Great to have part of Helen’s clan here on Sunday!
Tuesday, October 25
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
How do you map out your world? There are two general ways you can do this.
- Fear-based people will map their world around problems that need to be solved. Their brains lock in on whatever is scary or potentially bad in their environment. This is what gets all their attention. They will always find something wrong.
- Joy-based people will map their world around what is good in their lives. They fix their minds on what they appreciate. Like Paul says in Philippians, “…things want are excellent and worthy of praise.”
When you are a joy-based person, you don’t ignore your problems. You just learn how to solve problems in a way that makes your relationships stronger.
Emotionally immature people will make their relationships the problem that needs to be solved. Like co-dependent people who will actually bond over fear of losing the relationship. In these cases, if the relationship is ended, then real problems do occur. Like prolonged and bitter lawsuits, violence, and yes, even death. “If I can’t have her, nobody will.”
Joy-based life is true life.
Are you more fear-based in your approach to life, or more joy-based? Choose joy
(This is a blog post about Halloween I have submitted to Life Model Works website)
First, let’s get this one out of the way for parents. Parents, if you grew up in the United States and so did your parents, maybe even your grandparents, then if you celebrate Halloween as the American traditional holiday it was when you or your parents or your grandparents were kids, you’ve got it covered. You can have the traditional down-home American Halloween, even today.
Now, along with that, the focus on how everyone else chooses to celebrate Halloween is going to be whatever is the craziest, most provocative, most extreme stuff out there. What sizzles sells. This is why what the media and social media chooses to cover this Halloween season won’t be you out trick or treating with your cute little Ninja Turtle.
Second, if you are a parent who is a Christian, here is a disclaimer. I am a biblical scholar, as are my colleagues. We can make 10 cases of why Halloween is not helpful, 10 why it is not harmful, and 10 more why it is a great opportunity to spread joy and love your neighbors.
I am also a historian, as are many of my colleagues, and so we have already studied all the varied background information about the “origins” of Halloween and such. I personally don’t find origin stories all that helpful when making decisions about present reality, and I notice that when we do make origin stories a huge deal, we tend to simply grab on to the origin stories that serves our point of view. When we pastor-types hang out together, we can argue all of these points and then see who the loudest, most aggressive person is, as he or she will probably go away thinking they are the Bible Answer Guy/ Origin Historian Extraordinaire. Come to think of it, if that’s the case, then we do have a problem and will need to do some work on self-satisfaction and humility. That’s not good…
Where does that lead us?
I will give my opinion as a Christian/parent/grandparent/pastor. This is profound, so wait for it…wait for it….
Do whatever you want, with common sense. If you don’t want to do anything? Don’t.
Alright, but what is common sense?
According to the latest brain science, God designed us so that the emotional well-being of children has already been wired to a great extent by age one. Parents, whatever you decide about Halloween is not going to “scar them for life.”
Hospitality toward your neighbor is a big deal for Jesus, and an important model for your children to witness. A friend of mine said it this way:
“Halloween is the only day of the year when many of our neighbors come to our homes. Don’t miss this great opportunity to be at home when they stop by. Let’s be hospitable!”
I would add, hospitality toward you neighbor might include trick or treating in your own neighborhood, as there are many homes that still have a warm remembrance of the down-home Halloween of days gone by, and your kids will increase the joy level of their evening, some in a significant way.
Appropriate costumes? For your children? Not too dark; not over-sexualized.
Appropriate costumes for neighbor’s kids? That’s their business. But, what do you do if they come to your door as a gory zombie or a sexy nun?
Give them candy without an editorial.
If you are already done trick or treating with your own kid and they see the gory or over-sexualized, at the end of the night, you can have a meaningful conversation about their experiences in general and the topic of costumes might come up. Then go for it.
Personally, as a pastor of a church where we celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday, whenever I see gory monsters, zombies, and vampires, if these same kids choose to worship with us some day and they are not familiar with Holy Communion, it will be very interesting when I start talking about eating the body of Jesus and drinking his blood…
Oh, well, Happy Halloween! Or not…
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When you are working together with others what is the key target?
If it is getting results you will not get results in the long run. You will wear each other out or someone will simply quit.
In business, there is much talk about the bottom line. Is your bottom line making more money or is it building a better team for the long haul? You can’t have both unless you start with people.
Just like most areas of life, if you work on building relationships you have a better opportunity to achieve the results you are looking for. That’s the bottom line. Working together starts with building the relationship.
This has to do with more than simply business. Getting results usually means working on problems. In all of our relationships we do well to remember this: People before problems.
Keeping our relationship bigger than our problems is a key to marriage, for instance. How many marriages get bogged down on issues we are trying to work out rather than cherishing the relationship?
People before problems is a key to raising children. Many a home becomes a war zone of irritation over something as mundane as cleaning your room. Or think of how much time is wasted simply arguing about who is right and who is wrong. We are always trying to get the results we want. Here is a secret to end all that arguing. A simple phrase.
“Do you want to be right or do you want to be helpful?”
If it is more important for you to be right and “win” the argument, than you haven’t really “won” anything. You can be correct about something and damage your closest relationships at the same time.
Instead, we do well to learn that right or wrong isn’t as important as working together with graciousness and forgiveness until we come to results we can agree on.
No, it is more important to remain relational when there is problem rather than for you to get the results you want.
Some people treat life like a series of arguments I have to win? Is that you or someone you know? What affect does this have?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Did you get that? Don’t let your heart be troubled? Don’t be afraid? Do you hear his words? Do not be afraid? I hope so. Our society needs us to understand Jesus. So that whatever is going on around us, the way we respond is the same way Jesus would respond if he were us.
Think about it. When you live Jesus’s rhythm. When you live his joy and shalom, you change the atmosphere around you. You bring clarity. This is much needed today.
We live in a society where everything that happens becomes this huge overblown crisis. We are a low-joy nation that has no shalom. America needs Christians who live like Jesus. Why? Because Jesus only focuses on the truth.
This is such a helpful teaching in our present circumstances in America. We are a low-joy nation. And low-joy places breed problems. This low-joy has reached the highest levels. Our national leaders have finally succumbed to being almost pure predators. The opposite of Jesus. This is a huge blow to any decency we can expect.
You see, without following God’s ways, we become predators. Then it is all about our own perceived survival.
Today’s political and social agendas have been overtaken by low-joy predatory leaders. Jim Wilder explains what a predator is. He uses the metaphor of a herd of animals. Think of where we are at right now as a nation and listen:
“Predators discover the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of others and exploit them. Predators use weaknesses to obtain or retain dominance in the food chain. Predators fiercely guard their positions and will hurt others in the herd if threatened. Predators also do their best to hide their weaknesses and appear strong to assure their positions. Predators are the most common product of low-joy herds.”
As a nation, we are a low-joy herd. We have national leaders who are predators. The whole political system we have developed feeds predators like raw meat to alligators.
Now, this doesn’t mean we are doomed, but it does provide a wake up call for everyone of us. We are the best true hope for America ourselves. If you truly follow Jesus, you really are America’s best hope.
This is what God calls us to do.
God is calling us to start global warming. Healthy global warming where each of us starts joy, again and again, warming the atmosphere and warming the hearts of those around us. When we spread the joy of the Lord to those around us, when we are able to quickly return from upset and be people of maturity and strength, we influence life in a tremendous way. And, because God is in charge, shalom is what we have to look forward to. It’s going to work out in the end. God always wins.
What kind of character traits would Jesus exhibit if he were running for president?
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
When we don’t have harmony we don’t have joy. We aren’t in synch. When you tweak Romans 8:28, you get this definition of shalom.
“All things work together for good with all those who are synchronized with God.”
That’s God’s purpose for us. To be synchronized with him. Joy and shalom. And God even models this for us.
Think of creation. God enjoys creating the universe and all that exists, you can call this the high-joy of creation. Then what happens? Shalom. Remember? What does God do on the seventh day? He moves to shalom. God rests. God himself experiences the quiet and contentment that shalom brings.
So, it is no shock, because joy brings with it high amounts of energy, we will eventually crash with too much joy. God designed us to rest.
Just like God at creation, we need a break where we quiet ourselves, too. This is why it is a measure of growth in maturity when we are capable of self-quieting. Quieting after high-joy and quieting after upset. The more quickly we return to joy, the more we exhibit we are in synch. In a few weeks we will look at this in greater detail, but for now let’s focus generally on this fundamental truth.
The peace of God, the shalom Jesus brings into the world, is not simply about no more wars or no more conflict. It is this, but it is so much more. You will think of this now, the next time you hear the phrase, “Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Shalom, but this is way more than just about violence and war. Jesus is the Prince of Peace because no matter what is happening around us, eventually, everything is going to be alright.
And because we experience true shalom through our identity as God’s children, shalom means everything is going to be alright, even if I don’t know why. God is our shepherd.
You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I,
the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
When troubles come and worry follows, God speaks to us. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
When do you get he most upset? Why do you think that is?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
If you want to see shalom in action, think of this most loved passage in the whole Bible.
“The Lord is my shepherd…”
Or, God is my shepherd, I have everything I need. He gives me rest, surrounded by his blessing.”
Who would not be filled with gladness knowing God takes care of everything?
This is why we find joy and shalom in the Bible together as much as joy and shalom are connected in the brain. They work together, but they are not the same.
When we translate the word for shalom into English, we use the word “peace.” It is a good word, but the trouble today is peace has lost this “everything is going to be fine” meaning and has come to mean, “absence of violence.” But, shalom is so much more than that. As we know all too well, you can be in a truce without sharing joy with others.
The word “Harmony” works better for us today. “Harmony” is what our brains prefer. A sense that everything is going to be alright. With harmony in our lives, this is shalom. Our relationships are right. Who we are makes sense. Our reactions to the world please us and please God. A modern technology term also gives us a deeper sense of what it means to experience shalom. Synchronization.
When we have harmony we are in synch with God. We are in synch with the world around us. When we have harmony we can experience the presence of God.
Without harmony, our world is chaotic and moving too fast. We find it hard to be in synch with God, and we so don’t experience God. Not that he is not there or he doesn’t want us to know he is there, it’s just that we can’t experience this when we are overwhelmed by our problems.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
To live our lives bringing the gladness we share with God into the lives of other people is how God chooses to use us. This is a key to loving our neighbor. To live our lives starting joy wherever we go. God makes this possible by giving us his grace. But, not only in a forgiving way. The Bible word for “grace” is actually the same root as the word for “joy”- charis.
Saved by grace also means saved for joy. Grace has been defined as “unmerited favor.” A clearer word for favor in modern English is “special.” Very,very special. So a good definition for “grace” is “Very special and you don’t have to do anything.” Or “Very special and you don’t have to work at it.” Saved because we are very special to God and we don’t have to do anything to be special. Just exist. What does this look like? Just like last week, we are back to babies again.
There is no one who gets unmerited favor, someone who is very special and they don’t have to earn it or do a thing about it- than a baby. When a good mom and dad see their baby for the first time, they aren’t going to love that baby more or any less than they do at that moment. All the baby has to do is be. The baby doesn’t have to do anything.
That’s our identity with our loving father. It isn’t what we do that makes us special. It is who we are.
This is my primary identity. This is who I am. Son of the God of everything. Son of an amazing loving Father. How do I respond to him?
Joy. Joy is our response to God’s grace. The joy we see in a smiling baby is our model. And that’s high energy joy! That’s joy that wants to make mommy and daddy glad to be with us. Babies learn to imitate good parents right away. They will do anything to get that smile out of mom and dad. A baby follows their parent’s lead because they want to please their mommy. Their daddy. There is nothing like being glad together. But, joy can be a bit overwhelming.
So, in comes something Jim Wilder calls, “Joy’s sister.”
Shalom is quiet and low energy. God wires us for shalom just as he wires us for joy. You see, we are all rather weak and can’t sustain a high-energy state for long. God wires our brains so that every experience of high energy joy calls for a time of rest to follow. This is the endless rhythm God wires into us. High-energy joy followed by low-energy shalom. One can’t live without the other.Back to kids again.
When we wind kids up, we need to bring them down. We help them quiet and rest.
God designs this to be the rhythm of our lives. Shalom is that powerful rest that comes when you know everything is right. There is nothing to worry about.
What is a great worry you have today? Where is God in that worry? What might he say to you about it?
“We are a low-joy nation. And what happens in low-joy places? Problems are bred. This low-joy has reached the highest levels. Our national leaders have finally succumbed to being almost pure predators.” (PD)
What is a predator?
What can be done?
How God wires us for joy and shalom…
How you might be the best true hope….Listen