Saturday, May 30, 2009

dress-up day

It was dress-up day at school the other day.

Ben, of course, went as a Pokemon trainer.

Lizzy dressed as a cat.

And Thomas? Ever the individual, he was the only child in prep who refused to dress up at all. "I'm going as a school boy", he told me.

I only hope his independence (some might call it contrariness) can help him to stand up for Jesus one day!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sunday School - the law and sacrifices (5) sacrifice

It all came together this week.

The endless laws. The fiddly rules about what's clean or unclean. The holy God living in his royal tent among his people, an ever-present blessing and ever-present threat. A tabernacle you can't even set foot in if you're unclean. A holy God you can't approach, sinful creature that you are, without being burnt to a fritter.

Then suddenly, there is sacrifice. Sin paid for. Death removed. Anger turned aside. Uncleanness cleansed. Forgiveness granted. Suddenly, the two halves come together - the holy, sinless God and unclean, sinful humans - and there is peace.

The kids and I have learned a huge amount this term. My view of God feels stretched and deepened and challenged. But it was lovely to reach the safe harbour of God's atoning, forgiving love.

I wasn't sure how graphic to be in my description of sacrifices. With a bunch of tough-minded 8 year old boys, you'd probably lay it on thick: the spurting blood, the lowing of frightened cows, the dismembered carcases, the smell of smoke and cooked meat and blood.

You see, the tabernacle was no cathedral, all stillness and echoing silences. It was an abattoir, a charnel house, a constant, unforgettable reminder of the cost of sin.

I took along one of my 8 year old son's beloved stuffed toys, a woolly lamb. I talked about the process of sacrifice (Lev 1-7):

  • you brought one of your own precious animals from your flock to the tabernacle (sacrifice had to be personal, to cost something)
  • you chose a perfect animal, without defects (or it would be dying for its own faults, not yours)
  • you put your hands on the animal's head (to show that your sins were taken off you and put on the animal)
  • you killed and cut up the animal with your own hands (a vivid reminder of the punishment you deserved)
  • the priest laid the pieces on the altar (like a giant BBQ!) and burned them (giving off a "soothing aroma" to quell God's anger against sin)

The eyes of the 6 year old girl on my right got bigger and rounder as she listened to me. My son asked to hold his woolly lamb, I think to reassure himself that it was okay.

Although I did lay my hands on the lamb's head, I decided that now was not the time to demonstrate throat-cutting (with a butter knife) or to go into graphic details (although this would make a wonderful drama or re-enactment if you were so inclined)! Perhaps with another audience I might have done so, but not with this one.

Still, I think they understood:

  • when we disobey God, we deserve death
  • God is fair, so someone has to die
  • the perfect lamb dies instead of us

We talked about big words like "atonement", which means "propitiation" (turning away anger*) and "ransom" (paying the price for a life**), and "substitution" (dying in someone's place). With an older audience, I would have spent more time on this, perhaps with some worksheets (matching words with their definitions?) to drive the point home.

In the end, all I needed to say was this: the lamb dies instead of us.

It's only a short step from here to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who takes our sins on himself and dies in our place so that we can be forgiven and can be friends with God (Jn 1:29, 36, 1 Pet 1:19, Rev 5:6-13).

Here's how our tabernacle model is coming along. You can see the inner curtain, in royal colours, the outer curtain, and the bronze altar for the sacrifices:

And here's the page we made for our books this week (red for blood, of course! - and as we all know, blood represents life; and when it's poured out, it represents death; and when it's poured out for us, it gives atonement - Lev 17:11, Jn 1:29, Eph 1:7, 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Pet 1:18-19).

Next time, we'll be talking about priests. There's a huge amount to cover - consecration, clothes, chores - so it should be interesting!

*Ps 78:38, Prov 16:14, Jer 18:23; 2 Sam 24:18-24, 2 Chr 29:7-8; Rom 3:25, 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10
** Ex 30:11-16, Nu 31:50, Gen 32:20, Ex 32:30-33, 2 Sam 21:1-14

If you'd like to see or use my Sunday School lessons, either these or my lessons on the fruit of the Spirit or Romans, please contact me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the blessing of unsanswered prayer

I hate unanswered prayer. This is not just because I want what I pray for—although that would be nice!—but because my unbelieving heart takes unanswered prayer as an opportunity to doubt God. Here are some examples:

I pray for my son's only close friend, whom we've lost contact with, to call. He doesn't.

I pray that I'll be able to find my car keys so I can get the kids to school on time. They're late.

I pray that my husband will get over his illness; after all, he needs to teach the Bible and care for our family. He stays sick.

I pray that my excited, expectant three-year-old will see a kangaroo on the way home. There's no wildlife to be seen.

I pray that my mood will lift. I stay discouraged.

These are all trivial prayers, and I could give you much bigger examples. But, oddly, I find it easier to trust God with the bigger things. It's the small prayers that trip me up.

When they remain unanswered, my internal monologue begins ...

read the rest at Sola Panel

Jerry Bridges on the fear of God

I've waited until now to share this helpful quote with you because I wanted to first work out what I thought about "the fear of God". It's from Jerry Bridges' wonderful book The Joy of Fearing God.

Jerry Bridges defines the fear of God as "reverential awe", a complex mix of emotions and attitudes which leads to a changed life.

What is awe? ... The dictionary I have defines awe as:

  • An emotion in which dread, veneration, and wonder are variously mingled.
  • Submissive and admiring fear inspired by authority.
  • A fearful reverence inspired by deity.

You can easily see that, depending on the situation and the object of awe, it could include the emotions of fear (or dread), respect (or reverence), admiration and amazement. ...

A profound sense of awe towards God is undoubtedly the dominant element in the attitude or set of emotions that the Bible calls "the fear of God." A popular definition of the fear of God is "reverential awe," ... a good definition. ...

[W]e need to move beyond equating the fear of God only with being afraid of Him. We must not drop that aspect altogether, since even for the Christian it remains an element in the over-all concept of fearing God. But it is by no means the dominant element. ...

This kind of fear obviously goes beyond simply being afraid of God, for it yields within us such glad responses as adoration, love, honour, and worship. And I would add that these responses are ... not only to God's "transcendent majesty and holiness" ... but also to His amazing grace and unfathomable love for us in Christ.

... Sinclair Ferguson has made a helpful distinction between "servile fear" and "filial fear". ... Ferguson explains servile fear as "the kind of fear which a slave would feel towards a harsh and unyielding master." ...

In contrast to servile fear, filial fear is the loving fear of a child toward his father. Ferguson describes it as "that indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us." This is the only true fear of God. ..

Is this fear of God a mix of various emotions, or is it an attitude? Emotions are feelings that come and go ... while an attitude is a more or less settled state of mind. Into which category does fearing God belong?

The answer is both. Emotional feelings of awe, reverence, honour, and adoration will definitely be stimulated within us as we have great thoughts about God ...

At the same time our fear of God must be a settled state of mind - an attitude of awe, reverence, honour, and adoration, a fixed mental outlook that isn't dependent on feelings that come and go. ...

Properly fearing God is more than just a feeling or attitude - it's a feeling or attitude that changes our lives.
Jerry Bridges The Joy of Fearing God pp. 18, 25-31, emphases are his.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jane Saunders In His Hands

I cried all the way home.

I'd just been to the Christian bookshop near my parents' house, where I'd finally bought Jane Saunders' CD In His Hands, and her sweet, pure voice filled the car.

She sang about a little girl coming to Jesus at the age of 7, and I thought about my daughter and cried. She sang about her grandma's death, and I thought about my children's Poppa and cried. She sang, "When I go, don't cry for me" and, well, I cried.

Here's the lyrics from Little Lamb, one of the songs which made me cry, written by her friend, Colin Buchanan:

Little lamb she hears the song
She's seven and she sings along
The words just keep on spinning through her mind
Later on that very day
In a precious deep and simple way
She calls to Jesus come into my life

Throw the gates of heaven open
Sing you angels sing
Little lamb was lost but now
she's coming in
She's coming in to Jesus

Little lamb she can feel
The Shepherd's there and he is real
Hearing every single word she prays
She brings her little sack of sin
And faith and casts it all on him
And all the wonder as he hears her prayer

Throw the gates of heaven open
Sing you angels sing
Little lamb was lost but now
she's coming in
She's coming in to Jesus

You still marvel little lamb
At how your life with him began
Forty years and you've never been alone
You know that the time will come
And he will call his little one
And as he promised he will take you home

Throw the gates of heaven open
Sing you angels sing
Little lamb was lost but now
she's coming in
She's coming in to Jesus
I won't review the album, because Nicole has already done an excellent job - you can read her review here. But I do encourage you to buy it! I can't remember falling in love so quickly with a Christian CD in years.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Golden Books quiz

Did you read Little Golden Books as a child? I bet you did! Here are 10 of my favourite quotes from my 10 favourite Little Golden Books. See if you can pick which book they're from!

1. Gubble gubble gubble
I'm a mubble in a pubble

2. First came the big black engine, puffing and chuffing. Then came the box cars, then the oil cars, then the coal cars, then the flat cars.

3. Green as cats' eyes
Green as grass
By streams of water
Green as glass.

4. "We're terribly late and the train won't wait." ...
"We're a speedy pair. We can get you there."

5. The wind that blows away the thistle
Light as the little birds whistle and sing
And the little boy whistling in the spring

6. "I was meant for bigger things."

7. If I write a letter
and mail it
to someone I love,
someone I love
may write a letter to me.

8. Then he opened the box and out came the teeniest-weeniest teeny teeny teeny weeny weeny weeny little dog in all the world.

9. His wheels began to say over and over again, "Do you like butter? Do you?"

10. And here he is where he wants to be -
A sailor sailing the deep green Sea.

Put your guesses in the comments (except for my mum, who has an unfair advantage, since she read most of these to me as a child - although I bet there's one even she can't pick!).

I'll tell you the answers (and my 10 favourite Little Golden Books) next week.

Monday, May 25, 2009

the fear of the LORD (3) fearing, but not afraid

Are we really supposed to be afraid of God? Doesn't God tell us not to be afraid?

It's not surprising that the Israelites were petrified after God's pyrotechnics display on Mount Sinai. They saw the mountain crowned with darkness, cloud, fire and smoke, they felt the ground shake underfoot, they heard God's voice speaking out of fire and deep darkness, and they knew that anyone who touched the mountain would die. No wonder they begged never to hear God's voice again!

At this point Moses says something odd: "Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin" (Ex 20:18-20 ESV).

Don't fear, but do fear! Huh?

There are two kinds of fear of God.

The first is terror of God's certain judgement. With nothing to expect except God's terrible anger, no wonder God's unrepentant enemies burrow into the ground (Isa 2:10)! This fear drives us away from God.

The second is a trusting, obeying fear. The people of God tremble at God's words and the display of his power, but he has made them his people and they respond with faith and repentance. As long as they trust and obey God, they have no reason to be afraid - but if they turn their backs on God, they have good reason to be afraid! This fear drives us towards God.

God's salvation and forgiveness make this second kind of fear possible - a fear free from terror and full of trembling joy, but which never takes God lightly, for it knows the judgement which awaits those who turn from God.

Read these verses from the Old Testament and see if you can relate:

  • "And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant" Exod 14:31. The Israelites cross the Red Sea and watch it close over the heads of Pharoah's army. The God who saves them is the same God who crushes their enemies. No wonder that this terrible salvation leads to trusting fear!
  • "Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling." (Ps 2:11) The nations are told to "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (Ps 2:12). They "rejoice with trembling" because they've escaped the terrible anger of the Son by taking refuge in his service.
  • "But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared." (Ps 130:4) Why does God's forgiveness lead to fear? We tremble because the power of judgement and salvation rests in the hands of our mighty God, the one who freely chooses to save us. We act in faith and obedience because God has poured out his mercy on us.
  • "He [the Messiah] will delight in the fear of the LORD" (Isa 11:3 cf Heb 5:7). If it's appropriate for God's own Son to serve God with joyful awe it's certainly appropriate for us.
  • "The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."(Ps 147:11) Our hoping fear of God not only brings us joy, but gladdens the heart of God!

To escape from a tsunami - how amazing that would be! But what if you escape from the tsunami into the arms of the one who sent it? Now there are arms that can keep you safe! Here you rejoice - but you rejoice with trembling at the terrible power of the arms which hold you. You're not about to trifle with this Rescuer! Yet there's no-one who can keep you safe like Him.

Piper describes it as the kind of fear you might feel if you're hiding in a cleft in the ice during a storm on a glacier. Out in the storm, there is only terror! But inside the cleft, is a kind of wondering, fearful joy, as you watch the storm from a place of safety. Piper calls this "whatever is left of fear when we have a sure hope in the midst of it".*

On this side of the cross, this trusting, rejoicing, hoping, trembling fear is even more appropriate. We've seen God pour out his anger on his only Son so that we might be spared! How can we help but be filled with wonder, awe and joy?

It's important that our definition reflect not only God's "scary attributes", but also the wonder of his forgiveness and salvation. So let's sum it up this way:

To fear the LORD is to take seriously his awesome majesty, limitless power, absolute holiness, dreadful judgement, glorious salvation and gracious forgiveness, and so to submit to him as the one true God, with trust, love, worship, honour, service and obedience.

This fear is sometimes called "reverent awe". It's a little vague, but it's not a bad way of describing the complex attitudes and emotions which make up the fear of God. If you wanted to sum it up simply, you might say something like this:

The fear of God is the reverent awe which leads us to trust and obey him.

But for simplicity and clarity, I like Honoria's definition, which includes attitudes, feelings and actions:

The fear of God is not daring to refuse him.

Next time, I'd like to look at New Testament verses about the fear of God. Is fear still appropriate for Christians, who call God "Daddy"?

* John Piper The Pleasures of God 203-4

first image is an old Bible illustration (I think!); middle image is an illustration by John Martin; last image is from stock.xchng

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sunday School - the law and sacrifices (4) clean and unclean

Phew, this one was pretty overwhelming! I found it hard to get my mind around the Leviticus categories of clean and unclean myself, let alone teach it to kids. And when I arrived at Sunday School, I discovered we had 8 extra children! Aaaargh!

Thankfully, I was already planning to go over what we've learned so far this term:

  • that God is holy - which means different from us in every way. He made a special people for himself and rescued them from Egypt. He wanted them to be holy like him, to be set apart for him, to be different from all other nations.
  • that God gave his people laws to tell them how to live. These laws showed them how to live as his holy people, different and set apart from all others.
  • that God lived among his people in a special way in the tabernacle, God's royal tent palace. That the tabernacle was also holy, set apart as God's dwelling place.
No-one can walk straight into God's house and up to God! Because God is so holy, because he is so different from us, we would die if we saw God. And because God is so perfect, because he never does bad things but we do, we would die if we walked up to God.

No wonder God was hidden behind a curtain in the Most Holy Place!

It's been said that Leviticus has two main themes: "the goal of holiness for Israel and the need for forgiveness".* The rules about clean and unclean beautifully illustrated God's holiness and our need for forgiveness - that's what they were for!

I explained to the kids that clean didn't have anything to do with having a shower, and unclean didn't mean you were muddy and needed a bath.

If you were clean, it meant you could go into God's holy house, the tabernacle. If you were unclean, you couldn't go in.

Here’s some things that were clean and unclean (Lev 11-15):

  • some kinds of animals (like sheep and cows) were clean and people could eat them (but not if they died naturally)
  • some kinds of animals (like pigs and flies) were unclean and people couldn’t eat them or touch their dead bodies. If a dead fly fell into your bowl and you ate soup from the bowl you were unclean and couldn’t go into the tabernacle!
  • some kinds of sicknesses were unclean. If you had spots on your skin, some kinds of spots were clean and others made you unclean. If you had unclean spots, or touched someone with unclean spots, you became unclean and couldn’t go into the tabernacle.
  • when people died, the body was unclean. If you touched a dead body, you couldn’t go into the tabernacle.
  • some houses were unclean. If the house had mildew (green stuff) growing on its walls, it was unclean. You had to pull down the house.
It was very hard to stay clean all the time! Wherever you went, whatever you did, there were things that could make you unclean.

Every day God's people were reminded of 2 things.

  • Every day – every time they were careful about what they ate or touched - it reminded them that God is holy (different), that he chose them to be his holy people, and that he wanted them to live holy lives.
  • Every day – every time they touched something unclean and couldn't go to the tabernacle – it reminded them that sin is everywhere, that it kept them from God, and that they couldn’t go near God unless God made them clean again.
Once Jesus came, everything changed.

Jesus said that all animals are clean! You can eat whatever you like! (Mk 7:19)

Instead of people with unclean skin diseases making Jesus unclean, he made them clean when he touched them! (Mk 1:40-42)

Jesus said uncleanness doesn't really have anything at all to do with our bodies - with what we touch or eat.

Uncleanness is about our hearts. It's about what we are like on the inside. It's about what we think and say and do.

The things that make us unclean are things like being greedy, killing people, stealing things and telling lies. We do these things because we have unclean hearts – hearts that want to do bad things. (Mk 7:1-23)

We have a big problem, don’t we? The people of God couldn’t go into the tabernacle when they were unclean. We have unclean hearts - we do bad things - so we can never be friends with God! We need God to make us clean again.

After we'd talked about these things, the kids had a ball making this poster. They coloured the animals and stuck the clean ones at the top and the unclean ones at the bottom (the quote on the heart is Jesus' words about what makes us unclean from Mark 7:14-23).
When I asked the kids what makes us unclean now, one boy said "Mud!" and a girl said "Disease". Obviously, they got the point about the Old Testament but not about the New Testament. So if I taught this lesson again, I think I'd make our poster like this:
On the right hand side, after Jesus comes, all the animals have moved to the "clean" section. In the "unclean" section are all the things which come out of our hearts and make us unclean (Mk 7:14-23).

Here's how the page for our books looked this week:

As you may have guessed, next week's lesson is about sacrifices. Can you guess what colour the page will be?

* William Dumbrell The Faith of Israel 40

If you want to see or use my Sunday School lessons, please contact me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

a question for you

My daughter is now 10 years old, and she's turning 11 in October. The teen years are fast approaching!

I'm wondering if you can recommend:

  • any good books, Christian or otherwise, to prepare a child for puberty (the changes in his/her body and emotions)
  • any good Christian books about biblical womanhood to read with a girl in her pre-teen or early teen years (I'm reading Beautiful Girlhood at the moment, and I've read Girl Talk)
You can comment here if you have any ideas. I'd love to hear from you!

boys 'n chores 'r us

Here's some pictures of boys doing chores at our house!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

my thoughts on kids and chores

We've been having a great discussion about kids and chores. Thanks to those who wrote in! Here's my thoughts. Please remember, this post describes what I'm aiming for more than what I actually achieve! I can be pretty haphazard about chores, especially during busy times of the year. I'm no expert, so please add your suggestions to the comments.

1. Why chores matter 2. Teaching the "why" and "how" not just the "what"
I have a very clear memory of a Christian tape playing while I did the dishes as a child, with this verse set to music:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. Phil 2:14-15
It profoundly influenced my attitude to chores, and I still find myself singing it, much to my children's annoyance! (Does anyone know what tape it came from?)

I have been challenged by Cathy's comments to teach our kids the "why" not just the "what" of chores. It would be fantastic to teach kids some of the principles and verses above!

I think if I had been given some of this reasoning while I was growing up, it would have helped me to do some of the hard and apparently "pointless" chores more cheerfully.

3. Should you give kids money for doing chores?
There's no right or wrong answer to this one.
Yes: because it teaches kids stewardship - that money comes through hard work, and that it should be saved and spent wisely
No: because kids should expect to help because they're part of a family, not because they get paid

Here's how some people do it:
- Jo suggests not giving money for all chores, but for the harder, dirtier ones
- Rachel suggests giving pocket money independently of chores, but taking some away if a job is not done and giving it to the person who has to do it
- my sister-in-law prints out her children's chores with a box to be ticked next to each one; pocket money is given if they're all done
- when I'm being organised(!) I give pocket money ($1 for every year of school up to $10) for Saturday chores (weeding, washing windows, cleaning the car) but not for regular weekly chores (vacuuming one's bedroom, putting away one's clothes, setting the table)

4. Should boys and girls be given different chores?
We've been having a fascinating discussion about this which you might have been following!

Those of you who've written in seem to agree that boys and girls should be given the same chores. Girls need to be prepared to care for a home and family. Boys need to be prepared to serve their wives by helping out around the home. Girls and boys need to be prepared for singleness, whether short- or long-term, or for caring for a home when a spouse dies or is incapacitated.

Cathy helpfully suggests that we distinguish between boys and girls by the way we talk about chores, rather than in the jobs we give. I think this is a fantastic idea! I've started to talk to Lizzy in terms of "helping" and to Ben in terms of "serving", preparing them for their likely married roles as a helper and a servant leader (Gen 1:18-25, Eph 5:22-33).

I'm still unsure about whether different chores should be given to boys and girls. I think there is some appropriateness in giving different chores to prepare for different roles.

I'll be training Lizzy to be a homemaker, with all the skills that entails. But I suspect I'll train my boys to run a home too. They'll need these skills throughout life, married or unmarried!

In our house, boys and girls have to do all kinds of jobs, but there's also some small differences in how we hand out chores (Lizzy does more cooking, Ben more bin-emptying - partly a matter of preference! - but both are expected to help with both).

5. When chores get tough
It's really important that some chores are just plain HARD! We give yucky, dirty jobs, not just easy ones, and expect them to be done cheerfully.

One of my favourite parenting stories is about a boy who had to carry buckets of water by hand to the family pig every day - a difficult, thankless task. The neighbour told the father how unreasonable he was. When the boy grew up, he thanked his father for teaching him to work hard.

6. Practical ideas for chores
  • it's good to teach kids to take responsibility for themselves: to keep their rooms tidy and clean, wash their own clothes, and make their own lunch
  • it's also good to give some general chores which help the family and home: dishes, cleaning, yard work
  • I like the idea of a list of chores for each child with boxes to tick, although I'm not organised enough to keep it up!
  • I've just printed out a weekly plan for Lizzy (10), Ben (8) and Thomas (5) which includes their chores. This helps me to remember all their different tasks, and it means I can send them to the list on the fridge rather than nag them! It also teaches them to be responsible for their tasks.
  • some people have a "home blessing hour" every Saturday, where the family cleans the house together. What a great idea!
  • Gail Martin's What Every Child Should Know Along the Way will give you some good ideas about appropriate expectations for different ages, and The Family Manager's Everyday Survival Guide talks about getting kids on the team
Any other comments or suggestions? We're just fumbling our way through this, and I'd love your advice.

You can read the thread on kids and chores here

images are from Millie Mott, Oh My Stinkin' Heck!, davidwilliamgold, chinweiz, Conner Prairie and naiah at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

good books on biblical womanhood

Women sometimes ask me to suggest good books on biblical womanhood. I've also been asked by a Christian bookshop to recommend some books for women. So I thought I'd share my list with you, and ask if you have any to add!

Here's my favourite books on biblical womanhood. I'd start from the top and work my way down.

Sharon James God's Design for Women
Carolyn Mahaney Feminine Appeal
Barbara Hughes Disciplines of a Godly Woman
John Piper, Wayne Grudem (ed) Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Here's some other good ones I've read or I'm reading.

Martha Peace Becoming a Titus 2 Woman
Susan Hunt Spiritual Mothering
Elyse Fitzpatrick Women Helping Women
Noel Piper Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God
Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre Girl Talk
Elizabeth George A Woman After Gods' Own Heart

Here's some I haven't read yet but which I'd like to.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss (ed) Becoming God's True Woman
Nancy Leigh DeMoss (ed) Biblical Womanhood in the Home
Susan Hunt, Peggy Hutcheson Leadership for Women in the Church
Susan Hunt By Design
Susan Hunt True Woman
Carolyn McCulley Radical Womanhood
Elisabeth Elliot Let Me Be a Woman
Jani Ortlund Fearlessly Feminine
Martha Peace Damsels in Distress
Martha Peace The Excellent Wife
John McArthur Twelve Extraordinary Women
Wendy Alsup Practical Theology for Women
Mary Kassian The Feminist Mistake
Kirsten Birkett The Essence of Feminism

Can you think of any I've missed?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ed Welch on fear

The advance course in fear is this last thing. All I can do is to throw it out to you, and ask you and others to teach me over time.

"I am crucified with Christ, nonetheless I live." I died. There's nothing to lose.

Are you going to take away my life? Well, I've already died! There's nothing you can do to me! You, as an enemy, there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, because I've already died.

When my worries and fears are kicking up big, the apostle Paul leads me into the advanced course. What does it mean to have been crucified with Christ? It means that there's absolutely nothing to lose. You can't hurt a dead man who's alive. There's nothing you can do to such a person.

So, when you're afraid, die. Die to the opinions of other people. Die to wealth. Die to possessions. Die to reputation. Die to your demand to be loved.

Know this freedom of being able to die with Christ and being able to live with him.

Ed Welch Issues in Biblical Counselling talk 16

images are from stock.xchng

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sunday School - the law and sacrifices (3) the tabernacle

There's nothing like teaching kids to help you realise how much you have to learn! Last week I learned how much I didn't know about the tabernacle.

  • Did you know that the Most Holy Place was a perfect cube, representing God's perfection?
  • Did you know it took about 5 largish steps to get from one side to the other (4.5 meters/15 feet)?
  • Did you know that the further you went into the tabernacle, from courtyard to Holy Place to Most Holy Place, the more sumptuous it became, from bronze with silver trimmings to gold with silver trimmings?
  • Did you know that the colours of the tabernacle curtains were royal colours, purple and red and blue?
  • Did you know that the ark, the only piece of furnishing in the Most Holy Place, represented a throne?
  • Did you know that only kings had cherubim in their throne rooms and on their thrones?

This was not just any old "tabernacle", not just any old "tent". When the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, it would become a "temple", a "palace". The tabernacle was a royal tent, where the King lived among his people's smaller, plainer tents.

I've never noticed these details because I've never taken the time to read the chapters on the tabernacle carefully. Let's admit it, these are not the most obviously exciting chapters of the Bible! The tabernacle is described in painstaking detail (Exod 25-30) and then, a few chapters later (Exod 36-40), it's described in virtually word-for-word detail again.

There's a reason for this: the tabernacle was God's holy house, the place where he lived with his people. He was the one who told Moses how it should be built, from post stands to woven coverings. It had to be built exactly to his design. It had to be set up exactly to his design. And it was.

In the last verses of Exodus, something spectacular happens. The cloud and fire move away from Mount Sinai and come to rest on the tabernacle (Exod 40:34-38). God no longer speaks to his people from a mountaintop: he lives among them.

For us, something even more spectacular has happened. Just over 2000 years ago, a tiny baby was born into this world: Emmanuel, God with us (Isa 7:14, Matt 1:23). There was no cloud and fire, although the skies did blaze with glory, at least for a bunch of poor shepherds. God "tabernacled" amongst us in his Son (Jn 1:14).

Just over 30 short years later, the "temple" that was Jesus' body was destroyed and 3 days later raised to life again (Jn 2:12-24). The curtain which led into the Most Holy Place was ripped apart (Matt 27:51). Jesus' death opened the way for us to enter God's presence any time, anywhere (Heb 10:19-22).

God no longer lives in temples (Jn 4:21-24). He never really did: heaven is his dwelling place (Deut 26:15, 1 Kg 8:27, Ac 17:24). The heavenly city needs no temple "because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Rev 21:22).

God doesn't live in temples or church buildings, but he is "pleased to have all his fullness" live in Jesus (Col 1:19). And if we trust in Jesus, he lives in us by his Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:19-22). We are God's temple.

The kids and I started building our tabernacle model this week (we also traced out the dimensions of the Most Holy Place in masking tape on the floor, to give us some idea of its real size).

We made the next page for our books, in royal purple:

Next time, we'll be talking about what makes us clean and unclean, and the uncleanness which keeps us from the presence of the holy God. I'm hoping I can explain it clearly. Any ideas?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ed Welch on how to help those who are suffering

One of the simplest and most profound things Ed Welch said in Issues in Biblical Counselling was this observation about a woman who had experienced intense suffering.

Every single person in our church said to her, ‘If you ever need anything, call me’, and every single person in our church meant it. Every single person in our church, whenever they were called, whatever the request was, they would have done it.

But she said, "You know, I’ve heard people say that, and I appreciated it, but I was never, ever, ever going to call anybody.

"There were, however, some people who wouldn’t say, 'If you ever need anything, call me.' They would just do stuff. They would bring a meal over, they would take the dog out for a walk, they would come and clean my house. They would babysit, and give me tickets to a show in town with a friend.

"They never said, 'What can we do', they sat around and contrived things to do.

"Those were my pastors."

image is from Pseudo Serious at

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Issues in Biblical Counselling by Ed Welch

I've been listening to a fantastic talk series during the last couple of months: Ed Welch's Issues in Biblical Counselling. It's a 24 talk short course which he gave at the Melbourne PTC.

If you meet one-to-one with other Christians to disciple them, if you're in ministry or Christian leadership, or if you struggle with issues like suffering, anxiety, anger or guilt (don't we all?!) you'll find these talks encouraging and challenging.

Ed Welch talked about

  • the nature of biblical counselling and the person
  • the 4 staples of counselling - suffering, guilt, anger and fear
  • unusual problems - mania, schizophrenia, depression, addictions
Here's some things I learned:

  • Christ is the centre of the process of change. We often use the Bible like an encyclopedia of proof texts. If a word ("anorexia", "OCD") isn't there, we assume the Bible doesn't address it; and if a word ("anxiety", "anger") is there, we stick to the "relevant" verses. But the Bible is the story of Christ, and of how God saves and transforms us through the gospel. This bigger story shapes how we respond to every issue - even those the Bible doesn't name. If someone wants help with a problem, don't just look up verses which address or condemn the problem: read passages which reveal Christ and win our hearts. The ultimate solution to every problem is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible is sufficient to deal with all sinful behaviours and negative emotions. We often divide people into body, soul/psyche and spirit. The first is treated by doctors, the second by psychologists, and the third by the church. We hand people with issues like depression, addictions and anxiety over to professional counsellors. But if you trace any psychiatric illness back to its historical roots, you'll find that people once turned to the church for help. We can learn from secular counsellors, and medication can relieve symptoms. But God's word and gospel alone can change the heart. God's word is clear - it's not just for scholars - and we'll find our answers here.
  • Our behaviour and emotions come from our hearts (although our emotions are also affected by our bodies). With our hearts, our inner selves, we think and believe, and with our hearts, we worship and desire. We can't blame our actions on our circumstances, personality or upbringing: we choose how to respond. Christian counsellors often speak of the person as someone with needs for love and relationship. But our hearts are not so much empty vessels waiting to be filled, as rudders directing us towards what we desire. Our hearts are active not passive.
  • The horizontal reveals the vertical. If you see me get angry, or hear me complaining, you learn that I'm ultimately angry or resentful towards God. Our emotions and actions show who has our allegiance, God or Satan. Who do we worship? Who do we trust? Whom will we serve?
  • The four staples of counselling are suffering, guilt, anger and fear. We'll have lots to say to anyone who's struggling if we learn how the Bible responds to these four issues. Ed Welch spent hours talking about suffering, specifically about how he would respond to someone who was sexually abused as a child. His two talks on guilt and legalism shook my perfectionism to its core. He called the angry to become like Christ. His talks on anxiety encouraged me deeply.
  • Move towards those who are suffering. If there's one thing I took away from these talks, this is it! Those who are suffering are prime targets for Satan's attacks, so even if you feel completely helpless, move towards those who are suffering. Don't ignore them, don't say nothing, don't forget to call. At the very least, say "I'm so sorry." Don't just offer to help, give practical help. If you have nothing to say, listen, and pray with them from God's word. God pursues us, so we should pursue others.
  • Aim for self-forgetful love not self-esteem. The gospel is the story of the God who saves unworthy sinners not because there's anything good in us, but because he loves us for his own glory. The gospel doesn't so much encourage us to think better or worse of ourselves as less frequently about ourselves and more about Christ. True humanness is about loving others, not being loved; about glorifying God, not having my needs met.
  • Ask the next question. Often, the most useful thing you can do is to ask one more question: "Why do you ...? Did you know that you ...? Do you want to change?" If you seem to be missing the point - if they're looking blank, like you're not taking them with you - stop and ask again, "What am I missing? Is what I'm saying helpful? Help me to understand what you're feeling." Walk beside people, don't stand over them.
  • Find the normal in the abnormal. If someone is behaving bizarrely, or is making bizarre claims, treat them like anyone else. Ask ordinary questions: "What's going on here? Why are you doing that? Why do you feel scared?" Look for the person behind the behaviour. Listen for the issues we all struggle with: suffering, guilt, anger and fear. Ed Welch puts the Bible through its paces - is it sufficient to deal with addictions, mania and schizophrenia, and depression? - and shows how God's truth reaches ordinary people struggling with extraordinary problems.
  • Christians should have a high tolerance for eccentricity. Have you noticed the space around unusual people in social gatherings? Christians should be moving towards people, not away from them! Ignore the bizarre behaviour unless it stems from deeper issues like anxiety, or leads to sin, then deal with it as you would with any other Christian, by encouraging faith and repentance. If the Bible doesn't address the behaviour, you don't need to either. If it's just odd behaviour that's putting a barrier between the person and others, don't ignore it: give honest advice out of love.
  • There is hope for change. A great God is working in us through his powerful gospel by his indwelling Spirit, and he promises that we will one day be glorious creatures who perfectly reflect his glory. We should have boundless optimism for change in ourselves and others. When you see people change, take off your shoes: you are standing on holy ground.

images are from stock.xchng