Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy?

Several weeks ago I wrote this blog about a congregation who was singing Pharrell’s song “Happy,” and how difficult it is to correlate that song with the truth of the Word of God.

Is Happiness the Truth? 

Below is another blog about this subject by The Gospel Coalition. I believe it will shed further light on a fun song that is great for the movie, Despicable Me 2, but horrible theologically for our people to sing as worship. I hope this helps us to continue to think through things in a biblical fashion.


Are You Happy?  Pharrell vs. Augustine

Would you say that you’re happy? Your answer will depend on whether you think about happiness as the pop singer Pharrell does or like the early church theologian Augustine. 
“It is a certainty that all people want to be happy,” Augustine wrote 1,600 years ago in The City of God. It’s less certain, however, when “they ask who is happy or what makes them happy” (X.1). Men and women through the centuries have wrestled with understanding the essence of happiness. Is it pleasure, a positive state of being, wisdom, or even a goddess like the Roman deity Felicity? Or is happiness simply one of those things that you know when you see it—or when you feel it?  
Pharrell ventures to portray happiness in his latest hit, "Happy." The song invites you to bust out that dance you like to do when no one’s around (for amusing examples, watch the people in the music video). Pharrell gives happiness a force all of its own: “happiness is the truth.” Happiness is an energy and power that inspires you to dance and be really positive about life. Why “can’t nothing bring me down?” Pharrell’s response: “My level’s too high” and “because I’m happy.”  

If You Feel Like a Room Without a Floor

If you assess your ultimate happiness Pharrell-style, you will be sorely disillusioned and let down. Maybe you sang and clapped along with it (or some other uplifting song) in the car this morning, but later on in the day you found yourself down about something once again (need not worry, someone thought ahead and made a 24-hour music video with the song on repeat to help you tune out any negativity). The truth is that viewing happiness as all about having high levels and unceasing positivity will lead to misery. Hard things in life will inevitably bring you down, and you’ll need more than carefree feelings and happy dance moves to carry you through those times.
Our happiness is as stable as the finite and fickle things that we devote our love and desires to. Augustine wrote, “Many people are miserable because they love what ought not to be loved, and are still more miserable when they enjoy it” (VIII.8). Augustine knew this reality intimately. "But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in [God] but in myself and his other creatures,” he wrote in The Confessions, “and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error” (I.20). Maybe you’ve experienced this reality as well, as a job, relationship, or possession has failed to deliver the happiness you expected. Maybe your merry “room without a roof” was really a room without a floor to stand on.

'By Whose Indwelling Alone the Soul Is Made Happy'

Be relieved to know that you don’t have to feel pie-in-the-sky all the time to say that you’re a happy person. So how can we know if we’re happy? For Augustine, the happy person is one who knows and participates in God’s love, goodness, beauty, and grace. The following principles that Augustine developed in The City of God provide a framework for viewing happiness rightly.
Happiness is a gift. — When we understand that happiness is a gift from God, we will seek him for it. Augustine challenged the ancient Romans for turning God’s gift of happiness to mankind into a goddess to be worshiped. Seeking happiness while ignoring its source makes no sense. For no one “can escape unhappiness who worships happiness as a goddess and forsakes God, the giver of happiness, just as no one can escape hunger who licks at a picture of bread and does not ask for real bread from a person who has it” (IV.23). God depends on nothing other than himself for happiness because he is unchanging, eternal, and perfectly good, and he loves to share his happiness as a gift to mankind. He gives us life, creation, relationships, and so much more, but most importantly he gives us himself for our happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is tied to the pursuit of righteousness. — Like a fish on dry land, we will be miserable if we try to live in a way that we weren’t meant to live. Augustine believed, “No one is happy unless he is righteous” (XIV.25). We are most happy when we align our hearts and actions with the supreme good. When we desire the supreme good “not for the sake of anything else but for its own sake alone,” it will “leave us nothing further to seek for our happiness” (VIII.8). Since the supreme good is God himself, men and women will be most happy when they desire him supremely and delight in imitating his righteousness for its own sake. Unrighteousness and misery result from not loving God supremely and spending our desires on wrong things.
Happiness consists in love for God. — Our happiness is as strong and lasting as the things we love. If we look for it in “things that are material, temporal, mutable, and mortal,” then our happiness will be superficial, short-lived, and fickle (VII.19). But if we devote our “love to the one supreme good which is the immutable God,” then our happiness will be eternal (X.1). The love of God also frees us to find genuine happiness in things of this world—like relationships, food, music, recreation, work, learning, and so on—because they derive their goodness ultimately from him. The love of God also teaches us to have a right love for self, and it moves us to love our neighbors and promote their happiness.
The gift of happiness that comes from participating in God’s love and goodness looks different than Pharrell’s Happy song. It may inspire positivity and good feelings, but its main goal is to motivate you to love, gratitude, and grace. If you want to be happy, love God more.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The 16th is a Big Deal....

On my blog I have seldom (anniversary excluded) written blogs about my personal life or family.  I guess I don’t believe most people really want to “watch home movies” or read about my family information.  However,  in our culture a 16th birthday is a pretty big deal and should be recognized.   Recently, I read a “tribute” to a Dad on Facebook that said this: “my dad never complimented me, never told me good job and he prepared me for life’s lessons that life was hard and I thank him for it.” Now, I’m glad this man doesn’t have any bitterness and can look back on his Dad with gratitude, but let me be clear, if that is success and preparation for life, I would rather be an abject failure. As I read that and thought about what life lessons I want my boys to "get," I realized how important it is to me that they know just how I really feel and think about them.   So, for his big 16 year old birthday,  I wanted to write my oldest son and publically tell him that I am indeed proud of him and I am thrilled that he is my son.


For some reason turning 40 didn’t bother me the way people said it would and,  going beyond 40 hasn’t bothered me (at least emotionally)... but you turning 16 has bothered me a great deal.  I guess when I look back at things in my life I can say “I was about 13 or 14 when I did that” but, for some reason from 16 years old on,  I can remember things very clearly. I guess I also really don’t believe you should be 16 already.  I know that sounds crazy to you now -  it did when my parents told me stuff like that, but for some reason life goes into super fast forward when you have kids. I remember thinking 16 would never arrive for me, and yet now I wonder if someone could tell me some secret to slow time down.

 From the time we brought you home from the hospital (when I couldn’t believe they would actually trust your Mom and I to bring you home), to your 16th birthday, I have always been amazed that God blessed me with you. We gave you your name as I was preaching through the book of Joshua and I fell in love with the passion, leadership and character of Caleb.  His name means loyal and the life you are living at the present time certainly displays that you are living up to your name. There have been so many little things that God has placed in you that demonstrate your character; from the way you treat others to your sense of responsibility.   One thing that has stood out to your Mom and I was that from the time you were toddler you gave everything away. You gave toys to your friends every time they came over and you gave all your money away.  Your Mom and I started to correct you by telling you that you didn’t have to give things away to make friends, only to realize as we talked and prayed for you, that God was developing a sweet giving spirit in you that He has used to teach me more about giving. God is still developing that in you for His glory - never neglect that in your life.

I have always been amazed by you in that as I taught you about manhood, whether we were going through a book or just talking, you have always been driven to become a man. In a culture where many 30 year olds are still striving for perpetual boyhood, you were and are striving for manhood and running towards it with full passion. Early on, in what was then your “playroom” and is now your “man cave,” we posted a definition of manhood from Men’s Fraternity. We talk about it quite often. ‘A Real man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects a greater reward. God’s reward.” As much fun as I have watching you compete against another young man to “tap him out,” and we often talk about  how “cool” and “tough” that is to do... but being a good fighter doesn’t make you a man, living a life to glorify God regardless of your circumstances, living out the definition you see every day on your wall, that is what makes a man.  The fact is that you are growing into that definition day by day, but it is my prayer that one day through God’s grace you live out that definition as you lead and love your wife and family.

I don’t want to go on and on (which I really could do) but know this, there are few joys in my life that I cherish any more than training you up to become a man. Our goal has never been to raise you, our goal has been to train you. People can raise tomatoes, they can raise animals, but something as high value as a son, must be trained. At times that training is painful for you and me, and at other times it is joyful for us, but regardless of the joy or pain it is one of the ultimate pleasures of my life to see you growing into a godly young man. I want you to know that I am proud of you - I never want you to question that. You can never say that you didn't hear "I love you" because I want you to know that every single day. You journey is far from being over, and I can only pray that God gives you the grace and desire to finish your course faithfully. But know this, as of today, June 17, 2014, based on your life and the verse below, your Mother and I are glad that God gave you to us as our son. Happy Birthday Caleb,  we love you so very much.

Prov. 23:24-25
“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happy 20th Anniversary to My Bride....

I read something by John Piper years ago, on why he wrote publically about his marriage and what he loved about his wife. In a quick search I couldn’t find the specific post, but in short what I took and applied from it is that most Pastor’s wives seem to be “behind the scenes” people and just as the Proverbs 31 wife was praised at the city gates, it is a good thing to do that if you have a wife that is praise worthy. 

Let me say, literally 95% of marriage has been nothing short of amazing and dare I say easy.  If it wasn’t for the 5% of difficulty we have had,  I would be confused as to what in the world is so difficult about marriage. The truth is God put Michele and I together because everything about her exudes grace and patience and she needs that in spades to deal with me. Once a year on our anniversary, I take a time out on my blog just to publically declare my love and admiration for my bride. We usually don’t do a great deal for our birthdays, but we have always made our anniversary a big deal, because it is. But our 20th we have really tried to celebrate a different way each week leading up to June 11th.   So, unbeknownst to her, I wanted to do something a little different that, if she had known she would have threatened me. But, in a secret and rushed fashion, I just made a quick “highlight” reel of my bride. 

Michele, including our dating, engagement and marriage we have given half of our life to one another, a simple three minute video will never do justice to the great joy you are to me and our boys. Most people will never know how much you have done to display your love and grace to the boys and me, but I am and forever will be grateful that our Lord put you with me. I love you.  Here is a peek into the beauty of my bride….

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Let's Get Going!

I have said many times, on many occasions that outside of God’s grace if there is any single thing that has helped our fellowship at Trinity stabilize, it has been the consistency of our staff. When I say consistency, I am not simply talking about having men who are committed to this body and have a long term ministry, but I am also talking about the consistency in doctrine and love for this fellowship. The only turnover we have had was Bro. Brad Walker, who God sent back to Kentucky to be a Pastor.  Since Bro. Brad left, I can’t think of very many days during which we have not communicated in some way and there is still a mutual love there between the Walkers and this TBC family. In fact, Bro. Brad recommended our new student minister to us, and as a church we extended a call to him unanimously. Bro. Bruce Roberts and his family, Andrea and Riley, went to our summer camp with our students to get to know them and every student that I have spoken with has been ecstatic about him beginning his ministry at TBC.    We could not be happier about this addition to our family and to our staff.  Bro. Bruce and his family will be moving here over the course of this next week and will be full time with us beginning a week from Sunday.  Please pray for them as they make this transition but please put feet to our prayers as well - make sure you reach out to welcome them, assist in any way possible and minister to them during this sweet but difficult time.  I know you will, TBC family - love for one another is now one our greatest characteristics!