Born to hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NASB).

From a human, earthly perspective, when one stands outside the window of a hospital nursery admiring the newly born babies within, the highest hope for any one of those new lives which is experienced is that he or she will have a long and happy life. All in that position are fully aware that every brand new baby comes with the reality of ultimate death. All hope and expectation are tempered with that knowledge. No matter how many years may be granted, nor what wealth, honor, fame or other accomplishments may be gained, physical life is limited in duration and will always end in death. Continue reading “Born to hope”

The true formula for happiness

Good parents in every country of the world have one thing in common: they want their children to become happy and productive people. To send the children on their way, parents teach their idea of success life. Sometimes that idea does not bear the best fruit.

God wants his children to learn how they can achieve true happiness, and his only son, Jesus, communicated his wishes in the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters 5-7. Jesus’ sermon is more than platitudes. It is not a speech designed to please people. Instead, it is the ultimate parent’s love, and intelligence poured into a message designed to teach people the righteousness that exceeds. Continue reading “The true formula for happiness”

Overcoming adversity

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations . . .” (Romans 5:3).

It is not unusual for people to take pride in, or even boast about, the problems that they face in their lives. Athletes will often speak in interviews about “All the adversity I (or we) have overcome” to be successful as an individual or a team. They are not the only ones to use hardships as motivation to try to prove themselves to others. Minorities, the poor, and those with various handicaps will all display their problems proudly to show the extent of their triumphs and successes.

One common error that such pride succumbs to is to feel that one’s particular adversities are somehow special. Maybe they don’t claim that they are more troubled than anyone else, but there is often a distinct flavor of, “I have had to overcome more than most,” at the very least. Continue reading “Overcoming adversity”

No happiness down the rabbit hole

“…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

I met a man a few years ago who said of the Declaration of Independence phrase, “…the pursuit of happiness,” that he didn’t really believe in that. He did believe, however, in the pursuit of “satisfaction.” Notwithstanding, the “happiness” phrase that made it to the final draft actually replaced a line about the right to own property, which is an interesting alternative.

Be that as it may, it seems that most people do want to find happiness, or peace, or satisfaction – whatever you want to call it – in life. It seems to be a primary motive for much of what people do. Even evil deeds are often done under the motive of personal peace or satisfaction. People generally do what they think will bring them the most happiness in life. Continue reading “No happiness down the rabbit hole”

God wants me to be happy, doesn’t he?

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by Stan Mitchell

She was an attractive woman, perhaps in her mid forties, and she had made the mistake of her life; she had an affair. Both her marriage, and that of the man she was with were now broken.

As she spoke to me she made a statement I shall never forget: “When I’m with (the man she had an affair with) I’m so happy.” Then she added significantly, “And God wants me to be happy, doesn’t he?”

At some level I understood. Never underestimate the power of loneliness, right? Who doesn’t want happiness? Yet this is a common misconception.

We think Christianity is supposed to make us happy. It is the agenda of the Almighty to fulfill our most cherished fantasies. Some preachers (on TV and at a congregation near you) seem to suggest this is so.

We might think of biblical statements such as the one in John 10:10: “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” Or vaguely Paul’s call to “rejoice in the Lord” in Philippians 4:4.

God wants us to be happy, right? Christians wander across the landscape giddy with happiness, immune to heartbreak, poor health or lost jobs.

The problem is that at some level sin also promises happiness. Temptation is a proposal to fill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way.

I know it seems strange for a preacher to say this, but people sin because sin is attractive! They wouldn’t do those things if there were not a measure of enjoyment to them.

* Writing hurtful things about people on the Internet brings a certain satisfaction.
* Cheating on a test brings a better grade.
* Embezzling from your company makes you a little richer.
* An illicit affair with an attractive individual carries the promise of happiness.

Satan has always offered the sun, the moon and the stars. However, please be aware that he never completely follows though.

Some moments of bliss, perhaps, but never the sweet rewards of a relationship that is lasting and fulfilling. Momentarily thrilling, perhaps, but neither lasting nor fulfilling.

God, however, does not want you to be happy at another’s expense. Nor is his greatest concern our happiness; his greatest concern is our eternal soul.

* Churches that peddle happiness without heaven are cheating you.
* Preachers who offer entertainment without eternity have short-changed you.
* Christians who seek only to be happy, miss the soul’s deepest release, the comfort of a relationship that is right with God.

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28,29, ESV).

Happiness in the eyes of DeKalb

by John E. Werhan

While recently reading “The Life of Francis Marion” by M.L. Weems, I came across a conversation between Major General Johann DeKalb, General Francis Marion, General Peter Horry and several of their subordinates that reflected the mindset of these Revolutionary Generals.

General DeKalb, after noting his last visit to his parents in France before coming to America, moved General Marion to conclude, “…that there is more happiness in low life than in high life; in a cottage than in a castle.” /1

At this, Marion asked DeKalb his opinion of this matter. DeKalb said:

“Why, gentlemen, since you have been so polite as to ask my opinion, I will as frankly give it, though I am afraid it will seem very odd, especially coming from a soldier. However, be that as it may, my opinion you have asked, and my opinion you shall have; which is, that religion is the only thing to make a man happy in cottages or courts.” /2

Many of the noted Generals of the American Revolution understood the importance of religion in the lives of individuals. This truism has not changed, if one is to truly find happiness it is imperative to understand that it is found in Christ Jesus.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets forth to enumerate the foundational principles of true happiness.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:3-12).

The word translated “blessed” that precedes each of these foundational points can also be translated “happy” from the original word. In essence if one desires true happiness they must seek and apply this foundation to their lives.

In our world today, individuals seek happiness in every place but where it is truly found. Then they wonder why they are not happy.

If you desire to find true happiness, you must begin in the inspired word of God seeking his plan of redemption. Then applying God’s commands for salvation by having your sins washed away in baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 10:47-48; Matthew 28:18-20).

Following that, we live a faithful life unto death (Revelation 2:10b; 22:14). The New Testament is the only guide to true happiness. Within its folds one finds the way of salvation and the lifestyle that leads to heaven.

It is my hope and prayer that you will seek God’s truth for your true happiness.

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1/ Weems, M.L. “The Life of General Francis Marion” (Memoirs of General Peter Horry), Philadelphia, 1829, Project Gutenberg’s E-text of The Life of General Francis Marion

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John preachers for the The Northeast church of Christ in Sentinel, Oklahoma.

Sing and Be Happy

by Paula Harrington
It never fails, the most requested song in the Kindergarten Bible Class is, “Sing and be Happy”. There are kids who ask to sing that song as soon as they arrive and rarely a Sunday morning goes by that we don’t sing it at least twice.
Too often in our lives, the skies above are dark, and even though we may face life-shattering tragedies, mostly we deal with frustrating day-to-day trials. We lock our keys in the car, have to juggle the bills, or forget to turn off the coffee pot. We chase down kids who grow up too fast and then hurt with them as they experience adult-sized problems.
Sometimes we get down. We may even cry a time or two. We encounter disasters and think that we can’t go on. We fall to our knees and ask, “Why?”
Even when devastation docks at our doorstep, it won’t be long before we realize that there are things greater than what we’re going through. There are silver linings that we never knew existed. We see God working in ways we would’ve never imagined. We witness the love of others, the encouragement of our Christian family, and the hope that comes with following Christ.
We remember that our citizenship is in a better place; a home that doesn’t offer heartache, regret, or failure. And even though we can’t see them, we live with a Father who keeps his promises and a Savior whose love knows no end.
When all seems hopeless, our thoughts drift back to those old friends who sat in a dark jail cell, unsure of what the future held but certain of who held it (Acts 16:25). Knowing that they persevered and obtained the crown of glory, we’re confident that we can, too, and like them, regardless of what we face, we can sing and be happy.
Sing and you’ll be happy today, Press along to the goal,
Trust in Him who leadeth the way, He is keeping your soul,
Let the world know where you belong, Look to Jesus and pray,
Lift your voice and praise Him in song, Sing and be happy today.

What God Wants

by Paula Harrington
todo33.jpgHave you ever heard someone justify their sin by saying, “God wants me to be happy”? Does God want our happiness in spite of his will for our lives? Sometimes what we think we want and what God wants are extremely different.
**What Moses Wanted**
Moses would’ve been very happy to stay in his comfort zone. God came to him in the desert (Exodus 3), on the mountain of Horeb. However, Moses offered excuses. He didn’t think he was the right person for the job. There had to be a better speaker or a more qualified person to lead God’s people.
**What David Wanted**
The king would’ve been delighted to see his plans put into action. David wanted to build the temple for the Most High God (2 Samuel 7). It concerned him that the ark of God remained in a tent, yet his seemingly excellent idea wasn’t approved by God.
**What Elijah Wanted**
Elijah would’ve been content to call it quits. The prophet was so distraught that he prayed for God to end his life (I Kings 19). Instead, God offered encouragement by showing his mightiness and informing him of the 7,000 others who had not bowed their knee to Baal.
**What God Wants**
Does God want our happiness? Absolutely, as long as our desires line up with his will but more than our happiness, God wants our broken hearts and messed-up lives. He wants our love (Matthew 22:37). He wants us to give ourselves to him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).
He wants us to love one another (John 15:12, I John 4). He wants us to seek each other’s interests above our own (Philippians 2). He wants us to search the Scriptures (I Timothy 3:16, 17). He wants us to endure (Revelation 2:10).
There may be times when we’re not sure what we want but our God never has that problem. He knows exactly what he wants. He wants us to come home.
Be ready.

Protecting Our Spouse

God’s plan for marriage will lead to a beautiful, fulfilling relationship. Scripture teaches us how to find happiness in our marriages (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-25).

One-flesh marriages create a powerful bond that will withstand the challenges that arise. We will be glued and cemented together for all-time in joy (Genesis 2:24).

In a one-flesh marriage, we treat our spouse, as we would expect to be treated. We do all that we can to bring joy into their lives. They are a part of our very souls and we cherish and nourish them daily (Ephesians 5:29).

Sadly, many Christian couples live ostensibly as roommates. Their passion has cooled into a form of playing house. The years have robbed the union of the bonds it once rejoiced in. Their arms become lonely and their connection frays.

In 1 Corinthians 7:4-5, we see a very important aspect of marriage that may be framed only in selfish terms for many spouses. However, in a one-flesh bond, this passage is vitally important.

Living in a sex-saturated society, we must do all that we can to protect our spouse from temptation. Spouses know if their mate is susceptible to temptation in this area. They need to do what they can to help their spouse remain pure.

Their body now belongs to their spouse and it must be treated with the same love, respect and gentleness that Christ demands (Ephesians 5:25).

Paul writes: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

“We are told in this passage that the husband and wife are actually robbing one another if there is not mutual pleasure in the sexual relationship.” /1

“In fact, “physical sex in marriage serves to reinforce spiritual fidelity by inoculating the mind against temptation.”/2

We have a responsibility to our spouse in this area. It may require special planning to accomplish these goals with a family and a hectic lifestyle. However, we need to do this in order to maintain a healthy marriage.

Our bodies belong to our spouses. Accordingly, we must keep them free from lust, pornography and adultery. Sanctify them to our spouse and our love.

We need to take care of our bodies so they will remain presentable. Letting ourselves go physically is unfair to our lover.
We need to have a big picture attitude toward marriage. When we do, we will make time for one another and realize that minor disputes pale in comparison with a lifetime together.

We will jealously guard our intimacy and nurture it, becoming educated in ways to thrive.

There are two areas where we must protect our spouse and far too many are failing to do so. First, we must do our part to keep our spouse from temptation, as we have discussed.

Second, we must protect their reputation by speaking well of them in public and with our friends.

If we will do these things, build strong communicative bonds, we will find ourselves in a special place where the one-flesh bond can blossom.

Our children and those around us will see us modeling God’s plan for marriage and Christ will be praised (Ephesians 3:20-21).
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1/ Ed Wheat and Gaye Wheat, Intended for Pleasure (Fleming H. Revell: Grand Rapids, 1977), 30.
2/ Daniel R. Heimbach, True Sexual Morality (Crossway Books: Wheaton, 2004), 168.