Jackson Five Friday: Happy or Holy?

Hey Friends,

I’ve been thinking about what it means to really really love someone. Does it mean that you want that person to have everything their heart desires? A carefree, healthy and happy life? In a sense I guess it does, but even more than that I believe if you really really love someone, you want what’s best for them. This is how God loves us. Most modern-day Christians are familiar with the refrain “God doesn’t want you happy as much as He wants you holy.” Are you able to love those closest to you like that? I’m not suggesting we can discern what’s best for others all of the time, but sometimes we are granted the wisdom to know at least what isn’t best. Are you willing to speak truth into the lives around you when you can see a situation or path is not edifying? Can you prayerfully muster the resolve to lovingly tell someone they’d benefit from guardrails? These are hard things to do and obviously only effective within loving relationships, but I believe it is unloving to fail to speak.

The interesting thing is that God’s ways are not our ways. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” And it may seem counterintuitive or even paradoxical, but the holy life is the happiest life. If you’ve lived long enough you’ve seen this play out over and over again. The happiest people are not the richest, the happiest people are not the smartest, the happiest people are certainly not the most famous or the most powerful, the happiest people are the ones who are the holiest. Just last week I posted about the 21st Century church ladies who go around telling others how to live. Their holier-than-thou vibe whether based on purported concern for the health of others, the environment or whatever their pet project may be, is of course not the kind of holiness that is fulfilling. Instead, the holiness that leads to joy is trust in and obedience to Jesus. So the question for 2021 is how will you trust and obey more this year? Every ounce of good in us is because of God’s grace, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is our only means of trusting and obeying, but we can still aim to build holy habits, to put our sinful little selves in the endless fountain of his mercy and grace. How do you thrust yourself — even when your flesh resists — into the fountain? What are your holy habits?

I have not started the year with a lot of discipline. My boys are not back in school yet and so I’ve been in an extended vacation mode. In fact, when the national news broke this week, Nate, Sam and I were making memories without phones and so we didn’t even know what had happened till later in the day. But I plan to re-read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline before the end of January, and I have also started a new Bible reading plan. I’m doing The Bible Recap. The reading takes less than twenty minutes a day and has an accompanying podcast that is less than ten minutes. The brief discussion of the reading is a game changer. So, I highly recommend both Foster’s book and The Bible Recap reading plan and podcast. And I’d truly love to know what you plan to do this year.

Finally, speaking of loving enough to value holiness over happiness, how do you think that applies to nations? Do you think the United States is a holy nation? Do you think we can be blessed as a nation without a return to God and His Word? You probably know what I think. In fact, the Stuart Townsend’s lyrics have played over and over again in my mind this week: “In Christ alone my hope is found…” Praying for revival and that no American would put their hope in any person or institution, but in Christ alone.

Love to you,


Jackson Five Friday: The 21st Century Church Lady

Happy New Year, friends! Hope you had a sweet time with those closest to you ringing in 2021. I’ve been thinking about the old SNL skit with Dana Carvey. Do you remember the Church Lady? She was appalled by the behavior of many and had many opinions about how others should live. Her righteous indignation stemmed from her 20th Century religion, implicitly Christian but certainly not representative whatsoever of the gospel of Jesus.

Oddly, and only somewhat amusingly, the 21st Century has ushered in a new religion with devout fanatics. Uptight Dana Carvey-like church people are everywhere. Most of these people are not aware that they are religious zealots. They fail to overtly acknowledge the tenets to which they subscribe. But there are two primary ways to identify them: (1) they tell other people how to live; and (2) they derive meaning and self-satisfaction in showcasing their own superior choices.

Thomas Sowell wrote about this in his 1995 book The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell observed that the “anointed” of society believe they have the answers and must impose them on the uninformed masses.

Great social or biological dangers can be averted only by the imposition of the vision of the anointed on the less enlightened people by the government…Perhaps even more important than the specific tenets of this vision is that these prepositions are not treated as hypotheses to be tested but as self-evident axioms. Evidence is seldom asked or given — any evidence to the contrary is often ignored or answered only by a sneer.

p. 242

The sneer of “church people” may have been a thing 26 years ago, but social media combined with untrustworthy media and an intense season of fear-mongering have combined to produce a concentration of benighted condescension never before seen. In 1995, there was some effort to obscure the desire to control. But not anymore, there is no hiding of intent. Instead the aim to control is unabashedly front and center. The we-know-better-for-you-than-you-do mentality doesn’t even meet with much resistance. If you know me at all, you know I find it all utterly revolting. People I would think would resist have succumbed to joyless judgmentalism. Not one of these people — not the Dana Carvey character — nor any of the modern day equivalents have one minute of true happiness, not one. Do you really think this is what Jesus meant when he said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”? Of course not! May the abundant life of John 10:10 be a consistent aim of 2021.

How are you glorifying God for His many gifts to you and living abundantly? Are you praying for those who are in bondage (whether the bonds be fear, addiction, or something else)? I am resolving to do these things better in 2021.

With Love,