Thursday, March 27, 2008

Remembering God's salvation

In the book Living the Cross Centered Life C. J Mahaney explains that every person, no matter what their past is, would do well to think on their former sins. Although we may want to forget our past, C.J. argues that "one of the best ways we can draw near the blazing fire of the cross is to remember our past, and allow it to remind us of how marvelous God's salvation really is".

For a long time, I have felt such shame and dislike of much of my past that I have not wanted to discuss it at all. C.J.'s book has challenged me to reconsider this. I am deeply grateful for what I have been saved from. I hate to think of what my life would have been without Christ. So I need to meditate upon the specifics of what he has done.

C.J. exhorts readers in this way . . .

"I also encourage you to write out your testimony in a page or two. And don't just write "I asked Jesus into my heart," but really spell out the heart of the gospel and how the blood of Christ, shed for the sins of the world, came to apply to you personally. Be specific about the fact that God is holy and you were an object of His wrath. Identify the sin in which youwere lost. Explain how God saved you and changed your life for His glory."

Even if you have never rebelled as I did, you have something to share because "Every conversion is still a miracle of God's grace." Like Paul, we can all say "I was once . . . " but because of the cross "I am now . . . ".

During the fourth week of April, I am going to have a "testimony week". I will be asking some people for their testimonies, and will also share my own. Perhaps you would also like to join in with this special week. If you would like to share your testimony on this blog, I am happy to post it. Just email me (the address is on the sidebar). Alternatively, you could post your testimony on your own blog and I will link to it. As we do this we will, as C.J. says, . . .

  • Be edified and encouraged
  • Be prepared to share our personal testimonies and the truth of the gospel with others
In the month of April, please join me in thinking about your past and the specific ways God intervened for your sake and for the sake of His glory. Then prepare to share that with others!

Monday, March 24, 2008

What is a Christian?

Recently I was able to attend a women's conference. I chose to attend the elective "The evangelistic heart for the ordinary Christian". We were asked to form small groups to discuss how to define a Christian, and we then reported back to the main group.

Definitions included . . .

  • Follower of Christ
  • Child of God
  • Bible believer
  • love Jesus because he died for our salvation

The group seemed wowed by my definition . . .

A person who has trusted in Jesus' death and resurrection as paying the penalty for our sin, and who lives a transformed life as a result.

This time of reflection on "What is a Christian?" got me thinking. Would the average Australian, if asked randomly while walking down the street, give any of these answers? Maybe they would be more likely to say things like . . .

  • hypocrites
  • someone who has been baptised
  • someone who doesn't have sex before marriage
  • a person who goes to church
  • me, becuase my parents were in the Church of England
  • a person who doesn't like gays

Some of these things are not an accurate impression of Christianity. Some of them are true, but they are simply expressions of a transformed life or of our continuing struggle against sin. How do you think that Christians can do better at giving the right impression of what a Christian is, so that more people might be likely to give the same definition that we would?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fun in the sun

Last weekend Dave and I had our family over for lunch (my Mum & Dad, brother and sister-in-law, sister and brother-in-law and their 3).

It was an extremely hot day, and we had lots of fun in the garden with the hose. Dave and I took pity on the plants, but before we knew it the hose was being turned on people as well! Thankfully Dave and my little nephew love water!

We're not sure if our squash plant is going to recover from the heat though . . . its fruit are all shrivelled!

One twin is a water lover and headed straight for the hose, but the other little one stayed well away!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The priority of love

Last week I appreciated reading the post Blessings or burdens at Your Sacred Calling. This post focused upon the tendancy some of us have to assume sin in others. We repent of certain attitudes and actions in our own lives, and then jump to conclusions about what others should be doing. As Stacy says . . .

. . . it’s no wonder that as we come out of the fog of our illusory me-managed life, that we become passionate about certain things. Life becomes precious. Children become a blessing. Marriage becomes a feast. Family becomes important. But in our zeal do we go beyond examining our own sin—assuming sin in others and ascribing motives to those of whom we know virtually nothing?

I also strongly identified with Stacy's words about people taking on the convictions of others without proper consideration . . .

Many times, rather than study for themselves and stand firm in what they believe, I've seen folks blindly embrace someone else’s convictions. Then, since the convictions weren't their own to begin with, they waver and eventually they give up in despair; because really, they weren't truly obeying God, they were just going through the motions. The result is that they blame the one they've been blindly "following."

As Christians we must learn to seek out what God has said for ourselves and then to apply it to ourselves first and foremost, always assuming the best of others and treating them with love. I also wrote about convictions last year. I took issue with the idea that those who adopt the most common or popular viewpoints in the church are more loving and humble. In reality, every Christian must learn to bear with others in love. It takes God's grace at work in our lives to enable us to always prioritise love in every relationship. Yet this is our calling.

Modelling humility

When many of us think about parenthood, we are tempted to despair at our weaknesses and sins. How will these affect a child? Others may be on the opposite end of the spectrum, and assume they'll be wonderful parents!

I really enjoyed stumbling across the blog post A legacy worth having recently, as Perry posted about the benefits of living under sinful but humble parents.

None of us will suddenly become perfectly saintly when we conceive or adopt a child! There is no hope of that. So we have to learn to repent before our children. In doing so we can model this essential part of living the Christian life.

As Perry said . . .

My parents were very self-conscious about asking each other for forgiveness in front of the kids AND asking the kids to forgive them, when relationships went a bit awry (as they are apt to do when you have a WHOLE family descended from Adam and Eve
Humility and asking forgiveness are vital to expressing love, and living out the gospel.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Engagement anniversary

On Sunday Dave and I celebrated our engagement anniversary. I know that is a weird thing to do, but it was lots of fun.

We went back to Mt Field where Dave gave me the ring on March 10, 2007. We had a picnic, visited the waterfall, and returned to the log where we sat when Dave gave me the ring.

That evening after church we went back to "our rock", where Dave asked me to marry him. We sat on it for the first time since we've been married! It was a beautiful night.

I am so thankful to God for giving Dave and I each other! It was a wonderful day one year ago when we no longer had to wonder "will I spend my future with this person?" and instead we could look forward to and plan a future together. The anniversary was a special time to remember what God has done.

I am grateful that I had some respite from sickness on this day, so that we could go out, even though I've had lots of relapses since then!

Squash flowers

Dave and I were thrilled to see the first flowers on our squash plants. These are our "babies" as we planted them from seed (we haven't done much growing from seed) and were delighted to see them pop through the earth! We were a little concerned they were planted too late, but it seems they will be OK! They are little disk-like squash, which Dave calls "patty pans".

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Beyond Greed

Yesterday afternoon I developed an ear ache as well, and spent some more time in bed! Thus I have more reading to report!

Beyond Greed is another book that provides a challenge to love God, not money. I have not yet finished the book, but have read Rosner's explanation of the way greed can be idolatrous. He explains the church's historic attitude to greed, and the way this understanding has weakened in our time.

Rosner also makes many cogent critiques of Western society. I found this quote particularly relevant just now . . .

The meaning of a person's life is found in full participation in the economy, as both a producer and a consumer. The purpose of life involves the full development of the individual's economic potential and the pursuit of material progress for the good of all.

I sometimes struggle with guilt or worry about the fact that I'm not "earning any money" and I can't really explain what I "do all day". Even though I work hard all day, every day except Sunday, I feel guilty because my work earns nothing. I have to continually refresh my mind about what God says. Loving Him and loving others are life's goals, not the endless pursuit of material things through paid employment.

You can read more about the book at Matthias Media.

Oh, and praise God that my ear ache has cleared up :)!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Treasure Principle

I have been sick recently, and in bed a lot, so I've read far more than usual. There are blessings in almost any situation! One of the books I've completed is The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, which I bought back in early January.

The Treasure Principle . . .

  • Challenges readers to take seriously Jesus' teaching on money
  • Teaches that God owns everything, and we are just his managers
  • Argues that even though the tithe of 10% in the Old Testmanent may not be a requirement for Christians today, it is a great place to start and it should be a minimum that we aim for
  • Applies the Bible's teaching to both rich and poor
  • Points out that in world and historical terms almost all people in first world countries are very rich
  • Argues that Christians should tell each other about their giving, in order to exhort one another to be more generous
  • Exhorts Christians to consider the fact that all material things are temporary, and we should invest in eternal things

I am not sure that I agree with all Randy Alcorn's perspectives and applications, and would need to do further study to make final judgments. However, I do recommend this book. Reading it is one way to learn more about how to love God through using His money for His kingdom. Giving is one important way we can express our love and faith in God. It is exciting and liberating! Don't miss out!

You can read more about The Treasure Principle, including numerous articles and quotes, here at Eternal Perspectives Ministries.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

When fruitfulness is hard work

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27 – 28

Men and women were created to reflect God’s image through fruitfulness and rulership. The woman was designed to help her husband in these tasks. If you believe, as I do, that every part of this mandate applies to us today, you will quickly find that it is hard work. God has made it so.

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He brought consequences. Sorrow would be multiplied as women brought forth children (Genesis 3:16). There would be marital tension and the wife would desire to rule over her husband (Genesis 3:16). The man would subdue the earth provide food for his family only after much toil (Genesis 3:19). Both fruitfulness and rulership were now troubled, hard processes.

The hardship of raising families in a fallen world is one of the main reasons why Western society has embraced a small family size of few or no children (0 – 3). On the rare occasions when I mention that I’d like to have more than the usual number of children, people usually respond that I’ll think better of it when I realise how hard it is to raise two children. Oh, and have I thought about how my injured back will do?

The trouble with embracing this view on a society wide level is that when you ditch the ideal of fruitfulness and abundant fertility, you also reduce your ability to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. It is difficult to build a thriving culture if the birth rate is very low. Even secular commentators are increasingly realising this. Cybercast News Service recently reported on Demographic Winter while Dallas News brought out the old line procreate or perish.

Couples who have many children usually don't do so because they think it is nice, or because they think it is the easiest way to live in the short term. Most choose this lifestyle because they believe it is God's plan for them. I would be the first to say we should never judge other Christians on the basis of their family size. However, I am also happy to argue that we need to challenge the mindset that leads most couples to deliberately choose a small family. We need to stop pretending that the ordinary hardships of childbearing are a reason to minimise God's plan for us to be fruitful and multiply.

I cannot say this any better than Nancy Wilson does in her book Praise Her in the Gates.

While evangelism beings more worshipers into the Church, childbearing brings more disciples into the home. A mother should be fruitful like the vine in Psalm 128 . . . Of course, fruit requires tending, and tending can be hard work. But it is a good work. Women should see that their view of children is shaped by Scripture and not by the world. Hard work, when it is good work, is soul-satisfying and soul-prospering. No matter how many children the Lord may give you, be it two or twelve, you must rejoice in the number ad be fruitful in the rearing of them.

Being fruitful and multiplying was hard for Eve, and it was hard work for her descendants who bore “sons and daughters” (Genesis chapter 5). Yet she knew that God had ordained this work, both in His original mandate to her and in His addition of extra hardship. God did not make a mistake. We can rest in the same confidence, knowing that God has made it so.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Day 2 of "get that stuff out the door"

Here are the results of another day of working to eliminate clutter from our lives, that we may make room for people, for beauty, and for order. Even though I found so many more than 5 items yesterday, there was no time to slack off today! You see, the challenge is to: recycle, throw out, give away or give back 5 things per day - regardless of what happened the day before.

This picture includes . . .

1 pile of papers for recycling
1 pile of papers to throw away
1 mat I ruined by putting it in the washing machine yesterday (yes, the homemaking mishaps have not stopped)
1 box of things to give back to my Mum
2 books
1 bag of things to give back to a guest who is coming tonight

Much of the paper pile was sourced from this paper-catchment area on top of the microwave . . .

Which is now looking a little more presentable . . .

Dave says it looks the same as before. He is a man (and I love him).

Tomorrow's tasks include emptying these paper pile drawers . . .

If you have joined with me in this little challenge, and posted about it on your blog, why not put a link to your post in the comments section?

The basic principle is . . . if you don't like it or find it useful, send it out the door!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cleaning and the creation mandate

Two months ago I wrote about culture and the creation mandate. Tonight's topic is more trivial, but relevant to the lives of many women and fewer men. Does keeping house have anything to do with God and his plans for my life, or is it just an annoying necessity with little meaning?

I believe that we can see keeping a house orderly and attractive as part of our Creation Mandate. God made men and women in his image to rule over the specific spheres he has appointed to them (Genesis 1:26 - 28). For all those who live in houses, our mandate to rule well must include our homes!

When we create order and beauty within our homes, we reflect the order and beauty of God's character. Just as Adam was to "tend and keep" the garden (Genesis 1:15), we are to tend and keep the areas God has given us. We are created in God's image to exercise wise and godly rule over the places and tasks he gives us as individuals.

So if you choose to take up my get that stuff out the door challenge, you don't have to see it solely as a mundane household chore. You can view it as one way to act as a person made in the image of God, and to clear your life of things that cause you to spend time on what is unimportant. Make room for people, for beauty, and for order.

The "get that stuff out the door" challenge

This week I am embarking on a "get that stuff out the door" challenge! Last week I was reminded of something I read long ago in Above Rubies magazine. Evangeline Johnson described how she and her sisters had decided that their lives were about "chasing children, not stuff". The stuff just had to get out the door and live somewhere else! Whether you have eight children like Evangeline, or no children like me, you may identify with this sentiment. So often life becomes about organising (or wading through) stuff we no longer need or like. It is time to get rid of it!

Please join me in my little challenge: recycle, throw out, give away or give back 5 things per day for the rest of the week.

Here is my pile for today, consisting of . . .

1 Australian government booklet - destination: recycle
6 Royal Auto magazines - recycle
6 Saltshakers newsletters - recycle
1 broken ball from the backyard - rubbish
1 bag from the days when I sold Nutrimetics, which I have not used for years - second hand store
1 item of clothing I have only worn once in nearly 10 years - second hand store

I know that this adds up to 16 items, not 5, but I've discovered that there is no stopping once you get started!

Get rid of the stuff that is cluttering up your life, so you have more time for the stuff that really matters.

When I logged on tonight I dropped by Biblical Womanhood, and noticed that Crystal is hosting a challenge that is very similar to my own: pick a pile! Why not drop by and see what others are doing in their efforts to clean up their homes?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Living the Cross Centered Life

C.J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing is . . .

  • A treasure for those who are seeking to focus their lives upon the person and work of Christ
  • A challenge to those who believe that we "move on" from the gospel to deeper things
  • A reminder of God's providence, holiness, sovereignty, mercy, and forgiveness
  • A reminder of our depravity and the necessity of a Saviour
  • The cry of one man's heart for the church and non-Christians to grasp the importance and power of the cross
There are few things the church needs more than a return to a passion for the gospel of grace. Many practical problems stem from a lack understanding of theological truth. I recommend this book to you as readable and relevant. To be able to disciple others in the Christian faith, and lead them to Christ, we must understand the cross and apply its meaning to our lives. Reading this book is one way to be equipped to fulfill the Great Commission.

You can read another review of the book at Heat and Light. This review covers the book's challenge to consider what you are most passionate about, and its exhortation to "never move on" from the gospel.