How to Be Happy

I’m always taken aback when I’m reminded that God wants happy people around him. I’m generally not a happy person. Nobody would call me a bubbly personality. Just the opposite, I tend to brood and be serious about practically everything in life.

So to call me to be happy is a tall order, one which I fail at. photo(43)

That’s because sin damages happiness. It’s twisted, mangled and polluted. The world is choked with sin, but thank God, there’s always a flash of glory we experience every so often. We see this is the narratives of the bible. God covered naked Adam and Eve with animal skins. He preserved Noah and his family during the flood of judgment. He gave Esther favor and audience with the king, which ultimately saved the Jews from extinction.

His greatest flash of glory was sending Jesus, his Son to be our sin bearer so we could be reconciled to him. God didn’t have to do it, but he did because he wanted a people for himself to share his glory.

The world knows nothing about this. Instead it pins its happiness on things – possessions, wealth, health, leisure, and good relationships – but these are fleeting as most people eventually discover. There is no anchor for the soul here. Only a series of missteps that run into a dead end. However, when we realize that everything our hearts long for is found in Jesus, then he becomes our treasure, and as we live our lives in his presence, we are drawn into the happy fellowship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

What could be more sublime than that?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Not So Quick

Have you ever asked yourself, like I have, what was lacking in the rich young ruler’s life that turned him away from following Jesus? Something nagged at him to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He said he kept the commandments and Jesus didn’t fault him in that. What was missing?

He may have been thinking that there was something he needed to add to the rule list. “Just tell me and I’ll be on it.”

Or he may have been thinking that he was doing alright and wanted Jesus to confirm him in his performance.

But that wasn’t it.  FullSizeRender (4)

Just like this blog is fond of repeating that acceptance with God is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, this young ruler had everything, including wealth and possessions, but lacked the one thing that could give him eternal life.

Without faith in Jesus he had nothing.

He was a rebel in God’s world. He was spiritually dead. Notice in today’s culture, he would be described as a seeker, someone who was close to God, and whom God was pleased with. But in truth his heart was of stone. His sins were not forgiven. He was under God’s wrath.

So what does Jesus tell him?

To sell his possessions and give his wealth to the poor.

Why would Jesus say that instead of telling him he needed to have faith in him?

No doubt Jesus saw that he trusted in his considerable wealth and put his finger on it to expose it. The young ruler heard that and walked away sorrowful. He was willing to do anything, but part with his riches. He loved them more than God. While being rich he was poor. He failed to realize that eternal life was more wonderful than all the riches in the world.

We see time and time again that those who feel secure in their performance, Jesus refers them to the law, but to those who are a mess, like the woman caught in adultery, he consoles with the gospel.

If you’re keeping the rules without a corresponding love for God inside, you of all people are not keeping any rule. You must be poor and needy inside, a beggar of God’s love and life and then he will grant it to you.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

faith in Jesus, the one person who could give him what he needed.

And notice how Jesus answered him.

 

 

 

 

Stay Needy

How does one live in God’s kingdom? What does that look like?

If you read Matthew 19: 13-15  you’ll see how Jesus responded to his disciples’ rebuke to parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children. Children had no status in those days. The people of respect were the adults, especially the old men. That was the Jewish culture. But Jesus turned that upside down by insisting that his kingdom was for children.

Really? Children are needy and helpless. They frighten easily. They need protection and care. And they’re messy!

God’s kingdom is precisely for those who are helpless and insignificant and marginalized.

The nobodies are more important than the somebodies. God’s kingdom is not for the movers and shakers.

The kingdom is right-side up while the world is upside down, so no matter what the world tells us is important, or who we should be, it’s probably not true. The disciples reacted as the culture of the day demanded, but Jesus reversed that.

So God’s handbook says, “Become like a little child.” We’re not important. We’re unworthy servants at best. We must look out for others first. Esteem them better than ourselves.

Christ showed us how. He was the king serving his subjects. The saint serving sinners.

We can’t to do it by the law. Knowledge is not enough. There’s something broken in all of us. We don’t need a better you. We’ve been promised a new you in the gospel.

Christ covered our sins by his blood. He’s our Passover. All our sins were imputed to him and he died for them on the cross. And all Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. The grand exchange described in 2 Corinthians 5:21. We no longer carry the burden of sin and death on our shoulders. We can now skip and dance like little children in the playground of God’s kingdom.

Do you believe this?   Related image

If you’re not sure, receive Christ by faith today. It’s not about being smarter. Or stronger. It’s about feeling helpless like a little child and clinging to him for life.

Be helpless. It’s okay.

God’s kingdom is full of needy ones. Stay that way.

Talk to me.

I Can’t Hear You’re So Loud

I got off the phone with a caller that never stopped talking. He’s someone I’ve never met and yet he felt the need to tell me about his life, never taking a breath to see if I was interested or even listening.

I’m sure you’ve had those experiences with people.

As much as that caller irritated me, I had to admit I had done the same thing over the years.

I’m a fix-it-all kinda person. You come to me with a problem and I have a solution for you and I’m happy to tell you about it.

Don’t we all.  painting24

I’ve realized over the years that maybe that’s not what people really need. Maybe it’s something else.

Maybe Jesus is calling us to a different kind of help. Help as in listening to the person. We’re so prone to listen with a mind that is more attentive to what to say next to the person. We miss the cues, the body language and facial expressions that way.

Even more importantly, we miss what God is showing us about himself in that person’s life.

I often forget that when someone asks for my counsel, she comes to me with Jesus in her life. It’s my job to listen well. I’m quick to fix, he’s not. I want to come across as helpful, when Jesus is already her helper.

What people need most of all is someone who will listen to them with a full heart that is not rushed, and who can help locate God in their lives so they can rest in him. This won’t happen if we’re preoccupied with what to say next, or if we’re in a hurry to get the visit over with.

We all need to enroll in the school of active listening. I know I do.

Talk to me.

The Needy Life

The success-driven life is a cancer to your Christian life, like smoking to your lungs, alcohol to your liver, and drugs to your veins.

Am I against succeeding in a career, a personal goal or a dream you’ve had all your life? No, unless you’re achieving it by your own will and determination. And that’s the point. As a Christian, whose life are you living?

“You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” Paul says to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) In context Paul was urging holiness, but since the Holy Spirit lives in us we can also say that looking for soul satisfaction in broken cisterns, relying on Brokenrule keeping for God’s approval, and battling our demons by our own efforts is just as repugnant as unholiness.

Neglecting our true dependence on Christ is equal to living in unbelief.

It makes the Christian life a burden. By looking inward I kill myself. John Newton calls it “soul weariness.” There’s nothing there to commend itself to God.

So get used to being needy. Learn to feel weak. Become helpless like a little child. The world will scream at you, “No! You can’t do that. Flee from such beliefs, instead believe you have the potential to achieve anything you want!”

Jesus was the ultimate little one. He was 100% dependent on his Father. He did nothing on his own accord. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 5:19 NLT

We must do the same if we expect to “succeed” as Christians. That’s why Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. John 15:5

By looking to Christ for everything and in everything we will be released from ourselves and be put into joy and freedom.

We are needy.

We are weak.

Hooray!

Boast in that because you have a Savior who will take care of you!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

You Are a Good Seed

As we read the gospels we soon run into the parables of Jesus. Why did he teach that way? Even the disciples wondered about that.

Jesus said that parables were meant to hide the truth from those who didn’t want to hear it, but revealed to those who belong to God.

The most famous of the parables is the one about the seed and the four soils. It’s message is relevant for every generation.

Was Jesus really talking about soil that gets under your fingernails and green shoots poking out of the ground? No, these were pictures of spiritual truths. The seed was the gospel, the Good News about Jesus taking our place for us in order to bring us to God.

The sower was Jesus, the Son of Man, a king who shared in the humanity of his people and who carried the image of God. seed

Jesus with a bag of seeds.

What were those seeds producing? Wheat, lettuce, figs? Or some intellectual understanding or religious insight?

No, they were producing believers.

Of course the enemy was right there working his evil in people as they listened. But notice Jesus didn’t interrupt him. He let him be. Only the fourth soil produced good fruit. The other three soils were left in enemy hands.

Jesus knew the harvest would be gathered in in spite of the enemy’s tactics, that’s why we, like him, can go about spreading the Good News of Jesus knowing with confidence God will be at work producing believers.

Makes being a sower a joy, doesn’t it? And you’ll always be surprised at God’s work in people. It’s the best assignment on earth!

Talk to me.

 

 

Belief Is All

You’ve heard the word legalism many times as I have. But do you know what it means for your life? It means your standing with God is obtained or maintained in something in you. Something you do or don’t do.

The Pharisees were experts in legalism. They were the ones looking down their noses at Jesus and reprimanding him for not keeping the law. He dared to heal people on the Sabbath. He didn’t fast. He touched the leper and the blind man. He ate dinner with sinners.

Legalism is legalism no matter if it’s Jewish or Gentile, it doesn’t matter. All people are legalists if they don’t know God. Everyone has a set a rules for living. That’s why most people live with guilt because they haven’t lived up to their own or somebody else’s expectations. And for the religious it’s Christ plus a bunch of strict behaviors. That’s why Paul rebuked Peter for pulling away from eating with the Gentiles. See Galatians 2:11-14.IMG_7835

Legalism does not keep you in fellowship with God, just the opposite, it is an offence to God. Why? Because by being legalistic you’re saying Christ is not enough, you have to add something of your own to his perfect righteousness.

And here’s another big one: legalism doesn’t make you holy. Only Christ makes you holy.

Christ obeyed and merited God’s favor and fellowship for you. It’s through him that God accepts and approves you.

Christ’s obedience to the law and his death for your sins is imputed to you by faith alone. As Martin Luther said, it is an alien righteousness, it’s outside of you and it’s not based on any holiness that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in you.

By faith alone, in Christ alone, you are counted as righteous as Jesus Christ himself. There is nothing more for you to do, but thank God for such a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit’s job is to assist you in living it out. So no matter how weak you are or how often you fail, your sins are not held against you because Jesus paid for them all and you continue being righteous in Him.

You want joy today? Read this post again!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Down and Dirty

In Matthew 13:53-58 we see Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. You’d think he’d be a hometown hero, like the Cubs returning from their World Series win. Instead, Jesus was pushed aside. It wasn’t that his miracles weren’t impressive or his preaching compelling. In fact, the people were blown away by both. But it lasted a nano second. What got them was he was unimpressive. They expected Messiah to be a conquering hero and a royal king. A man in authority that would delegate others to do his bidding. Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t put on airs. He wasn’t handsome or strapping. He looked, talked, and acted just like any other man in town. But in the people’s mind, Messiah could not be ordinary. He would fight their enemies, restore Israel, and set up shop as royalty on the throne. But the opposite happened. Jesus was ridiculed, rejected and ignored. Just like the prophets. Why? Because he got down and dirty with them. He was a man. He ate, slept, bathed, worked, probably changed diapers, cooked, swept the house. He did this in order to redeem us in all our weaknesses, including death. img_4606

Jesus is the only Savior God has sent. There is no other.

The longing for glory still awaits us. The impressive. The lavish. The aha. All of that is ours in the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, as his followers, we get down and dirty like he did. In worshiping God and loving our neighbors.

Talk to me.

What’s in Your Church Lately?

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? Is it a place to get your needs met? A place to hang out with like-minded friends? A place to get a shot in the arm for the week ahead?

Nowadays more and more churches are like that.

I hate to say it but we’re not allowed to re-purpose the church to our liking or to meet the needs of the culture. God didn’t give us pastors to be inspirational speakers, or comedians, or storytellers. And he certainly didn’t give us pastors to be our life coaches either.  For that you have movies, TV shows, and TED Talks.

So what’s the purpose of the church anyway if they’re not clubs for the cool, support networks for tech families, or places for therapy?

According to the bible, God has given the church three mandates:

  1. The worship of God
  2. The maturing of believers
  3. Bringing sinners to faith  img_8865

If our churches aren’t doing this, then we need to ask if it’s a true church.

What tools is the church to use for the worship of God, maturing the saints, and bringing sinners to faith?

The gospel.

The teaching and preaching must be the gospel. It’s the only tool God promises to use that is powerful and accomplishes its purpose.

The gospel is not inside of us by nature. That’s why we need to hear it from the outside. The church is where this is done in song, in prayer, and in preaching.

It’s not only the pastor’s responsibility, it’s all of ours. We need to be specialists in the gospel so we’re able to share it, counsel it, and tell it to others.

As private Christians we have many assignments in life, but the church has only one: the preaching of the gospel.

And we need to be reminded of the gospel every week, no matter how old we are in the Lord.

The gospel is not only for sinners but for Christians as well.

Talk to me.

How to Be Happy

Why are so many people unhappy?

Why do so many people say they hate their jobs?

Why do others break off relationships, some of which have lasted a lifetime?

And why do others become slaves to alcohol and drugs?

At the bottom of their reasons is a desire to be happy.

Everybody wants to be happy. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you do.

I believe God wired us for happiness. This is not something we have invented. It’s part of our DNA as God’s image bearers.

But, as we all know, sin has marred everything, including this longing for happiness. Now we look for it in all the wrong places, especially in other people, only to be disappointed in the long run.  IMG_7161

Real happiness comes from knowing and enjoying Christ. Everything else is Hollywood. You have a choice – it’s a question of lavish feasting with him or settling for scraps the world offers.

We are born craving approval, acceptance and love and resisting the one Person who can give it to us. What fools we are. It can be ours in Christ. We don’t have to earn it, grovel for it, or hope for it. It’s ours the moment we believe.

We are wired for intimacy and we have it in Christ, as a gift. God has placed us in Christ’s kingdom and we have been drawn into the fellowship not only our Savior, but God the Father and the Holy Spirit. What can be more amazing than that? As C. S. Lewis said, it’s time to drop those mud pies in the gutter and take that holiday by the sea.

What are you doing about being happy today? Looking at your career, your marriage, your retirement, your shattered dreams, your own heart? Don’t waste your time. Look to Christ and you’ll find it there.

Talk to me.