Friday, January 30, 2009

All the family

My brother and his family are down from Brisbane, so it was fun to have a picnic (in Mum and Dad's yard!) with all of my siblings and their kids. All but one of the children feature in this photo . . .

Well, this is the last post from me until the last week in February. In the meantime I'll be busy trying to complete craft projects before baby comes, keeping house, using the produce of our garden and my parents' garden, keeping up with my "read the Bible in 90 days" plan, and more! I'm grateful to God for purposeful days.

Holiness, Legalism and the Sufficiency of Scripture

On a recent road trip to the North East of Tasmania, Dave and I listened to Jeff Pollard’s talk “Holiness, Legalism, and the Sufficiency of Scripture”. It was the first time Dave had heard the talk, but it was my fourth or fifth. I have a desire to listen to this CD over and over again, perhaps because its message is one I need to hear over and over again! The talk is also packed with concepts. The preacher acknowledges that each topic listed in the title could do with multiple sermons, and packing it into about an hour makes it a stretch.

The section on holiness is inspiring as Pollard details God’s holiness and our call to be like Him. We are to be a set apart, holy people. God’s standard is complete holiness in thought, word, and action. The section on legalism is insightful and challenging. Some humour is provided as Pollard details the pitfalls of this topic – the main ones being that people constantly label others legalists yet no one seems sure what it means and no one ever admits to it! Pollard defines legalism as a) having a standard – God’s word or a man made standard b) that you seek to attain through self-effort c) for the purposes of self-exaltation.

The teaching about legalism is remarkable for two things. 1) Its accuracy in describing the true evidences of legalism, and the clarity of conviction this provides. We are all legalists. 2) Its avoidance of the common tendency to describe a legalist as, in Pollard’s words, anyone who says there is a problem with something I think is fine! You are not a legalist solely because you hold particular convictions about dress or Sabbath keeping or giving . . . or a multitude of other topics. You are a legalist if you think that those things make you a better Christian and more pleasing to God.

Pollard’s teaching on the Sufficiency of Scripture is perhaps the most controversial section of his CD. He argues that we can seek the mind and will of God through the Scriptures and prayer – even on matters that are not spoken of in specifics. Amongst many Evangelicals today, this position is not held in high regard. Many argue that the Bible does not speak to x, or y, or z . . . or that it does not speak in a relevant or understandable way. It is common to hear it said that unless the Bible addresses something specifically, that matter is one of opinion. The position put forward on this CD is that we ought to rely upon God’s revelation in all matters, not on our own reason or opinions. However, if someone else also seeks out God’s word and prays and comes to a different conclusion we are not to view that person as a lesser Christian.

I recommend this CD to anyone with even a slight interest in the topics covered. It is well worth what you pay for it from Behemoth.

Pregnancy Mishaps

In the tradition of the homemaking mishaps, I present:

The problem of the soiled tummy . . .

It never occured to me prior to pregancy, but that jutting tummy can pose a dirt problem. Everything that falls out of your mouth, or out of your hand while you're trying to get it into your mouth, lands on your tummy. Just to let you know.

Possible solutions:

  • Wearing an apron at all times, especially while eating. Mum suggested a set of black ones from Big W.

Any other ideas?

The memory issue . . .

There was the occasion where a guest asked me two simple questions and I couldn't answer either of them. They were "how many weeks pregnant are you", and "how old are you". Being unable to reply to such questions could be considered humiliating.

Possible solutions:

  • Taping a piece of paper to oneself with all vital details, or carrying a small card ready for occasions when you're asked such questions.
Any other ideas?
The attitude problem . . .

Perhaps the most serious of my mishaps when it comes to pregnancy is the fact that I let my attitude slip in relation to people's litany of comments about my tummy. This is more of a sin or folly than a mishap, and I really need to learn to laugh about the silly things people say. I was reminded of this two days ago, when in two separate stores I got two totally different reactions to my tummy.

Store 1: Mr. Appliance Spares, who was not previously known to me, said that I "looked like I'd dropped" and "wow, I'd really popped out".

Store 2: Mr. Picture Framer asked me if I had moved out of home. This puzzled me a little as I was obviously pregnant and wearing a wedding ring. Things were made a little clearer when, as I was leaving, I mentioned that I wanted to get my pictures done before the baby comes. He replied that he hadn't noticed I was pregnant.

Mummy Shower

Do any of you read Above Rubies? My Mum has received it for many years and the inspiring articles and teaching have impacted my life in many ways. It is the kind of magazine that makes you believe that it is possible to create a God honouring home and family life, and turns you toward relationship with God as the source of hope and help in life's difficulties. Even people I know who don't agree with a word of the magazine's perspective on birth control (which could be briefly described as God family planning) read and enjoy it.

One article described the idea of giving baby showers to Mums who were having their 3rd, 4th, 5th . . . or 10th child! The idea was that we should have special God honouring rituals that celebrate life and encourage Mums. We shouldn't stop celebrating with number one or two! So when friend of mine became pregnant with her 4th child, I asked if she'd like a "Mummy Shower". She already had everything necessary for baby, so the idea was that guests would bring something to bless her. Here I am with our lovely sunflowers before the Mummy Shower . . .

We gave the Mum-of-honour a foot bath and painted her nails.

I also made a book of pretty pictures and inspiring quotes. In the invitations guests were invited to contribute a word of encouragement to this book. At the Mummy Shower we also had a prayer time . . . and of course there was food to eat and punch to drink. Have any of you ever done anything similar? If so, do you have ideas for other activities?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What is wisdom?

The urgency of being obedient to wisdom

The Bible presents wisdom and understanding and obedience to God's commands as closely connected. This is seen when Moses speaks of the law of God. "Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples" (Deut. 4:6). In chapter eight of Proverbs, we are instructed to pursue wisdom with great urgency. The warnings about the consequences of choosing not to do this are strong. Proverbs 8:36 says "he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death". Wisdom doesn't seem to be a take it or leave it kind of thing.

The need to see foolishness as sinful

The New Testament echoes the idea that folly is something that must be repented of. In Mark 7:20 - 23, Jesus puts foolishness in a list of evil things. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Foolishness is listed as one of the things we are meant to have left behind as Christians "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures" (Titus 3:3).

Is wisdom "Christianised common sense". Is it up to us to decide what is wise?

If wisdom is vital, and we can be called to repent of it, there must be definite boundaries to wisdom - "rights" and "wrongs" if you like. For example, the Bible uniformly presents a person who responds well to correction as wise. There are some heart reactions to correction that are right, and some that are wrong. At the same time, there can sometimes be more than one wise course. The Bible defines the boundaries of wisdom, and there are instances where multiple options are presented as wise depending upon the circumstances. Scripture must be compared with Scripture. Sometimes we are called to make up our own minds about what is wise. There will be boundaries, however, and there will always be some options that are foolish.

Freedom from unnecessary advice

Embracing the Bible's view of wisdom frees us from "Christianized common sense". The Christian world abounds with people who are willing to press viewpoints upon us that are independent of Biblical revelation. If someone tells you not to get married until you're 25, to make sure you check that your baby is OK by having an ultrasound, to juice carrots daily, to not to have kids until you're 30, to date for five years, to vote for the one who'll "do most for the poor", to wait a year to have kids after you get married, or not to buy a bike, there are biblical principles you can use to evaluate this advice. Most advice is not based on God's wisdom, and after listening and giving consideration to it we are perfectly free to reject it.

The personal context of this post

I know many Christians who appear to argue that wisdom issues and godliness issues can be neatly separated out. They say that we are not to make judgements about a "Christian" response when it comes to wisdom issues because these are not matters of right or wrong. I believe that this approach to wisdom is not consistent with biblical revelation. It is desperately important for every Christian (myself included) to be held accountable to make wise choices. It is not loving to our brothers and sisters in Christ to ignore obvious departures from wisdom. In the context of close relationships, it is appropriate to remind one another that some choices are unwise. All this must be done in the spirit that James 3:17 describes as wise. God's wisdom is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Keeping Dave Number One

I am grateful for my husband. There are few days on which I don't think about how blessed I am that God brought him into my life. He is tender, kind, dilligent, passionate about things that matter, generous, a good friend, a good cook, and so much more! We both feel like having a child is an expression and fulfillment of the "one flesh" union that is marriage - our child will be from both of us, yet one person. Of course, I want baby to look like Dave and Dave wants baby to look like me!

Although having a child brings much joy, I am also aware that many women struggle to keep their husbands as "number one person" after little ones arrive. The physical and time demands of parenthood make it harder to prioritise their husbands' needs and desires. I am thrilled to be a Mum, and yet I don't want to be primarily defined as one. I am first of all my husband's helper, and one of the ways I help him is to be a Mum. This is one reason why even after the baby is born I'd rather tell people I'm a housewife than a stay-at-home Mum.

I know that many of my readers have been married much longer than me, and already have one or more children. I'd love to hear . . .

* Your tips for treasuring your husband, even in those early "survival" days of parenthood!
* Mistakes you've made and what you have learnt from them
* How you teach your children that Daddy comes first in your heart and priorities (after God, of course)!
* How you treasure your husband in the way you talk about him to others outside the family, and communicate to them that he comes first

And anything else that comes to mind!

Even if Dave and I have 10 children, it is likely that one day it will just be the two of us in our house again. When that day comes, I want us to have a deeper love and trust between us than we do today. I also know that the best thing we can do for our child is to love each other.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back to the plan

After the change of plan for December's posts, I will now be returning to my blogging plan. You will find more blog posts here at the end of January.

In the mean time, I recommend a couple of blog posts:

Your Sacred Calling, A Single Solitary Article

Passionate Homemaking, A Godly Woman's Work

Year's End

"Year's End", a prayer from The Valley of Vision, is ideal to meditate on at the start of 2009.

O love beyond compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou has loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me during another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou has veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou has appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
As a chosen vessel meet always for they use.

The start of 2009 is also the perfect time to decide on a new plan for spending time in God's word. Check out this impressive list of Bible reading plans. I'm still deciding what to do. I'm thinking of trying to read through the whole Bible before baby arrives, using the 90 day plan.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Entrusting our dreams to God

We serve a God who can do the impossible. In August two years ago I wrote a long post about courtship, which I’ve summarised in some of these posts. At the end of my article I wrote: “After all this, you have to actually like the person . . . or preferably fall in love! If that all seems impossible, as it does to me often, remember that we serve a big God who loves to see his people happy and functioning effectively for his kingdom.”

I’ve been amazed at how God has answered my prayers. Marriage has been better than I ever imagined, and I still marvel at the way God brought Dave all the way across the world! I rejoice in the way we are able to support and love each other. At the same time, marriage has made me realise again the importance of trust. Singleness is a real trial to many people, especially those who struggle with sexual desires that cannot be fulfilled or with loneliness. Yet marriage can bring with it its own particular unfulfilled longings.

God chose to withhold the gift of children from Dave and I in the first year of our marriage. We always knew he might do so, and that it might even be his will that we were permanently childless. Our marriage vows contain a deliberate acknowledgement of this. We did not promise to raise “our children” to know and love Jesus, we promised this for “any children God gives us”.

Yet despite this mental acknowledgement, we experienced a lot of fear about why we weren’t getting pregnant. Many negative and even sinful emotions emerged. As the seemingly endless pregnancy announcements kept coming, we wondered if there was something wrong with us. Of course, the announcements that were attended with the label “unexpected” were the hardest.

Now that God has blessed us with an unborn child, I am still laying down dreams. The desire to adopt a child runs very deep. Yet if anything, getting pregnant has made this harder. I’ve had to repent of wanting to control situations in order to be able to adopt. Only God will enable us to adopt, just as only God could give us a biological child. It has got to be his dream, not ours.

In the face of unfulfilled dreams, we all have a choice: trust God, or be miserable and without hope. We must say with the hymn Prince of Peace, Control My Will “May thy will, not mine be done, May thy will and mine be one”. This is particularly hard when we know that what we want is in line with the general will of God. Marriage is the general will of God, as is bearing children and the placement of orphans in families. It is right to desire these things, but we must want the fulfilment of God’s specific will for our lives more – even if it means we are denied the very things we believe God’s word leads us to desire.

God does not call us to an emotionless life. Unfulfilled dreams will, at times, be a source of grief. We can entrust our broken lives, and crushed hopes, to God and know that he does not condemn our sorrow. Yet in the midst of this God is calling those who are hurting to trust Him and believe He knows best. As we seek God, He will provide ways for us to serve Him in the circumstances He has appointed. It is in God that we find our ultimate hope and inheritance, not in earthly families and relationships. He wants us to desire Him above all else.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

God's plan of adoption

God sets the solitary in families
Psalm 68:6

This Bible verse is the basis for my passion for adoption as a care option for orphaned or abandoned children. Apparently, there are over 100 million orphaned children in the world. These children have been left alone, without a family to care for them. I believe that God’s ideal for each of them is that they would have a loving family. While other care options (such as institutional care) can provide for physical needs, the family is God’s best way of providing long-term love, emotional connection, and social networks.

Adoption is also a concept rooted in the Christian doctrine of salvation. God uses the words adopted and adoption to describe his actions toward us. This is a precious thing to remember at Christmas. We are God’s children because he sent his son to die for our sins, so that our relationship with him could be restored and we could be adopted into his family. God planned for us to be his children before time began “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 3:5).

Galations 4:4 – 7 says:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Keeping the gospel in mind can help us to know how to respond to some of the objections to adoption that are often raised. Many people are hesitant about inter-country adoption, or inter-racial adoption. Remember that God has adopted into his family people of every tribe and tongue and nation. He does not discriminate against any, but meets the needs of all. Christian families do well when they reflect the diversity of the family of God. Many people also have concerns about the child’s background, and whether they will cause trouble in their adoptive family. Remember that although we rebelled against God and even hated him, he forgave and welcomed us into his family.

At the end of January, I hope to post more on adoption.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

December pictures

We had a wonderful month celebrating Christmas! Dave loves to decorate the tree.

My sister gave us a bassinett some time ago, and it is set up in our room looking pretty . . .

On Christmas Eve, we had "Nine Lessons and Carols" at our home. This is a worship service with carols and Bible readings and prayers. Christina was to give birth to Eve the next week (who, by the way, is a most beautiful baby).

On Christmas day we harvested some veggies to take to our family Christmas lunch.

Our sister-in-law obligingly took photos of us in my parents garden.

I hope you also had a fantastic Christmas and December.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The best laid plans . . .

I had planned several posts for the Christmas week, and even written them the week before! I'd also decided on some of the photos I'd like to upload. However, I had another reminder of one of my favourite verses:

O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
Jeremiah 10:23

Our Internet was out nearly all week, and could not be fixed until this Monday - when we left on holiday! So I'll be posting a few things next week that I had intended to post in December.