Tag Archives: delight

A childlike heart

Sophie playing with her boat (click to expand)

This morning at work I was showing pictures of our recent vacation to my colleague Dean.  Dean is a very devoted Dad who often talks about the activities of his four children.  His youngest is a toddler, about a year younger than my oldest granddaughter Sophie, so we sometimes compare notes on how our “little ones” are doing.  When I showed him my picture of Sophie playing with her boat on the beach during our vacation (note her delighted expression seen in the photo above), Dean commented on how appealing young children are.  He said it was because everything is new to them.  Another way of putting this is that they aren’t jaded or blasé about life.

Of course, lest we get too sentimental, let’s not forget that young children are a lot of work.  They are almost entirely self-focussed and can be very demanding.   But the other side of the coin is that they are also very responsive to affection, they trust very easily, and (perhaps their most appealing quality) their hearts are wide open to wonder.  They don’t have  explanations for everything.  Many things are exciting to them, and the world is full of new discoveries.

As we grow up, we become more independent, more conscious of our own identity, more focussed on our own abilities, goals and responsibilities.  We try to control the world through understanding it.  It’s natural and necessary for us to grow up to maturity.  Yet Jesus pointed to little children as an example of the attitude of the humility and simplicity that is required to enter the Kingdom of God.   He wasn’t saying that His followers should stay immature.  He was saying that part of true maturity is the ability to stay childlike – to step back from our sophistication and self-importance, and allow ourselves to wonder at the amazing things God has done and is doing.  He said that the most important things – the things of God – are hidden from the wise and self-important, and revealed to little children – by which I believe he meant those with a childlike heart.

I have found that when I take time – even a few minutes a day – to shut down my “thinker” and just enjoy the goodness of God in its many forms, my whole day is more positive.  My capacities for expectancy, confidence in God, faith, hope, peace, joy and love are expanded.

I want to live a good life – a fruitful, productive, God-honouring life.  But I know I can’t do this on my own.  I need the grace of God.  For too many years I tried too hard to be good and do good.  It didn’t work.  I have found that when I take time to delight myself in the wonders of God, my life becomes more like the life that was modelled by Jesus.  We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  Taking time to delight in the goodness of God, with a child’s attitude of wonder, helps me keep my heart tender and expands my capacity for faith.

Lord, help me to walk through life with a childlike heart.



Give me oil in my lamp

One of the delights of life for Marion and me is our weekly Skype chat with Simeon, Heather and Sophie.  We love talking with our children, but our almost-two-year-old granddaughter is a special treasure.

Two of the things I enjoy most about Sophie are her zest for life and her zany sense of humour.  Both are seen in this photo, taken last August while Simeon and Heather were in Ottawa for a wedding.  It shows Sophie going into gales of laughter over a silly game with a water bottle.

Last Sunday, while we were Skyping with Simeon, he pointed the webcam towards Heather and Sophie who were playing a game on the living room floor.  The game consisted of Sophie lying on her back on the floor, Heather putting her foot on Sophie’s tummy, and Sophie screaming with laughter and begging her mother to do it again and again.  This went on for several minutes and I soon found myself laughing along with them.  It was impossible not to be infected with the crazy laughter virus.

As I was watching Sophie delight in her mother’s playful touch, I realized that I was seeing a demonstration of a key aspect of how God relates to those who belong to Him.  I was seeing a picture of God’s delight in his beloved children, and their delight in Him.  Even though as heirs of Adam’s rebellion we are fully deserving of God’s wrath and rejection, those who have put their trust in Jesus receive grace and mercy instead of judgment.  Instead of being rejected we are treated as His beloved children and heirs of His Kingdom.  Like the son who messed up his life, came to his senses and returned home, we receive a royal welcome when we turn to God in humility.  Our Father is delighted when we humble ourselves and receive His offer of mercy and acceptance.  He’s so pleased that he invites us into His house and throws a party for us.

Sadly, some of those who belong to Jesus seem to go through life convinced that God is not very happy with this deal – that he barely tolerates us, like some unwilling stepfather who has had a family of unwanted children foisted on him against his better judgment, treating us as his children in a legal sense, but interacting with us as little as possible except to pounce like a hawk on our misdeeds.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is no disinterested, distant pseudo-Dad.  Rather, he delights in us as a treasured possession, rejoices over our fumbling efforts to walk with him and talk to Him, patiently feeds us and cares for us, frequently overlooks our childish weaknesses, and loves to see us grow up into maturity so that we can come into our inheritance.

Watching Simeon and Heather play with their daughter, it is easy to see how much they care for her.  They don’t have to pretend – their love is absolutely genuine, and she knows it.  Although they do sometimes have to correct her, she is completely secure in their affection.

Jesus told a parable about ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom to appear so the wedding festivities could begin.  Five of the ten prepared themselves in advance by buying extra oil for their lamps; the other five did not.  They had to wait a long time for the bridegroom’s appearing, and in the end only the ones who had provided extra oil for themselves were able to go in to the wedding banquet.

This is a sobering message that points to a crucial reality.  A life of sustained intimacy with God — represented by the virgins who had provided extra oil for themselves — has the power to keep us going for the long haul, even when things get dark, so that in the end we inherit the Kingdom.  But like the five virgins who ran out of oil and missed the wedding banquet, none of us can buy the result of someone else’s life of intimacy.  We all need to cultivate an intimate relationship with Him for ourselves.  The wonderfully good news is that if we make the choice to set our hearts on Him, Jesus delights in us and welcomes every attempt we make to cultivate an intimate life of worship, prayer and loving obedience.  If we try to succeed as disciples by relying on our own strength and ability to do the works of the Kingdom, and do not take the time to delight in the seeming foolishness of just loving God, we will undoubtedly fail.  On the other hand, if we pay attention to what He longs to give us, and take time to cultivate a life of intimate prayer, love and worship based on His delight in us, He will faithfully draw us close, sustain us through the dark times, and bring us into His wedding banquet.

I remember being overcome by the joy of the Lord on several occasions during the early years of the outpouring that began in 1994.  The Holy Spirit overcame my reservations and ushered me into an experience of refreshing unlike anything I had ever known before.  Those times of resting in the assurance of Father’s love had a powerful impact on my emotional life, providing an experiential knowledge of Father’s affection for me as His beloved son.  At moments when we are tempted to get discouraged, it’s good to remember the moments when the Holy One has showered His kindness and goodness on us.   Like Heather playing with Sophie, He delights in our joy in Him, and does not tire of showing us His goodness.  Yes, there is a time to get up off the floor, stop playing games, and get on with what we usually think of as “normal life”.  But it’s important to return frequently to the place of refreshing with God, whatever form that refreshing takes, so that our lamps do not run dry, and our life of service is characterized by the joy, vitality and assurance which are the fruit of intimacy with Him.   In the words of the old gospel song,

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Keep me burning til the break of day

The Bridegroom is coming for those who have set their hearts on him, and our inheritance is waiting.


The pleasures of God

Pleasure is God’s idea.

That statement might come as a surprise to some of you.  It is an insight that did not come to me overnight.   For generations the Devil has succeeded in deceiving most of the church into believing that God hates the idea of pleasure and likes nothing better than to spoil our fun.

For much of my early life as a Christian I was heavily motivated by guilt.  Like all of us, my soul craved pleasure, yet at the same time I was unable to enjoy the legitimate God-given pleasures of the created order without guilt.  Deliverance did not come overnight, but I am grateful that the Lord has opened my eyes and helped me to see the implications of his goodness more clearly.

It is true that some forms of pleasure are sinful, and some forms of sin are pleasurable, but that doesn’t change the fact that pleasure in itself is from God.  Sinful pleasures are a distortion of legitimate God-given pleasures.  What makes them sinful is not the fact that they are pleasurable, but the fact that they spring from some form of idolatry (worshipping something other than the true God).

Take sex for example.  Even though Jesus made it clear that in the resurrection life, sexual relations would no longer be part of our experience (Luke 20:34-36), in this created order sex is one of the highest forms of both physical and emotional pleasure.  The Bible celebrates the joys of sexual love within marriage, yet for generations the Devil has succeeded in convincing many that sex was his territory, something inherently shameful.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  If God had a problem with sexuality, why would he present the first woman to the first man naked?  The creation account clearly states that in this naked condition the first couple felt no shame (Genesis 2:25), yet tragically the area of sexuality continues to be an area that many Christians have trouble talking about because they somehow think it is dirty.  This is nothing more or less than a lie from the pit of hell.

At the same time, we live in a culture that has made sex into an idol, and increasingly celebrates sexual experience in any and all forms, without any hint of modesty or restraint.  This brings nothing but pain and destruction.   It’s no accident that the Enemy has targetted this area in particular because it is so close to the heart of God.  True intimacy in marriage is beautiful and good in itself, and has great power to bring blessing.  It was God’s chosen means to fill the earth with people who would represent Him and steward His creation (Genesis 1:27-28).

Yet the Bible also makes it clear that this wonderful blessing is not the highest good but rather points us to an even greater source of delight – the delight of intimate fellowship with God.  As the Psalmist wrote,

In Your presence is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

This is what we were made for and what alone will ultimately satisfy our souls.  When we get this clearly into focus, we can enjoy legitimate created pleasures as gifts of a good God, without making idols of them.  Addictions of all forms spring from wounded and deceived hearts that are crying out for fulfilment.  Once our hearts become enraptured with God, our souls are healed so that we can enjoy secondary pleasures without being enslaved by them.

This isn’t an instant process of course.  I still battle temptation and I know that battle won’t be over as long as I am in this life.  But I am so glad that I have learned to rely on the goodness of God who wants to delight my soul – and yours – with the pleasures that He alone can give, pleasures that will satisfy forever.