Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happiness Is Impossible?

Image source: The Minimalists
We think that we deserve to be happy. There’s actually nothing wrong in wanting to be happy. However, happiness eludes us when we seek it for the wrong reason. 

In his “Ethics for Everyone: Moral Wisdom for the Modern World” blog, moral philosopher Michael W. Austin, an associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, wrote,“Happiness is impossible, if we’re engrossed by self-love… Happiness is impossible if all I want is my own happiness.”


Austin explained that “happiness is a product of the satisfaction of particular desires for other things. For example, my desire that my child learn, grow, and develop morally is satisfied when I see these things occur. But I must care about the child’s welfare to truly want these things for her. Then I obtain happiness because I have a desire for something apart from my own happiness. If all I cared about was my own happiness, it would be impossible to be happy, because I’d literally have nothing to be happy about.” (Ibid)

Image source: Source of Inspiration
In other words, we can only be happy when we think of others more than ourselves. That means that selfish people can never be really happy. We cannot be happy when we seek happiness merely for our own sake or even for happiness sake. Philippians 2:3-4 command us, “Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves”(CEV). The Message Version goes like this, “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Only selfless people can truly be happy. We can be happy when we seek the happiness of others.
Image source: Mimi
Who is our ultimate role model as far as selflessness is concerned? In verse 5, the apostle Paul added that we are to“think the same way that Christ Jesus thought”. Then he went on to describe how our Lord Jesus Christ emptied Himself of His divine prerogatives, left heaven’s glory and became man to die on the cross for our sins (vv. 6-8). We can only enjoy real happiness when we keep in mind that we follow “the Son of Man [who] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, ESV)

My take? Seek to be happy for the right reason.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Jesus T-Shirts


During the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, CNN editor/producer Wes Little noted that most of them were wearing tan t-shirts over their green coveralls. According to CNN, “the green coveralls were designed to help absorb the sweat as they ascended to the top.” (Source: www.cnn.com) But, curiously the t-shirts have the Jesus Film project logo on the left sleeves. In front of the t-shirt are the words, “‘Gracias Senor’ – ‘Thank you Lord.’”

What’s the inside scoop about those t-shirts? After rescuers discovered that the miners were still alive 17 days after the mine collapse, Christian Maureira, Campus Crusade for Christ Int’l (CCCI) country director for Chile, immediately got in touch with family members of one of the miners. CCCI got to send MP3s (audio versions) of the Jesus Film and the Spanish New Testament through the shaft . CNN noted,“The Jesus film explains that the New Testament tells how Jesus is laid in a tomb-like cave after his crucifixion. Three days later, Jesus is said to have risen from the dead. In the Jesus film, women come to the tomb and find the stone that blocked the entrance has been rolled away, the cave empty.” (When I read that, I smiled, “Wow! Those are the truths of the Gospel shared by CNN itself!”) Though “It is unclear if the miners saw the resurrection story as a parallel for their hoped-for rescue” (Ibid), surely the Word of God became their source of strength while trapped 2,000 feet below for 69 days.

One of the miners, Jose Henriquez, wrote CCCI, “Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my coworkers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me.” (Ibid) At the end of his letter, Henriquez even quoted Psalm 95:4. “In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.” That verse was actually printed at the back of the t-shirts that the miners wore during their rescue. CCCI gave those t-shirts as a gift to the miners a few days after they sent the MP3s to them. According to CCCI, “Apparently, all the miners liked them…It kind of solidified them.”

That’s why we should never get tired in sharing the Gospel to our spheres of influence such as our families and the workplace. Second Timothy 4:2 commands us “to preach God’s message. Do it willingly, even if it isn’t the popular thing to do.” (CEV)

Brethren, God’s Word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Rescue

When the gold and copper mine far north of Chile caved in, all 33 miners thought they were doomed already. About 700,000 tons of rock blocked their way out. “Descending for 4 miles (7 kilometers) below the Atacama desert, the mine has been giving up copper and gold since 1885, leaving it honeycombed and unstable. The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft finally collapsed above them, filling the lower reaches of the mine with suffocating dust. It took hours before they could even begin to see.” (Source: Yahoo! News) Knowing that they were in for a long haul, shift foreman Luis Urzua strictly rationed their 48-hour food supply, stretching it to last as long as possible. “They only had 10 cans of tuna to share… the tuna amounted to about half a capful from the top of a soda bottle — and that the only water they could drink tasted of oil.” (Ibid) For 16 days the miners thought people on the surface have finally given up on them. “But rescuers found them 17 days later with a bore hole the width of a grapefruit. That tiny hole became an umbilical cord used to pass hydration gels, water and food to keep them alive”. (Ibid) The miners endured waiting in the dark, sauna-hot tunnel for another 52 days while rescuers bore an escape shaft through more than 2,000 feet of rock. No effort and expense were spared.


Then last Wednesday, October 13, they lowered down a metal capsule just a bit wider than a man’s shoulders. “It took 24 hours to pull out the 33 miners and six rescuers who had gone down the escape shaft to help the men get out.” (ibid) It was a very touching moment as the international media broadcast images of their reunion with their families worldwide. Someone commented, “It was wrong to say there were 33 people down there. There were actually 34 of them. God was with them.”

It was a great rescue, no doubt about it. B
u
t there’s an even greater rescue. Two thousand years ago, our Lord Jesus Christ became man, went down from heaven to earth, to rescue us from eternal doom. Sin blocked our access to God. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. But God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32a, ESV). Jesus rescued us by dying on a cross for our sins. He did not go down to merely show the way up to heaven. He is the way Himself (John 14:6).

Brethren, Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Twitter Defines Success

If numbers are the success yardstick, Twitter definitely measures up. (For those who still think that I was talking about stereo speakers, Twitter is actually a social networking website where users can send 140-character ‘tweets’ or messages to his network of friends.) Since its 2006 launch, it skyrocketed to 160 million plus users. What caught my attention while reading a news item about Twitter is this statement by its co-founder, Evan Williams: “Growing big is not success, in itself. Success to us means meeting our potential as a profitable company that can retain its culture and user focus while having a positive impact on the world.” (Source: Inquirer.Net) That’s a great definition of success.


I think pastors and churches ought to learn from it. Of course, numbers matter to God, too. (There’s a book in the Bible with that title. Also, just read the book of Acts.) Yet, to borrow from the title of a book by Ruth Tucker, when we feel “left behind in a mega-church world,” we tend to confuse the way we measure success. The key to clear the confusion is to concentrate on our potential as a church. To know our potential, we must ask first, “What is our bottom line?” Companies like Twitter have profit and numerical growth as one of its bottom-line. But the church’s bottom-line is not the ABCs that we tend to use nowadays to declare that a church is successful. (ABC stands for Attendance, Buildings and Cash. Others have added D, that is, Denomination).


Our bottom-line is the glory of God. Ephesians 3:20-21 tell us, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV) We exist as a church to bring honor to the Lord.In his “Rise and Shine,” Dr. Charles Swindoll wrote, “When we finally wake up to our purpose for existence, we come to the realization that glorifying God applies to every detail of living… The activity, as well as the motive behind it, must be for one ultimate reason: to glorify our God.” First Corinthians 10:30 commands us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So, whatever we do as a church, we must do it for the sake of the reputation of the Lord, not ours. When we exalt the Lord in all that we are and all that we do, then we are really successful.


Brethren, “Glory to God in the church!” (Eph. 3:21a, Message)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Till Prenup Do Us Part

A US$1 million signing bonus? No, that’s not the windfall of a hotshot football player for jumping to another team. It’s a stipulation in a prenuptial agreement (popularly known as prenup) between an engaged man and woman. Linda Lea Viken, president-elect of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), negotiated the said prenup. “My client was giving up her career as an accountant to marry an up-and-coming basketball star. Of course with a basketball star you are going to be moving around a lot—we call that lost economic opportunity. So I said I wanted a signing bonus”. (Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100927/lf_nm_life/us_marriage_prenups)

So now marriages are defined not just by passion but also by the purse. The AAML noticed the increase in such prenups in the last five years among middle-class couples which before were confined only among the wealthy and the well-known. According to Marlene Eskind Moses of AAML, “Sometimes people put in conditions like the amount of sex they must have, and behavior in the marriage like the number of days a week one spouse can go out without the other. The sky is the limit in what people can contract”. (Ibid) The fine prints of the contract range from serious financial matters (like separate bank accounts, retirement benefits and protection against debts incurred by one of the spouses before the marriage) to trivial personal issues (such as who gets the dog when they divorce). Moses justifies the prenup trend. It’s a planning tool. Given that half of marriages end in divorce it makes sense to plan… to safeguard their assets when a marriage crumbles… People marry for love and that certainly is important but people also need to understand that it’s a legal holding that affects their holdings. It is important to marry for love but to understand the ripple effect”. (Ibid)

Prenups may be needed in some marriages. But, instead of preparing for divorce, I think couples should rather prepare for “till death do us part.” The efforts poured in poring over the fine prints of the prenup can best be put in pursuing intimacy in marriage, such as obeying Ephesians 5:33. “So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.” (CEV) Instead of merely safeguarding their assets in case of a divorce, I believe married people should safeguard their marriage as their most important asset.

Brethren, what God has joined together, let not prenup separate.