Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Where to Find Happiness

Have you ever said to a friend or family member, “I just want you to be happy”, as they were considering marriage, a new job or some other major decision? 

Recently I watched a documentary on a highly accomplished NBA basketball player from the 1980s and 90s.  The program ended with the camera on him as he said, “I have five NBA Championships and I’m world famous.  Is that supposed to make me happy?”  Then he bowed his head and began to weep. 

Happiness is that inner experience some label as a state of contentment and well-being.  How many of us want that for ourselves or wish it for those whom we love?  It often seems the inner experience of happiness is tied to something external.  Like if we find marriage or love externally, that will provide us happiness internally.  If we find success externally, that will provide happiness internally.  As a result, we search the world over for something that will provide us that inner happiness. 

I firmly believe we were all created to want this happiness for ourselves.  This is the common human experience.  Rich or poor.  No matter our race or religion, we hunger to be happy. 

Jesus once made a startling claim to a crowd about Himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).  These words of Jesus show His understanding of the human heart.  He knew people were searching outwardly for what they longed for inwardly.  Sometime after these words were spoken, Jesus went on to suffer, die, then rise again.  After He arose and ascended back to His home in heaven, He sent His Spirit to live on the earth.  His Spirit indwells anyone who turns from their evil ways and trusts in Jesus alone for complete forgiveness for all they have ever done wrong.  When this happens, the Spirit brings the life of Jesus into that individual which gives, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Right there, that is what every human truly longs for.  It is something deeper and more profound than superficial happiness.   

What we are looking for is not found in marriage, success or any other earthly human experience we can control or create for ourselves.

The contentment, joy and meaning in life we seek is found in Jesus and nowhere else.  And it is not something He dispenses outside of Himself.  He embodies it all.  When we come to our senses and realize we have been going after the wrong things and receive the Spirit of Jesus within us, we receive all of who He is.

Are you ready to stop going here and there looking for temporary happiness?  Are you ready to surrender all to Christ?  

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray you will lead those who are searching for contentment and inner well-being to Christ.  Open their spiritual eyes to see that Jesus is all they are looking for, that in Him all their desires and longings will be met.  Bring them to surrender all, to turn from their ways and trust in You with all their heart.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

When Only A Miracle Will Do

For nearly 10 years I served inmates in our small rural county jail as a minister, and saw over 100 of them come through our Bible studies and annual Christmas outreaches.  They were there because of drugs, alcohol, theft, sexual violations and more.  Men and women.  Young and old.  While they sat with me in their white and orange jail issued clothes, I would often say, “When you were young and thought about the future, none of you set out to be in jail.  You are here because something went wrong.”  

Have you ever known someone, where at some point, something went terribly wrong and one bad decision seemed to pile on another?  And maybe you thought, “If they continue down this path, outside of a miracle of God, they are going to wind up in either jail, the hospital, on the street or dead?   

Jesus told a story about a young man like this.  One day he came to his father in a spirit of anger and hate and demanded his inheritance while his father still lived.  His dad amazingly and graciously complied and gave his younger son what he wanted.  Then his son packed up his belongings and abruptly left home and family.  He travelled far away to a large and bustling city, where bad decisions began to mount.  Jesus said he, “squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13) and eventually he spent everything he had been given.  And things got worse when a famine hit the region.  He became penniless, friendless, jobless, foodless and homeless.  At this point in his life, his dad described him dead and lost.  Something had gone wrong and he was speeding head-first down a path of destruction and ruin.  His only hope was a miracle.

And that is what began to happen!  God’s invisible hand was mysteriously working on the young man’s heart, where in a moment of wise reflection he said to himself, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!”  (Luke 15:17)  This led to a key turning point where he stood up and began a long and discouraging walk back home.

 While still a long way out, his father saw him and immediately ran to meet him.  After the father’s compassionate embrace, his son began his humble confession, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21).  Wow!  That was all his dad needed to hear, when he said, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’  And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:24). 

That miracle caused the young man’s life to go from death to life and ruin to overflowing joy.  What everyone else thought was impossible; God knew was possible. 

This is what Jesus was sent from heaven to earth for.  This is why he died and rose again.  To do miracles just like this.  When people are living for themselves and leaving a wake of heartache and pain wherever they go, it is easy to get frustrated and angry with them, to look down at them and write them off.  But God is merciful and patient.  He does not treat any of us as we deserve.  Instead, in His kindness, He keeps drawing us to Himself until we humble ourselves and surrender all to Him.                   

 A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray for those who are living destructive lives.  God, you are their only hope.  Intervene, I pray.  Save their physical lives and their eternal souls from destruction.  Open their spiritual eyes to see the danger they are facing, then mercifully bring them to repentance that they might live again.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What’s Happening with My Adult Kids?

“Pastor Miller, thanks for coming over on short notice.  My wife and I appreciate it.  We are at a loss and don’t know what to do with our son, Tom.  We just can’t handle it anymore.  He’s an adult and has been out on his own for a while.  For years we’ve dealt with his unpredictable behavior and have tried everything.  He wasn’t raised this way.  Pastor, what else can we do?  Where did we go wrong?”

Maybe you are a parent with teenagers or adult children that are living destructive lives.  Can you identify with this dad and mom? 

Long ago there was a great King who had a wayward adult son who brought waves of grief to his heart.  The life of King David’s son, Absalom, was filled with selfishness, arrogance and cruelty.  The story that symbolizes his lawless life is when, in a patient, premeditated and vengeful fashion, he murdered his brother.  In cold blood he took his life, then turned and fled his father’s Kingdom.  The tragic event was the beginning of David’s downhill relationship with Absalom.  Things never improved, but eventually ended with even more tragedy when Absalom was murdered in cold blood as well.  In response to learning of his wayward son’s early and needless death, David grieved as any parent can understand, crying out, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!”  (2 Samuel 19:4)

David was considered “a man after God’s own heart” yet, had a son who lived a lawless life.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to any parent.  Let me share six prayers you can consider praying over your difficult relationship with your adult son or daughter. 

1)    Pray and ask God to show you any parts of your life that may have influenced your child’s behavior toward the harmful choices they are making.  No doubt, at some point, David realized that his adulterous affair with Bathsheba was a negative influence on Absalom’s life. 

2)    Pray and ask God for forgiveness for the things you may have allowed in your life that was harmful to your child.  Then by faith, release any feelings of guilt to Him and receive His joy and peace.

3)    Pray and ask God to help you accept that no matter what happened in the past, between you and your child, they are ultimately an adult and are solely responsible before God for their behavior.        

4)    Pray and ask God to help you release your child into His hands, stepping away from constantly rescuing him or her and trying to make up for the failures in the past.

5)    Pray and ask God to help you forgive your child for the pain he or she has caused, and to show sincere love and undeserved kindness, just as God has shown you.

6)    Pray and ask God to transform your life that you might be the parent or grandparent that you never were in your earlier years.  Ask God to restore what was lost and change your family tree.        

There is hope for any family in crisis and it begins with Jesus.  The greatest enemy of the family is sin.  Jesus suffered, died and rose again to defeat sin.  When you turn to Christ, His Spirit will come to dwell within you and give you the power, day by day, to live victoriously and overcome hell’s vicious onslaughts against your family. 

Victory for your wayward son or daughter begins with Christ in you, then Christ in them.  Jesus is greater than drugs, alcohol, mental illness, criminal behavior or any other form of recklessness.   

May the words spoken to a dad and his family centuries ago, by the Lord Jesus Himself, be spoken to you in the days ahead, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).     

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray for peace in homes where children have headed down a path of destruction.  Give hope to parents who feel at a loss and do not know where to go and what to do.  Show yourself as a rock of refuge and a shelter in a time of trouble.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Lay Your Burden Down

There are millions of people carrying such heavy burdens all across our world.  They cannot sleep at night and wake up tired.  They have regular appointments with their counselors.  Their attempts at hobbies and exercise are strategies to find relief.  What burden are you carrying?  If you want to find the peace you have been searching for, it is found in a person – Jesus.   

Once He was invited to dinner at a religious leader’s home.  Other religious leaders also came, and together they sat down at the table and began visiting.  Jesus’ fame as a preacher rose quickly, so word continually spread where He was.  A certain prostitute who was impacted by Jesus and His ministry learned of His whereabouts.  She made her way into the house and found herself standing before Jesus and the other guests.  She stood without saying a word, then began weeping.  So much, that her tears fell on Jesus’ feet.  Seeing that, she bent down and began wiping the tears off with her hair. 

During the whole process, the religious leaders were incensed at the woman and Jesus.  Noticing this, Jesus spoke to the dinner host, addressing the host’s attitude toward her, then eventually turned back to the woman and said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).  That incensed the leaders even more.  Then He spoke one final word before she humbly slipped out, “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50). 

This prostitute was looking for something, just like all those preachers in that room, all the people in her city, and like you and me.  Her search took her into prostitution, for others it is different. 

But when she heard of Jesus, something awakened in her that no doubt said, “This is it!”  And she overcame the barriers before her to get to Jesus and when she got there, He did not disappoint her. 

She found forgiveness for all the wrong she had done!  The guilt and shame she had been trying to outrun was finally washed away.  How did that happen?  Faith.  Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.” 

Wow!  It was her faith that provided forgiveness.  It is interesting to note, what Jesus did not say.  He did not say anything about religion, morality, goodness or education.  Just faith.  He did not refer to anything about personal will power, having a positive attitude, perseverance or working hard.  Just faith.  And what is faith?  It was her belief, trust and confidence in Jesus.

We are all naturally wired to be independent and achieve.  We want to earn what we have.  Our culture is set up that way from our parents and high school coaches, to our professors and bosses.  Work hard and succeed.  It is up to you.  Faith in Jesus is opposite.  This woman simply had faith and her life was instantly transformed.  She believed Jesus was the Son of God.  She believed she had done wrong and needed forgiveness.  She trusted that Jesus had the power to forgive.  She was confident Jesus was sufficient for all she needed.     

Then Jesus said, “go in peace.”  No doubt the immoral life she led weighed on her.  She not only needed forgiveness, but peace.  Often the foolish things we do cause great amounts of stress and anxiousness.  In one moment, her simple faith brought forgiveness and peace.  Lay your burden down at the feet of Jesus.  Have faith in Him. 

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray you will help the readers to end their search.  Bring them to take off their burden and find forgiveness and peace in Christ through simple faith. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”