Month: May 2010

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 8. Christmas Day

I can still remember Elen’s first Christmas, though I have to confess that this is mainly due to the fact that for the first time in my life I wasn’t the one getting all the flashy presents – she was!! At the time she was just a dribbling 7month old who didn’t even know how to use all the super-cool stuff her doting relatives had lavished upon her. Myself on the other hand had to suck it up and get used to the idea that I had been relegated from the designer clothes and tech gadgets league to the box of chocolates and budget socks league!

Gutted!!

Truth is I wasn’t really that bothered at all. After all it was Elen’s first Christmas and I wanted her to be blessed to the max. Plus I quite like budget socks!! She might not have remembered much of that Christmas, but her second one – now that was a different matter…

By the time Christmas number 2 had arrived Elen had grown into a beautiful, bouncy toddler, full of life, laughter and creative energy. Michelle had been racking her brains for the perfect gift and came up trumps when she managed to get hold of a quality kid’s kitchen set, complete with cooker, hob, dishwasher and all the utensils! It was right up Elen’s street and we knew she’d love it! The problem was wrapping the jolly thing. We’d set it up all ready for her and it was huge – literally twice her size! We stayed up late on Christmas Eve wrapping all her gifts and eventually managed to get them all done – including the colossal kitchen! As we went to bed that night we were both buzzin’ to see exactly how Elen was going to respond to her special gift on Christmas morning…

As Christmas morning dawned Elen woke up full of excited anticipation. I’d like to think her excitement was all down to her passionate appreciation of the nativity story, but in reality she was a 19month old little girl and it was all about the merchandise at this point! After joining us for a cwtch in bed we went downstairs and her little face lit up as she saw this huge object, smothered in wrapping paper, waiting for her in the middle of the living room.

What she did next was profound.

She did what every kid in her position would have done – she hurried over to it and wasted no time in ripping strips of paper off until she made it to the prize underneath. To say she liked it would be an understatement of epic proportions! She went crazy for it and got straight down to cooking us breakfast (nothing like plastic sausage and chips for Brekkie on Christmas morning!)

But here’s the point – she saw the gift and just went for it! No fear. No doubt. No suspicion. No looking for strings. She knew it was a gift from parents who love her to bits and she trusted that it was going to be something good!

To me this was one of the most important lessons I learned from my little girl because this is how God wants us to respond to His gift for us. What is His gift? Check it out:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6v23)

God’s gift to us is eternal life that is solely, freely available to us through Jesus. He paid for it with His own blood on the cross and He now offers it to all who would receive it. Yet so many hear the good news of salvation and reject it. They say it sounds too good to be true. They question the validity of the gift, doubt the integrity of the Giver, fear what it’ll cost them, or refuse to accept that anything comes free and without strings!

Maybe that’s where you’re at!

If so, consider the words of Jesus Himself:

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18v17)

On the morning of Elen’s second Christmas I learned what Jesus was getting at when He said this! My little girl trusted us, grabbed hold of the gift, received it joyfully and boy was she blessed?!

That’s how we are to respond to Jesus!

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A Generation Crying Out For Community

I was on the BBC news website yesterday when I came across a tragically interesting article entitled Young more lonely than the old. In a nut-shell, the article explained that despite being more technologically advanced than ever before, in reality ours is a generation that has never been so fragmented and so lonely! In fact, while loneliness is a problem that is clearly affecting every element of society, it’s the young and ‘most-connected’ that are the most isolated and the most disconnected. The article states that:

“Nearly 60% of those aged between 18 to 34 questioned spoke of feeling lonely often or sometimes, compared to 35% of those aged over 55.”

60% of 18-30s are lonely! That’s nuts!! Nearly every single person in that age bracket has a phone in their pocket that can connect them to the rest of the world. The majority also have access to the internet and are registered with at least one of the thousands of online social networking sites that’s out there (Facebook currently has 450million users!!) They have more expandable income and more opportunity to socialise, travel and connect with others than at any other point in history.

Yet 60% of those connected to the world and surrounded by the crowd are lonely?

That’s so tragic! For me the greatest tragedy is that we were created by a God who is a community (Father, Son, Spirit) to be in community! When God stated that “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2v18) it wasn’t just about ordaining marriage, it was about establishing community! Adam and Eve weren’t just the first man and woman/husband and wife – they were the first community too! When sin entered the fray just a chapter later it shattered both our vertical relationship with God and also our horizontal community with each other. We’ve been suffering ever since. Every generation that arises is a generation further away from Eden’s garden, yet the craving for community has never left us!

We crave it.

We look for it.

But we can’t find it!

So what hope is there for us?

Answer: The Church!

God’s answer to a world that has been torn apart by sin was the gospel mission of Jesus to reconcile us to Himself by His death and resurrection. Vertical relationship restored! However, in His grace He also reconciles us to each other by making us a new people who belong to Him – His church! In responding to the gospel we become part of His body, living stones who are being built-up together as part of His glorious Kingdom! Horizontal relationship restored!

Church should therefore be a place where true community is experienced and enjoyed. A place where the lost and the lonely find refuge, hope and belonging in Christ. A place where we are connected to God and to each other in love. So much of what Jesus taught and Paul echoed was the corporate power of the gospel. The “one another” teaching of scripture is a huge subject! We can only serve, honour, bless, greet, consider and love one another if we’re in community!

I guess the challenge is how do our churches fare in this area? Faith has become such a private affair that it would seem many of the 60% are sitting in our midst each week – part of the crowd but not part of the community. If that’s the case, the gospel has not fully taken root! Church is meant to be so much more than a gathering of individuals – we were saved to be a worshipping community on mission together!

By God’s grace while my own church, Hill City, is far from perfect, we are a community. A girl from the estate was saved recently. Interestingly what got the ball rolling for her considering the gospel of Jesus was the dynamic, sincere and inescapable love that she experienced whenever she was around the saints of Hill City. It was, in her words, unlike any other sort of love she’d encountered anywhere else! It instigated a process that ultimately led to her crying out to Jesus for salvation! Who saved her? Jesus! How did He reveal His love to her? Through His people!

We got to be part of it!

I LOVE THAT!!!

The beauty is that now she’s saved she’s part of the family. No awkward “how do we help her get her head around the weird ways of church.” It was the church that attracted her, so it only makes sense that now she’s part of it – she’s loving it!

God please help us as your people to be the answer to the prayers of a generation crying out for community!

Out Of The Mouth Of Babies And Infants…

Simply had to share this little nugget from our family time this morning. We were all in the living room and chatting about the twins when Elen (4yrs) came out with this:

“I’m going to teach them about ballet, flowers and butterflies, and God!”

Loving how precious that was I asked her what it was about God that she would teach them. Check out her reply:

“That He is holy. That He is always with us. And that He died on the cross to forgive us for our sins!”

Blown away by that profound answer, Michelle asked her why she thought Jesus died on the cross, to which she replied:

“Because He wants us to be part of His family…because He loves us!”

Michelle then asked Elen how she would teach these things to the twins. Elen’s reply:

“With the Bible!”

I’ve got to confess that I was buzzin’ to to the max at my little girl’s beautifully simple grasp of the gospel. As I’ve expressed in Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl, it’s been incredible as Elen’s dad to learn more about the Father-heart of God as she’s been growing up. But to hear her starting to articulate some of the big truths of the gospel in her own words at such a young age – that’s so much more thrilling!! I just pray that the truths she’s starting to understand will very soon drop from her head to her heart (if they haven’t already!!)

It’s literally one of the most special episodes of my life as a dad so far.

Thank you Jesus that “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8v2)

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Little Girl – 7. Jesus Is Alive In Wetherspoons

I wasn’t there for this particular episode, but Michelle insists it was one of the funniest moments from Elen’s frequently hilarious toddler-hood. Here’s how it went down:

We had just moved to a new area and were still finding our feet, meeting new people etc. So you can imagine Michelle’s joy when she was invited to join a bunch of young mums and their little-uns on their weekly pilgrimage to Wetherspoons, for an early morning brekkie and a natter! Before long she was loving the warm friendship (and reasonably-priced toast) and the Wetherspoons jaunt soon became a regular fixture for the Hankey girls.

Now Elen has always loved songs! I mean she wasn’t so much the kid who knows all the words to “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” She was more like a pint-sized jukebox who would burst out into song regardless of time or place. It was almost as if someone had put a coin in the slot and she had no choice but to perform!

One morning whilst chilling in Wetherspoons, the Jukebox simply had to play. At that time Elen was really loving a worship song called Happy Day by a guy called Tim Hughes. The lyrics for the second verse go like this:

When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours Jesus You are mine.
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive.
He’s alive!

So there she was sat at the table with the whole gang, when she turned to Michelle and passionately declared “HE’S ALIVE!!!” Not sure what people made of it – if anything! Some might not have known what she was on about. Others perhaps knew it was about Jesus and chose not to draw attention to it. Or maybe they all just found it really cute. Who knows? All I know is that my 22month old little girl strolled into a pub one day and proclaimed the most important message of all time!

Jesus is alive!

This is literally the most crucial truth out there. Here’s why:

1. It proves that we can trust Jesus
Jesus made some huge claims and some massive promises, but none was more audacious than this one: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9v31) If Jesus is dead – so are His promises and so is our faith. But Jesus isn’t dead, He’s alive and well and 100% trustworthy.

2. It takes the fear out of death
Fear of death is still the world’s number 1 fear. By conquering death, Jesus has showed that death doesn’t have the final word – He does! Those who believe in Him can confidently say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1v21) Death holds no fear for those who believe that Jesus is alive.

3. It guarantees us eternal life
Jesus guaranteed a new-kind life to everyone who puts their faith in Him – life that is full (John 10v10) and eternal (John 3v16). This life is made real to us by the same power that bust Jesus out of the grave being unleashed inside us: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8v11).

Jesus is alive! It’s such great news!

Take it from a toddler who knows!!

Happy Birthday Elen!

Today is my gorgeous daughter’s 4th birthday! We celebrated this afternoon by going on a trip to the Parc play centre in Cardiff where we spent several hours mucking around in the sunshine and eating hot dogs and ice cream! However, this evening I intend to celebrate slightly differently – I’m going to try to finish my Lesson I Learned From My Little Girl series!

Why so?

Because I just got distracted from finishing the last 2 chapters last year and it struck me today that she’s growing up at a rate of knots! She’s still teaching me more about my God and myself than just about anyone else I know, but she won’t be my little girl for long. So here goes…

Why Jesus Is Better Than Football

Just felt I needed to post this BEFORE this afternoon’s epic football match has kicked off! For those who have no idea what I’m on about – at 3pm this afternoon Cardiff City (the team I’ve supported since I was a kid) face Blackpool at Wembley for a place in the Premier League.

Should they win it will be the first time City have played top flight football for 4 decades. It’s also reputed to bring with it a £90m windfall that will more than pay off the club’s crippling debts. Should they lose, however, financial meltdown is a very real possibility!

No matter which way you look at it – today’s result is huge!

Unfortunately I was unable to get tickets to watch the match at Wembley, so instead I’ll be hooking up with some of my mates in Cardiff to watch it on the big screen in Cardiff Bay. I’ve got to say I’m nervous cos right now the result is a huge unknown. This evening I’m either going to be dancing home to Trevethin, or soaking my shoes in the floods of tears spilled by thousands of heart-broken City fans.

It’s crazy what football matches can reduce grown men too!

Which is why before I do a post-match blog entry I want to say this:

JESUS IS BETTER THAN FOOTBALL!!!

Whether City get promoted today, or face yet another season of financial uncertainty and playing mediocre clubs in the Championship, my salvation and my eternal security are secure! And that’s better by far than the heights of footballing success!

Unlike today’s match, I know the result already:

“It is finished” (John 19v30)

The cross and resurrection have delivered the perfect result and nothing can alter the outcome:

  • My sin is atoned for.
  • My debt is paid.
  • My chains are broken.
  • My death is died.
  • My adoption papers are signed.
  • My name’s in the Book of Life.
  • My destination is heaven.
  • My mansion is awaiting.
  • My Jesus is supreme!

So as I’m biting my finger-nails with the blue-shirted City supporting masses today, the anthem I’ll be singing regardless of what happens on the pitch is this:

“thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 15v57)

Hill City Beermats

Another quick post to introduce you to Hill City’s latest outreach initiative – Beermats.

I’ve just taken delivery of 2000 customized beermats that have the Hill City Church logo on the one side, and the phrase “There must be more to life than this” on the other, complete with details of where and when the church meets, along with our web address and a description of oursleves as “A fresh expression of church that loves God, loves people and loves life.”

We intend to deliver these beermats, complete with a music CD, to every house in Trevethin in the hope that they will be used as what they are – beermats – by those who are sick of life as it is and hungry for life as it should be! I’d love to hear people testify in years to come that the turning point in their life came as they were drowning their sorrows one day when they took a second look at that random beermat that had been shoved through their letterbox…

Please pray for us that God would use these mats for His glory here in Trevethin!