Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Terrific Twos

May 25th, 2012

If you’re a parent with children of toddler age or older, you can probably relate to the stereotypical scenario of the public meltdown in aisle seven of the local supermarket, and perhaps, understand why the phrase ‘the terrible two’s’ is applied to children at that stage of life.  I’m a dad to a 2-and-a-half year-old (who is already planning her 3rd birthday party), and I have to say that my experience so far is that this is the best age yet! Let me give you some examples of why.

So we’re trying out the see-saw at the playground and my daughter says ‘I’m happy’. Rewarding enough! I then ask ‘what makes you happy’, to which she replies ‘you make me happy’, at which point I nearly fall off the see-saw, overcome with parental joy.

Here’s another one: ‘Daddy, I don’t like your singing’, ‘why not?’, ‘because I’ve got finger paints’.

How can anyone talk about the terrible twos when your toddler comes out with gems like that?!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are definite challenges of this stage. In fact I’d say that as well as being the best age yet, it is also the most challenging yet (although admittedly I’ve only a couple of years’ experience to draw on!). But the delights of daily seeing my daughter develop as a person and discover the world far outweigh the difficulties. The main reason I can say this is because I have the perspective that being a Christian parent gives me.

Firstly, the perfect model that my Heavenly Father is for me as an earthly one.

Secondly, the fact that there is a purpose to it all, which Colossians 1v28-29 explains well; to present our children mature in Christ. No mean feat! But this can be done with all the wisdom, power and energy that He provides!

Thirdly, the fact that being a parent is a faith thing. We can walk in utter dependence upon God, and while we can’t do it without Him, with Him we can prevail and have a healthy family life and fulfil the purpose of seeing our children develop to maturity in Christ.

Fourthly, the dreaded ‘D’-word! In the last 6 months we’ve had to discipline our daughter in some form on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. This is a big challenge and my wife and I have wrestled with questions like ‘are we being consistent?’ and ‘are we going to ruin our relationship with her?!’ But again, the Bible has much encouragement! Hebrews 12v11 says “no discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful”. That pain is felt by the parent as well as the child! But it also talks about God’s disciplining of us, and how it means that He is treating us as sons and dealing lovingly with us. God’s discipline means that He is shepherding us, not leaving us to our own devices, and that He has a plan to make us more like Jesus. Discipline is an act of God’s grace!

Knowing God’s discipline has definitely helped me to reflect His grace-filled approach to disciplining my daughter (although I don’t always get it right!). And the more I have to do it, the more I understand that discipline is a good thing, and an essential tool in reaching the parenting goal of our child’s maturity[1], and salvation[2].

So if you’re a parent to a toddler, or to a smaller tot who will soon be running around, talking non-stop, and pushing at those boundaries, be encouraged! God is using you to bless your children, and there is a purpose and a goal to it all. Oh, and don’t forget – enjoy every minute!

[1] Proverbs 22v15 & 29v17

[2] Proverbs 19v18 & 23v13

Categories: Central Point Tags: , ,

Finding Joy …in Temptation

March 25th, 2011

Temptation is all around us. A bored trip through the television channels in the middle of the day will invariably reveal at least one couple wrapped in bed sheets. Wait for the commercial break and there will inevitably be all manner of sensual monotony seeking to arouse us to buy the latest perfume, deodorant, car, washing powder or cat food! Take a walk outside and any number of scantily clad individuals will confront you from billboards and buses. Walk into your office and there will immediately be the opportunity to engage in a spot of gossiping or backstabbing. Or at home, just a few minutes locked in a confined space with a screaming toddler can be enough to tempt you to all manner of evils. Wherever we go, we’re bombarded with temptation.

Whoever you are, the reality is that this next week you will face temptation. You’ll encounter situations where what you want doesn’t happen. You’ll be given opportunities to either trust God and obey him, or compromise in some way. There will be moments where your sinful desires will rise up and want to direct you. So my question for you isn’t: “Are you facing temptation right now?” – I know you are. My question is this: “How confident are you that you will be able to resist it?”

This Sunday we’ll be looking at how to consistently overcome temptation. We’re going to learn the importance and necessity of our own personal effort. And we’re also going to learn something about the nature and extent of God’s power available to us. Both are crucially important and together provide the basis for having absolute confidence in resisting temptation, however strong and persistent it may be.

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Finding Joy …in Humility

March 18th, 2011

Who do you want to be like when you grow up? I’m not just addressing this to those under 18. It’s relevant for all of us. We all have people we look up to; we all have people we aspire to be like. Who is it for you? Your Dad? Your Mum? Maybe it’s a successful businessman? Perhaps it’s a respected friend. Maybe it’s a particular celebrity you look up to and want to emulate. You see, almost all of us have role models – someone whose life serves as a pattern to imitate; a goal to shoot for. And we all know that the power of role models is enormous… and the absence of those role models can be devastating.

Now, as well as giving us something to aim for in the future, role models also reveal a lot about ourselves right now. They reveal not only what we want to be; what we hope to become… but also role models have a way of revealing to us precisely what we think we are not right now.  And the distance between my own life right now and the life of my role model; the distance between those two lives is often the distance in our minds between failure and triumph; disappointment and joy.

So what do you aspire to? And who is it who represents your goal? And how confident are you that conforming your life to be like them is going to produce the satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment, the joy that you’re really seeking in life?

Well in the passage we’re going to be looking at on Sunday, Paul’s writing to a bunch of Christians in a place called Philippi. They’ve begun following Christ, but life isn’t turning out quite as they’d expected. They are encountering opposition – and not just from outside the church. There’s a whole lot of quarrelling and dissension within the church. And Paul himself – the man they’d trusted when he’d preached the message of the Gospel to them – he’s in prison. There’s the very real risk that he’ll lose his life.

In the midst of all this discouragement, Paul writes the Philippians a letter and asks them, “Have you considered Jesus? Have you considered his life and the model it provides? For in the pattern of the life of Jesus, there’s the source and the hope of real joy.” However, as we’ll see, the particular aspect of Jesus’ life that Paul homes in on is slightly surprising!

Categories: Preaching Series Tags: ,

Finding Joy …in Death

March 4th, 2011

As human beings we all suffer from a terminal disease called mortality. The current death rate stands at 100%. Around the world 3 people die every second, 180 every minute, and nearly 11,000 every hour. If the Bible is right about what happens to us after death, it means that more than 250,000 people every day go either to Heaven or Hell. And, unless Jesus returns soon, we’re all going to die. Yet, we don’t like to think about death.

Ancient merchants apparently often wrote the words memento mori – ‘think of death’ – in large letters on the first page of their accounting books. Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, commissioned a servant to stand in his presence each day and say, “Philip, you will die.” In contrast, France’s Louis XIV decreed that the word death shouldn’t be uttered in his presence. I think most of us are more like Louis than Philip – denying death and avoiding the thought of it except for times when it’s forced on us. We live under the fear of death.

Jesus, however, came to deliver us from the fear of death, “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

In light of the coming resurrection of the dead, the apostle Paul asks, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

What delivers us from the fear of death? What takes away death’s sting? Only a relationship with the person who died on our behalf, the one who has gone ahead to make a place for us to live with him. If we don’t know Jesus, we will fear death – and we should! But, as we’re going to explore this coming Sunday, there’s something about knowing Jesus that enables us to face death with joy.

Categories: Preaching Series Tags: ,

Finding Joy… in Suffering

February 18th, 2011

Some people criticise Christianity because of its emphasis on suffering. Karl Marx is one noteworthy historical example. He said that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. In other words, when we suffer, we seek God in the same way that someone who is hurting physically might go to their doctor for a prescribed medication to alleviate their pain. Marx said that to mock Christianity. But as Christians, we would say, “No, the fact is that people really are continually suffering in various ways. And they truly do need some form of comfort and relief. At such times, God isn’t to be mocked; God’s to be pursued!”

The Bible takes our suffering very seriously. In fact, roughly one third of the Psalms (which are songs and Psalms sung by God’s people in praise and gratitude to him), include Psalms of lament, where God’s people are groaning, and struggling, and wrestling in the midst of suffering. Every prophet in the Bible, with the exception of Haggai, has at least one lament in their book. Additionally, Jesus himself lamented over Jerusalem and wept over the death of a close friend. And human suffering is so real, and so raw, that there are, occasionally, those in Scripture who, despite their great love for God, question why they were even born. Perhaps you can identify with this. If so, then Job and Jeremiah would echo your sentiment. Those two men in the Bible asked the question of God, “Why was I born? Why did I leave my mother’s womb to see nothing but sorrow, and shame, and strife, and suffering, all the days of my life?”

Suffering impacts all of our lives. To be human and alive is, by definition, to suffer. So, the question is not, “Will I suffer?” The question is, “Will I suffer in a way that is purposeful or purposeless?” Each of us is faced with a choice. Will we suffer in such a way that God might do something in us or through us; or will we suffer in a way that is purposeless – that nothing good would be accomplished in us or through us? This Sunday we’re going to learn from the Apostle Paul (who certainly experienced more than his fair share of suffering) how to suffer well.

Categories: Preaching Series Tags: ,

Joy in Loneliness

February 11th, 2011

A major report by the Mental Health Foundation suggests that more than 1 in 10 people in Britain feel lonely “often”. The same report also revealed that the percentage of households occupied by one person has doubled from 6% in 1972, to 12% in 2008; while the rising divorce rate also means the number of single-parent families is increasing rapidly. Overall, the survey found that 48% of respondents think that people are becoming increasingly isolated and detached from each other. This is backed up by the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show that there are 7.5 million people living alone in the UK; compared with 4.3 million 15 years ago.

But while loneliness is common in middle-age, or retirement, or as people go through a divorce or bereavement – the problem isn’t just confined to older age groups. A recent report by the NSPCC found that ChildLine received nearly 10,000 calls last year from children saying they felt lonely. Commenting on this, David Rose (Health Correspondent for the Times) makes a link between technology and loneliness. He writes: “Technology and the pressures of modern life are today blamed for creating an epidemic of loneliness, as increasing numbers of people rely on the internet to communicate with friends and family. While the internet has changed the way people communicate, some experts argue that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter undermine social skills and the ability to read body language, leaving people increasingly isolated.”

Now all of this simply illustrates the fact that people nowadays are increasingly disconnected. They’re isolated; they’re lonely; they’re hurting. And it’s an epidemic – it’s in the culture; it’s in the church; and for some of you, it’s in your life. So, this Sunday, as we continue our series on ‘Finding Joy’, we’re going to do a case study of someone who experienced profound loneliness – the Apostle Paul. But, as we’re going to discover, his attitude to loneliness is somewhat unexpected!

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Finding Joy

February 4th, 2011

“You may not be sure that you want your life to make a difference. Maybe you don’t care very much whether you make a lasting difference for the sake of something great. You just want people to like you. If people would just like being around you, you’d be satisfied. Or if you could just have a good job with a good wife, or husband, and a couple of good kids and a nice car and long weekends and a few good friends, a fun retirement, and a quick and easy death, and no hell – if you could have all that (even without God) – you would be satisfied. That is a tragedy in the making. A wasted Life” (Taken from John Piper’s excellent book: ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’).

So many people are wasting their lives chasing things that will never ultimately satisfy. Whether it’s a desire for friendship, or sex, or popularity, or wealth, or health, or simply accumulating more stuff – at the heart of it all is a quest for happiness. True happiness is a precious commodity that proves elusive to most. The tragedy is that although we were created to live a life of joy, many of us are looking for it in the wrong places.

This Sunday I’m going to be starting a brand new series entitled ‘Finding Joy’. Over the next four months we’re going to be working through the book of Philippians and unlocking the secret of finding joy, even in the most trying of circumstances – whether it’s loneliness, suffering, death, temptation, conflict, exhaustion, anxiety or poverty. For a society that’s failing so badly in its pursuit of happiness, this book has some revolutionary answers that, if followed, will save us from living a wasted life!

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God Comes First

January 7th, 2011

Well it’s that time of year again when in a fit of optimism many of us set goals and make great promises to ourselves about what we are going to do in the New Year. Sadly, the reality doesn’t always match our lofty dreams. This is often down to a lack of resolve on our part to keep going with our well-intentioned resolutions. However, circumstances can also conspire against us. It can be hard when things that we had hoped for don’t materialise, or things that we cherish get taken from us. Yet there is a way to safeguard against the despair, disappointment and disillusionment of unmet dreams.

I’m constantly challenged by the mindset of Asaph when he prays these radical words: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). He’s basically saying that even if he lost everything, he would still praise God. And, beyond that, he’s saying that God is his number one passion, desire, goal and treasure in life.

It was this same desire for God that enabled Habakkuk to utter these similarly profound words: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

I can’t help thinking that of all the things we could long for in the coming year, if we could only long more for God, our lives would be most deeply impacted for the better. As Jonathan Edwards put it back in the 18th century: “God himself is the greatest good which we are brought to the possession and enjoyment of through our salvation. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased.”

This Sunday I want to talk about some resolutions, some commitments which I guarantee will revolutionise your life if you follow through on them. Over and above everything else, I want to appeal to you to make knowing God your chief resolution and goal in the coming year.

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