Thursday, April 30, 2009
As soon as he sees me, the words pour out of his mouth. "Joel had a dream about Pokemon, Mummy! He actually dreamt about Pokemon! He dreamt he was a Scyther in a Pokemon battle! I want a Pokemon dream too, Mummy! I'm going to make myself have a dream about Pokemon!"
Like me, Ben can occasionally control what he dreams. He can pull himself out of a bad dream, or think so hard about something before sleep that he dreams it. He has a vivid imagination, which sometimes terrifies him, so every night we pray for "good dreams and good imaginings". If anyone can make himself have the dream he wants, it's Ben.
It's after dinner, and Ben is getting ready for his great night's adventure. He prances around the kitchen, working himself into the role, arms scything the air.
"Do you think it would hurt if you had a Pokemon battle in a dream, Mummy? I'm sure it would! But I don't care! I want to be a Pokemon in a battle, even if it does hurt! Sometimes the attacks do 150 damage! That would hurt, wouldn't it Mummy? I think I'd like to be a Pokemon with really high health. Then the attack wouldn't do so much damage. But I don't care if it hurts! I want to dream I'm a Pokemon in a battle! I'm going to make myself dream about Pokemon, Mummy!"
I tuck him into bed. I can hear him muttering frantically to himself, trying to soak his brain in the world of Pokemon so that he can segue effortlessly into the dream he longs for. He falls asleep.
It's morning, and Ben comes out of his room, all rumpled and bleary eyed with sleep.
"Did you have a Pokemon dream, darling?"
"Yes, but it wasn't quite what I'd hoped for."
"Oh. What happened?"
"Well, it was a quiz, and I had to answer questions about rock-type Pokemon."
"So no battles?"
Ah, the small disappointments of life.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
He inspired me to follow up on those conversations when I go away thinking, "If only I said ...". I follow up on unresolved issues when I lead Bible studies or mentor someone, so why not with my friends who don't know Jesus?
Asking questions and being genuinely interested is absolutely right.
I also think practice - rehearsal even - is a key point. Chappo made this point somewhere, when he explained that for a year, as a younger man, he and a friend had read the editorial in the daily paper and rung each other and discussed whether either could think of anything Christian to say about the topic of the day. This meant they were more likely to be ready for topics that were likely to be under current discussion. It was a form of rehearsal.
Col 4:5 says (in the NIV) to “make the most of every opportunity”. I have tried to make the most of every missed opportunity, and like you, there have been a few!
If you postmortem what you could have said, then you are more ready for next time a similar thing is said.
But I would add an extra step. Sometimes it will be appropriate to go back to the person and say,
You know what you said about X the other day, I didn’t know what to say, but I couldn’t get it out of my head, and here’s what’s come to me since.
I was thinking more about what you said yesterday, and here’s something I’ve found helpful [or my minister or friend recommended] in reading on the topic… Are you interested in having a copy?
It won’t always be suitable, but going back to the person shows you really take them seriously and they got you thinking. I suspect many people will respect that. (But don’t over do it!)
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tongue-tied adj. unable to speak. Synonyms: aghast, amazed, astounded, at a loss for words, bashful, choked up, dazed, dumbfounded, dumbstruck, garbled, inarticulate, mum, mute, shocked, shy, silent, speechless, stammering, uncommunicative, voiceless, obstructed.
I know people who talk about the gospel in a relaxed, friendly, winsome way. I'm not one of them.
I'm not bad at ‘God talk’, as they call it in the Two Ways to Live Training Course. I let people know that I'm a Christian, I tell them my husband is in Christian work, and I talk about praying for my children. I think this is supposed to produce gospel opportunities, but that's usually as far as it goes.
When an opportunity does come up in conversation, my mouth seizes up. I read suggested dialogues, like John Chapman's ‘Bus stop graffiti’, and I groan inwardly in despair. Put me in a situation like this and my brain races, my heart thumps and the moment slips away. If I say anything, I sound so nervous, we're both relieved to move onto a new topic. Later, of course, a thousand witty, helpful, penetrating responses occur to me.
I pray for courage, boldness and the words to say. I feel prepared (1 Pet 3:14-16)—I've learned a gospel outline, I can explain it in my own words, and I'm confident about responding to questions (although people seldom ask them!). I make friends with neighbours and school mums, and I try to love them, but in conversation, I suffer from gospel tongue-tie.
Every couple of months, I spend quality time with my hairdresser. We get along really well, and we've had a few chats around the edges of what we believe. I've learned so much from her about how to get past the block on my tongue. I've also learned a lot from Christian friends who don't see themselves as great evangelists.
So, from one inept evangelist to another, for those of you who find it hard to share the gospel, here's some things I've found helpful recently in overcoming gospel tongue-tie:
- I practise what I want to say. It sounds counterintuitive, but when I rehearse what to say before a conversation, I'm more natural and relaxed. I know my friends will ask how I'm going, so I plan an answer. Last year, my father-in-law died. While I was driving to meet my friend, I thought of what to say, and practised it out loud: “He trusted in Jesus, so he knew he was going to heaven”. I felt silly, and people driving past me must have wondered who I was talking to, but my friend and I had a longer chat about Christianity than ever before.
- I ask questions. It's easy to treat people as projects, not people. I want to love my friend by hearing her point of view. How can I speak the gospel into her life if I don't know her? Why should she listen to me if I never listen to her? I'd like to learn to ask more questions. “What do you find helpful about doing yoga?” “When you say I'm the only Christian you know, how do you see that as different from being Catholic?” “What's happened to make you dislike religion so much?”
- I get to know her issues so that I can respond to them. I might be tongue-tied when someone talks about bus stop graffiti, but my friend talks a lot about how much she hates religion. Inevitably, I can't think of anything to say, so I've come up with some possible responses: “Jesus hated religion too. He gave religious people a really hard time!” “Yes, I hate religion as well. God isn't interested in empty rituals; he wants a real relationship with us.” “God agrees with you. He doesn't just want us to give him a bit of time at Easter, he wants us to serve him 100 per cent all the time”. I'll say it until it sounds like something I could say.
- I'd like to follow up on our conversations. Sandy Grant suggests, "Sometimes it will be appropriate to go back to the person and say,
You know what you said about X the other day, I didn’t know what to say, but I couldn’t get it out of my head, and here’s what’s come to me since.
I was thinking more about what you said yesterday, and here’s something I’ve found helpful [or my minister or friend recommended] in reading on the topic… Are you interested in having a copy?
It won’t always be suitable, but going back to the person shows you really take them seriously and they got you thinking. I suspect many people will respect that. (But don’t over do it!)"
I sometimes wonder why God put me in my friends' lives; didn't he realize that someone else would do a far better job? But I can trust God's wisdom in choosing me to be Christ's representative to my particular friends and neighbours. I can trust his power to work in people's hearts through the gospel, even when the only Christian my friend knows is an inept evangelist—me.
What have you learned about overcoming gospel tongue-tie?
First published at Sola Panel.
image is from Katie Tegtmeyer at flickr.com
Monday, April 27, 2009
So I've really enjoyed getting my teeth into Proverbs 1-9 for our Bible study this year. I've learned heaps about the value of wisdom, the nature of proverbs, the fear of the LORD, the good path, and about Jesus, wisdom in the flesh.
During our study on Proverbs 9, we summed it all up with a diagram of the first 9 chapters of Proverbs:
The straight lines down the middle represent the straight, level path of wisdom (Prov 2, 4).
The starting point of wisdom is
- God, who alone knows the way to wisdom (Job 28:20-23, Prov 2:6) - we can't be truly wise unless we humbly accept God's wisdom (Prov 3:5-8, 15:33)
- "the fear of the LORD" - so important that it book-ends chapters 1-9 (Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10)
- Jesus, the "wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:30 cf Prov 8:22-31, Col 1:15-20)
An arrow goes from wisdom to the crown which represents King Solomon, who received God's great gift of wisdom (1 Kings 3, 4:29-34).
Another arrow goes from Solomon to the book he wrote. From the book of Proverbs radiate lines to wisdom, understanding, insight, guidance, discipline, good sense, and what is right, just and good (Proverbs 1:1-7.)
On the next arrow we see that Proverbs is written for both the simple and the wise (Prov 1:4-5). It's also addressed by a father to his son (Prov 1:8, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1).
An arrow goes from the father to his main message: choose the good path of wisdom (Prov 4:18). The final arrow shows that this path leads to LIFE!
Two crooked paths wind off to either side (Proverbs 2:12-22) - the path of the "adulteress" or "promiscuous woman" (Prov 2:16-19, 5:1-23, 6:20-7:27) and the path of "wicked companions" (Prov 2:12-22, 3:12-15, 4:14-19). Both of these paths lead to DEATH.
At the end, we're given two party invitations (Prov 9). Lady Wisdom is a gracious hostess, who prepares good things for her table. Madame Folly is loud and brash, and serves stolen treats. I know whose party I want to attend!
Welcome to the feast of Lady Wisdom - all the tasty proverbs in chapters 10-31!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
You might like to click here and tell us about your prayer life. How do you make time for prayer? Do you pray at regular times, or at odd times throughout the day? How do you remember to pray for all the people you want to pray for?
We'd love to hear from you - we can learn a lot from each other!
image is from stock.xchng
Friday, April 24, 2009
We can't see Jesus, Mamma.
But later we will, Mamma.
How do little children know these things? I'm sure I haven't told him this! There's more going on in those little heads than we realise. Just shows it's worth teaching even tiny tots about Jesus.
Out of the mouths of babes.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Ellen Galinsky asked real kids what they thought about spending time with their parents. She says there are 3 kinds of together time parents can spend with kids:
- One-on-one time. This is quality time set aside to spend with one child - reading a book, playing a game, talking, going out for a milkshake or taking a child to work. As children become teenagers, she suggests it can be helpful to formalise this time by having a "date" with them a few times a year.
- Hang around time. This is time when parents and kids are hanging around the house together, often on weekends or during holidays, and interactions come and go. These interactions might happen when you say to your child, "Come and help me bring in the washing" or your child says to you, "Can you help me with this lego?".
- Rituals and celebrations. These are unique to every family. They might be as simple as a bedtime routine, or as complicated as a Jesse tree at Christmas time. Mealtimes are important times for a family to sit together, chat about what's happening, learn table manners, exchange views and enjoy one another's company - and, hopefully, to read the Bible together! (I added that bit.)
image is from stock.xchng
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I think of the people in my world in concentric circles.
In the middle circle, there's God, my family, and me. I pray about them nearly every time I pray.
In the next circle, there's Steve's and my families - our parents, brothers and sisters, and their children.
In the next circle, there's close Christian friends, people I get together with and chat or pray with regularly.
In the next circle, there's people I minister to: women in my Bible study group, children in my Sunday School class, anyone I'm mentoring, people who read my blog (hi!).
In the next circle, there's our church and the university Christian group my husband pastors.
In the next circle, there's our community: friends and neighbours who don't know Jesus.
In the next circle, there's Christians I know who are working overseas to tell people about Jesus.
In the next circle, there's Australia and the world.
There are 7 circles after the middle one - one for each day! I used to pray through 1 topic daily. Now that I have 4 children and a life disrupted by sleepless nights and chaotic days, I don't pray daily for an extended time, but I still work through the list.
One of the reasons I use a list is that I don't pray in a structured way every day, and it ensures that I still pray for people regularly. I've written the categories and people on a page from a notebook, which I fold and keep in my Bible. When I sit down to pray, I grab my list. I move onto the topic after the one I prayed about last time.
Here's how I pray for 10 minutes. I praise God for who he is and for Jesus' death, or I pray about what I've learned in the Bible that day. I ask for forgiveness and pray for God's help to overcome the sins I'm struggling with. I deal with my heart before God by bringing my anxieties and discouragements to him. I pray for my husband and children. I pray for my day. Then I pray about whatever topic I'm up to.
I'll admit, I never really get to number 7 - somehow, I cycle back to number 1 before then, usually because it's a while since I've prayed and I've forgotten where I'm up to! But most of the people get prayed for at least once a month. My list keeps me praying for people, but it doesn't overwhelm me.
How do you organise your prayer life? Your ideas would be helpful for the rest of us!
image is from stock.xchng
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
"Aslan is a lion--the Lion, the great Lion."image is from stock.xchng
"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he--quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King I tell you."
Monday, April 20, 2009
The fact that we can even ask this question shows how small our view of God has become.
We sing "God is holy", but when Isaiah saw God he fell face down and cried out, "Woe to me! ... I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips ... and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty" (Isa 6:1-8).
We celebrate God's glory, but when Ezekiel saw "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD" he fell on his face before him (Ezek 1:25-28).
We declare "God is sovereign", but we forget we're clay in the Potter's hands (Isa 29:16, 64:8, Jer 18:6, Rom 9:21).
We say "God will judge", but we don't like to admit that God is "a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deut 4:24) who "can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt 10:28).
We confess that Jesus is God, but when John saw the glorious, risen Christ, the Alpha and Omega, he fell "at his feet as though dead" (Rev 1:12-18).
We say "God is wise", but when God revealed his wisdom to Job, he covered his mouth and despised himself, repenting in dust and ashes (Job 40:4-5, 42:2-6).
We take God's word lightly, but when Jeremiah heard God speak he said, "My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the LORD and his holy words" (Jer 23:9).
We love to recall Jesus' meekness (Matt 11:29) but we forget that Jesus' anger is so terrible that it is better to be crushed by falling mountains than to face it (Rev 6:16 cf 14:14-20, 19:11-21).
Even God's mercy should make us tremble. God alone can grant forgiveness (Ps 130:4). He says "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy" (Ex 33:19, Rom 9:15). His forgiveness was won when he poured out his anger on his only Son (Rom 3:25). His love is higher than the heavens and his mercy vaster than the skies (Ps 103:11-12, Eph 3:14-21).
It's easy for us to domesticate God. Our God gives "orders to the morning" (Job 38:12) and does whatever pleases him (Job 23:13, Ps 115:3, 135:6, Jer 32:27). He needs nothing from us (Ac 17:25) and we can't escape his presence (Ps 139:7-12).
Have we forgotten the fearful view of God we're given in the Bible?
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. (1 Tim 6:15-16)
Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome [fearful] in glory, working wonders? (Exod 15:11)
To know God is to fear him. If you don't fear him, you need to learn to know him.
Next time I'd like to talk more about the fear in "the fear of the LORD".
images are from flickr.com and stock.xchng; the painting is Durand's Painting of God's Judgment Upon Gog
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The kids decorated cookies:
We played card games together:
Lizzy and I created a work of art:
We climbed some trees:
The kids created cubbies using every chair and blanket in the house:
We went for a walk and fed some ponies:
The boys made huge "armies" of toys and fought each other:
Lizzy got a new, grown-up haircut:
We visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art:
And, of course, we had an Easter egg hunt:
So you can see, it was a fun school holiday after all. God bless you, whether you're in the middle of work, school or holidays, wherever you may be!
Friday, April 17, 2009
I tell you, do not worry about your life ... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Jesus - Matt 6:25, 27, 33-34It's school holidays here in Victoria. First term wasn't easy, and I'm tired out. I settled Thomas into his first school year. I led a weekly Bible study. I combined all the usual duties - helping my husband, raising 4 children, caring for our home - with all the usual ministries - blogging, reading, thinking, writing. I felt overwhelmed, even though it was the easiest term of my year. So I've been worrying about next term.
Such strange creatures are we that we probably smart more under blows which never fall upon us than we do under those which do actually come. Charles Spurgeon
Next term, I'm writing a book review for a Christian magazine. I'm writing and leading a woman's seminar. I'm writing and teaching a 10-week Sunday School program. I'm helping out at Thomas' school every Wednesday. It all runs round and round my mind, and I wonder how I'll cope. Which is just the state of mind Satan wants me in:
We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy [God]. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. (CS Lewis The Screwtape Letters)
You've probably noticed this is a common pattern for me (and perhaps for you!). I felt the same at the start of last term. However hard I battle worry, I have to battle it again. Always there are things to be feared. Always there are anxieties which threaten to overwhelm me. Always there are 1000 possible futures which loom large in my mind.
[T]he problem with fears that exist only in our imagination is that, since they aren’t real, we must face them alone. God’s grace isn’t available to help us overcome imaginary problems that reside only in our mind. He will help us to put these imagined fears to death, but it’s only in the real world that His power is effective to uphold us in trouble. It’s only when He calls us to actually go through difficult times that His power is present to protect, comfort, and strengthen us. (Elyse Fitzpatrick Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety 46)
Today I listened to a talk on anxiety by Ed Welch, which spoke to my heart and calmed my fears. He was speaking about the verse, "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matt 6:34). He compared this to the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness.
Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. ... Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. (Exod 16:4, 21)
When God cared for the Israelites, he didn't provide enough manna for more than one day, except on the day before the Sabbath. Those who disobeyed and collected more found that it went bad before morning. Every morning, these hungry desert-wandering nomads woke up with empty hands. Every morning, they opened the tent flaps to see God's miraculous provision - just enough for that day! - lying like snow on the ground.
I wake up in the morning and say, "I can't do it. There's no way I'm going to get through this day." And at the end of the day, ... God gave grace for me to get through the day, and I could never have imagined what that grace would have looked like. ... Fear and anxiety, they live in the future tense. I'm asking you to do the impossible. I'm asking you to move toward the present by faith in Christ. ... So let's ask this question. What is now? What does now look like? What does obedience look like now? What is the grace that you have been given today? (Ed Welch Issues in Biblical Counselling talk 16)
I'd like to be fully prepared for every day of the coming term. I'd like to collect enough trust, enough energy, enough resources, to make it through each day. But that's not what God promises. He promises me grace for every day as it comes. He promises me grace for the present moment, not for 1000 possible moments. He knows what lies ahead, and he'll give me the grace I need exactly when I need it.
"When I was a little girl," I said, "I went to my father and said, "Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ." "Tell me," said Father, "When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?" "No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train." "That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need – just in time…" (Corrie ten Boon letter)
There will be days this term when I'll go to bed empty, at the end of my tether, with nothing left in reserve for tomorrow. But when I wake up, I know that God's manna will be lying like snow on the ground. As I read his word, he will give me encouragement. As I walk in obedience, he will give me strength. As I struggle - and yes! at times, fail - he will give me grace. That's God's way: he drives us to the end of ourselves so we will find our hope in him.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19
first image is from Cecilia Levy on flickr; others are from stock.xchng
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I love the way Cathy gets at the real issue - teaching girls the why, not just the what, of chores, and growing girls into the attitude of godly womanhood. Here's what she says:
In a later comment, Cathy says
Our daughter Audrey is 2. The level at which her "training" is different so far from her brother's is not the tasks in themselves, but the language we use to talk about them.
When she takes initiative to help my standard phrase is simply "good helping Audrey!" (with gusto and jubilation). I am keen for her to develop her view of herself as a helper, Genesis 1-2 style.
When Winton does the same thing (same initiative, similar tasks), I will praise his leadership in taking initiative to serve others (and talk about that as a very manly thing, like Jesus and Daddy ...).
We want Audrey to learn to do a lot of the same tasks Winton does, not so she can compete, but help.
In "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood", John Piper's opening chapter* illustrates how his mother necessarily did many of the jobs that his father would because his father was away a lot. The difference was the way she "loved" her husband's leadership and work when he was home.
It wasn't a difference between skills and strength, but disposition.
I guess the training has a lot to do with seeing the connection between chores and relationships.
I guess other things we would want to teach are the value and dignity of doing chores and how they are connected to serving Jesus.
* John Piper A Vision of Biblical Complementarity
I think they will both learn to do the same things, but will perhaps get more experience in some tasks than others (ie. the degree of competence might vary, although I expect there will be some skill in most tasks).
As they grow, I imagine there will be some differentiation in responsibilities, but still a wide range of skills developed.
You can follow the string on chores here. Please add any thoughts of your own to the comments!
image is from richies at flickr
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Before the throne of God aboveThe resurrection has come to mean a great deal to me lately, as I've listened to this song and read Hebrews morning by morning. I never fully realised it before, but because Jesus died and rose from the dead, he now stands before the Father in heaven praying for us - praying for me!
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
It sank in as I was reading Hebrews 2 the other morning. At first, it seemed like one of those chapters you skip past, I'm ashamed to admit. But after talking to my husband, and hearing him describe it as one of the most significant passages in the Bible, I took a closer look. I'm so glad I did!
Hebrews says it over and over and over again: Jesus is our high priest. He represents us before God in the Holy of Holies in heaven, where he presented the perfect sacrifice of his blood once for all time, and where he constantly prays for us. And what a "merciful and faithful high priest" he is!
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. ... [W]e do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. ... Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. ... He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (from Heb 2:9-18, 4:14-16, 7:25-27, my emphasis).
Satan hurls his accusations against us day and night (Rev 12:10). But there is One "who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 2:1-2). His bloody sacrifice of himself has covered all our sins for all time (Heb 9:11-14, 10:11-14). He "always lives to intercede" for us (Heb 7:25, Rom 8:34).
Most startling of all, this high priest is "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens", yet he knows exactly what it feels like to be tempted! He sympathises with me in my weakness.
I get so weary of struggling to trust and obey God. But Jesus also "suffered when he was tempted" (Heb 2:9). The fact that he struggled against temptation, again and again and again, yet never sinned, is a shining beacon to me not to "grow weary in doing good" (2 Thess 3:13).
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)image is from stock.xchng
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I chose this name because I was convinced that we need more honesty in the church, reflected on the whys and wherefores of honesty in this interview, and was challenged by various blogging friends to think harder about when honesty helps and when it doesn't.
The issue hasn't gone away. I'm more aware now that honesty can be an excuse or a shield for sin (If I mention my sin first, maybe you won't! If you tell me you're as bad as me, we both feel better!). But I'm still convinced that honesty can be a helpful way to encourage others by showing how grace and growth in godliness work out in practice. I've become more convinced that one of the main ways God helps us to grow is by us confessing our sin to one another and speaking the truth in love into one another's lives.
So I was very excited to come across chapter 9 in Tim Chester's You Can Change about honesty and how it can help us to change. I won't say much about the chapter, as Nicole will be talking about it tomorrow (I think!) on 168hours, but I thought I'd publish some excerpts here. I especially love what Tim says about the pious vs. the messy church!
How our honesty can help others
One way that we can speak the truth into people's lives is by narrating how the truth has affected our own lives. This personalizes the truth and helps people see how it applies today. It's also a good way of speaking truth if we lack the confidence or the opening to do so in more direct ways. If, for example, someone is complaining about ill-health, we might say: 'Yes, sickness can be a real struggle. When I was in hospital last year I had to keep reminding myself that God is with us in our struggles and he uses our suffering for our good. I needed to trust God's fatherly care.'
How to respond when people are honest with us
People bring their deceitful desires to us and we stroke them. They say: 'My boss made me mad today.' And instead of asking whether their anger reflects thwarted or threatened sinful desires, we say: 'He sounds terrible; I'd have done the same.' People brings their moans to us, and we join in. People tell us what they covet and we extol its worth with them, in effect saying, 'Yes, this is an idol worth worshipping.' Instead, the truth we're to speak to one another is 'the truth that is in Jesus'. We're to remind one another of the greatness and goodness of God revealed in Jesus. ...
What should you do if someone confesses their sin to you? Speak the truth in love. Don't tell them their sin is understandable or insignificant. That offers no comfort because it's a lie. But we can speak words of comfort because we can speak words of grace. Call them to repent of their sin and accept by faith the forgiveness that God offers. 'You are guilty, but Christ has born your guilt. You deserve God's judgement, but Christ has borne your judgement.' This is true comfort. Embody that forgiveness in your ongoing acceptance and love. But accept people with Gods' agenda for change. Explore, if you can, the lies and desires that lead to their sinful behaviour. Together you may be able to discern the truth they need to turn to and the idolatrous desires they need to turn from. Be proactive about offering accountability. That means asking the question! Ask them how they're getting on; ask them whether they've sinned again. Be specific: ask when, where, why, how often. Above all, point them to the grace and glory of Christ.
How to encourage honesty
Part of our problem is that we don't rebuke one another day by day. It means that, when we do, it creates or exacerbates a sense of crisis. Rebuke becomes confrontation. That may be needed in some situations, but often it can be avoided is rebuke has become a normal part of the way we disciple one another. I need people who regularly ask me about my walk with God, who readily challenge my behaviour, and know about my temptations. I need my friend Samuel, who often asks: 'What's the question you don't want me to ask you?'
Why honest confession is important
There are some sins that thrive on secrecy. They include sins of escape: things we do when we're feeling under pressure, such as sexual fantasies, pornography, compulsive eating and addictions. They include sins of the mind: things such as bitterness, envy, jealousy and complaining. We can become very adept at hiding them. But hiding them feeds them. You feel bad about yourself, so you eat compulsively. You eat compulsively, so you feel bad about yourself. You feel unable to dope with life so you become a hero in computer games. But your addiction makes the real world seem even harder. The fear of exposure means you withdraw from the Christian community or learn to pretend. But withdrawal and pretence cut you off from the help of the community.
One thing we've learnt in our church is that change takes place only when these sins come out into the open. It's difficult, but confession to another Christian will be a big step forward. You don't need to tell everyone! But do tell someone.
The pious vs the messy (honest!) church
"The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We are not allowed to be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together)
We can be communities of repentance only if we're communities of grace. And this means being honest, open and transparent about our struggles. We see one another as we really are and accept one another just as Christ accepted us. We model grace in our welcome of sinners, just as Jesus did. It means I don't pose as a good person. Instead, I portray myself as I truly am: a sinner who constantly receives grace from Christ. It means we rejoice to be a messy community of broken people.
(At this point Tim Chester quotes from his blog post A messy church or a pretending church. It's well worth a read, including the comments!)
Emphases are mine.
P.S I know I promised you something about the resurrection. But I told Nic I'd post this today! So you'll have to wait till tomorrow ...
Monday, April 13, 2009
My favourite hymn at the moment is "Before the Throne of God Above", the version from the CD Songs for the Cross Centered Life. It's about how the risen Jesus stands in heaven and pleads for me - something which has come to mean a great deal to me recently. I'll tell you why tomorrow.
In the meantime, you might want to read or sing these words with me:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart,
I know that while in heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of Glory and of Grace.
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high:
With Christ my Savior and my God,
With Christ my Savior and my God.
© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP).
You can listen to a short sample here.
image is from stock.xchng
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Friday, April 10, 2009
These 14 songs about the cross fill my heart with awe at God's amazing, everlasting grace, given freely to us in the death of his only Son.
Here's the words of "The Look", a song which takes me to the foot of the cross, where I see my sin and God's grace displayed in Christ. What better song to meditate on this Easter Friday?
I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed His loving eyes on me
As near His cross I stood -
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look -
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there -
But with a second look He said,
“I freely all forgive
This blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live”.
Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died,
The Lamb I crucified;
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place.
Thus while His death my sin displays
For all the world to view,
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too;
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I killed.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
It's so easy to spend my whole time examining myself and my thoughts and emotions, trying to change myself and prove myself worthy of God's love, and feeling a haunting sense of failure because I will never measure up. How much better to look at the one who died for me!
I don't need to earn God's love and approval: it's already mine in Christ. I don't need to be good enough for God: he sees me covered by the perfect righteousness of his Son. I don't need to keep striving to prove myself to me, others, or God: I can rest in the grace of God which is mine through the death of Jesus.
Robert Murray M'Cheyne said, "For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ."
Here's another quote I love:
While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves - blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very thing he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. (AW Tozer "The Pursuit of God" 85 HT Of First Importance my emphasis)So you'll notice a new verse at the top right hand side of this blog: "I have resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2).
Just in time for Easter!
image is from stock.xchng
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I found her observations about teenagers and young adults fascinating. I also found it helpful to hear someone who's complementarian in her views on biblical manhood and womanhood talk about why it's important for boys to be trained domestically. I have a lot to learn from her!
My main thought is -- I am totally FOR training boys to learn how to do household chores. My older 3 boys used to clean the whole house for me (vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms), and they have always helped with dishes and have had an interest in cooking. Plus, they all three know how to do their own laundry. And they have all had to learn to take care of babies and younger siblings, which will definitely serve them in the future! ...image is by from a second story from flickr
I think that it's important for boys to learn how to take care of themselves ... I think it will help them to appreciate their wives one day and be able to help out at times. ... To me, it's a serving and personal responsibility issue.
As far as how I organize chores is concerned, I have never really been able to stick to a consistent "chore time" -- not that I didn't try. I had charts everywhere and well thought-out plans, but the schedule was never that predictable, especially on Saturdays, and it usually just ended up that they would do basic things like cleaning out the dishwasher, sweeping, taking care of their beds and rooms, etc., and then when it was necessary (like people coming over for a meeting or me just not being able to stand it any longer), I would have them do the other kind of stuff -- just being real here :). ...
The funny thing is, with the older boys, at times you would think I had never taught them anything! It has been interesting to watch how puberty and the teenage years have affected them in these areas. It was as if they forgot how to make their beds, load their dishes into the dishwasher, put away their shoes, socks, books, etc.! They actually don't "see" the messes! (I've heard from some of my friends that this has happened with their girls, too, but I think it's a little less severe.)
Also, during the high school years, there was a natural need to pull back from requiring them to do a lot around the house. The main goal we had during that time was for them to manage their own room and bathroom and to pick up after themselves (they also did yard work). Their school load became very heavy, they had more serving opportunities at church, and they often had outside jobs. For all of them, sports and drama were also big time commitments that we felt were valuable opportunities during those years. So it was kind of a natural transition for them, and they definitely weren't naturally inclined toward the home!
But I guess that some of it has paid off. Now my two oldest live in a house near campus with two friends, and they actually do their own laundry (Kenneth said they weren't allowed to bring it home for me to do it :) ), they cook some, and they have a cleaning rotation. It's not a spotless place, but they do a pretty good job for college guys. Then, for some reason, when they come home for the weekend, they feel they can relax and drop their backpacks, etc. wherever they want :). We try to remind them to put their things away, but I've decided I'd rather have them feel welcome and want to come home than hear me nagging them about picking up their things the whole weekend! So the house is a little messier, and I enjoy my boys and their friends.
... I think training them to do some of these things is not contrary to helping them become men who will lead their families. I think it is helpful to them. What better way to lead than from the attitude and heart of a servant? And I think that because they have seen me and Kenneth function together, where I take the primary responsibility for the home, but he is willing to jump in and serve, they have had a good example to follow in their dad. ... I am concerned that they not think they were born to be pampered and waited upon, but that when their future wives serve them in the home, they will be grateful.
As far as age appropriate chores go, I think that's kind of hit or miss, and each child is different, but overall, I think I've usually been surprised that they can do a lot more than I would have expected!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Where then does wisdom come from?So where does wisdom dwell? What's the hiding-place that only God knows? What is "God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began"? (1 Cor 2:7)
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing ...
God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells. (Job 28:20-23)
You can almost hear the fanfare as it's announced: "the mystery of God ... Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge"! (Col 2:2-3) And then, with a second round of trumpets: "Christ crucified ... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God"! (1 Cor 1:23-24)
Jesus is God's wisdom. Christ crucified - such foolishness to oh-so-clever humans! (1 Cor 1:23-24) - is at the heart of God's wisdom. The mystery hidden for ages is revealed as Jesus dies upon a cross (Rom 16:25-27, Eph 1:9-10, 3:4-11, Col 1:26-27).
In Proverbs 8, under the semblance of Lady Wisdom, we see Jesus, wisdom in the flesh. It's not that Solomon had Jesus in mind - he was writing about Lady Wisdom - but this passage, like every other page of the Old Testament, proclaims the name of Jesus (2 Cor 1:20, 1 Pet 1:10-11, 1 Cor 10:1-11).
In Proverbs 8 we hear wisdom call (Prov 8:1-11), we see wisdom rule (Prov 8:12-21), and we watch wisdom create (8:22-31) - and in each we see Jesus, the wisdom of God.
Wisdom goes to the most public places and calls people to listen. She calls out from the highest point of the city (Prov 9:3) - from the temple. She calls out to the simple and the wise, "Come and get wisdom, more precious than rubies!" (Prov 8:1-11)
Jesus, too, goes to the public places, to the temples and synagogues, as well as to the lonely places, to a Samaritan woman and a crowd in the desert. He calls people to follow him, preaching the kingdom, for "that is why I have come" (Mk 1:14-18, 21-22, 38, 12:35).
And he speaks with wisdom. The religious leaders are stunned by his understanding at the age of 12, before he grows into his full wisdom and stature. Jesus is a greater wisdom teacher than Solomon.
The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. (Lk 2:46-47, 52, 11:31).Wisdom rules
Wisdom alone can give a ruler sound counsel and just judgement. Wisdom grants power and fills treasuries (Prov 8:12-21). No wonder that Solomon asked for "wisdom and knowledge", "a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong" (1 Kgs 3:5-9, 2 Chron 1:7-10).
In Jesus we see a wiser ruler than Solomon. On him rests "the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD ". He judges with justice, not by outward appearance. He is the "Wonderful Counsellor" and the "Prince of peace". (Isa 11:1-5, 9:6-7)
My favourite passage in Proverbs is 8:22-31. Wisdom is "brought forth" and "given birth" as the "first of God's works". She is the "craftsman" at the Creator's side, rejoicing to see him "set the heavens in place" and trace "the horizon on the face of the deep".
It's impossible to miss the echoes in the New Testament. Jesus is "the firstborn over all creation". The entire universe was created and is sustained "through him", "by him and for him" (Col 1:15-20, Jn 1:1-5, 14, Heb 1:1-3).
Then I was the craftsman at his side.In Lady Wisdom's delighted wonder we hear the majestic laughter of the Son, the craftsman at God's right hand, echoing through the newly minted heavens as "the morning stars sing together and all the angels shout for joy" (Job 38:7).
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world,
and delighting in mankind.
Heeding wisdom's call
We're left with a fantastic invitation: to heed the call of Lady Wisdom, and to hear in her call the far better invitation of Jesus. As we listen to God's message of wisdom - as we trust in Jesus' death on the cross for us - we "find life" and "receive favour" from God (Prov 8:32-36).
What better message to hear this Easter?
A final question
Our Bible study group was a bit confused. Why does Proverbs 8 say wisdom was "given birth", but also that she was "the first of God's works"? What does it mean to say that Jesus is the "firstborn" over creation? Was Jesus born or made? Was there a point at which he came into being?
There's no hint in the Bible that Jesus, unlike wisdom, is one of God's "works". He is God's "firstborn", the "one and only Son". He is eternal, with no beginning and no end Col 1:15, Jn 3:16-18, Heb 13:18, Rev 1:8, 17-18). Our Bible study group ended up looking at the Nicene Creed, which puts it beautifully:
I believe in ... one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made.images are from stock.xchng
Monday, April 6, 2009
I thought this might be a good time to reprise part of this post, which I wrote at the end of the summer break. We were all sick, so it wasn't a great holiday, and by the end I was desperate for change! I'm reminding myself - as much as you! - about what makes a good school holiday.
I've already made sure we're having more routine and less screen time, and the kids have lots of activities planned with friends. I'm exhausted, so I'm not sure the other activity ideas will happen - apart from some time with family at Easter! You might have some other ideas for school holidays. Anyhow, here's what I wrote:
Here's how I'd like to change things during our next school holidays:
- less screen time. I realised near the end of the holidays that the kids were grumpy partly because they were having too much TV and computer time. During term time, I limit their screen time to 30 minutes a day. But during the school holidays, screen time gradually crept up, leaving grumpy bored children in its wake.
- more planned activities. My children generally get along well, inventing games and playing happily together, so I'm happy to let them fill the hours enjoying each other's company. (Don't misunderstand me, there's plenty of times things don't run so smoothly in our house!) I don't normally need to come up with holiday amusements, so perhaps I've become a little lazy.
- extend the kids' learning. I've bought books like Hands-On Science, full of experiments for my science-loving son, and Teaching Art With Books Kids Love, full of art activities for my craft-loving daughter, but we rarely have time for them. The school holidays would be a wonderful chance to do these together.
- maintain daily routines. During holidays, it's easy to let the usual daily routines slip: Bible reading, piano lessons, breakfast together. It's good to take time away from normal routines to rest and relax, but a bit more structure in the day would help prevent the loose-endish holiday blues.
- keep doing the good stuff. There are lots of things I want to keep doing, like day trips, time with grandparents, and spending individual time with each of my children.
Any other ideas or suggestions?
image is from stock.xchng
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It's not a long book, and it's very readable. Each chapter begins with stories of women who struggle with anxiety. You're bound to see yourself in some of them! It's comforting to know we're not alone, and to hear how God has helped people to overcome their worry and fear.
Section 1 the nature of fear
Elyse Fitzpatrick starts by talking about the physical nature of fear, and how it can lead to panic attacks. I was challenged when I realised that caffeine, sugar, and insufficient exercise and rest can feed into the vicious cycle of fear. There's a few changes to be made there!
Section 2 the source of your fears
What had the most profound impact on me was realising that there are "three primary causes of fear" (196):
- the desire to control
- the desire to please people
- the desire to be perfect
It's hard to struggle with anxiety, depression, guilt or any difficult emotion over a long period of time: if you're human, I'm sure you know that! It's easy to run from the situation which is causing such pain. It's easy to start questioning whether God really is working in you, or whether you'll be stuck this way forever.
So it was so reassuring to read these words, and to realise that I can trust God to change me, in his own good timing, through the circumstances he's given me:
Think about the trials or difficulties that you are facing. … Is it possible that God has allowed these specific difficulties into your life to teach you of His goodness, of your inability to control events, and to set you free from your fears? … Could He free you from your fears? Yes. Will he free you? Yes, when it pleases Him to do so. In the meantime, He's using your fear to draw you to Himself and to change you. If you didn't struggle with these problems, you wouldn't see your need for Him. You see, God is interested in this change in you because He is going to be glorified because of it, and that's the goal of everything He does: His glory. (60, 133)Section 3 - God's answers to your fears
Elyse Fitzpatrick's answer to worry, anxiety and fear is to unpack 4 themes in 4 chapters:
- God's sovereignty - God is in control, however hard it is to see this during times of suffering
- the fear of God - the fear of God is big enough to displace all smaller fears
- the opposite of fear: love - as we love others rather than giving in to fear, we overcome anxiety
- God's grace - God's grace sustains us and gives us confidence to change
Only the fear of God is big enough to drive out all other fears: not a slavish fear, that cringes from God, but a childlike fear, that delights in his awesome majesty and runs to him in love and trust.
We might be scared to leave the house, or sit through church, or talk to a stranger, or lead a Bible study. Only as we dare to trust God and act in obedience, even when our hearts are pounding and we have a tight band of anxiety around our chest, will we overcome our fears.
As we reach out to others in love, even when we're afraid, we'll discover that love is stronger than fear. Our love for others will become greater than our fear of their disapproval and our worry about them loving us.
I found myself praying that my fear of God and my love for others will become bigger than my fears, so that I will love friends who don't know God by joyfully sharing the hope I have in Jesus. I'm also trying to pray for, rather than worry about, those whose opinions and criticisms I fear.
Two days ago, I prayed with some good friends. We talked about how it's a battle - every single day! for all of us! - to let go of our fears and to trust God. Every day, we battle to depend on faith rather than feeling. Every day, we struggle to do the things that are hard for us, trusting God to give us the strength we need. Every day, we fight to believe that God is bigger than our fears, and that he is working in us by his grace according to his perfect timing.
If you struggle with fear, worry or anxiety, I encourage you to read this helpful book.
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