I recently read the following in an airline magazine:

Children smile about 400 times a day. That’s quite a workout for their little facial muscles, but hey, smiles are contagious, right? Apparently not for adults. According to Ron Gutman, whose TED study on the subject went viral, only a third of grown-ups smile more than 20 times a day, and less than 14% muster a grin more than five times in 24 hours. Pretty sorry stats considering all the benefits that flashing those pearly whites can bring. ‘Smiling can reduce the level of stress-inducing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while increasing mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins,’ says Gutman. So how many times have you smiled today?”

Let’s say the above-mentioned children and adults sleep eight hours a night. That means the children smile almost once every two minutes and the adults smile a little more than once an hour! I can picture one of those dour adults asking one of the cheery children: “Hey, what’s so funny?!” Of course the kid should say, “Duh, I just watched The End Times video!

The obvious question is WHY the “Countenance-al Divide”? And I believe the answer is found in Proverbs 15:13 (NASB) [1]: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” And how about Proverbs 15:15: “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Based upon that verse, some musician friends of mine once sang, “A merry heart is a holiday.” Underlying the answer to the above question is the stark difference between FREEDOM and BONDAGE.

The 4th of July marks our “Independence Day” here in the USA, and we remember what it took for us to win our freedom by defeating the foreign power that tyrannized us under an authoritarian rule. When the Revolutionary War was over, do you think any of the victors smiled? I do. Why? Because they were: “free from captivity or confinement;” “exempt from external control, interference, or regulation.” They had “the power to determine action without restraint.” Those are all dictionary definitions of freedom and liberty.

But even worse than external captivity, restrictions, interference, etc., are internal barriers that stop us from manifesting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. Generally speaking, children are much more internally free than adults—obviously—they are smiling about 30 times as often!

Another way to say it is that children are far more “care free.” Well, sure, they don’t have to earn a living, raise a family, pay bills, worry about losing their house, etc. Hey, Christian adults, who are faced with many such cares, can be just as care free IF we do what 1 Peter 5:7 says [and I paraphrase for emphasis]: “casting all our cares on him because he cares for us.”

To do that, we must trust that God and the Lord Jesus care about us. How do you learn that about someone? You must interact with him on a regular basis and see if he keeps his promises. You must engage him at a deep level of intimacy and find out if he has your best interests at heart.

As we know, God is spirit, and it is Jesus Christ who is the “image of the invisible God.” As Hebrews 1:3 says, Jesus perfectly reflected the face/heart of God to mankind because he always faced God and allowed nothing to come between him and the Light. Look closely at the following verses:

2 Corinthians 3:17 and 18
17 Now the Lord [that would be Jesus] is the Spirit, and where the S[s]pirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:5 and 6
For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

As Christians, you and I are the Body of Christ and thus the face of Christ to the world, but we will not reflect the glory of God that the Lord Jesus is reflecting if we allow any “secret or shameful ways” or “deception” (2 Cor. 4:2) to come between him and us. How intimate is your relationship with Jesus Christ? How real is he to you?

When someone you pass smiles at you, more often than not you almost automatically smile back, right? Well, think about this: Jesus is constantly smiling at you. If you see his face, so to speak, you’ll probably smile back at him—and other people will see that reflection in your life. Cha-ching!

You “see his smiling face” first when you put your eyes on the print in Holy Writ and ask him to help you understand it and then when you live it as you walk through life with the Lord. As per Galatians 1:11 and 12, everything written after the Old Testament is the words of Jesus that he got from God and passed on to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, et al. You’ve heard of the apostle Al, right?

Given the degree of human suffering on Planet Earth, there is not much to smile about in today’s world. People are more and more desperately groping their way through what is more like “existence” than real life. Most live without hope, and their broken hearts are reflected in their smile-less faces. Who else do you know who can share with them what you can? You could start with a smile.

Later this month the world will come together, so to speak, as it does every four years for the Olympic Games. Familiar with the early Olympics, the Apostle Paul used many athletic metaphors referring to the Christian life: wrestling, running a race, boxing, receiving a crown, etc. The amazing athletes we will watch this month all have one thing in common: discipline. And what is that? “Training to act in accordance with rules; a regimen that develops or improves a skill; the rigor or training effect of experience or adversity.”

Biblically, a “disciple” is a follower and a learner. Do you see that discipline is the key to freedom. Yes, because when you take charge internally, you break “free from captivity or confinement,” you are “exempt from external control, interference, or regulation,” and you have “the power to determine action without restraint.” “Self” does not rule you; you rule yourself as “a slave to righteousness.” Go for it, and let these verses inspire you:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I sure hope you read the June FRUIT OF D’VINE, which clarifies our basic Christian mission of “pulling people out of the fire” (Hey, Jude 23). What you and I do to promote God’s Truth and Love is the only thing that will count for us at the Judgment Seat of Christ when Jesus asks each of us something like: “What did you do with what you knew?”

[1] Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American StandardBible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.

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