The Real Secret To Happiness


For the most part, people want to be happy. In fact the US Constitution says the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right given by God. Nevertheless, happiness seems elusive.

Some say happiness is appreciating what you have, others that is is to stop caring about anything. Some say happiness is surrounding yourself with family and friends, and some economist theorizes that embracing the rat race–not escaping it–makes us happier.

I heard this from my former pastor some time ago.

A truck driver stopped at a diner for lunch. Three bikers, covered with tats and piercings and dressed in studded leather, watched him take a seat at the counter. When the trucker’s food came, the bikers left their table and sauntered up to the counter.

One grabbed up the trucker’s burger. “Just the way I like it,” he said, and took a big bite.

The second scooped up the trucker’s fries. “I need a little something to snack on,” he said.

The trucker glared at the two men downing his food but said nothing.

The third man swooped up the trucker’s cola. “I’m a tad thursty,” he said, and gulped down half the drink.

Slowly the truck driver rose. He motioned to the waitress for his check, followed her to the register, and paid.

As he walked from the diner, the bikers howled with laughter as they finished off his lunch. “Not much of a man, is he,” the first one said to the waitress.

“I don’t know about being much of a man, but he’s not much of a truck driver, that’s for sure. He just ran over three bikes.”

Some people think happiness lies in good old revenge. Part of me likes payback, too. It makes me feel justice has been served, and I like that.

Unless I’m the one due justice. The times I mess up, the last thing I want is justice. When it’s me waiting for the sentence to fall, I want one thing–forgiveness.

Believe it or not, forgiveness is the secret to happiness, and not just receiving forgiveness but giving it out as well.

As I’ve written here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in the past, we all stand in need of forgiveness–hence the adage, Nobody’s perfect.

We can rationalize our sins as quirks or foibles or character flaws. We can promise we’ll do better, we’ll make things right some day, we’ll compensate with acts of kindness and generosity. We’ll try harder. And we hope it’s enough–that the people in our lives won’t get sick of us or tired of waiting for us to get our act together.

But honestly, we give up on ourselves from time to time. So we hide out–in work or sex or a bottle. Of course that puts us in need of more forgiveness, and the burden becomes heavier.

God has provided the forgiveness we need.

The reality is, God knew all this, loved us while we were in the midst of the mess we were making, and gave His Son Jesus to pay for every lawbreaking, rebellious thought, attitude, or action in our lives. Nothing for you to do, God says. Jesus took care of your debt. You just confess your sins, and He is faithful and righteous to forgive them all (1 John 1:9).

So that’s the magic word: forgiveness.

When we receive forgiveness, we have the impetus to go out and forgive others.

Rather than living with debilitating bitterness and desires for revenge, we can be as free from the wrong others do as if we sat in their trial and saw the judge hand down a just sentence against them.

Why? Because God said He would repay.

If they confess their sin, then Jesus’s blood will be their payment. If they cling to their rebellion, they will face ultimate judgment.

My holding a grudge? I’m the only loser. My repaying evil for evil? I’m the loser.

Look at Christians who survived horrible things and forgave those who caused them–Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, Gracia Burnham, Kent Whitaker (author of Murder by Family, see “The Compelling Quality of Love”). Their lives of joy and service speak volumes. They reaped ten-fold, and counting, the benefits of their forgiveness.

Who wants to be happy? Pretty much everyone. The real secret to happiness is accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and then forgiving those who are just as imperfect as we are.

This post first appeared here in July 2012.

Published in: on November 13, 2015 at 4:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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God’s Great Grace


God's Great GraceApparently one of my favorite topics is God’s grace. I know this because I have twenty-four posts archived under that category title. I credit my former pastor Dale Burke for putting God’s grace front and center Sunday after Sunday, until I began to understand its significance.

I can’t say that I have any new insights, but I have thought about grace since I joined a Facebook group last week called Faith vs. Reason: The Friendly Debate. I was invited to join the closed group by a Christian writer friend. There are upwards of two hundred people—some atheists and some theists—who have agreed to discuss things that divide us in a friendly manner rather than in the usual name-calling, snarky, dismissive way that so often dominates discussions elsewhere.

One thing that came up on the first day I was in the group was the bad religious experiences some of the atheists reported. They’d been in a church, usually in childhood, but their experience left them confused and questioning until they chucked the whole thing.

My first thought when I read their account was, they’d been in a “earn your own way” religion that didn’t teach or show God’s grace. So these now embittered or indifferent atheists came to believe there was not anything of substance in the ritual and mechanical adherence to traditions they’d been taught.

But here’s the fatal error: they concluded that since the religion they were in was empty, God was a sham. The point is, they didn’t know Him if they didn’t know about His grace. And they weren’t going to find His grace by working harder at religion.

Grace truly is the dividing line. Not just between Christians and atheists but between false religion and true. And the fact is that NO OTHER RELIGIOUS TRADITION even pretends to be built upon grace.

It’s just too impossible to fathom or achieve. A free gift? Total forgiveness and no retribution or reprisal or debt? Who would come up with an idea like that?

It runs counter to what we humans expect. We get payback. The revenge motif is ingrained in our DNA. We never have to ask, why would Mr. Bates in the Downton Abby story want revenge against Mr. Green who raped his wife. A non-Christian writer can create story tension knowing that all the viewers understand the rationale behind a husband acting against someone who hurt his loved one. There’s no religious underpinning when it comes to revenge. It’s human nature.

But grace? Just the opposite. Who would understand someone struck on the cheek offering the other side as well? Or rescuing an enemy from muggers, then paying the medical bill?

Human acts of grace aren’t something Christians do because of our goodness but because of the example Jesus Christ gives. He came to save and to serve. The King of all creation! He came! He emptied Himself, leaving the glories of heaven. He offered Himself up. He died. And thanks be to God, He rose again!

It’s that single act of sacrifice that turns the world upside down. God dies that Mankind might live. If only we believe. We, the sinners, deserving of death. He the Righteous One, in whom the Father is well pleased.

How can such a thing be apart from grace. It’s the One True God’s unique identifier. The pretenders have rules and rituals, prophets and power. They have followers, some willing to lay down their lives for what they believe. But where’s the grace?

Belief system after belief system comes up with things to do to be better, to earn favor, to reach a higher plane. None of them acknowledges our inevitable failure, no matter our good intentions. That’s why the 2015 New Year’s resolutions are already a thing of the past. The Bible says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And at some point, we all know this to be true. No matter what we wish we’d said or done or not said or not done, it’s too late. All we can do is say we’ll try harder next time, and try to make amends for our failings.

Grace is not like that.

Behold the Author of our salvation
Behold the wonder of grace so free
Behold the blessing of true forgiveness
At Calvary (from “Come And See,” Your Grace Finds Me, Matt Redman,Jason Ingram, Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin)

Published in: on February 2, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Real Secret To Happiness


For the most part, people want to be happy. In fact the US Constitution says the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right given by God. Nevertheless, happiness seems elusive.

Some say happiness is appreciating what you have, others that is is to stop caring about anything. Some say happiness is surrounding yourself with family and friends, and some economist theorizes that embracing the rat race–not escaping it–makes us happier.

I heard this from my pastor not long ago.

A truck driver stopped at a diner for lunch. Three bikers, covered with tats and piercings and dressed in studded leather, watched him take a seat at the counter. When the trucker’s food came, the bikers left their table and sauntered up to the counter.

One grabbed up the trucker’s burger. “Just the way I like it,” he said, and took a big bite.

The second scooped up the trucker’s fries. “I need a little something to snack on,” he said.

The trucker glared at the two men downing his food but said nothing.

The third man swooped up the trucker’s cola. “I’m a tad thursty,” he said, and gulped down half the drink.

Slowly the truck driver rose. He motioned to the waitress for his check, followed her to the register, and paid.

As he walked from the diner, the bikers howled with laughter as they finished off his lunch. “Not much of a man, is he,” the first one said to the waitress.

“I don’t know about being much of a man, but he’s not much of a truck driver, that’s for sure. He just ran over three bikes.”

Some people think happiness lies in good old revenge. Part of me likes payback, too. It makes me feel justice has been served, and I like that.

Unless I’m the one due justice. The times I mess up, the last thing I want is justice. When it’s me waiting for the sentence to fall, I want one thing–forgiveness.

Believe it or not, forgiveness is the secret to happiness, and not just receiving forgiveness but giving it out as well.

As I’ve written here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in the past, we all stand in need of forgiveness–hence the adage, Nobody’s perfect.

We can rationalize our sins as quirks or foibles or character flaws. We can promise we’ll do better, we’ll make things right some day, we’ll compensate with acts of kindness and generosity. We’ll try harder. And we hope it’s enough–that the people in our lives won’t get sick of us or tired of waiting for us to get our act together.

But honestly, we give up on ourselves from time to time. So we hide out–in work or sex or a bottle. Of course that puts us in need of more forgiveness, and the burden becomes heavier.

God has provided the forgiveness we need.

The reality is, God knew all this, loved us while we were in the midst of the mess we were making, and gave His Son Jesus to pay for every lawbreaking, rebellious thought, attitude, or action in our lives. Nothing for you to do, God says. Jesus took care of your debt. You just confess your sins, and He is faithful and righteous to forgive them all (1 John 1:9).

So that’s the magic word: forgiveness.

When we receive forgiveness, we have the impetus to go out and forgive others.

Rather than living with debilitating bitterness and desires for revenge, we can be as free from the wrong others do as if we sat in their trial and saw the judge hand down a just sentence against them.

Why? Because God said He would repay.

If they confess their sin, then Jesus’s blood will be their payment. If they cling to their rebellion, they will face ultimate judgment.

My holding a grudge? I’m the only loser. My repaying evil for evil? I’m the loser.

Look at Christians who survived horrible things and forgave those who caused them–Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, Gracia Burnham, Kent Whitaker (author of Murder by Family, see “The Compelling Quality of Love”). Their lives of joy and service speak volumes. They reaped ten-fold, and counting, the benefits of their forgiveness.

Who wants to be happy? Pretty much everyone. The real secret to happiness is accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and then forgiving those who are just as imperfect as we are.

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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“Vengeance Is Mine, Not God’s”


A couple days ago I wrote about God’s judgment. Though the article didn’t generate any conversation, it did receive some negative feedback. I’m not surprised because we live in a day when people calling themselves Christians pooh-pooh the idea that God will actually be sending anyone to hell, while others question whether or not they might be nicer than the Almighty. Or maybe they’d prefer a different name for Him — the All Tolerant One, perhaps. But I jest, and this really isn’t a matter for levity.

The fact is, we humans find it easy to label others as bigots or hate-mongers or hypocrites. We have no problem criticizing each other to our faces. We can even yell at God and tell Him how disappointed or angry we are at Him. But far be it for us to believe God can do the same thing in return. No, no. He’s supposed to stand meekly by and love.

But that idea is nonsense. We get angry at the things we perceive to be wrong. Why shouldn’t God, in whose image we’re made?

Someone may counter that it is fine for God to get angry, but not fine for Him to give sinners consequences, especially ultimate consequences. That position, of course, strips God of His power. So He’s a loving God who can get angry when a child is molested, but He can’t punish the evildoer.

How then is He loving? Real love, as author and speaker Gary Chapman (The Five Love Languages) said in his sermon on Sunday, is expressed in God’s anger toward sin and the wicked.

Psalm 136 includes God’s divine intervention against Egypt and other nations standing against Israel as an evidence of His lovingkindness.

To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,…
He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting…
To Him who smote great kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And slew mighty kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And Og, king of Bashan,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting (vv 10-20)

Other passages in Scripture declare God’s acts of judgment to be the very way in which He showed Himself so that the nations would know Him, turn from their sin, and come to Him.

His intention in correcting those who forsake Him is to bring them back:

O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth?
You have smitten them,
But they did not weaken;
You have consumed them,
But they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
They have refused to repent. (Jeremiah 5:3)

When rejection is complete, God acts on behalf of those who are being sinned against:

So their houses are full of deceit;
Therefore they have become great and rich.
‘They are fat, they are sleek,
They also excel in deeds of wickedness;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
‘Shall I not punish these people?’ declares the LORD,
‘On a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?’

“An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so! (Jeremiah 5:27-31a – emphasis mine)

An appalling thing, God says, when we spurn His authority and take it for ourselves. Such is the false teaching of our day.

Here are a few comments to a couple recent controversial articles, apparently made by Christians. This person agrees that Christians need to grow up, then he says:

I choose to find redemption in the gospel of Christ and yet feel empowered to refuse to accept the feudal rantings of many religious leaders.

Or there’s this one:

are all of you out there so naive and stupid not to see the propaganda

Then there’s this one:

As a Chrisitian, I do not want to come under the same umbrella as those that hate, undermine, are haughty and proud, and who cause millions of people to avoid even looking at Christianity as an option because of the behavior of many christians in their hate-mongering, their pride, their ‘holier-than-thou-attitude’.

Or how about this helpful question:

What rock are you living under?

Yes, these are people who claim to be Christians, though I don’t know if they all would claim God doesn’t have the right to judge. It’s quite clear, though, that they believe they DO have the right to judge.

Maybe it’s time we Christians take a hard look at our own attitudes. God is rightfully angry at sin and wickedness. What are we angry about? And are we taking it upon ourselves to reap vengeance with our words?

Published in: on March 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm  Comments (9)  
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