Friday, 28 May 2010

Finding Happiness

Happiness is contagious. You catch it from others. That's why the happiest people on earth are those who are blessed with others. When they are with others they spread and catch happiness. Yet for many people happiness is an allusion- it alludes them. They buy books, attend seminars, go on retreats, hire life-coaches in an attempt to remedy their unhappiness. But the remedy to this allusion can often end up leaving them sadder (as well as out-of-pocket).
Happiness is a wonderful gift from God. Those who have it have learned how to share it. They have learned that it is not caused by circumstances, but by their own responses. They have quickly discovered how to ensure that it disappears and have made certain resolutions that would ensure they are more likely to be in a happy state than an unhappy one.
Of course the Christ follower has many obvious reasons to be happy. We have had our true condition revealed to us and it is desperately pitiful. Of course this is not a reason to be happy, except that it makes the solution to our dire and critical condition all the more wonderful! There is the line in a hymn that says,
My shame was deep
But His mercy was deeper still
The ageing and by then blind John Newton, who wrote the classic song Amazing Grace, became quite vague toward the end but on his deathbed he said conceded and gloried-
There are many things I cannot remember, but this I can never forget-
I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour!
Speaking at a church dinner for Crossroads Christian Church, St Leonard MarylandBut not all Christ-followers realise their wonderful reason to be infinitely happy. This is why the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians that he was praying that the eyes of their understanding would be opened to what Christ had really done for them.
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18
If someone introduced themselves to you as "your protector" you might be mildly thankful - but you would be greatly more thankful if you had seen what they had just protected you from! God is our Protector! We have cause to be happy!
Happy People Know That...
1. Happiness is contagious - you don't find it in isolation - good friends go with happiness
2. Excessive inactivity and idleness eats happiness away
3. Setting and assessing regular goals helps happiness
4. Everyone feels unhappy at times, and that's OK
5. Their own happiness grows as they give it away
6. When things are good there is Someone to thank! 

Even in the midst of phenomenally negative circumstances the Apostle Paul was happy. He lists some of the hardships he had recently endured and then said-
Romans 8:37 ¶ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Wow! "More than conquerors"...Wow!!!! Not just conquerors - more than conquerors!In the ancient era in which Paul wrote, Conquerors would make their vanquished enemies their 'footstools'. That is, they would have to bow down before their conqerors. But to be "more than a conqueror" is not to just have your enemies bow before you but to have your enemies serve you. Paul saw that trials, distress, deprivation, pain and even the death of loved ones, actually served us! It's not that we just overcome these things, we are not just conquerors, we are more than conquerors! It's not our circumstances which determine whether we can be happy or not. We can be more than conquerors in the midst of pain, trials, and difficulties and therefore enjoy life and be happy! 
Father, help us to be happy. Open our eyes so that we can see why we really have great cause to be happy. Thank you that You have shown us our true condition so that we can sense just how infinitely pitiful we really are. And thank You Lord God for Your infinite mercy extened toward us by sending Jesus Christ to suffer and die in our place . We give You thanks for the Holy Spirit Whom You have sent into our hearts and minds. So Lord, despite our circumstnaces please fill us with great joy and help us to be happy. In Jesus' Name,

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Heavens Will Be Set On Fire

The story goes that an educational experiment was conducted to test the impact ofpreconceptions. Two classes of children were carefully selected to ensure that both groups of children were of near equal intellectual and academic abilities. Then two teachers of near equal ability and experience were selected to be the classroom teachers for these two classes of children. But both teachers were given wildly different information about their classes. One teacher was told that they had been selected to teach this particularly difficult class of children. This class, they were told, were disrespectful, unwilling to learn, hard to manage, and years behind the academic averages for their age group. The other class teacher was told they were selected because of their outstanding teaching abilities with gifted children. These children, this teacher was told, were the exceptionally gifted and needed to be stretched academically. The story goes that both teachers fulfilled their preconceived ideas about their respective classrooms of children. The alleged difficult learners proved to be very difficult learners and the gifted students seemed to indeed display all the traits of academically gifted children. The point of this story is that expectations deliver different results. Perhaps a similar point can be made about the way in which we approach Scripture...
I've been teaching the Art and Science of Biblical Interpretation for several years now for two Colleges. I've also been privileged to be a guest lecturer in this subject in several overseas colleges. The technical name for this field of study is "Hermeneutics". One of the first objectives I give my students is to get them to appreciate the overall message of Scripture. By understanding the "Big Picture" of the Bible, it better helps the student to correctly understand the particular details of a Bible passage. The other objective I give them is to then try and dispense with their preconceived ideas about what the Bible says, or at least to become open to other points of view, and to then learn how to test these interpretations of the text.
The problem with approaching a particular text of the Bible with a preconceived notion of what it means is that it can hinder us from appreciating its actual meaning. I think this might be the case with the Second Peter 3:12 text.
There are some things in Scripture that are deduced by reasonable implication. That is, there is consistent and sufficient evidence within Scripture to be able to conclude certain acceptable doctrines, even though the particular doctrine may not be discussed exhaustibly in one Biblical passage. This is the case with the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is deduced by appreciating the overall message of Scripture. But there are some 'doctrines' that have been formulated on the basis of preconceived ideas. This approach to Scripture is known as "eisogesis". But then there is a more subtle form of eisogesis which takes a Biblically deduced doctrine and falsely reads it into texts which do not support it. This type of preconceived Biblical interpretation is far more difficult to discern because it attempts to endorse a legitimate doctrine but does so with inappropriate texts. I consider Second Peter 3:12 to be such a text. [Read full article]