Monday, August 24, 2015

contentment (6) security

What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel secure? If you’re not sure, ask yourself another question: What do you most fear losing?

When I found out my husband has cancer, it felt like my whole world was crumbling. When you’re married, you place a lot of your sense of safety in the person you love. And it’s not just our relationship that I fear losing. If the worst should happen, how will I provide for and protect our family? How will I raise our children? How will they cope without a father? These are real questions, but when they fill me with fear, I know I’m looking to other things besides God to keep us safe.

It’s no different if you’re single. Maybe you long for a relationship. Or maybe it’s a high-achieving career that attracts you. Or owning your own home. A young woman once told me she hopes Jesus doesn’t come back until she has a career and is married with children. I get that, because I remember feeling that way myself when I was young. But she longed for it so much that she chose to go out with a non-Christian.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, a job, or a home – they are good gifts from God. But what happens when they become the source of our security? What if God never gives us these things, or if he takes them away? Will we still hold on to him then? Will we seek them in places or people he doesn’t want us to?

What makes you feel safe? ...

You can read the rest at TGC Australia

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

contentment (5) satisfaction

What brings you joy? What gives you satisfaction? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying God’s good gifts, but how can you tell when a good thing becomes a God-thing? How do you know when you’re looking to something or someone else for contentment, rather than to God?

One way we can tell is to ask ourselves: what happens when we lose something we value? How do we react when our friend gets the job we applied for, our quiet weekend gets disturbed, or we flush our new phone down the toilet? Of course we’ll be disappointed; but do we also react with envy, irritation or self-pity?

Or what about bigger things? How about when we have to live without a relationship we deeply long for? Or when we lose something or someone important to us? Yes, there will be grief and anguish and sorrow, and that is fully appropriate. But will we also give in to bitterness? Will we give way to despair? Will we turn our backs on the God who stole our dreams away?

Watching my son Ben struggle with chronic illness over the last five years has made me ask lots of hard questions ...

You can read the rest at TGC Australia.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

a thought about heaven

Rain drops on a fallen-leaf.I was walking down a path, enjoying the solitude, when I heard a rustling behind me and thought, "There's someone following...". I went on a few steps, uneasy, then turned around.

There was no one there. The rustling I heard was the wind running its fingers through the leaves of an oak, shaking brown leaves from among the green so that they fell slanting like rain.

It was one of those moments when you catch your breath and think, "If the earth can be this lovely, what will heaven be like?".

Where moments like this await us around every corner. Where each moment is free from even a hint of sorrow or fear. Where they slide into each other, moment after sunblown moment, until the years become one long story of joy.

image is by -Reji on flickr.com


Monday, June 15, 2015

what I'm reading: why God allows evil

I was hunting through some old drafts, looking for something to post on a mostly empty blog (we have been away), when I came across this quote from Tim Keller's Walking with God through pain and suffering. Such an encouragement!
Why could it not be that God allowed evil because it will bring us all to a far greater glory and joy than we would have had otherwise? Isn't it possible that the eventual glory and joy we will know will be infinitely greater than it would have been had there been no evil?

What if that future world will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost? If such is the case, that would truly mean the utter defeat of evil. Evil would not just be an obstacle to our beauty and bliss, but it will have only made it better. Evil would have accomplished the very opposite of what it intended.

How might that come about? At the simplest level, we know that only if there is danger can there be courage. And apart from sin and evil we would never have seen the courage of God, or the astonishing extent of his love, or the glolry of a deity who lays aside his glory and goes to the cross.

For us here in this life, the thought of God's glory is rather remote and abstract. But we must realize that the most rapturous delights you have ever had - in the beauty of a landscape, or in the pleasure of food, or in the fulfillment of a loving embrace - are like dewdrops compared to the bottomless ocean of joy that it will be to see God face-to-face (1 John 3:1-3). That is what we are in for, nothing less.

And according to the Bible, that glorious beauty, and our enjoyment of it, has been immeasurable enhanced by Christ's redemption of us from evil and death ... Because of our fall and redemption, we will achieve a level of intimacy with God that cannot be received any other way ...

And why could it not be that our future glory will actually so "swallow" the evil of the past that in some unimaginable way even the memory of the evil won't darken our hearts but only make us happier? (117-118)

Monday, May 18, 2015

learning to see

Gum tree by mathias shoots analogue, on Flickr
I’ve walked this path for ten years. I’ve looked at this tree a hundred times. I give it a mental nod as I go by, as I would a passing acquaintance. Yet I never really saw it, not till today.

Usually all I notice is the lower trunk, as fat as it is tall, knobbed with burls and fissures. In that strange alchemy of gum trees, the brown trunk gives way to white branches. They drag their weight over the path, crooked arms with broken fingers. A potbellied man warming old bones in the sun.

This morning I see it differently. As I walk towards it, the sun sparkles off foliage and catches my eye, a cockatoo screams from above, and I look up, up, up into branches I didn’t know were there, long pale limbs raised to the sky, leaves flickering in a high breeze. The grace of a dancer, the strength of bone and sinew and toned muscle.

It strikes me that we are like this. Look at us, how we grow worn and weathered. That may be all you see of me, all I see of you. But if we belong to Christ, the high glory of what God is making us into is breathtaking. He is making us to be like his Son!

We see the skin: the teenager’s awkwardness, the middle-aged woman’s closed-off face, the old man’s irrelevance. He sees stumbling attempts at love, endurance of pain, a life’s faithfulness. We see the gouges and scars on the work in progress; he sees the emerging likeness and the finished glory.

Perhaps it’s time we learned to see with new eyes.

 image is by  mathias shoots analogue 

Monday, May 11, 2015

what I'm reading: learning surrender

One of the ways suffering shapes you is that it teaches you peace. It teaches you surrender. It teaches you to trust and accept God's will. It teaches you that his love and grace will always be there, no matter what.

After four years of fighting God over my son's chronic illness - of asking him, "Why?" - of crying out with bitterness, there was a night, etched deep in my memory, when I reached the bottom of the well, that dark place where there's nothing left but surrender. And with that surrender came peace.

And so, when my husband Steve was diagnosed with cancer, there was something in me that accepted it. The day I heard, I felt angry at God - I don't deny it. But it took much less time for me to reach a place of surrender. I have seen God's love in the hardest places. It is strong, and it is real. And so I can submit myself more gladly to his will.

Which is all by way of introduction to this quote, from a women who suffered two miscarriages, and then, years later, another two. Here's what she says:
We tried again and miscarried—my fourth miscarriage during six years of marriage. My response during those days was quite different from the first two. I was sobered. I knew I didn’t have control—I couldn’t make a baby be born—and I was surrendered to that fact.
I was also at peace. I had spent the last few years preparing for another trial, and God’s promise stood true:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4: 6-7).
Surrendering to the Lord, crying out for help, and thanking him for what I did have proved to bring me great peace. God also tells us that the mind set on him will be given peace, because that person trusts the Lord (Is. 26:3). The Lord was faithful to fulfill these promises. I was at peace because he had given me peace. I was at peace because Jesus was enough for me.
Can I encourage you not to be scared of suffering? Yes, it is terrible, and it hurts horribly. But God will be there for you. You may not see it straight away; it may take years for you to see it; but it is true. His will is good. His grace is enough. He walks with us. He shelters us. And nothing and nobody can separate us from his love for us in Jesus. Be at peace.

You can read the full article by Trillia Newbell at Christianity Today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

contentment (4) the heart of contentment


I once heard an advertisement on the radio. It went like this (you’ll have to imagine the broad Aussie accent):
I want the kids to go to good schools. I want great holidays in exotic places. I want a comfortable retirement for me and the missus. And you know what? I’m making it happen!
I must admit I tuned out at that point, but my guess is he was advertising some kind of investment portfolio.

Do you hear what this guy is saying? He’s convinced he needs three things to be happy:
  • Significance: the kind to be found in good schools and good careers
  • Satisfaction: exotic holidays and unique experiences
  • Security: enough superannuation to guarantee a comfortable retirement.[1]
Money, he thinks, is the key to all these things.

The problem is that, like most of us, he’s looking for contentment in all the wrong places. He’s like God’s people in these words from Jeremiah ... one of the saddest passages in the Bible ...

Read the rest at TGC Australia.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

online meanderings

How to practice a gospel-centred spirituality - So rare to read something this good on spiritual disciplines.

Being a woman in a frightening world - The author does a good job balancing caution and trust.

Loving Chinese migrants - Some great tips.

Waiting to awaken love - On keeping sexual desires in check.

Love in a time of chronic fatigue - With a son who suffers chronic fatigue and finds church hard, I appreciated this post.

Falling in love with Leviticus - 4 things that happen when you study Leviticus for more than 10 years.
Many of us who wouldn't dream of viewing God's Word in a false or distorted way, think nothing of viewing God's world in a false or distorted way. - David Murray

There is an ultimate harvest, a tree of life whose fruit we will taste on the last day when our waiting finally comes to an end with the return of the bridegroom to claim his bride. On that day, our cold and wandering hearts will finally be transformed and made whole. We shall behold the loveliness of his form with our own eyes. On that day, our joy will be complete. Iaian Duguid
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Monday, May 4, 2015

what I'm reading: preparing for death

The day of death is the greatest day that a Christian can ever experience in this world because that is the day he goes home, the day he walks across the threshold, the day he enters the Father's house.
You won't find a shelf labelled "death" at your local Christian bookstore. Have a look, and tell me if I'm wrong. My guess is that you'll find shelves marked "marriage" and "prayer", but probably not a section on dying.

Your local Puritan bookstore (if there was such a thing) would have been different. You'd find plenty of books on marriage and prayer - the Puritans were great practical theologians - but there'd also be a shelf labelled "dying well". And that's not because they were gloomy do-gooders, as the stereotype goes, but because they were wise and happy realists.

We could do with more modern Christian books on death. Not just on the practical aspects of dying or the stages of grief, but on how to "do death well", with faith and hope and courage. Death is something we will all come to. It's scary and overwhelming, and it would be good for us to know how to prepare for it.

And so I'd like to recommend RC Sproul's Surprised by suffering: a book about suffering with a particular focus on death. Despite the topic, it's not dreary or depressing, but joyful and uplifting. I suggest you read it now. Don't save it for the time you need it, when you may not be able to read at all.

To encourage you today, and to whet your appetite for more, here's a brief sample:
We have considered suffering as a vocation. Dare we think of death as a vocation, too? ... Every one of us is called to die ... Sometimes the call comes suddenly and without warning. Sometimes it comes with advance notification. But it comes to all of us. And it comes from God. ...

Because of Christ, death is not final. It is a passage from one world to the next. ...

The valley of the shadow of death is a valley where the sun's rays often seem to be blotted out. To approach it is to tremble. We would prefer to walk around it, to seek a sage bypass. But men and women of faith can enter that valley without fear ...

God will not send us where He refused to go Himself ...

The valley of the shadow of death is not a box canyon. It is a passageway to a better country ... The goal of the vocation of death is heaven itself. But there is no route to heaven except through that valley.

Quotes are from RC Sproul Surprised by suffering 39, 49-56.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

online meanderings

When fear seizes you - "When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume your mind, here are seven things to remember ..."

Is it a sin to moralise the Old Testament? - Yay! to Peter Adam for writing this. About time someone said it.

The greatest gift is God himself - When God doesn't answer prayers for healing, what then?

Gifts and what they teach us - How gifts train us in humility and service.

Indigenous ministry - Now you see it, now you don't.

Do your laundry and engage the issues - Why working hard at home and at work doesn't mean closing your eyes to the world.

5 wise principles gleaned from a life of excellence - A story of cancer and the testimony of a life well lived.
O for a mind and will that need no more to quiet it than to know what is the will of God and our duty, and in every estate therewith to be content. - Richard Baxter

The gospel says, ‘Mourning does not have the final word. Healing does. Joy does.’ - Robert Kelleman
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