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“If [this virtue] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” Dr. P Murali Doraiswamy

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 Imagine the impact on your life if you just injected a drug every morning to enhance your health, both physically and mentally.  And then, imagine what life would be like if you injected the same drug into all of your family, friends, and even co-workers. No doubt life would be immeasurably better for all.

Doriaswamy, a professor at Duke University, is an internationally recognized expert in brain/mind health and successful aging. And the virtue to which he refers is thankfulness or gratitude. 1

The more frequently you practice it, the better off you are.2 For example, you will experience less anxiety, cope with stress more easily, and sleep better.3 The improvements in your body are measurable in several areas. For example:

  1. Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)

  2. Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

  3. Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

  4. Stress hormones (cortisol)

  5. Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

  6. Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms5

  7. Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)

  8. Blood sugar

Another scientific expert on gratitude is Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis.6 He teaches that gratitude is good for at least four reasons:

  1. Gratitude allows people to actively celebrate the present moment

  2. Gratitude blocks negative emotions like envy or resentment and helps people function better

  3. Gratitude makes people more resistant to stress

  4. Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth

I applaud the researchers who are proving the wisdom of God in the Bible. And proving that the instructions found there are for our good and not to restrict us.

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For some reason, Satan has tricked most of us into believing that obedience to God is painful and futile even though Jesus promised in John 10:10 (Amp): The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

In other words, to have the abundant life one must have an attitude of gratitude.

Sources: 1.ABC News November 23, 2011 – 2.Huffington Post November 22, 2014 – 3. Psychology Today November 9, 2011 – 4.American Journal of Cardiology 1995 Nov. 15:76(14):1089-93 – 5.Greatergood.Berkley.edu

PEACE

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And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body;                 and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15 KJV

Peace is just another five letter word unless you’ve struggled with anxiety, unless you’ve suddenly awakened in a panic wondering how you will be able to survive one more day in the mess you find yourself in, or unless you put on your glasses to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, but find only blackness no matter how hard you squint your eyes. It is a positive good, not just the absence of conflict. Indeed, real peace is possible in the midst of uncertainty and conflict.

Peace is a pearl of great price the we can only acquire from God Himself. We might acquire it when we have made the difficult, but good decision or done the truly loving deed. Once experienced, we long to live in that peace again and we joyfully let go of bad habits and preconceptions into order to feel it again.

The peace of God is the perfect high that all people pursue. Unfortunately, most of us seek it in the wrong places and in the wrong way, totally unaware that God hardwired us to seek it through Him. Although sexual fulfillment is a wonderful gift from God to all husbands and wives who wholly give themselves to each other, it is not the ultimate high. The peace of God is a greater, more lasting high that is readily available to all: married, single, old, young, educated, illiterate, rich, or poor.

Seeking the peace of God propelled Mother Teresa into the streets of Calcutta to joyfully care for the  abandoned ones, the untouchables. She herself said that she wouldn’t do it even for a million dollars, but she gladly did it for the love of God even when the rest of the world watched with disgust, curled lips, and disbelief. She and the many people who followed her into her ministry from all over the world were the happiest people one could ever find.

Perhaps we anxious ones could learn a lesson from her. . . .

 

ROMANS 15:13   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

 I THESSALONIANS 5:23-24   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged—consecrated to Him—set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 HEBREWS 13:20-21   Now may the God of peace [the source of serenity and spiritual well-being] who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood that sealed and ratified the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing to carry out His will and strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be], accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

II PETER 1:2    Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

COLOSSIANS 3:15   Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

The last group of  quotations are from The Amplified Bible.

 

Mary Was NOT An Unwed Mother

I cringe when someone speaks of the Virgin Mary was an unwed mother, usually in a silly attempt to make the Christmas story “relevant” for today’s licentious audience. Such people not only blaspheme, they reveal their own ignorance of Jewish wedding customs.

The Jewish wedding employed two ceremonies before completion and consummation for thousands of years, although very recently they have begun merging them into one. At the first one, the betrothal or kiddushin, the couple promise to remain faithful to each other until “death do us part.” A written contract, ketubah, is completed where the groom promises to provide for the bride and the bride promises to keep herself for him. A religious divorce is required to nullify the marriage after this point. Only the groom can ask for one if he finds something untoward in his bride.

In the time of Joseph and Mary, each then went back home to live with family while the groom prepared a home for his bride, often by adding rooms to his father’s house. When his father decided that the new quarters were ready for the bride, then the groom and his friends went through the town to get the bride and bring her to the new home.

There, another ceremony takes place with vows and blessings under the wedding canopy.[1]

This nissuin is the ceremony that permits the bride to her husband and permits the consummation of the marriage. The party usually lasts seven days and friends and family join in the celebration.[2]

Therefore, Mary was legally bound to Joseph when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. When it became known that she was with child, Joseph began considering a quiet divorce to spare her as much as possible. But the Lord God told him to stay in the marriage to protect and provide for Mary and the child in her womb. She was wed the whole time, but conceived by the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.

Interesting Side Note: When one studies the common wedding practices of at the time of Jesus, he gets a new appreciation of John 14:12-13

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

Be Not Afraid of Poverty

a17b2-hip-replacement-recall-briberyI have been poor and I have been wealthy. In both situations, I have enjoyed  happiness and I have endured suffering. I admit that it’s a lot more fun to move up the ladder than it is to either fall or be pushed down it. But, at the end of the day, the state of your bank account doesn’t remotely dictate your quality of life – you do.

“Do not be afraid, my son, because we have become poor.

You have great wealth if you fear God and

flee from every sin and do what is good in the sight of the Lord your God.” Tobit 4:21 

Mary, Ark of the New Covenant

I fear the class left  with some uncertainty 2012-11-25 14.57.16about Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant when she was carrying Jesus in her womb. So I decided to give you more scriptures to read that help explain the concept.

First, those who have not had The Great Adventure Bible Study need to know that in the Old Testament, God gently and graciously taught His Chosen People about Himself gradually building up from basic concepts to readiness for accepting  the Messiah. They lived in a world where every other tribe worshipped idols and maintained religious practices that degraded the participants and led to constant turmoil.

So He began at the kindergarten level by revealing Himself in small ways to Adam, Noah, and Abraham. Then each new interaction with a member of his family revealed a little more about God and Truth. Generations later, the newly freed slaves who crossed the Red Sea on foot, who built the tabernacle and who received the Ten Commandments were still in the early primary grades of His School.

They were told to build The Ark of the Covenant for the Holy of Holies section of the tabernacle with three items kept inside: a golden jar of manna that miraculously stayed fresh, Aaron’s rod that budded (to reveal who was the real High Priest), and the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them. This let them know that the ark, its contents, and the Mercy Seat over it were supremely holy and revealed God in a special way.

Hebrews 9:4 sums it up in the New Testament: In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;

These items taught them about God’s nature. We usually refer to such Old Testament revelations as types. The manna provided miraculous food for the wanderers for forty years that kept them healthy as they participated in “God’s Fitness Camp.” This type taught them that they could depend of God for practical necessities of life.

Aaron’s rod showed them in an undeniable, physical way exactly whom God had appointed to lead them spiritually as they journeyed to the Promised Land. So they could quit lobbying for leadership roles and instead look for, appreciate, and obey the person that God chose for them. And the stone tablets, which the Jews often call the Ten Words, showed them how to live in a happy, satisfying, and productive way here on earth.

During the rest of the Old Testament: the period of the Judges, the Kingdom period, and the diaspora, they learned more and more. They even began to look for a Messiah and His kingdom.

With our 20-20 hindsight, we can see that as Mary carried Jesus before birth, she also carried: the Bread of Life, the Great High Priest, and the Word of God. The Messiah embodied or fulfilled those types from the first Ark in Himself. And He offers to freely share their godly graces with those who ask and believe.

Bread of Life:

  • Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat. John 6:31
  • Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:3

 Aaron’s Rod that Budded or Spiritual Authority: Hebrews 4:14-16

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The Ten Commandments or The Ten Words: John 1:1-5

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 without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.