Month: May 2009

A Beautiful Day

tap tap tapLast week I was contacted by the series editor of a range of evangelistic books called Exploring Christianity, that are published by Authentic Media. Current authors for the series include Vaughan Roberts, Graham Daniels and Krish Kandiah. To my astonishment he was emailing me to ask if I would consider writing a book for the series. 

After praying about it and chatting it through with Michelle, I have happily agreed to write a book based on a sermon I preached at Hill City last year called A Beautiful Day that unpacks the story of the healing of the lame beggar in Acts 3. I will have the blessing of an editor (which will be a massive help) and the advantage of having already done some research on the subject, as this passage has alway been one of my “In emergency – break glass” sermons.

Please do pray for this exciting project. Time is not something I have in abundance, but I really do believe that this is what God wants me to do, so I’m going to go for it all guns blazing.

Thanks and God bless.

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Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 4. Baby Jesus

baby JesusElen’s first Christmas passed her by with minimal fuss. By the second time round, however, she had really started to get her head around the whole Christmas thing – loving the bright lights, the cheesey songs and of course – all the presents. Bizzarely, however, it was a small cloth bag stuffed with soft nativity characters that she got most excited by. It contained shepherds, a sheep, 3 wise men and some dodgy-looking angels. Mary and Jo were obviously in there too, but it was little baby Jesus who really captured Elen’s imagination the most. She couldn’t get enough of him as she cuddled him, talked to him, danced with him and invited him to join her at every family meal. All she would talk about was “baby Jesus this” and “baby Jesus that.”

It really got me thinking about Jesus in a fresh way.

Whether influenced by Sunday School stories or South Park stereotyping, most of us have some kind of image in our minds when we think of Jesus. To some He’s the good teacher, to others the compassionate healer. Some think of him as a revolutionary leader while others associate Him primarily with the cross. But to Elen, He was a tiny, helpless baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.

As Pops’ Rat has already revealed to us – we need a Saviour, and that is exactly who Jesus is, as the angels told the shepherds when He was born:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2v10-12)

Jesus was the hero of heaven who had come to save us from the curse of sin, but rather than coming as a mighty warrior, or a charismatic political leader, He came as a vulnerable baby, dependent on a mother for food and warmth. He embraced the fullness of humanity from the cradle to the grave, knowing like us, what it means to grow up in a paiful, broken world, to face every trial and feel every emotion. He laughed, He cried, He triumphed and He trembled.

He knows what true life feels like from our perspective, which is awesome because it reveals to us that God is not a loveless, distant God who doesn’t give a stuff about what we go through. Rather He is a good God who is willing to step right to the heart of where we are at in order to reveal His love to us.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4v15-16) 

Baby Jesus reminded me that even a toddler can relate to the Saviour of the world.

I love that!

Sundayscool

cold barn farmYesterday was cool!

Obviously not ‘cool’ in a temperature sense of the word as it was a scorching day that actually felt like we might get a summer after all! No what I mean is that it was ‘cool’ in the slang sense of the word. In church we were very low in number for various reasons, but had loads of new faces, including several youth off the estate. I wasn’t preaching yesterday so after the worship time I decided to take a step into the unknown and go out to help with Sunday School.

Oh my days I loved it!

We played some crazy games then studied the bit in the Bible about God’s promise of a baby to Abraham and Sarah, before doing some craft and colouring. Next to our table in the small area that we’ve got available was a creche mat for our smallest church members who were full of energy and fun. Outside on the picnic tables in the sunshine, two of our team were doing bible studies with the teenagers – all of whom are fresh from the streets and completely new to the whole church thing but full of questions. Over half of our congregation was under 16 yesterday!!

After the sermon (which I’m told was a corker!) everyone got their refreshments and got to socialise outside in the gorgeous sunshine, with one of the most breath-taking views that any church in Wales could have. During this time one of the ladies off the estate told me that she had got saved during the week and would I be willing to baptise her?! (Didn’t have to think long about that one!)

Buzzin!

I love Hill City Church!!

To top it all off it was Elen’s third birthday too, so we got to bless her with some pressies then head off to Cardiff to celebrate with our fantastic family who had worked their socks  off to decorate Nanny and Bampi’s house to the max. God bless them all!

All in all – a very cool Sunday!

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 3. Pops’ Rat

pops ratWhen Elen was born she just seemed so perfect. As she started growing up, however, we soon realised that our precious little girl was not the perfect little angel she had first appeared to be.

Far from it…

As with most kids, Elen developed a real fondness for soft toys. One of her favourite hang-outs was Mamgu and Pops’ house (that’s what we call my mam and dad!) because they had a sofa in their living room with a huge assortment of soft animals strewn across the back of it. As soon as Elen was able to climb she couldn’t wait to scale the heights in order to get her hands on the various cuddly creatures that lived up there – frogs, bears, elephants, monkeys, tigers, koalas…

One day, a new animal appeared at the far end of the sofa. It was a small, grey rat that my sister had bought Pops for Christmas, and was quite special to him. Pops’ rat was therefore ‘off limits’ for Elen, who was told that she was welcome to play with all the other animals, but that she wasn’t to touch his precious rat!

What unfolded as a consequence of this new rule was as disturbing as it was hilarious!

All of a sudden Elen didn’t give a stuff about all of her other animal friends. She was focussing all of her energy, passion and criminal skill into swiping Pops’ rat from under his very nose! She tried everything from smash and grab to distraction tactics, usually failing miserably, though occasionally getting her hands on the coveted rat before being headed-off at the pass!

As comical as it was, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the bit in the Bible that explains how the world got to be so messed-up! Genesis (the first book of the Bible) tells the story of how God made the world and that the pinnacle of His creation was human beings, who He made to be in relationship with Himself. He gave our first parents, Adam and Eve, the freedom to enjoy the whole world, with just one simple command:

“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2v16-17)

In the same way that Elen broke our rules and pursued the forbidden rat, Adam and Eve rejected God’s loving law, took the forbidden fruit, thus kick-starting a tragic chain-reaction that continues to destroy our world today.

  • Rebellion against God is called sin, and we are all born in its cruel grip.*
  • All of the suffering, hatred, disease, anxiety and death in our world today are the consequence of sin in our lives.
  • Ultimately sin is a barrier that separates us from God (who is perfect), both in this life and after we die, in hell.**

If nothing else, Elen’s rebellious escapades only served to remind me that we are all sinners who need to be liberated from the Curse of Pops’ Rat!

What we need is a Saviour.

 

* Romans 3v23

** 2Thessalonians 1v9

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 2.Sunroof

If Elen looked chilled out at 12 weeks, the 20 week scan revealed a baby who was so content as she slouched about in her cosy embryonic armchair that she showed no sign of ever wanting to emerge. As the pregnancy developed, she did not budge an inch, refusing to get into the ‘engaged’ position (“Ready or not, here i come!”), opting instead for the ‘breach’ position (“We shall not, we shall not be moved!”)

Giving birth to a baby in breach is dangerous for both the baby and the mother, so Michelle agreed to give birth by elective caesarean section, meaning that she would go in for a pre-planned operation a week before the baby was due. No breaking waters, no contractions, all a bit surreal really. All of a sudden our answer to the question “when’s the baby due?” was “9am next Tuesday!”

Elen - Day1So when 9am next tuesday arrived, Elen’s peace and quiet was disturbed forever as she was hoisted out of the ‘sunroof’ and entered the bright lights of the real world. As the midwife placed this tiny, gorgeous girl into my arms it was one of the most intense, memorable, awe-inspiring moments that I had ever experienced. This precious little person in my arms was my daughter. My own flesh and blood. My responsibilty.

The landscape of my life had just changed forever – and I was buzzin!

It’s no exaggeration to say that within 2 minutes of holding Elen I was a completely different man. I felt my roughest edges melt away as I was overwhelmed by a love that was unlike anything else I had ever known. It was so raw, so powerful and so deep that I didn’t know how to process it properly. I just wanted to nurture, protect, love and encourage her forever.

Why did I love her so much? To this point she had done absolutely nothing to deserve it – she hadn’t given me any gifts or done me any favours. She literally came to me with nothing in her hands.

I guess I just loved her because she was mine.

She was part of me.

In that moment I wanted her to know how much I loved her. I wanted her to grow up so secure in that love that she would one day feel able to love me back. I guess that’s the essence of all true relationships – unconditional love inspires unconditional love.

Incredibly, that’s exactly what God’s love is like for us! The Greek word for love in the Bible is ‘agape’, which describes a love that is rooted in the desire of someon to give love, rather than in the worthiness of the recipient to receive it. It’s an awesome word! One of Jesus best mates called John once wrote:

“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4v19)

  • God loves us because He wants to.
  • He created us to love us because“God is love.”  (1John 4v16) 
  • We were designed to both enjoy His love and to love Him back.
  • We were made for a relationship with God!

That’s awesome.

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 1.Scan

scanI’ve sat in front of more screens in my life-time than is healthy for any human being – from TVs to PCs, and mobile phones to widescreen cinemas. In truth the vast majority of stuff that I watched in that time probably stayed in my conscious memory for about 5 seconds before disappearing forever, having been of absolutely no benefit to me or to humanity as a whole.

However, there was one time that I sat in front of a screen that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was the day I got to meet my little girl, Elen, for the first time. She was just 12 weeks old!

Having never seen a scan before, I was simply not ready for the emotions that surged through my system as the skectchy black and white image of this beautiful little 2 inch person (reclining with its feet up) emerged on the screen. All I could think was: “That’s my kid! It’s waving to us! Look at the size of those biceps! What a MASSIVE head!!” As I sat staring at this screen, eyes and mouth wide open with genuine wonder and amazement, a noise came over the monitor that was just awesome:

“Du-Dum…Du-Dum…Du-Dum…”

My baby’s heart was beating. I was so overwhelmed I cried! Shortly afterwards my wife read that by 6 weeks old, each little baby in the womb has a tiny heart about the size of a poppy seed, that beats on its own.

That’s a miracle!

Like at all good themeparks we got given a polaroid of ‘little dude’ as we left, and as you’d expect, we just couldn’t stop looking at it. The more I looked at this amazing photo and the more I learned about exactly what was happening inside Michelle’s womb, the more I couldn’t escape the power and poignancy of King David’s words in the Bible:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139v13-14)

  • This gorgeous little girl, just like every other baby, was being lovingly hand-crafted by God in her mother’s womb.
  • She was was no accident, but was being made in a fearful and wonderful way.
  • She was one of God’s wonderful “works”, created in the image of God* for His glory and joy. She therefore possessed inherent dignity and value.

I couldn’t escape the immensity of all that was going on. It was beautiful, poetic, even sacred. Even at that early stage of pregnancy I was bound to my little girl with a love that was as powerful as it was mysterious. A love that would only grow stronger with time.

As I started to come to terms with these new emotions, I began to catch just a tiny glimpse of how God must feel about the people that He created and loves.

We are precious in the eyes of God.

That’s a miracle.

 

*Genesis 1v27