Sunday, December 31, 2006

King for a Week

To our great surprise and pleasure, we've just noticed that Tim Challies (the most famous Christian blogger in the world?) has nominated us King for the Week. Challies explains:
"King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers. Every week (in reality it actually tends to be every second week) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site's most recent headlines to my left sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making my readers aware of other good sites.

This week's recipient of the award is titus2talk, a fairly new blog, having made its first appearance in September of this year, and one that originates on the other side of the Atlantic. Though the blog is young, the contributors have already invested a good deal of effort in it and are crafting a site that will surely make a unique contribution to the Christian blogosphere. The site is targeted specifically at women, but there is no reason a guy can't browse it every now and again as well.

In the coming days you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over the site and look around."
Thanks very much for the honour Tim. Our only query now, given that our blog is into celebrating the gender differences, is whether Queen for a Week might be a more appropriate title!?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christian Connections

This is our last post before Christmas. We plan to take a break and spend some much needed holiday time with family and friends, but we will be back early in the New Year.

But before we go, we'd like to connect you to a few things which you can ponder over the holidays.
  • If you want to know what Jesus wants for Christmas, John Piper fills you in.
  • Will this Christmas be hard for you? Read Noel Piper's thoughtful encouragment.
  • A hilarious Friday funny over at Girl Talk.
  • Twenty Questions to ask round the table at New Year.
  • Before you go holiday-spending for Christian books take time to look at The Discerning Reader's new updates, or read Tim Challies book guide.
  • For a preview of Amazing Grace: The Movie click here. (HT: Justin Taylor).
  • John Piper's imaginative narrative poems return, this year focusing on Nebuchadnezzar.
  • My husband has started a new blog for preachers: Unashamed Workman.
  • Trying to get on top of your bible reading over Christmas? Over at Ligonier, watch RC Sproul's two part series on How to Study the Bible. Scroll down the links on the left.
  • I just came across a new blog Will the Next Generation Know, which has some good archive material. More specifically, if your children are anything like Catriona's and mine, and love Veggie Tales, here's some thoughts on the subject.
  • Finally, since Christmas is a time for family and friends, let me link you to this excellent post over at Blue Fish on the theme of friendship. The author reminds us: "What I need is the cross and friends who love the cross." Cat, thanks for being such a friend this past year :) (apologies for the cheese factor, but I'm allowed once a year!)
That leaves us to wish you all our readers a very merry Christmas and God's blessing for 2007.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another Christmas Recipe

Last night we had a group of people from church over who have been attending the Greenhouse course. In preparation for this, I did a Google search to find a recipe for a non-alcoholic mulled drink and came up with this great recipe here.

I slightly modified it for using apple juice as that is more readily available in the UK, so here is the recipe for my version:

Non-Alcoholic Mulled Apple Juice

4 litres apple juice
3 mulling spice bags
1.5 tbsp brown sugar
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 wedges of lemon
1/8 tsp butter

Put the apple juice in a very large saucepan or jam pot. Add the spice bags and heat on a low to medium heat. When it begins to steam, add all the other ingredients, squeezing the juice out of the lemon wedges. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally - do not allow to boil. Serve in mugs with some other festive food!

I found that 4 litres serves 10 people comfortably (i.e. about 400ml per person), allowing for some seconds. For greater or lesser amounts, adjust the amounts of the other ingredients accordingly.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Conversations

Last Friday night Catriona and I headed out with our hubby's for a meal together. We had a great night, good company and good chat. The usual conversation ensued about how we would spend our respective Christmas days. This developed into a discussion on how it can sometimes be difficult to make good conversation with family members and friends who are generally only seen at Christmas, particularly if they are unbelievers. Yesterday, Justin Taylor linked to Donald Whitney's site, Spiritual Disciplines, where he offers 10 practical questions to get the conversation flowing. Whitney writes:

"Here's a list of questions designed not only to kindle a conversation in almost any Christmas situation, but also to take the dialogue gradually to a deeper level. Use them in a private conversation or as a group exercise, with believers or unbelievers, with strangers or with family.
  1. What's the best thing that's happened to you since last Christmas?
  2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
  3. What's the most meaningful Christmas gift you've ever received?
  4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you've ever given?
  5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
  6. What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
  7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
  8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
  9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
  10. Why do you think Jesus came to earth?"
May your Christmas conversation be fruitful, a blessing and glorifying to the Saviour.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Sweets

I posted a couple of weeks ago about my family's Christmas tradition of making sweets for friends and neighbours. Well, stage one of the process began yesterday afternoon as we made tablet, chocolate fudge and stuffed dates with marzipan. I thought I'd post a couple of recipes in case you are searching for something sweet and easy to make in the run up to Christmas.

The chocolate fudge recipe I found on the Reflections of the Times blog (HT: Rebecca Writes) and I can testify is really is very easy to make and tastes great! For UK readers, 3 cups is about 600g of chocolate.

And for those of you who want to try an authentic Scottish treat, here is my Mum's recipe for tablet. Tablet is fudge which has been beaten to give it a crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth consistency (and to give you a sore arm - but it's worth the effort!). I'm sorry that the ingredients are all in imperial measures. It's an old recipe and I'm hopeless at converting to metric.


2 lbs sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp butter
2 teacups (about 375 ml) fresh milk

Put all the ingredients into a large pan, stir and put on a low heat. Leave until it comes to the boil then simmer gently for 20 minutes (set a timer). After this time add a few drops of vanilla essence. Remove from the heat and beat with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. Pour into a square or rectangular container (about 8" diameter) and chill to set. When set, cut into small (1") squares.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Gift of Gifts

Like many of you, I'm finding this week running up to Christmas somewhat busy. Such is the clutter of Christmas that it is hard to find time to write thoughtful posts, but it's also difficult to find time for thoughtful prayers.

At busy times like this it's helpful to have something to aid our worship. We've previously recommended the book, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, and this morning I'd like to leave you with one of these prayers which helps us to focus on the centrality of Christmas: the incarnation.

The Gift of Gifts

What shall I render thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love:
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings on grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to watchful shepherds, and
enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes lifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, donkey, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my redeemer's face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What do you tell your kids about Santa?(Part 2)

On Saturday I posted the reasons why my husband and I are not making a big deal of Santa Claus with our children. Clearly, though, the issue can't be avoided altogether as images of Santa are everywhere at this time of year and our kids will want to know who he is. So, we have decided to tell them a little about the origins of "Santa Claus" when they ask, something, I must admit, I knew very little about until recently.

St Nicholas was born in what is modern-day Turkey during the 3rd century A.D. He was raised as a Christian and when his parents both died of an epidemic, he used his inheritance to serve others. He was made Bishop of Myra and suffered persecution for his faith under the Emperor Diocletian, spending some time in prison. Notably, he attended the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and contributed to the statement of orthodox Christianity regarding the deity of Christ. He died in 343 A.D. Various legends sprang up around his life in the subsequent years including one where he secretly provided the dowries for three sisters who hoped to be married. He apparently tossed bags of gold through the open window of their house which landed in stockings hanging around the fireplace. This gave rise to the tradition of putting out stockings.

Some churches around the world celebrate "St Nicholas Day" on 6th December. This custom emigrated to the New World with Dutch colonists and took root in American culture. Over the next two hundred years, St Nicholas was transformed into the red-suited, jolly old man by the influence of artistic depictions of him and the poem "The night before Christmas" penned in 1823. During this time, he became known by the name "Santa Claus", from the Dutch "Sinterklaas", and he was associated with the celebration of Christmas.

The Santa we are most familiar with today bears little resemblance to the historical St Nicholas, and is actually hugely influenced by the Coca Cola corporation. They ran a thirty year Christmas advertising campaign commencing in the late 1930's where Santa reached the pinnacle of red-suited rotundity.

So in fact, Santa Claus is largely a creation of modern materialism, and I suspect St Nicholas would turn in his grave if he knew what had arisen from the legends surrounding his life. How ironic that a man who was involved in defending the doctrine of the deity of Christ from the attacks of Arius in the 4th century, has become a distraction from the real meaning of Christmas for so many.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What do you tell your kids about Santa? (Part 1)

At this time of year it is impossible to avoid images of Santa Claus as his cheery face smiles out from shop windows, Christmas cards and wrapping paper. In fact, for many children, Santa Claus is what Christmas is all about.

This year is the first Christmas that my daughter has been able to really understand what's going on and so we have had to think about what we would tell her about the bearded, red-suited old man she is seeing in every shop we go into. We have decided not to go down the road of telling her Santa is real and that he will bring her presents on Christmas Eve. I realise that some of you may be thinking we are kill-joys, so let me try to explain why we came to this decision. Incidentally, before I do, I'm not saying our way is the only right way, but I do think it is important that every Christian parent at least thinks about this issue, or we will just be swept along with the world's Christmas tide.

Our thinking on this issue was influenced in no small part by Noel Piper in her book Treasuring God in our Traditions. She talks about how she and her husband chose not to include Santa Claus in their Christmas festivities and gives several reasons why this was so. First, we tell our children many fairy stories but we don't expect them to believe that they are true. If we present Santa and the story of Christ's birth to our children together, it is very difficult for them to pick out the real truth from the fairy stories. She says:
Think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical pre-schooler. Santa is so much like what we're trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the "attributes" of Santa:
  • He's omniscient - he sees everything you do.
  • He rewards you if you're good.
  • He's omnipresent - at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
  • He gives you good gifts.
  • He's the most famous "old man in the sky" figure.
But at the deeper level that young children can't comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we're bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa's spying and then rewarding you if you're good enough? That's not the way God operates. He gave us his gift- his Son- even though we weren't good enough at all.
While in the grand scheme of things, it may seem like a bit of harmless fun, part of the "magic of childhood", the "Santa brand" has become a multi-million pound industry. I did a Google search on the term Santa and it threw up a number of sites encouraging you to part with your money, so that your children can receive a letter from Santa. You supply them with personal information about your family and they will send your child a letter supposedly from Santa. They can also receive a phone call or a text message. For the sum of nearly £20, they would also be sent chocolates and some "snow from the North Pole"!

Noel Piper gives other reasons why promoting Santa Claus may not be helpful:
I think children are glad to realise that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn't that better than a funny, old make-believe man who drops in just once a year?...Knowing that their Christmas gifts comes from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the "I-want-this, give-me-that" syndrome.

So if not Santa, then what? You can't avoid telling your children something about him and we have decided to tell Eilidh a bit about the historical origins of Santa Claus instead. I'll post again on Monday and fill you in on who St Nicholas actually was.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Faith: For the Man He'll Become

Carolyn McCulley from Solo Femininity has written an article this month for Boundless entitled, Faith: For the Man He'll Become. She writes:
How would you describe the man you want to marry? What would he be like as a husband, father, and provider?

If you've had numerous godly male role models in your life — your father, pastor, boss, family friend, uncle, small group leader — you may already have a mental picture based on the qualities you appreciate in these men. You may see some of the husbands and fathers in your church and think to yourself that you'd like to marry a man just like them. Those are great aspirations to have! But first you may need to talk to their wives.

Why? Because these women didn't marry the husbands they have today. Typically, they married less seasoned men. Thanks to the Holy Spirit's refinements over time, as well as the feminine counsel, influence, and encouragement of these wives, their husbands are different some 20-plus years down the line.

She goes on:
Take a look at the young men you know. Can you see them with eyes of faith? Like trees in springtime with an impressionistic haze of buds, the potential for growth is strongly evident but it's not yet fully realized.

So here's what I want to impart to you: There is a learning curve to a man's leadership as a husband and father. The qualities you can see in a 50-year-old man's life were developed over 50 years. There are 25 more years of growth ahead for the 25-year-old man before it's fair to compare them. While you are called to be discerning about the characters of the men you befriend or court/date, you also have a part in encouraging these men to grow. In fact, that's part of your learning curve as you prepare for being a wife.

To read the rest of the article click here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Alternative Giving

Yesterday, Catriona posted about some great Christmas gifts for those of you still wondering what to buy loved ones - gifts that not only can suprise our nearest and dearest on Christmas morning, but can also make a difference to so many in need.

Today I'd like to ask a question: Have you ever thought about giving someone an ox this Christmas? World Vision is one of the world's leading relief, development and advocacy organisations, currently helping more than 100 million people in almost 100 countries. A Christian organisation, they work alongside communities in their struggle against poverty, hunger and injustice.

One of their main projects around this time of year is to encourage people to buy an alternative Christmas gift. So for that aunt or brother who has everything they need, why not buy them something as simple as a tap (£6), a hygiene kit for a mother and baby (£9), or even some chickens (£12) or a goat (£14). For that more important someone, why not splurge and make a real difference: buy a plough (£108) or clean water for 10 families at £110. From £5-£5700, there are a range of gifts that would significantly change a life or community. Why not look at their gift list now and order those de-worming tablets or that bog today.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Gift Ideas

There is still time to track down that elusive Christmas gift and so here are a few suggestions. The Tearcraft catalogue is available online and it sells a fantastic range of affordable and unique gifts made by their partners around the world. You can read more about their work here. They sell jewellery, scarves and wraps and a variety of gifts for the kitchen and home. I received my order this morning and I can testify to the good quality of the products and the speedy service!

The girltalk blog has posted a number of great gift suggestions over the past week, including CJ Mahaney's gift ideas for guys and gifts for teenagers.

Finally, there are a number of great alternative gift catalogues out there including Barnabas Fund's gift certificate scheme. This year, they are particularly focussing on helping Christians in Iraq and you can read more about how you can be involved here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Legacy of Greatness

I've just finished reading C.J. Mahaney's book Humility: True Greatness. The book is divided into three sections. Part one deals with the battle of humility versus pride, part two with our Savior and the secret of true greatness and part three with the practice of true humility. I particularly found the third part of the book very practical offering ways in which we can cultivate and practice humility in every area of our lives.

As a mother of two, (and with a third on the way) much of my life revolves around the caring and rearing of my children. So how can I cultivate humility with regard to my children? Mahaney's chapter, "A Legacy of True Greatness" looks at the role of humility in parenting. I found this tremendously insightful, and needless to say challenging. One thing struck me in particular: what are my ambitions for my children and does humility play a role in my ideal for their lives?

Mahaney asks:
Are any of your ambitions for your child more important to you than their cultivation of humility and servanthood - the basis for true greatness as biblically defined? Are any of these ambitions more important to you than their learning to serve others for the glory of God? In other words, are you more interested in temporal recognition for your child than you are in his eternal reward? Ultimately, that is what parenting is mostly about - it's about preparing our children for the final day.
As I began to think about this, I was once again reminded of the way in which God himself exemplifies an 'ambition for humility'. Christmas is a wonderful time in which we can meditate on the coming of Christ. The will of the Father was that his Son would set aside splendour and glory to be born of a virgin, to be wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in an animlas feeding trough. And yet, such humility did not end with the beginning of our saviour's life, but encompassed from the beginning of time the salvation plan of God.

We read in Isaiah some remarkable words, telling us of the Father's plan of humility, obedience, and suffering for his Son, so that we might know peace with God and that Christ would be exalted above all, to the glory of God the Father. Meditate on these words, and as you gather with family and friends over this Christmas period, encourage and challenge each other to take seriously the call to prepare our children for true greatness.

"Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied." Isaiah 53:10-11

Monday, December 11, 2006

Breakdown Britain

The Sunday Telegraph yesterday interviewed Iain Duncan Smith in anticipation of the launch of his interim report "Breakdown Britain", commissioned by the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron. In this report, Duncan Smith examines what is at the root of social breakdown in the UK today:
It identifies the "collapse of the family" as a key driver of social breakdown, claiming that children from broken homes are far more likely to fail at school, turn to drink and drugs or fall foul of the law. It concludes that without a "radical reappraisal" of policy towards marriage "social tensions will grow, fuelling the wave of violent crime that is already scarring society and eroding the informal bonds that keep communities together".
The interviewer goes on to state:
The Chingford MP is clear that the trend for rearing children in loose, transient relationships is damaging.

"The facts show that there is a difference between a cohabiting couple with children and a married couple with children. The reality is the children themselves do suffer enormously. The life chances of those children degrade immediately on the breakdown."

It will be interesting to hear more about this report when it is published later today. The conclusions may be a revelation to the 21st century political elite, but this should not be so for the Christian. God designed the family to be bedrock of all human relationships and the ideal situation for the nurture, instruction and discipline of children. If this design is rejected, the result will be the breakdown of society as a whole.

However, important as strong marriages are to the functioning of society, there is a deeper reason for "Breakdown Britain." Underlying the rejection of marriage is a rejection of God himself, his rule and his grace. And what we see around us at the end of 2006 is not unknown territory. Today, I read Isaiah 3 and was struck by the familiar ring of the situation depicted there. Isaiah is proclaiming God's judgement on Judah, who have rejected his law and spurned his grace. Verse 5 says,

And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbour; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honourable.

God gives Judah up to their sin and the result is the breakdown of society; the young give no respect to their elders, everyone is looking out for "number one".

This is a gloomy picture and we cannot look to politicians for a remedy. A few chapters further on in Isaiah, God presents his solution:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2&6)

Praise God for the incarnation of his Son and pray that this Christmas, God will open people's eyes to their need for a Saviour.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jesse Tree

Catriona posted on Friday about Christmas traditions and invited our readers to let us know of any Christmas tradtions they have. Today I learnt of one such tradition that I never knew about. Jesse Trees.

The Jesse Tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: "A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots." It is a way to tell the story of God in the Old Testament, and to connect the Advent Season with the faithfulness of God across 4,000 years of history.

Amanda, one of our readers wrote:
Every day in Advent we hang a symbol on the tree and run through the bible story from creation (sun), the fall (apple) and the flood (rainbow) right up to the birth of Christ (manger scene) with lots in between... The kids love to hang up the decorations and we use them to help them to learn a simple bible overview.
This is a fantastic idea. Amanda mentions that she uses the Jesse Tree pattern from Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent & Barbara Hughes. However, there are lots of ideas on the web - here is one site I found giving all the information you need to know.

Women Drivers!

I thought is was about time for some funnies. Recently Colin passed his driving test and marriage has taken on a new dimension! As a driver for over 16 years now, I find it incredibly difficult being a passenger driver and struggle to keep myself quiet when I think Colin won't manage the parallel park.

Yesterday, Colin linked me to these two clips. They tickled me! Enjoy!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Traditions

Eilidh (rhymes with "daily", for the benefit of the non-Scots!) and I went on one of our regular trips to the local library today, and as well as picking up story books, I browsed in the home crafts section and borrowed a couple of books for myself. One was called Creative Christmas Crafts, which contains lots of ideas for Christmas-related craft projects, and the second was Mrs Beeton's Traditional Christmas. This also has some craft ideas but it caught my eye because of the recipe for chocolate ganache truffles. Every year for as long as I can remember, my Mum has made trays of sweets for family and neighbours each Christmas. This year we have decided to include Eilidh as well and continue the tradition to the next generation. I'm delighted as I have convinced Mum to make tablet (one of my all time favourites!) and we will certainly give Mrs Beeton's chocolate truffles a whirl. There may be none left for anyone else!

Christmas is a great time of year for family traditions and these can be a great tool to point our hearts and our children's hearts towards Christ. In her book Treasuring God in our Traditions, Noel Piper writes:
Only God can give our children a taste for his sweetness. Only God can awaken them to his worth. But he uses means. He uses God-centred traditions and Bible-saturated family patterns and grace-laden heirlooms. Year in and year out our traditions can show children that God is our Treasure. With family traditions rooted firmly in the Bible, the next generation absorbs the truth that the treasure we have in God is ancient in wisdom and strength - and fresh as the morning dew.
In her chapter on Christmas, she states:
Christmas is only one small part of a whole year of living, working and ministering in our churches and to our neighbours, of meeting our family's physical needs, of teaching our children. Just one small part of the year - but with our hearts and spirits open in anticipation and excitement, what an ideal opportunity for remembering and teaching.
You can listen to a radio interview with Noel Piper here where she talks about Christmas traditions and how we can set the right tone in our homes.

Maybe you would like to start some traditions this year with your own children, or children in your family. Scripture Union's website has some great ideas for crafts to help children focus on the Christmas story. Or pull out your recipe books and make some Christmas treats for your friends and neighbours.

We'd love to hear about your Christmas traditions too, so why not send us some comments!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Raising Children who Hope in the Triumph of God

We met together for the third meeting of our MuMS - Making Mothering Significant - group this week and once again listened to a sermon by John Piper, this time entitled Raising Children who Hope in the Triumph of God. In it, Piper starts with Ephesians 6:4:

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
Piper states:
Anger comes from feeling that a parent's rules are petty and trivial—that they don't have anything to do with something really great or important. But a child who sees that the rules of the home and their consistent enforcement are connected to some great vision of life and some great cause to live for will not harbour resentment toward their parents...

So I think it is in the spirit and wording of our text today to say that the great challenge for parents is to give their children a vision of God's triumph in the world, and to instill in them the thrilling hope of fighting on the side of truth and righteousness and joy and victory.
We discussed what it means in practice to have this vision for our children above all others. Our aim when we discipline our children should be as a tool to enable to live lives that glorify God, not because they irritate us or to increase our comfort. Piper gives ten things parents must do to raise children who hope in the triumph of God; these can be found in the transcript of the talk here, where the audio can also be downloaded.

In particular, we discussed how we can effectively pray for and with our children, and how we can keep the Bible central to our family lives. We had a great time of sharing and encouragement and I would urge you to find time to listen to the talk. Have a pen handy to jot down Piper's ten points!

All of the talks we have listened to as well as seven others are available on a set of CDs which can be purchased from Desiring God Ministries.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Advent Poems

For the past 25 years, John Piper has written and read an advent poem for each Sunday of Advent at Bethlehem Baptist Church. This year his poems are on Nebuchadnezzar. Piper notes:
The poems aim to speak truth about God and his ways with man, but they are imaginative reconstructions behind figures of the Bible of what may have been, but probably was not. Historically, my aim is not to create anything that could not have been or that in any way contradicts what the Bible says.

I write them because the effort to say things differently helps me see things more deeply and love God more deeply. And I hope they help you in that same way.

This year my plan is to read a four part cycle on Nebuchadnezzar. We know him mainly from the books of 2 Kings, Jeremiah, and Daniel. He was the king of Babylon who came and destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC and carried the exiles away to Babylon. At one level his behavior seems inexplicable and it is an open question in the Bible whether he really was a true convert to the worship of Yahweh. My own imagination is that he was entangled in a secret cult of moon worship. But what becomes of him, I will save for the last poem.

You can read the first of this years poems (and those to follow) here. To look at his previous advent poems click here.

The Modesty Survey

“How tight is too tight for tops? Are jeans with holes in the thighs immodest? Is a purse worn with the strap diagonally across the chest a stumbling block? Are shirts with messages across the front distracting?”

These are some of the questions that the guys over at The Rebelution are asking. This is an opportunity to join other Christian young men and women in their new and exciting project: The Modesty Survey. The Modesty Survey allows any girl to submit anonymous, modesty-related questions to Christian guys and to receive (multiple) anonymous replies.

So girls submit your modesty questions by December 15th and get some answers to those long awaited questions you have - and not from just one guy! For all the details of how to take part and observe the results click here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Praying for your Pastor...and His Wife

Yesterday, Justin Taylor wrote on the subject of praying for your pastor and quoted from Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes:

"Every pastor knows that the strength of the ministry rests on prayer, and that it is those faithful souls who pray regularly for him and the church who bring God's special blessing upon the ministry. This fact invites a marvellous "what if" scenario. What if not just a few but the entire leadership and congregation prayed in detail every day for the pastor and their church? What would happen to his heart, to his preaching, to worship, to evangelism, to missions? Can there be any doubt that the minister and his people would know greater enablement than ever before in their lives?"

The rest of the quote gives practical suggestions about what to pray for your pastor, and you can read it in full here.

Revive Our Hearts website also provides two helpful resources to enable us to pray "in detail every day": 31 Days of Praying for your Pastor and 31 Days of Praying for your Pastor's Wife.

Let's resolve to faithfully pray for our pastors and, as the women of the church, let us undertake to pray for their wives and children as well.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bring Back the Lions!

Yesterday, Glasgow's Sunday Herald ran a feature story, "On a Hymn and a Prayer" looking at "who are the 21st Century faithful and where do they worship?" The article, written by "lapsed Christian Vicky Allan" looked at five churches in Edinburgh on a quest to "find out more about those who have resisted the trend towards secularity." Featured predominantly, was our own church, Charlotte Chapel. Our pastor, Peter Grainger was quoted extensively regarding the nature and role of the church in today's society. Peter commented:
"We are living in a post-Christian society now, where I think the church thrives best. Christendom is a very mixed blessing, where you impose religion on people. So all this stuff about attacking Christians in the media and Christian Unions, I think that's good. We'll all have to stand up and be counted rather than waffling along. Bring back the lions."
Overall, the article was surprisingly positive stating that: "none of the services I attended gives any indication that this is a religion in decline. There is a vibrancy, a sense of solidarity against the rest of the world. Indeed, sometimes it seems that these modern-day church-goers revel in their outsiderness."

Perhaps, in the words of Ms Allan "it is the strident singing, the way the Pastor, Peter Grainger, stands in his pulpit swaying as a four voice choir acts as a backing group, that makes Charlotte Chapel the most successful church in Edinburgh. It's the welcome you get as you sit in a pew and the student nurse next to you turns and introduces her friends. Or perhaps it is the sermons: long, challenging affairs lasting almost an hour."

However, this near perfect report did have one blemish. Allan admits to finding somethings difficult, in particular those three out of the five churches who "have not embraced the idea of women as church leaders or preachers, relegating them, instead, to other roles...This in itself feels significantly out of touch with the times." And yet, should we view this in such negativity? I'm inclined not to think so. Perhaps to add to Ms Allan's list, the reason why those three out of five churches are "bucking the contemporary trend" is because they are taking seriously God's Word to live conspicuously in our world and to embrace what it truly means to be men and women, made in God's image who live and work as He intended.

Neverthless, this should make us reflect on two things. (1) The issue of biblical manhood and womanhood is not only a church issue, but an evangelistic one. In other words, the complementarian position is for many secular women what apologists call a "defeater" - that is, any belief that hinders someone from considering the central beliefs of Christianity. Thus, we must be well versed on why we believe what we believe on this matter.

(2) Nonetheless, it is vital that we don't simply abandon the biblical teaching of womanhood for the sake of gaining a perfect 10/10 or to "seemingly" make our evangelism easier. The history of many liberal churches shows that when we start to pick and choose between passages that are acceptable to modern ears, very soon our confidence in the Word of God is diminished and the Gospel is lost.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Countercultural Path to Marriage?

Back in October, we referred you to a couple of articles on dating and relationships by Scott Croft at Boundless. Many of you have commented on how helpful these were, giving fresh perspective and biblical advice on such a hot topic. Scott Croft is beginning a new series on this same issue, starting with "Biblical Dating: An Introduction". Here is the blurb:
"The system today's young men and women have inherited for finding and marrying a future spouse leaves a lot to be desired. We often hear complaints from readers about the confusion, hurt and sexual sin they've encountered despite their best intentions. Many want to know how they can go about getting to know someone and eventually getting married without getting hurt or compromising their faith.

At Focus on the Family, we've offered a range of resources and expert advice bringing Biblical principles to bear in this area. Some of the messages we've presented have taken the position that Christians can apply their faith in such a way that they can still work within the system they've inherited. Other messages have stressed that Christians need to be much more counter-cultural. Joshua Harris, for instance, has promoted a model of courtship that harkens back to a model used broadly before modern dating evolved.

People attempting to follow a courtship model within today's culture, however, often run into a lot of practical questions, such as, "What if her dad is unavailable or uninterested in being involved?" or "What do you do when you live hundreds of miles from your family?"

The goal of this series of articles, beginning with this introduction, is to provide our readers with a place to bring those questions. Scott Croft is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where he teaches a seminar on Friendship, Courtship and Marriage. He is also an attorney who is used to tackling tough questions.

The answers he brings may be different from anything you've heard before. The topics he's going to be dealing with are ones in which equally committed Christians have found different Biblical interpretations. Not all will agree with Scott's approach, and we invite feedback from anyone who believes there are better interpretations for the Biblical passages Scott draws from.

It's our hope that this Q&A series will be valuable both for those who think the Bible gives sufficient guidance for operating within our current system as well as for those who are looking for a completely countercultural path to marriage."
This introductory article specifically looks at and compares 'modern dating' and 'biblical dating'. I encourage you to read it here, and take up Scott's invitation to enagage with his views.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How to be a Secure Woman

The Charlotte Chapel Women's Ministry are organising a special weekend with CWR in February 2007. As we've been putting together the publicity this week, I've been thinking about the title of one of the planned seminars: "How to be a Secure Woman." When my husband heard about this, he suggested the answer is to put a better lock on the door, but I'm quite sure it's not that kind of security that is in mind here!

I don't want to pre-empt what I'm sure will be a really useful seminar, but it has got me thinking about where we find our security - where do we place our trust? I'm slowly working my way through the book of Isaiah using Alec Motyer's commentary and today I was reading part of chapter 2. In verses 6-22, Isaiah calls the people of Judah to account for the way they have been living:
6 You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans.

7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots.

8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.

They were mixing and making alliances with the nations around them, relying on material wealth and military strength, and worshipping gods of their own making. Motyer says:
Verse 6-9 contain things on which the nations pride themselves: broad minded tolerance (6), financial reserves (7a), military potential (7b), religious interest (8). These are not matters for pride, says Isaiah, but things which have brought low and humbled all alike.

The people of Judah were proud of their position and achievements and not doubt felt secure. However, verse 9 tells us that in fact, each one of them was to be humbled. Verses 10-21 detail how the LORD was to humble Judah and verse 22 states:
Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?
Although in the first instance, this prophecy was addressed to Isaiah's contemporaries, like much biblical prophecy, it also speaks to us today. It does not take much imagination to see the similarities between our own nation and Judah as described here. We can also see the relevance to our own lives. How easy it is to rely heavily on financial security, or the approval of those around us in order to feel secure, yet the Bible is clear that the only way to true security is to trust in God. In fact, Christ's death has achieved complete, eternal security for those who trust him and it makes no sense for us to look anywhere else for our hope. What am I trusting in today? If it is anything but Christ it is not secure at all.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
He will not, He cannot desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
He never will leave, He will never forsake.

Richard Keen