Sunday, 19 May 2013

Sermon series at Hope Community Church.

The elders of the church I attend went on a retreat to spend time studying God's Word, praying and enjoying each others company.  A number of folks who attend HCC have been respectfully asking for teaching on the Holy Spirit. God answered our prayers at that retreat. The elders took immediate action. Praise God for godly men willing to change schedules to follow God agenda rather than man's.

"We  need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's presence amongst us, God's empowerment for mission, and God's way of helping us to experience life in our relationship with Him.  All the blessings we have as Christians are Spirit given blessings (Eph 1:3)."  As a church we "desire to grow in our desperation for and discernment of the Holy Spirit of God." (HCC)

Listen here

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Parenting joys and challenges - a constant.

"You know those days when you think to yourself, who are these rude, grumpy, aliens who have taken over my children?" I can't remember where I read this quote, but I wrote it down, and some days it resonates.

I know it isn't just my children who morph into aliens - I do too!  So do other peoples children.  On many occasions I have had conversations with parents who admit their children have been used by God to humble them and cause them to depend on God in a daily, surviving way.

I had a very surprising experience when one of my darlings was about 2 years of age.  He was what kind people call an 'active child' but most just look exhausted and say 'gosh, he's full-on'. He was notorious as having one church creche worker assigned solely to him!  He was an escape artist.  At this time I was doing my best to organise a team who ran a toddler music group at our church as an outreach into the community.  Sadly my child was not terribly co-operative (understatement), and I spent a very stressful few hours working and chasing my child after he escaped shut doors to run out into a car park.  Every outing we undertook was stressful - as is the case with a Houdini child. 

This phase of life was a real challenge for me. I did my best to put on my happy face and solider on, then I started experiencing panic attacks. I look back and smile at my response, keeping in mind  I worked in mental health before I had children.  I was utterly flabbergast, I couldn't possibly suffer from panic attacks they were a mental health condition.  I was a worker not a sufferer!  Yes, I was to tumble off my perch.  So I took action, I quit everything I was involved in at church and stayed home - the only place I could contain my wee fella. I had a massive blessing from God, when a friend was made redundant from her job, she offered to church members free or cheap services, such as gardening, cooking, cleaning, and she just happened to be a trained in sports massage. Thank you Lord!  She came every week to give me a 'dribble-worthy' massage and we discussed mental health as she had learnt to work through depression on a number of occasions in her life. She will always hold a very special place in my heart for her gift to me, I thank God for His gift through her.  I was so blessed to have this sort of therapy available to me. Over time life became manageable again.

I don't blame my darling 2 year old for sending me over the edge, his energetic endeavours were only another contributing factor to a hectic pace I had chosen to live, but I love how God used his behaviour to humble me.

My pride was removed. Humbling doesn't require panic attacks, sometimes it's when our wee darlings call out "Is that man pregnant?" very loud in the supermarket!  That will take a large slice off your pride!  I love having these sort of discussions with parents. Some have even smile back at how arrogantly they judged parents before they had their own.  Many of us were experts before we even had children.  God has a fabulous sense of humour.  He knew our children would teach us, amuse us, humble us and delight us, all within the space of 20 seconds!

So thankful for lessons learnt, and continue to learn.  My sister always warned her children when they were growing up that when they become teenagers she would delight in being the embarrassing one.  She's mastered it, sadly they are used to her crazy antics and I think they have pre-warned their friends.  I'm looking forward to being an embarrassing mother too - what goes around - not quite the right theology, but I am looking forward to it all the same! And just maybe my embarrassing behaviour may teach my boys something, like theirs has taught me - humility.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Some thoughts on Self Esteem

Where does your esteem lie?  In yourself or in God?  It is easy to grab hold of the latest theories or fads and run with them (I won’t even mention the Atkins diet). Sometimes we even try fads when we aren't convinced they work.  Self-esteem is one bandwagon with quite significant longevity.  It was fashionable when I was in my teens (‘cough-mumble’ years ago) and still appears to be today. Most fads fade with time, but self-esteem seems to have hung on. Keeping it in perspective, Big Mac’s have been around a long time, but that doesn't make them good for you.  I wonder if the self-esteem band-wagon is still going strong because no-one has come up with a secular replacement yet. I’d like to take a few minutes to look at this.

Self esteem has been a popular theme in Christian psychology for a while now but I do wonder what the point is. Attempting to raise one’s self esteem by your own efforts, is like trying to blow up a balloon with a hole in it. Culturally we are programmed to think individually, but naturally we are born sinful and therefore think selfishly.  We put a lot of time in trying to influence how others view us and if they see us in a good light then we feel temporarily fulfilled. Speaking of temporarily fulfilled – retail therapy, anyone???? What people think of us, the conclusions they make of us, how accepted we are by them, sound a lot less like self-esteem and more like fear.

Do we get dressed in the morning to impress others or is it to hide our abdominal ‘muscles’ and wobbly arms? Do we rethink conversations to find different paths that make us appear more funny, intelligent or impressive? Do we extend ourselves financially so we have better clothes, houses, boats, cars and toys, so that others will think more of us? Do we fake humility so others will think we are godly? I know we don’t often consciously make these choices but they can subtly underpin our thought patterns.

“Societies emphasis on self-esteem also contributes to the fear of man.  For example, even though most self-esteem books indicate that it is something you can develop by yourself, almost all the books also say that one of the best ways to raise your self-esteem is to achieve some successes (which are then compared to what others do) or to surround yourself with people who affirm you (which leaves you dependant on their opinion)." Edward T Welch: When people are big and God is small.                                                                     

Ask yourself these questions – be honest. What view do you wish others had of you?  Why is this so important?

Let’s look at motivation: Why is it important we are aware of our motivations? … Ignorance is bliss, and yet it’s still ignorance. When we shine a torch on our motivations, through the power of the Holy Spirit we can take stock and remember who loves us and who we are here to impress.  Fear of Man vs Fear of God. When our fear of man is our motivation for esteem then we are placing people as our idol. So pleasing people is our goal for fulfilment, rather than God.

I think to understand who we are we need to understand who God is.  He created us, male and female and we are created in His image.  My first son has blonde hair and blue eyes, my second son has dark hair and dark eyes and people always comment how our first son is the image of his father and our second is the image of me (fortunate boy to look like a ‘nearly’ middle aged woman!).  You and I, we are made in the image of God.  God is love, God is creative,  God is faithful, God is powerful, God is compassionate, God is comforting, God is just, God is light, God is forgiving, God is gracious, God is merciful, I mean I could go on and on.  If God is all these perfect things, and we are made in His image, and called His children … well it’s not rocket science and I don’t want to minimise your struggles, but shouldn't this change our perspective on things?

Ultimately as Christians our goal should be to honour God with our lives so HE gets the glory. The way this shows itself is that we love more … more than what? 

More than ourselves. Think of the needs of others more often. 
More than yesterday. Tomorrow’s a new day so don’t give up. 
More than the voice in our heads. Shut it down as soon as you realise it’s going off.

This will never be accomplished by sheer will power.  That is where we all fall miserably short. Even those of you with iron wills!!  We have a bias to sin, so we will always default to the dark side. It is ONLY with the power of the Holy Spirit that we can humbly call on Him to empower us to get our focus off ourselves and onto God. If you wish to pray through some issues regarding who you are as a child of God, then please contact one of the Pastors, they desire to run the race with you.

Recommended Reading:  “When people are big and God is small” by Edward T Welch.