Book Review: The Happy Christian

The Happy Christian is a book that encourage Christians to have a positive faith and life. After an introductory chapter where Dr. Murray shares his hopes for his book and identifies some of the reasons for negativity and unhappiness in our culture, he helps his readers to understand ten “biblical and practical” ways to increase happiness.

First, he encourages us to watch our media diet by applying Philippians 4:8. In one of my favorite chapters of the book, Dr. Murray comforts his readers who are constantly bombarded with demands with the good news that regarding our relationship to God, “It is finished!” In chapter 4, he teaches us to think and talk more about Jesus than other Christians. He encourages believers to have a healthy view of the past and cultivate optimism for the future. Chapter 6 is another of my favorites in it Dr. Murray discusses how looking for God common grace in the world encourages Christian happiness. The chapter ‘Happy Praise’ was probably the one that was the most personally convicting part of the book because I am very good at criticizing but poor at praising. Dr. Murray shows that giving to charity, giving of thanks, giving in marriage, giving of forgiveness, and giving in leadership encourages happiness. In chapter 9, he looks at work through the lens of Romans 11:36 “to turn work into a big positive.” Finally, the last chapter discusses that diversity is greater than uniformity.

The Happy Christian is a practical, encouraging, and Christ-centered book. Since I am generally a morose person (At least one person from a previous church nicknamed me Eeyore.), this book was a great help for me. I plan to read it again and with God’s help to start implementing the biblical ideas in this book.

There are two issues that may be problematic to some. First, some may object to Dr. Murray’s citing of secular psychologists and other happiness experts. However, he makes clear his reason for citing them, “God is using them not only to confirm the Bible’s teaching…but also to work out practical details of how to increase gratitude in our lives for everyone’s benefit.” Secondly, I have a difficult time seeing how the final chapter about diversity fits in with the topic of the rest of the book.

Check out Dr. Murray’s blog Happy Christian blog.

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Posted in Book Review, Christian Living, David Murray, Happiness | Leave a comment

I am a Confessional Baptist

Theological  labels can be both beneficial and harmful. They are a shorthand way of stating what one believes; however, there is often a lot of baggage associated with certain terms. For example mention either Calvinism or Arminianism and an argument is not far off. When these terms are mentioned, ears are closed, assumptions are made, and communication no longer takes place. Worse labels become weapons by which brothers in Christ destroy one another. Consequently, there are only a few theological labels I will accept. Of course, I accept the label Christian. The only other labels I accept are Confessional and Baptist. I explain what I mean by both terms below.  

I choose to describe myself as confessional to point to my commitment to the early creeds of Christianity (Nicene, Athanasius, Chalcedon, and the Apostle’s Creed) and to Baptist Confessions of faith such as the London Baptist Confessions, Abstract of Principles, the New Hampshire Confession, and the Baptist Faith and Message. It is my way of saying that I am orthodox, conservative, traditional, and evangelical in one word.

In addition, being confessional describes my belief in the authority of Scripture alone, in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that God’s glory alone is the end of all his works. I affirm as a Confessional Baptist God’s absolute sovereignty over all things including the salvation of sinners. God’s grace in salvation is necessary because man is incapable of preparing himself or doing anything to save himself. This inability is a result of man’s inherited sinful nature. Therefore, salvation from beginning, middle, and end is the work of God the Father, Son, and the Spirit, and sinners receive this salvation only by faith. I also emphasize as do the Scriptures all of God’s attributes including both his glorious justice and great mercy. Moreover, since the Bible insists that believers must increase in holiness, I stress the necessity of sanctification. Finally, I  believe that God has only one plan of salvation for all time.

Finally, I am a baptist because I believe the Bible teaches congregational church government and believers baptism. Specifically, the Bible teaches (along with historic baptist practice) that each church should be lead by a plurality of elders (or pastors). Decisions about doctrine, membership, leadership, etc are made not only by the elders but also with the approval of the members of the church. Baptism, which involves immersion in water, was ordained by Christ as a sign of the New Covenant and is only to be applied to those who profess repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. In addition to describing my views on church government and baptism, Baptist also explains who I want to cooperate with in the preaching of the gospel and fulfilling the great commission.

Posted in Baptist, Confessions of Faith, Creeds, Denominations, Ecclesiology | Leave a comment

My Testimony of Faith

It has been 9 months since I have blogged. I  intend to start writing more frequently but don’t hold me to it. Our family is in the process of joining Two Rivers Community Church. Part of the process involves writing out the story of our conversion. I decided that I would share my story on my blog. I hope that it is helpful, encouraging, and glorifying to God.

I trusted Christ when I was almost 17 on December 31, 1992. Shelley and I were dating at the time. She and her family shared the gospel with me and brought me to church where I was able to hear the gospel. At some point, we attended a revival where Ron Comfort was preaching. This was the first time in my life that I realized that I was not right with God and that I deserved hell for my sins. I was still unsure about the claims of Christ, his resurrection, and whether I wanted to give up my sins.

The night I trusted Christ we were at a New Years Eve service. We were watching a movie about the Spanish Inquisition. At some point, my mother in law convinced me that I need to talk to someone about the gospel. I first talked with my father in law who clearly explained the gospel from the Bible. I remember thinking that I am ready to give up all my doubts and even my life for Christ. I prayed to receive Christ with my father in law. Then, I also spoke with the pastor. He explained the same things as my father in law, and I also prayed with him. I was not sure yet if I had done what was necessary to be saved, but I fell asleep that night with great peace in my heart.

Shelley and her family moved to Mississippi shortly after this and I did not have a church to attend close to where I lived (They lived an hour away before they moved.); so, there was little to no spiritual growth. Eventually, Shelley and her family moved closer, but we were not living faithfully for Christ. It was at this time that we made the conscious decision to get away from bad influences and get our lives together spiritually. We started attending First Baptist Church in Bryan, OH. At FBC, Shelley and I repented/recommitted our lives to Christ, we were married, I was baptized, and we started serving in our church. It was also at FBC that I felt the call to ministry.

During our time at FBC, I went through a six month period of doubting my salvation. It was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, or sought counsel, I could not get assurance. Looking back, I realize that I was being too introspective and that I failed to look to Christ. God eventually blessed me with the assurance I craved with Jesus words, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

Since then, God continues to work in my life daily to conform me to the image of his Son. I am thankful for God’s grace that has brought me this far. I am also thankful for all the people God providentially brought into my life to lead me to faith in Christ and encourage my faith: Shelley, Bob Adkins, Leta Combs, Pastors – Dave Kiper, Jack Bennett, John Macfarlane, Matt Harbour, Mac Williams, Sunday School Teachers – Tim Hoag, Mike Slagle, all of my professors at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Howard Miller, Tim Scott, John Botkin, Hone Phillips, Ken Clouse, Thom Burbridge, Shirley Andricks, Todd and Amy Davis, Matt Skinner, Connie Jaques, and many  more.   

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Thanks be to God…

This year has been an especially difficult year for my family and me. It began with wondering whether or  not our time at Twining Baptist was over after 7 years. Ultimately, I resigned. In addition, my mom was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal cancer, we moved twice, endured job searches, struggled through family troubles, and mourned my mom’s death. Yet, through all of these afflictions, God our loving Heavenly Father cared for us. And, he cared for us through you.

One story especially illustrates God’s providential care for us. For about three months, I worked at Wal-Mart in Urbana, Ohio. While I was thankful for work, I was disappointed to get a job in Urbana because it was about 40 minutes away from where we lived and the opposite direction from my mom, which made Shelley’s care for her more difficult. I always wondered (often sinfully) why I got the job in Urbana when there were places close by that were desperate for help. Today, I realized that we likely would not have met our landlord who has been a great blessing to our family if I did not work in Urbana. Not only is he giving us a good deal on rent he is also a friend and has often encouraged me.  I did not understand it then, but sending me to Urbana was one of the ways God cared for us.

There have been others whose paths we have crossed that God has used to help us this year. Shepherd’s Care Ministries in Midland, MI, a friend we attended church with while living in Kentucky, our families, Pastors Matt Harbour and Brandon Walters and other friends from Cornerstone Baptist, our new church family, and innumerable friends who have prayed for and encouraged us. I am especially thankful for the phone calls, prayers, and wise advice from my friend, Tim Scott. I give thanks to the Lord and to you. I am looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2014.

Posted in Providence, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bullied and Bully

Living and working in my hometown has given me the opportunity to see people from my childhood, both schoolmates and teachers. Generally, it is enjoyable experience as are the memories, but last week I saw someone who just by seeing in passing brought some bad memories.

As a child, I was often bullied in school. I was an easy target. I was scrawny and too klutzy to be athletic (I’ve outgrown the scrawny part, but still am a klutz. My wife to her delight has witnessed examples of this constantly). I do not harbor any ill will to the kids who bullied me, and I thought that I had dealt with any lingering issues years ago. Knowing my family loved me, faith, and growing up helped me work through these issues. However, when I saw this person, my emotional pain surfaced with a brief twinge of feeling like a scared little child. I do not even remember any specific mistreatment from this kid. Yet, that day his face became the face of the bullying I suffered.

I thought a lot  that day about what I had felt. Mostly, I came away from the experience surprised at the amount of buried emotions after 20 years of being away from being bullied. Being bullied hurts deeply, and the scars linger. After thinking about my own emotions and experience of being bullied, I realized that I too am guilty of bullying others. Most people are both bully and bullied. It breaks my heart to know that there are some people who if they recognized me or saw my picture on facebook would feel the pain that I felt. Maybe, they are not over it. Possibly, they still hold ill will. Could they recount every detail of my mistreatment?

My hope for this post is that everyone will see that there is healing for the bullied and forgiveness for bullies. Most of us like me will probably need both healing and forgiveness.

Posted in bullying, emotional healing, forgiveness, Things I learned from working at Walmart | Leave a comment

Government “Shutdown”

Most people are upset at Congress and the President for the shutdown of the government. Much of the anger seems to be anger drummed up by the media. The media desires this drama because they want everybody angry even if it is irrational because it might lead to more viewers tuning in to catch the latest drama. Truthfully, the government shutdown does not affect most of us. If it does, it is generally a minor inconvenience. Obviously, we are sympathetic to the struggles of those who are directly impacted. However, at the end of all this, those affected will most likely get back pay for the time of the the shutdown. If you are simply angry that the government is shutdown, I believe your anger is misdirected. Let me explain.

The government shutdown is a political tool for each party to accomplish their agenda. Both sides have decided that something is more important than passing a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government. The shutdown is a manufactured crisis that exerts political pressure on the Democrats to negotiate. Granted the Republicans started the fight, but they did so because they are in the minority and their ability to effect change is seriously limited. They saw this as an opportunity to get to the negotiating table. You may not like it. You may think its dirty, but this is politics. This is how our political system works, always has worked, and always will work. Democrats have done and will do similar things when they are in the minority.

Cynically, this is probably just a ploy for votes since next year is an election year. Democrats stand against the evil Republicans who are trying to take away health care from women, children, elderly, and the poor, and Republicans are standing against evil Democrats, President Obama, and the job killing Obamacare. It also possible to interpret these events as a principle stand for what is right, Republicans believe Obamacare is harmful so they are trying to delay it to eventually kill it. Democrats believe Obamacare is helpful and are resisting any delays to it’s implementation thinking more people will lose out on healthcare during the delay.

The reasons for the shutdown are substantive. The ideas that are being debated are important for the future of our country. Our anger about the shutdown may put pressure on the legislature to accept any solution rather than the best possible solution just to get the government running again. Certainly, nobody wants more bad laws or raw deals that hurt more than they help. We should be patient and let the political process work itself out.

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Barak Obama, Government Shutdown, Obamacare, Politics | Leave a comment

God’s Guidance

After a recent conversation on the Holy Spirit and guidance I had revolving around a blog post from Gospel Coalition, I decided to share the experience that led to me changing my mind on the issue of God’s Guidance.

Until college I would have agreed whole-heartedly with what seems to be the majority view about the how the Holy Spirit guides believers. I was taught that if I had a decision to make I should pray about that decision until I receive direction from the Lord. Of course, being a Baptist, it was never an audible voice but a strong feeling or inclination.

Generally speaking, I faithfully practiced this method of discerning God’s will. However, in college, I began pastoring a small church about two hours away from the school. A serious problem arose about two weeks before we were to move off of campus and into the parsonage. I was then forced to make a decision about whether we would continue at this church or not. As usual, I set about praying to determine what God’s will is. The problem was this time that no matter how hard I prayed and sought the Lord’s will I did not get clear direction from him. I had been instructed before that if this happens you are to do nothing until you get clear direction. I couldn’t do nothing though because I had a time limit. I had to make the decision. So, I weighed the options, examined my motives, sought counsel from others, and entrusted my decision to the Lord.

This incident encouraged me to study to find out if the typical view of God’s guidance is biblical. What I discovered is that it is not. In fact, the way I finally made my decision was the biblical way of decision making much to my surprise. The book Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson was especially helpful in giving me the theological and biblical foundation for what is now my view on decision making and the role of the Spirit in it (Dr. Friesen also has a helpful website that briefly states his biblical view – http://www.gfriesen.net/sections/will_of_god.php ).

To state my view succinctly, I believe that the Bible is the only sufficient rule of faith and practice and that no other special revelation is needed to live a faithful Christian life. I believe this is true no matter the form of supposed special revelation whether audible voices or impressions. As Christians, we must always obey the moral will of God in every situation. However, since we know very little of his sovereign will from Scripture and have no promise to expect that he will reveal it, we must use wisdom with faith in the Sovereign Lord to make decisions like who to marry, where to live, what career to pursue, etc. In fact, this way of making decisions applies not just to the major decision but the minor ones as well so that all of our decisions will be by faith.

Posted in God's Guidance, Providence, Sola Scriptura, Sufficiency of Scripture, Work of the Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment