Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Happy Happy Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  Happy has become a popular word as of late...just think Duck Dynasty...HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY.... but what exactly is happiness.  In America, our view of happiness is very skewed.  Some would say happiness is a state of mind.  Others say that it is getting things they want that make them happy.  I believe happiness is a good attribute that God has given us that reveals His goodness and His image upon us as human beings.  But I also believe that Scripture teaches us that happiness is so much more.

If you want to find a happy individual, look no further than Psalms 1.  The very first word in the first verse, "blessed" has also been translated as "happy."  Happy is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  Isaiah 26:3 puts it another way: You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. 

Bible study, memorization, meditation, and application are not just spiritual exercises.  They are the pathway to happiness and peace.  Not only happiness and peace but also success.  God told Joshua to meditate on the book of the law both day and night so he would be careful to do everything written in it.  Then God says to Joshua that by doing so he would be both prosperous and successful.

So we can see what happiness is and what it is not.  Happiness is not seeing the external expectations you have in life come to be.  Simply put, you are not happy because you get what you want or what your heart desires.  In fact, I have noticed the opposite to be true.  Those who get often want more and are never satisfied.  The lust for more never brings contentment.  I have seen many unhappy marriages, unhappy customers, unhappy kids, unhappy employees, etc.  That is because idols never deliver.  People, families, jobs, things can never fill the happy void.

Happiness is an inner satisfaction in and a loving relationship with a Holy God.  Only God can bring fulfillment in one's life and this takes place in spite of outside circumstances one finds him or herself in.  Reread Psalms 1.  In today's case, you won't ultimately be forever happy because you ate to your heart's content.  At best, you will wonder why you can't eat like this every day.  At worse, you will wonder why you ate too much.  No, happiness is much more than a state of mind.  Happiness is a gift from God!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to suffer well?

Last week, we heard of Typhoon Haiyan coming through Tacloban, Philippines killing 10,000 people.  Yesterday, news reached me of 75 tornadoes ripping through the Midwest of our own country.  20 out of our 50 states were under extreme watch.  Why do these type of atrocities occur?  Why do children die unexpectedly and why does Aunt Sally have a tragic accident on the way back home from church?  These questions all fall under the big umbrella of theodicy (the problem of evil).  How do we answer the problem of evil, suffering, and pain in our world?  In reality, there is no 1 answer that fits the question and there will be times in this life that we will never receive an answer.  I recently heard a mother express just that in reference to her child being shot at Sandy Hook.  She may be right.  She may never know on earth why the gunman pulled the trigger.

With that being said, let me give you a few possible solutions to the problem of evil, however I remind you that these solutions are not a one size fits all approach to answering the problem of evil question.  Colossians 1:24 speaks of us filling up what is lacking in our afflictions of Christ.  What is it that is lacking?  It is our pain or suffering that God can use to point other people to the gospel.  Sometimes we do experience pain because God is disciplining us or bringing depth in our walk with God (think of Job).  Sometimes God is just demonstrating his greatness to us in suffering by reminding us that He is our greatest treasure.

Romans 8:28-29 is a great passage of Scripture for those experiencing evil, pain, or suffering.  Many times our suffering is present to make us become more like Christ, who suffered more than we ever will on the cross.  We must remember God doesn't exist to make us happy.  The "everything works for our good" part of Romans 8:28 doesn't say for our happiness.  In this case, good could imply suffering if that is what it takes for us to gain what is lacking to look more like Christ.    Plus people take notice when they see us suffer and our hope remains in Christ.  Many people don't take notice when everything is going normal as is.

Other times, we suffer because we live in a fallen world, because of our own sin, because others sin against us, because the devil tempts us, or for God's good purposes.  Jesus is our example in suffering.  From Him, we learn how to suffer well.  I Corinthians 1:3-7 gives us the paradigm for suffering.  We suffer and receive comfort from God in our affliction so we can then turn and comfort others in their affliction which in turn produces hope. 

Remember, nothing in your life has happened that hasn't already crossed God's desk.  The suffering we receive from God has ministry in view.  Even your suffering doesn't belong to you.  It belongs to God.  The redemptive purpose in all of this is hope in a fallen world!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Remember When ...

Remember when times were simpler, when there weren't so many choices, when enough was enough.  How far have we come in 30 years?  We live in an age now where most things happen instantly, where people feel entitled to something without working for it, and where more seems to never be enough.

As a child, I remember living on a tree farm in Georgia.  In the winter time, dad would pull out his chainsaw, march into the woods, and bring back firewood which would heat the entire house through our centrally located iron wood stove. 

I remember going out to eat.  I was what you call a plain Jane.  I ordered the same thing every time from everywhere and didn't need side items. 

I also remember a man who would come on one of our four tv channels (no cable) from time to time who would speak a message of grace to the masses.  This was always a special occasion as the family enjoyed gathering around in the living room to listen to his message, even though we could hear the same type of message preached on most Sunday mornings at our local church.   If you have not guessed it yet, this man's name was Billy Graham. things have changed.  Now I have electric heat, I enjoy ordering side items, and Billy Graham just turned 95, preaching his last sermon.  But with the onset of the information or digital age, we seemed to have lost something.  We may indeed now have it all and know it all but we are lacking in substance.  And that substance is found in the simplicity of a message that Graham spent his life sharing about. 

Though no man is perfect, it is admirable that Graham stuck to his core values to the end.  Through the changing seasons, the life changing message does not change.  This message has become more offensive over the past 30 years but we must not and can not change the message to fit the desire of the masses. 

What truly has happened over the past couple of decades is we were given more idols.  In this case, more was not better.  Giving into these idols, many have begun to water down the message.  Many today have allowed these idols to crowd out their ability to hear from God on high.  Graham, a NC farm boy witnessed God put him in places he would never have imagined about growing up.  From traveling to the oval office to meet with Presidents and from traveling worldwide to meet with world leaders, Graham became known in the United States as America's Pastor.  I think Graham stating recently that he has wept for America will be some of the last words that we remember him by.  I have to agree with Graham.  As a nation, we have been running from God for too long.  Now is the time to turn back!        

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Doctor is here!

Last night, CBS Evening News reported an interesting trend in this country.  For the link, visit  In a little over a year, there have been 11 mass shootings leaving a total of 85 people dead.  Along with this find was the fact that in many of these shootings, the shooter was found to be dealing with some form of mental illness. 

According to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1 out of every 5 Americans has some form of mental illness.  If we look close enough, we can find someone in our own family struggling with mental health issues.  Mental Illnesses can be found in people of any age, race, religion, or income.  The most common mental illnesses are depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides us with a good working definition of what a mental illness is and the different forms it takes.

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

I am not surprised that the number of Americans being identified with a mental illness is increasing or that the number of mass shootings is at an alarmingly high rate and that its frequency is related to the mental health of the shooter.   

The question we need to ask ourselves is "is the gospel powerful enough to cure the mental health patient?"  The Bible would answer that question simply and emphatically with a YES!  The apostle Paul said the gospel was the power of salvation to ALL men.  It is not just the mentally ill person that is ill.  It is ALL men.  The Bible says that ALL men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Sin is the illness we all suffer from and the illness we all need cured from.  Only when we submit to God's power found in the gospel can our minds and our hearts be made right in His sight. 

One good thing we can take away from the mentally ill is that in most cases, these individuals admit they are suffering and indeed do need some form of help.  In relation to sin though, how often do most people say I'm a good person and everything is ok.  Jesus has something to say to both types of individuals:  "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Friday, November 1, 2013

What is Love?

In September, I addressed the question Where is the love?  Really before we answer that question rightly, we must first pose the question what is love?  Perhaps you remember the old Saturday Night Live rendition with Jim Carrey and his friends at a Night at the Roxbury.  These three head bob weaving men find themselves at a club looking for love in all the wrong places.  The saddest part of it these three men don't really understand what true love is.  And once given the opportunity to express love, these men quickly turn their suitors away.  Granted, it is funny to watch these three stooges dance themselves out of a partner.  But what is not funny is that these men actually represent many real people in our society who think they will find love without actually taking the time to get to know the person they find themselves with.  Dancing with someone you just met at a club and calling it falling in love couldn't be further than the truth.  For all you know, you may have just danced with a mass murderer.  In fact, it is only in spending time with another person that you develop what is known as trust in a relationship.

In 1995 (a few years before the SNL skit got popular), Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages.  In the book, Chapman lists five ways to express and experience love:

Quality Time
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Physical Touch

Chapman says we often have different primary and secondary ways that we like to both give and receive love.  So, for example, in that the primary love language you might like to show your love to another may be in giving gifts, the primary love language you might like to receive love may be something entirely different such as physical touch.  Thus, these are not things you learn overnight about another person but rather over time.  Chapman adds that it is important that we not automatically give the love language we like receiving the most but rather give the language that our mate prefers. After reading the book, Mindy Meier suggested food as a sixth love language.  I think that makes sense when you consider the time it takes to make a meal and the benefits that come from experiencing fellowship together through sharing a meal.

The analogies are endless.  Men are from Mars, are like dogs, are like microwaves, and are like waffles and Women are from Venus, are like cats, are like crock pots, and are like spaghetti may all be true to an extent (buy the books) but we must first remember the verse found in I John 4:8 that says, "Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love (read the bible).  I believe that!  Without first possessing a relationship with Jesus Christ, it is impossible to know or experience true love.  Local Pastor J.D. Greear puts it this way, "only knowing the love of God for you produces the love of God in you.  Are you staking God's love for you in the finished work of the cross that happened nearly 2000 years ago?  If so, then and only then can you begin to answer the question of how you genuinely desire to express and receive love yourself?  What are your primary love languages?