Archive for the ‘happiness’ Tag

MY BIRTHDAY PARTY. HOORAY.

I had my 30th birthday party last Saturday night and I know what you’re expecting, dear regular reader… You’re expecting angst, and lots of it, albeit perhaps with a happy ending. You’re expecting me to pontificate on the difficulty of not drinking too much, of witnessing to non-Christians and the like… We have certainly been there before, after all. However, this time is different. My party was a disconcertingly angst-free zone! So… where then has it gone?

 

Well this ties in to the whole idea of happiness, and the fact I fear I’ve become locked into a certain ethos of late. You can see it here. It basically runs along the lines of ‘God never promises us happiness in this life. We shouldn’t expect it. Few people’s lives are truly happy as we live in a fallen and sin-infected world. Happiness doesn’t truly come until the next world’. Well that might be true, but it can quickly supplant joy and, as my wife ever reminds me, it can be tiring living around a ‘half glass empty’ type of person. I was fascinated then by two conversations this week…

 

The first was with my sister-in-law. She is a Christian, and has lost two beloved brothers in their youth to disease. However, she looked at me and my theories as if I was strange indeed. ‘Of course God wants us to be happy’ she said… The truth is probably somewhere in between. I still maintain that an expectation of happiness can leave us feeling betrayed when bad times afflict us. However, I’ll concede that He doesn’t necessarily accurse us either. My riches may be stored in heaven (well they’re certainly not in my bank account!), but He has still been kind enough to grant me immense blessings… I could probably do with focussing on them and letting them affect my mood more often.

 

The second was a brief conversation with a Christian friend during my party. He had just accessed my blog and, being of a more Charismatic persuasion himself, seemed both bemused and amused at the constant self-lacerating analysis he found there. His verdict was ‘you’re doing OK by the sound of it, and you really should worry less’. Again, I reserve my right to pursue high standards and bemoan my sinful failure to reach them, but, okay, he does have a point. I do sometimes end up appearing simply neurotic. Joy doesn’t have to simply lurk in the background…

 

Which brings us back to my party. Maybe a couple of years ago I would have had cause to fret about the collision of my Christian and non-Christian worlds. Perhaps then I was a different person depending on which of the two I was addressing. However, I think I’m generally just me nowadays… Drinking will always be a challenge, but not so much on Saturday – take Christianity out of the equation and I still think I would simply have wanted to enjoy chatting with as many people as possible and remembering what I’d said. There were a great bunch of mates there, after all… You know what?? I just had a brilliant time – really great. Everyone came, everyone seemed to have fun, everyone got on well with one another… My better half had great support after her recent bad news and has been infinitely more cheerful since. Come 2am as the last survivors sentimentally enjoyed the last few tunes, and I had a complimentary drink with the owner, I was about as satisfied as can be with proceedings. Hooray for God’s blessings, his provision of mates and parties. This really isn’t a bad old life, after all… (and thank you to anyone who was there).

 

NOTABLE PS: In case anyone doubts God’s provision in testing times: The neuro-surgeon to whom Nina has been referred is a) a parent at my school b) the Christian father of two of the very few lads to attend the Christian Union I jointly attempt to run! c) Willing to have his secretary spend time at once digging out my wife’s scan in order to deal with it at once. It’s great to feel well looked after!

For a more ironic look at providence, note the fact I made a doctor’s appointment today regarding my ongoing ankle concerns. Just as I worried that there wasn’t enough wrong with it to still warrant the appointment, I this morning tripped on the stairs and ruined it all over again. I will now limp heavily into the doctor’s surgery!

JAMES, IDOLS, HAPPINESS AND PREACHER GEEKDOM

Posted 24/1/09

STUDYING JAMES

KG and House Groups are both now tackling the book of James. I don’t know if most there will be already familiar with its content. However, I have just finished studying it in my quiet times and, may I say, it’s REALLY challenging! Perks has referred to it as the ‘great little book’ of James. Yes it is. But it’s also the ‘difficult little book’ of James, so we need to be open to the work of the Spirit if we are not to founder on verses such as ‘a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone’ (2:24) (taken out of context, this clearly causes us all kinds of headaches. That’s why atheists love to throw it our way!)

It is full of huge challenges; regarding our relationship with worldly interests – ‘get rid of all moral filth’ (1:21); and calling us to social justice – ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress’ (1:27).  It also gives us ample scope for debate, considering our expectations of God, particularly regarding healing; ‘the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well’ (5:15).I also became particularly aware that the stakes are high in James. Obviously it should be read in the knowledge that it is part of a whole in which God’s gift of grace is made abundantly clear. Even so, we shouldn’t skip lightly over the fact that we are warned ‘Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged’ (5:9) or, a few verses later, ‘Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned’ (5:12). We like to quote these verses with the scary endings omitted, but they should serve to remind us of sin’s horrific consequences.

In short then, it should be fascinating, but I hope people ask the questions rather than remain fretting over them afterwards.

PREACHERS

My good habit drive is still going – not necessarily for the same reasons it began… Yes I am still trying to keep sin at bay and I want to focus on God and all these good things. But, by nature, I’m also obsessive and a lover of knowledge… whereas I was previously funnelling that into being a music geek, film geek and football geek above all else (with maybe a little bit of history geek in there too), I am now genuinely having a whale of a time as a ‘preacher geek’. I am collecting my MP3s of Stott (professorial), Driscoll (brash), Piper (surprisingly fierce), Carson (occasionally high-pitched), Richardson (approachable), Tice (surprisingly posh for one called Rico), and Perkins of course – fascinated by their different styles and biblical interpretations; then subscribing to their blogs. There’s a whole world out there, being uncovered in my journeys to and from the workplace…!! It is so easy, though, to make these men the idols (I think Andrew P may already be a victim, having seen him become giddy as a schoolgirl when told Tim Keller was coming to London!). They are good leaders because they constantly, unerringly, point their listeners to the Bible. It’s a good thing too because, in this digital age, its not just the thousands in their churches that could be very easily led astray by anything said in addition to, or contrary to, the message of that good book.

HAPPINESS

It is my increasing conviction that we should not expect happiness or pin too many hopes upon it. So often the unevenness of the Christian walk is largely because of disappointment at our circumstances (the impounding of a car, for example!). In reality, most of human history has been a study in misery! This is a depraved old world, after all, capable as it is of lovely moments along the way. As a teacher, I tell my classes that for most in medieval Britain not even drinking water was available and few survived infancy. In Tudor times, stealing an apple was a hanging offence, and yet many did such were their desperate straits. Victoriana sees Jack the Ripper untraceable as the whole of Whitechapel was populated by the wretched gin-soaked poor – women on the game, whole families in half a room and most with no fixed abode. The world wars brought little more satisfaction as families and homes were left in pieces… in fact, only our parents generation have really birthed these expectations of comfort – luxury even – and long well-travelled retirement. And what has it resulted in?? Record levels of depression in the West!! Happiness is in fact rare and fleeting. This perhaps wasn’t a surprise or a tragedy when people were more fixed on the ‘prize’ that awaits us at the end of Philippians 3’s ‘race’. However, in an atheistic version of the world worldly happiness is all we have to cling to, so no wonder people are depressed!

IDOLS

This month has been chock full of talks and blogs on idols. I have been told more times than I can remember how Martin Luther stated that all sin first requires us to break the first 2 commandments (pertaining to loving things other than God). This relates to the notes above. All unhappiness is generally idol-based. We think we need things other than God, or are entitled to them. We then get upset when we don’t get them, or they fail to deliver. In fact, idols beget idols. We’re fat so thinness is an idol – we’re thin so fashion is our idol – we’re fashionable so attention is our idol etc etc. Most think they’d be more fulfilled by a wife, by kids, by a holiday, by a promotion, by the gym etc etc. All good ideas but, as Driscoll says, ‘don’t let your good things become your god things!’ He also says that a handy way of discovering your idols is by imagining your personal hell and your personal heaven – the things you’re lacking in the former, and blessed with in the latter, are probably your idols. This, idol-busting, really is the stuff of the Christian life!! (Following last night, my idol may just be Jenni’s roast pork dinner…)