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How To Live The Best Christian Life

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What does it mean to live well in this world? For many, they root the worldly answer to this question in vanity and materialism. Fortunately, the authority of God’s word has an answer for us. Society and sometimes our own ego’s tell us how important it is to be successful. Our modern world usually defines success as earning more money, getting a big house, a nice car, a boat, maybe even an airplane. Success could mean climbing the promotion ladder at your job, or having a very successful business. For many, they define success in how many “followers” or “likes” they have on their social media platform. Yet, as people gain these successes, many of them are searching still for more happiness and meaning.

Americans of all economic backgrounds are left with a void. According to a Time Magazine story, suicide rates are higher than at any other time since World War I. A Harvard report informs us of an “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans.” This type of sad news informs us that even as citizens of the richest nation in the world, more cars, boats, bigger houses, career advances, etc…. are not enough to make us happy. So what can people do to discover fulfillment and success independent of the material? Luckily, God’s word provides us with the answer. The wonderful youtube channel, The Bible Project, does an excellent job of providing succinct overviews of each book of the Bible. Their take on Ecclesiastes is an instructive guide to aid us in how to live the best Christian life.

The Book of Ecclesiastes explains three observations about our world. The first is father time:

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Generations come, and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course…
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them. – Ecclesiastes 1 ( 4-6, 11) (NIV)

In the grand expanse of the universe, we are just a speck. Everything that is so important to us right now: our careers, our bank accounts, our cars, our “successes” mean nothing in the big picture of God’s eternal plan. Our earthly existence is just a quick flash. A small drop in an enormous ocean of time.

The second observation form Ecclesiastes is that we will all die and return to dust and that our concerns while here on earth are relatively meaningless.
Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. -Ecclesiastes (19-21) (NIV)

The third observation we learn from Ecclesiastes is that life is random. :

The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come. Ecclesiastes 9, 11-12 (NIV)

The lesson here is that life is way too complex for us to try and control and attempting to do so sets us up for failure and disappointment. These three observations can make life seem pretty dark and pointless. The author explains that everything in life is hevel. This is a Hebrew word meaning vapor or smoke. And like smoke, life can look like one thing, but quickly change into another form. You can reach out and try to grab (control) both smoke and life to no avail.

Modern biblical translations miss the smoke metaphor and usually translate hevel to the word meaningless. However, the author of Ecclesiastes isn’t suggesting that life has no meaning, but that instead, life can be unclear (like smoke). Just like standing in a smoky room, life can be confusing, stressful, and it’s difficult to know what lies in front of you. Therefore, while it may not always guarantee short-term success in our time on earth, we should live in fear of the Lord and have faith because his plan is eternal and beyond our comprehension.

The lesson of Ecclesiastes is that since we have no control in life, we should focus on the one thing that we do have control over, our attitude. Real success is accepting this lack of control and appreciating not the material, but the intangible things in life: holding hands with a loved one, sitting out in the sun on a warm day, your bare feet on the beach, a great meal with friends and loved ones. We should learn to enjoy these good simple moments, and the bad, because while they are fleeting, they are all gifts from a loving God.

The good times and the bad, the money, the jobs, our health, our friends, and even our loved one’s will all come and go. If we can teach ourselves to appreciate the ups and the downs of this rollercoaster of life and understand that God is the master of the entire amusement park, then learning to enjoy the ride is the accurate definition of success. This is how we can learn to live our best Christian life.

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Faith

Decrease in Marriage Continues a Spiraling Wave of Problems, and Churches are AWOL

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Over 60 years after the decline of marriage began in the 1960s due to the rise of the “free love” mentality, the results are more dismal than ever. In 1960, only 28% of adults were single. Now almost 50% of adults are single. Marriage rates are at their lowest ever in U.S. history. There are eight times more children born to unmarried parents than married. 

 

This is a problem. While progressives love to tear down the traditional nuclear family, they can’t argue with the increasingly negative facts coming out. Cohabitation arrangements break up around five times more frequently than marriages, and unplanned pregnancies occur three times more often with cohabiting couples than married couples. Unmarried couples with children are three times more likely to split up and have lower incomes. Children without fathers are more likely to suffer an “Adverse Family Event,” which is abuse, neglect or other trauma. Disregarding the old saying “Marriage tames men” is why we are seeing a spike in bad behavior by men.

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Two authors with extensive backgrounds in marriage and the Christian church have written a book, Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America, outlining the crisis and showing how the church has failed to address it — but also providing specific solutions to fix it. “Endgame” refers to the crumbling of marriage. 

 

Co-author J.P. De Gance, a Catholic who came from the political sphere working for Americans for Prosperity, pioneered a marriage relationship project called Culture of Freedom — later rebranded as Communio —  which had tremendous results. He launched it in several cities, working with churches and faith-based organizations. In Jacksonville, Florida, which had dismal marriage rates, divorces fell 24% after the three-year project, which focused on 58,912 couples.

 

Similarly, John Van Epp, an evangelical relationship expert, ran his own Christian marriage relationship service, Love Thinks. In one area in Indiana that he focused on, divorce rates dropped 20% over 10 years. 

 

What the authors found is that churches are lacking in marriage ministry. Three out of four churches don’t provide any substantive relationship courses or resources for married couples. And even though singles make up almost 50% of heads of households, more than 90% of churches don’t have an adult singles ministry. 

 

What should be most alarming for Christians is the decline of relationship health is now the most significant factor in disrupting a relationship with Jesus. This is why church attendance is at its lowest rate ever on record in the U.S., 47%. In 2000, it was 70%. Church attendance is largely determined by one variable — parental marriage. Both children with unmarried parents and divorced parents were equally less likely to attend church.

 

Marriage crumbled because of the decoupling of sex, romantic partnerships and parenting. Today, the majority of couples have sex before starting a relationship. The authors point to online dating as one of the culprits — it’s made it easy to leave a relationship the instant a problem arises, because you can find a new romantic interest right away.

 

They found a correlation between atheism and lack of married parents. Millennials who were the least emotionally interested in attending church were also the least likely to report having a positive relationship with their parents. The 30 most well-known atheists in the world had a defective relationship with their fathers. 

 

Progressives may pretend that Christians are no better off than the rest of the population, but the authors found that churchgoing Christians have sex more frequently and are happier in their sex life than those who don’t attend. While one quarter of couples in church have a struggling marriage, 39% of couples in general do. 

 

Unfortunately, pastors don’t realize they’re not doing a good job in this area. While 93% of pastors counsel couples in crisis, 57% of them do not believe they are qualified enough. A “marriage 911” is lacking in the church. Churches spend lots of money on youth programs, but that’s not helping people stay in church. 

 

The authors say we need to go out into the community to find couples to help, not expect them to come searching and find these services. It needs to be portrayed as something everyone needs, in order not to scare people away thinking it’s only for couples who are on the verge of breaking up, otherwise people will be afraid of the stigma.

 

The authors reveal what works as successful techniques. They teach couples to address problems early on in relationships. It’s a myth that good relationships don’t require work. The “balanced relationship” is an illusion. What is normal in a good relationship is this: About the time a couple feels that they have a routine that is working for them … life comes at them fast. One of the most valuable tasks the authors have couples do is to make a top 10 list of what they think their spouse wants and needs from them.

 

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ) is key to a good marriage. This means both interpersonal, which includes communicating with your spouse, and intrapersonal, the ability to monitor your own emotions and actions. Studies of people doing tasks who have somewhat higher EQs but also somewhat lower IQs than others reveal that the former perform better, shattering our traditional views of IQ. 

 

The authors also emphasize the importance of both skills and virtues. Secular counseling focuses on skills, whereas Christian counseling tends to focus too much on just virtues. Skills include discernment, appreciation and expectation, self-control and commitment. 

 

The authors conclude by saying the church needs to make marriage ministry and relationship outreach normal. Marital problems shouldn’t be left up to social agencies to handle. The secular world is going to continue to disparage marriage and continue the downward cycle that the misnamed, so-called “free love” brings, so the church has to step up and stop the leak in the dam. 

 

 

  

 

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Faith

Seek Out the Good in Others

If you try, you can find at least one thing admirable in everyone you meet.

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Will Rogers, a political satirist, entertainer, and beloved figure in the first half of the twentieth century allegedly said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Many people have interpreted Will Rogers to have meant that he could find something admirable in everyone he met. So, too, can we all.

Something Admirable

Is there a co-worker with whom you have had a nasty relationship? Is there something good about this co-worker that you can draw upon, so that you can actually say something nice to him/her at your next encounter?

Is there a neighbor with whom you have had a continuing squabble? What would it do to your relationship if you sent your neighbor a card or a brief note that said something along the lines of, “I noticed how lovely your garden was the other day and wanted to let you know that I appreciate the work you’ve done in maintaining it.” Too syrupy, or, pardon the expression, too flowery?  Guess again.

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You’re on this planet for finite amount of time. Do you want to go through your life trading hostilities with people, never having the where-with-all to restore some semblance of civility to the relationship?

Finding the Good

Try thinking of and listing five people who you may not have a good relationship with but can acknowledge. Next to each person’s name, write what is good about them. Do they maintain a nice garden? Here are some ideas for you in case you’re drawing a blank. This person…

* Is kind to the receptionist at work.
* Turns assignments in on time, and hence, supports the team.
* Walks softly past your office, so as not to disturb you.
* Greets you in the morning when you arrive.
* Maintains his or her office well.

Away from work, here are some ideas for finding the good in others:
* Keeps the street in front of the yard free of debris.
* Is respectful of others’ needs for quiet.
* Dresses well.
* Has well-behaved children.
* Drives safely in the neighborhood.

If you try, you’ll find something good!

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