Supreme Happiness

Friday, Oct. 9                                                             

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.”—Victor Hugo.  I have no idea whether Victor Hugo was a Christian or not.  He’s on the right track here, but it’s only part of the truth.  Supreme happiness has to do with love, but it’s God’s love.  Human love is good, but not sufficient. In the second place, conviction is insufficient, too.  We can have convictions that are misguided.  In fact, most of them are, since we are warped by the sin nature.  I might have the conviction that there is no God, for instance.  That is the most misguided conviction of all time.  You might be surprised to hear me say this, but God’s love is not enough, either.  God loves all of His created beings, but not all of them will end up in heaven—and hell doesn’t sound like supreme happiness to me.  Since God made man with a free will, he has moral choices to make.  The most important choice of all is whether or not to receive the gift of salvation.  Rejection of the gift doesn’t diminish God’s love, but it certainly makes a difference as to one’s eternal destiny.  I bring this to your attention because Satan has blinded the eyes of people so that they replace truth with half truths.  Victor Hugo’s statement is riddled with half truths.  How many people do you suppose read this statement and responded with “Wow!  That’s a neat statement.”  The statement should read “Supreme happiness is the certainty that we are loved and accepted by God.”   I hope I’m not maligning Victor Hugo.  Maybe he included all this in his thinking.  In any case, please evaluate what you read by checking it out in the Word.  Satan is subtle!

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Endless Hope

Thursday, Oct. 8                                                        

“Man’s way leads to a hopeless end; God’s way leads to an endless hope.”  This is fairly well understood and accepted truth.  Man’s way is to do his own thing, seeking happiness by what this world has to offer, minimizing or ignoring the sin that pervades his life, and rejecting any possible solution, including the redemption that God has provided by the cross.  The end results are all bad;  no real happiness, eternal separation from God and suffering in hell forever and ever.  God’s way is total regeneration, restored fellowship with God, acceptance into God’s family, loved and cared for in this life, and a blissful eternity in heaven with God.  The “endless hope” is the only thing I would quibble with.  Biblical hope is belief in future events that will surely take place, events that are as sure as though they had already taken place—simply because God promised it and God does not fail to fulfill his promises.  When we get to heaven, all that is hoped for will become reality, and hope becomes obsolete.  The same is true of faith.  There is no reason for faith when the object of our faith is right there in person.  Paul has it right in 1 Cor. 13.  There are three “verities”—faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.   Love is the one virtue that will survive, and that will be expanded beyond belief.  The “endless hope” spoken of in this proverb is pertinent only in this life.  The “hopeless end” remains.  All this makes a good case for evangelism.  Let’s be about our Father’s business.

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Mahatma Ghandi

Wednesday, Oct. 7                                                     

“My life is my message.”—Mahatma Ghandi.  Mahatma Ghandi was a great person.  He spoke openly of his support of Jesus’ teachings and no doubt accepted and taught Christian principles.  Buddhism accepts all other belief systems that teach good morals, and Ghandi was a Buddhist, so probably not a Christian.  But the above quotation certainly reflects N.T. teaching.  Our lives really do demonstrate what we believe.  In fact, our lives get across the message better than our words.  “Actions speak louder than words.”  If I teach my kids not to lie, and they see me shading the truth, guess how they will respond.  At the very least, confused, more likely disillusioned, disappointed, and distrustful.  Unfortunately, we can live by good moral standards most of the time and fail once, and our  reputation is destroyed.  “Once a liar, always a liar.”  But we can’t be sinless while we’re in this life.  We all make mistakes.  How can we polish up a tarnished reputation?  Here’s how:  When I make a mistake, I need to acknowledge it, confess it—to God first, then to the one that I wronged, and then to any one who witnessed my wrong doing.  It has always been amazing to me to see the positive responses that result.  I am humbled and will do what I can to not fail again.  Others who also make mistakes are taught how to deal with it.  Trust is restored.  God is pleased.  This is a whole lot better than the “cover up” practice.  It is so simple—albeit humbling.  Do you think Mahatma Ghandi made mistakes?  I wonder how he handled them.

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The Bad Habits Default

Tuesday, Oct. 6                                                          

“Habit is the best of servants or the worst of masters”—Nathaniel Emmons.  I think we all understand the truth of this statement.  Good habits are beneficial and produce contented and joyous lives.  Bad habits produce friction, dissatisfaction, and discontent.  We would readily agree on that.  But I have a question for you.  Is it easier to form good habits or easier to form bad habits?  You might have to think about this for awhile, but I believe you will end up just where I did.  It’s easier to form bad habits because you don’t really have to do anything at all.  It takes work and effort to form good habits.  You also probably came to realize why this is.  It’s because the sinful nature is present.  We have learned a new word in the computer age, the word “default.”  In terms of habits, we do nothing and we default to what is wrong.  Babies are born with that default.  Parents pull their hair out trying to get young children to change, but the default system just takes over.  It doesn’t get any easier during the teen age years.  In fact, if we are honest with ourselves the default system plagues us adults.  I’m an octogenarian, and the default system is alive and well.  Paul dealt with this default system in Romans 7.  We can’t change the default, but God can.    It’s not quite as automatic as the sin nature default; it’s a gradual and painful process.  It’s called sanctification.  Once we get to heaven the default will be automatically, completely, and eternally installed.  And the certainly of it is guaranteed.  We have a great future, folks—after we leave this present world.

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Qualifying the Called

Monday, Oct. 5                                                          

“God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.”  This is well supported in Scripture.  Some of you might remember the old hymn “Just as I Am.”  It goes “Just as I am, without one plea . . . ”  God doesn’t expect us to shape up or reform before He accepts us.  Our RIGHTEOUSNESS is pictured as “filthy rags” in Isaiah 64:6.  Filthy rags don’t clean themselves; God has to do it.  So the “calling” is to sinners, the unqualified.  When a person answers the call, the clean up begins.  It’s a slow process that will not be complete in this life.  But it is a certainty, too.  The called one is immediately qualified.  From the moment of accepting Christ, the capacity to share the good news is an option.  Qualification is perfected over time as we allow the Spirit to work in us and through us.  We become His servants immediately.  And, contrary to normal procreation, we can bear fruit as soon as we are born again.

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Ambition Prioritized

Thursday, Oct. 1                                            

The following is the result of another middle of the night rumination.  (Sometimes insomnia is a good thing.)  The subject that came to me was “ambition.”  Don’t ask me what triggered it; I don’t know.  Anyway, most all of us are taught that we need to be ambitious.  Success in life comes with a cost.  It involves education, setting goals, and perseverance.  This kind of ambition has to do with materialism and life styles.  It leads us to contentment and happiness.  There is merit in this; it’s good advice.           But it is focused on self.  There’s another higher level of ambition.  It has to do with our relations with others and it has to do with morality.  This area of ambition is meant to give us a higher level of success.  We are not just pleasing ourselves; we are making our world better.  History is full of utopian schemes to make our world a better place in which to live.  While some philanthropists do good work out of selfish motives, others are sincere in their desire to help people.  The latter have moved out of the “self” arena into the “others” arena.  By this time you might guess that there is a third area of ambition, one that deals with our relationship with God.  When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, His answer was profound, yet simple.  We are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  These two commandments summarized the Law and are the ground rules for being ambitious for God.  So what does it mean to be ambitious in God’s realm?  First of all, it is not for the unredeemed.  No one who is not reconciled to God can do anything to please God.  For Christians, it means living a life that reflects God’s love for all people, being a witness to God’s grace in providing salvation.  All three of the above areas are included in Jesus’ summary of the Law—and there is an order of priority.  God comes first.  Tied for second is “self” and “others.”  So in all three arenas, ambition is not bad.  Unfortunately, it’s very easy to make the first one (self) a priority.  Some people never get beyond that to “others” and many more do not get to God.  Sad!  Unless ambition gets beyond self interest, it has little eternal value.

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Babies and Bath Water

Wednesday, Sept. 30                                     

There are lots of other examples of profiling.  We profile churches.  Certain ones are “liberal.”  When I was in seminary years ago, I was surprised to find several very evangelical churches in down town New York, among them a Covenant Church and a Methodist Church.  Then I was assigned to help out in a Presbyterian Church, which was also evangelical.  We also profile whole professions—chiropractors, used car salesmen, mechanics, and insurance companies.  Not all doctors are quacks.  Not all tax exempt organizations are corrupt.  Not all televangelists are out to dupe elderly widows.  Not all university professors are atheists.  As the old saying goes:  “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”

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