Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: happiness

Do you really want to know how I’m feeling today?

Yesterday I stopped at the pharmacy counter in Walmart to pick up a prescription. There were several pharmacists in the back busily preparing prescriptions for others. I waved at the head pharmacist and said, “How are you Marc?”

There was an almost imperceptible hesitation before he answered “Fine'” The clerk who was serving me smiled and said “He didn’t sound so sure, did he?”

When I had finished paying for my prescription, Marc came out to the front and motioned me to come aside where we could talk. He told me that the question of how to answer the question “How are you?” had recently come up at Bible study. If you are having a rough day and you answer “Fine,”  are you being honest?

On the face of things, it may seem that the person who always says “Fine” is not really being honest. But perhaps there is another way of looking at this. I told Marc about our two elderly cousins. One is related to me and one to my wife, I won’t say which is which, it doesn’t really matter to the story.

One of these old ladies has been married twice, couldn’t get along with either man and divorced them. She has six children and they don’t treat her right, according to her. Lord knows they try, but it’s never enough. People are mean to her and try to cheat her everywhere she goes. I don’t know if she has any real friends, but she is still on speaking terms with a few people. Sometimes she gets upset and won’t speak to one of them for months, but eventually she needs their help for something and picks up the phone to call them again.

One day she was feeling so miserable that she told one of those contacts that she felt like ending her life. This contact lives 600 km away and couldn’t just pop over to visit. So she suggested this lady needed to get out of her apartment, go to a mall, have a coffee, find someone to talk to. She called back in the evening overjoyed at the wonderful day she’s had. Turns out she never did visit with anyone, but she found all kinds of things on sale at the mall. We heard later she had spent $700 on jewellery and clothing, things she really couldn’t afford and might never wear, but spending gave her a one-day high.

If you ask this lady how her day is going, she will probably fill your ear with a long tale of woe.

The other lady is 91 and lives in a senior’s residence. Her husband of 65 years died a few years ago and she misses him. But she talks of all the good memories she has of their life together. Their only son lives close by, comes to see her every day, does all he can to help her. She is always singing his praises.

Almost a year ago she suffered a stroke and spent some time in the hospital. The nurses were all very good to her. She had to use a walker after she came home, but she didn’t complain. Now she is fully recovered and goes for a half-mile walk every morning. She knows every resident in the senior’s residence and loves to visit. Her hands are crippled with arthritis, yet she is typing out her life’s story to share with her family. She keeps in touch by phone with all her many relatives.

If you ask this lady how things are going, she may mention some health problem, or she may not. Mostly she will tell you how good everyone is to her and how the Lord has blessed her life.

There is the difference, one of these ladies knows the Lord. The other does not, will not even consider that such a thing is possible.

So, how is your day going? It’s a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Reality

  1. This is my Father’s world. I did not ask to be here. I cannot choose to be in another world. This is it and I may as well make the best of it.
  2.  I am made in my Father’s image. Even though I am earthly, like the animals, with all the capacity for savagery that entails, I am also a spiritual being, able to know and communicate with my Father, with all the wonderful possibilities that provides.
  3.  This world, this life, is not all there is. Voices are coming to me from beyond this world, alluring me to discontent, envy, anger, rebellion. Other voices, softer voices, urge me to love and be loved. My destination after this life depends on which voices I choose to listen to and obey.

This is reality. I may wish it wasn’t like that; I may choose to believe that it is not like that. But in the end, I cannot escape reality. Denying reality will not make me happy, now or ever. Happiness is only to be found in living in this world as it really is, not as it may appear to be or as I would wish it to be. Happiness is to be found in living to make others happy, not just in looking out for myself.

There are people around me who do not accept reality. Many people, probably most of the people I meet. This is shown by their attitudes, the way they choose to live their lives. Yet underneath the mask and armour there is still a person made in the image of the Father. A person who is sometimes capable of great acts of kindness, a person who might be touched by the kindness of others.

It is not up to me to unmask them, or tear off their anti-God armour, only the Father Himself can do that. Words and acts of love and kindness will do more good than cutting words of criticism. They are receiving altogether enough criticism already. And underneath that hard shell there is still the image of the Father and the realization that their rebellion against Him is not working out as they thought it would.

To show love and kindness is not to accept their rebellion against the Father. It is to show them that genuine happiness is found when we are ready to live the life that the Father made us for.

What is wrong with the world?

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(1 John 2:15). The Bible has a lot to say about the world and the danger there is if Christians become worldly. Why? What is there about the world that is so dangerous for the Christian?

What I say here will not be a complete answer to those questions, just a few thoughts on the subject of worldliness. First of all, the danger in worldliness did not originate with things and it does not consist primarily of things. There is a spirit of the world that is always opposed to Christian faith, but which manifests itself in ever changing ways. We can avoid most all of the things that some people label as worldly, yet still be pretty much completely worldly minded.

The apostle John went on to write: ” For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” verses 16 & 17).

I believe it is fair to conclude from this that when we feel that we have a right to do all the things that we want to do, and have all the things that we want, that is the spirit of the world. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that a Christian should always consider the good of others.

We may wonder if God doesn’t want us to do or have the things that will make us happy. But a selfish person is never happy. There is always something more that is needed to make such a person happy.

This lack of happiness is just the beginning, it often leads to envy, jealousy and anger. Then comes the belief that other people are to blame for our lack of happiness. This can even be made to sound unselfish: the people who are running things are being unjust, trampling upon the needs of the weak. Something must be done to set things to right. Media, politicians and social activists all have long lists of things that are wrong in the world and have many proposals on how to set things right.

As a result the world is a seething, tempestuous sea of unfulfilled desires, bruised emotions, anger and even hatred. Ideas of right and wrong, of what makes for a good life, are constantly changing. Every time something is done to set things right, more people are hurt and new ideas come to the surface.

True peace, freedom and happiness can only be found when there is a solid, unchanging foundation. It may seem to be almost within our reach when we are immersed in the restless sea of the world, yet it always eludes us. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is that sure and changeless foundation.

The pursuit of happiness

Times are tough for writers today. Every writers’ group and every writers’ conference tells us that no publisher will even look at a book manuscript unless the author has an impressive “writer’s platform.” That would consist of a blog with at least 10,000 followers and a similar presence on Facebook and Twitter. And then there are experts who will explain how to promote your book on Amazon.

I just don’t want to go there. If the underlying purpose of my writing is to exalt the One who said “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” how can I put that together with going on Facebook and Twitter every morning and finding some new way to call out “Hey everybody! Look at me!”?

I guess that means I’m not going to be rich or famous. I’m OK with that. But at least I can be happy. I don’t think our me-first world today even knows what happiness means. True happiness has no connection to hilarity and thrills, it comes from a holy life, lived in service to God and to our fellow men.

The beatitudes are a description of true happiness. The AV translation uses the word “blessed,” but the original Greek word means happy and is translated that way in other passages. The beatitudes tell us that true happiness is found in being poor in spirit, meek, merciful and pure in heart; to hunger and thirst after righteousness,to be peacemakers. Jesus ends the beatitudes with this astounding statement:

Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Jesus is not telling us to provoke people into reviling and persecuting us, but there is nothing anywhere in His teachings to indicate that we should carefully court the approval of the world. We should rather seek to serve others in whatever way we can, without expecting or begging their approval.

Writing is one way in which we can serve others. But no one will appreciate our attempts to serve if we come across as feeling superior, or try to impress by pompous words and a bombastic writing style. The apostle Paul wasn’t exalting himself when he said “Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ.” We can say the same thing, but only if we can attain to his level of humility in following Christ. That is where we will find true happiness.

Is Jesus’ “ground crew” the real problem?

Some folks have been heard to say that they love the Lord, but the don’t have much use for His ground crew. I confess that my first impulse is to be sympathetic to their point of view, having encountered a number of questionable representatives of that group. That impulse is tempered by the realization that I might be someone that such people wouldn’t want to be part of the ground crew.

What kind of a ground crew would gain the confidence of those people? To hear them tell it, they want to be introduced to a warm, friendly Jesus who will be their buddy and tell them the way they life is just fine with Him and everything is going to be all right in the end. Some preachers come pretty close to offering such a Jesus, but most everyone knows this Jesus is an imposter.There appears to be an irreconcilable gulf between the desire to live a meaningless life and the desire to be accepted by a meaningful Jesus.

Jesus Himself is the real problem. He says very divisive things like: ” I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me;” “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple;” ” If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

He demands our full, unconditional allegiance. He says that His way is the only way to find peace and happiness. That’s pretty exclusive thinking; there are all kinds of religions out there that promise peace, fulfilment, happiness. Don’t they all promise the same thing? Isn’t one just as good as another?

The thing that some people eventually figure out is that Jesus is the only one who can deliver what He promises. All the other ways leave people feeling alienated, angry, fearful, worthless. When we follow Jesus we learn that we are loved, that we are valuable in the sight of God. And we learn to love other people in a way we never could before.

That last point is tremendously important. Someone who claims to know Jesus but can’t get along with others, doesn’t really know Jesus. I can imagine that Jesus and I are in complete agreement and that anyone that does not see things as we see them is an enemy. That is deception; that’s just not how Christian faith works. ” If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Our job, if we are part of Jesus’ “ground crew”, is not to describe Jesus as we imagine Him to be, but to introduce people to the real Jesus. The more we become like Him, the better we should be at that introduction.

Transcendence and Immanence

The more one understands about the order of the universe, the inter-relationship of all its parts, the harder it becomes to believe that it could be the result of mindless chance. It is the same when one gets just a layman’s grasp of the minute detail of living things, the intricacy of DNA and the complex functions of microscopic organisms. If we acknowledge that blind chance could not have produced any of this, we are left to contemplate the possibility of a Creator whose intelligence is vastly superior to ours.

The Creator must transcend that which He has created; that is, He must be outside of, and greater than anything else that exists. The Bible describes just such a God: “O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this” Psalm 92:5-6. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” ! Kings 8:27.  ” For all those things hath mine hand made” Isaiah 66:2.

Nevertheless, a great and almighty God would not inspire trust in mankind if He was far away, unknowable, uncaring and unreachable. That is not the God described in the Bible. God is Immanent – present everywhere in His creation. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee” Psalm 139:9-12.

The immanence of God is more alarming than His transcendence. He knows everything about me, my present, past and future. He know what I am going to say before I say it. But the wonder of His immanence is that He wants to use it to help us: ” This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” Psalm 34:6-8. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” Isaiah 41:10

It can be a fearful thing to contemplate the transcendence and the immanence of God. In fact, there are many who are running away from God, trying desperately to convince themselves that it cannot be true. But to those who understand that to run away from God is to flee the source of genuine peace and happiness, it is confidence building.

Realities

‘Tis what we are, not what we seem;
‘Tis the work we do, not the dreams we dream;
Not what we have, but what we give;
Not the words we speak, but the life that we live;
Not the things we teach, but what we learn;
Not the wrong we do, but the sin we spurn;
Not the valiant deed on the King’s highway;
But the gentle deeds from day to day;
The things which help to cheer and bless,
That make the sum of our happiness.

                                                   Author Unknown

Context for apologetics

Happy are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12).

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers trials; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14).

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:14-15).

These verses describe the context in which we are apt to be called upon to give an answer (apologia) for the hope that is in us. It is when we encounter persecution, slander, reproaches and trials and we are able to maintain an attitude of peace, joy and happiness. That is sure to cause some questions. Perhaps they will not all be expressed, and some might even question our sanity, But if our attitude of happiness and joy is genuine and lasting it will bring questions.

Happiness that is put on as a mask will not have the same effect. The mask will eventually slip; in many cases it will be obvious from the beginning that it is phony. My wife and I attended the wedding of one of her friends, the preacher had a big grin pasted on his face through the whole proceedings. My wife finally leaned over and whispered, “I bet he would wear that same stupid grin if he were preaching a funeral service.”

Our happiness must be the genuine thing, a supernatural happiness that is the gift of the Holy Ghost, or we will have no answer to give. We are not apt to be questioned about our hope either if we do not have a genuine and living hope.

Thus the primary qualification for doing apologetics is to be a real Christian. And if we are a real Christian, we do not have to fear being asked a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear. Note those last words that the apostle adds. It is not up to us to convince someone by the force of our arguments; we only have to speak of that which we have received from God, with gentle assurance.

Unintended consequences of cataract surgery

I called my cousin Rose Friday evening. She’s actually the widow of my cousin Ron, but I don’t think cousin-in-law is a word. Anyway, I’ve known her all my life so I just call her my cousin. Ron died three years ago at the age of 91. Rose will hit that mark next month. She had a mini stroke in December and uses a walker now, but sounds just as upbeat as ever.

I mentioned that I was going to have cataract surgery on my right eye in a few days. “That’s nothing to worry about. There’s nothing to it. Ron and I both had it done and we were very happy with the results.”

Then she added, “Except that after Ron had his eyes done, he looked at me and said, ‘I never knew you had so many lines on your face!'”

I’m sure he said it with a smile. They were happily married for 64 years.

Dreams and happiness

Let me ask you a question — if you achieve the thing you are dreaming of, will you be happy?

Tom Sukanen was one of the pioneers of this part of Saskatchewan. He came from Finland as a young man with immense strength and talent — and a dream of one day going back to Finland as a wealthy man with a family. In the early years he was a friend to all around them. He helped build their homes, showed them how to work their land, repaired their machinery. He built a steam-powered threshing machine and threshed his neighbour’s grain. He built a sewing machine and let the women of the community use it to sew clothes for their families. He made his own violin and played it to lighten the long winter evenings.

Through tragic circumstances he lost his family. That part of his dream was shattered, he withdrew from the people around him and focussed all his time and might on the other part of his dream. He built a small seagoing ship that he would float up the river to Hudson Bay and return to Finland to a hero’s welcome. He built every part of the ship himself, including the boiler to provide steam power, the propeller, gears and chains. He knew his business, he had charts of the river system, he knew the seas – it would have worked.

Unfortunately, the drought of the 1930’s intervened. Tom Sukanen almost starved to death, refusing government relief and all offers of help from his neighbours. Some neighbours thought he was crazy, vandals got away with parts of his work. He died a broken man in 1943 at the age of 65.

sukanenshipToday the ship has been restored and is located in a museum south of Moose Jaw. Tom Sukanen is buried beside it. The question remains for us to ponder — would he have been happy if he had managed to return to Finland and received accolades for his accomplishment?

Or did he experience true happiness when he was helping his neighbours, then turn his back on it to follow his dream?

We all need a dream, and we should follow our dream. But if it is a selfish dream, know that we will not find happiness at the end. Let us rather dream of helping others find happiness. Then genuine happiness will sneak up and surprise us.

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