Posted in theology

“Don’t worry, be happy”

By Elizabeth Prata

In 1988 Bobby McFerrin released his soon-to-be hit song Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I remember the fervor back then around that song. Legitimately, it was a good song. It was the first a cappella song to get to a number one position on the top 40 singles on the Billboard chart. Don’t Worry Be Happy stayed there for 2 weeks, bumping out Guns N Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine.

People were also amazed that McFerrin did all the vocals himself. The “instruments” in the a cappella song are all overdubbed voice parts and other mouth sounds made by McFerrin, using no instruments at all; says Wikipedia. Pretty neat.

I was cooking the other day and turned on my Pandora to my Paul Simon channel. McFerrin’s song came on. It’s amazing how being in Christ gives you a totally different perspective. I was 28 years old when Don’t Worry Be Happy came out. I would not come to Christ for another 15 years. And I’ve gone on for almost 20 more years beyond that. I can’t detect how my sanctification is going in the short term, day after day, but looking back over the long term I can see progress.

The song begins this way,

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double

This is a truism. Worrying never solved anything. But when you are outside of Christ, worry is your idol. They worry because they have nothing else to hold on to. They do not know the future, they have no context in which to place the worrisome situation. So they worry, they can’t help it. I used to worry greatly. I was a recently divorced young teacher trying to hold on to my house on a skim salary, working three jobs, and wondering if this was all there was to life. I worried.

The song continues,

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy

If I was outside of Christ I SURE would be worried if I did not have a place to lay my head! It would be THE consuming issue of my day. I can’t NOT worry about it, just because Bobby McFerrin says not to. Making the mortgage each month was a victory. I desperately wanted to keep the place where I lay my head.

McFerrin goes on with another problem or two that is common to people, and offers the same advice, don’t worry and be happy.

It is a good idea to nurture and practice a positive mindset, that is true. Actress and comedian Betty White also practiced a positive mindset, all her long life. She didn’t worry. She was happy.

Then she died.

And went to hell (probably). She is no longer happy.

The mindset that Jesus gives us is an eternal one. Now that I’m on this side of the cross, I understand worry is a sin and joy is our permanent status quo. With that context, life’s daily problems seem small. He provides for us and always will. Knowing that removes the worry. He gave us forgiveness of sins, and offers us daily grace. This gives us joy. It is easier to be joyful when we have a perfect Father to go to in order to cast all our cares upon Him. When we have been freed from the power of sin and someday will dwell outside the existence of sin at all.

I still have the same slim salary and I’m still trying to hang on to the place where I lay my head, but my joy isn’t diminished by my circumstances, because that joy is outside of me, from Christ and being In Christ. I don’t worry (or when I do I take it to Christ) because I have the God of all Universe on His throne as my Father.

Before I was saved I tried to have a positive mindset, and I tried not to worry. It would work for a while. Then a problem would come. I’d solve it. Feeling satisfied with my problem-solving abilities, I’d be happy again with no worries. And another problem would scoot down the highway of life and crash into me. The cycle repeats. Underneath all that is the business of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, battling my conscience, and performing sins every day, while expending energy to convince myself that I was ‘a good person.’

For the unsaved, it’s a lot.

Life’s ups and downs are blessedly minimized when we gain the eternal perspective of seeing eternity through Jesus. Seeing time in the looooong term reduces those mountainous ups and downs to minimal bumps.

Being in Christ makes all the difference for life now and eternity then. But do we show it? Are we unworried and happy? Do we exhibit the joy of Christ, the peace that passes all understanding?

I pray that I exhibit the peace that passes understanding, the joy that adorns the countenance, the conviction to live a grace-filled life. I don’t always. But it is a goal. We have that ‘don’t worry, be happy’ ability – thanks to the Holy Spirit in us.

John wrote in his Gospel of Jesus that Jesus promised,

If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:7-11.

There is a difference between happiness and joy. Prior to salvation, my happiness faded as fast as smoke from a lit candle when adversity reared its head. Even when adversity remained at bay, my happiness came and went, inexplicably.

Joy though. Joy! That is an internal state, less dependent on circumstances. You can have daily ups and downs but the thread remaining is joy in Christ. He is our foundation, our anchor, or stay. Don’t worry yes, because worry is a sin. But be happy? OK. But better to be joyous.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).

What is the first of the fruit mentioned? Joy. Barnes Notes says

It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence – the agency of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed. 

Therein lay the difference. Happiness is external. Joy is internal. It is also eternal. Don’t worry. Be happy- IN CHRIST.

EPrata photo
Posted in theology

Dis/Contentment in your life and how to overcome it

By Elizabeth Prata

Are you discontent? Discontent because you’re single? Discontent because you’re married? Didn’t get the job you wanted? Lost the job you loved? Hate where you live? Didn’t make the grade? Your boss hates you? You hate your boss?

Life is hard, it always has been. “In this world you will have trouble” Jesus said. (John 16:33). But lately it seems that the trouble is increasing, and coming from directions we had not expected. It’s a lot to keep up with.

We’ve always been a people to attach our happiness to comfortable or satisfactory circumstances, even though the Bible warns us to keep our eyes on Jesus and remain heavenly minded. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us, said Paul in Romans 8:18. But us puny humans forget, and we weep, we complain, we grumble. I know I do, before I have to metaphorically slap myself and say ‘Snap out of it!’

I listened to two podcasts yesterday that were on opposite ends of this spectrum, one was about severe and deep suffering, the kind that no husband or parent should ever have to deal with. But we do deal with it because, I refer again to John 16:33.

“The Cellar of Affliction” was episode 7 in Season 1 of The MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching, “The Expositor: The Story of How John MacArthur Became the World’s Premier Expository Preacher.”

L-R-Austin Duncan, Narrator, and John MacArthur, interviewee. Source: MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching
The episode is described thus: John Donne called them Job's sick days. They are days of unexpected, and often unimaginable, suffering. They are part of life in a fallen world, both for believers and nonbelievers. And they are a constant reality in the life of a preacher. John MacArthur is certainly no stranger to suffering. This episode describes a dark day in the MacArthur family, and how that suffering shaped his life and ministry. And it looks at how John's life and preaching have cared for those in what Samuel Rutherford called "the cellar of affliction." 

The episode also shared about other parents and families going through a trial and suffering. What they went through and how they came to the other side without complaint, or grumbling, clinging to joy in the darkest of days, is inspiring.

I also listened to The Women’s Hope podcast with Dr. Shelbi Cullen and Kimberly Cummings discuss “Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

Episode Description - Episode 125, Oct 14, 2021- Shelbi and Kim open up about times when they’ve battled discontentment. What passages of Scripture helped them navigate life's most challenging moments? What did God teach them through trials? Listen to find out.

In addition to discussing the issue that brought discontentment into their lives and the realizations they discovered as they walked through it to the other side, the two women offer practical advice at the end as well.

I found these two discussions helpful. I tend to tie my happiness to my circumstances. Last week, my car broke down. That is one area I have a hard time accepting disruptions. It may not be a huge issue to others but it is to me. I worked hard to focus on Jesus during that week and not complain, even under the guise of ‘asking for prayer’. It all got resolved in providential ways and the Lord even took care of me financially afterward. I need to do more of that for when the next circumstance changes, and it will. Whether it’s a minor disruption like the car issue or something major like the sufferings discussed in the MacArthur Expositor podcast, the advice remains the same.

Listen to these two podcasts and see if you think so too. 🙂

Posted in theology

The sunny side of life is warmer

By Elizabeth Prata

I used to spend the Fourth of July in Lubec-Eastport Maine. If you visualize Maine as the profile of a dog, Eastport and Lubec would be the nostrils. These two towns are as far east as you can go in Maine and not be in Canada. The highest tides in the world begin there, with the Bay of Fundy funneling the Atlantic into a small inlet where massive 30′ tides are pushed up then down several times a day. Lubec and Eastport are nautical cities, driven by the sea, which surrounds both of them. And as for the air, there’s cool, fog, and cold. Those are the seasons. (Notice the shadow side on the left and the sunny side on the right. The difference in temps would be at least ten degrees)

Continue reading “The sunny side of life is warmer”
Posted in theology, word of the week

Sunday Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Joy

By Elizabeth Prata

On Sundays I usually post a theological word with its definition, then an explanation, and use it in a verse. I also use a picture to represent the concept. This is my effort to maintain a theological literacy among the brethren and between generations, something I believe is critical. We have to know what we believe, why, and know the words to express it. Words like Justification, Immanence, and Perspicuity have all been a Sunday Word of the Week. Continue reading “Sunday Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Joy”

Posted in theology

Interlude: Thoughts on our Dazzling, Righteous, Holy Savior

By Elizabeth Prata

Sometimes when I read the Bible and I learn the deep truths of God, I cry and turn my face away, saying, “God, it’s too much for me!” Not that I am super spiritual. Sometimes when I read the Bible, I read it just to get through the reading for that day. Then I repent of my lack of focus and attention.

But other days when the deep truths wind around my heart, pierce my mind and grip me, I begin to glimpse an understanding of why a sinner cannot be near to the Holy God. If they approached in their craven state they would immediately die, exploding into a million molecules of depraved rebellion. God in His holy state IS too much for us, as sinners.

The grace that saved me sometimes is also too much to contemplate, but I do, I must, because it is through that grace that I may envisage my Savior. I can approach the throne boldly and not explode into a million molecules of depraved rebellion, but be welcomed as a beloved daughter, covered by His blood and enshrouded in His love.

The mystery of God’s love and grace are intensely dazzling to consider. What joy we have His word to do it through. Read your Bible today.


Posted in discernment, theology

The difference between joy that’s sparked and joy that’s sustained

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m a minimalist. I have been since before it was a thing. I like to live a quiet life in a tiny house. I live a low-impact, moderately frugal and careful consumer lifestyle. Living small and frugal, one needs to be sure that item brings into the home will have a valued place. Also, any item brought in will need to have at least a dual function as well as be aesthetically pleasing.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese professional organizer and lifestyle consultant whose work has been a huge hit in Japan. Her four books on the subject are bestsellers, and her soft approach to decluttering has endeared her to many.

In January of this year, Netflix released a series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Kondo’s method of organising is known as the KonMari method, and consists of gathering together all of one’s belongings, one category at a time, and then keeping only those things that “spark joy” tokimeku, the word in Japanese, means “flutter, throb, palpitate”), and choosing a place for everything from then on. Source

Marie’s book from which the Netflix series is based is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie defines tidying up (AKA decluttering) as a process of taking each item in your hand, asking yourself whether it sparks joy, and deciding on this basis whether or not to keep it. If you don’t want to keep it, you thank it for its service, and put it in the donate or rubbish bin. It is this process which helps bring ‘the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life.’

If this all sounds a bit touchy-feely to you, it did to me too. My old shirt is an inanimate object, designed for function and perhaps a pleasing aesthetic, but nothing more. The shirt doesn’t know I’m thanking it.

You are not imagining that there’s a subtext of religion that runs throughout Kondo’s work. Marie Kondo is a Shintoist. As a teen, Marie was actually an assistant in a Shinto shrine and it is that philosophy on which her decluttering empire is based.

Kondo says that her method is partly inspired by the Shinto religion. Cleaning and organising things properly can be a spiritual practice in Shintoism, which is concerned with the energy or divine spirit of things (kami) and the right way to live (kannagara). “Treasuring what you have; treating the objects you own as not disposable, but valuable, no matter their actual monetary worth; and creating displays so you can value each individual object are all essentially Shinto ways of living.” Source.

Many others have weighed in on the religious aspect of the phenomenon of ‘tidying up’ the Japanese/Kondo/Shinto way. I won’t weigh in on that. My interest for the purposes of this essay is the part where Kondo says to make meaningful decisions of each item in your closet or room that’s being decluttered, on the basis of whether it “sparks joy.”

Shintoism, for all its religiosity, is not a true religion. Only Christianity is. Ecclesiastes is an entire book of the Bible that discusses all the ways and means the unsaved heart uses to try and ‘spark joy.’

Personally, I attempted to find joy in almost all the ways mentioned in Ecclesiastes. I worked and toiled for acclaim. I went the political route. I traveled. I indulged myself. I had wealth. I lived frugal and minimalist. I obtained an advanced degree and was vetted for an even more advanced degree.

Why, oh, why, did those things not spark joy? They were enjoyable for a while, but after the diploma was given, the landmark viewed, the applause died down, the work ceased  … what was there? Only a lonely silence indicting me as to my withered soul and craven heart.

These things that Kondo tells her clients to pile on the bed and decide which of them sparks joy, well none of them. And all of them. At one time, all of them were things in front of your eyes pulsing with the promise of joy once you possessed it.

There is a reason that joy is only sparked in a secular soul. A spark is a fleeting and a small thing. Sparks go out. Quickly.

Before Christmas, children are the most joyful human beings on the planet. They radiate happiness with the expected bonanza of gifts and toys and candy and treats.  They beg and beg momma or daddy for this toy or that plaything and it seems like they will just die if they don’t receive it. Then Christmas comes and they open them up and squeal with delight. Then they go play with the box it came in.

Adults are exactly like that, only we hide it better. The shiny new golf clubs you wanted so bad, the new rug that the dog immediately threw up on and now is simply something that’s a pain to clean, the cookware that never gets used, the relationship you thought was THE one…. Oh, yes, those things sparked joy, for a fleeting moment.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

Barnes’ Notes says

This promise of the Saviour was abundantly fulfilled. The apostles with great frequency speak of the fulness of their joy – joy produced in just the manner promised by the Saviour – by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And it showed his great love, that he promised such joy; his infinite knowledge, that, in the midst of their many trials and persecutions, he knew that they would possess it; and the glorious power and loveliness of his gospel, that it could impart such joy amid so many tribulations. See instances of this joy in Acts 13:52; Romans 14:17; 2 Corinthians 2:3; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Peter 1:8; Romans 5:11; 2 Corinthians 7:4.

We rejoice not because an old shirt or a picture or a tennis racket ‘sparked joy’ for a short time, but because our names are written in heaven forever. (Luke 10:20). Comparing these two kinds of joy, the minimalist, sober, Shinto-esque decluttering is revealed for what it is.

What joy that our joy is in Him, it IS Him, it is complete, and it endures forever. His love endureth forever, and our joy in Him and His love for us endureth forever. Our spark will never go out.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
(Psalm 136:1-3)

FUrther Reading

Can I have Joy In My Life? RC Sproul


Posted in theology, word of the week

Sunday Word of the Week: Fruit of the Spirit, Joy

By Elizabeth Prata

On Sundays I usually post a theological word with its definition, then an explanation, and use it in a verse. I also use a picture to represent the concept. This is my effort to maintain a theological literacy among the brethren and between generations, something I believe is critical. We have to know what we believe, why, and know the words to express it. Words like Justification, Immanence, and Perspicuity have all been a Sunday Word of the Week.


Similarly, when we discuss other words such as love, peace, and joy, we think we know what they mean, but often times these culturally embedded words have a totally different flavor when used from a biblical context. It is true of the words pertaining to the Fruit of the Spirit. Even these ‘simpler’ biblical words are misunderstood.

Therefore, over the next 9 weeks the Word of the Week will be one of the 9 Fruit of the Spirit.




The following is from the systematic theology book Biblical Doctrine, by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, eds.

Joy is a happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is a sense of well-being expressed by one who knows that all is well between oneself and the Lord. (1 Peter 1:8). Joy is not the result of favorable circumstances but occurs even when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. (John 16:20-22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessings they already possess. (Philippians 4:4).

Produced by the Holy Spirit, (Romans 14:17), joy is appropriate both in the good times (3 John 4) and in the times of testing (James 1:2-4). Joy is a deep, abiding inner thankfulness to God for His goodness that is not diminished or interrupted when less-than-desirable circumstances intrude on one’s life.

joy verse

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The command for joy in the unlikely book of Ecclesiastes

In the book I’m reading called Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches us to Live in Light of the End, by David Gibson, Gibson reprinted an essay by Presbyterian minister James Russell Miller (1840-1902) called Beautiful Old Age. The writing is lyrical in the way that educated men of two centuries ago could write.

As Gibson closes out his book, we learn that Ecclesiastes teaches us that our entire being should be emanating joy. “Not to live gladly, joyfully, and not to drink deeply from the wells of abundant goodness that God has lavished on us is sin, and it is sin because it is a denial of who he is.”

Further, Gibson shares,

Douglas Jones reflects on Deuteronomy 27-30, which highlights the need for covenant faithfulness, but then he points out how in this passage we stumble across the need to be faithful in joy and gladness (Deut 28:47), and we are dumbstruck. “Since when was that the pivot of reality? Certainly this has to be a divine typo.”

I understand what he means. Living in joy and enjoying the blessings God has given us is not a suggestion, it is a command. We read those urgings repeatedly in Ecclesiastes. Gibson said that no parent likes to see their child’s new toy remain in the box, pristine and untouched. Parents would rather see the action figure banged and dented through many pleasurable hours of enjoyment and adventures. Real relationship involves seeing another person take pleasure in gifts given, in this case, the delights of God’s creation, and food and drinks and relationships and rest. (He does explain that this is not license to sin nor to live licentiously).

Here is the essay. I pray you enjoy it as much as I did.


Beautiful Old Age

This may scarcely seem a fitting theme to introduce in a book meant chiefly for the young, and yet a moment’s reflection will show its appropriateness and practicalness.

Old age is the harvest of all the years that have gone before. It is the barn into which all the sheaves are gathered. It is the sea into which all the rills and rivers of life flow from their springs in the hills and valleys of youth and manhood. We are each, in all our earlier years, building the house in which we shall have to live when we grow old. And we may make it a prison or a palace. We may make it very beautiful, adorning it with taste and filling it with objects which shall minister to our pleasure, comfort, and power. We may cover the walls with lovely pictures. We may spread luxurious couches of ease on which to rest. We may lay up in store great supplies of provision upon which to feed in the days of hunger and feebleness. We may gather and pile away large bundles of wood to keep the fires blazing brightly in the long winter days and nights of old age.

Or we may make our house very gloomy. We may hang the chamber-walls with horrid pictures, covering them with ghastly spectres which shall look down upon us and haunt us, filling our souls with terror when we sit in the gathering darkness of life’s nightfall. We may make beds of thorns to rest upon. We may lay up nothing to feed upon in the hunger and craving of declining years. We may have no fuel ready for the winter fires.

We may plant roses to bloom about our doors and fragrant gardens to pour their perfumes about us, or we may sow weeds and briers to flaunt themselves in our faces as we sit in our doorways in the gloaming.

All old age is not beautiful. All old people are not happy. Some are very wretched, with hollow, sepulchral lives. Many an ancient palace was built over a dark dungeon. There were the marble walls that shone with dazzling splendor in the sunlight. There were the wide gilded chambers with their magnificent frescoes and their splendid adornments, the gaiety, the music, and the revelry. But deep down beneath all this luxurious splendor and dazzling display was the dungeon filled with its unhappy victims, and up through the iron gratings came the sad groans and moanings of despair, echoing and reverberating through the gilded halls and ceiled chambers; and in this I see a picture of many an old age. It may have abundant comforts and much that tells of prosperity in an outward sense—wealth, honors, friends, the pomp and circumstance of greatness—but it is only a palace built over a gloomy dungeon of memory, up from whose deep and dark recesses come evermore voices of remorse and despair to sadden or embitter every hour and to cast shadows over every lovely picture and every bright scene.

It is possible so to live as to make old age very sad, and then it is possible so to live as to make it very beautiful. In going my rounds in the crowded city I came one day to a door where my ears were greeted with a great chorus of bird-songs. There were birds everywhere—in parlour, in dining-room, in bedchamber, in hall—and the whole house was filled with their joyful music. So may old age be. So it is for those who have lived aright. It is full of music. Every memory is a little snatch of song. The sweet bird-notes of heavenly peace sing everywhere, and the last days of life are its happiest days—

“Rich in experience that angels might covet,
Rich in a faith that has grown with the years.”

The important practical question is, How can we so live that our old age, when it comes, shall be beautiful and happy? It will not do to adjourn this question until the evening shadows are upon us. It will be too late then to consider it. Consciously or unconsciously, we are every day helping to settle the question whether our old age shall be sweet and peaceful or bitter and wretched. It is worth our while, then, to think a little how to make sure of a happy old age.
We must live a useful life. Nothing good ever comes out of idleness or out of selfishness. The standing water stagnates and breeds decay and death. It is the running stream that keeps pure and sweet. The fruit of an idle life is never joy and peace. Years lived selfishly never become garden-spots in the field of memory. Happiness comes out of self-denial for the good of others. Sweet always are the memories of good deeds done and sacrifices made. Their incense, like heavenly perfume, comes floating up from the fields of toil and fills old age with holy fragrance. When one has lived to bless others, one has many grateful, loving friends whose affection proves a wondrous source of joy when the days of feebleness come. Bread cast upon the waters is found again after many days.

I see some people who do not seem to want to make friends. They are unsocial, unsympathetic, cold, distant, disobliging, selfish. Others, again, make no effort to retain their friends. They cast them away for the slightest cause. But they are robbing their later years of joys they cannot afford to lose. If we would walk in the warmth of friendship’s beams in the late evening-time, we must seek to make to ourselves loyal and faithful friends in the busy hours that come before. This we can do by a ministry of kindness and self-forgetfulness. This was part at least of what our Lord meant in that counsel which falls so strangely on our ears until we understand it: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”

Again, we must live a pure and holy life. Every one carries in himself the sources of his own happiness or wretchedness. Circumstances have really very little to do with our inner experiences. It matters little in the determination of one’s degree of enjoyment whether he live in a cottage or a palace. It is self, after all, that in largest measure gives the color to our skies and the tone to the music we hear. A happy heart sees rainbows and brilliance everywhere, even in darkest clouds, and hears sweet strains of song even amid the loudest wailings of the storm; and a sad heart, unhappy and discontented, sees spots in the sun, specks in the rarest fruits, and something with which to find fault in the most perfect of God’s works, and hears discords and jarring notes in the heavenliest music. So it comes about that this whole question must be settled from within. The fountains rise in the heart itself. The old man, like the snail, carries his house on his back. He may change neighbors or homes or scenes or companions, but he cannot get away from himself and his own past. Sinful years put thorns in the pillow on which the head of old age rests. Lives of passion and evil store away bitter fountains from which the old man has to drink.

Sin may seem pleasant to us now, but we must not forget how it will appear when we get past it and turn to look back upon it; especially must we keep in mind how it will seem from a dying pillow. Nothing brings such pure peace and quiet joy at the close as a well-lived past. We are every day laying up the food on which we must feed in the closing years. We are hanging up pictures about the walls of our hearts that we shall have to look at when we sit in the shadows.

How important that we live pure and holy lives! Even forgiven sins will mar the peace of old age, for the ugly scars will remain.

Summing all up in one word, only Christ can make any life, young or old, truly beautiful or truly happy. Only He can cure the heart’s restless fever and give quietness and calmness. Only He can purify that sinful fountain within us, our corrupt nature, and make us holy. To have a peaceful and blessed ending to life, we must live it with Christ. Such a life grows brighter even to its close. Its last days are the sunniest and the sweetest. The more earth’s joys fail, the nearer and the more satisfying do the comforts become. The nests over which the wing of God droops, which in the bright summer days of prosperous strength lay hidden among the leaves, stand out uncovered in the days of decay and feebleness when winter has stripped the branches bare. And for such a life death has no terrors. The tokens of its approach are but “the land-birds lighting on the shrouds, telling the weary mariner that he is nearing the haven.” The end is but the touching of the weather-beaten keel on the shore of glory.


Posted in bible reading plan, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Reading the introductions

The Bible Reading Plan for today is to read Psalm 6-8. I’ve resolved of late to read the introductions of the passages and not skip them. Also, to read the endings and read the notes, like these in the Psalms I’m about to discuss. If all scripture is profitable, then I shouldn’t skip the intros, conclusions, lists of names, genealogies, or musical directions, lol.

Often David or the other Psalmist would make notes to the musicians who were going to play the songs, like this that begins Psalm 6-

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Of course, once I read the note and see something like ‘Sheminith’, I got curious. Like, what is a Sheminith?

I read in Easton’s Bible Dictionary about Sheminith:

That the Hebrew of shemini is an ordinal number, eight. The Easton’s Bible Dictionary says sheminith is Eight; octave, a musical term, supposed to denote the lowest note sung by men’s voices (1 Chronicles 15:21; Psalm 6; 12, title).

Nobody really knows for sure. Other Bible dictionaries defined it slightly differently, but along the same lines. Some said, ‘we dunno, the word has passed out of use and understanding.’ I’ts still interesting to look these things up, though.

Psalm 7 is a Shiggaion. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Shiggaion,

From the verb shagah, “to reel about through drink,” occurs in the title of Psalm 7. The plural form, shigionoth, is found in Habakkuk 3:1. The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.

Psalm 8 is “according to The Gittith: A stringed instrument of music.”

This word is found in the titles of Psalm 8, 81, 84. In these places the LXX. render the word by “on the wine-fats.” The Targum explains by “on the harp which David brought from Gath.” It is the only stringed instrument named in the titles of the Psalms. Easton’s Bible Dictionary

Well, that was about as clear as mud.

I do know that once we’re in heaven, we’ll likely be singing. (Revelation 5:9). Will we be singing these Psalms in heaven, properly as David originally wrote them, (According to sheminith, a Shiggaion, or with The Gittith?). I hope so. Wouldn’t it be nice if we did!

Meanwhile I resolve not to skip the intros, conclusions, lists, or notations. All scripture is profitable… I don’t always understand how scripture profits me, but I trust that it does.


Further reading

I always enjoy Phil Johnson’s knowledge of the Psalms and his clear delivery in explaining them.

Here is a page of Phil preaching the Psalms, including one we are to read today, Psalm 8. Interestingly, Phil introduces his sermon by explaining what can be known about the mysterious term ‘according to the Gitteth’.

wed harp

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The Campaign for Joy

Joy is apparently the new trend in advertising buzzwords. It’s everywhere. This product will bring you joy. That product will make you happy on your search for joy. This campaign promises ease on the road to joy. That item is joy. Et cetera.

Johnnie Walker Whisky

The Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky people did a little something different that the other companies are envious of and are now copying. They hired a psychologist to give their ad executives insight into what makes people tick, so as to better point their products to the lack in their lives. Here is just one headline touting the new trend:

‘Joy’ Marketing Is Hot Thanks to Psychologists
Reddi-wip Is the Latest Brand Tapping a Psychologist for Campaign Insights

Well, 93% of Americans want to find more ways to experience joy, and 83% would like to experience small amounts of joy daily vs. larger, occasional doses.

What the psychologists discovered is that people want to find joy. However, joy as an end in itself is not the main goal. The venerable liquor company now “aims to promote the idea that finding joy is part of the recipe for success.” The psychologists found out that having money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Possessing the largest house isn’t necessarily joy-inducing. Getting the promotion in your career won’t absolutely bring contentment. Those things are part of the recipe for success, and the recipe’s biggest ingredient is joy. If you have joy, the other things are just so much sweeter and your chances for success in life increase. Joy becomes a means to an end.

It’s a new take on the old problem: what makes a person lastingly happy? And from what source does this joy come? I’m sure it is not from Scotch Whisky. King Solomon tried that and poetically and poignantly wrote about drinking in Ecclesiastes 2:10-

I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

His conclusion: finding cheer in wine is folly and vanity.

Reddi Whip

Reddi Whip Company immediately got on the Johnnie Walker bandwagon and their take on joy is that if you have joy, sharing it brings more joy. Their ad was to show a winning Little League team sharing their winning joy with the losing team by smearing them all, and some food, with the whipped product in a massive food fight on the field.

Solomon said that apart from God who can have joy in their food? (Ecclesiastes 2:25)

Cadbury Chocolates

I said at the opening that joy is the new trendy buzzword but as Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.  Ten years ago, Cadbury Chocolates kicked off a content-led campaign including the titles of “Gorilla”, “Eyebrows” and “Trucks”.

The new direction moved CDM from being a manufacturer of chocolate to a producer of joy. It also created a debate around whether creating “joyful” content rather than “persuasive” advertising featuring chocolate actually works or not.  “Eating Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate mirrors the same physical and emotional experience of pure joy.” (Source)

Did it work? Did creating joyful content incite people to buy the chocolates as a joy-experience rather than simply buy an item to eat? Yes, their payback was 171% higher.

We know that Solomon said that all is vanity, striving after wind. We usually look at the word vanity but today let’s look after striving.

Striving in this context means longing or grasping after. Man in his endless enmity against God is always seeking to fill that “God-shaped hole in their heart”. As GotQuestions explains,

The “God-shaped hole” concept states that every person has a void in his soul/spirit/life that can only be filled by God. The “God-shaped hole” is the innate longing of the human heart for something outside itself, something transcendent, something “other.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 refers to God’s placing of “eternity in man’s heart.” God made humanity for His eternal purpose, and only God can fulfill our desire for eternity. All religion is based on the innate desire to “connect” with God. This desire can only be fulfilled by God, and therefore can be likened to a “God-shaped hole.” The problem, though, is that humanity ignores this hole or attempts to fill it with things other than God.

Joy is serious advertising business. In addition to Whisky, Reddi Whip, and Cadbury Chocolates, we have people expressing that “the last time they felt real joy was when they were a kid”, drinking Coke. A BMW is joy. Sherwin-Williams says the right color paint is joy. And so on. Hoy is important to people on earth. The restlessness in seeking it but never quite finding it is palpable and palpable.

Whisky, chocolate, desserts, toppings, money, career, toil, friends, sensual pleasures, all are vanity, said the preacher in Ecclesiastes.

There is a difference between possessing joy and experiencing its effects. One is permanent, the other is temporary. You feel joy in buying and driving your new car for the first time. In sharing the news you’ve been promoted. Winning the lottery and having more money. These things bring “an experience” of joy, but its effects wear off.

When our joy rests on an experience, it dissipates. Joy isn’t lasting when it’s attached to things that pass away. When we strive after things that break down, (cars), that disappear, (money), that don’t last (food…careers) the joy experience is seen to be what it is, wind.

Where is joy, then?

There is nothing new under the sun – except Jesus. His mercies are new every morning. The only true joy there is exists in Christ.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9).

The verse is telling us that “The Christian’s joy is bound up with love to Jesus: its ground is faith; it is not therefore either self-seeking or self-sufficient” [Steiger]. The joy we possess is bound up in glory. It is an eternal, lasting, glory-joy that is inexpressible because its source is from God.

The outcome of our faith is Jesus Himself. Knowing Him is joy.