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Love: Discovering True Joy

Love has unusual healing powers. Having a strong faith and close interpersonal relationships is beneficial not only for our mental and emotional health but also for our physical health. Some authorities have gone so far as to identify love as the most powerful healing force in the world. The healing  properties of love transform our physical as well as our emotional health.

Christ's love is a vitalizing power. There is an awesome statement from the book The Ministry of Healing that says, "The love which Christ diffuses through the whole being is a vitalizing power. Every vital part,  the brain, the heart, the nerves, it touches with healing. By it  the highest energies of the being are aroused to activity. It frees the soul from the guilt and sorrow, the anxiety and care, that crush the life forces. With it come serenity and composure. It implants in the soul, joy that nothing earthly can destroy,  joy in the Holy Spirit, health-giving, life giving joy."

 

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Respecting One Another

He must have looked funny, a man dressed in his "business"  robe sitting in a tree!  Some must have snickered. But did Jesus? No!  He knew that Zacchaeus craved respect more than anything. And He gave him what he needed, rather than what he deserved. "Zacchaeus," He said so all who could hear,  "I'm going to your house to eat with you today."

The crowd gasped!  In that culture, the highest honor and esteem anyone could give another was to eat with him in his home. Not one of those along the Jericho road that day would have been caught dead in Zacchaeus' house, let alone be found eating with him. And even if they had, they certainly  wouldn't have broadcast their intentions to the crowd. Zacchaeus must have been so shocked that he nearly fell out of the tree! 

But note what happened next. Zacchaeus' love cup was so filled to overflowing with the undeserved respect Jesus showed him that without a lecture, he immediately promised to give back everything he had wrongly taken, plus some. That's the power of respect!    -See Luke 19:1-10

 

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Nature

"Now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?"  -Job 12:7-10

We don't have to speak to the hills or ask the trout, the cardinals, or the crows. Their words come without prodding. Whether by the prose of land, the verse of beasts, or the song of rivers, nature announces to all mankind that the "hand of the Lord has done this."

 

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At Jacob's Well

The woman was so excited by what Jesus had said that she forgot her water bucket and ran back to her village, announcing to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything that I ever did. This must be the Messiah!"  There was such an expression of joy on her face that the people felt compelled to stop what they were doing and go see this Messiah. Jesus stayed in Samaria for two whole days teaching them, and many accepted Him as the Redeemer.

Like the Samaritan woman, when we spend time with the Savior, in prayer and reading His Word, His beauty shines through our faces and draws others closer to Him, too. That is our first Christian duty.

 

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Space for Justice

A few years ago I was invited to speak for a Week of Prayer at the Adventist boarding academy in Finland. One of the cultural experiences that caught my attention was the Finnish affinity for the sauna - and the social practices that come with it. The youth pastor who showed me around
one afternoon took me to a public sauna and explained its significance in Finnish culture.

When in the sauna together, he explained, the sauna should be a place of sanctuary. It is considered inappropriate to raise contentious issues or continue an argument in the sauna. During that time in the sauna, human relationships work differently. For a moment, everyone is equal. Common naked humanity resets the imbalance of power between people and offers a glimpse of a different way of relating to each other.

Like the social function of the Finnish sauna, one of the tasks of biblical justice is to offer ways to rebalance and renew human relationships. The Sabbath is one of the most important spiritual tools for doing this on a regular, week-by-week basis: "It is a weekly reminder, to all, that injustice and inequality
is to be overthrown by delight and joy. To the degree the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, eat, drink, and celebrate the Sabbath, it will be impossible to conduct oneself in the next six days, as if injustice is truer than the Sabbath."  In celebrating creation and salvation, remembering
the Sabbath is the God-ordained practice of growing relationships between God and us - and then, through this ritual, between us and those around us.
 

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Blueprint For A Better World

Christ came to this earth to walk and work among the poor and suffering. They received the greatest share of His attention. And today, in the person of His children, He visits the poor and needy, relieving woe and alleviating suffering.
Take away suffering and need, and we should have no way of understanding the mercy and love of God, no way of knowing the compassionate, sympathetic heavenly Father. Never does the gospel put on an aspect of greater loveliness than when it is brought to the most needy and destitute regions. Then it is that its light shines forth with the clearest radiance and the greatest power. Truth from the word of God enters the hovel of the peasant; rays from the Sun of Righteousness light up the rude cottage of the poor, bringing gladness to the sick and suffering. Angels of God are there, and the simple faith shown makes the crust of bread and the cup of water a banquet. The sin-pardoning Saviour welcomes the poor and ignorant, and gives them to eat of the bread that comes down from heaven. They drink of the water of life. Those who have been loathed and abandoned are through faith and pardon raised to the dignity of sons and daughters of God. Lifted above the world, they sit in heavenly places in Christ. They may have no earthly treasure, but they have found the pearl of great price.  -Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 226.
 

 

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In His Temple

When Jesus arrived and saw what was going on, the disrespect for God?s house was too much to tolerate. As Jesus stood looking over the masses, silence slowly filled the courtyard. The priests and rabbis and business people felt as if Jesus was looking into their souls and revealing the darkness of their hearts. They couldn?t look away from him. The Savior, for whom the temple had been built, spoke in a ringing, commanding voice, and told the merchants to take their things and get out. Then, with a bundle of cord in His hand that seemed to them as deadly as a flaming sword, He turned their tables over, money and all. No one could oppose His authority.  Without a single question about His authority, they all fled, and silence prevailed. This display marked a public announcement of Jesus ministry and mission. The corrupt had been cast out; the faithful, poor, and needy remained.

 

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Making Positive Lifestyle Choices

We cannot completely determine what will happen in the future, but we can make lifestyle choices today that will give us the best chance of living the healthiest life possible. What is knowledge? Knowledge is information and understanding about a subject. It is  "acquaintance with facts, truths, or  principles, as from study or investigation."

What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Knowledge has to do with acquiring information. Wisdom goes far beyond knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to use and apply that knowledge. The key is applying the knowledge we acquire. Wisdom leads us to make the right choices. Wisdom and insight are gifts from God. The following Bible passage is helpful: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him"  -James 1:5

As you acquire knowledge, ask God for wisdom to apply that knowledge.
 

 

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Showing You Really Care

CARE. The very sound of the word invokes visions of hard, time-consuming work, whether it's the care of a house, lawn, or garden, or the care of children, patients, or the elderly. Care in most people's minds means being responsible for something or someone who can't survive alone. But the truth is that every family member, regardless of competency, needs the loving care of someone - maybe not for physical needs, but certainly for emotional ones.

Care is the most basic and action - oriented aspect of love. We can't really love without caring for the needs of others. Words are wonderful, but if they're not accompanied by caring actions, they become meaningless prattle.
 

 

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Sabbath Guarantees a Break

One winter, I planted trees in southern Alabama. On my back I lugged a sackful of baby pines, each the size of a flower. After heaving my pickax into the ground, I would bend down, plant a pine, and then kick in the dirt, repeating the motion hundreds, maybe thousands, of times a day. Our crew began at
first light, planting on hills, along ravines, pushing through prickly brush and twisted brambles, throwing the pickax, bending and planting, and kicking until dusk, when we would return to camp and collapse. Never with such delight and desire did I anticipate my Sabbath rest. Never were twenty-four hours so precious, so meaningful, so needed.

Friday afternoon, I stopped hours before sundown, during which I prepared for the Sabbath so that when it arrived, instead of doing the laundry or the shopping or any other "work," I was resting, enjoying the Sabbath, and experiencing the spiritual realities of this sacred time. And one of those realities, I then understood, was that the Sabbath protects us from ourselves.

 

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The Victory

 

When this second temptation failed, Satan tried a third one. He took Jesus to the top of a nearby mountain, gave Him a view of all the beautiful things on earth, including its prosperity and riches, and said to Jesus, "This earth and all that I've shown you is mine. I'll give it to you if you just bow down and acknowledge my authority." Christ rebuked him again, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Jesus' divinity flashed through His humanity and Satan could not stand to be in the presence of holiness any longer.

This last temptation is the same one that Satan uses on people today. He promises to give us all the good things this world has to offer if we only acknowledge his supremacy and do what he says. Yet with all his promises, Satan cannot force us to do anything evil. To sin, we have to let go of our faith and choose the course of wrong.
 

 

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Undoing Injustice

In emergency and crisis situations, relief work is vital. Whatever the underlying cause, people in need of food, water, shelter, and safety need these quickly. But the larger work of justice is the longer-term work of  development, building people?s capacity to provide for themselves, to have more choices available, to be more resilient in the context of life's setbacks, and to change perceptions, prejudices, and expectations.         

This work can be done through education, building infrastructure, economic development, improving health services, and advocacy to change laws and policies. Christians are often good at charity work, particularly when responding to crisis situations and immediate needs; but we have been less attuned to the work, challenges, and possibilities of long-term development and systemic justice.

 

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