Same Old World

1 08 2015

In preparing for a sermon I read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.  It was written in 1931 and published in 1932.  He attempted to capture a potential future if our primary focus was happiness.  He got a lot right.

Happiness is a tyrant that is never satisfied.  It tricks us into believing it is just around the corner.  If we can just make a little more money. get one more item. have a “new” experience.  Sure enough it visits us as we get a raise, open the box or play the latest “cool” game on our phone.  Then, it evaporates leaving a hunger so intense we blindly chase after it.  When it becomes our primary focus, we become addicted.

We know this.  So the only proper response to happiness is.suppress it.  We use rules or good old fashion guilt to conform ourselves into proper citizens.  Meanwhile, happiness whispers in our ear until we throw off the rules, justify our actions and the addiction is satisfied.but it never is.

What does it cost us?  A life of meaning and purpose.  Time marches on.  Relationships grow cold or even worse become something we use for our own satisfaction.  Our focus is divided.  It becomes harder to speak out against injustice because we waste our time being entertained.

If something is important, someone will tell us what to believe.  We will even support them as long as all we need to do is click a link or “share.”

We do an excellent job of complaining about it.  Scroll down any social media site and you will see a post or a re-post of dire warnings.  We “like” it then notice a fun distraction and get lost again in our own world of personal happiness.

Aldous Huxley warned us of just how easily we can fall into a trap that tells us, “just be happy.”

I have some great news.  All you have to do is clink on this link. not really.  The great news is the trap can be avoided with a simply shift in perspective.

Happiness is not bad.  It just has to be put in its proper place.  Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

What are you seeking first?  It is a simple question with huge ripple effects.

There is profound depth in what Jesus said.  I could tell you what it means.  You might “like” it or even “share” it.  I have too much faith in you and God created you with the capacity to grasp the depth.

So dive in and wrestle with Jesus’ statement.  Let it ripple through your life.  Hopefully I will see you on the other side and we will have shaken off the tyrant of happiness and be living a life of significance.


29 03 2014

Yes I have joined the world of Twitter. You can follow me at @DevosByChaps.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to watch the new movie “God’s not dead.” It was a great movie. It captured the reality that belief in God is not an intellectual debate but a personal one. I wanted to offer my thoughts on why people reject God and how to respond.

Pain and suffering. Many have begged God to cure a family member or friend from cancer or have asked for God to intervene in a horrific situation only to experience silence. They may have experienced abuse and begged God for protection only to face more abuse. Tragically some have been hurt by those claiming to be Jesus’ followers.

I don’t think there is an easy answer because they did not face an easy situation. Grace, love and prayer are the best things we can offer. We also need strong healthy churches. A healthy church creates a safe place for people who are hurting and in the middle of pain. When done well, the church offers real hope and true peace to those who suffer from the harsh realities of this world.

Avoidance of accountability. Let’s be honest, there are some things we do that we know deep down are wrong. We either justify it or remove the standard that says it is wrong. If there is no higher law ordained and established by God we can live how we want. We end up living by collective relativism. In other words, we agree as a group what is right and wrong which can and will shift depending on what we think or more often feel in the moment. God forces us to be accountable ultimately to him but also to each other.

To respond I would offer the church has to be a standard bearer of what it means to live a life of submission and obedience. That does not mean we are perfect. It does mean we role model a life of honor and integrity that is transparent. We seek forgiveness when we mess up. We also influence those around us to a higher good. We can’t live by legalism and the world has seen plenty of hypocrisy. This is a hard challenge that can really only be done if we seek to follow Jesus and submit to his leading in our life…wait! That is what we are suppose to do. I love it when a plan comes together.

Experience. We also have to be honest that you don’t need God to live a good life or even make a great impact on the world. Many people experience life apart from God and are happy and content. Then, they hear talking points explaining why God is an antiquated idea and it matches with their experiences. Therefore, those talking points become theirs.

Jesus does not promise an easy life or even a good life. He does offer a meaningful life filled with purpose. He helps us focus beyond the here and now and enables us to have broader perspective. Once again I find myself calling for churches to be healthy places that send out healthy Christians into the world. Our lives and our experiences can present an alternative to their talking points. It can create a space where faith is a possibility. Combined with prayer and an understanding that ultimately it is between God and that person, I believe we can offer a compelling case.

Here is the great part. Our faith has incredible depth. I am thankful for people like Ravi Zacharias and Tim Keller who do a phenomenal job of explaining why we can have confidence in our faith. I am also thankful for a movie like “God’s not Dead” that demonstrates we do not need to shrink back from a debate about our faith. We just have to recognize that at the end of the day it is a personal relationship. If all it took to win someone to Jesus Christ was a really good argument it would have been done a long time ago.

So what can you do? Step back and pray about the people in your life who have rejected Christianity. Let God lead and guide you. Trust me God cares about having a relationship with that person way more than you do. If there is an opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation don’t seek to win the argument instead seek to understand the person. If there are questions, know that there are great resources out there. Look at those resources together. Second, be authentic. If you struggle with something admit that you struggle with it. Role model being genuine. Next, pray, pray and pray some more. It will remind you only God changes hearts. Finally, make sure your church is a healthy place for people to come. We need healthy faith communities where we can encourage one another and be a beacon to the world.

It is amazing that God invites us to be his ambassadors to the world. He desires to work through you and me to touch lives and make an impact. It is a great privilege. Oh and in case you were wondering…God is definitely not dead, he is ALIVE!

The day after – the shepherds’ perspective

28 12 2011

For every holiday or major event there is the day after.  It is a time to catch your breath and reflect on how things went.  Life starts to go back to normal.  Decorations come down and we get back into our regular routines.  As I reflected on that, it made me pause and think about the shepherds from Luke 2.  They were taken completely by surprise.  It was not a holiday for them.  They were working the night shift like they normally did when suddenly an angel appeared and told them it was an incredibly special night.  The Messiah had arrived!  Then, there was a large group of angels praising God.  They went to where the angel told them to go and then told everyone they could about what happened.  (Luke 2:8-20)

If the shepherds had attended services at the temple, they would have known one day a Messiah would come.  They would have anticipated a renewed kingdom and images from the days of King Solomon would have been in their mind.  Roman occupation would soon be over.  What an exciting time.  Then, a year went by and no change.  Two years and life was still the same.  Ten, twenty years, nothing significant changed, life went on.  Finally, after thirty years the baby they had seen in the manger starting doing something.  However, the message he was sharing was far different than what they were expecting.  He wasn’t building an army or preparing to overthrow Rome.  After three years he was executed.  His follower’s started telling stories of him rising from the dead but that would have just sounded crazy.

I wonder if they doubted.  They had seen the angel and saw exactly what the angel told them they would see.  However, everything else pointed to this being some sort of mistake.  If they did see Jesus when he began his earthly ministry, then they may have understood.  Being shepherds would have meant they were looked down upon by most people.  Jesus always had a special place for people everyone else rejected.  That would have given them a special connection to Jesus.  I wonder if he told them it was good to see them again.  Even then I think it would have been hard to grasp what God was doing.

It is a great reminder for all of us.  We should enjoy and appreciate when we have experiences that show God’s work in our lives.  However, our hope rests in God and not in our experiences.  We can easily be caught in a trap of chasing after experiences.  We may believe that without experiences we have no hope or God has forgotten us.  That was not the case for the shepherds and it is not the case for us.

Will God give us experiences?  Absolutely.  The shepherds were given and incredible gift.  An ordinary night was turned extraordinary by a loving and giving God.  However, if I don’t have an experience it does not mean God is not working.  It just means God is working in a way I can’t see right now.  My hope rests firmly in God and not experiences.

This week I invite you to think back to a time you experienced God.  Thank him for that time.  Then, ask yourself the question; are you chasing after God or after another experience?  If in the honesty of your heart you admit that you are chasing after an experience ask God to forgive you and start looking for ways seek after God.

For some, either you have not had a powerful experience with God or it has been a long time and you are losing hope or doubting.  First, I am sorry.  I know it is a hard place to be.  Second, I would encourage you to take a bold step.  Thank God for the work he is doing that you cannot see.  Focus on your hope in God and not in experiences that will come and go.

It is possible the shepherds never had another amazing experience like that night for the rest of their lives.  However, at the same time they didn’t experience anything, God was doing something amazing.  His son was on earth preparing to face death to give us eternal hope.  Yeah, I think it is safe to say God was working.