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Whatever makes you happy?

‘God really does want us to be happy, but he doesn’t want happiness to be our god,

so we must seek Him first and get happiness thrown in too.’

you can listen to the whole lesson here:

This week we looked at happiness; everyone is looking for it and yet nobody can seem to hang onto it for long. Happiness this most sublime of feelings is the real force behind so many choices. People even live and die by whether they are satisfied from day to day.

So what are popular authors today saying about happiness? While they are all written by different authors with unique perspectives, still they have similar themes 1. happiness is ultimate and getting it is our right 2. Happiness is subjective, no one knows what will really make one happy. Some things we believe will make us happy don’t and some things we think won’t bring happiness do. 3. Therefore try lots of activities, set goals, think positively, read (and buy) their book, take time with family, vacations, be true to self/ find your inner person, mindfulness, removing toxic people and ideas etc…  4. but beware happiness wanes, satisfaction for any one experience has a diminishing rate of return over time. This explains how people become addicted to drugs. They need more and more just to have a passable experience. It also is true of every event we find satisfaction in. No matter how massively brilliant it seems at first, it’s bound to leave us eventually longing for more.

While some of the above ideas are of some merit, much of it fails from a incorrect focus. We asked, ‘what does the Bible have to say about happiness?’ On the surface it may seem not much. Indeed, we’re probably hard pressed to remember a verse with the words happy or happiness. But that’s just the thing, happiness has been removed from our Bibles with words like ‘blessed, joy, rejoice.’ in their place Look at these verses and think about how the meaning changes when we translate them a bit more emotionally.

‘Truly happy is the one  who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take’ Psalm 1:1

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our very great happiness complete 1 John 1:3-4

Be constantly happy in the lord always, again I will say it be constantly happy Philippians 4:3

 So then God really does want us to be happy. But even so God doesn’t want us to seek happiness as ultimate. In fact, if one does seek happiness this way, one won’t be happy. Why? Because we’ve set up our ultimate satisfaction as the highest priority, the god of our lives. Instead, God calls us each to come surrender our lives and he will give us great joy. Jesus says

Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things(food, clothing, shelter…and happiness!)all that will be added to you’ Matthew 6:33

the Scriptures tell us that we find happiness as we come to God:

‘Oh taste and see that the Lord is good, truly happy are all those who trust in Him.’ Psalm 34:8

Lastly we see that God gives us a strong root of happiness, his gift of a Saviour:

Behold I bring good tidings of great happiness that will be for all people : today in the City of David a Saviour has been born Luke 2:10-11

So therefore if we really want to be happy, the way forward is to forget about seeking happiness and receive God’s grace and purpose for our lives. Than as we submit ourselves to the Lord he will fill us with a happiness that will never go away. We will know that we both are right with God now and that we will spend forever with Him, and even in the sad moments of life we will have this greater hope helping us to be satisfied and cope.

Tim

Going Deeper Questions:

1 Was there anything from this lesson that struck you particularly?

2. Do you agree that the way to be happy is to forget about it and focus on something else?

3. What was one of the happiest moments of your life? Did it come about because you were seeking happiness or was it something else?

4. How does God give us happiness as we surrender to Him?

5. In what way is it incredibly freeing to not have to be a happiness seeker?

6. Have you ever felt supremely happy while at church, doing something for Jesus, or in prayer? What caused this?

7. How could we possibly be really happy even in the midst of tragedy; loved ones dying, people turning from God, friends falling out unfairly with us, bad diagnoses arriving?

Loser Leaders

‘It’s far to easy to miss grace, replacing it with pride and place’

Scripture: Acts 7

This week we considered Stephen’s testimony. It’s only half of what Stephen had intended to say as he loses his life before he can finish it. What he shares is a history lesson. A history lesson that shows God’s people tend to reject his grace and spokesmen. Stephen puts the dramatic image of Moses on God’s command having to drag the Israelites to the promised land kicking and screaming. Why won’t his people trust him, and let him save them and give them good things? Stephen reminds us that the prophets message of repentance and forgiveness in the coming Messiah had been rejected virtually every time it was spoken. The Bible says when it comes to God giving us grace we often have a very hard heart. Why should it be thus, after all, God is acting in our benefit to feed us, lead us to safety, change our hearts and take us home to be with Him? Most of us want these things, but somehow it’s easy to do anything but receive Gods grace by trusting him. God calls this  having hard hearts and being stiff necked, imagine hearing that prognosis in the doctors office! We can live our lives in such a way that we pattern ourselves to reject good things at the outset, not even to give them hearing.

In Stephen’s sermon he outlines two reasons we reject God’s grace; pride and place.

Place: The Israelites had begun to think of their religion as primarily a location, Israel and the temple. Yet, Stephen reminds us that God made all things and inhabits the whole universe. He wants to come and have a relationship with us. However some end up more enamored with the 12th century gothic church structure than they are with turning toward God and giving our hearts to Him. Well many of us don’t struggle with being over focused on a building, the question for us is; ‘What’s our temple?’ What thing do we elevate as high as God and His grace, and it messes with our ability to really listen to the Lord?

Pride: The Israelites of that day prided themselves on being the children of the patriarchs, Abraham , Isaac and Yaacov. But these people were needy and flawed sinners just like us all. The people prided themselves on being Hebrew of Hebrews. But God says he chose Israel not because it was the greatest but because it was the smallest and most neediest (Deuteronomy 7:7) Thus we find that Abraham is described as a Babylonian, Joseph as kicked out of his family, Moses as an Aristocrat Egyptian who then becomes a Midianite in the dessert. God is saying that we shouldn’t glory in our heritage to the extent that we cannot receive grace because we are a lofty glorious so and so who doesn’t need help. Yet don’t we all have tremendous personal pride? Isn’t it the case that we are loathe to admit we are desperate and prone to affirm we are better than most? Even those who self hate do so many times because they are trying to motivate themselves to be the better person within they secretly believe they are. The bible says the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, who can understand it. Pride is the biggest obstacle to receiving God’s good grace.

God says this sort of hard hearted rejection of grace is always happening in his church (Acts 7:37 assembly = church )It’s been going on for thousands and thousands of years. Perhaps we will listen to Him and let him change our hearts and minds.

Tim

Going Deeper Questions:

  1. Was there something particular about this lesson that struck you? Something you agreed or disagreed with?
  2. What reasons does Stephen give for God’s people constantly rejecting Him and His grace? What are some modern things that people reject God for?
  3. the Bible speaks of regular pride but also a spiritual pride. Pride based on ones well kept religion and faith. Why is this pride bad and how does it play into our sermon?
  4. Read John 4:16-24 What is Jesus’ point about temples and what does he mean by worshipping in Spirit and in truth? Are we those who worship him in Spirit and truth? If so how?
  5. Read Matthew 21:33-44 What does ‘this stone’ represent? What does Jesus’ parable tell us about the danger of spiritual pride?

 

Passing the torch

‘the mature believer has a race to run, agony to undergo, and glory forever’

Scripture: Acts 6:8-7:1 and 7:54-8:3

The Lord be with you // 2 Timothy 4:22

Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:22

Chris celebrated his final sermon at Wilton Community as Lead Pastor by talking about the importance of God being with us, with us especially in grace. Empowering and working in us for the mission he has for each of us so that we don’t have to go in our own strength.

Malachi

Scripture: Whole book of Malachi

‘Stop just going through the motions, instead faithfully honour God each day’

This week we looked at the last book of the Old Testament. A book you might think would be full of praise instead makes us think that some things never change. God confronts Israel and us six times, like a spouse a wayward partner. He shows us how easy it is to lose our love for God and replace it with dry and dull religion. God shows us that our worship falls flat, our relationships are broken, and we’d rather spend on ourselves than tithe to His cause. But then he says it’s not okay, not proper, we owe Him the glory due his name. The book shows us that if we want to restore our first love we must be willing to listen and obey, and also to accept His love for us. It’s a constant reminder that wherever we are in our walks with Jesus, when we find ourselves drifting we can reignite the flame of our commitment through fearful obedience of the God of love

Tim

Haggai

‘Put God first and He will take care of you and your things’

Scripture: Haggai

This week we looked at the book of Haggai. To get life right, we must put the Lord as our highest priority. Why? Because he will make us a success, He will grow us into His image, He will shape our destiny. Just like the Israelites returning and learning to put God first, so we too must learn to put God first in all things

Tim

Baptism Sunday

Scripture: 2 Kings 5

Big Entry

‘Jesus is truly Lord, but is He well and truly your Lord?’

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11 ‘

For the first time in Mark, we see Jesus seeking to demonstrate that He is King, even Lord of all. And the crowd and everyone seem to go along with it , until we realise that Jesus isn’t the sort of King they expect or want. They celebrate His entry into Jerusalem as the promised Messiah, but a number of days later Jesus will die alone, his citizens having abandoned the Kingdom he brought. Jesus for his part doesn’t rest in their approval. He is Lord, despite what others think. He won’t allow Himself to become a patsy Messiah, to only save for the moment. No he is crowned King through suffering for His people, through dealing with our greatest enemies. Is this the sort of Lord we want and worship. Do we pledge ourselves to a King totally in control, but who dies for us and calls us to die for self? Are we even obedient to this Lord? Or have we made Jesus out to be exactly what we want in life, and never submit ourselves to His love or His will? Let’s let Jesus teach us how to obey and be good citizens in HIs kingdom, rather than trying to fit Jesus into our own.

Tim

Resting in Toil

Scripture: Psalms 127

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