Thursday, November 30, 2006
Yet I'd like to stress that I find none of these worthwhile reasons to celebrate having Andrew as our Patron. I have never really taken to, or thought much about, having a patron saint. But today, since November 30th remembers Andrew, perhaps for all the wrong reasons, I would like to think about his life and death which display an incredible witness to Christ and pray that this reason becomes the central focus of why we have this Apostle as our patron.
Andrew, the first-called of the disciples, brother of Peter, fisherman and devoted follower of Christ is probably mostly known for his life beyond what we read in the Gospels.
Tradition has it that Andrew left the holy land after Pentecost to spread the Gospel in Greece and Asia Minor. In 60AD, during the reign of Nero, Andrew was in Patras where it is said that he baptised the wife of the Governor, Aegeus. The Governor was incensed by this and ordered his death. He is believed to have been martyred by crucifiction on an X-shaped cross. This was to become the inspiration for the cross that forms the Saltire, Scotland's national flag.
There are many legends that explain how Andrew's relics came to Scotland, suffice to say that St Andrews became the religious centre of Scotland during the medieval period. Despite the many tales and thinking behind Andrew becoming the patron saint of our country, my guess would be that he himself would not want this day to focus on him. Neither would he want it to be a day to purely "celebrate Scotland" or become the centre of superstition. I suspect that he would not want this opportunity for a National Day go unnoticed if his life and death meant that it could point to his Lord.
Upon recognising his Messiah and following him, we read in John's Gospel that 'the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "we have found the Messiah". And he brought him to Jesus.'
My prayer is that Scotland's National Day will be remembered for the life and death of Andrew whose witness indeed brought people to Jesus. Let it be an encouragement to us that we might go and tell others we have found the Saviour, and that he alone should be the focus of our nation.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The article recounts the radio's practical joke, or as they saw it, a "social experiment" asking "folks if they were willing to give up their baby for 24 hours in exchange for one of Sony's highly coveted video game consoles. More than a dozen people called to offer up their kids, but only a few realized it was all just a gag." Sadly, "people with babies of all ages — including a 2-day-old and a 1-week-old — made it on air. One of the more serious sounding calls came from a woman named "Katie," who agreed to give up her 1-month-old for three days. She wanted to sell the PS3 on eBay to make some extra money for the holidays."
Challies in his post goes onto helpfully comment on this sickening behaviour:
This is the kind of behavior that is only too common in our culture. We live in what is now an voyeuristic, exploitative society. We love to see into other people's lives and because of technology, this is easier to do than ever before. But there is more. As voyeurism has increased, so has exhibitionism. Countless numbers of people are willing to sell their bodies, souls or children for a fleeting fifteen minutes of fame and a ten thousand dollar paycheck. From world famous celebrities to absolute nobodies, we yearn to be noticed and have been only too willing to sell ourselves. Humiliation is marketed on television and a blurb in People magazine has become adequate payment for having personal problems brought before the world.
We, the consumers, feed this frenzy. When we turn on the television we want to watch celebrities, both new and old, living out their lives before the cameras or learning to dance or cook or crochet. We want to watch families whose spending has spiralled out of control try to fix their broken finances. We want to watch families whose kids are overweight learn how to eat healthy food or adults who are fat lose weight or couples who have forgotten the joys of sex to rediscover intimacy or normal people slurp down blood, guts and bugs. We want to see people learn what not to wear, to see people with rolls on their stomachs get liposuction and funny-looking noses get the perfect Hollywood nose job. We want to escape our own problems by wallowing in other people's problems which somehow always seem so much worse than our own. We want to see the sad, pathetic, tragic details of their lives, their personalities, their bodies. The more detail we get, the happier we are.
Back in March a web site made public a memo from ABC dealing with the hit show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Looking to cast a new season, the show's producers asked network affiliates to look for families who could be on the show. Their wishlist is nauseating.
"We are open to any and ALL story ideas and are especially looking for the following:
- Extraordinary Mom/Dad recently diagnosed with ALSFamily who has child with PROGERIA (aka "little old man disease").
- Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, referred to as CIPA by the few people who know about it. (There are 17 known cases in the the U.S.-let me know if one is in your town!) This is where kids cannot feel any physical pain.
- Muscular Dystrophy Child - Amazing kid who is changing people's views about MD.MADD
- Drunk Driving - Family turns tragedy into triumph after a losing a child to drunk driving.
- Family who has multiple children with Down Syndrome (either adopted or biological).
- Amazing loved Mom or dad diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer).
- Home Invasion - family robbed, house messed up (vandalized) - kids fear safety in their home now.
- Victims of hate crime in own home. Family's house victim of arson or severely vandalized."
It is clear that the show was not seeking these people primarily because they are the most worthy of help, but because they make the best stories. The worse the tragedy, the better the entertainment value...
...Reality is no longer reality. Fame is no longer fame. Reality television offers anything but reality, and yet we are drawn to it. The internet offers fleeting, exploitative fame. It is escapism and exploitation. Somehow, it seems, we have come to care about other people's lives more than our own. We invest ourselves in other people's problems, other people's joys, hurts and pains all the while ignoring our own. We escape from our own lives by caring about other people's.
When a radio station offers to trade children for a Playstation 3, it does not surprise me that people are willing to accept the offer. We live in a strange new reality where tragedy can reap generous monetary rewards and personal problems can be marketed and sold. And even if there is no financial compensation, fleeting fame seems an adequate reward for exposing even the most humiliating, intimate details. We live in a society where it makes perfect sense to give up a child for 24 hours in order to get a hold of a new playstation.
Consider the parent who is always working that extra hour to make that little bit more "for the sake of kids," but who ends up losing out on valuable family time. Or the mum at home: so intent on keeping the family abode just right, making luscious meals for the household, but at the expense of giving significant focus to her children.
It is not that good housekeeping and providing for our family is wrong, they just need to have their place. Against all our material possessions, it's a good question to keep at the forefront of our minds: what's my child worth?
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Left to myself, my natural inclination is to raise my voice when my daughter is misbehaving, and I have seen this recommended on several of the popular "Nanny" TV programmes that seem to fill our screens. In contrast, Ginger Plowman states:
Make a conscious effort not to scold your child. You are ready to reprove your child biblically when you can speak to him in a normal tone of voice and with carefully measured words.She quotes from H. Clay Turnbull who, in 1891, wrote:
Scolding is, in fact, never in order, when dealing with a child or in any other duty in life. To "scold" is to assail or revile with boisterous speech...Scolding is always an expression of a bad spirit and of a loss of temper...If a child has done something wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words.As I have thought about this, I realise she is absolutely right. If we are disciplining our child for misbehaving, we must verbally correct them so they can see where they have gone wrong and how they should have behaved. Doing this with a raised voice, harsh tone or wagging finger does not convey the information any more effectively, but it does convey that we have lost our temper. Discipline should not be an outlet for our parental frustration, but a "self-controlled act of love" whereby we teach our children how to live the way God wants them to.
Monday, November 27, 2006
One of the articles was entitled “We burnt our bras for this?”, the main photograph of topless model
In the 1960s and 1970s, women fought to have the same rights as men. Today the battle of the sexes looks like a topless mud wrestle, with young women claiming the right to parade their sexuality rather than equality. Is this raunch culture a modern form of feminism, or are we back to square one?
The writer, Decca Aitkenhead, interviewed two glamour models and their mothers about their career choice, and debated whether this was feminism re-inventing itself in a new ‘raunchy’ form. Apparently teenage girls are now uploading topless images of themselves onto Internet websites, send topless photos of themselves to men’s magazines and tell pollsters that their role model is
Champions of this new raunch culture have two different ways to explain why acting like a porn star is the proper way for feminists to behave – the first is that, deep down, women have always been wild, and raunch culture is what true women’s liberation looks like. The second is that any girl who calls herself a feminist should do whatever it takes to get what she wants. And if that means acting out a man’s fantasies, well, she’d be stupid not to get her latex cat-suit on.
Some of the comments in the article show how deeply embedded our society now is in it’s twin mantras of ‘freedom of choice’ and 'rights’. Although both the models’ mothers expressed disappointment at their daughters’ choice of career, they both defended their daughters’ freedom of choice. And the writer of the article makes this comment – because this kind of behaviour is seen as female empowerment:
It’s hard to know how to object. If you question the merits of Abi Titmus as a role model, or worry about BB contestants having sex on national TV, you run the risk of sounding prudish. You don’t want to seem ‘anti-choice’. If this is what women choose to do then what exactly is your problem?
How sad – how incredibly sad – that in the pursuit of women’s freedom of choice and rights, any idea of modesty, decency or morality have gone out of the window. Ask yourself how often we hear those words spoken today? It seems that in the latest re-invention of what it means to be female, women have surrendered the simple dignity of what it means to be a woman by manipulating men in order to get what they want and earn money. Why are so few people counting the pay-back price that comes with this behaviour?
Sharon James in her book, God's Design for Women, put it beautifully when she says:
Women have not been liberated by modern feminism, they have been betrayed…It is time to point to those around us to what God says about sexuality, and about how to live a truly happy and fulfilled life. While multitudes of women around us are hurting and unhappy the Bible points to the dignity and beauty of God’s design for women.
I’m struck yet again by the fact that the young women of our church are growing up in this environment and need positive role models of what godly womanhood looks like. And the buck stops here – with the ‘older women’ in the church. We have a responsibility to live out and to speak out about what true womanhood is. So in the midst of my packing boxes, I’ll somehow try to find time to respond to Good Housekeeping’s invitation to comment on the article “We burnt our bras for this?”
Saturday, November 25, 2006
On their website you can link to their mini-site, exclusively set up for this new album. There you can hear a taster of each of the songs on the album. I particularly like, "Jesus, Light of the World" and "Born in Bethlehem." Their renditions of "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Silent Night" have been arranged well and bring a unique tune to these old favourites.
But let me leave you with a few words from the Band as found on the cover sleeve of the album:
"Just the word 'Christmas' can bring up so many feelings. For some, it is a time of family and peace. For others, it is a hectic time of shopping and traffic. It's a couple of weeks off from school. Maybe it's a time of sadness missing a family member who is no longer here. Regardless of our past experiences and current situations, we all long for a more significant Christmas. Our sincere hope is that this collection of music will help you to draw closer to your Father in Heaven who gave the ultimate Offering for all of us: the gift of His son Jesus."
Friday, November 24, 2006
In it she describes her journey from feminism to a fully fledged position of: "sign me up" to this "biblical womanhood thing." Admittedly, Carolyn then looked for that other half to complement her new found perspective on being a female, but soon found that no husband came calling. She writes:
"Over time, I began to identify more with an adjective than a noun. I was a single woman. Singleness dominated my perspective. In fact, I just became a single. As in, “So what’s going on with the singles these days?” Or, “Let’s invite some of the singles over for dinner!” Or, “The singles are going on a retreat next weekend.” Thus, the church became a collection of husbands, wives, and singles—the gender-neutral third wheels that messed up the seating arrangements wherever we went.
In the LORD’s rich mercy, this perspective was radically altered when I was asked to work on a project mining the gracious truths of biblical femininity. As I studied, I realized that Scripture’s emphasis was on being made a woman in the image of God. My marital status informed how that would be applied, but I was to be more preoccupied with my femininity than my singleness. The lingering whiffs of feminism’s androgyny were thereby extinguished. I was not a female form outlined in dotted lines, waiting for one man to fill me in and therefore complete my femininity. I was feminine because that’s how my God made me, and there was something of his image that I was to reflect as a woman—even a single woman."In the rest of her article, Carolyn goes onto to explore how single women can cultivate femininity in non-romantic relationships, while encouraging the men around them in their application of masculinity. It is an article well worth taking the time to read, informative and encouraging for many who don't, as yet, have a proverbial "better half." You can read the article here.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
"The grave error many women make today is believing the lie that we are more enlightened than women of previous centuries or those in less civilised countries. Educational opportunities abound in our culture like no other, yet the pursuit of enlightenment comes not from any classroom or college course. It comes only from God's Word applied by the Holy Spirit."
She goes on in the book to give short insights into the lives of twenty four women found in the bible, concentrating on a particular characteristic of each one. She helpfully draws out the lessons that we can learn from each biblical woman and her relationship with God. She studies a variety of women including Eve, Sarah, Abigail, Gomer and Sapphira, and shows how relevant the lives of these women are to us today. Each chapter is around ten pages so it is very easy to read in manageable chunks. It can be dipped into from time to time, and does not necessarily need to be read all at once. You could even read one chapter a week, and use it as the basis for a more extended time of bible study.
The introduction also states:
"As you read about their lives, it is my hope that you will see, when the cultural veneer has been stripped away, that we share the same hopes and can lay claim to the same promises that they did, because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
How true, and how wonderful that, even if our earthly role-models are few, we can look to the Bible to show us how to live as godly women. I highly recommend this book.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Speaking of films and the media. A little known fact is that my husband, Colin, used to be part of a team producing short "thoughts for the day" on secular radio with Gospel Radio Fellowship (GRF) in Glasgow . GRF write and produce a variety of different programmes for others to broadcast on the airwaves. The "short spots" (generally lasting only 15-20 seconds) are used to stimulate listeners to ask questions related to the Gospel. GRF have made these excellent clips available over at audiopot for church's to use. You can find a broad range of different spots for all kinds of topics.
GRF recently creatively produced some of these spots on the back of the recently released Bond film asking the question: "So who is responsible for all the pain and suffering in the world? 007 goes on a mission to find out." To give you a taster, here is one of the clips. To listen to the other five, you must register here at audiopot.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
He asked us if we made an effort to keep abreast of what is going on in other nations. In particular, do we have a copy of "Operation World" and do we use it? At this point, I had to think to myself, "Now which shelf is our copy on?". He went on to ask if what we read or hear about other nations has an impact on us or do we let it wash over us - does it change the way we pray, give or spend our time? Thirdly, we are all called to be involved in mission work, without exceptions. Obviously, not all of us will go to work overseas, but have we given this possibility serious consideration? If we do not go ourselves, are we following Christ's command in Matthew 9:38 and praying that labourers will be sent out? Are we giving sacrificially of our time and money?
My first reaction to these challenges was to feel that I barely have time to pray for the needs of those immediately around me so I struggle to pray for mission work more than once in a while. But as with so many things, it comes down to discipline. Can I honestly say I don't have a spare 5 or 10 minutes each day to bring the work of missions before God in prayer?
I've been trying to think of ways I can do this, and one thing I am now doing is praying for our missionaries with my two year old daughter - we've been going two days now and so far so good! Yesterday, we got the atlas out and looked for the country that one of our missionaries works in. We talked about how she got there and what she is doing. Then we prayed a short prayer for her. I'm also going to get my copy of Operation World off the shelf and put it in the kitchen, so I can read it and pray while I'm making dinner or clearing up. If you don't have a copy of Operation World, you can go to their website for information on today's country.
Your life circumstances are no doubt different from mine, but we are all called to be involved in mission work, even if we stay at home.
"Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest." Matt 9:38
Monday, November 20, 2006
This follows the virtual closing down of Exeter Christian Union, because it restricts membership to Christians, and the banning of the "Pure" course at the Universty of Edinburgh - a course teaching a biblical view on marriage - because some claim it 'homophobic.' For more extensive details, read here one of the main Times articles: Faith, Fundamentalism and the Fight for Students Souls. A supplementary article also claims that student Unions may take legal action over the matter.
Whatever else we might say, once more it seems evident that our tolerant society is in fact tolerent of everything except the views of evangelical Christians. The head of UCCF communications makes a telling comment when he says:“The politically correct agenda is being used to shut people up under the guise of tolerance when, in fact, you tolerate anything other than the thing you disagree with."
The temptation, nevertheless, is go soft on truth whenever society finds it uncomfortable. I'm reminded of something John Piper has said, stressing that we must not confuse humility with uncertainty in our times:
"Beware of a modern mistake here. Humble does not mean wishy-washy when it comes to truth. Forbearing does not mean saying: truth doesn't matter. It is a great mistake to confuse humility with uncertainty. But many today do confuse them. They think that the only humble demeanor is the uncertain, vague, iffy demeanor. The only way to preserve the unity of the Spirit is to be vague, uncertain in your grasp of truth? He didn't seem to be that way. I think G.K. Chesterton put his finger on our problem fifty years ago in a little book called Orthodoxy:
What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt--the Divine Reason." (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p.55)
John Piper, sermon: "One Lord, One Spirit, One Body For All Time and All Peoples"
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The girltalk bookclub are going to be reading together a biography by Sharon James, Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee. Keep posted over the next couple of weeks at their blog to find out when they'll start reading and join in with the questions they ask, and enjoy! But, in order to do that you'll need to get your own copy of the book. The girltalkers explain how to do that if you are Stateside, but if you are in the UK go here and here to get your copy.
But just to get you warmed up: let me tell you a bit about the godly woman we'll read about. Elizabeth Prentiss was a Presbyterian pastor's wife, a writer and poet. She is best known for her popular hymn "More Love to Thee, O Christ", and her book, Stepping Heavenward (which I'm enjoying reading at the moment).
In 1845 she married George Prentiss and settled in New Bedford, MA, where George became pastor of South Trinitarian Church. After settling in with the parishioners, and having a baby, within a period of three months she lost her second and third children: one as a newborn, the other aged four. She wrote this poem in that year, 1852, on the occasion of the baby's death:
"I thought that prattling boys and girls
Would fill this empty room;
That my rich heart would gather flowers
From childhood's opening bloom.
One child and two green graves are mine,
This is God's gift to me
A bleeding, fainting, broken heart -
This is my gift to Thee."
Though she continually struggled with poor health, Elizabeth went on to have four healthy children. After her death, her husband published The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (1882), so that the more costly experiences of her life could be used to strengthen and comfort others. Elizabeth's peculiar trials indeed enabled her to sympathise even more deeply with those who suffered, to the point where, much later in life, she declared that she "loved the house of mourning more than the house of feasting."
Sharon James' biography therefore asks: "Do you feel that you would be able to grow in love for God and others - if only your circumstances were different? Maybe you find that the sheer demands of everyday life squeeze out time for God? Read this true story to find out how one woman discovered that the most difficult circumstances are "God's school" to teach us more about his grace; the very bust times are precisely those times when we need - and can find - God's strength; the worst of tragedies can draw us closer to God."
This looks like a book we can learn much from. Again, I would recommend Sharon James and her books: so let's take this opportunity, along with girltalk, to read and learn together from this remarkable woman's story.
Friday, November 17, 2006
George Muller was born in Prussia in 1805. He became a Christian at the age of twenty and travelled to London in 1829. He soon moved to Devon and became the minister of a Brethren chapel but he is most famous for the work he began when he moved to Bristol in 1832. At this time there was virtually no provision by the State for orphaned children from the poorest families and they were doomed to live their childhood begging on the street or consigned to the workhouse. Muller decided to open an orphanage in Bristol saying:
"I certainly did from my heart desire to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children , bereaved of both parents, and seek, in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life...but still, the first and primary object of the work was that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-labourers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still and hears prayers still."
Muller opened his first home for orphans in April 1836 and over the next 63 years, the work expanded until at his death in 1898, there were five homes at Ashley Down in Bristol. Muller received nearly one and a half million pounds to fund his work, a staggering figure in this era. Throughout his life, Muller and his associates did not ask anyone for a single penny. Indeed, when times were particularly lean, he cancelled public meetings so that he would not be tempted to ask for donations. Many instances where God remarkably provided for Muller's work are retold in the book and his work still continues today, albeit in a different form.
Towards the end of his life Muller said:
"For nearly seventy years every need in connection with this work has been supplied. The orphans from the first until now, have numbered nine thousand five hundred, but they have never wanted a meal. Never! Hundreds of times we have commenced the day without a penny in hand, but our Heavenly Father has sent supplies the moment they were actually required...During all these years I have been enabled to trust in God, in the living God, and in Him alone."
As I read Muller's story, two things in particular stood out for me. First, the primary goal of Muller's work was that God be glorified. He set out to bring in all the funds required by prayer and faith alone so that the world would see that God is faithful to answer the prayer of his servant. I think that there is a lesson here for us today. As we pray for our family, friends, neighbours and needs, is our underlying desire always that God will be glorified? In fact, is God's glory the motivating desire of our heart in all that we do? As it says in the Westminster Shorter Catechism,
"Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."
Secondly, this great God who was so faithful to answer the prayers of George Muller is the same great God that we come to today:
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17
Praise God that we can bring our prayers great and small before him through his Son Jesus Christ.
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:12
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Yet often we give little thought to how we can ensure that our conduct towards the men we meet each day is pure. As with so many things, taking time to think through this issue is essential and Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages us to do just that in a booklet she has written called "Personal Hedges - Practical cautions for Christian women to help safeguard our hearts and the marriages of the men around us."
In it she states:
"I have also become convinced that any woman can bring about the moral downfall of any man—no matter how godly. This is one area of our lives where we can never afford to be less than vigilant...Over the years, the Lord has led me to develop a set of “hedges” (boundaries) in relation to the men that I have served with and related to in various settings. Those hedges have been a powerful safeguard and protection—for my own heart, for those men and their marriages, for my reputation, and most importantly, for the reputation of Christ."
Are we confident that the way we relate to men at church, in the workplace and in our leisure time is not causing them (and us) to stumble and bringing dishonour to the name of Christ? Can I encourage you to read the full article and take some time to put up some personal hedges of your own.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
In her talk, Nita took us through the rise and development of the feminist movement, describing its progression from: "an attempt to proclaim the strength and independence of women to achieve equality with the male sex particularly in the areas of work, education, morality and rights" to " the radical rethinking of the nature of women in which women, in essence, are no different from men."
Such an ideology therefore has led to two myths. Firstly, women used to be downtrodden and unhappy, but by demanding economic and relational independence from man they could now be happy. Secondly, in order to be equal with men, women have to be the same. As a result, "the distinction between men and women are no longer being honoured and enjoyed as our culture works at erasing the fine lines of femininity in the name of equality." (Janni Ortland)
Christian women therefore face two dangers. Firstly, in the feminist quest for equality with men, our biblical womanhood (the essence of what we are as women) has come under attack and has been denied. Secondly, as Christian women, we are in danger of going along with the lifestyle trends and values of the world around us, instead of living according to God's values.
Sadly, a group of women, totally committed to a cause, have changed our world.
This therefore leaves us with a challenge: shall we step up and embrace our true femininity as women of God, equal in status, but different in identity so that we might discover and recover in our world what it means to be women designed by God? Our prayer at Charlotte Chapel is that we might do this and become totally committed to a cause that might indeed change our world once again.
In the coming year we begin our new programme: titus2talk - topical seminars on biblical femininity and we hope to make these talks available for download. The seminars are scheduled as follows:
"Biblical Femininity: The Maker's Design" - January 13th 2007
"The Battle of the Sexes" - March 10th 2007
"Biblical Femininity: More than Skin Deep" - May 12th 2007
"Biblical Femininity: Spiritual Mothering" - September 8th 2007
"Biblical Femininity: Ministry Potential" - November 10th 2007
For exact times and venue please click here.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
One article I have found very helpful in regaining my perspective is The High Calling of Motherhood by Walter Chantry:
"What is involved in motherhood?
Monday, November 13, 2006
According to Amazon's synopsis, Wicked vividly captures this trend: "An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature."
How 21st century this is. Growing beyond our childhood thoughts of her, the wicked witch isn't really wicked at all; she just has "issues." And of course, we know where the logic is heading: if the wicked witch of the West isn't wicked, then who is?
Two serious challenges thus face Christians. First, how will we convey to unbelievers this maligned concept of sin? And second, how will we understand our own sin, embracing our falleness from a biblical perspective and not in the world's terms?
On the latter front, I'd like to recommend some excellent books:
- JC Ryle's, Holiness is probably as good a place as any to start, dealing with sin and then the struggle for holiness in clear, biblical terms.
- Perhaps the best extrabiblical writer on the subject is John Owen, whose classic works on sin have recently been updated into modern language. The book's title is Overcoming sin and Temptation and is edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic.
- If Owen still feels too much of a challenge in this format, Kris Lundgaard presents Owen in his own, vivid language in The Enemy Within.
- Finally, if you'd like to hear some talks by Lundgaard which are an excellent introduction to "mortifying sin" then listen to these four recent talks given by Kris Lundgaard at Omaha Bible church.
"In every saint there is always to be found something reprehensible. Nevertheless, although faith may be imperfect and incomplete it does not cease to be approved by God."
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Last month our pastor, Peter Grainger, preached on James 3:1-12 under the title "Taming the Tongue" and it is well worth listening to. He spoke of how what we say often determines the direction of our lives, can lead to destruction and can cause division.
This past week I listened to a sermon by Ken Sande entitled "Breathe Grace", given at Metro Life Church in Florida and it also challenges us to ensure that what we say builds others up, with some very helpful practical suggestions about how we can have speech that is full of grace (HT: Solo Femininity). He states that gossiping is like "show and tell for adults" and arises from a desire to make ourselves the centre of attention.
Thirdly, Nancy Leigh DeMoss talks about this subject from a female perspective in one of her radio broadcasts and you can read the transcript here.
"Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark." James 3:5
Friday, November 10, 2006
To read a fuller treatment on marriage and the family, Kostenberger's book, "God, Marriage & the Family" comes highly recommended. You can read a review of the book here.
"Would you say that you have a good marriage? Some of you might answer this question in the affirmative (hopefully your spouse would, too); others might acknowledge that there remains a lot of work to do before you would claim to have a good marriage.
But why aspire to having a good marriage in any case? Just to be able to feel good about having a good marriage? And what does it mean to have a “good marriage”? When is a marriage a good marriage? If it is better than most other marriages of the people we know?
I submit to you that “Do you have a good marriage?” is the wrong question to ask. A better question to ask would be, “Does your marriage glorify God?” Is yours a God-glorifying, God-honoring marriage?
Rather than viewing having a good marriage as an end in itself, or using a human, relative standard of comparing our marriages with those of others or with some ideal set up by some popular current book on the subject, the goal of a God-glorifying marriage grounds the relationship with our spouse where it ought to be grounded: in the eternal, sovereign plan of God.
What, then, is a God-glorifying marriage, according to Scripture? Among other things, it means this:
(1) Both spouses are growing in Christ (“in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ,” Eph. 4:15)—not just the husband (husbands have a God-given responsibility to nurture their wives spiritually, Eph. 5:25–28) or just the wife (a sad reality in many marriages where the husband is spiritually passive).
(2) Both spouses exhibit fruit, both physically (children) and spiritually (they are engaged in Christian service, individually and jointly). For a couple to be fruitful and multiply is at the very heart of God’s purpose in creation (Gen. 1:26–28), and we should not sinfully put self above having and bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (or consider adoption if a couple cannot have children).
(3) The marriage is between Spirit-filled disciples of Christ (Eph. 5:18) who are committed to his Lordship and authority over all things. He is the center of God’s plan, not them, or even their marriage (Eph. 1:10). A truly God-honoring marriage does not (ultimately) focus on the family; it focuses on God in Christ.
In a marriage like this, the husband and wife are too busy growing in Christ and serving him in tandem, and with their family, than to ask, “Do we have a good marriage?” A good marriage they have, but not because having a good marriage is ultimately their aspiration, but because anything we do in life that seeks to bring honor and glory to God (including how we conduct our marriage) will result in blessing.
May God be increasingly glorified in our marriages, for his greater glory and for our good."
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Where are you getting your Christmas tree this year? If you live in or near Edinburgh or Fife can I encourage you to consider buying it from Caring Christmas Trees? This is a venture run by Bethany Christian Trust, which is a local charity which aims to show Christ's love to the homeless in the area. During the winter months they run a Care Shelter hosted in various churches around the city. Every Christmas tree sold goes toward funding this project:
"When you buy just one Caring Christmas Tree, you support Bethany's Winter Care Shelter. This provides shelter and food for homeless people in Edinburgh at a time when they need it most. For the cost of one tree, we can provide a homeless person with a hot meal, a bed for the night, and breakfast."
You can order your tree online and arrange to collect it from a number of pick up points around the city or in Fife. You can also volunteer your time to help with distributing the trees or give a donation.
On a related but broader note, can I encourage you to read an interesting post from last month on the Humble Orthodoxy blog. In it, the author Doug Hayes encourages us to develop "compassion permanence" - it is a thought-provoking and challenging read.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Whatever we think of this, it is undeniable that there is something about Kate Moss that the UK public finds alluring. One of those things would no doubt be her slender figure - some might say, alarmingly thin figure. In the British Press, much has been said in recent years about 'attitudes changing', as people wish to see 'ordinary women' modelling their clothes. But the continued stream of awards to 'Kate Moss types' seems to belie that fact. As far as British society is concerned, the majority still equate being beautiful with having a good figure.
But what should be the Christian's take on this issue? A most helpful talk by Dr Ed Welch can be found on the website of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Dr Welch's talk, posing the question "Does Thin Equal Beautiful?" is well worth a listen, as is the subsequent Q & A session from their series on "A Biblical Vision of Beauty."
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
As mothers who trust in Christ, we have no need to write our hopes for our children on Christmas trees as we can bring them before the Living and True God. So how can we focus our prayers on what our children really need, rather than just that they be happy and healthy (although obviously there is nothing wrong with praying for these things as well!). One resource I have found very helpful in enabling me to do this is a booklet called Praying for the Next Generation produced by Desiring God Ministries. In the introduction the author, Sally Michael says,
"How often have we thought through the spiritual inheritance we want to leave our children? Do we pray faithfully not only for them, but also for their children and our grandchildren's children? What better legacy can we leave than prayers prayed for future generations?"
She sets out twelve scriptural topics and lists related Bible verses to use as a springboard for prayer. This has helped me to focus on my children's deeper, spiritual needs in prayer, as well as their material and temporal needs. This booklet can be ordered from Desiring God here (scroll down the list to find it).
Even if we have no children of our own, most of us know children who are dear to us, whether we are related to them or not. By praying for these children we can all be "spiritual mothers"- what a great legacy to leave for future generations!
Monday, November 06, 2006
However, if you're desperate to get your guy to watch a bit of romance, I've found the perfect weapon in the form of an article. It's called "Chick Flicks" and is written by Douglas Wilson.
Speaking of a the need for guys to watch a girlie movie, he writes:
"When a film is done well, and its assumptions are consistent with the teaching of Scripture, men should do far more than sit passively through it. They come there as novices sitting at the seat of wisdom, listening to her teach. Much Ado About Nothing and Pride and Prejudice both contain things which the average male meathead needs to hear and see. And he needs to do more than merely hear - he needs to learn and apply...If this article intrigues you, I found it at Monergism and you can read it here. It's a serious word on chivalry and husbandry, but remember girls - it works both ways!
Modern men have an awful lot to gain from this. Many things are required of us, and we must imitate them in order to incorporate them into our lives. But we cannot imitate what we do not see around us. We need a soon return to courteous masculinity, refinement of manners, and deep respect for women."
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I thought I'd post the recipe just in case anyone is looking for something easy to make for a Saturday night dinner. This serves two hungry people, three at a push, and it's yummy with rice and garlic and coriander naan bread.
1 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 chicken breasts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red pepper, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp Korma curry paste
1 tsp mild chilli powder
300ml coconut milk
1. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan and stir fry the onion until soft.
2. Add the chicken and continue to stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and then the curry paste and chilli powder and continue to stir fry for 1 minute.
4. Add the red pepper and tomatoes and stir fry for a minute.
5. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer gently for around 15 minutes until the curry is the desired consistency.
Friday, November 03, 2006
For most husbands - whether admitted to or not - these words are terrifying. I know. Having been asked to 'guest blog' on the subject of a husbands' role in marriage, I've been reminded again of my many short-comings. What a standard: as Christ loved the church.
Thankfully, help is at hand. As well as biblical examples and godly present day models of sacrificial husbandship, we have two thousand years of church history to instruct us. It's on this latter front that Doreen Moore's "Good Christians, Good Husbands?" offers a valuable resource. In this page-turning book, Moore examines the colourful marriages of three renowned evangelicals: John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. What becomes clear is that while all made a significant impact for the gospel worldwide, they were variously successful on the home-front:
John Wesley's marriage to Molly Vazeille has become notorious for its volatility. Biographers have variously described it as "one of the greatest blunders he ever made", "a preposterous union", "a martyrdom that lasted thirty years", "the fatal mistake", "a severe trial" and "a thirty years war." Another biographer summed up John's choice: "Had he searched the whole kingdom, he would hardly have found a women more unsuitable...than she whom he married."
If you needed witness to this, a shocking incident that a friend later recalled should suffice: Molly caught dragging John across the living room by the hair during an argument. The eventual result was a virtual split toward the end of their marriage. On a most sad note, John could finally record in his journals of being informed of Molly's death "a day or two after her burial."
What made for such an unhappy marriage? Moore, though not bypassing Molly, especially highlights John's shortcomings: 1) His haste in marrying; 2) His refusal to consult his brother Charles for marriage advice (as he had earlier vowed); 3) His innocent though naive expressions of affection to other women in letters- making Molly understandably jealous; and 4) His view that marriage was a seperate entity from his ministry and only valuable if it 'enhanced' that ministry.
George Whitefield, I'm glad to say, enjoyed a happier marriage . This, in spite of the fact that like his contemporary John, George was an enormously busy man. Even Wesley, who preached 40,000 plus sermons himself, could speak of Whitefield's "unparalleled zeal" and "indefatigable activity."
Nevertheless, Whitefield's marriage to Elizabeth James basically stood firm. Moore attributes a number of factors: 1) Although Whitefield promised 'not to preach or travel a single mile less' because married, he did talk this through with Elizabeth before tying the knot!; 2) Whitefield and Elizabeth were assured that their marriage was 'a calling from God', however hard it became; 3) Whitefield was more careful than Wesley in his relationships with other women, protecting Elizabeth against feelings of jealously whilst on his many travels.
Ultimately, though, Whitefield's marriage can't be said to have been all it might have been. "Ministry", as Whitefield understood it, finally trumped "marriage." In Doreen Moore's summary: "When they had been together, all was pleased. They were happy in Jesus and happy in one another. Ultimately, however, it was Whitefield's ministry that would have his heart."
Jonathan Edwards' marriage is portrayed most positively of the three. In this sense, Moore's book seems to move across a spectrum: from monstrous to mediocore to marvelous! Indeed, 'marvelous' might seem an appropriate word for Jonathan's marriage to Sarah. Statistically, they were married 38 years and had 11 sons and daughters. A recent study of 1400 Edward's descendants looks at the lasting impact, revealing 100 lawyers, 66 doctors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 3 senators, 3 governors, 1 vice president, and many pastors and missionaries from their lineage!
Beyond the quantities, however, there was also a great qualtity to their marriage. After a visit and brief stay in the Edwards' home, George Whitefield remarked: "A sweeter couple I have not seen."
What were some of the reasons for Jonathan's greater success ? Moore mentions: 1) His daily devotions with his family, which he did not fail to perform ; 2) His frequent conversation with his wife over 'matters of religion'; 3) His commitment to relaxation time with family each day.
However, the chief matter that distinguished Edwards marriage from that of Wesley and Whitefield was a biblical one. For Edwards, a man's responsibilities to his wife and church were not in conflict, at distance, or in order of priority. Moore sums up Edwards' view in this key paragraph:
"He saw himself as the preacher of his family, and equally as the preacher of his church. He also saw himself as the husband or parent of his family as well as the spiritual husband or parent of his church. He was marrried to the work of the Lord and he was married to his wife. He was a minister of the gospel both in his family and in his calling to vocational ministry."
So husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church - seeing your family as part of your ministry, not apart from it.
And wives, serve your husbands - drop this book into his Christmas stocking...
(Colin is married to Nicki and is an Assistant Pastor at Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh.)
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The music is also excellent, with interesting arrangements and a variety of styles. Also included are several older hymns set to new music, including a lovely version of Alas, And Did My Saviour Bleed, by Issac Watts. My personal favourite on the album is a song called Before the Cross. Every time I hear it, it brings a lump to my throat!
"Before the Cross I humbly bow
I place my trust in the Saviour;
Your finished work captures my gaze
You bore the wrath, I know the Grace."
I've been listening to this CD in the car and in the kitchen when I'm making dinner or unloading the dishwasher. I can't think of anything better to be reminded of throughout the day than what Christ has done for us on the cross.
You can listen to excerpts from the CD here and order it direct from Sovereign Grace here.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I came across some excellent resources recently on Don Whitney's website, Spiritual Disciplines. There are some articles and excerpts from some of his books that are well worth a look. One such excerpt addresses practically this difficulty with reading. Don writes:
"When life gets too complex, one of the first parts of a healthy spiritual life to decline is reading. I talk to well-intentioned Christians almost every week who confess to growing piles of books by their “reading” chair, desk, nightstand, and other places, but who never have time to read. Reading for sheer enjoyment was long ago forsaken. Reading for Christian growth rarely happens. Most days, a few minutes in the Bible is all that’s left of their reading. Those who love to learn and those who want to grow grieve the loss of reading like the loss of a close friend. “But what can I do,” they sigh, “there are only so many hours in a day.”
To these overwhelmed believers I usually ask, “Do you think you could find the time to read one page of a book each day?” No one has ever told me they couldn’t, no matter how busy they are or how many children they have. It might mean sneaking a page during a visit to the bathroom, sitting in the car an extra two minutes at the end of the morning or evening commute, or standing by the bed to read a moment before crashing into the pillow at night.
By reading one page per day you can read 365 pages in a year, or the equivalent of two full-length books. That may not sound like much, but it’s far better than not reading at all. Moreover, by some accounts this would place you above half the U.S. population in the number of books read each year.
Furthermore, if you read just two books a year for the rest of your life, think of how many books you’d read if you lived to be seventy or seventy-five. Add to these all the books you might read in your retirement years if you develop the habit reading just a little each day now.
By this means of just a page per day, I’ve seen mothers of multiple preschoolers, homeschooling moms, and overwhelmed executives alike plow through a book every month or two. It wasn’t because they had any less to do. Rather, the secret lay in the simple discipline of making the commitment to read just one page. Invariably, of course, when they read one page they decided to read more. The main problem was just getting to that first page. Once that was done, the rest was not only easy, but enjoyable as well.
Get back to the simple pleasure of good reading, one page at a time."
Excerpted from Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life. To read more sample chapters from this book click here.