Happiness is Not Our Goal

This is a hard subject, but we in the West often believe that the primary goal of our life is to be happy. The Declaration of Independence for the United States of America promotes the concept that mankind is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But is happiness the goal in life?

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

The fact that we are born to be happy is rarely questioned by anyone. No one bothers to prove that fallen human beings have ANY moral right to happiness, or that they are any better off happy. The goal is often to get the most happiness out of life.

I was read A. W. Tozer and he writes that “the whole hectic scramble after happiness is an evil as certainly as is the scramble after money or fame or success….”

This can be easily discovered by simply reading the New Testament. The emphasis of God is not upon our happiness but upon our holiness. God is more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than with the state of their feelings.

The soldier does not seek to be happy in the field; he seeks rather to get the fighting over with, to win the war and get back home to his loved ones. When he gets home, it is there that he or she may enjoy life to the fullest. While the battle is raging, his most pressing job is to be a good soldier regardless of how he feels. (from “Of God and Men” pp. 48-49)

Ask yourself a few direct questions…

  1. Do you seek your holiness more than your happiness?
  2. Will you reorganize your priorities to reflect your commitment to Christ and his kingdom?
  3. Will you allow God to speak to you through your reading his Word, so you better know the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your life? [ Read the Bible in 2014 ]
  4. Who in your life will hold you accountable for the commitments you know that you need to make?

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Defining Success

Have you ever asked this question in a group of church people? “How do you know if the church is being successful?”

Generally there is silence and a perceived need for clarification, so let’s rephrase the question: “How do you measure the success of your ministry?” Generally more silence. Either people are afraid to say what they think, or they have no definitive answer.

We’re wired with a desire to succeed, whether it’s a relationship, the classroom, the marketplace, the athletic field, or ministry. Since success is so important to us, we should have a way to measure it.

Consider these four questions, which are intended for every believer, not just pastors and church staff, because God wants us all to pursue success as He defines it.

Question 1: Are You Being Faithful?
I read a book long ago called Liberating Your Ministry from Success Syndrome. In that book the author challenged the reader to step away from the numbers game. Pastors love to play this game at the Convention… “We grew by 55% this past year,” or “We baptized 30 new believers.” But the pastor of a small church who faithfully preaches the gospel, witnesses in the community and shepherds his local congregation year after year with little results, what about him? The numbers indicate that he is not successful like these other churches.

I suppose that we would declare the apostle Paul as unsuccessful… after all, he was a jail bird who was run out of town on several occasions, causing riots and turning the world upside down. But I suspect that none of us would classify Paul as a failure.

We all want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Hearing those words would shout success. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), it’s profound to note that the master commended faithfulness: What did you do with what I gave you? The second servant received the exact same commendations as the first servant, even though he produced less of a return. Jesus is making the point that being a faithful steward of what you’ve been given is what matters most. Are you being faithful?

Question 2: Are You Bearing Fruit?
In John 15:1-11, Jesus taught that it’s God’s will that we bear much fruit. As we do so, God is glorified, and we prove to be Christ’s disciples. The New Testament speaks of two kinds of fruit:

  1. The fruit of Christ-like character (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes nine characteristics that should fittingly describe those who call themselves Christians.
  2. The fruit of Christ-like influence (Acts 10:38). We’re called to make a difference in the world in the name of Jesus.

So, are you bearing fruit?

Question 3: Are You Fulfilled?
My dictionary defines fulfill as, among other things, “to make full.” Is your life or ministry making you full of joy. Looking again at the parable of the talents, the master told his faithful servants, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Joy is one of the primary blessings of faithful and fruitful service.

This is exactly what Jesus indicated as He concluded His remarks in John 15 about fruit-bearing: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). Jesus taught them to bear fruit so they would know His joy, and experience it in the fullest way. Are you fulfilled?

Question 4: Are You Making God Famous?
God wants us to be faithful, to bear fruit, and to experience fulfillment (his joy) in a way that makes him famous. Peter teaches that the faithful exercise of our gifts is “so that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:10-11). Jesus tells us, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Are you making God famous?

Imagine for a moment what your church or ministry would be like if every believer was successful in biblical teams: faithful, fruitful, fulfilled, and engaged in making God famous. While such an objective may not be as quantifiable as other measures, it’s worth pursuing because it’s God’s measurement of success.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Faithfulness and Integrity

It seems to me that we never really know who we are until we find ourselves under pressure. It is easy to be poser when things are going well, but not so much when life is hard. Take a look at Daniel.

Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. (Daniel 6:4)

Daniel had a lot of responsibility that was likely very stressful. These administrators in Daniel’s life were the same guys that wanted to bring Daniel down but had no dirt on him, so they eventually go after his religious life.

Daniel conducted himself in an honorable manner where no fault could be found by his coworkers. Do your coworkers describe your work ethic as faithful, responsible, and completely trustworthy? If not, what changes do you need to make in your work life?

If you need to make a change, what better day than to start today?

[print_link ] [email_link]

Related Images:

Why We Avoid Small Groups

Before you read this short list, know that it is not my goal to create internal tension or to be judgmental. Do know this… a believer who is unwilling to spend time with other believers in a small group will not…

  1. Experience a meaningful relationship with Christ: Christianity is lived out in community.
  2. Become a mature follower of Christ: without other believers holding you accountable, you will drift.
  3. Have the knowledge or passion necessary to lead their children toward Christ and His church: since the example is set, the children will follow a poor example.
  4. Be unable to speak wisdom to other believers: wisdom is gained through knowledge and experience, so if there is no experience of community, one cannot speak to the needs to others apart from the small group.
  5. Be a witnesses for Christ on an ongoing basis: one’s walk speaks louder than one’s talk, believing at a distance tells others that you are not “all in” to this Christianity stuff.

And so… I share the following five reasons that believers don’t join a small group:

  1. They don’t want to have an intimate relationship with Christ: most will prefer just enough of Jesus to get by rather than be totally committed.
  2. They don’t want to become a mature disciple: they prefer to just believe the right stuff and pay their dues by showing up to church, but don’t want to be a fanatic disciple of Jesus… that might be uncomfortable.
  3. They don’t care if their children become Christians: or attend church when they’re adults, or if their grandchildren are separated from them and Christ for eternity: if you are not excited about your relationship with Jesus, I guarantee that your kids have less of a chance to experience him in any real way. What we hand down to the next generation is caught more than taught.
  4. They don’t care about the other group members: it’s more than just going to a group in order to get something out of it, it’s about being there to help others be all they can be in the Lord. The group is designed to encourage, lift up and bear the burdens of ONE ANOTHER.
  5. They don’t care if Christianity in the west dies with their generation: Christianity is always just one generation from extinction, so what are we passing on to the next group of believers? The American church is stunted if we pass on a comfortable, me-centered, uncommitted and casual faith in a set of theological propositions.

Related Images:

How to Please God

This ought to be the primary focus of all authentic followers of Jesus Christ. How can we claim to one of God’s children if we don’t seek to please God with our lives? Let’s take a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12 for some guidance.

Living a Life that Pleases God:

  1. What We Are to Do:
    1. Live your life choosing to please God in all you do. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
    2. Live by growing in the knowledge of God’s ways, so study the Bible. (1 Thessalonians 4:1–2)
  2. How We Are to Do It:
    1. Live holy and pure
      1. Live a life that is holy, or “set apart” from the ways of the world. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
      2. Live within God’s requirements for sexual purity. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
      3. Live a life that demonstrates self-control. (1 Thessalonians 4:4)
      4. Live a life that is holy and honorable. (1 Thessalonians 4:4, 7)
      5. Live without ignorance of God and his ways, lusting like pagans. (1 Thessalonians 4:5)
    2. Live with integrity in relationships with others. (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
    3. Live knowing that when you reject the Word and ways of God, you reject God. (1 Thessalonians 4:8)
    4. Live with brotherly love toward others. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10)
    5. Live a quiet life, minding your own business, work with your own hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11)
    6. Live a life that gains the respect of others. (1 Thessalonians 4:12)
    7. Live a life that is dependent on no one except the Lord, earn your own living. (1 Thessalonians 4:12)

Related Images:

Being a Man of God

We ask our young children all the time, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” Then we often expect a reply in terms of career choices.  In Paul’s letter to his protégé, he didn’t instruct Timothy to become a power pastor of a megs-church; rather he reminded him of who he was; that he was a “man of God” (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 3:17).

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, there’s only one person in the New Testament who’s called “a man of God,” and that’s Timothy. This term is frequently used in the Old Testament. In fact, it’s used about 70 times and always in reference to a spokesman for God—someone whose duty and responsibility is to speak the words of God.

Here in 1 Timothy 6:11-21, Paul points out four characteristics that mark a man of God:

  1. He flees: “Run” (1 Timothy 6:11). This is the Greek verb fuagay from which we get the word fugitive. In other words, the man of God is a man on the run. He’s constantly fleeing the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10), ungodly behavior (1 Timothy 6:20), lust, and sin (2 Timothy 2:22).
  2. He follows: The man of God pursues “righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). These are worthy goals.
  3. He fights: Not with his wife or others, but using the truth, the man of God is engaged in daily warfare against the kingdom of darkness. He’s not coasting toward the gates of heaven (1 Timothy 6:12).
  4. He is faithful: The man of God “holds tightly to the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). He views faithful Christian living and service as his necessary responsibility to God (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

If someone asks you, “What would you like to be?” would “I want to be a man of God” be your response? That type of man personally belongs to God, proclaims His Word accurately, and lives his life as an example to others.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

A Former Muslim’s Story

This is the season of Immanuel, God coming into the world to dwell with us, the incarnation. It is more than myth or legend, this God-Man Jesus changes lives, and people do not recant in the face of hostility and death. Take a look at this Voice of the Martyrs video at one family in Iran.

Matthew 5:10-12, Mark 10:29-31, Luke 21:12, John 15:20, Acts 7:51-53, 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 2 Timothy 3:12, 1 Peter 4:12

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Prayer During Tough Times

I had several people tell me last week (November 20) how meaningful my invocation prayer was for them, so I told them I would write it out for future reference:

Father, we love you, and we thank you very much for the love that you have demonstrated for us; that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Words cannot express how thankful we are for that gift of sacrifice. As we think about all that goes on in our lives, the busyness, the things that seem to go wrong, the distractions, the things that are not going our way, Father, we wonder where you are. It appears that we are walking through this life alone.

Remind us that when we feel as if we are in a wilderness, we know that it is not a wasteland, because it is in the wilderness where we learn, where we grow, where we trust, where we have hope for the future. We know that you have been faithful before and we understand that you will be faithful again. We are so thankful that we have a consistent God (James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8).

As we think about Thanksgiving, remind each person, heart and mind of the things for which we are truly thankful. Hear as each person voices their prayer, deep within their spirit, about how thankful we are for what you have done, and for who you are. We share our lists in prayer, and at times it seems just like a list, but these are the things that you have spoken to us about, and we cast our cares upon you (1 Peter 5:7). Help us to be mindful of you, and thankful. Amen.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

Honor and Memorial

When I was young, my sixth grade class took a field trip from Cahaba Heights Elementary School to Washington DC. I remember the train ride from Alabama to DC, and seeing the sights and visiting a lot of historic places. I was probably too young to really appreciate all that I had seen and experienced.

Now I live not too far from our nation’s capital and have been several times to see various places, like the National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and the Washington Mall with all its monuments and beautiful buildings.

But even all the way back to that sixth grade trip, I’ve always been impressed by the solemn ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The Guards carefully choreograph the event which is a moving tribute to soldiers whose names and sacrifice are “known but to God.” Equally moving are the private moments of steady pacing when the crowds are gone: back and forth, hour after hour, day by day, in even the worst weather.

In September 2003, Hurricane Isabel had passed through our area, I was living in Richmond at the time. The storm was bearing down on Washington, DC, and I read that the guards were told they could seek shelter during the worst of the storm. The guards refused, to no one’s surprise. They unselfishly stood their post to honor their fallen comrades even in the face of a hurricane.

Is it possible to have such unending devotion in this life? How about in your spiritual life? As we read the middle chapter of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1-6), I believe Jesus’ desire is for us to live with an unrelenting, selfless devotion to Him. The Bible calls us to good deeds and holy living, but these are to be acts of worship and obedience (Matthew 6:4-6), not planned out acts for self-glorification (Matthew 6:2). Action must be taken for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

The apostle Paul endorses this whole-life faithfulness when he pleads with us to make our bodies “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). They say, the one real problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. Wake each morning with this one goal in mind, to live this day for the one who die to set us free.

On this Memorial Day, remember those who have fallen in order to secure and defend our freedom; because freedom in never free.This day is more than the summer kick-off weekend, or a great time for a sale at the mall or the car dealership, it is about sacrifice.

Thank you Jesus for securing our salvation, and thank you to the fallen heroes (and their families) who sacrificed so much so that others might live. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13).

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images: