Tuesday, November 30, 2010

woman to woman (6b) getting practical: everday ideas for women encouraging women

Here are some more suggestions for women encouraging women, this time for those of you who have an official (or unofficial) role in your church facilitating relationships between older and younger women.

2. As the facilitator

  • Speak respectfully about older women in your church. Model this respect to others.
  • Build bridges between younger women and older women in your church. Organize mixed gatherings. Prompt older women to contact younger women. Include women of different ages in prayer partnerships and Bible study groups.
  • Organize seminars for women with speakers you can trust. Run a book club for women. If you run a Bible study, occasionally run topical studies on areas of interest to women.
  • Remember how isolated many single and childless women feel. Run women's events and Bible studies at times that suit working women. Organize get-togethers for women without obvious friendship groups.
  • Train women in Titus 2 ministry and mentoring. If you don't have the skills to train them, find someone who does and ask them to lead a training day at your church.
  • Mentor a younger woman and encourage her to mentor someone else.

Any other ideas?

With thanks to my friend Jenny, who came up with the idea for this post.

image is from sashamd at flickr

Monday, November 29, 2010

what I'm reading: one moment with the cross from Octavius Winslow

Here's a quote that sums up everything I've learnt about change during the last two years - and a personal favourite.

One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.

Quote is from Octavius Winslow The Foot of the Cross HT Of First Importance.

image is from Jules.K at flickr

Friday, November 26, 2010

the importance of shoelaces

Thomas has 3 dreams for when he grows up. He tells me,

"I want to be:

  • a digger (he and his school friends were happily digging a hole in the ground at playtime until this wonderful game was forbidden)
  • a band-player (Thomas' most treasured ambition is still to play the drums)
  • a sports teacher (sport being his favourite class at school)."

There's a problem with the last one, though. The other day he said, in heart-wrenching tones, "Mummy, I don't think I can be a sports teacher because I don't have shoelaces!"

Oh, dear! I never realised I was defeating Thomas' ambitions by insisting he has Velcro on his runners for ease of doing-up.

Once Thomas gets shoelaces, all his dreams will come true. On that day, he tells me, he will be good at sport and fast at running.

It makes you wonder what other problems could be solved through the simple application of a pair of shoelaces.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

woman to woman (6a) getting practical: everday ideas for women encouraging women

Here's a brilliant list of suggestions for older women seeking to encourage younger women. My friend Jenny, queen of lists, came up with this one. Add your own ideas!

What's your place in women's discipleship? Do you see yourself as a young woman, an older woman, or a facilitator of discipleship relationships between younger and older women? It's likely you fit all three categories! Whichever group you belong to, here's some practical suggestions.

1. As the older woman

  • Talk about yourself. Share your life, thoughts, and struggles. Let younger women “see your progress” (1 Tim 4:15).
  • Ask lots of questions. Listen. Be interested. Be slow to give unsolicited advice.
  • Tell women what you've been reading or thinking about. They might not say much, but they are listening.
  • Keep on hand some favourite books to lend or give away. Ask follow-up questions. Read a book about womanhood with a younger woman.
  • Share how you read the Bible and pray. Talk about how you deal with temptations to worry or gossip.
  • Invite women into your home. Let them see how you run things. Teach a young woman how to make and keep a budget. Don't try to make your house look perfect.
  • If you're married, welcome a single woman into your family, especially on difficult occasions like New Year's Eve. Let her see your struggles so she doesn't idolize marriage and family life.
  • If you're single, model godliness in long-term singleness: show how your trust remains firmly in the Lord and how you serve him in your circumstances. Model godly relationships with the opposite sex.
  • Give practical help to younger women. Look after a single mum's kids. Ask an international student over for dinner. Visit a depressed woman every week. Clean or do a load of washing for others during times of stress.
  • Enlist young women's help in helping others. Spend a day together cooking casseroles for people in your church. Visit an old peoples' home. Teach Sunday school together.
  • Be generous with praise and encouragement: “It's great seeing you reaching out to women at work” or “Your children are a delight. You're doing just fine; hang in there.” But don't flatter for the sake of it.
  • Be intentional when you go to church. Sit next to a younger woman and ask how she's going as a Christian. Pray for the women at church.
  • Befriend the teenage girls in your church. Go to the young people's service.
  • Be involved in women's lives. Ring them up. Remember their details and ask about them.
  • Write a younger woman an encouraging note, telling her how you've seen her grow in godliness.
  • Call a young woman each week and ask how you can pray for her.

Any other ideas?

These suggestions are based on a list created by my friend Jenny Moody, with input from Carmelina Read, Alison Payne and Karen Beilharz. I've also drawn on Susan Hunt's Spiritual Mothering, an excellent source of practical ideas for women's ministry to women.

image is from dr. zaro at flickr

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

not needing the "why"

There's an interesting little verse in 1 Peter: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." It's the lesser-known twin to this verse: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Pet 5:6-7)

When life gets messy, it's time to humble myself under God's hand. It's time to acknowledge that I don't understand it all, but that I know that God does. It's time to beg God for deliverance, and trust him to deliver me when the time is right. It's time to look to him for comfort and strength to endure. It's time to cast my cares on him.

Life is messy. It's exhausting and, at times, horrible. But God hasn't lost the plot. Nothing that happens to me is senseless. I don't need to know the "why". I don't need to understand the problem so I can create a solution. I don't need to know how to fix it. What I do need is to know is that God is in control, loving me every step of the way.

image is from Cecilia Levy at flickr

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

how we change (14) conclusion: my story

Many months ago - on July 13th, 2009 - I started this series with a post on God's grace. It seems appropriate to finish it in the same way: with some reflections on grace I wrote last year soon after reading Tim Chester's You Can Change.

I lie there and soak myself in God’s love.

It’s starting to dawn on me – after 30 years of being a Christian! – that nothing I do can change his love for me. No quiet times faithfully or unfaithfully performed. No backsliding into over-spending or over-eating. No failures to fulfil my responsibilities to husband or children or neighbours.

As a teenager, I’d write vows in my diary - “I promise to pray every day. I promise to read the Bible every day. I promise never to complain again.” – then wonder if God would strike me down when I broke them.

As a young woman, I’d wake in the night with a sick feeling in my stomach and write yet another midnight list of rules to control my spending, agonizing over whether I could possibly be a real Christian and give in to sin so often.

As a mother, I’d create elaborate plans for every aspect of marriage, homemaking, child-rearing and ministry, only to burn out after a month of trying to do everything and swear never to write a plan again.

None of it worked. Not for long, anyway. Until I realized that at the deepest level I’m a legalist, a perfectionist, a fulfiller of expectations, constantly trying to prove myself to God, myself, and others.

I believe the lie that I have to earn God’s love. My idol, my deepest desire, is to be worthy, complete, respected. It’s time to start believing God when he says I’m forgiven. It’s time to start resting in God’s grace.

It doesn’t matter how other people see me. It doesn’t even matter how I see me. What matters is how God sees me, and he sees me through the lens of his grace, clothed in the perfect righteousness of his Son. He see me, and he forgives me and changes me into everything he wants me to be.

As I realize this, it’s like opening a door into a new world, glowing with grace and freedom. In this world, I don’t obey because I have to. I don’t obey because my self-concept will fall apart if I fail. I don’t obey because I’ll let people down if I don’t meet their expectations.

I obey because all I can see is Jesus dying on a cross for me.

images are from stock.xchng and from David Gunter at flickr

Monday, November 22, 2010

what I'm reading: encouragement to evangelise from The Trellis and the Vine

Ouch! This quote always makes me think, leads me to repentance, and renews my desire to talk about Jesus.

A Christian with no passion for the lost is in serious need of self-examination and repentance. Even the atheists have worked this out. Penn Jillette is an avowed and vocal atheist, and one-half of the famous comic-illusionist act Penn and Teller. He was evangelized by a polite and impressive man, and had this to say about the experience:

...If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life, or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward...How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that...

To learn more about what Christians believe, click here.

Quote is from The Trellis and the Vine 53.

image is from Two Ways To Live

Friday, November 19, 2010

a children's Bible that's worth checking out

Our youngest, Andrew, is getting baptised soon (he's already 4, but each of our children has been baptised older because of parental disorganisation!). When they're baptised, our kids receive a children's Bible from their grandparents. This time, it's The Lion Day-By-Day Bible, which I'm so impressed by that I added a paragraph to my long-ago-post on children's Bibles:

4-8 year olds: The Lion Day-By-Day Bible. Here's that rare thing: a kids' Bible that is both comprehensive and simply written. It retells much more of the Bible than most kids' Bibles, doesn't miss the scary bits, and actually covers the whole story of Jonah! The readings (one for each day of the year) are short and well-told, and the illustrations are gorgeous.

I won't know until I've read it to my kids, but I think this might be one of the best classic kids' Bible I've seen. If it is, it will move into top spot on my list of suggested children's Bibles alongside The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible, which are stronger on biblical theology, but less strong on retelling as many of the Bible stories as well and simply as possible.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Romans 12:1-2 (4) how far will you go?

This is the final part of a 4-part summary of Steve Chong's talk on Romans 12:1-2, which God used to change my heart.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:1-2

We've seen that serving is our response to God's mercy.

Serving begins with getting my heart right before God. It begins with
1. getting my body ready ("offer your bodies as living sacrifices")
2. getting my heart ready ("be transformed by the renewing of your mind").

The temptation in Christian ministy is to want to climb the Christian corporate ladder: ordinary Christian to youth leader to theology college to full-time paid gospel worker (or whatever the ladder is for you). Our goal is to reach the top.

But the point is not to becomes a gospel worker (or a speaker, or a writer, or a blogger, or a small group leader, or even a respected older woman). The point is to serve God.

When we meet him, Jesus won't say, "Well done, good and faithful gospel worker". He'll say, "Well done, good and faithful servant".

Our example is the Son of Man, who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45). Who said, "Not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36). Who lived to please his Father.

How far will you go?

If I went back to bedrock and asked, "How can I be a living sacrifice? How can I serve? How can I please You?", how would it change my life? What would I give up? What would I do? These are the questions I've been asking myself.

Blogging is a good thing; but what if it's not the best thing? What if I could better serve Jesus another way? It's hard to see clearly when you're in the middle of it! Which is one reason I'm taking a break next year: to reflect on what God wants from me.

I've realised that, yes, I can give up blogging if I should be using this time and energy for something else. It's a ridiculously freeing realisation. I may well come back to blogging; but at least I'm not holding it tightly, unable to let go.

What are you holding on to?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sarah Wilson on reading, writing and other fine stuff

There's a column in Sunday Life magazine that I find oddly appealing. Oddly because it's on a very different page to me spiritually. But I like reading it anyway.

Every week Sarah Wilson talks about her "experimental journey" to "make life more meaningful, happier, sweeter" - from decluttering to mindful eating to Random Acts Of Kindness. I enjoy it because it isn't solemn and earnest (ugh!), but cheerful, self-deprecating, chatty, and written with a light touch.

It also helps me understand people. My hairdresser does yoga and "cleanses her space" with crystals. My fellow school mum is rediscovering her faith. This column gives me a window into the hodge-podge of "spiritualities" that pass for religion for many Western women, who don't have Jesus but long for meaning.

Which makes my motives sound far more worthy than they are. Actually, I read with Sunday-morning laziness, waiting for something to jump out in a oh-really-you-too! way. Like the time Sarah discovered slow reading and the "Very Fine Art of Sitting on the Couch on a Saturday Afternoon with a Pot of Tea and a Good Book". You go, girl!

I, too, battle "Perfect Holiday Syndrome", which means I have to let go of my holiday ideals and learn to rest. When Sarah rediscovered her whiteness -"going out for breakfast, yoga, Moleskin notebooks" - I realised why I'll never be stylish in a "liberal, upper middle-class" way. I even liked (some of) what she said about the Dalai Lama, because he, too, can't silence the chatter in his head. So there.

This week, I realised Sarah writes like I do:

This column generally emerges from a walk around the block. Paragraph by paragraph, it unfurls as I lap the ‘hood. As Nietzsche wrote: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”. Henry Thoreau once said: “Methinks the moment my legs being to move, my thoughts being to flow”. Which is not to imply my column is a work of great thoughts. Just that it probably wouldn’t exist at all if I didn’t walk.

Lots of my blog-posts come together while I'm walking and staring at the clouds. Paragraphs form themselves while I drive and listen to music. The perfect sentence pops into my head when I'm asleep.

The best writing doesn't happen when I'm thinking; it happens when I'm not thinking.

So here it is, my very own life-tip with capital letters: A Relaxed Mind Is A Creative Mind. If you're having trouble getting something right, get off the chair, go for a walk, let your thoughts drift - and it will come to you. Sweet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

woman to woman (5) a Titus 2 curriculum: practical skills

Here's one final topic for older women to cover as they teach and train younger women: the practical stuff.

5. Practical skills
I doubt that Paul was thinking of formal teaching or even formal mentoring (a recent concept!) when he encouraged older women to teach young women—although both teaching and mentoring have their place! The items on Paul's list are very practical: loving a husband, managing a home, staying pure (Titus 2:4-5). Young women need older women to come alongside them, give them help and support, and, in the minutiae of life, offer words of wisdom and a godly example.

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT: five topics that women should be teaching to women. You don't have to be a theological expert or trained in ministry to teach these things to a younger woman, even if you're formally mentoring her. Simply open the Bible, learn from it together and seek help if you get stuck. Share your life and what you've learned about godly womanhood. Pray together. If you have daughters, teach these things to them first, and then to other women, and train other women to pass them onto others so that the teaching of younger women doesn't stop with us (2 Tim 2:2). Remember that discipling women doesn't generally take place in a formal setting; it happens naturally as we get involved in one another's lives.

Next time we'll be sharing ideas about how to get the older-younger woman thing happening in your church and community. So get your thinking caps on!

You can read the rest of my article at The Briefing.

image is by rocket ship at

Monday, November 15, 2010

what I'm reading: when I'm still not changing from You Can Change

Have you read You Can Change and you're still not changing? Do you keep falling back into sin? Do you wonder why you've plateaued in your growth?

Tim Chester says we can plateau for a couple of reasons: we stop fighting sin once we get rid of the obvious sins of behaviour, but never confront the more subtle sins of the heart; or we only think we've plateaued, because as we grow in godliness, the more subtle sins of the heart become clearer to us (I can testify to that!).

We might also stop growing because we're missing something. Here's Chester's summary of the steps in You Can Change, which I thought would be good revision for us all:

1. Keep returning to the cross to see your sin cancelled and to draw near to God in full assurance of welcome.
2. Keep looking to God instead of to sin for satisfaction, focusing on the four liberating truths of God's greatness, glory, goodness and grace.
3. Cut off, throw off, put off, kill off everything that might strengthen or provoke sinful desires.
4. Bring sin into the light through regular accountability to another Christian.

If you resist doing these four things, and we often resist numbers 3 and 4, it's a sign that you still treasure sin in your heart: sin is still more important to you than God. Turn to God in repentance, reflect on sin's consequences, meditate on the all-surpassing glory of Christ, and beg God to give you a love for him that eclipses your love for sin.

It's scary, isn't it, how much we resist true change! Let's keep fighting, and praying for God to help us love him more than we love sin.

Friday, November 12, 2010

a poem

Here's a little poem I wrote while sitting in my favourite coffee shop the other day. It's nothing much, but at least it shows I'm starting to relax after a very busy year! There should be indents throughout the poem but blogger doesn't do that. Too bad.

Morning coffee

It's a long time since I have sat
and let thoughts stream through my head
like trailing drifts of cloud.

Here, in this lovely coffee shop stillness
I sip
and stare.
Leaves move
birds cheep
a group of gossiping mums walk past

and I sit
enclosed in an invisible bubble
of silence
and solitude

held only by the grace of God
held so surely, so securely
that I can drift
lay aside my work
and give myself over

to rest.

image is by 2Bcup at flickr

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Romans 12:1-2 (3) renewed in my mind

Have you ever wanted to know God's will for your life? I've been wondering what God wants from me. How can I best serve him?

Here's the starting point to knowing God's will - and part 3 of my 4-part summary of Steve Chong's talk on Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

We've seen that serving is our response to God's mercy.

It begins with
1. getting my body ready ("offer your bodies as living sacrifices")
2. getting my mind ready ("be transformed by the renewing of your mind").

Today we're looking at 2.

"be transformed by the renewing of your mind"

Our job is to have our minds renewed daily. It's not us doing the renewing - it's something God does in and for us.

Why? So we may be able to discern the will of God. So we can see what God wants from our lives.

How good is your eyesight in discerning what God wants from your life? If you can't discern his will, maybe there's a problem with your mind.

Here's God's will (drumroll, please) ..............
........he wants you - all of you - for him!

If you're not ready to have all of you used up for God, don't start serving. Get your mind and body ready.

At this point in the talk I pricked up my ears. I was reminded of James 1:5-7 & 4:1-9, which tells us to ask for wisdom, but warns us that God only gives wisdom to the one who's single-minded. If we're double-minded, we're to repent of our idolatry.

You may remember how this talk came in answer to my prayer for single-mindedness. Only when we're single-minded - only when we're prepared to give up everything for Jesus - will we have the wisdom to discern what he wants from us.

Of course, this isn't an on/off switch, for we're never completely single-hearted during this life. If we could only serve God once our motives were 100% pure, none of us could serve.

Still, it's true that it's impossible to serve God wholeheartedly when your heart is captured by something else. The more willing I am to give up everything, the clearer my vision will be, and the better I'll know what God wants from me.

Where those reflections led me, I'll tell you next time...

This is a summary of part of a talk given by Steve Chong at MTS Challenge Victoria.

image is from stock.xchng

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Equal and Complementary: a review

A few weeks ago, I went to the conference Equal and Complementary. I wrote a review for Sola Panel, which you can read here. Below are the more personal bits of what I wrote, reflecting on what being complementarian means to me.

I was once a feminist. In my early twenties, I became a complementarian, with the view that God made men and women equal but with different roles and responsibilities. It didn't happen overnight; I studied the Bible, read books by complementarians and egalitarians, and joined in discussions, until I was convinced that the Bible teaches that God wants men to be servant leaders, and women to be helpers by their side as, together, we make Christ known.

It wasn't an easy position to come to, and it's not always an easy one to hold. It's an unpopular viewpoint in Melbourne and much of Australia, and it doesn't sit easily with family, friends or the wider church or culture. It's led to a few uncomfortable moments! I've also had to battle my own desires for power and recognition.

Over time, I've only become more convinced that God's plan for men and women is good. I've seen women cared for and honoured, and their teaching gifts nurtured and encouraged. I've seen men grow strong, gentle and servant-hearted. There's something beautiful about servant leadership and trusting submission that displays the truth of the gospel in a way nothing else can (Eph 5:22-33).

...Sometimes it's (rather patronizingly) suggested that men are complementarian because it advantages them (which it rarely does in our culture) and that complementarian women are oppressed. In fact, ... we're complementarian because we believe it's what God teaches in the Bible, and we see how both men and women are blessed and benefited by it.

Fiona McLean put words to my feelings:

In the end, I want my worldview to be shaped by God's word, the Bible. Where the Bible's teaching grates against the culture in which I live, I want to make sure that I am neither misinterpreting the Bible, not capitulating to our culture … As a complementarian woman, I feel affirmed and valued. When men live out the complementarian view, this has enormous benefits for women! All believers, men and women, have a valuable part to play in God's mission in the world, whether in paid or unpaid work, formal or informal, church-based or home-based or elsewhere. Let's get on with it!

To read the rest of my review (including some of the biblical and theological reflections which led me to this point) click here.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

how we change (13) a lifetime of change

What do you expect when you pick up a book like You Can Change? Two years ago, when I started reading, I hoped that certain sinful patterns would be broken.

I chose a "change project" I'd been avoiding for years: perfectionism. As I read and worked through the exercises, I thought about self-improvement and proving myself, changing from the heart, grace and legalism, false beliefs and idols, choices and obstacles to change, disciplines and accountability. By the end of the book I'd made some breakthroughs.

It's over a year later, and where am I at? Still fighting perfectionism, that's where! Like all temptations, it's powerful, and it hasn't lessened with time. I have a better understanding of why I struggle and how to fight. Best of all, I've learned to flee to the cross. But I haven't found victory. Every day, I take up my weapons and fight again.

Which is why the final chapter of You Can Change is a great way to finish the book. In it, Chester reminds us that, like a puppy at Christmas, change isn't for a day - it's for a lifetime. "It's a marathon, not a sprint." My sinful nature won't die until the day I die. Until then, every day, every moment, I'll be fighting. There are no days off in this war.

Once, when I found change this hard, I would have despaired. I would have tried a thousand sets of rules and resolutions, and despaired as I watched each one fail. I would have given up, because if I'm not going to change, then why bother? I needed a new motivation for change (grace, not proving myself); a new way to change (grace, not rules); and a new hope for change (grace, not willpower).

Which brings me to the other reason I love the last chapter of You Can Change. It doesn't just remind us that change takes a lifetime; it reminds us that we can change, for we have God's grace. There are two images of God's grace that stay with me from my time reading this book:

  • An image of God's grace surrounding and upholding me like an over-soft mattress (like our rather old mattress, in fact). I'll never forget the night I lay in bed and realised, more deeply than ever before, that I can't do anything to earn or change God's grace: I can only rest in it.
  • An image of a stone rolling downhill. Chester pointed out, back in chapter 3, that change is less like pushing a boulder uphill and more like a boulder rolling downhill. It's harder to stop change than to keep in step with how God is changing me! Change is irrevocable and inevitable, for God's purposes don't fail.
Change is slow, it's up-and-down, and sometimes I can't see it; but it's happening, because God's grace forgives and transforms me. I'll never stop sinning during this life. Every day, I fight for faith and repentance all over again. But God has given me everything I need to change. However often and terribly I fail, I needn't despair. I can change, because God is changing me.

We needn't and shouldn't despair...Sin is never the last word for the children of God. Grace is always the last word...There is hope for change. That hope is not in counsellors or methods or rules. That hope is a great and gracious Saviour who has broken the power of sin and placed his lifegiving Spirit in our hearts.

images are from stock.xchng

Monday, November 8, 2010

what I'm reading: escape or endurance from The Briefing

When life is hard, how we long to be delivered! Whether it's a niggling health issue, ongoing grief, the pressure of sickness or disability, or just the wearying, unrelenting demands of life, how we long for our difficulties to end!

We pray, asking God, "Why haven't you taken this away? What are you trying to achieve? It's not glorious, no-one sees it, yet you ask me to bear it day by day. Why don't you deliver me?".

I was reflecting on these things recently when I read these words in The Briefing:

There is something real about the Psalms. As you read about the Psalmist's world, it still looks the same as your world...But in the midst of this realism, like a cool breeze on a stifling summer's night comes the quiet promises of God. Despite the rhetoric in so many of 'his' churches, these promises don't really tell you how to escape; instead, they help you to endure.

The apostle Paul once begged God - three times! - to take away his "thorn in the flesh". Instead of delivering him, Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:1-10)

We would choose escape; but often, what God gives us is strength to endure. Even when no human sees our patient endurance, God sees it, and his name is glorified.

Quote is from Peter Bolt's article "Delightful breezes from the Psalms" in The Briefing; emphasis mine.

images is from ashley rose at flickr

Friday, November 5, 2010

family photos

Some family pics from the last half year or so:

the lake near our house,

at our favourite local park,

mucking around at home,

footy day at school (go the mighty Blues!),

getting ready for a cousin's super heroes party,

the Royal Melbourne Show,

and climbing the kids' favourite tree at Heide.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Romans 12:1-2 (2) a living sacrifice

Here's part 2 of Steve Chong's talk on Romans 12:1-2, a talk that God used to change my heart. You can read part 1 here.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:1-2

We've seen that serving is our response to God's mercy.

Serving begins with getting my heart right before God. It begins with
1. getting my body ready ("offer your bodies as living sacrifices")
2. getting my mind ready ("be transformed by the renewing of your mind.")

Let's start with 1.

"offer your bodies as living sacrifices"

"Living sacrifice". We've heard the words so often we don't even hear them. We water down "sacrifice" until it means missing a favourite TV show to go to a Bible study. But sacrifice is about a bloody, dead lamb on an altar. We are the "living slaughtered", our lives used up for the pleasure of God.

The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.

We say to God, "Yes, Lord, take me, take all of me.........but not......... ______________."

What do you finish the sentence with? What's your disclaimer, your caveat? That's what's stopping you from serving God with all your heart.

We all signed up for this. Have we forgotten?

I went home and finished the sentence. It was ridiculously easy to come up with 5 things that keep me from serving God whole-heartedly, and I'm sure there's more:
1. comfort
2. good standing with non-Christians
3. my children's happiness
4. the good opinion of Christians
5. the right to complain (!).

What's holding you back from being a living sacrifice?

This is a summary of part of a talk given by Steve Chong at MTS Challenge Victoria.

images is from stock.xchng

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the joy of giving

A few months ago, Steve and I loaned our car to a student so she could use it for ministry. It was involved in an accident.

Thankfully, no-one was hurt, but the side of the car was smashed in. It took 8 weeks to fix (parts take a long time to arrive from Japan!) but we now have our car back, as good as new (and smelling powerfully of car paint).

This small experience taught me so many things. Here's what I learned.

  • When we heard about the accident, my first reaction was shock. No surprises there! But what was surprising was how quickly shock gave way to joy. What a privilege it is to suffer, even in a very small way, for Jesus, who suffered so much for us!
  • We are blessed to have enough to loan, share and lose. What we own belongs to God, not to us: we're only loaning what is God's, and if it gets damaged or lost, it doesn't matter, for it wasn't ours in the first place. It's God's to do as he sees fit with.
  • As he grows us, God reveals our idols and loosens our grip on them. Money, security, convenience: these things mean far more to me than they should, and I only realise this when they're taken away. This experience taught me to hold our possessions with an open hand.
  • We were humbled by how God meets our needs through other Christians. We loaned our car; a friend anonymously paid the insurance excess; and another friend loaned us her car while ours was being fixed. We bear one another's burdens.
  • God's providence is precise and loving. The exact 8 weeks our car was being fixed, a woman in my small group was in America, and she and her husband generously gave us the use of their car.
  • It's easy to complain about the small inconveniences of being married to a man in ministry. But I've grown in appreciation for a husband who values generosity over possessions, who chooses to trust others rather then protect our stuff, and who prizes integrity highly - how often does an insurance company hear, "We take full responsibility"?!
  • For good or ill, others are closely observing our attitudes and actions. One friend told me how much she's been encouraged by watching us respond to what happened.
  • It's good for children to practise generosity, as it teaches them how to respond to the far greater gift of God's Son. When Thomas asked Steve why we loaned our car only to have it smashed, Steve answered, "God loaned his Son to us so that he could be smashed in our place." Amen!
This one small experience has brought so much growth and joy with it, that it makes me wonder why I ever steer away from more costly service. I thank God for the day our car was damaged. A smashed-in car is a very, very small price to pay for all God has taught us. Praise his name!

image is from MarcinMoga / Lolek at flickr

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

woman to woman (4d) a Titus 2 curriculum: godly character

Here's another change that occurred to me about a week after the deadline for my article on Titus 2. I realised I'd missed an important topic in my curriculum for older women to teach young women: godly character. (By the way, if I was numbering these posts correctly, today's topic should have come in at number 3!)

4. Godly character.
What qualifications do you need to be a teacher of younger women? You need to be soaked in the gospel; you need to have a good grasp of the Bible and sound doctrine and be able to teach it; and you need godly character. As always, the main qualification for a teacher isn't the ability to sway a crowd: it's proven character, shown in our reputation and relationships (Tit 1:5-9, 1 Tim 3:1-13).

It's no surprise, then, that before Paul talks about the content of what older women are to teach younger women, he addresses the character of older women: they are to be "reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine" (Tit 2:3). You can't teach something you're not living! The older woman's life must adorn her message.

And what is the older woman's message? It centres on godliness: she encourages younger women to grow in qualities like love, self-control, purity and goodness (Tit 2:4-5). In fact, all of Titus 2 is about how various groups adorn the gospel with "self-controlled, upright and godly lives" (Tit 2:12). Women are no different: we respond to God's grace and bring honour to the gospel through our godly character, taught by and passed down from older to younger woman.

What aspects of your character do you need to work on to be a better example to younger women? In what ways are you adorning, or failing to adorn, the gospel? Do you take time to teach and encourage younger women in godly character? How might you do this?

You can read the rest of my article at The Briefing.

image is by henna lion at flickr

Monday, November 1, 2010

what I'm reading: honesty and accountability from You Can Change

Here's some really helpful words from Tim Chester about honesty, accountability, and how to respond when someone tells you about their sin. Pure gold!

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?'

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...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 learned 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.

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....Embody that forgiveness in your ongoing acceptance and love...Explore, if you can, the lies and desires that lead to their sinful behaviour...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.

Tim Chester You Can Change 175-6 my emphases.

image is from stock.xchng