A Merry Heart

Posted on 06/17/2012 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***

Public Prayer Requests:

*** there are no public prayer requests this week ***


Please turn around and click one of the offering plates by the doors, and give as the Lord leads.



We bring the sacrifice of praise
into the house of the Lord
We bring the sacrifice of praise
into the house of the Lord
And we offer up to you
the sacrifices of thanksgiving
And we offer up to you
the sacrifices of joy


You shall go out with joy
And be let forth with peace
And the mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There'll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the fields
Will clap, will clap their hands

And all the trees of the fields
will clap their hands
The trees of the fields will clap their hands
The trees of the fields will clap their hands
While you go out with joy


Bless the Lord O my soul
and all that is within me
bless his holy name

For he has done great things
he has done great things
he has done great things
He's so good to me

He saved my soul
he saved my soul
he saved my soul
He's so good to me

He is coming soon
he is coming soon
he is coming soon
Bless his holy name

*** listen to the audio for the introduction ***

Last week, we talked about a very serious topic, Holiness. From my own experience, I know that it's possible to not be living in any habitual sin but still feel the strong call to holiness, and a healthy fear of the Lord.

Well, I'd like to follow that up today with something to balance it out, and I've invited a few virtual guests to join us.

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Ummmm... Hello? Hello-ooo? Ummmm.... People? ........... HEY!

Okay, that's better... Anyway... They are SUPPOSED to help us laugh when I say something funny like I usually do.

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Ummm... That wasn't a joke. I DO say funny things some time.

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Okay now... Seriously... The next one of you who laughs when it's inappropriate is out of here.

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Okay... Now where were we... Oh yes, we were getting ready to read today's topic verse, which is found in Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV), which says this:

"A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones."

And the title of today's... well, message if you want to call it that... *** crowd_laugh_2.wav *** (clear throat)... is, "A Merry Heart."

Today, I'm going to go on a bunch of rabbit trails, and touch on a lot of different subjects, but the main point of today is just to lighten up a bit, and to remember to take the time to laugh.

Today's verse was written thousands of years before medical science proved just how healing laughter really can be, and how many illnesses you can help to avoid by laughing every day. But that's no surprise. God knew.

So today, let's take a little bit of time to laugh. To lighten up about things. To see things through a perspective of healthy, Godly humor.

After all, God does work in very mysterious ways. For example, a few years ago I heard a story that illustrates God's mysterious ways quite well. It was about a dear old lady, a devout woman of God, who lived a life of prayer -- something we should all do. She prayed every single day, and she didn't hold back -- in fact, she poured so much of herself into praying, that her neighbor, who just happened to be an Atheist, could often hear every single word she said.

Every time he saw her, he would laugh at her, teasing her about her praying, which he thought was stupid. He would say things like, "Lady, why do you pray all the time? Don't you know there's is no God?"

But of course, she "counted it all joy," as the Bible tells us to do, because she was being persecuted for the cause of Christ.

Well, times got really tough for her financially -- so much so that she didn't even have money to buy groceries. And what do you think she did? You got it... She prayed.

And, as was often the case, the Atheist next door heard every word she said as she poured out her need before the Lord and thanked Him for providing for her need.

The Atheist's face lit up, as a brilliant thought struck him. "I'll get her this time!" he thought, as he ran out the door and headed for the grocery store.

Not too much later, he returned home with his arms loaded with bags full of groceries. He put them by her front door, rang the doorbell, and hid in the bushes to watch her reaction.

When she opened the door and saw all the groceries, she began to jump around and sing and shout, and praised God loudly for answering her prayer.

Of course this was the Atheist's chance, so he jumped out of the bushes and, laughing so hard he was almost doubled over, managed to yell, "You crazy old lady! God didn't buy you those groceries, I did! hahahaha!"

What she did next caught him rather by surprise, for she ran down the steps and then down the street, shouting and praising God.

When he finally caught up with her, he asked what in the world her problem was. She replied with delight, "Well I knew the Lord would provide me with some groceries, but I had no idea He was going to make the devil pay for them!"

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Seriously though, just think about it. The Atheist tries to justify everything by pointing out, as much as he or she can find one, the natural processes that bring out what we believe are answers to prayer. But that's like a victim arguing there is no crime boss by pointing out that it was a lowly hit man who fired the shot. God takes what even the devil himself does, and turns it around for the good of those who put their trust in Him.

Back in the 1890's, there was an old nun, 94 years old, and because of her age, she had numerous aches, pains, and a number of various illnesses.

Of course medicine was quite different in the 1890s, and her doctor prescribed for her a shot of whiskey three times a day, just to help her relax and to ease some of the pain.

Because, as she said, she refused to be lured into worldly pleasures, she huffily declined.

But her mother superior knew the elderly sister loved milk. So she instructed the kitchen to spike her milk three times a day.

Eventually, the elderly nun was on her death bed. As several sisters gathered around, the mother superior asked if she wanted to leave them any words of wisdom.

"Oh, yes," she replied. "Never sell that cow!"

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Okay, well at least HE got it.... Fine, you can come back in.

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Seriously though... I think sometimes we take life too seriously. While I'm not promoting the abuse of alcohol, we often look at some of the good things in life like the old nun looked at the doctor's prescription, and we often do this without even realizing it. Sure, most of us enjoy laughing and having fun; but without knowing we're doing it, I think we sometimes deny ourselves the good things that God has in store for our lives.

Maybe we think we don't deserve certain kinds of happiness, or that we're not good enough to go in a certain direction in life. And sometimes God has to spike our milk to get us to move in the direction of the blessings He wants to pour out upon us, or the things in life we wants us to do.

So let's be encouraged, and remember that's it's not about what we lack or what we've done; instead, it's about how God sees us, and ultimately it's about HIM, not US, and HE is DELIGHTED when we walk into the good and perfect blessings and plans that He has reserved just for you.

Okay... On a slightly different note, I don't know how many of you here or listening work in customer support, but it can be an interesting occupation. Here's an imaginary conversation from which we can learn something very valuable indeed.

Tech Support: "All right. Now double-click on the File Manager icon."

Customer: "That's why I hate this Windows - because of the icons.
I'm a Protestant, and I don't believe in icons."

Tech Support: "Well, that's just an industry term sir. I don't believe it was meant to..."

Customer: "I don't care about any 'Industry Terms.' I don't believe in icons."

Tech Support: "Well... why don't you click on the 'little picture' of a file cabinet..
is 'little picture' OK?"

Customer: [Click]

Customer: "My computer crashed!"

Tech Support: "It crashed?"

Customer: "Yeah, it won't let me play my game..."

Tech Support: "All right then, hit Control-Alt-Delete to reboot it."

Customer: "No, it didn't crash - it crashed!"

Tech Support: "Huh?"

Customer: "I crashed my game. That's what I said before! I crashed
the spaceship, and now it doesn't work."

Tech Support: "Click on 'File', then 'New Game'."

Customer: [pause] "Wow! How'd you learn how to do that?"

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Okay, THAT lady was the person who REALLY called tech support.

Really though, have you ever known someone who is so legalistic, and by that I mean focused on the technicalities of spiritual truth, that they miss the point altogether? Not too long ago, I had a discussion with a Christian on YouTube who was so hung up on the word "meditation" that he was unable to discuss what that word in the Bible verses we were examining really means, which, for those particular verses, means to ponder, to think about, and even to speak aloud. And because those Hebrew and Greek words were translated as "meditate," he instisted that anything called "meditation" that doesn't refer to pondering something MUST be evil because it's not what the Bible means in most places when it mentions what's translated as "meditation."

Of course the fictional tech support call we just acted out is humerous, but I think it illustrates a very important point, and that is that we should seek the God-inspired meaning behind the words, instead of making a religious doctrine out of the words themselves. Let's always seek the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the heart of God behind what's written in the Scriptures, and live not by the letter, but by the Spirit of His law.

Years ago, I went to eat at Hardee's with a few people from church. One of the ladies ordered her fries "burned" as she put it -- very crispy and well-done. We were asked to have a seat because it would be a little longer before our orders were ready. While sitting, the lady who ordered the burned fries commented that maybe they were busy burning ALL our fries. Another lady rebuked her and said that we eat good by the fruit of our lips, and she shouldn't curse our food like that. So I responded with something along the lines that someone was about to hand me a million dollars... and then I was going to be abducted by aliens.

Of course neither of those things happened, at least not yet, and nobody else's fries were burned. But the point is this: yes, we should watch our words because life and death are in the power of the tongue; but we can get religious about it too, just like any other thing, so much so that we sound like we've gone insane. So be mindful of spiritual principles, but don't forget a very important one, that laughter heals and brings life -- it is like medicine to the soul.

Okay... So we're back to the issue of A Merry Heart. We know that Jesus was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Does that mean that Jesus was always depressed, and always moped around crying? I don't believe that for a single moment. Jesus went to wedding parties and made wine. He went to feasts and enjoyed the fellowship and food. He loved children, and rebuked the religious spirit of the disciples who thought He was too holy to play.

God gave us laughter and joy. Our sin, or more specifically the RESULT of our sin, our distance from God, is what brought sorrows and grief into the world. So yes, we groan in these mortal bodies and we pour out our tears in intercession for the sin that is destroying our world and condemning people to hell; but in it, we have joy, and we laugh, we enjoy the life God has given us as a form of thanksgiving. And we see life through eyes that realize that God is in control, all things will work out for our good, and in the end, Jesus has already won the war and all of time is heading toward our eternity in everlasting laughter and delight in the presence of the Lord.

As Psalm 16:11 says, in God's presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Let's take a moment to read this chapter; Psalm chapter 16, starting with verse 1.

Psalm 16 (NKJV)

1 Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.

2 O my soul, you have said to the Lord,
"You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You."
3 As for the saints who are on the earth,
"They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight."

4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god;
Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
Nor take up their names on my lips.

5 O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

7 I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Do you want sorrows that do not lead to Godliness? Then follow after other gods -- gods of wordly gain, entertainment, relationships, or any other thing, even any other good thing, that would take the place in your life that only God should take, as verse four says, "Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god."

Or do you want fullness of joy, and do you want pleasures forevermore? Then make it your life's central theme to draw closer into the presence of God, and to immerse everything in your life in that sweet, sweet presence of the Lord.

Okay, so we're talking about A Merry Heart, and we've tried to throw in a bit of humor. Now, you're all familiar with corny jokes, especially if you've heard me say much of anything at all.

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That wasn't supposed to be funny...

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Anyway, sometimes jokes are so bad that the fact they are so UNfunny is funny in itself. Here's a few really stupid jokes I found yesterday while preparing for today's service. And they're so stupid, that it would be hard or even impossible to pull some deeper meaning out of them. But you know, you don't always have to make some serious point out of pleasure. Sometimes, MANY times, it's good to just laugh and to leave it at that.

Okay, so here we go:

Q. The ark was built in 3 stories, and the top story had a window to let light in, but how did they get light to the bottom 2 stories?
A. They used floodlights.

Q. Who is the greatest baby-sitter mentioned in the Bible?
A. David -- he rocked Goliath to sleep.

Q. Why was Goliath so surprised when David hit him with a slingshot?
A. The thought had never entered his head before.

Q. If Goliath is resurrected, should you tell him the joke about David and Goliath?
A. No, he already fell for it once.

Okay, so let's spend some time just enjoying God's presence, that presence that brings us fullness of joy, that presence in which we find pleasures forevermore.

You're all invited to get out of your seats right now and make your way to the front for a time of prayer, worship, and ministry.

If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message Mariposa or me, and if you're listening from some other location, you can go to almcyberchurch.org, click the Pastor's Offices, and contact us in there.

Lord God, we thank you for your word, and that, even in the midst of the sorrows in the world that sin has brought us, we can have joy unspeakable and full of glory, and we can view all things through the eyes of eternity, those eyes that live in constant thanksgiving for your everlasting pleasures.

I ask that as we go our ways today and in the days to come, that you would help us to both take our spiritual callings very seriously and also not take things too seriously that we should not, but that we would be able to enjoy your gifts, your blessings, and the crazy irony of so many things in life, so we can have the healing medicine of carefree laughter to give us healing and strength to make it through with joy.

And we ask all these things in Jesus' name.