Thursday, June 26, 2008

Adorning the gospel

When I think of the book of Titus, I most often think of God’s commands to men and women in the second chapter. This week I’ve begun re-reading Carolyn Mahaney’s excellent book on biblical womanhood, Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother. Carolyn reminds readers to pursue God’s plan because of the gospel. The reason we seek to obey God is so “that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:5). Our lives should reflect the transformation the gospel has made to us.

As Mrs. Mahaney puts it:

“Consider the loveliness of a woman who passionately adores her husband, who tenderly cherishes her children, who creates a warm and peaceful home, who exemplifies purity, self-control, and kindness in her character and who gladly submits to her husband’s leadership – for all the days God grants her life. I dare say that there are few things that display the gospel jewel with greater elegance.”

These are special words to remember next time you’re . . .

facing a huge pile of dirty dishes, and your husband isn't helping . . .

chasing after a naughty child . . .

or just plain grumpy.

Keep on living out the gospel.

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. Titus 3: 1 – 5.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The gospel is God’s answer to racism

You may read the title of this post and think “What! Doesn’t she remember what Anglicans did to Indigenous Australians? Doesn’t she know what the Dutch Reformed Afrikaners did to the tribes of the Transvaal”! Each of us can think of many examples of Christians oppressing other groups of people on the basis of perceived differences between them. So, how can I still say that the gospel is the answer to racism?

Firstly, a true understanding of the gospel should lead to an accurate understanding of the depravity of one’s own heart. Jesus Christ had to come to die for you and for me because our sin is so bad that we could never make up for it. Jesus, the only perfect man, had to take our punishment for us. When you know yourself to be your own worst enemy, and you are deeply aware of the sin within you, blaming “the blacks” or “the refugees” or “the white oppressors” becomes a less promising pursuit.

Secondly, a respect for the gospel should lead to a respect for the whole Bible. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we learn that all people on earth today are descended from two people. Some of the excellent resources from Creation Ministries International present the scientific evidence that supports the Bible’s claim that we are really all one blood. A true respect for humanity as made in God’s image, and a knowledge that we all came from the same ancestors, should leave no room for racism.

Thirdly and most importantly, the gospel itself is a gospel of reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul speaks of the effect of Christ’s death and resurrection upon our relationship with God. We can now be reconciled to God, because Christ has taken the punishment for the sins that separated us from Him. Once we have been reconciled to God through Christ, we are then ready to be reconciled with others. The most powerful example of this that the Bible gives is the reconciliation between Jewish and Gentile Christians. These groups who had hated one another deeply were now one in Christ.

For these reasons, the gospel is the hope God holds out for a still racist South Africa. The gospel is God’s power for a racist Australia. The gospel brings God’s reconciling power that can cause black and black, white and white, and even white and black to live in peace. One of the cultural benefits of the gospel ought to be respect for and harmony with people who are different from us. When this is not the case, we need not look to the gospel for the problem. Rather, we need look no further than our own hearts.

The image is from Clay pots.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Knowing Jesus

The Jesus we meet in the gospels is a dynamic figure. He speaks words that are sometimes hard to understand and often hard to accept, heals multitudes, casts out demons, and walks on water. Who is this man? Sometimes I feel like I don’t know.

As Evangelical Christians we can loose sight of the mystifying God-become-man we find in the gospels. We remember the Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, but what about Jesus who told us not to store up our treasures on earth? What about the Jesus who said that parables are meant to conceal, not to reveal? Do we remember His stories, His power?

The less devout also often forget the Jesus of the gospels. The One who claimed to be the Son of God, the Christ, indeed God himself, turns into a nice guy who helped people. Forgotten are His radical claims that believers must give up all that they are placing above him in their affections. Father, mother, husband, houses . . . are they more important to you? That is the question Jesus kept asking. Is this the One our society remembers as gentle Jesus meek and mild?

My answer to this Jesus-amnesia is to re-read the gospels, and write down summaries of what Jesus said and did. Maybe you’d like to join me. Jesus is the One who has turned the lives of multitudes upside down, and He’s still at it. He does so through His words, His Holy Spirit, and His victory over sin. To love the true God, we must know this Jesus.

Humble hospitality

If you often have soup for dinner, why not pop over to Deb's post about the effect just a bowl of soup can have. Humble hospitality allows people to welcome others even when they don't have much. Dave has often said that it is better to joyfully serve someone a peanut butter sandwich than to fuss and stress about an elaborate dinner. I don't think I've served guests just soup and bread for dinner yet, but maybe it is time to do so! Hospitality is not about entertaining or impressing, it is about extending love to others and welcoming them into our lives. Read Deb's post and be inspired!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Soup for dinner?

Soup has traditionally been thought of as a first course to a three course meal. I don't know about you, but I never make three course meals! So soup and homemade bread has become a full meal for us. It is filling and nutritious, and there is not really a need for anything else. Besides, I can make a whole huge pot of it, freeze some, and have easy meals stored away. The gift of a giant pot (not pictured) was one of my most valuable wedding presents!

Our table is full of wedding/engagement gifts. Place mats, plates, bowls, pot, glass candle sticks, salt grinder . . . we also love using some crystal candle sticks that Dave's Mum and Dad gave us. It is wonderful to have a table that reminds of us of the many loving people God has placed in our lives.

What about you? Do you ever serve just soup and bread for a main meal at your house?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Helping your own husband

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable to him.” Genesis 2:18.

This verse gives us a summary of the role of a wife toward her husband. Just as Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, so God intends that each wife will help her own husband. While feminists have derided this role as life in second-class, Christian women know that God’s design is best.

As a new wife, I am at the beginning of my journey of helping my husband. I have mainly concentrated on helping my husband through willingly embracing the things the Bible indicates a wife should aspire to. I have also tried to support Dave in his research career, simply through being positive about it and trying not to complain about various difficulties such as travel. Dave’s work of studying trees is part of his role in taking dominion over the earth and providing for us.

One thing I have discovered is that my ideas of being a helpful housewife and Dave’s ideas don’t always match! For example, I believed that a good wife is frugal and is always looking for new ways to save. When I expressed this to Dave, he said we were frugal enough. I am still careful with our money, especially when it comes to groceries, but I have changed some of my ideas about budgeting.

As wives, we need to find out what our husbands want us to focus our attentions upon. Not all the good things we read on blogs, about frugality or other aspects of homemaking, will be a help to our husbands. On “A Deeper Love” I have written a lot about gardening and the Creation Mandate. However, my main reason for focusing upon this is my husband’s passion for us to grow our own vegetables. If Dave thought vegetable growing was a waste of time, I would not put as much energy into this.

Assess whatever you read on blogs on the basis of your husband’s priorities. All of us should seek to shape our priorities around God’s word, but that will look different in each family and season. For now, I’m working on the main thing Dave has told me would help him: being happy! I am generally happy, but tend to get worried and stressed at times. Learning to relax, and develop a quiet spirit, is my main challenge in being a helper. What about you?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Dave and I have been finding marriage a joy, despite all the challenging adjustments and discoveries, from day one. There is nothing like a prolonged separation, though, to make us realise just how much we do love each other and delight in each other's company! Since Dave arrived back on Monday, from nearly three weeks away, we've been rejoicing in God's gift of marriage. We are amazed that God has given us more than we dreamt of or deserved, in the gift of each other. A life partner who loves God is sure worth waiting and praying for.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Our trip: Day 6

On May 20th we went to Taronga Zoo in Sydney. I'd been looking forward to showing Dave one of my favourite places!

The trip over to the zoo on the ferry is beautiful, with lovely views of the harbour and Opera House.

We watched an amazing bird show, which involved a number of large birds swooping over our heads! Dave posed as a bird . . .

I posed as some type of rat with large ears . . .

As always, I was enthralled at the meerkat enclosure. I found out from the Lonely Planet guide to South Africa that there is a whole attraction/conservation centre devoted to meerkats there . . . hmmm, sounds like a must-see if we're in that area. Meerkats are the best!

I was far less thrilled with part of the orangutan display, which would lead visitors to believe that they are made in the image-of-an-orangutan rather than in the image of God.

As if all day at the zoo observing everything from lionesses to seals wasn't enough, we also went out that night!

Here we are in Sydney on our way to the Phantom of the Opera.

We went to the opera with the couple we stayed with, Phil and Brenda. It was an enthralling show. I was scared when that chandelier started coming towards us, and thought the themes were very dark, but appreciated the amazing set and performances.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Who will care for the orphans?

God tells us in the book of James that pure religion cares for orphans and widows. Since marrying Dave and realising the enormous orphan problem in South Africa, I've grown increasingly determined to do anything I can to help orphans. Dave has also become increasingly passionate about this part of God's word. It is as though marriage has helped us to more deeply understand what God has called us to as Christ's followers.

We would love to adopt as many orphans as we could care for, but currently all doors toward doing that are firmly slammed shut. They will be for at least another three years, and maybe even after that. We recognise that only God can open these doors, and if he chooses not to we will never adopt any children. This grieves us deeply, and has brought me to tears several times, but we can't give up on caring about orphans simply because we cannot make adoption happen.

This afternoon I have been researching two organisations that help orphans, which we could perhaps support through our prayers and donations.

I'm excited about Izulu Orphan Projects in South Africa, where we could perhaps even visit orphan households we were supporting. We may be able to further investigate the work of this organisation when we next travel to SA.

I've also been investigating the blog of Paul Myhill, who is based in the USA and has a focus on orphans across the world.

You may also be interested in Ithemba Lethu, an amazing organisation that Dave's former church began. Ithemba Lethu runs a transition home, from which they aim to return children to their former communities or place them in foster or adoptive homes. The babies there are fed with donated breast milk, the best possible food for them!

Please pray for us as we seek out ways to care for orphans. We would love to do more than "just" give or pray, but right now that seems to be the maximum we can do. Pray that God will lead us to more opportunities to live out his command.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Our trip: Day 5

On Day 5 of our trip, it was already time to leave Brisbane, Queensland, to go to Sydney in the state of New South Wales.

We spent the morning with my brother Darian who, amongst other things, trimmed his palm trees . . .

We also enjoyed chatting with Darian's wife Trudy and playing with their three wonderful kids . . .

On the way to the airport, we spent a couple of very enjoyable hours at the Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens and ate lunch there. The gardens were beautiful, and the bonsai collection was especially impressive.

We arrived in Sydney in the afternoon and caught a couple of trains to my aunt (Mum's sister) and uncle's house, where we had dinner.

We stayed the night with friends of Dave's, who would soon become "our" friends! That is one of may excellent things about marriage . . . friends multiply!