• johned@aibi.ph

The Celebration of Life

The Kingdom of God Is A Party!

(Leviticus 23:40 NKJV) 'And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

(Deuteronomy 12:7 NKJV) "And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

(Deuteronomy 14:26 NRSV) spend the money for whatever you wish--oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your household rejoicing together.

(Psalms 40:16 NKJV) Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, "The LORD be magnified!"

The Jewish feasts were celebrations, the tithe (Deut 14:26 ref above) was a huge party. The worship in the temple was glad and vibrant and possibly very loud involving cymbals, trumpets and hundreds of singers and stringed instruments. When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom He uses images of a wedding feast, a banquet, massed singing, food, wine and celebration. Christians are to celebrate and enjoy life because God is in it.

I think my Christian life has been more damaged by my being over-concerned about "what the church thinks" and getting the religious approval of others than almost anything else. My fear of other people's opinions has robbed me of enormous amounts of life and joy. It even stopped me listening to classical music for many years because people visiting would either tell me it "wasn't Christian music" or tell me I was proud for "being into that culture stuff". It was only a couple of years ago that I started buying CD's again. I was so tired of all the fights. I gave up nearly everything I enjoyed because someone somewhere in the church would find something wrong or sinful about it. I just didn't want the conflict. I gave up wine, music, theater, poetry, adventure novels, backpacking holidays, they even managed to find something wrong with fishing!

Tony Campolo has written a book entitled "The Kingdom of God Is A Party". Now I haven't read the book but I like the title! One year we took that phrase as the theme for a youth camp. The camp was about half Christians and half non-Christians and most of the Christians were a bit on the shaky side. Having a love of practical jokes I told the young people that "Christianity was to be taken seriously and on Thursday evening we would be fasting, we would not have any dinner and we would go and pray for the sick at the local hospital." This terrified the teenagers. No food to a teenager is like a death sentence. Sure enough on Thursday night there was no tea. I then walked the camp down to the local hospital and said a prayer outside it. Then we walked them up the hill to "a house of prayer". When they got inside it had a stereo blaring and party food on the tables and they got to eat after all. We even danced the limbo dance under a broomstick! It was explained to them that the popular image of Christianity as boring was totally wrong and that Christianity was about abundant life. All the non-Christians were touched by this message and a few even gave their hearts to the Lord.

Certainly the Christian life has its serious moments. Yet the general tenor of the Christian life should be one of rejoicing.

(Philippians 4:4 NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

(1 Thessalonians 5:16 NKJV) Rejoice always,when Paul says "always" that means to me that every day, in every way we should be rejoicing. Joy should be a life-tone, it should pervade our thoughts, words and actions. So if we are to "rejoice always" then where did we get the idea we had to be serious all the time? I think it partly comes from studying the Bible. The Bible is meant to be a serious book. It deals with serious issues and the epistles are often written in a serious tone to churches needing correction. We are mistaken if we think that we must sound like the Bible in order to be Christian. That is like saying that you have to sound like the Australian constitution in order to be Australian! The constitution is a serious sounding document whose aim is to help us to live happy, free and abundant lives. The document is different in tone from the community it founds.

There are lots of things like that in the Christian life. There are serious moments and times when we should repent and times when we should take stock of ourselves etc. Flippancy can be a real danger to spiritual growth. However the Christian life should be predominantly joyful, happy and free. It should be a constant celebration of the goodness of God especially the goodness shown to us in the gospel of His beloved Son. We should not let the serious moments completely overtake our everyday joys and simple happiness.


As Christians we should celebrate our friendships and enjoy our relationships.(Proverbs 5:18-19 NIV) May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. {19} A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. This is the most natural of human joys and is celebrated extensively in the Song of Solomon. It is also a good analogy to the way God will relate to His people. (Isaiah 62:5 NIV) As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

Many Christians are too serious and too uptight to be really good friends and many of these people are lonely and disappointed with church. Sometimes they are even disappointed with God. Friendships cannot be effectively lived out in an atmosphere full of rules. They need grace, freedom and room for mistakes to be made. We need to resist those people in our midst who seem to have a "tick sheet" of expectations and who try to conform us to their image. As Paul said to the Galatians (Galatians 5:1 NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

The boundaries of the Kingdom are very broad indeed and God gives us much grace to live and learn. He knows that we will learn to love one another and to obey Him much more effectively if we are not burdened by rules about minor things such as what we can eat, drink or touch. Of course there are still clear biblical guidelines in the main areas of morality.(Colossians 2:20-22 NIV) Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: {21} "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? {22} These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.

Our friendships need to be free and easy though within the general guidelines of Scripture. Lets rejoice in all the good things our friends and family and wives are rather than feel we have to critique them against our "tick-sheet". Life and friendship and marriage are created to be joyful happy and fruitful. They were not created just to get us credit points in heaven. They are not a means to an end even if that end is our salvation. They are "ends in themselves" they are good just as they are and we can rejoice in them just as they are.

Laughter and Practical Jokes

(Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV) a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

(Proverbs 17:22 NRSV) A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.

We need to get a balance here. I am not an advocate of churches being disrupted by laughter or too much joking in sermons. Neither am I an advocate of poker faced Christianity. There is an appropriate time for laughter. Family life should be hilarious. If you can't laugh at yourself and if your loved ones cannot "pick on you" a bit then you are too uptight! Certainly cruel put downs disguised as "humor" are not edifying. However normal family fun teasing and the jokes that make a family fun to be in and which, in my opinion, go a long way towards creating "the family feel" - they should always be there. They keep us sane and help us know that we are loved.

I am a great advocate of practical jokes. However their propensity to go wrong has taught me a few basic rules. Check the person's mood first to see if they can take it. Practical jokes on a "bad day" turn sour. Secondly no shaving cream or dyes or things that can stain or corrode. Shaving cream can strip the paint of a car and damage clothes. Beware of allergies. Don't use electricity or explosives (that may seem obvious but "people I have known" have done so). Water fights are great in summer. Always let the other person "pay you back" and even the score. Let them have a water pistol for instance. I used to lead a bible study of high pressure young professionals and most weeks there would be a hilarious water fight with "super-soakers". People had to fight outside or in uncarpeted areas. This relieved the tensions of life and built many good friendships.

Celebrating Life In General

Philippians is the 'epistle of rejoicing" and in it Paul gives the secret of celebrating life:

(Philippians 4:5-9 NIV) Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. {6} Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. {7} And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. {9} Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

They key to all of the above is the art of thankfulness and appreciation of the good. When you can walk outside and love the fresh air and the sunset and not worry at all about what the dog has done you are on your way to sanity. Thankfulness is the sane art of seeing the good as well as the bad in all things and managing to give thanks for the good as well as worrying about or grieving over the bad. If you put a black spot of ink on a clean white page and ask most people "what is this" they will say "a black spot". They will not mention the white page at all. Its like that with worries. One worry can ruin a good day by becoming its sole focus. When we discipline ourselves to give thanks for the good things the bad things pop into perspective and are much easier to handle. Prayer and thankfulness go a long way to helping us really celebrate life.


I got into a debate with a friend about optimism and pessimism (she calls it realism). So I penned the following imitation beatitudes...

Blessed are the optimists for they shall get what they believe in.

Blessed are the hopeful for they shall enter the Promised Land.

Blessed are those in love for they shall conquer everything.

Blessed are the mad risk-takers for they shall stand on the Moon.

Blessed are those who love action for they shall build great things.

Blessed are those who have blood in their veins for they shall live life to the fullest.

Blessed are those who dance for they shall become real.

Blessed are those who sing for their mind will soar with their words.

That hopefully gives you an idea about how I feel about such things. I am quite surprised that I managed to write something so good and I said to my friend "I think God snuck in there somewhere" . If you like it feel free to pass it on.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.