Friday, April 27, 2007

For Your Edification

We're sorry that things have been a bit thin on the ground lately, but here are a few links worth following...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Christian Biographies Part 1

Thanks to all of you who took the time to email in with your favourite Christian biographies. Today I want to highlight one that Beth and Alicia have recommended, A Chance to Die: The Life & Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot. On missionary biographies in general, Beth wrote:
"I am encouraged and inspired by these women who trusted God and went to hard places. Their confidence in Him and their willingness to forsake comfort for those to whom they were called makes me long for those qualities in my own life. I admire the steel backbones of these women and the compassionate hearts they had for the lost."
Amy Carmichael was a Christian missionary to India who served there for 55 years without furlough. The title of Elliot's biography was no doubt inspired by Amy's response to a question she received in a letter from a young lady: "What is missionary life like?" Her reply: "Missionary life is simply a chance to die."

So, if you are looking for something to read at the minute, perhaps you might want to read and be inspired by the life and legacy of Amy Carmichael. Also, take time to visit Beth's blog where she posted about this topic back in October of last year!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Christian Biographies

"We read biographies because worthy portraits of our fellow human beings help us to make sense of the world. We are especially fascinated by the lives of those who have made a difference in the world -- whose mark remains visible even now. The lives of the famous and the infamous make for compelling reading." This is what Albert Mohler wrote yesterday when he posted on his 10 most important Christian biographies from recent decades.

Today our post is short and sweet, but we'd like to suggest two things.

1. Why not consider reading one of Mohler's recommendations and be inspired by some of those great saints who have gone before?

2. Here at titus2talk we really enjoy reading biographies, particularly those of godly women. Are there any such biographies that you have read recently? Do let us know, we're always on the lookout for more. If you're cooperative (!) we'd be glad to compile a list of some biographies you have found to be inspirational. So, let us know who you've read about, and what you learned from their life and we'd be happy to share your thoughts.

We're waiting....

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Clearing the Log Jam"

Thomas Watson once wrote: “O that I might prevail with Christians to take pains with themselves in this great work of examination. …. It is the note of an [false] professor, to be always abroad, spying the faults of others; but never at home with his own heart…”

That quote seemed especially relevant last night as I heard a sermon preached on Luke 6:39-49 (under the heading: “Dangers Disciples Face.”) In this passage, Jesus is speaking about the hypocritical attempt to sort out others problems without first examining ourselves.

Colin explained to the congregation: “We need to clean up our act, and clear out our own dirty laundry first. Why? Because we are hardly in a position to help others with small problems, when we have larger issues to contend with. What’s worse, we’re hypocrites.” The danger remains that while we seek to heal the wounded, we ourselves are covered in sores.

So let me ask you in the words of the preacher: “Where is your place of confession? Do you have a time and a place and a commitment to get alone with God somewhere, bible in hand, prayers in earnest, to check your eyes for logs? (and your heart for lies and lust).”

Examination has to probe. Therefore, utilising direct questions can help us to confront sin in our lives. One list people often use was compiled by Gordon MacDonald, in his book “Rebuilding Your Broken World.” Most of these questions are helpful to answer and pray over.

1. How is your relationship with God right now?
2. What have you read in the Bible in the past week?
3. What has God said to you in this reading?
4. Where do you find yourself resisting Him these days?
5. What specific things are you praying for in regard to yourself?
7. What are the specific tasks facing you right now that you consider incomplete?
8. What habits intimidate you?
9. What have you read in the secular press this week?
10. What general reading are you doing?
11. What have you done to play?
12. How are you doing with your spouse? Kids?
13. If I were to ask your spouse about your state of mind, state of spirit, state of energy level, what would the response be?
14. Are you sensing spiritual attacks from the enemy right now?
15. If Satan were to try to invalidate you as a person or as a servant of the Lord, how might he do it?
16. What is the state of your sexual perspective? Tempted? Dealing with fantasies? Entertainment?
17. Where are you financially right now? (things under control? under anxiety? in great debt?)
18. Are there any unresolved conflicts in your circle of relationships right now?
19. When was the last time you spent time with a good friend of your own gender?
20. What kind of time have you spent with anyone who is a non-Christian this month?
21. What challenges do you think you’re going to face in the coming week? Month?
22. What would you say are your fears at this present time?
23. Are you sleeping well?
24. What three things are you most thankful for?
25. Do you like yourself at this point in your pilgrimage?
26. What are your greatest confusions about your relationship with God?

Another useful list can be found over at Herald Mag. Here are the twenty five questions it poses.

1. Am I seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? (Matt. 6:33).
2. Am I redeeming the time? (Eph. 5:16).
3. Do I have a conscience void of offence? (Acts 24:16).
4. Do I meet with brethren whenever possible? (Heb. 10:25).
5. Do I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus? (Mat. 16:24).
6. Am I becoming transformed by the renewing of my mind? (Rom. 12:2).
7. Do I search the scriptures daily and study to show myself approved unto God? (Acts 17:11; John 5:39; 2Tim. 2:15).
8. Am I attempting to please God instead of man? (Gal. 1:10; Col. 3:23).
9. Do both blessing and cursing come out of my mouth? (James 3:10; Col. 4:6).
10. Am I a peacemaker? (Matt. 5:9; James 3:18; Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14).
11. Am I ashamed of the gospel of Christ? (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 9:16; Matt. 24:14).
12. Do I render evil for evil? (1 Thes. 5:15).
13. Do I shun profane and vain babblings? (2 Tim. 2:16).
14. Do I behold the mote that is in my brother’s eye but do not consider the beam in my own eye? (Matt. 7:3).
15. Am I laying aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets me? (Heb. 12:1).
16. Am I stumbling my brother? (Rom. 14:21).
17. Am I provoking others? If so, is it to love and good works? (Heb. 10:24).
18. Am I holding fast the profession of my faith without wavering? (Heb. 10:23).
19. Do I love pleasure more than I love God? (2 Tim. 3:4).
20. Am I a respecter of persons? (James 2:1; 3:9; 1 Peter 1:17; Acts 10:34).
21. Am I walking after the spirit instead of after the flesh? (Ga. 5:16-18).
22. Am I putting on the whole armor of God? (Eph. 6:11).
23. Do I follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth? (Rev. 14:4).
24. Am I working out my salvation with fear and trembling? (Phil. 2:12).
25. Am I fighting the goof fight of faith? (2 Tim. 6:12).

(HT: Unashamed Workman)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Spring cleaning

Now that Spring is here, I have a new lease of life to tackle the household tasks that have been mounting up over the winter. So, I have already started stripping hideous green wallpaper in my daughter's bedroom (much to her amusement) and I am contemplating cleaning out the kitchen cupboards. I don't know whether it is the longer days or the prospect of better weather, but I find that I do get into a cleaning frame of mind in the Springtime.

As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that I was long overdue for a spiritual "spring clean" and I realised I need to set aside some time for that. You know how it is - the busyness of everyday life can quickly result in our lives feeling cluttered and then it is all too easy to feel as if we are drifting in our relationship with God. It is good to take time every so often (preferably more often than just in the Spring!) to get away from distractions for a few hours or even a day and, by meditating on Scripture and praying, refocus our walk with God.

The picture of cleaning up a house has some parallels with how I can take stock in my Christian life. I should go through every "room" and look at what needs attention; in other words, think through all the different areas in my life and pray for discernment about whether I am living the way God would want. Am I honouring God in my marriage, with my children, in my studies, work or church activities, and in the way I use my leisure time? Am I overcommitted and perhaps doing something that someone else should be doing? Are there broken relationships where I need to seek or grant forgiveness?

But perhaps the most important job is to clean out the "cupboards". Often, I find things in our cupboards that I have completely forgotten we had. Similarly, I must take time praying over sin in my life, asking God to show me where I have domesticated sins so that I am no longer aware of the hold they have on me. In fact, this should be a daily activity:
It is our duty to be "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1); to be "growing in grace" every day (1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18); to be "renewing our inward man day by day" (2 Cor 4:16). Now, this cannot be done without the daily mortifying of sin. Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness and against every degree we go to. Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lusts.
John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers.

So perhaps before I tackle the kitchen cupboards, I need to make a time to do some "heart cleaning". Maybe you could make some time for that too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Does Motherhood Mean Anything?

Today I want to simply commend to you yesterday's post from Al Mohler's blog. Mohler commented on varying newspaper reactions to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's observations concerning the capture of the Royal Navy's Leading Seaman Faye Turney, mother to a three year old daughter. Ahmadinejad commented:

"You will know that among the detainees there is one lady who is a mother of a child. Why is it that the most difficult work like patrolling at sea should be given to a woman? Why is there no respect for motherhood? Why does the West not value its women?"

As you can expect, such reactions come strong from the feminist camp, denouncing what Ahmadinejad said. However, Kathleen Parker's remarks in the Washington Post give us more to think about.

"On any given day, one isn't likely to find common cause with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's a dangerous, lying, Holocaust- denying, Jew-hating cutthroat thug -- not to put too fine a point on it.

But he was dead-on when he wondered why a once-great power such as Britain sends mothers of toddlers to fight its battles."


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

If you are a regular visitor to our blog you would be hard pressed not to see how much we enjoy and appreciate books! On this score, Mrs Susannah Spurgeon is one of our heroines as she also saw the tremendous value in reading, but moreover set up a ministry sharing her value of books among others.

As Charles Ray writes, Mrs Spurgeon is not only remembered as "the wife of the great preacher to whom she rendered such valuable help and encouragement", her name also deserves "to live for ever in the annals of the Christian church in connection with her fund for supplying theological books to clergymen and ministers too poor to buy them".

Charles Spurgeon himself recognised the importance and necessity of this ministry: 'How can many of our ministers buy books? How can those in the villages get them at all? What must their ministries become if their minds are starved? Is it not a duty to relieve the famine which is raging in many a manse? Is it not a prudential measure, worthy of the attention of all who wish to see the masses influenced by religion, that the preachers who occupy our pulpits should be kept well furnished with material for thought? Does anybody wonder if preachers are sometimes dull?'

The book fund started off simply. In 1875, Charles Spurgeon completed Lectures to My Students of which his wife stated: 'I wish I could place it in the hands of every minister in England.' Spurgeon's reply: 'Then why not do do: how much will you give?' With the challenge laid down, Susannah sold some 'carefully hoarded crown pieces' which sufficed the finance for 100 copies of Mr Spurgeon's work. At this point the Book Fund was inaugurated.

Much of the work has been recorded in one of her own publications, Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund, but you can read more of the growth and success of the Book Fund here and here. Mrs Spurgeon therefore remains, for me, not only an example of a godly wife and mother, but also one who single handedly sought to spiritually nourish many, who through no fault of their own could not afford the luxury of reading good theological books.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ten Questions

Life is pretty hectic here at the minute so I've had little time to prepare what I had in mind to post this week, my apologies. Therefore, I'm going to do the lame thing (!) and recommend a series my husband is posting on over at Unashamed Workman. If you benefit from good expository preaching in your church, or know any pastor interested in this subject, it's worth checking out this series - "10 Questions for Expositors".

The Unashamed Workman's first interview is with Timothy Keller, and keep posted for Phillip Ryken next week.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Frowning Providence, A Smiling Face

As I said yesterday, we returned from our holiday in York on Saturday. It's a 5 hour trip (including traffic and a stop for a break), and during that time we took the opportunity to listen to some downloads. Since Colin was driving, I got to choose and we listened to a talk given by John Piper back in 1994 called: "The Chief Design of My Life: Mortification & Universal Holiness - Reflections on the Life and Thought of John Owen." There was so much to take from this lengthy lecture, it's a definite one worth listening to. However, Piper began his talk with some words from William Cowper's hymn, God Moves In a Mysterious Way that have stuck with me over these last few days.

There are many things that have been happening in our family recently, some things that have affected all of us, others that are more personal for either my husband or myself. However, the common lesson that comes to the fore in all these situations are summed up in Cowper's words: "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face." Without going into detail, we have all experienced the loving discipline of God in our lives, testings and trials and periods of gloom that cloud our days. These words therefore came just at the right time, not only on the back of some big disappointments but more importantly as prior preparation for the days and weeks ahead.

What is really interesting is that this hymn was actually chosen to conclude Colin's sermon on the "Highs and Lows of Discipline" this past Sunday. I did not know this, and Piper certainly did not when he shared them in his talk on John Owen. However, God did. And that's really all I wanted to share today. You may be going through the hardest time right now, but remember, God is working his sovereign will.

Here are the words from William Cowper's hymn. Words written by a man whose life was filled with the lows of depression, and yet they teach us of the highs of knowing and having the security of God's smiling face upon our lives.

God Moves In a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD with feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow'r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
GOD is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

I'm just back from holiday and I was glad to see that Catriona didn't pass up the opportunity to give you your weekly dose of Mrs Spurgeon. As you know, coming back from holiday tends to leave you in a bit of a whirlwind as you start to get back to the everyday tasks of life, needless to say, the pile of dirty laundry. So, for today I'm going to simply fill you in on a remarkable incident that happened between Charles and Susannah. I was reminded of it, as my husband, having prepared his sermon before our holiday to preach yesterday, spent most of Saturday night pondering afresh the text while I slept soundly! As you will see from the story as told by Charles Ray in his biography, I am no Mrs Spurgeon!
On a certain Saturday evening, C.H. Spurgeon found himself quite unable to get any light upon the text from which he believed he ought to preach on the following morning. Commentaries were consulted, but in vain, and his wife could not help him. The rest of the story shall be told in Mrs Spurgeon's own words.

'He sat up very late and was utterly worn out and dispirited, for all his efforts to get at the heart of the text were unavailing. I advised him to retire to rest and soothed him by suggesting that if he would try to sleep then, he would probably in the morning feel quite refreshed and able to study to better purpose. "If I go to sleep now, wifey, will you wake me very early so that I have plenty of time to prepare?" With my loving assurance that I would watch the time for him and call him soon enough, he was satisfied; and, like a trusting, tired child, he laid his head upon the pillow and slept soundly and sweetly at once.

'By-and-by a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon I realised he was going over the subject of the verse which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its meaning with much force and freshness. I set myself with almost trembling joy to understand and follow all that he was saying, for if I knew that I could seize and remember the salient points of the discourse he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them. Never preacher had a more eager and anxious listener! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of "taking notes", so, like Nehemiah, "I prayed to the God of heaven", and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which he had given to his servant in his sleep, and which were so singularly entrusted to my keeping.

As I lay repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking; but I had kept vigil for so long, cherishing my joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale clock, said, "Oh, wifey, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do?" "Listen, beloved," I answered; and I told him all I had heard. "Why! that's just what I wanted," he exclaimed; "that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep?" "It is wonderful", he repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of his power and love.'