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Here are some practical tips I found on the net on how to be happy:

  1. Get regular exercise, be healthy. Go for a brisk walk, get health issues you are in control of sorted out and stay hydrated by drinking copious amounts of filtered water.
  2. Socialize with happy people. Studies have shown that spending time with good friends who have a positive outlook on life dramatically increases subjective reports of wellbeing and happiness.
  3. Learn a new skill. When people focus on learning a new language, craft, or sport they exhibit higher levels of happiness.
  4. Engage frequently in simple activities that bring you pleasure. The concept of “flow” is that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and happiness one experiences when doing something enjoyable and doing it well. One simple example is eating a favorite food as a treat— in moderation of course.

And here are some tips I found for caring for my dog’s wellbeing:dog-out-a-window

  1. Regularly take your dog for a brisk walk for exercise, give him lots of fresh water, and get health issues sorted out quickly.
  2. Socialize your dog by making an effort to get him out to parks where there are other dogs.
  3. Train your dog and teach him skills.
  4. Let your dog engage in activities that bring him pleasure like hanging his head out the window, and give your dog an enjoyable treat to eat—in moderation.

Of mutts and men

I’m not sure what insight is to be found in how similar and environmentally sensitive canine and human happiness is. But there is another aspect in which dogs and humans correlate. One site on K-9 police dogs said that the animal’s wellbeing is inextricable from his relationship with his handler.

If he has a kind master who provides for physical needs, expresses love and affection through touch and tone of voice, and spends time with the dog, he will be almost oblivious to any other circumstance besides what the master requires of the dog. And this total obedience is born out of the canine’s trust in his handler.

I wish the psychology websites included this in their advice on how humans can be happy.

Thankfully, Christians already know that joy stems from being in a right relationship with a loving, generous, and trustworthy Master through obedience.

One compact and clear verse that teaches this is Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

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December 26, 2016

The Day After Christmas

by Clint Archer

giftsThe Christmas truce of  Christmas Eve, 1914 was a wonderful parenthesis of respite in the animosity of what would become the bloodiest war in human history.

As reports have been collated of that mysterious peace that washed over the Western Front on that silent night, it seems it all started with well-wishing and spontaneous singing of Christmas hymns. The Germans offered their hearty a cappella rendition of Stillenacht from their muddy trenches. In good cheer, from the British side—and by some accounts even in some French trenches—hymns of praise to God resounded throughout the empty battlefields.

Captain Robert Patrick Miles of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry division wrote in a letter that was published in the Daily Mail in January 1915:

Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.”

But what happened the day after Christmas? The opponents on either side of no man’s land cocked their guns and fired at each other with an aim to kill. Captain Miles, who wrote the letter above, was killed in action before New Year’s Eve.

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Glory of the IncarnationIt’s a joy to reserve this part of the year to remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. This, of course, is what Christmas is about in the truest sense. Amid all the tinsel, the gingerbread cookies, and the trees and stockings and gift shopping, true Christians pause to reorient our thoughts and our affections to what Christmas is really about: the incarnation of the Son of God.

And that kind of theological shorthand has become so familiar to us that we cease to be amazed at the truth we speak of when we speak of the incarnation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

God. Becoming man. The infinite, eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient, almighty God, without shedding His divine nature, taking upon Himself—in addition to His divine nature—a human nature—truly becoming one of us. In the incarnation of the Son of God, it can properly be said that the immutable, unchangeable God became what He wasn’t, while never ceasing to be what He was.

The incomprehensibility of that thought alone is sufficient to bow our hearts and intellects before divine wisdom in worship. This kind of mind-bending wisdom is so lofty—so far beyond our natural understanding—that we wouldn’t believe it if Scripture didn’t teach it so plainly. We already referenced John 1: The Word was God, and the Word became flesh. We also see it in Philippians 2:6–7, where Paul tells us that while Christ was existing in His very nature as God nevertheless assumed to Himself the very nature of a servant, and was born as a man.

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priorityIn 2010 Argentine soccer legend, Diego Maradona, graced South Africa with his presence as the coach of their formidable World Cup squad. The advance team prepared every hotel room to Maradona’s specifications. The flurry of activity in anticipation of his arrival included making sure all the rooms that the team would occupy were painted pristine white and were equipped with six Play Station video game consuls, and—I’m not making this up—an imported, electronic toilet known as the E-bidet, complete with a heated seat, front and rear water sprayers, and an air dryer.

Not only was Maradona particular about the accommodation, but his meal requests were a tad on the extravagant side: ten hot dishes per day, twenty-four different salads at each meal, three different pasta sauces with every meal, three different desserts, a barbecue every third day, and my personal favorite: a 24/7 unlimited supply of…ice cream. And I doubt this was for the professional athletes in coach Maradona’s team.

In Luke’s Gospel we meet a lady who volunteered to host God, in human flesh, and his team of ravenous disciples. And apparently she was expecting a persnickety prima-donna, not the simple tastes of a humble servant.

Three scenes from which we can glean lessons from Martha’s misplaced priorities so that we put Jesus in his rightful place this Christmas season.

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thanksgiving-day-dinner-table

holidays.thefuntimesguide.com

Here we are again, launching into another holiday season. Most likely, many of us will be spending time with relatives of various spiritual persuasions both this weekend, and over the Christmas holiday. Times with lost relatives can be tricky.

I remember one such situation with my French, atheist grandfather who passed away a few years ago. His name was Georges Lycan, and he spent most of his life as a carefree, pleasure-loving actor in France. That I know of, he appeared in over a dozen Broadway-like plays in France, several TV shows, and about 50 movies, probably the most well-known being his role as Sheriff Stone in the Charles Bronson Western, The Red Sun.

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For years, Brian Williams had told a story of incredible survival, but each time he told it grew in mythical status.

The first time he told the story it was probably the truth.

Thanksgiving DinnerHe went to Iraq to cover the war as a reporter for MSNBC and took a helicopter ride.  When he landed, he found out that a helicopter an hour ahead of his was shot at from the ground.

Over the next few years as he retold the story, the helicopters distance grew closer, until finally it was his helicopter that was the one that was shot at. At one point he even described seeing the shooter on the ground and described his emotional state as he saw his life flash before his eyes.

Eventually, some of the guys who had been there during the time couldn’t handle hearing him be introduced as a guy who was shot at in Iraq, and they told the truth about the story. Soon after that, Brian Williams lost his job and became the butt of every joke dealing with exaggerating stories.

As I have thought about Brian Williams, I’ve thought about the temptation in every heart to live incredible experiences. We all want to be able to tell stories of survival that would make us look good in the eyes of others around us. We’re all tempted to exaggerate stories and to make ourselves look better that we actually do.

And yet, as believers, we have a story that we can tell as often as we want that cannot be exaggerated. We have experienced something far greater, more unbelievable, and more supernatural than anything anyone can experience on earth. We have been given a new heart.

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November 21, 2016

Proof of Love

by Clint Archer

Private First Class John Eddington held his newborn daughter, Margret, in his arms shortly before he was deployed to liberate Europe from the Nazi occupation. The year was 1944. Before his departure he composed a poignant three page letter expressing his intense love for baby Peggy, as he called her.love-letter

Almost immediately upon arriving in Italy, PFC Eddington was killed in action.

His wife kept the precious letter in a box in the attic for the day Peggy would be old enough to read it for herself. But as time passed Mrs. Eddington forgot about the existence of the letter, and almost never mentioned her late husband. Consequently, Peggy grew up never knowing how much her father loved her.

But in 2014, someone rummaging through Peggy’s late mother’s possessions discovered the box containing a letter addressed to “My Darling Daughter.” The letter was delivered to its rightful recipient. When Peggy, now seventy years old, read the letter she learned for the first time what had been in her father’s heart when he got news that he was leaving for the war. He assured her that she would always be on his mind.

“I love you so much,” John had written. “Your mother and daddy … are going to give you everything we can. We will always give you all the love we have.” He concluded with the words: “I love you with all my heart and soul forever and forever. Your loving daddy.”

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On 7 November, 2007, Trevor Arnold was piloting a Boeing 737 from Cape Town to Johannesburg when it experienced some technical difficulty a few seconds after takeoff. To be exact, its right engine fell off.

engine-offMr. Arnold recalled from his training at flight school that it was a bad sign when engines start falling off your plane.

His job was simple: land the plane. But if it was just the engine that was gone, that would have been a relatively good day for Mr. Arnold.

During the incident, the aircraft also lost most of its hydraulics, meaning that brakes and steering were virtually non-existent. But that’s not all. The whole incident took place in stormy weather with dangerously strong crosswinds. The outcome? Arnold maintained his composure, harnessed his training and instincts, and successfully landed the Boeing without anyone on board sustaining any injuries.

Many people refused to fly with that airline again but I booked my next flight on that airline with great confidence. This was the only airline that I knew for certain had pilots who could handle a plane in freak, catastrophic conditions. I know all pilots have to go through training and simulations, and all claim to be able to handle emergencies. But the only person in the world I know for a fact can do it, is Trevor Arnold.

Why? Because only Trevor Arnold’s skills have been proven in real life.

Most passengers have no idea how well qualified their pilots are until their skill is proven in a trial by fire. And that’s what the Apostle Peter said about Christians. No one knows their faith is genuine until that faith has been exposed to intense conditions and shown to be true under fire.

Last week we looked at the grand design behind fiery trials; this week we examine the results of trials.

THREE RESULTS FIERY TRIALS HAVE ON OUR FAITH…

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Think of the most physical pain you have ever been in. Perhaps it was a broken bone, or a burn, or an abscess or migraine, or labor. Now I want you to be honest about whether you would choose that pain twice over when compared with what Mr. Sampson Parker endured.

gold-in-fireParker had been harvesting corn on his family farm when some stalks got stuck in a set of rollers. He reached into the (still-running) machine to yank out the obstruction when the rollers grabbed first his glove and then his hand. There was no one near enough to hear his desperate cries of agony. He managed to reach an iron bar and jam it into the chain-and-sprocket mechanism that drove the rollers. With his fingers growing numb he pulled out a small pocket knife and started to cut his own fingers off to free himself.

And if his ordeal had ended there, it would have been a good day for Parker, compared with what happened next.

More of his hand and wrist was pulled into the teeth of the mechanism and simultaneously the machine and the grass around Parker caught fire. He grimly realized he had to cut his arm off immediately or burn to death. So with a pocket knife he sawed off his own arm.

And if that was the end of it Parker would still have been having a good day, but the trial wasn’t over yet.

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Image result for five tulips

photo by Roger Meador

The “five points of Calvinism” are a mnemonic approach to understanding the complexity of our salvation. The doctrine of salvation can seem complicated because it incorporates hamartiology (the effects of sin on a person’s nature), Christology (the nature of Christ), theology proper (the sovereignty of God), and pneumatology (the work of the Holy Spirit). To put it another way, our salvation intersects with just about every major area of theology, and the five-points help us understand what exactly is going on when God saves us.

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