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You Need Four Things To Be Happy

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This is a repost from December 17, 2017.


Are you happy or unhappy with your life? If you sat down and made a list of reasons why you are happy or unhappy, chances are, you will be able to find a variation of four things that you need for happiness. I’m not usually one to try and boil down life to some formulaic approach to fulfillment. However, I think in this case, in general terms, we can self-assess our lives to discover what contributes to or takes away from our happiness. I’m not going to give you a pop culture answer like, “All you need is love.” Nor will I give you a pat religious answer like, “All you need is Jesus.” Love may be supreme and Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love—and you need both for eternal happiness. But what I’d like to do is present four things that are necessary for human happiness in this life, right now. I believe that God has wired us in this way, whether you are a Christian or not.

Happiness is important. Happiness is not the be all and end all of existence. In fact, happiness should not be the primary pursuit of our lives because happiness is best seen as a byproduct and not a pursuit. But that doesn’t mean that happiness isn’t important. If we are happy in our work then getting up in the morning to go to work isn’t a chore for us. If we are happy in our home life then we look forward to being home and spending time with the ones we love. The catch is knowing where our happiness comes from. If we can know what we need to be happy then we can self-assess to find out if we have what we need, or if we are missing happiness by missing one or more of the four elements necessary to happiness. So, allow me to wax philosophical for a moment as I define the basic elements of happiness, why they are important, and then present you with biblical examples for these four elements. Let’s get started.

When Is Discrimination Acceptable?

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This article was originally posted in February of 2014.

There has been a recent national discussion regarding religious discrimination and homosexuality. The most recent debate centered on a bill passed by the Arizona legislature that would have permitted a person or business not to serve someone based upon religious conviction. Central to the discussion was the example of a baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding. Gay advocates call that discrimination. Their opponents cited religious rights not to participate in sinful behavior. To the relief of many, the bill was vetoed by the Arizona governor.

For the purposes of this article I am not concerned with the law. My concern is what the Bible has to say about a difficult topic such as this.

Ethics: Real Integrity

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This is the last in a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.


I will never forget the day I was called by an officer with the police department and accused of a crime. “Mr. Terry,” the officer on the phone said. “You have been accused of stealing gasoline at a local convenience store. We are giving you notice that you must pay the money or you will be charged with a crime.”


I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I remember purchasing gas at the store on the date in question, but as best as I could remember I paid for it. After protesting for a while I realized that the officer was threatening, but that it was highly unlikely they were going to come arrest me for a theft of $10 of gas. In fact, since I lived outside of the city from where the crime supposedly occurred, the officer has no legal authority to arrest me. All she could do was harass me on the phone. I was, after all, innocent. There was no evidence I committed a crime, just a simple claim. So I made a decision.


I got into my truck, drove to the gas station and handed the attendant a $10 bill. I said to the attendant, “I know I paid for the gas. I’m not a thief. But just in case, here’s another $10.” The store clerk was stunned. She looked at me dumbfounded and said, “We’ve accused a lot of people of stealing gas. No one’s ever come back to pay before.” It’s been nearly 30 years since that happened. I’ve never forgotten it because the clerk was so dumbstruck that someone might be honest enough to either pay back what was stolen, or insist on their innocence, and pay again anyway. I walked out of that store knowing with confidence that I had protected my integrity.


Integrity is more than dealing honestly, or telling the truth, or doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. Integrity involves two important traits. First, integrity means that we are honest in every part of our being—our feelings, our minds, and our outward behaviors. But integrity also requires something extra. We avoid even the appearance of evil or sin in our lives—even if we are accused wrongly, even if it costs us, if it is uncomfortable or violates our rights, our integrity must be protected.


In this study we shall examine the characteristics of a godly person that has integrity. We’ll also learn how to become men and women who live in integrated life, where integrity permeates every part of our existence.


Ethics: The Good Of Suffering

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This is the 8th in a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.


There are some philosophies, like Buddhism, which teach that suffering is the root of all man’s problems. If you can eliminate your suffering, and the desires that bring about suffering you can attain a state of enlightenment. Under such mistaken philosophies, suffering is seen as evil, without good purpose. No one who embraces such a philosophy sees any value in suffering.


Suffering is a hard thing. Everyone hates to suffer. Yet the Bible encourages us with three facts about suffering:

  1. Suffering is only a temporary condition for the Christian,
  2. Suffering is used by God to bring good,
  3. Suffering will one day be eliminated.

Though everyone recognizes the hardship of suffering and that it is undesirable, the Bible offers a perspective on suffering that to some people seems like insanity. It presents a picture of the eternal God who created the universe, who is all-powerful, and whom nothing can hurt, embracing suffering, and submitting himself to suffering on our behalf. In fact, the Bible teaches that God chose suffering as the primary means of ensuring we could have eternal life. Why is it that God’s ideas about suffering are so different from ours?


In this study we will examine the role that suffering plays in the Christian life, and why God not only warned us about suffering, but also made a way for us to embraces suffering as part of becoming the kind of person he desires.


Ethics: Love

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This is the 7th of a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.

There is probably not a single greater attribute of God that has motivated more change in more peoples lives that the love of God. Love is not only one of God’s supreme attributes; it is also a command for every Christian.

The scripture is replete with commands and admonitions to "Love the Lord your God," (Deuteronomy 6:5), "Love your neighbor as yourself," (Leviticus 19:18), "Love your enemies," (Matthew 5:44), "Love the brothers," (John 13:35, I John 3:14), and to love the church (implied in Ephesians 5:25). Love is given as the first Fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, signifying its primary importance among Christian character traits. Jesus remarked that people would understand us to be His disciples if we "have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Yet for all of these admonitions of love, including Jesus' command for us to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34), there are times when love is inappropriate, even wrong.

Paul's words in I Corinthians 13 describe the attributes of love from both a positive and negative view. From a positive view: "Love is patient and kind...[love] rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing." But notice also Paul's negative admonitions about love: "Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoings." In fact Paul says more about what love is not than he does about what love is.

In this study we will learn about God’s character attribute of love, how he expresses it, and how we can become people who love as God does.


Ethics: Peace With God

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This is the 6th of a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.


Do you have “peace?” Do you know what real peace is?


When people say they “have peace” about something it often means nothing more than they “feel good” about it or there is an absence of emotional conflict. Some Christians refer to a “supernatural peace” as mentioned in the Bible in Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”


From the Bible’s point of view peace is first “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), meaning that the atoning working of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross has erased our enmity with God. Because of the death of Jesus for our sin, God is no longer in conflict with those who have received him. We are “at peace” with him when we receive the payment of sin he made on our behalf.


Biblical “peace” is also a lack of internal conflict, or perhaps we shall also call thisinternal enmitywith ourselves about something. In both cases this kind of peace does not proceed or coincide with a decision to do something, rather it is a byproduct of an already-made decision. The first decision is a decision to be at peace with God by accepting his terms of peace—the lordship of his Son Jesus over our lives.


In this study we will look at two aspects of the Peace of God,and learn how we can have true and lasting peace.


Ethics: Justice & Being Just

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This is the 5th in a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.


The Bible has a great deal to say about the issue of corruption, specifically when it discusses the idea of Justice.Throughout both the Old and New Testaments the Bible condemns all forms of bribery and requires that those who would call themselves Christian must be people who are free of corruption—we must be a justpeople.


Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionarydefines justice as “the practice of what is right and just” in both law and relationships. God’s justice is defined as his “fair and impartial treatment of all people.” Therefore, Justice,in the biblical sense is that quality of relationship whereby we deal equitably and morally with all people in all circumstances without showing partiality or favoritism. 


Justice requires that evil be punished and good be rewarded. Yet we often find that we are capable of both evil and good at the same time. Therefore, how are our lives to be rightly judged? Because no person is fully good, God would be just to condemn every person. Yet he has instead chosen to give some a salvation of eternal life.


In this study we will look at God’s character of justice, and learn how we can become more like our Just Savior, Jesus Christ.


Ethics: The Righteous Life

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This is the 4th of a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.


Righteousness is an important part of the Christian life. In the Old Testament God instructed Israel to live righteously because God himself was righteous. The people of Israel were to live their lives in a way that reflected who God was, and what he had done for them.


Righteousness is equally important in the Christian life. Because Jesus Christ has already died for our sins and risen from the dead never to die again, we are to live lives that reflect his character and what he has done for us.


The sad part of life is that no one is able to live a life that is pleasing to God by his or her own efforts. The scriptures tell us in Isaiah 64:6 that, “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Therefore, even though we may make many efforts to do the right thing and always behave in a right manner, because our nature is troubled with sin, we fail to live righteously all of the time. This is one reason why Jesus came, that through faith we might be given his righteousness as a free gift that God will be pleased with us. But even though we can receive this righteousness as a free gift, God still requires us to live a life according to certain standards—standards of righteousness.


In this study we will examine God’s righteous requirements and what it takes to live a life that is pleasing to God. Most importantly we will see this righteousness is not simply a matter of doing the right thing, but it is also an important standard of relationships.


Ethics: The Faithfulness of God & Man

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This is the 3rd of a 9-part series on Christian Ethics.


The Bible teaches that God “is the faithful God” (Deuteronomy 7:9), who always acts faithfully toward those whom he loves. The most important trait of God’s faithfulness is that he alwaysdoes what he says (Numbers 23:19). When God speaks and says he will do something, whether it is to save or to condemn, we can be sure that he will always carry out what he says without fail (II Peter 3:9). Man, however, is not like God. He does not always keep his word. 


Because we are first motivated by our own selfish desires and want to control our own lives instead of letting the faithful God control our lives, God counts us as unfaithful to his original purpose for creating us.


Thankfully, God’s faithfulness is more than just his acts to keep his word. God’s faithfulness is deeply connected to his goodness and truth. It is impossible to be faithful without also being true and good. God is true. God is good. God is faithful.


God has truthfully revealed himself to us. He has shown himself to be good in sending his son, Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. And he has acted faithfully in that he promises from ages past to make a way for us to be saved from our sin—which he did through Jesus Christ.


In this study we will see that faithfulness is more than doing what we say (though that is of first importance). God’s faithfulness is an expression of his grace and mercy, and he can give us the same character trait of faithfulness that he possesses.


Ethics: The Goodness of God & Man

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This is the second of a nine-part series on Christian Ethics.


What does it mean to be a good person? Most people think of goodness from a negative point of view such as, “Not doing bad things.” For others goodness is more generic. We wish our loved ones a “good day.” Or we tell our children as they run off to school, “Be good today,” which is another way of saying, “Stay out of trouble.”


According to theology professor Dr. Robert L. Reymond, “God defines his goodness in terms of sovereign mercy and compassion.” God’s goodness, the kind that He wants to have reflected in our character, is both positive and proactive. This means that being good is more than “not doing bad things,” or “staying out of trouble.” The Bible describes God as proactively initiatinggood acts to bring benefit to mankind (Matthew 5:45), but especially to those whom He has called His people.


How often have you struggled with a problem in your life where you knew the right thing to do, but did not seem to have the will to do it (sin)? Everyone has experienced this. It is a testimony to the scripture’s teaching that man is not naturally good; we are sinners. We have the desire and even the capacity to dogood things—but we often avoid good, or intentionally do the wrong thing, whether out of weakness or rebellion.


In this study we will learn about the differences between God’s goodness and our goodness, and how every Christian can discover the power available to him or her to become the kind of good person that reflects the good character of Jesus Christ.