The Fulfilled Life

A 2005 article in National Geographic identified three regions of the world where people have consistently shown longer life spans: Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda, California. Dan Buettner, a researcher and explorer involved with the 2005 article, decided to do a follow-up study to determine if there were more regions to be discovered. His team found an abnormally large number of people living past 90—even into their 100s—on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.

         Intrigued, Buettner and a large research team made their way to the region to discover what factors aided in living a longer life. They found that longevity is due in part to diet, sun exposure, and source of water, but they also found the following factors to be crucial in the survival of the people:

  • The people on the Nicoya Peninsula have a strong sense of purpose. They “feel needed and want to contribute to a greater good.”
  • They choose to focus on the family. Persons over 100 years of age in this region “tend to live with their families…Children or grandchildren provide support and a sense of purpose and belonging.”
  • They have strong social networks. Their neighbors visit frequently, and they all seem to know the value of listening, laughing, and appreciating what they have.
  • They know the value of hard work. They even manage to “find joy in everyday physical chores.”
  • They understand and appreciate their historical roots and spiritual traditions. In essence, they know their story.

Source: Ted DeHass, Bedford, Iowa; source: Dan Buettner, “Costa Rica Secrets to a Long Life,” AARP magazine (May/June 2008), p. 69

         The above excerpt illustrates just how important family and community are to the emotional and social well-being of most people.

         When a person has a strong sense of purpose he or she knows that they are not put here on this earth to just take up space. They don’t sit around and feel sorry for themselves. They find ways to contribute consistently. They realize that happiness, if it is the goal, will be elusive. But when the goal is making life better for others, it is a constant companion.

         When a person focuses on the family they avail themselves of one of the richest resources with which God has blessed people. When Jesus was making the point of the disciple’s devotion to him, why do you think he chose the words he did? He said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Why did he choose those relationships to emphasize the point that no one must come between the Christian and the Lord? Because the norm is that those are the most important people in the lives of most people, apparently by God’s design. And if the Christian has those relationships properly secondary to his or her relationship to Christ, then all lesser relationships will also fall in line in the proper place.

         When a person has strong social networks they know the value of getting involved in the community and just casually visiting with friends and neighbors. The coffee being on is more important than the television being on. They live among people not secluded from people. Their dining room tables and front porches are places where they touch, laugh and cry with people who make their lives rich.

         When a person knows the value of hard work they know the good feeling of going to bed, worn out from working hard. They know that this hard work is the means that God has provided for us to provide for ourselves, our loved ones and others in need. They see themselves as givers, not takers.

         When a person understands and appreciates his or her historical roots and spiritual traditions they have a critical connection to their past and a bridge to their future. They see what has shaped them and why they value what they do. They may see things that need to be corrected but in their seeing of these things they still maintain a high appreciation for their heritage.

         These habits are about much more than living a long life. They are about living a fulfilled life. Make it your life.

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Consider God

George Macdonald, said, “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”

         When life knocks us flat on our backs, maybe God then has us right where we need to be—looking up. The prodigal son was slopping the pigs before he “came to his senses” (Luke 5:17). The same is often true of us. We soothe ourselves, amuse ourselves, analyze ourselves and improve ourselves. After all is said and done we’re still not satisfied. What promised fulfillment ends up disappointing sorely. So we look for the next sure-fire method of making our lives complete and the cycle continues.

         God patiently waits for his children to realize that he is willing and able to do everything he said he would. He said he came to give abundant life (John 10:10). He can. He said he would never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). He won’t. He says no problem is too big for him to handle (Ephesians 3:20) and no sin is too bad for Him to forgive (Micah 7:19).

         Maybe you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. If you are, look up. He’s at the other end. He wants to pull you up. He wants to bless you. He wants to forgive you. He’s ready and waiting for you.

“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” (Psalm 40:2)

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 8:40 am  Comments (2)  
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In Defense of Proper Proof Texting

In his book, “Toward An Exegetical Theology” Walter C. Kaiser Jr. laments the practice of proof texting which he defines as, “the isolation and use of verses apart from their immediate or sectional context,” which Kaiser says “is reprehensible and should be discontinued immediately.” Well that depends on what kind of proof texting one is doing, doesn’t it? For there is proper proof texting and improper proof texting, just as there is proper judging (John 7:24 ) and improper judging (Matthew 7:1 ). Other people have latched on to Mr. Kaiser’s condemnation of proof texting treating it with scorn whenever it is used against their position, especially when they are losing an argument. Some are discerning enough to make a distinction between proper proof texting and ripping a verse out of context, forcing it into service for one’s agenda and doing violence to the author’s original meaning. And of course that is very wrong. But let’s call that what it is—misusing the text, which is always wrong.

         However I suspect that some would prefer to condemn “proof-texting” because of their distaste for having their positions proven wrong when someone shows them a passage of Scripture that contradicts what they believe. Here are some examples. Some say that one is justified by faith only. James 2:24 says one is not justified by faith only. Some say baptism follows salvation. Mark 16:16 says baptism comes before salvation. Some say a Christian can’t fall from grace. Galatians 5:4 says he can. Some say that worship is limited to 5 acts on Sunday. Romans 12:1 says our bodies are to be presented as living sacrifices, “which is your spiritual worship”. Some say Jesus is not God. John 1:1-14 says he certainly is God. Get the picture? Proof-texting is only wrong when it is done wrong.

         So, wrong proof texting is clearly bad. But how do we know any proof texting is proper? Glad you asked. Peter did it (Acts 1:20; 2:17-21,24-28,34,35, etc.). Stephen did it (Acts 7:42-50). Paul did it (Acts 13:33-41). James did it (Acts 15:15-17). John did it (John 12:15,39,40). And last, but not least, Jesus did it (Matthew 4:1-11; 21:16,17,42, etc). Every time you find a writer or speaker in the Bible appealing to the Old Testament to prove the truth of what he is saying or writing, he is proof texting. By the way, was that proof texting for me to show you that Jesus and others proof texted? Oh well, I’m in good company.

         Friends, not only is proper proof texting right, it is the only kind of proof that should carry any authority whatsoever when we are talking about biblical issues. What do people think phrases like “it is written” (used 80 times in the Bible) and “thus says the Lord” (used over 400 times in the Bible) mean? They mean that the only proof worth anything and the only proof that men may be rightly bound to is what is in the Bible, the text. Luke writes that Apollos, who was “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24), “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:28). Sounds like proof texting to me.

         If you and I disagree on a matter I’m not going to tell you how I feel, what the Holy Spirit said to me, what God laid on my heart or how I believe God is leading me to this, that or another conclusion. We have a responsibility to prove our positions. How? By the text, by a proper proof text.

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Is Church Attendance Necessary?

Many people are of the opinion that church attendance is expendable, something you can take or leave.  And they have chosen to leave it. They may even quote a Bible verse that they believe backs them up, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). A simple reading of the context reveals that Jesus is not pronouncing his blessing and presence on those who leave the church but his endorsement of disciplining rebellious believers. So, is church attendance necessary?

It is because God commands us to not to forsake the assembly. Hebrews 10:24,25 says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” The habit of not attending church often starts with occasionally missing for whatever excuse. Before long any reason seems a justifiable one. As time goes by one might claim to be a member of a certain church, but he wouldn’t be able to prove it by his attendance and involvement.

It is because God tells us that we have a “one another” responsibility. Too often folks look at church as a full service gas station. They pull up, demand to be filled up and speed off. Each Christian has a responsibility to be devoted to one another and give preference to one another (Romans 12:10); to build up one another (Romans 14:19); to accept one another (Romans 15:7); to admonish one another (Romans 15:14); to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19); to comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18), etc. How are we to give and receive these things if we don’t assemble with one another?

People have long comforted their consciences with statements like, “I can be a Christian without going to church.” Yeah, and a fish is still a fish without staying in the water. But just as the water is the essential environment for the fish’s health and survival, so the regular fellowship of the church is to the Christian. And we know what happens to a fish out of water.

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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True Friendship

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.” The Bible says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

         Friends are simply there for their friends (Job 2:11,13). After Job lost everything we are told that “when [his] three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13). Make no mistake about it—Job’s friends would later suffer a major case of foot-in-mouth disease. They would get into trouble when they assumed they knew more than they did. Then they compounded their error by spouting off what they thought they knew. But at least initially they knew simply this—their friend was hurting and they needed to be there for him. Often being a good friend is just giving a sympathetic ear and not necessarily trying to offer solutions to the problem. Everyone needs someone in whom they can confide.

         But today such relationships are becoming more rare. Several studies have shown that the very nature of friendship is changing. The extent of social contact that many people have is internet social networking. But is an increasing lack of personal closeness one of the casualties? You can contact your friends with the push of a button. In a moment you can be integrated with people from all over. But that attention to electronic integration may come at a price—increasing isolation from flesh and blood people. True friendship requires more than the click of the mouse. You have to make an effort. Friendship requires cultivating and contact. It requires mutual love, support and kindness. It requires forgiveness and loyalty. Sometimes it even requires uncomfortable honesty. The Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy…and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel” (Proverbs 27:6,9).

         Thank God for the good friends you have. And be a good friend, the real, personal kind that shakes hands and hugs necks, not just one who stares at a computer or “smart” phone.

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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