Holiness Is Happiness

“The sum of all obedience for man was to love the Lord his God with all his heart. This was not only easy to an uncorrupted nature, but his highest happiness was connected with it.”  Archibald Alexander

For many people, holiness is the opposite of happiness, perhaps even the enemy of it. Happiness and holiness are competing forces, pulling in opposite directions. You can have one; but not both together. No surprise then that most people choose happiness, but soon realize they have neither happiness nor holiness.

Aligned

God created us holy and happy. Happiness and holiness were perfectly aligned. If one was absent, both were. If one was present, both were. Happy holiness and holy happiness.

Read the rest of this post at HappyChristian.net.


How to Profit From False Prophets

As I’ve been writing a critical review of Joel Osteen’s, Your Best Life Now, I’ve been increasingly struck by how God often overrules the evil intentions of false prophets in order to ultimately bless His church.

Now I don’t want to minimize in any way the horrendous damage that false prophets do to the church and to individual souls. But our sovereign and wise God can turn even this great evil into a good in four ways:

  • by helping us discover the questions people are asking
  • by guiding us to a better understanding of the Bible
  • by highlighting where the church has been silent
  • by encouraging true Christians

What’s the question?
If there’s one thing false prophets are really good at, it’s identifying the questions that people are asking. They “sniff the wind” with their super-sensitive marketing antennae and skillfully pick up signals about the issues people are struggling with. They provide the wrong answers of course, but they are experts at detecting where people are at, with the aim of maximizing their audience.

For example, when “evangelicals” start moving their churches to accept gay marriage, we should realize that they are responding to serious challenges and pressures from within their congregations and/or families.

When Rob Bell “questions” the doctrine of hell, we should understand that many are asking real questions about hell and are not liking the traditional answers.

When Joel Osteen promotes the prosperity Gospel, we should conclude that many are trying to find a way to think more positively about themselves and their lives.

When a preacher throws out God’s commandments and replaces them with his own “10 Guidelines,” we should figure that lots of people are wondering about how to get rid of God’s law.

What does the Bible say?
The second benefit is that we are forced to study the Bible more closely to figure out what God really says about these issues. That’s been the pattern throughout church history. For example, whole epistles of Scripture were written in response to errors in the New Testament church. 

Also, challenges to the deity of Christ in the early church resulted in more thorough Bible study and then clearer credal and confessional statements about what the Bible really teaches about Jesus Christ. Similarly for justification at the time of the Reformation.

And that’s what we see happening today as well. Witness the tremendous work that’s been done by conservative modern scholars in exegeting the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality and gender. The same goes for the multiple books and papers that have recently been written to prove the eternality of a literal hell. My own study of Osteen has forced me into the Scriptures to discern the accurate interpretation of passages that Osteen perverts, and also to find passages which disprove what he teaches.

Where have we been silent?
As lies thrive in a vacuum, false prophets usually target subjects that the church has neglected, moving in where Christians have been silent. For example:

  • When ministers are not teaching and preaching about hell, that’s fertile ground for Rob Bell.
  • When the church doesn’t explain the place of the law in the Christian life, you get the law being discarded or being re-written as personal guidance.
  • When the church hasn’t constructively addressed sexuality, you end up with confused Christians embracing homosexual propaganda and caving in to the redefinition of marriage.
  • When the church doesn’t address the nature and use of suffering, Benny Hinn will step in with promises to remove it for a fee.
  • When the church doesn’t help people develop a healthy self-image, Joel Osteen’s self-image-making will attract many.

Whenever I see the particular emphasis of a false prophet, I ask myself, “When was the last time you taught or preached about that?”

Who are true Christians?
The Bible says that one reason for heresies in the church is to expose and highlight those who are not real Christians, but only have the name of Christian (1 Cor. 11:19). When people are swept away with false teaching, they demonstrate that they were never really true Christians. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19).

But if we stay the course when others are dropping out, if we refuse to be swept away by false teaching, we may use that to encourage and assure ourselves that we really are true Christians by the grace of God.

Warning
Notice, I’m not saying that we should all study what false prophets are teaching – that would be a foolish waste of time for most, and a dangerous path for many. But in today’s hyper-connected world, it’s difficult not to encounter their teaching here and there, and even in some very surprising places. As we do, let’s use their falsehood to help us discern what questions people are asking, to make us study our Bible more thoroughly, to highlight where the church has been too silent, and to encourage ourselves that He who has begun a good work in us is continuing it until the Day of Jesus Christ.


God Makes Christians As Happy As He Is

“God is the only source of real happiness. He does not need anything or anyone to make him happy: even before he made the world, the three persons of the Trinity were completely happy with each other. What God does for Christians is to make them as happy as he is.” Jeremiah Burroughs.*

God is happy! Is that how you think of God? Perhaps you think of Him as cold, detached, disengaged, and stoical. Or worse, maybe you think of Him only as angry, bitter, and malicious. Not really someone you’d want to spend much time with.

But God is happy!

Forever happy

And as Jeremiah Burroughs points out, He’s always been happy. Even before there was a world, there was divine happiness, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were completely happy with each other.

Shared happiness

And yet, though perfectly happy within themselves, they did not want to keep it to themselves.

Read the rest of this article at HappyChristian.net


A New Front Door

Homepage

If you click on over to the blog’s homepage, you’ll see a new look that’s intended to make navigation and finding resources a bit easier for you.

The nature of blogs is that once something slips of the bottom of the page in a few days, it’s gone for good; it’s gone to the great pixel cemetery in the ether.

I hope the new homepage design will help to resurrect and keep alive some of the most useful and popular articles and resources. I think it’s fairly self-explanatory, but just in case, here’s a brief description of each button.

HHH blog
HeadHeartHand Blog: Hosts my blogs articles Monday to Friday.

HappyChristian
The Happy Christian: Website for my forthcoming book, The Happy Christian, which hosts daily blog articles to help Christians maintain their joy in a gloomy world.

HappyApp
Happy Christian App: More details on this tomorrow, but you can get a free App at both Apple and Google which will deliver all the daily content from HeadHeartHand blog and The Happy Christian blog straight to your phones.

Depression
Christians Get Depressed Too: Films that accompany my book, Christians Get Depressed Too.

JOEP
Jesus On Every Page: Official website for the book, Jesus on Every Page.

Top10
Top 10 Books: My top ten books in various categories (e.g. preaching, leadership, marriage, elders, etc.)

Kindle
Kindle eBook Deals: Some of the best current deals on Kindle books.

Resources
Top Online Resources: Links to the best resources on the web in various categories.

eBooks
eBooks: This page is still under development but within the next few months I’ll be posting links to various eBooks that I’ve written.

Full credit goes to Cameron Morgan the designer, and Ray Wong the developer. These are fantastic guys to work with and I recommend them 100%.

You can contact Cameron via Linked In or Twitter.

You can contact Ray via Linked In or Twitter.


Our Sadness Puts God In The Dock

“To the world, the dejected Christian seems to accuse God and His service, as if he openly called Him a rigorous, hard, unacceptable Master, and His work a sad unpleasant thing…You are born and new born for God’s honor; and will you thus dishonor Him before the world?” Richard Baxter.

Just as the joyful Christian makes others think well of God, the dejected Christian risks tarnishing God’s public reputation.

Now Baxter is not saying that Christians should be “Happy, happy happy, all the time, time, time.” There are unquestionably seasons where sorrow is not only appropriate but necessary – bereavement, illness, clinical depression, etc. But Baxter still has a point – a few actually.

Read the rest of this article at HappyChristian.net.


What Is a Healthy Self-Image?

“You must base your self-image on what God’s Word says about you, rather than on false, fickle standards…”

“How you see yourself and how you feel about yourself will have a tremendous impact on how far you go in life…”

“Self-esteem is that deep-down feeling you have about yourself. It’s how you regard yourself, your opinion or judgment of your own value…”

“Your self-image is much like a self-portrait; it is who and what you picture yourself to be…Who do you think you are?”

Sounds like a good biblical counselor doesn’t it?

It’s actually Joel Osteen!

And he’s right. Right in these partial definitions of self-image and self-esteem, and right in his assessment of how beneficial an accurate self-image is. As he says in chapter 7 of Your Best Life Now:

“A healthy self-image is one of the key factors in the success and happiness of any individual. The reason your self-concept is so important is: You will probably speak, act, and react as the person you think you are. Psychologists have proved that you will most consistently perform in a manner that is in harmony with the image you have of yourself.”

It’s common sense, isn’t it? As Osteen says:

“If you see yourself as unqualified, insignificant, unattractive, inferior, or inadequate, you will probably act in accordance with your thoughts…On the other hand, individuals who view themselves as God sees them are usually happy about who they are.”

He’s also right to note that our self-image may be largely the result of what other people have said about us or to us, how others have regarded us. Thus, his main challenge in this chapter is well worth hearing:

“The question is, does your image of who you are line up correctly with who God says you are?”

A great question. Unfortunately, Osteen’s answer about who God says we are is all wrong in all three tenses of our self-image – past, present, and future tense.

Past Tense: Who I Was

Although Osteen makes passing reference to a few flaws and imperfections that some of us may have, he doesn’t go anywhere near far enough in his understanding of the fall and the corrupting impact of sin upon us.

It’s a vital part of our self-image to understand that we were “born dead in sins,” with hearts that are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” that “all the imaginations of our hearts are only evil continually,” and that God is justly angry with us in that state. You won’t find this humbling biblical view of who we were anywhere in Osteen’s writing.

Instead of sins, we seemingly have but a few minor flaws which we are not only to accept but even love, because “that’s how our heavenly Father loves us.” Osteen even seems comfortable with the inevitable head-swelling, chest-puffing effect of this teaching:

“We must learn to love ourselves, faults and all, not because we are egotists or because we want to excuse our shortcomings, but because that’s how our heavenly Father loves us. You can hold your head up high and walk with confidence knowing that God loves you unconditionally.”

Some might say that Osteen is referring to the Christian here. Part of the problem is that Osteen rarely if ever distinguishes between the Christian and the non-Christian. Everyone is addressed in the same general way, without discrimination.

But even if we do say Osteen is speaking to a Christian here, the Christian must always remember what he was before conversion. No matter how assured and sanctified he becomes, he must always remember what he once was. We see this repeatedly in the Apostle Paul’s testimony and in other eminent Christians through the years. A healthy self-image must take account of how unhealthy we are.

Present Tense: Who I Am

There are four important areas of self-image in the present tense.

1. I am now a saint. This is the most important – and ought to be the most prominent – part of the Christian’s self-image. Consider this sample of summary statements about what God has done for us, all through Christ, all by grace, and all essential elements of our self-image.

  • I am born again
  • I am forgiven
  • I am justified
  • I am accepted
  • I am redeemed
  • I am adopted
  • I am indwelt by God, and so on, and on…

2. I am still a sinner. Although all the above are true, our original corrupt nature is still very much part of us. Again, this is both a cause for our humility (Romans 7) and a springboard for entering more and more into God’s steady love for us despite our ongoing sins and sinfulness.

3. I am gifted by God. Although giftedness is where the world wrongly starts with self-image, Christians must not over-react by ignoring it. We must not let our prioritizing of the spiritual, and our views of our total depravity and our ongoing battle with sin, squeeze out all consideration of how God has blessed us with natural gifts. There’s nothing wrong, and plenty right, with us encouraging ourselves and other Christians by recognizing God’s blessing each other with attractive and helpful personalities, and also wonderful natural gifts and abilities.

4. I am blessed with relationships. Osteen’s view of self-image is way too selfish. It is entirely focused on the individual, isolated and detached from other people. But a large part of who we are is defined by who we are related to and involved with in our lives. We cannot define ourselves without defining ourselves in relation to others – our value to them and they to us.

Future Tense: Who I Will Be

A big part of being human is having a future focus; looking ahead to the kind of person we want to be and what we will do in the future. Joel Osteen certainly has a future tense in his view of self-image but it’s entirely focused on success in this world – what we will earn, what we will own, what we will achieve. It’s all about winning here below, about becoming a champion in our careers and other earthly spheres.

The Bible’s view of our future is very much focused on heaven (and then the new heavens and the new earth) and about what God will yet do to us, for us, and with us as He glorifies our souls at death and then our bodies at the general resurrection. This future hope creates joyful optimism and anticipation as we look ahead to how God will transform our imperfect images into His perfect image. In words that encapsulate the past, present, and future tenses of a healthy self-image, the Apostle John wrote:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

This is the seventh post in a series on Joel Osteen’s book, “Your Best Life Now.” Previous posts were A Book That Begins With A LiePositive NegativityYour Average Life Now, The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible, My Favorite Joel Osteen Quote, and Triviality of Trivialities.