A Different Kind of Happiness (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016)

Larry Crabb’s book is subtitled “Discovering the Joy that Comes from Sacrificial Love” and suggests an understanding of “true happiness” that comes from “true relationship.”

This description from the title and dust cover hits all those significant terms we might expect to generate book sales: joy, love, happiness, relationship.

First Thing versus Second Thing Happiness

Crabb begins with a good contrast of the kinds of happiness that vie for our attention, capture our imagination, and drive our actions: “first thing happiness” and “second thing happiness.” Crabb describes second thing happiness as when

We prefer to enjoy the good feelings that rise up within us when we are noticed, wanted, and respected by others, when things go well in our lives, according to our plans; and when we do fun things. We then often demand whatever produces the good feelings we want and feel bad when our demands go unmet.

By contrast, Crabb says, the Christian should strive for first thing happiness, which is “is entirely different”, and

develops when we struggle to love others with a costly love that is possible only if we have a life-giving relationship with Jesus that is grounded entirely in His love for us. … If we think we’re loving others and don’t experience something identifiable as joy, it would be good to wonder if we’re really loving anybody.

As with much of secular wisdom, particularly in the area of mental health, this demonstrates the truism that it might be adept at describing effects — behaviors, neuroses, attitudes, etc — but is dreadful at evaluating causes and prescribing remedies.

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Summer Weather Blockbusters

I’ve noticed that things tend to run in cycles. I know; I display an amazing perspicuity. But the cyclical nature of things is even reflected in motion pictures, where it can become quite the aggravation.

Note, by the way, that I said “motion pictures” instead of “movie.” The highbrow types refer to motion pictures as “films” and refer to themselves as “film critics.” The Film crowd considers “movie” intolerably lowbrow and pedestrian, but when was the last time you heard anyone say “I saw a film today?”

Other than x-ray technicians (Man, today I saw some exciting film of the third lumbar region!), my guess is that it must have been after high school biology class: Whoa! Dude, what a hip film about the mating habits of earthworms!

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What to do when God leaves out the instructions

Believers sometimes look around for specific instructions from God, and find nothing we like. Sometimes it seems that God has forgotten to give us enough instruction, so we end up taking the wrong steps or even refusing to take any steps to follow Christ.

But are we as direction-less as we suppose?

A curious thing happens when Joshua is finally able to lead the people into the promised land. We’re probably familiar with Joshua 1:8 (ESV):

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

This passage is cited frequently as an encouragement to pay diligent, consistent attention to the word of God. It’s used to encourage Bible reading, memorization, and meditation. And, less legitimately, to lay claim to a broad promise of “prosperity” and “success” for every believer, no matter the endeavor, leading the hapless five footer to claim the ability to dunk a basketball while muttering I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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The object of God’s work of regeneration is…that our lives might demonstrate to others a harmony and accord between God’s righteousness and our obedience, and that we might thus confirm that he has made us his children by adoption.

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A Guide to Christian Living (Carlisle PA: Banner of Truth, 2009), 1

And it is often seen, when the violation of God’s authority, and the stain of our own reputation are coupled together, we are more troubled for what disgraces us than for what dishonors God.

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Stephen Charnock, The Existence & Attributes of God 140

Diversionary Tactics for Toddlers and Other Aliens

Children are not right.

The way their little brains function, the undecipherable languages in which they speak to us and to each other (which to them, apparently, is quite understandable – I’ve seen two of the extra-terrestrials speaking to each other in alien-speak, with appropriate hand gestures, and apparently resolve some dispute over the order in which they were to play with a tire swing), and their unearthly energy levels proves to me that they were dropped here by Martians.

The robotic rovers now searching the red planet for signs of water will not discover the tell-tale signs of intelligent life – they will, however, find three-year-olds.

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