Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wise Words for Women: To Young Mothers

This week's wise words come from a man who lived over 200 years ago, and yet they are extremely relevant to women today. They come from John Angell James, a pastor who lived and worked in England in the early nineteenth century. He authored an number of books including Female Piety, which this quote is taken from. Although the language is slightly old-fashioned, this book is well worth reading and can be read online here. In this extract, James addresses mothers:

[The] strength of woman's love to her child must be turned to good account, and be directed in its exercises to the best and most useful purposes. There is this difference, and it is a momentous one, between the maternal care of the animals and that of woman; in animals it goes no further than provision and protection—training forms no part of it. The same power which endowed the beasts with the habits which belong to its nature, endows also its offspring. The latter, without any pains bestowed on its education, or any solicitude cherished for its welfare, will learn the lessons of its existence by the instincts of nature, and be capable of rising to its specific perfection, unaided either by parent or teacher. Not so the young of the human species; they also require provision and protection. But more than this they need instruction. And who must be their instructor? First of all, and chief of all—their mother...

The mother has most to do with the character, while yet in the flexible state in which it receives its shape. The earliest exercises of thought, emotion, will, and conscience, are all carried on under her eye. She has to do not only with the body in its infancy, but with the soul in its childhood. Both mind and heart are in her hands at that period, when they take their first start for good or for evil. The children learn to lisp their first words, and to form their first ideas, under her teaching. They are almost always in her company, and are insensibly to themselves and imperceptibly to her, receiving a right or wrong bias from her! She is the first 'model of character' they witness—the first exhibitions of right and wrong in practice are what they see in her. They are the constant observers of the passions, the graces, the virtues, and the faults—which are shown in her words, disposition, and actions. She is therefore unconsciously to herself educating them, not only by designed teaching—but by all she does or says in their presence!

Children are imitative creatures. During their early years, imitation is the regent of the soul, and they who are least swayed by 'reason', are most governed by 'example'. Learning to talk is the effect of imitation—not intuition. And as children so early and so insensibly learn to repeat sounds, so may they also learn to copy actions and habits. This applies to the mother in a fuller sense than it does to the father of course, just because she is more constantly with the children in the early stages of their existence. It is therefore of immense importance that everyone who sustains this relation should have an accurate idea of her own great power over her children. She should be deeply and duly impressed with the potency of her influence.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: Attitudes and Pitfalls

Next week we'll start looking at the curriculum that older women should be passing on to younger women as set out in Titus 2:4&5. But before we move on, I thought it might be helpful to think about some of the arguments we may put up for not being involved in the kind of mentoring relationship described in this passage of Scripture, and some of the dangers that we may encounter if we are.

My husband and I were chatting about this subject over dinner the other night, and he commented that women are more naturally inclined to enter into mentoring relationships than men. He is right, but we also agreed that women too can come up with plenty of reasons why they can't get involved. Older woman may feel inadequate to train younger women; "I don't have theological training" we may argue. However, the relationships Paul is discussing with Titus are not "journal clubs", erudite discussions of complex theological issues. Instead, he describes older women practically exemplifying how we are called to glorify God in our specific callings as women. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, we should all aim to know our bibles well and live our lives by what we find there, but we will never have "all the answers".

On the other hand, as younger women, we may also feel inadequate to be involved in a relationship with a "spiritual mother". We can find it difficult to admit we need help and guidance in some areas, particularly when it comes to sensitive issues such as our identities as women. Sometimes we may find it difficult to identify an older women to pair up with. Can I encourage you to look around your church, find a godly woman and just ask her! Older women, can you think about how you can make yourself available to younger women, and maybe approach someone you know suggesting you meet up. It is made much easier if your church has a formal mentoring programme you can plug into, but failing that why not approach your pastor's wife for advice?

Several pitfalls may be encountered in these types of relationships. In her book One-to-one, Sophie Peace discusses a number of dangers we should be on the look out for:
  • Control - "Unless we watch ourselves, a relationship in which we are supposed to serve a younger Christian can all too easily become one where we lord it over them, or even manipulate and control them, for the sake of our own egos."
  • Legalism - "Concern for personal godliness can easily spill over into rules and regulations being imposed on the younger Christian, usually unintentionally...The older Christian must be very aware of this danger and keep pointing to Jesus in all things, being open about the failures in their own life and their thankfulness for forgiveness."
  • Over-dependence - "This can happen where one person is less mature or secure either spiritually or emotionally or on both fronts, and looks to the stronger one for direction, strength and confidence where they should be looking to God for all these things."
  • Pride - "We must remember that it is God's work to change people. Remembering this will also prevent us from becoming burdened with worry or guilt when we don't see the fruit we long for in our one-to-one partner or when they are demanding much more out of the friendship than we are able to give."
Following on from this, Sophie states:
These dangers can, to a large extent, be avoided when we are aware of them and are cautious, prayerful and accountable in our ministry.
So we should bring these issues before God in prayer and ensure that we are accountable to our church for the mentoring we are involved in. If your church has a women's ministry then this is more straightforward, but if not, you could perhaps arrange to meet regularly with another women who is also involved in mentoring to ensure you both stay on track. As my husband has said to me many times, "Remember you are trying to help someone become more like Christ, not more like you!"

Monday, January 29, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

The "dawning of love" in the courtship of Charles and Susannah is the theme of today's weekly dose of Susannah Spurgeon. The excerpts below raises some interesting questions about the way we initiate relationships today.

On the 10th June 1854, a large party of friends including the young preacher and Susannah gathered at the opening of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham. Here is Susannah's recalling of that time:
As we sat there talking, laughing and amusing ourselves as best we could, while waiting for the procession to pass by, Mr Spurgeon handed me a book into which he had been occasionally dipping, and, pointing to some particular lines said, "What do you think of the poet's suggestion in those verses?" The volume was Martin Tupper's Proverbial Philosophy...The pointing finger guided my eyes to the chapter 'On Marriage', of which the opening sentences ran thus:
Seek a good wife of thy God, for she is the best gift of His providence;
Yet ask not in bold confidence that which he hath not promised:
Thou knowest not his good will; be thy prayer then submissive there unto;
And leave thy petition to Hismercy assured that He will deal well with thee.
If thou art to have a wife of thy youth, she is now living on the earth;
Therefore think of her and pray for her weal!
"Do you pray for him who is to be your husband?" said a soft, low voice in my ear- so soft that no one else heard the whisper. I do not remember that the question received any vocal answer; but my fast-beating heart, which sent a tell-tale flush to my cheeks, and my downcast eyes, which feared to reveal the light which at once dawned in them, may have spoken a language which love understood.

From that moment a very quiet and subdued little maiden sat by the young pastor's side, and while the brilliant procession passed round the Palace, I do not think she took so much note of the glittering pageant defiling before her, as of the crowd of newly-awakened emotions which were palpitating within her heart. Neither the book nor its theories were again alluded to, but when the formalities of the opening were over, and the visitors were allowed to leave their seats, the same low voice whispered again, "Will you come and walk round the palace with me?"
During that walk...God himself united our hearts and in indissoluble bonds of true affection, and, thou we knew it not, gave us to each other for ever. From that time our friendship grew apace and quickly ripened into deepest love.
Less than two months after the incident at the Crystal Palace, C.H. Spurgeon formally proposed for the hand of Susannah Spurgeon. There is no record of the words Charles spoke in his declaration of love to Susannah, only that his confession was "wonderful" and "was there ever quite such a bliss on earth before?"

Charles Ray in his biography writes: "They were one in heart, in soul, in inclination, and even at this stage the great preacher had communicated to his fiancee much of his own spirituality and earnestness. There was more than mere earthly affection in their love for one another, and both felt that indeed the finger of God had marked out a united course for them. Susannah writes:
To me, it was a time as solemn as it was sweet; and with a great awe in my heart, I left my beloved and, hastening to the house and to an upper room, I knelt before God and praised and thanked him with happy tears for his great mercy in giving me the love of so good a man. If I had known then how good he was and how great he would become, I should have been overwhelmed, not so much with the happiness of being his, as with the responsibility which such a position would entail.
In a letter to Susannah, Charles wrote not long after his proposal remarkable words which speak volumes as to the character of both the writer and the recipient:
Dear purchase of a Saviour's blood, you are to me a saviour's gift, and my heart is full to overflowing with the thought of such continued goodness. I do not wonder at his goodness, for it is just like him, but I cannot but lift my voice at his manifold mercies...Whatever befall us, trouble and adversity, sickness or death, we need not fear a final separation, either from each other or our God. I am glad you are not here just at this moment, for I feel so deeply that I could only throw my arms around you and weep.
In light of what we have read today, a few questions come to mind:

1. What role does prayer have in our pursuit of a lifetime partner?

2. How important might it be to marry someone who is "one in heart, in soul, in inclination?"

3. What place do solemnity and sweetness respectively play in the coming together of a husband and wife?

4. In view of C.H. Spurgeon's letter to Susannah, how important is it that we can say of a prospective spouse: "Whatever befall us, trouble and adversity, sickness or death, we need not fear a final separation, either from each other or our God"?

A sermon worth listening to...

Nicki was away this past weekend and hopefully she had a relaxing and refreshing time. One thing she missed out on, though, was our senior pastor's powerful exposition of Jeremiah 2 yesterday morning. So for her benefit and yours, if you are looking for something very worthwhile to listen to during this week, you can download the sermon here.

Nicki will be back soon with your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Womanhood Watch

We're here again to share with you some things worth looking at in blogland and beyond this week.

We'll be back on Monday with Your weekly dose of Susannah Spurgeon and the next instalment in her relationship with Charles: courtship! If you enjoy hearing how couples get together, you'll like this one! Enjoy the weekend.
  • The Purple Cellar, is a new blog for women and is well worth a look (HT: JT)
  • If you think your blog is in need of a bit of brightening up, then visit Christian Women Online and get your Scripture tags here.
  • Should there be more to meals than just food? The ladies at girltalk have just started a short series looking at the significance of meal times.
  • Joshua Harris has just completed a three part series on intimacy and purity at his church, Covenant Life. Download or listen online here. (HT: Solo Femininity)
  • Still with Covenant Life, The Family Room blog are posting a new series with Mark Dever on the Puritans and sex. "8 Lessons for Healthy Sex" has started with Sex is Supposed to be Limited. Intrigued? Check out this post and more. This series has been taken from Mark Dever's talk, "Christian Hedonists or Religious Prudes?" at the 2004 Desiring God National Conference. You can listen or watch here.
  • "His Faithfulness" is a new CD worth checking out. It combines the poetry of Amy Carmichael and the music of Jim Spencer. To sample excerpts and order the CD go here. (HT: JT)
  • Boundless were inundated with comments over Scott Croft's article last week, "Biblical Dating: To Kiss or not to Kiss." Take a peek at some of the thought provoking reaction and Scott's clarification on the issue. Motte Brown also posts on why he regrets kissing his wife.
  • Do your kids read books? Al Mohler discusses how reading is "an important Christian discipline. It is why the Christian church has championed the cause of literacy. It is why the Reformers fought for the translation of the Scriptures into vernacular languages. A loss of literacy and respect for the book amounts to grave danger for the Christian church." Read more here.
  • Tim Challies takes us out of our comfort zone and discusses self-centred sex. Read parts one and two.
  • Yesterday we completed the reading as a Christian discipline survey conducted by Kim over at Hiraeth. Now it's your turn. Go here to take part.
  • Jenny Shroedel's article, 40 Days with Natalie tells us how we just need to press pause, particularly after the birth of a new baby!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Reading as a Christian Discipline - Survey

Kim over at Hiraeth is conducting a survey on the virtues of reading as a Christian Discipline, as it relates to blogging and reading blogs. To take part in the discussion you should copy and paste the questions she has here, post them and your answers on your own blog, then leave a link in the comments section of her post here.

There are already a few answers in, so here goes our (Nicki & Catriona) contribution to the discussion:

Has reading Christian blogs increased your desire to tackle weighty Christian tomes?

Yes, I've tended to only read weightier volumes in relation to theological study, not necessarily writers I'd choose to read now. Christian blogs have certainly encouraged reading some of the more fruitful greats.

Reading blogs has certainly made me more aware of some of the "classics". Fortunately, my husband reads even more than I do, and often when I see a book recommended on a blog, I find it's on our bookshelves already!

Have you learned of Christian authors and theologians that you might not have otherwise known or read?

Yes, particularly contemporary American authors that we might not otherwise hear of in the UK.

Similar to Nicki, reading blogs has introduced me to several authors from the USA that I might not otherwise have read.

Have you purchased or borrowed books that were recommended by bloggers?

I've borrowed the odd book from my blogmate Catriona, but I've tended to purchase more.

Yes. I tend to purchase more often than borrow and have purchased several books recommended by blogs, including books for my children.

Have you read fewer "real" books as your blog reading has increased?

No, blog reading has tended to do the opposite!

I've found that contributing regularly to a blog has given me a renewed incentive to read books so that I have something to post on! I have always been a bit of a bookworm, though, and getting recommendations from other blogs just gives me an excuse to try to read more.

Has the availability/searchability of great Christian works caused you to rely upon them merely as resources?

I think that was something that I was perhaps guilty of in the past. If a book has something in it worth referencing to, then it's worth reading as much of the book as possible, taking in the overall context of what the writer is saying. When reading some of the contemporary writers who quote from the great writers of the past, my thought is, "I must read that!"

I do sometimes use these works as resources but I also try to discipline myself to read through an older or "classic" Christian book regularly. I find greater concentration is needed for these than for more modern Christian authors, so with two small children progress can be slow. I do think it is worth reading the original sources.

Do you think reading the great Christian authors and theologians is important and/or profitable?

Yes. They are a more difficult read. Sometimes I find it helpful to read some kind of overview of their work or a contemporary revised version.From there I'd go on and read the real deal. There is tremendous value in going back to the primary work itself.

Absolutely, yes. These books may take more time and concentration to work through but they are worth the effort.

Do you read them?

Yes. Fortunately being a student in theology it is par for the course - it's hard to avoid even if I wanted to!

Yes. During my early twenties, most of the Christian books I read had catchy titles and were in the top ten list at the bookshop. I approached each one thinking that it would give me that "magic formula" for living a fulfilled Christian life and I was always disappointed. As I've got older (and have less time to waste!), I've come to really appreciate books from the great Christian authors, modern and historical. I usually have more than one book on the go at once, and I try to make sure one of them is a weightier "classic". Just now I'm reading the letters of Samuel Rutherford, the Scottish Puritan.

If so, who do you recommend?

There's plenty I wouldn't recommend! Some of the greats would be Charles & Susannah Spurgeon, JC Ryle, Baxter, Calvin, Stott, Berkhof, Grudem and Edwards (I'm hoping to dip into Owen at some point & borrow Cat's "Mystery of Providence by Flavel). Most of my reading at the minute would include favourite authors such as Don Carson, Don Whitney, John & Noel Piper, CJ & Carolyn Mahaney, JC Ryle, Alistair Begg, R.Kent & Barbara Hughes, Elizabeth Elliott, Susan Hunt, John McArthur, JI Packer, Sharon James. A mixed bag of old and new, male and female, not necessarily "classic theologians" but all worth their weight in different ways.

I would concur with all that Nicki recommends. For me, I really appreciate the Puritan works and also recommend reading good Christian biographies from time to time. It is a great encouragement to read of how great Christians from history have lived God-glorifying lives.

Biblical Femininity for Everyday Life

A couple of nights ago our MuMS group met for the first time in 2007. We are planning to study together Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney and by way of introduction, we listened to a talk given by her daughter Nicole Whitacre, entitled "Biblical Femininity for Everyday Life". She centres her talk around a helpful definition of biblical femininity written by Jeff Purswell:
Biblical Femininity suggest an inner disposition that is supportive, responsive and nurturing in its various roles, responsibilities and relationships.
We thought about how we can be supportive of our husbands, realising that we must think about how we can create an environment to enable them to fulfil their individual callings in the home, at church and the workplace. Nicole gave the example of Sarah Edwards who "studied to suit" her husband Jonathan.

We also thought about being responsive to our husband's leading. We must allow him to lead and not usurp his God-given authority by expressing our opinions in a forceful or overbearing manner. Someone mentioned how important tone of voice is here, as we may all too easily speak to our husband in a way that is nagging or undermines him.

Thirdly, Nicole emphasises that as wives, the primary focus of our nurturing efforts should be our husbands, before even our children. One of her descendants described Sarah Edwards as "a resting place for [Jonathan's] soul". This was a challenge to us all as we considered whether this is something our husbands could say of us.

I encourage you to listen to the talk in full here. Even if you're not married, this talk is also worth listening to, as Nicole spends a lot of time applying these truths to single women.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wise Words for Women: "Riding in Tandem"

Today is our spot in the week where we leave you with some words of wisdom as we seek to discover and recover in our lives what it means to be women who live according to God's Word.

Today's wise words come from Noel Piper and are particularly addressed for those who are married, though not exclusively. As I said to a friend the other day: 'I wish someone shared with me these things when I was single and contemplating marriage'.

Noel describes her musings as "random lessons," they are, in essence, thought provoking and full of wisdom as we seek to ride in the tandem of marriage.

John & Noel Riding in Tandem

"Sunscreen on, helmets buckled, pedals in sync, and we were on our way. After a few minutes, Johnny called over his shoulder, “You’re doing pretty well for your first time on a tandem.” Without a thought, I replied: “I guess all these years of marriage have been good practice.”

Here are some random lessons learned last week riding along the Cannon Valley Trail behind my husband on a bicycle built for two:
  • If I throw my weight around, we wobble and swerve.
  • My initial “seasickness” eases when I quit resisting and let him lean the bike into curves and turns in the path.
  • I often feel as if I’m not really adding much to the effort. But I must be doing my part, because if I lift my feet, he feels it and asks, “Are you still there?”
  • My instinct is to press harder on the pedals to make sure I’m carrying my share of the load. But when I do, he says, “Slow down. Don’t push me so fast.”
  • Looking over his shoulder, I can see a lot of what he sees, but not what’s immediately in front of us. Good thing he’s the one steering, braking, and changing gears. On the other hand, I’m more free to look around and point out the mile markers and the turtles basking on a log.
  • I can’t brake or steer, but I do have the power to stop the bike and ruin the ride. If I stand still on the pedals and refuse to move, he can’t make them turn.
  • I love it when we’re on level ground and using a gear that sets a slow, steady pedalling that surges us forward. But I need warning when he changes to a setting that requires fast foot strokes. When I’m caught off guard, my feet are slung from the pedals and it’s a trick to get them back in place without snarling the progress up a steep hill.
  • When I realize I’m gripping the handlebars, I have to remind myself, “Let go! You’ve always wanted to ride ‘no hands.’ Now you can!”
  • When I’m ready to turn back, he’s aiming for one more mile marker. When I’m ready to finish easy, he says, “Let’s see if we can beat our record.” With that kind of encouragement, I do what never would have happened if I’d been on my own.
  • Near the end, when I see one more hill, I open my mouth to say, “Let me off. I’ll walk up.” Then I realize how foolish we’d look, me plodding alone and him trying to keep the bike going by himself. So I shut up and keep pedaling.
  • And I discover that, when we pedal together, impossible inclines become possible.
Perhaps the 19th century songwriter was wiser than he knew when he created a marriage proposal that said, “You’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.” It makes me think of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
Words as these in our world today are regarded as less than wise, more like foolish. Why in the world would we want to submit to anyone, never mind our husbands? 'Submission' is a bit of a 'dirty word', it implies that one party is lesser in worth than the other, inferior. And yet, when we close our ears to what the world tells us and open our eyes and read God's word, the concept of submission in God's economy is far from negative.

God's word instructs us in Genesis 1:26 that God made male and female in his own image. Therefore, men and women enjoy equality of personhood, dignity and worth. With regard to our status before God, there is no hint of superiority or inferiority.

This is not to say that men and women are made exactly the same. One of the ways in which God has designed women is to reflect that equality of personhood in a different way from men. God has made us to be "suitable helpers" (Genesis 2:20) and men to take on a leadership role. When both men and women step up and embrace their true masculinity and femininity, as designed by God, "they will be truly fulfilled and God's creational wisdom will be fully displayed and exalted" (John Piper).

When the world tells us that equality cannot be sustained with an order of leadership and submission, we must consider anew not only what God's word says, but how Father, Son and Holy Spirit reflect this truth perfectly. Bruce Ware writes:
"The structure of authority and obedience is not only established by God, but it is, even more, possessed in God’s own inner Trinitarian life, as the Father establishes his will and the Son joyfully obeys. Therefore, we should not despise, but should embrace proper lines of authority and obedience. In the home, believing community, and society, rightful lines of authority are good, wise and beautiful reflections of the reality that is God himself…we need to see not only authority but also submission as God-like."
This is not only reflected in the life of God, Christ himself examples for us what true leadership and submission looks like. Jesus Christ displays for us the right way to lead and the correct way to submit.

The bible therefore instructs us clearly in three ways. Here I am summarising from Wayne Grudem's book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth:

1. It corrects the errors of male dominance and male superiority that come as a result of sin.

2. As men and women who are equal in God's sight, no-one should feel proud or superior because he is a man, and no-one should feel disappointed or inferior because she is a woman.

3. When men and women do not listen respectfully and thoughtfully to each other, do not value the wisdom that might be arrived at differently and expressed differently from the other, or do not value the other's different gifts and preferences as much as their own, they neglect the teaching on equality in the image of God.

Let's ponder these truths anew, taking them into our lives and marriages, that we might reflect God's design for us as men and women, embracing his design as "very good".

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: Key Qualities

Last week we thought about how important knowing the Bible is as we seek to grow in wisdom and discernment. Now, let's look more closely at the qualities that Paul says should be evident in the older women who are teaching young women, qualities that all Christian women should pursue.

Reverent in behaviour - In her book Spiritual Mothering, Susan Hunt says,
Reverence implies honor, respect, love and obedience. A reverent life is the product of a reverent view of God. An exalted view of God will shape a Biblical world view that permeates all of life for the woman of faith. A Biblical belief and value system is foundational for a lifestyle of reverence.
Am I cultivating this sort of behaviour? Does the way I live my life and tackle everyday tasks show that I honor, respect, love and obey God?

Not slanderers-
Paul knew that this was an issue for women and we thought about this a few months ago. How easily friendships can be destroyed by a few careless words as we seek to show others how much we know, or make ourselves the centre of attention. As Proverbs 12:18 states,
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Not addicted to much wine - For some, alcohol may be a very real struggle. However, others of us may be putting an imaginary tick next to this attribute, thinking that this is not something we need worry about. However, unhealthy obsessions may affect us all. Susan Hunt writes:
We must be free from habitual, compulsive behavior in order to live disciplined lives for God's glory. Self-control, as opposed to self-indulgence, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Do we struggle with an unhealthy compulsion for food, shopping or even the internet? What can we do to improve our self control in these areas?

Teach what is good - Susan Hunt again:
The Greek word translated "good" means beautiful, commendable, excellent...This goodness is a manifestation of the grace of God within and stands in stark contrast to the standard of goodness that the world contrives.
In fact, all of these qualities are manifestations of God's grace, available to all who ask him. Often, I don't feel I'm developing any of these attributes but thankfully it does not depend on my ability or energy.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength" Phil 4:13

Monday, January 22, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

Last Monday we looked back to the first steps of Susannah Thompson's faith which were to lead to a sacrificial life of marriage and ministry with Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Today we are going to tell you about Susannah's first contact with Charles which was to develop into a deep and intimate friendship.
Sunday 18th December 1853 marked the day in which the young Spurgeon (19) preached for the first time at New Park Street Chapel. Susannah did not venture out to church that morning, but after the praise in which Mr and Mrs Olney (close friends of Susannah) had for the preacher, she found herself at the evening service.

Her initial thoughts of young Spurgeon were less than admirable. Charles Ray records for us: "Miss Thompson was shocked. This was quite contrary to her ideas of what a preacher should be. Young Charles Haddon Spurgeon was evidently from the country; she could have told that in a moment even if she had not known....What business had such a youth in the pulpit of Dr Gill and Dr Rippon? And with that thought in her prejudiced mind Susannah Thompson settled down to hear what he had to say."

Some years later Susannah wrote:
Ah! How little I then thought that my eyes looked on him who was to be my life's beloved; how little I dreamed of the honour God was preparing for me in the near future! It is a mercy that our lives are not left for us to plan, but that our Father chooses for us; else might we sometimes turn away from our best blessings, and put from us the choicest and loveliest gifts of his providence. For, if all truth be told, I was not fascinated by the young orator's eloquence, while his countrified manner and speech excited more regret than reverence. Alas, for my vain and foolish heart! I was not spiritually minded enough to understand his earnest presentation of the gospel and his powerful pleading with sinners - but the huge black satin stock, the long baldy-trimmed hair, and the blue pocket handkerchief with white spots...these attracted most of my attention and I fear awakened some feelings of amusement.
After accepting the pastorate at New Park Street Chapel, Susannah and Charles would often meet at the home of Mr and Mrs Olney and as such, Susannah soon got over her earlier prejudices. His "earnest pleadings soon aroused her" and Susannah "realized that her life of indifference and non-service was far front being what it should be." She writes:
Gradually I became alarmed at my back-sliding state and then, by a great effort, I sought spiritual help and guidance...One day I was greatly surprised to receive from Mr Spurgeon an illustrated copy of 'Pilgrim's Progress', in which he had written the inscription "Miss Thompson, with desires for her progress in the blessed pilgrimage, from C.H. Spurgeon, April 20th 1854."
She continues:
I do not think that my beloved had at that time any other thought concerning me than to help a struggling soul heavenward; but I was greatly impressed by his concern for me...By degrees, though with much trembling, I told him of my state before God; and he gently led me, by his preaching, and by his conversations, through the power of the Holy Spirit to the cross of Christ for the peace and pardon my weary soul was longing for.
Two things struck me today about the beginnings of the relationship between Mr and Mrs Spurgeon. Firstly, whether we are married or not, God puts before us his best. Sometimes we look upon that which will become dear to us with prejudice and disdain because, like Susannah, we are not spiritually minded enough. It's only when our minds and hearts have that Godward orientation that our Father in heaven reveals to us his choicest and loveliest gifts in which he has mercifully prepared for us.

Secondly, I was also reminded of what truly is foundational in any relationship, particularly a marriage: Charles had Susannah's desire for progress in the blessed pilgrimage. As one who is blessed being married to a committed Christian and preacher, I can only concur that to have one's spouse committed to your spiritual welfare is by far the most important part to married life. This is something that husbands and wives must surely work harder at, and singles must put at the top of their list in seeking a prospective spouse.

Next week we'll look at the "Dawning of Love" and the courtship of Susannah Thompson and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

All references are taken from Charles Ray's The Life of Susannah Spurgeon

Friday, January 19, 2007

Womanhood Watch

It's that time again when we link you to some good stuff we've come across on the net this week. Have a great weekend and we'll be back with you on Monday for your weekly dose of Susannah Spurgeon.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The house is quiet today, and the hills are covered in a fine mist that threatens to turn to snow. I’m in contemplative mood. The New Year is still relatively young and after the busy Christmas period, God has given me a window of unhurried restfulness in which to reflect.

Today I’m looking back, and looking forward. Looking back to the years I’ve already lived on planet earth, and the amazing life and adventures I have been privileged to have as a missionary and pastor’s wife. I’m looking back to the women I have learned from, and looking forward to the woman I will continue to become, and the legacy I will leave behind. I’m ‘looking back’ too to the younger women following on behind me, and looking forward to the older women whose example I’m following.

Life as a missionary meant many moves, and a specific mentor was something I have never experienced. But God was good enough to allow my path to cross that of godly older women in whom, however briefly, I could see a ‘radiant something’ – something extraordinarily beautiful and challenging that I knew I wanted. Today I want to thank God for each and every one of them, whose lives exemplified “This is the way – walk in it.”

Today I’m looking back too – that is back to the younger ones who are following me. I’m thanking God for Nicki and Cat, for the inspiration they’ve provided for me to keep going in my own walk with God, and developing the work amongst women in our church – because there are at least two bright ‘hungry for God’ younger women who are watching and wanting to learn. I wonder what they will remember of me when I am gone? Will they have seen something of that bright radiance I have seen in other women, or will they be disappointed? So I’m praying today – “Lord, make me worthy.”

I’m looking forward too, to the woman I will become. Will I be like that 80 year old I know who attracts younger women to her like bees around a honey pot, because of her sweet, gracious, uncomplaining manner. A life of singleness has not embittered her, but turned her in devotion towards her God. She will leave a legacy of huge worth amongst the women and children whose lives she has touched.

What legacy will I leave? Only the Lord knows, only time will reveal.

Lord – make me worthy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wise Words for Women: Chosen to Nurture

Last night I was re-reading a couple of chapters from Nancy Leigh DeMoss' book "Biblical Womanhood in the Home." I was contemplating her chapters: A Portrait of a Woman Used by God and Portrait of a Foolish Woman. What a wealth of wise words to write about! However, I want to share something that particularly struck me, something foundational and applicable for all women who want to be used by God. Nancy writes:
God has chosen all of bring forth spiritual life. 'You did not choose me,' Jesus told his disciples, 'but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last' (John 15:16). I believe there is a special sense in which God created us as women to be bearers and nurturers of life. Whether or not He grants us physical children, He wants to use us to carry the life and light of Jesus into the world - to be spiritual reproducers, bringing forth His life in the lives of others.

We may look at certain prominent or unusually gifted people and think they have been uniquely chosen by God. The fact is, if you are a child of God, you have been chosen by God for a task of supreme significance - to be a bearer and nurturer of spiritual life by carrying the life of the Lord Jesus to others.

Once you look at your life that way, you'll never again have a "self image" problem. Many women today carry scars of rejection from parents, mates, or friends who have spurned them. What a joy to discover that though we deserve to be rejected by God, we have been chosen to belong to Him and to be part of His redemptive plan in the universe.
As women chosen by God, designed to be spiritual reproducers and nurturers of life, let's think about our immediate sphere of influence and how we might bring forth and nurture the life of Christ around us. 'The wise woman builds her house, but with her hands the foolish one tears hers down' (Proverbs 14:1). Whether your "house" is your family, church, workplace, friends or community, by God's grace and at his appointing, let us be wise women who become actively involved in building our "houses" daily.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: "Age into a sage"

Today as we continue to think about the mandate in Titus 2 for older women to teach those who are younger, let's read some words from John Piper on this subject, found in his book, When I Don't Desire God:
It is a great advantage to be wise. Wisdom is different from the mere knowledge of facts. Some very wise people have little formal education. And some very educated people, who know many facts, are not wise. Wisdom is the insight and sense of how to live in a way that accomplishes the goals for which we were made: the glory of God and the good of man. And since glorifying God involves delighting in God, and the good of man involves sharing our joy in God, therefore wisdom is the only path to deep and lasting joy.

It won't surprise us that this joy-producing wisdom comes through the Word of God..."Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom."The Word of Christ brings "all wisdom" into our lives so that we can help each other know it and live in it.

One of the challenges I repeatedly hold out to the people of our church - especially the women- is that they make it one of their aims to age into a sage. I love the vision of older women full of seasoned spiritual fruit that comes only with long life and much affliction and deep meditation on the Word of God. So many younger women yearn for older women, who are deeply wise, to share the wisdom God has taught them over the years. The joy of giving and receiving this kind of gift is great. It is a joy that comes by the Word of God. There is no better joy than what comes through wisdom. Therefore, the Word of God is more valuable than anything on earth.

As I read this, I must consider whether I am making efforts to "age into a sage". Am I spending time dwelling on God's word and applying it to the various situations I find myself in? Do I look upon afflictions as a trial to be endured or an opportunity to learn more about God? As we get older, (as we all must!) let's rejoice that in God's economy we need not be left "on the scrap heap". Instead let's faithfully apply ourselves to knowing the Word of Christ so that we can encourage and equip other women.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

Last week, we introduced a new series called "Your weekly dose of Susannah Spurgeon." We were introduced to a woman who has been described as a wife who exercised tremendous "unselfishness and self-effacement", a "true 'helpmeet", and one who sank "her own individuality and claims" and became "absorbed in those of her husband." Today I want us to go deeper into her life, considering the outset of such a remarkable life and ministry.

As a frequent attender of New Park Street Chapel with her parents, Susannah Thompson grew up familiar with the preaching of the gospel of which she recalls the ministry of Pastor James Smith: 'A quaint and rugged preacher, but one well versed in the blessed art of bringing souls to Christ...Often I had seen him administer the ordinance of baptism to the candidates, wondering with a tearful longing whether I should ever be able thus to confess my faith in the Lord Jesus.'

That longing became a reality when, by means of a sermon from Romans 10:8, 'The Word is near you, in your mouth and in you heart' Susannah "was first aroused to a sense of her own personal need of a saviour." She writes: 'From that service..I date the dawning of the true light in my soul...constrained by his love, that night witnessed my solemn resolution of entire surrender to himself.'

Sadly, "few attempts at encouraging young converts to engage in service for their Lord" and "the lack of communion with kindred youthful spirits...were no doubt, more or less responsible for a state of coldness and indifference which in a short time took the place of joy and gladness of soul that had followed conversion." Susannah records: 'Seasons of darkness, despondency and doubt passed over me...but I had kept all my religious experiences carefully concealed in my own breast.'

It was through this period of her Christian life that the influence of a young man would indeed change her life forever and he himself would become more dear to her than any other. Next Monday we'll look at Susannah's first contact with Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

All references are taken from Charles Ray's The Life of Susannah Spurgeon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Womanhood Watch

  • Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Do without.
  • Beth at Ebenezer Stories shares a prayer for children.
Not especially womanly, but interesting:
  • John Piper's new book Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce is now available. You can either buy it or read free online here.
  • If you are looking for a challenge, Miss M gets us to find 72 bands in a picture. This has been the most fun Rebecca has had in a while. (HT: Rebecca Writes)
  • Unashamed Workman asks: Does Scripture make a case for preaching?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Heaven at Home

One of the books I got for Christmas was Heaven at Home: Establishing and Enjoying a Peaceful Home by Ginger Plowman. I read this book over a few days in the Christmas holidays and found it to be extremely practical and helpful.

The book is divided into five parts. The first is entitled "Home is heavenly when the woman is happy" and each chapter discusses how we can find true joy in our relationship with Christ and our roles as wives and mothers. The second is "Home is heavenly when unity prevails" and this section deals with how we can cultivate unity in marriage and between our children and resolve conflict gracefully. The third part is called " Home is heavenly when relationships are right". This section focusses on how to foster good relationships with in-laws and friends, as well as nurturing children in their relationships with Christ. The fourth part "Home is heavenly when children obey" discusses a mother's role in parenting, drawing on material from her previous book Don't make me count to three! Finally, "Home is heavenly when it serves as a haven". This last section gives practical advice about the day to day running of a home, with a chapter on hospitality.

I particularly enjoyed the final section of the book and reading it at the turn of the year gave a good incentive to implement some of the advice given about home management. In one chapter, Ginger discussed how we can keep our homes clean and organised (although the advice to do a whole week's laundry on one day doesn't really work out when you don't have a tumble dryer!). She also presents the case for structuring our own and our children's days to make best use of our time.

The thing that impressed me most about this book, however, was the author's clear desire to keep the motivation for all we do Christ-centred and several times in each section she draws the reader back to the basic reasons for all we try to do in the home:
You see, establishing and enjoying a peaceful home is for God's glory. A Christ-centred home does result in a more productive, more fulfilling life, but only because it is first focussed on pleasing Christ. It is a way to fulfil the very purpose for which we were created- to worship God in all we do.

This book is definitely worth adding to your wishlist.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wise Words for Women

As you know, one of the main aims of our blog is to discover and recover for our lives a biblical understanding of womanhood. This is a large vision to embrace! Therefore, we're going to take our Wednesdays to chew over some wise words from great writers (both past and present) on the theme.

Our first wise words for women comes from Elisabeth Elliot and her book, "Let Me Be A Woman." She writes in her chapter, God Sets No Traps:
We are called to be women. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman. For I have accepted God's idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be....

God...has summoned us to the only true and full freedom. The woman who defines her liberation as doing what she wants, or not doing what she doesn't want, is, in the first place, evading responsibility. Evasion of responsibility is the mark of immaturity. The Women's Liberation Movement is characterized, it appears, by this very immaturity. While telling themselves that they have come a long way, that they are actually coming of age, they have retreated to a partial humanity, one that refuses to acknowledge the vast significance of the sexual differentiation...

And the woman who ignores that fundamental truth ironically misses the very thing that she has set out to find. By refusing to fulfil the whole vocation of womanhood she settles for a caricature, a pseudo-personhood.
Whether you are younger or older, single or married, busy at home or in the workplace, ponder these wise words so that you might not fall into the trap of evading your responsibility as a christian woman.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Titus 2 Truths

Today we start a new series we're calling "Titus 2 Truths" where we will focus on the theme verses of our blog, Titus 2:3-5:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and to train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
The over-arching theme of these verses is that Paul expects older women to encourage and teach younger women what biblical womanhood looks like in practice, by example and explanation. Note that Paul does not trust this mission to Titus himself, but urges him to ensure that the older women in his church grasp the importance of their role in instructing the young women how to live.

Susan Hunt, in her book of the same name, refers to this process as Spiritual Mothering, and each week for the next few weeks we will focus on this issue.

Susan Hunt defines spiritual mothering as,
when a woman possessing faith and spiritual maturity enters into a nurturing relationship with a younger woman in order to encourage and equip her to live for God's glory.
All women in the church fall into the category of either an older or younger women and in fact, all of us really are "young women" in some sense as we can always learn from those who are more mature in the faith than us. So as we start thinking about older women mentoring young women, I challenge you to think about whether you are involved in this process. Are you mature in the faith and able to offer your time and open your home to show a young women how to live as a godly woman? Are you seeking out older women to act as your role models in biblical womanhood?

I encourage you to take to time this week to listen to Carolyn Mahaney as she speaks on this topic under the title Passing on the Language of Bibical Femininity.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Your weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

At the outset of each week, Phil Johnson (over at Pyromaniacs) blogs under the title: "Your Weekly Dose of Spurgeon." Of course, the Spurgeon he has in mind is C.H. Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of the 19th Century. However, at the risk of going head to head with Pyromaniacs (foolish, I know!) over the next month or so I'd like to offer a weekly dose from Susannah Spurgeon, the wife of the esteemed preacher.

The reason for this thought is that I'm currently reading Susannah Spurgeon's Morning Devotions: Free Grace & Dying Love, which is also helpfully combined with Charles Ray's biography: The Life of Susannah Spurgeon.

Like many of you, I've heard much of Susannah Spurgeon's husband, but comparatively little about the woman who supported such a great minister. Today, I leave you with a few words from the introduction to Charles Ray's record of Mrs Spurgeon's life. It aptly describes her life and ministry:
The position of the wife of a great man, and particularly of a great minister, is not only one of rare difficulty but calls for an exercise of unselfishness and self-effacement which is quite contrary to the natural instincts of the human nature. The lady who would be a true 'helpmeet' to the popular preacher and God-ordained pastor must to a very large extent sink her own individuality and claims and become absorbed in those of her husband.

She must be prepared to part often with the one she loves best on earth, in order that he may go to fulfil his solemn engagements untrammelled by domestic repinings; she must render every assistance in her power and yet not expect to reap the praise of men, which is rightly her due; she must initiate and carry through new plans of Christian effort and be satisfied that they shall be regarded as nothing more than a legitimate part of her husband's ministry; and she must take upon her shoulders a load of responsibility, which the ordinary wife knows nothing of and which amid such a multitude of duties might overwhelm a strong and vigorous man...

No grander an example of the possibilities which the position of a preacher's wife affords,could be offered to her sisters of the manse or to the world at large than Mrs C.H. Spurgeon.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Womanhood Watch

Over the past week I've come across some useful reading and links that are worth a look.

Not especially womanly, but interesting:
  • For a bit of a laugh, check out Tim Challies' idea for a new reality TV show.
  • Jenny Schroedel over at Boundless writes my kind of article! Feeling a bit down after eating so much chocolate over the holiday season? Jenny left me with a merry heart after reading this.
  • The latest installment of the Nine Marks Newsletter is now available- the theme is friendship.
  • Over at the New Attitude blog they are offering free tunes for one week.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Remotely Controlled

I received an email yesterday telling me about a new book that has been published entitled "Remotely Controlled - How television is damaging our lives and what we can do about it". The blurb advertising the book makes for sobering reading and it set me off thinking about the whole issue of television and the Christian woman.

Before I go on, I should say that we do have a TV and we do watch it, but over the past year, I have been watching it less and less and I can honestly say I don't miss it!

It struck me that in the different seasons of life we are all at risk of frittering away our time watching TV. As a student, it is all too easy to spend our free time getting to know the latest soap characters rather than our course subjects. As a working woman, who hasn't flopped down in front of the TV in the evening and spent several hours viewing to "unwind"? If we are full-time at home, daytime television can easily distract us from the mounting household chores, and if we have children we can employ the TV for a spot of child care. In later years, the television may be a source of company or comfort if we are less able to get out than we used to be.

The issue of children and television watching is one that has been the subject of quite a bit of research. I did a PubMed search (searching the medical literature) and there are a number of studies linking the amount of television watched and childhood obesity. A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics showed that:
Time spent viewing television both with and without parents and siblings present was strongly negatively related to time spent interacting with parents or siblings. Television viewing was associated with decreased homework time and decreased time in creative play.
Also, several studies looked at the impact of having a TV in children's bedrooms. A German research group found an association in some children between an impairment in expressive language and having a television in their bedroom. Furthermore, parents tend to under-estimate the amount of TV their children are watching if they have a television in their bedroom.

My database searching also had implications for all of us ladies, whether or not we have children. A paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that sedentary pastimes, and especially TV watching, increased the risk of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in the women studied.

So it's pretty clear that for adults and children alike, there are health implications to watching too much TV. However, the effects on our spiritual health are even more profound.

The television usually offers a worldview which is at odds with the one we embrace as Christians and yet often, we switch on our sets and switch off our brains, subconsciously absorbing whatever philosophies are on offer. Also, watching television is a tremendous thief of time. Can we honestly say that the programmes we watch glorify God and make us more Christ-like? As John Piper says in his excellent devotional book Taste and See,
Time is precious. We are fragile. Life is short. Eternity is long. Shall we not then enter on every venture with a vigilance like that of the young Jonathan Edwards when he wrote his fifth resolution: "Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can".
As I finish, let me just say that I do think this is a matter of conscience for the individual believer. I certainly don't want to make you feel bad for allowing your children (or yourself) to watch some TV. In fact, letting my oldest daughter watch "VeggieTales" is the only way I can spend time reading the Bible just now as my 5 month old keeps me up so late! That said, I have been challenged to re-evaluate my attitude towards television and maybe at the start of another year you would be willing to do the same.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Unashamed Workman

I couldn't get away this month without posting about my husbands new blog and give him some free advertising. It's not the least bit womanly but if you are married to, or know of a preacher then this site would perhaps be of interest.

Unashamed workman seeks to serve those who endeavour to fulfil Paul's mandate to Timothy: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15) Colin writes:
The overarching theme, of course, is preaching, and I’d like us to consider it in as wholistic a manner as possible. Therefore, we’ll cover everything from why we preach (the theology of preaching), to what we preach(as it emerges from preparation and ends in delivery), to life outside the pulpit (yes, there is such a thing!).

I plan to blog at least once a day, Monday through Saturday, leaving Sunday a rest day in blogland, since no doubt many of you will be toiling in preaching and prayer that day.

Each day of the week will have a basic theme:

Mondays: “Beyond the Workshop” - Since Monday is also my day off with my family, it seems an apt time to reflect on all matters relating to the kind of preacher I am, such as my personal relationship with God, my wife and children.

Tuesdays: “Classic Materials” - On this day we’ll enjoy an extended quote from any one of the ancient (mostly) or modern lights in preaching. Expect plenty of Jones, Spurgeon, Whitefield, and Edwards here.

Wednesdays: “Under Construction” - Since like many of you, I’m involved in preparing and preaching regular sermons, I’ll be reflecting on things I’m working through with regards my methods and manner of preparation and delivery.

Thursdays: “Workmen Watch” - In any craft, skills are often learned as we watch and learn from experts in the trade. Every week, I try to listen to at least a few sermons online, and I’ll be reviewing a sermon each week from a variety of modern preachers to see what I can learn.

Fridays: “Work ethics” - Here, I’ll be looking for a month at a time at various aspects of the preaching task. For example, I may take a month of Friday’s to look at what different people have decided about use of notes or manuscript, as opposed to completely extemporary. Or we may spend a whole month pondering how best to preach from the major prophets.

: “Tools for the Toolshed” - On Saturday, I’ll link to anything I’ve found on a given week that might be of benefit to preaching. This will be “around the blogs” with an eye open for things helpful to preachers.

Posting started daily on January 1st and is well worth a look.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Never in January?"

Since our first few posts of 2007 have been typically reflective -as befits the time of year - I thought I'd carry on in this vein. Yes, it's that point in the calender when many of us resolve to get our bible reading in check: aiming perhaps to read the bible through in the coming year.

If you are anything like me, normally by the end of the first month I've failed miserably, falling behind in my readings and generally trying to play catch up. Nothing worse to dampen the enjoyment of what reading God's Word should be.

Having just flicked over to Desiring God, I noticed an article by Noel Piper: "Never in January". In it Noel describes her difficulties in reading the bible through in a year and how bible reading plans never seemed to work for her. Instead she offers her method of bible reading in which she found the following "results":
This time I can truthfully say that I never dragged myself dutifully on to the next chapters. I loved it and it pulled me back day after day. What made this attempt different? I'm certain God's Spirit provided the inspiration, because I was the same stumbling Christian I have always been. But I did decide to take a more creative approach to my "walk through the Word".
So what was this "more creative approach"? Here are a few things that struck me:
  • Noel didn't necessarily start in January, but started "anytime now".
  • She didn't start "in the beginning" but in "unknown territory".
  • She didn't read the bible "in sequence".
  • She didn't split her reading into 365 "equal segments".
  • She took only the bible along with her for "reading material".
  • She became a "hunter" in which a blue highlighter became her "weapon".
Please do take time to read this article. I found it both comforting (that such a godly woman who I have much admiration for struggles with the same things I do), and encouraging, as Noel has creatively sought and achieved to do that which we all strive to - read faithfully, and joyfully, God's Word.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Reflection on New Year

Our church, Charlotte Chapel, is right in the centre of Edinburgh. As we walked to our morning service on Hogmanay (that's New Year's Eve in Scotland!), already people were gathering in the city for the New Year Celebrations. Princes Street was closed to traffic and filled with loud speakers, crowd-control barriers and portaloos. The preparations for "Edinburgh's Hogmanay" were complete. That evening, the annual street party would be held, culminating in a spectacular (and spectacularly expensive) firework display on the stroke of midnight. Over 100,000 revellers were anticipated to fill the city centre to see in 2007.

For so many people, New Year is a big deal as they pin their hopes on things being different in 2007, and use it as an excuse to party or drown their sorrows. However, when they wake on January 1st, they face the same situations they did on December 31st. The celebration of New Year is a popular holiday, but for many it is an empty celebration, with another year bringing fresh difficulties or disappointments.

By contrast, if we are Christians we should not look to a new year as the source of our hope but to God one day "making everything new". My husband shared as much when our family gathered for lunch yesterday. He read from Revelation 21:1-5:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
In the end, a 60mph gale got the better of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations and thousands of party-goers were bitterly disappointed as the event was cancelled. However, we can be sure that God's promises will not fail and that, whatever challenges 2007 may bring, our eternal future is secure if we trust in Christ.

Monday, January 01, 2007

"Success" In 2007?

One of the books I bought my husband for Christmas was R.Kent and Barbara's Hughes' "Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome." Already I can see that this book teaches vital concepts that my husband (a pastor) and I need to get our heads around in life and ministry.

In the book's intro, Kent Hughes describes a breakdown he suffered in the first few years of ministry. Having been taught 'methods' at seminary, which coupled with prayer and hard work were 'guaranteed' to get results, Hughes was confronted with the fact that his small church wasn't growing.

The young pastor and his supportive wife were forced to re-evaluate their ministry worldview, not least their expectations of what constitutes a successful pastorate. The book lays out what Kent and Barbara discovered as they considered Scripture against their faulty ways of thinking.

Here's their summary of a biblical view of success. It seems an appropriate list to place before any follower of Christ at the outset of another year of Christian life and ministry:

  • Success is faithfulness: "So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." (1 Cor 4:1-2)
  • Success is serving: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." (Mat 22:25-27)
  • Success is loving: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?...'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." (Mat 22:37-38)
  • Success is believing: "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb 11:6)
  • Success is prayer: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (Col 4:2)
  • Success is holiness: "Be holy because I am holy." (Lev 19:2)
  • Success is attitude: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, though being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing." (Phil 2:5)