Archives For Happiness

Who Defines Morality?

June 28, 2015 — 1 Comment

equal justice under law

This week, after the Supreme Court decision, Christian bloggers from across the globe took to the internet to express their opinion. Social media lit up with a flood of cheers as well as an onslaught of groans. I would venture to say the hashtag of #lovewins is likely one of the most trending topics on the internet.

I don’t know that I have anything new or unique to add to this topic, yet I feel compelled to chime in. As I read many of the blogs over the past few days, my heart just broke. It broke for 2 very distinct reasons:

1. My heart broke for those who call themselves Christian and spew such hatred and venom in their rhetoric. No matter your opinion on the subject, we are to always walk in love (now, that doesn’t mean we don’t express our opinion – we just need to have a better method of doing so…read more below).

2. My heart broke for Christians who have a distorted view of what Godly love is and of what Jesus demonstrated as love.  My heart breaks for the Christians that have compromised God’s Word and refuse to make a statement. My heart breaks for those Christians who don’t love their neighbors enough to tell them the truth found in the Word of God. My Heart breaks at an open acceptance by Christians of a sin.

Let me state the obvious: I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage – one man and one woman. Period. End of story. Let me be absolutely clear as a follow up to that statement – this does not mean I think anything less of the LGBT community or their desire to “marry”.  Do I think it is a sin? Yes. Do I believe the Bible calls it a sin? Yes. Do I love these people? Without a doubt!

I also think stealing, cheating, adultery and fornication are sins – but yet I love those people as well. There is no difference in my eyes – one person is not worse than another due to their sin.  The Bible is clear in Romans 3:23

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!

You, me, everyone. We have all fallen short.

As Christians, it is our job to be the light in a dark world and the example of God’s love – not His judgement.

The Supreme Court of the United States does not and cannot define morality – nor can they re-write God’s law. Yes, I believe all people should be treated equally with equal rights, but I do not believe that a “law” should be made that encourages someone to walk further out of God’s will for their lives.

If a law made by our legals system stands contrary to God’s law, we must express our concern. We as Christians must stand up and be the voice of morality according to the Bible.

I am fully aware that others will not agree with my opinion just as I don’t necessarily agree with theirs. That is what I love about our great country. We all share an equal right to believe what we believe and to freely express those beliefs without fear of persecution.

So where do we go from here? As a Christian, how do we proceed?

To me, it is simple. We show the world what #LoveWins really means. We show them that 2,000 years ago love won because a man died on a cross for you and for me. He died to free us of our sins. We show the world – just as Jesus did – that we can love and that sometimes love means we tell you what our God defines as a sin – that we open our Bibles and share with you the Truth.

Our desire should be the same as God’s desire – that none shall perish, but that all shall have everlasting life. The only way to do that is by boldly declaring His words through love.

I am reminded of Isaiah 40:8

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.

There is nothing that can come out of Washington DC that will change the Word of God. To those in the LGBT and Christian community – let us find a better way to have the discourse. Hear me clearly, on behalf of Christians – we are sorry for any hatred spewed toward you – that is not the intent. We desire to introduce you to a savior that is all sufficient, all encompassing and all loving. It might sound foreign based on what you have seen – but Jesus desires nothing else but to love you and show you a better way.

Question: How do you show God’s love?

Self Control in the Storm

March 15, 2015 — 1 Comment

Fold Hands Self ControlThere is nothing I love more than being a father. The journey has been amazing. What continues to baffle me, however, is the amount of lessons my little toddler has taught me during his not even two years on this Earth. He can barely speak a sentence, yet some things he has shown me have forever impacted my way of living. Quite often he teaches me these “lessons” when I am trying to instill something in him – it seems to always work both ways.

For example, my wife read about this particular concept in a book. Essentially, when my son gets overwhelmed, frustrated or if it seems that a tantrum might ensue we simply tell him to “fold your hands and get some self control.” Much to my surprise – this method works like magic! Each and every time he quickly stops what he is doing, folds his hand and calms down. Swiftly he returns to his happy place.

I understand why this works; it gives him something to focus on other than what it is that has frustrated him.

How does this relate to our walk with God?

So many times we can become overwhelmed by the world around us – the situations, the failures, the defeats and we enter into a time of anxiety, stress or doubt. Just as I say it to my son, I believe God says it to us “Fold your hands, and get some self control.”

Prayer solves everything.

Everything.

If things are in dismay and we try to solve it ourselves, I promise, we will only create more dismay and chaos. On the contrary, if we pause, fold our hands and give it all to Him – how quickly things will change.

I love the reaction that Jesus gave to the storm in Mark 4:35-41.  We read that the disciples and Jesus were all in a boat as a furious storm invaded. As the disciples go into panic mode, they find Jesus asleep in the boat. They wake him with an accusation saying “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus then turns to the wind and waves rebuking it and everything went calm.  He then responds to his disciples in verse 40: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith.”

Jesus demonstrated how we should behave during the storms. Controlled and at peace. We should know that God is always in control – no matter what is happening outside the boat.

Today, let me encourage you with the same words I share with my son: fold your hands and get some self control. Focus on the one who IS peace and I promise that peace will ensue in your life.

Question: How do you get self control through a storm?

 

Consistently Thankful

December 2, 2014 — 1 Comment
Photo Credit: https://openclipart.org/detail/204505/thanksgiving-dinner-family-by-j4p4n-204505

Photo Credit: Link

Thanksgiving has come and gone. All that remains are the leftovers sitting in the fridge (and the added weight from all the desserts).  I am sure that many of you spent time reflecting over the weekend about what you are thankful for.

My list is extensive. I am thankful for my amazing family. I am thankful for my wife who constantly supports and encourages me. I am thankful for our beautiful Son – a proof that God does do miracles! And, I am particularly grateful for all of the hard seasons in my life that have led me to where I am.

That last statement might sound absurd to some. Why on earth would I be thankful for hardships? Simply put, they have developed my faith and strengthened my resolve allowing me to constantly focus on the fact that God is in control – my life, after all, is His story, not mine.

This concept of rejoicing in our sufferings is one that was all too familiar to the apostles. I have read the book of Acts countless times, and somehow I always breeze past the verses like that of Acts 5:41 “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

This was not their first time being arrested and threatened.  A chapter earlier, Peter and John were arrested and released being strictly forbidden to ever speak the name of Jesus. Most people would either take heed the stern warning and follow instructions or flee from this persecution and go elsewhere. They however, pray for boldness and go about their mission. Shortly after, they are back in the temple preaching and subsequently were arrested again – although freed by an Angel in the night, they were again back in the temple teaching the next morning. They were a persistent group of people!

Acts 5 tells us of their trial and how at the conclusion they were beaten, threatened and released. We read in Acts 5:41-42

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ

Persecution did not immobilize the apostles – it fueled them. Their version of a “bad day” was one that I hope many of us never have to endure – yet they chose to rejoice amidst their suffering. They chose Jesus over self-pity, they chose the greater story over their own story.

The realization of what Jesus has done for you should change not just your perception but your behavior. You walk away from troubles unscathed and motivated to turn any issues into testimonies for Him.

He is our All in All – He is our peace, provision, joy, strength, healing – our Everything.

So take some time to be Thankful this season for all He has brought you through – reflect on what you have become because of His greatness.

Let the trials be fuel to the burning fire inside of you to tell the story of Him this Season.

Question: How have you turned trials into rejoicing? 

It is Finished!

April 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

It Is Finished

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30 NKJV)

Those are three of the most powerful words ever spoken in the history of the World. “It is finished”.

At the time, the disciples watched in horror as their teacher took His final breath on that fateful Friday. Everything they had been taught over the previous years was now being put to the test. Little did they know that this was just the beginning. Some followers fled, and some even denied ever knowing Jesus. To many of them, those final words meant exactly that – “it is finished”. What we had hoped for, dreamed of and desired are gone. Everything was shattered.

But Jesus meant something completely different. Those three words were not a statement, but a proclamation. A deceleration of Freedom, Forgiveness, Grace and Love. “It is finished” meant that we are now the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, that we are heirs of an amazing inheritance, that sickness and disease must flee. Those three words bring forgiveness, healing, joy, strength and provision to all who simply believe and accept.

The cross was gruesome. The cross certainly appeared to be an unfortunate and disastrous finale. We have to go through the cross to arrive at Redemption.

It’s not over. It’s never over. No matter what you may feel, think or see – the joy of Sunday’s resurrection is coming fast. When Jesus uttered those three words from atop of that cross sitting on the hill, He was thinking of you. All the pain or sorrow that you may have, He was speaking to you – He was paying the price on your behalf and stating that all of the sadness and pain is over – you have an option for joy beyond description, for forgiveness that is unexplainable and peace that is insurmountable.

I am sure for the disciples, this was the darkest hour they ever experienced. It was in this darkness that all things came to pass and the plan of God was finished.

Don’t let the dark hours deceive you. The deceleration has been made. The work has been done. The sacrifice has been paid.

It is finished.

Question: How do you stay focused on the fact that we are the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus?

A Gift That Changes All

September 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

Field

Sometimes it is hard to define the gift that God has given us.  The gift of His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness.  Truly the list goes on and on.  Have you ever tried to define it?  To put words to it?  I appreciate Jesus’ unique way of getting His point across.  He always packaged a life impacting lesson into a short story that even the youngest of children could understand.  This is one of my favorite short parables:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Matthew 13:44 NIV

Two simple sentences, but one impactful point.  Jesus is drawing a great analogy to what the Kingdom of Heaven is like…which by the way is something we get to experience NOW, not later.  We, as believers, experience the benefits of Kingdom living today.  It is not something we have to wait for…but let’s save that conversation for a future post.

Pull out one thing from this verse: what this man found was so great, so grand that he released everything else he had.  Once he experienced this great treasure, everything else paled in comparison.  Nothing else was worth having.  Nothing else was worth experiencing.

The gift we have been given in Jesus should have the same impact on us.  The verse says that in his joy he sold everything – he abandoned all else for this gift, the Kingdom of God.

Is Jesus advocating for us to sell our homes, all of our possessions, and abandon our responsibilities?  I don’t believe so.  But, I do think He is telling us two things:

1. The gift He has provided should bring us overwhelming joy – that nothing of this world should overshadow that gift.

2. We need to set aside and get rid of anything that might be holding us back from experiencing this joy.

This might be something material, or something you are dealing with internally like pride.  We must make whatever sacrifice is needed to protect this amazing gift.  Don’t let anything stand between you and it!

Francis Chan in his book, Crazy Love, asked two very pointed questions (which I will leave as my closing thoughts) that I think are very applicable after reading Matthew 13:44 and the reaction (you might even think extreme reaction) that this man goes to when he finds this gift:

1. Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live?

2. Do you see evidence of God’s Kingdom in your life?

Leaving Self-Pity Behind

August 14, 2012 — 2 Comments

Mamertine Prison, Rome

I took this picture on a recent visit to Rome.  This is the Mamertine Prison located adjacent to the Roman Forum.  It is believed that both Paul and Peter were imprisoned here.  Compared to the hustle and bustle of Rome, this was a quiet and humbling spot to visit.

As we walked down the narrow stone stairway into the prison itself, I became speechless.  It is hard to find words to describe the experience.  The fact that anyone could be imprisoned in this environment and survive is stunning – but what is even more impressive are the words that the Apostle Paul wrote while being imprisoned for his Faith:

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 AMP)

The fact that Paul could find it in him to Rejoice, even when in a prison like this, should simply inspire us to do the same.  I think it is safe to assume that none of us have experienced some of the trials and tribulations that Paul did.  I know that I have personally never been shipwrecked, tortured, stoned like he was.  But yet, we can get so caught up in our problems that we forget to stop and rejoice.  Notice, Paul said it twice – Rejoice and again Rejoice.  If anything is mentioned twice (in the same sentence mind you) I think it is worth heeding attention too.

I have said it more then once, we are not promised an easy life – and Paul telling us to rejoice is not meaning we ignore our troubles like some feeling-less robot, numb to the world.  Even Jesus showed deep emotion, weeping for Lazarus – but we must keep our eyes focused on Him.

When you read a bit further into Philippians, Paul goes on to tell us:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds thought Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

I have gone through trials.  I have been anxious.  I have been stressed.  This week alone I have experienced personal trials and disappointments that could easily cause me to retreat and fall into a cloud of self pity – but that is not an option for me.  The Word tells me above, to paraphrase in my own translation, give all your troubles, your issues, your sadness, your disappointments to God – and peace that doesn’t make any sense will overcome you.

In Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, he sums it up quite well:

When I am consumed by my problems – stressed out about my life, my family, my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice.  In other words, that I have a “right” to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.  Worry implies that we don’t trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.

There have been things that I have been standing in faith for for many years now that have still not come to pass.  Circumstances that are beyond my control.  But I know that I serve a God who is big enough to provide.  Do I know how?  No.  But, I know His Word promises it.  I know that when I come to Him with thanksgiving and prayer – He will hear me.

No matter where things stand in my life, I know that there is truly no better option then to Rejoice.

Question: Do you find sometimes it is easier to retreat in self-pity than it is to Rejoice through the trials?

 

Destiny School Uganda

Lately, I can’t get this face out of my mind.  The sincerity.  The smile.  The hope.  It just puts everything into perspective.  I had the great privilege of meeting this sweet young lady, Daphne, in 2007 during one of my trips to Uganda.  This was not my first trip – nor would it be my last.  But each and every visit brings new images, new relationships, and a new outlook for me.

Daphne, at this time, was living at Destiny Orphanage and Boarding School just outside of Kampala, Uganda.  I don’t know her backstory, but what I do know is she is truly one of the most joyous people I have ever met.  Perhaps that sounds strange – she was probably 6 at the time and I realize most 6 year old children are truly happy – but there was something noticeably different here.  In a country plagued by HIV/AIDS where children are without parents more than they are with – Daphne had a way of looking beyond her situation and choosing happiness over pity, joy over sadness.

At one point, I remember clearly, as the rain started coming down that little Daphne led a group of her friends out of class to orchestrate a song and dance for us, her new American friends.  What a humbling experience.  I clearly remember fighting my strange mix of emotions with both tears and laughter coming at the same time.

I have never been truly the same.  I am forever changed from those visits.  It is amazing how events like this can change your view on everything else.

But yet, it is still easy to get caught up in the daily stresses of life.  Easy to get sucked back into the “matrix” and forget to put things in perspective.  I can get so entangled and entrapped in what I need to get done today that I can forget the bigger world that exists.  Sometimes I forget the easy lesson I learned from Daphne’s smile, how to find joy over difficult circumstances.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

Jesus never said we would not have trouble.  In fact, He guaranteed we would.  But, He gives us the commandment to not worry about tomorrow.  In the verse just prior to this, He tells us to seek first His Kingdom.

For me, I use Daphne’s picture to help bring me back to everything that matters.  The bigger story that exists.

I learned how to find joy in all things from a 6-year-old orphan from Uganda, and I am forever grateful.

Question: How do you find joy in difficult circumstances?