Sometimes, it’s easy to think of all the things we’re not proud of and the things we wish could be changed. But maybe it’s more important to recognise the things we do believe in and are proud of; to recognise our accomplishments. Our accomplishments play an important part in determining our joy in life.
Matthew 5:48 says - “Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Now that sounds like a high bar to get over! “Be perfect”! How is that even possible if it means “sinlessly” perfect for the rest of our lives.
I think Matthew means for us to understand that God wants us to grow, for the rest of our lives, to become more and more, like the God who made us; to realise our God given potential.
In Philippians 2:12f., Paul helps us understand how we go about reaching that potential.
We’re to work out (practice/rehearse it), we’re to be patient and we’re to work hard.
May God help us to do it, to do those things that help us grow in Christ Jesus.
"This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Don’t we long for that – strength? One of the places that we can miss out on joy (strength) is our own inner attitudes. Paul, when he writes to the church in Philippi (chapter 2) talks about how our attitudes can bring us joy and therefore strength.
He explains how –
we invite joy with humility,
we build joy on the foundations of encouragement, comfort, fellowship and tenderness and compassion, and
we grow in humility (and joy) by following the example of Jesus.
There’s no such thing as perfect circumstances, in any of our lives.
So, if joy is perfect circumstances, we’re doomed to a life without joy.
Yet, over and over, Scripture tells us that God wants to bring joy into our lives.
James 1:2-3 (Message) is just one example of many …
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.”
Paul, writing to the Philippians (Chapter 1:12-30) gives us some clues about how we can live joyfully in our circumstances –
Look beyond our circumstances
Look beyond the personalities
Look beyond the temporary
Look beyond the bad news
The writer of Hebrews says - “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (New International Version)
Author Mike Mason (Champagne for the Soul – Celebrating God’s Gift of Joy) asks – “If you were given the chance, to be happy for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you jump at it.”
And the Bible makes that very offer, but most of us hang back, reluctant and sceptical. We might agree that the Bible teaches and offers a life of joy, but deep down, we’re not convinced that such a life is practical.
Nevertheless, it seems, that joy is truly ours to claim and embrace. What we hold in our hands is God’s call to throw off our worries and complaints and “to come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21).
"Thank you, thank you very much" – Elvis Presley
We have just enjoyed Christmas. Most of us will have given and received presents? Were we grateful? Disappointed? Most of us had special meals. Were we thankful or did we take them for granted? How often do we say “Thank You”? What are we thankful for? How much of our lives do we take for granted? Giving thanks is hard when life is difficult. Even then there is reason to be thankful. When we experience blessing we often are thankful for a while and then forget our good fortune.
Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Everyone seems to be in rush to get to work these days. As life gets faster and faster we become more and more consumeristic and entitled. I often find myself complaining about the smalls things, such as the quality of the coffee I’ve just paid top dollar for. The truth is people are becoming self-obsessed and life often becomes more about what we can get and not what we can give. We suffer from the "Mesus syndrome" instead of following Jesus.
Jesus tells us to not only love God but also our neighbour (Matt 22:36-40). He goes on further and tells us to love our enemies and the un-lovable (Matt 5:44). Following Jesus means that we die to our selfish desires and we take up our cross and follow him, no matter the cost (Matt 16:24-26).
We live in an age of individualism and massive social, technological, economic, political and, dare I say, religious change.
Just when we think we understand what is going on around us an “expert” tells us that this may not be the case, or the government changes the rules, or our personal circumstances change dramatically.
Is it any wonder that many people in our society are having nervous breakdowns and quite often at a younger age?
We all need an expert who doesn’t move the goalposts and who can guide us through this morass.
His Name is Jesus, His Word is Truth & He has sent the Holy Spirit to guide us.
John 14:v6 Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth & the Life.”
These days, children being born out of wedlock is no big deal. Hey, we don’t even use that term anymore. Living together, having children without getting married … those are just, these days, seen as valid lifestyle choices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re right, just that that’s how it is.
Back when most of us were growing up, the technical name for a child being born out of wedlock was, yep, you remember it: “a bastard”.
And as unsettling as it is, as disturbing as it is to our celebration of Christmas, that’s exactly what Jesus was and how He was seen when He was born, in a society far more prudish, far more legalistic, far more concerned with social morays, than even the one in which many of us grew up.
Jesus, the illegitimate God.
So, what exactly should we be celebrating, this Christmas?
Think about it - there is only one person in all of history who could have arranged the exact circumstances of their own birth. Jesus.
So, what did He choose for Himself? A castle? Royal comfort, prestige and wealth? Clearly not.
He choses a smelly, draughty and, shall we call it, an intensely unhygienic stable in which to be born. The most humble of circumstances, and, as things turned out, the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances that saw him becoming a refugee.
And yet, here we are, about to celebrate a nice, safe, comfortable, dare one say, ritualistic Christmas, with all its trappings, two thousand years on.
Here’s the question, then, that inevitably hits you between the eyes? What in the blazes was God thinking, schlepping His Son through this terrible place? And what is He trying to say to us, here and now, in our comfortable little Christmas ritual?