Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Happiness": What does it mean to you? by Frank Black

“HAPPINESS”:  What does it mean to you?

(F. Black)


      I know what most of you are thinking.  You may be thinking:

“What now?”  “What a lame topic to write about.”  “I know where you’re going with this.”  …….   Please bear with me dear readers. 


      Over time the meaning, the connotation of words change.  Such it is with the word “HAPPY” [or “HAPPINESS’].  One of the most famous uses of the word “Happiness” is in our own Declaration of Independence.  It was chiefly penned by Thomas Jefferson and was ratified on July 4, 1776.  You are all too familiar with these words: 


“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 


The word “happy” or “happiness” had an entirely different connotation when Jefferson wrote this.  During his time the word had a much deeper meaning than it does today. Today it’s not only overused and trivialized, but the meaning lends itself to more of a ‘temporary emotional feeling’ as well as relating to something more superficial.  You may be “happy” because:

 “The Pacers won.”; “I have a new car.”; “It didn’t rain on our picnic.”; “I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow.”; “The biopsy report was benign.”


You can readily see that the word is not only overused, but it has basically lost its significance.  It is used to mean everything from the mundane to the serious – from the trivial to the sublime. 


At the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the connotation of “happiness” was one of an overall contentment or fulfillment – of being blessed – the highest good for someone.  It had the implication of something lasting and permanent – a state of mind.  Also the meaning was more than just a personal happiness, for it also dealt somewhat with the corporate society.  You can now see the rather stark difference in yesteryear’s and today’s use of the word “Happy” [“Happiness”].

[By the way, the Declaration of Independence says that we have the right of the “Pursuit” of happiness.  This doesn’t mean happiness would be achieved – only the right of pursuit.]


Okay Frank, this is a nice lesson on the etymology of the word “Happy”; but WHY IS THIS IN OUR CHURCH BULLETIN?  Before I tell you the “WHY?”, here’s how J.B. Phillips renders the “Beatitudes” of Matthew chapter 5. 


If you’ve not read Phillips’ version before, but having read the above, you will now understand why he uses “Happy” as he did.   He equates the more familiar translations using “BLESSED” with the word “HAPPY”.


“How happy are those who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort!

Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for true goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!

Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

Happy are those who make peace, for they will be known as sons of God!

Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!”





      Because the meaning of the word “Happiness” has changed, I think many in our country interpret the phrase,  “ …….and the pursuit of happinessto mean their personal happiness.  In other words, “I should be free to do what I want because it makes me happy.” Currently our country seems to be rapidly departing from a Biblical standard in determining actions and laws.  This view seems extremely dangerous.  Without a Godly standard, what’s left?  What’s left are decisions made by focus groups, by who can make the most noise the longest, by the popular, by who is the most “politically correct”, and unfortunately usually by the minority. 


     Never doubt it!  We are the majority à we who believe in God’s standards – made clear in the Bible.  May we think, speak, and act accordingly. 


**  Quote from Rick Warren:

      “God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making it happy.  Certainly we can be happy here on Earth, but that’s not the goal of life.  The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Our Friend Chi Chi by Chris Kirby

Our Friend Chi Chi

This past weekend Jack had a friend from school with him. His name is Chi Chi.  Chi Chi is a stuffed gorilla who goes home with different kids from his class each weekend. On Sunday evening you write a short report about what the class pet did with your family during his stay. It was a relatively normal weekend for us. Jack had a basketball game, we played in the snow for a bit, goofed off around the house, went to church, and so on.

But, here’s something that I found funny about the weekend. Having Chi Chi, a stuffed gorilla, made me just a bit more aware of how we spent our time. I didn’t care what Chi Chi thought.  He has stuffing for brains (sorry Jack, I hope that didn’t hurt your feelings).  However, I was very aware of what Jack’s teacher and class would think about our weekend. For whatever reason, I just felt like it would be underwhelming for Jack’s friends to hear that Chi Chi watched Jack play his DS and play in the snow.  So, we made sure we did a few extra things. Not big things, but just slightly different than normal. We built a tent in the play room (Chi Chi is guarding the tent in the picture above), the kids had ice cream for dinner one night (Valentine’s Day special) and we let Chi Chi camp on the floor in Jack’s room. It wasn’t anything overly big in the end, but I was definitely more aware of our actions than normal.
So, what’s the point? How different would we live life if we knew we had an audience? Would we allow ourselves to waste as much time? Would we go the same places as normal and have all the same priorities? Or, would we find ways to be “impressive”? Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. I don’t want you to think that we need to do things in such a way that draws attention to ourselves. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. In a Spirit-led life, we are called to do things that bring honor to God. To do so, we worship God, love Him with all we have, and love those around us (Mark 12:29-31). And, in fact, we do have an audience each day. One of the awesome things about being a follower of God is the fact that he chooses to dwell in each of us through his Spirit (John 14:15-18). Not only is God our audience, but He is the director of our time when we allow him to take the reins.

Knowing those two things, doesn’t that give us a responsibility to live out a life that really matters? It doesn’t mean that we always have to do the “amazing,” it means that we are called to walk daily with the One who IS amazing. It means that we are called to do the little things each day that reflect how Jesus would engage a situation. It means that each action we take should be one that honors God in a genuine way. It means that if someone followed us throughout the course of a day they would know that our priority is to be an ambassador to bring God’s grace and hope into this world. I guess, at the end of the day, we should live in a way that would impress Chi Chi without doing anything out of the ordinary because our ordinary is all about Kingdom Business!  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Health Ministry Newsletter-Feb 2014 by Lisa Fleetwood

Jesus our Model for Stress Management

John 14:27 (ESV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Jesus gave us peace. What kind of peace? Don’t miss this. He gave us HIS peace. What kind of peace did Jesus have?

Matthew 26:36-38 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’”

Jesus did feel overwhelmed and had great sorrow “to the point of death.” Well what kind of peace did he have then? Isn’t peace a calm serenity and tranquility? Our worldly view of peace is not exactly what God promised.

Jesus prayed three times to avoid the pain he knew was coming but in those same three prayers he asked for God’s will to be done. His peace came in trusting submission to God’s will. He never fell apart. He never lashed out in anger. He never prompted others to retaliate on his behalf. He was at peace knowing that while circumstances would be difficult, God would be glorified and a greater purpose would be served. How he obeyed, reacted, trusted, loved, and forgave said everything about his kind of peace. He never had turmoil. He reacted rationally, thoughtfully, lovingly.

1 Peter 2:23 (NIV) “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 

Much can be learned from Jesus’ experience with arguably the most stressful experience of his life. By evaluating his actions, we can learn how to process stress in our own lives.

Let’s look at how Jesus handled stress.

1. He socialized. When he knew a stressful situation was near, he took the time to be with the people he loved. Strengthening his relationships and fellowshipping with his brothers no doubt was a source of strength. Matthew 26:18 said he “celebrated.” He also took this time to prepare his brothers for what was to come. When stress comes, we can withdraw from others and certainly avoid planning a party. Why then didn’t Jesus? He saw the value in eating a meal and sharing quality time with his dearest friends. He used this time to reflect as well as plan for the future. He sang (Matt. 26:30) and relaxed (Matt. 26:20) knowing that he would be arrested within hours. What might we learn from his example?

2. He asked for support. Jesus asked his friends to be with him. He didn’t go off alone, like he had many times to pray in solitude (Matthew 1:35). Instead, he asked Peter, James, and John to join him. He knew he didn’t want to be alone and wasn’t afraid or ashamed to ask his inner circle to be close to him. Emulate Jesus by reaching out to others when you need support. It is possible they will disappoint you. More than likely though, when it gets tough they will have your back.

3. He prayed transparently. God already knew how difficult this would be for Jesus but Jesus didn’t hold back in his prayer. He asked for God to spare him this cup. He asked three times. Matthew says he prayed, “face down” submitting himself in humility to God’s will for his life. Sometimes life’s stress can feel like bitter agony. In these moments it is all we can do to cry out, reaching out of the darkness to what we know by faith is God’s sovereign power and authority over all our life and circumstances.

4. He remained silent. To say that he was dealing with difficult, humbling, and painful
circumstances is an understatement. He was directly questioned, abused, and ridiculed; yet for the most part, he remained silent. He was in complete control over his tongue. Sometimes we use stress as an excuse to lash out to others. Sometimes we may feel justified in our own defense but who was more justified than the son of God; still he did not speak. Remember peace comes by humbly submitting ourselves to God’s will while conducting ourselves in the most Christ-like manner. Words unspoken are seldom regretted.

5. He forgave. How much of your stress is the result of other’s painful actions? Jesus hung on the cross after being tortured for a crime he didn’t commit. His claims were true, he was God’s son though those he was sent to save didn’t accept him (John 3:19). Yet Jesus forgave others, despite his pain, disappointment, and abandonment. He cried out, “Father forgive them.” Forgiveness is essential for eliminating stress from your life and claiming peace. Are there those in your life who have wronged you? Forgive them, even if they don’t ask for it or in your estimation, deserve it. Who could have ever been wronged more than our own Savior yet he not only forgave but he audibly released those nearby through their hearing his cry. What an example!!

Common effects of stress ...

... On your body

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems

... On your mood

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression

... On your behavior

  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

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Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) "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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lipscomb, McGary and Forgiveness by Terry Gardner

Lipscomb, McGary and Forgiveness
By Terry J. Gardner

Reprinted with permission, Gospel Advocate
Two of our best-known preachers in 1905 were David Lipscomb and Austin McGary.  Lipscomb was synonymous with the Gospel Advocate and McGary was the founder of the Firm Foundation.  Lipscomb rarely dealt in personalities; McGary enjoyed mixing it up and was not above using the crude language of the frontier in his religious discussions.  Lipscomb taught that those baptized to obey God would be saved while McGary insisted, “belief that baptism is for remission of sins is essential to its validity.”  Lipscomb was a life long pacifist; McGary was a former Texas Sheriff who killed one man in the line of duty and another in days of his wayward youth.
Lipscomb gave his opinion of McGary in the Gospel Advocate, “I do not think McGary can fairly state the position of one from whom he differs.  Cuts and innuendoes that irritate and keep up a ferment, and divide into parties, but convince no one, are not profitable.  When Christians discuss questions, it should be with the desire to see how clearly they can understand each other, how nearly they can come together; and they ought to regard the slightest misrepresentation of each other as a wicked lie.”
McGary gave his view of Lipscomb in the Gospel Outlook writing in 1905, “If Lipscomb had enough moral courage and reverence for revealed truth to acknowledge his error and repent of his evil work against the gospel of Christ, then charity would demand that I should forgive him and recognize him as an honest man.  But as long as he stands before the world in his present insincere, dissembling, double-dealing Janus-faced attitude, charity demands that I shall brand him as a willful perverter of the truth he pretends to love, and a religious reprobate of the most hypocritical cast.”
If the story ended here then it might be like so many other sad tales where brotherly love failed to prevail.  In 1917 Lipscomb passed from this life into the next.  Several more years passed until 1923 when this appeared from the pen of A. McGary in the Gospel Advocate:

Brother [H. Leo] Boles and Brother [J. C.] McQuiddy have both written me concerning some very improper and unchristianlike things I said about Brother D. Lipscomb in the Gospel Outlook many years ago.  I sincerely and deeply and penitently regret having said these things, and I unfeignedly and feelingly beg all of Brother Lipscomb’s personal friends and the brotherhood in general to forgive me.  It will be a lifelong regret with me that I did not apologize to Brother Lipscomb before he died for saying these things about him.
McQuiddy replied that he was sure Lipscomb would have “rejoiced” at such an apology and “would have freely forgiven Brother McGary.”  McQuiddy then added, “We must forgive if we expect to be forgiven.  This is a lesson that not only needs to be learned, but also one which should be practiced.”
A few weeks later M. C. Kurfees wrote an editorial, in the Gospel Advocate commending McGary’s “effective and beautiful” apology as a “noble example,” for all Christians, “and especially for preachers.”  Kurfees noted that McGary’s actions were “gracious” and of the “beautiful spirit of the Master” and then added that McGary’s apology “furnishes the occasion for some important and timely reflections on the duty of Christians, and especially preachers, toward one another.”  Kurfees then offered his observations about McGary’s apology:

  1. The apology, Kurfees noted, was accompanied by no doubtful ‘ifs’ or conditions which … would leave one in doubt as to whether there is any real confession of wrong or wish to make matters right.  It was clear, distinct, and directly to the point, bearing on its very face its own genuine sincerity and noble wish to make everything right.”
  2. The apology “betrayed no silly fear that its author might lower his dignity or injure his standing with men by a frank and open confession of wrong.”  Kurfees added that McGary “evidently made that confession and apology with an open Bible and a determination to please God at all hazards.”  Kurfees noted that he had “seen a few noble confessions of wrong and apologies on the part of preachers” but that McGary’s “occupies a place among the noblest.”
  3. According to Kurfees, McGary was exalted “in the eye of God and in the esteem of all right-thinking persons” by his apology.  Kurfees believed that McGary’s actions “in the present case is proof that back of it all is a heart which beats in unison with noble purpose to be true to God and to his word.”
Kurfees then visualized Lipscomb rejoicing in Heaven with angels over McGary’s noble act and that Lipscomb’s “great heart yearned to press in tender brotherly love the honest hand of Brother McGary.”  Kurfees concluded, “May the good Lord overrule this noble example to the accomplishment of great good.”
What about it?  Can we learn from history or will we repeat it?  Remember, it was Jesus who said if we fail to forgive others, our Father will not forgive us.  (Matt: 6:15).  Every idle word will be brought into judgment.