Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The gift of confidence

Today is Reformation Day. Many Christians remember and celebrate the fact that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church over 500 years ago – launching upheavals in the Roman Catholic Church and facilitating the birth of many new churches. Luther challenged the view that salvation is partly a matter of man’s works, countering this with the truth of the gospel of grace. Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection for us saves us from our sins – we could never be good enough to save ourselves.

Reformation Day is a reminder that the freedom we have in the gospel is hard-won, by men and women who sacrificed comfort and acceptability to proclaim the message of grace. The work that these people did has given many millions of people the gift of confidence in God’s saving work. No longer do God’s people have to labour under the burden of uncertainty about whether they have “measured up” to a standard that will allow them to enter heaven. They can have confidence that Christ has met that standard for them.

I am blessed to be part of a group of churches that commemorates this day with “Reformation Sunday” every year. Many Presbyterian and Reformed churches meet together to speak and sing about what God has done. Sadly, many churches outside of the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions do not choose to remember the events that occurred at the Reformation. The Reformation paved the way for all churches – Pentecostal and Reformed, Baptist and Presbyterian – to have confidence that salvation is assured through Christ. All Protestant churches are the beneficiaries of the revival of this truth. All can celebrate this gladly on Reformation Day.

It is worth remembering those who enabled us to sing with confidence the following words from “In Christ Alone”:

‘Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the pow’r of Christ in me . . .
No pow’r of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til he returns or calls me home
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

It is even more worthwhile to pause and remember to thank God that he did not allow his people to continue to live in uncertainty. Rather, he sent people to remind us of his certain gift of salvation for all who believe. Pause, and remember the marvellous things that God has done for his people.

I wrote this post in response to Tim Challies' call for Reformation Day posts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Congratulations Susan!

I love Susan's clever announcement of her honeymoon baby. I am thrilled for Susan . . . and maybe a teeny bit jealous!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why throw out the birth control? Why love disabled disabled babies?

Over the years I've read Barbara Curtis' blog on and off . . . and been especially blessed by her perspective on down syndrome and loving children who are disabled. You can read one of her posts on this here and gain a new perspective on what down syndrome kids "look like".

She writes . . .

The fear is irrational but real. When women have never known a person with Down syndrome and have absorbed the implicit message of all the prenatal testing - that you don't have to have a baby who isn't "perfect" - then they panic when the diagnosis comes back positive. They're not thinking clearly, they're pressured to make a quick decision, and often they're advised by professionals to "terminate" and give it another chance.

When I talk to high school classes about this, I explain that this is the kind of decision you want to make in advance - even before you get married. And it's the kind of thing you want to talk about with a future spouse. Life comes at you fast - it's really wise to know where you stand on important issues like this before you begin to even think about marriage. Because this is the kind of issue which can tear a marriage apart.

Barbara opposes this culture of death with her pen and with her life . . . she has given birth to one child with down syndrome and adopted three more.

I was also interested to read Barbara's article on Christianity Today about Why some evangelicals are throwing out their birth control. This part particularly struck me, because it expresses my thoughts and my story so well.

Among younger Christian moms, many report going on The Pill before their wedding day as a matter of course – expected by their parents, their in-laws, and everyone else. Some report paradigm shifts set off by side effects: depression, weight gain, lack of sex drive.

Others discovered to their horror – since they considered themselves pro-life – that the pill can act as an abortifacient. They gave it up immediately.

While some went on to barrier methods, for others the shakeup of their preconceived ideas led them to rethink and scrap birth control altogether.

Many who structured their marriages to come off The Pill when they felt ready have been disappointed to find that fertility isn’t something we can turn off and on like a light switch. They struggle with infertility and miscarriages – adding up to much more time than they bargained for waiting for a baby.

I have never used hormonal bith control, but finding out about the effects of the Pill (thanks to Randy Alcorn and Eternal Perspective Ministries) did change my whole view of birth control in general . . . so much so that marrying someone who agreed was a priority. I don't feel at all "superior" to others who make different choices. I am just immensely grateful to God that he showed me parts of his truth in this area, so that I could avoid the heartbreak of making choices I could have regretted for the rest of my life.

Barbara is a wise woman. I am grateful to her, to other writers on the Internet, and especially to Eternal Perspective Ministries for changing my perspective on God's plan for family life.

Children memorising the Bible

It was a great encouragementy to read Crystals thoughts on memorising the Bible with children. What a wonderful legacy she will leave to her daughters! There is no greater gift than the word of God himself.

One of my goals with this blog is simply to point any readers I have to women wiser than myself. Women who have persevered through different trials and experiences, and who have godly wisdom to share as a result. They have learnt more fully how to love God and others.

Titus 2 tells young women to love their children - and Crystal is one example of someone who is doing just that!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Homemaking mishaps: burnt offerings

Like most new wives, I want to cook my husband nearly everything he wants to eat. Steak and kidney pies are the exception.

My husband likes two different types of pies that I make, spinach & cheese and potato & bean. So on a couple of occasions I set out to make them. The trouble is that they ended up badly burnt on the bottom. The puff pastry on the bottom had to be scrapped off. I discovered that our oven is too hot and nothing can be put on the shelf nearest the element. These burnt offerings were honest mistakes.

My second example of a burnt offering is much stupider. I placed a tray of baked potatos on a hotplate, not realising that I'd left it on. Naturally, the bottoms of the potatoes turned black.

My third and forth examples of burnt offerings involve overflowing cakes. If you are unfortunate enough to decide to try and fit as much cake mixture as possible into a tin, you may find that as it cooks it spills to the bottom of the oven and makes a delightful, thick crust of charred cake mixture. The most memorable example of this was a lemon curd cake that kept overflowing so that I had to place a tray underneath it. I found myself eating lumps of lemon curd cake as it cooked on the tray. Unfortunately, a lot of the cake ended up on the floor of the oven, meaning the oven required a thorough cleaning before it could be used again.

Do any of you have burnt offering experiences to share?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Disabled babies - is abortion a solution?

The Question:

I am interested to know your view on termination because the foetus has been found to have severe health problems and if carried to term would then be severely disabled (either mentally or physically)?

Thanks for asking me about this! I have researched this topic a lot, and even ran a seminar on it in 2005. I am happy to be able to share what I have learnt. I am also interested in reading about others’ experiences.

What does God say about disability?

As a Christian who desires to see everything in the light of God’s revelation to us in the Bible, I want to place God’s word at the forefront of this discussion. The Bible is not silent on the issue of disability.

“Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” Exodus 4:11

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” Romans 9:20 – 21

These are hard verses. God has answered human questions about the reality of disability in our world, but he has not chosen to answer in a way that satisfies every question. In fact, he has almost dismissed the “right” to ask questions. He is the creator.

When people advocate the abortion of babies with disabilities, they are doing so because they do not understand that God created each of these lives with a purpose. Each life, if allowed to continue, has the capacity to bring glory to God in some way.

The limitations of pre-natal testing

There are also practical matters that are worth considering in any discussion of the abortion of disabled babies. Pre-natal tests, while they can indicate that a chromosomal or anatomical abnormality is present, often cannot determine the extent to which this disability will impinge upon the life of the child. This is noted in the pro-abortion book Prenatal Testing: Making Decisions in Pregnancy. For example, Down syndrome can be mild or severe. This level of disability cannot be diagnosed prenatally. Some other chromosomal conditions do not necessarily cause any impairment. One of the authors of the book had such a chromosomal abnormality. This lack of certainty means that parents are faced with making life and death decisions on the basis of incomplete information and “worst case scenarios”.

I am planning a follow up post, which will tackle the topis of:

Should an unborn child be treated differently to a newborn or an adult?

What is loving?

Is the abortion of disabled babies a big issue?

If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Family Scripture Memorisation

Dave and I want our marriage to be built upon God’s word, which is why we read the Bible together almost every evening. We would also like to memorise scripture together. We’ve started on a plan to memorise the first nine verses of Psalm 145. We are using the method described in a Family Reformation article on Family Scripture Memorisation. This approach simply requires learners to read the chosen Scripture aloud regularly. I have not done this before, but have taken a “bit by bit” memorisation approach. I am looking forward to seeing how we go with this method!

Psalm 145: 1 – 9

I will extol You, my God, O King;
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare your mighty acts.
I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.
Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The LORD is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.

This Psalm expresses our vision of loving God, and teaching any children he gives us to do so as well. This passage is also one that reminds us that the call to proclaim God's praises should be a life priority - in the presence of both Christians and non Christians. It also reminds us of God's wonderful character.

On my last blog I wrote several posts about Bible memorisation, including the post Bible Memory, a Joy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Heartbeat International's Vision

I am working with a group of Christians who desire to create a Pregnancy Centre that is founded upon the gospel. We are considering affiliating with Heartbeat International. Their website is very encouraging, and on this page I just read about their inspiring vision:

Heartbeat's Life-Saving Vision is to help create a world where every new life is welcomed and children are nurtured within strong families, according to God’s Plan, so that abortion is unthinkable.
I wholeheartedly endorse this goal. It is a vision that Dave and I aim to foster in our marriage. Where children are welcome, abortion becomes unthinkable. A culture that loves children is a culture that is living out the Great Commandment. When Christians love and welcome children, they are loving the God who created each tiny child. They are living out before the world the love for the defenceless and powerless that is commanded in the Old and New Testaments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Great Commandment gives purpose to all situations

Yesterday I began my third and last Field Experience for my Diploma of Education. This is nearly full time for five weeks, and requires a lot of out of school time to be spent in preparation. I have enjoyed getting to know the students, and being called Mrs. Drew, but have also struggled with increases in back pain and with the fact that I am not able to do what I’d like to do in the house. I can do little apart from fulfil my course requirements. This means that the hours spent preparing meals, being hospitable, cleaning, organising, and beautifying our home will be greatly reduced or eliminated during this time.

At times, especially in the weeks leading up to Field Experience, I’ve struggled with purpose. Why am I doing this? Is it really worthwhile? Will I ever work as a teacher? These and other questions have caused some distress and uncertainty. I began this Diploma with the intent that it would enable me to work part time as a teacher, or equip me to homeshcool excellently, and these are still my goals. However, at times these do not seem good enough reasons to expend so much effort and sacrifice goals that may be more important.

As usual, Jesus speaks to this and all situations with great clarity. I am in this situation now, whether it is wise or not, and Christ gives purpose to every situation. He does this through telling us how to conduct ourselves in any circumstance. We have a focus: loving God and others. After Jesus recounted the great commandment to a scribe, the scribe answered:

“Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is none other than He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:32 - 34.

Jesus does not require us to know what tomorrow holds, or to know how everything fits into our “life purpose”. He requires us to love Him and love others. As I start this Field Experience, I am encouraged that I do have a purpose in this time. Even if I never work as a schoolteacher, this time will be worthwhile if I love the students and teachers at the school and love God through praising and trusting him. I hope that you too, in whatever situation you find yourself, can find hope and purpose in the Great Commandment.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God

I am very excited about a new book coming out soon, Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. This book is by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald. I have read much of Jennie's writing, and have corresponded with her personally, and I have the greatest respect for her. I have also been reading Stacy's blog recently and I have been impressed with her graciousness toward those who disagree.

I agree with Dave that the title is "odd", but I also understand why they chose it. Do you normally associate the word "Passionate" with the word "Housewife"? If you are anything like me, you are more likely to have been taught to associate the word housewife with bored, possibly in need of medication for depression, lazy, or harried. Likewise with the word "Desperate". In our culture, we are conditioned to think that if a housewife is desperate for anything it is to escape the boredom of her life at home. It is great that Stacy and Jennie are working to create new ideas about who a housewife is!

You can visit the book's site here.

I also recommend reading a recent post that quotes from Courtney Tarter's thoughts on Why Feminism Hurts Women. Feminism has impacted upon all women who are born in the midst of it. Even though I intellectually reject it, I still find myself feeling inadequate at times because I don't have a great career and I don't earn much money.

Those of us who reject feminism recognise that It's not about choice. Those of us who make choices that are in opposition to feminism still find ourselves greatly impacted by its effects on society.

Choosing life

Yesterday I read an incredible blog post, In Memory of a Woman Who Chose Life. This moving post is the story of one woman who chose life. Doug Phillips writes:

I can only imagine the pressure she felt to try to erase the embarrassment, to end the physical discomfort, and to avert the potential shame and rejection she would experience as she faced her own legitimate children and extended family with the news that their mother had conceived a child with a married man.
Her choice not to abort caused thousands to be blessed. Please read this post and be inspired to choose life in every way you can. I rate this as the best, most inspirational blog post I have read this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Homemaking mishaps: plastic lids

My first homemaking mishaps post elicited a couple of comments that made me laugh! Susan reminded me of the tragedies that can occur with plastic lids on casserole dishes. By the way, Susan just returned from her honeymoon and you can see wedding pictures on her blog!

Susan used her rubber lid while cooking in the oven. We blonds must think alike, because I have done the same thing! My lid did not meet its death, but it did end up with a somewhat warped lid. The lid also has a finger print in one corner which is quite obvious. I pressed down on the lid after its rescue from the oven, to see whether or not it had melted.

These little episodes are part of the larger picture that homemaking is not all fun and games: it is hard work and it is a big responsibility. I was reminded of this today as I did the shopping for the next week and a half with a very sore back, feeling tired. I must have looked tired too, because a lady at a bakery consoled me that I'd be able to rest tonight! The daily responsibility of caring for a house and those who live there is something that must be endured at times, not just enjoyed. Remaining positive and focused requires a big vision of serving Christ and furthering his kingdom through the home, rather than solely a focus on the "here and now".

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Homemaking Mishaps: Ironing boards

Since I am a new wife, there is much to laugh about in regard to homemaking mishaps. I am commited to loving home, and to being a homemaker as Titus 2 commands, but things don't always go perfectly.

John Dekker generously gave us an ironing board for our wedding present, even though he could not attend our wedding. We were thrilled to receive this surprise gift, as we really needed an ironing board! Learning how to use it, though, has been a troubled journey at times. You see, back home Mum's ironing board was always set up. She has a wonderful, large laundry. Thus there was no need to work out latches, height adjustments, sensible methods of collapsing the board, and other essential details. I, however, want to keep my ironing board in a cupboard. So I tackled the pedals and the notches. Things went OK for a while, but then I tried to lower it slightly while it was up. Lets just say that the iron ended up on the floor and the board on my foot. I have since discerned that greater care is needed. Five weeks on, I think I have finally conquered the ironing board.

Future installments of homemaking mishaps will include picture hanging, burnt offerings, and toilet cleaning. Some of it is embarassing, but it might be an encouragement to all the other wives who are still studying homemaking 101. Yes, other people are more inept than you are!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The photos we paid for

A little over a week ago Dave and I were happy to pick up our "official" photos from our photographer. Here are a couple of the pictures he did for us . . . two out of about 450! He also made us a slideshow.

I enjoy the way he made some of the pictures black and white.

Living plainly and serving God: Part 2

I want a life filled with a love of God, of people, and of God’s creation. A life where unimportant things are deemed to be just that, and do not interfere with the priorities of faith, family and community. A life lived plainly, serving God.

The first post on Amish life explored some ways in which the Amish lifestyle implemented Christian goals of taking dominion over the earth and loving one another. The goal was to consider prioritising what is truly important, even if it means doing without some things that seem good.

While Amish people implement elements of God’s truth excellently, they also gravely misunderstand what God intends for humanity. Their central misunderstanding concerns the gospel. While aspects of their lifestyle may be worthwhile models of the Creation Mandate and Great Commandment in action, they do not understand the Great Commission.

The Amish frown upon anyone in the community who claims to have been “saved”. They believe this claim to be a form of pride. Yet the Bible teaches that it is the opposite. Those who understand their sinful nature, and know that Christ’s death and resurrection paid for their sin, become new people in Christ who know that God is the one who has rescued them.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together" Ephesians 2: 4 – 6a.

When God saves a person he brings them into the community of God’s people. Yet salvation is still an individual matter. Each person must repent of sin, and be freed from its effects through becoming a new person in Christ. This results in praise to God, not in pride about “achieving” salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2: 8 – 9.

The Amish also misunderstand the Great Commission through withdrawing from “the world” to an extreme extent. Their practices indicate that they may misunderstand the nature of the human heart. When Jesus taught the Pharisees, he told them that what is “without” does not defile a person. Rather, wickedness comes from the heart.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness . . . pride” (Mark 7:21 – 22).

These human problems cannot be solved through altering the surroundings: wearing certain clothes, avoiding certain technologies, associating only with certain people. Altering surroundings may help, but it cannot solve the deepest human problems.

The Amish lifestyle remains, however, a challenge to those of us who live in the midst of a Christian culture that frequently mirrors the world. Those of us who understand the gospel in its fullness are called to be distinct from those who do not know God.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” Ephesians 2:10.

Sometimes cultures that do not understand the gospel show up those of us who do, through better living out aspects of who God created us to be. The Amish culture is one of those. Why don’t Christians have divorce rates lower than the Amish? Why don’t they work harder to maintain community? The gospel should transform Christians and make them more distinct than Amish communities.

Personally, my window on the Amish fills me with a desire to seek out a life that is filled with true bounty: the bounty of a livelong love, a flourishing garden, a fruitful womb, and a quiet appreciation for God’s simple gifts.

I want any children God gives us to grow up with an attitude of honour toward parents, a love for and commitment to the church, a rejection of desires that would cause us to live beyond our means, and a willingness to sacrifice individual interests for the sake of community.

I want a life filled with a love of God, of people, and of God’s creation. A life where unimportant things are deemed to be just that, and do not interfere with the priorities of faith, family and community. A life lived plainly, serving God.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

University Options

I was interested to read tonight of a new higher education option for those in the USA. Doug Phillips reported on College Plus!. This program allows students to complete degrees faster, with less expense, and through a mentoring system. I look forward to many more such initiatives being put forward in future. I spent over four years at university completing a degree that I was never sure I should even have started. These were not happy years, as content of the courses and the lifestyle on campus were discouraging and confronting. I wrote about some of this in the post I came to the end. This is one excerpt from that post:

Without faith, people soon find more and more ways to justify unbelief and to scorn God. They trust in their own wickedness, and see man as the centre of history and thought. The idea that ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me’ (Isaiah 47:10) is a blasphemous twist of the truth that “I am the LORD, and there is no other’ (Isaiah 45:6).
It was a relief to come to the end of my BA. I still wonder about the usefulness of the time spent upon it. In the coming years, I hope that Christians across the world will increasingly embrace alternatives to an "education" that opposes Christ. There are better ways to spend one's time, and better ways to reach people for Christ. We just need to find them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wise words from a feminist

I receive an email newsletter from Women's Forum Australia, which contained this quote in the latest edition:

“If there is a god, what did the god put us here to do? One thing: have children. That’s it. And what do we do? We make it into the least interesting, unpaid, on-the-side thing you can do - societies are geared so that, really, you’ll have an easier ride if you just don’t have children. Perverse values.” - Marilyn French, author of The Women’s Room, cited in The Age, May 7, 2007, p9

It is interesting that a feminist who, it appears, makes no claim to a commitment to God observes the fact that our society is essentially anti-child and anti-parent. Not only that, but in being so it goes against who God created us to be. As Christians, we know that Marilyn French is right when she says that one of the things God created us to do is to have children: read Genesis 1:28.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Amish Life: Living Plainly and Serving God

I recently borrowed this book from the library . . .

It is a collection of images of Amish life in Indiana. Looking at beautiful picture books like this one is a great way to relax for 20 minutes or so at the end of a long day of housework and study.

Over the years I have read many facts and impressions about Amish life and faith. These forays into a distant, very different culture have deepened my questions about our own culture as well as about theirs. How can we capture a life that consistently prioritises the best things, the most important things?

The Amish have chosen a plain life, devoid of many of the trappings “the English” (outsiders) hold dear. Yet they have kept important things that “the English” have lost. They grow much of their own food, care for their elderly and their poor, love and welcome many children, and work together as families.

As Christians looking into the lives of the Amish, we should be able to see much that is admirable and much to challenge us.

The Amish divorce rate is very low. Our churches have divorce rates that are similar to that of those who do not know Christ.

While the Amish live and work with the same community for a lifetime, Christians often see nothing wrong with moving from church to church. Even worse, some do not see the need for fellowship at all.

The Amish cultivate the ground that God has given them, and reduce their impact upon the environment. Christians consume resources at similar rates to the rest of society.

While Christians commonly echo the attitudes to birth control that eugenicists and secularists popularised in the early 1900s, and even choose abortion or abortive birth control, the Amish life reflects the Biblical vision of fruitfulness and fertility.

While the Amish keep their elderly parents close to home and involved in daily life, Christians commonly think that paying their taxes in order to contribute to the pension or occasional visits to an old people’s home is sufficient care.

The Amish reject individualism. Christians commonly deem it to be acceptable. Even worse, they unconsciously give it the status of a part of the Christian faith.

The Amish reject education that will lead them away from what they perceive to be their primary duties. Christians often pursue education for its own sake rather than with careful consideration of how it will enable them to serve God.

While Amish women are equipped to be mothers and homemakers, many Christian women express feelings of inadequacy and lack of preparation.

The Amish take the time to prepare food and sit around their dinner table. The lives of many Christians are so busy moving from activity to activity, or so consumed with technology such as TV, that they rarely sit together to eat, let alone exercise hospitality.

I am aware of some of the problems with Amish culture and religion, and plan to write about those in my next post. For a moment, though, please consider the distinctives of Amish culture and how these compare to the dominant Christian "English" culture.

How do the Amish better fulfill the Creation Mandate, to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the earth, which is God's first command to mankind? How do they better fulfill the Great Commandment to love one another? What would be worth giving up in order to obey God better in these areas?