The biggest surprise at Neutral Bay is the kids

Ministry always surprises me. It goes like this – I start a new ministry, I hate it for a while, then I love. It was the same when I started a new church (although ‘hate’ is probably a little too strong here). A few weeks in and I certainly wasn’t enjoying it, and I was exhausted every Sunday. But it didn’t take long until I started to enjoy myself. It’s now a little over a year since I started and there has been lots of surprises and joys along the way but the biggest surprise, and the greatest joy, has been the kids.

I didn’t really want to do kids ministry and if I’m complete honest my attitude was something along the lines of ‘I’ll do a year with kids and that will be that’. But it wasn’t long before I started to love it. It was alway hard work and I still have a lot to learn, but at the same time it was fun and a blessing to spend time with these kids. I’m sure I have learnt as much from them as they have from me.

This current nostalgia comes because last Sunday was my last week with them and I find I’m pretty sad about it. ┬áSo I guess there’s a new option creepy its way onto the ever-growing list I like to call ‘What the heck am I going to do once college is over!”.

It’s Your Time?!

I happened to walk past this book in a book store a few days ago.

DetailsEverything about this book makes me cringe. From the title to the cover, to the fact that it was number 7 on the highly questionable top sellers list at the book store.

I know that Joel Osteen has a lot of people in his church and a lot of fans world wide but everytime I see or hear his name it reminds me of the hatred I feel for the prosperity gospel. It makes me understand exactly why Paul wrote in Galatians 1 that anyone who preaches a false gospel ‘let him be eternally condemned’.

The gospel – the true gospel – is not about me. Its about Jesus. But Joel doesn’t seem to get that. It’s your time. YOUR time?

After the title that’s all about me, the next thing I noticed was the tag line underneath.

Activate your faith, Achieve your dreams, and Increase in God’s Favour. Since when does achieving your dreams lead to increasing in God’s favour?

I have been reading the first chapter of the book online. Here’s just a couple of things I take issue with.

God wants to breathe new life into your dreams. He wants to breathe new hope into your heart. You may be about to give up on a marriage, on a troubled child, on a lifelong goal. But God wants you to hold on. He says that if you’ll get your second wind, if you’ll put on a new attitude and press forward like you’re headed down the final stretch, you’ll see Him begin to do amazing things.

Well, I’m not quite sure where God says that. 1 Peter 1:3 says ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’. This living hope is not about a solution for a bad marriage, the secret to raising trouble free children or a promise of achieving a life long goal. It is a the hope of assured eternal life, and an inhertiance that will never spoil or fade, that is kept in heaven (vs 4). The hope is that we will share in the ressurection of Christ. This hope reflects an eternal perspective.

Tune out the negative messages. Quit telling yourself: I’m never landing back on my feet financially. I’m never breaking this addiction. I’m never landing a better job.

Instead, your declarations should be: I am closer than I think. I can raise this child. I can overcome this sickness. I can make this business work. I know I can find a new job.

Oh where to start. You can turn on the positive thinking all you like, but don’t be naive. Following Jesus will bring you joy, but it will also bring you suffering. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Expect it. But there IS comfort for us. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13). Its not that our suffering will always be taken away, but that God will give us strength to endure it.

You must get up each day knowing this could be the day you get the break you need. This could be the day you see your health turn around. This could be the day your child comes back home. This could be the day you meet the man or woman of your dreams.

That’s true. This might be the day. But it might not. And if today your health doesn’t turn or your child doesn’t come home or you don’t meet the man or woman of your dreams, then Joel has no hope for you. But Jesus does.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Joy, Faith & Salvation


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth in to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though for now you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth that gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

These verse in 1 Peter 1 are among some of the most precious for me and I think they teach us a great deal about joy.

First – We find joy in things to come. It’s the eternal perspective again. The opening verses talk of a living hope, an inheritance kept in heaven for you and salvation to be revealed in the last days. It is in these things that we greatly rejoice! Even while we suffer now.

Second – Again… our sufferings are not worthless or pointless. It is by trials that our faith is not only refined but proven to be true. This is why we rejoice even in the midst of these trials.

Thirdly – The extent of the joy we have because of Jesus is endless. Inexpressible and Glorious! We are filled with this joy NOW, because we are receiving the salvation prophets spoke of (vs 10) and that angels long to look into to (vs 12).

Happiness vs Joy


In one of the talks at Engage this year one of the speakers said this –

Happiness is a cheap toy. Joy is an unbelievably powerful force. God is ferocious for your joy, but happiness is fickle.

Happiness is a cheap toy. I can’t tell you how much I am seeing this to be true at the moment. The search for happiness in this world can so terribly lead to disappointment, loneliness and sadness.

But what exactly is the difference between happiness and joy. My dictionary say that joy is showing happiness but I think the bible speaks of a different kind of joy and so I would like to take some time to look at what the bible tells us about joy.

James 1 says this

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Joy in the face of trials seems to suggest that this joy is not dependent on happiness. So what is it? Lets start by looking at the reason we are to have joy – because the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Perseverance is mentioned as a characteristic of the Christian life by Jesus (Luke 8:15; 21:19) and Paul (Romans 5:3-4; 8:25; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 12:12).

The first person to have his faith tested was Abraham (Genesis 22) who was greatly rewarded by God for his faithfulness. We too shall be rewarded for our faithfulness. Testing of this leads to perseverance.

And while perseverance is good, its not the prize. It has its own effect, which is that you may be made mature and complete. The Greek word that is translated in NIV as ‘mature’ has a sense of meeting the highest standard and could also be translated as ‘perfect’. It is the same word that is used in Matthew 5:48 when Jesus says ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’. The effect of perseverance is a God-like character. That is the prize here.

We are to find joy in our trials because they make us more like God. This kind of joy requires us to have a perspective that looks beyond the here and now, and instead looks to an eternal reward. The eternal perspective is what drives us to faithfulness and perseverance.

Happiness is fickle because this world is fickle. Joy is powerful because true joy comes from an eternal perspective.

More soon.