Monday, November 12, 2018

Say it in Holy Tones: "It is NOT about our salvation!


I hear this often: It’s not about you or us. It’s not about our salvation. (Generally spoken with a real or imagined air of moral superiority.) It is about glorifying God.

Sorry, that is incorrect.

Now I get it, I do. But it is semantically incorrect. That is, if the “It’s” refers to the meaning of the whole shebang. Because you see, although the catechism is correct when it teaches that our chief aim is glorifying God—it is speaking narrowly and locally of our aim, not of God’s aim. And really, it is stating the obvious, because the only arrow in our quiver is to try (and generally fail)  to glorify God. We have nothing to do with or contribute to our salvation, so yes, in that sense it is not about our salvation. In that sense it can’t be.

But in the bigger sense, in the global sense, it is about our salvation. The Nicene Creed nails it when it states:

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.

Bingo. If you, like I do, believe the Nicene Creed is supportable through scripture—well then there you have it. It is about our salvation. 

Friday, November 09, 2018

That Pesky Adverb (remix)

While I was writing my worst seller, I foolishly purchased and read several manuals of the "how to write the great American novel" variety. (Can you say "refund"?) One of the common mantras found in these works was "no run-on sentences!" Sentences with more than eight words should generate a red flag. I don't think Dickens would get published today. Unless, of course, he rewrote Great Expectations to be about gender dysphoria.

Another ubiquitous mandate (apart from the universal admonition to avoid the word ubiquitous)  was this:

"Do not use adverbs ever. If you already used them, go back and remove them." 

After reading this commandment, I remember -s-ing my manuscript for "ly ", on a vigorous search and destroy mission. The explanation given makes sense: adverbs cause you to tell rather than show, in violation of another edict: show don't tell. (This is another reason Dickens would not get published today.) Anyway, I tried to follow the rules. It didn't help. I chose poorly.

Speaking of adverbs:

Some time ago I hit upon a old TV preacher about to start a series on Revelation. Normally I'd keep right on surfing, but this seemed like a good reason to skip church (j/k) so I stopped to listen.

What happened next--well I could have scripted it. He assured us of the importance of Revelation, how we must study it carefully, and generally gave a lot of buzz-words indicating he was going to take the literal, dispensational interpretation . He would proceed slowly and carefully and would explain everything in the difficult book.

He began with the first verse:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (Rev 1:1)
Of this he pointed out, correctly, that the revelation is not John's but Jesus'. This book is our Lord telling us what would take place, he said.

Then, in spite of the promise to explain everything carefully, he moved to verse two.

Do you see the problem? He paid no attention to the adverb. (Maybe because it didn't end in "ly", as adverbs are supposed to do.) This is more than a book in which Jesus tells us what would happen. It is a book in which Jesus revealed what would happen soon.

If what is described in the book has not happened, two millennia hence, then either God has changed his mind or the book is in error. Either possibility is not very appealing.

And no, I don't buy the "a day is like a thousand years" argument. While that statement is true enough, it was never intended as a blunt instrument that renders all time references meaningless. I don't believe that the word soon was inspired for no reason--that it could be any time period at all because "a day is like a thousand years." There is no way to avoid the fact that it signals a short time period, not an indefinite time period.

Funny. In many cases the same apologists, when discussing  the beginning times, argue that the Hebrew yom, which really can mean an indefinite long time--must be taken as a literal 24-hour day. But then, when discussing the end times, they ignore the word soon or simply deny that soon means soon. Or that this generation means this generation. Or the clear implication that some of you will not taste death  [before these things happen] is that some will still be alive--and clearly, if it means anything, suggests a generation-like time interval after which some will be dead, and some still alive.

Those who take Revelation "literally"  take the complicated imagery literally--even though such language is used elsewhere in scripture figuratively.†† And then they ignore the simple, straightforward time references.

To me that is just bizarre.


 Which, let's be honest here, is the fun way to read Revelation.

†† Consider, for example, the apocalyptic language complete with stars falling from the sky used to describe the historic destruction of Babylon:
9 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine. (Isa. 13:9-10) 
Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, (Isa. 9:13).
And the destruction of Bozrah:
3 Also their slain shall be thrown out; Their stench shall rise from their corpses, And the mountains shall be melted with their blood. 4 All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. (Isa. 34:3-4)

Thursday, November 08, 2018

One King: Scene 1

Here is a list of Dramatis Personæ


Background: The year is 970 BCE. King David of a united Israel is bedridden. He is old, cold, and seemingly near death. In his decrepit condition, the affairs of state have been neglected. David's son Adonijah, who while only the fourth son of the king, is nevertheless next in line due to the deaths of his older brothers. Adonijah is everything that David is no longer: he is young, vital, handsome, and a man of action. In the power vacuum created by David's inattentiveness, Adonijah is prepared to act precipitously rather than wait for the inevitable.



Scene 1
Location: Early evening in the palace in Jerusalem, the King's bedchambers. King David is sleeping fitfully, shivering though covered with layers of skins. Two attendants are in the corner of the room, whispering.
Attendant 1: I don't know what to do. The king cannot shake the coldness.

Attendant 2: Don't worry. It is spoken in the halls that after a search of the country, a maiden named Abishag, a Shunammite and of perfect beauty, will arrive soon. She is to lie with the king to keep him warm.

Attendant 1: Surely the king is in no condition to...

Attendant 2: Gah! Your mind is always in the chamber pot. It is not for relations, just for warmth.

Attendant 1: Why then the vast search? Are there not any number of servants who could provide heat? Even you! Why is such exquisite beauty required?

Attendant 2: Well, he is the king.

Attendant 1:  Indeed. And I suppose when there is no wood for a blaze, it is still better to keep the embers stoked with kindling that to let the fire pit go dead.
Location: One week later, on the palace roof. Bathsheba, a wife of the king and mother of Solomon, the king's son, stands near the edge and overlooks the safety railing at the houses and apartments below. She is approached by Nathan, the trusted senior advisor of the king.
Nathan: My lady, I knew I would find you here. You come here more often with each passing day.

Bathsheba: I stare at the past, down below, at the home of my youth, and wonder how different the world would be if it had rained on one fateful day long ago and I had not ventured outside.

Nathan: Your beauty, which has not faded, would not have escaped his notice for long. Have peace. It is as it was meant to be.

Bathsheba (sighing): Perhaps. Perhaps that is so. (Composing herself.) And what brings you here Nathan? Has my husband weakened further?

Nathan: The king still breathes with labor, but the maiden summoned to provide warmth arrived after the Sabbath and this seems to have helped. But I have disturbing news. His son by Haggith,  Adonijah, has declared himself to be king.

Bathsheba: What? That is outrageous! And what does my husband say? Did he...

Nathan: The king knows nothing of this.

Bathsheba: But... but then surely Adonijah  is being taken as a fool!

Nathan: I am afraid not. He somehow has convinced Commander Joab that his claim is legitimate, and now Joab has joined him just outside the city, at the spring of En Rogel, and has brought with him horses and chariots and three hundred soldiers. And Abiathar the priest has also given his support and joined the encampment. He made sacrifices on behalf of Adonijah, and Adonijah invited all of his brothers except Solomon to a feast, along with many palace officials no doubt hoping to maintain their positions.  The situation is dire.

Bathsheba: How was this possible? Is anyone with us? And what of the king's mighty men?

Nathan: Fortunately the king's guard remain loyal to your husband, and for that we have Benaiah to thank. He has spoken to them and told them the king did not sanction a transfer of power and that Adonijah's ploy is an illegal usurpation. Zadok the priest, and the king's trusted officials Shimei and Rei are aware of the situation and have remained with us. All are here in the palace.

Bathsheba: So... what then are we to do?

Nathan: You must go to the king. Remind him of his pledge to you that your son Solomon would sit on his throne, with you as the Queen Mother. This will stir his blood. And as you speak to him, I will enter and confirm all that you say.
Location: Later that day in the king's bedchambers. Bathsheba has been admitted, finding the king sitting up and his brow being patted by the maiden Abishag. As she  finished, Abishag withdraws from the room. Bathsheba steps closer and bows down before David.
David (in a raspy voice): No need for that my wife, rise up so I can see you.

Bathsheba (rising): You look stronger, my love.

David: Yes, a bit, but soon I shall go home and lie with my ancestors.  But tell me dear, what bothers you? It is written on your face.

Bathsheba: Have you not heard? It is your son Adonijah. He has declared himself king. He has enticed many from the palace to his cause, as well as Commander Joab with troops and chariots, and all of your sons except Solomon. They camp and feast at En Rogel.

David (straightening himself further, but stoic): But Nathan! Surely not Nathan!

Bathsheba: Nathan is with you, as is Benaiah and your guard, and the priest Zadok. But my lord, you have sworn to me that Solomon will follow you. But as you lay here, Adonijah has make a strong move on the throne, and because of your condition he was able to do it with alerting you. If nothing is done, surely Adonijah  will see to it that your servant and your son will follow you to the grave as soon as your protection is gone.
As she finished speaking,  an attendant announces that Nathan has arrived. Nathan enters and bows, until the king bids him to stand and speak.
Nathan: My lord, have you named Adonijah as your heir? As we speak he is feasting with your sons, except Solomon, and with officials and the commander of your army. They are singing, "Long live King Adonijah." All of Israel is watching, waiting to hear of your passing or your blessing on Adonijah.

David: My friend, you know I played no part in this treachery! What a weakling I have been, lying here in despair of my dwindling time instead of leading my country! But no more! Summon Zadok and Benaiah.
After a short while, Zadok the priest and Benaniah of the King's Guard arrive from their stations in the palace.
David: (speaking to Benaiah): Take as many of my servants as you need, Put my son Solomon on my mule, then along with Zadok and Nathan, precess with him to the river Gihon. There Zadok and Nathan shall anoint him King of Israel. With loud fanfares of trumpets declare to all Israel, "Here is David's chosen successor, long live King Solomon!" Then return to the palace, and place Solomon on the throne!
Location: Adonijah's encampment at the spring of En Rogel. The celebrants  are finishing their feast when they hear trumpets and shouting from the city. As they ponder the meaning, Jonathan the son of the disloyal priest Abiathar appears in the camp at the entrance of the main tent.
Adonijah (joyously): Enter worthy servant! What is the good news from the city? Are they cheering for their new king!

Jonathan (nervously): No, I mean yes, I mean.. (sighs) My lord, David has had Solomon taken to Gihon by the King's Guard and riding the king's mule. There Zadok and Nathan anointed him King of Israel, and now Solomon sits on the throne in the palace. The city is in celebration. That is the noise you hear even here, outside the walls. They are celebrating their king,  King Solomon.
At this news, the guests rose and fled in fear for their lives and positions. Adonijah himself sought refuge at the sacred altar, where Solomon could not do him harm. 
Location: The next day, at the place of the sacred altar, where the priests are urging Adonijah to release the horns of the altar and leave the holy place.
Adonijah: I will not leave this sanctuary until King Solomon swears to me that my life is to be spared.
Upon hearing a report of Adonijah's declaration of sanctuary, Solomon issues a royal edict.
Solomon: Let it be known. If Adonijah, from this day forward,  shows himself to be a worthy subject, not a hair on his head will be harmed. This I swear. But should he continue in his evil ways, he shall be put to death. Now bring him to me.
The king's men went to Adonijah and told him of the Solomon's edict. Adonijah returned with the Guard to the palace where he bowed before the king and declared his allegiance.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

One King: Dramatis Personæ

Note: I am reading through 1 Kings. I decided to blog it in the form of a play, with each chapter as a scene, which is probably blasphemous. I have no idea if it will work, and there is a good chance that it won't and I'll abandon the attempt.

The goal is that this page will maintain the (growing) alphabetical list of "players". Scene 1 will come soon!



One King
Dramatis Personæ 


Abiathar: a priest and son of a high priest, he first supports Adonijah but has shifting loyalties.

Abishag: beautiful Shunammite maiden who attends to the dying king.

Adonijah: fourth son of the the king by Haggith. Adonijah takes advantage of the dying king's inattentiveness to declare himself king.

Bathsheba: wife of the king and mother of Solomon, the king's intended heir-apparent.

Benaiah: one of the king's 37 elite troops, known as the mighty men. He remained loyal to David.

David: king of a united Israel. As our story opens, he is dying and bedridden and, as a consequence, he is inattentive to the matters of state, which opens the door to mischief.

Joab: disillusioned commander of the king's army and nephew to the king. He throws his support behind Adonijah.

Jonathan: son of the priest Abiathar, and a messenger.

Nathan: a prophet of God and loyal to the king.

Rei: a loyal subject of the king.

Shimei: a man of questionable character, he was forgiven by David once, but not twice.

Solomon: Second son of the king by Bathsheba, and the preferred successor to the throne.

Zadok: priest loyal to David and Solomon who later would be the first high priest of the First Temple.

Friday, November 02, 2018

God and Baseball Statistics (modified)

In the six days of sports creation, God created sports successively closer and closer to the perfect divine image. To be precise:
Day 1: Basketball (Intended for giants, i.e., the Nephilim, to keep their minds off the daughters of men. Alas it didn't work, because the sport was too boring, with no defense, and the daughters of men were quite fetching.)
Day 2: Soccer
Day 3: Real Football
Day 4: Hockey
Day 5: Baseball
Day 6: NASCAR
And on the seventh day 1 he watched NASCAR (The S is for Sabbath). And it was very good. Except for Kevin Harvick hitting the wall in turn two.

A "Sports Theodicy" is an attempt to explain the puzzle of where figure skating, sissy Formula One Racing, and Curling came from, since God had nothing to do with these.

God often uses sports to illustrate that "the wicked shall prosper." For example,
They [the Red Sox] spend their days in prosperity, And suddenly they go down to Sheol. (Job 21:13, NNYYV 2
Though baseball is not the pinnacle of sports creation, it's darn close. And it has been given the special honor as the sport-most-holy in its conduciveness to statistical analysis.

We all know about batting average (BA). If you don't—well in the words of that greatest American philosopher:
"I say, there's just something yech about a boy who don't, I say don't like baseball." (Foghorn Leghorn, Instructions for the Care of Widows' Sons, 1962.)
BA is simply the number of hits divided by the number at bats. By divine fiat the number of significant digits shall always be kept at three. Never four, and five is just out of the question. And, lest thou be sentenced to be a Pittsburgh Pirate fan for eternity, thou shall omit the leading zero and speak the number as if it has been multiplied by a thousand, for the Lord owns the cattle (from which rawhide for baseballs and leather for mitts is made) on a thousand hills. 3

For example:
A player who has 207 hits in 611 at bats has BA of .339.
It shall be said this batter hits "three-thirty-nine" and not "approximately zero-point-three-four" as the pagans are wont to do.

A more interesting statistic is the batting average on balls in play (BABIP). For this statistic, you take the number of times the batter gets the ball in play, i.e., hits it into fair territory, divided by plate appearances. Strikeouts and home runs are excluded. Sacrifice flies, however, count as plate appearances. The formula is:

BABIP = (H – HR)/(AB – K – HR + SF)

where H is hits, HR is home runs, AB is at bats, K is strikeouts, and SF is sacrifice flies.

By comparison, the regular batting average is given by:

BA = H/AB

The average BABIP is around .300. Usually, but not always, a hitter's BABIP is higher than his BA.

Here is where things get interesting. If you are a general manager and your team needs a hitter, you generally snag the one with the highest BA. But suppose there are two players available with the same BA but different BABIP. For example:

Bill Buckner: BA: .280, BABIP: .290
Omar Moreno: BA: .280, BABIP .340

Which would you take? The counter-intuitive answer: take Buckner, the hitter with the lower BABIP.

Why?

Because it turns out that to a good first approximation once a batted ball is in play whether or not it results in a safe hit is random. Does the ball go to where a defender ain't? So a BABIP below the average of .300 indicates a player who has, statistically speaking, been unlucky. His BA should be higher. Conversely a player whose BABIP is higher than .300 has been lucky. His BA is artificially high.

Over time you expect the BA of a player with a high BABIP to drop, and the BA of a player with a low BABIP to rise.

So take Bill Buckner. Send Omar Moreno to triple-A.


1 In the New Testament era, NASCAR races were moved to the first day of the week. Because reasons.

2 The New New York Yankee Version. Zondervan, 2018.

3 Dispensationalists argue that it is exactly 1000 hills. Covenant theologians say: "Meh.  500, 2000, -1/12?  It doesn't matter, it's all under the umbrella of a single covenant of grace."

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Jonathan Edwards on Immutability results in a New Physical Law

Excerpts from Edwards's sermon "Jesus Christ, The Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever"

When it is said that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, by yesterday is meant all time past; by today, the time present; and by forever, all that is future, from the present time to eternity. 
Doctrine. Jesus Christ is the same now that he ever has been and ever will be.
Christ is thus unchangeable in two respects. 
I. In his divine nature. As Christ is one of the persons of the Trinity, he is God, and so has the divine nature, or the Godhead dwelling in him, and all the divine attributes belong to him, of which immutability or unchangeableness is one. Christ in his human nature was not absolutely unchangeable, though his human nature, by reason of its union with the divine, was not liable to those changes to which it was liable, as a mere creature. As for instance, it was indestructible and imperishable. Having the divine nature to uphold it, it was not liable to fall and commit sin, as Adam and the fallen angels did, but yet the human nature of Christ, when he was upon earth, was subject to many changes. It had a beginning. It was conceived in the womb of the Virgin. It was in a state of infancy, and afterwards changed from that state to a state of manhood, and this was attended not only with a change on his body, by his increasing in stature, but also on his mind. For we read that he not only increased in stature but also in wisdom. Luke 2:52. And the human nature of Christ was subject to sorrowful changes, though not to sinful ones...
II. Christ is unchangeable in his office. He is unchangeable as the Mediator and Savior of his church and people. That unchangeableness of Christ in his office of Mediator, appears in several things...
Comparing this with modern position papers on Divine Immutability has inspired me to propose a new physical law: The Inverse Square Law of Theological Clarity:

V = k/(1 + O2),       (Eq. 1)

where V is a measure of the value (and clarity, and comprehensibility) of the explanation (measured in units of Sprouls, in honor of RC), k is a universal constant that must be determined by experiment, and O2 is the square of the number of times the word ontological is used in the theological explanation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Assurance Lite

At my church we are benefiting from a fantastic sermon series that plumbs the depths of the theology (and angst) of the Assurance of Salvation. You can listen to it here.

On a much more primitive level, I often turn to these verses when I am struggling with assurance:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)  
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Cor. 2:14) 
I don't know if these verses are intended to provide "assurance" assurance, but they work, reasonably well, for me. The idea of course is this: no matter how much my wallowing in the mire and seemingly barren trees O' fruit cause me to doubt my salvation, I have never reached the point where I view the Word, the cross, or the things of God as foolishness.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hail Mary


Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


That is recognizable to us all as the Roman Catholic Hail Mary prayer.

Here are some relevant supporting verses:
“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28)
 “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! (Luke 1:42)
 In Luke 1:28, the Greek word for favored is charitoō (χαριτόω), which means highly favored or—to grace (i.e., the verb.)  It is the same word used  here:
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:6) 
It is not unbiblical to describe Mary as "full of grace." 

It is also indisputable (which still doesn’t cause some Protestant’s to cringe, for no good reason) to bestow upon Mary the honorific:  Mother of God.
P1: Jesus is God.
P2: Mary is his mother.
C: Mary is the Mother of God
 If that bugs you, get over it.

Furthermore it is of vital importance—not because of what it says about Mary, but about what it says about Jesus. He was fully human. He was God incarnate.

So everything in the Hail Mary is biblical, up to the “pray for us sinners” part.

Surely that is heterodoxy.

Well, maybe. Probably. But not definitely.

Praying to Mary (or anyone else) to deliver unto you only something God can deliver (e.g., salvation for you or another), or to give praise that is due only to God is blasphemous.

But consider two assumptions:

1)   That the dead, in glory, can hear you.
2)   That the dead, in glory, can pray

Are these ruled out by scripture? I don’t think so. So if Roman Catholics are merely  talking to Mary and asking her to pray—but are not worshipping Mary, is that truly the idolatry that we Protestants claim?

I can’t say that it is. I can’t say that it isn’t. It's...complicated.

It turns out that John Calvin had a nuanced view, and that his concern (in this regard) was not so much with contemporary Catholic doctrine, but with how it was potentially misunderstood and abused by the laity.  That is, he felt that while Catholic Mariology fell short of idolatry, it was so close that it was easy for the average Catholic to take the next step.

What is the official Catholic doctrine? Well, they make a distinction between two very similar Greek words. Latria, which is worship, and dulia, which is high esteem or service.

According to Rome, only God receives latria. The saints never are due latria, only dulia. This is, perhaps, hero worship, bit it is not (Rome says) idolatry.  They might argue, with some justification, that we not only afford Paul dulia but also Martin Luther and John Calvin and our favorite theologians, dead or alive.

So far—I cannot say that they don’t have a point and an argument.

But Mary is a slightly different story. Mary is given extra special dulia, hyper-dulia if you will.  Mary is not just a saint; she is the saints’ saint. Here Calvin argues that hyper-dulia is effectively indistinguishable from latria.

As evidence that Rome is still concerned with maintaining this distinction, one can look at Vatican II. There, by order of Pope John XXIII, the discussion of the Doctrine of Mary (which was considerable) was placed in category of Ecclesiology (the Doctrine of the Church) and not Theology (the Doctrine of God.)

For whatever that’s worth.

One thing is for sure. Mary is one of two New Testament heroes that we, in the Protestant church, don’t talk about enough. The other is Stephen. Interestingly Stephen is also the other person in the New Testament described (Acts 6:8) as “full of grace.”

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Most Difficult Command


The Greek word rendered as blessed in the beatitudes is makarios (μακάριος). As you might expect, it can mean fortunate. But it also means happy. Blessed are they that mourn (Matt. 5:4) could have been translated as: Happy are they that mourn.

How can you be happy while mourning? That’s a good question. We can be sure that the common picture of joy as wild-eyed bliss isn't what is meant here. But something, some manner of happiness, is indeed intended to be conveyed by the word blessed.

Let's look at some well-known verses:
Happy are the people who are in such a state;  Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Ps. 41:5, NKJV 1
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
When Paul, in Galatians 1:8-9, warns Galatians (and by extension, us) about deceivers preaching a false gospel, he raises the warning to a higher DefCon level through the contemporary practice of emphasis by repetition. Similarly in Phil. 4:4,  Paul tells us to be joyful. Twice. He means it. He is serious. He has pretty much reached the "don't you make me tell you again!" point. And note that it is an active not a passive call. It is in fact a command, an imperative, a moral obligation. The onus is on the believer to be joyful. When? Always. Even when mourning. And if it is a command (and it is) then when we are not joyful (and this isn’t going to help!) we are in disobedience. We are sinning.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism nails it, in its first question:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? 
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Here man’s primary purpose is given, and at least according to this catechism, it’s one part glorifying God and one part enjoying God. 

We are to enjoy God. We are not to wait to be made joyful in God by others. I really don't like this command. 

I don’t think that we are taught enough that enjoying God is as important as glorifying God. I think we are properly taught about the glorifying part, but the joyful part is often merely paid lip service.

The believer must be joyful, always. That is a very hard teaching.  If you are not joyful, you are sinning. These days I’m sinning, fiercely, in my moroseness and discontentment.

I would settle, at the moment, to be be joyful sometimes, but always?? On this side of eternity? Sigh. I guess it's a goal.

How does one make oneself joyful? I don’t know. I know the platitudinous answer. It is found right there in Phil. 4.4. Be joyful in the Lord.  I could go on and on regarding the indisputable truth that the correct focus of our joy will indeed precipitate our joy, but you already know this. To me, it amounts to one of those “easier said than done” lessons.

While the believer is commanded to be joyous, that doesn't absolve the church from its responsibility to assist the believer in his requirement of righteous happiness. While none of us is interested (I hope) in a shallow church that ignores doctrine and billows happy-smoke from the pulpit, it is probably also wise to examine whether we are being called, constantly, to examine whether or not we are falling short of somebody's Christian ideal.  Occasionally we need to lighten up a bit. Simple things can help. Even wording with a positive spin. "Let's pray more, I promise it will increase your joy!" is so much better than "forgive us O Lord, for we don't pray enough."



To emphasize that blessed and happy are biblical synonyms, we note that both the ESV and NABS translate this Ps. 41:5 using Blessed rather than Happy.