Archive for June, 2014

Life With Joy

There was a time when I had the opportunity to work in a prison. It’s not a pleasant place. There’s a lot of anger. A lot of distrust. It certainly isn’t a place where you find people speaking positively about life.

So it comes as some surprise when you read the Bible and find a man called Paul, holed up in a prison writing a letter to a Christian church, and he includes these words: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you get those words? Rejoice … gentleness … don’t be anxious … thanksgiving … peace. No, they’re not prison words. When your freedom’s been taken away, and you’re surrounded by anger, and disappointment, and fear, most people wouldn’t talk like that.

So how come Paul, stuck in a Roman prison, was able to write words like: Rejoice in the Lord always? I reckon if we could get the heart of what Paul was saying, we would know the secret to living a successful life when things get tough. If Paul can encourage a group of people to rejoice when he’s stuck in prison, then maybe he could give us some clues about how to deal with situations where relationship breakdowns and disappointment with those we trust, have robbed us of any kind of joy in life.

If he can experience joy in prison, maybe he has some clues for helping us to live a more positive life when we are faced with illness or death, or when we’ve let ourselves down, or let our friends down, by indulging in behaviours that have caused disappointment.

How can we experience joy when things are tough? How can we be hopeful when everything around us seems to be hopeless?

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was a letter of hope and joy, despite the tough times he was experiencing, because he was absolutely focussed on Jesus and how Jesus could help him through the reality of all he was going through.

He said things like: For me to live is Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ was at the centre of his existence. Have you ever watched water go down a plug hole. All the water in the bath or the sink is attracted to that centre point and it goes around in circles, with the plug hole at the centre.

I think that’s what Paul meant when he said, for me to live is Christ. Everything in his life, including his lonely existence in a dark, cold Roman prison, was centred around Jesus. Everything was attracted and drawn to that central point.

So instead of everything being centred on his troubles, Paul allowed those tough times to be centred on Jesus. And all of a sudden there was a sense of meaning and purpose to what was happening to him.

If things are tough for you, I want to encourage you to centre your life on Jesus. Go on fill up the sink with water, then pull the plug. As you watch the water go down, stop thinking your life’s going down the plug hole — think about what it means for Jesus to be at the centre of everything – the good things, and the bad.

This Sunday morning I start a series on Philippians at Maida Vale Baptist Church entitled “Life with Joy – When Times are Tough”, based on the Letter to Philippians in the Bible. I’d love you to come and join us.

 

 

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earI came across a great post this week in which Rick Warren stated that “probably 75% of the problems we face, at home, at work, and at church are related to poor communication with family members, church members, your clients, or your coworkers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.”

Here are three things Rick says you must give up in order to grow as a communicator. As you lead…

Give Up Your Assumptions

We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is – everything you hear goes through a filter. Your filter is determined by your past experiences and your unique personality. You may not be hearing what they are really saying. Therefore, it’s smart (and safe) to ask for clarification. There are 6 possible messages every time you speak:

  • What you mean to say and what you actually said.
  • What they heard and what they think they heard.
  • What they say about it and what you think they said about it.

Proverbs 18:13 says “It’s foolish to answer before listening.”

There is a second kind of assumption you need to give up on. Stop assuming people understand everything you’re thinking and feeling as you communicate. It’s only fair to clearly and completely share your expectations with people when you assign them a task or a project. You must find a way to be both concise and complete, and always clear when you communicate.

Give Up Your Accusations

You’re never persuasive when you’re abrasive. And you never get your point across by being cross. Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive… and defensiveness kills communication. Here are four common forms of accusation:

  • Exaggerating – making sweeping generalities like ”You never ” or “You always.”
  • Labeling – derogatory name calling. Labeling never changes anyone. It only reinforces the negative behavior.
  • Playing Historian – bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.
  • Asking Loaded Questions – which really can’t be answered, like “Can’t you do anything right?”

Ephesians 4:29 says Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Give Up Your Apprehensions

Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest – real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free!” (John 8:32)

Good teams communicate, or they disintegrate. It’s worth giving up our assumptions, our accusations, and our apprehensions to build unity and lead everyone forward.

Thanks Rick for some great advice.

circus1

Fun Factory is one of the highlights of the church year at Maida Vale Baptist Church. A lot of preparation is going into this event, and I’ve even been getting together my clown costume in preparation. Yep, that’s right, the green wig that I used during Baptistcare’s 40th anniversary celebrations is coming out of the box again.

The reason for the clown costume is that our theme is circus and we’ve got a heap of great activities during the first week of the school holidays.  You can check out all the information at the church website.

Circus is a fun theme, but there are some principles behind circus that are important to life. Reg Bolton was a pioneer of circus in education in Western Australia and did his PhD thesis on the theme of “Why Circus Works – How the values and structure of circus make it a significant developmental experience for young people”.

In his thesis he said that behavioural abnormalities or psychoses are often linked to developmental stages that have been missed, uncompleted, repressed or associated with trauma, and contended that “caring adults, who may not necessarily be trained counsellors or psychologists, by offering the circus experience to children and teenagers can provide them an opportunity to make good those deficits, by giving them more chance to advance to adulthood without gaping holes in their psycho-social personae”.

Bolton drew on a 19th century jingle as an aide to develop his theory on child development:

Monday’s child is fair of face (self)
Tuesday’s child is full of grace (fun)
Wednesday’s child is full of woe (risk)
Thursday’s child has far to go (dreams)
Friday’s child is loving and giving (trust)
Saturday’s child works hard for a living (work)
But the child that is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

From this he used the five fingers to expand his thesis on the personal qualities of childhood.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 4.26.38 pmWe’re making use of some of Reg Bolton’s theory as we work our way through the week of Fun Factory, and we’re drawing on some stories in the Bible that say the same things about human development and growth – all wrapped up in fun.

Counting the sleeps till Fun Factory!!

rubikI have to admit, I’ve never been successful in solving Rubik’s Cube. I tried for a while, but 40 years on, I have to admit failure.

The clever little invention, just celebrated its 40th anniversary. For those who may have missed it, Rubik’s Cube is a three-dimensional combination puzzle with six different colours. The idea is to twist the cube until you have just one colour on each of the six sides.

As simple as it may seem, the cube became the world’s top selling puzzle game.

In 2009 Britain’s Daily Mail reported that 45 year old Graham Parker had solved the puzzle after 26 years of trying, that involved more than 27,400 hours of work.

He thought it was worth it.

There are lots of puzzles that we come across in life – philosophical questions, like where does life come from? Why do good people suffer? How can we achieve peace in the world? Sometimes, like my approach to Rubik’s Cube , we’ll put those questions to one side and agree that they’re puzzles we don’t need to pursue.

Sometimes like Graham Parker who worked at Rubik’s Cube for 26 years until he solved the puzzle, there are people who will doggedly pursue these deep philosophical questions, until they feel satisfied that they have come up with some kind of solution.

One day Jesus disciples asked him how they should pray, and after suggesting some of the principles of prayer, he told a story. He said, suppose you had a friend, and you went to him at midnight and said, an old friend has turned up after a long journey, and I haven’t got any food for him. Now your friend says, go away, it’s midnight; we’re all in bed. But you’re really desperate, and you don’t want to let down your other friend who has come to visit, so you keep on knocking on the door and asking for help. Finally, out of desperation your friend gives you some bread, just to keep you quiet.

Jesus used that story to explain one of the aspects of prayer. He said, ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

How desperate are you to get to the bottom of some of the problems in your life? Not just philosophical questions, but issues that really disturb you: How can I find peace? What happens to me after I die? What’s the purpose of life?

We look in all sorts of places for answers to these puzzling questions? Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in addictive behaviours simply because we want solutions and we can’t find them. I want to say that the answers to many of the deep puzzles of life can be found in Jesus.

And like the man who knocked at his friend’s door at midnight and kept on knocking and calling out until his friend heard him, we need to be persistent in asking Jesus for help.

When you pray for solutions, don’t stop at a simple request. Jesus effectively said, keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.

Jesus knows about your puzzles and he’s waiting to hear from you.

fireworks

The first week in June is Western Australia Week. We used to use this week to focus on our past, to remember the time the first European settlers arrived to found the Swan River Colony in 1829. These days, we spend less time reflecting on our past and focus more on Western Australia as a great place to live, to celebrate our achievements, to acknowledge the people who make up our state, and to recognise those who have contributed to the state in the past.

It’s kind of a big birthday party.

Have you noticed that a child will tell you for months that they’re “nearly five” but we’re not so keen to mention our age as we start to approach 50. So a five year old’s birthday is very different from a 50 year old’s birthday party.

Indigenous West Australians may celebrate WA Week differently from a person who has migrated to the state from Europe or the United Kingdom. We celebrate for different reasons and in different ways, depending on the event, our age, where we live, and our family or national traditions.

But celebration is important because it is an acknowledgement that something special has occurred.

In the Bible, King David noticed how people would celebrate the goodness of God.

This is what he had to say in Psalm 145:

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever.Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever.Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

The fact that God is good isn’t just something that we brush over or even ignore. David thought it was worth celebrating.

From the days when Aztecs would throw people into volcanoes in an effort to appease an angry god, people’s view of God hasn’t always been of a god who is good. Yet, we are told in the Bible of a God who loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for us.

That sort of love is amazing. Such goodness is beyond our comprehension. And in fact, we don’t even deserve it. But that’s the beauty of a God who knew that we couldn’t live up to his standards ourselves, so he reached out to us, and offered us eternal life, peace with God and hope for the future.

If your view of God is of an abusive god, an angry God, someone who is disappointed in you, or someone who wants to punish you, I’d encourage you to think again about the concept of God being good.

Because in Jesus we discover that God does recognise our shortfalls, but is prepared to give up everything so that we can live at peace with him. Jesus confirms to us that he is a good God. A God who is trustworthy, is patient, and, as David said, is rich in love.

That’s worth celebrating.