If you were to ask most people what their chief aim or goal in life was, they would probably tell you something like, “to be happy”. Even our constitution states that we all have the right to pursue happiness. And happiness is good, but it should not be our main goal in life. The problem is that often we confuse the difference between happiness and joy.
And you would think that of all the countries in the world were people would be the happiest would be right here in America. But depression affects more than 19 percent of American Adults, and anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million, or 18 percent of the population. A 2016 Federal data analysis found that suicide rates in America had surged to their highest level in 30 years, rising in that period by 63 percent among middle-class women and 43 percent among men of the same age.
So, this tells us that joy and happiness aren’t dependent on wealth and circumstances. It would appear that those who have the most reason to be joyful are often the most depressed.
Theologian J. P. Moreland said, “We Americans are obsessed with being happy, but we are terribly confused about what happiness is. As a result, we seldom find happiness that lasts.”
So maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe it is not happiness that we should be seeking after all. Because happiness comes and goes based on circumstances. Rather, what we should be seeking is joy! And all joy comes from the Lord. In this week’s message we are going to look at how following Jesus can bring you ultimate fulfillment and joy in life.
Love could possibly be the most over used word in the English language, and possibly the most complex word. Think about all the things we say we “love.” For example, I love football, hot wings, Star Wars, Stryper, and playing the drums. I also love reading, running, swimming, and bike riding. I love my family, I love one of my two dogs (I tolerate the other one because I love my daughter). I love my truck but would really love a new one. I love good movies, I love ice cream, I even love romance, I love good theology, and of course I love God. We can’t go anywhere without seeing our hearing about love. Love songs are on the radio, and there are numerous movies and books about love. But often the songs that are on the radio, and what we see on TV and in the movies about love is a self-centered, destructive kind of love. A love that is much different from love that is spelled out in the Bible.
We “love” so many things, and then we turn around and in the same breath with saying we love pizza, we say we love our spouse and God. We seem to be obsessed with the world love in our culture. But yet, we don’t really understand love. We are confused as to what true love really is. And because we have this hole in the human heart we are desperate for love. So desperate that we do destructive things in the name of love. So, what is love? What is real, true, lasting, genuine love? And how do we get it?
The Bible has a lot to say about love. In the New International Version of the Bible, the word love occurs 567 times. From Genesis to Revelation you will find the story of God’s unconditional and relentless love for mankind. So, as we begin this new series called The Amazing Life, we begin with love. Because love is what makes every other part of life so amazing! In this week’s message we are going to do two things. We are going to define what love is and we are going to learn how to be a better lover.
Freedom. We love it and we take it for granted. The founders of our country said that faith was a fundamental human right. Actually, it is the very first human right in the Bill of Rights. Our nation’s Delectation of Independence begins by saying, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It continues by saying, “To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men.” Meaning, the purpose of the government is to ensure that the rights of the people are upheld.
And then in order to ensure the protection of these rights, our nation’s founders drafted the Bill of Rights, the first of which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, Christians have a right to worship their God, and Muslims can do the same, so can Buddhists, Hindus and even Satanists for that matter. And nobody has the right to tell us who, what or how to worship. However, persecution is happening all over our globe and it is happening in America as well. People are being told who, what and how they can worship, and if they don’t conform they pay a serious price.
This denial of freedom affects people of all faiths, yet followers of Christ are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world. According to the US Department of State, Christians face persecution of some kind in more than sixty different countries today.
What can we do about this? How can we get involved? How does the Gospel require us to live in a world where many of our brothers and sisters are suffering for following Jesus? Is there anything we can do? In this week’s message we want to explore some of these questions and we want to learn the gospel truth about persecution.
Growing up in and living in Mississippi for a vast portion of my life, I have seen my share of racism (and sadly and shamefully have participated in it). And, there is no question that racism is still alive and well today, not just in Mississippi but across our country. We may not have separate bathrooms or drinking fountains, and “colored” people no longer have to sit at the back of the bus, but that does not mean that our hearts and attitudes have not changed when it comes to people who have a different color skin than us.
I hear it in the way we talk. The way we speak of “them” and “us”. I know I have been guilty of this. But even as Christians we still do it. Our churches are even segregated. And I understand there are cultural differences between different ethnic groups. Every culture has its own identity and that is good, that reflects a creative God. But what is not good is when we think our culture, our way of doing things, is superior and right and their way is wrong. At best, we “tolerate” those people, but inside we don’t genuinely love them. My friends that has to change. And the church has to do a better job on race relationships. Again, in some ways we have improved but in other ways it is as if we are still living as we did a generation or more ago.
The gospel of Jesus Christ has freed all men! And it compels us to live as one with one another, regardless of our ethnic diversity. In this week’s message, I want to do two things. First, I want to give a brief history lesson on race based on Scripture. And then I want to show us how the gospel makes all races equal at the foot of the cross.
When I was a little boy I was fascinated with the idea of kings and queens. I mean who doesn’t love stories that are told of great kings and their kingdoms, whether fairy-tale or real? Like king David or king Solomon or King Author and the Knights of the Round Table, and King Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. Kings are rich and usually get the pretty girl. Kings have castles and moats, and swords and horses, and servants and lots of food and people bow to them. It is good to be king! What little boy did not fantasize in some way about being the king of a great kingdom?
Well, Jesus is the greatest king who ever lived. And he talked quite a bit about his kingdom. In fact, the Bible talks extensively about Jesus’ kingdom, or what we refer to as The Kingdom of God. In this message, we are going to explore the gospel truth about the Kingdom of God, and why it matters to you and me. We will discuss what this kingdom looks like and what our role is in the kingdom of God.