Friday, August 31, 2012

online meanderings: the struggle for purity, praying at home, women and work, and more

It is necessary for me to live with a passage, to carry it around with me, and to marinate my soul with its nourishing and thirst-quenching waters. I simply can't do this in a couple hours. I need meditative time with the passage so the Spirit can work through it in me and through me to the people under my care. - Paul Tripp

Can you see that this death of self is not, in the final anal­ysis, something you can do? For the point is that God has once and for all reserved for himself the business of your salvation...Can you see that really the last, bitter death is there? That in that cross God has stormed the last bastion of the self, the last presumption that you really were going to do something for him?...Then perhaps you can turn away from yourself, maybe really for the first time, and look upon your neighbours...And who knows what might happen in the power of this grace? All possibilities are open...The way is open to begin, at least, perhaps in faltering ways, in countless little ways, to realize what it means to die to self. - Gerharde Forde

When everyone on Facebook seems to have a more exciting life than me, my Saviour says, "What is that to you? You follow me!" - Carolyn Mahaney

Top 5 posts
The bachelor pastor - Wise words on singleness and sexual purity from a 44 year old soon-to-be-married man who's been fighting the fight for 28 years. Steve DeWitt

Let's revise the popular phrase "in, but not of" - "For Jesus being “not of the world” isn’t the destination but the starting place. It’s not where things are moving toward, but what they’re moving from." David Mathis.

The problem with wanting to do everything well - "I want to look at the one who truly did all things well and strive to spread the fame of his name not mine." Deb.

Are you a PAHM? - How do you weave prayer into your day? For Pray At Home Mums and others. Daphne Tarango

Try it again - I'm adding this to my parenting tools. Thanks, Susie.

Best new blog
This fleeting moment - Introducing you to a great new(ish) blog by my friend Deb. I like these posts:

A big ball of anger with my name on it
Explaining the birds and the bees to children
Useful daily routines
Memory verses set to music for kids

And some more posts I liked.
Success and the single woman - On work, womanhood, success and singleness, by the ever-interesting Carolyn McCulley.

June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable or the valiant woman - How the details of femininity will look different for each of us. Trillia Newbell.

Why most pastors won't tell you everything - This confirms what I've learned about what happens when you share too much about your struggles in public. Adam McHugh.

"Mutual submission"? Scrutinizing a lazy slogan and Take care when using the word "submission" - There are some interesting posts going up at The Briefing on marriage and submission, including these ones by Lionel Windsor.

How to make the elderly feel at home in your church - Good practical suggestions.  Brian Croft.

How to confess the sin of pornography to your wife (and how not to) part 1 and part 2 - Having counselled couples with this problem, I see the value of these suggestions. Jeremy Pierre.

Busyness as moral laziness - "I would rather expend energy on some task I can handle than engage in the harder work of cultivating relationships or putting up with someone who is needy or squandering time on something that has no foreseeable payoff." Chaplain Mike.

How to help a cancer sufferer - Last week, Dave talked about what not to say to a cancer sufferer; this week, he talks about what to say and do. Helpful.

The how of hospitality - Some useful suggestions here. RVD.

Do you mean "I can't?" or "I won't?" - How our faithful God helps us when we just can't. Jani Ortlund.

Worshipping at the altar of family - When family doesn't look the way you expected it too. Kristin and Ted Kluck.

8 tips for telling a great story - Useful for preachers, writers, and communicators of all kinds. David Slagle.

For fun
Roasting vegetables - YUM! Gotta get me some.Susie.

If you just can't get enough links, or want to see my links as I read them, check out

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

learning to see God’s glories in a Melbourne spring

A week ago it came, kicking its heels like a witless lamb. Spring. Didn’t it know it wasn’t due yet?

We’ve been locked down in cold for months. We swap war-stories of coughs and runny noses, risk suffocation under layers of bedding, and shiver in the school yard as we wait for the kids to emerge from over-heated classrooms. I listen to winter complaints but secretly love it: the grim skies and the bite in the air and the frosted grass and the misty rain and the severe lines of bare trees.

Then it happens. We step into the unexpected warmth of a northerly wind, and are forced to shrug off coats and scarves and woolly knits. Grrr.

I’ve never liked spring. Forget frolicsome lambs and apple blossom. A Melbourne spring, to me, is wind and rain and the morning-breath of summer. Bees hovering above open lunch-boxes, the scourge of swooping magpies, pollen tickling the back of your nose. Cycling against a stiff head-wind. The gaudy hue of overly cheerful flowers. While others enjoy the warmth, all I feel is the early threat of summer, when you open the door and the air punches you in the face and the sun burns your skin and there is no escape.

Autumn is my favourite season. The days dream. The sun, tracing a lazy curve in the sky, draws long shadows across the grass. My skin rejoices in the paradox of warm sun and cool air. Liquid ambers glow red, oaks huddle in shaggy brown coats, and the maple next door scatters yellow stars. Our feet rustle through clinging layers of leaves. At night, a harvest moon hangs just above the trees, too swollen to lift itself. Always, there is the growing cold: good-bye to heat and welcome to the crisp air of winter.

So I was surprised, last year, when I found myself enjoying spring. I’ve just noticed that the new leaves on my neighbour’s tree aren’t garish green, as I imagined, but a rosy red. I smile at the cherry-blossom waving pink toes at the sky. The other day, I saw a wood duck gather her brood by the side of the road and look, puzzled, at the traffic. We went for a walk in the early evening – the days are growing longer – and were followed by a sliver of silver moon.

Summer: well, I haven’t learned to love it yet. Maybe I will this year. Whatever the season, it seems a pity to walk through life Grinch-like, blind to the beauty around us. God made this world, and, yes, it is fallen, sometimes horribly so; but it is still good, and it blazes with his glory (Gen 1:31; Rom 1:20). May he give us eyes to see and words to tell of his wonders.
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all…
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
(Psalm 104:24, 33)

This post first appeared at The Briefing.

image is by Pink Sherbert Photography at flickr

Friday, August 24, 2012

online meanderings: who should I marry, choosing grace, keeping vows, and more

We love the world, and it deceives us. We depend on creatures, and they fail us, and pierce us through with many sorrows. We enter forbidden paths, and follow after our lovers; and our way is hedged up with thorns; and we then say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; and now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee.” The enjoyment of a greater good subdues the relish of a less. What are the indulgences of sin, or the dissipations of the world to one who is abundantly satisfied with the goodness of God’s house, and is made to drink of the river of his pleasures?” - William Jay

As Christians, our Facebook wall should not be a boastful fa├žade, but a true reflection of who we are in Christ. We should not present ourselves as “perfect all the time,” but as striving for holiness because our Savior was “perfect all the time.-  Nicole Whitacre

5 top posts
It matters whom you marry - Marry the geek who loves Jesus and serves, not the cool guy who pours juice on your top. This is worth sharing with any young women (or men) you know. RVD.

When they don't love you back -When love and ministry don't bear fruit, "I can hold on to the promise that that Word will not return empty and that it will accomplish what God purposes, which is not necessarily what I purposed for that situation." Erin Davis.

When a sermon becomes a poem - This is a beautiful poem about Scripture by John Piper.

I choose grace - When a registered sex offender moves into the neighbourhood. John Thweatt (try saying that one).

Vows, promises and the problem of love - Who can possibly fulfil their marriage vows? Only the gospel enables us to love and covers us when we don't. Justin Holcomb.

And 12 more
Before you leave your church, read this. Mark Dever via Steve McCoy.

Before you leave your church (pastors), read this. Mark Jones.

A strange urge - Gutless. why we don't share the gospel. Dave Macca.

7 people lying at the side of the road -  I've been reading Bonhoeffer, and have been convicted about how we shut our eyes like so many in Nazi Germany. This post challenged me greatly. George Verwer.

The shelf life on preaching the gospel to yourself - Keep topping up with the word of God. David Mathis.

We're not reading the Bible (and why it's a problem). HT Sandy

How they preached the gospel in Acts - I led some studies on Acts and wanted to write about this, but Kevin De Young has done it much better than I would have.

Speaking the truth in love = speaking the gospel in love. Tony Reinke.

Preventing foot in mouth disease - What not to say to a cancer sufferer. Dave Mcdonald.

A little more of Jesus today - Every day, we grow in godliness just a tiny bit more. Encouragement from John Calvin quoted by Jonathon Parnell.

Thankfulness - It's not often that someone else's list of "thank yous" makes me thankful, but this one did. Thanks, Susie!

Before you phone your preacher - Pray before you complain to your pastor. I like this. Gaye Clark.

Time management
What successful people do with the first hour of their work day - Eat the frog first. Kevin Purdy.

Disability and the church
God is up to something - "The church, with only a few exceptions, doesn't reflect the demographic reality that almost one in five...lives with a disability. Too many churches continue to see people with disabilities as problems rather than who they are — image-bearers of God. Too many families experiencing disability still report they cannot find a church home." A helpful post on disability and the church by John Knight.

My top 5 books on special needs - Amy Julia Becker.

Ministry, small groups and theology
Discipleship teams - Interesting reflections on what small groups could become. Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

30 suggestions for young theologians - "You’ll be tempted to come up with something that sounds new...Well, do it; get it out of the way, and then come back to do some real theology." John Frame.

Three leadership traits that never go out of style - Trust, empathy, mentorship. Three principles of great leadership. Vineet Nayar HT David Murray.

10 questions to diagnose the evangelistic health of your church - Thom Rainer via Vitamin Z.

Avoiding evangelical civil war - How to do theological conflict well. Mark Thompson HT The Briefing.

A pastor's Monday
 - A pastor's Monday (and an encouraging post for anyone who feels weary doing their work). Jared Wilson.

Self-denial and evangelical parenting - Teaching kids the self-denial and contentment that will help them in early adulthood (while always remembering that parents can be faithful while kids stray).

The psychology of social networking - "“Talking about ourselves activates the regions of the brain associated with the sense of satisfaction from food, money, or sex...Are we obsessed with social media, or are we obsessed with ourselves?" Marc Cortez.

25 collected insights from writers on becoming a better writer - I like the way these are all gathered in one place. Jocelyn Glei.

Fun stuff
10 things about church you should know (but no one had the guts to tell you) - Pedants unite. Useful. Kevin DeYoung HT Sandy.

That book index - "There is a pedantic, perfectionist place I can go to when I need to do tasks such as this." Me too. Ali.

Thomas Kinkade + Godzilla - They should make a jigsaw of this one.

If you just can't get enough links, or want to see my links as I read them, check out

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

thanking God for suffering

I’m striving to be more thankful. Self-pity is one of my habitual sins, and I’ve found thankfulness to be a wonderful antidote.

There is one place where thankfulness is particularly difficult for me. For many months I’ve watched my son struggle with ongoing sickness. I know that afflictions as well as blessings come from God’s hands, and that his purposes are only good towards my son and me (Isa 45:7; Rom 8:28-30). But when we wake to yet another day of sickness, with its attendant discouragement and worry, the words “Why do we have to go through this again?” spring more easily to mind than “Thank you.”

I have asked myself two questions: Am I to thank God not just in suffering, but also for suffering? And how is this possible? I found the answer in these words from quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada.
I’ve been giving thanks for most of my paralyzed life. Not only giving thanks “in everything,” as one part of the Bible tells us, but “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything” as another part commands (1 Thess 5:18; Eph 5:19-20).1 Most of us are able to thank God for His grace, comfort and sustaining power in a trial, but we don’t thank Him for the problem, just finding Him in it.

But many decades in a wheelchair have taught me to not segregate my Savior from the suffering he allows, as though a broken neck- or in your case, a broken ankle, heart or home- merely ‘happens’ and then God shows up after the fact to wrestle something good out of it. No, the God of the bible is bigger than that. Much bigger.

And so is the capacity of your soul. Maybe this wheelchair felt like a horrible tragedy in the beginning, but I give God thanks in my wheelchair…I’m grateful for my quadriplegia. It’s a bruising of a blessing. A gift wrapped in black. It’s the shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of my Saviour. And that’s where the joy is…

Your “wheelchair”, whatever it is, falls well within the overarching decrees of God. Your hardship and heartache come from His wise and kind hand and for that, you can be grateful. In it and for it.

This quote is from Joni Eareckson Tada’s foreword to Nancy Leigh DeMoss Choosing Gratitude.

1. The theological small print: I’m not saying (and I’m sure Joni isn’t saying) that we’re to thank God for suffering in a masochistic way, as if we enjoy the suffering itself. In the Bible, grief and lament, and crying out to God, are appropriate ways to respond to suffering and pain. I can’t think of any examples in the Bible where people give thanks for suffering itself (let me know if you can think of one). Yet Joni’s verses show that we are to thank God both in and for “everything” – that is, for all kinds of different circumstances, which would include suffering. After all, God’s people are often said to rejoice in suffering (why? Because of the opportunity to suffer with and for Christ – Ac 5:41; Col 1:24; 1 Pet 4:13, because it helps make Christ known –  Phil 1:4-6 , because God uses it to grow our character and refine our faith – Rom 5:3-4; 8:28-30; James 1:2-3; 1 Pet 1:6-7, and because of the reward that awaits us – Matt 5:12; 1 Pet 4:13). To thank God for suffering is, I think, an expression of the confidence that our particular trial, whatever it may be, comes from God’s sovereign, loving hands and that he will use it for his glory and our good.

Friday, August 17, 2012

online meanderings: the practice of suffering, distilled comfort, the fear of God, and more

One [decathlete] said, "I threw the javelin farther than anyone else. I'm the greatest." Another said, "I put the shot farther than anyone else. I'm the greatest." Another said, "I jumped higher than anyone else. I'm the greatest." And eventually they all look toward Jesus...and someone says, "What about you?" And Jesus says, "I made all of you. So I'm the greatest." - John Piper

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me...There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. - JI Packer

It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is not ill, but only good in a mysterious form. Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his honor, death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die. - Charles Spurgeon

Top 5 posts
To suffer faithfully - "Practised in the art of suffering". The key to finishing the race, both in an Olympic marathon and in life. Nicole.

The two-pronged strategy of a master evangelist - We've forgotten how to personally challenge individuals about their standing with God. A word in season for me from John Chapman. Phillip Jensen.

Comfort distilled - Iain Campbell writes about preaching three days after his son's wedding was cancelled. Encouragement in 300 words.

Notice the famine? - How your culture impacts your Bible interpretation. Really worth reading. Trevin Wax HT Sam Freney.

When fear is good and Why we fear God - I'm really enjoying this series on the fear of God by David Mears.

And 12 more great posts
Welcoming the arrival of... - "She told me her birth plan ahead of time. It was this: to be grateful. And she is."  Nancy Ann.

Moral imperatives - I read so much bad stuff online about what to say when your son or daughter tells you they are homosexual; here, finally, is something worth saying. Frank Turk HT The Briefing.

When darkness seems to hide God's face - When hope is deferred, "there is a hope that is not deferred." A woman writes after miscarriage. Trillia Newbell.

Not out thank God - "God’s love, revealed in the gift of Jesus Christ, is the truth that keeps me going." An encouraging post by cancer sufferer Dave MacDonald.

"I Can't!" is relative - When you feel like you just can't do it any more. Jani Ortlund.

Watch the quiet ones - You might not notice the quiet ones, but they may be doing great things for God. Roberta Matuson.

Guidelines to reading Old Testament narrative - 10 principles for reading Old Testament narrative: short and sweet. Julian Freeman HT The Briefing.

Pray for your straying soul - It's good to be reminded how easily the soul strays - and to be exhorted to guard and pray against this. John Piper.

Please stop having quiet times - "Twice our Sacred Book calls itself a sword...A sword is only quiet when it's not being used." Jeff Medders.

Practicalities for getting praying - Finding it hard to pray regularly? Here are some helpful suggestions. Philip Jensen and Tony Payne.

How do the heck do we pray without ceasing? - Stephen Altrogge.

What do you do before breakfast? - Susie.

Women, callings and having it all - "We should equip young women at least as early as adolescence to begin honing such discernment and sober judgement." Jennifer Marshall HT Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Mother fatigue - For tired women who love Jesus. Cathy.

Do you want to create a missionary culture? - How the gospel changes everything. Erik Raymond.

Small discipleship groups - An inspiring approach to small groups. Paul Tautges.

Some advice for youth ministers - Some helpful advice for youth ministers. Kevin DeYoung.

Good news for bad preachers - "Your first few sermons are always terrible, no matter who you are...You want them to be critiqued, and harshly." Russell Moore.

Beware of elevated vagueness - "I want to plead with pastors to be crystal clear in their preaching, and surgically clean in their private lives." John Piper.

Getting down with your kids - Getting down on the floor with your kids: why we don't, and why it'd be good if we did. Jonathon Holt.

God's good design by Claire Smith - An excellent book reviewed by Meredith.

Modest: Men and women clothed in the gospel - This book on modesty by Challies & co. actually looks good! Not a set of rules, but the gospel.

Parenting beyond you capacity - How church and family work together.

The wheel on the school - I'm reading this to my boys.

For fun
Little Free Library - What a lovely idea!

If you just can't get enough links, or want to see my links as I read them, check out

Monday, August 13, 2012

what I'm reading: spiritual friendship from Tim Keller

Have you ever wondered what friendship between two Christians is for? What lifts it beyond ordinary friendship? What makes it something lasting, worthwhile, of eternal value?

Here's a definition of spiritual friendship from Tim Keller that puts it so beautifully, and gives us something to aim for. (He's writing about marriage, but I think it applies to any friendship.)
Friendship is a deep oneness that develops as two people, speaking the truth in love to each other, journey together to the same horizon. Spiritual friendship is the greatest journey of all, because the horizon is so high and far, yet sure – it is nothing less than “the day of Jesus Christ” and what we will be like when we finally see him face to face…What, then, is [friendship] for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. 

From Tim Keller  The Meaning of Marriage 116-117, 120. 

image is by Zaro from flickr  

Friday, August 10, 2012

online meanderings: singleness, suffering, the shortness of life, and more

Quotes of the week
For most of us, time does its weary work and bears us away unremembered, except for a few scraps of other peoples' remembrances for a generation or two...Yet at the bottom of each gravestone is inscribed the grace - the truth that really matters ultimately - the one to remember in all of the littlest, seemingly unseen moments: Known unto God. Cath

Sin promises to be your friend...Sin asks you to give just a little bit more of yourself to it every time. Just a bit more. Just a bit more after that. But over time sin comes to own you. It comes to know everything there is to know about you. And then it stabs you in the back and laughs with glee as you are left sputtering and humiliated and destroyed....That’s the kind of friend it is...Sin is the friend who is so much worse than any enemy. Challies

We can think it’s a mark of spiritual sensitivity to consider everything we do as morally suspect. But this is not the way the Bible thinks about righteousness. . . . For those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him. Kevin DeYoung

Top 5 posts
The S word: Some thoughts on singleness - A wonderful article on singleness by Valorie Ting.

This I know - "Persecution, disease, war, disability, disaster, freak accident, assault — all are alike in this: Satan aims to destroy your faith, but God aims to strengthen it."  Jonathon Parnell quoted by Meredith.

Dear stay-at-home mum - Encouragement from the gospel. So very welcome! Trevin Wax.

Your emotions are a gauge not a guide - "The pattern of your emotions (not every caffeine-induced or sleep-deprived one!) will give you a reading on where your hope is because they are wired into what you believe and value — and how much." Jon Bloom.

Teenage spirituality - Why teens lose their faith, and how to help them: "The teenage years are about finding something, or someone to love." Michael Jensen.

A book to read 
How good is good enough? - "An all-too-common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives by our performance." With this great quote, Challies begins to work through Jerry Bridge's brilliant book "The discipline of grace". You might like to read it with him. 

And 5 more great posts.
Feelings and actions and actions and feelings - When you don't feel as you should, act what you don't feel. Feelings often follow. Michael Kelley.

When hospitality and hell-fire kiss - Hospitality: a great help to sharing our faith. John Starke HT Vitamin Z.

Where seldom is heard an encouraging word - Aussie gold (or the lack of it) and the Aussie response. A great post from Dave McDonald. HT David McKay.

The sacred has absorbed the secular - The work we do, we do for Christ. Spurgeon quoted by Tony Reinke.

The benefits of reading the Bible in chronological order - I'd love to try this Bible reading plan - perhaps when I've finished my current one. Meredith.

Goldsworthy on prayer 
Read the psalms on your knees - and all the prayers of Scripture.

Discipline, routine and the quiet time - "The quiet time can become a legalistic requirement....On the other hand, the person who makes a habit of chaotic indiscipline needs to take this matter in hand..."

Teaching children to pray - "Children will most readily learn the ‘art’ of praying by listening to their parents or other adults praying. It is therefore important for us to be consciously modelling a biblical mode of prayer for our children." Graeme Goldsworthy from Sandy Grant.

For women
Are chick flicks emotional 'porn' for women? - An interesting and helpful discussion. Laura Leonard.

50 Shades of Grey - A helpful post about women and porn - but for a solution, I'd read Chester's "Captured by a better vision". Emily interviews Challies.

For dads, mums and homemakers
Marriage with older kids - We're finding this too: as kids get older, evenings vanish. Where's our us-time? Some helpful ideas from Jenny here.

Motherhood and the mission to the moon - "We can’t mother intermittently." Work, ministry, Facebook, Twitter: don't let anything distract you from the task of mothering. Carolyn Mahaney HT Susie.

On never being done - "I try to balance the roles of homemaker and housekeeper." On loving the people in your house more than the house. Lizzie Jank.

Three attitudes that can lead to ministry burnout - "Did you read over toil and struggling, and skip right to powerfully works within me? Jesus works his power in us within the context of tiring, resistance-laden work."  Eric McKiddie.

What I've learned along the way - For those who preach and those who listen to them and love them: Challies writes about the trials and joys of preaching.

Four rules for preachers - "Never allow yourself to feel equal to your work." It's a principle for preachers; but I think it's a good one for the rest of us too. Gordon Cheng.

Ministry to university students is getting better - The joys and benefits of ministering to uni students (and why my husband and I do this ministry). Phillip Jensen.

Whiter than snow by Paul Tripp - This book just arrived in my letterbox. It looks like Ali and I might be reading this side by side.

Bible Bites - I like the look of these family devotions from The Good Book Company, reviewed by Wendy.

For fun
Poetry and emotional intelligence - "What use is poetry?..." Norman MacCaig quoted by Ali.

If you just can't get enough links, or want to see my links as I read them, check out

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In the footsteps of Ezekiel

When a man was called by God to be a prophet in Israel, he could be pretty sure he wasn’t in for an easy life. Jeremiah, marked out as a traitor by his own people, thrown into a cistern and waiting for his nose to slip beneath the mud (Jer 38:1-28). Ezekiel, his life a bizarre acted parable of Jerusalem’s fate, lying on one side for months on end and cooking his food over excrement (Ezek 4:1-17). Hosea, commanded by God to marry and be reconciled to an adulterous wife, to picture God’s relationship with his unfaithful people (Hos 1:2-11, 3:1-5).

All those words of judgement, all that rejection, all that sacrifice! I sometimes think how glad I am that God didn’t make me an Old Testament prophet.1 But as I read Ezekiel the other morning, for the first time I got it. This man wasn’t mentally disturbed, paranoid, socially challenged, or otherwise abnormal. He was just an ordinary person called by God to do whatever God asked, whatever it took. Even if it meant speaking words of judgement against the people he loved. Even if it meant being hated. Even if it meant giving up the ordinary comforts of life for strange acts and harsh words.

Does God ask any less of me? Whatever he asks, will I fail to give it? On the day I became a Christian, I turned my life over to him. He owns me, body and soul. He bought me with his Son’s precious blood. On that day, I exchanged a life of self-seeking – a cosy, insular, comfortable Western life – for a life of costly service. A life whose every moment and every possession isn’t mine to use as I will, but his to be poured out for others. A life in which I am to stand up for him publicly, without shame. A life of carrying my cross, of dying like a lamb on an altar, of slavery to Christ. This is the cost I agreed to and the cost I bear.2

There are Christians dying today because of that reality. Fifty Christians burned alive in Nigeria. An Iranian pastor, a father, imprisoned and repeatedly beaten. Grenades thrown into churches in Kenya. A Sri Lankan school boy beaten up by his teacher when he confessed his faith in the classroom. Brutal beheadings in Afghanistan, in Tunisia, in Egypt.3
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb 11:32-38)
If my life at this point in time looks less dramatic – if I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding my blood (Heb 12:4) – it’s not because God asks any less of me. I, too, am to be utterly spent in his service. That might mean doing without so I can give to the relief of my suffering brothers and sisters. It might mean waking up to a baby ten times a night with all the cheerfulness and patience that God can give. It might mean struggling to cling to faith through dark days of suffering. It might mean speaking uncomfortable truths to my family and friends. It might mean risking ridicule from workmates or dismissal from a boss by standing up for my faith. It might mean giving up my precious lunchtime to lead a Bible study or my comfortable evening to counsel someone in need. It might mean taking our family into danger or discomfort so we can make Jesus known. It means this, and more than this, every moment of every day.

Like Ezekiel – like all the heroes of faith – I am a stranger in this world. I seek a better country, a heavenly one. I follow Jesus through suffering into glory. May God not be ashamed to be called my God. (Heb 11:13-16; 12:1-2)

Heavenly Father,
Rescue me from complacency. Rescue me from a comfortable Christian life where I think that, because I’ve given my ten percent, I’m free to spend the rest on myself. Rescue me from risking nothing in my conversations and relationships. Rescue me from resting in my Sunday church going and my Christian identity and my devotional practices. And if the day of persecution comes, help me to hold fast to Jesus, whatever the terrible cost. Have mercy on my suffering brothers and sisters across the world, and help them to stand firm in you today.
In the precious name of Jesus,

1. Indeed, the prophets don’t always seem that keen on this idea themselves – see, for example, Jeremiah 1:1-19 cf. Exodus 3:1-4:17.
2. See Mark 8:34-38; Luke 14:25-33; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:18-19, 7:22.
3. These stories were sourced from Barnabus Fund.

This post first appeared today at The Briefing.

Painting of Ezekiel is by Michelangelo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

online meanderings: when life is more than you can handle, rebellious children, grief and grace, and more

Top quotes
This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on; this is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified. - Martin Luther

God...will almost always give us more than we can handle on our own...Over and over again in the Bible, we see men and women who are given far more than they can handle...So maybe we need to stop seeing the trials and adversity in our lives as a burden, as an indication that God doesn’t love us. Maybe we need to start seeing them as proof that God indeed loves us very much—so much so that He will not let us try to rely on our own strength, but continue to show us that we must rely on Him to endure suffering and persevere until the end. - Aaron Armstrong

So often...I attempt to provide good works as repayment for mercy. God gives us grace as a gift and does not expect us to repay Him for it...The gift is cheapened when we attempt to repay it....“Anything we do with a motive of adding to the work of Christ so as to win the forgiveness of God becomes the ground of self-satisfaction in our own goodness, rather than trust in God’s grace.” Challies quoting John Ensor.

Top 5 posts.
The unfortunate things people say (to parents of disabled children) -  "Disability is hard and we know it is way more than we can handle....We will not learn dependence on God if we can ‘handle’ it ourselves." John Knight.

When your child isn't doing well in the Lord - When your child is struggling in their faith. A short, helpful post. Mark Altrogge.

Celebrating alone - A grieving man writes about the loss of his wife. "I woke up each morning astonished at what God had done for me. I went to bed each night beside His grace." RC Sproul Jr.

Truth, grace and my father's conversion at age 84 - This post reminded me of two important things: Never give up hope. Never water down the truth. Randy Alcorn.

An hour long conversations with Paul Tripp - I'm listening to this interview with Paul Tripp about the gospel, counselling, dating, marriage, parenting, pornography, talking with your kids about sexuality, etc... Some great stuff here. Paul Tripp with Justin Holcomb

And 12 more.
My favourite Olympic story - "Walking or running, stumbling or limping, it doesn’t matter. Finish the race. Fix your eyes on Jesus and finish the race." Sandy Grant.

Why we don't fear those with power over us - "Our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power." John Piper.

Where did the universe come from? - "If the physical universe is not the ultimate Fact...then the best way to see it is as a kind of laboratory, preparing us for whatever (or Whoever) put it here." Gavin Ortlund.

4 ways to sing the "I'm persecuted" psalms - When you read an "I'm persecuted" psalm, stop and pray for those who are persecuted. David Murray.

Why you don't have to fear terror (and how to read the Psalms) - "The life of fearless faith has been lived for us." Jonathon Parnell.

Introversion, escape and ministry - "I finally had to admit that leaving church early...was a comfortable way to manage my fear of getting too close to people." Karen Waddles.

Church: thrilling, depressing, messy, brilliant - Let's stop pretending. Mark Buchanen HT Alistair Bain.

How to pray for your pastor - Really helpful suggestions. Trevin Wax.

How God helps with low self-esteem - A woman writes about her battle with low self-esteem (and how low self-esteem is not really her problem at all).

The gift of a child and the struggle with depression - A woman talks about post-natal depression and God. Erin Davis.

The sanctifying job - I enjoyed these reflections on love, sanctification and the workplace. Carolyn McCulley.

Who is doing more, my husband or me? - "There is no scale that could ever perfectly balance the contributions that wives and husbands make. With that in mind, there is only one good solution. Let’s ditch the scale altogether." Erin Davis.

Why creativity is important for ministry and how to do it - Fantastic suggestions for growing in creativity in any area of life. Daniel Threlfall.

Pulpit sins - And Bible study leading sins. And Sunday School teaching sins. And ... John Koessler via Alistair Bain.

The "mum with a newborn" test - "My preaching has to make sense to real people in real life". I made a mental note of this. Mark Lauterbach.

The single best book on Christian suffering available - says Carol Trueman: "A grief sanctified" by Packer and Baxter. Justin Taylor.

Thinking out loud in public - Facebook, Twitter, commenting and blogging are thinking out loud in public (so be careful what you say). Sean Lucas HT Challies.

Should you sent that email? - A great flow chart. HT Vitamin Z.

Random stuff
The scientific power of naps - You hate naps? You love naps? Either way you'll find this fascinating.

Your desk is making you stupid - Walk while you think. Works for me! Jessica Stillman HT David Murray.

If you just can't get enough links, or want to see my links as I read them, check out