The ceiling at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Wichita, KS

Finding joy for someone else when you’re in the dark

Have you ever been happy just because you’re around someone who is happy? I got to go to a wedding this weekend. It was an unusual wedding for me because it was in a Greek Orthodox church. I’d been to this particular church once before and found it fascinating, so I was eager to see a wedding.

It was a pretty neat event. If you’re in Wichita and you’ve never been inside St. George’s Cathedral, you seriously are missing out. The building is gorgeous, and the acoustics are pretty much unmatched. And their choice? Wow. All a cappella. Just fantastic.

But as beautiful as the wedding was, as beautiful as the church was, as beautiful as the music was, nothing quite prepared me for the sight of the pure joy on my friend’s face as he watched his bride walk down the aisle. I seriously thought I was going to burst I was so happy for them. My face hurt from grinning by the time the wedding was over.

The ceiling at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Wichita, KS

The ceiling at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:15.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

Have you noticed that it’s really easy to weep with someone who’s weeping? Maybe not in a literal sense. Or maybe it is in a literal sense too, if you’re a particularly emotional person. What I mean is that it’s easy to focus on the bad things that are happening in life sometimes.

I think it’s because life is so full of bad things. People die in horrible ways. Families split up. There’s drought where there should be rain and rain where there should be drought. We don’t like our jobs, we don’t like our schools, we don’t like our political leaders, we don’t like our church leaders. People we love are lost. People we don’t like hang around.

When someone is unhappy, there’s normally some kind of unhappy common ground you can find with them. I mean who hasn’t been jilted in some way or another? Who hasn’t lost a loved one? Who hasn’t been forced out of a job or a career or a dream?

And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to weep with people who are weeping. It doesn’t work to go to someone who is grieving and expect them to be happy and cheerful. They won’t be, and that’s fine. Everyone experiences loss, and everyone needs to grieve. But the problem comes when you have to get out of that grieving mindset and start rejoicing.

Maybe life isn’t going the way you want it right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy for the people around you who are achieving great and wonderful things. Maybe you’re going through a rough patch where nothing seems to be going right, but that doesn’t mean you have to drag everyone else down into your dark moments.

No, don’t ignore your dark moments. Recognize them. Those times where you need to grieve, where you need to be sad, are important, and you should have someone in your life who you can go to where you can be completely honest about how you’re feeling.

God didn’t create people to be nocturnal. We were never intended to live in dark places. Doesn’t mean we won’t be there every now and then. It’s just not healthy for us to stay there.

And you know what? Even if you’re in a dark place, you can still rejoice with someone. And it might even help you find the light a little sooner.

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Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t find happiness by knowing what it isn’t

The United Nations proclaimed March 20, 2013, as the International Day of Happiness. Yesterday, people all over the world celebrated in many different ways.

I guess it’s good to have a day dedicated to celebrating happiness, and the purpose for the day is to remind the world that being happy doesn’t mean being rich or famous. But in all of the materials I reviewed (briefly), I couldn’t find one where they explained what happiness is. All I could find was what happiness isn’t. And one thing I’ve learned about happiness is that you can’t achieve it without a focal point. You can’t be happy just by understanding what it isn’t. You have to have a reason to be happy.

At least, that’s how it works for me. I can’t just be happy because I know it doesn’t come from wealth or fame or beauty. I need to know what it does come from.

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 17:7-8.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

What does the word blessed mean? In some instances where it shows up (bless the Lord, call her blessed, etc.), it usually means to say good things about. When we bless the Lord, it means to say good things about God, remembering what He’s done for us. But in other instances, like this one, blessed means happy.

With that in mind, check the verse out again. “But blessed (happy) are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”

And that’s what I’m looking for. If I trust in the Lord and make Him my hope and confidence, I’ll be happy. Why? Because like trees planted by a river, I never lack for anything I need.

You can’t find happiness by understanding what it isn’t. The only way to be truly happy is to understand where it really comes from. Not wealth or fame or beauty or even health. You can’t even find true happiness in the intangibles like family and security and love because none of those things last.

The only way to be truly happy is to place your hope and trust in God. So don’t flail around looking for happiness in all the wrong places. You can try, but you won’t find it.

Trust God and let His promises become the foundation you build your life on.

Old broken door to the granary at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Responding to brokenness with joy

Our world is a pretty sad place. Everything’s broken, and brokenness is always sad, whether it’s something small or something big in our lives. But I have met people who have every right to be unhappy and miserable yet somehow they are more cheerful than people who have everything. How is that?

Well, if you’re a Christ follower and you have the Holy Spirit inside you, you have access to a power you can draw on at any time that will help you make it through a day or a week or a month or a year with a cheerful heart. That power is joy.

Old broken door to the granary at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Old broken door to the granary at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

But what is joy? Is it just happiness? Is it healthy thinking? Is it a choice? We talk about joy a lot. We say we’re joyful or that we’ve lost our joy or that someone is joyous, but what does it actually mean?

This month I’m doing a study of the Fruit of the Spirit because part of living a life that is led by the Spirit is demonstrating these qualities. I want God’s Spirit to be a part of my life every moment and not just in the times when I don’t know what to do.

From what I understand, the word joy itself that is used in the Bible is the same as happiness. The difference is that many times happiness is something that can be taken away because it’s based on circumstances, but joy is a gift that God gives to people who believe in Him. So that gift doesn’t depend on our circumstances. It depends on the person who gave it, and since we can always trust God, we can always have joy.

But what it comes down to this morning is that joy is a response. No matter what happens in our lives, joy is how we are supposed to answer. Whether we have everything we want or just the things we need or maybe not even that much, we are supposed to respond to life with joy.

Joy is happiness. It is healthy thinking. It’s all of those definitions and more.

The fact that this kind of joy is a Fruit of the Spirit means that it will take some time to cultivate. The difficult part about this kind of joy is that it isn’t readily apparent until you truly begin struggling. If you haven’t had difficulties in your life, I’m not sure you know what this kind of joy is like because you have to know sorrow before you can understand what it’s like to know joy.

When I was younger, I thought I understood, but then I thought I understood a lot when I was young. But when you begin to live and when you truly understand how broken our world is, life is full of sorrow. I don’t know how God stands it. My heart breaks for this world and all the evil things we do.

People hurt each other. We tear down our own lives. We crush dreams. We interfere. Families are falling apart. Life is no longer precious, and what once was bad is now good. Heroes are snubbed and villains are exalted. Everything is backward. Everything is broken. And even where life is supposed to work, there is still dysfunction and sadness and sickness.

But in the midst of all of it, no matter what situation you’re in, you have the power to choose joy. Joy is a response to what God is doing, to what He’s saying, to what you’re learning, to what you’re experiencing. Whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s happy or sorrowful, whatever the situation if you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you can choose to respond to your circumstances with joy. And once you choose to respond with joy, life looks different.

Oh, everything is still broken. That won’t change. But once you choose to respond to that brokenness with God’s joy, your whole perspective shifts because you will understand that the things that matter are still intact. God isn’t broken. The Bible isn’t broken. And while our relationship with Him probably doesn’t look like what it should most of the time, He is still in control and He knows what He’s doing and if we let Him do what He does best, He’ll take the broken pieces of our lives and our dreams and put them together again in a way that accomplishes something awesome.

Granted, we may never see the outcome of the difficult moments in our lives, at least not in a physical way. But what we’ll experience goes beyond mere happiness. Real joy comes from peace and confidence and trust and unwavering knowledge that everything is going to be okay. And once you grasp that, you can respond to anything with a cheerful heart.

If you have the Holy Spirit, you have joy. So what are facing today? Frustrations at work? Frustrations at home? Frustrations in general? All of the above? No matter what you’re facing, you can choose to have joy. Just ask for it and remember that you’re not facing life alone. If you have the Holy Spirit, God is walking through life at your side.

So smile. The world may be broken, but if you belong to Christ, you’re not.

Tree stuck between mountains at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Choose your attitude

I was hired to be a webmaster and a writer, but my first few weeks on the job, I spent the majority of my time as a pack horse. We had a lot of heavy boxes and equipment to move from our office to the hotel where we were holding our national sales meeting. And the team I worked with at the time was entirely composed of women. And not just women–girly women. (We’re in marketing, for heaven’s sake!) Granted, they’re tough, and they work like crazy. But none of them expected me to be able to lift a 50-pound box in dress slacks and heels. That’s when I got to explain that I live on a farm. So I added “He-woman” to my job description that day.

But my manager at the time kept apologizing because hauling boxes and heavy equipment wasn’t why I was hired. It was something extra I had to do, and I think she was concerned that I would be upset about it. But it didn’t bother me. I like being helpful no matter what I’m doing, although at the time I had wished they would have told me what I would be doing so I wouldn’t have worn heels! By the time that day was over, I was tired, but I wasn’t unhappy. I could have been, I suppose. To have been “subjected” to a day of hard labor at a position where I was supposed to be writing might have upset some folks.

But I had already chosen how I was going to feel about the experience. I had chosen to be cheerful about it. I mean, hey, I had a job. And it wasn’t like they were saying, “Lift this box or you’re fired!” No, I hauled those boxes around because they needed to be moved, and I could do it.

Tree stuck between mountains at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Tree stuck between mountains at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Philippians 2:5-8.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Attitude is everything. If your attitude is sour, your perspective and your focus will be sour. It colors everything. But the beautiful thing about attitude (which is also the ugly thing about it) is that you can choose it. You decide when you roll out of bed what your attitude is going to be today.

No, you can’t control the events of the day. No, you can’t control your circumstances (at least, to a point). No, you can’t control other people. But you can control how you react. You can control how you respond. You can control what you think. And while you may not be able to control how you feel, you can choose how you act on your feelings.

For just a moment, try putting yourself in Jesus’ situation. He was God. He is God. He’s always been God. He always will be God. Creator of the universe. Creator of time itself. The beginning of everything. Endless, eternal, worthy of all our praise. God. But when He had the choice to do nothing or to make a way for us to be saved, He chose to save us, even though it meant that He had to give up everything.

This is how the Amplified Version puts it:

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!

Jesus had every right to hold on to His status and position, but He didn’t look at it that way. Granted, when He came to Earth, He was still God. He was still God’s Son, but He was human too. It’s like asking me to give up my life to become an amoeba. That’s not a sufficient comparison, but it’s as close as I can get with one cup of coffee.

It’s unthinkable. And Jesus didn’t stop there. Not only did He give up everything, He took it a step further and died a humiliating and excruciating death.

You realize He knew He was coming to His death, right? Jesus knew why He was born. He knew why He was here. All the years He grew up, all the years He lived, all the years He taught, He knew He was here for one purpose–to die for us. But did He complain? Did He mope? Did He grumble? No!

And if that’s the way Jesus lived His whole 33 years in the shadow of impending crucifixion, why can’t we choose to be cheerful when we have to do something at work we don’t think is our responsibility? Why can’t we face frustration and irritation with a smile? Why can’t we stand up for what we believe with joy? Why can’t decide to be content with what we have?

Maybe today is going to suck for you. Maybe the week will be awful. Maybe the month or the year is going to be stressful and overwhelming, and maybe you have no control over anything that’s happening in your life. And the only thing you’re sure of is chaos.

You can’t choose your circumstances. But you can choose how you face them.

Jesus chose His attitude.

Choose yours.

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Contentment never comes from constant comparison

Can you be happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people? I can’t. But what is it about the human condition that leads us to compare ourselves to each other? Nobody has to teach us to do that. We just do it.

We live our lives and one day we meet someone who (in our perception) has something we don’t have. And that automatically means that person is happier than we are, so we compare our lives. We compare our personalities. We compare our achievements. And we compare our failures. In some cases, it ends with simple discontent, but in other cases it becomes raging jealousy.

The plain and simple truth is that our purpose isn’t to compare ourselves to each other. That’s not how a Christ-follower is supposed to live. A Christ-follower is supposed to compare themselves to God, to Christ, to live by the example He gave us. Not to live by the life of someone here we think is happy. Because I guarantee, if you pick the person down here you think is the happiest person in the world, if you really get to know them, you’ll discover that their life isn’t as fun as you think it is.

So instead of comparing our lives, which is just a distraction from the things that really matter, shouldn’t we work together?

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Two scarlet macaws at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:1-2.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

After reading through Philippians a few times, I get the feeling that the Church at Philippi had some trouble getting along. Paul even goes so far as to call out names of people who he wanted to stop squabbling. And unfortunately, not much has changed in the Church in 2,000 years. The Church is still the epicenter of many arguments and much unpleasantness, all stemming from the fact that the believers within refuse to get along.

And from what I have seen and experienced, the root cause of why people can’t get along is that they focus on how they are different.

We focus on the differences in our life experience. We focus on the difference in our rearing. We focus on the difference of our level of education. We focus on our age. We focus on our preferences. We focus on our marital status. And we go a step further. Because someone else has money or education or Bible knowledge, we automatically assume they want nothing to do with us, and somehow we begin to resent them even though we don’t even know who they are. Or because someone is popular or well-liked in the church, we form opinions about them and don’t even try to get to know them.

And before you know it, we have convinced ourselves through assumptions and preconceived notions that we can’t be of one mind because we are too different.

But what does Philippians say? What did Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit write to the people who refuse to work together?

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Is there any?

Not total. Not complete. Not full. Not entire or whole or a word that indicates we have to be 100% alike.

Any.

Here’s how the Amplified Version puts it:

So by whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] strengthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the [Holy] Spirit [we share], and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy, fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.

We aren’t supposed to be the same people. God made us different and put us in different circumstances with different life experiences so that where one person is weak the other person can be strong. But because we like to compare ourselves, because we refuse to be happy with where we are, we only see the differences. So we don’t see how our differences can make us strong through Christ.

I may have absolutely nothing in common with the next person I talk to at my church. They may be married with six kids and love chick flicks and romance novels and only eat turnips. But if that person belongs to Christ, we are family. Everything else is insubstantial in the face of our connection through Christ. Christ is what matters.

So today, if you have formed preconceived notions about another believer, get rid of them. Drop them like a rock. Preconceived notions when you don’t know someone will only do damage, both to the person you assume things about and to you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop looking at other people’s lives and wondering why they deserve to be happy when you don’t. And reach out to someone you don’t know. Prove your preconceived notions wrong. I guarantee you will.

And even if the person you reach out to turns out to be exactly opposite from you, you still have one thing in common. And that one thing, Christ, can make up for everything else.

Funny yellow bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Seeing suffering as a privilege

People who really know me know that I struggle with insecurity. On the surface, I am a confident person, sure and decisive. And I’d like to think I’m that way in every situation, but my heart knows better. I’m not double-minded. I know what’s right, and I decide fairly quickly what the right course of action is. But knowing what’s right is easy; you read the Bible. But for me, feeling secure about a decision that doesn’t have a clear answer is difficult, and maybe that comes from being a people pleaser. Maybe it comes from being a perfectionist. Either way, I am easily intimidated.

I’m better than I used to be, and through many circumstances where I had to learn to stand up for myself, I’ve grown more comfortable speaking out or even just speaking up. But when I’m around belligerent people, when I encounter people whose only goal is to browbeat me, usually I quail. I’ve always been that way. I guess it’s the Feeler part of my personality that would rather compromise and bargain through conflict instead of drawing a line and making people cross it.

But every time I back down from a confrontation that I know I shouldn’t have, I feel wretched. After all, God doesn’t operate through fear, and if we are afraid to act when God calls us to do so, we’re just letting Satan control our actions. And honestly, this happens a lot. How many Christians do you know who have run upon difficult situations where they’ve been beaten to the ground emotionally by people around them? I see it in our schools and our colleges. I see it in the workplace. I see it in entertainment.

For me, I could stand up in my college classroom and announce that I followed Christ, and nobody would give me a hard time. But that ten years ago (yikes!). Colleges don’t work that way now. You can say you follow Christ, but you’ll be ridiculed and treated like an idiot. The world has never been more angry and more hateful for those who follow Christ. And when that happens, how on earth are we supposed to react? Do we get angry and hateful back?

Funny yellow bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funny yellow bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 1:28-30.

Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Do you believe this guy? Paul had some nerve, didn’t he? But he happens to know what he’s talking about.

If anyone else had said this, it wouldn’t have the same effect, but Paul knew what it was like to be attacked and beaten and made the focal point for cruel jokes and unfair imprisonment. So when he says not to be intimidated and that suffering is a privilege, he’s not blowing sunshine at us (as my awesome Pastor says). He lived it.

Our world thrives on intimidation because the whole world is insecure. The only way for an insecure person to live with themselves (outside of Christ) is to tear people around them down so they feel better about their failures. The world hates us because it hates itself; it just won’t admit it. So of course the world is going to try to tear us apart. Of course the world is going to try to beat us down. The world hates itself but not enough to change its mind about sin; so the only recourse left is to rip believers apart.

And when we come to that crossroads, we have a choice. We can either quail under the intimidation of people who are only trying to tear us down so they can feel better about themselves. Or we can keep standing with our heads held high and love them like Christ did.

But be warned, if you keep your head up and if you don’t back down, what was merely intimidation will move to full on persecution. If people can’t intimidate you, they’ll try to hurt you. And while you can’t control the people who want to hurt you, you can control how you respond to the hurt.

As Christ-followers, we’re never supposed to repay hurt with hurt, anger with anger, hate with hate. Never. That’s not how Christ lived; that’s now how we should live. We need to love every person who hates us. We need to do good to people who do wrong to us. We need to care for the wounds of the people who would turn around and injure us. That’s what Christ did. And let it be known that you are doing it because Christ told you to.

When you begin to suffer for your faith, count it as a privilege. Don’t see it as a chore or a problem or a bad situation. When (there are no ifs here) you begin to suffer for your faith, get happy. Decide to be joyful about it. Know why?

Well, one, the more you suffer, the more you grow. The more pain you endure, the stronger you get. And God will use that.

Two, the more you suffer, the more people will wonder what you’re about, and you’ll have opportunities like never before to share your faith with others and make a real difference (study the Roman persecution of the Church if you doubt that).

Three, you’ll be happy. If you make up your mind now to rejoice when suffering comes, you won’t just endure the suffering; you’ll enjoy it. I’m not being facetious. And no, suffering isn’t something to look forward to, but what you can look forward to is the good that will come out of it when God brings you through it.

So if you’re facing a bully today, no matter who it is, decide to be strong. Choose to keep moving forward. Don’t back down. Love them in spite of themselves. And when simple intimidation turns to something worse, rejoice. Because the moment you give in to their bullying, they win. And you will have lost your chance to show them how strong God really is.

Little shrimp boat shot from the the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Even pirates have a code

I enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I can’t tell you which one of the four (soon to be five) that I like best because they’re all a ton of fun in their own right, and I’m not sure why that is. There’s just something fun about dressing up like pirates and sword fighting to epic musical scores. Not sure where the allure in that lies, but it’s there.

If you haven’t seen the movies, maybe you’d think the draw would be the fact that pirates have no rules. They can pretty much do whatever they want. And people who can do whatever they want have to be happy, right? That’s bound to be the way to find true joy is to be free from boundaries, free from ethics, free from all the traditional dos and don’ts of civilized society. But what I find interesting is that even bad, scary pirates from those movies have a code of conduct they keep to. True, they’re more like guidelines than actual rules, but it’s still a set code of how they’re supposed to behave, how they’re supposed to treat each other, and how they’re supposed to treat non-pirates.

So if even pirates have a code, wouldn’t it make sense for us to have one too?

 

Little shrimp boat shot from the the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Little shrimp boat shot from the the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:27.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

I’m not sure why this is difficult, but I have my suspicions. Throughout the Bible, God says over and over again that believers are supposed to love each other and stand together and in that way we’ll show people who don’t believe that we’re different. We have an enemy in the world, who will stop at nothing to see us fail, and he wants nothing more than to take as many people down with him. So his goal is to tear us apart, set us at each other’s throats, and make us fight and split and break our relationships with each other. So instead of seeing the unified Body of Christ, all the world sees is fractured, squabbling factions of Bible thumpers who can’t agree on translations or what kinds of clothing we’re allowed to wear.

I’m bad at this. Because I just want people to read the Bible. I want Christians to stop making up their own rules, and I tend to react emotionally when faced with a believer who has fallen for the lies of legalism. But the truth is this: We are at a place in history right now where the Church needs to stand together more than ever before. We’re coming down to the end here, folks. There’s not much time left, and the last thing we need to be doing is fighting over denominational traditions.

If we agree on something, we need to focus on that. It’s all too easy to focus on where we don’t agree, but that doesn’t help us stand together, united with one spirit and one purpose like Paul beseeched the Church of Philippi to be.

What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? Well, if you believe in Christ and if you’re one of His followers, you’re already a citizen of heaven. But just because you’re a citizen of heaven doesn’t mean you’re already living like one. I know people who are citizens of America who don’t live like Americans. So what does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? Personally, I think he’s talking about getting along. And that’s not something the Church does very well anymore.

Having a relationship with Christ is freedom. That’s true. There are no rules we are required to follow. There are no standards that we have to meet in order to be worthy. But part of being a Christian is living like one, and while there are no requirements for worthiness, there is a code of conduct that a Christ-follower should submit to. And part of that is loving each other and finding common ground. And if the only common ground you can find is that you both believe that Christ died for your sins and that’s how you get eternal life, stand there. If nothing else, you are brothers or you are sisters in that. That’s the most important point, and if you agree on that, everything else is insignificant. Or at least, it should be.

Living a happy life isn’t a life without rules or boundaries. Actually, a life without rules and boundaries is the fastest way to be unhappy. We all have to know where the line is drawn. And standing together for the faith is a line.

So today, remember that if you belong to Christ, you need to be living like one of heaven’s citizens, which means you need to be getting along with your neighbors. Who knows? That old-fashioned religious person who you just can’t stop fighting with might end up in the mansion next door to you through all of eternity. So you’d better figure out how to get along now rather than later.