“Happy in Jesus”

July 16, 2014

One of the great hymns from the 19th Century is “Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis. It has a wonderful refrain… “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Being Happy is one of the undeniable results of our faith and a central tenet of our preaching…that to follow Jesus Christ will result in a happy and joyful life!
I am afraid I don’t remember or declare that as much as I should. But the truth is, I am very HAPPY since I gave my life to Jesus.

Yup… Just plain ‘ol happy!

In the documentary of the same name (“Happy”), the professors and social scientists who studied the reasons for happiness around the world and for successive decades, shared the three central reasons that produce happiness in people no matter their nationality, income, race, or creed. The three universal indicators of happiness are (1) Strong Familial Relationships, (2) Helping Others and (3) Personal Growth.

When I saw the documentary, I realized that church can provide all three! Is it really any wonder?!?!?

We are one family in Christ. We gather together for worship and to serve others. We daily seek to grow in our relationship with God and in understanding His Word.

Those exact elements of close familial relationships, service, and personal growth are what secular scientists have discovered are the formula for a happy life. No wonder we are so happy!

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I have often wondered if we are taking the right approach to ministry in Isla Vista. Our church is a church for the homeless. On any given Sunday, we have a few dozen people (half of whom are houseless) sharing coffee and pastries followed a few hours later by a church picnic of tacos. More and more of our “houseless” friends are joining us for worship at 10:30 as well. They feel comfortable with our congregation and want to worship the Lord.

On so many levels that is really cool.

Still, it seems that every week an internal wrestling match takes place within me between two competing ideologies. Sometimes the match is over in about 13 seconds (we’re talking Tyson vs. Spinks fast). Other weeks, the match takes 2-3 days.

Who are the contenders, you ask? (Cue the ringside announcer…)

“In this corner weighing a lean 150 pounds is ‘Kingdom Values’!”

Scattered applause…

“And in this corner stands his opponent, weighing a hefty 250 lbs, ‘Worldly Success’!”

Thunderous applause…

On the outside looking in, it really does look like this match is lopsided. Everyone appreciates and values worldly success. I mean everyone. The most saintly of us still want to hear an “Attaboy” on this side of heaven.

The odds-on-favorite to win the wrestling match when Kingdom Values are in conflict with Worldly Success is Worldly Success. That is the sad truth. Pastors and churches get discouraged by slow “results” that don’t earn them “attaboy’s”.

It is then that a pastor, church leader, missionary or any other committed believer must strengthen themselves in the Lord, and remind themselves that Jesus stands in the corner of Kingdom Values (I am preaching to myself again).  He is not coaching the participants in how to be successful in the world’s eyes.

This week I was encouraged by reading the words of Bryant Myers in his book, “Walking with the Poor”.  He writes,

“We are to do transformation in the Spirit since the mission is God’s.  The Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, leads us into mission, and is responsible for the results of the mission.  If there is to be any human transformation that is sustainable, it will be because of the action of the Holy Spirit, not the effectiveness of our development technology or the cleverness of our participatory processes.  Because our role is to be faithful and obedient, in contrast to being successful, we must modify our ambitions and redirect our praise.” (p.84)

John Perkins had this to say about Bryant Myers and his books after reading…

“This book really comes out of one who loves Jesus, walks with Jesus, and has this great passion to eliminate poverty in the world.  The evidence of a Christian life is our love for all people, but also special love for the poor.  This book really reflects both the heart of Myers and the work that God is calling us to do.”

After reading these passages, the wrestling match was over!  Game over, man!  That is might be said of LLG that they “love Jesus, walk with Jesus, have a great passion to eliminate poverty in the world, love all people, and have a special love for the poor” is all that really matters.

The bell has sounded, the match has begun…Let’s get to work walking with the poor.

 

Man Up!

November 13, 2013

I am very glad for our friend Mark Becker who has held a hard line in advocating the “tough love” approach for people struggling with addictions.  Mark is an ex-alcoholic and drug addict and a huge proponent of AA.  Mark counsels that an addict has to desire freedom from their addiction above all else.  All the well-meaning people in the world at an addict’s beckon call are useless if the addict doesn’t want to be clean, owns up to their addiction, and commits him or herself to the humble and difficult process of recovery.

Take the mayor of Toronto as an example.  His story is tragic, yet offensive as well.  This is a man who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine and denied it for months.  Apparently, he even used extortion in an attempt to recover the tape.  It’s to guys like this that I want to shout, “Man Up!”

Read what blogger, Timothy Tennent, recently had to write…

Last week Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finally admitted to smoking crack cocaine.  A video tape had surfaced which made the previous denials difficult to sustain.  When the Major finally spoke publicly about the incident his explanation was, in some ways, more surprising than the original admission.  Mayor Ford said that the incident happened about a year ago, “probably in one of my drunken stupors.”  This statement revealed an important emerging trend in post-modern leadership (Mayor Ford is 44 years old).  Ford is making a distinction between various “selves” which is prominent in post-modern thinking.  He has a “mayoral self” who leads the city of Toronto, and he has a “drunken stupor” self who smokes cocaine, receives a DUI (1999), smokes marijuana (“lots of it”, Ford admitted) and gropes females (e.g candidate Sarah Thomson, March 2013), to name a few.  It has become increasingly common for public figures to say that their ability to govern should be kept separate from these kinds of “indiscretions” or even illegal activity.

It seems there is a new mentality permeating our culture that affirms blaming others for personal faults and copping-out of individual responsibility–even in the area of drug abuse.  We satisfy our consciences with a belief that we live with opposing dual natures and don’t need to take responsibility for the immature, partying, indiscreet half.  This is not only a bad way to live, it’s bad theology.  The glorious power of the Holy Spirit working inside is to transform whatever carnal nature we have (the NT often uses the word “flesh”) into TRULY integrated men and women.  We aren’t schizophrenic, we are HOLY.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I understand that many drug abusers suffered horrible traumas in their lives.  Many were introduced to drugs and alcohol at early ages and, certainly, the blame for many, many cases of drug and alcohol abuse does not fall on the abuser’s heads themselves.  The greatest theology in the world doesn’t correct some addictions.  But for some of these cases, like the one involving the aforementioned mayor, I just want to say, “Man Up!”  Tennent continues…

As tragic as this story is, this represents an opportunity for Christian witness in today’s world.  For the Christian, integrity means that we have an “integrated” self, i.e. there is complete continuity between our private life and our public life.  The values which govern us as pastors are the same values which govern us as a husband, a father, a man, a woman, a sister, a mother.  We should represent wholeness in a fragmented world.  I still believe that the world is longing to see wholeness.  They are crying out for people of integrity.  There are few places to look today to find such role models.  This is an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the true power of the gospel in our lives.  All of our “old” selves which were enslaved to sin have been crucified with Christ, and “it is no longer I who live, but  Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Proverbs 15 has something to say along these lines, as well…

32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
    but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
    and humility comes before honor.

The DSTV reads, “Take the punishment you deserve, because that is the first step in restoring your life!” (Dave’s Straight-Talk Version)