blog recently in which the author theorized that creativity blossoms in extended periods of quiet.  He encouraged people to block out 3 – 4 hours of interrupted time daily to do creative work. I concur totally. When I have uninterrupted periods of a few hours or more in which to write, I am more creative and productive than when I try to write in shorter blocks of time.  I believe that the blog author had discovered a Biblical principal.  God speaks to us when we are still and quite.   Psalm 46:10 admonishes us to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.”  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah seeks a revelation of the Lord, and the Lord appears to him as a gentle whisper.

Whether you go about life semi-normally for the next few weeks or you practice social distance and self-quarantining, I hope that you will take some extended time to be still and quiet.  You may find that this will be on of the greatest periods of creativity in your life.

 

Meditate on the Lord

In an article titled ‘There’s a Dark Side to Meditation That No One Talks About,’ author Lila MacLellan discusses possible negative outcomes from meditation that are not often discussed. Meditation is typically presented as a method of reflection which provides relief from stress and pain and can give the practitioner better focus. However, the author discusses unpleasant effects, or ‘warped perceptions’, that can arise during meditation. She writes, “Zen Buddhism has a word for the warped perceptions that can arise during meditation: makyo, which combines the Japanese words for “devil” and “objective world.””

I personally have no experience with this type of meditation.  I was cautioned against meditation while still a teenager by my mother who believed that mindless, zen-like meditation could open one’s mind to strange thoughts and attacks by the devil.  So the quote above caught my attention.  It seems that my mother was not using a scare tactic to keep me away from something she didn’t understand.  Rather, there is a lot of truth in her warning, and I am particularly glad to have heeded her words.

When we seek truth, the Bible should be our source.  The Bible actually encourages meditation.  However, the focus of this meditation is not on oneself but rather on the Lord and His commands.  “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. ” Joshua 1:8

According to this verse, meditating on God’s word makes one prosperous and successful.  That is a pretty powerful benefit.  Meditating on God’s Word produces other benefits:

1) Blessings:  “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,  but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,  which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

2) Help from the Lord in times of trouble: “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint….I will consider all your works  and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77: 1 – 3, 12

3) Reminds us of God’s faithfulness:  “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.  They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”  Psalm 145:  3 – 7

4) Wisdom:  “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.” Psalm 119: 98- 100

There is no downside to meditating on God’s Word.  God reveals Himself to us and His plans for us, as we focus our attention on Him and meditate on His commands. I encourage you to meditate on the truth of God’s Word to find the peace, encouragement, and direction you are seeking.

In God We Trust

This week the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ has been in the news.  Brevard County Sheriff’s department added decals with the phrase to their patrol cars.  An atheist group has challenged the sheriff’s right to do so, stating that it is “frightening and politically dubious for the local police department to announce to citizens that officers rely on the judgment of a deity rather than on the judgment of the law.”  Their words could be no farther from the truth.

Embed from Getty Images

 

I believe that it is frightening and foolish to put one’s trust in any person, organization, or institution rather than in the Lord God.  God created us, loves us, and provides for all our needs, the most important of which is our eternal salvation.   Trusting in the Lord not only makes sense, but comes with great benefits.

  • Trusting in God brings peace and joy.  Romans 15:13 tells “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • God protects those who trust in Him.  “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. 2 Samuel 22:31
  • God directs the path of those who trust Him. Proverbs 3: 5 -6 encourages us to “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
  • God blesses those who trust  in Him.  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

‘In God We Trust’ is our national motto.  It is printed on our currency.  It makes perfect sense that those who put their lives on the line every day for their fellow citizens would put their trust in God and would want to display the motto on their vehicles.

Where do you put your trust?  If you are looking for security, peace, protection, direction, and blessings, I highly recommend putting your trust in God.

The Law of the Lord is Perfect

When I was much younger, my church used to sing the words of Psalm 19: 7 – 11 regularly.  It is a beautiful song and full of truth.  God’s Word is true, and His law is perfect.  God’s Word provides us with all we need to know to live lives that are full, happy, and blessed.

There is great discontentment in our society today.  People are searching for satisfaction in things that will never bring satisfaction–wealth, power, prestige, fame, and physical pleasure–to name a few.  There is nothing wrong with these things, in and of themselves, but they can never bring lasting joy and contentment without a relationship with God.  It’s easy to see that worldly gain and pleasure do not satisfy.  Lack of peace and contentment is evidenced by increased use of alcohol, narcotics and illegal drugs to mask pain and dissatisfaction.  People seeking love go from marriage to marriage, relationship to relationship, without finding true love.

The answer to the discontentment is a relationship with Jesus Christ which is built solidly on God’s Word.  As the psalmist wrote so eloquently, God’s Word brings conversion, wisdom, rejoicing, and enlightenment.  His truths are to be desired and when we follow His commands and obey His law, there really is great reward.

 

Psalm 19: 7 – 11

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

Embed from Getty Images

Paul’s Admonition to be Generous

This morning I read 2 Corinthians 9 during my morning devotions.  Paul devoted the entire chapter to encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous and to fulfill the commitment it had made to assist poorer Christians in Macedonia.  Paul had been bragging to other congregations of the generous gift the Corinthians had promised, and he wanted to insure that the gift would be ready when it was needed.

Embed from Getty Images

 

As Paul continues through the chapter, he encourages them that God will bless them as they bless others and tells them that it is impossible to out-give God.  Although Paul is speaking specifically about being generous with our money, his words also apply to being generous with people in many other ways, such as love, service, time, attention, guidance, and forgiveness.  Paul says that our obedience in generosity will in enrich our lives and allow God to be even more generous with us, and it will cause people to give thanks and honor to God.

In the final verses of this chapter, Paul writes, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9: 12 – 15, The Message)

How can we not be generous when we read stirring words like these?  Generosity towards others blesses us more than it does the recipients and it brings honor and glory to God.

How has God blessed you after you demonstrated generosity?

God Rewards the Generous

God commands His people to show generosity to those in need, and He promises to bless and reward those who obey this command.  These rewards may be received while on Earth, and they will surely be reaped when we get to Heaven.  Jesus taught this principle during the Sermon on the Mount, saying “When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”  Matthew 6: 3, 4

Embed from Getty Images

 

Later in the Sermon, Jesus encouraged His followers to store up treasures in Heaven.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19 – 21

We lay up treasure in Heaven by using our earthly treasure to accomplish God’s purposes.  Randy Alcorn refers to this as ‘transferring wealth to heaven.’  He points out that we cannot take our wealth with us to Heaven when we die, but we can transfer our wealth to Heaven while we are living by using our wealth to show generosity to others.  God judges the work that we do has either have lasting value–gold and silver–or having earthly value–wood, hay, and stubble.  Works that do not have lasting value will be burned up like wood, hay, and stubble at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  When we follow God’s instructions to be generous, we are producing works that of silver and gold, which cannot be destroyed by fire.

The apostle Paul wrote, “ Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,  storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  1 Timothy 6: 17 – 19

Paul told the Ephesians to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”Acts 20:35

Being generous with those who the Lord puts on your heart to care for will result in blessings both on Earth and in Heaven.  I encourage you to ask the Lord with whom He desires you to show generosity to today and begin building your treasure in Heaven.